Experts detail how men can extend life expectancy
Roark: 'It's important to have screening labs done'
Numerous studies have established that women typically live longer than men, for a variety of reasons, and one of them is that men are less likely to be proactive about their health, including going to doctor appointments or getting preventative screenings.
Statistics have also have been established showing that men tend to engage in more unhealthy or risky behaviors compared to women, such as smoking, drinking, not eating healthy, overeating or not exercising. Men also tend to be less socially connected than women, all of which can impact overall health.
The good news is, there are several things men can do to maintain good health.
Dr. Lisa Roark, M.D., of Roark Family Health in Cassville, offered five suggestions to help men improve health outcomes and live a long, healthy life:
* Stop smoking to decrease the risk of cancer, heart attack and lung disease
* Eat a healthy diet that includes as many fruits, vegetables, and whole foods as possible
* Use moderation with alcohol
* Get regular cardiovascular exercise. It can help control weight, reduce risk of heart disease and some cancers, and can improve mental health and mood. Adults need 2.5 hours of physical activity each week.
* See a doctor annually to get regular checkups, and to learn about family health history.
"It's important to have screening labs done at this time as well to help recognize early diabetes, elevated cholesterol [and other chronic diseases," Roark said.
Despite statistics and family history, men can exercise control over their health, and can choose to make healthy choices versus unhealthy ones.
"The statistical differences [between men and women] are related in part to physical and biochemical differences, but there are also controllable factors," said Dr. Pam Duitsman, health and nutrition specialist with the University of Missouri Extension.
Duitsman suggests four steps men can take to improve health:
* Drop extra pounds. Research shows that higher body mass index is associated with a higher risk of several chronic diseases, but losing 5-10 percent of body weight can make an impact.
"Easy changes, such as reducing calorie intake, eating healthy foods and regular exercise can provide health improvements that go far beyond weight loss," Duitsman said.
* Since research shows that men tend to visit the doctor less frequently than women, or downplay their symptoms, Duitsman also advises attending regular health exams, and being honest with the doctor about symptoms. Also, a health problem can be managed easier if caught early. Therefore, she recommends not skipping screening opportunities.
"Although the process may seem embarrassing or uncomfortable, realize some symptoms may be tied to serious conditions," she said. "Nearly a third of people with high blood pressure don't know it, since high blood pressure has no symptoms. It can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart or kidney failure."
* Keep up-to-date with flu shots and vaccinations. Ask your doctor about taking aspirin every day if you are 50-59 and have heart disease risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. Aspirin can lower your risk for heart attack, stroke and colorectal cancer.
* Work at being more social.
"For years, research has shown that those with meaningful social relationships live longer, manage health conditions better and have healthier behaviors," Duitsman said. "Be intentional about finding ways to connect with others in uplifting and meaningful ways. Both quality and quantity are important."
For more information on nutrition, visit http://extension.missouri.edu.