Men, the doctor will see you now

By Gail Rosenblum - Star Tribune

Research consistently shows men are reticent to see the doctor.

Research consistently shows men are reticent to see the doctor.

Many of us are pondering the questions du jour: Should I return to the office? If so, when? Full time or hybrid?

But a return to work isn’t the only question I hope you’re asking. It’s also time to return to your health care providers for essential annual exams that fell by the wayside during COVID-19.

And nobody needs a bigger nudge than the men in our lives, who countless studies show are less likely than women to see the doctor unless they’re really sick. Even then, they might not be candid about what ails them. We check in this week with Dr. Olusola Adegoke, a family medicine practitioner, who offers counsel on how to encourage the guys we care about to get those checkups.

Q: Research consistently shows men are reticent to see the doctor. I found one ongoing study from the Cleveland Clinic, for example, where only half of the 1,174 adult men surveyed said they get regular checkups, and 72% said they’d rather do household chores like cleaning the bathroom than see their doctor. Why do you think this is so?

A: There’s a sense of invincibility, or wanting to relegate their health to the least important thing in their life at that moment. It might feel like another thing or requirement “that I have to do.” There’s also a mindset of, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

Q: But sometimes things are broken, or at least worrisome for men. What are some of the greatest risks for men in avoiding the doctor?

A: Most cases of high blood pressure, for example, are asymptomatic; there are no symptoms. If you don’t get regular blood pressure checks, it can become horrible after the fact. But the two huge things I see relate to reproductive health, such as erectile dysfunction (ED) or urinary problem, and mental health. I practice in a semirural community and male patients will say, “Don’t tell my nurse.” I try to sort through the noise to find out what exactly is going on. They might be experiencing depression, anxiety, marital discomfort. Their wife tells them, “You need to go to talk to somebody.”

Q: Does having, or not having, health insurance play a role?

A: Sometimes it has to do with health insurance. With women, health insurance payments are structured so that, if you come in for annual exams that are preventive, they’re free. By the time men get to, “I have other concerns,” it spills over into a copay and that might be another huge struggle.

Q: What are annual or, at least, semiannual exams you’d like men to get?

A: This is very age-dependent. Usually, I follow the United States Preventive Services Task Force recommendations as a template to determine the age-appropriate exams and screening required by the patient. At 18, we strongly recommend a high blood pressure screening. We also talk about body mass index (BMI), which offers a rough estimate of who is obese, who is overweight, who is underweight and who might need to be screened for diabetes. We offer tobacco and smokeless tobacco counseling; alcoholism and chemical abuse screening, and a screening tool for depression. We begin prostate screenings around age 50 or 55. We always pay attention to family history.

Q: Does the doctor’s gender matter; i.e. are men more likely see a man?

A: I think it might be a factor. Men generally want someone they can relate to and who has shared experiences with them. They also want to be able to discuss some of their vulnerabilities.

Q: What’s your bottom line for men?

A: Get in for a physical/annual visit. Know your health status, and get a baseline assessment. If you come in every year, I know what your normal is, so the day where something is not normal, at least the relationship is normal and we can build on that.

Research consistently shows men are reticent to see the doctor. consistently shows men are reticent to see the doctor.

By Gail Rosenblum

Star Tribune

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