Steamboat Springs Still wondering what to get dad for Father's Day? Instead of buying him something he wants but doesn't need, you might consider getting him something he needs but may not want. That would be a trip to the doctor.
During National Men's Health Week this week, the medical spotlight is aimed at males, and many are uncomfortable in the glare. Apparently, they're also uncomfortable in a physician's office, because recent surveys estimate that about 7 million American men have not had a basic health check in more than a decade.
"Men want to feel like they're infallible, like there's nothing wrong with them," Steamboat Springs internal medicine physician Kevin Borgerding said. "And as long as they're feeling fine, they can't see why they need to see a doctor."
Borgerding regularly sees men who have advanced heart disease and still aren't convinced they require medical care. He points to the example of a visitor who had a heart attack while skiing on Mount Werner this winter. From his hospital bed, the man tried to persuade Borgerding to let him drive his family back to Wisconsin the next day.
"His wife and I finally talked him out of it," Borgerding said. "Within two days, he was having emergency bypass surgery in Denver."
Borgerding suggests that every man select a physician and begin having annual exams.
"From the physician's point of view, it's helpful to have a rapport with a patient, especially if I have to discuss some serious health concerns. It's also more likely that the patient will take a doctor's advice if the patient has built up a level of trust in his doctor."
One reason men may avoid checkups is the fear of being diagnosed with a serious health problem, Borgerding said.
"Prostate cancer is probably the most feared, the one they hear about most," he said.
Diagnoses of prostate cancer are often in the news, but Borgerding thinks the increased detection means that more men are getting screened, which is a positive trend. He stresses the importance of early detection of any serious illness.
Mental health is as important as physical health, but just as likely to be overlooked by men and their families. American Health magazine estimates that on an annual basis, 6 million American men experience some form of major depression, yet the vast majority of them won't seek help for their problem. The John Wayne stereotype of man as a pillar of strength, impervious to perceived emotional "weaknesses" such as fear or sadness, may be to blame.
"It's a macho thing to feel that if you're worried, you should just tough it out and deal with it rather than talking with somebody," Steamboat Springs psychiatrist Bill Philip said. "Male depression is often unrecognized. It may show itself more as irritability and grouchiness, or being in a bad mood, rather than being sad or tearful. Men may have a diminished interest in things that used to be fun, a feeling of going through the motions or just putting one foot in front of the other."
Depression can make a man feel that everything is more trouble than it's worth, leading to a drop-off in activities. "Overuse of alcohol often comes into play, and alcohol abuse often masks depression," Philip added.
The good news is that response to treatment for depression is excellent, Philip said. Newer anti-depressant medications work well and have minimal side-effects. Talking to a professional is the first step toward solving problems.
Christine McKelvie is the public relations director for Yampa Valley Medical Center.