Chat transcript: Men's Health editor recaps annual survey
June 24, 1999
Web posted at: 11:22 a.m. EDT (1522 GMT)
(CNN) -- The following is an edited transcript of a chat with Ron Stump, senior editor for Menĺs Health magazine, which took place Friday, June 18, 1999. Stump joined our chat from Allentown, Pennsylvania.
Chat Participant: I guess the best way to start off is: Why are men afraid to go to the doctor?
Bill Stump: Guys grow up being told to shake it off, don't show weakness; so when it comes to
going to the doctor, we tend to avoid it -- if we ignore it, it will go away.
Chat Participant: Fortunately most maladies DO go away by themselves.
Bill Stump: Many simple things do clear up in a day or two, but serious illnesses don't, and you need to find them early and have them treated.
Chat Participant: Do studies show that men are more likely to ignore symptoms than women are?
Bill Stump: Our survey shows that men are much more likely to ignore symptoms. Women are much better at doing the kind of surveillance that's needed.
Chat Participant: My father was frightened of hospitals. His generation associated hospitals with dying.
Bill Stump: There are some that associate the hospital with death, not healing. That's wrong.
Chat Participant: Do you suggest taking andro or wait for more research to be done?
Bill Stump: I'm not a doctor, but I would absolutely avoid andro and most other supplements that purport to add muscle. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, especially when it comes to muscle.
Chat Participant: It has been my experience that doctors these days don't listen very well. Do you think men are less likely to force an issue with their doctor than women might be?
Bill Stump: Great observation. Doctors are in a rush to move people through quickly. The key for guys is to go in with a list of focused questions. Be proactive.
Chat Participant: Are men more likely to resort to over-the-counter drugs than women are?
Bill Stump: Doris -- I think men want quicker fixes, and OTC are easier than a doctor's visit and a prescription.
Chat Participant: OK, the big one men avoid is the prostate exam...are men getting over their fear of that very simple exam that can save their lives?
Bill Stump: I think men are more willing to undergo the fickle finger of fate, but it's uncomfortable. Of course, compared with a painful death as the result of prostate cancer, it pales.
Chat Participant : My father is 70 years old and has an extremely hard time with his eyes, yet he totally resists going to doctors and getting any kind of treatment going or anything. He just recently had a total physical after 20 years of never having gone to the doctor. How can we in the family motivate him to take charge of his eye problems and investigate what is available? Or do we the womenfolk need to do the research and take the strong-arm approach?
Bill Stump: I think you need to accentuate what he'll get out of it. Does he like to read, bird-watch, watch ball games? Tell him the benefit, as opposed to the process he must endure. Motivate him; tell him how beautiful his grandkids are and how great it will be to be able to see them better.
Chat Moderator: Yet the survey said older people are more likely to go to a doctor for a health problem than younger people are. Why that age difference?
Bill Stump: Yes, older people are more likely to go because they've become aware of their mortality. Younger guys think they are bulletproof.
Chat Participant: Does your magazine get a lot of mail from women regarding men's health issues? Do you have a lot of female readers?
Bill Stump: We have a ton of female readers who want to know the inside scoop. They love our magazine.
Chat Participant: Bill, do you know why Medicare has quit approving the prostate-specific antigen test unless you have a diagnosis of cancer?
Bill Stump: Yes, I just wrote a story about that subject. The PSA, while the best surveillance for prostate cancer, is notorious for false positives and negatives. One in three men over the age of 50 have microscopic prostate tumors. Some are harmless; others are deadly. But there's no way of telling the difference. So many men have elevated PSA, have surgery that created impotence or incontinence when perhaps they didn't need it. That's no reason not to.
Chat Participant: How do you set your magazine apart from the rather crowded field of men's fitness and health magazines -- what makes yours different?
Bill Stump: We set ourselves apart by providing great, well-researched information with a bit of humor. We are like a buddy filling you in on the latest news, not some pompous know-it-all.
Chat Participant : About five years ago my doctor found out I had high blood pressure. Left untreated, I was setting myself up for future stroke, kidney failure or even congestive heart failure. I take a pill for the pressure, and the values are near normal now.
Bill Stump: Regarding your high blood pressure, you are doing the right thing. Get diagnosed, get the medication, and then take it! Well done. Guys often forget the last part.
Chat Participant: There are some critics who say that more money is being spent on cancer research for women than men (breast vs prostate). Your thoughts?
