Avoiding a problem won’t make it disappear. When health issues arise, being a man means making a trip to the doctor.
Being a man means taking care of yourself with a trip to the doctor

If you’re one of those men who doesn’t go to the doctor unless something is obviously wrong, you’ve got a lot of company. In fact, a 2007 survey taken by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) revealed that more than half (55 percent) of the men surveyed had gone at least a year between physical exams with their primary care physician. The behavior seems much more specific to men, as a 2009 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that U.S. women were 80 percent more likely to have a usual source of health care than men. With numbers that glaring, the question becomes how to convince men that a trip to the doctor’s office isn’t something to put off, brush aside or fear.

One of the biggest obstacles for health in men is men themselves.

It’s a man thing
Dr. Reid Blackwelder, president-elect of the AAFP and a professor of family medicine at Quillen College of Medicine, reports that the reasons for this issue are numerous and nearly all relate back to the nature of the male gender. One of the biggest obstacles for health in men is men themselves, says Dr. Blackwelder. Men have a tendency to want to fix things and think they can take care of it themselves. It’s also a gender issue of not wanting to appear weak by seeing someone else.

The signs are there
The normal indicators for men that a trip to the doctor is necessary include gaining or losing weight, chest pains or shortness of breath, numbness or tingling in hands or feet, or any ongoing changes in urination or bowel movements. Those symptoms can occur from conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, colon and prostate cancer, high blood pressure and hypertension, all of which Blackwelder laments as preventable through early detection. If you catch people early, you can directly address some of the biggest killers in anybody, but men especially, Blackwelder says. Thats why it’s very frustrating for people to wait until they’re having a problem. By then, the disease is probably well established.

Providing a push
The AAFP survey revealed that 78 percent of respondents said their spouse or partner has influence over their decision to go to the doctor. For those men without a significant other to encourage them, Blackwelder asserts that, while the yearly physical has almost become a thing of the past, arranging a talk with the doctor is crucial.

Its appropriate if you’ve not seen a physician to come in so that we can do a very individualized discussion about risks, behaviors and concerns, and then decide what the appropriate follow-up might be, he says. The reality is you’re going to see a doctor at some point in your life. Do it on your own terms. Dont wait for a problem. Take control and address it ahead of time.

While the value of an annual checkup can depend on age and personal and family history, the following preventive tests are recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

> Prostate exam at age 50 (as directed by your physician)

> Regular checkups for cholesterol once you turn 35

> Blood pressure checked every two years

> Checkup for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50

> Test for diabetes if your blood pressure is higher than 135/80