THESE ARE A FEW SIMPLE WAYS THAT MEN CAN TAKE CHARGE OF THEIR HEALTH.
BY DR. ROBERT BLAIR, STRATEGIC RESEARCH SCIENTIST
When it comes to taking care of our health, men are typically less diligent than women. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), “men are 24 percent less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year and are 22 percent more likely to have neglected their cholesterol tests.” Given the facts that, compared to women, men are 28 percent more likely to be hospitalized for congestive heart failure and 32 percent more likely to be hospitalized for complications related to diabetes, it is important for men to start taking their health care a bit more seriously.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), some of the leading causes of death in men are heart disease, cancer (especially lung and prostate cancer), stroke, diabetes and suicide. Fortunately, there are steps men can (and should) take to reduce their risk for these and other health conditions. The first thing men can do is to make good lifestyle choices. This includes eating a healthy diet, getting a good night’s sleep and getting plenty of exercise. According to the CDC, not getting enough sleep (i.e. seven to nine hours each night) has been linked to several chronic health conditions including diabetes, obesity and depression.
Similarly, eating a healthy diet can help reduce men’s risk for chronic health conditions like heart disease and obesity. One key to eating healthy is to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables. These are considered “nutrient-dense” foods since they are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, while being lower in calories. Additionally, the CDC recommends eating foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber to help prevent high blood cholesterol, and limiting salt intake to help maintain a healthy blood pressure.
The third lifestyle change men can make is to get plenty of exercise. Regular physical activity can help men maintain a healthy body weight, lower blood cholesterol levels, improve blood pressure, reduce stress, and reduce the risk for chronic health conditions. According to the CDC, adults need at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week and muscle strengthening exercises that work all major muscle groups on two or more days per week. Moderate-intensity exercises are those that raise your heart rate and make you break a sweat; examples include activities like walking fast, riding a bicycle on level ground, water aerobics, etc.
In addition to getting adequate sleep, eating healthy and getting plenty of regular physical activity, men can also consider including dietary supplements as part of their path toward better health. While we may do our best to eat a healthy diet, very few of us get all the nutrients we need from our diets. Dietary supplements, such as a good multivitamin/multimineral, is an excellent way to cover any gaps in our daily nutrient intake. Dietary supplements can also be a good complement to supporting specific health areas. For example, if you are concerned about good heart health, you might consider supplementing with ingredients like red yeast rice, omega-3 fatty acids, coenzyme Q10, and astaxanthin. Joint health can be supported with curcumin, Pycnogenol®, glucosamine and hyaluronic acid. If you’re concerned about maintaining good prostate health, zinc, selenium, reishi mushroom, saw palmetto and plant sterols are just some of the ingredients to look for in a supplement.
Lastly, as men age it becomes more important to get regular health screenings. The AHRQ recommends regular blood cholesterol screening for men over 35 years of age. High cholesterol levels can increase men’s chances of poor circulation, heart disease and stroke. In addition to cholesterol screenings, the AHRQ recommends that men get their blood pressure checked every two years since high blood pressure is a risk factor for strokes, heart attacks, kidney, eye problems and heart failure. Other screenings to consider include prostate and colorectal cancers, depression and diabetes. Getting regular health screenings is key to finding any potential health issues earlier rather than later.
Men’s Health Week is in June. If you haven’t already implemented some of these changes, this would be a great time to start.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Men’s Health http://www.cdc.gov/men/index.htm
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Healthy Men http://www.ahrq.gov/patients-consumers/patient-involvement/healthy-men/index.html
- Men’s Health Week http://www.menshealthmonth.org/week/index.html