You’ve survived the winter and now that the warmer weather is here, you may have emerged with some extra baggage. Whether you need to have some grooming, to shed some extra weight or just an overall health check up, feeling good about yourself is one of the first steps to having fun in the great outdoors.
Here are a few steps to get you going in the right direction.
STEP ONE: Get Your Head-to-Toe Check-Up
No matter what your age, your health is important and staying informed is the best way to keep yourself healthy and happy. Whether you are a fitness fanatic or a couch potato, you should continue to be up-to-date on all the latest news and information involving your well-being.
You want to enjoy yourself whether it’s on land or by sea this summer, so first thing to check on is your heart. One of the most important organs in your body, your heart is responsible for carrying out a variety of life maintaining functions. So why aren’t we taking better care of it? According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 81,100,000 American adults (more than one in three) have one or more types of cardiovascular disease. The good news is that unlike other diseases that progress regardless of what action is taken, heart disease can be slowed and even stopped over time, which makes prevention and early detection so important. “Optimal blood pressure is 120/80,” says Scott M. Leibowitz, MD, with The Piedmont Heart Institute Physicians group, “Beginning at age 30, men should have their blood pressure and cholesterol checked annually to ensure both are well managed.”
Everything from your age, medical history and family history can all be factors in how healthy your heart is. The first thing to be aware of is your numbers. Make an appointment with your family doctor and get a complete physical done so you can become familiar with your blood pressure, BMI (Body Mass Index), cholesterol, triglycerides and fasting blood sugar. Another test to have done is Cardiac CRP, recommends Edward Espinosa MD, with Buckhead Concierge Internal Medicine. This is one of several blood tests that measures the level of inflammatory process that may be taking place within the vessels supplying blood to the heart muscle. “We now know that inflammation in these vessels plays a key role in the development of coronary artery disease, explains Espinosa, “Recent studies suggest that when Cardiac CRP is elevated, cholesterol-lowering medications may protect patients from developing coronary artery disease even if their cholesterol levels are within normal range.”
The prostate is a kiwi-sized gland that surrounds a man’s urethra, just below the bladder. There are three main disorders that can affect the prostate: inflammation of the prostate, enlargement of the prostate and prostate cancer.
Enlargement of the prostate is a benign condition that often occurs in older men. This enlargement pushes on the bladder, making urination difficult. Inflammation of the prostate, prostatitis, can be a result of general systemic inflammation due to poor diet and sedentary lifestyle, or it can be the result of a bacterial infection. Prostatitis is a painful but treatable condition, and roughly 8% of visits to urologists are due to this condition. Prostate cancer is the condition many medical professionals are concerned about because there may be no obvious symptoms, and as many as 1 in 6 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer at some point in their lives.
“Screening men for prostate cancer saves lives," says James Benton, MD with the Radiotherapy Centers of Georgia. "A recent study from Europe demonstrated a 20% decline in deaths from prostate cancer as a result of screening.” Men over the age of 40 who have a history of prostate cancer in the family or who are of African descent should get their prostate checked annually. All men over the age of 50 should go in for annual checkups. “Over 200,000 men were diagnosed (with prostate cancer) in the United States in 2010,” explains Rajesh G. Laungani, MD chairman of the Prostate Cancer Center at Saint Joseph’s Hospital, “However, prostate cancer survival rates in the US are strongly influenced by widespread screening with Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test.”
One test offered by Lifetest of Atlanta is called Virtual Colonography, which involves shorter examination time, is less invasive and requires no anesthesia. While there are many advantages to this test, make sure to consult with your doctor to find out if it's right for you.
Hormones are the chemical messengers secreted by our glands into our bloodstream. Whether these chemical signals are high or low will cause different things to happen in a man’s body. The hormones that are of particular interest to men are testosterone and human growth hormone (HGH). Testosterone is the male sexual hormone.
