Harvard Men's Health Watch

Lifestyle prevention: Does it work? And why?

You started hearing it from your mom not long after you came into this world. In junior high school, your health education teacher took up the beat, and then passed the baton to your high school biology instructor. You caught a break in college (or, perhaps, you were too busy to notice), and your girlfriends had other things on their minds. But then everyone got into the act, from your wife and your doctor to your company's HR director, your insurance carrier, and the federal government: live right to live well and live long.

We call it prudent advice, but you've heard it so often that it may come across as nagging. The concepts are so simple, even obvious, that they may seem trivial in a medical culture dominated by MRIs, gee-whiz surgery, and genetically engineered drugs. And although the precepts of prevention are simple, making the changes that count can be surprisingly hard. All in all, most men are tempted to drift along living like the guy next door, and many simply stay on the path of least resistance.

It's easy to wait for your doctor to roll out the latest drug or for your surgeon to stave off a crisis — but is it smart? Do lifestyle changes really work? And if so, how?

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