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take charge of your health

Written by James Combs

Here’s a decade-by-decade look at how men of all ages can lead a healthy lifestyle and achieve optimal well-being.


Writer: James Combs

For men, it is no secret that each decade brings different health challenges. Unfortunately, men of all ages tend to be more dismissive toward health than their female counterparts, leading to costly and potentially fatal illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Here’s the good news. No matter your age and despite your busy schedules, there’s still plenty of time to overcome a lack of exercise and a bad diet.

Healthy Living interviewed health-conscious Lake County men representing five different decades. They are living proof that, with some commitment and dedication, men can indeed live healthy and active lifestyles.

We’ve also included financial advice for each decade of a man’s life, as well as tips to nourish their mind and spirit. After all, when the four pillars—body, mind, spirit, and finance—are in balance, men can achieve long-term happiness and health.


20s

You don’t have to be middle-aged to experience significant gains around the middle. In fact, a 2008 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that more than 30 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 39 are obese.

Johnny Malik, a 27-year-old resident of Eustis, does not want to become an obesity statistic.

A sales associate at Gator Harley-Davidson in Leesburg, Johnny is an avid exercise enthusiast who takes his health to heart. Rather than waste his lunch hour gobbling down greasy cheeseburgers, he works out in the dealership’s upstairs gym by performing bench presses and strengthening his lower body.

“I always feel better after I work out. For me, it’s a sense of accomplishment,” he says. “When I don’t work out, I feel sluggish and lazy.”

After work, he switches his focus to cardiovascular health by competing on adult league soccer and kickball teams, both of which are sponsored by the city of Leesburg.

“I typically do not arrive home until late, but I don’t mind it because I’ve always been active and don’t like to sit still,” he says. “My grandpa died of high blood pressure, so I feel it’s important to stay ahead of the game and live a healthy life. It keeps me feeling young.”

Part of that healthy lifestyle means avoiding fast-food restaurants. His diet primarily consists of chicken, fish, and vegetables.

“I make my own lunches and bring them to work. If I didn’t do that, then there would be more temptation to grab lunch at a restaurant,” he says.

For Johnny, who is unmarried and has no children, looking and feeling good certainly has other advantages.

“It makes me feel more confident when I’m speaking with the ladies.”

Health tips for 20-somethings

*Get checked for STDs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as one in two sexually active people will contract an STD by age 25. An undiagnosed STD can lead to long-term health issues.

*High blood pressure and cholesterol can develop in your 20s. Schedule annual physician exams to identify these problems before they become serious.

*Establish healthy habits, such as exercise, nutrition, and adequate sleep. This leads to better health down the road.

Financial tidbit for 20-somethings

*Establish a budget and do not live beyond your means.
*Start saving for retirement. It may seem far away, but your golden years will truly be golden if you start saving now.
*Start building up your credit score by paying bills on time and not maxing out your credit card.

Source: kiplinger.com/article/saving/T063-C006-S001-10-financial-commandments-for-your-20s.html

3 mind-nourishing tips for 20-somethings

• Cut down on the partying and find something bigger and better in life.
• You have the time and energy to travel. This helps you experience different cultures, expands your mind, and makes you happier.
• Find a passion that helps bring you a sense of identity and purpose.


30s

Forget about the slightly receding hairline and a few unfamiliar aches. The normal effects of aging still won’t be felt until further down the road. At this stage, though, men are very involved with their careers and families, making it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But there’s no doubt that the 30s can be the prime years of a man’s life.

Just ask 39-year-old Ryan Henry of Umatilla. Two years ago, he competed in a strength competition and finished first in his weight division after bench-pressing 430 pounds, a personal record.

“I am a lot stronger in my 30s than I ever was in my 20s,” he says.

For Ryan, being healthy and in tip-top shape helps him effectively carry out his duties as battalion chief of the Leesburg Fire Department. On his days off, Ryan spends several hours at Infinity Fitness in Fruitland Park, focusing on weight training. Saturdays are reserved for aerial yoga, a new form of traditional yoga in which participants use silk slings hanging from the ceiling as a support system to perform various poses and movements.

“I’ve been doing aerial yoga for three months and love it. It’s really great for core strengthening and flexibility,” he says. “I owe it to the citizens of Lake County to stay in shape. If not, I could not perform my job in an effective manner.”

From a nutritional standpoint, Ryan purchases three meals a week from Hello Fresh, a delivery meal service that provides a well-balanced combination of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

“Eating healthy is so important when it comes to being fit and trim. You can do all the exercise in the world, but if you continually eat unhealthy food, it won’t matter.”

