Men Are (Still) Clueless About Their Health

Survey shows 57 percent eat fast food more than once a week

For men, you might think that prevention is a four-letter word. A new survey from Esquire magazine reveals that men go to the doctor about as often as women watch NASCAR, which is to say, not very often.

In the poll of 519 men between the ages of 18 and 50, only half of them have a primary care physician, and 43 percent haven’t had a routine checkup in over a year. More than one-third of men over the age of 40 have never even had their cholesterol tested. Perhaps the most telling finding, though, was that one in ten men who describe themselves as being in excellent health eat fast food every day. A whopping 57 percent eat fast food one to three times a week -- gross!

You might assume that Esquire readers are an unhealthy bunch, but these stats actually sync up with other national surveys on men’s health. Public health officials consider men’s lack of interest in preventive care a bit of a health care crisis -- last year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), released a series of ads for Father’s Day urging moms and kids to send their dads to the doc, as a sort of Father’s Day gift. The morbid ad warns if you want him to be around for Father’s Days to come, make sure he’s getting screened for health problems now. But there’s good reason to be concerned. According to the AHRQ, men are 30 percent more likely than women to be hospitalized for preventable conditions like heart failure, diabetes complications and pneumonia. It’s also no secret that men are more likely than women to die a premature death -- their average lifespan is five years behind ours.

Really, I think guys have it easy. There are few things as invasive as a visit to your OB/GYN, which women have to do regularly. You hitch up your paper gown, slide down the table and hoist your legs into sock-covered stirrups, waiting for the cold speculum to pinch your insides. Not pleasant, but we endure it. According to the CDC, 75 percent of women over the age of 18 have had a Pap smear in the past three years.

For men, it’s probably not that doctor’s visits are so unbearable -- it’s just that men think they can tough things out. They don’t want to appear vulnerable, and probably think that their superhuman strength will somehow shield them from the effects of a daily diet of fried food and red meat. If only!

My husband is, thankfully, much better at taking care of himself now than he was when we met. And, yes, I will take credit. Research, after all, shows that married men are healthier than those living the bachelor life. Though he has yet to see his physician this year, he has had all of the necessary health screenings for his age -- which is hugely important. His diet has also vastly improved. His breakfasts, which used to consist of sausage, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches with a large black and white cookie, are more likely to be a bowl of Kashi whole-grain cereal and fruit. And, I’m proud to say he can finally identify more than three types of vegetables. Of course, like all of our efforts to be healthier, it is a work in progress. I still don’t like his going to the grocery store without me, for fear we’ll end up with a house full of sorbet and porterhouse steaks. But even that is better than the bacon and tub of ice cream we would have ended up with just a few years ago.

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