By Anthony Barkley, Department Head, Health Promotion and Wellness Department, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center
I’ve always been a believer that maintaining mission readiness includes taking charge of your overall health. By adopting healthier lifestyle behaviors, you increase your operational readiness and also improve your overall health for years to come. While integrating healthy choices into your lifestyle is important for both men and women, some issues may be unique to men. Making healthy choices includes consulting health professionals and becoming educated on what preventive measures are most important for your health.
At Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC), we’re here to help the Navy and Marines Corps family learn how to make healthy choices across the spectrum of men’s health topics.
Here are my ten recommendations for men to change their lifestyle and ultimately improve their health.
- Make physical activity a priority. Men who are overweight, obese or physically inactive are at greater risk for high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes and other health problems.
- Maintain a healthy weight. A healthy weight is important, but this does not mean you need to diet and hit the gym for hours at a time. Choosing to eat a balanced diet of nutrient-dense foods can keep you feeling full longer so you don’t overindulge.
- Focus on eating fruits and vegetables, not supplements. The best foods for peak performance are fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grains. In most cases, you can get the nutrients you need for top performance from food rather than taking potentially risky dietary supplements.
- Quit tobacco.Quitting tobacco products prevents potential reproductive health issues. Smoking can cause erectile dysfunction and damages the DNA in sperm, which may lead to infertility. Smokeless tobacco is a known cause of oral and pancreatic cancer, and reduced sperm count.
- Follow A-B-Cs of sexual risk reduction. Prevent STIs and unplanned pregnancies by choosing the safest option for you: A – Abstain from sex; B – Be faithful within a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship; C – Use a condom every time and discuss contraception with your partner.
- Get screened for STIs. Men should consider being screened for STIs after unprotected sex, if you or your partner has multiple partners, or if you have a new partner, even if you do not have any symptoms.
- Ask your doctor about HPV vaccination and HIV prevention medication.Men up to age 26 can get vaccinated to prevent genital warts caused by Human papillomavirus (HPV). Also, men who have sex with men, and men who have condom-less sex with multiple women, are at the greatest risk for HIV. PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a daily pill that can greatly reduce your risk of getting HIV.
- Be resilient. Recognizing psychological health causes and concerns is important for a healthier mind and body and can focus attention on positive mental health – such as getting sufficient sleep and coping with stress.Men experience depression differently than women and may be more likely to feel tired and irritable; lose interest in their work, family or hobbies; or have difficulty sleeping.
- Practice safe driving. Traffic accidents are among the leading causes of unintentional injury deaths for males ages 15-44. Long car or motorcycle trips can cause fatigue, increasing your risk of an accident. When you practice driving safety tips,you’ll decrease your risk of getting into an accident.
- Don’t drink and drive. You can also make responsible choices by refraining from drinking and driving, or riding with someone who has consumed alcohol.
Invest in your future! Learn more about how your behaviors and lifestyle choices affect your overall health at our Men’s Health Promotion Toolbox.