Life is out there for the taking, and age doesn't have to slow you down. Preventive care and healthy choices are key to good health for a lifetime. A recent survey revealed a majority of men have a healthcare professional they see for medical advice or illness — a great start! To guide you along the way, here's a list of essential habits for maintaining your overall well-being, now and for life.
In your 20s
It's easy to neglect preventive care when you're enjoying good health. However, now is the perfect time to get regular preventive maintenance to ensure lifelong health. Make sure you're making these healthy choices:
Establish healthy lifestyle habits. Follow the nutritional guidelines set by the United States Department of Agriculture, which focus on eating whole foods, to decrease your lifelong risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes. Exercising daily for at least 30 minutes and including dietary sources rich in omega 3s will also help protect your heart and brain function, says the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Get regular physical exams. Visit your doctor to determine your baseline health, share your family medical history and learn about your risk for common diseases. In general, you should continue getting physicals every three to five years, and more frequently if you have certain risk factors, according to MedLine Plus.
Get the right tests and vaccines. Check your blood pressure and get a flu shot yearly, and begin cholesterol testing every four to six years at age 20, as recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA). Discuss hepatitis and tetanus vaccines as well as STD screening with your doctor. Also, young men are more at risk for testicular cancer, with the American Cancer Society reporting that about half of testicular cancer cases happen in men who are in their 20s and early 30s. Performing a monthly self-exam can help you and your doctor catch possible cancer early.
Ditch the cigarettes. If you smoke, take steps to stop. If you don't smoke, don't start! Smoking increases your risk of many diseases and is the cause of one in five deaths in the U.S. every year, says the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In your 30s
Your 30s are often a busy time, but that doesn't mean you have to let healthy choices fall by the wayside. Focus on your diet and seek out enjoyable activities to keep you moving.
Focus in on nutrition. Healthy meal choices can help you balance out a less active lifestyle and avoid weight gain.
Keep moving. Fit in exercise wherever you can — take the stairs, play with younger family members, and join in on that pick up soccer game. Appropriate exercise is essential for preventing heart disease.
See your doctor. Regular checkups may uncover hidden health problems, even if you feel healthy. For example, the AHA reports that high blood pressure and high cholesterol or glucose levels can damage your arteries and cognitive function. Make sure your doctor monitors these aspects of your health.
In your 40s
This is the time to be proactive. Know your health stats, seek guidance from trusted physicians and find good specialists if you need them.
Understand your risks. The Mayo Clinic explains that men have an increased incidence of heart attack beginning around age 45. If you have diabetes or a family history of heart attack, you're at high risk. Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight in check with diet, exercise and medications. If you smoke, discuss ways to stop with your doctor.
Keep up the daily exercise. Joint pain and stiffness become more prevalent in your 40s. Listen to your body and adjust, but don't stop moving.
Tailor your diet. Focus on eating a well-balanced diet and watching your serving sizes. Include sources of omega 3s, such as salmon and tuna, to decrease inflammation that a recent scientific paper reveals may contribute to the development of dementia.
In your 50s
You should increase your preventive health measures during this decade. Work with your doctor to develop the best healthy choices for you.
Get your screenings. Now's the time to begin screening for colon cancer, explains the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Discuss with your doctor which test is best for you. Some doctors may recommend prostate cancer screening if you're at risk for the disease. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force also recommends that you continue diabetes testing every two years, cholesterol testing every three to five years, and blood pressure checks every year starting in your 50s.
Stay active. Don't let age-related stiffness stop you! Try joint-friendly options, such as swimming, biking and walking. According to an article in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, regular exercise improves cognitive function. Exercise also keeps your bones strong, says the NIH.
In your 60s and beyond
Your golden years are the time to reap the benefits of your earlier healthy choices. What's more, staying mentally and physically active in this phase of life will help you continue on a healthy path.
Stay mentally active. ScienceDaily and other research explain that you can protect your brain health by staying socially involved, reading, and challenging yourself with games and activities, such as chess and crossword puzzles.
Stay physically active. Loss of muscle mass is a concern for aging adults. Doing weight-bearing exercises and eating adequate amounts of protein will help preserve your muscle mass, a 2015 paper suggests.
Get your vaccines. In addition to a yearly flu shot, the CDC recommends getting the shingles vaccine at age 60 and the pneumococcal vaccine at age 65.
Stay on top of your health. Keep records of your appointments, medications and symptoms, and work with your doctor to stay current on tests and screenings. Ask about checking your vitamin D levels and bone density to assess your bone health. If you've ever smoked, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends you get an ultrasound to screen for abdominal aortic aneurysm between the ages of 65 and 75.
No matter what stage of life you're in, it's not too late to start making informed choices to improve your health. Follow these tips and consult with your healthcare professional to set you up for a healthy, fulfilling life.