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Men’s Health Week: Healthy Living

The focus of this year’s Men’s Health Week is Healthy Living.

Clinical nutritionist Suzie Sawyer looks at some of the things men should watch out for.

Unfortunately it is a fact that men are not always as mindful of their health as women. This year’s Men’s Health Week awareness campaign is promoted to help men (and the women in their lives) focus on potential health risks and, hopefully, start to build a healthier lifestyle.

HEART MATTERS

Statistics released recently show that around  20,000 men under the age of 75 die from heart disease, compared to fewer than 7,500 women. So what’s the reason behind these statistics?

It is well-known that drinking alcohol, smoking, eating fatty fried foods and leading a sedentary lifestyle contribute to high cholesterol, raised blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. It seems that men have more of these heart-disease associated risk behaviours. However, not all men fall into the unhealthy lifestyle trap. Those who are more health aware can cut their risk of developing heart disease and other conditions dramatically.

Taking some simple steps is often all that’s required. For instance, eating a rainbow diet which includes brightly coloured fruits and vegetables are a basic starter for 10. Oats (which help to reduce cholesterol levels), oily fish (which is rich in the good omega 3 fats) and whole grains should be included and sugary refined foods such as cakes and pastries should be minimised or cut out altogether.

It goes without saying that quitting smoking can have numerous substantial health benefits. Swapping caffeinated tea and coffee for green tea, which is packed with antioxidants, can also be beneficial.

PROSTATE POINTS

The prostate gland is unique to men and sits under the bladder, wrapped around the urethra. It tends to cause problems with age and many men will be familiar with something called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate and can lead to more frequent urination. It is thought that an overproduction of a hormone called DHT could play a role.

A diet including fermented soy, found in delicious miso soup, or taking a supplement containing soy isoflavones can be beneficial. Lycopene, found in tomatoes and particularly cooked tomatoes, has been shown to have positive effects. Eating more oily fish (such as salmon and mackerel), increasing intake of the mineral selenium (found in Brazil nuts), and turmeric (added to food or taken in supplement form) also have positive benefits.

As with everything, prevention is better than cure, so including the above in your diet as a matter of course is a good idea.

BALD TRUTHS

Another condition that specifically affects men and can be distressing is male pattern baldness. There are a number of reasons for men losing their hair, but it often has a hormonal link – it occurs when testosterone is converted to the hormone DHT. There is also a definite genetic factor; genetically-prone individuals seem to have an excess of DHT, which causes the hair follicles to shrink. Other causes include low thyroid function, in which case the nutrients selenium and the B vitamins specifically would be helpful.

Stress also often plays a part in hair loss, and the herbs rhodiola, ginseng and lemon balm can help to keep levels on an even keel. Vitamin B5 and magnesium are both used up by the body more during stressful times; they can be found in whole grains, such as oats and whole grain cereals, as well as in a good daily multivitamin and mineral.

Men’s Health Week runs in June each year. For more information visit their website.