Healthy ageing for men

A complete guide for all ages

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Chapter 01

Men’s healthy ageing

All men want to live a little longer, right? Most importantly, all men want to look and feel physically healthy in their own bodies. Luckily, there are things you can do to take care of your health no matter which age milestone you’ve reached, whether that’s finding a way to become more motivated, or quitting that bad habit you’ve been struggling to let go of. You deserve to make your health a priority.

Why is healthy ageing so important?

Healthy ageing isn’t necessarily about maximising your life expectancy. Instead, the World Health Organisation (WHO) sees healthy ageing as “the process of developing and maintaining the functional ability that enables wellbeing in older age.” WHO continues by explaining that having good functional ability means you are a capable person with a good quality of life, including one that:

  • Meets your basic needs
  • Allows you to learn, grow and make decisions
  • Allows you to be mobile
  • Allows you to build and maintain relationships
  • Allows you to contribute to society

Good health as we age […] allows us to remain independent, to work and be involved in our local community, to maintain relationships with friends and family, and to carry out activities that give us meaning and purpose.

- The Centre for Ageing Better
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General tips for all ages

In this guide, we’ve sectioned our best health tips by age group. But first, let’s look at the general top tips that men of any age can do to improve their health.

1. Prioritise sleep

Never underestimate how important sleep is for the general functioning of your body. It’s recommended that the majority of male adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Prioritise sleep by creating a calm, inviting space in your bedroom and going to bed at the same time whenever possible.

Here are some of the main reasons why sleep is so important for the human body:

  • The body recharges and conserves energy.
  • Muscles and cells regrow and repair.
  • The brain rids itself of toxins.
  • The immune system is boosted.

Source: Health Line

2. Cut out bad habits

Taking charge of your lifestyle and cutting out health-damageing habits is the first line of defence against growing older before your time. You may think that the bad habits you can’t quite shake off aren’t speeding up the ageing process right now, but they will eventually impair your physical wellbeing.

Some of the habits that can make you age faster include:

  • Not eating enough fruits and vegetables
  • Lack of exercise or movement
  • Crash dieting
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Smoking cigarettes or cigars
  • Keeping stress inside instead of talking about it

Source: Everydayhealth

man in bed illustration
You can break your bad habits by following these steps:

Identify what makes you want to indulge in the bad habit. For example, you could be a social smoker, or find yourself snacking more than usual when things are difficult at work.

Think about the outcome of the bad habit. Is it worth it in the long run? Or does it just provide temporary comfort?

Find something positive to replace the bad habit. For example, if you’re a social smoker, you might be craving interaction with others, rather than a cigarette, so seek out conversations without heading outside to smoke.

3. Get moving!

Along with healthy eating, exercise is the most important thing any man can do to maintain a healthy heart and keep body fat percentage to a minimum.

However, government research showed that from 2018 to 2019, only 65.3% of men in the UK were ‘physically active’, which means over a third of British men in the UK were not doing the recommended 50–300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week.

Most experts will agree that you’re never too old to do some form of physical activity. WebMD suggests you vary the type of exercise you do, particularly an “age-appropriate mix of aerobics, muscle-training, and stretching.” In this guide, we’ll point out certain exercise types that are specifically beneficial for each age group.

Chapter 02

YOUR 20s:
YOUNG ADULT MEN

Your early 20s are often a time of partying, when perhaps health isn’t considered a priority. Instead, this period is seen as an opportunity to live life to the fullest, consequently impacting your short and long-term health, whether you’re conscious of it or not. Ultimately, it’s reckless to assume you can reverse the damage later on. You can still have fun, but it’s never too early to take good care of your future self.

Young men posing for photo illustration
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The best health tips for your 20s

1. Don’t think you’re invincible

Just because you’re young with a spring still in your step, that doesn’t mean you’re invincible and unsusceptible to major health problems. The choices you make in your 20s play a role in your health later on in life, especially when it comes to your cardiovascular health.

In fact, a 2012 study found that male 20-somethings who had significantly healthy lifestyles (regularly exercised and ate healthy diets) massively lowered their risks of heart disease in later life.

Young men posing for photo illustration
2. Cut down on the booze

One of the biggest and best changes you can make to your lifestyle is to cut down on your alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol can affect your judgment, decision-making, coordination, speech and vision in the short-term, and lead to health conditions like high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, pancreatitis, dementia and cancer in the long-term.

Research conducted by Drink Aware showed that 24% of men in the UK have a weekly alcohol consumption of more than 14 units. That’s nearly a quarter of British men drinking more than the recommended weekly amount. What’s more, 29% of men were classed as binge drinkers, defined by the NHS as drinking more than eight units of alcohol in a single session (six for women).

