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Why Men Should Talk About Health More

Why Men Should Talk About Health More

This week, in honor of "Movember", I’m dedicating my blog post to men.  This may be the time we raise awareness around prostate health but it's a great opportunity to think about men's health in general.

Although men are at no less risk of heart disease than women, I see women in my cardiology practice much more often than men.  In part, this happens because I’m a woman so female patients are more likely to seek me out.  But it’s also because men are much less likely to seek preventive care.

And it’s not just my specialty: Men are 24 percent less likely to visit their primary care provider for regular checkups. As a result, they’re more likely to skip things like cholesterol tests, routine blood pressure checks and cancer screenings. They’re also much less likely to seek help for mental health issues.

Whenever a patient skips an appointment, I worry about the missed opportunity to connect with that person. Because even when a patient aces every scan and test, the value of a face-to-face appointment is an opportunity to make sure the patient has all the information I can give him to live his heart-healthiest life.

In my practice, that almost always includes conversations about diet … and I’ve never met a patient who ate such a perfect diet that we didn’t have anything to discuss! Since I find that most of my male patients are less cognizant than my female patients about the impact nutrition can have on their heart health, it’s especially valuable for me to ask them about their eating habits.

Of course, not every doctor will focus on diet as much as I do. If you find yourself on the exam table without a mention of nutrition, here are two questions to ask your doctor:

  • Given my lab tests (including cholesterol profile) do you have any concerns regarding my nutrition?
  • If I need to make nutrition changes, what should they be and when should we recheck the health metrics (weight, cholesterol, blood sugar etc.) I’m trying to impact?

You can even talk to your doctor about incorporating Step One Foods into your diet. But if your doctor really doesn’t want to talk about nutrition, ask about a referral to a nutritionist or other provider that can help.  After all, food is a bioactive substance and everything we put into our bodies has a cellular effect.  And because we eat 3 or 4 times per day every single day we have a giant opportunity to either build health or build disease within ourselves.  Having a trusted care partner to help guide you to the right nutrition choices to maximize your chances for achieving your best health is therefore essential.

But you can’t even begin to have a conversation about nutrition if you don’t see a care provider in the first place.  So my “Movember” message:  If you don’t already do this regularly, please get a health checkup!  Avoiding a preventative screen doesn’t make a problem go away.  You need to find out what your health metrics are and which ones need attention.  And then do something about them!  Knowledge is power but only action can lead to change. 

My goal for you is that you never need to see someone like me.  It may require a bit of pro-active care on the front end, but don’t let that deter you.  As someone who takes care of patients with established heart disease day in and day out I can tell you straight up that the small ounce of prevention on the front end is SO MUCH BETTER than the pounds of cure required on the back end.  

Finally, a note to women: Please help spread the word on the importance of preventive care and share this post with the men in your lives!  

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