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5 Tips to Improve Men's Health

Posted 06-09-2014 06:00 PM by ChristaIB
Updated 06-09-2014 06:34 PM by ChristaIB

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On average, men in the U.S. are more affected than women by common diseases like heart disease, cancer and strokes. In fact, of the 15 leading causes of death, men far outpace women. The exception is Alzheimerís disease, because many men donít live long enough to either develop the disease, or for the disease to reach the terminal stage.

Why do men have comparatively shorter lifespans than women? One possibility is the genetic differences between the sexes. Testosterone, which men have in abundance, plays a big role in cardiovascular disease and stroke. Still, genetics are only part of the equation. Lifestyle and behavior are also major factors in men's health and longevity.

There are several changes you can make that will improve your health and longevity, including:

1. Go to the doctor

Men are notorious for not seeking medical attention, even when they are having symptoms. They also tend to avoid routine physicals and health screenings, like the cancer and heart screenings. Unfortunately, this stiff-upper-lip attitude can actually hurt you in the long run because:
  • That annoying back pain that youíve been ignoring for weeks could be a symptom of pancreatic cancer
  • Those recurring headaches could indicate high blood pressure
  • Those erectile problems could indicate heart disease or diabetes
Sometimes a person can have underlying health issues with no symptoms at all, and avoiding routine medical exams and screenings may mean not getting an early, needed diagnosis.

A lot of the diseases that affect men can be managed, and even cured, with early intervention and care. This is why itís really important that you see your doctor when you feel ill, and also get regular yearly checkups and disease screenings. You should consult with your doctor about which screenings you should have at your age.

2. Reduce your stress and try to relax more

We have evolved to deal with stress by releasing adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones helped our ancestors run away from rampaging mammoths, or fight an opponent in a battle over territory. Once the stressor had passed, we would stop releasing the hormone and return to normal. Unfortunately, todayís stressors arenít so cut and dried and you could spend days, weeks, even months in a state of perpetual fight or flight. Over time, the surges of adrenaline and cortisol can take a toll on your body, putting you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke. Stress also affects your immune system, making you more prone to illnesses and infections.

You need to find a method for relieving stress and relaxing. How you release stress and relax is up to you, as long as it is a healthy activity. Every relaxation method does not work for everyone. For example, some men love yoga while others prefer a game of hoops. Sometimes something as simple as spending an hour watching sports or your favorite show can be enough to let go of the stress of your day.

3. Get moving

Exercise protects you from heart disease by strengthening your cardiovascular system. It can prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes by helping to control your blood sugar levels. Exercise also helps you relieve stress. Most reputable sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control, recommend you get 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week for overall health. Moderate exercise could include aerobic exercise, like jogging; resistance exercise, like lifting weights; and stretching exercises.

4. Eat right

There can be a lot of conflicting information concerning which foods are best for your health, but the important thing to focus on is getting the nutrients you need. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. However, your personal dietary needs may vary Ė for example some people canít tolerate the gluten that is in many grains. Your best option is to follow the basic FDA guidelines for your vitamin, mineral, nutrient guidelines and calorie intake, and adjust the guidelines to your specific needs. Also, itís always a good idea to limit your intake of processed foods as much as possible.

5. Quit smoking and limit alcohol

Cigarette smoke can cause cancer and heart disease and there is no known benefit to smoking. Unfortunately, it is also highly addictive and difficult to quit. If you smoke and need help quitting, there are several products available to help you stop smoking. You should speak with your doctor about these products, and you can also ask about prescription medications that reduce your desire to smoke.

Alcohol is fine in moderation, and can actually have some health benefits, including lowering your blood pressure and providing antioxidants. Unfortunately, overindulgence can raise your blood pressure and put you at risk for cardiovascular disease. The recommended alcohol intake for men is 24 ounces of beer, 10 ounces of wine, or 3 ounces of distilled spirits per day. Drinking more than that per day or ďbankingĒ your daily limit and consuming them all at once is potentially hazardous and can increase your disease risk.

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