Cutting down on the booze is a life-preserving choice that Drink Aware states will reduce the long-term risk of developing serious illnesses, such as cancer and liver and heart disease.

24%

of men in the UK have a weekly alcohol consumption of more than 14 units.

29%

of men were classed as binge drinkers

3. Get the HPV vaccine

Research by YouGov found that people in their late 20s are most sexually active out of any age group in the UK. Further 2020 research also found that 70% of men were classified as having had unsafe sex in the past year.

It’s important to look after your sexual health, both for your safety and that of any sexual partners you have. This includes getting any vaccines that are available, such as the HPV vaccine, and also going to regular sexual health screenings to test for STIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, genital herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV).

Being attentive to your sexual health is especially important if you are sexually active with multiple partners. According to Cancer Research UK, 8 in 10 sexually active people contract the HPV virus at some point in their lives. Getting the HPV vaccine can protect men from the various HPV types that cause penile, head, neck, and anal cancers in males later on in life.

70%

of men were classified as having had unsafe sex in the past year.

8 in 10

sexually active people contract the HPV virus at some point in their lives.

What medical issues should you look out for?

Testicular cancer

Around 1 in 260 men will develop testicular cancer in their life. Testicular cancer is particularly prevalent in younger men. In fact, it’s the most common type of cancer among men aged between 15 and 49. Thankfully, testicular cancer is also one of the most treatable cancers, with over 98% of men surviving for five years or longer after diagnosis.

Visit the NHS website for more information on the symptoms you can look out for, and remember to check your testicles at least once a month.

Diabetes

Unhealthy and overweight young men may find that their bad habits cause the onset of diabetes. Some of the biggest signs of diabetes to look out for include excessive thirst and urination, blurred vision, and overwhelming tiredness.

Drug and alcohol addiction

270,075 adults made contact with drug and alcohol treatment services between 2019 to 2020. More than two-thirds of these adults were men, and over 34,000 were aged 20-29. Although men aged 35-39 were most likely to be in treatment, it’s also worth pointing out that addiction issues are often the result of long-term mental health issues. Therefore, men in their 20s should always consciously think ahead about the potential future consequences of binge drinking and drug use.

Skin cancer

Actinic keratosis (commonly known as AK) is a type of pre-cancer that is common in young men. AKs are described by Men’s Health as “small, scaly white bumps that often appear in little clusters.” Although they are not as dangerous as more aggressive forms of skin cancer like melanoma, young men should always pay attention to moles and spots that seem to be changing.

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Chapter 03

YOUR 30s: ADULT MEN

You know what they say: “Your 30s are your new 20s.” But does that remark actually ring true? Well, you’re always as youthful as you feel, but that unfortunately doesn’t mean you won’t start to encounter certain changes to your body when your 30s come around.

Most noticeably, your body might take longer to heal and you’ll likely have to work a little harder in the gym to shed the pounds, too. But not to worry, there’s always things you can be doing to stay healthy.

Man benchpressing weights illustration

The best health tips for your 30s

1. Manage your stress levels

Your 30s is a time when you might feel like you’re supposed to have got it all together. Your career might be peaking, but that may mean you’re working super diligently to accomplish your career goals, at the expense of your mental and physical health.

The most common type of stress in the UK is work-related stress. In fact, 2020 research showed that 79% of respondents said they frequently felt stressed at work. A further 2020 survey showed that work-related anxiety and depression has significantly increased too, with over 828,000 workers suffering from chronic stress in 2019-2020.

It’s time to pay attention to your stress levels. One way of doing this is to fit mindful relaxation into a daily stress management routine. The small things matter, like practising breathing exercises and learning yoga, which will both enhance your peace of mind, and just making time to relax and rest after a busy day.

Man benchpressing weights illustration
2. Focus on resistance strength training

A study conducted by Harvard Health Publishing found that by the time they reach 30, most men will start to lose 3-5% of muscle mass per decade. In medical terms, this process is known as sarcopenia, and although it’s a natural part of male ageing, a lot of men may find it difficult to accept, especially dedicated gym-goers who now find they have to work even harder.

To build and preserve as much muscle as possible, Men’s Health suggests focussing on slow-form strength training when keeping fit, including slower tempo movements which are safer for joints, but still allow you to maintain a high intensity.

3-5%

of muscle mass will be lost by men per decade

3. Watch your testosterone levels

According to Mayo Clinic, male testosterone levels typically peak in adolescence and decline by 1% each year, starting around the age of 30. Although average testosterone levels in males will differ with each individual, it’s still important to watch out for the signs of rapidly declining or low testosterone (commonly known as Low T).

Some common symptoms of low testosterone include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Brain fog
  • Decreased libido
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Enlarged breasts
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Rapid hair loss
  • Reduced muscle mass and increased body fat

Source: Health Line

1%

decline in testosterone each year, starting around the age of 30.

