7) Take a baby aspirin every day (for most men). Unless you are truly allergic to aspirin (very rare) or at high risk for gastrointestinal bleeding (not very common), this daily dose of aspirin is one of the most beneficial and simple things you can do. It acts to reduce the risk of clot formation in the arteries leading to your heart and brain, thereby reducing the risk of both heart attacks and strokes. And it probably acts in many other beneficial ways we don't yet fully understand.
8) Practice safe sex. In this age of AIDS, you could make a good case for putting this higher on the list. But even less lethal sexually transmitted diseases can cause a wide range of disability, such as infertility problems and pelvic pain in women. And unless you are in a truly monogamous relationship, there is no good way to tell a partner is safe, so prevention using condoms is key.
9) Have regular glaucoma screenings. I put this on the list because glaucoma is a major cause of blindness and it usually doesn't produce visual symptoms until it has caused significant damage to the optic nerve. That's why eye doctors call it a "thief in the night." The other benefit of glaucoma screening is that your ophthalmologist will have the opportunity to check for other eye problems such as macular degeneration.
10) Use a sunscreen of at least 15 SPF. Skin cancers are the most common of all cancers by far. Fortunately, most of them (basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas) are rarely lethal, though they can certainly cause local disfigurement if not diagnosed early. Melanoma is both disfiguring and lethal, so it must be diagnosed as early as possible. But since it is so inconvenient to do a truly thorough check of the skin, at least by yourself, prevention is a very helpful tool. And that means the use of sunscreen and protective clothing and the avoidance of direct sun exposure between the "high hours" of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is strongest.
11) Increase good fats and good carbs in your diet. Some of the standard nutritional advice of the past is undergoing change. And this is particularly true in the growing emphasis on making a distinction between good fats and carbs — such as omega-3 fatty acids and whole grains, which should actually be increased in our diet — and bad fats and carbs, such as saturated fats and highly refined grains, which of course should be decreased. In other words, just "cutting down" on fats and carbs is not precise enough anymore.
12) Find time for some kind of meditation/relaxation practice. This goal is very flexible. It is more important to set aside some time for relaxation than it is to worry about a specific relaxation technique. Even physical activity that is "relaxing" in the sense that it gets your mind away from stressful thoughts can be helpful. All of us should take the time to "get away" mentally and emotionally at least once a day, wherever we are, or whatever we are doing.
Tips are excerpted from Dr. Timothy Johnson's OnCall Guide to Men's Health by Dr. Tim Johnson, Hyperion, Copyright May 2002. Used with permission.