Why is it that men are so stubborn about taking care of themselves?

Articles put out by The Huffington Post and The American Heart Association have focused on the reasons why this is so. The former publication has pointed out that men die earlier than women. Part of this may be due to men taking more risks than women, as well as smoking and drinking to excess more than women. Men’s relative social isolation and more dangerous jobs also put them at risk for earlier death. However, as foolish as some of these seem, The Huffington Post’s major reasons why men avoid the MD were:

  • “too busy to go.”
  • fear of finding out bad news.
  • discomfort of examination (prostate, rectal, etc.)
  • the doctor’s “personal” questions
  • getting weighed!

Do visits to the doctor really save lives? You bet! Blood pressure screening, blood sugar tests and skin and testicular examinations are but a few of the easy interventions that can prevent or help treat diseases before they have gone too far. Lifestyle changes, medical and surgical therapies, as well as psychiatric counseling can literally save lives. But symptoms have to be heard and signs of disease have to be seen to be recognized and treated, and the only way that gets done is to visit the doctor. There is no substitute (short of telemedicine if that’s the only option) for a face-to-face visit with the physician. So why is this still an issue?

Well, men appear to have no shortage of dumb reasons. “I don’t want to ask for directions.” “I don’t want to show that I have no knowledge of a particular topic.” These are typical foolish sentiments that Dr. Glenn Good, an expert on masculinity and the psychology of men at The University of Florida, highlighted in a statement to The Huffington Post. The American Heart Association expanded on this issue, exploring other bird-brained but genuine excuses for not taking proper medical care of oneself. These include:

  • “I don’t have a doctor.”
  • “I don’t have insurance.”
  • “I don’t have time.”
  • “I don’t want to spend the money.”
  • “I’d rather ‘tough it out’.”

So men are still playing the stoic Marlboro Man of decades ago. Along with this machismo BS, the lame justifications listed above may seem silly and trivial, but they stand up to scrutiny. Indeed, men will say and do just about anything to avoid the doctor’s office. What is a spouse, girlfriend, friend or other loved one to do to combat this foolish and bone-headed behavior? I have a few suggestions:

  1. Show him this blog post and read to him how lives have been saved and countless suffering (physical, emotional AND financial) has been averted by a simple visit to the doctor.
  2. Get on the web and research “Why Men Avoid the Doctor” and show your XY chromosomal friend the potential disasters in not going.
  3. Play on his conscience. If he won’t do it for himself, at least he can do it for his life-partner, his children, his friends, coworkers and community.
  4. Read to him that hypertension, diabetes, prostate cancer, colon cancer and cardiovascular diseases are relatively common in Western-society men and that these conditions can often be cured or effectively treated if recognized early.
  5. “Scare him straight.” Tell him about someone you know who avoided the doctor only to learn that a condition has gone too far or, worse yet, caused an unexpected death to occur in a guy who appeared to be “healthy as a horse.”

Most men, I believe, when pushed will listen to reason. But there will still be some guys out there that, despite your best efforts, will resist. At that point, radical measures may be needed. You might have your doctor call him (if the doc is willing) to stress the importance of a physical. You might have a friend (preferably male), clergy member, trusted relative or grown child work him over as well. You can also play the “don’t you want to dance at ‘fill in the blank’s’ wedding?” (Insert child or grandchild’s name there.)

It’s going to take a cultural shift for men to “man-up” and take control of their health. I fear it is an uphill battle, but one well worth fighting. Men: It’s time to drop the macho act and drop your pants for the doctor. It’s the right thing to do!

For more with Dr. Sherer, click here for his podcast and video interviews, or purchase his memoir, The House of Black and White: My Life with and Search for Louise Johnson Morris.

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