Americans have a disease – but not the kind you can diagnose. Across the board, we think we’re a lot healthier than we are, which is ironically making us more unhealthy. Take the 75 percent who say they eat healthy despite evidence that points to the contrary. Dig a little deeper, and we realize 97 percent of Americans actually fail to meet the basic qualifications for a healthy lifestyle, and to be honest, the criteria aren’t all that rigorous.
Part of the problem for men especially is that they just don’t like to talk about their own health. Roughly 20 percent don’t discuss anything health-related with anyone, and half would rather talk about current events, sports or their job than health problems.
This helps explain why for decades American men are among the least likely to survive to age 50. Sixty percent don’t get regular check-ups, and forty percent don’t even make a provider visit when they fear they have a serious medical condition.
Men, it’s time to break the cycle! What better time than the start of Men’s Health Awareness Month to finally talk about bad habits to break to live healthier? Check out this list to see where you can make a difference in your own health.
Seconds. The average American man has a body mass index that falls just one point shy of obese. Portion control is a main culprit – many men don’t realize they overeat every single time they eat. Use this handy guide to eyeball how much is enough.
Inactivity. 80 percent of adults don’t get the recommended amount of exercise, and this lack of sweat is taking its toll on men’s health, not to mention their self-esteem. Nearly 30 percent are dissatisfied with their bodies, and a much larger percentage are at risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other serious health problems. If you’re stuck, start with bursts of exercise – 10 minute intervals provide the same health benefits as a full-blown workout.
Sleep deprivation. One in three adults do not get enough sleep, in part because they simply can’t unplug, but also because 80 percent of people who suffer from a sleep disorder are undiagnosed. Shoot for at least seven hours of shut-eye each night, and if you’re still exhausted, meet with a health care provider to see if you have an underlying sleep problem.
Base burn. 85 percent of men don’t use sunscreen regularly, which helps explain why men are two to three times more likely to develop skin cancer. Before heading outside, lather up with enough protection to fill a shot glass, and reapply every two hours – and more frequently if you get wet. If you’ve maxed out on sun exposure, get your skin checked regularly to detect cancer signs early.
Overdrinking. Men are more likely to drink excessively, which in the short term leads to more injuries and accidents, and over time leads to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and liver disease. Too much booze is also bad for your wallet and waistline, so dial back consumption, and if you’re dependent, ask a provider for help.
Fast food. I’m not just talking about the drive-through. People who plan meals ahead of time eat healthier, lose weight and save time and money in the process. Fail to plan and plan to fail, so prepare for busy days ahead of time with a variety of meals and snacks to keep you healthy on your busiest days.
The caffeine drip. Coffee provides lots of health benefits, but only in moderation. Experts warn against more than 400 mg a day for adults (which is about 4 cups, or a single Venti). Too much can cause headaches, nausea, agitation and anxiety, and over time leads to seizures, an irregular heartbeat and muscle breakdown, so enjoy, but not too much.
Any health professional will tell you we’re staring down a dangerous trend when, for the first time in decades, the life expectancy of Americans is getting shorter. There are many factors at play, but tackling these seven common health shortfalls will put men on a path to better health – even if they think they’re healthy enough already.