Now it’s time for men to become familiar with what women seemingly have known for years—you have to keep your health in check on a regular basis to be your best at all times. “Men need to begin taking ownership in terms of their health,” explains Scott T. Williams, vice president of the Men’s Health Network. “We have to help break down the barriers and encourage them to talk about their health and take action.”
This is particularly important for men between the ages of 20 and 50. According to Williams, while young men tend to have various aspects of their health checked during school- or sports-related physical exams, their visits to the doctor drop off drastically after they graduate from college.
“What I’m worried about is the 20- or 30-year period that occurs before a man finally goes to the doctor in his 40s or 50s for a prostate check,” Williams says. “Men in the younger age range are falling under the radar.”
Anti-aging procedures and products are not just for women anymore, and the Harley Anti-Aging Institute offers these suggestions for helping you turn back the clock:
There’s a reason for this, though. “We have to think about how boys are raised,” says Jean Bonhomme, M.D., M.P.H., senior faculty advisor in the Grace Crum Rollins School of Public Health in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at Emory University and founder of the National Black Men’s Health Network. “When a boy is 8 years old and he skins his knee, the first thing he’s told is, ‘Brave boys don’t cry.’ When he’s playing high school football and gets hurt, they say, ‘Take one for the team.’ So, by the time he’s 50 and having chest pains, he tells himself, ‘It’s just indigestion. Don’t pay it any mind and it’ll go away with time.’ That may work most of the time when you’re young, but in middle age, even minor symptoms can be harbingers of more serious problems to come.”
What’s more, Bonhomme continues, there’s a general lack of awareness regarding men’s health challenges. From the most major, commonly discussed, male-specific health issues to conditions not often associated with men, there’s a lot you need to know about your body. And you can put yourself on the right path today by educating yourself and taking responsibility for your wellness
The key to taking charge of your physical health is having an understanding of one thing—you are more than your prostate. While prostate problems are a major issue in regard to men’s health, it’s not the only one you need to concern yourself with. You have to take a more comprehensive approach to your physical well being, taking into account the wide variety of illnesses or complications you could face if you turn a blind eye to your healt
Take it to heart
As with women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that heart disease is the No. 1 killer among men. When you think about it, when was the last time you had your blood pressure taken? Your cholesterol checked? Your sugar levels tested? Each of these factors plays a major role in your cardiovascular health.
“Know your numbers,” Williams recommends. “When you have a full annual physical, the doctor can tell you what your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose numbers are. And if you start having them checked early, you can take it upon yourself to track your numbers over time.”
According to the American Heart Association, your target numbers for cardiovascular health should be:
- Blood pressure: less than 120/80 mmHg
- Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dL
- LDL (“bad”) cholesterol: less than 130 mg/dL (if you are at intermediate risk for heart disease)
- HDL (“good”) cholesterol: 40 mg/dL or higher
- Triglycerides: less than 150 mg/dL
- Fasting glucose: less than 100 mg/dL
“The diseases we’re seeing today, like heart disease, are often the end product of a decades-long process leading to that disease,” Bonhomme observes. “When a man is wheeled into the emergency room with a heart attack at age 50, he may have had high cholesterol or high blood pressure since his teens. He may have had multiple risk factors and they weren’t diagnosed.”
Let’s talk about sex
According to Bonhomme, sexual dysfunction is often what finally convinces a man to visit the doctor. And while many men can thank Viagra for saving their sexual performance, they sometimes can also thank it for saving their lives.
“Sexual issues have actually been a portal to men’s health—an opportunity to open the door for a full checkup and possibly address or diagnose other issues,” Williams states. Bonhomme agrees, adding, “Many times, when a man goes to the doctor to discuss sexual dysfunction, such as having trouble getting or maintaining an erection, the doctor will be able to say, ‘That’s actually not your problem—you’re diabetic.’ Or you have hypertension or some other condition that’s causing the dysfunction.” Once that more basic health condition is identified, the proper treatment can be administered.
