Despite the fact that, on average, men tend to live shorter lives and become sick and disabled earlier than women do, they’re far less inclined than women to seek routine preventive healthcare and screenings. Even when they’re experiencing pain or other physical symptoms, men often shrug off seeing a doctor for evaluation and treatment. Women, on the other hand, are more likely to have learned and internalized the importance of preventive healthcare from a relatively young age.
Whatever the motivation behind this tendency in men—whether it’s a false sense of invincibility, fear of embarrassment, or the misguided notion that seeking help is a sign of weakness—they have much to gain and nothing to lose by taking advantage of preventive healthcare services. Here are five reasons men would do well to think more like women when it comes to their health:
1. Many diseases are “silent.”
Many men boast of their diligence with respect to preventive motor vehicle maintenance—checking the tire pressure, changing the oil, topping off fluid levels, inspecting belts, replacing the air filter, etc.—yet can’t be bothered to schedule preventive healthcare visits to ensure their bodies are functioning as they should. They assume that because they feel okay, they must be healthy. And why bother a doctor when there’s nothing wrong with you?
But the reality is, many serious medical conditions are “silent,”
causing no obvious physical symptoms. For example, one can have elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar yet feel just fine.
Left untreated, however, these conditions can lead to very serious
health issues down the road.
2. The earlier diseases are caught and treated, the better.
No physician has ever uttered the words, “If only you’d waited a bit longer to come in, we might have been able to cure you!” Outcomes are always best when diseases are detected and treated at the earliest stage. Even in cases where the disease cannot be cured, early detection and initiation of treatment can often help patients live significantly longer and maximize their quality of life throughout the disease process.
And again, don’t assume physical symptoms will alert you that something is wrong. Many cancers, for example, cause no symptoms in the early stages, and some are already advanced by the time symptoms manifest themselves.
3. Preventive healthcare provides accountability.
Preventive healthcare usually involves making healthy lifestyle choices or modifications, such as eating better, exercising more, avoiding tobacco use, moderating alcohol consumption, etc. The results of these efforts (or lack thereof) are reflected in blood work values, blood pressure readings, the number on the exam room scale, and other measurements. Knowing your doctor will routinely evaluate your progress helps keep you accountable on the path to a healthier you.
4. Risk factors can be addressed.
You may have a family history, occupation, or lifestyle habit that puts you at elevated risk for a certain disease without even realizing it. In taking your history, the doctor can identify these risk factors and recommend screenings accordingly. For example, if one of your family members was diagnosed with a certain form of cancer, your doctor might recommend that you begin screening for that cancer earlier than normal or that you undergo genetic testing to evaluate your risk.
5. There are people who love and depend on you.
If you’re a man who shuns medical care, there are likely many people in your life—your spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, etc.—who love and depend on you and wish they could convince you to change your approach. They don’t want to nag or annoy you, but they do care what happens to you. Seeing a doctor for preventive healthcare is a small price to pay to keep yourself healthy and reassure your loved ones that you’ll be part of their lives for many years to come.