For many men, having good health not only improves their own lives but also the lives of their families. The “American Journal of Men’s Health” reports than men with health problems are more likely to miss work or have a diminished family income. Women who are widows have a high risk of poverty. So by improving their health, men can also create a more stable society.
Many ways for men to improve their health are simple. By making small lifestyle changes, such as eating better, keeping an eye on their risk for diseases and beginning an exercise program, men can increase their energy levels, improve their quality of life and add years to their life expectancy. You can get started today.
Visit the Doctor
Men have a low likelihood of going to the doctor when they are ill. If fact, 33 percent don’t even have a primary physician. The best way to stop a disease is to prevent it from happening—or detect it early. Early detection while a disease is asymptomatic can decrease your chance of mortality from a potentially treatable condition. Stay up-to-date on doctor’s visits and screenings for chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and vision-related illnesses. While many employers or public health clinics offer free health screenings on an annual or bi-annual basis, you can also call your insurance provider to see if they cover a yearly checkup with your family physician.
Don’t neglect your teeth. Be sure to brush and floss every day keep your mouth healthy, and see the dentist at least once per year. Regular check-ups not only prevents cavities and gum decay but will also be critical in the early detection of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions. The American Academy of Periodontology says that men who suffer from gum disease are 14 percent more likely to develop some sort of cancer.
Regular cardiovascular activity will both prevent you from becoming obese and significantly reduce your chance of heart disease. In 2002, Harvard University studied more than 44,000 men to look at their exercise patterns and heart health. The men who exercised for one hour each day had a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease compared to those who exercised only one hour each week. The more intensely the men exercised, the lower their risk. Running, weight training, rowing and walking were the exercises with the greatest correlations for lowered risk.
A good diet will help your body both inside and out. Proper eating reduces your chance of conditions such as heart disease, osteoporosis and diabetes. For good health, the American Heart Association recommends that you (if you are a healthy male who consumes 2,000 calories per day) eat at least 4 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables per day, 3 oz. of whole grains and 7 oz. of fish per week. The AHA also suggests that you consume less than 1,500 mg of salt per day and less than 450 calories worth of sweetened beverages per week.
The benefits of a regular strength training regimen are two-fold. Regular weight-bearing activity puts good stress on the bones, leading to greater bone density as you age and reducing your chances of fractures from minor falls. Strength training will also increase your lean body mass, the amount of muscle that you have. Since muscle fibers are the greatest consumers of calories within the body, having more lean mass will improve your metabolic rate and decrease your risk of obesity. The American Heart Association suggests that men strength train at least twice per week for good health.
While loss of range of motion affects everyone as they age, the symptoms for men can be particularly severe, particularly in men who lifted weight for many years but never stretched. Regular stretching will allow you to retain your range of motion as you age, decreasing any symptoms of arthritis that you might acquire and improving your quality of life. This is particularly important for body builders, who are at risk of losing their range of motion if they increase their muscle mass without performing limbering and stretching exercises for their joints. Body builders who neglect stretching may eventually find that regular activities, such as bending over or bringing their arms together, are difficult.
Let Things Go
Practice a calmer lifestyle. Anger can seriously hinder your health. The additional stress caused by anger can lead to heart attacks. A Harvard study of 1,055 medical students over 36 years found that men who have a tendency to lose their temper are six times more likely to suffer heart attacks by age 55 than those with calmer temperaments. They were also three times more likely to develop other forms of heart or blood vessel diseases.
Talk To Dad
Many serious diseases are hereditary. For example, the risk of prostate cancer–a disease that killed more than 27,000 U.S. men in 2009 alone–rises in accordance to your number of close relatives who have had the disease themselves. A quick chat to learn your family’s history—followed by notes that you take to the doctor—can give your doctor clues as to what might ail you in the future. Your doctor will keep your medical history in your medical records once he or she receives it.
Visit the DMV
In this case, DMV means Daily Multiple Vitamin. Many medical problems can be nipped in the bud by keeping the right amount of vitamins and minerals in your system. For example, according to the Colorado State University Extension Program, hypertension may be caused by a shortage of potassium in the diet. The American Dietetic Association particularly recommends multivitamins for men who are on a low-calorie diet, elderly, vegetarian or vegan, or who have medical conditions that limit their food choices.
In 2002, one third of the world’s adult male population smoked. Smoking can kill you, and it can also seriously damage your quality of life. When you smoke, the chemicals in the cigarette enter into your body, putting you at risk for emphysema, chronic bronchitis, heart disease, stroke and cancer. In addition, it can lead to hearing loss, vision loss, arthritis, gum disease, tooth decay, peptic ulcers, heartburn and diarrhea. Avoiding smokers can also help your health; secondhand smoke can be just as deadly.
About this Author
April Redzic has been an AFAA-certified fitness instructor and a Chicago-based freelance writer since 2001, having written for “American Fitness,” “Affluence,” “Loyola” and “Spirit” magazines. The weekly women’s fitness columnist for the Chicago Examiner, she teaches group fitness at DePaul University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English and anthropology from Loyola University Chicago and a master’s in nonprofit administration from Notre Dame.