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Men and Their Fear of Doctors

4fa1c323caa70.preview-300by Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D.
Special to the NNPA from the St. Louis American

To all of the men who have provided sperm for procreation and to the men who more importantly truly lived up to the definition of the word, dad, I wish to express a hearty Happy Belated Father’s Day. For those men who spent time teaching their children how to ride a bike or drive a car, who provided the midnight feedings so their spouses could sleep, who requested that their daughters change clothes when they were too revealing, and for those awesome men who taught their sons how to be a man, we salute each of you! It is with that appreciation that I want to focus our attention this week on the health and well-being of one of God’s greatest creations.

If you scan any medical room regardless of its locale or racial demographics, the majority of the people sitting there would be women.  The only exception to this rule would be at a veteran’s facility.  You would think that since women live longer than men by almost five years, that men would frequent the doctor more so they could improve their odds. However, as we all know that is not the case.  In my practice, most of my male clients that present for the first time have done so either because their loved-one or coworker has harassed him into making an appointment or they have a specific concern.

There have been many theories proposed as to why men do not see the doctor on a regular basis, one of which is stoicism.  Men may equate seeing their provider with that of showing vulnerability. My counter offer to this belief is that preventing disease is always easier than trying to treat it.  We should remind our male loved ones that independence becomes difficult once a person has multiple illnesses, hospitalizations, etc.

Another reason for the lack of participation in the healthcare system by males and the reason probably most cited by my patients is the fear of getting a prostate exam. Apparently, men are not too keen about a 2 ½ to 3 inch finger being inserted into their rectum.  I even try to use analogies to ease my male patient’s trepidation about that aspect of their exams.  I show them the size of the speculum used in pelvic exams in women and compare that to the size of my finger.  I then ask, “Which would you prefer?”

I also believe that men must think that when they go to the doctor that as soon as they walk in the room, the doctor will say hello and immediately ask them to bend over and drop their pants! My dear beloved brothers, there is more to a wellness exam than that. There are many other important health topics that need to be addressed, such as heart disease.

Cardiovascular disease is still the number one cause of death for both men and women. Risk factors for heart disease are hypertension, diabetes, obesity, smoking, family history, and simply being male! The goal of yearly check-ups with a provider is to try and prevent some of those diseases and to try and modify those factors that are modifiable. For example, regular visits can provide needed cognitive or medicinal support for nicotine cessation. Roughly, 22 percent of men over the age of 18 smoke cigarettes.

In addition, a national interview survey in 2011 showed that about 12 percent of men over the age of 18 are in fair or poor health.  And in males under the age of 65, a little over 18 percent of them did not even have health insurance. In the greater than 20 year olds, approximately 31 percent of them had high blood pressure, which is blood pressure 140/90 or higher.  We consider high blood pressure the silent killer. Most people have no symptoms when their pressure is high. Therefore men, the argument that “I feel fine” is not enough to justify not seeing your doctor regularly.

Children, women, men, and the elderly all need yearly wellness exams. For men, this exam entails:  vital signs (blood pressure, weight, body mass index), full physical which may or may not include a prostate exam, and some labs depending on the patient. Most patients need a lipid panel, electrolytes with kidney function, and a diabetes screen. These visits are also utilized to update immunizations such as Tdap and influenza and to ensure that preventative tests such as colonoscopies are scheduled at the appropriate age of 50 and every 10 years thereafter.

Men, our society needs you to continue to be the strong, fearless leaders you have always been but you can only achieve that by being proactive about your health.  If you love us, we implore you to take care of yourself.  Make an appointment to see your doctor today!

Yours in Service,

Denise Hooks-Anderson, M.D.
Assistant Professor
SLUCare Family Medicine
yourhealthmatters@stlamerican.com

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