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Men, it's time for a checkup
Men don't go to the doctor as often as they should

Date published: 7/23/2006

THERE'S A GROUP of patients who are more likely to have high blood pressure and heart disease at a young age, more likely to have sleep problems, stress problems and substance abuse problems, more likely to engage in risky sexual practices, suffer chronic diseases and occupational injuries and have a poorer diet--but are less likely to go to the doctor.

They are called men.

Surveys show that men studiously avoid going to the doctor, despite such sobering statistics as the fact that they are 2 times more likely than women to have a heart attack before age 65. A third of men that age or older have high blood pressure. But they soldier on in their macho oblivion, making 150 million fewer visits to the doctor per year than women.

There are claims that this starts at an early age. That education at school is directed at reproductive health, gives more emphasis to female issues, and doesn't teach males the importance of health monitoring and checkups. Then around puberty "things really diverge," notes Dr. John W. Saultz, professor and chairman of family medicine at Oregon Health Sciences University, in an interview for WebMD.com. Females get sucked into preventive health care by virtue of regular Pap smears and gynecological exams and "establish a lifelong pattern," but men "are left to their own devices," Saultz says.

Also, young males tend to have that teenage invincibility. They smoke, they drink, they indulge in risky sports/sex/occupations and often eat a terrible diet. They are oblivious or uncaring that they are laying the foundations for ill health in later years, instead of going for regular checkups, where they could be assessed for risk factors for diseases and be counseled about diet, weight control, smoking and exercise.

There is more to it than just obliviousness, however. As these wild and rambunctious males age, they usually hear from somewhere or other that they should be taking care of their health.

A not uncommon source of motivation for these reluctant men is their wives. It's not unusual to have some sheepish-looking guy in for his annual physical as a "honey do."

But still, men falter.

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