With every Father’s Day signifying one more year of appreciating Dad, it also means Dad is one year older. The spry 20- to 30-something year old dad of your youth is now in his 50s, 60s or older. Research suggests that men don’t take of themselves as well as women and, as a result, don’t live as long. This means Dad can use some gentle (or not so gentle) encouragement to tune in to his health so he can live a long and high-quality life and spend many more Father’s Day celebrating with the family. Here are some healthy aging tips specifically for Dad.
Men are shorter-lived than women
According to the American Geriatrics Society’s Foundation for Health in Aging, it isn’t entirely clear why women live longer than men. The average life expectancy for US women is over 80 years old while life expectancy for US men is roughly 75 years old.
What research does suggest that one of biggest causes of the longevity gap between men and women is that women are more likely to have — and regularly see — a health care provider, making them more aware of disease prevention as well as increasing the chances for early detection of disease.
Another factor in shorter life expectancy in men is that they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as smoking and drinking heavily, compared to women. Coupling an unhealthy lifestyle with infrequent visits to a doctor increases not only the risk of chronic disease, but also delayed diagnosis and treatments.
10 Healthy aging tips for men
Help Dad boost his chances of living a longer, healthier life by sharing the following healthy aging tips for men, provided by the experts with the American Geriatrics Society’s Foundation for Healthy Aging.
1. Schedule annual check ups
See your health care provider for regular checkups. Even if you feel perfectly healthy, you should see your provider at least once a year for a checkup.
2. See your doctor when you are sick
Surveys find that men are less likely than women to see a health care provider when they’re not feeling well. In one survey, 40 percent of men said that, if sick, they would delay seeking medical care for a few days. Seventeen percent said they would wait “at least a week.” Prompt medical care can make a big difference – sometimes, the difference between life and death.
3. Mind your shots and medications
Talk with your health care provider about scheduling a yearly flu shot as well as pneuomonia, tetanus/diptheria, and shingles vaccines. In addition, take medications, vitamins and supplements only as your health care provider directs. Keep in mind that the longer you live, and the more medicines you take, the more likely you are to experience some side effects, even from medicines bought over-the-counter at the pharmacy. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking or combining any new medications or supplements.
4. Prioritize health screenings
Early diagnosis is a crucial factor in successful treatment of disease.
Talk to your doctor about scheduling the following health screenings:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening
- Bone health assessment
- Blood pressure check
- Cholesterol test
- Diabetes/blood glucose test
- Prostate cancer test
- Colorectal cancer screening
- Hearing and vision screening
- Skin cancer assessment
- Depression screening
- STD screening
- Dental check up
- Other screenings as recommended by the doctor
Yearly check ups are also the time to talk to your doctor about other health issues, such as heart burn/digestive problems and erectile dysfunction. These conditions and others can be distressing and should not be ingored.
Regular exercise is important for good health, regardless of age. Physical activity is important in healthy weight maintenance, boosting cardiovascular and brain health, strengthening bones and muscles, and coping with stress. If you exercise with others you also get the fun and benefits of their company. The CDC offers great advice on exercising that’s tailored to seniors at www.cdc.gov. Be sure to talk to your doctor before you begin any new exercise program.
6. Eat right
A healthy, balanced diet is essential for warding off disease, delaying premature aging, and maintaining a healthy weight. Keep in mind that with age, you may need to reduce the number of calories you consume, particularly if you are not as active. Consider talking to your doctor about an eating plan that is right for you, or visit the USDA’s updated MyPyramid for Older Adults, at http://mypyramid.gov/.
7. Train your brain
Like your heart, muscles and bones need physical activity to stay strong, your brain needs exercise to stay sharp. Join a book or discussion club. Sign up for a class at the local library, senior center, or community college (some offer free classes or older adults). Do word puzzles, number puzzles, jigsaw puzzles – whatever interests you. Make sure you challenge your brain by trying new things, and playing against the clock rather than just repeating the same exercises over and over again. Go to www.games.aarp.org for free games of all kinds, to play alone or with others.
8. Quit smoking
Cigarette smoking is not only the #1 cause of preventable deaths in the US, it eventually degrades a man’s quality of life. From the increase in lung cancer and other cancers to dental health decline, smoking is a sure-fire way to lower life expectancy. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs and treatments and kick the habit for your health.
9. Drink in moderation
Though research suggests wine is a heart-healthy sip, it does not equate to a free pass to overdrink. First, check with your health care provider to make sure that drinking alcohol — in light to moderate amounts — is appropriate for you. Then keep in mind that for men, moderate drinking means no more than two alcoholic drinks daily. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1-1/2 ounces of hard liquor. If you don’t drink, don’t take it up in hopes of improving your health; you are better off incorporating daily exercise into your lifestyle.
10. Spend time with others
Spending time and doing things with other people, of all ages, can help keep you mentally, physically and emotionally fit. It can also give your brain a boost and lift your mood. Prioritize spending time with loved ones, stay active in community groups, volunteer and make it a point to get involved in social activities you enjoy.