There’s an old saying that goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. However, many men choose to ignore that wisdom, foregoing screenings and important conversations with their doctors. According to the Men’s Health Network, men make half as many visits to physicians for preventative care as women. The end result is bleak: men tend to live about 4.5 years less than women do, and the average man’s final 9 years tend to be spent in very poor health.
Fortunately, taking the reins on your health is something you can start right now… as in, this very second!
If you’re reading this, you are most likely sitting down. While everyone needs to take a load off now and then, too much time on your behind may be deadly: numerous studies connect increased sitting time with an increase in the risk of disease, even among people who get regular exercise.
According to the American Heart Association, being physically active is a key to preventing heart disease and stroke, the number one and number four killers of men in the United States. To improve overall cardiovascular health, they recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (or a combination of the two). Is your blood pressure or cholesterol a concern for you? The AHA recommends an average of 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity 3 or 4 times a week.
Lifting weights is also a good idea for most men. Aging means loss of bone mass. Fortunately, lifting weights appears to help strengthen bones. A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology reports that men who lifted weights for 16 weeks increased their hip bone density by nearly 4% and raised their blood levels of a marker for bone growth by nearly 20%. It can also stave off the natural loss of muscle that occurs in men past the age of 50.
Of course, moving around may not always be an option, whether you’re tied to your desk or limited by your body’s physical condition. Consider that movement can be a flexible goal: use an under-desk pedaling machine, lift free weights while you read, stretch your stiff neck or try an inflatable cushion in your chair to put a little wiggle in your sit.
Steps to Take Now: Get moving, sit less often
Talk to Your Doctor: Incorporating vigorous or moderate exercise into your lifestyle.
Look at Your Diet
While there’s not one single meal plan that will work for every man, here’s what we do know: a diet that is high in fiber with lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean sources of protein and low in sodium and saturated fat is ideal. Eliminating vitamin and mineral deficiencies helps your body run at peak function. A diet high in fiber and low in sodium, red meat, sweets and saturated fats is shown to benefit the cardiovascular system and colorectal/digestive system.
If you’ve never spoken to a nutritionist or dietician, it may be helpful to do so. They can offer you specific feedback on your usual eating habits that will help you not only keep an eye on your weight but also pack more nutrients and fiber into the meals you enjoy. According to Men’s Health, 77% of men don’t take in enough magnesium and many are deficient in vitamin D, potassium and iodine.
According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most people simply don’t get enough fiber in their diets. The typical American gets about half the daily recommended amount. Soluble fiber–the kind found in oats, beans, barley and fruits–has been shown to slightly lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels. It has numerous benefits for the digestive system, as well. How much you need depends on your lifestyle.
The most important step is putting that knowledge into action on a consistent basis.
And that’s also where most men stumble. Between business lunches, busy families and dinner dates, smart choices are often overlooked for more convenient options. Make a game plan for dining out so that you’re not overwhelmed by the menu and lured into picking a dish that’s not in your best health. Pack your lunch. Get involved in the meal planning process at home rather than relying on your partner’s expertise. The more you make a health positive diet a part of your lifestyle, the easier it will be to make a choice for good health.
Steps to Take Now: Examine your diet, make smart swaps, make a plan for eating smart when dining out.
Talk to Your Doctor: Possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies, your fiber intake, how your specific health needs might impact your diet.
Go See Your Doctor
It bears repeating: men just don’t go to the doctor. Your doctor is your best ally in preventing health problems. So why don’t you pay him or her a visit?
The Cleveland Clinic surveyed 500 men and found that only three in five get an annual physical. What’s more alarming: a little more than 40% only go to the doctor when they fear they have a serious medical condition.
Guys, it’s time to get over it. Regular checkups are the best way to catch health issues early. Waiting until the problem becomes unbearable often means waiting until the problem is untreatable. Likewise, be honest and open with your doctor. If you fudge the truth or keep quiet about something that’s been bothering you, your doctor can’t give you the best advice. Topics that men shy away from discussing like erectile dysfunction, urinary issues or changes in your testicles can be the sign of something much bigger. Don’t be afraid to bring them up!
Make a plan with your doctor for a timeline of screenings. Find out which items you can check yourself for, and actually follow through. Book your appointment for next year’s physical before you leave the office, and dial up your dentist on the way out the door.
Steps to Take Now: Schedule an appointment
Talk to Your Doctor: Future screenings, everything that’s going on with you!