Human growth hormone is the hormone that helps the body to build bones and muscles. Low levels of testosterone often leave a man feeling tired, devoid of interest in sex, and is a risk factor for depression and heart disease. HGH production peaks relatively early in a man’s life, around age 30, and then drops over time. As a man ages, both HGH and testosterone drop, which correlates with loss of bone and muscle mass, decreased sexual activity, and increased body fat.
In addition to eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, some doctors and patients have turned to supplementation of these hormones to get back to optimum levels. “Ask your physician to check your testosterone level if you are experiencing lower than normal mood, sex drive, or energy,” recommends Laura Beaty, MD of Alliance Primary Care. Testosterone can be supplemented “by using a gel, patch, injections, or implantable pellets,” according to Dr. Beaty. Human growth hormone therapies can be obtained at specialized clinics like Atlanta Wellness and Aesthetics. HGH therapy is usually in the form of an injection, which the patient can be trained to do at home.
Take Action: Make an appointment with your family physician and get that physical done that you’ve been putting off. Knowing your numbers is half the battle.
STEP TWO: Getting Active & Staying Active
Once you get your tests done, it’s time to get moving. “The rule of thumb with exercise is that some is better than none, and more is better than some,” says Scott Leibowitz, MD of The Piedmont Heart Institute Physicians group. “Ideally, rigorous exercise four to five times per week for 30 to 60 minutes is recommended for all ages. Rigorous exercise means breaking a sweat and breathing heavily.” There are plenty of options out there from team sports to a variety of gyms and personal trainers to choose from. First figure out your fitness level and then pick something you know you’ll enjoy.
“One of the most effective and time efficient ways to exercise is through interval training,” recommends Darren Triplett, MS, Senior Health Partner at Emory/Georgia Tech Center for Health Discovery and Well Being. “Several studies have investigated one interval training method in particular and found it to be very effective across a wide variety of groups, ranging from healthy adults to those with heart disease, in improving cardiovascular fitness. In addition, by raising the exercise intensity several times over the course of a workout, an individual will burn more calories, which can help in losing or maintaining current weight.”
Many active men play sports. Sports like basketball, softball, skiing, mountain biking, and football are a great way to get some exercise, relieve stress, and have lots of fun alone or with friends. Nothing can derail your mission to get in shape like a painful, nagging sports injury. Whether it's the result of years of sports play or a new injury, it is critical to properly care for the injury to avoid making it worse.
According to a study done by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, baby boomers suffering from sports injuries increased by 33% from 1991 to 1998. In 2006, over a half-million people were treated just for basketball-related injuries as reported by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. One of the most common injuries are stress fractures and are seen in almost any sport and any skill level and are caused by repetitive stress and strain on a particular bone that results in the breakdown of the bony architecture explains Jeffrey Kovacic, MD at the Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Center. “Prevention is an athlete’s best defense against stress fractures. Training errors are a common cause of these injuries,” says Kovacic. “Pain that seems to come on “unprovoked” and persists should alert the athlete that overuse may be taking place and more rest may be needed. If symptoms fail to resolve with activity modification, a visit to a medical doctor would be in order.”
The treatment for sports injuries varies widely depending on what kind of injury you suffer. Broken bones need to be set properly and put into a cast. A sprained ankle should be treated with the RICE protocol: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Some of the most difficult to treat injuries involve the soft tissues around joints. One of the newer treatments for this type of injury is laser therapy. “Laser therapy is proven to biostimulate tissue repair and growth,” explains Gary S. Martin, DC. “The laser accelerates wound healing and decreases inflammation, pain, and scar tissue formation.” Laser therapy has the advantage that it is both non-invasive and non-addictive.
Take Action: Get out there and get active. Find an activity that matches your personal level of fitness – whether it’s walking in the park or training with a boot camp.
STEP THREE: Diet & Nutrition
Adequate nutrition and a balanced diet are the cornerstones to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For some, losing weight may just mean a slight adjustment to their diet while others may want a faster approach. Start by assessing how much weight you want to shed and taking a serious look at what you eat every day. “Consuming foods that have a minimal impact on your blood glucose level is beneficial,” says Dr. Espinosa. “We use the term low glycemic index to refer to foods that do not cause a surge of sugar to your system.
