Living Well: Men don’t visit the doctor for regular check-ups as often as they should
- Stay away from all forms of tobacco.
- Stay at a healthy weight.
- Get moving with regular physical activity.
- Eat healthy with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Limit how much alcohol you drink (if you drink at all).
- Protect your skin.
- Know yourself, your family history and your risks.
- Get regular check-ups and cancer screening tests. Source: American Cancer Society
Men are 80 percent less likely than women to seek regular, preventative health care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This tendency to avoid preventative check-ups could be responsible for some alarming health statistics. For example, men die five years younger on average than women, and men also die at higher rates from nine of the top 10 causes of death, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Men are also more likely than women to smoke, drink too much alcohol and make unhealthy or risky choices, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
During June, the same month as Father’s Day, medical providers around the country are reminding men that regular, preventative health screenings can save lives.
Preventable death and disease
Many of the leading causes of death among men — heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes and suicide — can be prevented. The first step is seeing a doctor for regular checkups and health screenings. These screenings could be the preventative maintenance that’s needed to someday save your life.
Different health screenings may be required, depending on personal and family medical history, as well as age. Your doctor can help guide you to determine which medical screenings are appropriate for you.
A 2017 survey by the American Academy of Family Physicians found that 52 percent of men reported getting a physical exam in the past year, up from 45 percent in 2007, so the preventative healthcare trend is heading in a positive direction.
“I think of prevention in two baskets: the preventive services you can get if you went to the doctor or went to see a nurse, like vaccines and blood pressure screening; and there’s also what I think of as lifestyle prevention, the decisions we can make in our own lives around diet, around physical activity, around the precautions we take to prevent injury,” former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told Men’s Health magazine in 2015.
A good example of how prevention improves outcomes is diabetes, according to Memorial Regional Health. If you catch diabetes in its early stages, as pre-diabetes, you can halt its progression and, sometimes, even reverse it. Think of the diagnoses of pre-diabetes as a wake-up call to take action and correct the issue before it becomes full-blown diabetes.
Cancers in men
For cancers caught before they’ve spread to other parts of the body, the chance for full recovery and survival are often high. According to the National Cancer Institute, there is substantial evidence that regular exercise lowers cancer risk.
The cancers that most often affect men are prostate, colon, lung and skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Cancers that affect only men are prostate, testicular and penile cancers.
- Testicular cancer: Pain, discomfort, lump or swelling in the testis itself, aching in the lower abdomen (belly).
- Penile cancer: Redness, discomfort, sore or lump on the penis.
- Prostate cancer: Weak flow of urine, blood in urine, pain in the back, hips or pelvis (lower belly between the hips), or needing to pass urine often.
The risk of getting prostate cancer increases with age. Men who have a family history of prostate cancer are also at an increased risk. The American Cancer Society recommends talking to your doctor at age 50 about the pros and cons of a prostate cancer screening.
Colon cancer almost always starts with a polyp, or small growth on the lining of the colon or rectum, which can be found early before they become cancer through proper preventative screening. The American Cancer Society recommends regular screenings starting at age 45.