We all know that it's common for men to skip the doctor until they become sick, injure themselves or are faced with a serious health problem. And a majority of men will postpone seeking care for a few days to see whether they feel any better. It's the whole "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" line of thinking.
But there are steps the men in your life can take today to improve their vitality and help prevent health problems down the road. Of course, there are some things that can't be changed, such as family history and age, but every day choices can have a big impact on their current and future health.
Offer the men in your life the following tips for staying health (click here for a printable version):
Health Tips for Men:
Get routine health checkups, screenings and (don't forget) dental exams. Just because you're healthy doesn't mean you're off the hook. Going to your health care provider for regular checkups could just save your life. By keeping up with these appointments, your health care provider can make sure you stay up-to-date with immunizations (Yes, they're for adults, too!) and important preventive health screenings. It also gives you a chance to talk about any health concerns or changes you've noticed. Make sure to talk with your health care provider about your family medical history and ask which screenings you might need. For example:
Body mass index (BMI)
Certain cancers depending on risk factors, including your age and family history (e.g., lung, colorectal, prostate, skin)
Diabetes/blood glucose (sugar) level
Depression (Did you know men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women, which is thought to be due to under-diagnosed depression?)
Sexually transmitted diseases
And, if you're like most people, you dread going to the dentist, but add that to your "to do" list. Dental exams aren't just important for your teeth and gums; your mouth may also be a red flag for other health conditions. Learn more by clicking here.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. Eating a diet that's low in fat (less than 7 percent of calories should come from saturated fats), cholesterol, and salt, and packed with fresh fruits and vegetables (two cups of fruit per day; three cups of vegetables per day for men up to age 50 and two and a half cups for men aged 51 and over), whole grains and fiber can help improve your health, prevent heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
Get moving. Try to get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. Taking a walk, jogging, swimming and mowing the lawn all count. But don't be a weekend sports warrior. Start slowly if you aren't normally active and gradually build up. No time? Research shows that even short bursts of physical activity—as few as 10 minutes of intense activity several times a day—can help men improve their health. Talk to your doctor about the right exercise program for you.
Lose the gut for good. It's important to maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight, especially around the waist, can be hard on your body. Carrying too much body fat forces your heart to work harder and increases your chances of heart disease and stroke, even if you have no other risk factors! So, try to curb weight gain as you age.
Drink alcohol in moderation. If you drink alcohol, limit your consumption to no more than two drinks per day. (One drink equals one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one four-ounce glass of wine or 1 1/2 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.)
Don't use tobacco. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals and is a known cause of cancer. Smoking also increases the likelihood of high blood pressure, heart disease, lung problems and other health problems. And if you think chewing tobacco is safer, think again. Not only is chewing tobacco a known cause of cancer (carcinogen), it also contributes to gum disease and tooth loss and may be linked to fertility problems. And, few could argue that chewing and spitting is attractive to a partner. If you smoke or chew, talk to your health care professional about ways to quit. Consider nicotine replacement therapy products that include self-help programs, if appropriate.
Practice safe sex. If you are sexually active, remember to practice safe sex.
Buckle up every time. Always wear a seat belt when you're in a motor vehicle to prevent death or serious injury in an accident. Obey all rules of the road. Don't be a distracted or aggressive driver. Limit cell phone use and don't use other electronic devices while driving.
Think about safety in everything you do. Whether it's pulling out the weed whacker, going for a bike ride or grilling with the neighbors, safety is key. Here are just a few examples:
Take care when moving heavy objects. It's easy to strain yourself when lifting boxes, furniture and other heavy items. Use your knees and legs and not your back for leverage. And ask for help, if you need it.
Wear appropriate protective gear for your eyes and ears when using leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other machines at home or work. Excessive exposure to noise is the most common cause of hearing loss.
Wear a helmet when you ride a bike or ski and throw on reflective clothing if you go for a run after dark.
When grilling, never leave the grill unattended, especially when small children and pets are around, and keep a fire extinguisher handy. The grill should be at least 10 feet from your house or any building.
To protect your skin, avoid prolonged exposure to the sun and apply (and reapply) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater that provides protection against UVA and UVB rays.
Learn to manage stress. Many men define themselves by their careers, which can raise stress levels. Over time, stress can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. Notice early warning signs of stress, such as irritability, tension in your shoulders and neck, grinding your teeth or clenching your hands into fists, and find healthy ways to de-stress (for example, exercise, meditation, massage).
Talk to family and friends about how they can help you integrate these tips into your everyday life and stick with them.