It’s easy to neglect your health when you’re working full-time and dealing with a “to do” list that grows longer each day. But if you ignore your health, it could come back to bite you – and even shorten your lifespan. Living healthy is all about making better choices. Here are the five most common health mistakes men make – and how to correct them.
Making Sleep a Low Priority
Is sleep more like a luxury than a necessity for you? A recent study showed that men and women who sleep less than five hours a night double their risk of heart disease. Lack of sleep is also linked with a greater risk of type 2 diabetes. So how much sleep should you be getting? Most research suggests between seven and eight hours a night is optimal. Hit the sack by 10:00 P.M. most nights – and stay there for at least 7 hours.
Eating Too Much Red Meat
Red meat is a good source of muscle-building protein, but it’s also loaded with saturated fat, the kind that clogs your arteries. It’s okay to have a steak once in a while, but don’t make red meat your go-to source of protein. Instead, help yourself to a serving of salmon and tuna – or open a can of sardines. Fatty-fish is chock full of heart-healthy fats called omega-3 fatty acids that help ward off heart disease. Don’t forget about vegetarian sources of protein. Meatless meat options like veggie burgers taste better these days, especially if you toss them on the grill.
Ignoring an Expanding Belly
As your girth increases, so does your risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Fat you store around your middle not only makes it harder to button your pants, it’s the most dangerous kind for your heart. If your girth is expanding, take a closer look at what you’re eating and how active you are. A diet high in carbs, fats and fast foods – and too little exercise is most likely the source of the problem. Cut back on portion sizes – and add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet. Make time for at least thirty minutes a day of aerobic exercise combined with strength training on alternate days. Shrink that “jelly belly” into a six-pack with more activity and better food choices.
Not Dealing With Stress
Stress is another risk factor for heart disease, and other health problems as well. When you’re stressed, you pump out hormones that cause blood vessels to constrict. This raises your blood pressure and puts more stress on your heart. Fortunately, you can stop this cycle by using stress reduction techniques like meditation and deep breathing. Add a little humor to your life, and find something to laugh about. Laughter decreases blood pressure and lowers stress hormones that increase your risk of heart disease.
Not Doing Basic Health Maintenance
How long has it been since you’ve seen a doctor? If it’s been more than a year, schedule an appointment for a physical. All men need to know their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar level – and should have a yearly prostate and testicular exam. Once you hit the age of fifty, your risk of colon cancer rises, so schedule a colonoscopy. You get regular service checks on your car to keep it running, don’t you deserve the same?
The Bottom Line?
You only have one body. Keep it running smoothly by making the right choices. Don’t let these health mistakes keep you from getting the most out of life – or, worse yet, send you to an early grave.
References: Science Daily. “Short and Long Sleep Durations Are Independent Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease, Study Suggests” Sleep Med Rev. 2009 Aug;13(4):257-64.