We all know we should eat well and exercise to stay healthy, but a new national survey commissioned by Orlando Health finds an alarming number of men skip another simple yet critical step in a healthy lifestyle: an annual checkup with their doctor.
A third of the men surveyed by The Harris Poll don’t think they need annual health screenings, and two-thirds think they are healthier than other men.
“It is statistically impossible for the majority of men to be healthier than the majority of men,” says Dr. Thomas Kelley, family medicine specialist with Orlando Health Physician Associates.
The findings are concerning because many serious health issues often go unnoticed.
“Even if you think you’re healthy and you’re not experiencing any symptoms, there can be developing issues that can be life-threatening if left unchecked,” Dr. Kelley says. “Some of those include rising blood pressure that can be a ticking time bomb for a heart attack or stroke, as well as colon cancer, which is one of the most deadly yet preventable cancers that exists.”
As a primary care physician, Dr. Kelley has heard every excuse for men skipping their appointments for years at a time, but he says the underlying reason for avoiding the doctor’s office is often fear.
“Most men find the process to be easier than they thought,” Dr. Kelley says. “It takes about half an hour and by the end of the appointment you have the big picture about where you stand, what you’re at risk for and what you need to do for your health in the future.”
Dexter Grant, 34, finally made an appointment with Dr. Kelley after 15 years without a check-up.
“In your 30s, you start to worry that every ache and pain could be the thing that takes you out,” Grant says. “But you can’t just avoid the issue out of fear of what your doctor is going to tell you.
With a clean bill of health, Grant is relieved to know he’s as healthy as he feels.
“Just having the peace of mind that there aren’t any lingering issues that can cause serious problems in the next year makes me a lot more confident that I’m on the right path,” he says.
The survey also found that, rather than speaking with their doctor, 38 percent of men often get medical advice from social media, which can be dangerous if they are not referencing reputable medical sources. Nearly two in five men also admit that they put their pet’s health above their own, something that is not surprising to Dr. Kelley.
“To take care of others in your life, you first have to take care of yourself, and that includes making that yearly appointment with your primary care doctor,” Dr. Kelley says.
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