Medically reviewed by Leann Poston, M.D. on 9/24/20
It doesn’t take much time online, in the checkout line at a supermarket, or watching television to realize that everyone is worried about their health, especially as they get older. Healthy aging is one of the most common recurring themes for self-help, guidance, and advice across the media spectrum today. While a lot of this advice is often targeted more towards women, it’s just as important that men know how to stay healthy and in good shape as they age. To that end, we’ve put together a guide highlighting 10 things that all men over 40 should know to stay healthy. These encompass habits, activities, and knowledge that men over 40 should keep in mind and put into practice, in order to ensure they stay healthy, fit, in shape, and active into their retirement years and beyond.
First, let’s briefly highlight the different aspects or topics that contribute towards good overall health and what that means. Many people think of health, or staying healthy in narrow terms – physical health, being free from illness. That is certainly a big part of the equation, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Staying healthy or being healthy also means being fit and active, being capable of daily tasks, and physically able to reach your goals. It means an active social life and regular socialization to provide emotional fulfillment. For many men, it also means an active sex life. Keeping up or improving mental sharpness, memory, and critical thinking skills, exercising creativity and personal expression, and having good overall mental health and contentment are also aspects of maintaining good overall health.
With all of that said, let’s take a look at 10 important things that all men over 40 should know and put into practice in order to stay healthy.
The old adage is true and should be kept in mind at all ages, especially as men get older. Too often, men shrug off visiting a doctor or going for a routine physical exam or lab tests. However, preventative healthcare becomes increasingly important as we age, and its value goes up as well. For example, most people are well aware that catching problems like cancer early greatly increases the chances of survival and recovery. The same logic holds true for a whole host of physical ailments and conditions. If nothing else, regular doctor visits, check-ups, and lab tests will help you to monitor your health and enable you to make good choices, maximizing the quality and quantity of life you enjoy in the years to come.
It doesn’t matter if you spent your 20s and 30s living on fast food, chips, Twinkies, energy drinks, and whatever you could find in the vending machine at the office. It’s never too late to start adopting healthy eating habits or a well-rounded, healthy diet. These days, most experts advise a diet modeled on the Mediterranean diet – high in vegetables and whole grains, along with lean proteins, and low in carbs, processed foods, and utilizing only good fats – is the best approach for long-term health, weight loss or maintenance, and minimizing your risks for developing a range of health issues in later life. Ensuring you get sufficient vitamins and minerals from your diet is also very important for overall physical health and brain function, so a balanced diet is critical in this respect as well.
Working hard and focusing on your career, dealing with family life, and all the other responsibilities that most men over 40 encounter can be very stressful. Add to that money or financial troubles, relationship problems, and any pre-existing health conditions, and you have a time bomb of stress that can degrade your physical health, mental health, and overall well-being. Men over 40 are at an increased risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks, and cardiovascular problems. Stress can cause long-term damage to the way your brain and hormonal systems work as well. Therefore, it’s important to take active measures to de-stress in your life – meditation, mindfulness, time to yourself every week, therapy, and medications are all viable options to deal with stress and prevent it from getting the better of you as you age.
Addiction can be a hard thing to overcome, but as we age, it’s more important than ever to try to eliminate unhealthy habits and addictions. The cumulative effects of alcoholism and cigarette smoking on your body will increase your risks for many, often deadly, diseases, and conditions. Both have been shown to shorten the lifespan of adult males significantly. The good news is that even if you’ve smoked or binge drank for years, much of the damage is reversible. The earlier you quit these unhealthy vices, the more recovery your body can generally achieve, and the less lasting negative impact they will have on your body.
It may seem fairly basic, but the best habits and advice often take on that character. Exercise is important at all ages and is increasingly important as you get older. Maintaining muscle mass, strength, endurance, and cardiovascular function through exercise will help your body be at its best to deal with whatever changes or problems you may encounter. Addressing flexibility and range of motion will help stave off many of the problems that are characteristically found in older adults, such as arthritis, back pain, joint pain, and so on. Most adults over age 40 should get between 150 to 200 minutes of exercise per week, or around 30 minutes per day. Running or walking, cycling, going to the gym, swimming, stretching, yoga, and more are all great options for workout routines to stay fit and active.
