Men’s Health Week: 10 Ways to Practice Healthy Living

 Men’s Health Week: 10 Ways to Practice Healthy Living

Posted on June 13th 2019 by Letara Buckley

10–16th June 2019 marks the week of International Men’s Health. Men's Health Week is celebrated annually just before Father's Day to honor the importance of men's health and wellbeing. It was chosen for this specific time of year to make use of the extra attention paid to male family members.

Men's Health Week was created by Congress in 1994, to heighten awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men. The focus for 2019 is men's health by numbers. The Men’s Health Forum explains this year’s focus in a series of statistics:

Key numbers for men:

  • 37 – a waist size of 37 inches or above puts you at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer
  • 150 – men should aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week
  • 5 – men should aim to eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day
  • 14 – men should drink a maximum of 14 units of alcohol a week
  • 10 – men who smoke cigarettes die 10 years younger on average than non-smokers
  • 120/80 – is a normal blood pressure reading
  • 75 – 75% of suicides (3 out of 4) are by men

Key numbers for policy-makers and service providers:

  • 1 in 5 men die before the age of 65 
  • 2 in 5 men die before the age of 75
  • 3 out of 4 suicides are by men
  • Men in unskilled work are three times more likely to take their own lives than men in senior management
  • The richest men live on average 10 years longer than the least well-off men. Richer area = longer life.’

This article explores health and wellness tips, whilst reviewing some of the shocking statistics, and explains why the act of self-care is so important for men to adopt.

How to Get Fit and Healthy

As the saying goes, ‘you are what you eat’ and it’s important to address diet when kickstarting a focus on men’s wellbeing. However, a healthy eating plan can be tricky to define when there is conflicting advice in the media. Some old notions of what was previously believed to be healthy, are not considered healthy anymore. This can make it difficult for men to know what to eat for a healthy lifestyle, so this article helps bring the latest best practises altogether in one place.

Health and Fitness Tips for Men 

The British Nutrition Foundation lists the following advice for men specifically:

To break this advice down further, let’s explore the ways that men can apply each point, with advice from nutritional experts, including Marisa Peer.

1. Height and Weight

As a general measure, the BMI (Body Mass Index) calculator can show you whether you are underweight, a healthy weight, overweight, or obese. Visit this NHS page for more details.

2. Dietary Fiber

Fiber is sometimes referred to as roughage as it is actually the indigestible part of certain foods. As it travels through our digestive system in bulk, it absorbs water and helps to ease bowel movements.

Why is it important?

Medical News Today lists the following health benefits of consuming adequate fiber:

‘Protection against heart disease – according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the consumption of soluble fiber has been shown to protect against heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels.

Gastrointestinal health – the consumption of fiber promotes regular bowel movements and prevents constipation. It may also reduce the risk of developing colitis and hemorrhoids. There is also mixed evidence that consuming fiber might help reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Diabetes – people with diabetes who consume a lot of fiber tend to need less insulin than those whose fiber intake is low. Fiber can help slow the absorption of sugar, helping to prevent spikes after meals.

Body weight – a high-fiber intake can significantly contribute toward bodyweight control. Fiber produces a feeling of fullness without adding calories (fiber calories are not absorbed by the body), this can help treat or prevent overweight/obesity.
Most foods that are high in fiber are also very healthy for other reasons. Take, for example, fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains; they are high in fiber but also rich in vitamins and other essential nutrients. In other words, eating a high-fiber diet protects health through both the intake of fiber and other essential nutrients.’

How much fiber should you eat?

The Mayo Clinic states that men aged 50 and under should be consuming 38g of fiber a day, and men aged 51 and over should consume 30g a day (this was taken from a report by the Institute of Medicine). The NHS says that on average, adults are only eating around 18g a day, so let’s explore some tips for increasing your intake.

Insoluble fiber

This means fiber that cannot be dissolved in water. As it passes through the digestive tract, it keeps its form and can ferment by the bacteria produced in the colon. Insoluble fiber is important because it helps ‘clear out’ the large intestine, and promotes bulky bowel movements, thus preventing constipation.

Good food sources of insoluble fiber

  • Dark green, leafy vegetables
  • Root vegetable skins
  • Fruit skins
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Wholewheat products

Soluble fiber 

This means fiber that can be dissolved in water. As it passes through the digestive tract, its form changes, it absorbs water, and it becomes gooey. Soluble fiber is important because it slows down the rate of sugar absorption in the body, and lowers cholesterol. 

