There’s a “hack” for everything these days, and the internet has no shortage of hacks claiming to improve health. Some “health hacks” have value, although many do not.
As a physician, you know you can’t hack good health. Maintaining good health is being intentional about making a series of everyday choices and decisions, including managing risk factors like age and family history of diseases.
Your male patients also know they can’t hack their health — though their actions might say otherwise. To help you help your male patients stay as healthy as they can, we’ve put together a list of 21 men’s health tips for your patients. And they start with going to the doctor.
For convenience, we’ve written the rest of this article so that you can share it directly with your patients.
GO TO THE DOCTOR
Men just don’t go to the doctor like women do. Studies show as many as half of men don’t go for their regular check-ups, and about three-quarters would rather do household chores — like cleaning the bathroom — than go to the doctor. Is that you?
The truth is you have to go to the doctor if you want to be healthy and stay healthy. Though there’s a lot more to seeing the doctor than your annual physical, that’s the best place to start, and so it’s the #1 tip in our list of 21 men’s health tips.
- Get Your Annual Physical. Even if you’re feeling great, you should see your doctor every year for a check-up. Do not skip or postpone these visits! Your doctor will monitor things like blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar — which may not cause symptoms when out of whack. Your doctor will also help you monitor and manage your risks for health problems that are specific to you. Your annual physical is your first line of defense!
- Get Your Screenings. Your primary care physician can guide you as to what regular screenings are right for you, based on things like your age, lifestyle, ethnicity, age, family history, and symptoms. You may be a candidate for an annual full-body skin exam, or you may need to get a regular colonoscopy. Another example: About 1 out of every 100 breast cancers diagnosed in the U.S. is found in a man — are you at risk?
- Make Mental Health a Priority. Whether for stress, depression, or thoughts of self-harm, get the help you need from a mental health professional. Though men and women share the same mental health conditions, men may have different symptoms. Men are also more likely to die by suicide. If you’re in crisis, get help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
- Don’t Procrastinate. If your health changes or something seems off, see your doctor right away. The sooner the better! Maybe it’s a change in your bathroom habits or a sore spot on your skin. Early detection is critical to successfully treating many conditions, diseases, and cancers. If fear is keeping you away from the doctor, remember this: you might find out what you’re dealing with is minor, and save yourself a lot of stress and worry.
- Be Honest. Sometimes it’s hard to be honest about things that may be embarrassing or make you feel shame. But your doctor depends on your honesty to effectively treat you. From your family history, to your sex life, to your symptoms, to whether and how often you may use drugs, and more, your doctor needs to know everything.
- Check In Before Changing. Before starting any new diet or weight loss regimen, adding a supplement to your diet, or trying a new exercise plan, check with your doctor to make sure it’s the right fit for you and your health. Challenges with hormones like cortisol and insulin can impact your ability to lose weight. Supplements can interfere with prescribed medications. And, of course, heart health is always a consideration for exercise.
- Keep Your Eyes Healthy. Unless you already wear glasses or contacts, many men just don’t think about their eye health — until they have a problem. Many vision problems are avoidable, and some are symptomless. Your eye doctor can also help address things like eye strain and screen exposure, which can impact other areas of your health. To keep your eyes healthy, get an eye exam every year.
- Don’t Forget Your Teeth. Regular dental visits, typically every 6 months, are important for maintaining your dental health. Prevention strategies will help keep your mouth healthy, and your dentist can identify anything that needs to be addressed. Poor dental health can cause other problems, from bad breath and difficulty eating to headaches and heart disease.
- Beware Dr. Google. The internet can be a great tool to search symptoms and guidance, but it can be as hurtful or even scary as it can be helpful. Google is not a substitute for a diagnosis or a treatment plan. If you have questions or concerns, consult with your doctor.
MORE MEN’S HEALTH TIPS
Honestly, a comprehensive list of men’s health tips could fill a book — a book you don’t have time to read. So, here’s a list of top tips that will apply to men of most ages and stages. As with all medical advice, it’s best to run tips by your own doctor before you dive in, of course.
- Reduce your sodium
- Know the signs and symptoms of stroke and heart attack, which can be different in men
- Drink more water
- Stay active, which includes exercising — like walking
- Get good sleep, most adults need at least 7 hours
- Eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
- Make time for “you time,” to relax and do things you enjoy
- Watch your waistline, men with a waist over 40 inches are at higher risk for heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes
- Wear sunscreen
- Brush and floss daily
- Be safe and follow recommended safety precautions like wearing a seatbelt and using safety equipment on the job as well as off
- Wash your hands!
If you have any questions about these 21 men’s health tips, or any questions about your health, your own doctor is always your best resource.
Mark Monahan, MD