Men are staying healthier and living longer now than in decades past. This gain in life expectancy can be credited in part to better nutrition, improved public health and sanitation, and the advent of vaccines and antibiotics. But medical science has also made great strides in understanding and treating debilitating, chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke. The stereotype of frailty in old age no longer applies as men take control of their own health by becoming better informed about health issues and their personal health risks. Men today are also making better lifestyle choices—eating more healthfully, not smoking, and exercising regularly. Such healthy lifestyle choices have been shown to help prevent the development of heart disease and some cancers—the top two causes of death in the United States. These good health habits, along with regular medical checkups, can greatly increase your chances of living longer and healthier.
Another way to reduce your risk of illness and early death is to avoid risky behaviors that could jeopardize your health. Males experience four out of five of all injuries from accidents involving motor vehicles or firearms, drownings, and fires. A large proportion of such accidents are caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Younger men are especially likely to die accidentally. You can reduce your risk of accidental injury by taking some simple and commonsense measures to protect yourself. For example, always wear a seat belt when you drive and a helmet when riding a bicycle or a motorcycle. Never drink alcohol and drive.
Drinking alcohol excessively carries many other health risks. It can lead to alcohol abuse and dependence, liver disease, and heart failure. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation (two drinks a day or less). A typical drink is 5 ounces of wine, 1 ^ ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits, 12 ounces of wine cooler, or 12 ounces of beer (see page 24). Use of other recreational drugs also can cause dependence and impair your judgment and reflexes. Smoking cigarettes can have significant adverse effects on your health. Quitting smoking may be the best thing you can do to improve your overall health because, even if you eat right and exercise, the unhealthful effects of smoking will shorten your life. Practicing unsafe sex is another risky behavior that can have serious— sometimes fatal—health consequences.
Doctors know that early detection of disease often leads to more effective treatment. That's why it's important to see your doctor for checkups regularly. During the checkup, your doctor can order the appropriate medical tests to detect any health problems you might have, based on your family health history and other personal risk factors. Seeing your doctor regularly also can help you 3
develop an effective patient-doctor relationship so you can become an active, informed consumer and take control of your health and medical care. Note that it is your responsibility to provide your doctor with specific information about your health, such as details about symptoms, so that he or she can perform needed tests, make an accurate diagnosis, and provide effective treatment.
Use this section of the book to find out how to stay healthy longer by adopting good health habits. The best disease-preventing measures include consuming a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining an appropriate weight for your height, drinking alcohol only in moderation, not using tobacco, becoming more safety-conscious in your daily life, and seeing your doctor for periodic checkups. These measures may sound daunting at first, but they are effective ways to help you stay healthy.
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