Good food sources of soluble fiber

  • Kidney and pinto beans
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Apples and oranges
  • Oatmeal

3. Red and Processed Meats: Good or Bad?

There is a notion that men like a good steak and chips, and that they are avid meat-eaters, because of the perception that more protein equals more muscle mass. However, how much meat is recommended for a healthy diet? The NHS says that ‘red meat such as beef, lamb and pork are a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and can form part of a balanced diet. But eating a lot of red and processed meat probably increases your risk of bowel (colorectal) cancer.’

What counts as red and processed meat?

Red meat includes:

  • Beef
  • Lamb and mutton
  • Pork
  • Veal
  • Venison
  • Goat

It doesn't include:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Duck
  • Goose
  • Game birds
  • Rabbit

Processed meat refers to meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. This includes:

  • Sausages
  • Bacon
  • Ham
  • Deli meats such as salami
  • Pâtés
  • Canned meat such as corned beef
  • Sliced luncheon meats, including those made from chicken and turkey’

The current advice issued by the government, says that adults should eat no more than 70g of red and processed meat a day. 

4. Saturated Fat 

There has been some speculation over saturated fat and its links to health conditions such as heart disease. A few decades ago, fat (in all food forms) was seen as the enemy, whereas more recently, ‘good fats’ have been linked to good health.

An article by nutritionist Jo Lewin on BBC Good Food delved deeper into the myths about fat:

‘The demonization of saturated fat was based on the theory that it raised LDL (bad) cholesterol, which is thought can block arteries and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.Now, new evidence suggests that saturated fat may not be directly linked to raised LDL cholesterol, however eating a diet high in fat can contribute to obesity, which in itself is a risk factor for heart disease. It is important to monitor your total fat intake and eat a healthy, balanced diet. The Department of Health recommends that total fat intake should not exceed 35% of our total daily energy (calorie) needs and the maximum for saturated fats is 11% of our total daily energy (calorie) needs.’

Is saturated fat good or bad?

‘When asking whether saturated fat is good or bad, the question should be, compared to what?

  • Compared to trans-fats, saturated fat is healthier
  • Compared to complex carbohydrates, such as wholegrains, saturated fat is neutral
  • Compared to refined carbohydrates found in white breads, sweet breakfast cereals and snack foods, saturated fat appears to be a better choice...

Refined carbohydrates are more likely than saturated fat to contribute to heart disease and other health issues.’

Marisa Peer acknowledges the importance of fat in a healthy diet, and believes that refined carbohydrates should be avoided. You can read more about the foods she rates, and hates in this article.

5. Eating Fish 

Fish can often be something that people either love or hate, however, its health benefits are very important to consider if you find you don’t like eating it. You may wish to take it as a supplement instead? The Safefood website looks at what types of fish are good for our bodies:

‘Fish is a really nutritious food, being rich in protein, vitamins and minerals which are essential to maintain good health. There are three types of fish: oily fish, white fish, and shellfish.

Examples of oily fish

Examples of white fish 

Examples of shellfish 

Salmon

Mackerel

Fresh tuna

Trout

Sardines

Herring

Cod

Plaice

Whiting

Haddock

Sole

Hake

Crabs

Mussels

Oysters

Lobster

Prawns

Oily fish are a rich source of vitamins A, D and E. They are also rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for healthy brain, eye and nerve development. They are also beneficial to your heart health and there is emerging evidence to suggest that eating fish reduces the risk of cancer and arthritis.’

Marisa Peer has worked with many clients to overcome weight and unhealthy issues during her 30-year career as a leading therapist. In her Perfect Weight Forever program, she explains that eating oily fish three times a week is essential for a healthy body. She also believes that cutting back on red and processed meat is important.

6. Fruit and Vegetables

We all know that eating fruit and veg is healthy, but what about portion control, plus the sugars within them?

The sugars found naturally in foods include glucose, fructose, sucrose and lactose. Fructose is the sugar found in fruit. It also occurs naturally in cane sugar and honey. Glucose naturally occurs in plants and fruits―it is actually a byproduct of photosynthesis. Our bodies use glucose as a form of fuel for energy.

