Health strategies for men over age 50
Every man wants to be healthy and fit. Men over 50 can be just as healthy, fit and active as younger guys. It may take a little more effort, but eating right, exercising regularly and getting your routine health screenings can keep you going strong. You can stay robust into your later years without angst and suffering. Diet and exercise are the two most important changes you can make. Even if you've never been active, it's time to get started. A healthy diet and physical activity is good at any age. As you age, these healthy habits strengthen muscles and bones. Strong muscles and bones reduce serious injuries related to fall.
The most important guidelines for a healthy lifestyle after age 50 are the same for men and women at any age:
* Eat a healthy diet.
* Stay at a healthy weight.
* Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
* Be physically active.
* Don't smoke.
* Get routine exams and screenings.
* Receive and stay current with vaccinations, including yearly flu shot.
Following these strategies can help men age in good health and reduce the risk of many diseases that are more common in older men like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Even men who have not followed these strategies until now can benefit from making healthy changes. It's never too late to start making good choices.
* A healthy diet can help men over age 50 reduce their risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some types of cancer. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products are healthy choices. Lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts are good sources of protein, too. Add more fiber to your diet. Fiber reduces constipation, helps with weight loss, reduces the risk of diabetes, pre-diabetes, heart disease, colon cancer, and lowers blood cholesterol level. Good sources of fiber include beans, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit. For heart health and weight management, it's important to eat foods that are low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars. Drink more water. Water flushes out toxins. Staying hydrated will give you more energy
* Physical activity is the best way for men over age 50 to improve their heart health, muscle strength, flexibility and balance. Physical activity helps reduce the risk of some diseases, including dementia. Walking is one of the easiest activities to start. Aerobic or cardio exercise gets the heart pumping and uses large muscle groups. Walking, biking and swimming are all aerobic exercises. Strength training involves using weights to build up muscle. Exercise 20 to 30 minutes on most days. A combination of aerobic (walking, swimming) and strength training (weights) is best. You don't have to do all 30 minutes at once. Try walking for 15 minutes twice each day. Or walk for 10 minutes 3 times each day. Men who have not been active should consult their doctor before starting an exercise program and select activities they enjoy to increase their chance for success. Exercise with a partner. This makes exercising more fun. If you don't like to walk, consider other activities. Try gardening, dancing, fishing, tai chi, or yoga. Any active activity that you enjoy can benefit your health.
* It is never too late to quit smoking. As soon as a smoker quits, the body begins to heal the damage caused by smoking. Smokers who quit quickly notice they can breathe easier, have more energy, lose the "smoker's cough" and have a better sense of taste and smell.
* Manage your stress. It's no secret that stress can be a health hazard as you age, setting you up for heart disease, high blood pressure and other ailments. It also can prevent you from relaxing, enjoying your family, or simple activities such as getting absorbed in a good book or engaging in meaningful conversation with friends and, getting a good night's sleep.
* Screenings are tests that look for diseases in their early stages, before symptoms develop. Which screenings a man should have and how often depend in part on his family health history, personal health history and lifestyle habits.
The following list includes some of the most important screenings for men over age 50 but does not include all possible screenings. Men over age 50 should consult a physician about what screenings to have and how often.
High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other diseases. A blood pressure check is an easy, painless, noninvasive screening that can be done in the doctor's office. Cholesterol
High cholesterol increases the risk for heart disease and stroke. A blood test is used to measure cholesterol level. People with known heart disease or certain other conditions may need to have their cholesterol level checked regularly.
A simple blood test called the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) test can find early prostate cancer. All men over age 50 talk to their doctor about having a PSA test and understand the risks and benefits of the test.
The American Cancer Society recommends that all men should be screened for colon cancer starting at age 45 until age 75. Several types of screening are available to find polyps in the colon that could develop into colon cancer. Men over age 50 should talk about the different types of colon cancer screening with their doctor. Men with a family history of colon cancer should talk to their doctor about screening at a younger age and those who are over age 75 should talk to their doctor about whether they need to continue being screened.
The writer is an Assistant Professor (Endocrinology & Metabolism), Department of Medicine, MARKS Medical College & Hospital,