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Massachusetts Medical Society's Physician Focus

July 2016

Men’s Health: The Major Risks


  • Men are more likely to die of heart disease, more prone to be killed in accidents, and more apt to suffer from drug or alcohol addictions than women.
  • Many men don’t put a priority on their own health, and delay screenings and care, sometimes until it is too late.
  • Men need to take action and establish a long-term, trusting relationship with a primary care physician.

When it comes to individual health, men fare far worse than women, and the statistics bear that out. Heart disease, substance abuse, injury and death from accidents all affect men far more than women.

“Men have really not taken good care of themselves,” says Frederic Schwartz, M.D., a primary care physician and co-chair of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Men’s Health Committee. “There seems to be this ‘macho’ attitude where men feel that to access health care is not part of their creed. They delay care, they’re in denial, until it is too late.”

Dr. Schwartz, also an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, offered his perspectives on men and health in the July episode of Physician Focus with the Massachusetts Medical Society with program host Bruce Karlin, M.D., a primary care physician in Worcester.

The current emphasis on concussions reflects one example of this ‘macho’ mentality, says Dr. Schwartz. For years, men playing contact sports such as football and hockey ignored blows to the head and tried to “tough it out” and keep playing. Today, we now know that concussions are more common, more severe than previously thought, and come with serious health consequences.

Dr. Schwartz says one of the biggest difficulties is getting men to visit a physician regularly. “We’d like to see men more proactive and establish that relationship with a physician instead of waiting.”

He says the differences between the sexes are stark when it comes to health care, not only in visiting a physician, but also in listening to medical guidance. “Women seem much more inclined in following through on the recommendations that we [physicians] are promoting to maintain their health,” says Dr. Schwartz.

His advice to men is simple and direct. “Get in and see a physician,” he says, to establish that relationship.

“We’re dealing with important decisions, and to be able to do that, to feel comfortable making those decisions, you need to have that trust that’s part of the doctor-patient relationship. And that’s only established when you see a physician over a number of years. Men need to know that they can get reliable and helpful advice from their physician.”

View the video for more conversation, including discussion about the signs of an enlarged prostate and how that affects health; prostate cancer and concern over the commonly prescribed Prostate Specific Antigen [PSA] test; and how “Low T” (low testosterone) and ED (erectile dysfunction) – affect men’s health and the problems they present for men.

MMS/Richard Gulla

Centers for Disease Control

Men’s Health Network

Mayo Clinic

Left to right: Bruce Karlin, M.D. , Frederic Schwartz, M.D.
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