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How Can a Man Improve His Health?

Reviewed on 10/29/2020

What Are Common Health Problems in U.S. Men?

Alcohol use, smoking, obesity, lack of health insurance and accidents all contribute to death, disability and poor health among U.S. men.
A healthier diet with lots of vegetables, fish and lean meat can improve men's health. Alcohol use, smoking, obesity, lack of health insurance and accidents all contribute to death, disability and poor health among U.S. men.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 12% of men aged 18 and over are in fair or poor health.

Reasons for this include: 

  • Alcohol use: 30.9% of men aged 18 and over had five or more drinks in 1 day at least once in the past year
  • Physical activity: 42.4% of men aged 18 and older do not meet the 2008 Federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic activity through leisure-time aerobic activity
  • Smoking: 15.7% of men aged 18 and over currently smoke cigarettes
  • Obesity: 36.6% of men aged 20 and over are obese
  • High blood pressure (hypertension): 33.1% of men aged 20 and over have hypertension  
  • Health insurance coverage: 13.2% of males under age 65 do not have health insurance coverage

Leading causes of death in men: 

Men may be able to improve their health by addressing these factors.

Alcohol Use and Abuse

Men who have problems with alcohol use can:

  • Get counseling 
  • Take medications to help stop drinking
  • Attend Alcoholics Anonymous (sometimes called AA) meetings or other treatment programs.

Physical Activity and Exercise

The 2008 Federal physical activity guidelines recommend adults get:

Aerobic activity

  • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week, OR
  • 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week, OR
  • An equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
  • Performed at least 10 minutes at a time, preferably spread throughout the week

Muscle strengthening 

  • 2 or more days per week
  • Work all major muscle groups: legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms
  • Repeat exercises for each muscle group 8 to 12 times per set group should be and increase the weight or do another set as exercises become easier
  • To ensure a whole-body workout with proper form to prevent injury, do your research and talk to your doctor and a fitness professional before starting a strength training regimen.

How to Quit Smoking Tobacco

The American Lung Association has the following tips to quit smoking

  • Focus on your motivators
  • Build confidence
  • Practice stress management 
  • Remember it's never too late to quit
  • Learn from past experiences
  • Fund support: you don't have to quit alone
  • Medications such as nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, inhaler, nasal spray, varenicline (Chantix), and bupropion (Zyban) can help people quit and stay quit when used properly
  • Every smoker can quit -- keep trying

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How to Lose Weight and Combat Obesity

Men who are overweight or obese can benefit from weight loss. Lifestyle changes that can help with weight loss include: 

  • Healthy, balanced diet
  • Low-calorie
  • Low-fat/low-calorie
  • Moderate-fat/low-calorie
  • Low-carbohydrate diets
  • Vegan diet 
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Regular exercise
    • Refer to the above 2008 Federal physical activity guidelines as a starting point
  • Behavioral modification
  • Behavior therapy
  • Monitoring food intake, physical activity, and controlling cues and stimuli in the environment that trigger eating

For men unable lose weight with lifestyle changes, options include:

  • Medications
  • Medical devices
    • Laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding (LAGB) 
    • Electrical stimulation (vagal blockade) systems 
    • Intragastric balloon systems 
    • Gastric emptying (aspiration) systems 
    • Hydrogels 
  • Bariatric surgery (weight loss surgery)  
    • Laparoscopic adjustable gastric band
    • Gastric sleeve surgery (sleeve gastrectomy)
    • Gastric bypass
    • Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch (not commonly used)

The Leading Causes of Death in Men and Steps to Avoid Them

Heart disease

To prevent heart disease in men, the American Heart Association recommends: 

  • Know your risk because many risk factors for heart disease can be improved with lifestyle changes
  • Eat a healthy diet centered around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, lean animal proteins, and fish. Limit or avoid refined carbohydrates, processed meats, sweetened drinks, sodium, added sugars, and saturated fats, and avoid trans fats.
  • Be physically active: refer to the above 2008 Federal physical activity guidelines as a starting point
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Don’t smoke, vape, or use tobacco products
  • Manage chronic conditions such as high blood pressure (hypertension), high cholesterol, high blood sugar, diabetes, or other conditions that put you at greater risk for heart disease
  • Take medicines as directed for any health conditions
  • Work with your healthcare providers and discuss issues that affect your health and well-being

Cancer

To prevent cancer in men, the Prevent Cancer Foundation recommends: 

  • Don’t smoke, vape, or use tobacco products
  • Protect your skin from the sun
  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, lean animal proteins and fish. Limit or avoid refined carbohydrates, processed meats, sweetened drinks, sodium, added sugars, and saturated fats, and avoid trans fats.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Be physically active: refer to the above 2008 Federal physical activity guidelines as a starting point
  • Practice safe sex
  • Get immunized (HPV and hepatitis vaccines)
  • Know your family medical history and get regular cancer screenings

Accidents

To prevent unintentional injuries in men:

  • Follow safety rules and guidelines
  • Install safety devices in the home, including smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, handrails, and fire extinguishers
  • Wear appropriate safety equipment at work, home, or sports
  • Always wear seat belts
  • Check and follow labels on medicines and food products
  • Keep a properly stocked, first-aid kit at home, work, and in the car
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers at hand, including police, fire department, poison control center, local emergency service (if different than 911), local hospital, and healthcare providers
  • Maintain heating equipment, and unplug extra heaters when sleeping
  • Develop a fire escape route and plan, and ensure all household members know what to do in case of emergency
  • Set the water heater thermostat to 120°F (49°C) or below to prevent scald burns

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Reviewed on 10/29/2020
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