It's a classic case of male machismo jeopardizing health: A new survey finds many American men believe they're healthier than other men and don't bother with annual checkups, even though a yearly exam can catch health problems in the early stages.
The online survey of nearly 900 U.S. men 18 and older was conducted in May by The Harris Poll on behalf of Orlando Health and found that 65% of men view themselves as healthier than others and 33% consider annual health screening to be unnecessary.
"It is statistically impossible for the majority of men to be healthier than the majority of men," said Dr. Thomas Kelley, family medicine specialist at Orlando Health Physician Associates.
"Even if you think you're healthy and you're not experiencing any symptoms, there can be developing issues that often go unnoticed and can also be life-threatening if left unchecked," Kelley said in a health system news release. "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 exist."
The survey also found that 38% of respondents often get health advice from social media, which can be risky if they're not using reputable sources.
Fear is a major reason why men don't see a doctor, according to Kelley.
"If you're a man and you haven't been to the doctor in a while, you don't really know what to expect," he said.
"One of the big things that makes it less scary is having that great relationship with a primary care physician, and most men find the process to be easier than they thought," Kelley said. "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."
Nearly 2 in 5 men (38%) in the survey admitted that they tend to focus on their pet's health more than their own, which doesn't surprise Kelley.
"Men tend to put their health last after their family, and apparently even after their dog or their cat," he said. "But in order 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."
Combining annual exams with regular exercise, healthy eating, drinking plenty of water and reducing stress can make a big difference in your overall health.
"It's much easier to go to the doctor once a year for a wellness checkup and make certain that you're not developing diabetes, high blood pressure or a heart problem, than to find yourself in an intensive care unit needing heart bypass surgery because you didn't look into those things," Kelley said.