Do you know the biggest health risks for men? The list is surprisingly short. The top causes of death among adult men in the U.S. are heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For black men, the list is similar, except homicide replaces chronic lower respiratory disease. The good news is that making a few lifestyle changes can significantly lower your risk of most of these common killers.
Take charge of your health by making better lifestyle choices. For example:
- Don’t smoke. If you do smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution and chemicals, such as those in the workplace.
- Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated and trans fats, and foods with added sugar and sodium.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Losing excess pounds—and keeping them off—can lower your risk of heart disease as well as various types of cancer.
- Get moving. Exercise can help you control your weight, lower your risk of heart disease and stroke and possibly lower your risk of certain types of cancer. Choose activities you enjoy, such as tennis, basketball or brisk walking. All physical activity benefits your health.
- Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. That means up to two drinks a day if you are age 65 or younger and one drink a day if you are older than age 65. Examples of one drink include 12 fluid ounces (355 milliliters) of beer, 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters) of wine or 1.5 fluid ounces (44 milliliters) of standard 80-proof liquor. The risk of various types of cancer, such as liver cancer, appears to increase with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you’ve been drinking regularly. Too much alcohol can also raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Manage stress. If you feel constantly on edge or under pressure, your lifestyle habits may suffer—and so might your immune system. Take steps to reduce stress—or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.
- Stop avoiding the doctor. Don’t wait to visit the doctor until something is seriously wrong. Your doctor can be your best ally for maintaining health and preventing disease. Follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations if you have health issues, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. Also, ask your doctor about when to have preventive care such as cancer screenings, vaccinations and other health evaluations.
- Know your other risks. Motor vehicle accidents are another common cause of death among men. To stay safe on the road, wear your seat belt. Follow the speed limit. Never drive under the influence of alcohol or any other substances, and don’t drive distracted or while sleepy. Suicide is another leading men’s health risk. An important risk factor for suicide among men is depression. If you have signs and symptoms of depression—such as feeling sad or worthless and a loss of interest in normal activities—talk to your doctor. Treatment is available. If you’re contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255, call 911 if you’re in immediate danger, or go to the nearest emergency room.
Understanding health risks is one thing. Taking action to reduce your risks is another. Start by making healthy lifestyle choices. The impact might be greater than you’ll ever know.