A man smiles at his regular checkup with his doctor.
Regular checkups are an important way to ensure you’re on the track to good health. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

I spend so much time discussing women and their health issues in my blog and in my daily work life, I thought it would be helpful to discuss the men in our lives and their important health topics.

Prevention is a key factor for men, but just like women, they have busy lives and often put other things first, forgetting to take care of their own health.

They’re busy working, coaching their kids’ sports teams, assisting ailing parents and supporting their wives in their careers.

We expect the men in our lives to support our decisions to eat healthy and exercise, so it only makes sense that we should do the same for them.

Back to basics

In order for men to stay fit, they should know the main health concerns that affect them.

The No. 1 cause of death in men is cardiovascular disease—heart attacks and strokes.

Their risk factors include family history, dietary and exercise habits and cholesterol levels. Medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity and depression are also major concerns.

Unfortunately, the No. 1 risk factor for a man is simply being a man, so even if he maintains a healthy weight, has low cholesterol and has a solid family history, he needs to practice prevention every day.

I often talk about the basics when I discuss women’s health, and the same basics apply to men. These are listed below and are essential to good health for everyone:

  • Drink plenty of water—eight glasses a day. Add one more for each cup of coffee or serving of alcohol.
  • Get plenty of sleep—seven hours a night. Take power naps if necessary to be sure you are getting enough sleep.
  • Take your vitamins daily.
  • Eat a balanced diet, including plenty of healthy carbs and protein, with only one sugar treat (including alcohol).
  • Eat plenty of fiber—think vegetables, and take a fiber pill if needed.
  • Exercise regularly—30 minutes a day, with a mix of walking, aerobic activity, strength training and stretching.

Self care will delay a heart attack or stroke in men, and it also serves as a good example to their family and friends on how to live a healthy life.

Erectile dysfunction  

Another topic closely related to heart disease is erectile dysfunction.

Just like belly fat can affect a woman’s sex drive and function, belly fat in men can kill their sexual desire by soaking up the testosterone, affecting their ability to have sex.

Belly fat is caused by eating too many simple carbs—white bread, white potatoes, chips, beer, baked goods, etc. Men who are at high risk for heart attacks because of high cholesterol and diabetes are also at risk for erectile dysfunction.

Many men may not realize that high sugar levels can make it hard to have an erection because of small blood vessel damage. In addition, cholesterol clogs the larger blood vessels.

As you can see, the high cholesterol and sugar levels are dangerous and can cause issues for men in their sex lives.

If men want to continue with good sexual function for many years, they need to stay away from sugar, exercise every day and keep their cholesterol levels down.

They shouldn’t be embarrassed to talk to their doctor about erectile dysfunction.

Although this condition can be helped with medicine, it’s even more important to have a discussion with their doctor about overall health.

A few changes in diet and exercise could prevent the need for erectile dysfunction meds and might lower their risk for other more serious issues, such as prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer

Although it is not the most common cancer—lung and colorectal are higher on the list—prostate cancer in men is a hot topic.

The PSA guidelines have changed recently, and, of course, diagnosing prostate cancer early is key to preventing the spread to other areas and reducing the need for extensive surgery.

This is why it is so important for men to have a regular exam to check the prostate and talk with their doctor about how the guidelines affect them.

A yearly prostate exam may not sound like fun, but men won’t find much sympathy from the women in their lives when it comes to yearly exams.

Remember that prevention is much better than a visit to the Emergency Room with chest pains or other serious issues.

Incorporating the basics outlined above into your daily routine can help keep you away from the ER and make sure you are present for the important people in your life.