When It Comes to Longevity, Men Have Some Catching Up to Do
In terms of health, men and women aren't really equal. The main difference: Women live longer. A boy born in 2005 can expect to live to be 75. His twin sister will most likely celebrate her 80th birthday.
Researchers explain this gender gap in life expectancy by pointing out men's tendencies toward an earlier onset of heart disease. For women, the risk of heart disease starts to climb at age 55. In men, this risk rises 10 years earlier. In addition, more men than women drink and smoke. Smoking contributes to a whole host of health problems, including cancer and heart disease.
Males also are about twice as likely as females to sustain a traumatic brain injury.
The news for men isn't all grim. According to research reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, taking good care of their health in midlife helped men live healthier and longer. Here are the most important things a man can do to continue
enjoying his birthday parties for years to come:
Get screened. Colorectal cancer and diabetes are among the diseases that medical screening can detect early, when they're easier to treat. Screening tests also pinpoint treatable conditions such as obesity, high cholesterol, and hypertension.
Avoid smoke. Tobacco damages your whole body.
Exercise. Plan to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. In a recent study of both black and white men in Circulation, the more fit a man was, the lower his risk of dying.
Eat well. The best way to get all the nutrients your body needs is to concentrate on consuming fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products. A good diet also includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts. Choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars.
Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight contributes to many health problems that plague men, including heart disease and diabetes.
Go easy on the alcohol. Men should have no more than two drinks a day. A drink is one 12-ounce bottle of beer or wine cooler, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits. If you're older than 65, limit your daily alcohol intake to one drink.
Wear a seat belt and, if necessary, a helmet. Seatbelts help prevent driving fatalities, and a helmet protects your brain when you ride a bike or play contact sports.
Stay current with your immunizations. Starting at age 50, get a flu shot every year. When you turn 65, ask for a onetime pneumonia shot. Depending on your health history, your doctor may suggest these inoculations earlier. You should also receive a tetanus-diphtheria booster shot every 10 years. In May 2006, the FDA approved a one-time shot for adults 60 and older that helps prevent or lessen shingles, a late and painful after-effect of chicken pox.
More men than women have diabetes, and men are more likely to smoke and drink. But they are less likely to have a regular place to go for health care. What you may not know is that regular screenings can help keep you healthy and find diseases early, when they're most treatable.
How much do you know about tests you should be getting?
1. Men should get their blood pressure checked every two years. True or false?
2. Men should get tested for diabetes starting at age 45. True or false?
3. Men should get a colonoscopy every year. True or false?
4. Men should get tested for prostate cancer every year. True or false?
1. True. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can result in stroke and heart failure. Avoiding salty foods and maintaining a healthy weight can help control high blood pressure.
2. True. Starting at age 45, you should get your blood sugar tested every three years if your results are normal. Early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the chance of complications like heart disease, stroke, and blindness.
3. False. Starting at age 50, men at average risk for developing colorectal cancer only need a colonoscopy every 10 years.
4. False. Starting at age 50, men should discuss the advantages and limitations of prostate cancer screening with their doctor.
Talk to your doctor about which tests you need and how often you should get them. You may need to get tested sooner or more often if you are at high risk for certain diseases.