What medical issues should you look out for?

Infertility

It’s broadly agreed by medical experts that male infertility rates increase significantly with age. A 2011 study also found that sperm quality and quantity levels are most likely to decrease once a male reaches their mid-30s.

As well as age, Mayo Clinic also states that poor health and inherited genetics are both big factors that can influence male infertility in your 30s. Therefore, it’s vital you stay healthy and speak to a doctor if you are ever concerned about your chances of conception with a partner.

Heart disease

Looking after your heart is the number one thing any man can do to age healthily. After all, your heart is the most vital muscle in your body – even more vital than any big bicep, believe it or not! So once you’ve reached your 30s, taking care of your ticker should take precedence.

With your metabolism slowing down by 10% each decade, the probability of you putting on excess weight will increase, and this weight gain will start to increase your cholesterol levels and put unwanted strain on your heart. So to increase your metabolism, keep blood pressure to a minimum, and prevent the onset of heart disease, you must eat well, have a regular exercise routine, and stay hydrated.

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Chapter 04

Your 40s: Middle-aged men

Once you’ve reached the age of 40, it’s time to get even more serious about cutting out bad habits in order to remain at peak health. Your body most likely won’t feel as indestructible as it once did.

Your 40s is when most men will start to notice the outward physical signs of ageing too, like wrinkles and saggy skin, but it’s what’s going on inside that matters the most. Ultimately, you should know the importance of health and wellbeing now that you’re older and wiser.

Male and female doctors illustration

The best health tips for your 40s

1. Watch your waistline

Looking after your heart is even more important in your 40s. The British Heart Foundation has found that heart disease is the number-one killer of men aged 45-54. What’s more, 1 in 8 UK men die from heart disease. You’ll have a better chance of staying healthy if you hit your 40s with the motivation to stay fit and keep your waistline trim.

To do so, you can essentially eat yourself healthy by sustaining a balanced diet that swaps out any high-fat and high-sugar food for more nutrition-packed and fibre-rich fruits and vegetables. It’s really as simple as that. GQ magazine states a man requires at least 30g of fibre every day, but the average male eats just 18g. So, up your fibre levels with good foods like broccoli, wholegrain cereals, and beans and pulses. Plus, don’t forget to continue your resistance strength training.

2. Never skip the doctor

Once a man turns 40 in the UK, they should be invited to a free general check-up with a doctor every five years.

However, along with your general check-ups, you should also get into the habit of visiting your doctor whenever you have any major concerns about your health, especially if it’s related to your heart or your prostate (both parts of the male body which become increasingly at risk as you age). Never skip important screenings, and don’t be afraid of talking about uncomfortable subjects regarding sensitive areas – doctors have seen and heard it all.

Male and female doctors illustration
3. Take care of your mind too

A lot of men are notoriously like closed books when it comes to opening up about how they’re truly feeling inside. With 1 in 8 men having some form of common mental health problem (ie. anxiety, depression, panic disorder, etc.), it’s important that every man has someone to talk to, and feels comfortable seeking medical help or advice if they are suffering inside. Taking care of your mind is as important as taking care of your physical body.

As part of their 2021 Mental Health Awareness Week promotion, Men’s Health said:

“A therapist’s couch or cathartic gym session may be no-gos for now, but there are plenty of mood-boosters well within reach—including at-home workouts, meditation apps, and robust telehealth platforms […]. There’s no time like the present to start your mental health transformation. After all, what other plans do you have today?”

- Men’s Health

1 in 8

men have some form of common mental health problem

What medical issues should you look out for?

Depression

Poor mental health is a huge killer for men in the UK, especially amongst older men aged 40 or over. Research shows that men aged 45-49 have the highest suicide rates amongst any age or gender in the whole of the UK. If you are suffering with suicidal thoughts or feelings, there are plenty of mental health support services you can reach out to, including the Samaritans, who offer many forms of contact (phone, email, letter, or through the app) for you to speak to one of their friendly and compassionate team members.

Increased blood pressure

According to Blood Pressure UK, 1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure, and men are the most at risk (31% of all adult men). With high blood pressure typically being more common in older people, it’s important that you attend general health check-ups and adopt a lifestyle that lowers your blood pressure as much as possible. Men’s Health suggests you practice the following lifestyle changes:

  • Minimise your alcohol and caffeine intake
  • Minimise your salt intake
  • Practise deep breathing (to decrease stress hormones)
  • Swap high-fat treats for low-fat treats (e.g. swap milk chocolate for dark chocolate)
  • Take supplements (including coenzyme Q10)

Prostate cancer

1 in 8 UK men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in their lifetime. And more than 47,500 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer every year – that’s 129 men every single day.

