Man’s Motivation for Medical Ministration: His Penis

Andrew Siegel MD


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You—as a man—are a master of denial, who, through a combination of nature and nurture, often play the stoic, tough guy, independent, cool as a cucumber, stubborn, non-demonstrative, too-proud-to-ask-directions act. You typically serve the role of provider, protector, hunter, and warrior as opposed to your nurturing and more emotional female gender mate. Furthermore, you are literally “tainted” by testosterone levels that can biochemically impair your ability to think rationally. Truth is that deep inside, most men are actually weak-kneed milquetoasts who are put to shame by women when it comes to true bravado. Regarding seeking help in the form of medical care, men are much more reluctant to do so than women, particularly preventive health care, and medical care is often not sought until after a problem develops, establishes itself and worsens.

Men’s Health: Facts

  • Men live 6 years less than women on average
  • 36% of men seek medical care only when they become really ill
  • 30% of men defer seeking medical help as long as they can
  • 90 million men have a usual place of medical care, as opposed to 106 million women
  • 30 million men reported no office visits with a physician in the past year, as opposed to 16 million women
  • Men have higher rates of inactivity, poor nutrition, and excessive alcohol consumption than women
  • More than 50% of premature death in men in the USA are result of chronic, but preventable medical conditions

One of the challenges of being a physician is to persuade men to pursue preventive health services. Over the years, however, getting the male patient into the office has actually become much easier, thanks to the emerging field of sexual medicine, the availability of Viagra and other ED drugs, and Big Pharma’s extensive direct-to-consumer advertising.

Viagra was the initial drug in its class that addressed a previously unmet medical need with the collateral effect of being the “carrot” that enticed men to see their doctor. The direct-to-consumer advertising effort has resulted in a change in name of the pejorative term “impotence” into the more euphemistic term “erectile dysfunction,” de-stigmatizing sexual dysfunction, resulting in patients more readily making appointments. Big Pharma has also made the word “testosterone,” previously the domain of endocrinologists and urologists, into a commonly used household word, and numerous patients now appear in the office requesting to know what their “T” is.

Men may be stoic when it comes to their general health but when it comes to their genital health it is a different story. To many, their penis is literally their GPS, and when its function goes south, they become immediately motivated to find medical help! Never mind that they are having chest pain that gets dismissed as indigestion—an episode or two of failure to launch an erection is all it takes for an “emergency” appointment! There is some real truth to the concept that men think with their penises.

What most men do not realize is that they actually have a “canary in their trousers,” analogous to the “canary in the coal mine” carried by mine workers into the mines, the death of which would indicate the presence of dangerous gases. Since the penile arteries are generally rather small (diameter of 1 to 2 millimeters) and the coronary (heart) arteries larger (4 millimeters), it stands to reason that if vascular disease is affecting the tiny penile arteries, it may soon affect the larger coronary arteries as well—if not now, then at some time in the future. In other words, the fatty plaque that compromises blood flow to the smaller vessels of the penis may also do so to the larger vessels of the heart and thus ED may be considered a genital “stress test.” 

In fact, the presence of ED is as much of a predictor of cardiovascular disease as is a strong family history of cardiac problems, tobacco smoking, or elevated cholesterol. The British cardiologist Graham Jackson expanded the initials ED to mean: Endothelial Dysfunction (endothelial cells being the type of cells that line the insides of arteries); Early Detection (of cardiovascular disease); and Early Death (if missed).

Bottom Line: Because many men have an “obsession”—if not a “fascination,” with their penises—a dysfunction in this department is often the motivating factor that drives them to seek medical help, which often uncovers other medical issues. The pharmaceutical companies have developed excellent medications to treat ED and are credited with the name “ED” and for de-stigmatizing sexual issues are also responsible for getting the stoic gender into the physician’s office. So man’s peno-centric focus and Big Pharma are actually beneficial for men’s health.


Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

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