Celebrating any birthday involving a zero tends to be a big deal, even for guys. So moving from your 20s to your 30s deserves some special attention -- especially as it relates to your health. After all, the last time your internal odometer ticked past a number containing a zero you'd technically been a teenager.
By the time you roll into your 30s, life's probably gotten a bit more serious. There are likely bigger responsibilities -- such as home ownership, a real career and maybe a child or two -- on your plate. So it should come as no surprise that the health conditions that strike in your 30s could be more serious, as well.
The good news is that if you take a few simple steps now, you may be able to breeze through this decade without more than a sprained or bruised muscle from a little weekend-warrior action. But "now" is the key word here. You most likely won't feel much different physically in your 30s, and in fact, there are components of your health that will even reach their peak, like your muscle mass [source: Murphy]. It will be easier than ever to pass up doctor visits and medical tests.
But, as any guy in his 40s can tell you, no one ever said, "I wish I hadn't taken such good care of myself when I was younger." Here are 10 easy tips that will help you maintain the vigor of your 30s and carry it forward to your 40s and beyond.
Bolster Your Bones
Bone health is more often mentioned in relation to women's health than men's. But after the age of 30, men's bone mass begins to decline. This can lead to a greater chance of suffering fractures -- and with all those softball game slides and "touch" football tackles, that's not something guys can really afford.
For the most part, bone loss during this decade is minor. However, if you have a family history of osteoporosis, if you smoke or if you tend to hit the sofa instead of the gym, you might want to consider getting a DEXA scan (dual energy X-ray absorptiometry) to measure your bone density. Even if you're not losing bone mass, such a test would provide you with a valuable baseline for future measurements.
To help keep your bones strong and man-sized, you might want to consider taking 1,000 milligrams of calcium combined with 400 IU (international units) of vitamin D, which has been shown to enhance the body's ability to absorb the bone-building nutrient. Weight-bearing exercises (including walking) have also been shown to slow bone loss [source: Liebman].
Keep an Eye on Your Prostate
It makes sense to be aware of any potential problems with your prostate in your 30s. That's because research has shown that prostate cancer sufferers who detected the disease in their 30s had much better prognoses than men who spotted it later in life [source: Tuma].
That's not to say you should spend a lot of time fixating on this. The fact is that only 1 in 10,000 men under 40 are diagnosed with prostate cancer [source: Prostate Cancer Foundation]. However, because you have improved chances of defeating "the big C in your P" when young, you should stay alert to potential problems with this particular piece of plumbing. According to the Prostate Cancer Foundation, early warning signs of prostate cancer can include the following:
- Frequent urination (especially urges at night)
- Painful urination or ejaculation, sometimes accompanied by blood
- Difficulty getting or maintaining an erection
- Having a tough time either starting the urine flow or holding it back
If you notice any of these symptoms, be sure to see your doctor at once.
Go Gaga for Yoga
Chances are good that some time in your 20s you went from being a bellboy, busboy or stock boy to someone with a real career. That's great news for your bank account (and self-esteem) but maybe not such good news for your flexibility.
Your body tends to adapt to the ways in which you use it. So when you go from being fairly active to sitting behind a desk, hunched over a keyboard while squinting at spreadsheets, your body's not really getting the message that you'd like it to be long, lean and flexible. Even taking part in exercises like jogging or playing basketball might not be enough to help because they use only a limited range of motion. Plus, male muscles and connective tissues also shorten in your 30s, leading to decreased flexibility [source: Men's Health].
The solution? Yoga.
It not only improves flexibility by moving the body through a full range of motion, it can also lower your blood pressure and slow your heart rate -- not to mention it's a superpower when it comes to easing the stress that accompanies your new desk job. Being more flexible will also protect you from injuring yourself during sports-related activities [source: Oz].
A more sedentary lifestyle in your 30s may cause your muscles and connective tissues to contract, but it also tends to make your waistline expand. Even if you're active, staying slim can be a mighty challenge because the body uses 12 fewer calories a day for each year past 30. This is also the decade in which extra body fat creeps up. In fact, if you're not vigilant, your body can quickly exceed the recommended level of 18 to 22 percent lard content [source: Brant].
The solution is simple: Eat less.
This might not sound like very much fun, but by relying on portion-control guidelines, you could turn the whole thing into something of a game -- and because you're likely already eating things in bigger portions than what's recommended, you might even lose weight. When you plan your next meal, keep in mind that one portion of pasta or rice is about the size of a hockey puck. A portion of cubed cheddar or cottage cheese is about the size of four dice, and a proper portion of protein (like a chicken breast or burger) is about the size of a deck of cards [source: Mayo Clinic]. If these sizes sound too small, fear not -- you can have multiple portions. Just try to keep it all within the boundaries of a plan like the Mayo Clinic Healthy Weight Pyramid.
Tend to Your Ticker
Several things begin to happen to your cardiovascular system in your 30s.
First, because the heart is a muscle, it begins to show signs of age like other muscles in your body. This is manifest in a decreased stroke count -- or the amount of blood pumped by your heart in a single beat. Second, the body begins to lose its ability to extract oxygen from the blood. To top it all off, this is the decade where cholesterol can begin to collect on artery walls and blood pressure can start to increase [source: Men's Health].
But it's not all as dire as it sounds. The early 30s also signal the time when endurance athletes typically hit their aerobic peaks, so with a little effort you can protect your ticking heart from the ticking of the clock. Your best bet is to try interval training: short but intense bursts of exercise where your heart rate climbs to 80 to 95 percent of its max, followed by a period of recovery before revving up again [source: Brant].
