Men's health: Prevent the top threats

Many of the leading causes of death among men can be prevented. Here's what you need to know to live a longer, healthier life. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Do you know the greatest threats to men's health? The list is surprisingly short. The top causes of death among adult men in the U.S. are heart disease, stroke, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The good news is that a few lifestyle changes can significantly lower your risk of these common killers.

Start by looking at your lifestyle

Take charge of your health by making healthier lifestyle choices. For example:

  • Don't smoke. If you smoke or use other tobacco products, ask your doctor to help you quit. It's also important to avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, air pollution and exposure to chemicals (such as in the workplace).
  • Eat a healthy diet. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-fiber foods and lean sources of protein, such as fish. Limit foods high in saturated fat and sodium.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Losing excess pounds — and keeping them off — can lower your risk of heart disease as well as various types of cancer.
  • Get moving. Include physical activity in your daily routine. You know exercise can help you control your weight and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. But did you know that it may also lower your risk of certain types of cancer? Choose sports or other activities you enjoy, from basketball to brisk walking.
  • Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. For men, that means up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger and one drink a day for men older than age 65. The risk of various types of cancer, such as liver cancer, appears to increase with the amount of alcohol you drink and the length of time you've been drinking regularly. Too much alcohol can also raise your blood pressure.
  • Manage stress. If you feel constantly on edge or under assault, your lifestyle habits may suffer — and so might your immune system. Take steps to reduce stress — or learn to deal with stress in healthy ways.

Stop avoiding the doctor

Don't wait to visit the doctor until something is seriously wrong. Your doctor can be your best ally for preventing health problems. Be sure to follow your doctor's treatment recommendations if you have health issues, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes. Also, be sure to ask your doctor about when you should have cancer screenings and other health evaluations.

Aug. 17, 2013 See more In-depth