Ronald Reagan was president the last time Dane Hayes visited his doctor.

Does that mean that he's spectacularly healthy?Not necessarily, according to a national survey of men's health and their attitudes toward it. Nearly 7 million American men have gone more than a decade without getting a health exam.

Results of the survey, conducted for Men's Health magazine and CNN to coincide with National Men's Health Week, June 15-21, indicate that men - by the millions - are avoiding getting regular health checks. Or even irregular ones. And they know less than women do about the importance of prevention to good health.

This is the third year the editors of the magazine have commissioned such a survey, focusing on health concerns that are important to them, what they are doing to address their concerns and how they look at the nation's health care system. For the first time, the survey also interviewed women to compare their awareness of health issues to that of men. The survey broke the men into segments: Matures (those 50 and over), Boomers (ages 35-49) and Generation Xers (18-34).

The most striking finding, according to the report , is that a "significant percentage of the nation's roughly 87 million men still don't believe in the value of regular health checks and examinations."

While 76 percent of women have been to the doctor for a physical in the past year, only 60 percent of men "have taken this basic step to good health." And while one-third of women list health and fitness as an aspect of their lives they'd like to improve, only one-fourth of men list it.

One-fourth of those surveyed, both male and female, believe that good health is "purely a matter of having good genes."

One reason men are avoiding health checks is a lack of faith in the nation's health system, according to the survey. While "a majority of Americans still trust our medical system, 44 percent no longer trust its ability to delivery high-quality care." And nearly half - 46 percent - say they are less likely to call the doctor for a health problem now than they were just one year ago.

Campaigns seems to be successful at educating men and women about the dangers of cancer of the prostate and breast. But they don't understand the importance of early detection or that there are also screening tests for cardiovascular problems. And they know precious little about lung cancer and heart disease, the nation's two biggest killers, the report said.

Two-thirds of women worry about developing breast cancer; 44 percent that they will develop lung cancer. The American Heart Association says that 43,800 women will die from breast cancer and 60,600 will die from lung cancer.

Heart disease worries 62 percent of men; 60 percent fear prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that of the 184,000 men who develop the latter, 39,200 will die from it.

And while a higher percentage of men than women worry about colon cancer (43 percent vs. 36 percent), more women will actually develop the disease.

The "matures" are much more likely than Boomers or Generation Xers to believe they can control their lives. They pay a great deal more attention to their health - although Generation Xers are actually more careful about health than Boomers. And it's no surprise that Matures are much more likely to visit the doctor for a regular physical.

But overall, neither women nor men are, in large numbers, being screened for illnesses that with early detection have a high cure rate. For instance, only one-third of men have been tested for prostate cancer; only one-quarter for colon cancer. And the number of men being tested for testicular cancer (20 percent) and women for osteoporosis (14 percent) are very low.

To top it off, men and women both are becoming increasingly obese and sedentary, despite reams of information about the importance of exercise and proper nutrition.

The survey also looks at lifestyle choices, family health history, stress, cigar smoking and sun and skin care.

*****

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Manual offered on men's health

The National Men's Health Foundation has created a "Men's Maintenance Manual" that's available free by mail or that can be ordered on the Internet (www.menshealth.com).

The 32-page pamphlet was created by editors of Men's Health magazine in cooperation with the American Academy of Family Physicians and talks about key health challenges facing men, including their reluctance to seek health care assistance.

The booklet can also be ordered by calling toll-free 1-800-955-2002 or sending a postcard to Men's Maintenance Manual, 13 East Minor St., Emmaus, PA 18098. The manual is also available this month at some Border's Book and Music stores and at Polo Sport fragance counters.