Men don’t have the best track record when it comes to taking care of themselves. It’s safe to say we all know someone who is just plain stubborn about going to the doctor. Even if they exhibit clear symptoms that should be checked out, say wheezing, chronic fatigue or worse, it can be a challenge to get them to seek medical help.
Of course, not all men are like this. In fact, as a whole, men have been getting better about taking care of themselves, according to new data gathered by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
“Men have begun paying more attention to their health and acting to maintain good health,” says Wanda Filer, MD, MBA, president of the AAFP and a practicing family physician. “They are getting physical exams, increasing their exercise activity, and getting their health care from their regular doctor.”
With this encouraging news, it’s important to remember that men’s health is still a big concern. By keeping the following three points in mind, you can help yourself, or a loved one, lead a longer and healthier life.
Health care is preventive, too.
It’s a common misconception that you go to the doctor only when you’re sick or not feeling well.
So, what’s the most common barrier that prevents men from seeing a doctor?
Answer: themselves. According to a 2016 survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the AAFP, 31 percent of men wait until they feel extremely sick before seeing a doctor, and 21 percent say they have no reason to go to a doctor when feeling healthy.
As Filer says, “Not feeling sick is not necessarily the same as being healthy.”
Early detection and preventive care are two of the most important ways to maintain health and prevent potential health concerns from becoming major problems.
Step away from the screen.
Though more men exercise in 2016 than they did in the AAFP’s 2007 survey (80 percent vs 74 percent), many men still spend a considerable amount of time looking at screens.
In the 2016 online survey of 916 men across the country, the AAFP found that men spend, on average, about 20 hours each week working at a computer and 19 hours in front of a television.
While it’s nearly impossible to avoid screens in this day and age, men should be motivated to take on more physical and active hobbies that can reduce stress and improve their physical health.
Develop a relationship with a family physician.
An important step men can take to ensure they receive regular checkups and preventive care is to regularly visit a family physician. Nearly eight in 10 men (79 percent) have a regular doctor or health care professional they see when they are sick or want medical advice, however, a family physician not only treats the whole person, but the whole family. This is because an individual’s health should be a concern for the entire family.
The value of a family physician is that they perform routine checkups, immunizations and screenings. They can also treat chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, asthma, arthritis and depression.
“If more men develop ongoing relationships with their family physician, their perception of good health is more likely to become reality,” said Dr. Filer.
To learn more about men’s health, visit www.familydoctor.org.
To learn more about the 2007 & 2016 surveys, visit www.aafp.org/menshealth.