The on-going stereotype is that men avoid going for regular health checkups, or delay to get issues checked. Basically, this is true. The consequence is that men suffer for longer amounts of time than is necessary. In this article, I’ll focus on important and useful tips to improve men’s health.
1 – Watch Your Back.
Men tend to over exert physically, whether it’s helping a friend move or pitching in at the office to do move office equipment. Back pain is one of the most common and most expensive problems in North American men. The irritating part of it is that it often comes back, so it’s important to prevent it from getting persistent. Make sure you incorporate ‘core’ strengthening exercises with your regular exercise routines. This is also referred to as ‘trunk stabilization’ exercises or spinal stabilization exercise.
2 – Learn What Makes You Calm.
Stress is normal and as you age, multiple layers of stress tend to build: education, job search, job loss, relationships, fatherhood, dealing with aging parents or your own health issues. It’s important to know your signs of accumulating stress (eg: difficulty sleeping, tight jaw muscles, shallow breathing, chest tightness, indigestion, etc.). Once you know your signs of stress, you next have to learn what helps to ease the effects of such stressors. It may be yoga, Tai chi, breathing exercises, prayer, exercise, herbal teas. Next, incorporate these stress relieving techniques on a weekly and ideally daily basis to keep your mind and body on track.
3 – Eat Healthy.
Those who practice good health habits over time have predictably good future health. Think of it like practicing for a sporting event. The more regularly you practice, the better you will likely perform. Now, translate this into your life. You need to eat to live, but don’t make the mistake of living to eat. Here are my top three healthy eating tips.
- Eat your veggies – 3-5 servings each day. Vegetables are the most nutrient dense, low calorie foods.
- Avoid processed food. Such packaged food items are typically full of calories, low quality ingredients and artificial chemicals that reduce your overall health potential.
- Drink water and teas, avoid calorie-laden drinks. Soda’s and juices are more of an occasional treat. Your body craves liquids such as spring/filtered water and a variety of teas. For example, chamomile tea is calming and has benefits for the digestive system. Mint tea is great to settle an upset stomach.
4 – Keep Track of Your Blood Sugar and Blood Pressure Numbers.
Men are great at keeping track of stats, well, here’s your chance to keep stats on your body. First of all, create a health file and keep your ‘stats’ so you can monitor them. Blood sugar (especially the sugar that binds to your hemoglobin, called the “Hb-a1c” test) is an important predictor of your susceptibility to weight gain and cardiovascular illness.
5 – Talk it Off.
This one is very underrated. Women are great at sharing and talking through their problems and it’s something men can learn from as well. Keep a good dialogue with your friends and family and co-workers… these are the people that can really serve you through your tough times.
6 – Get Checked.
As a naturopathic doctor, I typically recommend an annual check-up though local guidelines are changing. Overall, plan to get a check-up at least every two years including tests such as an overall physical examination, measurement of percent body fat, Hb a1c test, blood cell counts and urine tests. When symptoms come up, it’s generally good to try simple common sense self-care changes to resolve them (dietary change, exercise, stress relieving techniques, take a multivitamin), however, when symptoms persist or are getting worse, don’t wait, go visit your primary health care practitioner and let them help you figure it out.