Mick Jagger once sang, “What a drag it is getting old.” This lyric can apply to current-day men fighting the ravages of time. But contrary to this thought there is proof that if we take care of ourselves in middle and later age, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish in our golden years.
Life expectancy for men is 76, up a full decade from 1968. Advancements in medical research and technology are curing ailments that were once death sentences. Yet studies show that men are sicker and have a poorer quality of life. They’re living increasingly sedentary and stress-filled lives, while adhering to body sabotaging schedules and diets.
It’s pretty much expected that after age 40, guys will have a potbelly, be on medication for high blood pressure or high cholesterol and…they will either have had a heart attack or had angioplasty or bypass surgery. Too many men rely on the health care system to bail them out after making poor choices.
It is up to you to reverse the course. By using a short list of priorities you can eliminate about 80% of the risk for major chronic disease or premature death. Lifestyle can add years to lives, and it can add life to years. There is evidence that if you have specific genes increasing your risk for heart disease, lifestyle can change the behavior of those genes and reduce that risk. Lifestyle interventions can even turn on the genes that suppress cancer and turn off the genes that promote cancer.
Tools to assist in making lifestyle changes:
Rethinking Resolutions – Short term goals encourage stick-to-itiveness. Say you want to get back to your college weight. It’s good to have a long term vision, but you need to achieve it five pounds at a time. And the modalities – diet and exercise – need to be enjoyable in order to be sustainable. More muscle mass means a higher metabolism. Combining cardio with resistance training is the best way to burn off unwanted belly fat.
Fuel Without Fuss – The type and quantity of fuel you choose to put in your body is vital to a successful preventive lifestyle. It is agreed by the experts that the best diets have an abundance of minimally processed vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. The health benefits of reducing one’s consumption of animal products while increasing intake of unprocessed, plant-based foods are massive: lower cholesterol levels; decreased inflammation; a greatly reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, even cancer.
Prioritizing Sleep – Rest is even more fundamental in terms of biological function and overall well-being. Seven to eight hours of recovery time is recommended each night. Lack of sleep can drive up the risk of hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. More alarming, sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The most common sleep disorder in middle-aged men is obstructive sleep apnea, where the upper airway intermittently becomes blocked due to relaxation of the throat muscles. In the long term, untreated OSA can lead to high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.
Taking Action – It is important for men to know their complete family history – even of diseases that affect women in their family. Men with certain inherited cancer predisposition genes also can pass them along to their children. Self-screening is advised for diseases such as melanoma.
Truth About Testosterone – Between the ages of 30 and 40, testosterone levels start to decline in men by roughly 1% per year. Testosterone is the hormone that fuels men’s libidos, boosts their metabolism and helps build and maintain muscles. Also, low testosterone is a major cause of depression in men. However, it is advised that unless you have true testosterone deficiency, steer clear of the craze of boosting it. Replacing testosterone, unless you have a medical condition, actually increases your risk of heart disease, but an optimal lifestyle – eating well, being active, and taking the right adaptogenic herbs – sustains healthy testosterone levels.