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Men: Do You Need a Health Tune-Up?

Guys are notorious for skimping on self-care. But "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" doesn't work when it comes to your health. Here's what to do instead.
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WebMD Magazine - Feature

Guys, you are not invincible. That's the message men's health experts wish you would learn. The earlier, the better. You already know the drill: That means a good diet, frequent exercise, and routine trips to the doctor. But it's often not until men are into their 60s, after decades of self-neglect, that their thinking begins to change.

"That's when they start to see changes that are not ideal and start to make caring for themselves a more regular practice," says Ajay Nehra, MD, a urologist and men's health expert at the Mayo Clinic. "The attitude among men is, 'If it's not broken, why fix it?'"

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It's time to adjust that attitude before things do begin to break, at an age when it's often harder to fix them. Here is our guy's guide to helping you start taking better care of yourself.

Checkups for Men

Routine checkups are the backbone of preventive health care, yet a large government survey found that few men regularly see a doctor. And when a man does finally get to the doctor? It's only after his significant other has put her foot down. "Spouses and partners are the drivers that force men to get evaluated," says Nehra.

Scott Fields, MD, a family medicine specialist at Oregon Health & Science University, sees that same reluctance to focus on long-term health and its maintenance among his male patients. "Men in their 20s and 30s are still in the mode that they are pretty invincible," says Fields. "For that age, I focus on lifestyle issues such as alcohol and recreational drug use, smoking, and unsafe sex. If you can get all that behind them, you can help them with their long-term health."

But too often, says Fields, men favor "denial and avoidance" when it comes to their health care, at least until they can no longer ignore whatever's ailing them. Fields says it's often fear of cancer or heart problems that finally gets them into his office.

"Most of the time, the fear is just that -- fear," Fields says. "It's something we can reassure them about." But Fields has a bigger goal, "getting men acculturated to the concept that having ongoing health care and health maintenance is an important part of staying healthy."

Exercise for Men

The latest guidelines say you need at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise five days a week. That means cardio training, whether it's walking fast, running, rowing, or biking -- anything that will make you sweat and get your heart really pumping. Strength training is important as well, so at least twice a week, add some weights, resistance bands, or body weight exercises such as push-ups and pull-ups to your routine.

But among guys who already exercise, says Fields, too many focus their efforts on lifting weights to the exclusion of everything else. "You see more guys in the weight room and more women doing cardio," says Fields. "The numbers should be equal."

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