Preventive Steps to Reduce Men's Health Risks
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Men’s health encompasses more than having an annual physical. In our world of information overload, it may be challenging to know which annual exams you should have and when you should have them, how much you should be exercising and what your diet should consist of, especially as you age. Cooper Clinic Platinum Physician Steven Lilly, MD, discusses men’s health risks and preventive steps to promote a longer, healthier life.
Comparing men and women’s health
There are many similarities between men and women’s health, but there are also noticeable differences in longevity, hormone changes and cancer screenings. In the United States, women tend to have a longer lifespan on average of approximately five years compared to men. “The reasons are likely many and theories include hormonal and genetic factors, interests in personal health and well-being, social connectedness and a host of others,” says Dr. Lilly. Women also have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, though the disease is important to consider and screen for in all patients.
Increasing your longevity begins with prevention. Testing for prostate cancer, evaluating for early signs of colon cancer and taking steps to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease are a few of the important factors in evaluating a man’s health.
Preventive exams are the first step to leading a healthy life. “We recommend all patients have a comprehensive physical exam each year,” says Dr. Lilly. “It is important for all patients to have a primary care physician to oversee their health.” Starting in your 20s and 30s, a baseline physical exam and lab tests can help detect any abnormalities that may otherwise go unnoticed.
For men in particular, Dr. Lilly says, “Cooper Clinic offers and recommends screening for prostate cancer annually, starting at the age of 40.” Baseline screenings for the various other cancers are recommended at different ages based on individual risk factors and overall health. Colon cancer screening typically starts by age 40 and is recommended every five years following. If, for example, a patient has a family history of colon cancer or a history of high-risk polyps, the screening may be recommended at an earlier age and occur more frequently.
Other annual exams recommended can include a full-body skin cancer exam from a board-certified dermatologist, dental exams and cleanings and eye health exams. Frequency of these exams are determined by you and your physician based on your individual health and risk factors. Read a full list of routine health screenings recommended for men and women.
Risk factors and prevention
Men are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease due to factors such as elevated cholesterol, blood pressure, family history and poor physical condition. Another concern, metabolic syndrome—which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke—can be influenced by poor nutrition or being overweight. Additionally, obesity can lead to conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and fatty liver or liver inflammation.
While these conditions are concerning for both men and women, men tend to be at a higher risk. So, how can you lessen your risk for these conditions? Dr. Lilly provides preventive steps you can take to improve your overall health for the long term.
- Lead an active lifestyle. Target at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week plus strength training at least two days per week. Meeting with a professional fitness trainer can help you get started. They can point you in the right direction and develop an exercise plan ideal for you and your goals.
- Create healthy nutrition habits. Healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to restrict yourself from eating the foods you enjoy. Monitoring your portions, timing your eating and learning your body’s hunger cues are examples of nutrition strategies that can yield noticeable results. Guidance from a registered dietitian nutritionist is helpful when trying to determine which foods should be included in your diet and how to make healthy changes.
- Optimize supplements. Vitamin D, omega-3 and fiber are all key nutrients for men’s health. Although it is recommended to obtain your vitamins and minerals through your diet first, nutritional supplements can help you reach your daily nutrition goals. Supplement recommendations vary per individual so it is important to talk with your physician about what is right for you.
Leading an active lifestyle, being cognizant of your nutrition and taking the right supplements for you can positively impact your health. In addition to the preventive steps mentioned above, Dr. Lilly suggests avoiding any form of tobacco use and moderating alcohol intake.
Gradually developing and maintaining healthy habits as we age is essential to living a longer, better quality life. According to the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study (CCLS) conducted by The Cooper Institute, patients who practice healthy habits live an average of six years longer. “Helping men see the potential benefits of gradually improving their health and helping them find sustainable changes that are realistic and achievable is important,” says Lilly. Mental and cognitive health are also vital and can be impacted by factors such as getting quality sleep, managing stress levels and staying socially connected with friends and family.
Make your health a priority. Scheduling your comprehensive physical exam is the first step toward creating a longer, healthier life.
For more information or to schedule a comprehensive physical exam at Cooper Clinic, visit cooper-clinic.com or call 866.906.2667.