Turning 40 is a major milestone. It is when most people suddenly realize that they are now in the middle of life. It is also when people particularly men need to pay more attention to their bodies to lessen the odds of heart disease, debilitating injuries, cancer, diabetes and other problems in the not-so-distant future. Here are 10 biggest health risks for men should address in their 40s to allay future health concerns:
- Not Getting Regular Physicals: Younger men typically ignore their health. While many men over 40 start to see signs of impending age and mortality, they need to be cajoled into a doctor’s office for a physical. Identifying possible health risks and issues while they are correctable can add years to a man’s life. For example, once a man turns 40, he should get a PSA (prostate specific antigen) test. If the PSA levels in his blood are elevated, it may indicate prostate cancer long before symptoms appear.
- Having A Spare Tire: In the past, more women were obese than men, but the percentages are now about even (35.5 percent for men and 37 percent for women). The reality is that around age 40, the body is not as able to get rid of the fat and extra calories like it used to. Things that used to burn off easily will now accumulate around the midsection. Muscles are also beginning to atrophy. It is time to get serious about diet and exercise to keep obesity, diabetes and heart disease at bay.
- Stressing Out: Middle age responsibilities, like a career, finances, caring for children and aging parents, can be stressful. Stress management is critical, since stress is one of the three main risk factors for coronary disease. Manage the stress level with regular exercise, relaxing evenings, playing with the dog or picking up a book and escaping into another life.
- Thinking Sun Screen is for Sissies: Men are twice as likely than women to develop skin cancer. Additionally, men are more likely to die from it. In fact, 6 out of 10 cases of melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, are found in white men over 50. That is because men are outdoors more, either for their job, working in the yard or playing sports. Men have shorter or thinning hair and do not wear makeup containing SPFs like women. In fact, less than half of men use sun protection (sunscreen, protective clothing, shade), versus 65 percent of women.
- Having a Lousy Diet: The leading causes of death in men over 40 are tied to bad nutrition: heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Indulging in junk food and greasy, salty fast food can pave a path to excess weight, hypertension, high cholesterol and other problems. Avoid foods high in saturated or trans fats, simple sugars, highfructose corn syrup and nonwhole grains (white bread and rice).
- Being Hot Shots Behind the Wheel (or On The Slopes): Men have more car accidents. Men over 45 have more accidents on snow and ice, too. The fact is that unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among men in their early 40s and the third main cause for men ages 45 to 64. In addition, middleaged men are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel or speed; women do not have the same injury and accident levels.
- Ignoring the Downs: Depression is not just feeling blue. Men often fail to recognize common signs of depression like fatigue or excessive sleep, restlessness, trouble concentrating, an inability to experience pleasure or changes in appetite. It is important to take care of mental health too. Changes in mood are normal, but extremes are not. Yes, more women than men suffer from depression, but men should not ignore warning signs.
- Sensory Degradation: The odds are that people who did not need glasses before age 40 will afterwards. Men in their 40s typically notice problems with close range vision, particularly for reading. Old age hearing loss probably has not started, but hearing will not be as sharp. In addition, the senses of smell and taste are not as strong.
- Not Being Married: Studies have shown that married men are healthier and live longer than those who never married, divorced or were widowed. For example, lifelong bachelors are three times more likely to die from heart disease. One theory is that marriage reduces stress levels and depression. Unmarried men also tend to have more bad health habits, such as drinking and eating poorly.
- Tobacco Use: Tobacco is one of the worst health risks anyone can take. Smoking causes over 90 percent of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is the fourth leading cause of death for men, and most lung cancer. Smokers develop Alzheimer’s disease more than nonsmokers, and male seniors who smoke have twice the risk of a stroke death. Do not think it is too late. Studies show that quitting makes a difference; the risk of stroke, lung disease and cancer drop immediately after quitting and the added heart damage risk is half after one year.
Everyone hates to admit they are not as young as they were. However, men need to pay more attention to the 10 biggest health risks and their body in their 40s if they want their 40s to truly be the middle of their years.
By Dyanne Weiss