Home Health & Education Men have unique health needs that should not be ignored

Men have unique health needs that should not be ignored

by PRIDE Newsdesk
Statistics show many men are inclined to not see a doctor until in the later stages of physical or mental ailments.

By Terry Kanakri (courtesy of Kaiser Permanente)

For many men, due to cultural or other reasons, they often neglect to schedule annual check-ups that are vitally important or postpone seeing a doctor when experiencing health issues because of the belief that “being a man” or masculinity means you should tolerate pain.

Unfortunately, such behavior can lead to serious consequences, as early detection and treatment often are the keys to the cure of many health problems.

With June being “Men’s Health Month,” it’s important for men to understand that good health should never be taken for granted and that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, says Dr. Fred Alamshaw, a family medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente Southern California.

“It’s important to know that catching a disease in its early stages can be the difference between life and death,” Dr. Alamshaw said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 13.2% of men aged 18 and older in the United States were considered to be in fair or poor health in 2021.

“One conclusion to this troubling statistic is that many men are inclined to not see a doctor until in the later stages of physical or mental ailments,” said Dr. Alamshaw, who is chief of family medicine at Kaiser Permanente Orange County.

Dr. Alamshaw noted that many men struggling with physical or mental health issues, are often more likely than women to have not sought treatment or have not had recent contact with a healthcare professional.

“This is regardless of income or ethnicity,” Dr. Alamshaw said. “This type of reluctance often leads to men not seeking help until their mental or physical health has progressed to a point where it might be too late by then.”

One reason for such behavior, Dr. Alamshaw explained, is that many men want to exhibit the traditional gender norms of ‘masculinity.’ They may also want to display the need for independence or control. Others have an unwillingness or fear of appearing weak or vulnerable due to cultural norms or societal pressure. 

Dr. Alamshaw encouraged men to set such feelings aside, noting it’s advisable for them to at minimum undergo certain key checkups by healthcare providers to remain in good health and prevent serious illness.

They include:

  • Blood pressure checks.
  • Screening for diabetes and cholesterol.
  • Prostate cancer screening.
  • Colon cancer screening.

Dr. Alamshaw added men also need to pay special attention to their mental health, instead of just focusing on good physical health.

“One can never underestimate the importance of good mental health as being a critical part of our overall health,” he explained. “Remember: It’s OK to ask for help, as it’s well known that for men, it’s a difficult subject many do not wish to discuss, resulting in them minimizing their feelings or symptoms.”

Such behavior can have drastic consequences, however, he said. “If they’re experiencing mental health challenges and don’t seek treatment, which can result in alcohol and drug abuse and possibly suicide, as well as other forms of abuse that are twice to three times more common among men than in women.”

It’s important to remove all stigma among men about seeking care for mental health disorders, Dr. Alamshaw said stressing, “Admitting you need help is not a sign of weakness or failure.”

“Mental health should be treated like any other medical problem,” he explained. “It needs to be destigmatized and viewed as any other medical condition.”

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