What These 7 Men Wish They Could Tell Their Younger Selves About Their Health
These 50-and-over men share their intimate struggles with health, fitness, and happiness. Learn from their from their hard-earned wisdom to live your best life.
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Guys—it’s okay to seek help
Men are less likely to go for checkups than women are. No surprise. What is surprising: The reasons they tend to give for avoiding the doc. Research suggests it all comes down to the perception of what it means to be a real man. For instance, a study published in 2016 in Preventive Medicine found that men are more likely to pick a male health care provider, and that man-to-man dynamic meant guys were more likely to downplay their pain and symptoms than they might with a female doctor. Another study by the same researchers, published in 2014 in the Journal of Health Psychology, showed that men who hold traditional beliefs about masculinity—meaning they should be tough, brave, and self-reliant—were more likely to ignore medical problems, or at least put off dealing with them. But as these seven men show, there are consequences to ignoring your health. Here are the lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Men’s health: Less is more
When you’re young, it might feel like so many of your days are an odd mix of limitless and limited, encouraging you to say “yes” to just about everything. Sometimes it’s important to decline—and it’s easy to find ways to say “no” without offending anyone. For actor Jasper Cole, learning that balance is better than giving into FOMO (fear of missing out). And not just with alcohol or partying, but with physical fitness, too. “I wish I had known in my 20s that it’s better to live a life of moderation and not excess,” says Cole, 56. “I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself or my body with over-exercising, dieting, and trying to control life rather than just living in the moment. I wish I had known that I didn’t need to over-train so much at the gym. Muscles need sufficient time to recover,” he says, adding that years of heavy lifting required an L5 disk replacement in the small of his back about four years ago. “As we age, we need to alter our workouts to help the body heal and recover.” Here are 14 things that happen when you start a beginner weight-lifting workout.
Men’s health: Protect your back and knees
Back trouble can escalate quickly. As everyone gets older, bone density weakens, which is especially troublesome for your back. For 55-year-old actor Todd Bridges, not paying enough attention and not giving enough TLC to his back ended in a painful experience. “I wish I would have listened to my mom about the importance of protecting my back—instead, I ignored her words of wisdom while doing gymnastics, and playing football, basketball, tennis, and golf over the years,” says Bridges. “I didn’t realize or imagine how detrimental those activities would later be to my back. In addition to my ongoing back problems, playing basketball on concrete growing up has resulted in bad knees. I have had 13 surgeries and suffered from five hernias—a serious price to pay for ignoring mom.” Make sure you know the 5 clear signs your mystery back pain is actually arthritis.
Men’s health: Pay attention to your teeth
In the laundry list of yearly and biannual health screenings, cleaning and taking care of your teeth might fall low on your list of priorities. Don’t let it—in fact, here are 13 things your dentist wants you to remember about your teeth. According to Michael Tischler, DDS, a dentist in Woodstock, NY, too many men put off taking proper care of their teeth until it’s too late and they’re faced with the issue of invasive and, often, painful and pricey, dental work. “It’s so important to take care of your teeth and your dental work while you’re still young,” says Dr. Tischler. “The dental tipping point starts in your 50s when it often makes more sense to remove old dental work than it does to save or repair it.”
Men’s health: Take exercise more seriously
Though a successful entrepreneur, John Goodman really regrets not paying more attention to exercise, physical fitness, and his health when he was younger. “My advice for staying healthy is exercise,” says Goodman, a public relations specialist based in Tuckahoe, NY. “And you don’t need to be a marathoner. Walking is great. I walk three miles every day, weather permitting.” His mid-day walks have a surprising side benefit: “I get some of my best work ideas when I’m walking and not at my desk,” he says. “Taking a walk instead of driving or walking to work, if you live close to your office, is a great, easy way to lose weight, be healthier, and feel better physically and mentally.” Here are 14 benefits of walking for just 15 minutes.
Men’s health: Find a diet that works for you
Make sure you’re eating the foods men need—it’s a great start to meeting your nutritional needs. But for Joel Kahn, MD, a 50-something integrative cardiologist and head of Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity in Bingham Farms, MI, eating well has always been a focus of his life. No surprise considering his profession, he’s followed a plant-based diet for nearly 40 years, and yet, he’s still struggled to get off a few extra pounds. The solution that made the difference didn’t happen for him until he hit mid-life. “I have learned after 50 to appreciate the health benefits of fasting for both weight control and for biomarkers suggesting a regenerative effect,” says Dr. Kahn. “I now take the first five days of each month and follow a program called ‘fasting mimicking’ that has allowed me to lose 20 pounds in a few months, see my blood pressure and lab values improve, and enjoy tremendous energy.” Fasting may not be for everyone—especially if you have other health issues like diabetes or heart disease—but experimenting to find a dietary approach that you can sustain and controls weight is vital. Check out these 7 proven intermittent fasting benefits.
Men’s health: Get your testosterone checked
After battling what he thought was depression or bipolar disorder for years, Jim Tigar’s life changed for the better when a random TV commercial planted the idea that he might have low testosterone (sometimes referred to as andropause). The once happy-go-lucky and carefree retired fireman had seen several doctors and been tested numerous times in attempts to discover what was wrong. There are 7 crucial things your doctor doesn’t know about your health, and Tigar couldn’t find relief with any of the diagnoses or prescriptions he received. Late one night, the commercial about low testosterone came on, prompting him to ask his doctor for a testosterone screen the next day. Turns out, Tigar was low on the male hormone, and his doctor gave him a testosterone shot. Within a week he was back to himself—after an excruciating seven-year ordeal. While Tigar was lucky to find an answer for his troubles, testosterone is not a solution for every man. Here are 10 questions men should definitely ask doctors about testosterone.
Men’s health: Know your limitations
Writer Scott Deuty‘s health journey has taken many twists and turns over the past 50-something years. But two lessons stand out: Protect your body, and don’t let injuries stop you. “I injured my back weightlifting 20 years ago due to lifting improperly,” says Deuty, author of Secrets of an Over 50 Former Fat Man. “As a result, I have a slight paralysis in my right leg. I opted not to have surgery as I wasn’t in pain and didn’t want to risk additional injury. My only limitations are slight weakness in my right leg which mainly affects my ability to control a ski.” Think that sort of thing won’t happen to you? “The human body has limitations that shouldn’t be ignored,” says Deuty. “There are many examples of those who didn’t take this advice and now have paid the price with permanent injuries. I fortunately have none.”
- Preventive Medicine, "Masculinity in the doctor's office: Masculinity, gendered doctor preference and doctor-patient communication"
- Journal of Health Psychology, "Masculinity impediments: Internalized masculinity contributes to healthcare avoidance in men and women"
- Jasper Cole, actor and producer
- Todd Bridges, actor, producer, director
- Michael Tischler, DDS, a dentist in Woodstock, NY
- John Goodman, a public relations specialist based in Tuckahoe, NY
- Joel Kahn, MD, an integrative cardiologist and head of Kahn Center for Cardiac Longevity in Bingham Farms, MI
- Jim Tigar, a retired fireman
- Scott Deuty, author of Secrets of an Over 50 Former Fat Man