In my internal medicine practice, men typically made appointments when they felt something was wrong. If they needed something specific checked out, then they would see me. Sometimes they admitted that they only made the appointment after a certain amount of prodding on the part of a wife or female relative.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that men are 24 percent less likely than women to see their doctors for annual exams and preventive services. And more than 12 percent of men 18 years and older are in fair or poor health, and more than 34 percent are obese.
Yet men shouldn’t see the doctor only when there’s a concerning symptom that needs diagnosis. We know that cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 cause of death for men and women alike. Many men are diagnosed only when they have a serious cardiac event, such as a heart attack. But good preventive care over the years can do just what it implies – prevent a potentially life-threatening episode.
Regular check-ups are not just for women. Men in their 40s and beyond should visit their primary-care physician at least every other year for a complete physical. Over time, we will track trends in blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and other markers of overall health. We can ensure that screenings are initiated as recommended for colorectal cancer, prostate cancer and other diseases, based on the patient’s individual and family health history. If we notice any signs of a developing condition, we can take appropriate steps to control or even reverse that trend.
Besides seeing the doctor for a regular physical, men should pay attention to other aspects of a healthy life. Don’t wait until your blood pressure is elevated to begin an exercise routine. Don’t watch your cholesterol levels rise before you begin eating right.
One of the major causes of disease in our culture is the sedentary life many of us lead. Our bodies were meant to move. Once you and your physician agree that there is no need to restrict your activity, investing a bit of time and money to develop an exercise program with a personal trainer can be a boon to your health for years to come. Let the expert help you determine the best types of movement and blend of cardio and strength training for your age and physical abilities. Then make exercise part of your life – not just an occasional burst of activity.
During this Men’s Health Awareness Month, take the first step: Disregard any stigma you may feel in getting a checkup by making an appointment with your primary care doctor, especially if you haven’t had a check-up in the past couple of years.
If you don’t have a doctor, ywww.ssmhealth.com/find-a-doctor/doctor-details/timothy-j-pratt-mdou should seriously consider getting one. Doing so and scheduling regular checkups can help identify problems sooner and reduce your risk of disease. In the end, you have a better chance of living a longer, stronger and more healthy life.
Dr. Timothy Pratt, board certified in internal medicine and geriatrics, serves as chief medical officer at SSM Health St. Clare Hospital – Fenton. To find an SSM Health primary care physician near you, click here.