Man-Up: Now is the Time to Take Control of your Health
Listen up guys, this message is for you. It’s time to “Man-Up” and take control of your health. Right now there’s a problem in America- men are dying much earlier than women, with an average life expectancy of only 74.8 years for the guys compared to 80.1 years for the ladies (State of Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services). This nearly 6 year differential means that men are dying at a much younger age with a poorer quality of life. Don’t become another statistic and allow your female loved ones to outlive you. There are things that you can incorporate into your daily life that will not only improve your current and future health, but will also improve the way that you feel. You might as well give it a shot; there’s nothing to lose except years of quality life.
No matter the fitness level, practically everyone can improve their health in some way. For most of us, we would see a dramatic change in our emotional state, physique, and even in our response to diseases if we simply increased the amount of physical activity we engage in each week. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults should be active at least 2 ½ hours each week. This total includes exercises that increase your heart rate as well as exercises that strengthen your muscles. Both types are necessary in order to train your most important muscle in your body (your heart), as well as to build the strength needed to support your skeletal structure. Many of us intend to meet this recommendation, but fail to achieve it due to a vast number of excuses. Not having enough time in the day is an easy problem to fix. Instead of wasting 5 minutes searching for the closest parking space at work or the grocery store, make an effort to park in the furthest row from the door. Climbing the stairs burns many more calories than taking the elevator, and is a great way to incorporate both types of exercise. At your child’s sport practices, challenge your kid to a race afterwards and make it a weekly/bi-weekly competition. Leave the riding lawn mower in the shed and opt for the push mower- what a great workout for your upper body as well as your lower body. Take a close look at your daily routine and find areas where you can incorporate more physical activity, especially if you don’t have time to make it to the gym.
For a variety of reasons, many men simply choose to ignore one of the MVPs in their game of health- their doctor/health care provider. Regardless if you choose to avoid the doctor’s office due to money, time, embarrassment, or even if making an appointment is low on your list of priorities, the doctor’s job is to work with you in order to help you be the best you can be. Men’s health incorporates a variety of unique health situations that require special attention. Many of these situations can present without warning and without the presence of symptoms, so it is especially important to develop a working relationship with your doctor in order to achieve the best possible health. For example, the CDC reports that 25% of all lung cancer patients have no symptoms. Also, listen to your body. If something hurts or is not working properly, your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong and it needs to be fixed. Your doctor will also discuss with you the recommended cancer screenings and other tests that have been found to be beneficial in preventing serious diseases and illnesses. Instead of viewing doctor’s appointments as a hassle, consider it more as an opportunity to work with your teammate in order to develop your game plan for health.
It may seem obvious, but avoiding risky behaviors is a great way to maintain good health. The behavior that has the most negative impact on a person is smoking. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, smoking kills more than 430,000 Americans each year. Smoking also contributes to cancer, stroke, heart disease and lung disease, all of which are among the leading causes of death. Besides, who really wants to kiss someone who smells like an ashtray? Another behavior to keep in mind is drinking alcohol. If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation (for men, this is 1-2 drinks /day maximum). Drinking too much alcohol can not only contribute to the onset of certain diseases like cancer and high blood pressure, but it can also add hidden calories to your diet, foiling your healthy eating plans and standing in the way of achieving a healthy weight (American Heart Association). Scientists are studying the possibility that there is a link between drinking alcohol in moderation and potential health benefits, but the vast majority of experts agree that until more results are seen, the healthiest choice is to stick to drinking in moderation. Finally, good hand washing techniques are a great way to prevent catching diseases such as the seasonal flu, H1N1 flu and other common ailments. At the minimum, make sure to wash your hands after using the restroom, before handling food, after being in a public place, and after handling pets. Performing these seemingly simple behaviors will result in better health.
If your diet primarily consists of burgers, fries, and beer, you’re in for a rude awakening. As we age, the rate at which our body uses food (aka metabolism) steadily decreases. The problem is that a lot of guys maintain their same eating habits from when they were teenagers, but don’t understand what happens as they get older and their waistbands get bigger. This decrease in metabolism as we age means that the calories that our body needs must come from quality foods in order to get an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals. The new interactive food pyramid at MyPyramid.gov is an easy way to understand what food groups our daily calories should be coming from and provides tips for planning meals. If you haven’t realized it by now, everything that you do to your body affects your health and healthy eating is an important part. Eating well can help people to fight disease, keep a healthy weight, and enjoy the opportunities that life provides them.
Finally, limiting stress plays a huge role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Whether you feel stressed from work, home, or anywhere in between, relaxing your mind provides a needed mental break that will allow you to enjoy your day even more. The next time you feel stressed, stop what you are doing and take a minute to calm down. Take deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Exercises like these might just be the difference between wanting to throw your computer out the window at work or wanting to explode at the traffic on the way home. Another important aspect is sleep. Without sleep, your body cannot fight diseases, recover from the day, or prepare for tomorrow. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults who do not get 7-9 hours of sleep each night are twice as likely to be obese than those adults who reach the target amount of sleep. Now you finally have an excuse to get to bed earlier- your health depends on it.
Sometimes a healthy lifestyle seems like a far-off goal that only the rich and famous can obtain. However, by incorporating some of these practical behaviors into your everyday life, better health is just within reach. So remember, lace up your shoes and hoof it up the stairs, visit your MVP, put down that 3rd beer of the day, eat something green once in a while, and get enough rest each night. Following some of these pieces of advice will make you feel younger and healthier in no time.
Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (n.d.). Real men wear gowns. Retrieved February 7, 2010 from http://www.ahrq.gov/realmen/index.html.
American Heart Association. (2010). Healthy lifestyle. Retrieved February 10, 2010 from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1200009.
American Cancer Society. (2010). What men need to know. Retrieved February 10, 2010 from http://www.cancer.org/docroot/PED/PED_4.asp?sitearea=PED.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2009, June 15). Men’s health. Retrieved February 7, 2010 from http://www.cdc.gov/features/healthymen/.
Hagen, Philip. (2003). Mayo clinic guide to self-care: Answers for everyday health problems. 4. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Clinic Health Information.
Men’s health. (n.d.). State of Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. Retrieved February 7, 2010 from http://www.dhss.mo.gov/MensHealth/.
National Sleep Foundation. (2010). Diet, exercise and sleep. Retrieved February 7, 2010 from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/diet-exercise-and-sleep.
United States Department of Agriculture. (2010, February 19). My pyramid.gov: Steps to a healthier you. Retrieved February 10, 2010 from http://www.mypyramid.gov/.