by Rachel Gore

Taking every aspect of your well-being seriously is crucial if you want to live a long, healthy life. While men and women’s health needs overlap greatly, men are more susceptible to certain conditions, behaviors and tendencies that contribute to the growing life expectancy gap between sexes: across the world, women live an average of six to eight years longer than men. As a man, the following tips can help you stay healthy at every age: 

Prioritize your heart health. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both American men and women, accounting for nearly one in four deaths every year. But according to the American Heart Association, men develop heart disease around 10-15 years before women, putting them at a higher risk for early death. By keeping on top of your diet and exercise, avoiding harmful behaviors like smoking cigarettes and drinking too much alcohol and managing stress, you can reduce your chances of developing heart disease that can shorten your lifespan.

Eat a nutritious, healthy diet. Opt for natural food sources like fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meats, fish and whole grains while limiting your intake of processed foods, alcohol, sodium, sugar and fat. One of the top health benefits of a healthy diet is preventing obesity, which contributes to the development of heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer and poor bone density.

Exercise regularly. Regular exercise has multiple proven benefits like improving circulation, lowering cholesterol, lowering blood pressure and reducing the likelihood of obesity. Exercise also promotes mental wellness with benefits like increased energy, better stress management and boost feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

Stay at a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease because of risk factors often present with obesity including high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Diet and exercise management are two of the most important factors in preventing obesity.

Don’t smoke. Smoking affects your health negatively in a number of ways. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), cigarette smoking increases the risk of men developing lung cancer by 25 times compared to their non-smoking counterparts. It can damage the lining of your arteries, decrease oxygen levels in your blood and force your heart to pump harder, causing blood clots that can lead to heart attacks. Smoking also makes you at risk for lower respiratory diseases, stroke and diabetes, which are all leading causes of death in American men.

Go to the doctor. Men are more likely to skip annual checkups, regular screenings and going to the doctor when they’re sick. By doing so, you could be missing clear red flags that something is impacting your health negatively, whether it be obesity, high-cholesterol or early symptoms of prostate cancer. It’s always better to take preventative action than to have to treat a disease that’s already impacting your health.

Pursue mental health care. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, men committed suicide at rates greater than 3.5 times that of women in 2017. Suicide is most common in middle-aged white men, who account for nearly 70% of all suicides in the U.S. The high suicide rate in men has been linked to men’s tendency to avoid reaching out for help, opting instead to “tough out” difficult emotions. Men are also less likely to talk about feelings of depression with their doctors. If this is the case for you, don’t feel like you need to manage symptoms of mental health disorders on your own just because you’re a man. A therapist can help you establish goals for yourself, teach you coping and stress management skills and set healthy boundaries.

While it may seem easier to not prioritize your health on a daily basis, this isn’t true in the long run. If you don’t make time for your wellness now, you’ll be forced to make time for your illness later.