To live a long and healthy life, it helps to have a plan, to know what you need to do — and how to do it — to avoid disease or significant damage to your health. Len Horovitz, MD, an internal medicine specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, recommends you start with annual trips to your doctor.
“I like to see older guys once a year,” Horovitz says.
One of the biggest concerns they bring to him: prostate cancer, for which the average age of diagnosis is 66. But the benefits of screening for prostate cancer remain debatable. The disease often grows so slowly that men live perfectly healthy lives despite its presence. Screening, testing, and treatment may cause unnecessary physical and emotional harm, such as urinary incontinence, impotence, and anxiety. On the other hand, prostate cancer can be deadly. It’s complicated.
“Have a thorough discussion with your doctor about whether you want to be screened,” Horovitz says. The American Cancer Society recommends that you have this discussion at age 50. Because of their heightened risk, African American men and men whose father or brother had prostate cancer before age 65 should talk to their doctor at age 45. Men with more than one first-degree relative with early prostate cancer should raise the topic at age 40.
Horovitz often reminds his male patients that other cancers also should concern them. The CDC advises men ages 55 to 80 who are current heavy smokers or who quit smoking within the past 15 years to get a low dose CT lung scan each year. Also, men between the ages of 50 and 75 should get tested for colon cancer. How often depends on the type of test your doctor orders for you.
In addition to cancer, Horovitz counsels older men to care for their hearts. For many of them, that means adjusting longtime lifestyle habits, like poor nutrition and lack of exercise. Eating right and working out regularly will help protect you from diabetes, obesity, hypertension, all of which increase the chance of heart disease, Horovitz says.
And, of course, he wants men to remain able to perform in the bedroom. Erectile dysfunction not only makes that more difficult. It also may be a sign of heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure and atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. Don’t be shy about talking to your doctor if you have trouble achieving or maintaining an erection.
Finally, Horovitz says, prepare for retirement mentally and emotionally. His best advice: “Have a creative life away from your job, outside of your career, which you can practice after you retire,” he says. “Most men who haven’t thought out a plan find themselves in front of the television.”
Questions for Your Doctor
What can I do to get and stay in shape even if I’m confined to my home?
Inside, climb the stairs, find exercise videos on YouTube, or join a gym that offers classes remotely via Skype or Zoom. Exercise is available to everyone.
Should I be concerned about sleep?
You need seven to 8 hours of good sleep every night. If your bed partner says you snore and you don’t feel rested during the day, talk to your doctor about sleep apnea, which troubles sleep by interrupting your breathing.
How do I stay inspired to maintain healthy habits?
There’s no pill to stay motivated, but it can help to make it a team effort. Get your spouse or partner involved, and you both can inspire each other.
How much weight do I need to lose?
You want your body mass index (BMI) below 25. Above that, you’re overweight or obese. Set small, reasonable goals, like losing your first 5 pounds, that you can reach easily.
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