Most of us know that to have optimal health, we need to exercise, eat healthy, get good sleep, and manage stress. But there’s one thing men need even more to live longer, healthier lives.
What is it?
Read on to find out what you – or the men in your life – need to do to live longer.
Healthy Lifestyle Isn't Enough
It’s true that moving your body, eating nutrient-rich foods, sleeping 7-9 hours a night, and reducing stress are pivotal to a long, healthy life for both men and women. These four pillars of health greatly reduce your risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death of American men and women.
Yet, even if you have a healthy lifestyle, you’re likely to have more years of poor health and die earlier if you don’t do this one thing.
What is it?
Go to the doctor for routine checkups and screenings.
Men just don’t go. Women are 33% more likely to see a doctor regularly and 100% more likely to get recommended screenings and preventative care than men, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Men avoid going to the doctor when hurt or ill, skip screenings, and practice riskier behavior like smoking, drinking, and other unhealthy life choices, researchers find. They also spend more years living in bad health, have higher suicide rates, and die about five years sooner than women!
Thirty years ago, the US Congress started Men’s Health Month in June to raise awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of diseases and mental health issues. They’d hoped to improve the overall well-being of men and boys.
Yet, while medical advancements have skyrocketed in the past three decades, health statistics for men have worsened! The Washington Post recently reported that:
- More men die from Covid-19 than women, for unexplained reasons.
- More men die of diabetes than women.
- Men’s cancer mortality rate is higher than women’s.
- Black men have the highest cancer death rate.
- Men’s suicide rate is 4x higher than women’s.
- In 2020, 72% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities were men.
- Also in 2020, 87% of bicyclist and 71% of pedestrian deaths were men.
- Death rates for boys and teens (including infants) far outpace girls’.
Why Men Avoid the Doctor
Why do men avoid doctors? Younger men may feel indestructible. Some are very busy with careers and family. Many are afraid of what they’ll find out. In an annual national survey, Cleveland Clinic finds that men will do about anything to avoid going to the doctor.
- 72% of participants said they’d rather clean a toilet or mow the lawn!
- 65% wait as long as possible to go to the doctor when they have an injury or health issues.
- 20% of men say they’re not honest with the doctor because they’re embarrassed, don’t want to hear about needed lifestyle changes. Or they know something is wrong and don’t want to face the truth.
- 41% were told as children not to complain about health issues.
- 50% don’t get an annual checkup or preventative care, even though they want to live longer for loved ones.
Health care providers are working to find ways to make doctor visits more convenient and encourage men to be seen. But most wellness checks require an in-person visit every year. Yearly exams may include important tests like:
- Blood pressure screening – Hypertension (high blood pressure) is the leading cause of heart issues and strokes.
- Cholesterol level test – High cholesterol contributes to heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Men with high risk factors should start at age 20; others by age 35.
- Skin cancer screening – Men are 3x more likely to get non-melanoma basal cell and squamous cell cancers than women. Older men are more likely to develop melanoma. Skin cancer is the leading cancer for men.
- Testicular cancer exam – Should be part of a routine physical for all men.
- Diabetes test – Healthy men should be tested by age 45. Men with risk factors, including high blood pressure or cholesterol, should test sooner.
- Glaucoma test – Men younger than 40 should be tested every 2-4 years; men 40-64, every 1-3 years, and men 65 and older every six months to a year.
- Prostate exam – Between age 40 and 50, depending on risks and race (African American men are at higher risk), men need prostate exams. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer for men. Yearly screenings catch the disease early and save lives.
- Colorectal exam – By age 50, a colorectal exam is recommended for men and women. Men have a higher chance of colon or rectal cancer.
How to Get Men to the Doctor
So, how do you get yourself, or the men in your life, to the doctor? Try these steps.
First, it’s crucial to educate yourself and loved ones about the urgency of preventative care. Early detection of cancer and other issues saves lives – and body parts.
Next, you can approach it like any goal. Using the SMART Goal system, create specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound goals to have all routine checkups and screenings.
Like most goals, achieving this will require planning, small steps, and possibly an accountability partner. You can talk your friend into hitting the gym, can you persuade each other to get routine care?
Finding a health care provider who you like and can be honest with is a key first step toward reaching this goal. You might prefer a naturopath or functional medicine doctor to a medical doctor. You might see a doctor you don’t like. Don’t give up; find another.
You can ask friends and co-workers for recommendations or get a list of providers from your insurance company. The insurance provider may also offer automated reminders for checkups and screenings.
If you notice psychological resistance, like anxiety, fear, or shame, know that these are valid emotions that need to be addressed. Consider working with a counselor. Many people also are scared of needles and know that checkups often require bloodwork. If that’s you or a loved one, try these 12 ideas to ease the fear of needles from a nurse.
While you’re planning ahead, pick a day for your doctor visit when you won’t be rushed or have a reason to cancel. Additionally, you might plan to reward yourself for achieving this goal. Take the whole day off work and do something enjoyable after or treat yourself to something nice!
If you need help prepping for your visit, consider asking these questions for the best checkup ever.
Finally, when you reach your goal, tell others! Sharing your achievement helps keep you accountable and motivated. Hopefully, your story will also inspire other men to make their health a top goal and priority.