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Healthy Aging Tips for Men
The average American life expectancy is longer than ever, but men still aren’t living as long as American women. A woman’s life expectancy is more than 80 years, but for men, it’s about 75 years.
Some research suggests that a primary reason for this so-called “longevity gap” between sexes is that men typically don’t take care of themselves as well as women do. Surveys have found that women are much more likely to see their doctor regularly, and men are more likely than women to engage in “risky” behaviors like smoking and excessive drinking.
One thing experts agree on is that when men take better care of themselves, they increase their odds of living a healthier, longer life. Consider these healthy aging tips for men.
See your doctor regularly. You shouldn’t have to feel sick before you think about calling your primary care physician. Regular check-ups are essential for maintaining your health, and they can also help diagnose and treat certain conditions before they become more serious.
Go to the doctor when you’re feeling sick. In one survey, 40 percent of men responded that they would delay seeking medical care for a few days if they felt ill. Seventeen percent said they’d delay ‘at least a week.’ Never put off medical care, especially if your body is telling you something is wrong. Sometimes prompt medical care can be the difference between life or death.
Watch for prostate problems. The prostate is a small gland below the bladder and in front of the rectum, and it helps make semen. Prostate problems are a health issue unique to men, and the risk of issues increases for men over 50 or those with a family history of prostate illness. In many men, this gland tends to grow larger with age. If your prostate gets too large, it can cause several health issues, both cancerous and non-cancerous. See your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms:
- Frequent urination, especially at night
- Blood in urine or semen
- Pain or burning urination
- Painful ejaculation
- Frequent pain or stiffness in your lower back, hips, pelvic or rectal area, or upper thighs
- Dribbling urine
Get screened. Ask your doctor which screenings you should get and how often to get them. Your doctor will review your medical history and family history to determine which screenings are most appropriate. Routine screenings for older men include:
- Blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, and other life-threatening diseases. A blood pressure check is a simple, painless, non-invasive screening that can be done in your doctor’s office. According to the American Heart Association, your blood pressure should be checked at least once every two years.
- High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Checking your cholesterol involves a simple blood test. You should have a cholesterol test every four to six years, but if you have heart disease or certain other conditions, it should be checked more frequently.
- Prostate cancer. This is the second leading cause of death for American men, but a simple blood test called the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) can detect prostate cancer early. All men over 50 should talk to their doctor about having a PSA test. However, Black men have a higher risk for prostate cancer than white men and should speak to their doctor about receiving this test when they’re in their 40s.
- Colon cancer. As recommended by the American Cancer Society, all men should be screened for colon cancer starting at age 50 until age 75. There are different types of screenings available that can find cancerous polyps in the colon. If you have a family history of colon cancer, talk to your doctor about early screening. If you’re over 75, talk to your doctor about whether you should continue getting screened.
Get vaccinated. Vaccines are especially important for older adults. As you age, your immune system weakens, and it can be more difficult to fight off infections. Be sure to get your flu vaccine every fall and talk to your doctor about other vaccines you may need, including vaccines for shingles and pneumonia.
Take prescriptions, vitamins, and supplements as directed. Medicines have guidelines for a reason. Be sure to take your medicine only as your provider recommends, and check with your provider or pharmacist before taking any new medications of any kind—even over-the-counter supplements.
Eat right. A healthy diet can help you reduce your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and certain types of cancer. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products are always healthy choices. If you’re trying to manage your weight and take care of your heart, eat foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars. If you need help planning a healthier diet based on your conditions, seeing a registered dietitian is an excellent place to start.
Exercise. As a male over 50, the best way to improve your heart health, muscle strength, flexibility, and balance is to get regular physical activity. Exercise can also help reduce your risk of some diseases, including dementia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking) per week and muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week. If you haven’t recently been active, contact your doctor. They can help you choose an appropriate exercise program with activities you enjoy.
Reduce your risk of falls and fractures. Falls are not a normal part of the aging process. By safeguarding your home, getting your vision checked annually, using mobility aids, and more, you can reduce your risk of fall-related injuries. Check out more tips here.
Quit smoking. No matter your age, it’s never too late to quit smoking. The moment you stop, your body begins to heal from the damage caused by smoking. After quitting, you’ll find that you can breathe easier, have more energy, have a better sense of taste and smell, and you lose that “smoker’s cough.” Quitting also lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure—diseases that are more common in men over 50. Need help quitting? Learn about Sibley Memorial Hospital’s Freedom from Smoking program.
Drink in moderation. Drinking alcohol is associated with a variety of short- and long-term health risks. Reduce your risks by consuming alcohol only in moderation—or not at all. The CDC defines “moderation” as two drinks per day for men.
Don’t suffer in silence. Mental health is just as important as physical health, but men are even less likely to seek treatment for mental disorders like depression and anxiety. Furthermore, men are more likely to die by suicide than women. Remember, mental health problems are not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. Depression and anxiety can affect your daily life, including how you feel, sleep, eat, think, and act. If you experience any of the following symptoms, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor—they can help your mental health get back on track:
- Loss of interest in doing things you once loved
- Persistent feelings of sadness or helplessness
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Changes in eating habits
- Increased irritability or aggressiveness
- Thoughts of suicide
Prioritize your health.
You can strive for good health at any age. If you’re 65 or older, talk to your doctor about who will make healthcare decisions for you if you’re unable to do so. Also, ask your doctor if and when you need to be tested or if you should consider treatment options for the following health conditions:
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar
- Bone density
- Colorectal cancer
- Dental exams
- Depression and mental health
- Erectile dysfunction and impotence
- Lung cancer
- Medical devices
- Memory loss
- Prostate cancer and prostate problems
- Skin checks
- Testosterone problems or “Low T”
- Vitamin D levels, which can increase muscle strength and prevent falls