Stop Avoiding This Person: Your Doctor

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One man claimed he didn’t have the time. Another lamented that he didn’t have health insurance. A third just “didn’t think about it.”

CHI Health Primary Care Provider J. Russell Bowen, MD, has heard all the excuses. And a Cleveland Clinic survey backs up what doctors like Bowen see every day: many men just don’t like going to the doctor. According to the survey, 60 percent won’t see a doctor even if they think they have a serious health problem.

“Many people are in denial about their health, both men and women,” Bowen said. “But women historically were advised to come in for annual Pap smears and other health checks.” Men didn’t have those incentives “so, routine health care just wasn’t something that was stressed to them.”

Because they live in denial, he said, “They choose to believe and hope they are fine and don’t come in for fear there may be something ‘wrong.’”

Bowen noted that many diseases have hard-to-detect symptoms that a patient won’t pick up on but a doctor can. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, as well as prostate, colon and lung cancers.

Finding a health problem early can make a big difference in one’s quality of life for years to come.

“Diabetes is one disease that can result in an extremely long list of complications if allowed to go untreated for long periods of time,” Bowen said. “It can affect nearly every part of the body in one way or another, and not only cause pain and debilitating disease, it can also cause death by increasing risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetic coma, etc.”   

High blood pressure is something else you want to catch early, he said. “It’s referred to as the ‘silent killer.’ People typically don’t have symptoms until it gets dangerously high.”

So that regular checkup is very important: “If someone is relatively young and healthy, it is not as critical to come in every year, but everyone should be seen at some point. They can then discuss with their primary care provider (PCP) how frequently they need to be seen going forward.”

Here’s what you can expect at that physical:

  • A check of vital signs to identify high blood pressure and obesity.
  • Questions about family history for insight into risk of inheritable diseases.
  • Questions about social history to help determine risk of health issues related to smoking, alcohol and drug use, as well as sexually transmitted infections.
  • A physical exam to find things like heart murmurs, lung problems, skin disorders and many other conditions.

Bowen urged family members and friends to be persistent in convincing the reluctant male to go to the doctor. Don’t buy the “I don’t have time” excuse.

“Any excuse is just that – an excuse. Many offices offer early appointments and evening appointments. And most employers will allow a few hours off for a medical appointment.”

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