Living smart every day is about thinking smart every day, and when it comes to men’s health, busy lives often keep us from making better choices about our health. So whether you’re a man or not, chances are good that several of your loved ones are. Here are some insights on thinking ahead for better health for yourself or the men in your life.
“Nowadays, we have advances in health care and do a lot better at screening and finding disease in its earlier stages,” says Dr. Thomas Kohl, senior medical director of Family Medicine with Reading Health System. “We can now make differences in the long-term health of men and women if we find certain things at an earlier stage.”
Kohl also has a background in sports medicine. His time working with male patients as a physician in general has taught him a lot about the differences between men and women and how men often won’t talk about something that’s bothering them because of the unspoken social pressures on them in our culture. So when there’s a problem like depression or anxiety, it can often come out when they finally visit the doctor for having trouble sleeping, or for something else entirely.
“Men really are not very good about talking about their feelings and stresses, and [they] internalize a lot of these things; they sometimes self-medicate for anxiety and depression,” he says.
In your 20s
Simple things like wearing seatbelts while driving and avoiding drinking and driving, are basic safety tips many young men feel too invincible to think they need to take seriously. “And men in general tend to be more risk-takers than women are,” Kohl says. “In motor vehicle accidents and unintentional injuries, men outnumber women.”
Developing a regular habit of exercising will be easier to keep up if it’s started at a very young age, he says.
“Get blood pressure checked every two years,” Kohl says. “Have safe sex, and get STD counseling.” Kohl notes that an HPV vaccine is now available for men, something which was only available to women in the past.
And immunizations are good to have up-to-date before starting families.
In your 30s
A lot of what’s good to pay attention to regarding health for men in their 30s is similar to that of men in their 20s, Kohl says.
“Have cholesterol screened every five years, if it’s normal,” he says.
Since blood pressure can start to become more problematic with men in their 20s, 30s and 40s, Kohl suggested making a routine of having it checked.
Testicular cancer is also something to be aware of with men in their 20s and 30s, he adds.
In your 40s
Diabetes screenings are good to start at age 45, if a man is not at risk.
“The risk for cardiovascular disease goes up at 45 for men,” he says.
Quitting smoking and considering flu immunizations are other concerns Kohl mentions.
He also notes that chronic disease issues can start to be a concern around this time in life.
In your 50s
Colon cancer screening is really important by age 50 or earlier, especially if there’s a family history. The same is true for prostate cancer.
Thinking about weight control and nutrition is always important, but it becomes even more vital in the 50s for men. “It’s more convenient to eat less healthy,” Kohl points out. “Portion control is a big issue, and fruits and vegetables are crucial.”
In your 60s and beyond
“Men develop heart disease much earlier than women do, so that’s certainly something to be aware of and screen for earlier,” he says. “Men tend to do things that are not very good for their health more than women, like smoke, drink more and seek less medical care. So when they present with disease, it tends to be at a later stage than with women.”
Cancer screenings in general become even more important in the 60s for men, Kohl says.
Heart disease and aortic aneurysm are often a problem in this age range.
Risks of falling down increase, which can lead to breaking hips, too, as bones often become more brittle with age.
Depression screens for older men are more important than most people would expect, and creating advanced directives is something to do to ensure fewer burdens on family members in the event of a difficult medical situation as men age.
Wellness checkups scheduled regularly are a good idea and become more frequently needed, too.