I know the title of this article seems a bit partial to men but the honest truth is all the points made here apply just as much to women over 40 as it does to men over 40. I just wanted to use this article as a basis for focusing a bit on the men because we (or perhaps should I say I) often focus on our health concerns more from a women’s perspective (understandably) than from the men’s, so I guess this is just my way of giving the guys a bit of TLA (tender loving attention).
We live in an age where problems like diabetes, obesity and a plethora of other medical issues are at epidemic levels. Most of these problems are the result of poor dietary choices, a sedentary or inadequately active lifestyle and too much stress.
These can be all avoided or the risks at least minimized if one takes positive steps to address these problems before they worsen or even show up. However, in these current times it is so easy to make excuses for keeping unhealthy and unfit rather than rising up to the health challenges we all face as we grow older. The problem is that developing a healthy lifestyle and eating habits is a discipline that needs to be cultivated, nurtured and stuck with and that can be hard if you are disinclined to for one reason or the other.
Health and fitness is not about the presence or absence of a six pack. It is more fundamental and though the discipline of cultivating a healthy lifestyle might be difficult, taking this lifestyle journey in small manageable steps can be easy, each step at a time as you learn to gradually incorporate small healthy lifestyle adjustments to habits and routines on a daily or weekly basis
The repercussions on your health when you ignore your body’s health needs (particularly your internal body make-up) can cost you in the long run. For instance, most men with abdominal fat are exposing themselves to many possible health risks. The belly is one of the first places where men and women over forty particularly gain weight. For men, this easily translates into a paunch and for women you develop layers of fat around the belly and having a waistline rapidly becomes a myth!
You must be aware that there are two kinds of fat in the body. There is subcutaneous fat which is fat under the skin and there is visceral fat, which is fat that builds up in the spaces around your organs such as the intestines and stomach.
It is this visceral fat that causes your body to store toxins and also causes inflammation. The dangerous part here is that even with a body that doesn’t seem morbidly obese, you might have quite a lot of visceral fat stored in your organs.
This sets the stage for problems like diabetes, heart disease, inflammation and all the other problems that are just waiting for the right opportunity to strike.
Always bear in mind – prevention is better than cure. I know I sound like a boring old school teacher but I would not wish the affliction of a chronic disease or serious ill-health on anyone. I went through my bout of chronic ill-health many years ago and in my write-ups, I never forget to reference the horrors of what I went through for five years. So if I sound like a boring old fart (pardon the crudity), please bear with me. At least now you know why.
Anyway, back to my health lecture; high blood sugar levels, high cholesterol levels, unexplained aches and pains all over the body, lethargy, depression and many other problems are the result of a poor diet and an inactive lifestyle. You can keep many health problems at bay just by watching your diet, making the right food choices and getting daily exercise. As much as possible, avoid processed foods, consume alcohol sparingly and not as a habit. Please avoid smoking if you can at all help it and if you can’t then just get help and quit! Basically, I am encouraging you to please take an active interest in your general health and there are many ways you can start to do that. Don’t think you have to do all these things at once. It would be great if you did but you probably would not be human if you could.
Aging is a slow process and most men forget that with time, their bodies just can’t cope with the ravages of an unhealthy lifestyle. In your forties, you’re not old but you aren’t that young either. Certain unhealthy habits were fine when we were young but can have lethal health consequences for us if we continue in the same vein without making serious efforts to transform these bad health and lifestyle habits.
The sooner you do, the better. The foundation of all happiness is good health. Eat clean. Be active and live well. Look out for my next article in the series of tackling health issues and concerns for men over 40!
From my heart to yours, always,
Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and taking care of our emotional wellbeing are all-important elements of living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining an optimal level of health. Medical experts and research has confirmed repeatedly that the lifestyle choices we make are crucial for healthy aging and preventing various diseases that can result in chronic health impairment or even premature death.
Prevention they say is better than cure and preventative health goes a step beyond just addressing health problems that arise but instead serves to alert us to potential health conditions that can lead to serious complications for us in the future. Early detection and monitoring for high-risk conditions is an essential element of good healthcare and this applies to both men and women.
But when it comes to healthcare, men tend to see doctors less and do not pay as much attention to their possible health concerns as women do. They can often go years between doctors’ visits and end up missing valuable opportunities for screening and detection of possible health issues.
