In the U.S., the average woman can expect to outlive the average guy by about five years.
Despite this sobering statistic, men are somehow twice as likely to entirely avoid a visit to a health care provider, for a panoply of apparent reasons.
Preventive medicine is simply not top of mind for a lot of men, said Harland Holman, MD, a primary care physician with Spectrum Health Medical Group.
But it certainly should be. A guy can try to write off a health problem as a temporary issue or something that’s “all in his head,” but that canary will only sing for so long.
Sooner or later, even the smallest of medical issues can become a bigger problem.
Dr. Holman has encountered his fair share of common misconceptions and myths men believe when it comes to their health.
Here are some of the top myths:
Myth No. 1: ‘I need a yearly prostate exam.’
Annual prostate exams and testicular screenings for low-risk men are unnecessary, as they have no proven benefits. Even if there is a shared decision to screen for prostate cancer, the American Urologic Association recommends screening every two years or more.
Dr. Holman, however, recommends that men should still undergo an annual exam with a primary care provider so they can be screened for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and—if they’re older than 50—colon cancer. An annual review and update of the patient’s family history can also identify potential genetic disease.
If a man does not show symptoms or risk factors for prostate or testicular cancer, it’s reasonable for him to forego a rectal or testicular examination. “This is important, because I have met many patients with great fear of these exams and it may hold back many men from visiting their doctor,” Dr. Holman said.
Myth No. 2: ‘Erectile dysfunction is all in your head.’
Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of a more serious issue such as vascular disease. Researchers have found strong links between erectile dysfunction and diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, hypertension, obesity and heart disease.
Myth No. 3: ‘I’m always tired and it’s because of low testosterone.’
While most men would just as soon ignore symptoms such as fatigue, depression, loss of sexual appetite and a decreased sense of well-being, low testosterone may not be the cause. Men should meet with their doctor to check for any underlying issues such as thyroid disorder or anemia.
Myth No. 4: ‘I’m 30 years old, so I’m caught up on all my vaccinations.’
The tetanus shot was updated to include the pertussis vaccine, which is recommended every 10 years. While tetanus is rare, pertussis outbreaks have been increasing. This is particularly important to keep in mind if you have young children in your family.
Men who smoke or have chronic health conditions—and men older than 65—should consider the pneumonia vaccine. Also, men older than 60 should be counseled on a vaccine to reduce the chance of shingles. And don’t forget the annual flu shot.
Myth No. 5: ‘Snoring is no big deal.’
While your snoring may not bother you, it may still be a sign of a dangerous sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, which itself can lead to other ailments such as heart disease and hypertension. Sleep apnea can also up your risk of a car crash.