Health tips for 30-somethings

*Undergo cancer screenings. Men in their 30s should be screened for cancer of the thyroid, testicles, mouth, skin, and lymph nodes, according to the American Cancer Society.

*Stay active. Men in their 30s are focused on career and family. Make some time for exercise. Simply walking around the neighborhood or working out at the local gym will provide a much-needed energy boost.

*Participate in heart-healthy activities. Heart disease is more common in men in their 30s than it was a generation ago.

Important financial tips for 30-somethings

*Build an emergency fund.
*Make a plan to pay off debt.
*Diversify your investments.
*Start maxing out your 401(k).

Source: nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/7-financial-steps-take-30s/

3 mind-nourishing tips for 30-somethings

• Embrace your physical appearance. Odds are, you’re not going to look like you did at 18.
• By now, you’ve developed a skill set. Use your talent to volunteer and help others. It’s a great way to restore your spirit.
• Continue growing and developing yourself and don’t be afraid to change.


40s

Ahhh…the big 4-0. You’ve successfully transitioned from young adulthood to middle age. This is an extremely crucial decade to develop healthy habits such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and eating right. Any doctor will tell you that doing so can help prevent future health problems.

One of those doctors is Sijo Parekattil, a urologist and co-director of the Personalized Urology and Robotics (PUR) Clinic at South Lake Hospital. Feeling overweight and sluggish, the 43-year-old Clermont resident embarked on a lifestyle change in November 2015.

From a health standpoint, it was the wisest decision he ever made. With the assistance of a nutritionist and personal trainer, he lost 50 pounds and watched his pant size drop from 38 to 32.

“I always tell my patients to exercise and lose weight, but how were they supposed to take me seriously when I was overweight myself?” the doctor says. “I realized that I could not merely talk the talk; I also had to walk the walk. Now that I’m living a healthy lifestyle, I get to lead by example. There’s no better feeling than that.”

Despite his demanding career, he frequents a gym daily in the early-morning hours to focus on strength training and cardiovascular workouts. Additionally, healthy foods such as oatmeal, chicken, fish, greens, and protein shakes are a big part of his nutrition regimen.

“When you hit your 40s, you realize that you are no longer invincible,” he says. “At this age, living a healthy lifestyle takes preparation, technique, and dedication. However, if you’re willing to put in the time, you will experience amazing results. I feel like I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been.”

Health tips for 40-somethings:

*Schedule a regular eye exam every two years. Men in their 40s begin experiencing some form of vision loss, according to the American Optometric Association.

*Begin a fitness routine, because men in their 40s start losing muscle mass. Physical activities such as running, walking, or hiking will suffice.

*Manage stress stemming from financial problems and family concerns. Talk to someone you feel comfortable around and engage in stress-relieving activities.

Important financial tips for 40-somethings:

*Pay off high-interest debt.
*Make sure your retirement savings are on track.
*Start saving for your child’s college tuition, but don’t shortchange your retirement to do so.

Source: betterment.com/resources/personal-finance/goals-and-advice/investing-in-your-40s/

3 mind-nourishing tips for 40-somethings:

• Stop comparing and trying to measure up to others. You’re in your 40s and have likely proved a lot. Be content with your unique gifts and talents.
• You’re more financially comfortable in your 40s, but avoid becoming overly materialistic. Fancy cars, boats, and homes don’t offer lasting fulfillment.
• Embrace your limitations. You’re not the all-powerful male who can solve the world’s problems. When you accept your limitations, you set yourself free.


50s

Congratulations. You’ve hit the half-century mark. However, there’s no escaping the fact you’re growing older. Your testosterone decreases, your hairline is receding, and male menopause may be right around the corner. That doesn’t mean you should give in to age and refrain from living a healthy lifestyle. Great things still can be accomplished.

Stan Gause of Leesburg is living proof. When he turned 56 in April, he gave himself the ultimate birthday present by bench-pressing 405 pounds.

“That was my New Year’s resolution,” says Stan, owner of Stan’s Premium Cars in Leesburg.

That achievement stems from Stan’s steadfast dedication and enthusiasm for working out. In the past, he has competed in bodybuilding, powerlifting, and Olympic lifting competitions. Although his competition days are behind him, he religiously sticks to a weight-training regimen.

In fact, Stan recently converted his home garage into a mini-gym by adding exercise equipment, such as an incline bench press machine, an Olympic curling bar, and a seated cable row machine for back exercises. He works out in his garage five days a week.

“At 56, I feel in as good of shape than I’ve ever been in,” he says. “For me, it’s about feeling powerful. I can do things myself without having to ask others to help me. I also have the motivation of not wanting to grow too old too fast.”

