Doctor Who? When Men Skimp on Physicals

It's probably time to schedule that checkup. Here's why.

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on October 10, 2014
2 min read

If you're like a lot of guys, you probably haven't had a physical in a while. Men are 24% less likely than women to have seen a doctor in the past year. Yet men are more likely to check into the hospital for congestive heart failure, diabetes-related problems, and pneumonia. These are all issues that you might prevent with checkups.

Now, you don't have to go every year, but if it's been more than 2 years since you've seen your primary care doc, it's probably time to make that appointment.

What happens at a physical and how often you need one depend on your health and your age. The physical itself is a head-to-toe exam, and men over 50 can expect a rectal exam to check for prostate problems, intestinal bleeding, and early signs of prostate and colorectal cancers.

A typical visit also includes a blood pressure check, which you should have at least every 2 years, and giving blood samples. Doctors use blood tests to check for diabetes and cholesterol level. Adults older than 20 who don't have risk factors for heart disease should have their cholesterol checked every 4 to 6 years. Adults who are overweight or have high blood pressure should get a diabetes screening test.

Chronic diseases and cancers may not show any symptoms at first, but you stand the best chance of curing or managing them when your doctor catches them early.

"Somebody may have severe diabetes and not have any symptoms, so certainly there's opportunity to turn some of those things around if they're detected early," says Clark T. Eddy, DO, of ProPartnersMD. That's a medical group in the Kansas City area that specializes in men's health.

During your checkup, you'll answer questions that can help your doctor see signs of depression or habits that might be a risk to your health. Depending on your lifestyle and personal and family history, your doctor might suggest more tests. The doctor will also recommend vaccines based on your age and lifestyle.

"Even if you haven't been to a doctor in 20 years," Eddy says, "coming in for a physical is the first step to being a more active participant in your health."