No longer young enough to con myself into believing I’m immortal, I find myself thinking about health more often than I’d like to admit. My personal menu of health care providers now includes so many “-ologists” — cardiologist, urologist, pulmonologist, dermatologist, gastroenterologist … you get the idea.
With June designated as Men’s Health Month, it seemed like a good time to check in with the experts at Capital Health Plan for ideas about what men can do to improve their health and take better care of themselves.
I spoke with CHP’s associate medical director, Dr. Adekunle Omotayo, who offered his Top 5 Tips for men looking to improve their health. Part of his first suggestion really surprised me.
Get Enough Sleep
This wasn’t the surprise, since we all recognize the value of a good night’s sleep. What I didn’t expect was this recommendation: Fold your pillow in two; if it snaps back in place, keep using it. But if it doesn’t, you need to replace it because it’s no longer molding to the shape of your head and neck — which means it’s not giving you the sleep support you need.
Every guy knows we’re supposed to do this, because it helps everything from our blood pressure to our weight to cardiac function. The bad news is we never seem to have a chunk of time to actually put in 30-45 minutes of good aerobic exercise. The good news is that you can do it in several increments of 10 minutes — “You don’t have to do it all in one stretch. Whatever you do, you just have to move,” Dr. Omotayo said.
If you can’t carve out 10 minutes for yourself a few times each day, you’re not really trying.
Maintain a Healthy Weight and Blood Pressure
Another one we all know but struggle to achieve. The right weight and BP depend on your age, size, and other factors, but by reducing carbs and getting exercise, you’ll help your blood pressure, cholesterol, and so much more. I’ve shed 50 pounds in the last two years, and I can tell you that it’s a real challenge, but definitely worth it.
Get Regular Checkups and Screenings
Your doctor(s) will tell you what kind of screenings you need and when, but there are vaccines and treatments that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago. Screenings can detect treatable problems, including depression, diabetes, prostate cancer, and more. And remember that vaccinations don’t end with childhood, especially for middle-age (and older) men — think shingles, for just one example.
After rattling off several health problems associated with tobacco, including heart disease, lung cancer, COPD, and bladder cancer, Dr. Omotayo directed his pitch squarely at men’s egos: Reeking of tobacco all the time, he noted, is really unappealing to non-smokers.
As a physician, and as a man, Dr. Omotayo understands the challenge men face — or, more typically, impose on themselves. But he’s not giving up, and neither should we.
“We make ourselves busy and think, ‘No, I’ve got to work now.’ We never make enough time for ourselves,” he said. “But I think it’s slowly changing — I think men are realizing they’ve got to take better care of themselves than they have done so far.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got several adorable grandchildren, and I’m looking forward to watching them grow. Count me among those men who see the wisdom in taking better care, during Men’s Health Month and year-round.