In some cases, the issue may be associated with low testosterone levels—a very common condition in aging men that can lead to low sex drive and erectile dysfunction, as well as a host of other symptoms like increased irritability, fatigue, reduced muscle mass and decreased bone density. “We used to think that it was just women who became hormonally deficient, but statistics have shown that 38 percent of men above the age of 40 have low testosterone,” Bonhomme says. Getting screened regularly for low testosterone, often referred to as “Low T,” can allow you to take action and consider starting hormone-replacement therapy. From injections or patches to a clear gel that you rub on your arm every morning, there are several options for treating the condition and helping you return to your former self.
A PSA about PSA
By the time you’re 50, you’ll certainly be thinking about paying a visit to your physician for a prostate check. However, if you’re like most men, you may not even know what the prostate is, what it does and why it needs to be checked. Arming yourself with this information will make the process of going to the doctor for a checkup much more comfortable.
According to Blueprint for Men’s Health: A Guide to a Healthy Lifestyle, an in-depth publication from the Men’s Health Network, the prostate is a part of the male sex organs, producing fluid that contributes to the production of sperm. The gland, which is the size of a walnut, surrounds the urethra and can succumb to one of three prostate diseases: prostatitis (an inflammation of the prostate), BPH (Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia, also known as prostate enlargement) or prostate cancer. Visit www.blueprintformenshealth.com to download the Blueprint for Men's Health publication and learn more about the symptoms associated with each disease.
Having regular prostate screenings, including a digital rectal exam and possibly a Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test (which measures the levels of PSA in the blood), will allow you to know if you are one of the 30 million men who suffer from prostate problems today and give you the chance to regain your quality of life. Of course, preventing any kind of prostate disease is the ideal situation, so be sure to have a prostate checkup yearly after 40.
Your mental health
While it’s been reported that women suffer from depression more than men, Bonhomme believes the theory is paradoxical. “Men commit suicide four times more often than women do,” he says. “We may just not be attuned to the way men express their depression.”
“Men are trained to have an external focus,” Bonhomme explains. “A man will say, ‘Life is tough,’ not ‘I feel bad.’ A woman looks inside herself and asks, ‘What am I feeling?’ Men are not socialized to explore their feelings in that way. He’ll express his feelings behaviorally—he may drink to excess or use substances. But the ideal man has a strong mind and a strong body. If either one is having problems, then it doesn’t hurt to get some help.”
As Williams explains, with the recent economic downturn, as well as stresses at work and home, it’s not uncommon for men to feel the symptoms of depression, which, according to the Mayo Clinic, can include loss of interest in daily normal activities, feeling sad or hopeless, having problems sleeping, difficulty making decisions, unintentional weight gain or loss, restlessness, irritability and fatigue, among others. “Men can easily experience depression, anxiety and stress,” Williams says. “But they have to learn not to bottle it up and be willing to talk about it.”
Having an outlet to talk about your health, whether physical or mental, is fundamental in your effort to be truly healthy. “Establish a relationship with a healthcare practitioner,” Bonhomme says. “Go for checkups at regular intervals, even if you’re not sick. You bring your car in for regular maintenance, right? You don’t wait until the engine has locked up to get an oil change. Go to your doctor regularly. Pick a specific time of the year, whether it’s your birthday or a particular anniversary, and go. Some men think that going to a doctor or going for help is in some way unmanly. Your doctor is an ally of your masculinity—it’s the illness that’s the enemy, and the doctor is going to help you fight. You’re going to fight as a team against illness. You’re going to fight together to prevent it and treat it.
You already know that keeping fit is a crucial part of staying healthy. When looking at your exercise routine, closely consider whether it is addressing all the key aspects of fitness. It’s important to maintain a well-rounded fitness program that focuses on strength, endurance and flexibility. Try sampling and combining the approaches explored in this section to find the practice that’s right for you
Give yourself a boost
While it’s true that men typically have a higher metabolism than women, that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use a boost to help you burn more calories, even when you’re at rest. Consider these five tips from Rachel Payne, master certified personal trainer and owner of House of Payne Personal Training, to help increase your metabolic rate:
- Eat small meals frequently throughout the day, ideally 5-7 meals every 2-3 hours.
- Eat breakfast—it will jump-start your metabolism every morning and is a must if you want to see results.
- Weight train. Simply put, increase your muscle, and you increase your metabolism.
- Avoid alcohol, as it slows down your metabolism. If you must indulge, make it a meal by eating a serving of protein with that drink. Would you like a can of tuna with that merlot?
- Increase cardio intensity. Sprinting and doing intervals are a great way to increase your metabolism, as well as burn more calories, in an efficient and effective manner.
Take It Up a Notch
Interval-training techniques to burn fat
By Rachel Payne, House of Payne Personal Training
Never changing workout routines is the real reason people don’t see any real changes in their bodies. The truth is that doing the same routine may make you moderately fit and heart-healthy, but it does not necessarily mean you will lose weight.
Challenge yourself, and over time you will get better—you will be more confident and you will see a little at a time that you can accomplish any goal you set for yourself.
This workout is just one example of interval training with cardio and weights. Interval training should be done approximately twice a week as a complement to your strength-training program. Of course, you’ll want to make smart nutritional choices as well to get the maximum benefits!
(combines cardio and weights for the purpose of fat burning)
5 minutes cardio any machine your choice. Go hard, high end of heart rate
|Flat Bench Dumbbell Press||Lat Pulldowns—Wide Grip|
Superset 2 sets, 20 reps, no rest.
Chest—Incline Press/Back—Wide-Grip Pulldowns.
5 minutes cardio
|Tricep Cable Pushdowns||Bicep Cable Curls|
Superset 2 sets, 20 reps, no rest.
Triceps—Cable Pushdowns/Biceps—Cable Curls. 5 minutes cardio
|Squats||Arm Dumbbell Overhead Press|
Superset 2 sets, 20 reps, no rest.
5 minutes cardio
|Leg Extensions||Lying Leg Curl|
Superset 2 sets, 20 reps, no rest.
Quads—Leg Extensions/Hamstrings—Lying Leg Curls. 5 minutes cardio
Note: You can alternate by heart-rate range, speed or resistance level, incline or flat, or any combination of these. As always, before you try any new workout, consult a physician.
Lose That Beer Belly
If you’re wondering why you can’t seem to lose that spare tire around your waist, you may need to look no further than your fridge. According to Weight Watchers, alcohol is a common culprit behind abdominal fat, which can be dangerous, increasing your risk for weight-related problems such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea and some types of cancer.
The bigger your waist measurement, the higher the risk, and a measurement of 40 inches or more usually means it’s time to do something about it. If you drink a lot of beer—or any alcohol—cutting back on that habit is a good place to start.
Try these tips when it comes to your favorite cold beverage:
Choose light beer over the full-strength brew; It’s lower in calories.
To slow your beer consumption, quench your thirst first with water then alternate beer with nonalcoholic beverages, preferably low-calorie ones like seltzer.
Feel like a nice cold beer? Why not go for a walk and then have it? Not only does walking or jogging one mile burn the calories in an average drink, but keeping active also has many other health benefits. So get moving!
Trade calories from alcohol with calories from other foods. For example, if you’d like a drink, pass on that bag of potato chips or other treat (but don’t sacrifice healthy choices such as fruits and vegetables in favor of more booze, which is low in nutrients).
While moderate drinking has documented potential benefits, particularly on cardiovascular health, overindulgence is dangerous. (It’s a good idea to talk with your physician for advice about your own use of alcohol.)
Advice from Atlanta's experts
What is the most common mistake or misconception where men’s health and fitness is concerned?
The most overlooked component of men’s fitness is flexibility. Men concentrate on resistance training, but the new muscles they build become tight and restrict the joint’s range of motion if not properly stretched. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends stretching major muscle groups or joints at least 2-3 days per week.
—Jess Parsons, Good Measure Meals
One of the most common mistakes I believe most men make is not going to the doctor for routine checkups. They normally go in when it very well could be too late and they want the health issue fixed right away. A lot could have been avoided with just a little well-care check.
—Kenya Calloway, Jai’s Handmade
Eating like a sumo wrestler. This diet is guaranteed to teach their bodies how to add pounds, slow their metabolism and burn out their adrenal glands. It's as easy as 1,2,3.
1. Have only coffee for breakfast.
2. Eat only one or two larger meals a day and wash them down with soda or alcohol.
3. Eat the last meal of the day just before bedtime.
—Paul Rodgers, C.S.C.S., IQ Fitness & Wellness in Buckhead
Athletic men often forget to add stretching and massage therapy to their training routines. Simply adding these two necessary components can improve athletic performance tremendously by allowing their muscles to work optimally. This also increases muscle longevity and decreases the risk of injury.
