- Published: Monday, Oct. 3, 2016
- Reviewed Date: Monday, July 2, 2018
It has been well-known for some time now that women enjoy longer life spans than men all around the world. Many studies have examined why and whether men can do anything about it. The statistics are related in part to physical and biochemical differences, but controllable factors also play into life expectancy. Men tend to have more unhealthy behaviors than women, smoking and drinking more heavily and overeating more often. Men also tend to avoid doctors more than women, and are, on average, less socially connected.
So, what should men do?
Drop the extra pounds
Research shows that a higher body mass index (BMI) is associated with a higher risk for several chronic diseases. The good news is that losing just 5–10 percent of your body weight can make a real difference. Easy changes — such as reducing calorie intake, eating healthy foods and regular exercise — can provide health improvements that go far beyond weight loss.
Periodic health examinations are preventive. Yet research shows that men tend to visit the doctor less frequently than women and downplay their symptoms, resulting in poorer health outcomes. Be honest with your doctor, and talk candidly about your concerns and symptoms. Although the process may seem embarrassing or
uncomfortable, realize that some symptoms may be tied to much more serious conditions.
Don’t pass on screening
A health problem often can be successfully managed if caught early. Screenings are medical tests to check for diseases before you have symptoms. Check your:
- Blood pressure. Nearly a third of people with high blood pressure don’t know it, since high blood pressure has no symptoms. It can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure. The only way to tell whether you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked. Following are the current American Heart Association guidelines for identifying high blood pressure:
- Normal: Less than 120/80 mmHg
- Elevated: Systolic between 120–129 mmHg and diastolic less than 80 mmHg
- Stage 1: Systolic between 130–139 mmHg or diastolic between 80–89 mmHg
- Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mmHg
- Levels. Total cholesterol levels should be less than 200 mg/dL and checked at least every five years. If you have risk factors for heart disease, coronary artery disease, diabetes, kidney problems or certain other conditions, you may need to be checked more often. Have you experienced fainting episodes, dizziness, a loss of consciousness or shortness of breath? Tell your health care provider.
- Sugar. Your doctor may want to test your blood sugar level for diabetes if your blood pressure is above 135/80 mm Hg, or if you have other risk factors for diabetes, such as a high BMI.
- Colon. Get a colorectal screening if you are 50 or older. Start earlier if you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, or if you have a history of inflammatory bowel disease or polyps. Ask your doctor what type of screening is best.
- Prostate. The prostate is a male reproductive gland that wraps around the tube that carries urine out of the bladder. Painful inflammation of the prostate — prostatitis — can happen at any age. The risk for prostate cancer increases about 10 percent for every 10 years of age, beginning at age 60. Sometimes a doctor may find a problem during a routine exam. If you have trouble with urine flow or think there is something wrong with your prostate, see your doctor right away.
Keep up to date with flu shots and vaccinations. Ask your doctor what you need. Talk with your doctor about your health history. Ask your doctor about taking aspirin every day if you are 50–59 years old and have heart disease risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. Aspirin can lower your risk for heart attack, stroke and colorectal cancer. For most people, aspirin is safe, but it’s not right for everyone. Talk with your doctor first.
For years, research has shown that those with meaningful social relationships live longer, manage health conditions better and have healthier behaviors. Be intentional about finding ways to connect with others in uplifting and meaningful ways. Both quality and quantity are important. Join a club or league, be active in your church or volunteer.