When men come into my office, I frequently ask them how they like living in Egypt. You know, next to that river the Nile, as in “de-nial.” And that’s because historically, most men don’t come visit me—or seek healthcare, in general—until something really big happens.

Typically, men come in to the clinic with erectile dysfunction (ED), which then opens the door to discovering that they also have high blood pressure or diabetes. But it’s not always ED; it can be a kidney stone or other intense pain that just can’t be ignored any longer. The point is, it’s usually a reaction, not a forethought. And the research shows it’s not an Anacortes phenomenon. It’s not even an American phenomenon. Across the globe, from Britain to central and eastern Europe and even Uganda, studies show that men don’t seek preventative care.

There’s a host of reasons for this, but it doesn’t change the fact that men typically lag behind women when it comes to taking care of their health. Statistically, women are much more proactive at getting screened and visiting their doctor.

Men also die younger than women and end up in the hospital with more severe illnesses and injuries. Again, several factors contribute to this gap:

  • Biological: Men have a different genetic makeup. Things like hormones (testosterone) and metabolism can contribute to your overall health.
  • Social: Stress at work and a lack of tight friendships or support systems can negatively affect your health.
  • Behavioral: Men have riskier behaviors. They drink more alcohol, smoke more and drive faster. This stoic, tough-guy behavior also includes a lower rate of seeking preventative care.

As a urologist, I’m here to say, “Don’t be that guy!” You don’t have control over the biological factors. And you may not even be able to change some of the social factors. But you definitely have the power to control the behavioral factors. I’ve seen too many widows of men who’ve had strokes or died of prostate cancer. Life’s hard enough, don’t make it harder.

Here are some easy preventative measures you can take right now:

  1. Get screened:
    • Urinalysis: This test can find blood in the urine or other kidney problems and can even help detect early stages of diabetes or liver disease.
    • PSA: The prostate-specific antigen test measures the PSA levels in your blood and can be an indicator of prostate cancer.
  2. Stop smoking and limit your alcohol consumption:
    • Smoking: In addition to lung issues, smoking is directly related to bladder cancer. Yes, that’s right…directly related. It’s basically bad for everything in your body.
    • Alcohol: You don’t have to quit entirely, but limit yourself to moderate drinking (two drinks or less a day).
  3. Visit your doctor regularly: Don’t wait until something becomes unbearable. Bad things happen, but burying your head in the sand or ignoring symptoms isn’t doing anyone any good. Let’s change those statistics!

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