—Sandi Stephens, L.M.T., N.M.T., C.L.T./M.L.D.T., Tuscan Sun Massage and Wellness Center
I believe that many men disregard or fail to acknowledge that stress and repeated emotional instability directly impact health and fitness. It is difficult to fully address male health without also taking into account the underlying stressors and triggers for unhealthy habits and behaviors. At our center, we spend a lot of time trying to understand our patient’s physical and emotional challenges.
—Dr. Tasneem Bhatia, Atlanta Center for Holistic and Integrative Medicine
Many men are not preventive when it comes to their health. They don't see doctors until they have a problem, and they don't get regular physicals or seek preventive dental care.
—Dina Giesler, D.D.S., M.A.G.D.
There is a common misconception that gynecomastia, or enlarged breasts in males, is a very rare condition, when in fact it affects an estimated 40 to 60 percent of all men. The solution is male breast reduction, a minimally invasive and reliable procedure that my practice has performed on patients ranging from teenage boys to professional athletes. In little more than an hour, a procedure combining liposuction with the occasional removal of portions of the breast gland converts the breast to the normal contour of the male chest wall.
—David M. Whiteman, M.D., F.R.C.S.(c), Southern Plastic Surgery
The most common misconception for men is that nothing can be done for the prevention of future hair loss. Hair-loss treatments containing Finasteride have proven themselves to be very dependable in 80 percent of all men losing their hair due to androgenetic or hereditary reasons. Hair loss can be stopped—and in many cases new growth can be achieved—for all ages.
—Dr. Edmond I. Griffin, Dermatology Associates of Atlanta and The Griffin Center of Hair Restoration and Research
The most common mistake I see is that men want to lose weight so they will just cut out meals and jump on the treadmill. This may be effective in the beginning, but the weight will usually come right back and then some.
—Rachel Payne, House of Payne Personal Training
Many men think the best way to shave is to get as close as possible. This can cause ingrown hairs, razor bumps and infection. Use an electric or single-blade razor, a shaving cream without alcohol or foam and shave in the direction the hair grows instead of against it.
—Jill Barron, Gardner Dermatology
Don’t overlook genetics. One cannot outrun his genes! Make sure you are aware of any health issues in your immediate family.
—Dr. Charlie Cooper, Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry
Men tend to neglect the benefits of facial surgery, which may seem frivolous to them. What they may not understand is that functional and health benefits are often intertwined with certain procedures. For instance, eyelid surgery and brow lifting not only makes one look younger, the procedures also increase the visual field and can even reduce headaches. Nasal surgery is not only designed to make the nose look more balanced or esthetically pleasing, it can also open an obstructed airway. These issues are evaluated in a thorough consultation.
—Dr. Marc Yune, M.D., Aesthetic Specialty Centre
The most common health mistake: Ignoring or covering their body’s symptoms. Women are much more likely to seek preventative or wellness care as part of their healthy-lifestyle choices. Men, the providers and protectors, will tend to fight through pain and discomfort in order to accomplish their goals, even at the cost of their health.
—Dr. Gene Clerkin, Center for Holistic Health
Most men pay enough attention to their physique and don't pay enough attention to their structure. Where there is structure, there is function.
—Dr. Matt Sweat, The Sweat Institute for Atlas Orthogonal Chiropractic
The No. 1 mistake occurs when individuals make the commitment to begin working out without the proper game plan. Instead of gradually introducing their body to an exercise/fitness program, men often start lifting the heaviest weights they can find, leading to early injury. So start slow so you can finish strong!
—Dr. Hodari Brooks, Pinnacle Orthopaedics
Many use hot packs when they have pain in parts of their body; however, cold packs are better to use in the case of acute injury. Hot packs can cause more inflammation and swelling. If you are not sure which one you should use, most of the time a cold pack is the better choice.
—Jong W. Lee, D.C., Dr. Lee Chiropractic
I believe that the most common misconception regarding health/fitness is the mantra, “Eat less fat and more carbohydrates.” Over time, most of us become sensitive to excess starches and sugars. Our bodies become "carbohydrate intolerant,” resulting in weight gain and increased cardiac risk.
—Gary Martin, D.C., Duluth Chiropractic & Wellness Center