Not a fan of the doctor’s office? No one is. If you blow out a knee while snowboarding or come down with pneumonia, then sure, you go. But for the routine physical, many men say, “nah, no need.” In fact, guys are 24 percent less likely than women to have seen a doctor within the past year.
Whether it’s a macho attitude, fear of needles and probes, or an assumption that they’re totally healthy, something is keeping guys away from the doc. Trouble is, men are paying for it. Stats show that men are much more likely than women to have congestive heart failure and complications from long-term diabetes – problems that often can be prevented by having routine checkups to root out early warning signs. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), most people who have high blood pressure don’t know it, and high blood sugar and cholesterol levels don’t usually show signs until they spiral into disease.
So even if you think you’re in fantastic health, you really can’t afford to avoid the annual doctor’s visit. Besides the routine stuff, NIH recommends guys age 18 to 64 get their blood pressure checked every two years, every year if it’s even borderline high – 120 to 139/80 to 89 or more. Once you’re about 34, start having your cholesterol checked every five years. But if you have diabetes, kidney issues or another health condition, start younger and get cholesterol measured more often. Men 50 and over should also get yearly screenings for prostate and colorectal cancers, as well as osteoporosis.
You also want to keep up on immunizations for tetanus, influenza, and STDs. And if you’re in your early to mid-20s or haven’t had a lot of sexual partners, by all means get vaccinated against human papilloma virus (HPV), the most common STD, which can cause oral and anal cancers. A just-released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report found that HPV infections among young women have dropped a staggering 56 percent in four years, thanks to the vaccine. We have to assume it’s been similarly effective for guys.
The other perk of annual visits is you build a relationship with a doctor, who’ll have a better sense of your baseline health and be more tuned in to potential issues. Plus, you’ll know right where to go if something feels off. Really, what’s the worst that could happen? The doc confirms that you’re healthy?