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Doc's Advice for Men's Health Week: Have that Checkup

PHOTO: After age 65, about 80 percent of people have at least one chronic health condition; 50 percent have two. With regular, preventive doctor visits earlier in life, those odds can change. Photo credit: lisafx/iStockphoto.com
PHOTO: After age 65, about 80 percent of people have at least one chronic health condition; 50 percent have two. With regular, preventive doctor visits earlier in life, those odds can change. Photo credit: lisafx/iStockphoto.com
June 17, 2015

SEATTLE - It's a medical mystery: Why don't men go to the doctor as often as women?

This is Men's Health Week, time for a friendly reminder from a physician or partner that it may be time for a checkup. Men live an average of five fewer years than women and have higher death rates for almost every leading cause of death. Part of the problem could be that men make only half as many preventive-care doctor visits as do women.

Dr. Mark Mora, chief medical officer for Group Health Cooperative, said that means many men don't get to know their doctors - and find it tough to discuss their health problems.

"It's challenging as people age to recognize, 'You know, I'm not the man I used to be. I have difficulty talking about something sensitive, like incontinence,' or, 'I am a little bit less stable on my feet.' And it's only through this trusted relationship with your physician, your clinical team, that you're going to get around that," Mora said.

Mora said Group Health patients now can email their doctors or have phone appointments, all in an effort to encourage more preventive care.

The perils of procrastination are evident in older Americans, Mora said. By age 65, eight out of 10 people have at least one chronic health condition - and five out of 10 have more than one. Mora said he hopes men of all ages who keep putting off those regular checkups can do their part to reverse the trend.

"Look for a doctor or look for a delivery system that's really serious about prevention, that makes the investments in information technology, that designs services around prevention," he said.

He added that it's a bonus when a man's spouse, partner or other family member comes in with them for a doctor visit, to get the additional perspective on symptoms and concerns.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA