What could be more exciting for guys, the return of NHL hockey to Manitoba or seeing the doctor for a checkup? Well, the former probably wins hands down. However, men's health deserves a little more attention. While women are perceived as needing regular screening tests to detect cervical and breast cancer, men often take more of an optional attitude to their health checkups.
Why don't men go to the doctor?
For many reasons, from a health practitioner's perspective, men and women display different behaviour toward their health and taking care of themselves. The necessity of a regular checkup is questioned by men. Whether or not men decide to have a checkup is often influenced by their own view of their health status. If you feel fine, why bother going to the see the doctor? If one has a health issue or symptoms of a problem, then it makes more sense to see a doctor. This approach, of course, does not include preventive medicine, which is what the regular checkup is all about. The fact is, from age 40 and upward, men should have an annual prostate exam, from age 50 and up, screening for colon cancer and every year, a blood pressure check along with other key parts of an examination. Obesity is a growing problem among men. Men should also have their weight checked at the doctor's office. It may be obvious that you carry extra weight, but even 20 extra pounds can place you at risk for Type 2 diabetes. Also, with an aging population, more men will face the challenges of heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, balance and joint issues. Furthermore, many of these health problems do not produce symptoms that are detected by the patient. You can feel perfectly fine and have several health conditions.
No doctor, No reason to seek help?
So, if you can convince your dad, brother, husband, partner or grandfather to go to the doctor, what happens when they cannot find a family physician? There is no doubt that men have delayed seeking medical assistance in this climate of physician shortages. In this circumstance, it is vital that you encourage them to get a list of family physicians taking new patients from their regional health authority. The College of Family Physicians of Manitoba has a phone line to enquire about family physicians taking new patients at (204) 786-7111. If they cannot find a physician from that list, they should get temporary assistance from a walk-in clinic. Some walk-in clinics will do complete checkup visits.
We need to recognize that healthy men are part of a healthy family. Not just NHL players need a yearly physical. All men need to take care of themselves and family members should support them in bringing better health into their lives.
Dr. Maureen Kennedy MD, CCFP, FCFP, MSc, PhD(c)Kinesiology, Dip. Sport Med., is a sport and exercise medicine physician at Pan Am Sport Medicine in Winnipeg.
Readers can ask Dr. Kennedy questions, but due to the volume of requests, replies are not guaranteed.
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Here is a checklist to go through to determine if a man should have a checkup:
1) When was your last checkup? If more than three years ago, it is very important that you get a checkup right away.
2) Do you know what your cholesterol level is? If you have never had your cholesterol checked, it is time to do so.
3) Do you know what your last blood pressure reading was? If it was so long ago that you cannot remember, it is time for a checkup.
4) Do you carry extra weight? Do you know if you are at the right weight for your height? Do you have a wide waistline? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, you need to see your physician. It should be noted, that with weight, you do not need to be obese to be a risk for adverse health consequences. Even being overweight by 10-15 pounds can start an unhealthy path of future illness.
5) Do you have a family history of heart attacks in family members under the age of 50? Go to your physician.
6) If you are over age 40 and have not had a prostate check, it is time to see the doctor.
7) Are you a smoker? If so, a yearly checkup is essential.
8) Are you physically inactive (get very little exercise)? You need a yearly checkup. Inactivity is a risk factor for a heart attack, just like smoking.
9) Are you physically active? You too, should be getting a checkup every two years or more often, depending on your personal health situation. Physical fitness does not make checkups with your physician optional. You can have health problems and be a marathon runner.
10) Are you more tired than usual? Fatigue is a common problem but it is time for the checkup if this symptom is unexplained.