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Live longer and healthier by following these fundamentals: See your doctor regularly, watch your diet, stay active, control your weight and don’t smoke.
Women on average live about five years longer than men do, according to government figures. But guys can increase their chance of a long, healthy life in plenty of ways, starting with not smoking, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight.
For example, research shows that men—even men in their 70s—who exercise regularly, keep their weight and blood pressure normal, and don’t smoke have an increased chance of living into their 90s in good health.
But don’t wait until you’re a senior citizen to get serious about your health.
“A lot of people, when they reach that point, can’t reverse the damage,” says Robert Tan, MD, an adviser for the Men’s Health Network. “We have to intervene earlier.”
Here’s some advice that can help put you on the path to a long and healthy life.
- Make healthcare a priority
One excellent intervention involves regularly seeing your doctor—something many men avoid.
Women, on the other hand, often have an ongoing association with a doctor, one that may have started as they entered childbearing age, Dr. Tan says.
“But for men there is no such beginning point,” he says. “A lot of men don’t seem to realize the importance of health maintenance.”
They should. Many problems can be treated more easily when they’re found early.
Routine checks often include tests for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases and various kinds of cancer.
What you can do: Talk to your doctor about how often you should be examined and screened for health problems. Your age, medical history, lifestyle and other factors will help determine the schedule.
- Avoid tobacco
You’ve heard it a million times: Smoking is hazardous to your health. Cancer, heart disease and lung disease are all linked to smoking, and all of these problems can lead to a shorter life span.
What you can do: Talk to your doctor about quitting. He or she can steer you toward help lines, medications, counseling and other forms of support.
- Watch your weight
More and more men are allowing their weight to get out of control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC.) That can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and other health trouble.
“If you are very sedentary and you eat a lot of food, you’re going to put on weight,” Dr. Tan says. It’s that simple.
What you can do: Balance the calories you eat and drink with the amount of physical activity you get. (Calculate how many calories you need each day.)
Likewise, eating more plant-based foods—fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains—and less saturated fat can also help with weight control.
To help tame your appetite, try eating more frequently during the day, but eat only small amounts at each meal or snack, Dr. Tan suggests.
- Exercise often
Not only can physical activity help you manage your weight, it can also improve your cardiovascular health and lower your risk of stroke, diabetes and colon cancer.
Physically active people also have reduced feelings of stress, anxiety and depression and lower rates of premature death.
CDC recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week along with muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms). You could also choose 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (e.g., jogging or running) every week instead of moderate activity, or a mix of moderate and vigorous activity. Start slowly and work up to your fitness level.
What you can do: Brisk walking, swimming, mowing the lawn and bicycling are just some of the many activities you can pick from. Develop a single routine or do something different every day. Men with a chronic health condition or those with symptoms of such a condition—like chest pain, loss of balance or dizziness—should talk to their doctor before starting an exercise program, according to CDC.
You should also check with a doctor if you’re having a hard time getting into an exercise routine. An evaluation could reveal a medical condition—low thyroid, low testosterone, anemia or depression—that’s interfering with your ability to exercise, Dr. Tan says.