The list of the biggest health threats for men is surprisingly short: heart disease, cancer, accidents, chronic lower respiratory disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and suicide. One thing each of these threats have in common in that prevention pays off. It is no surprise that heart disease tops this list of men’s health threats, compiled from statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is time for all men to get serious about reducing your risks for heart disease. The biggest threat to men’s health can often be prevented. Here’s what you need to know to live a longer with a healthy heart.
In the United States, heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women. Often, though, people don’t know they are at risk for heart problems.
Heart disease includes a number of conditions affecting the heart and the blood vessels in the heart. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, which is the narrowing or blockage of the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself. This happens slowly over time and is a major reason people have heart attacks.
A man’s risk of heart disease begins to rise greatly starting at age 45. You can lower your risk of heart disease by taking certain steps, including:
Don’t smoke. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit. It’s also important to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
Eat a heart-healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat, cholesterol, trans fat, and sodium.
Get your blood pressure checked at least every two years. If you have high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s advice on how to lower it and keep it under control.
Manage chronic conditions. If you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure, follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations. If you have diabetes, keep your blood sugar under control.
Include physical activity in your daily routine. Choose sports or other activities you enjoy, from basketball, golf, walking, to bowling. Anything that gets you up and moving every day is better than doing nothing.
Maintain a healthy weight. Extra pounds increase the risk of heart disease. Learn about your body mass index, or BMI, and how important it is to keep it within a healthy range.
Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. Too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure.
Manage stress. If you feel constantly on edge or under assault, your lifestyle habits may suffer. Take steps to reduce stress — or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.
Talk to your doctor about taking aspirin. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that men ages 45 to 79 take aspirin to lower their risk of heart attack when the benefit outweighs the possible harm of gastrointestinal bleeding. Discuss your personal risk of both heart disease and gastrointestinal bleeding with your doctor.
The bottom line: understanding health risks is one thing, taking action to reduce your risks is another. Start with healthy lifestyle choices — eating a healthy diet, staying physically active, quitting smoking, getting regular checkups and taking precautions in your daily activities. The impact of taking these steps to be preventive may be greater than you’ll ever know.
Louis D. Rosenfield, MD
4130 Tamiami Trail, Suite 201
Port Charlotte, FL 33952