It is common knowledge that, on average, women worldwide have a longer life expectancy than men by almost five years. So what can we men do to take control of our health and possibly add years to our lives?
Here’s my list of the ten things men can do to prolong their lives and outlive their wives (or girlfriends…or both…)
#1 – Exercise at least 30 minutes each day
Studies have shown that moderate to vigorous exercise each day for at least 30 minutes can add up to 3 years to your life. We all have 30 minutes somewhere in the morning or maybe after work. Find that half hour and go…even if you go outside and run for 30 minutes around the neighborhood. And build into your day those small bits of extra exercise during the work day (taking the stairs instead of elevators, parking in the space furthest from the building, leaving your desk and walking around the building once every hour or so.)
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite from all that exercise…
#2 – Eat more produce
A British study found that people who ate five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day had a 26% lower risk of stroke than people who ate less than three servings of fruit and vegetables daily. And raw vegetables are best. An Italian study found that if you ate just one cup of raw vegetables each day, you can add up to 2 years to your life because the cooking process depletes almost 30% of the vegetable’s antioxidants.
Now that you’re energized from the fruits and veggies…
#3 – Have more sex
There are several studies on the benefits of sex. Studies show that sex lowers cholesterol, reduces stress, improves circulation, lowers blood pressure, increases oxytocin levels, boosts brain power by improving cognition, boosts immunity, promotes strong bones, aids in tissue repair, improves sleep, promotes emotional health by helping you avoid loneliness and boredom, and one study even showed evidence that regular sex can reduce incidences of the common cold. The act of having good sex more often has so many benefits I’m surprised you’re even reading this and not having sex right this very moment. (Unless you’re reading this while having sex this very moment…which would be awesome.)
And after all that good healthy sex, you’ll probably want to…
#4 – Sleep and relax more often
First, there are the obvious benefits of good sleep-–you are more alert and you are less stressed. But sleep also helps to repair the body because cells produce more protein while you sleep. Research has also shown that people who sleep at least seven hours a night are less likely to be overweight because sleep helps balance your ghrelin and leptin, the hormones associated with the regulation of appetite.
#5 – Hydrate
We are made of 70% water. As much as you’d like to, you can’t survive on red meat alone. You need to learn how to adequately replenish your body daily to supply much needed oxygen to your cells, to support digestion, and to simply flush out your system. The common mantra of eight glasses of water a day has never been proven…most experts suggest a minimum of 40 ounces per day (5 cups) should be fine because we get water from so many sources like fruits, vegetables, juices, etc.
#6 – Annual check-ups
This seems so simple, but for some reason women are much better at this than men. Louis Harris and Associates polled 4,350 men and women and found that men were three times more likely not to have seen a doctor in the past year. The study also found that approximately 25% of the men stated they would wait “as long as possible” to see a doctor if they had a health problem. That just doesn’t make any sense. Although it may not be necessary for young and healthy men in their 20’s and 30’s to get an annual check up, it wouldn’t hurt. And all men 40 years and older should start having annual physical exams.
#7 – Avoid carcinogens as much as possible
The most dangerous carcinogens that men expose themselves to are the ones we have the most control over-–cigarettes and excessive exposure to the sun’s UV rays. First, skin cancer is no joke. Don’t get me wrong…we need sunlight for all sorts of reasons (at the very least because it helps process vitamin D for our bodies). But if you spend a great deal of time outside, slap on the sunscreen.
Secondly, quit smoking. There’s nothing remotely good about it. Period. Cigarettes lead to cancer, they make you stink, they lead to cancer, they stain your teeth, they restrict you from restaurants and clubs, and THEY LEAD TO CANCER. If you smoke, you need to quit now.
#8 – Moderate your vices
Notice I didn’t say “eliminate your vices.” I said moderate your vices. To completely eliminate something that you enjoy doesn’t make life worth living. (Now I know some of you cigarette smokers who read #7 above are probably wondering why cigarettes have to be eliminated instead of moderated. The reason is simple: cigarette smoking is not a vice any more than banging yourself in the head with an iron skillet is a vice. Smoking cigarettes is just a stupid way to kill yourself faster.)
Most of the things in our lives that are vices are those things that, when consumed conservatively, can actually serve a purpose or have some benefit. Like drinking wine. The antioxidants in wine benefit us. Drinking an entire case of wine to the point where we wake up with strange people and animals in our beds will not benefit us. If your vice is fattening food, eat responsibly. If your vice is playing video games, then play responsibly. If your vice is alcohol, drink responsibly.
#9 – Leave your family on a regular basis
Now let me be very clear on what I mean here. If you’re married like I am, then you know that our social activities, our daily rituals, and our identities are often linked inextricably to our wives and families. Whatever remains of ourselves is linked to our jobs or careers. Every once in a while, men need to hang out with other men away from their families. (This becomes even more crucial the older a man gets.) It’s often the case that women are better at this than men, and studies show that the social connections women often make promote their emotional well-being and longevity. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to spend some time reconnecting with your buddies (at the very least once or twice per month.)
Another very necessary tip in prolonging your life is spending a bit more time with yourself. But not just the old “sitting-on-the-couch-watching-football-by-yourself” kind of time. Intentional distraction-free time. Use this time to discover what makes you tick and what your life’s purpose is all about. Men who have lived for several long decades have lives rich with meaning, self-worth, and a sense of purpose.
#10 – Get educated
In the late 1930’s, Harvard Medical School launched a study tracking the health and development of 569 participants. To this day, it is now the world’s longest running longitudinal study (Harvard psychiatrist George Valliant has been directing the study for the past 35 years or so). Researchers found that most of the factors that contribute to long lifespans are under our control, and one of the biggest determinants for long lifespans was a person’s level of education. People who were educated had a tendency to drink less, smoke less, and were less likely to be obese. They were more likely to care about their futures (probably because of the sense that their educations would pay off later), and this orientation toward the future helped them make wiser life choices. And because education is forever linked to financial wealth, those who were more educated were more likely to have access to better healthcare, the ability to afford more treatments, and access to more information.
With all the tips here, I think I’ve added about 67 years to your life (give or take a few decades).