Celebrating National Men’s Health Month
School is out! We’re gearing up for a summer planning camping trips, family reunions, lemonade stands, while squeezing extra minutes from our busy days to spend with our kids. Between juggling work, family, and trying not to set our roasted marshmallows on fire, our fathers, brothers, sons and uncles might forget the essentials – their health. June is National Men’s Health Month with a special focus on the week leading up to Father’s Day. Men’s Health Month aims to highlight men’s health issues, educate about preventable problems, and encourage screenings to detect and treat diseases common among men and boys. Today, we want to talk about the men we love and their hearts.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States for both men and women. In 2009, 1 in 4 male deaths were attributed to heart disease. (cdc.gov) And though some of it has to do with genetics, age, and gender, much of our heart health is under our control. By leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, men can greatly reduce their risk of heart disease.
There’s a checklist for those who are at greater risk for heart problems: high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, overweight or obesity, excessive use of alcohol, poor eating habits and inactivity. The CDC estimates that 49% of Americans have at least one of the first three risk factors. So it’s time to get heart smart.
Stop smoking and tobacco use: Smoking sky-rockets your risk for heart disease. But our bodies are grateful and, within five years of stopping smoking, your risk of heart disease drops to that of a non-smoker. (Mayo Clinic Staff, Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease, Mayoclinic.org)
Get in the Movement Mindset: Find ways to get thirty minutes of exercise every day, whether it’s walking to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking the dog, gardening – any activity that gets your body moving is heart smart. If you can’t get in thirty minutes, don’t not do anything. Ten minutes of walking the dog is better than doing nothing. Over time you’ll build up your movement goals.
Diet and Nutrition: “At the heart of good health is good nutrition.” (American Heart Association). We’ve discussed the merits of the Mediterranean Diet (LINK OF BLOG POST HERE). The American Heart Association has a great list of the ABC’s of a healthy kitchen to get you in the healthy-eating mindset. Moreover, we suggest it be a whole-family affair. Heart health isn’t just for the men in our lives!
Stay hydrated! It’s recommended we drink between 1.6 and 2 liters of fluid (preferably water) each day (alcohol, sodas, and sugary drinks don’t count). When we’re hydrated our heart pumps blood more effectively and easily, keeping the strain on it to a minimum. Try out WaterLogged to keep you on track with your hydration goals.
Watch your waistline: Naturally, the side effects of eating well, hydrating, and exercising will be a healthier, hotter body. Being overweight, in particular if you have a heavy middle, increases your heart risk. Men with over 40 inch waists are considered overweight, and by dropping just 5 – 10% of their body weight can decrease, significantly, their blood pressure. (Mayo Clinic Staff, Strategies to Prevent Heart Disease, Mayoclinic.org).
Sleep well: The Harvard School of Medicine has a faculty that studies sleep. “Lack of sleep – especially on a regular basis – is associated with long-term health consequences, including chronicle medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease …” (Healthysleep.med.harvard.edu) Get your body in the habit of sleeping.
With some small, simple lifestyle changes, we all can live heart smart and longer. Don’t get overwhelmed and start big. Make adjustments and set goals so that each week, we incorporate a heart smart habit. For more information about Men’s Health Network and its campaigns, click here.