We’d all love to stay young and healthy forever. Unfortunately one of these is impossible, short of unforeseen future technology that may achieve it (one can always dream). Good health even in middle age and beyond should be far more achievable ambition with the right mindset. There are certain conditions that tend to affect men as they approach middle age. They can be treated or prevented altogether with suitable knowledge and preparation. Here are five of the most common health issues for men and how to combat them:
The threat of heart attacks
In the United States alone, around one million people suffer a heart attack each year. Heart attacks affect men more than women, though causes and risk factors are generally the same for both. We’re better equipped nowadays to both treat and try to prevent heart attacks than ever before. The latter is always preferred, but knowing a range of heart attack symptoms can also be vital in surviving it.
These can include chest pain, heartburn, shortness of breath, nausea, cold sweats and tiredness. Lasting no more than a few minutes, these common heart attack symptoms are your warning signs. Seek urgent medical attention and prevent further damage. If you’re reading this before anything major has happened. You still have time to take preventative measures before getting to that point.
Your lifestyle has an effect on your risk of heart-related problems. Exercise and diet are two things you may hear often in relation to improving health. That’s is because they’re the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle. 75-150 minutes (dependant on intensity) of aerobic exercise per week is enough to keep your heart and body in decent shape. If you can feel your blood pumping after even a mild workout, such as brisk walking, it’s a sign that your heart’s working as it should. As a muscle like those in any other part of your body, the heart functions better when kept in good condition through regular exercise.
A balanced diet should of course include plenty of fruit and vegetables. Nuts and seeds are particularly useful in providing the nutrients required for a healthy functioning heart. The Mediterranean diet, inspired by Spanish, Italian and Greek cuisine is especially good for including a wide variety of tasty ingredients that help keep your heart healthy. Cutting down on junk food and alcohol consumption (on which many of us overindulge) is also recommended.
Stroke and its causes
Described by some as the equivalent of a heart attack for the brain, strokes are right up there with heart disease as one of the top killers of men around the world. Similarly, when they strike, swift action is required at short notice to prevent lasting internal damage. Immediate signs include a sudden inability to speak or understand others, paralysis on one side, dizziness and a severe headache. Long term effects, meanwhile, may include pneumonia and loss of function in some bodily organs.
Indeed, this is a condition to be takenextremelyseriously, and as such it’s best avoided via preventative measures. Like other conditions mentioned here, stroke causes include a lack of exercise and diets high in saturated fats, causing high cholesterol. Lack of blood flow to the brain is often one of the main stroke causes; another trait it shares with heart disease and why elevated cholesterol can bring such a high risk in both cases.
Interestingly, aspirin is widely regarded as a simple yet effective preventative treatment for those who could be at high risk of stroke. In the immediate aftermath, though, surgery is often the only option. As something that mainly affects the older generation, over 65s especially, the good news is that you do have time to make positive lifestyle changes now to reduce your chances of suffering a stroke later on.
Counteracting high blood pressure and stress
Also referred to as hypertension, high blood pressure is one of the most common health issues affecting middle aged men that unfortunately can lead directly to some of the other problems mentioned here. Though having high blood pressure may not seem quite as urgent as a heart attack or stroke, it can be equally harmful long-term if left unchecked.
While the same general recommendations apply in terms of a balanced diet and exercise, hypertension is otherwise linked to stress, meaning you have to bear in mind certain external factors that may be affecting your health. Work-life balance is especially important here. Many people fall into the trap of becoming workaholics, putting off elements of their personal life and believing they can constantly push themselves to the limit without consequence.
No matter how much you love your work, long-term stress will come back to haunt you later. A good balance involves hard work at the appropriate times, with the ability to switch off and unwind at other points. Find other things to enjoy that aren’t so work-focused, or at least offer a change of pace; you’ll soon feel better physically and mentally.
If you do suffer from hypertension at some point, not to worry too much; it can be easily managed with prescribed medication and slight adjustments to your diet or general routine. This being a condition primarily affecting blood flow through the arteries, exercise is a natural remedy that can go a long way to clearing any slight blockages. Outright prevention is preferable, of course, but many people manage to live a relatively normal life with it.
Diabetes – fuelled by sugar
A lot of us have an unfortunate sweet tooth, and the indulgence of it is shown in high diabetes figures across the developed world. If you love fast food, be aware that diabetes cases have drastically risen in direct correlation with the emergence of certain popular chains since the 1960s. This isn’t to say you should quit it completely, but perhaps consider how much and how often you consume your favourite burger or fried chicken of choice – these meals often come packed not only with saturated fats but plenty of sugar as well.
Common milder type 2 diabetes symptoms include increased thirst and more frequent urination, or even unexplained weight loss. These can be managedrelativelyeasily. But ignore the condition and you’ll risk some serious long term type 2 diabetes symptoms, including heart disease, kidney failure or even blindness.
Thankfully the condition can be prevented or even reversed using the reliable good habits of more exercise and a healthier diet; only if it gets progressively worse or is ignored completely will direct treatment such as insulin injections be required. Even then, many people can live normally by managing it effectively. Positive dietary changes should include not only cutting down on sugar and carbohydrates but a bigger variety of vibrant fresh vegetables to counteract it with more fibre and antioxidants in the body.
Mental health considerations
Talking about mental health for men has traditionally been more of a struggle than some of these other areas, though thankfully this is improving. Being something that isn’t quite as obvious as physical conditions, it can be easier to cover up or pass off as unimportant. But it is the great unseen killer among men of all ages, with suicide being one of the top causes of death for men worldwide. No doubt about it – there is still much room for improvement when it comes to acknowledging the importance of our mental wellbeing.
Just like with physical health, a good diet and exercise can have positive effects on us mentally. Our brains release endorphins during physical exertion, which essentially act as a mood enhancer and are suggested by experts to have similar effects to anti-depressants. Naturally, ensuring your brain is getting the right nutrients is also important, but there’s more to keep in mind regarding eating habits too. A lack of control over one’s diet can lead to emotional comfort eating which, while fine on rare occasions, may create a negative cycle that makes you feel worse about what you’re putting into your body.
Different things may work for different people when it pertains to mental health. We are unique in our own way; for some, engaging in artistic work such as drawing or writing can be very therapeutic as they help our brains (naturally inclined towards creativity) focus on positive activities that express our inner thoughts. Others may place a high value on meditation and yoga.
For a lot of us, it may be as simple as having a couple of close friends we can talk to about issues we need to get off our chest. Often this is all it takes to look after yourself mentally. It’s not always easy, hence why mental health for men is still an issue worth acknowledging, but we’re all in this together. Let’s try to look out for each other a little more.
This is, of course, not a comprehensive list of every possible men’s health issues you need to be aware of. A lot of the good habits mentioned here such as cutting down on salt, eating more vegetables or getting regular exercise. This in turn prevents or at least provide beneficial effects against other conditions that may arise. None of us knows what’s to come, but we can do our best to give ourselves a fighting chance against it. Looking after our bodies and minds is a step toward doing exactly that, leading to a much longer and happier life. In other article, we look at how exercise makes us happier as we get older
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