Sept. 29, 2000 -- Ask a man if he’s healthy, and he’ll say, “Sure.”
And he’ll say it even if there’s blood coming out of both ears. That’s because most men have a very general definition of health: If you can get up in the morning and make it to work, then you must be healthy. And if you can get home from work without collapsing — well, then you must be really healthy!
We asked a dozen physicians to define exactly what it means to be in “excellent health,” and they gave us the checklist that you need to complete before boasting about your super fitness. If you can check off at least eight of these 12 qualities, then you’re more than a good guy — you’re a physical specimen possessing rare genetic gifts. We may have you stuffed for posterity.
You Have Extremely High Cholesterol About 356,000 men die of heart disease every year — twice the tally killed by cancer. “But if you have an HDL (high-density lipoprotein — the good stuff) count of 90 mg/dl or more, you have very little worry of developing heart disease or arteriosclerosis,” says Dr. E. Randy Eckert, a pathologist and medical director at North Austin Medical Center in Texas. “You have an ample supply of HDL to keep your arteries clean, so you should never develop significant blockages.” Research bears this out: A study that followed 8,586 Israeli men for 21 years found that those with the highest HDL cholesterol levels were least likely to die of strokes.
To increase your HDL cholesterol levels, you need to exercise at a moderate intensity for about 20 minutes at least four times a week, and drop at least 5 pounds from your gut.
You Have an Athlete's Heart Your heart will beat a fixed number of times before it shuts down. So you don’t blow your quota by age 50, you need to keep your resting heart rate below 60 beats per minute, says Dr. Thomas Graboys, a cardiologist at the Harvard medical school. Find your resting rate by taking your pulse in the morning while you’re still in bed; multiply the beats in 15 seconds by four.
“Exercising at moderate intensities for long periods will lower your resting heart rate over time,” explains the appropriately named Dale Huff, of the American College of Exercise. The weekly prescription: at least four 40-minute aerobic workouts. To maintain an effective workout pace keep varying your intensity. For example, run, bike, or row slowly for 3 minutes, then go all out for 1 minute. Keep repeating this cycle until you’ve gone completely nuts.
Answer Yes to These Two Questions Do you look forward to going to work? And do you look forward to going home in the afternoon? “After being in practice for 30 years, I’ve learned that if you can answer ‘yes’ to both of these questions, you have a very low risk of dying of a heart attack or any other heart-related problem,” says Dr. Graboys.
Semen Counting Can you ejaculate a tablespoon of semen, or up to five milliliters on a good day?That’s the quota you nailed at age 20. If your prostate is healthy, you should still hit it at 50, says Dr. William Catalona, a prostate-cancer specialist at the Washington University school of medicine in St. Louis.
You Have Two Close Male Friends Those two people can’t be current coworkers, neighbors, hitchhikers, or anyone who guest-starred on The A-Team. If you pass this test and you’re over 35, it means you have far healthier social ties — and a better chance at living longer — than two-thirds of all men, says Dru Sherrod, a Los Angeles psychologist who studies the impact of male friendship. Passing this test means you don’t base all your friendships on the foam pillars of convenience, geography, or a job — the mistakes that lead most men to be friendless by their 40s. Instead, you work to maintain friendships based on common interests and compatibility.
Low PSA Score Translated, that means you’ll have a sex life after the kids move out. That number indicates not only a very low risk of prostate cancer, but also a low risk of the PSA progressing above 4 ng/ml (the danger level) within the next 4 years, says Dr. Catalona.
Eating key nutrients can help lower your PSA count, says Dr. Catalona. He spikes his daily diet with the following four nutrients:
10 milligrams of lycopene: Lycopene is the red pigment in tomatoes. A cup of tomato soup or some ketchup will nail 10 milligrams.
500 milligrams of vitamin C: Eat a few daily servings of red peppers, broccoli, and orange juice.
200 micrograms of selenium: Brazil nuts and tuna steak are good sources.
200 international units of vitamin E: Sunflowers seeds are a rich source, but you’ll need a supplement to get this dosage.
