When it comes to seeing a doctor, many men are notorious avoiders. Many of us have seen it ourselves. Even reports have found that men are 24% less likely than women to have visited a doctor in the past year.
In some cases, it's just men being men, many doctors agree. While seeing a doctor or other provider may not at the top of their agenda, physicians would say it should be.
After all, a man's life expectancy is shorter than a woman's, and many guys who die early succumb to preventable causes.
The good news: Men with proactive partners are more likely to seek preventive care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which can help keep deadly threats like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and cancer at bay.
So, if your partner can't remember when he had his last physical, what can you do?
Instead of nagging, start with a lighter touch (and leave that approach only when you've run out of options). Maybe: "I want you to be around for your family and for me. A great start is seeing a doctor every year."
Other ideas include:
1. Make the appointment for them.
If your guy insists he's too busy, make the appointment for him. Better yet, make a day of it. You both take the day off, he goes to his appointment, and then you go to lunch and do something fun that afternoon.
You could even book wellness exams for the whole family on the same day and make it a family outing.
2. Share a real-life example.
Another strategy: Tell your partner you don't want him to go through the same health problems that close relatives have had - especially if lifestyle changes can head them off.
By their late 20's, all men should find a primary care doctor they trust and visit him or her at least once a year, doctors agree. All the stuff you got away with in your early adult years will catch up with you over time.
Controlling blood pressure and getting labs (or blood work) are important. Finding a problem early can spare you a lot less trouble than waiting for a problem to come roaring in.
3. Lead by example.
Getting men to speak up and take lifelong responsibility for their health needs to start in boyhood. So, it's up to the parents - men included - to set a good example for their sons.
To build on the earlier example, maybe you have a boys’ day trip. Dad gets his annual exam and takes his son to the pediatrician (yes, men can take children to the doctor!). Seeing that example emulated in their father is an important imprinting that we can get on boys.
4. Let them know what to expect.
Partners might also want to reassure their men about what takes place at a yearly physical. Many have the wrong ideas about what to expect, especially if they've heard older men grouse about the experience.
For one thing, doctors no longer routinely do urine tests. And a digital rectal exam to look for prostate cancer is no longer the standard. These days, new guidelines call for doctors to discuss symptoms and risks with men between ages 55 and 69 to decide if the exam is needed.
Men can expect the doctor to check their blood pressure and vital signs and offer immunizations, as needed. They’ll be screened for depression and asked about their family history. The doctor will ask about their own medical and sexual history, as well as their diet, exercise and use of tobacco, alcohol and drugs.
Urge your guy to be frank. Honest answers help the doctor gauge a guy's disease risk and decide what blood tests to order. It all takes about 30 minutes.
5. Offer to go with them.
If your partner is still uneasy, offer to join him in the exam room. It's best, though, to stay quiet and let the patient speak for himself. Sometimes that presence, being there out of support, is helpful to getting good health outcomes.