Ask any primary care doctor and they’ll agree: Men are less likely to make annual doctor visits than women.

Rand Pennington

Middle-aged men in particular typically see a medical professional only after experiencing a scare, be it a heart attack or an issue with their sexual health, said family nurse practitioner Rand Pennington of Novant Health New Hanover Primary Care - Wilmington.

“I typically see middle-aged men establish care around lifetime events, like the birth of a child, as their priorities change,” Pennington said. “Men tend to come to the doctor’s office at the bequest of their significant other or a loved one, whereas women tend to seek out health care on their own.”

Putting off screenings and annual checkups means going undiagnosed – and therefore untreated – and missing the warning signs of what Pennington calls “a ticking time bomb.”

Among the illnesses where men are at greater risk of dying?

  • Lung cancer: the leading cause of cancer death in men and women.
  • Liver disease: includes cirrhosis and can cause liver cancer.
  • Colon and rectal cancer.
  • Death by suicide: the death rate for men was more than triple that of women between 2001 and 2021.

Good health starts with a visit to a primary care physician.

Schedule an appointment

I’m a dad in my 40s. What about my health should I be most concerned with?

Making sure that you’re getting your preventive health care needs met. The problem is that many of the things we find in middle age don’t necessarily present themselves as diseases. We find them because of screenings. Male patients will often come in and say, “I was fine until I came here.” I always tell them, “No, you were a ticking time bomb until you came here.”

What are some of those conditions that threaten many middle-aged men?

Undiagnosed high blood pressure, prediabetes and elevated cholesterol levels are extremely common in middle-aged adults, especially males. We know that age is tied to risk. So unfortunately, as you get older, your risk for heart attacks continues to rise. And we find that during a middle-aged checkup. We’re also seeing increased rates of colon cancer, so we start screening men and women at age 45, and sooner for those who are at higher risk.

And there’s no way to know you have a condition unless you get screened for it?

Correct. Most people with prediabetes don’t have symptoms. But with adult-onset diabetes (known as Type 2), that’s where we catch people coming in and not feeling good – they report increased thirst, hunger and urination. And most of them have had prediabetes for decades before they ever realize it.

And is there any way to address it at that point?

Lifestyle changes cannot be overstated. Talk to your doctor about diet, exercise and lifestyle. There are also medications recommended for patients who have prediabetes to delay the onset of diabetes, because the onset can be reversed.