Men: Going to the doctor can help prevent health issues

Published On: Dec 18 2012 01:57:43 PM PST   Updated On: Jan 03 2013 07:55:12 PM PST

By Jeffrey Bramnick, Pure Matters

It's easy to get most men to a ball game or a hardware store. But for a lot of guys, a trip to the doctor is about as high a priority as a day of shoe-shopping.

One reason is pride. In a culture that equates being male with being healthy and strong, a hint of vulnerability to illness might be seen as a sign of weakness.

This is dangerous thinking. Waiting until you are ill before you see your health care provider can put your health in jeopardy.

If you let shortness of breath or chest discomfort go unchecked, you might face a heart attack. A change in bowel habits could warn of diseases like colon cancer. Headache or dizziness might stem from high blood pressure, which can lead to kidney damage and stroke. Blood in the urine can mean a kidney stone or prostate cancer, and it's always cause to visit a doctor.

But seeing the doctor also can aid your peace of mind. Symptoms that could signal a serious illness can also point to simple, easily treated problems. That blood in the urine, for instance, could come from an infection.

"I think men are getting better at seeing the doctor, but there's still hesitancy and denial," says Larry S. Fields, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. "Many men still have to be pushed to the doctor by their wives or children."

It's not just better for a man's health if he visits a doctor. It's better for his son's health, too. Boys often model their father's behavior. If dad sees the doctor, there's a better chance his son will grow up to do the same.

"There's a rather good and simple reason for men to see their doctor," Dr. Fields says. "It gives the doctor and the patient the opportunity to catch a problem early, leading to a better quality of lifeā€”and a longer life, too."

Tests you need

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that men get regular screening for certain diseases and medical conditions. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions about which screenings are appropriate for you.

Staying healthy

Here are recommendations from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: