Don’t be Afraid Men

Re­luc­tance to see doc­tor among key men’s health is­sues

Wellness Update - - Front Page -

“Women are far more likely to go to the doc­tor, be sure their chil­dren go - for both health preven­tion and for ill­ness - and are the ma­jor rea­son that men go, if at all,” said Beebe.

Men have higher mor­bid­ity rates in al­most ev­ery one of the lead­ing causes of death in the United States, a fac­tor lead­ing to a re­newed fo­cus on men’s health is­sues.

Since 1994, June was des­ig­nated Men’s Health Month, part of a con­gres­sional health ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram to draw at­ten­tion to the higher mor­bid­ity rates among males.

Some of the prob­lem stems from ba­sic machismo, a sense that men don’t need to see a physi­cian un­til some­thing is no­tice­ably wrong.

“Men are less likely to go to the doc­tor for many rea­sons,” said Dr. Mike Mc­Mul­lan, di­rec­tor of UMMC’s adult con­gen­i­tal heart pro­gram and pro­fes­sor of car­di­ol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Mis­sis­sippi Med­i­cal Cen­ter. “Many of them seem to feel that it’s a sign of weak­ness, and ob­vi­ously they do not want to be per­ceived as weak.

“They feel that likely noth­ing is wrong and they would feel silly if they went to the doc­tor and were told that they were fine.”

Tra­di­tion­ally, man­ag­ing the health-care needs of a fam­ily also falls to women, said Dr. Diane Beebe, pro­fes­sor and chair of the depart­ment of fam­ily medicine at UMMC.

Sta­tis­tics from the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices show that men be­tween the ages of 18- 44 are 70 per­cent less likely to seek treat­ment than their fe­male coun­ter­parts.

Women are also con­di­tioned at a younger age to see a health-care spe­cial­ist on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, said Dr. Marino Bruce, di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Health for Mi­nor­ity Males, part of UMMC’s Myr­lie Evers-Wil­liams In­sti­tute for the Elim­i­na­tion of Health Dis­par­i­ties.

“Screen­ings for men hap­pen a lot later in life,” said Bruce. “And be­cause of that, men don’t de­velop habits of see­ing a physi­cian on a reg­u­lar ba­sis be­cause they don’t have guide­lines that en­cour­age early screen­ings.”

Bruce said men with a fam­ily history prostate can­cer are of­ten rec­om­mended to be­gin prostate can­cer screen­ings by the age of 40. Yet women have been en­cour­aged to see a women’s health spe­cial­ist on an an­nual ba­sis since they were in their teens.

“From the time you’re 18- 40, there’s re­ally noth­ing for you if you’re a man un­less there’s a health prob­lem iden­ti­fied, like high blood pres­sure or hy­per­ten­sion, be­cause you have to go back and have those mon­i­tored,” Bruce added.

Yet the lead­ing cause of death among males is of­ten pre­ventable, said UMMC physi­cians.

“The No. 1 cause of death for men is heart dis­ease, and much of the risk fac­tors for heart dis­ease, the pa­tient can’t feel,” said Dr. Zeb Hen­son, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in UMMC’s Depart­ment of Medicine whose spe­cial­ties in­clude hy­per­ten­sion and in­ter­nal medicine. “They don’t know

they’re sick, or they don’t know that they’re un­healthy.”

Hen­son said blood pres­sure and choles­terol is­sues are big things that pa­tients can’t feel for the most part be­cause there are no read­ily dis­cernible symp­toms re­lated to those.

It’s not a daily prac­tice for Hen­son to see healthy male pa­tients in their 30s visit for a checkup, whereas an ob­ste­tri­cian/gy­ne­col­o­gist is likely to see healthy women sev­eral times a day, he said.

“Men can dra­mat­i­cally re­duce their risk of hav­ing a heart at­tack by know­ing their num­bers and con­trol­ling their risk fac­tors,” said Mc­Mul­lan. “Some risk fac­tors can­not be changed such as age or fam­ily history of heart dis­ease.

“How­ever, risk fac­tors such as high blood pres­sure, di­a­betes, high choles­terol, smok­ing, be­ing over­weight and be­ing seden­tary are all treat­able and al­low men fol­low­ing a healthy lifestyle to live longer, health­ier lives.”

Dr. Roland Robert­son spent his med­i­cal ca­reer work­ing at the G.V. Sonny Mont­gomery VA Med­i­cal Cen­ter and UMMC in the school of medicine. But even he was hes­i­tant about go­ing in for an an­nual check up on his heart.

“I can tell you if I had not had the reg­u­lar check­ups, my heart prob­lem would have gone un­de­tected,” said Robert­son, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of medicine at UMMC. “If it had gone un­de­tected un­til I was re­ally symp­to­matic and I couldn’t do any­thing or could not func­tion well, it could have gone to the point of no re­turn.

“Even my­self as a physi­cian, I al­most waited too long. “I re­gret that.”

When asked about his health now, Robert­son perks up, say­ing, “I’m still ver­ti­cal.” And the 81-year-old said he gets to hang out with his “grand­boys,” mak­ing each of his trips to the doc­tor worth it.

Preven­tion also is key in iden­ti­fy­ing the on­set of other dis­eases, said Bruce.

Bruce said that most men don’t know what ill­ness they’re at risk for and that lot of those risks are pre­ventable when

see­ing a pri­mary care physi­cian on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

The scales are fur­ther tipped against males be­cause of be­hav­ioral ten­den­cies.

“Men are likely to have more of the risky be­hav­iors that lead to poor health out­comes, like smok­ing and heavy al­co­hol use,” said Hen­son. “Most of us, be­cause of the main­stream media, know that we don’t need to smoke, that we don’t need to drink too much. And many men don’t want to go to the doc­tor to be told that again.”

Robert­son said one of his re­luc­tances to get reg­u­lar check­ups was also based on him not want­ing to be told, “No.”

Hen­son said men also have a per­cep­tion that noth­ing is go­ing to hap­pen ex­cept a whole bunch of test­ing when go­ing to the doc­tor.

“Men think once the test­ing is done, they re­ceive a big bill for the visit and noth­ing will come of it.”

But the health risks fac­ing men - na­tion­ally and in Mis­sis­sippi - are too im­por­tant to re­main un­di­ag­nosed and ig­nored.

“Mis­sis­sippi has the high­est death rate from heart dis­ease in the na­tion,” said Mc­Mul­lan. “African-Amer­i­can men have the high­est risk in our state, and Cau­casian men are next.

“Yet, there is am­ple op­por­tu­nity to make a huge dif­fer­ence in our state by re­duc­ing the risk fac­tors that are treat­able and hav­ing reg­u­lar check­ups with your physi­cian,” Mc­Mul­lan said.

“Our goal is to get Mis­sis­sippi off the top of the list.”

“Mi­nor­ity men are more likely to have an ear­lier on­set of chronic kid­ney dis­ease,” he said. “This form of kid­ney dis­ease is the lead­ing cause of death for African-Amer­i­can men at the age of 35. For white men, the age is around 50.” “At my age, I de­test not be­ing able to do things,” said Robert­son. “I do not want to give in to any­thing. I get fussed at for try­ing to do more things than I should now, in the phys­i­cal sense.”

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