Jewish World Review June 21, 2002 /11 Tamuz, 5762

Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak

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Consumer Reports

Sex and the system: In seeking healthcare men are different from women | Yes, Scarlett, men are different from women even when it comes to taking care of themselves and seeking healthcare. And we should give a damn! Ignoring the differences may be Politically Correct, but it can also be fatal.

In a recent health column by Michelle Meyer, "Why Guys Don't Go To The Doctor," the writer quotes Dr. Jeffrey Aikman, Chairman of The George Washington University Department of Psychiatry. His explanation reveals an attribute of the male psyche that no amount of sensitivity training can fully purge:

"Some men see an illness as a weakness and find it tough to acknowledge their vulnerability."

This is just as true when it comes to physicians. At first, we thought it had something to do with the prostate examination! But in truth it involves a whole lot more.

A third of the 1500 men surveyed in a recent Lou Harris Poll had no regular doctor. One fourth of the men had consciously avoided doctors in the prior year, a rate three times greater than the 2850 women polled. One fourth would wait "as long as possible" before seeking medical treatment.

Curiously, when you reverse the question, and ask why women see the doctor more often, the explanation relies on the same sense of innate disposition.

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Gloria Sklansky deals with these issues daily in Orange County, California. "Women feel that they are allowed to fall apart and to ask for help from friends and physicians. They are allowed to cry. For generations men have not been allowed to cry except at the movies. Only recently have some learned that it is okay to cry. They'll talk about being buff on the outside but not what's inside." A female gra

duate student from Columbia University, New York, in the field of Industrial/Organizational Psychology notes, "Women, in general, are more likely to discuss issues with friends. Just like most men won't stop at the corner to ask directions neither will they seek instructions to the doctor's office. Women are better networkers and more sympathetic in times of problems or crisis."

Lynne Bloomberg, a registered nurse married to an Obstetrician-Gynecologist notes: "Women feel more protective with the maternal instincts to look out for their family. This requires being healthy. Men are more easily embarrassed, more uncomfortable disrobing and hate to give up control."

Guys, consider your casual male acquaintances and co-workers. You can talk to them for years and know relatively little about them, including their past three heart attacks, two strokes, diabetes and so on. Men know that if they seek sympathy from other men, they usually won't get much. Nor will it help their stature, competitive or otherwise. So they learn to keep stuff to themselves.

Some years ago, The New England Journal of Medicine acknowledged that, however illogical it seems, human needs and desires don't always connect to medical care. In a letter responding to an article about patient compliance, one physician described berating a patient for not following the prescribed treatment plan. The patient reminded the physician that some things in life are more important than health. No doubt.

Therefore, we recognize your right not to follow all our recommendations. But do suggest that everybody -- including men -- have a regular doctor whose recommendations and referrals you may do with as you wish, and whom you see on a regular basis.

At the very least experts recommend men have cholesterol (LDL, HDL and total cholesterol) and blood pressure checks starting at age 20, diabetes checks at age 45, and yearly prostate and colon cancer checks after age 50. Let the results guide you. Obviously, the right level of concern for health varies from patient to patient. Find your own "golden mean."

Several medical self-care guides are very helpful. They don't replace a doctor who knows you and your body personally, but at least they can raise your awareness. We recommend "Take Care of Yourself" by Donald M. Vickery, MD, and James F. Fries, MD.

We conclude that men need to take more responsibility for their healthcare. That means male physicians, too. If you can go to the doctor to get a prescription for Viagra, while you're there, the least you can do is have him or her check the palpable and pertinent anatomy.

Yes, Scarlett, men should be less macho and go to the doctor more often. At the very least, itíll give them and their women less reason, someday, to cry.

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Michael Arnold Glueck, M.D., of Newport Beach, Calif., writes on medical, legal, disability and mental health reform. Robert J. Cihak, M.D., of Aberdeen, Wash., is president of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons. Both JWR contributors are Harvard trained diagnostic radiologists who write numerous commentaries and articles for newspapers, newsletters, magazines and journals nationally and internationally. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002