Lifestyle changes to improve men's health challenges

Anita Marlay
Exercise that counts is something that raises your heart rate, making your heart exercise.

Men have different health challenges and outcomes than women. The average life expectancy for men is almost five years less than that for women. The top causes of death for men are heart disease, cancer and accidents. Adopting a healthy lifestyle at an early age can help improve longevity and reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Here are some statistics about men age 18 and older from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

14.9 % are in fair to poor health.

31% have had five or more alcoholic beverages in one day at least once in the past year.

42.4% do not meet daily activity recommendations.

51.9% have high blood pressure.

In Missouri, 20.6% of men smoke, compared to 17.2% nationwide.

34.9% of Missouri men are obese.

Lifestyle factors that can affect men’s health include:

Diet. Adopting a healthy diet based on lean proteins, whole grains, healthy fats and plenty of fruits and vegetables helps reduce the risk of heart disease and cancers. Good nutrition also plays an important role in reproductive health and fertility. Eating less fast food and processed food helps reduce sodium and saturated fat in the diet, which helps lower blood pressure and other disease risks.

Exercise. Adequate exercise helps to prevent weight gain, lower lipids and lower blood pressure. Men who work in physically active jobs often feel they get enough exercise; this may or may not be true. Exercise that counts is something that raises your heart rate, making your heart exercise.

Stress. This is a big problem for a lot of men — work pressures, family issues, finances and more can all add up to too much stress. Stress triggers inflammation in the body, which is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Stress also triggers unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as smoking, alcohol use and eating more processed/less nutritious food.

Healthy relationships. Men tend to be more independent and will isolate themselves when feeling down. Loneliness and social isolation can negatively affect mental health and well-being, potentially leading to depression.

Sleep. Getting adequate sleep is important for mental health, as well as physical health. Chronic sleep deprivation slows muscle growth and impairs the immune system.

Substance abuse. Men are more likely than women to smoke, drink or do drugs. They are also more likely to die from an overdose. If you just change one thing to improve your health, quitting smoking would have the biggest benefit. Alcohol should be limited to no more than two drinks per day. Illicit drug use should be avoided at all costs.

Weight. Due to testosterone, men tend to gain fat in their bellies. This is the kind of fat that is especially unhealthy because it surrounds your organs. Too much belly fat increases the risk for diabetes, heart disease and dementia. Desired waist size for men is less than 40 inches.

Vitamins and minerals are essential for men’s health too. Vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and vitamin D are important for good fertility and sperm motility. Adequate dietary potassium helps lower blood pressure. Men need more fiber than women –– whereas women should aim for 25 grams per day, men need around 30 grams daily. Making sure to get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily can help meet these requirements.

Too often, men wait to visit their doctor until something is seriously wrong. Men who are involved in their own self-care live healthier lives, have better relationships and raise healthier children. Take the initiative to schedule regular screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes and cancer checkups. Follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations if you have health issues.

Lemon Garlic Steak and Green Beans

Serves 4

1 Tbsp canola oil

1 tsp paprika

½ tsp chili powder

3 cloves garlic, grated and divided

½ tsp salt, divided

1 pound boneless strip steak, trimmed

2 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp water

1 pound green beans, trimmed

Combine oil, paprika, chili powder, half the garlic and one-quarter teaspoon of salt in a small bowl. Rub the mixture on both sides of the steak. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the steak, and cook, flipping and adjusting heat as necessary to avoid smoking, until a thermometer registers 135 degrees for medium rare, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to clean cutting board, and let rest.

Add lemon juice and water to the pan. Scrap up any browned bits. Add green beans, remaining garlic and salt. Cover and cook until beans are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Slice the steak, and serve with the beans.

Nutrition Information: 215 calories, 9 g fat, 10 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 24 g protein, 354 mg sodium

Anita Marlay, R.D., L.D., is a dietitian in the Cardiopulmonary Rehab department at Lake Regional Health System in Osage Beach, Missouri.