An MU Extension specialist says men tend to have more unhealthy behaviors like smoking and drinking heavily, and overeating more often. 

It is a well-known fact that women enjoy longer lifespans than men. Many studies have investigated the reasons why, and whether men can do anything about it.

“The statistical differences are related in part to physical and biochemical differences, but there are also controllable factors,” said Dr. Pam Duitsman, health and nutrition specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

Duitsman said men tend to have more unhealthy behaviors like smoking and drinking heavily, and overeating more often. Men also avoid doctors more than women, and are on average less socially connected.



However, according to Duitsman, there are five major steps that men can take to improve their overall health.

•Drop the extra pounds. Research shows that higher BMI (body mass index) is associated with a higher risk of several chronic diseases. The good news is that losing 5-to-10 percent of body weight can make a real difference.

“Easy changes, such as reducing calorie intake, eating healthy foods, and regular exercise can provide health improvements that go far beyond weight loss,” Duitsman said.

•Take exams for which you don’t have to study. Periodic health exams are preventive. Yet, research shows men tend to visit the doctor less frequently than women, and downplay their symptoms, resulting in poorer health outcomes.

“Be honest with your doctor, and talk candidly about your concerns and symptoms,” Duitsman said. “Although the process may seem embarrassing or uncomfortable, realize some symptoms may be tied to serious conditions.”

•Don’t pass on a screening. A health problem can often be successfully managed if caught early with a screening. Duitsman said it is important to be screened for blood pressure, cholesterol levels, sugar levels for diabetes, colorectal if you are age 50 or older, and prostate issues.

“All of these screenings are important,” Duitsman said. “For example, nearly a third of people with high blood pressure don’t know it, since high blood pressure has no symptoms. It can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure or kidney failure.”

•Be proactive with your health care. Keep up-to-date with flu shots and vaccinations. Ask your doctor about taking aspirin every day if you are age 50-59 and have heart disease risk factors such as: smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes. Aspirin can lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, and colorectal cancer.

•Work hard at being more social.

“For years, research has shown that those with meaningful social relationships live longer, manage health conditions better, and have healthier behaviors,” Duitsman said. “Be intentional about finding ways to connect with others in uplifting and meaningful ways. Both quality and quantity are important.”

For more information, call the MU Extension office in Houston at 417-967-4545.

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