Men are symptom minimizers

Men are tough.  They pride themselves in doing their job well and don’t complain. We doctors call them ” symptom minimizers”, meaning that they attempt to lessen any pain they have.  At an early age they are encouraged to be tough and then are usually given the best sports medicine advice in the history of sports medicine advice.  When they are injured playing sports, all of their buddies and coaches say, almost in unison these three exact words, ” Walk It Off”.  Yeah, get up, brush yourself off the limp/walk on the injury until it feels better. For minor ankle and knee sprains this sometimes works, but for heart,head and more serious illnesses this universal advice fails miserably.

When guys are young and feel bulletproof they can get away with minimal health care. In most high schools, if a guy plays sports they are required to have an annual preparticipation sports physical exam. This sports “physical” is really just a  “screening” examination for various diseases that could but them at risk if they play sports.   It really is not a preventive medical examination.  Decades ago the pre-sports test was very superficial.   Of note, the latest preparticipation physical exams are getting more in dept and this year we will perform 12 lead ECG’s on all high school athletes that agree to have this performed.  For many men, this is their last physical exam until they get a serious problem later in life.

Given all the different pains that a guy could suffer when should he actually see a doctor?  Especially as a guy nears the age of 40 years old, certain pains need to see doctor. Chest pain is a very important symptom to get checked out.   Especially if a guy has a family history of heart disease, any chest pain should be taken seriously.   Chest pains can be a sign that the heart is not getting enough blood flow due to a blockage to the blood vessels to the heart.  It should be noted that the pains in the chest associated with heart disease is difficult for the patient to describe. In fact,  a common first response to heart disease chest pain is denial of the pain by the patient. We quip that “de-nial” is not just a “river in Egypt”. (yes, doctors are horrible with puns).   Chest pain is not to be taken lightly and is not the time to try tough it out.  Unfortunately, it seems the the toughest of men are the ones who get early heart disease.

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