When it comes to health care, we men are like ostriches. We bury our heads in the sand. We are much less likely than women to visit our doctors regularly, take symptoms seriously and live a healthful lifestyle. Maybe that’s one reason why women have a seven-year average survival advantage on us!

Yet it’s obviously important that men of all ages become more proactive about their health. And an easy way to start is to follow these 10 basic steps to maintaining health and vitality.

1. Eliminate "White Foods" from Your Diet. White flour, white sugar and other processed foods are not only devoid of vitamins and minerals, but they’ve also been stripped of their natural fibre. As a result, they rapidly drive up blood sugar levels, which contributes to weight gain, diabetes and a host of other health problems. Avoid breads and baked goods made with white flour, sugar-laden sodas and snack foods. Instead, focus on eating fibre-rich fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

2. Stay Away from Dangerous Trans Fats. While it’s important to reduce your overall fat intake, it’s even more important to watch the types of fat you eat. Deep-fried foods and anything made with hydrogenated oils (margarine, peanut butter, shortening, store-bought pastries and cookies) contain trans fats that raise your risk of heart disease. Eat only healthful fats, such as olive oil and the omega-3 oils found in salmon and other cold-water fish, which actually protect against heart disease.

3. Take a Potent Daily Multivitamin and Mineral Supplement. Although there is no substitute for a good diet, I am convinced that for optimal nutrition, you need to take a high-potency multivitamin and mineral supplement. Even if you are eating right, it’s unlikely that your food contains all the nutrients you need. Poor soil quality, storage, processing and cooking deplete our food of vitamins and minerals. Taking a high quality daily supplement is "health insurance" against possible deficiencies.

4. Include Weight Training in Your Exercise Routine. Aerobic exercise is great for cardiovascular conditioning, but it’s vastly inferior to weight training in attacking the "flab factor." Recent research has shown that as little as once-weekly resistance exercise can improve muscle strength. Even the busiest or laziest among us can find the time and energy for that. Join a gym, consult a personal trainer or ask an experienced friend to show you the ropes.

5. Maintain Your Optimal Weight. Current statistics suggest that half of us are losing the battle of the bulge, but maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for yourself. You’ll look better, feel better and reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and other major killers. I know this is easier said than done, but if you just follow the four steps above, you’ll be well on your way.

6. Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation. You’ve probably heard of the "French Paradox," and that drinking wine protects against heart disease. Repeated studies have shown that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol (all kinds) protects not only against heart disease, but also lowers risk of death from all causes. Remember that moderation is key. While one to two drinks a day are protective, excess alcohol consumption is devastating to health. And for some, one drink is too many.

7. Protect Your Prostate. Around the age of 40, the prostate gland begins a growth spurt that results in symptoms such as frequent nighttime urination. The good news is that this condition, known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, can be prevented or reversed by taking extracts of two herbs: saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and pygeum (Pygeum africanum). Dozens of studies have shown that these herbs work in improving urinary flow without adverse side-effects. Suggested doses are 160 to 320 milligrams of saw palmetto and 40 to 80 mg of pygeum daily.

8. Reduce Your Risk of Prostate Cancer. Experts estimate that 80 per cent of all cancers can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices. Avoid saturated and trans fats, which may fuel prostate cancer growth, and incorporate protective foods, such as soy, green tea and tomatoes, into your diet. Soy contains isoflavones with specific anti-cancer activity. Green tea is rich in polyphenols that inhibit the formation of cancer-causing compounds and block the growth of prostate cancer cells. And tomatoes, particularly cooked tomato products, are an excellent source of lycopene, which is linked to a reduced risk of prostate cancer. In addition, make sure your daily nutritional supplement contains high doses of the antioxidant selenium (200 micrograms) and vitamin E (800 IU), which have been shown to dramatically lower the risk of prostate cancer.

9. Maintain Vigorous Sexual Function. Most cases of erectile dysfunction (impotence) have a physical cause: You’re just not getting enough blood to the area in question. To improve overall circulation, follow the diet, exercise and supplement recommendations above. If you’re taking drugs, review them with your doctor, as many can worsen erectile function and impair libido. Smoking also significantly impairs erectile function. Several herbs have been shown to improve sexual function. Ginkgo biloba increases blood flow to the penis, and Panax ginseng, oats, horny goat weed, maca and seroctin improve libido.

10. Maintain Close Relationships. Another thing women seem to do better than men is maintain close relationships. Make a point to strengthen ties with your family and friends. Volunteer work, religious ties, even pets–anything that keeps you involved with others–reduces stress and enhances health.

Take charge of your health by incorporating these 10 steps into your life. The rewards of optimal health and well-being will be well worth your efforts.

Men’s Longevity "To Do" List

  1. Eliminate "white foods" from your diet.
  2. Stay away from dangerous trans fats.
  3. Take a daily vitamin-mineral supplement.
  4. Incorporate weight training in your exercise routine.
  5. Maintain your optimal weight.
  6. Drink alcohol only in moderation.
  7. Protect your prostate.
  8. Reduce your risk of prostate cancer.
  9. Maintain vigorous sexual function.
  10. Maintain close relationships.

About the Author

Julian Whitaker, MD, is the founder of the Whitaker Wellness Institute Medical Clinic in Newport Beach, California, and editor of the monthly newsletter, Health and Healing. Dr Whitaker has also written eight books, including Reversing Hypertension, Rever