How can men improve their life expectancy?
Bo Chung, MD, Family Practice physician with Banner Health Clinic Family Medicine-Fallon in Fallon, Nev.
Question: How can men improve their life expectancy?
Answer: When it comes to longevity, men are the weaker sex. Women enjoy a six-year advantage in life expectancy. There may be some unknown natural or genetic factors at play, but if men would take as active a role in their health as women do, the lifespan discrepancy would shrink tremendously.
Men should understand, however, that they can achieve better health and possibly a longer lifespan without turning their worlds upside down. One area to focus on is physical activity and learning that exercise doesn’t have to be complicated.
You may wonder how much you have to do to reap the benefits from exercise. The answer is not as much as you think. Even if you haven’t exercised for years, or if your schedule is hectic, you can get enough physical activity to improve your health.
First, moderately vigorous physical activity includes brisk walking (3-4 mph), dancing, recreational biking/swimming and home repair or yard work of 30 minutes per day, more days than not.
The total time is cumulative through the day. Split activity into 10 or 15-minute increments if needed. Achieving a target heart rate is not mandatory for the health benefits either, so don’t worry about knowing how to check your pulse unless you are trying to achieve a certain level of aerobic fitness.
Resistance exercise with machines or free weights performed two or three times per week also helps. Heavy weight is not needed. Consider two or three sets of 10-15 repetitions per body area. Don’t forget to stretch before and after. If conditions such as arthritis or chronic low back pain limit you, consider swimming and utilizing the elliptical machine because there will be much less wear and tear involved on the joints.
If you are elderly and prefer something steadier, just keep walking, and make sure it is in a safe environment that will not put you at risk of falling.
Last, but not least, establish a relationship now with a primary care physician such as Family Practice or Internal Medicine. You should feel comfortable discussing things with your doctor and have a sense of teamwork. Finding the right fit with a physician is the first step, but don’t wait until you are ill to start looking.
Once you’ve got your doctor selected, have a check-up. Discuss your current and past medical issues, explore family history, and ask what you should be doing now and in the future to stay on a healthy path. Your personal physician will help you decide what’s appropriate based on your situation and can make more specific recommendations.