You will most likely live longer than your ancestors, but given the rising rates of chronic disease, substance use disorders, and more, that longer life may not be as healthy as it could be. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 in 10 adults in the US have a chronic disease, and 4 in 10 have two or more chronic diseases. These conditions include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, chronic lung disease, and Alzheimer’s, and they significantly reduce the quality of life of those who have them. While both men and women are at risk of developing these diseases, recent research has shown that men are at higher risk.
But, what if, as the driver of your health, you could increase the chances of avoiding these conditions? Okay, men! It is time to grab the steering wheel and take the path towards a healthier life.
Health & Wellness Tip #1
Get regular tune-ups
If you don’t know how things are running in your body and don’t take the necessary steps to prevent issues before they happen, it is harder to avoid disease development and complications. Your health care team is the pit crew you need to keep things going smoothly. This team can include your doctor or other primary care providers, your eye doctor, your dentist, your dermatologist, nutritionist, and any other needed specialists. Regular check-ups, health screenings, and routine tests give you the critical information you need about your most prized vehicle – your body! When you have an annual physical or undergo other recommend care, you are looking for any potential risks or concerns by checking your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and other measurable signs of how your body is functioning. Each time you visit, you can see how things are progressing and where you need to make changes to increase your healthy lifestyle behaviors.
Health & Wellness Tip #2
Fuel up for health
Fill your car with anything but the gas it needs, and your vehicle will no longer be able to get you from here to there. The same thing holds true when you fill your body with foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. Your body will have a hard time taking you where you need to go, you won’t sleep as well, and your overall energy will be down. You will also have a harder time managing your weight and may increase your risk for chronic diseases. Instead, filling your real or virtual cart with fish and lean meats, healthy fats, colorful fruits and vegetables, and varied whole grains can support bone health, heart health, muscle building, and more. But we know that it doesn’t matter how healthy it is if it doesn’t have flavor, so make meal preparation a family affair and choose fun, flavorful recipes designed with you in mind. It may also be essential for you to take a vitamin or mineral supplement to meet your daily needs. Be sure to talk to your health care provider about options given your age and risk factors.
Health & Wellness Tip #3
Don’t let stress be your backseat driver
Stress has been implicated in everything from erectile dysfunction to prostate cancer, to, of course, heart disease and stroke. It can also lead to not sleeping, eating, or feeling well. Whether from the workplace, home life, or both, men carry a heavy load of stress. Before it builds up and causes major health complications, stress needs to be controlled. From being able to say “no” to the extras at work, making sure to take time to exercise and enjoy time outdoors, and spending time with friends and family, the time for stress management is now. Without it, it is hard to improve other aspects of your health and to prevent disease.
Health & Wellness Tip #4
Avoid idling for too long
Nothing will age you faster than sitting too long at your desk or on your couch. Lack of daily physical activity increases the risk of chronic disease. A 2017 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology even documented changes at the cellular level between those who exercised and those who didn’t. While the study was done on women and more research is needed, there is no doubt that moving more than sitting is better for your health. Do what you love and do it often. Run, walk, swim, bike, hike, take karate classes, do yoga —if the activity brings you joy, you will more likely keep up with it. Small steps can add up too. Set a timer on your phone or smartwatch to make sure you get up and moving throughout the day. Even just to walk laps around your home or office.
Health & Wellness Tip #5
As the driver, make self-care a priority
Your health care team, spouse, or employer can only take things so far when it comes to protecting your physical and mental health. You are in the driver’s seat, and positive self-care behaviors can make or break your efforts to age healthfully. While not always deemed the “cool” thing for men, recent efforts have been made by leading health organizations, media outlets, and more to bring a spotlight on the importance of men taking care of their bodies and minds – from the inside out. By taking care of yourself, you can better take care of your family, co-workers, and community. The key is in your hand. Will you take the path to healthy aging?
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