Don't Dodge the Doc
Because things like cholesterol, body fat and blood pressure all begin to rise in your 30s, now is the time to schedule doctor visits as regularly as you schedule oil changes. (You do those, right?) Instead of every 3,000 miles, it's recommended that a guy in his 30s get a complete physical every three years [source: Washington Hospital Healthcare System].
Not only can going to the doc help you find present and potential health issues, but getting checked out at 30 is also great for establishing some baseline measurements that will help you monitor your health in the long decades to come. Request a baseline EKG to gauge your heart health, take note of your blood pressure and pulse, and request a lipid profile so that you can begin monitoring your cholesterol levels.
An annual checkup visit is also a good idea so that you and your doc can keep an eye on these measurements and catch early warning signs of diseases like diabetes, or colon and prostate cancer.
According to the National Institutes of Health, testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in men between the ages of 15 and 35. But now for the good news: The organization also reports that if it's caught early enough, seminoma (the least aggressive kind) has a greater than 95 percent survival rate. That's why it's critical for men to be alert to the signs of testicular cancer during this phase of their lives. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs include the following:
- A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
- A dull ache that's centered in the abdomen or groin
- Pain in either testicle or the scrotum
- Breast enlargement or tenderness
- An overall feeling of fatigue
Another key symptom is a testicular lump or enlargement, which can often be detected during a self-exam. This is best carried out in a hot shower when the scrotum is relaxed. By rolling each testicle gently between the fingertips, men can note any changes in the anatomy. Swelling or a lump about the size of a pea might indicate an issue and should trigger a visit to the doctor. Be aware that the testicles also have blood vessels and other tubes attached to them, so they won't be perfectly round. That's why it's best to become familiar with the terrain so you can note any changes that do emerge.
The exam is recommended monthly until age 35, or longer if there's a family history of the disease [source: Medline Plus].
Develop a Competent Core
Men are famous for working through the pain. That pop you heard while exercising? No big deal. The twang you felt in your back while raking the leaves? It's nothing. The sharp jolt in your knee when you landed after making that last basket? It'll pass.
This approach to fitness just might work while you're in your 20s. But once the 30s hit, things need to change. This is not only because you want to demonstrate that you've gotten wiser as you've gotten older, but also because your body will actually begin to lose coordination and strength during your 30s. That's not to say you shouldn't work out. In fact, if you don't, you stand to lose 10 pounds of muscle during the decade [source: Men's Health]. But now's not the time to focus on how much you can bench or curl. Instead, focus more on strengthening the body as a full unit.
One of the best ways to do this is to incorporate more core and stability exercises -- such as the front and side plank, one-legged squat, and pretty much anything involving those giant exercise balls -- into your weekly routine. Such an exercise routine will protect your joints, strengthen connective tissue and may even deliver that all-illusive six-pack.
Test Your Testosterone
In your 30s, your bones can begin to lose their size, your heart begins to lose its oomph and your muscles begin to lose some strength. At least you get to hold on to that thing that makes you the manliest of men: your testosterone. Right? Not so fast …
A study reported in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism that tracked 1,500 men revealed that 1 in 4 men over the age of 30 suffers from low testosterone [source: Vann]. The Mayo Clinic states that our testosterone levels begin to decline by about 1 percent for every year men age over 30. Symptoms of testosterone deficiency include the following:
- Loss of sex drive
- Fewer nocturnal erections
- Decreased motivation or self-confidence
- Reduced strength
Some of these symptoms might be a natural result of aging, but others might indicate that your body doesn't have enough of the vital male hormone coursing through your veins.
If you feel you might be suffering from low testosterone, it's a good idea to visit a doctor who can measure your levels with a blood test. That's because in addition to the outward symptoms, low testosterone has also been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, heart disease and even premature death [source: Men's Health].
If you are found to be T-deficient, there are a number of replacement therapies -- often involving creams, gels or patches -- that can help restore your levels.
A Harvard University research team studying the effects of low testosterone and its links to depression found that during any given year, approximately 8 percent of men over 30 will suffer a serious bout of depression [source: Cromie].
But depression doesn't always have a physical cause, nor does it always express itself through classic symptoms like a loss of motivation, sadness or lack of energy. Depression in men can also manifest through increased risk-taking behavior, anger and aggression, or alcohol abuse [source: Zamora]. It can also be labeled as a midlife crisis.
Though a midlife crisis is traditionally thought of as affecting older men, a UK study has shown that men in their mid-30s can certainly fall prone to the feelings of dissatisfaction and a greater awareness of their own mortality [source: BBC News]. The joke is that a guy simply buys a sports car to get through it, but depression and midlife crises are no laughing matter; men are four times as likely to commit suicide as women [source: Zamora]. This is thought to be because guys are less likely to consider themselves clinically depressed and therefore less likely to seek treatment.
So if you're feeling glum without an immediately obvious cause, it wouldn't be a bad idea to seek help. If your testosterone levels are normal, you could consider mental health counseling. Talk therapy has actually been shown to be as effective as prescription antidepressants for banishing the blues [source: Doheny]. And although it doesn't come naturally to guys, talking about your feelings could be the best way to ensure you're around to keep talking to your loved ones in your 40s.
HowStuffWorks looks at a study linking time spent with childhood friends with improved outcomes in men's health.
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