Taking care of your health should always be a priority, whether you’re 25 or 65. Yet studies indicate that men typically visit the doctor considerably less than women do. As the age-old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Being proactive about your health keeps your mind and body feeling fit.
Still, focusing on your health can be more complicated than just eating right and remembering to exercise — especially as you get older. Here are some essential men’s health tips to get you started on the path to long-term wellness.
Your 20s are all about establishing healthy habits.
First, find a primary care doctor. You can do this via your health insurance company’s website or go by recommendations from friends and family.
Once you have a doctor, schedule annual physicals, and make sure they include routine health screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol. Particularly if you have a family history of these conditions, it’s important to know your numbers and begin tracking them over time during regular doctors’ visits.
Along with these screenings, get any necessary vaccines. Be sure to get the basic ones, like your flu shot, but don’t skip over others your doctor recommends. Some actually work double duty — for instance, the HPV vaccine helps to prevent both sexually transmitted infections and certain forms of cancer.
Of course, you should also be prepared to make a trip to the doctor when something feels wrong. Never hesitate to visit seek medical attention when you have prolonged symptoms.
If you’re in your 30s and healthy, keep up the good habits. If you’re in your 30s and … well … not, then this is the time to turn that around and adopt some healthier choices.
That might not be easy. Work and family obligations typically begin to take over in this decade, making it more challenging to stay on top of your health. Your lifestyle may also become more sedentary, particularly if you work an office job.
So, get creative about how make time for your health. Continue to get routine screenings for high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and work with your doctor to better understand your risk factors for various conditions — if necessary, through convenient options like telemedicine. If you’re at a healthy weight, you’ll only need screening for high cholesterol every five years after your initial test. If you’re overweight or obese, your doctor may want to monitor you more closely.
In your 40s, you might begin colon cancer screening if you have a family history of the condition. Certain groups have a higher risk than others for certain forms of cancer. For example, African American men, along with anyone with a first-degree relative (such as a parent or sibling) who had prostate cancer before the age of 65, should get screened for colon cancer by age 45.
During this decade, it’s also important to understand your risk for heart disease. High blood pressure and cholesterol are both linked to heart disease because of the damage they can cause to the arteries. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, so it’s crucial to regularly visit your doctor, get screened and be aware of any symptoms — like chest pain or shortness of breath — that might indicate something more serious.
Men at average risk for colon and prostate cancer should begin screening when they reach 50 years old.
If you have risk factors for osteoporosis, such as smoking, low body weight or a family history, get screened for the condition at age 50. Osteoporosis is known as a “silent disease” — you often don’t know you have it until you break or fracture a bone. Osteoporosis is more common in women, but men should still be aware of their risk and practice proper prevention. Keeping your bones strong often boils down to simple habits that could easily be women’s or men’s health tips: Taking a daily calcium supplement, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly to strengthen your bones.
Your 60s and Beyond
Your 60s are all about maintaining the healthy routines you’ve established.
As you get older, your immune system isn’t as strong as it was in your younger years, which makes you more susceptible to developing conditions like the flu and pneumonia. If you do get sick, you’re more at risk for complications and potential hospitalization. So, if your doctor recommends you get the flu shot and pneumonia vaccine, take the advice.
Along with paying attention to your physical health, it’s also important to keep an eye on your mental health. Social isolation and loneliness are real risks for older people, especially after retirement. Try your best to maintain social connections and stay active as you age by joining a club, visiting your local senior center or taking up a new hobby.
It’s never too late to start improving your health. Ideally, though, focusing on your health shouldn’t start in your 60s. It takes laying the groundwork now in order to be healthy later on. So, establish a foundation for good health by finding a doctor you like and staying on top of your regular screenings and checkups. Eventually, prioritizing your health will become second nature.
Even if it takes a some time for health goals to become health habits, don’t worry — you’re playing the long game. Being vigilant about your health could make all the difference.