SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — Take charge of your health, gents! June is National Men’s Health month and there are a few things you need to know. As men get older, their risk of developing chronic diseases increases. Along with screenings, regular exams and adopting healthier lifestyle habits, you can decrease that risk and help ensure a higher quality of life for years to come. An estimated 80 percent of chronic diseases might be mitigated with lifestyle; how you eat, exercise and live your daily life. You can even “turn off” genes that predispose you to disease through your diet and lifestyle choices. Men have unique health concerns such as heart disease, prostate cancer, vision loss and arthritis. It is important to know what you can do to prevent this early on. Here are 10 health tips to help men stay healthy, look great and thrive for years to come.
1. Exercise Regularly: This has enormous physical and emotional benefits. Not only does regular exercise reduce your risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity and diabetes, but it also plays a significant role in reducing stress and boosting overall energy levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for physical activity adults are;
• At least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity activity every week such as brisk walking
• At least 1.25 hours of vigorous-intensity activity every week such as jogging or running
• Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week to strengthen leg, back, abdomen, shoulder, chest and arm muscles
2. Find Out What Men Need To Eat: Men’s energy needs differ from women’s needs. There are many resources available to figure out exactly how much and what foods you need based on your height, weight and physical activity level. One great, free resource to utilize is www.SuperTracker.usda.gov. What you eat plays an important role in making your workout more effective as well as more enjoyable. Eating the proper foods both pre and post exercise will give you the energy you need to stay energized throughout, and will also help in improving performance. Pre-workout meals and snacks should include healthy carbohydrates, lean protein and fluids. Healthy carbohydrates like whole wheat bread or crackers, fruits and vegetables provide quick energy to fuel your workout. After activity, focus on lean protein such as a hard-boiled egg or low-fat chocolate milk to help your muscles repair and grow. Other resources available at Sheppard’s Medical Group are the Bod Pod and Registered Dietitian. The Bod Pod is a machine that calculates your metabolism, or resting metabolic rate, and exactly how many calories are needed based on your body mass and activity level.
3. Prioritize Sleep: The average male should get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is not something you should compromise. Getting enough sleep at night helps you feel alert, improves your mood and can improve memory. Too few hours of shut-eye at night can lead to health problems like obesity and diabetes. There is also evidence that lack of sleep, less than 6 hours a night, alters appetite regulation which can lead to overeating. If you want to perform at your highest, get your sleep, guys!
4. Water Is Your Friend: Water is the best choice for hydration and health. Dehydration leads to fatigue which slowly eats away at the bodily functions you need to get through the day. The more water you drink, the more alert and awake you will feel. Sodas, energy drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks and other sugary drinks can add about 400 calories a day to men’s diets. Why drink your calories when you could eat them?
5. Wise Up About What’s In Your Food: Do you really know how to read a food label? In order to stay healthy, you have to know what you are eating. Use both the Nutrition Facts and ingredient labels on food to discover what nutrients foods and beverages contain. Cut back on foods that have fat or sugar as the first ingredient and ALWAYS check the serving size!
6. Go Beyond Survival Cooking: Men are notorious for on-the-go meals and eating out. Eating your own home-cooked meals allows you to control what and how much you eat. Try steaming vegetables, roasting a chicken and choosing healthy snacks to have on hand such as nuts, seeds and fruit. Focus on eating a variety of nutrient-dense foods and remember: you can’t achieve optimum nutrition with limited choices.
7. Enjoy Yourself: Stress can be both a benefit and a burden on our bodies. A little bit of stress is good for motivation and focus but too much stress can lead to illnesses and weight gain. When you’re highly stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol which can raise blood pressure and blood sugar. High cortisol levels have also been shown to increase cravings for sugar and fat as well as promote fat storage. To reduce stress, find something to look forward to every day. Whether it’s a run or reading a favorite book, don’t save up all your fun for vacation!
8. Go To Your Checkups: The statistics are very clear: More men die from cardiovascular disease than any other condition. Do not stick your head in the sand and ignore symptoms you’re having or self-diagnose. Both high cholesterol and high blood pressure are “silent killers” and can cause extensive damage to the heart and arteries without producing any symptoms until it is too late. The only way to find out if you have a potential problem is to get tested. See your doctor today!
9. Practice Safe Supplement Use: Food should be your first source of nutrients, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy products, nuts, seeds, beans and healthy fats. Eating a balanced diet is the best way to get the nutrients your body needs to thrive. Some men look to supplements to fill in the gaps of their unhealthy diet. Before taking a supplement, talk with your health care provider. Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, therefore it is imperative to do your research first. To rate the safety of a supplement, visit Operation Supplement Safety at OPSS.org.
10. Build Habits That Don’t Add Pounds: Small changes make big differences. Limit fatty meats like bacon, ribs, hot dogs and pepperoni and watch your intake of added sugar such as cakes, cookies, soda and ice cream. Fill your diet with lots of vegetables to keep you satisfied and make eating convenient with meal preparation. Slice and dice all of your produce and store it in clear containers where you can easily see it. Lastly, assess the size of your plate. Studies show eating from a smaller plate helps reduce portion sizes and help curb overeating.
It is important to understand that it does not have to be “all or nothing” when looking at lifestyle changes. It has been proven that any improvement has benefits over being stuck in really unhealthy habits. While the most common diseases that affect men as they age all seem different, the diet and lifestyle advice for prevention essentially is the same. Eat a nutrient-rich, plant-heavy dietary pattern, be active at least 30 minutes every day, control weight or strive for 5 percent to 10 percent weight reduction if overweight, and don’t smoke.
For more information on improving your health contact the 82nd AMDS Public Health, Health Promotion team at 940-676-6003/5831. To schedule your Bod Pod assessment contact Public Health at 940-676-3052.