According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women. They also die at higher rates from the three leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, and, unintentional injuries.
What would you do with an extra five years? Would you travel? Spend more time with friends and family? Perhaps take on a new hobby? Think about your current lifestyle and be honest: are you making (mostly) healthy choices? Now think about how just a few small tweaks could add more years on to your life.
June is Men’s Health Month, which is a great time for men to take control of their health and focus on sustainable healthy habits that will reduce their risk of common diseases.
The Top Five Culprits
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the leading causes of death among adult men in the U.S. are:
- Heart disease: In the U.S., heart disease is the leading cause of death for men (and women). One quarter of all male deaths is due to heart disease.
- Cancer: More than 20 percent of all male deaths are from cancer. Compared to women, men have higher rates of getting and dying from cancer. Luckily, screening tests make a huge difference in catching cancer early, when it’s more treatable.
- Accidents (or unintentional injuries): This includes falls, motor vehicle accidents, and accidental poisoning.
- Chronic lower respiratory disease: This includes asthma, COPD, bronchitis, emphysema, and occupational lung diseases.
- Stroke: Although strokes are the fifth most common cause of death in men, the National Stroke Foundation says that 80 percent of all strokes are preventable. They key? Getting high blood pressure under control.
The good news is many of these conditions/diseases are preventable with a few lifestyle changes and regular visits to the doctor.
The Power of Prevention
It may be hard to believe, but something as simple as getting regular checkups can go a long way in improving your health. Regular checkups help catch health issues early on when they’re easier to treat. Unfortunately, studies show that men go to the doctor less than women and are more likely to have a serious condition when they do go.
Do yourself (and your family) a favor and schedule an annual physical with your doctor. Bring a list of things you want to discuss and ask about recommended screenings for men. One easy way to make sure you stick to your annual physicals? When you check out, make next year’s appointment. Then it’s already on the calendar and is one less thing you have to worry about it.
Committing to a Healthier Lifestyle
In addition to regular checkups, making small changes to your lifestyle can help reduce your risk for many of the top five causes of death.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight, lower your risk of heart disease and stroke and may lower your risk of certain types of cancer. The CDC recommends 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week. But that doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym five days a week. Any physical activity counts, so picking something you enjoy — such as basketball, cycling, swimming, or hiking — keeps it fun. When it’s fun, you’re more likely to do it.
- Make healthier food choices. Making small tweaks to your diet can have a big impact on your health. Focus on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein (such as fish). Limit red meat, processed foods, saturated and trans fats, and added sugar and sodium.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Keeping your weight within a healthy range has so many health benefits: it lowers your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke. If you are overweight or obese, it’s important to make gradual habit changes so the weight loss sticks. Don’t be intimidated by losing large amounts of weight. Start small. Even losing a few pounds (5 to 10 percent of your body weight) can improve your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugars, which reduces your overall risk for the above-mentioned diseases. And while healthy eating is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight, regular physical activity, reducing stress, and getting quality sleep are all important parts of the equation as well.
- Quit smoking. If you smoke cigarettes, vape, or use other forms of tobacco (cigars, chewing tobacco, etc.), talk to your doctor about quitting. There are programs, tools, and medications to help you quit.
- Watch your alcohol intake. Alcohol increases your chances of cancer, heart disease, and stroke. It also can lead to risky behavior. If you choose to drink, moderation is key. Keep it to two drinks a day and drink water in between drinks.
A Word About Mental Health
Mental health is also an important part of your overall health, so don’t neglect it. Your mental health doesn’t just impact you emotionally, it impacts you physically as well. Stress, depression, and anxiety increase your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
And although stress is a normal part of life, sometimes it can get overwhelming. Make sure you have a healthy outlet for handling stress, and if you need help, resources are available: