The average life expectancy for men is 5 years shorter than it is for women, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The stat is sobering, but it can also be a wake-up call to take better care of yourself.
In light of Movember—the movement that encourages men to grow mustaches in November and has raised more than $700 million for men’s health since 2003—consider taking action.
Growing a ‘stache or donating is a great first step, but change can start closer to home, too.
Read on for five of the most important things you can do to prevent yourself from becoming a statistic.
QUIT SMOKING ALREADY
Smoking rates are at an all time low, but men continue to smoke more than women do.
In the U.S., 19 percent of men still light up, compared to 15 percent of women, according to the CDC.
The global disparity is even greater: Forty percent of men smoke worldwide compared to only 9 percent of women, the World Health Organization estimates.
It’s no secret that cigarettes are bad for your health. In fact, smoking can slash up to 15 years off your life, says Jessica Cook, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health.
The good news, though, is that quitting now can greatly reduce your risk: Fifteen years after kicking the habit, your risk for heart disease mirrors that of a nonsmoker, according to the American Cancer Society.
Want to quit for good? The Cold Turkey Method Is the Most Effective Way to Quit Smoking, research from the University of Oxford finds.
CUT BACK ON BOOZE
Men are twice as likely to binge drink—downing 5 or more drinks in 2 hours—as women are, according to the CDC.
They’re also twice as likely to drive drunk, which puts them at greater risk for alcohol-related deaths and hospitalizations.
Heavy drinking can make you more likely to get cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, and colon.
Related: This Is Your Body On Booze
The best thing you can do is control your intake. If you don’t want to forgo booze completely, the U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggest limiting yourself to a max of 2 drinks—a couple of 12-ounce beers, for example—per day.
SEE YOUR DAMN DOCTOR
Men notoriously avoid the doctor’s office. In fact, nearly 1 in 4 guys haven’t seen a physician in over a year, a report from the National Center for Health Statistics found.
The Top Excuses Men Use to Put Off the Doctor include being too busy, feeling awkward during exams, and fearing what a doctor might find during the appointment.
But putting off the doctor is a big problem: Catching conditions like prediabetes or high blood pressure early can help you prevent them from developing into more serious health issues like diabetes or heart disease.
Plus, keeping up with your checkups will make sure you get the health screenings you need to stay safe: For example, all men ages 50 and older should get a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer, which affects about 1 in 21 guys, according to the American Cancer Society.
Seeing your doctor can also help you determine whether you should get the PSA test to screen for prostate cancer, a condition that affects 1 in 7 men.
So man up and see your doctor. Not having time isn’t an excuse anymore: Many offices offer extended hours on weekdays or weekends, so it won’t have to cut into your hectic workday.
FIND A WAY TO RELAX
Stress levels are rising: Nearly a third of men say they’re more stressed out than they were last year, a survey from the American Psychological Association (APA) found.
Plus, men are less likely than women to report that stress has a strong impact on your health, according to a separate report from the APA.
But that’s dead wrong: When you’re constantly on edge, your body pumps out high amounts of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Too much of those hormones can cause your blood pressure and cholesterol to spike, putting you at higher risk for coronary artery disease, heart attack, and stroke down the road.
What’s more, consistently high cortisol levels have been associated with higher rates of stroke, heart attack and heart failure, says John Higgins, M.D., a sports cardiologist in Texas.
So if you want to live longer, fighting stress is a good place to start. Try these 52 Ways to Chase Stress Away.
TAKE YOUR MENTAL HEALTH SERIOUSLY
Men make up nearly 80 percent of all suicides, according to the CDC. It’s The 7th Most Common Cause Of Death For Men.
One possible underlying factor is that men tend to avoid talking about mental health issues like depression and anxiety—both of which put you at risk for suicide—and are more resistant than women are to getting professional help, suggests the APA.
Men often tell themselves they can soldier through those issues on their own, says Christine Moutier, M.D., the chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
But reaching out to others—whether it’s people in your life for social support, or professionals in the mental health field—is crucial, she says.
Make an appointment with your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, even if they go away and come back randomly. He or she will be able to recommend treatment through medication or counseling.
But if you’re having distressed thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.
Additional reporting by Melissa Romero, Christa Sgobba, and Michelle Malia