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Why Men Don't Go to the Doctor

Copyright © 1997 by by Dr. Kenneth A. Goldberg


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Book cover

"If I had known I was going to live this long,

I would have taken better care of myself."
-- Mickey Mantle

According to a recent survey by Men's Health magazine and CNN, one-third of American men have not had a checkup in the past year. Nine million men haven't seen a doctor in five years.

Every year, men make 150 million fewer trips to doctors than women (the disparity occurs in every age group, not just the years some women have prenatal checkups.)

An American Medical Association study in 1990 found that men don't go to the doctor because of fear, denial, embarrassment, and threatened masculinity. Billie Pugh, a Texas, heart specialist, explains:
From Little League on, you hear boys told to "shake it off." To admit to having pain or some other problem is seen as a confession of weakness. It threatens our male pride and our provider roles, the things we've grown up with and that we've been taught.

The male denial factor is unrelated to occupation, age level, race or socioeconomic status. No matter how smart a man is, no matter what kind of professional status he's achieved, he can still ignore things he shouldn't ignore and pay the unnecessary consequences.

Those consequences can be serious. before age 65, men suffer 2.5 times more heart attacks than women. By age 65, one in three men suffers from high blood pressure, a primary risk for heart attacks. Yet men are less likely than women to have their blood pressure checked.

One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, yet few will have the easy and painless digital rectal exam and prostate specific antigen blood test to detect it (women, facing similar odds of breast cancer, are much more likely to examine their breasts regularly and have a mammogram).

Men are at greater risk of stress-related illnesses than women, yet only 20 percent of the people in the typical stress-management program are men.

Men are 30 percent more likely than women to have a stroke.

One out of three male strokes occur before age 65. Every year, over 50,000 men die of emphysema, one of the most preventable diseases. It has been estimated that more than 3 million men are walking around with early type II diabetes, a disease with major complications, and don't know it. Clearly, the price of denial is high.

Ken Goldberg, M.D., a board-certified urologist, founded the first center in the United States specializing in male health, the Male Health Center in 1989. Dr. Goldberg contributes to the advisory panels for National Men's Health Week, Men's Health Network and Men's Health Magazine. He also spends much of his time motivating, involving and informing men through a syndicated newspaper column "His Health" and his latest book, How Men Can Live as Long as Women. He is also a frequent speaker on national television and at professional meetings across the country.


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