Bill Stump: There is, but it's our own fault. Women are great at rallying around health causes. They spread the word, they take action, and they lobby decision-makers. Men are not yet that proactive -- and we are dying because of it.
Chat Participant: Does Men's Health Magazine have a Web site?
Bill Stump: Yes, www.menshealth.com
Chat Participant: I wonder, do your readers who write to you ask more questions about the condition of their physiques, or their physical conditions? (if that makes sense.)
Bill Stump: It's a nice mix. We give guys great programs to get lean and strong, but then we tell them what to eat, what supplements are safe and effective, how to deal with physical and emotional situations in the healthiest possible way.
Chat Participant: Do you find more men now dealing with stress or depression?
Bill Stump: Absolutely. Depression is three times more prevalent in men than women, yet we never talk about it. It still has a stigma. We will have a piece this fall on it, how to find out if youĺre depressed and treat it. It's crucial for guys to come out and talk about it.
Chat Participant: Is any of the info in Men's Health useful for women?
Bill Stump: There's great stuff in MH for women. If you want to understand the average guy in the United States, read our magazine. We are about real guys, unlike most magazines.
Chat Participant: The humor in your magazine is great. Do you all have a great sense of humor, or is it just a couple of the editors?
Bill Stump: It's really just me.
Chat Moderator: Have changes in the health insurance industry changed how often people see a doctor?
Bill Stump: Sure, we've seen big changes, and that's one reason for increased reluctance on the part of men to see doctors. Our survey shows that red tape and paperwork and scheduling difficulties are huge hurdles to men getting effective and timely treatment.
Chat Participant: Why do you think men have trouble talking to a doctor about depression or stress? I would talk to my doctor about it but feel I am wasting valuable time for someone who is really "physically" ill.
Bill Stump: Good for you for not being afraid to discuss depression. Emotions and stress have a huge impact on health, and men don't discuss them because they are afraid to admit weakness. That's a hurdle we have to overcome.
Chat Participant: I like the covers of Men's Health! Where do they get those models?!
Bill Stump: We keep the models locked up in a cabinet here at the office. Feed them three times a day. They are trouble-free, housebroken.
Chat Participant: LOL! Not fair! Let them loose!
Chat Participant: Got a spare key to that cabinet? :)
Bill Stump: We rent the models out for parties. See our Web site.
Chat Participant: Isn't it true married men live longer than single men? Or does it just seem longer to the married man?
Bill Stump: It is true married guys live longer, and the reasons are varied. Fact is, companionship is a basic male need.
Chat Participant: You work for a company, you are forced to use the doctors in the network. You may have to abandon a family doctor you have known for years. This could make men reluctant to go to a strange MD
Bill Stump: Good point, but it shouldn't stop men. You wouldn't ignore a blown transmission just because you didn't know the mechanic
Chat Moderator: Why are men more likely to buy junk food?
Bill Stump: We buy more junk food because we are impatient. We don't want to wait in the long lines; we don't want to have to make thoughtful choices. It's to our detriment. Taking a few extra minutes at the grocery store can add years to our lives.
Chat Participant: What type of vitamin supplements would you suggest men take, or are they needed at all?
Bill Stump: The doctors I talk to say a good multivitamin is all you need. If you have prostate cancer in your family, doctors suggest 50 micrograms of selenium. But you should consult your doctor before taking that.
Chat Participant: I know some guys who go shopping and cook ... more than I do!
Bill Stump: Find them and marry them.
Chat Participant: What about saw palmetto for prostate cancer? Seems to be getting good press.
Bill Stump: Saw palmetto shows promise. But I'd drink 12 ounces of tomato juice a day before that. The lycopene in it is protective.
Chat Participant: What are your thoughts on chiropractic care and how it relates to men's health?
Bill Stump: I'm not an expert on chiropractors. I think they can help, but I wouldn't entrust them with all my medical care. It's another tool to consider.
Chat Moderator: What is the latest life expectancy rate for men in the United States?
Bill Stump: It's 73.4 years for a boy born today, 80 for a girl. Surprisingly our rate is lower than for England, Canada, Japan, France....
Chat Moderator: Why is it lower here than in other parts of the world?
Bill Stump: Our life expectancy is lower because we eat so much junk food. It's an epidemic of fat and sugar.
Chat Participant: What is the best aerobic exercise, and how much is needed for the average male?
