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The 9 Worst Health Mistakes Men Make

As you get older, it’s important to replace bad habits with healthier ones.

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Some men may feel the need to be strong, stoic or fearless, but these traditionally masculine traits traditionally may partly explain why women usually live longer. In some cases, seemingly “macho” behavior can take a serious toll on men’s long-term health and well-being.

Men are more likely to drink too much, smoke and bury their feelings. They’re also more likely to neglect their health, engaging in less preventative health behaviors and failing to see a doctor.

“Preventative care is really important and keeping up with it is not a sign of weakness, as many men think,” says Kenneth Perry, MD,  Medical Director in Charleston, South Carolina.

So, listen up, guys. When it comes to your health, here are some of the worst mistakes you’re making that could be shaving years off your life.

Medically reviewed in December 2020.

Skipping routine doctor’s visits

2 / 9 Skipping routine doctor’s visits

Research consistently shows that men are less likely to go to the doctor than women. Men often delay seeking medical care, or even mentioning medical problems to their loved ones, according to a 2019 survey conducted by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic.

There could be many reasons why men put off going to the doctor. The American Heart Association speculates that some men believe they don’t have the time to spare, while others may not have a doctor they trust. In many cases, men might assume there’s nothing seriously wrong or that they can “tough out” their symptoms, according to Dr. Perry.

Unfortunately, that’s often not the case. Not going to the doctor when you’re due for a checkup or when you’ve developed concerning symptoms is risky and could have serious health consequences. Medical attention is not only helpful when you have an immediate health problem, such as an infection or the flu, but also essential for your long-term health.

Men who skip appointments could also be missing out on routine screenings, vaccinations and important conversations with their doctor about changes in their conditions and lifestyle habits. Your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels are among the numbers that should be monitored over time.

“Small changes for instance, like your blood pressure going up a point here and there or your weight going up by a few pounds every year could be addressed at routine visits, says Perry. “But if they aren’t addressed right away, by the time they are addressed, it could be very difficult to fix.”

Bottom line: talk to your doctor about how often you need to have regular checkups. Routine appointments will enable your doctor to monitor any chronic conditions you have and potentially identify other health issues that may arise. It’s also a good idea to establish a relationship with a primary care physician so you know where to turn if you need medical attention in the future.

Bottling up your feelings

3 / 9 Bottling up your feelings

For the past several decades, research has shown that men of all ages and ethnicities are less likely than women to seek help coping with stress and depression. Women have higher overall rates of depression, but research suggests the condition is often unrecognized, undiagnosed and untreated among men.

Avoiding mental health discussions can have some very serious repercussions. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that men account for more than 76 percent of all completed suicides. Compared to women, men are also less likely to admit that they’re stressed.

This begs the question: why are men less likely to admit they’re stressed, depressed or feeling down? Some men may not be comfortable asking for help, assuming it's not “manly” or that voicing their concerns will become a burden to others. The possibility that something could really be wrong may also be a deterrent, Perry speculates. “Many men are nervous too, that there might be something majorly wrong, and if there is something wrong, that it's a sign of weakness,” he says.

In many cases, identifying and treating health issues early on leads to better outcomes. Being proactive about your health could prevent health issues from worsening and taking a greater toll on your quality of life. Some of the signs you should watch out for include:

  • Anger and aggression
  • Changes in mood, energy level and appetite
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Sadness
  • Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with regular activities

If you have any of these symptoms for more than a few days and you think you may have depression, see your doctor. A combination of medication and talk therapy is commonly used to treat depression and anxiety disorder. Exercise, deep breathing, relaxation techniques, yoga and mindfulness meditation can also help.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts or feel like you may do harm to yourself or others, call for help: 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Overlooking regular dentist’s appointments

4 / 9 Overlooking regular dentist’s appointments

Men are also more likely to neglect their oral health, falling short on their brushing habits and not visiting the dentist as often as experts advise.

“Good oral hygiene helps prevent bacterial buildup in your mouth,” says Perry. “If you have a broken or cracked tooth that’s allowing bacteria to get in, that can be the source of an infection that becomes very, very life-threatening.”

Most men only brush their teeth 1.9 times per day, which is just under the recommended amount of two times per day. A 2018 study presented at an American Heart Association meeting found that adults who brush their teeth less than twice a day for less than two minutes have a higher risk of heart attack, heart failure or stroke.

Complicating matters, skipping dental checkups and neglecting oral hygiene have been linked to some chronic health issues, like diabetes as well as heart and lung disease. Men are also more likely to develop oral and throat cancers and gum disease than women.

Most men should visit the dentist twice a year and maintain good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing. Keep in mind, there is a proper way to brush your teeth: use fluoride toothpaste, with small circular motions and short back-and-forth strokes—and don’t forget to brush along your gum line, too. Be sure to floss every day; doing so will help remove any leftover food that a toothbrush can’t easily reach. If you notice any symptoms, such as toothaches, sensitivity, bleeding, sore gums, cracked or broken teeth or popping of the jaw, see your dentist. Talk with your dentist about how often you should have regular cleanings or check-ups.

Drinking too much alcohol

5 / 9 Drinking too much alcohol

Men are nearly twice as likely to binge drink than women, which is defined as having five or more drinks during one occasion. The CDC also reveals that 22 percent of men admit to binge drinking five times a month.

