November seems like the perfect month to devote to Men's Health Awareness, especially since it has newly earned the nickname Mo-vember. In all the time you will save shaving for a month, you can challenge yourself to catch up on your preventive care screenings.
In preparation for the Mo-vember blog, I informally interviewed a few of the men of all ages in my life asking them "what are your most prominent Men's health issues, questions and concerns?" These were some of the responses...
Just give me the basics, what am I really suppose to do go manage my health? I try to eat healthy, but is there a simple nutrition and diet outline I don't have to totally micromanage?
What are the cholesterol basics? What is my cholesterol and what should it be? If it's high, what do I do about it?
What does blood pressure even mean? What should it be, and do I really need to be checking it? If it’s high, what do I do about it?
Is it just normal to get thicker around the middle during middle age? What is a normal weight? Does your metabolism slow down as you get older? I've never counted calories in my life, do I need to start, and how?
When do I worry about “wear and tear?” I’ve always had the “I’m indestructible” attitude, but in my 40’s and 50’s, I’m starting to feel my age. What do I do about feeling sore and stiff?
What really is a prostate, why is it important, and what do I do about it?
At the request to “keep it simple,” start by picking your dream car, then imagine it’s all yours. Regardless of whether it is a sleek, performance driven speedster; off-road rugged and reliable; or streamlined efficient and functional; maintenance is required. Since the vehicle you drive most likely suits your lifestyle, it most likely has maintenance needs similar to you. Do you know what’s in the owner’s manual for your model?
Let’s start with the fuel. It is as simple as the quality and purity of the foods you take in for your daily fuel will equate to your level of performance and endurance over time. A diet rich in nutrients and high in fiber from whole grains, getting 2 servings of fruits, and 2-3 servings of vegetables daily is recommended for whole body health and cancer prevention. Getting your protein from lean meats, fish, beans, nuts, low fat dairy, and limiting your servings of high saturated fat foods reduces your risk of heart disease. Cutting sugar by eliminating soda and treats and limiting caffeine and alcohol are important for brain health and prevention of diabetes. Balancing what you take in as the fuel you need based on how much you use daily is necessary to prevent obesity. Anything more is just stored in your trunk making you run less efficiently, increasing wear and tear on your body, and raises the long term cost of maintaining a body with potential chronic illness. Try using online tools (Link) that figure in your height, weight, and activity level to help create the balance of fuel in and energy out that is right for you.
Once you compare your baseline nutrition with what is recommended, are you caught off guard if the calculation says you are up a few pounds from what is considered a healthy weight? Does your waistline around your thickest section measure more than 40 inches? Do you wonder if your metabolism has pushed on the breaks? Tracking your nutritional intake and energy expenditure is the first step. Download an app or use an online tool to record everything you eat for a week. I like the MyFitnessPal tool, it’s user friendly, has a huge database of foods, and you can barcode scan items with a label. Consider investing in an activity tracker armband that keeps track of your steps that you can program in your workouts into their app; which then tells you estimated calories burned. Tracking has shown to help motivate to increase physical activity and to improve eating choices. Studies have repeatedly identified that people underestimate their caloric intake and overestimate their energy expenditure. So take some extra time and really read what a serving size is on labels and even use measuring spoons and cups for a few days to make sure you are not sabotaging your efforts to figure out your baseline. In most cases, weight management is a mathematical problem, energy in has to = energy used to maintain weight. If you have concerns after you have tracked your baseline, talk to your healthcare provider on your next visit about possible endocrine issues. Also, keep track of your sitting time and remember one hour of sitting will only burn 84 calories (for a 185 pound person) but walking the dog for an hour burns 252 calories!
What about your driving style? Are you generally 15 mph above the speed limit, always 20 minutes late, taking advantage of the drive-thru line for a pit-stop, pushing the gas from sunrise to dark-thirty? Stress increases your body’s sympathetic drive; your built in fight-or-flight system that attempts to keep your engine from overheating by tapping into emergency resources. This only works for so long before the cylinders all run dry; sleep suffers, depression is a risk, anger management is challenged, fitness and meditation go to the wayside, blood pressure rises. Don’t wait to be broken down on the side of the road to check-out the toolbox in the undercarriage. An important aspect of preventive health is stocking your toolbox with skills for managing stress productively. Exercising a minimum of 30 minutes 5 days a week, aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and maintaining a healthy diet are the essentials. Carving out personal time, family fun, and social down time all help create balance and keep all 4 wheels on the ground when the turns in the road are turbulent and unexpected.
Have the warning lights been ablaze on your dashboard? Ask yourself, when was the last time I went to my doctor for an annual wellness exam? What is my blood pressure or have I ever been told it was a little on the high side? Am I overweight? If so, have I ever been checked for diabetes? What is my cholesterol level? Am I current on my immunizations? Am I over 50 or have a family history of cancer and had a colonoscopy or talked to my doctor about prostate screenings? Call your primary care provider and schedule your regular maintenance exam today. If you need a lifestyle overhaul or just want a detailing evaluation from a specialty support team to guide you through, consider scheduling a Lifestyle Medicine Annual Preventive Exam at the LiVe Well Center (Link).
Start by printing off the Fact Sheet “Preventive Care for Men: Your Plan” as an owner's manual overview to find out what is due in your regular maintenance schedule.
LiVe Well, Motor On!