Here are some health concerns worth keeping on top of so that you don’t end up with unnecessary complications:
- High blood pressure: Men are just as prone to high blood pressure as women. High blood pressure is largely hereditary but can be influenced by environmental factors such as caffeine intake, intake of salt, and obesity. Unless the blood pressure is extremely high, you will have no symptoms and the blood pressure may be left unchecked and unnoticed. Depending on age it is advisable to have your blood pressure checked at regular intervals. I would advise asking your physician to suggest a suitable time interval for checking blood pressure and then try sticking with that. Blood pressure readings of 140/90 or greater would warrant a visit to your doctor.
- Colon cancer: Colon cancer is the second largest cause of cancer death among men. Fortunately, it is largely preventable by being screened for colon cancer, beginning at age 50 (and sooner if it runs in the family). It involves having a colorectal specialist insert a camera at the end of a flexible tube into the colon to look for and remove cancer-causing polyps. This procedure is called a colonoscopy and it should be repeated every ten years as a screening measure, starting at 50 years of age. Keeping a high fiber diet that is low in fat may also reduce the risks of colon cancer. More on this in subsequent blogs.
- Prostate Cancer: Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in men. There are basically two types of prostate cancer—slow growing and fast growing. Either way, it is worth getting screened for prostate cancer through the use of digital rectal examination every five years at the doctor’s office. Some doctors also draw blood for prostate specific antigen or PSA. This number can be high in enlarged prostate conditions or in prostate cancer. If it is elevated, doctors can try and determine if it is related to cancer or not.
- Smoking Cessation: Lung cancer caused by smoking is the number one cause of cancer deaths in the UK and America. The simplest way to reduce the risk of lung cancer is to never smoke or to stop smoking as soon as possible. There are many ways to quit smoking and many health services and support networks exist to help people who wish to stop smoking. Ask your doctor or make enquiries online for nearest support services
It is recommended that those with a history of heavy smoking, who smoke at present or have quit within the last 15 years and are between the ages of 55 and 80 years of age should undergo yearly lung screenings. Heavy smoking is defined as smoking at least one pack of cigarettes per day for one year. A 30 pack-year history can equate to 1 pack a day for 30 years or two packs a day for 15 years.
- Heart Disease: Men are at a greater risk of heart disease than women are. Things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, and family history contribute to a high risk of heart disease especially with men who have family histories. Measures should be taken to reduce the other risk factors. This means adopting a heart healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in fat. It means a commitment to regular exercise three to five days a week. Finally it means seeing a doctor to find out about risk factors like high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
If these are elevated, your doctor may prescribe medications that can further reduce your risk of getting a heart attack. I personally detest the thought of having to take prescription medications unless absolutely necessary. I went through my health scare phase where I was on prescription medication for almost four years. My hatred of the experience was part of what spurred me onto seeking an alternative health path. But if you must be on medication to keep health issues at bay then by all means do seek whatever professional guidance is needed and do what is necessary to safeguard long-term health.
- The Family Connection: Besides all the conditions listed above, it is also a good idea to find out about any medical conditions that run in the family as genetics can play a big role in the development of certain diseases. Oftentimes, children, parents, and grandparents share similar health problems because inherited factors put family members at risk through genes. Disease often results from the combined effects of minor changes in multiple genes, and each gene then contributes in a small way to the symptoms of and development of disease. However, there is the new and exciting science of Epigenetics which I will write a few articles on in the subsequent weeks. Epigenetics simply surmises that you can overwrite or override your genetic predisposition by consciously adopting positive lifestyle habits and making healthy lifestyle choices and there seems to be the research to prove it! So watch this space.
Heart disease, diabetes, and cancer account for 7 of every 10 deaths in the United States, and are considered genetic diseases because they run in families. Gathering a detailed family history can give you important information as to your risk factors and that awareness can be used to monitor for and possibly prevent the onset of problems whenever possible.
The bottom line is that factors and conditions for ill-health lurk around almost every corner. It is quite easy when we read blogs, read the statistics, visit health websites and even seek information from off the internet to get really scared of developing some sort of serious health condition or other and we begin to live in fear. I refuse to be a harbinger of doom and my intention is never to induce fear but to encourage you to set health goals and then to take one positive step at a time towards achieving and maintaining these. Not easy I can assure you but very do-able and so infinitely rewarding! Your body will thank you for it.
So let us all strive to take more responsibility for maintaining good health in every way we can. We can no longer afford to depend on some aloof physician to safeguard our health because by the time we get to that point we could be facing potentially chronic or life-threatening health conditions. We can start off each day by incorporating some healthy action into our routine or taking something unhealthy out of it and as we continue to practice this, adopting healthy habits becomes a new lifestyle and you are all the better for it! You can do it. Go on! Be well always! I struggle like everyone else to keep at my goals of any sort but I’m hanging on and after my serious ill health experience years ago, anything to do with good health is now my burning passion. Yes passion does help!
