Jun 6 2014
For many men being a father is about staying strong as they protect and care for their family. Some men see going to the doctor as a weakness or nuisance, but protecting your health is one of the best things a father can do for his family. Studies confirm the importance of men seeing a physician on a regular basis since, on average, they die younger than women and have higher mortality rates for heart disease, cancer, stroke and AIDS.
"I've found that most men, especially if they see themselves as generally healthy, don't treat going to the doctor as a priority. In the course of a busy week there isn't room for one more appointment. In addition, they dread being told to eat better, exercise more and perhaps to stop smoking," said Kevin Polsley, MD, internist at Loyola University Health System and assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
Going to the doctor is much more than being given a list of lifestyle changes that must be made. This kind of thinking can be deadly and doesn't add up. The longer a person puts off seeing a doctor the more likely it is that he will have to see a doctor on a regular basis.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this axiom has never been more true than in today's health care environment," Polsley said. "I have many male patients that could have avoided costly and uncomfortable treatments if they had seen a doctor more regularly and undergone routine screening tests. There are several easy screening tests that we use to pick up evidence of a condition before it causes symptoms. In addition, there are many vaccines that can potentially prevent serious illnesses before they occur, which can prevent serious symptoms as well as time missed from work."
Seeing a physician is especially low on the list of priorities for younger men. But establishing care in a medical home at a young age and while healthy is important. This allows the physician and patient to have a relationship, and makes it easier to know when things are heading in the wrong direction. It's not only a sound investment for a man's health, but for his wallet as well.
Having to see specialists, paying for procedures and taking daily medications can really impact a person's financial health. In addition, many health insurance companies offer financial incentives for staying on top of health conditions and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
"Waiting until you have a health crisis means that your care is no longer preventive care - it's treatment, and that may include surgery and/or a hospital stay. Instead of making a simple change in diet and lifestyle you may have to make significant changes and often be on medications," Polsley said.
Men may feel selfish or weak going to the doctor or caring for their health, but it positively impacts more than just their own health; it can impact the whole family.
"Children look to their parents as examples of how to live, and are more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices if they observe their parents making healthy choices. So lead by example: if you live a healthy life, so will your kids," Polsley said.
Here are a few screenings Polsley says every man should get:
High blood pressure: Every man age 18 or older should have his blood pressure checked at least once a year.
Diabetes: Men with risk factors−−such as a family history of diabetes, being overweight or experiencing diabetic symptoms−−should be screened with a fasting blood test. This test measures the amount of a sugar called glucose in your blood. Normal is less than 100 milligrams per deciliter; 101 to 125 is pre diabetes and above 125 suggests diabetes.
Cholesterol: Men ages 20 to 35, especially those with cardiovascular disease risk factors such as diabetes, should be screened. After age 35, men should be screened once every five years if normal, or more often if levels are elevated.
Colorectal cancer: Men should be screened beginning at age 50 or sooner depending if there is any family history of colorectal cancer. The gold standard is a colonoscopy. A doctor uses a slender, lighted tube to examine the entire colon. A colonoscopy can find and remove precancerous growths called polyps. If a colonoscopy is normal, it's good for 10 years. Other screening exams include a yearly fecal occult blood test (which can find blood in the stool) or, every five years, a fecal blood test combined with an exam called a sigmoidoscopy, which examines the lower part of the colon.
Prostate cancer: Men ages 50 or older who have a life expectancy of at least 10 years should have a discussion with their physician regarding annual PSA testing and prostate exam.
Vaccines: Men of every age should see their physician for information regarding indicated vaccines. A single pertussis vaccination is recommended for all adults, and is given with a tetanus booster. Pertussis is the bacterial cause of whooping cough, and this vaccine is especially important for any individual that has contact with an infant. There are also other important illnesses that can be prevented by vaccines, such as hepatitis, influenza, chicken pox, shingles and certain types of pneumonia.
Loyola University Health System