Man Up, Wise Up: Tips for Navigating Men’s Health

Gentlemen, let’s celebrate National Men’s Health Week by making some intelligent choices about how we treat our bodies and how we approach our health.

I’m an older guy, approaching retirement. I’m also a primary care doctor with 35 years of man-care under my belt, from squalling newborns to thoughtful 90-year-old veterans. I have had a chance to compare the course of the lives of these men with my own, compare their aches and pains, wrinkles and illness to mine. I’ve seen men younger than me now approaching their last breath, and old men still out in the garden, or on their bike into their 90’s.

While as a young man, pursuing good health may not seem so important. But I challenge you to make as your goal to remain as young as possible well into your later age. Plan to raise eyebrows and hear “wow, you don’t look that old” from the younger set.

Here are some observations about smart men making smart choices:

Avoid Chemicals

The chemicals you put into your body will determine how well and how long your body works. If you smoke or use tobacco, do everything you can to stop. If you don’t smoke, never start. Be honest about what drugs or alcohol you use and notice how they affect you. Be smart and humble. Use alcohol in moderation, if at all, and consider stopping – if only as a test to see how much you have come to need it. Avoid illegal drugs.

Cut Calories

Our culture advocates mass consumption. Rebel against that. No sweet, sugary drinks. Avoid fast foods. Avoid huge portion sizes. If the plate contents are as big as your head, move on. The weight stays on unless you burn it off constantly – something you can’t do unless you farm with horses. Diabetes and hypertension are quiet and sinister and will be upon you long before you realize you have them.

Exercise Regularly

Use exercise as your first method of relief for anxiety, stress and depression. Try a variety of types and workouts. Shoot for a minimum of 20 minutes three to five times a week. There are many formulas and recommended regimens. Find one that works for you, but includes stretching, flexibility and core strength. Don’t exercise for weight loss. It doesn’t work (unless you farm with horses).

Pursue Happiness

Pursue tasks and work that make you happy and gives you peace and joy in your life. Seek out help with depression and anxiety. Avoid toxic people. Gather good friends and lovers into your life. When given the choice, choose to spend time with them and with your children. The payback never ends.

Prioritize a Health Care Follow-Up

Finally, and since most guys won’t do this ever anyways, find a health care provider that you respect and who will work with you, and see them regularly. Once a year at least, just to check in and be sure you are not missing anything. In my experience, men never come through my door until they are in their 40’s and then because they were dragged in by their partner. Be smart, be humble and advocate for the body you’ve got.

All the rest, I think, is commentary. You own a great machine. Keep it well-oiled and maintained and it will run well for a long time.

Dr. Ben Boardman
Medical Director
ViaroCare Primary Care

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