Humor can reveal a great deal about the human condition, especially about men and their foibles. For example, most have seen or heard a variation of the old gag about the refusal of men to ask for directions, even when they are hopelessly lost!

Humorists have also gotten laughs from another stereotypical male characteristic: men don’t like medical exams. Experts on the psychology of the male gender have noted that men and doctors just don’t mix. A recent article on men’s health related that guys were 80 percent less likely than women to use healthcare. While this male proclivity may be funny on one level, it can be detrimentally serious on another.

In a 2014 report, The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  noted that the leading causes of death among men were (1) heart disease, (2) cancer and (3) unintentional injuries (accidents). All three of these causes, including injury or death from accidents, can be reduced with regular medical checkups.

The best strategy for avoiding potentially deadly accidents starts with a knowledge of pre-existing conditions, such as osteoporosis, which can make a minor fall turn into a major life threatening injury.

Why Do Men Avoid Doctors?

The psyches of men are rife with inconsistencies, especially about sickness and health. A Huffington Post article on this subject points to a cultural bias among men.

“Men experience very strong, clear messages about how they’re supposed to display their masculinity and hide their vulnerability, and pretty much everything about going to a doctor’s office goes against these rigid gender role norms,” said Professor Glenn Good, an expert on masculinity and the psychology of men at the University of Florida.

“Going to a physician involves a couple of things that may feel uncomfortable for men,” Good said. “They don’t want to ask for directions and they don’t want to have to consult an expert about something that they know less about.”

According to an article in Men’s Health magazine, “The truth is that many men go to the doctor only when they feel sick or have a medical emergency — and that’s not nearly as often as they should. Experts believe the failure of men and doctors to meet on a regular basis could be one reason why women live longer than men and why men are more likely to get and die of serious diseases.”

How to Prevent Deaths from Accidents among Men: Knowledge

Understanding one’s health vulnerability is important to preventing accidental death. For example, Osteoporosis is a disease where bone mass is being lost quicker than it is being made by the body, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. The bones literally soften and become more porous. It can be a crippling condition that affects men and women who are 50 years and older and can lead to serious injuries caused by minor falls or collisions with heavy objects, such as furniture.

“In the distant past, this condition was almost exclusively associated with postmenopausal women,” noted Dr. Isador Lieberman, an orthopedic spine surgeon who is a member of the referral program at Texas Health Spine & Orthopedic Center. “However, in the past few years, there has been an alarming increase in osteoporosis among older men. And because fewer men than women undergo regular medical examinations, many are not aware they have this condition.”

An article in the Dallas Morning News, published appropriately during Men’s Health Month, highlighted the problem. “For men, osteoporosis often occurs later in life, with much more serious consequences. Older men who fracture a hip are far more likely to require long-term care or die.”

The article noted that the mortality rate for men experiencing hip fractures is extremely high at almost double the mortality rate of women. It also pointed out that genetics play a big role in determining who develops osteoporosis. Other risk factors for men include low testosterone, low calcium intake, smoking, heavy drinking, rheumatoid arthritis, gland disorders, and being thin or underweight.

Treating Osteoporosis

The good news about osteoporosis is that it is manageable and even reversible in some cases. However, treatment can only occur if the patient is aware of the condition, and this requires regular examination and bone-density tests.

Dr. Lieberman outlined several treatment options.

“If a bone-density test shows the presence of osteoporosis, there are several medications that can be prescribed to slow the bone loss. These include the drugs known as bisphosphonates or Rank-Ligand inhibitors, and can be taken in the form of weekly or monthly pills or by once or twice -a-year injections. There are other medications that can reverse the bone loss as well. These include the various forms of Teraparatide a naturally occurring bone growth hormone that requires a daily injection.

“Depending on the level of severity of the condition, some patients can begin a regimen of weight-lifting or weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging or stair-climbing,” he said. “This will increase the bone density. Yoga, tai chi and other exercises that improve balance will help to reduce the likelihood of falls.

“Common sense can also play a role in reversing osteoporosis. Eliminating smoking and reducing alcohol consumption will help in the strengthening of bones. Plus, calcium supplements (1,200 milligrams per day for a man 70 or older) or calcium-rich foods, such as dark leafy vegetables and whole-grain cereals, will help strengthen bone mass.”

The increase in the incidence of osteoporosis among older men is another reason for men of all ages to rise above the stereotype of masculine medical phobia. This condition is nothing to joke about.

If your husband, father, grandfather or you have not had a physical exam in a few years, now is a great time to schedule one. If you are worried about osteoporosis, contact us for an appointment.

Physicians who are members of the referral program practice independently and are not employees or agents of THSOC.