With June being Men’s Health Month, this is as good of a time as ever to review some of the many aspects to keep men healthy and functioning at their highest potential.
The reason for Men’s Health Month gaining popularity since it was established in 1994 is because on average, men die about 5 years earlier than women. In addition, men die at higher rates due to the three leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, and unintentional injury. With heart disease being a significant contributor to early death, a shift to prevention based treatment for modifiable risk factors has occurred over the past 20 years in the field of Men’s Health.
Modifiable Risk Factors for Heart Disease
High Blood Pressure: Blood pressure is the measure of systolic pressure over diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the pressure against the arteries as the heart beats, while diastolic pressure is the pressure against the arteries when the heart relaxes in between heart beats. Normal blood pressure is 120/80. Stage one hypertension or high blood pressure is considered 130-139/ 80-89. Stage two hypertension is 140 or higher/ 90 or higher. As a person gets older, their systolic pressure naturally rises which places a greater emphasis on finding ways to manage blood pressure with life-style choices. Some tips for lowering blood pressure include eating a heart healthy diet, increasing exercise to about 30 minutes a day, reducing stress, reducing caffeine intake, drinking alcohol in moderation, quitting smoking, and losing weight. Medications can be very beneficial in assisting with lowering blood pressure.
High Cholesterol: There are two types of cholesterol LDL and HDL cholesterol. HDL or high density lipoprotein assists in removing cholesterol from arteries so it can be transported throughout the body. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol can be beneficial to reducing risk of cardiovascular disease. A HDL level of above 60 is considered sufficient. LDL or low density lipoprotein contributes to plaque or blockages present in arteries. Aiming for LDL levels below 70 will significantly help to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Ways to reduce LDL cholesterol include decreasing dietary cholesterol, increasing physical activity, and losing weight. Many medications exist to help reduce LDL cholesterol as well.
Obesity: Unfortunately rates of obesity have increased in the United States throughout the years, but a lot of research has been done on healthy ways to lose weight. When attempting to lose weight, a combination of increasing physical activity while also reducing caloric intake has been shown to offer the greatest long term success. In general, men who aim to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week are the most successful at keeping the weight off in the long term. Focusing on short term daily improvements in energy level as well as improved sleep quality can help significantly when faced with a long term goal. Consulting with a dietician and a physician before attempting to lose weight is always recommended.
Physical Activity: A cornerstone of reducing all the previously mentioned modifiable risk factors is improving physical activity. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderately intense aerobic activity a week in order to stay properly fit and reduce risk of heart disease. Examples of moderately intense exercise includes a brisk walk, biking at a casual pace, light swimming, doing light yard work, and playing with children. Vigorous exercise can be utilized to assist in weight loss and some examples include jogging, running, jumping rope, playing competitive sports, and swimming laps. At ATR, our physical therapists can be very helpful in recommending a proper home exercise program with safe exercises that can be utilized to help improve general activity and more importantly improve your quality of life!
Author: John Cichon, PT DPT at ATR Kirkwood.
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