Many of the threats to men’s health are lifestyle related. You can lower your risk by simply making a few choices. The threat of heart disease, stroke, cancer and chronic lung disease is reduced if you do the following:
Don’t smoke. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit. It’s also important to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution and exposure to chemicals (such as in the workplace).
Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat and sodium.
Maintain a healthy weight. Losing excess pounds — and keeping them off — can lower your risk of heart disease as well as various types of cancer.
Get moving. Include physical activity in your daily routine. You know exercise can help you control your weight and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. But did you know that it may also lower your risk of certain types of cancer? Choose sports or other activities you enjoy, from basketball to brisk walking.
Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. For men, that means up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger and one drink a day for men older than age 65. The risk of various types of cancer, such as liver cancer, appears to increase with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you’ve been drinking regularly. Too much alcohol can also raise your blood pressure.
Manage stress. If you feel constantly on edge or under assault, your lifestyle habits may suffer — and so might your immune system. Take steps to reduce stress — or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.
Stop avoiding the doctor
Don’t wait to visit the doctor until something is seriously wrong. Your doctor can be your best ally for preventing health problems. Be sure to follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations if you have health issues, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. Also, be sure to ask your doctor about when you should have cancer screenings and other health evaluations.
What else puts you at risk?
Another common cause of death among men are motor vehicle accidents. To stay safe on the road, use common sense. Wear your seat belt. Follow the speed limit. Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or any other substances, and don’t drive while sleepy.
Suicide is another leading men’s health risk. An important risk factor for suicide among men is depression. If you have signs and symptoms of depression — such as feelings of sadness or unhappiness and loss of interest in normal activities — consult your doctor. Treatment is available. If you’re contemplating suicide, call for emergency medical help or go the nearest emergency room.
The bottom line
Understanding health risks is one thing. Taking action to reduce your risks is another. Start with healthy lifestyle choices — eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, quitting smoking and getting recommended health screenings. The impact may be greater than you’ll ever know.