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Men: Your health through the ages

Man looking surprised while being weighed by a doctor
Men of all ages are urged to watch their weight.

For men, getting older means adjusting your health priorities.

No matter your age, the basic advice remains the same– eat well, stay active, don’t smoke and watch the grog.

But as the decades tick over, there are certain health issues that require extra attention to help ensure your wellbeing.

Below is information on the general health tips and check-ups you should focus on at the different stages of your life.

We also spoke to a bunch of Queensland blokes, of various ages, who shared their health priorities and gave us an insight into how they look after themselves.

Health in your 20s

It’s likely you’re disease-free and feeling somewhat bulletproof, despite a busy lifestyle.

But it pays to remember the choices you make now can affect you for years to come – a healthy lifestyle in your 20s can pay dividends in the future.

What to focus on

Many young men indulge in risky behaviours but these, along with the everyday pressures of being a young adult, can take their toll physically, mentally and emotionally.

Pay particular attention to your weight. The 20s can be a decade of erratic eating and indulging in excess so it’s important for young men to develop healthy eating habits, remain physically active, and watch their waistlines.

If you drink, understand the effects of consuming too much alcohol including damage to the liver or brain, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Binge drinking – consuming too much booze on a single occasion – can also be harmful, particularly as it may cause people to do things they normally wouldn’t do.

Other longer-term health effects of alcohol include depression and anxiety, physical and psychological dependence on alcohol, and problems with relationships, at home, work or at school. To find out if you might be indulging a bit too much, take the What’s your relationship with alcohol? quiz.

Excess drinking may also lead to unprotected sex, increasing the risk of contracting sexually transmissible infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy. It’s important to know the dangers and how to reduce the risks of either occurring by using protection and contraception. If your partner is pregnant, it is particularly important for her and the baby’s health that she does not contract an STI, so be aware of your and your partner’s sexual health.

For a variety of reasons, young men may also experiment with illegal drugs, often not fully aware of the health dangers and legal implications. Highly addictive substances such as crystal methamphetamine, also known as ice, are extremely harmful to your health and wellbeing. Services for people who use drugs are available across the state.

Protect yourself when you’re out in the sun. Excess exposure to harmful UV radiation can cause skin damage, including skin cancers such as melanoma. Protect yourself by remembering to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.

Be vigilant to any changes to your body, especially new or unusual lumps. Testicular cancer is the second most common cancer in young men so it’s important to check yourself regularly for symptoms.

Check-up checklist

  • a skin check from your doctor if you notice any changes to your skin that may indicate skin cancer
  • tests for testicular cancer, especially if you have any of the risk factors
  • a dental check-up as often as advised by your dentist
  • an eye health test as often as advised by your optometrist
  • vaccinations as needed for travel and boosters, the yearly influenza shot, and if not previously offered, human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination up to and including 26 years of age
  • a sexual health check at least once a year if you’re sexually active, or more frequently if you have had unprotected sex with casual partners, think you may have an STI, are starting a new sexual relationship, or if you’ve had a condom slip off or break during sex
  • regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks by your doctor.

What men say

Hamish, aged in his 20sHamish, 20s, Brisbane

“After meeting my partner, our occasional trips to the local bakery became more of a weekly ritual. I knew I needed to get back into shape not only for my physical health but also to manage the stress of a busy job.

“The boot camp I joined was less string singlets and gym selfies and more quality banter and dog pats. Having a place to exercise that’s social and relaxed makes working out something I really enjoy and look forward to.”

Health in your 30s

For a thirty-something man, priorities may be starting or raising a family, paying off a mortgage or advancing your career. But even if you’re still feeling fit, your health shouldn’t take a backseat.

What to focus on

It’s helpful to get an overall health check-up when you turn 30 to make sure your blood pressure, cholesterol and fat levels are at safe levels, as these are all important measures of your heart health and general wellbeing.

A work-life balance is important to your body and mind. Your job may be demanding but it’s essential you take time out to eat well, be physically active, relax and get sufficient rest. Invest time in caring for your mental health. Activities like meditation or mindfulness practice can calm your mind, helping you manage stress. Sustained pressure can lead to burnout, a condition that can have a detrimental impact on yourself and your family, your social life, and your work life.

To achieve a healthy weight and cardiovascular system, try to be physically active on most, ideally all, days of the week.

You might have started seeing the effects of sun damage on your skin, like fine lines and pigmentation. Protect yourself from further possible cancer-causing skin damage from the sun by remembering to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide. Be skin aware, get to know your own skin and check it regularly; if you notice any new spots or moles or if there are changes to existing spots or moles have them checked by your doctor.

If you drink alcohol, stick to levels within the national guidelines for alcohol consumption. Aim to have at least three alcohol-free days a week. If you still smoke, quit. Support programs like Quitline have helped scores of people kick the unhealthy habit.

