Guys, be honest: When was the last time you went to the doctor? If you can’t remember, you’re in good company – but that’s probably not a good thing. Worldwide, men are more likely to experience worse health outcomes than women for a variety of reasons, including the stigma of illness and a reluctance to see a doctor and report important symptoms. Fortunately, one of the perks of being alive in 2017 is having access to tools, startups, and research designed to help us track our health, find a good healthcare provider, and optimize productivity and weight-loss strategies.
Here are four ways men can take advantage of new tech and science to optimize their health and improve their chances of living the good life.
Find a doctor faster
According to the American Heart Association, one of the top reasons men don’t go to the doctor is … they don’t have one! Finding a good doctor can seem daunting task considering all of the variables: Do they take my insurance? Are they in a convenient location? Do they get good feedback from patients? Fortunately, Zocdoc makes it easy to find doctors that meet your criteria. Just enter the type of doctor you need, your zip code, and your insurance provider, and you’ll be able to browse doctors, read patient reviews, and book appointments online.
No insurance? Startup Stride Health takes the pain out of finding the right insurance plan. After filling out a short questionnaire about yourself and your health needs, you’ll receive a personalized health plan recommendation and be able to purchase it on the spot. The process takes just five minutes, proving that taking care of yourself doesn’t need to take all morning.
Know your numbers
You’ve probably had your blood pressure and cholesterol checked by your doctor, but there are many other factors to heart disease, diabetes, and overall health that can be monitored with a simple blood test. Knowing your data is key to making an informed action plan for better health. Unfortunately, depending on where you get tested, individual blood tests can run from hundreds to thousands of dollars, and according to Compass Professional Health Services, insurance often doesn’t cover this additional testing.
Thanks to the Internet and advances in medical technology, keeping tabs on what’s going on inside your body is becoming cheaper and directly accessible to consumers. Companies like WellnessFx let you purchase a package of tests for the price of what one test typically would cost if ordered through your doctor. Depending on the package you choose, you’ll gain insight into your cholesterol, inflammation, fasting glucose, thyroid, kidney, hormone, and vitamin levels.
After having your blood drawn at a lab near you, your results are loaded on to your WellnessFx dashboard. If you order additional packages in the future, you’ll be able to see how your blood markers change over time and evaluate how your lifestyle changes are impacting your health. While WellnessFx provides a brief explanation of each marker’s significance, the American Heart Association provides a detailed guide on what your blood pressure numbers mean.
Maximize your energy and output
Given the constant stream of demands on your attention, managing your energy can be more important than managing your time. All of the productivity hacks and apps in the world aren’t going to make your life better if you’re too drained to do your most important work.
Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz and former Energy Project COO Catherine McCarthy define energy management as an individual “recognizing the costs of energy-depleting behaviors and then taking responsibility for changing them.” Some examples of energy-renewing changes their clients – often C-suite executives – have made include:
- Going to bed earlier.
- Cutting back (or cutting out) on alcohol consumption.
- Daily exercise.
- Eating with the family.
- Eating lunch away from the desk.
- Taking walks (and leaving phones behind).
Tempted to dismiss these ideas as wishful thinking? Working with Wachovia Bank, the Energy Project found that employees who’d completed their energy management program produced 13-20% higher year-over-year revenues than their colleagues who did not do the program. Roughly 70% of the energy management group also reported improved client and customer relationships, as well as perceived improvement of individual productivity and performance.
Several other executives who have worked with the Energy Project credit changes to their energy management as key to them losing weight – specifically sleeping more than six hours a night and eating smaller meals more frequently to keep blood sugar levels even.
If you find yourself fidgeting, yawning, or losing your concentration, odds are it’s time for you to take a break. As a species, our physiology requires periods of recovery between bouts of work, according to Energy Project. Most people’s “ultradian rhythms” for work tasks last 90 to 100 minutes, after which a break is vital for restoring energy for the next work cycle.
Other studies have suggested a schedule of working for 52 minutes and then taking a 17-minute break is optimal for best productivity. Experiment with both schedules to find what works best for you. Taking a break after a long stretch of focused work could help sustain your energy and improve the quality of your work.
Make diet changes with the most impact
In 2009, Dr. Peter Attia was a surgeon and a competitive cyclist and swimmer. He also was clinically overweight and insulin-resistant despite exercising three to four hours per day and eating a high-carb, low-fat diet.
In about 18 months, he went from 20% body fat to 13% while preserving lean muscle mass by reversing his diet to a higher-fat, low-carb diet.
Now a clinician with a small private practice, Attia works with clients to help them improve their chances of living longer. Based on his personal and professional experience, he recommends five ways (in order of importance) to lose weight and improve health:
- Reduce – and ideally eliminate – sugar from your diet. This guideline specifically refers to sucrose (table sugar) and high-fructose corn syrup. Beware of “fat-free” and “low-fat” foods, as manufacturers typically add sugar to compensate for the fat they take out.
- Eat complex carbohydrates instead of simple carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates typically have more fiber and are less likely to stimulate a hormonal response. Complex carbohydrate examples include broccoli and other non-starchy vegetables, or yams and sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes.
- Limit your fruit consumption, and avoid dried fruit and fruit juice completely. Fruit is touted as an important part of a “balanced diet.” While it has vitamins and fiber, it also tends to be high in sugar. As noted in Step 1, reducing sugar intake is crucial to losing weight, so fruit on the higher glycemic end of the spectrum (bananas, mangos, pineapple) should appear sparingly in your diet. If you’re craving fruit, steer toward berries, which are lower in sugar.
- Reduce your overall carbohydrate intake to a serving per day. This is especially true if you haven’t met your weight-loss goals.
Increase your fat intake as you follow each step. It’s counterintuitive, Attia concedes, but fat provides calories and nutrients in place of the carbohydrates you’ve reduced, without spiking your insulin levels. That’s important when you’re trying to lose weight. Get fats from a variety of sources, including omega-3-rich sources like pastured eggs and wild, fatty fish, aged cheese, nuts, avocados, and olive and coconut oil.
Things to Consider:
• Schedule that doctor’s appointment already!
• Take breaks during your workday. Note how you feel and what you got done.
• Focus on one of Dr. Attia’s five recommendations for losing weight for the next 30 days.