Shorter Life Span Called "Silent Health Crisis"

The report by the American Journal of Public Health says the current state of men's health is now hazardous to the nation's long-term health.

The life span for minority men is even more troubling.

Cultural beliefs and poor access to healthcare may partially be to blame for the so called "silent health crisis" according to the study.

Don Custer is back in the gym, but it took him five heart by-passes to get there.

"I never went for a check up," says Don, diabetes and heart disease patient.

Don became a pro at dismissing pain, not unlike many other East Texas men.

"I didn't go just because of an ache or pain," says Roy Spears. "Yeah, I would probably ignore it," says Thomas Godwin.

Ignoring, nearly cost Don his life. His shortness of breath, he decided was no big deal turned out to be congestive heart failure.

"You're raised up to be macho, don't cry, put on a good front and be strong," says Don. "And women show their emotions more than men do."

That's one of the reasons U.S. men have a shorter life span.  The American Journal of Public Health found women are twice as likely to visit a doctor each year.  And when men actually go for check-ups, their visits are shorter, and less likely to include advice on better health.  Doctor Lazel Augustus at the Trinity Clinic agrees.

"Instead of telling the healthcare professional what is going on, they tend to hide it and it's to their detriment," says Dr. Augustus.

Then there's the issue of health insurance. The journal reports nearly half of Hispanic men don't have any, neither do 28% of African Americans and 17% of white males.

"In '79 I had a heart attack and I have had pain since then," says Clyde Ellison. "But I don't have any health insurance to go the doctor."

But doctors say silence could be deadly. Not all men get a second chance like, Don.

"I think later in life you need to at least see the doctor once a year," says don.

Dana Dixon reporting