Stan sticks to a diet that includes beef, chicken, pork, vegetables, fruit, and blackberries. He avoids bread, pizza, and soft drinks.

“There’s no reason why people in their 50s cannot live healthy lives,” he says. “If they want to lift, they can do a 10-set minimum working different muscles and body parts. It doesn’t take much time out of their day. They can get in and out and on with their lives.”

Health tips for 50-somethings:

*Be aware of prostate health. Men should discuss regular screenings with their doctor beginning at age 50, according to the American Cancer Society.

*Check for diabetes. Type 2 diabetes typically develops in adult males after the age of 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

*Get screened for colon cancer. Because colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, men should begin undergoing screenings at age 50. Early detection offers the best hope for survival.

Financial tips for 50-somethings:

*Be prepared for an unexpected financial crisis, such as early forced retirement, losses in the stock market, or home repair expenses.
*Continue investing for future decades because you could live as long as 30 years after retirement.
*Buy long-term care insurance while you’re still healthy. Years down the road, a chronic condition can turn into an ongoing expense.

Source: boomerandecho.com/financial-management-decade-50s/

3 mind-nourishing tips for 50-somethings:

• Nurture relationships by spending time with family members and friends.
• Discover activities that embolden you, whether it’s a hobby, a project at work, or a worthwhile cause.
• Spend time with your grandchildren. It keeps you mentally alert and physically active. Most importantly, it brings joy and happiness into your life.


60s

With retirement looming, you may be wondering how you’re going to spend all that free time. Endless rounds of golf? Luxurious vacations? Nonstop travel? Those are all great, but don’t forget that you’re now more prone to health problems, such as aching knees, creaking hips, heart attacks, and strokes. You certainly don’t want to spin your wheels with no health goals in sight.

Unless, of course, those wheels are attached to a road bike traveling considerable distances. Such is the case for Paul Ratliff, a 61-year-old resident of The Villages and an avid cycling enthusiast.

As a member of The Village Bicycle Club, Paul rides three times a week with fellow members while accumulating a total of 150 miles. On each ride, he averages 19 miles per hour.

“One of my lifetime goals is to reach the age of 100,” says Paul, who joined the club four years ago after moving from Massachusetts to The Villages.

He also cycles Virginia’s scenic Blue Ridge Parkway each year.

“I’ve definitely increased my speed and endurance over the past four years. I’m living proof that you’re never too old to begin a new form of exercise,” he says.

In addition to cycling, Paul plays pickleball twice a week and also frequents a local gym.

“For me, the greatest benefits of exercise are that it relieves stress and helps clear your mind. I feel invigorated when I’m finished,” he says.

That is why Paul becomes irked when others his age lead sedentary lifestyles.

“People say they’re too old or too tired or they don’t feel good. People our age need to be active,” he says. “The best way is to find an exercise you like, start slowly, and gradually increase your endurance. Exercise pays big benefits.”

Health tips for 60-somethings

*Be aware of your mental health state. Depression often goes undiagnosed in older men. Surround yourself with people you love and participate in hobbies that make you happy.

*Exercise your brain. The majority of people with Alzheimer’s disease are 65 and older, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Therefore, keeping your brain active with activities such as crossword puzzles and reading is very important.

*Build your bones. Osteoporosis begins affecting men in their 60s. You can combat this by eating calcium-rich foods, acquiring an adequate amount of vitamin D, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Financial tips for 60-somethings:

Take a financial snapshot by:
*Making sure your current investment and savings strategies match your retirement goals.
*Making sure you are living within your means.
*Making sure loved ones are protected in the event of a death.

Source: clutewealthmanagement.com/design/money-and-you/six-steps-financial-planning-60s/

3 mind-nourishing tips for 60-somethings:

1) You’re now rededicating your energy toward other things in life. Find new interests or rediscover old passions that give you a sense of achievement.

2) Now that you’re not rushing to work, start your day with prayer or meditation. This will help you reduce negative emotions and increase self-awareness.

3)Defy old-age stereotypes. Climb a mountain, become a disc jockey, or take up skateboarding. Why not? You’re only as old as you feel.

About the author

James Combs

Akers Media Group's James Combs has been a staff writer for several local publications since August 2000. He has had the privilege of interviewing some of Lake County’s many fascinating residents—from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans—and bringing their stories to life. A resident of Lake County since 1986, James recently embarked on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. He has lost 60 pounds and walks nearly five miles a day. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, skeet shooting and watching his beloved Kentucky Wildcats!

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