Savvy Senior: Men often in denial over health problems
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you help me talk some sense into my stubborn husband? He’s 64 and refuses to go to the doctor. He hardly ever gets sick, but last winter he got the flu for almost two weeks, and kept saying he was fine and didn’t need any help. Now he’s having a personal health problem and he’s embarrassed and won’t talk to me about it. What can I do to motivate him? I’m not ready to be a widow just yet.
When it comes to their health, many men like your husband take the John Wayne approach. They tough it out! That’s why men in the United States die almost six years younger than women. Here are some health facts your husband should know about.
At age 65 there are 125 women to every 100 men, and by age 85, there are 250 women to every 100 men. Why the large gap? Many health experts believe it’s about attitude. Our culture has taught men that they should stifle their pains, deny their symptoms and wait as long as possible before visiting a doctor.
Here are some interesting facts that back this up:
Men make half as many visits to doctors as women do for preventive care.
One in four men wait as long as possible before seeing a doctor when they’re in pain or feel sick.
Men are less likely to recognize depression and more likely to avoid seeking treatment if they do recognize it.
Men are more likely than women to engage in risky health behaviors like tobacco use, alcohol consumption, unhealthy eating habits, reckless driving, and overexposure to sun.
Nearly 31 percent of all men in the United States are uninsured, and those who don’t have health insurance are much less likely to seek medical attention.
If you have a hard time getting your husband to see a doctor, maybe you can help him by gathering relevant health information so he can better understand the problem he has and how it can be treated. There’s a growing number of resources available online to help men educate themselves in all areas of health, especially those who might be too embarrassed to ask about sensitive subjects like prostate trouble, impotence and incontinence. Here are some reliable Web sites to assist you:
National Library of Medicine (www.nlm.nih.gov): The world’s largest medical library offers information, resources and treatment options on men’s health topics including links to government-sponsored clinical trials. You can also call 1-888-346-3656 for assistance.
Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic.com): Offers a men’s health link under Health Centers that features information on health issues, screenings and self-assessment quizzes that test your health status.
The American Urology Association (urologyhealth.org): Offers information on enlarged prostate, testicular cancer and prostate cancer. In the past few years, several new treatments have emerged and this site can help you evaluate the different types of therapies.
American Academy of Family Physicians (familydoctor.org): This is a consumer friendly site that offers information on general, reproductive and mental health.
The Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov/men): Offers information on diseases, health issues, and lifestyle risks that affect men’s health.
MedicineNet (www.medicinenet.com): If you need help understanding what you’re reading, this site offers a medical dictionary that explains of over 15,000 medical terms.
Ottawa Health Research Institute (decisionaid.ohri.ca): If you’re feeling confused about what to do, this site offers a “personal decision guide” that can help you make tough health care decisions.
If you don’t have a computer or Internet access to visit these Web sites, ask a family member or friend to help you, or call your local public library or senior center for assistance.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit http://www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.