According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of American men over age 20 have high blood pressure. More than 40% are obese, and almost 15% are in fair or poor health. Yet, many men are not getting the healthcare they need. According to one survey by the Commonwealth Fund, more than half of all men had not had a physical exam in the previous year. In other words: when it comes to managing their health, the men in our lives need to step up their game.
Why Men Don’t Go to the Doctor
Men, obviously, have different health needs than women. “Usually, young, healthy men who don’t have a lot of medical problems and no complaints don’t need to see the doctor except when they’re sick,” says urologist Nicolas Ortiz, MD. “They don’t have routine health screenings like women do.”
Even when there are signs of a health problem, some men still avoid seeking care. The reasons why are unique to the individual. Ortiz says some of the most common explanations include:
- Many men don’t want to admit they need help because they see it as a sign of weakness.
- They may have a fear of the unknown. Unlike women who begin routine health screenings as young adults, men aren’t required to visit the doctor unless there’s a problem. As a result, they may be unfamiliar with the healthcare system.
- They don’t want to give up control by allowing someone else to tell them what they can and cannot do.
No matter what the reason, avoiding or delaying care puts men’s health at risk. “Because men don’t seek care when they should, what may have been a small problem initially turns into a bigger problem that is often more challenging to treat,” says Ortiz.
Symptoms Men Shouldn’t Ignore
Most men know the signs of health emergencies like a heart attack or stroke and will take them seriously. But there are other symptoms men may dismiss that can actually be a sign of a serious health issue.
Loud snoring may be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea stop breathing briefly, which causes a drop in oxygen levels. Without treatment, sleep apnea increases his risk for high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, and more.
Is he waking up multiple times a night to pee? Frequent urination, especially at night, can be a sign of an enlarged prostate, which in severe cases can lead to reduced kidney function. It may also be a sign of diabetes or even prostate cancer.
Erectile dysfunction (ED)
ED may be a symptom of low testosterone, which is common in aging men. But it can also be a sign of something more serious like heart disease or depression.
Any new or changing spot on the skin may be a sign of skin cancer. Watch for:
- Rapidly growing moles that bleed or itch
- Open sores that don’t heal
- Wart-like growths
The Health Screenings Men Need
Many problematic men’s health issues are more common as they get older. That’s why, after age 50, men should see a doctor regularly for routine screenings – even if they’re in perfect health. These screenings include tests for:
- High blood pressure. Blood pressure checks are standard at most doctor’s appointments beginning at age 18. But if he hasn’t been to the doctor in a while, it’s important to check this off the list. Hypertension puts people at risk for heart attack, stroke, and death.
- High cholesterol. This also increases heart attack and stroke risk. However, a doctor can treat it easily once they make a diagnosis.
- Colorectal cancer. Because of the rising number of diagnoses among younger adults, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now recommends screening beginning at age 45.
- Skin cancer. Men are more likely to get melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer. In addition to self-checks at home, men, especially light-skinned men, should see a dermatologist every year for a full-body check.
- Prostate cancer. Ortiz stresses that men should discuss their cancer risk with their doctor and decide on the screening approach that’s best for them.
- Smoking-related health conditions. Men who smoke need additional screening for smoking-related health problems. These include abdominal aneurysms, blood vessel abnormalities, and lung cancer.
Ignoring Health Problems?
Our men’s health providers treat everything from ED and low testosterone to prostate issues.
COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy Among Men
More men than women have died from COVID-19. But according to the CDC, men are falling behind when it comes to getting the vaccine. Ortiz says there are some unique factors at play.
“We have to keep in mind the current political climate – the disinformation campaigns – influencing men today,” he says. “Another thing to consider is that some men, particularly underrepresented minorities, don’t trust the healthcare system because of historical injustices or perceived biases.”
Tips to Help Men Stay On Top of Their Health
If the man in your life is guilty of the “rub some dirt on it” approach to healthcare, Ortiz advises patience and persistence. “Many men don’t want to bother anyone with their problems,” he says. “Just be supportive and remind them that it’s better to tackle men’s health issues head on before they become more serious. That’s what doctors are here for."