The Fuel, Fitness and Physicals Men Need for Good Health
Dr. James Grant
| 4 min read
Let’s talk about men and health care, or more specifically, men and their avoidance of health care. Survey after survey has found that men delay seeking out health care for a symptom or concern. The reasons are varied, from fear of receiving bad news, to beliefs in “toughing it out.”
Some men feel preventive health is not necessary. In a 2022 national poll sponsored by Orlando Health, 33% of men felt they did not need annual health exams, and 65% thought they were healthier than other men.
But this tendency toward avoidance or delay affects preventive care as well. For example, in a 2022 Cleveland Clinic survey, 55% of men said they do not get regular health screenings. This is problematic because preventive health screenings and exams lead to early detection of diseases or chronic conditions. Treatment plans are most successful when issues are caught early.
Tips for staying healthy
Getting appropriate and timely preventive care is an important part of a well-rounded, overall health strategy for men. Other healthy habits include maintaining a balanced diet and keeping up with physical activity.
Fuel with a healthy diet
A healthy diet consists of the right amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. This amount differs, depending on age, sex, weight, and other factors. In fact, nutritional needs can change as men age and their metabolism changes. And of course, always pay attention to portion sizes.
In general, men are advised to eat nutrient-dense foods and limit those with high added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Men need to make informed choices on the types of protein they choose to fuel themselves as well: processed foods and red meat have been linked to an increased risk of health issues, including cancer. Limit alcoholic drinks as well.
Nutrition guidelines vary depending on age, so it’s important to check the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.
Stay fit with physical activity
For general health, it is recommended that men get a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity each week. This doesn’t have to be intense activity. Anything that gets a body moving is good. And the 150 minutes can be broken up into short periods of activity too.
For men aged 18 – 64 years, the recommendation is 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking, and at least 2 days a week of activities that strengthen muscles. For men aged 65+, add activities that improve balance.
Men should talk with their primary care provider before beginning any new exercise routine.
Get the recommended preventive care and screenings
Think of preventive care like maintenance on a car. Car owners know that getting the oil changed, tires rotated and fluids refilled will keep a car in pretty good shape. A mechanic might even find and fix a small leak before it causes a problem. That’s what preventive care and screenings can do for a person.
Men should visit a primary care physician annually for preventive health check-ups and screenings. The physician will review the patient’s history, evaluate their health and determine whether additional tests – beyond screenings – are needed.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends these screenings and tests for men from age 30 to 60 and up:
Men in their 30s
- Blood pressure
- Blood sugar (starting at age 35)
- Full body skin check
- Vaccines for COVID-19 and influenza, and review need for other immunizations
Men in their 40s
- All the above
- Colonoscopy (screening starting at age 45)
Men in their 50s
- All the above
- Prostate cancer screening
- Shingles vaccine
- All the above
- Bone density test
- Pneumonia vaccine
As always, individuals should talk with their doctor regarding screening recommendations and exams specific to their health history or risk factors.
James D. Grant, M.D., is senior vice president and chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. For more health tips and information, visit AHealthierMichigan.org.
Photo credit: Getty Images