Not only is it a battle to get a man to visit the doctor, but once there they are known to stretch the truth in what they tell their GP. Doctors, of course, know when their patients are being a little less than forthcoming.
These are the five things men commonly lie to their GP about – and what to do about them, so then there’ll be no need to lie!
1. Do you smoke?
The Government and the health service bombard us from all angles with messages telling us all how bad smoking is for us. Nobody can still be oblivious to the risks of their nicotine addiction but that doesn’t mean the lectures are welcome.
Men who smoke often tell doctors that they have just kicked the habit when they are questioned about it in their medical examination. But as smoking is so telling on a person, doctors are often able to make a very accurate assessment as to whether this is true or not.
There’s all sorts of help you can get if you want to quit: support by text or email, an app, or your local Stop Smoking group. See the Smokefree website. The Allen Carr programme , which includes hypnosis, has worked for a lot of people.
2. How much exercise do you do?
Perhaps there is a perceived sense of judgement in this question if you don’t do a lot of exercise – and most of us fall far short of the 30 minutes a day/three times a week rule.
Studies have shown that some male patients cover up for their lack of exercise by over-inflating how much they do and telling their doctors a fib accordingly.
No time for exercise? No excuses! You can fit exercise into your life, says a champion fitness model who’s in his fifties.
3. How much alcohol do you drink a week?
Some people, both men and women, drink a little more frequently than they let on. But, even though their drinking may not be out of control, being questioned about it automatically puts them on the defensive.
But doctors know men often lie to them about how many units a week they drink. They have a handy way for getting closer to the truth. Judging by the overall medical examination, they double the units they are told if they think the patient is being a bit economical with the truth.
Earlier this year, the UK government reviewed its guidelines on alcohol, as they were based on out-of-date research. Men are now advised to drink no more than 14 units a week – that’s six pints of four per cent ABV beer, or six 175ml glasses of 13 per cent ABV wine.
4. How are you sleeping?
Although information about our sleeping patterns can help a GP make an accurate diagnosis, many of us don’t make the connection between sleep and health. Men, in particular, can downplay any sleeping issues they may have.
For many, having trouble sleeping doesn’t seem like a serious problem. What’s more, men and women alike go about our daily lives even if we haven’t had a good night’s rest.
But getting a regular good night’s sleep really is more important than most of us acknowledge. Lack of sleep makes you more likely to binge on sugary, salty and fatty foods. It can lead to a lack of mental alertness the following day. And over the long-term, is linked to serious health issues such as heart disease, diabetes and depression.
Related: 10 sleep myths and facts
5. Do you have any aches and pains?
Aches and pains are always worthy of the doctor’s attention, but many men chalk them up to physical exertion – even if they haven’t been working out.
Doctors will be able to tell there is pain in an area, sometimes with the help of an X-ray, but many aches will not show up physically. It may be denial, it may be embarrassment, but men often stretch the truth when it comes to telling the doctor how they are really feeling.
It’s not just contemporary men who are less than forthcoming about the state of their health with their GPs. Hippocrates faced the same problem with his Greek male patients. To combat the lies he knew he was being told he invented a diagnostic test to get to the truth: he simply took their pulse rates.
You may be ignoring back pain, for example, thinking it’s ‘just age’. And that can indeed be the cause. But there are daily habits you can adopt that can reduce back pain.
If it’s your joints that are bothering you, don’t let that stop you exercising, as the right kind of regular exercise can help – but it has to be low impact on the joints. Read six exercises that protect your joints. Because, really, who wants to be the old man saying “Ooh, my dodgy knees…”.