For 52-year-old serial entrepreneur Craig Cooper, middle age looks pretty good. It looks like adventure races across the Grand Canyon, surfing in the Maldives, climbing the Grand Tetons, finishing the NYC marathon and training with UFC world champions. It looks nothing like the future of prostate cancer and diabetes doctors warned him of more than a decade ago.
Of course, Cooper’s journey to wellness was a long one, and it’s something the men’s health advocate chronicles in his new book, “Your New Prime: 30 Days to Better Sex, Eternal Strength, and a Kick-Ass Life After 40.” Here’s Cooper’s take on aging gracefully, his own health battles, and why men of a certain age should get their shit together.
Why write a book about men’s health after 40? What changes at that age?
As a class, men my age are not being taken care of. The mass media looks at health as a catch-all for everyone, whether you’re a toddler or a 70-year-old. All the messages are the same. There’s no real targeting around specifics, and guys of my generation have different needs. Guys that are 40 and older are very vulnerable to the drug companies and messages from Internet marketers, because we’re losing our masculinity and it’s being attacked by the environment, toxins, and by lack of exercise. And all these manifest themselves in loss of libido, lack of sex drive, sexual health problems—all the things that define us as men. We’re an easy target.
So I wanted to be the guy who stood up and said ‘Look, we’re alive we’re thriving. This is what we need to do if we want to stay at peak performance as we age.’
You write a little about the corporate tech ladder and your observation that people in that world were “disconnected from their bodies and nature.” What do you mean by that?
We’re all just working harder. We’re all more stressed. We’re eating worse. All the aspects around our health are deteriorating as a result of the lifestyles that we lead, and that’s principally driven by how we’re working. We’re sitting more, we’re not standing enough, we’re not mobile enough and it’s leading to more and more chronic disease.
I’ve had various iterations of my life, both professionally and as an entrepreneur, where people are just dropping around me like flies because they’re psychotically committed to making money as opposed to looking out for themselves and looking out for the people who are around them. People just lose sight of the fact that unless you’re at peak health, your family and everyone around you is going to suffer. You have to be healthy to look after everyone around you.
You compare yourself to Ethan Hawke’s genetics-obsessed character from the sci-fi film Gattaca. Why?
There’s a whole field called epigenetics—a new theory of medicine that basically says that genes are not your destiny. They certainly impact whether you have a predisposition to disease or not, but more and more has been shown that environmental factors can influence you as well. So if you have a predisposition to prostate cancer or type II diabetes—like I have—then you can implement a number of lifestyle changes, which can have a significant impact as to whether you’re actually going to be disposed. Like Ethan Hawke’s character in Gattaca, I feel like I’m genetically disadvantaged but also environmentally gifted in terms of the types of things that I do in my life in order to maximize my own wellness.
You also talk about how some doctors are woefully ill equipped to address nutrition, and too often focus on disease treatment instead of prevention. What has your experience been with doctors, and what advice do you have for younger men?
More and more doctors are obese. There’s an extremely high suicide rate and high rate of drug use in the medical profession. To become a doctor through Harvard Medical School, you don’t have to do a single unit of nutrition. You can come out of Harvard as an MD without having a single bit of education about nutrition, which just flies in the face of everything they’re supposed to be training for. So it’s astounding to me.
I make reference to Paul Chek, who’s a lifestyle and wellness coach out of San Diego, who half-jokes that when you go see your doctor you should ask them to take their shirt off and actually see how fit he really is. Look at your wellness team very closely, and from an aspirational point of view, ask: Is that someone who reflects a healthy lifestyle that you’re looking to implement?
Is a mid-life crisis for men inevitable? If so, how does a man handle it with grace?
Traditionally, the mid-life crisis occurs between your 40s and your 50s, because everyone—no matter how rich, successful, or otherwise—does a tally-up of their life around that point. Is my relationship as passionate as I thought it would be? Are my kids doing as well as I thought they would? Do I have enough money? Is it was I expected? Are all the dreams and aspirations I had when I was younger fulfilled?
I’m saying to men: Don’t treat that time of your life as one of crisis to sort of degenerate into complacency and depression and a less healthy lifestyle. Use it as a time of opportunity to reassess where you’re going for the next 30, or 40 years of your life. Get your shit together. Get your nutrition in place. Get your exercise in place. Reestablish the intimacy in your relationships and don’t be the guy who just throws away 35 years of marriage and gets a Ferrari and a younger girlfriend. And if you’re in a long-term relationship and it doesn’t have the passion that is once had, then here are the tools to regenerate that.
This interview has been condensed and edited.