Starting the discussion about men’s health

The Means Report

A focus is placed on men’s health each year because of the lack of awareness and understanding of the health issues men face, as well as men not openly discussing their health and how they are feeling. Dr. Joseph Hobbs breaks down what men face and the importance of taking proactive steps in their well-being.

Brad Means: Dr. Hobbs is the chair of MCG’s department of family medicine, he is an expert when it comes to health, especially men’s health. Dr. Hobbs, thanks for the time.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Thank you.

Brad Means: First question, just has to do with men in general. We don’t like to go to the doctor, we are scared of going to the doctor, is that pretty accurate?

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Well, that’s very accurate.

Brad Means: Why?

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Well, I think a lot of it has to do with the way that we developed. If we look at access to healthcare by both men and women, from the ages of zero up til about 20 or so, it’s about the same.

Brad Means: Mhmm.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: And a lot of it has to do with the fact that parents are the ones that get kids to their immunizations and their pediatrician’s visits and things of this nature. After that, there’s a divergence of the frequency with which men access healthcare services and women access healthcare services, with men being much less. And we think that a lot of it has to do with the fact that women just basically, based on physiology alone have a need to see physicians in their late teenage years where men do not.

Brad Means: Just because of the way their bodies work.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Precisely. And what happens is that, once men have graduated from high school, they have maybe the obligatory college admission physical examination, or the military physical examination, and they go into the workforce, and they make the assumption that the employee health assessment that occurs annually some kinda way is a surrogate for them having a relationship, an ongoing, continuous relationship with a physician who is looking at their care, both from a preventive standpoint, from a surveillance standpoint, and from a disease management standpoint.

Brad Means: And so what happens if you don’t go to the doctor because you’re fearful that they might find something, is it kinda like a car when the check engine light comes on and it just slowly deteriorates? Because a lot of people do, men especially, think that, look, if I don’t know about it, it doesn’t exist.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: I have heard that over and over again. But most of the diseases that we kind of come in contact with have some of the leading causes of death are silent diseases.

Brad Means: Mhmm.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: They have their manifestations early in life, we can see evidence of them being there, but if you wait for them to be symptomatic, or for that signal light to come on, then by that time, a lot of in-organ damage has already been done. Those sorts of early surveillances prevent you to be able to attack that disease early, and hopefully, delay some of the bad things that could occur with those diseases, and sometimes, actually avoid the possibility that you have in-organ damage that can be caused by things like hypertension, the diabetes and things of that sort.

Brad Means: Yeah, I was gonna ask you about those, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, are these things, that if we’re not fearful, and if we come see you, you can jump on early and ward off?

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: You can get to them early, you can institute interventions. And by instituting those interventions you can mitigate some of the problems that these diseases will cause. You can in some instances, with diabetes for example, being on the appropriate drugs, you can decrease the likelihood that you might develop chronic kidney disease, and things of that sort, but all of those things have to occur early in the course of the disease process.

Brad Means: What about diet and exercise, how important is that and tell me about firsthand how you’ve seen it keep a man healthier.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Well, first of all, as a primary care physician, which are the physicians of first contact for both men and women, we have three aims that we try to work with. One is surveillance, trying to make sure that we pick up disease early. Prevention, trying to make those sorts of interventions that can prevent the onset of disease, and then if people develop disease, to try to find ways to manage the disease. The prevention part is a big piece of this, because often one of the things that men kind of have problems with, is if you look at lifestyle activities like smoking, drinking, these sorts of things are much more prevalent in males. And if they are not dealt with appropriately, or done in moderation, well there’s no cigarette moderation that we deal with, but certainly alcohol and things of that nature. By having a contact with a physician or another healthcare provider early in life, you might be able to kinda get a sense of how best not to abuse the use of those types of substances. Because they can not only effect organ systems but if you’re using drugs, if you’re using both legal and illegal drugs, that might put you at risk for unintentional injury and death, motor vehicle accidents, things of that nature.

Brad Means: A friend whose nurse told me that when you’re filling out that form at the doctor’s office and it says how often do you drink or how many alcoholic beverages do you consume per week, whatever you put down, y’all, behind the scenes, double it. Is that true?

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: We probably triple it.

Brad Means: Do you really? Well, few people are probably truthful on that part, so that’s probably a good policy by you all. How often should we go to the doctor once we are grown-ups, if you will, and what should we know when it comes to immunizations or shots of any sort as we grow older?

