Health and heritage: too tough to see a doctor?

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Heart disease and cancer are the two leading causes of death among the Hispanic population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC. Stroke and diabetes are the third and fourth leading causes of death, respectively.

According to the CDC, these risks can be tied to the health issues some Hispanic men develop over time, including obesity and uncontrolled high blood pressure. Statistics show that regardless of race, men in general are less likely to visit their doctor compared to women. Earlier this year, the American Heart Association posted reasons why men may not visit a doctor, and some of those include not having enough time, not having medical insurance or not even having a primary physician. 

Factors for Opting Out of Care

Economics can be one of the main reasons why Hispanic men don’t visit the doctor, but experts also suggest a factor could be cultural, as well. Hispanic men are often the main “bread winners” of their families, and going to the doctor because of an illness or injury could be perceived as a sign of weakness. This “machismo” ideology, or this strong sense of masculinity, tends to be common in the male Hispanic culture. Illnesses often don’t deter Hispanic men fulfilling what they see as their duties of providing for their families, even though they may be allowing a health issue to grow worse in the process. Evidence suggests that while Hispanic men may not typically visit a doctor or have a primary care physician, the reason for finally seeking medical attention may be to receive treatment for an extreme issue. 

As some Hispanics perceive modern medicine as being too costly, Hispanic men may find a way to avoid going to the doctor by believing in the healing powers of home remedies as a source of medical intervention. Some Hispanics don’t have the economic means to see a doctor, and may have grown up with these home remedies as a way of helping them heal. In addition, some believe these alternative or homeopathic medicines are not only less expensive, but may be just as good, if not better than modern medicine. 

The Good News

Regardless, not all health-related news is bad for this ethnic group when it comes to health. A recent study put out by the University of California, Los Angeles shows that Hispanics overall -- both men and women -- are aging at a slower rate than other ethnic groups. Also, compared to their white male counterparts, the CDC reports that Hispanic men have a lower death rate from most of the 10 leading causes of death. This includes 35 percent less heart disease and 49 percent less cancer. But they may want to take a lesson from Hispanic women. While Hispanics overall are as likely as whites to suffer from high blood pressure, Hispanic women are more likely than Hispanic men to seek medical help to get it under control. 

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