Making Moves Toward Better Men’s Health

If being an North American male were a paid profession, most of us might think twice about applying for the job. Consider these statistics:

  • Men usually die eight years earlier than women (68.6 years versus 76.4).
  • Men are three times more likely than women to suffer heart attacks before age 65.
  • Men are 30 percent more likely to suffer a stroke during our lifetimes than women.
  • Men commit suicide five times more often.

But the good news is that men are beginning to change the way we live, taking better care of ourselves and generally re-examining what we want out of life. There’s no better time than the present to think about taking a few steps toward better health.

Strive For Five

According to the National Cancer Institute, men who eat five servings a day of fruits and vegetables have a 70 percent lower risk of digestive tract cancers. The solution? Never eat a meal that doesn’t contain a fruit or vegetable. It doesn’t have to be a big deal–some fruit on your cereal and orange juice at breakfast, lettuce and tomato on your sandwich at lunch, that famous apple a day, a salad with dinner. Click for more information on cancer-fighting foods.

Check The Jewels

Testicular cancer is the most common cancer among men between the ages of 15 and 40. Check yourself for it once a month with a testicular self-exam. Soap up in a shower to soften the scrotum, then take a testicle between your thumb and forefinger and roll it gently. Your testicle should feel smooth and oval, like a miniature soft-boiled egg (minus the shell, of course). Any lump or irregularity should prompt an immediate call to the doctor.

Limit Fat And Cholesterol

One-third of all cancer deaths might have been prevented through dietary changes, according to the National Men’s Health Foundation, and fat and cholesterol are the biggest culprits. Start with the small stuff: Cut back on the amount of butter, sour cream and cheese you eat. Try switching to a low-fat milk or move from 2 percent to 1 percent. Introduce more fish into your diet and eat your chicken without the skin. For more information on reducing cholesterol levels, click here.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

If someone told you that there’s a new drug that could improve the function of your heart, brain and lungs, while lowering your risk of cancer, controlling your weight and enhancing your mental health, you’d be clamoring to get your hands on some. Exercise offers the same benefits. Any exercise is better than none, but the American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least three 30-minute sessions a week, during which time your heart revs to between 60 percent and 80 percent of its maximum rate. Your maximum heart rate is determined by subtracting your age from 220. If you’re just starting up, stick with low-intensity activities like walking, bicycling or swimming.

Give Your Eyes A Break

You spend a lot of time in front of a computer (like now, for instance). To minimize eyestrain, headaches and blurred vision, make sure your monitor is 20-30 inches away, at or slightly below eye level, with your keyboard directly facing the screen. Every 10 minutes look up and focus on an object at least 10 feet away for a few seconds. Then get back to work.

Wear Sunscreen

Skin-cancer rates have jumped 162 percent in the past 20 years, and men get the disease nearly three times as often as women do. The good news is that skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. Slather on the sunscreen (with an SPF of at least 15 to block ultraviolet A and B rays), even on cloudy days.