Too often, men avoid addressing mental health concerns or problems. It’s still seen as somewhat stigmatized in popular culture and society as a whole. However, dealing with mental health issues, and maintaining positive mental health and well-being, is a critical part of remaining healthy as you age. Don’t be afraid to seek out counseling, therapy, or medication-based treatments for mental health disorders, and make efforts to monitor and maximize your mental health. It does you no good to be physically healthy but mentally miserable!
Around age 40 or shortly thereafter, many people can start to experience vision problems, even if they didn’t have them in earlier life. The various tissues of the eye can start to show the strain of 4 decades of use. Along with hormonal and tissue changes throughout the body, this can mean that your eyes are no longer as effective at focusing or as resilient as they were in your younger years. Glasses, contacts, or various treatments may be required for the first time, or stronger interventions if you already have glasses or contacts. Likewise, problems like glaucoma and cataracts become increasingly more likely the older you get. Therefore, regular vision check-ups and taking corrective actions for any vision problems are a big part of staying healthy after 40.
As with vision discussed above, oral health is another area that people tend to segment or isolate and not consider as part of their overall health. Men age 40 and over, like women of the same age, are at an increased risk for developing receding gums or gum disease and may have significant wear and tear on their teeth, jaw, and related structures. Regular dental visits and treatments for problems will help ensure your teeth and mouth remain as healthy as possible, and that you don’t need dentures or implants by middle-age.
Men are often very hesitant to talk to a doctor, friend, family member, significant other, or really anyone about sexual dysfunction or changes in sexual health and performance. As men age, however, biology and body changes make it more difficult to attain and maintain an erection and may present other sexual-related changes as well. The net result can be a decrease in confidence, a decreased intimacy with your partner, and a general depression or unhappiness with life as men age. Most of these problems can be dealt with, and significant improvement is seen if addressed rather than neglected. Talk to your doctor, consider supplements and medications, and be open and honest with your partner – they are likely going through various changes as well.
Finally, it’s important to ensure that you still make an ongoing investment in your social relationships as you age. Friendships are often the first casualty of the busy schedule, growing family, and burgeoning career. However, an active social support network of friends and family has been shown in study after study to be crucial to remaining healthy, active, and happy as an aging adult. Make an effort to maintain your core group of friends, meet new people and become friends, and stay engaged with family and co-workers. It will help you with emotional and mental health, and make life far more enjoyable and worth living!
Most of the health and well-being advice that applies throughout your life also applies as you get older. However, it becomes more important to make sure that you take some time and make some effort to practice these habits and put these pieces of advice to work, even if you haven’t in your youth. As the body becomes less resilient with age, you must meet those biological changes with an increased effort to stay healthy. Eating well, getting regular exercise, good quality sleep in sufficient amounts, regular doctor visits or checkups, monitoring your physical health and vitals, socializing, addressing your mental health, and staying active – mentally and physically – are at the core of staying healthy throughout your life.
Like any kind of exercise or workout, keeping your brain healthy means regularly engaging and using the different parts and specialties to keep them “in shape.” Cognitive puzzles, games, and similar options are great for logic and memory but only address some brain areas. You need to ensure your emotional and social centers of the brain are working out, along with verbal and written communication, memory, math and logic, and so on. The best way to stay healthy mentally as you age is to ensure you have a well-balanced life or supplement areas of your life that are lagging with exercises or activities to make up for it. Staying busy with work, hobbies, a social life, friends and family, and so on will get you a good portion of the way towards your goal.
Older adults can develop many of the same illnesses or conditions of younger adults but are more pre-disposed to certain ailments. Many of these increase their likelihood with age based on the vectors or biological processes that trigger them, the overall weaker immune system of older adults, or a combination of aging-related or lifestyle factors. The most common illnesses or conditions in older adults include arthritis, diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, Parkinson’s, dementia, Alzheimer’s, cataracts and glaucoma, kidney and bladder problems, osteoporosis, enlarged prostates, and depression.
Many people say that 40 is the new 25. People are living longer and staying healthier than ever before. Following the advice in this guide, and putting in some effort, can help to ensure that 40 marks the start of many more happy and healthy decades. Everyone’s health challenges are unique, of course, but focusing on staying healthy, to whatever degree you can, will best prepare you for whatever health or bodily changes you may encounter as you age.
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.
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