As a society, we have improved our health and well-being to live longer. However, on average, men are living shorter lives than women. The average life expectancy for men in the US is roughly 75 years, compared to over the age of 80 for women.
This health gap is partially due to the difference in biology, however, other lifestyle factors play a role in the length and quality of men's lives.
Men of all ages can improve their health and quality of life by focusing on these six lifestyle elements: a healthy diet, regular physical activity, brain activities, social activities, regular doctor visits, and avoiding risky behaviour.
In fact, about 70% of men’s health problems are preventable. Start taking better care of yourself today and implement one of these elements into your life at a time to create a positive habit.
1. Eat a Healthy, Well Balanced Diet.
You may have heard of the saying “you are what you eat,” and it’s true.
What men eat directly impacts their risks of developing health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and prostate cancer.
Eating a healthier and more balanced diet will will make you healthier overall.
The Food Guide was replaced by a program called MyPlate and is available from the United States Department of Agriculture. The MyPlate plan is part of a communication initiative to educate consumers on how to make healthier food choices.
In a Massachusetts survey, women were about 50% more likely than men to meet the goal of eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Your food plan should be personalized to you based on your age, weight, height, and physical activity level. You can view nutritional information from MyPlate, and you should also consult your doctor, dietician, or nutritionist to ensure you develop a food plan that’s right for you.
What you drink should also be considered part of your meal plan because beverages can have high calorie counts with very little nutritional value. Water is your best choice since your body requires water to function, and it doesn’t have any calories.
Alcohol can dehydrate you and cause other negative health side effects such as shrinking your brain, thinning your bones, heart damage, and liver damage. If you do plan to drink alcohol, the recommended maximum is 1-2 servings per day. One serving of beer is 12 ounces, one serving of wine is 5 ounces, and one serving of spirits is 1.5 ounces.
By eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, men can reduce their risks of developing certain health conditions, and avoid gaining excess body fat. Excess body fat is hard on your internal organs as well as your joints. Men are prone to develop an apple shape, which is more difficult for your body to carry compared to a pear shape that women are prone to develop.
With a good balance of healthy eating and exercise, men can improve their health and quality of life well into their senior years.
2. Exercise for strength building, balance, and flexibility.
Our bodies are designed to move. “If you want to move well when you are older, you must keep your body moving well as you age.” While many men focus solely on strength training, building your balance and flexibility through activities such as stretching and yoga will become increasingly important as you age.
Building your balance and flexibility now through exercise, yoga and regular physical activity will prevent dangerous falls in the future.
Exercise doesn’t have to mean spending many hours five times per week at a gym. Incorporate activities that you love into your exercise routine so that you can create a positive habit and enjoy movement. Biking, dancing, walking and jogging are forms of aerobic exercise that are very good for your heart and overall health.
If you enjoy strength training, keep it up! Strength training is healthy for your bones. Certain strength training exercises will help you increase your core strength and balance. Both are equally important, and flexibility or balance exercises are easily added to whatever workout routine you currently have. Include five to ten minutes of stretching exercises at the end of every workout to improve your health for the long-term.
Working on flexibility and balance to improve your mobility will help you enjoy a higher quality of life. Don’t shy away from practicing yoga. The balance and flexibility workout of yoga can be quite challenging! Yoga can also be an exercise for the mind, so incorporate it into your exercise routine for better health and well-being.
Men are spending more time than they used to sitting at a desk, sitting on their commute to/from work, and sitting at home. Even if you can’t commit to a robust strength training, balance and flexibility routine, walking has many health benefits. So get started today and improve your health one step at a time!
3. Keep Your Brain Active with Cognitive Games and Mindfulness.
Exercising your brain is just as important as exercising your body.
Humans are creatures of habit and we form routines to help us get through life. However, maintaining the same old routine for a prolonged period of time doesn’t encourage our brains to continue developing or maintain a high standard of functioning.
Something as simple as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand will cause your brain to build new pathways as it communicates messages for this mundane task in a new way.
Other ways to exercise your brain include word, number or jigsaw puzzles, book clubs and discussion clubs, creative hobbies like crafting or gardening, and even taking a new route to work.
Last week we explained the many positive health benefits of gardening, which include reducing the risk of developing dementia by 36%. Reference our gardening blog post to learn about the benefits of gardening and how to get your garden started!
4. Cultivate Close Relationships and Community.
In a health and happiness study by Harvard that was conducted over almost 80 years, it was revealed that our relationships and how happy we are in those relationships have a significant impact on our health.
Participating in social activities that strengthen your relationships and build your sense of community will keep you mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy.
You could combine social activities with exercise by participating in group exercise classes, or building brain strength together in a book club.
Women typically put more time and energy than men do into cultivating close relationships with friends whom they can share their innermost thoughts. Men will continue to make friends as they age, but they are less inclined to cultivate close friendships to reap the health benefits that come with close knit connection.
It’s not about the number of friends you have, but rather the closeness of those friendships. Men should put energy and time into cultivating at least one close friend (who is not their significant other) that they can share deep thoughts and experiences with.
Even if you feel uncomfortable bonding with friends, combining social activities with exercise can be a less stressful way to deepen relationships.
5. Regular Check Ups and Quicker Response Time to Sickness.
Having a doctor and visiting them once per year for your regular checkup, even when you’re feeling healthy, will help your doctor develop a baseline for your health and identify any potential health risks that may be progressing without you noticing.
When you’re feeling sick, do you believe that whatever is wrong will go away on its own?
Many men believe this, and they avoid going to the doctor until something more serious develops. However, early detection and treatment are always the best option for any illness.
6. Avoid Risky Behaviour and Work Towards a Healthy Lifestyle.
Talking about healthy decisions is easy to do, implementing them is the challenge. One easy quick fix is to avoid unnecessary risks, and instead focus on creating healthy habits.
A healthy lifestyle includes taking vitamins and medications as directed by your healthcare provider, using sunscreen daily, not smoking or quitting if you’ve started, and getting enough sleep.
It’s never too late to start and implement at least one healthy lifestyle change. With these tips and the overall six lifestyle elements, you can improve your health and quality of life well into your senior years.
Many clients under the care of Mavencare receive exercise plans from physical or occupational therapists that are designed to maintain their strength, mobility and flexibility. If you or a senior loved one requires home care that focuses on maintaining or improving health, contact one of our Care Coordinators 24/7 at 1-800-85MAVEN.