Men have been avoiding doctors since the dawn of modern medicine. And the reasons are as common as a cold: I feel fine. I don’t have time. It’s too expensive. I don’t like being touched by other people. I’ll just tough it out.
Turns out this mentality is programmed long before guys have to start worrying about their cholesterol. “When we are raising our sons, we tell them that ‘big boys don’t cry’ or to ‘suck it up,’” says Ana N. Fadich, MPH, CHES, vice president of the Men’s Health Network. ”That message stays with them as they get older, so when they have a pain or feel sick, they tell themselves that it’s nothing.”
The “be a man” approach, Fadich says, is usually paired with the false logic of “I don’t feel sick, so I don’t need to see a doctor.” This philosophy, of course, ignores the fact that some of the most serious health issues — cancer, high cholesterol, high blood pressure — don’t present any symptoms until it’s too late to treat them.
To reverse your man’s mindset, you might have to get a little sneaky. Successful tactics are going to depend on the underlying reason (or reasons) behind why he avoids the doctor, so you’re going to have to figure out what’s keeping him away. It might take some time, so be patient. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Start Him Early
"We encourage parents to take their children to their annual physicals," says Fadich. "This will get them used to being at doctors’ offices and show them that going to the doctor is a normal part of life." OK, so this won’t help with adult men, but for young boys, it could help condition them to become more comfortable with doctors when they get older.
Melt His Heart
If he’s a dad, remind him that he’d like to be around for his kid’s graduation or to enjoy his grandchildren. This one is obvious, but it can be effective no matter what his reasons for avoidance might be. As an added bonus, if he has young children or grandchildren, recruit them to help. It will be hard to ignore a sweet little voice saying, “Daddy, will you please go to the doctor? I want you to be healthy.”
Remind Him That His Kids Are Watching
Most men cherish the fact that they are role models for their children. So remind him that taking care of his health is a great example to set for his family. “Kids want to grow up and be just like daddy,” says Fadich. “If daddy is always sitting on the couch with a beer belly or appears unwilling or afraid to go the doctor, he’s not sending a good message.”
Know His Family History
If he has a father or brother with a known health condition, such as high cholesterol or heart disease, remind him that this puts him at high risk. There are usually no warning signs until a more serious event, such as a heart attack, occurs, and going once a year to the doctor now may prevent him from having to go multiple times a year later in life.
Call His Buddy
If he has a close friend who goes in for an annual physical or who has had an underlying health problem caught by a routine checkup, ask that friend to encourage regular visits to the doctor. Guys relate and compare themselves to other guys who are the same age. If his pal has high blood pressure or bad cholesterol levels, then he knows it should be something for him to think about, too.
Do the Work for Him
Make the appointment for him, and write down a list of questions for him to ask the physician. This could come across as being pushy, but if he’s refusing to go, he needs a push. At least it’s better than nagging.
Tell Him He Has Options
Major drugstore chains (including Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid) have health clinics in many of their stores. The clinics’ offerings range from treating minor illnesses to providing annual physicals and administering basic screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood-glucose levels. If he’s adamant about not setting foot inside a doctor’s office, he can get the basic tests he needs while out shopping for deodorant or shaving cream.