Preventative Care for Men - Part I: Diet

 

Men die younger than women from the top causes of death. As a result, the average woman outlives the average man by over five years. But it doesn’t have to be this way. More than half of these premature deaths are preventable, along with about 60 percent of chronic diseases, and most injuries and accidents. By taking charge of your own preventative care, you can protect your health. The two main areas of preventative care we are going to focus on are diet and exercise. Today we will be focusing on diet; specifically, how to ensure you are consuming the right amounts of the right kinds of food to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

STEPS YOU CAN TAKE TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY AND LENGTH OF YOUR LIFE

Below is a summary of important steps you can take to improve the quality—and length—of your life. We’ll discuss these steps in more detail throughout this blog.

 •  Eat a varied diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat foods.

 •  Be especially careful to limit cholesterol intake and avoid saturated fats.

 •  Protect yourself from the sun.

 •  Maintain a healthy weight.

 •  Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.

 •  Limit alcohol to two drinks per day.

 •  Don’t smoke and minimize your exposure to second-hand smoke.

 •  See your doctor regularly.

 •  Know your family history and discuss it with your doctor.

 •  If you are over 40, get a baseline PSA (prostate specific antigen) test and monitor this periodically with your doctor.

 •  Wear a seatbelt whenever you’re in the car, and a helmet when on a motorcycle or bicycle.

 •  Manage your stress and get help if you need it.

Everything that you eat and drink has an effect on your health and well-being, which is why it’s so important to make eating a balanced, nutritious diet a priority in your life. Unfortunately, too many of us don’t do that. We tend to eat portions that are too large, and our diets include too much fat, sugar and salt.

WHAT DOES A GOOD DIET LOOK LIKE?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Choose My Plate website provides expert guidance by exploring five major food groups: Fruits, Vegetables, Grains, Dairy, and Protein foods. The site also has a downloadable app that helps individuals create and follow a customized diet plan.

DIET AND WEIGHT LOSS

More than 60 percent of American men are overweight or obese. Obesity causes more than 300,000 premature deaths every year, increases the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer, and can worsen other conditions such as depression.

Each year, Americans spend more than $30 billion on diet programs. It sometimes seems that we can’t get on social media or turn on the television without seeing an ad for a new miracle diet or program or pill or gadget that will supposedly help us “lose those extra pounds and keep them off.” Unfortunately, most of these offers are scams: they don’t work, they’re sometimes dangerous, and the only thing you’ll lose is money.

The only truly effective way to lose weight permanently is to reduce the number of calories you eat and get more exercise. It also requires patience: it takes about the same amount of time to lose the weight as it does to gain it, which is about one or two pounds per week. Losing weight faster than that isn’t healthy and often doesn’t last. Before starting any weight loss program, check with your doctor.

YOUR DIET AND YOUR BONES

When it comes to your bones, the old expression “you are what you eat” couldn’t be more accurate. Not getting enough calcium increases the risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease that reduces bone mass, which in turn increases your risk of bone fracture. For most men, about 1,500 milligrams of calcium per day is a good goal. You can get most of that from calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese, fish, and even green vegetables such as broccoli and kale. The amount of calcium you need depends on your age, overall health, and other factors, so be sure to check with your healthcare provider before making big changes to your diet or taking calcium supplements.

ACHIEVING AND MAINTAINING A HEALTHY WEIGHT

Maintaining a healthy weight doesn’t require a lot of effort. Listed below are ways that will help. The more you can follow, the easier it will be:

 •  Limit your fat intake to no more than 30 percent of the calories you eat every day.

 •  Eat slowly and pay attention to how you feel. Stop when you’re full.

 •  Eat smaller portions.

 •  Don’t skip breakfast. A healthy breakfast has been shown to lower cholesterol and increase focus.

 •  Eat out less often. Home-cooked meals tend to be lower in calories and fat.

 •  Drink less alcohol. Limit your intake to no more than two drinks per day.

 •  Limit caffeine. Too much can cause dehydration, insomnia, anxiety and a irregular heartbeat.

 •  Get into the habit of reading the nutritional information on food packages. 

 •  Avoid any foods that contain trans fat: hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils.

 •  Drink at least eight glasses of water every day.

 •  Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables.

WHAT ABOUT VITAMINS AND MINERALS?

While there’s no question that getting enough vitamins and minerals is essential, you may not need to take any supplements if you’re eating a healthy, balanced diet. However, if any of the following are true, you may need vitamin and/or mineral supplements:

 •  You regularly eat less than 1,200 calories per day.

 •  You regularly skip meals.

 •  You take medication that interferes with your body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals.

 •  You are lactose intolerant (unable to digest milk or dairy products) and aren’t getting enough calcium.

If you chose to take vitamins, take only the recommended daily allowance and be sure to check with your doctor before starting.

Tomorrow we will discuss the second major factor in men's preventative care: exercise. We will cover the different types and frequency of exercises, based on your current health and fitness goals, as well as tips to prevent exercise-related injuries.