Men are more prone than women to certain health conditions, from kidney stones to heart disease. And men are likely to die sooner than women. In fact, male life expectancy has been dropping compared to women since 1920, according to the Men’s Health Network. Today, the average male life expectancy is over five years shorter than the female life expectancy. But this doesn’t mean that men can’t live long and healthy lives. Let’s explore how men can be more proactive about every aspect of health in their day-to-day lives.

Common men’s health conditions

A combination of unhealthy lifestyle choices, poor health education, and other factors may raise men’s risks for certain health conditions. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading killer of men in the United States, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths.
  • Lung conditions. The CDC notes that while lung cancer affects both men and women, the diagnosis is more likely in men. Other lung conditions, such as emphysema, may also be more likely in men.
  • According to research published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, while women are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, men are far more likely to die by suicide.
  • Substance abuse. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry also notes that most substance abuse disorders occur in men.
  • Kidney stones. According to the National Kidney Foundation, about 1 in 10 Americans will develop a kidney stone in their lifetime. And men are at higher risk than women.

Essential men’s health screenings

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare, or the ACA) requires insurers to cover essential health screenings at no charge. You can get these screenings free from any doctor within your network, even if you have not yet met your deductible. Here are the criteria for each check.

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening: Men aged 65 to 75 who are current or former smokers
  • Alcohol misuse screening: Everyone
  • Blood pressure check: All adults over age 18
  • Cholesterol screening: Based on your risk profile
  • Colorectal cancer screening: Everyone aged 45 to 75
  • Depression screening: Everyone
  • Type 2 Diabetes check: All overweight or obese adults between 40 and 70 years old
  • Hepatitis B screening and vaccine: Anyone considered high risk
  • Hepatitis C screening: Everyone aged 18 to 79
  • HIV screening: Everyone aged 15 to 65, plus anyone else at increased risk
  • Lung cancer screening: Ages 50 to 80 who are heavy smokers or have quit in the past 15 years
  • Obesity check: Everyone
  • Syphilis screening: Anyone at high risk
  • Tobacco use screening: Everyone
  • Tuberculosis screening: Everyone at high risk

Depending on your age and clinical profile, your doctor may recommend certain preventive measures that are also covered as essential health benefits. These include, but are not limited to, statin medications or HIV preventatives.

Regular doctor visits are the best way to ensure that you remain healthy and fit throughout your life. In general, most healthy adult men should see a primary care physician once per year (along with additional visits if you get sick). If you have a chronic medical condition, your doctor may want to see you more often until your condition is well-controlled and stable.

Nutritional needs for men

In addition to doctor’s visits, proper nutrition and exercise can also help you stay fit. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, men aged 19 to 30 generally need about 2,400 to 3,000 calories per day, while those aged 31 to 59 need around 2,200 to 3,000. Men aged 60 and above need fewer calories, at about 2,000 to 2,600 per day. However, these are just averages. You can get more specific recommendations for your unique circumstances at the USDA’s MyPlate Plan.

Besides eating the right number of calories, getting the right nutritional balance is also important. You’ll need to learn what is considered a portion of each type of food. You’ll also need to understand how many portions of each type you need each day (found in the Dietary Guidelines above). And be sure to eat the rainbow! Different colors of fruits and vegetables contain various micronutrients essential to health.

Also, remember to drink plenty of water. Dehydration can be miserable at best and life-threatening at worst. You’ll need at least 8 glasses of water per day. If you’re exercising or working outside in the heat, aim for 8 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes. It’s better to drink small amounts regularly than large quantities all at once. If you start feeling dizzy or nauseous in the heat, get into the air conditioning, or at least into the shade. Sit down and drink a few sips of water at a time.

Physical exercise for men

You can get physical exercise in various ways, even if you don’t like the gym. Men of all ages should aim for at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity each week, spread across several days. This includes at least two days of strength training. Those aged 65 or over should include balance exercises as part of their routine.

Moderate exercise runs the gamut from recreational swimming and biking across flat terrain to yardwork, auto repair, or even playing with your kids or grandkids. Vigorous exercise, or cardio, includes anything that gets your heart rate up, such as shoveling snow, hiking or biking uphill, or even walking with a weighted backpack.

Balance exercises could include anything from ballroom dancing to walking backward. The point is to improve your steadiness on your feet and reduce your risk of falling.

Always check with your doctor before starting any new fitness routine, especially if you are over age 65 or have any underlying health conditions. Consider working with a physical therapist if you have a chronic illness, disability, or pain issue. These professionals have the specialized training and experience to design a customized fitness plan that improves your physical abilities while reducing pain.