According to a recent survey commissioned by the national non-profit organization, Men's Health Network (MHN), almost 70 percent of men find it easier to care for their cars than they do their own personal health.
In addition, more than 40 percent of men are more likely to address problems with their cars than with their health. As a result, some men may be ignoring their symptoms of certain health conditions because they are reluctant to visit a doctor, the survey found.
"By the age of 40, men are past the 'maintenance free' years," explained Family Medicine physician Homer Skinner, D.O. "They have specific health needs and should schedule annual physical exams with their primary care providers. However, several studies show that men are often less likely to have annual physicals than women, even though regular exams and screenings have been proven to help save lives."
For example, according to a 2007 online survey of 1,100 men conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicians, many men only go to their doctor when they're very sick and they skip preventive care. While 85 percent of men said they seek medical treatment when they're sick, 92 percent said they waited at least a few days to see if they felt better before seeking care. Nearly 30 percent of the men push that strategy to the limit, saying they wait "as long as possible" to see if they get better before seeking medical care or advice.
"One of the biggest obstacles to improving a man's health is that person's perspective," Dr. Skinner advised. "Men often don't make their own health a priority and pay more attention to other issues that they feel are more important. Recognizing and preventing men's health problems is not just a man's issue, it affects the entire family."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that in 1920, women lived on average, one year longer than men. Now, women on average live almost six years longer than men. This may be due in part to the fact that more than 70 percent of men are overweight or obese (compared to 64 percent of women), and men are also more likely to die from the top 10 causes of death than women.
"The bottom line is that today's men are living increasingly unhealthy lifestyles," Dr. Skinner said. "This is one of the reasons why it is so important to encourage the early detection and treatment of disease, and create awareness of preventable health problems."
To help achieve that goal, in 1994, Congress established Men's Health Week, which concludes each year on Father's Day. Congress later designated the entire month of June as Men's Health Month, in an effort to encourage men to seek regular medical advice and the early treatment of disease or injury.
"Besides having a regular physical exam, men should also talk with their primary care providers about their family history, to check if more specialized screenings for diabetes, heart disease and other conditions are needed," Dr. Skinner added. "Those who are age 50 and older should make an appointment to be screened for colorectal cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country. Regular colorectal cancer screenings can help find and remove polyps before they become cancerous, or enable early treatment when it may be the most effective."
Although effective measures to prevent prostate cancer have not yet been identified, the CDC recommends that men talk to their doctors about the risks and benefits of screening so that they can make informed decisions about whether screening is right for them.
Other Healthy Habits
"Exercise is important, particularly as we age," continued Dr. Skinner. "Take your dad outside to shoot hoops, throw a baseball or toss a Frisbee, if he is able to do so. Just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week can help reduce his risk of heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. Exercise can also help him maintain a healthy body weight, joint strength and mobility."
Healthy Eating: Encourage the man in your life to eat a balanced diet low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables, to help lower his risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer & diabetes.
Skin Cancer: Men of all ages should practice sun safety by seeking shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. In addition, wear sunglasses, a hat, shirt, and pants that cover the arms and legs (when possible); and use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and one of the most preventable.
Avoid Substance Abuse: "Alcohol abuse causes 100,000 premature deaths in the U.S. each year," Dr. Skinner said. "Alcohol is a powerful drug that slows down the body and mind; and impairs coordination, reaction time, vision, judgment and clear thinking.
In addition, avoid tobacco products of all kinds, because they dramatically increase a man's risk of premature death and disability from heart disease and stroke, chronic lung disease, and cancers of the lung, larynx, esophagus, mouth and bladder."
Get Vaccinated: Vaccines aren't just for children. Adults age 50 and over and those who have chronic health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease, should get a flu shot every fall. Adults age 55 and over should also get a pneumococcal vaccine, which is effective for at least 10 years and helps reduce hospitalizations and premature death due to pneumonia among the elderly.
"People can show their dads how much they love them this Father's Day by helping them stay healthy and reminding the special men in their lives to schedule regular physical exams and important health screenings," Dr. Skinner concluded.
Homer Skinner, D.O., is board certified in Family Medicine and is affiliated with Salem Community Hospital's medical staff and PRIMA Healthcare, 107 Royal Birkdale Drive in Columbiana, 330-482-9350.