Bill Stump: You get a good health benefit if you do 20 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week. Even gardening, raking leaves and vacuuming can add benefit. Most of us are going to want to do more, however, to burn calories and add muscle, which fire up our metabolism, meaning we'll burn fat even if we are online chatting.
Chat Moderator: The magazine's June issue says 18 million women do aerobics -- and 4 million men. And 35 percent of men ages 35 to 44 are overweight. Um, any connection there?
Bill Stump: There may be a connection, but more likely we just aren't big on the leotard thing.
Chat Participant: Bill, being this is the end of National Men's Health Week, have you been able to check and see if indeed more men did go to a doctor this week or at least schedule a visit?
Bill Stump: No info yet, but based on anecdotal evidence, yes.
Chat Participant: Hi, Iĺm 32. What age do you feel men should go in for regular checkups? I haven't had a true physical in, Iĺd say, 12 years.
Bill Stump: I'd go in now and once or twice more before 40, unless there is something wrong, some symptoms. You should establish baseline cholesterol, blood pressure numbers, so you can compare. It's not too early; go see your doc.
Chat Participant: We hear a great deal about fat in the diet, but how much sugar should we consume -- any guidelines?
Bill Stump: I'm not a number cruncher, so I couldn't give you numbers. But you know intuitively how much is too much. Make most of your intake fruits, veggies and grains and you'll be fine.
Chat Participant: I see a great number of men in their 40s going to "pot." Why do you think this is so?
Bill Stump: Men are going to pot because we've become a nation of observers. And with all our technology, we don't have to work as hard to survive. That's why we have to develop healthy hobbies to keep up at our best!
Chat Participant: I exercise maybe twice a week. How do you define being overweight?
Bill Stump: Obesity is 20 percent over your ideal weight. I'd say what you weighed at 23, unless you were overweight then.
Chat Participant: You know when you are overweight ... just look in the mirror.
Bill Stump: She's right, strip naked and look in a mirror. You'll see your answer.
Bill Stump: Gang -- the key is activity. Walk, bike, run, garden, shoot hoops, whatever you like, but MOVE.
Chat Participant: Then there's the question of being comfortable with the way you look, as compared to being overweight. Looking in the mirror isn't enough.
Chat Participant: Ugh, I go through that every summer: bathing suit try-ons under fluorescent lights and four-way mirrors.
Bill Stump: Aaron and Haley have a point about perception. You don't have to look like one of our cover models to be fit and healthy. That's something to aspire to for some, maybe, but the idea is health, not beefcake. The fact is, too, that being overweight is a risk factor for cancer and heart disease, our biggest killers.
Chat Participant: Can you speak to bodybuilding? By increasing muscle mass you can increase calorie burning at rest. I've been a weight lifter since I am 14 and find the tips in your magazine very helpful.
Bill Stump: You are right on. Muscle is active tissue -- it incinerates calories even while you sleep. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn. Fat is lazy; it just sits around and asks for more doughnuts.
Chat Participant: How long have you been with Men's Health? And what is your background in health care?
Bill Stump: I've been here a year, and the changes I've seen in my own health since coming aboard are tremendous. Following our advice works! My experience in health care is as a journalist covering the industry, talking to docs and researchers each month, finding out the latest info and separating the good news from the hype.
Chat Moderator: Americans live longer than previous generations, don't they? Why worry about heart disease, cancer, stroke? If those don't kill us, something else will, right?
Bill Stump: True -- I mean, we are all terminal. But health isn't a race to see who can suck oxygen the longest. The key is to make the most of the time you have. You want to be able to enjoy your life and your family without constraints and disabilities. Living long is great; living well is greater.
Chat Moderator: Bill, can you give us any insight into what Men's Health is working on for coming issues?
Bill Stump: We have a great piece on cancer coming in september, along with advice for stepdads and an inside look into a popular weight-lifting fad. That along with our usual mix of humor and health.
Chat Moderator: Thanks, Bill, for joining us today!
Bill Stump: Gang -- It's been great. Thanks a lot for your interest. Good health to you all!
Visit our chat calendar for a complete list of future events and past chat transcripts.
National study shows U.S. men avoid the doctor
June 14, 1999
Men and depression: It's not just a woman's problem
June 16, 1999
Why men don't visit the doctor ... and why they should
June 14, 1999
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
LATEST HEALTH STORIES:
China SARS numbers pass 5,000
Report: Form of HIV in humans by 1940
Fewer infections for back-sleeping babies
Pneumonia vaccine may help heart, too