It is easy to take our health for granted as we focus time and energy on our work and families. Many of us don’t see a reason to visit a doctor unless there is a problem that interferes with our daily activities. Unfortunately this is especially true of men, who are far less likely than woman to see a doctor for regular checkups that can identify a health problem early and even prevent a chronic disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women are 100 percent more likely than men to visit a doctor for annual examinations and preventative services. This occurs despite the fact that men have a shorter life expectancy than women (76 years versus 81 years in the United States).
If there is one step that men can take to improve their health and possibly extend their lives, it is to establish a relationship with a primary care physician and get regular medical checkups. According to the CDC, in 2010 about 380 women out of every 1,000 saw a doctor, but only 283 men did. Men are at higher risk than women for certain cardiovascular problems that are routinely checked during an annual medical exam through cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure screenings. It is important to also monitor eye and dental health, keep immunizations up to date, and talk to a doctor about lifestyle factors that affect health such as diet, exercise, and alcohol consumption.
This reluctance to go through annual medical exams appears to be especially true for Latino men, who, according to a government study, have little interest in doctor visits for preventive services. However, Latino men have indicated that they would like more specific, accessible health information and prefer Spanish-speaking health care providers and low-cost medical services. Encouragement from their families and from community groups and advocacy organizations such as NCLR might also push Latino men to change their opinion of annual exams.
Now that the Affordable Care Act allows for 72 preventative screenings free of charge for all patients, getting screened for common health conditions at an annual exam is easier than ever. If you are wondering where to start, the Men’s Health Network is a good resource.
Recognizing Men’s Health Week as Father’s Day approaches is an important reminder that men’s health is a family issue. When men take care of their health and visit a doctor regularly, they do this not only for themselves, but also for their spouses, sons, daughters, and all of the people who love them.
So we say to our fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons: please make it a priority to see your doctor and get the preventive medical care you need. Let’s have peace of mind that the men we love are as healthy as they can be.