Men are almost 25 percent less likely to visit the doctor than women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, the life expectancy for men is nearly five years less than women.
Rob Rhodes, MD, family physician at CHI Health St. Elizabeth, said these statistics are often a result of men’s tendency to delay seeking medical attention at the first sign of symptoms. Also, men on average tend to drink more, smoke more and engage in more high-risk activities.
“Generally women are more likely to seek medical attention at an earlier stage,” said Dr. Rhodes. “Men generally wait to seek medical care. It’s the ‘I am fine' mentality.”
Denying there are health problems leaves the potential for long-term health issues to develop. For example, neglecting a preventive cancer screening opens the door for cancer to grow until symptoms are present and severe, which often means an advanced stage of cancer.
“Men need to change their mindset," says Dr. Rhodes. "They need to remember that regular checkups are not about fixing a problem, but, rather preventing something potentially bad. It also gives doctor and patient a time to review immunizations, diet, exercise and talk about maintaining good health."
To prevent disease and maintain good health, men should consider the following:
Screenings for Heart Disease
In the U.S., heart disease is the leading cause of death in men. With the appropriate tests and lifestyle habits, men can greatly reduce their risks for heart disease. For a healthy heart, you should maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise. It is also important to maintain a healthy cholesterol level. You should have your cholesterol checked at least once a year.
Eat a Healthy Diet and Exercise to Reduce Your Risk of Stroke
According to the CDC, one American dies from a stroke every four minutes. Much like heart disease, your risk for a stroke decreases if you eat a healthy diet, exercise every day and stop smoking.
You should also know your blood pressure. The only way you will know if your pressure is high is to have it checked. If it is high, you may be able to reduce it with diet and exercise, but if that doesn’t work, medication will likely be necessary.
Try adding some of these healthy choices to your diet:
- Homemade breakfast sandwich: whole grain bread with egg and lean turkey slices
- Whole grain oatmeal with nuts or fruit
- Salad with baked chicken breast and low-fat dressing
- Fish, such as tuna, topped with finely chopped veggies
- Grilled or baked chicken breast, salmon or white fish paired with steamed veggies and brown rice.
Colon Cancer Screenings
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men. The good news is that when colorectal cancer is found early, it is very treatable.
“Men should be screened for colon cancer starting at the age of 50 – earlier if they have increased risk factors,” said Dr. Rhodes. “The five-year survival rate for early stage colon cancer is 90 percent, but only 39 percent of patients are diagnosed at this stage, due in part to not following the recommended screening guidelines.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a new at-home, colorectal cancer screening test called Cologuard. The noninvasive test identifies altered DNA and/or blood in the stool, which is associated with the possibility of colon cancer. Talk to your provider to see if this test is an option for you.
Prostate Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men – the first is lung cancer. Many men with prostate cancer don’t have any symptoms, which is why annual screenings are so important.
Starting at the age of 50, you should have a conversation with your provider about the appropriate age to begin screenings based on your health. There is a great deal of controversy about prostate cancer screenings; the conversation with your provider is critical to determine what is best for you.
Prostate exams usually include a blood test called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and a digital rectal examination. African Americans and men who have a family history of prostate cancer are at higher risk and should be screened at an earlier age.
Your mental health is as critical to your overall well-being as a healthy diet and exercise. Many men do not get enough sleep at night. Getting adequate sleep not only helps our mental health, but it can also improve serious health issues, such as digestive problems, high blood pressure, immune deficiencies and diabetes.
Men don’t always show their emotions or share if they are sad. If you are feeling depressed, it is important to seek help from a provider, pastor, or counselor – especially if you feel at risk to harm yourself.