By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
Physicians understand getting male patients to come to their offices remains challenging.
Men have many reasons not to skip their doctor’s visits. The top 10 health ailments that men suffer from more than women are heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic pulmonary disease, accidents, pneumonia, influenza, diabetes, suicide, kidney disease, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, according to the World Health Organization.
“We want to live long enough to enjoy our grandchildren. Being healthy is going to keep you alive longer and functioning at a higher level,” said physician Douglas Guenter, who provides care with Oswego Family Physicians as part of Oswego Health. “We don’t want something bad to happen to us in a crippling way early in life.”
Guenter discusses five tips for men’s health.
1.Regular check ups
Regular health checks can identify any early signs of health issues. The issue is that many Americans either use the emergency room as their primary care physician or begin scheduling appointments with their primary care doctor when they notice something wrong. While it is helpful to see the physician any time, when you only see them when there is some alarming symptom you may discover you are in the latter stages of a disease or ailment.
“This is an opportunity to measure vitals and blood sugar so we can see if a person is having any early signs of diabetes and high cholesterol,” he said.
At ages 40-65, there are many preventive screenings from prostate to colon. In May 2021, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force issued new recommendations for colorectal cancer exams starting at an earlier age. Now we see an increase of colon cancer between ages 40 and 50 so the American Cancer Society has recommended men be tested as early as 45 years of age.
“A colonoscopy is a great tool for early detection because it can prevent colon cancer. It’s not always the easiest prep for the procedure the day before, but once you go in that day then people are amazed how quick and easy it is,” said Guenter.
Beginning at about age 45, or and as young as 40 if you are African American or have a strong family history of prostate or other cancers, all men should talk to their doctor about screening for prostate cancer. Routine screening starts with a PSA blood test and may include a rectal exam. Prostate cancer screening starts with a PSA test. This is a blood test. If your doctor is already drawing blood for other tests, the PSA test order can be added. Results should be back within a few days.
“Now many of the recommended ages for screenings are getting younger,” said Guenter. “One in 25 Americans will develop prostate cancer and that number increases to one in five if you have family history. Just like you perform maintenance checks on your car, your body is even more important.”
3.Men are reluctant
A recent Cleveland Clinic survey revealed some of the reasons why men don’t visit the physician regularly. Some men just don’t like talking about their health, the survey found — even when they do see a doctor. One in five admitted they haven’t been completely honest with their physicians. Common reasons included embarrassment or discomfort with discussing certain issues and not wanting to be told that they should change.
“Men in particular often do not want to see their doctors. They neglect themselves,” said Guenter. “Also, men don’t like to ask for help. It’s the old adage of ‘I don’t need to stop for directions, I know where I am going.’ But the truth is we don’t always know where we are going and we could use some guidance. If you have plumbing issues and you don’t know how to fix it you hire a plumber. There is no shame in that, so there should be no shame in consulting with a doctor.”
Although heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women, almost twice as many males die of conditions that affect the cardiovascular system. According to the CDC, one in four men has some form of heart disease.
Average annual rates of the first heart disease complication rise from seven per 1,000 men at ages 35-44 to 68 per 1,000 at ages 85-94. The average age of a person having a first heart attack is 65.8 for men and 70.4 for women, according to the American Heart Association. Risk factors for heart disease include increasing age, male sex, family history and race, smoking, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and overweight, and diabetes.
“When your heart is not healthy, you are less functional and not living life at full capacity,” said Guenter.
Guenter said there was a misconception when the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra came out. For a short time, men’s health cost tripled. Many wondered if it was associated with men deciding to buy the pills once the new drug became available.
“What we found out is that not only is erectile dysfunction common but it has a physical, not emotional component. Men who have developed ED often have a lot of issues such as diabetes, smoking, obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. It is an underlying condition and all of a sudden men were going to their physician to request a pill and finding out they had other health ailments,” said Guenter. “I also tell my patients it may feel embarrassing but don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about these sensitive subjects and don’t be embarrassed to ever seek out medical attention.”