Do feel to drop me a line. I‘d be delighted to hear from you! Until next time, remember you are special, so be well and keep well!
From my heart to yours always,
What Is The Immune System
One of the greatest health benefits we can enjoy is learning to develop and to maintain a strong immune system. The immune system is a collection of special cells, organs, and substances that defend the body against infection and illness. It monitors the body at the cellular level and attempts to rid it of anything unfamiliar and intrusive to the body.
You may already know this but any substance that enters the body which the immune system does not recognize is known as an antigen. When an antigen enters our bodies, the immune response is triggered and the attack to get rid of it begins. Our immune system has the ability to destroy anything containing a particular antigen including, germs, viruses, and cancer cells.
It is safe to say that without our immunity we wouldn’t be around too long because it is a tireless warrior protecting our health. There are bacteria and viruses everywhere and our immune systems continuously fight all types of bacteria, viruses and various parasites in order to protect the body from potential harmful effects that their presence in our bodies can cause.
We also use our immunity to fight and kill cancerous cells that can pop up in our systems and while of course it is not always successful as people still get cancer because there are other factors beyond just immunity that can affect the bodies response to cancer, it is a fact that those with a poor immune system are at greater risk of succumbing to cancer than individuals who take care of their immune system but cancer is not the only health threat we face on a daily basis.
It is therefore of great importance to invest time taking care of our immune system health. Thankfully, some of the ways in which we can do this are also beneficial in other ways to our overall health.
What are some ways we can maximize the effectiveness of our immune system to stay as healthy as possible? Here are just a few tips that I know are certainly helpful in building up the immune system:
- Get immunized. Every year, you are given the opportunity to get an influenza shot. This “shot in the arm” will literally boost your immunity against the likely influenza viruses floating around through the winter months. Older people should get the Pneumovax vaccine, which prevents pneumonia caused by pneumococcal bacteria.
- Eat balanced meals. Now, eating healthy meals as daily habit for me poses a real challenge and I am by no means the role model here so I do eat health consciously even if my meals are not as balanced as I would love them to be on a daily basis. I have discovered ways of making up any shortfalls in diet by adopting a more holistic approach to overall health and reinforcing good health and eating habits over negative ones. More balanced eating simply means getting enough nutrition through the meals, fruits vegetables and nuts and seeds that we consume.
There are nutrients in these foods that act as antioxidants, scavenging your body for oxygen free radicals that can damage cellular systems. The problem though is that much of the fruits and vegetables gracing our grocery shelves are increasingly nutrient-deficient as a result of the commercial farming methods used. The continuous impoverisation of our farming soils through the proliferate use of pesticides and other questionable farming methods that have now become common place and acceptable is a whole new topic for a separate blog which I will address hopefully soon.
Organic produce is best but can be quite expensive and most regular income homes might find it beyond their pockets to stick to organic produce. When I suffered from serious ill health issues many years ago, I engaged the services of a natural herbalist who put me on an uncompromising organic food regime and for four years, I only purchased the highest grade of organic fruits and vegetables delivered weekly to me by a local organic store. As you can imagine it was pretty expensive but my health was seriously at stake then and I was determined to regain full health. Later, I will share some tips on how you can maintain good immunity even if you cannot afford to go organic.
- Stay away from tobacco smoke. If you are a smoker please try and commit to quitting. There is help available I you search for support groups in your area and online forums. I know people who smoke that have lived long and even outlived people with healthier lifestyles but that is not the norm. Documented research shows that smoking is extremely toxic to health and significantly increases the risk of lung and other cancers. Smoking is also extremely aging on the skin.
Tobacco smoke unarguably ruins immunity even if you aren’t the actual smoker. Kids have an increased risk of getting middle ear and lung infections when repeatedly exposed to second-hand smoke. Adults are more prone to getting bronchitis and pneumonia when exposed to tobacco smoke. The toxic ingredients in smoke lessen your ability to fight off all kinds of infections.
- Cut down on alcohol. UK government’s unit guidelines state that there are no safe levels of alcohol consumption. Unit guidelines are the same for men and women and both are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units per week. I am not a regular drinker and I have no idea what 14 units of alcohol actually looks like. Please feel free to contribute to this article by dropping me a line if you know what constitutes 14 units of alcohol and I’ll provide the update in the subsequent blog.