Check-up checklist

  • a skin check from your doctor if you notice any changes to your skin that may indicate skin cancer
  • tests for testicular cancer, especially if you have any of the risk factors
  • a dental check-up as often as advised by your dentist
  • an eye health test as often as advised by your optometrist
  • vaccinations as needed for travel and boosters, and the yearly influenza shot
  • a sexual health check at least once a year if you’re sexually active, or more frequently if you have had unprotected sex with casual partners, think you may have an STI, are starting a new sexual relationship, or if you’ve had a condom slip off or break during sex
  • regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks by your doctor
  • check your weight regularly to ensure you are at a healthy weight.

What men say

Herman, in his 30s, fishing at the beachHerman, 30s, Brisbane

“Sometimes when I lose track of things, I make sure I take a step back and reassess the big picture. Setting aside some time every week to unplug, helps me be in the moment to reconnect with my family and friends.

“Exercising at the gym isn’t for me, so instead I regularly ride my bike work, play a round of tennis and if all things fail – take the stairs instead of the lifts. I’m a firm believer that, to be mentally fit you have to be physically fit. Can’t have one without the other.”

Health in your 40s

During your 40s, your body might start to send you subtle reminders that you’re not as young as you used to be. Juggling the demands of work and family commitments may have you feeling a little run down, but overall you should still be feeling fabulous during this decade.

What to focus on

Gentlemen, if you’re 40 or over, your annual check-up should now include a prostate exam. Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for Queensland men, and the risk of getting it increases as you get older. Make sure you mention any family history of prostate or bowel cancer to your GP.

If you’ve started to notice your physique is more dad bod than incredible hulk, it might be time to seriously incorporate physical activity into your weekly routine. As well as eating healthily, being physically active can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Exercise will also help you maintain bone mass, and keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels healthy.

Another thing you should invest some time and care into is your mental health and finding a good work-life balance. Make time for your family and friends and if you’re still smoking – stop!

Try to eat a wide range of healthy foods, including plenty of vegetables and fruit. When it comes to beverages, drink plenty of water every day and if you consume alcohol, keep the levels within the guidelines.

Get your skin checked regularly. Men over the age of 40 are more than one and a half times more likely than women of a similar age to be diagnosed with melanoma.

Continue to practise safe sex, using condoms and water-based lubricant, to help prevent STIs.  If your partner is pregnant, it is particularly important for her and the baby’s health that she does not contract an STI, so be aware of your and your partner’s sexual health.

Check-up checklist

  • a prostate exam to check for prostate cancer is important from this age on
  • a skin check from your doctor if you notice any changes to your skin that may indicate skin cancer
  • tests for testicular cancer, especially if you have any of the risk factors
  • a dental check-up as often as advised by your dentist
  • an eye health test as often as advised by your optometrist
  • vaccinations as needed for travel and boosters, and the yearly influenza shot
  • regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks by your doctor
  • a sexual health check at least once a year if you’re sexually active, or more frequently if you have had unprotected sex with casual partners, think you may have an STI, are starting a new sexual relationship, or if you’ve had a condom slip off or break during sex
  • blood tests for kidney and liver function and iron levels.

What men say

Kevin, aged in his 40sKevin, 40s, Kedron

“Since I got back into running and cycling five years ago, I’ve found I have more energy throughout the day. Regular exercise also helps me get a good night’s sleep.

“I also benefited from having a routine so even though I was packing in some running on the weekends, I found that I was getting up earlier and therefore actually had more free time over the weekend to enjoy other things.”

Health in your 50s

In most cases, life at 50 is still full speed ahead. In fact, it's a very good time to take stock and review where you’re at and what you need to do to ensure the ageing path is smooth, happy and healthy.

What to focus on

If you don't have a GP, now is the perfect time to find one with whom you feel comfortable discussing your health issues openly.

Health risks increase in your 50’s, especially if you’ve neglected your health in the past. You may start noticing a difference in your physical strength, energy and libido – these are all things you may like to talk to your GP about at your annual check-up.  

Try maintaining your energy levels by exercising for at least 30 minutes each day – this will not only benefit your physical health, but your mental health as well. Many men struggle with their mental health at this age, which is why it’s important to look out for yourself, stay connected with friends and family, and have the conversation.

When you turn 50, you should also start screening for bowel cancer. If you’re eligible, the Australian Government will send you a free bowel cancer screening kit in the mail, every two years between 50 and 74. Completing the test is quick and easy and it can be done in the privacy of your own home. The test will detect early signs of bowel cancer which, if diagnosed early, can be successfully treated in 90 per cent of cases.

If you smoke, it’s never too late to quit. Quitting at any age has immediate and long-term health benefits. If you smoke, find a range of tips and tools to help you quit here.

Continue to practise safe sex, using condoms and water-based lubricant, to help prevent STIs.

Check-up checklist

  • a prostate exam to check for prostate cancer is important at this age
  • a skin check from your doctor if you notice any changes to your skin that may indicate skin cancer
  • test for testicular cancer, especially if you have any of the risk factors
  • a dental check-up as often as advised by your dentist
  • an eye health test as often as advised by your optometrist
  • vaccinations as needed for travel and boosters, and the yearly influenza shot
  • regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks by your doctor
  • blood tests for kidney and live function and iron levels
  • a sexual health check at least once a year if you’re sexually active, or more frequently if you have had unprotected sex with casual partners, think you may have an STI, are starting a new sexual relationship, or if you’ve had a condom slip off or break during sex
  • Screening for bowel cancer – every 2 years.

