I’ve been hauling this Y chromosome around now for more than 65 years, all through medical school, 23 years in the military, medical practice on five continents, and just life in general. Along the way, I’ve learned a few things about being healthy and about being a guy (and no, that’s not an oxymoron). Not all of being healthy is about lifting weights and downing protein shakes. Emotional Intelligence can positively (or negatively) affect health too. Indulge me here.
Elements of Health We All Share
Obviously, some of the basic elements of being healthy we share with the double X’s. For example, as humans, we have an uncompromising need to move, and move a lot; a beyond-the-gym-alone requirement to keep our bodies in motion a good part of the day, and not many of us are doing well with that one. And then there’s eating… we all need a daily dose of fruits, nuts, vegetables, whole wild grains, fish, and some meat. That’s what the trillions of cells that make us the magnificent beings we are must have. Other good stuff is okay, and makes life a lot more fun, but when we begin to bulge in places, then there’s a problem. And, of course, we need sleep, to be with each other, have a purpose in life, and to learn new stuff to keep that brain in top shape. We all need these things.
Five Health Tips for Men
So, what about men? We have an average life expectancy approximately five years less than women. Yes, heart disease and cancer are big concerns, but unintentional injuries are a bigger player in ending our lives or causing us problems.
Here are the tricks I’ve learned along the way.
1. Build Strength of Character – Seek out your maleness in building strength of character rather than taking crazy risks, violent behavior, or collecting stuff you think makes you look badass. With women doing just about anything from triathlons to mountain climbing, flexing your Y is harder, but believe me it doesn’t come by getting messed up and trying to defy gravity or the laws of good sense.
2. Be Flexible – Give up the need to be right all the time (ladies this doesn’t mean you’re right all the time, only that we’re not going to fight about it). This is the single greatest cause of losing wives, friends, jobs, and sometimes our lives. Be cool and accept there’s lots of different kinds of people and opinions out there, and we don’t need to beat them to a pulp verbally to get them to believe what we believe. Differences are good.
3. Be Social – Keep connected to others, particularly guys. As we move through life, most men spend less time with other men. That’s life. Family and job begins to take up much more time. There’s an ancient and powerful bond in being with a band of brothers. It’s satisfying on many levels and makes us better husbands, fathers, and friends. It’s true ladies; they need dude time. I’ve even written prescriptions for guys to spend time with other guys!
4. Listen More Than You Talk – This is the secret ingredient of solid friendships. It’s related to number two above, but it is so powerful a trait that it needs to be stated clearly. Yes, conversations are good things, but verbal boxing matches where no one is really listening to the other person is just ego jousting. Listen, you’ll be very surprised what happens.
5. Don’t Compete Blindly – Yes, competition can make us better, but it can become an obsession that threatens our friendships, our health and even our lives. Consider the value of the competition. What will winning or losing really mean? Blind competition is just that. It’s being blind to the dangerous and ugly side of competing. Compete to be a better, not a worse person.
There it is. I don’t have to turn in my man card for telling you this, and neither will you by considering these tips. Live long and well.
Dr. Roger Landry, MD, MPH received his MD at Tufts University School of Medicine and his MPH 9 (Masters in Public Health) at Harvard University School of Public Health. He is a retired, highly-decorated full colonel, former chief flight surgeon at the Air Force Surgeon General’s Office in Washington, and a preventive medicine physician. Dr. Landry is the author of Live Long, Die Short: A Guide to Authentic Health and Successful Aging.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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