Keeping up with routine medical care is one of the best ways to stay healthier.
Around the world, women tend to live four to five years longer than men on average. In the U.S., current life expectancy for females is 81.1 years, while it’s 76.1 years for males. There are several documented reasons for the difference in lifespan, including the fact that men are more likely than women to die of heart disease, the leading cause of death for both sexes.
But researchers suspect that one of the other contributing factors is that men are simply more reluctant to go to the doctor. Unlike women, who usually begin their health journey earlier in life when they start seeing a gynecologist and then possibly an obstetrician, most men don’t start seeing a physician regularly until later in life.
That means they’re not getting important screenings and other tests done that could detect serious issues like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or cancer. They also put off getting medical advice when they are having symptoms of a health issue because they don’t want to talk about it or don’t want to see a doctor. But if they let things go and the problem escalates, it may be too late to do anything about it.
So what’s the one thing men should do to stay healthier?
See a doctor.
One researcher compared how we need to take care of our health to how we take care of a car. To maintain our car’s “health,” we regularly change the oil, rotate the tires and tune up the engine. We don’t ignore the car’s needs completely until we’re stranded on the side of the highway with smoke pouring out from under the hood.
“I like to tell my patients that everyone, including men and women, should start to see a primary care physician yearly at least starting at the age of 40, if not earlier, based on their medical history. Patients who have a family history of diabetes, hypertension, or cancer, to name a few, should see a primary care physician earlier than 40.
Something you can do to get to know your doctor is by reading their bio or watching their video online before you make an appointment. Remember every doctor has a different personality and you are always welcome to change your provider if needed.
The most important aspect of your life is your health.”
But why are men so reluctant to see a doctor? Several studies and surveys have been conducted on the topic, and the results point to three main reasons:
- Men may be afraid of looking weak or vulnerable. Males have long been conditioned by society that they should always be strong. They may believe that being ill is a sign of weakness, and admitting that something is wrong will threaten their masculinity. In one survey, a whopping 72% of respondents said they would rather do household chores, like cleaning the toilet, instead of going to see a doctor.
- Men may not be comfortable discussing how they feel. Women tend to talk about how they feel more easily than men do – this goes for emotional feelings as well as physical symptoms. If a man is experiencing a health problem, he may feel uncomfortable talking about it, especially if it’s something he thinks is embarrassing, like sexual dysfunction or intestinal troubles. Men also have a harder time opening up about emotional issues impacting them, such as stress, anxiety or depression.
- Men may be worried they’ll find out it’s something serious. This is a bury-your-head-in-the-sand approach, as in “what I don’t know, won’t hurt me,” right? But if something’s wrong, it’s always best to catch it early when it’s easier to treat rather than once it’s too late.
Living longer starts with making your health a priority. This includes keeping up with regular preventive care appointments and screenings, like prostate exams, colonoscopies and blood pressure checks. It also means scheduling an appointment with a doctor when something bothers you or just doesn’t seem right. And since being healthy is not just about your physical health, but also your mental health, it’s also important to seek professional help when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or suicidal.
So what are you waiting for? If you haven’t seen a doctor lately, now is a good time to make an appointment.
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Date Last Reviewed: April 15, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD