Six minute read
Computer programming. Beer brewing. Golfing. Woodworking. Playing guitar. Cycling. Metalworking. Classic car or motorcycle restoration. Photography. Bowling. According to a popular men’s magazine, these are some of the top hobbies that men enjoy when they’re not otherwise engaged in work or family activities. Besides being popular, these hobbies have something else in common: they all require care, attention to detail and time commitment.
Wouldn’t it be great if American men would invest as much of that in their health as they do their hobbies? But the fact is, according to Men’s Health Network, many men often do not set their overall health condition or prevention of health problems as a priority in their life. In general, men seem to follow the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” The problem with this approach, at least when it comes to health, is that oftentimes by the time it’s “broke” it might be too late to fix it.
Top Ten Health Tips
June is Men’s Health Month. Men’s Health Month is the community’s way of letting the men in our lives know that we love them, and we want them around for a long time. But ultimately, just like with their hobbies, they’re the ones who need to put the care, detail and commitment into making their own current and future wellbeing the best it can be.
But to help get them started, here are the top ten tips for the men in your life (you may want to print them out and post them over his workbench).
- Get routine health checkups, screenings and dental exams. Some men are known for putting off regular appointments—after all, he feels okay. These appointments aren’t just for people who “feel sick.” They can be life-saving. Keeping up with these appointments gives you a chance to talk about any health concerns or changes you've noticed. Also, your healthcare provider can make sure you stay up-to-date on important preventive health screenings. For example:
- Body mass index (BMI)
- Blood pressure
- Certain cancers depending on risk factors, including your age and family history (e.g., lung, colorectal, prostate, skin)
- Diabetes/blood glucose (sugar) level
- Make sure to keep that dentist appointment on your "to do" list. Dental exams aren’t just important for your teeth and gums; your mouth may also be a red flag for other health conditions.
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. As tasty as pulled pork sandwiches and meat-lover’s pizza may be, it’s important to stick with a diet that’s low in fat, cholesterol and salt, and is packed with fresh fruits (two cups per day) and vegetables (three cups of vegetables per day for men up to age 50 and two and a half cups for men aged 51 and over), whole grains and fiber. Everyone—not just men—should aim for less than 7 percent of from saturated fats.
- Get moving. Try to get a minimum 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week. Taking a walk, jogging, swimming and mowing the lawn all count. Start slowly if you aren't normally active and gradually build up. No time? Research shows that even short bursts of physical activity—as few as 10 minutes of intense activity several times a day—can help men improve their health.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. If you drink alcohol, limit your consumption to no more than two drinks per day. (One drink equals one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one four-ounce glass of wine or 1 1/2 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.)
- Prioritize sleep. According to researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, if you’re regularly sleeping less than seven hours a night you’re asking for trouble—trouble being everything from Alzheimer’s disease to diabetes to depression. One 14-year study found that men who averaged six hours or less a night were four to five times more likely to suffer one or more cardiac arrests than those who got more. Insufficient sleep has also been linked to diabetes, weight gain, fertility problems, decreased immunity, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.
- Care for your prostate. The prostate grows as you get older. You’ll almost certainly have symptoms, like urinary problems. A healthy, low-fat diet will reduce the likelihood of prostate growth and may reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
- Don't use tobacco. With all we know about the dangers of tobacco, this one really shouldn’t be an issue. But somehow, it still is: a recent gallop poll discovered that 26 million American men over 18 are smokers (23.5 percent). Women aren’t too far behind: 21 million women are smokers too (18.1 percent). Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals and is a known cause of cancer. Smoking also increases the likelihood of high blood pressure, heart disease, lung problems and other health problems. And if you think chewing tobacco is safer, think again. Not only is chewing tobacco a known cause of cancer (carcinogen), it also contributes to gum disease and tooth loss and may be linked to fertility problems.
- Check your head. Mental health is really, really important. Think about several things: Are you drinking too much? Are you paying attention to signs of depression or bipolar disorder, which often get missed? If you have a family history of mental illness, suicide, and/or substance abuse, you really need someone to help you review the signs and symptoms.
- Think about safety in everything you do. Whether it's pulling out the weed whacker, going for a bike ride or grilling with the neighbors, safety is key. Here are just a few examples:
- Buckle up every time.
- Don't be a distracted or aggressive driver. Limit cell phone use and don't use other electronic devices while driving.
- Take care when moving heavy objects. It's easy to strain yourself when lifting boxes, furniture and other heavy items. Use your knees and legs and not your back for leverage. And ask for help, if you need it.
- Wear appropriate protective gear for your eyes and ears when using leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other machines at home or work. Excessive exposure to noise is the most common cause of hearing loss.
- Wear reflective clothing if you go for a run after dark.
- When grilling, never leave the grill unattended and keep a fire extinguisher handy. The grill should be at least 10 feet from your house or any building.
- Learn to manage stress. Many men define themselves by their careers, which can raise stress levels. Over time, stress can take a toll on your emotional and physical health. Notice early warning signs of stress, such as irritability, tension in your shoulders and neck, grinding your teeth or clenching your hands into fists, and find healthy ways to de-stress (for example, exercise, meditation, massage).
A New Hobby: Your Health
Being a healthy man isn’t just about dodging illness. It’s about thriving as much as he can, as long as he can, in every way he can.
Think of it this way: would an avid brewer settle for creating a beer recipe that, at best, wasn’t “broke”? Would someone who’d undertaken the restoration of a fine 1930 Cadillac ignore the odd little ping from the engine that just wouldn’t go away? No. In either case, the hobbyist would put his heart and soul into making the focus of his attention the best that it can be.
His health deserves the same.