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June 4, 2021 • read
5 health tips for men as they age
Life expectancy for men is about four years less than it is for women. This is in part due to women being more likely to eat better, drink less, and wear sunscreen — among other things. Aging is inevitable, but certain interventions can help you increase your longevity — or at least live better, if not longer. Here are the top five health tips for men as they age.
1. Use it or lose it
After 30, muscle mass begins to decline. The less you exercise, the faster this muscle loss happens. This can lead to a whole host of problems — from reduced mobility to disability. The good news is that a suitable exercise program can help you stay mobile and independent longer as you age. It can also help to stave off osteoporosis, and even dementia. Adults between 18 and 64 need about 150 minutes of exercise a week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Don’t worry about bench pressing, or running a marathon though — your exercise program should be attainable. Try an after dinner walk, ride your bike to work during the week, or lift small weights while you watch TV. You can’t stave off aging, but regular exercise can help you do it more healthfully.
2. Reign in your drinking
Beer pong isn’t good for anyone, but as you get older, the effects of drinking alcohol become more pronounced. The volume of water in your body decreases as you age, so the alcohol you drink is less diluted in your body. This makes alcohol more difficult for your body to process, and therefore more toxic. While reducing your alcohol consumption is good, even a couple of daily drinks can lead to health issues. Two beers every evening might not seem like a lot, but the effects of alcohol are cumulative. Fatty liver disease, for example, can happen to drinkers who regularly consume only one to two drinks a day. If you’re a man, you should be especially aware of your alcohol consumption as you age, since men drink more than women on average. There’s no need to give up alcohol entirely, but if you find that you drink daily, plan for at least a few alcohol-free days a week.
3. Don’t forget the sunscreen
The pain of a sunburn fades, but its long-term effects add up. Besides contributing to wrinkles, having just five sunburns over the course of your life doubles your risk for melanoma. Places like your ears, the top of your head, and the backs of your hands receive more sun, and are especially vulnerable. This is particularly true if you work or spend a lot of time outside. About one in 42 men will develop melanoma over their lifetime. Men are also much more likely to die of it than women, perhaps because they’re significantly less likely to wear sunscreen. The good news is that skin cancer is preventable, and the earlier it’s caught, the better your prognosis will be. So slather on the SPF and pay attention to any new or changing moles. If you notice one with asymmetrical or irregular borders, or if it’s multiple colours, very dark, has increased in size, or if it’s elevated, see a dermatologist as soon as possible. Early detection could save your life.
4. Make time to de-stress
A little bit of stress at the right time works in your favour. It can help motivate you, and even increase resilience — think about the stress of starting a new job, for example. Chronic stress, however, is another story. Your body isn’t meant to be in a heightened state all the time, and constantly exposing yourself to stress has profound consequences. Over time, chronic stress is responsible for everything from weakening your immune system to suppressing your sex drive. And because it’s associated with a number of diseases, most notably atherosclerosis and depression, chronic stress may even shorten your life.
It’s impossible to remove all stress from your life. Learning to manage it, however, allows your systems to de-escalate, and gives your body a chance to repair itself. There are a number of ways to do this — exercise, meditation, or a mindfulness practice. But really, whatever works to take the pressure off for you is beneficial.
5. Maintain your social relationships
Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert, socializing is a key part of aging well. People with fulfilling interpersonal relationships are happier than those without them. Having a strong social network isn’t just about mental health, however. There’s an extensive body of research on the benefits of social connection, and it’s clear that our physical health also depends on having strong social bonds. People with higher levels of social connectedness have lower levels of anxiety, higher self-esteem, and are better at regulating themselves emotionally.
It’s clear that social isolation goes hand-in-hand with declines in physical and mental health, including higher levels of depression — the COVID-19 pandemic has made this painfully obvious. Health-wise, loneliness is up there with smoking and obesity, and isolation is actually a risk factor for mortality. Counteract these effects by staying connected as you age. Keep up with your friendships, and make a point of joining a club, religious organization, or volunteering — whatever keeps you feeling more connected to others.
You can’t control your own mortality, but your quality of life as you get older is up to you. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and strong social support can go a long way towards helping you feel younger as you get older.