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Top 6 Men's Health Questions

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WebMD Magazine - Feature

Guys, it's never too late to start taking care of your health. It's also never too early. Too many men, however, fail to make health maintenance a part of their MO. Buck that trend and get proactive. Start by bringing up these six questions with your doctor.

1. Do I always have to watch my diet?

Yes, most days. A day off once a week is fine -- that's realistic. But eating right most of the time is an essential part of taking care of yourself.

Raul Seballos, MD, the Cleveland Clinic's vice chair of preventive medicine, says no matter how much you work out, you can't maintain a healthy weight unless you stick to a healthy diet. So be sure to satisfy your appetite with good-for-you foods, and make an effort to keep an eye on calories.

"Men are often surprised that even though they are exercising four days a week, they are not losing weight," Seballos says. "Exercise is great. But if they can't tell me the number of calories they are getting, I know they are not watching their diet. You have to eat three meals a day, but it's all about portion control -- that's the key." For example, he says, many men drink beer. To burn off the 150 or so calories in one can of beer, the typical man needs to jog a mile in less than 10 minutes or do 15 minutes of stair climbing.

Brett White, MD, a family medicine specialist at Oregon Health & Science University, says men tend to pay attention to numbers such as test results when he discusses their health with them. "I really stress the objective evidence that tells me something is wrong," he says. "If they have a fasting blood sugar level of 115, for example, I tell them that they will likely develop diabetes if they stay on that path." Then he gives them specific targets and a specific diet to help meet those targets.

2. Why do I need to exercise?

It's simple: To get or stay fit, you have to get and stay active. According to the latest federal guidelines, that means a cardio workout of at least 30 sweat-inducing minutes five days a week plus two days of dumbbell workouts or other weight-training activity to build and maintain muscles. Crunched for time? Kick up the intensity to vigorous exercise, such as jogging, riding a bike fast, or playing singles tennis, and you can get your cardio workout in just 25 minutes three days a week.

Exercise protects against so many conditions -- from heart disease to colon cancer to depression -- that the best choice is to start exercising now, no matter how healthy you think you are. But if you're older than 45, discuss your exercise plans with your doctor before you start. Together, you can tailor a workout your body can handle and benefit from.

Seballos says simple steps can have a significant impact, especially if you're just starting to get in shape after a long stint as a couch potato. So park your car farther from work than normal and walk the extra distance. Climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator. He advises many patients to wear a pedometer to measure how many steps they take each day. A good daily goal to shoot for is 10,000 steps.

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