When it comes to healthcare, men have a reputation for being notoriously ostrich like – in that they bury their head in the sand, hoping the problem will go away. In the past, men were much less likely to visit their doctors for routine health checks, to discuss worrying symptoms, to take symptoms seriously and to live a lifestyle that supports good health!
Fortunately, times are changing, and these days men of all ages are realising that you can be your own best friend or worst enemy when it comes to your health. Men all over the world are becoming more proactive about their health, and this is a very encouraging move in the right direction. With that in mind, here are our top ten tips for improving your lifestyle and maintaining vitality, no matter your age!
1. Find a good doctor
Hopefully, you won’t need them! But, many problems that affect men are never reported to their doctors, due to fear of judgement or embarrassment. Choosing a doctor you are comfortable with is key to feeling able to discuss and tackle any number of issues that affect men into middle age and beyond.
2. Eliminate “empty” foods from your diet
Well, at least cut down on them! White versions of carbohydrates such as pasta and rice are a great place to start, and switching to wholegrain versions of these products may not be as painful as you think. The processed versions of these foods offer very little in the way of nutrients or fibre, and drive up your blood sugar (followed by a crash), which can lead to fluctuating energy levels, obesity and even diabetes. Focus on eating lean meat and fish, fruit and vegetables, and watch your portion control – it’s much easier to gain weight as you get older.
3. Watch your alcohol
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the odd pint. Meeting up with your mates for a couple of drinks at the end of a long day or week can be a great way to catch up and relax. But many men fall into the trap of consuming far too much alcohol in one sitting, without realising the long term effects of their binge drinking. Just because you can drink ten pints in an evening doesn’t mean you should! From a health perspective, nine pints per week is the most we want you to have. And your liver would prefer it if these drinks were staggered throughout the week, rather than being downed all in one sitting!
4. Reduce stress
Many men are full time employees, fathers, husbands, and active members of their local communities. Juggling all of these roles can be a definite source of stress, and stress is a lethal factor in the development of physical illness. Often, men can feel pressure to fulfil all these roles, and can fall prey to burning the candle at both ends in order to do so, cutting down on sleep, exercise or personal time in an effort to get everything else done well. This is a recipe for disaster, and it is vital that you study your schedule and learn to set aside some time for yourself in each day, even if it’s only 30 minutes.
5. Vary your workouts
Ideally, men should be aiming to spend two and a half hours per week working out, and incorporate both aerobic exercise (like walking or running) and weight training into their workout routines. Vary your workouts to keep you interested, and don’t forget to stretch before and after a workout! We know it can be so hard to find time to exercise, but there are lots of ways to build some physical activity into your daily lifestyle. If you are a full-time employee, you could try taking a brisk walk each lunch-time. If you are a father, take the buggy out for a run, or take the kids to park for a kick around!
6. Prioritise sleep
Men generally need less sleep than women, but you still need at least six hours per night, and this isn’t something you can compromise on. The effects of sleep deprivation are many and varied, and running a sleep deficit has a direct impact on your ability to focus and concentrate on tasks, your mood and your physical health. Working late or having a night out with friends is okay every now and then, but as with anything, doing this too often can take its toll.
7. Mind your mind
Mental health is really important, but many men still feel the stigma when it comes to expressing feelings of low mood or anxiety, even to themselves. But mood disorders such as depression and anxiety are rife amongst men, and if ignored can have devastating consequences on your quality of life. Sometimes, men who feel that they have no one to turn to cope with their feelings by drinking too much, overeating, developing a short temper, or engaging in risky behaviours. If you are feeling low and unwell, it is vital that you reach out, and lots of non-judgemental and experienced help is available.
8. Protect your prostate
As you grow older, the prostate gland enters a growth spurt of sorts. This can result in new symptoms such as a more frequent night-time need to urinate. This condition is called benign prostatic hyperplasia, and there are lots of treatment options available. It is important that your prostate health is monitored as you grow older, so any symptoms such as urgency or incontinence should be reported to your doctor, who can take it from there and offer you reassurance.
9. Check your testicles
If an enlarging prostate should be the concern of an older man, the condition of your testicles is where it’s at for the younger man! Surprisingly, most cases of testicular cancer occur in young men aged between 20-39 years. Making a habit of checking your testicles (perhaps following a shower) regularly can help you to spot any unusual lumps or bumps that should be investigated. Other symptoms might indicate the presence of other ailments, so it is definitely a habit to keep. Things to look out for include: any unusual rashes or redness, pain when peeing, or discharge from the tip of the penis.
10. Maintain your sexual function
Most cases of erectile dysfunction have an underlying physical cause. The main cause is lack of blood flow to the area in question, which can be a result of physical illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease. This is why it’s so important to grit your teeth and raise this distressing issue with your doctor, who will be well used to dealing with problems like these. Seeking professional help for this issue can potentially identify serious physical conditions that you may not know that you have, and restore your sexual function into the bargain, so you are a winner all round!
Dr Seth Rankin is Founder of London Doctors Clinic