Men don’t prioritize health issues, but preventive screening essential
By Barbara Pierce
A lot of men don’t like to think about their health issues because they feel they have to act strong and tough it out.
But there are serious consequences to ignoring your health.
There has been a substantial decrease in the life expectancy of men in recent years.
Efforts are being made to encourage men to take control of their health and encourage early detection and treatment of disease.
Why men don’t take their health seriously:
Men are less likely to visit a doctor than women. Physicians agree that they see a lot fewer men than women. “Many men go to the doctor for the first time in their 40s — on a stretcher with a heart attack,” says Dr. Ridwan Shabsigh online.
It has a lot to do with being male. The more manly he feels, the less likely he is to seek medical care. It’s a sign of weakness. Men take better care of their cars than of themselves.
The reasons men gave for why they will not see a doctor: They were too busy, or afraid of what they might find out, or uncomfortable with prostate and rectal exams and blood draws.
They rationalize that the problem will go away, deny anything is wrong, are embarrassed, don’t want to spend the money, or fear they will get bad news, a scolding or lecture.
Men don’t usually like to talk about their health issues; they feel pressured to act strong and tough it out. A manly man sucks up the pain. But there’s nothing tough about ignoring symptoms.
See a health care professional for regular checkups, even if you feel healthy. This is important because some diseases don’t have symptoms at first. Most of the things that contribute to men’s shorter, less healthy lives are preventable.
Establishing baselines for factors such as blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and prostate-specific antigen (a screening test for prostate cancer risk) — and monitoring how they change over time — will enable your provider to catch potentially dangerous conditions early when they’re still treatable.
The No. 1 condition that men are most likely to ignore is heart disease, the No. 1 killer of men. It can affect men in their 40s and younger. It can be prevented; lower your risk with visits to your health care provider.
Cancer takes the No. 2 spot and there are important screening tests for this.
Prostrate cancer is the most common cancer among men. It is more likely to develop in older men and African-American men. A routine schedule for prostate cancer screening is the best way to detect prostate cancer in its earliest stages, giving you the greatest chance of successful treatment.
“Most commonly, there are no symptoms of prostate cancer,” said Hanan Goldberg, a physician at Upstate Urology, Utica. “Only at an advanced disease stage will patients experience significant symptoms. Ideally, we want to diagnose the disease at a much earlier stage. This is why screening is so important. The screening process is quite simple.”
“Prostrate screening tests are not as invasive as they used to be,” added Dr. Richard Chmielewski, head of the Falcon Clinic for Health, Wellness & Recovery, New Hartford.
“One percent of breast cancer patients are men,” Chmielewski said. Men have breast tissue that can develop cancer. Men should schedule an appointment if they notice a lump, skin dimpling, nipple turning inward, redness, scaling or discharge of the nipple.
Sexual health vital
Sexual health is one of the most important elements of a man’s overall health and wellness as it allows a man to fully participate in and enjoy sexual activity. A range of physical, psychological, interpersonal, and social factors influence a man’s sexual health.
Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise. Sexually active men should work with their physician on whether they need screening.
On the mental health front, “A lot of men are troubled; they have difficult problems. When men get depressed, they don’t talk about it,” said Chmielewski.
George Mason of Randolph was there: “We had five sons; my wife constantly complained I wasn’t earning enough. I was depressed: I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. That’s not the manly thing to do.
“I got more and more depressed; I thought of ways to kill myself. So I took a job in another state; I saved my life by leaving.”
Men are four times more likely to kill themselves by suicide than women. The male suicide rate is rising.
Men find it difficult to talk about concerns; they feel there is a stigma related to getting help. But thinking tough things through with a mental health professional can help.
One reason men disregard their own health is that they’re too busy taking care of everyone else. However, if you die early, you’ll be hurting the very people you’re working so hard to protect. Your family loves you and needs you to be alive and healthy for as long as possible.