A prescription for a men’s health overhaul

Exercise, sleep better, pee better and have more sex. Not a bad way to celebrate Men’s Health Month, huh? Because men don’t have regular checkups until they’re 50, a lot of things can go wrong with a guy well before the big 5-0 that can impair his ability to exercise, sleep, urinate and, yes, enjoy combined intimacy.

I just got back from an international urologic conference where the hot topic was advances in men’s health. It turns out; a lot of faculties we take for granted earlier in life can have big health implications. The cool thing is, though, a few simple changes and a visit to a doctor can get all of these activities back on track.

We live in Colorado, a place where most of the country vacations because of our fantastic weather and outdoor activities. Not too big on getting off the couch and getting outside? Maybe it’s not you. Maybe your testosterone is low. Maybe raising your testosterone will get you outside. As men get older, our testosterone levels drop. This leads to energy loss, lack of libido, loss of muscle mass, weaker bones and worst of all, decreased willingness to go to romantic comedies with your significant other. Your doctor has screening tools that, along with a blood test, can help determine if you would benefit from testosterone therapy.

Another topic I learned about at this meeting is how critical sleep is to all bodily functions. Men with poor sleep habits tend to be fatter, have lower testosterone, higher blood pressure and higher rates of depression. So get more sleep! Easy to say, hard to do. Here are a few tips to wind down for the night. Stop drinking any caffeine at least six hours prior to bedtime. Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time, weekends, too. Your body adjusts to a regular sleep cycle that way. Shut off all lights, no blinking cell phones, flat screens or laptops to confuse your brain’s normal rhythm. Exercise during the day. Remember how well you slept as a kid after you played most of the day? Get some intense physical activity in to exhaust you. Buy a good mattress and make sure it supports you well so you don’t toss and turn. Finally, see a sleep doctor if you still can’t shut down at night. Sleep medicine is a fascinating field that keeps growing as more people become aware of how much we still have to learn.

Having trouble peeing? As bothersome as this might be, it also may signal more concerning health issues. A recent study found that men who developed increasing frequency of nighttime urination in their 20s-late 40s had a 2 1/2 fold higher risk of mortality than guys who don’t get up at night to pee. If this is you, go see a urologist to check your prostate and bladder function and screen for prostate cancer, if appropriate for your age and overall health. Your urologist may help diagnose a more serious problem and help you not trickle through the 7th inning stretch at Coors Field.

Now the good part. Sex. Regular sex improves mood, boosts testosterone, leads to more exercise, provides emotional stability in a relationship and improves self-esteem. And it provides a great pastime until the Broncos make their Super Bowl run. If you’re having trouble with erections, see your doctor. There are many great therapies for men with erectile dysfunction, as well as penile curvature, ejaculatory dysfunction and loss of libido. We know that men with erection difficulties are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, low testosterone and a host of other medical problems. Often, treating the underlying condition will improve a man’s sexual health.

So men, let’s keep it simple this year. Think about what you eat, keep your portions small and exercise as much as you can tolerate. Sleep long enough to recharge (but not so long you miss a chance for intimacy) and pay mind to your urination habits. And, remember, there’s help for most common men’s health ailments.

- Jesse Mills, M.D. is a board certified urologist and the director of The Center for Men’s Health at The Urology Center of Colorado. Learn more at www.tucc.com/CMH.