While we have made tremendous medical advances over the last century, the state of men’s collective health is not what it should be.
Women still outlive men in most countries throughout the world.
Men develop cardiovascular disease an average of 10 years earlier than women.
And in general, men do not see the doctor as often as women do, which results in a host of issues related to delayed medical care, including advanced disease state, higher cost of treatment, higher mortality rates, and the list goes on…
Don’t be a statistic. Take control of your health. It starts with you (guys), and here are five ways to get you on the path to better health and wellness.
Numbers 1 and 2 on the list of things that you have control over are: diet and exercise.
Do you know what #3 is? Stress.
The connection between stress and heart health has long been studied.
There are very real implications, as it relates to severe, acute trauma and the heart. The connection between everyday stresses and heart disease are more complicated. Stress can elevate blood pressure, which can damage the body over time and lead to cardiovascular disease.
Find Ways to De-Stress
For starters, focus on the positive.
Gratitude journals are becoming popular for busy men to jot down a few things every day for which they are grateful or that have made them happy that day. Over time, even on the most trying of days, flipping through these pages can make you appreciate all that you truly do have. Unplug from technology, even if it is for 10 – 15 minutes, to give your busy mind a break.
Meditation can be useful in these moments while you are unplugged. If you are not comfortable with meditation, take a short walk – without your phone – and reset your mind. If you are able to step outside, all the better.
Exercise can also be a valuable tool in reducing stress and improving overall health. You do not have to devote hours at the gym pumping iron to reap the benefits of exercise. A brisk 30-minute walk daily will get your heart pumping and produce endorphins, which are the chemicals the body makes that promote a feeling of happiness.
Know Your Numbers
When was the last time you had your blood pressure taken?
If it’s been a while, find you way to a pharmacy or a gym and sit yourself in one of the free blood pressure monitoring chairs and have your blood pressure taken. If you results are at or above 140/90, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider.
Why does your blood pressure matter?
The problem is, high blood pressure does not have any symptoms until the disease is fairly advanced… then you are in trouble.
Over time, aside from damaging blood vessels, elevated blood pressure can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Fortunately, this condition is manageable, and sometime even reversible if caught early enough. Eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise are two known ways to reduce mildly elevated blood pressure. If you are carrying around extra pounds, losing weight lay lower your blood pressure as well.
Easy on the Booze
Most men enjoy the camaraderie and relaxation that comes with an adult beverage with friends. A wheat-free drink here and there is okay, but binge drinking and alcoholism take a hard toll on the body.
Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to addiction, depression, liver disease, cardiovascular disease, and has been linked to throat, colon, and mouth cancer.
Moreover, regular heavy alcohol use often leads to heavy hunger, which may be eating too much late at night, resulting in unwanted weight gain, to more dangerous decisions like driving while impaired.
Catch Your Zzz
It’s true, we all do need a good night's sleep.
Aim for 7.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. While we live in a 24/7 world where we are constantly accessible via computer, smart phone, smart watch, or tablet, make your best effort to step away.
Even better, plug your smartphone in at night in a different room, and revert back to using a regular old alarm clock to avoid being woken up by incoming middle of the night texts, voicemails, or emails.
It may be hard at first, but unless you are on-call for work, your sleep will improve greatly when it is uninterrupted…and you will feel so much better and be so much more productive during the day.
Visit the Doc
As we age, we are at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes (if you are overweight), certain cancers, including prostate and colon cancers. Part of the physical exam may be an initial screening for these types of cancer, in addition to checking your overall health. Many conditions, when caught early, can be treated. Man up and get yourself to the doctor.