10 Lifestyle Factors to Maximize for Optimum Health
June is Men’s Health Month, so it’s a good time to reflect on your health regimen and whether there are any changes you might make to improve your wellbeing. All across the globe, men have a shorter average lifespan than the women in their communities. While there are no simple explanations for this phenomenon, there’s no doubt that men’s lifestyle choices contribute mightily to the disparity. So, what are the healthiest choices for you? The Mayo Clinic lists these seven:
- Don’t smoke — Any use of tobacco products exposes you to carcinogens and other toxins. Smoking leaves you short of breath, elevates your blood pressure and puts you at greater risk of heart attack or stroke.
- Eat a healthy diet — A balanced diet should include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish.
- Maintain a healthy weight — Carrying too much weight puts you at greater risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and various types of cancer, as well as the aches and pains that come with too much physical stress on your body.
- Get moving — Regular exercise has innumerable benefits.
- Limit alcohol — Drinking in moderation can have positive health benefits, but overindulging can be ruinous. The Mayo Clinic recommends limiting yourself to two drinks a day if you are age 65 and younger and one drink a day if you are older than age 65.
- Manage stress — Constant pressure can weaken your immune system and lead to anger issues or depression. Internalizing stress can lead to social isolation, substance abuse, and a variety of unhealthy lifestyle choices. Stress can also lead to sexual dysfunction, which only adds to frustration. Stress management is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.
- Stop avoiding the doctor — One persistent issue with men’s health is an aversion to doctor visits and medical screenings. Without regular physicals and diagnostics, it’s hard to catch diseases in their earliest stages when they are most treatable.
Here are a few tips for optimizing these factors so they work for you, not against.
- Smoking — Just say no. Vaping may seem like a safer alternative, but the health risks are still substantial, and e-cigarettes have not proved effective in helping smokers quit. In fact, users of vaping products run an even greater risk of nicotine poisoning because of varying levels of the drug in different products.
- Learn to cook — Relying on fast-food to fuel your engine is only going to gum up the works. Cooking can be relaxing, creative and rewarding. Plus, you can eat better for less money than you’d spend even with the healthiest take-out.
- Not everyone is a gym rat — If you don’t feel at home at the gym, you can still get the benefits of exercise from a variety of activities, such as social dancing, bowling, softball, hiking, tennis, squash, and cycling, among other activities. Plus, varying physical activities has greater health benefits than sticking religiously to the same routine. But there are caveats. Weekend warriors risk injury through overexertion after five days of inactivity, so make sure you do at least some moderate stretching and cardio during the week. And, if your adult sports league puts too great an emphasis on adult beverages, you’ll have to exercise some discipline.
- Become a fine wine and spirit snob — One way to encourage yourself to drink in moderation is to spend a little more on a good wine or spirit that you can savor. Also, if you’re looking to slake your thirst on a summer afternoon, remember that alcohol-free beverages are much better for hydration. Try a chilled glass of vegetable juice, iced tea, or sparkling water with just a splash of fruit juice.
- Rediscover leisure — The purpose of leisure is to relax, refresh and re-energize your body, mind and soul. Those aren’t tasks we accomplish on a barstool or plopped in front of the TV for hours on end. If your leisure time has got you in a rut, it might be time to get more creative. Is there a hobby you left off years ago? Do you have a talent you’ve allowed to go dormant? When is the last time you took on an intellectual challenge, such as learning a language and delving into literature or philosophy? And what about volunteer work? Spending time with those who are less fortunate is enriching on many levels, not the least of which is an enhanced feeling of gratitude which helps us appreciate life more fully.
Finally, we need to mention three lifestyle factors the Mayo Clinic doesn’t list:
- Risky behavior — Whether it’s climbing a precariously perched ladder to clean the gutters, riding a motorcycle in the rain, or asking a colleague to “Hold my beer,” at the company picnic, men take on risks that in hindsight seem foolish. Listening to that voice that says, “Take a breath, tiger,” can help you avoid accidental injuries that can seriously impair your health.
- Rooting for a loser — Studies have shown that rooting for a winning sports team is a factor in positive mental health. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If you’re a loyal fan of a perennial loser, that constant, soul-crushing disappointment is not good for your health. Keeping sports in perspective and broadening your horizons can make a world of difference.
- Code of silence — Male stoicism is a virtue that empowers men to be of service to others even under the most adverse circumstances. But the first rule of lifesaving is that the rescuer must survive. If you’ve taken on too much, it’s time to shift the burden and unload on a mental health professional who can help you process your pent-up emotions. Once you dispel the gloom, you you’ll be in a much better emotional place to help those who need you.
Modifying your lifestyle is not easy, especially when our careers and social lives reinforce poor habits. If you know you need to make changes, but could benefit from guidance and encouragement, a Wellbeing Coach can help. Contact one today.
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All information contained on this website are for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to be taken as medical or other health advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or a qualified medical professional. IN THE CASE OF A MEDICAL EMERGENCY OR SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, IMMEDIATELY CALL 911.
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