Although experts say that preventative care is an essential part of staying healthy, men are notorious for putting off visits to the doctor.
In a recent survey commissioned by the medical group Orlando Health, 24 percent of the men who responded said they were too busy to schedule checkups.
Another 22 percent said they were afraid of finding out what might be wrong, and 19 percent said they wanted to avoid uncomfortable medical exams.
It’s time for men to drop those excuses, say Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt and Dr. Sijo Parekattil, both urologists with Orlando Health in Florida.
The two doctors, along with a team of about a dozen helpers, drove from Orlando to Los Angeles last week as part of a campaign to get men to treat their bodies as well as they treat their cars.
“When it comes to their cars, guys are obsessive,” Parekattil told Healthline in a phone call from the road. “They take care of them. They do tune-ups.”
But when it comes to their own bodies, he said, many men don’t perform the same kind of routine maintenance.
The two doctors hatched the idea of a road trip to promote men’s health three years ago after they noticed all the attention they were generating just riding around Orlando in Parekattil’s Tesla.
Conversations about the electric car turned into conversations about health once people learned the driver and passenger were urologists.
“We realized this car really is like a magnet for people,” Brahmbhatt told Healthline.
The doctors realized the Tesla was actually encouraging men to speak to a doctor — no small feat given that men are almost 70 percent less likely to visit a doctor for preventative care than women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Such hesitation may play a role in men’s lowered life expectancy — about five years lower than women in the United States, the CDC reports.
An electric first trip
The doctors’ first trip, from Orlando to New York, was meant to break a record for fastest time traveled in an electric car, as well as promote awareness of men’s health issues.
They live tweeted the trip and scheduled live webcasts for every stop they made to charge the car — about once every 200 miles.
Traffic thwarted their record-breaking attempt, and the two rethought the example they were setting by enduring a 26-hour-long marathon driving session with little sleep and no exercise.
“We realized if we’re trying to promote men’s health, that’s really not the best idea,” said Parekattil.
A healthy trip
This year, the two doctors incorporated fitness and diet into their message, having lost a combined 90 pounds since last year’s trip.
A bus holding the rest of their crew, which includes a personal trainer, as well as a blender for on-the-road smoothies, is following the Tesla
“Our message is very simple. It’s get up off the couch, get more active, eat better, and see your provider,” said Brahmbhatt.
To promote that message, the two held speaking engagements at Anytime Fitness locations across the country, did interviews at local radio stations, and created an online following on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
They estimated they reached more than 300 million people on social media this year.
“I think it’s awesome. We are supporters of anything people do around men’s health,” Ana Fadich, vice president of the Men’s Health Network (MHN), told Healthline.
The doctors’ trip coincided with Men’s Health Week, a designation put forward by MHN and signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994.
Earlier start needed
Fadich says many men don’t get into the habit of seeing their doctors routinely because they aren’t instructed to so from a young age.
That’s the opposite of women, who are advised to see the gynecologist regularly during their childbearing years.
In fact, women’s preventative care visits actually spike between the ages of 18 and 44, when men’s visits are at their lowest, according to the CDC.
Men finally start seeing the doctor routinely in middle and late age.
“We don’t want men to start going to the doctor at 60,” Fadich said.
In 2007, The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) commissioned a survey on men’s attitudes and habits around routine doctor’s visits. About 58 percent of men who responded said something prevented them from seeing the doctor.
The AAFP is working on a follow-up survey right now, with results expected in August.
Dr. Wanda Filer, the organization’s president, expects the results will be better now, partly because the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has gotten more men enrolled in health insurance. But she also thinks there has been a cultural shift since that survey came out.
“We’ve had a little bit of a maturing of our society and conversation about men’s health,” she told Healthline. “That makes men hopefully more comfortable seeking out medical care.”
She hopes men will overcome the fear and discomfort that keeps many away from the doctor’s office. It’s about prevention, she says.
“You take your car in for its routine checkups. Your body should get at a minimum the same attention, if not more,” said Filer.