Men’s health: keeping a close eye on 7 pitfalls
« I am not sick, therefore I am healthy ». This, in a nutshell, sums up most men’s attitude regarding their health. The statement is true…until proven otherwise.
Regardless of their age, men do not worry about prevention nearly as much as women do. This state of mind usually changes after the first encounter with a health issue. It would, however, be wiser to start looking out for oneself before a problem arises! The typical lifestyle of the modern man is characterized by being sedentary, stressed, and hurried. Those three words summarize an array of habits that over time, have a huge impact on health.
An ounce (or two) of prevention helps to avoid the pitfalls of hair loss; prostate problems; cholesterol; diabetes; heart disease; colorectal cancer and osteoporosis. Wouldn’t you rather an apple and a bike ride with your family?
Granted, it is not an illness, but it’s definitely bothersome to say the least. By way of encouragement, I can tell you that it is not necessarily a genetic fatality completely out of your control. Yes, male pattern baldness is passed on from generation to generation, but there are some aggravating factors that speed up the process. Therefore, the cause may not be lost.
What is inherited from your parents is not the actual baldness, but rather the tendency to overproduce a testosterone derivative called dihydrotestosterone (or DHT). The production of this hormone increases with age, and affects hair follicle in the areas typical to male pattern baldness: temples, frontal, and crown. Since DHT is also involved in prostate enlargement, the same remedy applies: Saw palmetto. It reduces DHT production and stops it from attaching to DHT receptors…incidentally located on the hair follicles implicated in male pattern baldness.
The area where you do have control is located on your plate. A well-targeted diet contributes to hair growth. You should look for Omega 3s found in fish and seaweed, or readily available in form of supplement. Unfortunately for the enthusiasts, foods rich in refined sugar and white flour are to be avoided (white bread, white pasta, pizza, soda drinks, etc.)
While they occur much more often in women, thyroid problems can also affect men. They can cause a diffuse hair loss, throughout the entire scalp. Hair becomes dull and brittle and its life cycle shortens.
Thankfully, hair loss does not automatically translate into prostate problems. However, the stats are not in your favour: at age 40, 40% of men have an enlarged prostate and by age 80, it’s 80%. Age however, is hardly the only risk factor of prostate enlargement, you can also count: being overweight, inactivity, cholesterol, diabetes and heart diseases.
Symptoms of an enlarged prostate can be of urinary and/or sexual nature and may seriously affect the quality of life of the man in question and of his love ones. We are talking about frequent and pressing urges to urinate, incomplete voiding, interrupted stream, lack of libido, erectile dysfunction, and so on.
Prostate enlargement is mostly caused by the same hormone as the one involved in male pattern baldness: the infamous DHT. Saw Palmetto proves to be an excellent choice of treatment to relieve all types of symptoms linked to prostate enlargement. Many clinical studies have demonstrated how its efficacy is by all means comparable to that of pharmaceuticals.
Now, here is the part where you can make a difference. Not only does a sedentary lifestyle and excess weight increase the risks, they also intensify the symptoms. Diet and lifestyle have a direct impact. You should seriously consider switching your steak for vegetables since the first increases the risk by 38%, and the latter decreases it by 32%. Constipation, which is often the result of inactivity and lack of dietary fibre, also aggravates the symptoms because when the bowel is full and hard, it puts pressure on the prostate.
Cholesterol is not inherently bad. It plays a role in cell membranes as well as in the production of vitamin D and of many hormones, which means that it is actually essential to good health. Our body produces 80% of the cholesterol circulating in our blood, and the rest comes from the food we eat.
Surely, you have heard of good and bad cholesterol:
- The good one, called HDL for high-density lipoprotein, transports blood cholesterol towards the liver.
- The bad one, or LDL for low-density lipoprotein, travels in the blood and can accumulate on arterial walls to form plaques. Those plaques increase the risk of heart disease such as arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure and stroke.
A key to understand how to control your cholesterol is to understand that it acts as an antioxidant to neutralize free radicals in the body. The amount of free radicals found in the body depends directly on our diet and lifestyle. You will find helpful advice as to naturally reduce your cholesterol in this article.
Here are the risk factors for high levels of bad cholesterol in men:
- A poor diet (rich in animal saturated fat and trans fat often found in store-bought cookies and crackers)
- Lack of exercise: exercise increases HDL (the good guy) and lessens the harmfulness of LDL (the bad guy)
- To be over 40 (for women, it’s after menopause)
- To suffer from erectile dysfunction
- To be overweight (with a waist line exceeding 102 cm or 40 in.)
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking damages blood vessels, rendering them more likely to accumulate plaque. It also decreases the level of good cholesterol.
- Family history
You will surely have noticed the similarities with the risk factors of prostate enlargement?
Diabetes is a disease that affects the way our body utilizes glucose (sugar), and by which too much glucose ends up circulating in the blood, instead of feeding energy to our cells and our brain. Diabetes is categorized into 3 different types, according to cause.