The risk of developing a variety of serious conditions including cancer, increases with any amount of alcohol consumed on a regular basis. Excessive alcohol intake also leads to an increased risk of getting infections from a poor immune system. Pulmonary infections are particularly likely to happen in heavy drinkers. Alcohol intake on a regular basis is also aging to the skin and heavy drinkers tend to look older than their age. Because alcohol is dehydrating to the body it is always advisable to consume plenty water throughout the day to rehydrate the body and to detoxify the body from the harsh effects of alcohol.
- Take probiotics. The benefits of taking probiotics on a daily basis cannot be overstated. I came to discover how necessary probiotics are for optimum digestive health and general immunity several years ago and I take these religiously both from food sources and also supplementally. Probiotics are one of the best things to reach mainstream medicine and it’s a topic to devote to a separate article of its own as there is a lot to explain about its immense benefits which many people overlook due to the lack of awareness.
Probiotics consist of living spores of healthy bacteria or living organisms themselves. They colonize the gut and displace the “bad bacteria” that can make you sick. With probiotics, you can have a healthier gut immune system and can avoid gastrointestinal upset from bacteria or fungi in the gut. Probiotics are found in some yogurts as well as in capsule form. I will devote time in a later blog to explain its benefits and the best food sources and supplements for probiotic health.
- Eat garlic. Garlic is one of the oldest and most cultivated culinary spices in the world. It is a perennial plant with numerous health benefits as well as being an antimicrobial and antiviral agent. Garlic belongs in the same food category as onions, spring onions and shallots and has a strong pungent smell when used or ingested. It boosts the immune system in a general way but because it is inactivated by heat it is best taken on its own or by adding to foods just before serving the food. Garlic may also be taken in supplement form. Many will be familiar with the home remedy of garlic, ginger, lemon and honey brewed as a drink and taken warm to relieve, colds and flu. Garlic is an excellent source of Vitamin B6, Manganese, Selenium, Vitamin C and a host of other important minerals.
- Build Up on Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin required by the body for the absorption of calcium. It is widely believed from some research that Vitamin D inhibits or prevents the formation of cancer in the body. The body produces Vitamin D from the absorption of the suns UV rays however many people in sun-challenged climates tend to be deficient in Vitamin D particularly in the winter months and this can negatively impact on immunity. You can get Vitamin D with exposure to the sun or you can take a Vitamin D supplement as it is a bit of a challenge to get sufficient levels of Vitamin D solely from food sources. Some food sources for Vitamin D are: salmon, eggs, fortified milk, Shitake and Maitake mushrooms etc. It is worth having your Vitamin D levels checked periodically until you find a dosage of Vitamin D that brings your level into the normal range. In the summertime, just ten to fifteen minutes of sunlight per day can be a big benefit to your immune system.
- Take Vitamin C. Vitamin C is indispensable in building the body’s immune defense and for ensuring proper functioning of body. The vast benefits offered by Vitamin C are too numerous to mention here and I will devote further articles to explain more about this amazing nutrient. Vitamin C reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. It also helps in reducing cholesterol, it helps the body fight off infection, improves circulation and is a powerful anti-aging nutrient.
- Eat Shitake and Maitake Mushrooms. Studies have shown that really concentrated extracts of these types of medicinal mushrooms have enhanced the immune system of women who have breast cancer. While eating the mushroom alone hasn’t been studied, it may have a beneficial effect on the immune system of otherwise healthy people.
- Immune Supporting Herbs. There are tons of immune-supportive herbs out there too numerous to mention. Some well-known ones are Echinacea, Ashwagandha, Eleuthero (otherwise known as Siberian Ginseng), Astragalus, Curcumin, Ginger, Ginkgo Giloba, Gotu Kola, Cat’s Claw, Ganoderma (bitter mushrooms) etc. These have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to prevent infection and to maintain a strong immune system. They can be found at most reputable health food stores around you. There is a lot more valuable information to be shared on an even wider range of immune boosting herbs and I intend to do so in later blog articles. I am eager to share my own experience of using many of these herbs on a regular basis.
There are many more factors that determine levels of immunity which are beyond the scope of this article. The ones listed here are just a few tips. I think that it is in all our interests to continue to strive towards improving our immunity levels as it makes such a hugely positive difference to our state of health and well-being. If you have other tips on immunity from your own personal experience and knowledge that you would like to share, please feel free to drop me a line and I would be very happy to share this in further updates to this topic and perhaps you could even send me a full article on this or other relevant health topic and I’ll post it on this forum with your name and details! Wishing you great health and immunity!
From my heart to yours, always