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Each year, men make 150 million less visits to a doctor's office than women. Unfortunately, this lower number is not because men are healthier than women. The reality is men often do not visit a health care provider when they are sick or have a condition that needs medical attention. Why don't they go? There could be many reasons; some include:
- Fear of bad news
- Discomfort being examined
- Belief that only "wussies" go to the doctor and that they can "walk it off"
- Fear of being perceived as weak
While the medical issue may resolve itself without clinical treatment, there is the risk of more severe damage if the condition worsens. A trip to the doctor's office isn't necessary every time you sneeze, but if there is ever a doubt about your well-being, a trip to your health care provider is in order.
This is Important!
One reason to visit a health care provider is testicular problems. While not easy to deal with, testicular problems may be more serious than you realize. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 34. Fifteen years ago testicular cancer was often fatal because it quickly spread to vital organs. Today, with treatment advances, testicular cancer is one of the most curable cancers, especially if detected early. To help with detection, a man can perform a testicular self-examination. It only takes about three minutes and, if done regularly, can help identify an abnormality.
When and how to perform the exam:
- The best time to check yourself is in the shower or after a warm bath. Fingers glide over soapy skin making it easier to concentrate on the texture underneath. The heat causes the muscles to relax, making the exam easier.
- Examine each testicle gently with both hands. The index and middle fingers should be placed underneath the testicle while the thumbs are placed on the top. Roll the testicle gently between the thumb and fingers. One testicle may be larger than the other. This is normal.
- The epididymis is a cord-like structure on the top and back of the testicle that stores and transports the sperm. Do not confuse the epididymis with an abnormal lump. Now repeat the exam on the other side.
- Feel for any abnormal lumps about the size of a pea on the front or the side of the testicle. These lumps are usually painless.
- In early stages testicular cancer may be symptomless. When symptoms do occur they include: lump on the testicle, slight enlargement of one of the testes, and heavy sensation in testicles or groin.
If you find an abnormality or have any other symptoms, such as any hard lumps or nodules, seek a medical evaluation immediately. The condition may not be cancer, but it is important to have a specialist properly diagnose and treat the condition - whatever it is.
Are You Happy With Your Body?
Another important aspect of a man's health is body image. Men are often concerned about the shape and appearance of their bodies. Being concerned about one's appearance and physique isn't always a bad thing, but it can become obsessive and some men engage in unhealthy behaviors to achieve their goals.
Need to shed pounds fast?
Some men may feel that they need to lose weight, so they starve themselves or severely limit their food intake. This will show results but has several risk factors. One is an increased risk of binge eating; another is that your body will eventually adapt and maintain its weight on less calories a day. In order to keep losing weight, the caloric intake must be reduced even further. A very unhealthy cycle has now started. Another way men may try to lose weight is over-exercising. Exercise is important, but too much can damage the body. Over-exercising can deplete your energy level and increase the chance of injury. Signs include: continuing to exercise when there is severe pain or physical problems and placing exercise above other activities and responsibilities. Some Healthy Tips For Weight Loss:
- Combine diet and exercise to achieve a healthy rate of weight loss at 1-2 pounds a week. Losing it quicker means that you're more likely to gain it back.
- Avoid or eliminate alcohol. (They don't call it a "beer gut" for nothing!) All forms of alcohol add additional calories without adding nutritional value.
- Watch your portion size! While those super-sized meals may seem like such a deal, the extra calories aren't an extra bonus.
- Healthy eating can be difficult in restaurants, especially fast food establishments. Select food items that are broiled or baked and limit extras like cheese and mayonnaise.
- Eat at least 8 servings per day of high-fiber carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals. They provide energy, fiber and "filling up" power.
- Use cooking methods that don't add a lot of fat to the food. Try steaming, baking, broiling, or microwaving, and avoid fried foods.
Tired of being a 90 pound weakling?
At the other end of the spectrum, some men want to gain weight. A popular but risky method is using anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids are used to help malnourished or diseased people but can be used to enhance physical performance. Legally available by prescription only, anabolic steroids come in pill or injectable form and are generally taken in four to eighteen week cycles. Steroids are synthetic testosterone and are taken in quantities exponentially higher than are naturally occurring in men's bodies. Under the correct conditions steroids can produce desirable surface and performance results, but with those results come the possibility of many health problems, such as:
- Severe Acne
- Early Balding
- Excessive Body Hair Growth
- Enlarged Breasts (fatty tissue on chest)
- Testicular Shrinkage
- Yellowing of the Skin
- Liver Problems
- Erectile Problems
- "Roid Rage"
Most of the previous indicators are physical changes but "roid rage" is something different. "Roid rage" is the psychological effect of having an unnatural amount of testosterone present in the body. It makes a person emotionally unstable and apt to fight when sudden, unexplained bursts of uncontrollable anger come over a user. Steroids affect a person's process of reasoning, and these rages can lead to violent vandalism, assault, and even murder.
Whew! Man, is that You?
Perhaps one of the most petty sounding men's health issues, but one important to others, is body odor issues. When it comes to men's health, body odor may not be the first topic that comes to mind, but in reality, body odor is something that affects most men at one time or another. The body has two kinds of sweat glands; eccrine and apocrine sweat glands. The apocrine are clustered around your groin and armpit area and are the main culprit of the odor problem. Sweat itself doesn't cause the odor; the breaking down of sweat by bacteria and when the bacteria becomes rancid that causes the odor.
Here are some tips to help men keep their odors from spoiling their own or anybody else's day.
- Wash Regularly: Get rid of the sweat, get rid of the problem.
- Use Antibacterial Soap: Get rid of the other half of the problem, bacteria.
- Use a Deodorant/Antiperspirant: Deodorants help mask the odors by killing the bacteria. Antiperspirants reduce the amount of sweat available.
- Watch What You Eat: Foods and spices like fish, onion, garlic, cumin, and curry can produce extracts that can seep out of your pores.
In some cases, other causes can be treated by a dermatologist.
Making the Most of a Trip to a Health Care Provider
Follow these tips to maximize your visit when seeing a health care provider:
- Don't be shy. Some topics may not be easy to discuss but that information may be helpful to your health care provider and therefore, important to your health.
- Give as much detail as possible. For example, if they ask about pain, tell the truth about the severity, when it first happened, when it occurs now, how long it lasts, etc.
- Answer all the clinician's questions truthfully. If you have pain, say so. Some men may feel tough enough to handle the pain, but pain is an indicator (possibly of a problem). Your clinician needs accurate information to better assess your condition.
- Understand that you may have to repeat your concern several times (nurse, clinician, etc). Be patient and provide a complete response to all individuals who ask about your condition.
- Ask all of your questions. Clinicians are often under pressure to see many patients, but you are entitled to good service and have your questions answered. Don't blow this chance. If your health care provider doesn't listen to you, perhaps you need to look for another provider.