Health may be the furthest thing from a young man’s mind, while the body’s physical ability is at its prime.
While life can offer excitement and adventure, when one is young, no man is invincible, and age can take a toll for some. The most common reasons that men get sick and develop long-term chronic diseases are primarily due to lifestyle choices and behaviour. Smoking, poor eating habits, alcohol binge-drinking, plus sedentary work with few active hobbies and lack of daily exercise can lead to health problems.
The four major chronic diseases that North American men develop as they age—which are preventable—are heart disease, prostate cancer, gout and osteoporosis. Due to a variety of reasons, for the first time in history, the children of this generation are predicted to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents, and this relates to environmental conditions of our fast food, convenient culture.
With some lifestyle adjustments, these health issues can be prevented and long-term quality of life can be preserved. Quitting smoking can be one of the most important changes to make to improve long-term health prospects. There are many resources available to help people kick their butt habit.
Some important nutritional elements to highlight daily include colourful vegetables and fruits, which offer essential vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and fibre. Dark green and orange vegetables, such as spinach, broccoli, peas, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, carrots and squash offer folate, vitamins A, C, E, and K, plus the B vitamins and beta-carotene.
Healthy fats that come from nuts/seeds and fish are natural ways to ensure dietary goodness. Omega-3 fats may help prevent inflammation and auto-immune problems down the line and are good for brain health.
One of the easiest and best ways to get the essential Omega-3 fats are eating salmon, halibut, sardines, tuna, mackerel, trout, herring, ground flax, chia seeds and hemp hearts. One serving of salmon is equivalent to five supplements (1000mg) of wild salmon oil omega-3 pills. Food is better than a pill, since it tastes better, not to mention the protein, vitamin D and calcium that the fish provides that a supplement will not.
Tomato-based products, such as vegetable juice and sauces are important nutritional powerhouses for men due to the high content of lycopene. This red phytochemical acts as an antioxidant protecting cell damage and may help prevent prostate cancer.
Studies show that men who take 10 servings a week of processed tomato products have a lower risk of developing prostate cancer. The benefits are shown with food sources rather than supplements. Enjoy salsa, tomato sauce and V8 juice to load up on healthful lycopene for prevention.
Gout and osteoporosis also have nutritional components, as well as other lifestyle factors that can affect risk. Gout can be aggravated with alcohol and processed (smoked, cured and salted) meats, such as pepperoni, sausage, bologna and salami, in addition to foods high in purine, such as shrimp.
Osteoporosis has been known as a woman’s disease, but men also have high rates of this bone robbing condition and it can affect quality of life in senior years with risk of fractures and disability.
Ensuring adequate intake of foods/fluids high in calcium and vitamin D are key factors to help protect bone loss after middle age.
Yogurt, cheese, canned fish with bones, and low fat milk are all good sources of calcium for prevention of osteoporosis in later years. Aim for two to three servings of these common foods daily for protection.
Our sedentary culture of driving, sitting in front of electronics, and vegging out on the couch are all causing a high rate of ‘sitting disease’ and promoting our body to lose out on flexibility, strength and tone. Moving more with fun activities and sports are critical for good health.
Our bodies were meant to be in motion much of the time. Prioritizing activity will help to go a long way to keep healthy and well into the golden years.
Sandra Gentleman, RD, is a local registered dietitian and steward of Canal Beach.