A baby boomer guy who is interested in getting healthy needs to consider the importance of both exercise and nutrition. Nutrients are important, according to a nationally recognized expert in nutrition, weight control and wellness, Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom. Men may not be focusing on these two components of good health. It’s just one more example that men need to get more in tune with their bodies. For many baby boomer men, that’s not easy.

Fernstrom, in an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, says men, often, don’t have this  “wake-up call” to improve their lifestyle until they’ve experienced a health issue, such as high blood pressure, knee pain or chest pain. Fernstrom says a big “wake-up” call is when men reach age 50. According to Fernstrom, this is when men need to explore their family history, to see if there is a tendency in the family for heart and cholesterol issues, diabetes and cancer.

Fernstrom, who is the Diet and Nutrition Editor for NBC’s TODAY show, suggests baby steps to improve your health.  “It’s time to stick your toe in the water and say, ‘Alright, let me make some small changes,’” says Fernstrom. Men need to find out what they’re willing and able to do. A good first step is to visit your primary care physician and get a full physical. Fernstrom stresses the silent nature of some conditions, such as high blood pressure. You should also make a list of health concerns or symptoms.  Fernstrom suggests men make behavioral changes to stay on track. A good place to start is to find out what to eat and how to increase your activity.

Easy ways to add activity to your routine include walking up stairs, walking up escalators and parking your car further from the mall. You can add exercises, depending on your preference.  Fernstrom says the buddy system is a great way to get active; it’s a chance to join other people. If, on the other hand, “you’re a loner, and you like to walk and just be by yourself, or take a run, that’s good, too.”

Exercise is not the only route to a healthier body. Consider what you’re eating. When it comes to food intake, you need, once again, to examine your medical history and pay attention to your doctor’s advice.  “If you have a tendency towards high blood pressure, you’re going to have to watch your salt a lot more…if you have lipid problems, you’re going to have to watch your cholesterol and animal fat intake.”

For men and women, Fernstrom suggests an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption. “You don’t have to eat everything, just pick a few things you like that involve a lot of  color…fruits and vegetables are nature’s perfect foods, they’re high in water and high in fiber,” adds Fernstrom.

Aside from fruits and veggies, you’ll want to focus on skinless chicken, fish and lean cuts of meat, like flank steak or ultra-lean beef. In general, you need to look for lean protein sources.  Whole grains are important. “That’s hard to get used to. Many men think whole wheat is really chewy…it doesn’t taste good,” says Fernstrom. She says you can ease into a whole grain routine by eating brown rice, or using a combination of white and whole wheat pasta. What’s so great about fiber? Fernstrom says fiber helps digestive health.

When it comes to fats, there are heart-healthy alternatives. Fernstrom says, “these are mostly going to be any vegetable source – olive oil, walnut oil, corn oil, soybean oil.” Stay away from hard, solid fats, such as butter, lard and solid-stick margarines. Men will often confuse heart-healthy with low-calorie, says Fernstrom. Men may decide to fry chicken in olive oil instead of lard. While that’s OK, there are still the same calories.

Fernstrom notes that men start to develop “weight creep” in their 30s, due to less activity. Men, according to Fernstrom,  may consider adding olive oil and nuts to a salad, but they don’t pay attention to portions. She calls this, “Portion Distortion.” When it comes to weight loss, Fernstrom says it’s calories in and calories out, adding that it’s a good one-two punch to be physically active. As you age, you lose muscle mass.

Fernstrom says you might want to consider vitamins. “Even with a healthy diet, it’s really hard to get all of your requirements, especially for things like Vitamin D. She calls vitamins “good insurance.” It’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor about which vitamins you should be taking.

If you’re inactive and spending far too many hours in front of the computer screen, Fernstrom suggest you take small steps to become active, such as walking 30 minutes a day. It’s also a good idea to manage your stress better and see your doctor for a check up. Fernstrom calls this a “sound, but dull message.”

Visit Madelyn Fernstrom at www.drmadelynfernstrom.com