Medicine is wonderful at treating many ills, but there is a lot to be said for avoiding those ills altogether. Put yourself on the path to a better, healthier you with these simple steps.
Visit the Doctor
Men are notorious for avoiding the doctor and ignoring unusual symptoms. (This may partly explain why women live an average of five years longer than men.) It is important for men to be proactive about their health. Schedule yearly checkups, and keep these appointments. If you find you need an extra push, ask your family to hold you accountable. It's in your best interest—and theirs.
Eat Natural Foods
Packaged and processed foods are often full of sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, and calories. Avoid the fake stuff, and opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fiber-rich foods (beans and leafy greens), fresh fish, and lean cuts of meat and poultry. Here's a grocery-shopping tip: Shop the perimeter of the store. This is where you will find the fresh foods. For the most part, avoid the inside aisles, where most of the boxed and processed foods reside.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in American men. Exercise is the best way to prevent heart disease and keep your ticker strong. Aim for 30 minutes of movement at least five days a week. Aerobic exercise—including walking, jogging, swimming, or sports such as tennis or basketball—is best.
Maintain a Healthy Waist
Here's a quick way to determine if your health is at risk: Measure your waist. A waist measurement that is more than 40 inches could be cause for concern. Men with large waists are at an increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and other health issues.
Get Your Vitamins
A daily multivitamin will help ensure your body gets what it needs to function properly, but eating vitamin-rich foods serves up extra benefits — plenty of healthy fiber and minerals. So do both. Pack your meals with vitamin-rich foods, but keep taking the multivitamin.
Avoid Health Sins
We're stating the obvious here, but smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. It's also important to steer clear of those who do smoke. Secondhand smoke is just as dangerous. Nearly 3,000 nonsmoking Americans die from lung cancer every year, and smoking causes myriad other health conditions, including COPD, emphysema, and heart disease, and contributes to the development of cancer in virtually every other organ.
Other health sins include alcohol and drugs. If you choose to consume alcohol, it is best to do so in moderation. For men, that's no more than two drinks per day—24 ounces of beer, 10 ounces of wine, or 3 ounces of spirits. (Two glasses a day may lower your risk of heart disease, but doctors don't recommend drinking over something that is healthier, such as exercising.) Cocaine is known to lead to heart attacks and strokes, while addictive drugs like opiates lead to many negative health behaviors.
Furthermore, anabolic steroids that men use to increase their muscle mass can lead to serious health consequences, including sterility, heart disease, bad skin, and behavioral problems. Injection drug use often leads to infections and skin breakdown at the site of injection.
Protect Your Skin
White males over age 50 receive the largest number of melanoma diagnoses, and the number of men dying from malignant melanoma has doubled in the past 30 years. This increase comes from decades of working or playing in the sun without sunscreen or other protective measures. When outside, use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, and reapply every two hours. Conduct a monthly skin check, looking for unusual moles or new moles (use a mirror to help with places you can't see), and visit a dermatologist once a year for a full-body skin check.
Get Your Prostate Checked
Prostate cancer is the top cancer diagnosis for American men. Talk to your doctor about a prostate cancer screening test and physical exam to check for an enlarged prostate. Not all doctors advise annual screenings, but depending on individual risk factors, yours may suggest one in order to catch potential problems before they become an issue.