What men say

Greg, in his 50sGreg, 50s, Brisbane

“I function best when I am active and healthy. I am a better parent, partner and work colleague when I am active so I make time for it every day.

“I enjoy any activity, but I find running, swimming and cycling are the most convenient.  I ride to work and make time during the day for a swim or run to clear my head.”

Health in your 60s

A lot changes in your 60s – retirement, the kids have left home and have started their own families, and you find yourself planning what to do with your free time. This can be both exciting and challenging. Ultimately, how healthy you are determines how much you can enjoy your newfound freedom.

What to focus on

Keep moving at least 30 minutes each day, even if you aren’t up to hitting the gym, just going for walks and playing with the grandkids is a great way to stay active.

Eating a healthy diet is also really important to help maintain your energy levels, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water to avoid getting dehydrated.

When it’s time, don’t forget to check the mailbox for your free bowel cancer screening kit. Every two years men between the ages of 50 and 74 should complete the test and return your samples in the prepaid envelope supplied. The test is free and you’ll get your results back in a couple of weeks.

Keeping mentally active is one way to help prevent diseases like dementia and look after your mental wellbeing at the same time. Keep your brain busy by learning new skills, engaging yourself with puzzles or crosswords, socialising, volunteering or pursuing creative interests.

Get an annual health check-up and talk with your doctor about any health or emotional concerns you might have. If you notice anything different about your body, or something just doesn’t feel right, be sure to talk to your doctor.

Check-up checklist

  • a prostate exam to check for prostate cancer is important at this age
  • a skin check from your doctor if you notice any changes to your skin that may indicate skin cancer
  • test for testicular cancer, especially if you have any of the risk factors
  • a dental check-up as often as advised by your dentist
  • an eye health test as often as advised by your optometrist
  • vaccinations as needed, including pneumonia vaccine and the yearly influenza shot
  • regular blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose (diabetes) checks by your doctor
  • blood tests for kidney and live function and iron levels
  • screening for bowel cancer – every two years between the ages of 50 and 74
  • scans for bone density and osteoporosis
  • a sexual health check at least once a year if you’re sexually active, or more frequently if you have had unprotected sex with casual partners, think you may have an STI, are starting a new sexual relationship, or if you’ve had a condom slip off or break during sex.

What men say

Jim, in his 60sJim, 60s, Wynnum

“I eat healthy; I’ve been a vegetarian since 1976. I’ve never drunk alcohol or smoked. I exercise religiously, at least four or five times a week, usually running or working out with dumbbells and doing lots of pull-ups.”

Subash, aged in his 60sSubash, 60s, Brisbane

“l do gardening, and I walk to banks and shopping centres. My secret is you can eat your required amount and still be healthy. Have a glass or two of wine daily. Above all, if you think you are growing old you will look old. All is in your mindset.”

Health in your 70s and beyond

Even at age 70 or older, the choices you make about exercise, eating and your health remain important. Keeping healthy means you can keep enjoying the things you like doing.

What to focus on

The risks of heart diseasestrokecancermental illness and falls increase for many men during this decade of life. It can also be hard dealing with illness, increased frailty, mental decline and partners or friends dying.

It’s important to manage these changing times and do all that you can to maintain your wellbeing. Stay in touch with your doctor and let them know if there’s anything bothering you.

You should also talk to your doctor about any changes to your body. Men may be more susceptible to specific health issues as they age, such as the risk of prostate cancer.  Remember to book your annual health check.

It’s never too late to improve your dietget more active, find new interests and make new friends. Many men can find this time of their life very social and an opportunity to stay busy and have fun.

Quitting smoking is one of the most beneficial and important steps you can take to improve your health. It’s never too late to quit —the health benefits of quitting smoking start almost immediately.

Check-up checklist

  • a skin check from your doctor if you notice any changes to your skin that may indicate skin cancer
  • tests for testicular cancer, especially if you have any of the risk factors
  • a dental check-up as often as advised by your dentist
  • an eye health test as often as advised by your optometrist
  • vaccinations as needed, including pneumonia vaccine and the yearly influenza shot
  • regular blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose (diabetes) checks by your doctor
  • blood tests for kidney and live function and iron levels
  • screening for bowel cancer – every two years between the ages of 50 and 74
  • scans for bone density and osteoporosis
  • a sexual health check at least once a year if you’re sexually active, or more frequently if you have had unprotected sex with casual partners, think you may have an STI, are starting a new sexual relationship, or if you’ve had a condom slip off or break during sex.

What men say

Rick, aged n his 70sRick Houston, 70s, Brisbane

“I go for daily afternoon walks around my neighbourhood for about an hour.  I stick to a healthy, well balanced diet to keep my blood pressure and cholesterol under control.”

Aron, aged in his 80sAron Schroter, 80s, Brisbane

“I’ve always tried to maintain a healthy diet and weight. I remain active and play bowls several times a week as well as volunteering at Logan Hospital and doing general maintenance around the house. It’s about keeping active; your body and your mind.”

Last updated: 8 January 2019