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Well, I think that at the annual health assessment, it’s kind of what I think that we’ve grown used to has a lot of people who would say that, if you’re looking at individuals who are otherwise healthy, that maybe annual assessments may not be necessary, you might be looking at assessments that may occur every three years, and things of this nature. The important part of all of that, it must be a decision that’s made between you and your physician based upon your unique characteristics. And those unique characteristics could be family history, a whole bunch of other things that might make you at less risk or at greater risk for certain problems which might mean that the frequency with which you would be seen by your physician or healthcare provider might be more or less.

Brad Means: What about sexual issues? It is difficult to turn on the television without seeing a commercial for some sort of product aimed at helping a man’s sex life. And I know that a lot of times those issues are caused by other underlying health issues.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Absolutely, yeah.

Brad Means: So my question to you, is if someone is having a problem in that area, talk about some of the benefits of coming to their physician and having that doctor dig deeper.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Well, under those circumstances, what happens is that, if you look at things like depression, or other sorts of disease processes that might not be in control, the sexual dysfunction might be a manifestation of other sorts of disorders that need to be managed as well, and quite frankly may not require the individual to use any other sorts of agents that would supposedly deal with the sexual dysfunction primarily. So, trying to make the sure that depression’s taken care of, chronic diseases are under appropriate control. Sometimes the whole issue of just lifestyle management, fatigue, working too hard, not taking good care of yourself, not isolating enough time for your family and friends. And all of those things could have impact upon sexual function as well.

Brad Means: Dr. Hobbs, help us have a better conversation with our physicians. Because here’s what I see when I go to the doctor, I see a packed waiting room, I see a busy doctor whose going from exam room to exam room, and I’m reluctant to have deep conversations or to really say what I feel I need help with. Because I can tell the people are busy. How do we press the pause button long enough to have a good conversation with our doctor? They’re just running a mile a minute.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: You have to take control of the conversation.

Brad Means: Mhmm.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Often you come into that environment and you’re in the passive role. So, I’m asking all the questions, and you’re giving me the yes, no, and maybe so answers.

Brad Means: Right.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Take control of the conversation. I have patients, both men and women, who come into my office with pieces of paper, and they’re questions. They’ve already designed the questions.

Brad Means: Mhmm.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: And before I get out of that room, they’re gonna make sure that they have me answer those questions. And physicians and providers are not going to be offended by that. Just write the questions down, get them out, and people are gonna answer them. In fact, often what might happen, depending on how complex that question may be, you may find someone who turns around at the door, come back, sit down, and have another conversation with you, and all of sudden that visit that was gonna be three months away, it’s gonna be a visit that they’re gonna bring you back in a couple of weeks just to finish up that conversation.

Brad Means: Do you have people coming in, you talk about stuff that you see on TV, coming in and saying, “Before we even get started, “I know that I need this medicine.”

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Oh, yes.

Brad Means: Yes, yes. I saw the advertisement, please prescribe it.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Yes, yes.

Brad Means: Probably my last question, just has to do with men as role models with men as fathers, grandfathers. What can we do to make sure our children aren’t fearful of their physicians and make sure that their lifestyle habits are as healthy as possible?

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Well, I think it’s all about role modeling, all about appropriate mentoring of young men. We have a little bit of problem when we look at youngsters nowadays. We’re looking at a lot of single parent households and things of this nature, that meant that male role model may not be there, and in fact I often try to make sure that people in our community think about that young man whose living down the street, who is in a single parent household. It’s a mother, but the father may not be there that maybe you could provide that surrogate support for that individual. Active exercise, discussions about the avoidance of things that put them at risk like drugs. The whole idea of risk-taking behavior, because in this age group of young men–

Brad Means: Mhmm.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Homicide is a big piece of this. And so a lot of this has to do with who your friends are, where you’re going, all those sorts of things to make sure that people are fully aware of what risks are and how to avoid those risks.

Brad Means: Avoiding risks, that could solve so many problems. Dr. Hobbs, thank you for all you do to make us healthier and happier, and we appreciate you and your team at MCG.

Dr. Joseph Hobbs: Thank you very much for having me.

Brad Means: Absolutely, Dr. Joseph Hobbs, chair of MCG’s family medicine department, we’re grateful to him and we’re grateful to you for taking his advice, don’t be afraid.

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The Means Report first aired in January of 2009 offering coverage that you cannot get from a daily newscast. Forget about quick soundbytes -- we deliver an in-depth perspective on the biggest stories. If they are making news on the local or national level, you will find them on the set of The Means Report. Hosted by WJBF NewsChannel 6 anchor, Brad Means, The Means Report covers the topics impacting your life, your town, your state, and your future.