June is officially Men's Health Month, but in penning this piece, I find myself talking more to women than to men. You see, studies have long shown that men are less likely to make their own health a priority; thus, it is the women in their lives that encourage them to take care of themselves.
A few facts to support my point. Men are only half as likely as women to see a healthcare provider over a two-year period and, according to one CDC study, more than three times as likely to admit going more than five years without a health visit.
Why? Well, Cleveland Clinic set out to find out the answer to that very question. They surveyed men between ages 18 to 70 and found that only 40% go to a doctor unless they fear they have a serious medical condition—and over 50% agree that it’s just not something they talk about. And it may not come as a surprise to learn that 19% of them only go because a loved one is “nagging” them about it.
Gentlemen, taking care of yourself is important at any age or stage of life. First—despite the convenience that can often come from heading to a Walk-In Clinic when you’re feeling under the weather (and I’m glad they’re available too!) the fact is that you need to have a primary care provider and see them annually.
Your health will be better overall when you work with a single provider who knows your past health history and can talk to you about concerns that can arise as you age. They can also help you address concerns and answer questions about depression, anxiety, and other conditions that impact men just as they do their female counterparts.
Having a primary care physician can also help every many stay on top of the regular tests and screenings necessary at specific times. For example, cholesterol should be checked beginning at age 20, with follow-up tests scheduled based on individual needs. Blood pressure should be checked annually—especially if there’s a family history of the disease. And yes, even if you’re young and healthy, you need to make sure that you get a flu shot and have your vaccinations up-to-date to protect your health.
Nearing 40? It's time to talk to your health care provider about when to begin screenings for prostate cancer. For most men, that starts at age 50, but it can begin earlier for men who have a family history or for men of African American descent.
And at age 50? It’s time for a colorectal cancer screening if you haven’t yet undergone the procedure. Colorectal cancer has an incredibly high rate of survival if found early—so this is one that every man and woman needs to prepare for.
Guys, your health is vital to those who care about you—and it should be to you as well. So make Men’s Health Month your month for focusing on your own health and wellbeing. (And thanks, ladies, for all of your help. Keep up the good work!)
Matthew Munding, MD
SCL Health Medical Group – Butte Urology