Type II diabetes mellitus is the one that affects many Canadians and whose prevalence is expending at an alarming rate. It usually arises after the age of 40 and can be prevented with good lifestyle habits:
- Sufficient physical activity: your goal should be at least 150 minutes of cardio (about 20 minutes per day) and 3 muscles reinforcement workouts per week. Let’s go!
- A diversified and well balanced diet such as the Mediterranean diet is great: plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables including eggplant, whole grains, legumes, nuts, olive oil and water. Fish, poultry and dairies are moderately consumed and red meat, only occasionally.
- Weight management - excess weight (mostly obesity) is a major risk factor
- Stress management - because chronic stress can also contribute to the development of diabetes
Let’s see now…do the risk factors resemble those of cholesterol and prostate problems? Well, yes. See for yourself:
- To be a man
- Age (the risk increases with age)
- Being overweight, especially around the waist
- Physical inactivity
- High blood pressure
- An abnormally high blood sugar level
It is the greatest single cause of death in Canada. Actually, heart disease is not just one disease, it encompasses many health problems that affect the heart and prevent it from working normally and at full capacity. These problems include heart failure, arteriosclerosis, angina and arrhythmia, to name a few.
The most common types of heart diseases occur when the blood vessels that are feeding the heart are obstructed, which can lead to a heart attack.
Thankfully, heart diseases are avoidable as long as you control the risk factors, which are, you will have guessed:
- High blood pressure
- Alcohol (in excess)
- Physical inactivity
- Being overweight
Since the preventative measures for cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease are the same, might as well adopt them! It is recommended to know and monitor your blood pressure.
In 2015, an estimated one Canadian in 13 received a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, the number 2 cause of death in Canada. This terrible disease that affects the colon, can be deathly if not treated in time. Its exact causes are no yet known, however, the risk factors are. I think you know what I am getting at…
Some risk factors are beyond our control and these include age, suffering from an inflammatory bowel disease and to be of American, African or Ashkenazi Jew descent. However, 70% of all cases of colorectal cancers could be avoided since the risk factors are associated with lifestyle and diet. It is best to:
- Adopt a healthy diet – avoid red or treated meat especially, as well as processed food. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grain and lean protein.
- Move! Sports decrease the risk of colorectal cancer because it improves intestinal movements and lessens the tendency to be overweight.
- Avoid excess weight and obesity. It is advisable to stay within a 18,5 to 25 body mass index (BMI) to prevent colorectal cancer
- Do not smoke
- Consume alcohol in moderation
The Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada offers valuable information regarding the kind of lifestyle and diet one should adopt in order to prevent the disease.
We hear all about the risk of osteoporosis in menopausal women, but not much about men. Yet, at age 50, 1 in 8 man is afflicted by osteoporosis (vs. 1 in 4 women). What is it exactly? Osteoporosis is the loss of mineral density and deterioration of the bones, leading to fragility. Bone loss occurs without symptoms but can bring about fractures, loss of mobility and autonomy, changes in posture, chronic pain, etc.
The main cause of osteoporosis is believed to be a defect in the assimilation and distribution of minerals in the body (such as calcium and magnesium), exacerbated by acid building diets. Those minerals being alkaline, the body utilized them to buffer excess acid, at the expense of bone health. A proper diet, adequate exercises as well as specific vitamins, as detailed in this article, are instrumental to prevent and delay the deterioration process.
As you might have guessed, risk factors have many points in common to those above. They are:
- Physical inactivity – especially the lack of resistance exercise
- Too much alcohol (over 2 drinks per day)
- Smoking – cigarettes weakens the bones…a lot
- Excess caffeine (over 4 portions per day)
- Excess animal proteins
- A calcium deficient diet
- A lack of vitamin D, which promotes calcium absorption
- Family history
- Being underweight (less than 132 pounds or 60 kg)
Apart for osteoporosis for which the risk factors differ a little, the majority of health problems affecting men have a lot in common.
I must take a moment to talk about the metabolic syndrome. It is not an illness as such, but rather a group of conditions that affect many men (and women). The more of these conditions you have, the higher your risk of developing a heart disease, diabetes, strokes, colorectal cancer, etc.
The conditions are: high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, waist circumference over 100 cm (40 in), abnormal cholesterol level, high triglycerides level. This syndrome, even if partly hereditary, is largely rooted in sedentary lifestyle and poor diet.
All this information sheds another light to the statement « I am not sick, therefore I am healthy », which demands to be revisited. If your daily lifestyle can be summed up by: stress, eat quickly foods that are rich is fat, sugar and animal proteins with very few fruits and veggies, couch, TV and beer in the evening, then all the conditions are in place for many health issues to come. However, with a balance diet and regular exercise (at least 20 minutes per day), your waistline will remain modest and you will put the odds in your favour.