Guys – Don’t Ditch the Doctor


Winston Plunkett, MD
McLeod Family Medicine Center

Men are masterminds when it comes to finding reasons not to see the doctor. “I feel fine,” is usually the thought process. You may feel fine, but the truth is there may be underlying health issues you are not aware of that can easily be managed and controlled by regular healthcare visits. Cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood sugar, and weight are just some of the health concerns that need to be monitored by a primary care provider. One of the most important things you can do for your health is to schedule and show up for annual visits with your primary care provider.

Here are other concerning health risks you need to be aware of:

Got to Go?

Spending a lot of time running to the bathroom? Bladder problems are common in men. Most involve either having trouble urinating or going too often. If you go more than eight times a day or more than two times at night, the issue could be more than a nuisance. It could be a sign of a medical problem like an enlarged prostate or an overactive bladder. Overactive bladder is a relatively common condition with   an estimated 33 million Americans living with it daily according to the Urology Care Foundation. The reality of that number is possibly even higher as many men experience the symptoms but never seek help. The first step is to see your primary care provider to find out what is causing the problem. In most cases the problem can be treated.

Have a Heart

Do you think you can’t have a heart attack? If heart disease runs in your family, it can affect you as early as your 30s. The average age for a first heart attack in men is 65. But, as many as four percent to 10 percent of all heart attacks occur before the age of 45 and most of those occur in men.

Heart problems are all too familiar in younger men. Heart disease is the most common killer of men between the ages of 35 and 44. You are never too young to begin plans for your heart health. The American Heart Association now recommends that people start thinking about heart disease prevention at the age of 20.

Ways to put heart disease off as long as possible or to prevent It altogether include:

  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week
  • Eat right – a diet low in unhealthy fats and high in fruits and vegetables
  • Lose weight if needed
  • Don’t smoke
  • Reduce emotional stress

Don’t Ignore the Snore

The upper airway anatomy between men and women is the reason why more men snore than women. Snoring happens when the soft tissues in the upper airway collapse producing vibrations as air passes through the smaller space. Men have longer upper airways and a larger roof of the mouth leaving the male airway more vulnerable to collapse.

Weight gain increases the risk of snoring and sleep apnea for both men and women but is more likely to be an issue for men since they tend to gain more fat around the organs in the upper body.

Approximately half of the men who snore have obstructive sleep apnea. Not only is it annoying to your sleep partner, but this can make you stop breathing for a few seconds and is linked to heart disease and high blood pressure. If you notice excessive daytime sleepiness or your partner has witnessed lapses in breathing while you sleep, talk to your primary care provider about getting tested for obstructive sleep apnea.


In the United States women are more likely than men to get routine dental checkups. Regular checkups prevent oral problems but can also reveal symptoms of things like diabetes, Crohn’s disease and lupus.

According to studies from the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Dental Association, the average man is more likely to develop gum disease – 11 percent of men compared to six percent of women. Having gum disease can increase your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Watch for signs of gum disease such as red, swollen, tender or bleeding gums, persistent bad breath or loose teeth. Those who smoke or chew tobacco are at greater risk for gum disease and oral cancer. See your dentist frequently for cleaning and a thorough oral cancer screening.


More women then men are diagnosed with anxiety and are more likely to seek treatment. But, men are just as likely to suffer from anxiety. They just do not show it in the same way. For a man to feel anxiety it is often seen as a weakness and their perception is the expression of it is unacceptable. Men may display their anxiety in the form of aggression, which tends to be more socially acceptable.

Anxiety in men often reveals itself in the following symptoms:

  • Anger and irritability
  • Headaches
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Abusing alcohol and drugs to cope
  • Strained relationships

Nearly nine percent of men feel anxious or depressed daily but fewer than half take medication or seek help. Men who do not get professional help may turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with the anxiety. Research has shown a link between substance abuse and mental health disorders particularly in men. Anyone who has trouble handling life’s daily stresses should talk to their primary care physician.

Skin Cancer

Men, especially those with lighter skin, are more likely than women to get skin cancer including melanoma. A survey by the American Academy of Dermatology found women are more compliant about wearing sunscreen and tend to be more aware of the dangers of sun exposure.

It is never too late to start using sunscreen. Regular use of sunscreen reduces the risk of skin cancer up to 50 percent. It also helps fend off wrinkles, age spots and leathery, weathered skin. Protect yourself with sunscreen every time you go outside not just on golf or beach days. When paired with other sun protection like protective hats and clothing, sunscreen can reduce the risk of skin cancer at any age.

Eat your Vegetables

Don’t stick with just a meat and potato diet. It is important to eat four to five servings of fruits and vegetables each day for a heart-healthy diet. Doing so lowers the odds of stroke, cancer or digestive problems and helps keep blood sugar in control. Seven of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States are from chronic diseases. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables daily can help reduce the risk of many leading causes of illnesses including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and obesity.

In addition to caring for patients at the McLeod Family Medicine Center, Dr. Winston Plunkett is a faculty member for the McLeod Family Medicine Residency Program. Dr. Plunkett is accepting new patients. Appointments can be made by calling (843) 777-2800.