Last year, my husband Tom received this memorable message from his father: “For your information, I’m having brain surgery tomorrow. Don’t worry. I’m fine.”
This was the first we heard about his brain surgery. When Tom called his father and asked why he hadn’t been told earlier, my father-in-law had a clear explanation: He delayed his trip so long that, when he finally saw a doctor, his symptoms had progressed. Went and he was booked immediately for the procedure. (Happily, he made a full recovery and is doing well.)
It appears that this is a shared trait among the men in my family. Over the summer, my husband pretended that a boil on his back didn’t exist until it resembled a dolphin’s dorsal fin, and he ended up in urgent care, still protesting that it was probably a boil. The bug was about to bite.
Of course, many men are more diligent about making regular doctor visits than the guys in my family. But a Cleveland Clinic survey of 1,000 American men in 2022 found that 55 percent said they don’t get regular health screenings. Men of color were less likely to regularly see a doctor—a full 63 percent avoided routine visits.
Another 2022 survey conducted by Orlando Health found that a third of the men surveyed thought they didn’t need checkups, while 65 percent believed they could skip seeing a doctor because they “are naturally healthier than most people.” (This prompted Orlando Health family medicine specialist Dr. Thomas Kelly to state that “it is statistically impossible for most men to be healthier than most men.”)
Women, on the other hand, are significantly more likely to have office-based travel, according to 2018 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s well documented that, compared to women, men are much worse off at preventive care,” said Petar Bajic, MD, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
Some men avoid seeing doctors because they fear getting bad news, said Dr. Joseph Alukal, MD, urologist and director of Men’s Health at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia. Some men can “fall into the trap of sticking our heads in the sand”, he said. For example, my father-in-law ignored his blurred vision and headaches for months.
But avoidance can make anxiety and fear worse, said Nora Barrier, MD, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. And if a patient waits until symptoms are severe, “it propagates a stigma that they should dread the doctor’s office,” Dr. Bajic said.
There could be other reasons why men delay checkups, Dr. Alukal explained. In his experience, health issues “are rarely discussed with other men.” And many young men aren’t conditioned to regularly see the doctor the way young women are encouraged to schedule annual OB-GYN appointments, she said.
Diana Sanchez, psychology and department chair at Rutgers University, has found in her research over the years that men who have more traditional beliefs about masculinity are less likely to use preventive care or seek medical treatment for injuries and infections. less likely – because they tie. This resistance to bravery and self-reliance.
A reluctance to seek routine medical care as they get older can have serious consequences, Dr. Alukal said. Men die less often than women, according to CDC data, and some of the leading causes of death — such as heart disease and diabetes — are conditions that doctors look for during routine checkups.
If you’re a doctor-resistant person like my husband and his father, here are some ideas that may help you get closer to making the appointment.
Find a doctor you trust.
Even if you’re willing to see a doctor, finding one you trust can be a challenge. You can ask friends and family members for recommendations, or use a platform like Vitals, an online doctor booking site where patients can leave detailed ratings.
When you decide on someone, “see if you have a connection with the person, if you think the provider is warm, or matches your personality style,” Dr. Brier said. And if you’re uncomfortable with a doctor, “get a new one,” she said. Even if you are limited to a particular practice, there may be other physicians on staff who meet your needs.
If you’re nervous, start with a telehealth appointment.
Check to see if your initial visit can be made virtually, Dr. Alukal said. “It’s better than nothing, and it’s a great place to start if it gets you closer to coming in and seeing me,” he said. After this first visit, she has found that patients are less resistant to in-person appointments because she has already built a rapport with them.
Talk openly with your doctor about any fears you have, Dr. Brier advised. “If you have concerns about family members’ illnesses or the way they were diagnosed, share them,” she said.
Bring a loved one for an in-person visit.
An office visit is still necessary, Dr. Bajic said. He added that some conditions, such as high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease, can only be diagnosed during a physical exam.
The skin condition is also often noticed during a physical exam, according to the American Academy of Dermatology — and men are more likely to develop melanoma than women by age 50.
And symptoms like erectile dysfunction can be the first sign of a more significant issue, and often warrant more thorough investigation, Dr. Alukal said, adding erectile dysfunction can lead to more serious problems like heart attack.
“It’s not uncommon that, when a man sees me for a problem with urination, I may diagnose him with conditions like diabetes or uncontrolled obstructive sleep apnea,” he said.
So get a date on the calendar, Dr. And bring a loved one along for support — whether it’s a partner, a friend, or even a child, Brier said. And consider nabbing the first appointment of the day to avoid long periods of panic and impulse to cancel.
Going to the doctor becomes easier.
As far as regular appointments go, Dr. Bajic uses a car analogy for his patients: “If they’re good at maintaining their car, they should be good at maintaining their body,” They said. (Prefer a cholesterol check, instead of an oil change.) The Mayo Clinic has a short list of recommended annual screenings for men.
“The more you approach the thing you fear, the easier it becomes,” Dr. Brier said.
Tom’s father didn’t go to the doctor enthusiastically; His wife almost threw a net over him and dragged him there. If you also have a reluctant person in your life, Dr. Alukal suggests being persuasive without guilt or shame.
Tell your loved one how much you care about them and how much you want them to be healthy, she said. He said, “There aren’t a lot of people who are going to fight very hard when they hear something like that.”
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