The Worst Health Mistakes Men Make

These unhealthy habits could be shaving years off of your life expectancy. Here's how to turn things around.

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Health mistakes men make - man seeing doctor
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Avoiding the doctor

Men seek a doctor’s advice less often than women. Statistics Canada and the Canadian Community Health Survey found that women were more likely to consult with their GP, return for follow-up visits, and meet with a specialist.

Dr. Jonathan Kerr, a Belleville, Ontario family physician says that part of this hesitance is down to gender. “There’s the tough guy mentality. Men have a harder time talking about things that are personal or emotional because it makes them feel less manly,” he says. As teens or young adults, females start visiting their doctor regularly for annual pap smear appointments.

Because males don’t grow up with yearly health check-ups, they’re more likely to avoid the doctor’s office—even when something is wrong. “Men are better at denial than women, less willing to ask for help and will often present with symptoms much later than women would,” says Dr. Kerr. The result can be serious health consequences.

Fix the mistake:

Dr. Kerr recommends that men have a preventative health discussion with their doctor once a year. The GP will discuss diet, lifestyle habits—including alcohol and smoking—and whether any tests are necessary. “As men get older, we’re looking at prostate and colon cancer, diabetes and elevated cholesterol. All really important discussions to have with your doctor,” says Dr. Kerr.

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Man eating hamburger
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Poor eating habits

A Statistics Canada report on Canadian eating habits discovered that adult men were more likely to frequent fast food restaurants than their female counterparts. A fast food diet “is high in salt, fat and carbs, plus it’s low in nutritional value,” says Dr. Kerr. As a result, he says “Men are putting themselves at an increased risk for hypertension, high blood pressure, increased cholesterol, coronary artery disease and diabetes.”

Men also eat more red meat than women according to a study published in the journal of the American Sociological Association. Diets high in beef, pork and lamb can lead to an increased risk of heart disease and colon cancer.

Fix the mistake:

Men should load up their plates with fibre, fruit, vegetables and lean protein such as fish. Carbs, red meat and fatty foods should be limited. To stock healthy foods at home, Dr. Kerr suggests a simple shopping strategy: “Stick to the outside edges of the grocery store and you’ll find the healthiest foods—fresh produce, bread, milk products and lean meat.” The aisles in the middle of the store feature processed, packaged items that are high in unhealthy salt and fat, and low in nutritional value.

Don’t miss our ultimate guide to healthy grocery shopping.

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Man sweltering under hot summer sun
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Skipping out on sun protection

More men than women are diagnosed with skin cancer. The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that 1 in 42 men will develop skin cancer during their lifetime compared to 1 in 56 women. Similarly, mortality rates associated with melanoma are also higher in men.

Statistics show that the number of men dying from this disease is doubling while the rates for female mortality have stabilized. Many of these deaths could have been prevented with sunscreen use. “Maybe it’s for macho reasons, guys don’t like breaking out the sunscreen when they play sports, or work outside,” says Dr. Kerr.

Fix the mistake:

Dr. Kerr says that men and women of all ages should wear sunscreen regularly. “One bad burn can increase your risk for skin cancer many times over,” he says. Taking the time to slather on sunscreen could save your life.

Discover the signs of cancer men are likely to ignore.

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Mature man brushing teeth in mirror
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Failing to floss

According to a study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health, men are 26% less likely to floss their teeth than women. What’s more, men are 40% less likely to brush their teeth after every meal. “We know that brushing, plus flossing decreases cavities when compared to brushing alone,” says Dr. Kerr.

“Perhaps men aren’t used to spending as much time in the bathroom getting ready.” Poor oral hygiene can trigger cavities, gum infections and tooth loss. Over time, periodontal disease can in turn contribute to diabetes, respiratory illness and cardiovascular disease.

Fix the mistake:

Dr. Kerr recommends that men make the time to floss. Even flossing once daily—at bedtime—can make a big impact on your dental and overall health.

Here are 13 secrets Canadian dentists want you to know.

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Drunk driving concept
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Adopting high-risk behaviour

Driving an all-terrain vehicle under the influence of alcohol, performing DIY projects without proper safety precautions, attempting outlandish stunts shown on TV—studies have shown that men are more apt than women to adopt high-risk behaviour.

“It’s related to upbringing,” notes Dr. Kerr. “Little boys are often encouraged to jump higher while little girls are taught to play nicely. [Risky behaviour] causes a lot of health issues and long-term implications.” Those injuries and health issues resulting from high-risk behaviour could translate into time off work, permanent disability, depression and financial hardship.

Fix the mistake:

The solution is simple. Think twice before attempting any high-risk behaviour that could jeopardize your health. Stay safe—and stay out of the hospital emergency room.

Next up, a urologist answers men’s most embarrassing sexual health questions.

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