The ancients were really onto something. “The greatest wealth is health,” declared the Roman poet Virgil. Hippocrates, the Greek father of medicine, agreed when he said, “Health is the greatest of human blessings.” They may have lived millennia ago, but their words are no less true today.
To enjoy all life has to offer, you need “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” (That’s the Roman poet Juvenal, by the way.) Achieving physical and mental fitness takes effort, but it’s by no means impossible. You’ll need to consult medical professionals to address some issues, but you can acquire helpful exercise, nutrition, and mental health habits independently. Here’s how to get started optimizing your health.
Regardless of when you decide to prioritize your health, you’re unlikely to be starting with an entirely clean slate. Whether it’s a perennially aching knee, sexual performance issues, or a puzzling rash, you probably have specific conditions that need to be addressed. After consulting with a medical professional, you may find that medication, therapy, or both are required to restore your baseline health.
One condition that many men struggle with is male pattern baldness. In most cases, it is genetically inherited, but hormonal changes, stress, and even hairstyling practices can play a role. Premature hair loss can be a difficult thing for men to face, as a full head of hair represents youth and confidence for many.
Fortunately, the FDA has approved two drugs, finasteride and minoxidil, to prevent hair loss and regrow hair. The first works by blocking dihydrotestosterone, a hormone that damages the hair follicle, thus halting hair growth. By inhibiting DHT production, the medication disrupts a chief driver of hair loss. Consistent application of topical finasteride over four to six months can achieve noticeable results.
The second drug, minoxidil, is the main ingredient in the popular product Rogaine. The drug works by stimulating blood flow to the hair follicles. In this way, the follicles receive more nutrients and oxygen, which helps foster hair growth. Because the two medications address hair loss in different ways, they can be used in tandem for a one-two punch.
Staying active becomes more and more important as you age. When you’re young, your energy levels are high, and your metabolism is full throttle. In your later years, physical activity is essential for managing your weight, preventing cardiovascular disease, maintaining bone strength, and more. Regular exercise reduces your risk of stroke, diabetes, and infectious diseases and promotes healthy brain function.
Optimizing your health requires incorporating movement into your day. If you can’t find the motivation to make daily trips to the gym, get creative. Go for a walk during your lunch break, join a pickleball club, or take up a new hobby like paddleboarding. These activities might not be as rigorous as a five-mile run, but they still provide valuable weight-bearing exercise. That will benefit your muscles and bones as well as your cardiovascular system.
Work and family responsibilities may make it difficult to schedule exercise time on your calendar, so sneak movement into your day. Get a standing desk, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park farther from your office’s front door. When you get home, take it upon yourself to walk the family dog each evening. You can even set an hourly timer to do a few pushups or jacks throughout the day to keep your blood pumping.
Everyone knows that what you eat directly contributes to your overall health. However, loading your plate with leafy vegetables, whole grains, fish, and lean meats is often easier said than done. This is especially true when work and family demands make grabbing takeout easier than preparing nutritious home-cooked meals.
If your healthy food resolutions keep getting put off until tomorrow, enlist some outside support. Just as you’re more likely to go to the gym when meeting a buddy, eating healthy is easier when someone holds you accountable.
If possible, link up with a friend or family member with similar health goals. This could be anything from losing weight to gaining muscle or lowering cholesterol or triglycerides. Together, you can create meal plans to follow while holding each other to account. Weekly phone calls or text exchanges will enable the two of you to ensure you’re both staying on the wagon, nutrition-wise.
With or without a friend involved, tracking what you eat in a notebook or a fitness app is helpful. This helps you monitor exactly what you’re putting into your body on a daily and weekly basis. A fitness app can also tell you how your food choices break down in calories, carbs, cholesterol, etc.
Physical health is important, but mental health is no less so. Remember what Juvenal said: The goal is a healthy mind in a healthy body. If mental health symptoms are severe enough, they can affect your physical health. High levels of stress and anxiety, for instance, contribute to conditions ranging from hair loss to cancer and heart disease.
The first step in prioritizing mental health is to recognize that it needs to be addressed. Too many men try to bury or conceal their feelings and emotions. Rather than seek help for symptoms of depression, for example, men are more likely to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. That reluctance to get treatment may partly explain why men die by suicide four times more often than women do.
A nutritious diet and exercise are both mood boosters that can ward off or mitigate feelings of anxiety and depression. But sometimes, healthy living is not enough. If your low mood or feelings of worthlessness persist, seek professional help. A therapist can help you reorient disordered thought processes that contribute to these feelings and teach you coping strategies for dealing with stressors. Antidepressants may also play a part in resolving your mental health issues and restoring your sense of confidence and optimism.
Life is short, and you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to be as happy and as healthy as you can be. As you look for ways to optimize your well-being, keep that in mind. Your consistent investments in exercise, nutrition, and mental health will work together to produce that greatest of all wealth: good health.