By Marcus Williams
After 40, men’s leading causes of death include familiar standbys: heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, suicide, and Alzheimer’s disease.
To reduce your risks of dying from these preventable killers, make these crucial changes in your everyday life:
Numerous surveys have shown that married men, especially men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, are healthier and have lower death rates than those who never married or who are divorced or widowed. Never-married men are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease, for example. After 50, divorced men’s health deteriorates rapidly compared to married men’s, found a RAND Center for the Study of Aging report.
What’s the magic in the ring? The social connectedness of marriage may lower stress levels and depression, which lead to chronic illness. (Women tend to have more social ties outside of marriage.)
Unmarried men generally have poorer health habits, too — they drink more, eat worse, get less medical care, and engage in more risky behaviors (think drugs and promiscuous sex). Exception: It’s better to be single than in a strained relationship, probably because of the stress toll, say researchers in Student BMJ.
It’s never too late. Men who marry after 25 tend to live longer than those who wed young. And the longer a fellow stays married, the greater the boost to his well-being.
Poor nutrition is linked with heart disease, diabetes, and cancer — leading causes of death in men over 40. Younger midlife men often over-rely on red meat, junk food, and fast food to fuel a busy lifestyle, which leads to excess weight, high cholesterol, hypertension, and other risk factors. Older men living alone and alcoholics are vulnerable to malnutrition, because they tend not to prepare healthy food for themselves.
Until around 2000, more women were obese than men — but guys are catching up. In 2010, 35.5 percent of men were obese, up from 27.5 percent in 2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The American Dietetic Association recommends a reasonable 2,000 calories a day for men over 50 who are sedentary, up to 2,400 for those who are active. What comprises those calories is up to you.
Men generally have more car accidents than women, and men in their 50s and 60s are twice as likely as women to die in car wrecks. Unintentional injuries (of all kinds) are the top cause of death among men ages 40 to 44, the third main cause in men ages 45 to 64, and cause #8 in men 65-plus.
Among middle-aged men, fatalities are more likely to result from falling asleep at the wheel, exceeding the speed limit, getting into an accident at an intersection or on weekends after midnight — all factors that don’t have a significant effect on the injury levels of middle-aged women, according to a 2007 Purdue University study on how age and gender affect driving. Men over age 45 have more accidents on snow and ice, too.
Older men fare better than men under age 45 on dry roads, where younger drivers crash more (perhaps due to overconfidence, the Purdue researchers say).
Treat Depression ASAP
Although women are three times more likely to attempt suicide than men, men are more successful at it, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In 2009, 79 percent of all suicides were men. Suicide rates for men spike after age 65; seven times more men over 65 commit suicide than their female peers.
More than 60 percent of all those who die by suicide have major depression. If you include alcoholics, that number rises to 75 percent. In older adults, social isolation is another key contributing factor — which is why older suicides are often widowers.
Men often equate depression with “sadness” or other emotions — and fail to realize that common warning signs of depression include fatigue or excessive sleep, agitation and restlessness, trouble concentrating, irritability, and changes in appetite or sleep.
Depression is treatable at any age, and most cases are responsive to treatment, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
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