A majority of U.S. men want to take charge of their own health and are confident they can manage their health and well being, according to an international survey conducted by Chattem Inc. in partnership with the Men’s Health Network, a non-profit organization that advocates for men’s health.
Yet men still face obstacles to being proactive with their health, despite popular efforts such as Movember, which aim to encourage discussion about prevalent men’s health topics such as mental health, prostate and testicular cancer.
“Men want to hide their illness because they think it may appear as a weakness, given our macho culture…” says Dr. Ralph Esposito, a naturopathic and functional medicine physician who specializes in integrative urology and men’s health. “Research has shown, and so has my experience, that men do not like going to the doctor; but this is slowly changing.”
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More men now go online with health questions and to make doctor’s appointments, says Shearly Reyes, digital marketing manager at iHealthSpot, which manages digital marketing strategies for medical practices, hospitals and physicians.
“About a year ago, the percentage of men looking at and engaging with our doctors’ social media profiles was between 10-13%,” says Reyes. “As of today, that number is between 27-32%.” Reyes also notices a higher percentage of men filling out appointment request forms online.
“This shows that either men are more active with their healthcare, or we are doing a better job targeting them,” says Reyes.
According to the Men’s Health Network survey:
Doctors and other healthcare professionals are noticing men’s changing attitudes toward their health.
Here are the perspectives of three of them on four common men’s health issues:
Men are paying more attention to overall fitness and wellness too. “They see other men with great bodies on social media and strive to reach that level,” says Esposito. Men are also more open than ever to acupuncture, integrative medicine, meditation, mindfulness and yoga.
Esposito addresses nutrition, sleep, stress management, prescriptive exercise programs, precision medicine and targeted supplementation with his patients.
“These men leave feeling they have all the tools to improve their health today and prevent ailments in the future,” says Esposito.
“Men are becoming more health-conscious now that they have increased access to health information and online resources,” saysDr. Judith Meer, a pelvic health physical therapist in Newark, New Jersey. “Men are becoming more proactive in their own care whereas before, they were relying only on their doctors.”
Even though most of Meer’s patients are women, she’s getting more 55+ men who struggle with incontinence, organ prolapse and other pelvic issues. But the barriers to men seeking treatment are high.
“I’ve had male patients suffering from chronic pelvic pain who have been mocked by their MDs and told: ‘Just put on a diaper. It’s no big deal,'” says Meer. By the time men make an appointment with her, they’ve often socially isolated themselves due to fear of having an accident. “I’ve had patients say, ‘I don’t go out anymore because I once peed at a friend’s party,'” Meer says.
“Male patients especially are starting to find out about pelvic physical therapy through forums on the internet or some medical providers who don’t see the need to opt for drugs or surgery as a first line treatment,” says Meer.
Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in American men, according to the American Cancer Society, which estimates around 161,000 new cases and 27,000 deaths from prostate cancer for 2017.
Yet only 53% of men age 40 and over said they were screened for prostate cancer and only 55% believe prostate screening recommendations are clear, according to a poll conducted by South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, New York.
Men avoid getting prostate cancer screenings because they fear discovering cancer, may not be aware that annual PSA (prostate specific antigen) screenings help save lives or dread the accompanying digital rectal exam, says Dr. Howard Schiff, a urologist in New York City.
Still, men’s attitude have changed and continue to change when it comes to proactive prostate cancer screening, says Schiff.
“There has been a big educational campaign overall to make men aware that prostate cancer is not only one of the most common cancers in men, but one of the most prevalent cancers that can cause death,” he says. “Because more men are recognizing the importance of discussing health issues like prostate cancer, they are now asking their doctors to screen their PSA levels annually.”
Nearly all men are embarrassed to talk about low libido or sexual dysfunction.
“Most of the phone calls and e-mails I get are from women saying, ‘My husband or boyfriend is experiencing this,'” says Esposito, whose patients see him for male wellness evaluations targeting fitness, heart disease, libido, prostate health, sexual health and testosterone levels. Men practically whisper the words ‘erectile dysfunction’ to Esposito because they believe it conveys a sense of weakness, he says.
However, a man’s erectile dysfunction (ED) is often a signal of other issues such as cardiovascular problems or diabetes, says Esposito, who must determine whether his patients’ erectile dysfunction or low libido is caused by physical, psychological or a combination or both factors.
Men generally take several years to talk to a doctor about ED but the visit is worth it, he says. “I have also noticed many older single men are more inclined to seek support. I suppose this is because they are still on the dating scene and want to feel as young and vibrant as before,” says Esposito.
Have you noticed any changing attitudes about men’s health in your or a senior loved one’s life? We’d like to hear your experiences in the comments below.