What factors have the biggest impact on a man’s health? Is it the right supplement, the right medication, maybe genetics? No, actually it's more basic than that. Most male patients I treat who are in their 20’s are healthy. Most men in their 40’s, who have maintained their health, have practiced healthy habits like a good diet, regular exercise, not smoking, limiting alcohol and getting enough sleep. During Men's Health Month, we want to share the basics that each man should take care of when it comes to their health:
A healthy diet
A healthy diet is not complex or particularly difficult, but in our fast paced world, where eating on the go is the norm, taking the time to eat healthy can be a real challenge. The foundation of a healthy diet is based in whole, natural foods such as vegetables (especially greens), fruits, nuts, berries and lean proteins. Plant based foods are an essential source of nutrients and vitamins and help decrease the risk of heart disease and colon cancer. Be careful to limit starchy foods such as corn, potatoes, pasta, rice and breads. Choose lean proteins such salmon, and baked or grilled chicken or turkey. Limit red meats and processed foods.
This is the next block in the foundation of good health. Thirty minutes of exercise at least 3 days per week will significantly reduce your risk for heart disease and help to increase your metabolism. It doesn’t matter as much what kind of exercise you get as long as you get your heart rate up and you feel like you have pushed yourself afterwards. The best regimen includes at least 90 minutes per week of higher heart rate cardiovascular exercise and 90 minutes per week of resistance training. As men get older the natural endurance and strength of youth decrease and if you don’t use it, you lose it.
Getting enough sleep is especially important. Our bodies and our minds recharge while we are asleep and with adequate sleep we have more energy, more endurance, better concentration, reduced cardiovascular stress and a more positive attitude. There's not a set amount of sleep for everyone, but most people need 7-8 hours. When you wake up you should feel refreshed. If you always feel tired then you are probably not sleeping well enough.
Smoking is a well-known health risk. Most men know that smoking causes cancer and heart disease; however they are surprised to learn that it also causes erectile dysfunction. This effect of smoking on sexual health is not always reversible with medications like Viagra. There are lots of ways to quit smoking, so men should discuss this with their doctor and find the best way for them.
A male patient once told me that he limited his alcohol to two drinks daily, but admitted that each of those drinks was about 6 ounces of tequila! While the evidence of a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease for men who drink 1-2 glasses of red wine each day has been well established, the evidence for harm from alcohol far outweigh the benefits. The reality is that no amount of alcohol is safe. Alcohol consumption is clearly related to cancer of the gastrointestinal system especially the mouth and esophagus. Smoking and drinking together contribute to 80% of oral cancers.
So, the next time the latest supplement catches your eye, stop and make sure that first you're taking care of these five building blocks of good health. Be sure to share your thoughts with us on this topic with a comment below, or connect with us on social media using the hashtag #MensHealthMonth.
Brian Jones, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician with Methodist Family Health Center in Cedar Hill. Dr. Jones has been practicing medicine for almost 15 years, and enjoys treating people of all ages, from infants to seniors. Dr. Jones is a graduate of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.