Guys and Docs: What Are Men So Scared Of?

Men avoid doctors like the plague—even when it seems as if they might have the plague. Find out when you should turn the nudging up a notch.

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Research bears out what you already know: Guys tend to dodge doctors like they do pink cocktails and Nicholas Sparks. Some favorite excuses? "I'm healthy," "I don't have time," or "I prefer to treat myself naturally," according to one survey from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Yes, it would be so much easier for you if all the men in your life (including you, Dad! No getting of the hook just because it's Father's Day) went to the doctor when something bothered them. But the reality is that if you want the man you love to stay healthy, you'll likely need to lean in at some point. That means knowing when to pressure him to get help because a serious problem could be brewing. Check out the sneaky signals here. Then print it and leave it where he can find it (bathroom's always good), so you'll both be on watch—and know what to do about the trouble.

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You can use a nudge here and there too. These stats reveal men's health-habit fails and women's. Let's fix them together.

27% of Guys are Avoiders...and haven't seen a single health care professional in the past 12 months. When men finally do go, they ask fewer questions, and docs ask them about fewer things, says Michael Addis, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, MA. That's troubling. "Guys have as much fear and anxiety about potential health problems as women have," he says, "but they're conditioned not to share those concerns or even acknowledge them to themselves." Urge him to make a list of questions before he gets to the office. Speaking of which, 14% of women haven't seen anyone about their health in the past year either.

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21% Still Smoke...no wonder they hide from the doc! If this is your guy, you can remind him that cigarettes have been tied to heart attack, stroke, and diabetes—and that's just for starters. He's not scared yet? Tell him smoking can increase his risk of erectile dysfunction and one small study found that men who quit reached arousal five times faster than puffers. (And, ahem, except for that last item, all of this applies to women, too. A depressing 15% of us still smoke.)

30% Take Too Long to Get Help When Having a Heart Attack...yes, three in 10 guys waited more than an hour to get to a hospital. Timing is everything: The chance of dying from a heart attack increases 42% if care is delayed by as little as 30 minutes. Don't act smug, ladies—70% of women took more than 60 minutes. Both of you need to get help faster.

  • When He Needs a Woman Doc: Guys are four times more likely to agree with healthful diet advice from female M.D.'s than with the advice that male docs dole out.
  • His Doc, on Call: Make things much easier by keeping his doctor's number in both your phones. Having to look it up may be the little thing that causes you to put off dialing.
  • Remember Doctor's Orders: If you're at an appointment with your guy, ask if you can use the voice recorder on your phone to catch details.
  • Bust Waiting Room Angst: Avoid Thursdays! ZocDoc, an online doctor scheduling site, found this to be the day of the week when patients sit the longest.

Call 911 if You See These Signs of a Heart Attack

Heart disease is the number one killer of men—and women—in the U.S., so call for help right away if he has any of these symptoms (or you do!):

  • Discomfort in the chest—such as pressure, pain, or a sensation of fullness or squeezing—that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
  • Unusual upper-body pain in places including the jaw, back, or arm.
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
  • A cold sweat, light-headedness, nausea, or dizziness.

Call 911 if You See These Signs of a Stroke

Stroke is the second leading cause of death around the world. Call for help right away if either of you shows any of these signs—even if they go away:

  • Weakness or numbness on one side of the body (usually in the face, arm, or leg).
  • Blurry vision or loss of vision in one or both eyes.
  • Difficulty speaking, slurred words, trouble understanding what others are saying, or the inability to repeat a simple sentence.
  • Sudden dizziness or a severe headache.

Always ask a health care professional about your specific medical needs. This information is not individual medical advice and may not be appropriate for you.

This story originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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