June 18, 2009

30 Days to a Better Man

30 Days to a Better Man Day 19: Schedule a Physical Exam

Men are reluctant to pay a visit to the man in the white coat. Studies have shown that more than half of the men in the United States have not been to see a doctor in the past year. And 55% of men admit that they are reluctant to visit the doctor. When we do go, we usually wait until we’re missing an arm or have a javelin stuck through our head.

There are a few reasons why men don’t visit the doctor on a regular basis.  One reason that I hear quite frequently from my male friends is that going to the doctor is just too inconvenient. I understand this sentiment. You go for what should be a 30 minute check up only to wait in the lobby for an hour and then you spend another 20 minutes sitting bare bottomed on some butcher paper in the exam room.

Another reason men avoid the doctor is that we’ve been socialized since childhood to believe that being a man means sucking it up when you have an illness or injury. Going to the doctor for some men means admitting that you’re weak and defected, and, thus, unmanly.

I think one of the biggest reasons  men don’t go to the doctor for regular check-ups is that we view the doctor as someone we only visit when something’s wrong with us. We don’t see going to the doctor as a way to prevent health problems before they start.

Finally, some of us are nervous about going to the doctor because we’re afraid they’ll find something wrong with us. But of course, that reason doesn’t make an ounce of sense. Because while being diagnosed with something isn’t very fun, it’s a barrel of monkeys compared to dying.

So today, we’re going to get over our reluctance to visit the man in the white coat and schedule a physical for ourselves.

4 Reasons to Get Regular Physicals

Prevent health problems. This is the most important reason. In the West, it seems medicine is geared towards treating health problems and not preventing them. While it’s true that doctors spend most their time treating people who are already ill, more and more doctors are focusing on preventing their patients’ health problems before they start. A regular physical exam is one tool to accomplish this goal.

By getting a regular exam, you can nip your health problems in the bud. If your doctor spots a funky looking mole, it can be removed before you have problems with skin cancer. If he notices that your blood pressure is too high, he can suggest a diet and fitness plan to help reduce it before you have a heart attack.

Also, when you get your physical, your doctor will ask you about your family’s health history. If your family has a history of certain diseases or health problems, your doctor can give you guidance on how you can reduce your risk of suffering those ailments.

Save money. While we sometimes avoid the doctor because we don’t want to pay for an appointment, if a doctor can nip a problem in the bud before it gets serious, you’ll save a lot of money on medical bills down the road.

Establish baselines. If you haven’t been to the doctor in a while, getting a physical will establish baselines for things like your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Having these baselines will help your doctor gauge your health’s subsequent progression or regression.

Develop a relationship with your doctor. Because men don’t see the doctor regularly, we often don’t have a doctor with whom we’ve developed a trusting relationship. But having a doctor that you can trust can ensure that you get the best care possible. First, we’re more likely to open up to doctors that we have a good relationship with, which means the doctor will get the information he needs to make a correct diagnosis when things are wrong. Second, having a regular doctor means you’ll have someone who knows your health history well enough that they don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time they see you. Finally, when you have a doctor you feel comfortable with, you’ll be less hesitant to go see him when something about your health goes south.

How Often Should You Get a Physical

  • If you’re in your 2o’s… every five years.
  • If you’re in your 30’s… every three years.
  • If you’re in your 40’s... every two years.
  • 50 and above… every year.

What to Expect When You Get a Physical

A lot of men have never had a physical and might be nervous about what to expect. Will they stick their finger up my butt? (Only if you’re older than 50). Will they touch my balls? (If you’re under 40, then yes. Your balls will not only be touched, they will also be hefted). To take some of the edge off of going to get your physical, here’s a broad road map of what to expect.

Paperwork. While you’re waiting in the lobby to see the doctor, you’ll probably be given a bunch of forms that ask about you and your family’s health history. The questionnaire will ask if you use tobacco, consume alcohol, exercise regularly, or have had any health problems recently. It will also ask if anyone in your family suffered from cancer, diabetes, alcoholism, etc. Answer these questions truthfully and to the best of your ability. It will assist the doctor in giving you advice on staying as healthy as you can be. If you’re visiting the doctor for the first time, they usually ask that you arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment in order to fill out this paperwork.

Weight, height, blood pressure, and temperature. When you first walk in, a nurse will probably weigh you, measure your height, and take your blood pressure and temperature. They’ll probably take your pulse too just to check you’re alive and not a zombie.

Getting naked. Depending on the doctor, you’ll then probably be asked to strip down and put on those goofy aprons that leave your butt hanging out for the world to see. This gives the doc easy access to examine all of your man parts.

Skin exam. The doctor will come in and start checking out your skin. He’ll be looking for weird looking moles, paleness, yellowish tinges, rashes, and dryness.

Your ugly mug. Your doctor will check your face for things like puffy eyes and swollen glands near your throat which could indicate a thyroid problem.

Open your mouth and say “ahhhh….” Your mouth can reveal a lot about your overall health. If your lips are cracking and all red, it may mean you have a vitamin B deficiency. He’ll also take a look at your gums and teeth to see what sort of shape they’re in. Finally, he’ll look to the back of your throat to see if there’s any swelling. If you smoke, he might be looking for signs of throat cancer.

Your eyes and ears. The doc will switch off the lights and bust out some tools called an ophthalmoscope and an otoscope. They’re lighted instruments used to examine your eyes and ears respectively. Your doctor will be looking for inflammation in your ears or maybe a perforation of the ear drum. You also might be subjected to a sound test to check your hearing. In addition to checking your eyes with the ophthalmoscope, you’ll probably be given a vision test that will involve reading an eye chart.

Listening to your ticker. The doctor will use his stethoscope to listen to your heart and look for any abnormal sounds that might indicate an enlarged heart or a defect with your heart valves. He’ll also listen to your lungs and check for any wheezing, crackling, or gurgling sounds.

Pushing your gut. You’ll be asked to lie down so the doctor can press down on different parts of your abdomen. He’ll ask you if you feel any tenderness as he presses down in different areas. He’s looking for any possible fluid accumulation or abnormal masses. The doctor is also looking to see if your spleen and liver are in the right place.

You got nerve, man. The doctor will check your nervous system by basically having you do the sobriety test that police officers use. He’ll ask that you walk in a straight line, close your eyes, touch your nose with both fingers, etc. You’ll also test your reflexes with that little reflex hammer. While you’re up, the doctor might also have you bend down and touch your toes to 1) check your flexibility and 2) check your spine.

Checking the boys. If you’re under the age of 40, your doctor will give you a testicular exam. He’ll also probably ask you to turn your head and cough while he holds onto your balls to check to see if you have a hernia.

Let go of your decency…. if you’re over 40, the doctor will likely check your prostate for signs of prostate cancer. The doctor will will place his fingers inside your rectum and check your prostate for tumors. While he’s up there, the doc will also check for signs of rectum cancer.

Checking your bodily fluids. When you’re done in the examining room, you’ll put your clothes back on, and be sent to the lab where they’ll take all sorts of liquid from your body. Blood will be taken to test your cholesterol, your blood cell count, and your glucose level. A man’s urine can tell a lot about his health, so you’ll  also be asked to pee in a cup.

Other tests. Some doctors perform chest x-rays and ultrasounds at physicals, but many don’t. The x-ray is to help doctors get a better look at your lungs and the ultrasound lets them analyze your internal organs more closely.

Today’s Task: Schedule a physical

The manly man is a healthy man. So today’s task is to call your doctor and schedule an appointment for a full physical. Let us know that you completed the task in the Community.


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