By choosing foods with a low glycemic index you can reduce your risk for developing coronary heart disease.” If you find you need some guidance in this area, there are classes and experts you can consult to help you get on the right path. One example is The WellStar Nutrition Network, which offers a variety of weight management services for the community, including individual consultations, group classes, ongoing programs, and support groups
Take Action: Whether you go to an expert or assess the contents of your refrigerator yourself, make sure to pay attention to what you’re putting in your body.
STEP FOUR: Great Grooming
Feeling good about yourself on the inside as well as your outward appearance can have a huge effect on your mental attitude. For many men taking care of their hair – whether it’s styling it, removing it, or replacing it – is just as important as their health and diet. “Hair plays a huge role in the job market, whether you are looking for a new job or just maintaining the one you have,” says Richie Arpino, owner of Richie Arpino Salon. “A clean, fresh cut will keep you on your cutting edge.”
Besides stylish cuts and color services offered to men who want to try a new style or get rid of their grey, salons are also catering to men who want to try a little waxing therapy. Spas like Sweet Samba Boutique & Spa in Midtown offer male waxing services for backs, arms, eyebrows and more.
Removing unwanted hair is one thing, but to begin losing it is something that can be cause for concern or even embarrassment. Androgenetic alopecia, or common male pattern baldness (MPB) accounts for more than 95% of hair loss in men. According to the American Hair Loss Association, by the age of 35 two-thirds of American men will experience some degree of appreciable hair loss, and by the age of 50 approximately 85% of men have significantly thinning hair. There can be a variety of reasons behind hair loss including, reactions to medication, diseases, extreme stress, and the most common, heredity.
Luckily, you don’t have to remain bare for long. Advances in science have lead to a wide variety of solutions to MPB where everything from drugs to surgical hair restoration to hair replacement treatments and transplants are available. Those looking to go the more natural or holistic way should look into dietary supplements or herbs that are known to strengthen hair follicles and increase scalp circulation. A common ingredient found in products that promote hair health is silica. Silica is necessary for the rebuilding of all connective tissue, including hair, skin and nails. Products that contain a large amount of silica include, but are not limited to Diatomaceous Earth and Horsetail. With all the choices out there it’s prudent to do your research and find the one that you are most comfortable with.
Take Action: Make an appointment at your local barber shop or hair salon today and update your look.
Below are samples of foods that have a low glycemic index (GI) and provide key nutrients such as calcium, fiber and vitamins A, C, and E.
Beans: kidney, pinto, navy or black beans
Dark green leafy vegetables: Spinach, collards, kale
Citrus fruit: Grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes
Berries: Blueberries, strawberries and blackberries
Tomatoes: Pureed, raw, or in a sauce
Fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids: Salmon and mackerel
Nuts: Walnuts and flax seeds
Fat-free milk and yogurt
—Courtesy of the American Diabetes Association
Scott M. Leibowitz, MD, The Piedmont Heart Institute Physicians Group, (404) 605-2800
Edward Espinosa, MD, Buckhead Concierge Internal Medicine, (404) 257-5585
James Benton, MD, Radiotherapy Centers of Georgia, (404) 320-1550
Rajesh G. Laungani, MD, Saint Joseph’s Hospital, (678) 843-7001
Laura Beaty, MD, Alliance Primary Care, (404) 851-0029
Darren Triplett, MS, Emory/Georgia Tech Center for Health Discovery and Well Being
Jeffrey Kovacic, MD, Orthopedic Surgery & Sports Medicine Center, (770) 801-4646
Gary S. Martin, DC, (770) 623-9291
WellStar Cardiac Network, (770) 956-STAR
Richie Arpino Salon, (404) 231-5092
Evolution Total Wellness, (404) 451-4170
Lifetest of Atlanta, (770) 730-0119