Dr. David Samadi’s advice on how older men should take care of their health

Good personal hygiene at all ages is a must. The act of maintaining certain hygiene routines enhances overall health and well-being but also shows you care about yourself and everyone you come into contact with. Sometimes older guys, especially widowers, may slack off on good grooming.  Without a spouse or girlfriend reminding them to “clean up,” maintaining bodily hygiene may be neglected. But when hygiene suffers, so does self-confidence, your appearance, and maintaining personal relationships. There’s no doubt that a well-groomed man will always make a grand entrance no matter what age he is.

Besides appearance and personal social contacts good hygiene and staying clean help reduce the risk of diseases and illnesses spread by viruses and bacteria. Men with a wound or skin irritation should particularly be mindful of spending time keeping these areas free of dirt or grime.

To reach the pinnacle of good grooming and hygiene practices, here are 5 personal hygiene habits older men, in particular, should faithfully not forget:

1. Shower or bathe often

It’s not uncommon for elderly men to avoid bathing. Common contributors may be living alone with few social interactions, forgetting to take a bath or shower, fear of falling in the bathroom, or find taking a bath is a lengthy and tiring event. A daily bath for older adults is not always necessary but at least twice a week is recommended to remove dead skin cells, sweat and dirt. Staying clean with bathing helps reduce the risk of diseases and illnesses spread by viruses and bacteria.  Any wound or skin irritations should be gently cleaned daily to prevent infection from bacteria.

To keep hair clean and fresh, a once or twice-a-week washing should be sufficient since aging means the scalp is not making much of the oil sebum anymore.

Another reason for regular bathing is that as we age, changes in body odor can occur. One reason is the skin is producing fewer antioxidants and in addition, a chemical compound called 2-nominal appears to be involved in the age-related body odor. This compound has been described as a greasy or grassy smell that lingers on the skin and even clothing and bed linens. It also helps to use scented or unscented body washes or soaps and then deodorant keeping odors at bay.

2. Brush and floss teeth daily

Oral hygiene is often ignored by men as they age. Taking good care of teeth and gums is imperative as neglecting to do so will likely result in costly and painful periodontal disease and loss of teeth. This will affect a man’s ability to eat and his appearance. Another hygiene turnoff is bad breath. Growing older can be blamed for increasing dry mouth, gum disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) leading to bad breath.

That’s why regular dental checkups and following guidelines of brushing and flossing teeth twice a day, after breakfast and again before bedtime, helps increases preservation of teeth preventing serious dental incidents. Since the tongue harbors bacteria and food debris, it’s also recommended to brush it too.

3. Practice daily foot care for odor prevention

No one likes the smell of stinky feet which is primarily caused by excess moisture that gets trapped when wearing shoes. For men, this means anytime after sweating from exercise or other activity requires a thorough scrubbing of their feet with soap and water along with using a pumice stone scraping off dead skin cells. Afterward, using a clean towel to dry off moisture between toes and drying feet thoroughly followed by an application of foot or baby powder will do the trick of stomping out foot odor. Even after taking a bath or shower, this same advice applies.

The types of socks you wear make a difference too. Choose socks made with antibacterial or synthetic fabrics helping wick away moisture can be a good odor-control method. Foot hygiene also involves regular visits to a podiatrist for keeping toenails trimmed and presentable. Podiatrists can also remove ingrown toenails and take care of any toenail fungal infections such as athlete’s foot.

4. Wash your face and wear sunscreen daily

Unlike women, few men follow a daily skincare routine such as washing their face and applying sunscreen. Yet, the largest organ of the body needs tender loving care to look and feel its best.  For healthier-looking skin, a face cleanser followed by a facial moisturizer significantly improves skin’s texture, tone, and smoothness.

The number one cancer diagnosed in men is skin cancer. Applying an SPF 30 (or higher) broad-spectrum sunscreen every day, rain or shine, should be as routine as putting on your shoes before going outside. Besides the face, neck and tops of ears, any other part of the body exposed to UV sunlight requires sunscreen. Monthly self-exam skin checks are vital for finding any changes in moles, brown spots or new skin lesions discovered. A dermatologist needs to be consulted if any changes are found.

5. Controlling urinary incontinence

Accidentally leaking urine can be an embarrassing and frustrating situation for anyone but especially for men. Men are much less likely to alert their doctor to this problem than women. A study in 2007 found that only one in five symptomatic men asked for help. Untreated urinary incontinence not only leads to bad body odor and clothing staining but also increases the risk of skin irritations, rashes and sores in the groin area when exposed to frequently wet skin.

Urinary incontinence in men is often the result of prostate enlargement or BPH, conditions causing nerve damage such as diabetes or Parkinson’s, being overweight, and consuming too many liquids especially alcohol or caffeine which are diuretics.

Controlling urinary incontinence can be managed. One simple step is to avoid sitting for long stretches throughout the day. A 2018 study of almost 70,000 healthy men found those sitting more than five hours at a time, developed lower urinary tract symptoms, like urinary incontinence, than men who were up and about more frequently.

Other lifestyle modifications helping manage urinary incontinence include:

  • Avoiding certain foods triggering bladder problems such as carbonated beverages, alcohol, caffeine, spicy foods, chocolate and citrus juices.
  • Consume fluids in moderation. Stay adequately hydrated but avoid overdoing it. When well-hydrated, urine will be a pale yellow with little to no odor.
  • If overweight, lose weight. Excess weight adds extra pressure on the pelvic muscles and bladder increasing urinary incontinence.
  • Practice Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic muscles. The pelvic muscles help control urine flow and leakage.
  • Practice bladder control by controlling dribbling. Urinary dribbling in older men is common and there are techniques to manage this.
  • Smoking irritates the bladder – take steps to quit smoking.
  • Depending on the severity of urinary incontinence, there are medications to treat it. Men should discuss with the healthcare provider if they need this option.
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