Good Health for Men and Women

Family Health, Women's Health
on March 2, 2010

Good health isn't one-size-fits-all. We tapped Dr. Marianne J. Legato, founder of the Partnership for Women's Health at Columbia University, and Dr. Harvey Simon, editor of Harvard Men's Health Watch to get the best advice for men and women.


Get enough vitamin D. By 2020, half of Americans age 50 or older will be at risk for fractures from osteoporosis. Vitamin D–available through brief sun exposure, fortified foods and dietary supplements–helps maintain bone by aiding the body in absorbing and retaining calcium. "Almost all the women I test have low vitamin D levels," Legato says. Have your levels checked.

Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat for two weeks. Then schedule an appointment with a nutritionist to discuss the results. "Women think they know what they should eat, but nutritional guidelines are changing all the time," says Legato.

Find out your C-reactive protein (CRP) levels. High CRP levels (detected via a blood test) can mean inflammation in the body, which plays a role in plaque formation in the coronary arteries. "Women tend to get a pass from doctors on heart disease and stroke until menopause," Legato says. "They shouldn't. CRP levels can tell a doctor that you're at risk."

Get at least six hours of sleep a night. Chronic sleep deprivation weakens the immune system and can lead to impaired thinking, fl awed memory and irritability. "Women often stay up late doing things for the family," Legato says. "Getting enough sleep is tremendously important to your well-being, and your family's."

Schedule a relationship checkup. Many women tend to stay in stressful relationship–with a friend or boss–that are harmful to their health. Your doctor should take the time to talk with you about conflicts in your personal life that need to be resolved. If you can't resolve them through talk therapy or counseling, find a new friend or another job.


Get smart about exercise. Men tend to have an all-or-nothing attitude toward working out, but super-intense, sweat-drenched efforts aren't the only ones that deliver health benefits. Taking a 30-minute walk a few times a week or simply opting for the stairs at work can reduce risk of stroke, heart attack and cancer.

Monitor you mood.  More than six million men in the U.S. struggle with major depression each year, and men are nearly four times more likely to commit suicide than women. Often it's because guys can be slow to recognize symptoms like anger, low energy and trouble sleeping and concentrating as signs of the condition. If you've had any of these symptoms for two weeks or longer, see your doctor.

Protect your prostate. Research suggests that eating more whole grains, fish, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes and soy can lower your risk of prostate cancer, the second-most common men's cancer (after lung cancer).

Listen to your body. Men tend to ignore symptoms such as a fever that doesn't go away in a couple of days, blood in the urine and a severe headache that keeps you up at night. But these could be potential signs of serious conditions like stroke, skin cancer or kidney stones. Don't wait: call your doctor and have it checked out.

Measure up. If your waist across your belly button measures 37.5 inches around, you're at increased risk for heart disease and stroke; 40 inches means you're at significant risk. To start slimming down, exercise at least 30 minutes per day and eat a low-fat diet.