Many of us will have heard of the campaign ‘5 a day’ but actually, five servings of fruit may not be beneficial to your health. In Marisa Peer’s Perfect Weight Forever program she says: ‘I love fruit but I limit myself to three pieces a day most of the time and choose berries and apples more of the time, because they have the least amount of sugar, whereas grapes have the highest. Vegetables are far more important than fruits. They have more vitamins and more antioxidants and we should have more daily servings of vegetables than fruit. Fruit is still a sugar and too much of it pushes up insulin levels. Fruit juice is not a good choice at all as it contains way too much sugar. There is the same amount of sugar in a glass of juice as in a can of coke.’

7. Salt

High salt/sodium intake has been linked to high blood pressure and diabetes. The Healthline website investigates just how much salt is acceptable:

‘Despite its continued vilification, sodium is a necessary nutrient for good health. It’s one of your body’s electrolytes, which are minerals that create electrically charged ions. A major source of sodium in most diets is added salt in the form of sodium chloride―which is 40% sodium and 60% chloride by weight.

Because salt is widely used in food processing and manufacturing, processed foods account for an estimated 75% of total sodium consumed. Most of your body’s sodium resides in your blood and the fluid surrounding your cells, where it helps keep these fluids in balance. Along with maintaining normal fluid balance, sodium plays a key role in normal nerve and muscle function. Your kidneys help regulate your body’s sodium levels by adjusting the amount that is excreted in your urine. You also lose sodium through sweating…For decades, health authorities have urged people to limit their sodium intake to control blood pressure. It’s estimated that your body only needs 186 mg of sodium per day to function properly. However, it would almost be impossible to consume this little, still meet your energy needs and get the recommended intake of other important nutrients. Therefore, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends that healthy adults consume 1,500 mg (1.5 grams) of sodium per day.

At the same time, the IOM, USDA and the US Department of Health and Human Services recommend that healthy adults limit their daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg (2.3 grams) ―the equivalence of one teaspoon of salt. Due to the increased sodium loss through sweat, these guidelines don’t apply to highly active people like competitive athletes or workers who are exposed to heat.’

8. Exercise for Men

Keeping fit is not only good for looking after your physical health, it also plays an important role in looking after your mental wellbeing. You can read more about this in the ‘How to Improve Your Mental Wellbeing With Exercise’ blog post.

The NHS recommends the following exercise guidelines:

  • ‘At least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or a game of singles tennis every week and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms)

Or:

  • A mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week – for example, 2 x 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity and strength exercises on 2 or more days a week that work all the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).’

An article in Men’s Health magazine states that doing the following type of workout will make you 23% stronger in just days:

‘Results published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that completing workouts combining strength moves (bench press, squats) with power moves (box jumps, medicine ball slams), three times a week, further increases your body strength by an average of 23% when compared to a standard session done twice as often.’

9. How Drinking Alcohol Affects Your Health

The UK government provides guidelines on how much alcohol is safe:

  • ‘To keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis
  • If you regularly drink as much as 14 units per week, it is best to spread your drinking evenly over 3 or more days. If you have one or two heavy drinking episodes a week, you increase your risks of death from long term illness and from accidents and injuries
  • The risk of developing a range of health problems (including strokes as well as cancers of the mouth, throat and breast) increases the more you drink on a regular basis
  • If you wish to cut down the amount you drink, a good way to help achieve this is to have several drink-free days each week.’

10.  Seeking Help

It’s important for men to address their need for help and ignore the stigma around showing their emotions. As 3 out of 4 suicides are committed by men, more needs to be done about raising awareness of mental health.

A blog post on the Mind charity website explains how slowly but surely, as a nation we are moving forward with this:

‘I am still faced with some outdated stereotypes as a man suffering from depression; men as a source of strength, dominating positions of power, the hunter-gatherer, the idea that strong and silent is alluring/attractive, the “show no weakness” bravado of heroes in our media.

In many of these macho images, there is little room for showing poor mental health. The men who are most revered in society (famous, wealthy, successful, powerful) are not always ready to admit their struggles in public and that can leave the “average bloke” feeling uncertain about speaking out.

It is great that the tide is turning for men. When Prince William and Prince Harry began talking openly about their own mental health challenges, it gave the nation an incredible lift. One by one, more of these revered men are coming forward and openly addressing mental health; footballers, politicians, actors, anyone can talk about it. I do not consider that these men are weak or failing by speaking out, in fact, they are the brave ones.’

To conclude, men’s health is a topic that encompasses many aspects of both physical and mental wellbeing. In just 10 steps, you can start to create a healthier version of you. If you enjoyed reading this article, please share it on your social media channels and browse through the rest of Marisa Peer’s online blog.

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