For many, it’s a popular time of year to take stock of the previous 12 months (no mean feat for 2020) and set some new resolutions for the next stretch. Research shows the majority of men want to take a more proactive role in managing their wellbeing but they still experience a higher rate of poor health. While vague promises to eat better or take care of your health are on the right track when it comes to wellbeing, it’s important to create SMART goals if you want to see success past February. That means they’re Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.
So, here’s your to-do list for improving all aspects of your health and bettering your quality of life in 2021.
Book an annual doctor’s appointment
While it might seem like there’s nothing amiss under the hood, you still wouldn’t skip a regular car service. Same goes for your body, that’s why it’s important to have a yearly appointment with your doctor for a checkup. Many men see a GP only as needed, rather than planning a visit on a regular basis. A study of over 13,000 Aussie men found that only 39% reported having an annual health check at their GP, which could be a missed opportunity for discovering overlooked symptoms and discussing other concerns. Need help finding a GP in your area? This tool will help. Lock in an appointment right now and that’s one thing off your to-do list.
Get your two and five every day
There are several chronic conditions linked to poor eating habits but nutrition can also play a role in some health issues you might not expect, like erectile dysfunction, which affects one in four Australian men over the age of 40. If the cause of your erectile dysfunction (ED) is vascular, meaning that a build-up of plaque in the body’s blood vessels are to blame, then it could be an early warning sign of cardiovascular disease (CVD). There are a number of similar, changeable risk factors for ED and CVD including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and metabolic syndrome, and lifestyle changes such as eating habits can help reduce these. New research has linked diet quality to the risk of developing ED, with a study finding that those whose reported eating habits more closely matched a Mediterranean diet (including plenty of fruit, veg, legumes, whole grains, fish, and healthy fats) had a lower risk of developing the condition. Around 9 in 10 adults do not get the recommended five serves of vegetables each day and four out of five don’t eat enough fruit, making it a worthy resolution for most of us. When aiming to increase your intake, try connecting the habit to a trigger — a good example of this is putting your seatbelt on every time you get in the car. Instead of saying you’ll eat more fruit, commit to eating a piece of fruit at every breakfast.
Make small steps to more movement
The benefits of regular exercise extend far beyond building muscles and feeling fitter — physical activity is an important factor for lowering your risk of chronic disease and maintaining your sexual and reproductive health. Exercise plays a key role in maintaining a healthy body weight and lowering body weight, but less than half of Aussies do enough of it. If you’re overweight, you’re more likely to have low testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction, and you’re likely to be less fertile than those who fall within an average weight range. Aim for 30 minutes of activity at least five days per week by starting with small, achievable goals. Whether it’s a 10 minute walk every morning, lunch time and evening, joining a sports team, committing to a challenge or fun run, or hitting a set number of steps per day.
Take care of the health issues you’ve been ignoring
Whether it’s a lump downstairs that deserves some attention, you’ve been dealing with erectile dysfunction for far too long, or you’re feeling more down than usual – make this the year the one you stop putting off health concerns and waiting until they get worse. Men tend to delay seeking treatment and the outcome can be fatal. Need a stark example? Although Australian women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with thyroid cancer, men die from the disease at roughly the same rate. Put aside the stoicism and get straight to the bottom of any health concerns you currently have, even if they don’t seem like a big deal.
Prioritise your mental health
It’s normal to have ups and down with your mental health but there are habits that can help better your mental wellbeing. Sticking to the goals we’ve already listed is a solid start — healthy eating and exercise both contribute to better mental health and having a good relationship with your GP can make it easier to chat comfortably about changes you’ve noticed in your mood. It’s also helpful to ensure you’re getting seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night, managing your stress levels, and stay social with mates, family members, and your community. However, the causes of mental health issues can be complex, and you can be doing all of the above and still experience mental illness. The most important thing you can do is to seek help if you’re struggling. There are a number of national helplines on the Beyond Blue website that you can call for confidential support and advice on next steps.