To mark Men’s Health month, experts ID the top health mistakes the men in your life may be making.
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼1. Not getting regular check-ups. The idea that men avoid doctors may be a stereotype, but it’s based in reality. The good news? A bit of gentle nudging (no nagging, please) can be effective. “Generally, I do find that men come to the doctor at their female partner’s request,” says Damon Raskin, MD, supervising physician of Ageless Men’s Health Facility, with several branches across the U.S. Most women get into good habits in their teens, when they start annual cervical cancer screenings, but men should also commit to a yearly physical. If nothing else, it helps guys establish a relationship with their doctors, so when problems arise, they’ll feel more comfortable seeking help.
2. Ignoring snoring. “Many men laugh off snoring as something everyone does,” says Nitun Verma, MD, medical director of the Washington Township Center for Sleep Disorders in Fremont, Calif. But it’s often a sign of sleep apnea, a condition in which sufferers can stop breathing briefly during sleep, cutting off oxygen flow to the brain. “Severe apnea increases the risks for stroke and heart attack by 300 percent,” Verma says.
3. Acting like an elite athlete at the gym. The adage, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing” shouldn’t apply to fitness—but many men still rush into a rigorous regimen when encouraged to exercise. “I see a lot of injuries from fitness routines that are way too complicated,” says Rob Pomahac, chiropractor and owner of the MaxHealth clinic in Los Angeles. If your trainer prides himself on “creative” workouts, or encourages competition in a way that seems dangerous, find something new. “Start with the basics and do what you can handle,” Pomahac says. An injury that sidelines a guy for months—or restricts his activity in some capacity forever—just isn’t worth it.
4. Avoiding talk about feelings. “Men think they can get by on their own and let things go,” Raskin says. But untreated mood disorders can affect quality of life and physical health. A short blue period now and then is normal, but no one should try to power through emotional issues affecting day-to-day life without help.
5. Self-treating problems with intimacy. You and your spouse may have seen commercials for “Low T” (low testosterone) and recognized symptoms like lower sex drive or erectile dysfunction. But you shouldn’t try to treat these concerns with supplements, herbs or other non-prescription products—which are at best useless and at worst dangerous. Performance issues could be a sign of a hormonal imbalance (common in men as they age), or something even more serious. So don’t hesitate to seek treatment—from a pro. (Are you seeing a pattern?)
6. Being vague or downplaying symptoms. So your man does get an annual physical—great! But allow his doc one nitpick: “Men tend to be less descriptive and minimize their symptoms,” Raskin says. All patients should be matter-of-fact when describing complaints—and not worry that the doc won’t think they’re tough. Explain how long symptoms have persisted, whether they come and go or are steadily increasing, and what triggers them. Rating pain on a scale of one to 10, or comparing it to other pain or symptoms, can also be helpful.