Boosting Men’s Health

Just over a week ago it was Fathers Day in Australia and millions of Dad’s all over the country were inundated with socks, electrical appliances and of course, a multitude of vouchers. It is a time when we remind our Dad’s, husbands, granddads and the significant men in our lives that they are special and that we appreciate them. The thing is, these men of ours actually need a little bit more than knick-knacks and $50 to spend at Bunning’s. They need a few more quality years tacked onto their lives. It is true that men’s overall life expectancy in Australia and other western countries has improved substantially over the past 50 years, but their average life expectancy still remains significantly lower than that of women’s. I happened to snag a husband who is younger than me, so we just might be on par in the long run. Cougar jokes aside, the leading causes of death we are dealing with in Australia in men are heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, adult onset hearing loss and lymph, blood, lung, prostate and colorectal cancer. Fathers Day is a short 24-hour celebration but there are some constructive actions that men can take (with their women and kids supporting them) to clock up many more. If you are a male reading this, I’m talking to YOU about men’s health and if you are female, please feel free to apply to any male you care about.

1. Use your measuring tape – it’s easy to jump on the scales to assess your weight situation but the weight you see on the scales includes fat, muscle, blood, bone and every other little bit of you. Measuring your waist circumference is a better way to tell if you have too much body fat and where it is situated on your body. For most adults a waist measurement of greater than 94cm for men and 80cm for women is an indicator of too much internal fat, which can cover the heart, kidneys, liver and pancreas and increase the risk of chronic disease. Make sure you measure at the point between your hipbone and the bottom of your ribs and use the same place every time. Aim to be under these measurements for a healthier amount of body fat. 2. Choose your drop – The reality is that for most of us, alcohol is part of our social lives. For men, this can be a big part of their work lives too. It is interesting when we consider the comparison of beer, wine and spirits. 100ml wine 295kJ 100ml beer 149kJ 30ml vodka, whisky, bourbon 260kJ 250ml soft drink mixer 420kJ On paper, things are looking good for beer. However, can you imagine drinking 100ml beer from a stubbie and then stopping or passing it onto your mate for their 100ml serve? I think it is fair to say that no one drinks only 100ml beer. An average restaurant size serving of wine is 180ml or 1.8 standard drinks and the average serving size of a full strength beer is 375ml or 1 middy/can/stubby, which is equal to 1.5 standard drinks. Beer, wine and other drinks can weaken resolve and many people reach for high fat snacks after a few drinks. Combining fatty foods with alcohol is the worst combination of all for weight gain, so it is a good idea to eat before drinking alcohol to lessen the temptation to reach for the chips and peanuts. Some lower kilojoule choices include spirits plus a no sugar mixer or soda water and lime. You could add ice to a glass of wine. More than two drinks per day increase brain shrinkage and there is a lot of research that shows even smaller amounts can lead to shrinkage. The clients that I work with will often accept an alcoholic drink at a function and simply drink it in slow motion or not at all. This way nobody will harass you to have a drink and no one notices that you aren’t actually drinking any. 3. Make a date – We all know that date nights are crucial to relationships right? Well, it’s not just our other halves that are important because research shows that men who maintain their own social groups are healthier and recover from illness more quickly. Spending time with friends is also considered a key part of combating depression. In Australia, the statistics are grim. Suicide is the leading cause of death in men aged between 15 and 44 years with men less likely to get the help they need. ABS data shows that only 27 per cent of men seek professional help compared to 40 per cent of women. Women are often the social coordinators in relationships and perhaps we need to be encouraging male bonding time a little bit more. 4. Check it up – when was the last time your man had a check-up with his GP? Males are not known for being proactive in this department and may need a not so gentle push to get there. Choose a month in the year and make it an annual gala event – the types of markers that should be checked include fasting blood glucose, full blood lipids, liver and kidney function, cortisol, thyroid, full iron study and possibly hormones. Don’t forget that knowledge is power. 5. Fruit and vegetables – Australians are still behind the eight ball when it comes to fruit and vegetable intake and men lag behind women. Most people tell me that getting enough fruit is the easy part of the equation but the vegetable bit can be trickier. We need two serves of fruit each day with one serve being equivalent to 1 medium sized piece of fruit such as an apple or pear and five serves of vegetables with one serve being ½ cup of cooked vegetables or salad. It can be fairly difficult to face all of your vegetables on your dinner plate at the end of the day, so why not take some to work to include in lunch and snacks? A punnet of cherry tomatoes, a Lebanese cucumber, a handful of crisp snow peas, or strips of red capsicum are easily transportable, can all be eaten at your desk and are super low calorie. For some delicious salad ideas check some out here.