Mary Kay VanDriel: Health Matters: Why are men more often the casualties of preventable disease?

By Mary Kay VanDriel, R. N.

Is it pride? Is it “I can handle this on my own?”

Whatever the reason, it’s a sad truth that we in health care recognize—men are less likely than women to seek medical help when they’re ill, and many only see a medical provider when they can no longer avoid it.

One study even reveals one in four men state they would wait as long as possible to seek professional help when ill. Often, of course, that means their illness progresses farther than it would if they were more receptive to seeking medical attention.

Currently men lead 9 of the top 10 causes of death nationwide. Why? Many health care experts believe it’s because of a lack of preventative health care. Women are much more likely to visit their primary care provider for an annual checkup or when acute illness occurs.

As June’s Men’s Health Awareness month comes to a close, I asked Ryan Mallo, family nurse practitioner at the Evart Family Practice, for his insights on some key preventative health care areas men should address. Take this article with you to your next primary care appointment and review these topics with your provider.

“I tell my patients in the exam room every day that there is no shame in admitting you need help,” he said. “Not seeking routine, preventative health care and delaying treatment for an illness is often more expensive and more extensive. Just like your car, your body needs routine maintenance.

“I encourage you to visit your primary care provider and discuss some of the following topics:

• “Blood Pressure: Ask if your blood pressure is within an acceptable range for you.

• “Labs: It’s important to have a regular cholesterol check or diabetes screening.

• “Weight: Is your weight within an acceptable range for your height? If keeping your weight down is difficult for you, tests might show it’s because of an underlying medical condition.

• “Sexual Health: You will not shock your primary care provider if you bring up concerns regarding your sexual health. We are ready to have that conversation with you. Whether it be STD screenings or developing treatment options for erectile dysfunction, you’re not alone with these concerns.

• “Cancer screenings: There are a number of different cancer screenings your provider will cover with you based upon your age including: testicular cancer screenings, prostate screenings, colon cancer screenings and an annual skin check.

• “Vaccinations: While you may have received several vaccinations early in your life, don’t overlook the need to boost some of the vaccines to keep your immune system strong.

• “Smoking Cessation: If you’re a smoker, it would be good to discuss smoking cessation and the different treatments available to assist you in kicking the habit. Additionally, if you’re 65 to 75 years of age, ask for a one-time ultrasound to help evaluate your overall picture of health.

“Your primary care provider will likely choose to evaluate additional items in your health such as your physical activity level, your diet, any depression or mental health concerns, and your drug and alcohol use. These questions are not meant to pry into your personal life, but rather to help tailor a plan of care that best suits your unique needs as an individual.”

“It’s time for men to win the war on preventable disease,” he concludes. “Schedule an annual health examination with your provider today!”

Mallo recently obtained his Ph.D. in men’s health promotion.

Leave a Reply