Men  s Health at Every Age

It’s never too soon to start taking care of your health. But while this concept often seems natural for women, many men ignore their health concerns until they suddenly find themselves dealing with a serious illness that might have been prevented—or at least better managed—if it had been addressed sooner.

How to Take Control of Your Health at Every Age

Abraham Morgentaler, MD, Founder and Director, Men’s Health Boston, Associate Clinical Professor of Urology at Harvard Medical School, and author of Why Men Fake It: The Totally Unexpected Truth About Men and Sex, offers some recommendations for men on how to take care of their health at different life stages:

In Your 20s: "The good thing about the 20s is that the serious health concerns affecting men are rare," Morgentaler says. "However, it's a good age to be getting into the swing of taking care of oneself." Men with family histories of heart disease and cancer in particular should begin relationships with physicians at this stage to identify risk factors, and also to take steps that may reduce risk. Morgentaler says that for many men in their 20s, smoking tobacco and excessive alcohol use can have a serious impact on their health later on. Therefore, it’s wise to pay attention to how much you drink, and practice moderation. If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you select the best cessation method to break the habit now, before it’s too late.

In Your 30s: "The 30s are still a relatively healthy age for men," Morgentaler says. However, many risk factors that will become important over the next 10 to 20 years begin to come into play during this time. For instance, "High blood pressure, cholesterol and other lipid issues, diabetes, and obesity can all show up during this time, and identifying these issues and addressing them now may add years of quality life down the road," Morgentaler says. So it’s important to get regular physicals and talk to your doctor about any health concerns—this will allow you to address problems while they are more easily managed.

In Your 40s: "Men in their 40s may notice that erections may not be quite as firm or frequent as before, while urination may slow down or become more frequent," Morgentaler says. "It’s also an important age to start exercising, if one hasn't already been doing so, as men start to become more sedentary as they age and it becomes all too easy to gain weight." You’ll also want to continue getting regular physicals, and stay on top of any health concerns your doctor has raised.

In Your 50s and Beyond: "For many men, being in their 50s will be the best time of their lives," Morgentaler points out. "Many of the stresses of young families are gone, and by and large their bodies are still vital and strong." From a physical perspective, in your 50s early heart disease can show up, and you may find yourself waking up at night to urinate. In addition, joint issues may become more troublesome.

"It's also not unusual for erectile dysfunction to occur in this age range, and for levels of testosterone to decline, reducing sexual desire and that sense of vitality," Morgentaler says. The best way for men in their 50s and beyond to take care of themselves is to follow recommended guidelines for prostate cancer checks, as well as staying on top of blood pressure, lipid levels, and blood chemistry to make sure everything is normal. Morgentaler adds that physical activity, at least three times a week for more than 30 minutes at a time, is critical.

Avoid Stress, Enjoy Sex

With the hectic, high-pressure lifestyle many men lead, stress can be a serious concern at any age. "Research has clearly shown that stress has a negative effect on blood pressure, heart rate, and overall health," Morgentaler says. "That’s why I think it’s so important for men to find some way to let things go for at least 30 minutes each day. This can mean a strenuous game of tennis, a brisk walk, meditation, or simply shutting everything down—phones, computer, whatever—and taking some time to do a crossword."

It’s also important for men to accept their sexuality as a part of their lives, since it can promote better health and even help them to live longer: "Sexuality is a normal part of who we are, and can be one of the healthiest parts of a relationship. It [sex] burns calories, gets the heart rate up, and creates a magic within the partnership that cannot be matched in any other way," Morgentaler adds.

Abraham Morgentaler, MD, reviewed this article.


Abraham Morgentaler, MD, Founder and Director, Men's Health Boston, Associate Clinical Professor of Urology at Harvard Medical School, and author of Why Men Fake It: The Totally Unexpected Truth About Men and Sex. Email interview, April 24, 2014.