Walk 2 Miles in 28 Minutes Anybody can run a mile in 10 or 12 minutes; the more out of shape you are, the more hours you’ll spend wheezing afterward. Maintaining a vigorous walking pace for a longer period of time is actually a better measure of your fitness. According to Swedish researchers, a fit 40-year-old man should be able to walk 2 miles in under 30 minutes, says Dr. Graboys. If you can cover that ground in under 28 minutes, you’re in excellent shape. If you can walk 2 miles in less than 20 minutes, you’ll probably look pretty funny doing it.
You Have Balanced Strength
Most men overdo pushing exercises like bench presses and squats, so it’s rare to find a man with balanced muscular strength. To have good muscle harmony, you should have a 1:1 strength ratio for your biceps and triceps. That means if you can curl a 50-pound barbell 10 times, you should be able to do triceps pushdowns with 50 pounds for 10 reps — no fewer or more. As for your legs, your quadriceps and hamstrings should have a 3:2 strength ratio. If you can do 10 leg curls with 65 pounds, you should be able to do exactly 10 leg presses with 100 pounds. If this quick test shows that you have uneven strength, customize your workout to shore up your lagging muscles.
You Thread a Needle on the First Try This means you have excellent depth perception and stereo acuity — two attributes that let Ted Williams count the seams on a 95-mph fastball. If you can’t thread a needle or hit a Wiffle ball, ask your eye doctor to give you the Titmus test. It measures your 3-D vision with a series of floating diamonds and can diagnose an otherwise imperceptible case of lazy eye (amblyopia), which can affect your night vision.
Also, during your yearly eye exam, inquire about the specific results of your glaucoma test. Glaucoma causes your ocular fluid to become pressurized and destroy tissue. “A fluid-pressure score as high as 22 mm Hg will let you pass, but a lower score of 12 to 16 mm Hg is far better,” says Dr. Roger Steinert, an ophthalmologist at Harvard medical school. Since 1 million people are losing their sight to undiagnosed glaucoma right now, insurance points count.
You Have the Perfect Head
If your face is 40 percent longer than it is wide, it’s clinically perfect. You’ll be largely immune to the respiratory, jaw, and dental problems — as well as taunts of children — that affect men with more irregularly shaped heads. Grab a tape measure or a ruler and measure (1) the space between the tip of your chin and the top of your head (that’s the length), and (2) the distance between your ears (width). Divide the width by the length, then subtract the result from 100. For example, if your face is 9 inches long and 5 and a half inches wide, then 5.5 ¸ 9 = 0.61, or about 60 percent, and 100 — 60 = 40 percent. Feel free to brag to your coworkers.
You Can Take a Hill The cardiac stress test called the “Bruce protocol” is one of the most accurate — and ruthless — ways to gauge your heart strength, says Dr. Graboys. You simply walk at a brisk pace on a treadmill that gradually keeps getting steeper until you can’t huff out another step. If you’re around 40 years old, it’s a good idea to perform this test to get a baseline reading of your heart output; it could come in handy.
“Most healthy 30- to 40-year-old men last for about 9 minutes, and 12 minutes is very good,” says Dr. Graboys. Your goal is 15 minutes; that’s superb cardiovascular health. You can replicate this test at home, but get your doctor’s green light first; this test is strenuous enough to cause a heart attack. To perform the test, walk on a flat treadmill at 3 mph and increase the incline by 2 inches every 3 minutes (or increase the speed by 1 mph every 3 minutes if your treadmill can’t incline). Most fairly fit men will be spewing profanity after 7 minutes. If you don’t have a treadmill, try to maintain a constant, mildly strenuous pace (say, 35 steps per minute) on a 15-degree hill for 15 minutes.
Can’t crack 10 minutes? The test is your workout till you can pass it.
Your Left is a Mirror Right Want to prove you’re a man with truly superior genetic gifts? Pick up the tape measure again. Compare the wrist girth, nostril circumference, and ear size on both sides of your body. If they’re exactly the same, or within a millimeter of each other, you’re a natural athlete. A study from Liverpool of 50 men found that those who had the most symmetry in these body parts were the fastest runners. The more finely symmetrical you are, the better control you have of your extremities during high-performance activities. We think that means you’re good in bed.