by Anil Keswani, MD
For men and women, the right lifestyle choices make a big difference when it comes to improving health. Everyone can benefit from eating a heart-smart diet, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding tobacco.
For men, heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes are among leading causes of death. Men can lower their risk of all of these by making smart lifestyle changes that keep weight and blood pressure in check. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about how to lose excess weight safely and keep it off.
Build meals and snacks around foods that are low in fat and calories and high in fiber. Try to eat mostly whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Dark leafy greens and deep-colored vegetables and fruits are excellent sources of antioxidants that can help reduce cancer risk. Choose lean meats, poultry and fish over high-fat beef and pork, and minimize the use of sauces and condiments that are high in fat and calories. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
If you smoke, stop. Avoid secondhand smoke as well. Ninety percent of lung cancer is related to smoking, as is heart disease. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can lead to shortness of breath and difficulty performing everyday activities; 80 to 90 percent of COPD deaths are caused by smoking. Industrial pollutants also may raise the risk of developing COPD, so try to minimize your exposure.
Aim to get at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. Run, walk, cycle, swim, play tennis—find something you enjoy and just get moving. It’s not only good for your heart, it helps keep your weight down, may help with depression and anxiety, improves sleep and gives you more energy. Include resistance training as well to build or maintain muscle mass and strength — important as you get older.
Finally, take steps to avoid unintentional injuries, which are another leading cause of death among men. Falls, sports injuries, fires and car accidents can often be prevented with common sense and safety measures. Don’t drive while intoxicated, distracted, or tired — and always wear a seat belt. Take precautions when using ladders or working on the roof. Install smoke detectors at home and plan an emergency escape route. Safety pays off for your whole family.
This Scripps Health and Wellness tip was provided by Anil Keswani, MD, corporate vice president of ambulatory health care and population health management.