According to Prostate Cancer UK, there are three main risk factors associated with prostate cancer diagnosis, including getting older, family genetics, and ethnicity. Although prostate cancer mostly affects men over the age of 50, if you are in your 40s and have any symptoms, it’s vital that you speak to your doctor about your concerns. The main early symptoms of prostate cancer include:

  • An increased urgency to urinate
  • A sense of straining whilst you urinate
  • A continuous feeling that your bladder isn’t empty

Source: NHS

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Chapter 05

Your 50s and beyond: Mature men

Just because you’re now considered mature, that doesn’t mean you can’t feel just as fit and healthy as a man who’s half your age. You might be put off by the fact that you have to work twice as hard, but the payoff is also twice as important now.

Remember that age is essentially just a number. With the UK’s average male life expectancy in 2020 sitting comfortably at 78.7 years, most men who reach their 50s still have nearly 30 years or more left of life.

Older man exercising illustration

The best health tips for your 50s and beyond

Older man exercising illustration
1. Drink more water

We’ve already mentioned how important it is for you to maintain a balanced and nutrition-packed diet to age healthily, but water is just as important for ensuring you stay looking and feeling young too. A 2020 study by the Journal of Physiology found that hydration is vital for regulating body temperature and also improves the functioning of your body’s organs.

Dr. Rand McClain, the founder of Regenerative & Sports Medicine, told Healthline that older people need to be particularly mindful of hydration, especially older men: “They are less likely to be wary and more likely to ignore signs of dehydration and heat-related illness. […] We need water for everything to operate smoothly and at its best. Even being slightly dehydrated to 98% of normal can affect one’s metabolism negatively.”

2. Focus on the right kinds of exercise

Regular exercise is important for a man of any decade. However, once you’ve reached a certain age, achieving some of your exercise goals becomes challenging, whether that’s gaining muscle mass or losing pounds of fat. That’s why exercise in your 50s should centre around mobility, flexibility and wellbeing, rather than aesthetics. LiveStrong suggests men in their 50s should focus on light cardio (swimming or walking) and also continue resistance strength training in order to minimise natural muscle loss.

Taking the time to stretch, improve your flexibility, and strengthen your core abdominal muscles is also super important for staying supple and mobile. Wojtek J. Chodzko-Zajko of the University of Illinois says exercise should become part of every man’s retirement plan.

Decades of being sedentary and poor nutrition will manifest as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and diabetes, but it’s never too late.

- Wojtek J. Chodzko-Zajko of the University of Illinois
3. Keep your brain active

Along with physically training your body, take the time to mentally train your brain too. According to Age UK, exercising your brain with specially-designed cognitive games and puzzles will help you remain sharp and attentive by exercising your thinking skills. Although research evidence is inconclusive, Dr Alan Gow of Heriot-Watt University says anyone who enjoys mentally stimulating brain training should absolutely continue. You can practice brain training via apps such as Elevate and Peak, or even through methods like learning a new language.

What medical issues should you look out for?

Osteoarthritis

Studies show that at least 50% of people aged 65 and over have some form of osteoarthritis. Although osteoarthritis is more common in women, a quarter of men aged between 45 and 64 have sought treatment for osteoarthritis. This percentage increases to 50% in people aged 75 and over.

Osteoarthritis can be caused by a range of factors, including genetics and injury trauma. Joint pain brought on by osteoarthritis will likely worsen with age too. Along with pain, other symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • A grating or crackling sound in the joint
  • Increased stiffness of the joint
  • Limited movement of the joint
  • Tenderness around the joint

Respiratory problems

As you age, looking after your lungs should become a priority. Along with asthma, there are various other chronic respiratory conditions and illnesses that become increasingly threatening as you age, including emphysema, lung cancer and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). According to estimated numbers, respiratory diseases in the UK caused 161 deaths per 100,000 people in 2018. Approximately a quarter of all 75-79 year olds had an underlying and undiagnosed respiratory disease as well.

Colon cancer

Along with prostate examinations, colon cancer screenings can also potentially help save a life once you’ve reached the age of 50. A lot of men may fear colon cancer screenings because of the pain and discomfort, but shame and embarrassment should always be cast aside.

According to Cancer Research UK, bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in men. In fact, 1 in 15 UK males will be diagnosed with bowel cancer in their lifetime. The risk of colon cancer increases with age too, with 44% of all new bowel cancer cases being people aged 75 and over.

With bowel cancer being so prevalent in older men, you should always be vigilant in looking out for symptoms. More than 90% of people with bowel cancer will experience at least one of the following symptoms:

  • Blood in your stools.
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort (most commonly bloating).
  • A continuous change in bowel habits (looser stools, going to the toilet more often)

Source: NHS

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Chapter 06

Useful links & resources