The 8 Worst Health Mistakes Men Make

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

Updated on June 10, 2022

drinking beers
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It’s no secret: Men are often pressured or feel the need to appear strong, stoic, or fearless, no matter the circumstances. But all too often, living up to these expectations can take a serious toll on men’s long-term health and well-being. It may also help explain why women tend to live longer.

Research shows that men are more likely than women to drink too much, smoke, and bury their feelings, for example. They’re also more likely to neglect their health, engaging in fewer preventive health behaviors and failing to see healthcare providers on a regular basis.

“Preventive care is really important and keeping up with it is not a sign of weakness,” says Kenneth Perry, MD, an emergency medicine physician in Charleston, South Carolina.

Here are some of the worst health mistakes many men make that could be shaving years off their lives.

meeting with the doctor
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Skipping routine medical visits

Research consistently shows that men are less likely to see healthcare providers (HCPs) than women. Many men often delay seeking medical care—or even skip mentioning medical problems to their loved ones—according to a 2019 survey conducted by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic.

Among the potential reasons: The American Heart Association speculates that some men believe they don’t have the time to spare, while others may not have an HCP 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.

However, not seeing an HCP 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 long-term health.

Men who skip appointments could also be missing out on routine screenings, vaccinations, and important conversations with their HCP about changes in their conditions and lifestyle habits. 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, they can become difficult to fix.”

Bottom line: Talk to an HCP about how often you need to have regular checkups. Routine appointments will enable your HCP 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.

man stressed at work
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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 serious repercussions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that men account for about four in five of all completed suicides. Compared to women, men are also less likely to admit to stress.

Why are men less likely to confess 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 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 mental health issues early on leads to better outcomes. 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
  • Prolonged 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 an HCP. 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 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

smiling at the dentist
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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 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.

Skipping dental checkups and neglecting oral hygiene have been linked to chronic health issues, like diabetes and 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 gumline. 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, or cracked or broken teeth, see your dentist, and discuss how often you should have regular cleanings or checkups.

man drinking alcohol
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Drinking too much alcohol

Men are nearly twice as likely as women to binge drink, defined as having five or more drinks during one occasion. About one in five men admit to binge drinking five times a month, according to the CDC.

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 moderate 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. A standard drink is considered to be 12 ounces of beer (at 5 percent alcohol), 5 ounces of wine (at 12 percent alcohol), or 1.5 ounces of liquor (at 40 percent alcohol).

If you think you may be addicted to alcohol, talk to your HCP 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.

putting on face cream
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Neglecting your skin

Men are more likely than women to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. They are also less likely to survive the disease. The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2022, 57,180 cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in men and about 5,000 men will 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 skin care 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 a 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 an HCP.

couple's feet in bed
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Not talking about problems in the bedroom

Many men experience problems such as erectile dysfunction (ED) or trouble urinating at some point in their lives, but they may not discuss them with loved ones. As you age, though, it’s especially important to address these symptoms, since some of them may signal underlying health issues. Erectile dysfunction, for example, could be a red flag for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, high blood pressure, kidney and liver disease, or 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 could reduce or improve ED. Certain lifestyle changes may also help.

If you’re having trouble urinating or you’re urinating more often than usual, it could be a sign of 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.

Talk with an HCP to work through these issues. If you have ED, your HCP can help 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.

lighting a cigarette
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Continuing to smoke

About 14 percent of American men still smoke as of 2020, 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.

If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do, it’s time to kick the habit. Talk to an HCP about medications and cessation techniques that can help you quit smoking. You could also consider joining an American Lung Association Freedom From Smoking program in your area or find out more about available programs from your health plan or local hospital.

men jogging
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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 more health benefits, target at least 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.

Only one in four men actually meet 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.

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 an HCP before starting any fitness program to determine if it's right for your needs and safe for you.

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