National Men’s Health Week: Getting Men to see their Doctors

Legacy’s Drs. Larry Caesar and Mark Levine discuss why men need to stop skipping their doctor visits

This week is National Men’s Health Week and we’re using the observance to encourage men to take steps to better health. The purpose of Men’s Health Week is to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. A big part of this is getting more men to their doctor or health professional for regular checkups. To learn more about why this is so important the following questions were posed to Legacy’s Dr. Mark Levine, Adult Primary Care/Family Practice doctor at Legacy’s Montrose Clinic and Dr. Larry Caesar, Pediatrician at Legacy’s Fifth Ward Clinic.

According to a CDC study, men are half as likely as women to go to the doctor over a two-year period. Men cited being “too busy” or “uncomfortable” with certain body exams as the most common reasons. Why is this a cause for concern?

Men generally have higher rates of chronic diseases than women and a significantly shorter life expectancies.  Many medical conditions have no symptoms and require an evaluation by a physician or other medical provider to detect problems before they manifest as disease.

Not getting a checkup is like having a sports car that is externally detailed regularly while scheduled oil and maintenance checks are ignored. The potential downfall is the engine seizing up on the freeway. If you look at the time, cost and discomfort of getting regular oil changes, it is nothing compared to the cost of replacing an entire engine.

The same goes for your health. The time, cost and possible discomfort of regular checkups and screenings, are nothing compared to a heart attack or stroke in a young man that blindsides not only him, but his entire family. Legacy has worked to make care more convenient with multiple locations and extended hours. There are also affordable payment options.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men. How could regular medical check-ups decrease men’s risk for heart disease?

There are many risk factors for heart disease that can be uncovered and addressed during regular checkups with a medical provider.  Many men think they are at low-risk because they are active and have been told in the past their cholesterol is “good.” There is also increasing evidence that heart disease starts in childhood. Much of our diet in the US, with a heavy emphasis on processed foods, has accelerated this process greatly. There are many factors, such as stress management, family history and lifestyle that can be addressed during a visit with their doctor.

How often should men see a doctor?

The number of times men should see a doctor depends on many things. If they have been told previously by their provider that they are in good health and at low risk for diseases or infections, they should see a see a doctor at least once a year, at most every two years for their annual checkup. Men with family histories of conditions like cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, diabetes, as well as men with personal risk factors like obesity, metabolic syndrome, cigarette smoking, autoimmune diseases or even stressful jobs should see a doctor more often.

It’s important that men pay close attention to any symptoms of fatigue, depression, or unexplained weight loss and see a doctor as soon as possible for an evaluation. Too often many men have died of health conditions that could have been treated if they had sought help sooner.

What’s most important is that a man build a strong relationship with a heath care provider he trusts and who takes the time to get to know him. At Legacy we start this relationship in childhood and then help transition the child into adult care. We call it adulting.

What can health care professionals do to encourage more men to see doctors on a regular basis?

There are many things health care professionals can do. For example, when men are seen for urgent care issues, such as colds and minor injuries, they can be offered an appointment for a checkup.  Sometimes recommended preventive screening tests can be ordered during a visit, however, this should not take the place of a comprehensive medical history and physical exam.

Health care professionals can also alter their approach from one-size fits all to a more patient-centered focus, which requires listening, informing and involving men in their own care. At Legacy, our health care providers work to build trusted relationships with young patients and then put a plan in place to transition them to appropriate care when they reach adulthood. That relationship can continue to grow through the years as health care needs arise.

What can family and friends do to encourage more men to see doctors on a regular basis?

Families and friends can let the men in their lives know how much they are needed, and encourage the men in their lives to schedule regular checkups. Stressing the importance of men taking charge of their health will help to improve the health and longevity in their families, friends, communities and the world-at-large. We can each also be more open and honest about our own health issues, hang-ups and how we overcame them.

Finally, spread the word about organizations like Legacy, which provide a wide array of services, many of which are offered at each clinic, including adult/pediatric primary care, adolescent medicine, LGBTQ/transgender services, behavioral health, vision and dental. We also offer free HIV/STD testing and free health screenings and coaching at our Pharmacies. We accept most HMOs, PPOs, Medicaid and CHIP, plus Legacy has eligibility specialists and social services at every one of our 16 clinics. Call 832-542-5000 to schedule an appointment.