Men experience a higher incidence of common diseases than women. Following a few simple health tips can up men's chances of living healthier, longer lives.
A news poll appearing on ABC in May 2007 found that 78 percent of men over the age of 50 only go to see a doctor after being urged by their wife, daughter, or female friend.
This isn’t novel; it’s yet another sign that men need to be more proactive about their health. Men need to start listening to their bodies, seeing their physicians, and realizing that by taking care of themselves and changing some lifestyle habits, their chances of living healthier and longer lives will be significantly enhanced.
In general, men experience a higher incidence of heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disorders, liver disease, and diabetes than women. This may be partly due to the fact that men are less likely to seek medical attention, thus leading to a diagnosis at a time when the illness is at an advanced state. Perhaps this is the reason why North American women outlive their male counterparts by about six years.
To get back on an even keel, men need to develop a greater awareness of their health issues and then take the necessary steps to rectify them.
Anatomy Primer for Men
An area of human anatomy that clearly differentiates men from women is the genitourinary system, more specifically the prostate gland. This walnut-sized structure, located around the urethra at the base of the bladder is an important gland to male physiology.
Unfortunately, beginning about the age of 30, the prostate gland begins to enlarge and in many cases leads to a common condition know as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. The symptoms of BPH typically reflect obstruction of the bladder outlet–weakness in the flow of urine, frequent trips to the bathroom, and awakening at night to empty the bladder.
Affecting over 50 percent of men in their lifetime, the incidence of BPH increases with advancing age from approximately 5 to 10 percent at age 30, to over 90 percent in men over 85 years of age. Men should have annual exams to screen not only for BPH but also for prostate cancer, the most common cancer occurring in men.
Heart disease, which includes atherosclerosis, remains the leading cause of death in men–just ahead of cancer. There are many forms of heart disease, but the most common cause is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, the vessels that supply blood to the heart. This is the major reason people have heart attacks.
Stroke, or brain attack, occurs when blood flow to the brain is stopped. The major risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and smoking, all of which are major contributors to all cardiovascular diseases.
Some of the most common cancers in men include lung cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and skin cancer. Risk factors for these cancers include smoking, eating too much red meat, physical inactivity, and overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
The most important thing for men to realize is that they are what they eat, breathe, drink, and touch. These are the things most responsible for developing diseases and determining how long we live.
Studies by top researchers in the field of environmental medicine have shown that up to 95 percent of all cancers are environmentally induced. In other words, the things we consume or are exposed to will in the end determine how long we live. Our health is in our hands, since most of these things are within our control.
An article in Discover magazine (November 2006) entitled “DNA is Not a Destiny” reaffirmed this view. A look at the study of how epigenetic switches and markers help switch on or off the expression of particular genes, the article said the epigenome is sensitive to cues from the environment. “Researchers are finding that an extra bit of a vitamin, a brief exposure to a toxin, even an added dose of mothering can tweak the epigenome–and thereby alter the software of our genes–in ways that affect an individual’s body and brain for life.”
This is an important observation, confirming the fact that changing our lifestyle can have a powerful impact on the expression of our DNA, which in turn can affect everything about our health. Even more astounding is that researchers are discovering that these epigenetic signals from the environment can be passed on from one generation to the next.
Be Physically Active
Without doubt, one of the most important things you can do is to exercise. If you want to live a longer, healthier life, exercise will ensure that you achieve this objective.
In a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, 707 men in the Honolulu Heart Program who were between the ages of 61 and 81 were examined for their longevity based on activity levels. Over a 12-year period, those who had walked 2 miles (3.2 km) or more per day had a 50 percent lower death rate than those who had walked 1 mile (1.6 km) or less per day.
This is consistent with other studies that have demonstrated the positive effects that exercise has on overall well-being.
As a general rule, men should do aerobic exercises (that can include walking, running, or swimming) six days per week mixed in with some strength training.
You are probably at the saturation point when it comes to someone telling you what–or what not–to eat. Unfortunately, you can’t escape the truth: what you eat does make a difference.
Once more, here it is in a nutshell:
- Reduce the consumption of saturated and trans fats, refined sugars, and processed foods.
- Make sure you consume a rainbow assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables; these foods contain powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals that have benefits in preventing cancer and cardiovascular disease.
- Eat wild fish at least three times per week; this is important for heart health and overall well-being.
- Last but not least, make sure you drink plenty of purified water every day; this is, after all, the most abundant component of the human body.
These are four supplements I recommend to all male patients.
- A well-balanced multivitamin and mineral complex with antioxidants at lunch and dinner
- Naturally stable omega-3 fish oil supplement that provides you with EPA and DHA levels equal to at least 500 mg a day
- A clinically studied CoQ10 product that has been shown to actually get inside the cell where it can do its job–at least 100 mg per day
- Saw palmetto extract standardized to contain 85 to 95 percent fatty acids and sterols–take between 320 to 480 mg per day depending on needs