Man sits and talks with doctor

Follow these 7 tips for a healthier life: BGSU experts weigh in on men’s health

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University health and well-being faculty offer insight on the top things males should keep in mind during Men's Health Month

By Branden Ferguson

June is Men's Health Month, prompting a time for men and their loved ones to reflect on their overall health and well-being. Are you healthy? Do you make good food and drink decisions? What exercise plan should you be doing? These questions may seem easy to answer, but what do the experts say?

We asked nursing and nutrition experts from the BGSU College of Health and Human Services for their insight on the top things men should keep in mind year-round.

Doctor checks blood pressure of patient

1. Regular check-ups are key

“Often, I hear male patients tell me they are healthy, but they have not been seen by a doctor recently,” said Meghan Evans-Werner, assistant teaching professor in the BGSU School of Nursing.

When it comes to regular check-ups, Evans-Werner said it's recommended that men see their doctor at least once a year if they are healthy and not taking medications. As men age, she said they may need to schedule more frequent appointments to address things like weight gain, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

“Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States," Evans-Werner said. "This ‘silent killer’ can be connected to genetics, but diet and exercise are needed to maintain a healthy body.”

“Every month, men should be doing self-checks for skin cancer and performing testicular self-exams,” she added. “Each year, men should be seeing their doctor for blood pressure, cholesterol, baseline lab results and mental health screenings.”  

She also suggests men schedule blood sugar testing, eye exams and full-skin cancer assessments every two to five years.

As men approach their 50s, the United States Preventative Services Task Force recommends screenings for colorectal cancer. People with an increased risk should talk to their doctor about when to begin screening, which test is right for them, and how often they should get tested.

Man sits and eats at a table

2. Portion … portion … portion

As men age, Dr. Carrie Hamady, registered dietitian nutritionist and chair of the Public and Allied Health Department at BGSU, said they often realize that they can’t eat as much as they used to. Men in their 20s and 30s can no longer eat as they did as teenagers, and men in their 40s and 50s can no longer eat as they did right out of college.

“Being mindful of portion sizes is a good place to start,” Hamady said. “Making lifestyle choices does not have to be an ‘all or nothing approach’ especially when it comes to eating.”

“You can still enjoy foods that may be higher in calories, fat or sugar, but start by decreasing the portion size or number of times per week or month you choose that item,” Hamady added. "When it comes to beverages, experts say decreasing alcohol and sugar-sweetened drinks will help to decrease overall calorie intake and potentially increase intake of water. Adequate water intake promotes healthy skin, keeps joints lubricated and may prevent constipation."

Fish, chicken and beef sit on a cutting board surrounded by nuts, rice, beans and milk

3. Increase protein to battle age-related muscle loss

As men age, Hamady said their risk for sarcopenia, or age-related loss of muscle mass, increases. While protein can help build muscle, bulking up on protein is not necessarily the right answer.

BGSU experts say men need to be intentional when they consume protein, focusing not only on how much they eat but also the source they are getting it from. Men are recommended to consume protein throughout the day —every four hours or three meals per day. Each meal should include about 30 grams of protein. Increasing the amount of lean meats, fish, nuts and beans in a diet can be beneficial for muscle growth.

“Leucine is an amino acid that has been shown to help increase muscle protein synthesis,” Hamady said. “Leucine can be found in foods such as eggs, salmon, chickpeas, soybeans, dairy products, nuts, beef and brown rice.”

Hamady said pairing these protein sources with whole grains and good fats will also help create a balanced meal that provides enough energy.

“A balanced meal can help prevent snacking between meals and tiredness in the afternoon,” she said.

Man swims underwater

4. Move daily, consistently and with purpose

Evans-Werner recommends that men engage in 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. While that doesn’t mean you need to run a marathon, active movement, like brisk walking or weight-lifting, that increases heart rate and endurance is important.

“While all of these activities are excellent ways to burn calories and increase heart rate, each person is different and it depends on their physical activity level,” Evans-Werner said. “It depends on your ability and your desire to work your way towards keeping yourself healthy. Movement with purpose is the key.”

Evans-Werner also suggests exploring low-impact aquatic exercise when looking at ways to stay active.

“Working out in water burns more calories and prevents joint wear and tear compared to walking or running on pavement,” she said.  

Aquatic exercises take the pressure off the bones, joints and muscles, while also offering natural resistance, which can help strengthen muscles.

Medication being emptied into palm of hand

5. Preventative medicine and measures

While eating healthy and exercising are important, Evans-Werner suggests that men also use preventative medicine and measures to maintain their health, which include vaccines.

  • Influenza – Annually
  • Pneumonia – Once before 65 with a five-year gap in between doses
  • Shingles – Two doses six months apart after the age of 50
  • Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) – Every 10 years

While vaccines can be beneficial, Hamady said vitamins and supplements are not as black and white. Vitamins and supplements can provide fiber, minerals, antioxidants and other essentials to a diet, but they should not be used as a substitute.

“Studies show that the benefits we obtain from these nutrients when we consume them from food far outweigh any supplement. Save your money and buy actual food,” she said.

Hand reaches to grab vegetables off cutting board

6. Develop a good relationship with food

Hamady said a “good” relationship with food will look different for each person depending on where they live, what they have access to, what they can afford and which foods may be important to them based on culture and religious preferences. She suggests incorporating food and drinks that are safe and accessible, stating “there is no perfect diet.”

If eating organic food is important to you, Hamady said it’s perfectly fine to incorporate those items into your eating pattern. However, she also says if that is not an option due to financial restraints, a lack of access, or personal reasons, choosing fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables is also an excellent option.

“As we age, most households have fewer people in them, so frozen and canned foods make more sense as they keep longer without spoiling and cost less. The bottom line is, we need to eat more fruits and vegetables,” she said.

Enjoying the food you are eating is also important. If the items you enjoy eating are not deemed healthy, change doesn’t have to happen all at once.

“Maintain the foods that are important to you. If you like steak — eat it! However, maybe cut down from 16 ounces to 10 ounces at a sitting,” Hamady said.  

Starting slow and making one change every few weeks can lead to long-term change.

“Just losing 5-10% of body weight can make enough of a difference to see improvements in blood sugar, blood pressure and inflammation,” she said.

Person sits down with doctor during appointment

7. It’s OK to seek help

BGSU experts say men are less likely than women to get preventative screenings, seek timely medical care or, at times, visit the doctor at all.

A Cleveland Clinic survey asked men about visiting the doctor and found that despite 82% of them saying they try to stay healthy for family and friends, only 50% of men engage in preventative care. Meanwhile, 20% of men admitted that they don’t always tell their doctors the truth about their health.

Evans-Werner says said regular screenings and check-ups serve as a preventative measure to allow for medical intervention in the event there is an issue.

“The longer the delay with treatment, the more progressed a disease process becomes,” she said. “Even when you make all the right choices, sometimes genetics still play a significant role in your overall health. It is important to take your medications every day — even when you are feeling good.”

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Media Contact | Michael Bratton | | 419-372-6349

Updated: 06/27/2024 03:25PM