Men have higher rates of deaths and hospitalizations related to alcohol use. Heavy drinking also increases the risk of aggression, physical assault and suicide in men. It can also affect sexual health and fertility, increasing the risk for impotence.

Excessive drinking is associated with several chronic health issues, including high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, stroke, depression, mental decline and alcohol dependence. Even men who are light drinkers are at increased risk for cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, prostate and colon.

A large 2018 study published in The Lancet, concluded that the safest level of drinking is none, and the health risks associated with drinking outweigh any possible benefits. This means if you don't already imbibe, don’t start. If you do drink alcohol, the 2020-2025 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that men limit themselves to no more than two drinks per day. Remember that a standard drink is considered to be: 12 ounces of beer (5 percent alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol) or 1.5 ounces of liquor (40 percent alcohol).

If you think you may be addicted to alcohol, talk to your doctor or call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s confidential hotline at 1-800-662-HELP for local treatment centers, support groups and other resources.

Neglecting your skin

6 / 9 Neglecting your skin

Men are more likely than women to develop melanoma—the most deadly form of skin cancer. They are also less likely to survive the disease. The American Cancer Society estimated that in 2020, about 60,190 melanomas were reported in men, with about 4,610 expected to die of the cancer.

Part of the problem may be a lack of awareness among men. A 2016 survey from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) found that men tend to be less informed about skin cancer. They’re also less likely to wear sunscreen.

But researchers also think that men have thicker skin with less fat underneath and more collagen and elastin than women. This may make their skin more susceptible to damage from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Some studies show that men’s skin reacts more intensely to sun exposure and that it may not heal as well from sun damage. The CDC also reports that on average, most men spend more time outside during their lifetime than women, which can have a cumulative effect and result in more damage.

Men should follow typical skincare recommendations, like wearing sunscreen with at least SPF 30 and reapplying every two hours while exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays. It’s also a good idea to reduce your sun exposure by wearing long-sleeved shirts and hats or seeking shade during peak daylight hours.

Talk with your dermatologist if you have an increased risk of melanoma or you’re over 50, have large or unusual moles, fair skin or a family or personal history of skin cancer, to determine how often you should have regular skin checks. Pay attention to your skin, too: if you notice unusual or changing spots, itching, redness or bleeding, see your dermatologist.

Not talking about problems in the bedroom

7 / 9 Not talking about problems in the bedroom

While many men suffer from problems, such as erectile dysfunction (ED) or trouble urinating,  at some point in their life, many of them aren’t talking about it. But as you age, it’s especially important to address these symptoms, since some of them may signal underlying health issues. For example, ED could be a red flag for vascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney and liver disease, cancer treatment and multiple sclerosis.

Sometimes, sexual problems are linked to work-related stress, past sexual trauma or relationship problems. Taking certain medications, smoking, heavy drinking, being overweight and not exercising can also contribute to sexual dysfunction. Being diagnosed and treated for an underlying condition or mental health issue however could reduce or improve ED. Certain lifestyle changes may also help.

Problems with urination are another “below the belt” issue that can affect men. If you’re having trouble urinating, or you’re urinating more often than usual, it could be benign prostatic hyperplasia—a condition that can arise as you get older and your prostate gland grows. Certain medications like nasal decongestants could cause urinary problems, too.

You and your doctor can work through these issues. Your doctor can determine if you would benefit from medication, hormone therapy or any other possible treatments.

You and your doctor can work through these issues. Your doctor can determine if you would benefit from medication, hormone therapy or a vacuum device that helps produce an erection. Surgically implanted devices are typically only used as a last resort.

Continuing to smoke

8 / 9 Continuing to smoke

Nearly 14 percent of American men still smoke as of 2019—even though the negative health effects, such as an increased risk for heart disease, lung disease, cancer, stroke and infertility, are well-established.

Men who smoke are 17 times more likely to die from bronchitis and emphysema and 23 times more likely to die from cancer of the trachea, lung and bronchus. Middle-aged male smokers are also nearly four times more likely to die from heart disease.

So, if you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, it’s time to kick the habit. Talk to your doctor about medications and cessation techniques that can help you quit. Smokefree.gov has many tips and resources that can help you quit, including text-based support. You could also consider joining an American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking program in your area or find out more about available programs from your health plan or local hospital.

You skip exercise—or you neglect flexibility and balance training

9 / 9 You skip exercise—or you neglect flexibility and balance training

You probably know you’re supposed to exercise, but how often are you doing it? In general, most adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like walking or yoga, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, like running or swimming, per week. For even more health benefits, target at least 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity.

Unfortunately, only 26 percent of men are actually meeting these goals. Skipping exercise and living a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of not only physical problems but also mental health issues like stress and bad moods. The drawbacks of a sedentary lifestyle could also be costly: according to a 2010 study, the annual cost of being overweight is $432 for men and the annual costs for being obese are more than $2,600.

Exercise is an essential part of keeping your mind and body well. It triggers the release of certain brain chemicals—serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine—which can help ease stress and improve your mood and energy level. Regular physical activity helps reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and certain cancers. Breaking a sweat will also help strengthen your muscles, which will support and strengthen your bones as you age.

It’s also important to incorporate strength training into your routine, as well as flexibility and balance training, which can lower your risk of injury, relax your muscles, and enhance your range of motion.

Always consult your physician or other health care professional before starting any fitness program to determine if it is right for your needs, appropriate and safe for you.

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