mens health

Breaking the Silence on Men’s Health

It’s important for everyone to take responsibility for their own health. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially among men. Research shows that women are 100% more likely to visit the doctor for annual examinations and preventive services than men. June is National Men’s Health month, in which we heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection & treatment of disease among men and boys.

There is a silent health crisis in America. On average, American men live sicker and die younger than American women. The health of men in America is steadily deteriorating, largely due to poor health education, lack of awareness, and culturally induced behavior patterns. This has caused a silent health crisis, whereby men face higher mortality rates than women for 9 of the 10 leading causes of death, in addition to a shorter life span. Today men, on average, die almost five years earlier than women, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Men are dying at significantly higher rates than women for the top 10 causes of death. This crisis in men’s health has very little to do with physiology. It has to do with the tendency of men to not seek care for their health issues. No matter the age, men have issues with things that don’t have every day symptoms, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.

Studies show that an alarming 13 million men have diabetes, while 450,000 die each year from heart disease! While genetics certainly play a role in getting both, so does lifestyle. The same cardio-metabolic risk factors that lead to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions are just as prevalent in men as in women. However, if more men sought diagnosis and treatment for those risks, their chances of controlling or eliminating those conditions would increase dramatically. High blood pressure has been referred to as “the silent killer” because people are often unaware that they have an issue. Have your blood pressure and your cholesterol checked often by your doctor, and closely follow any prescribed treatment they provide. In addition, you should exercise and eat right. By exercising moderately for about 30 minutes per day and eating a well-balanced diet with limited cholesterol and no saturated fats, you will be off to a good start. Always be sure to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day, and limit your alcohol consumption as well.

Along with heart disease, cancer is among the top two leading causes of death among men, with prostate cancer being one of the most prevalent. The prostate gland is prone to three main conditions — 1). inflammation that can cause burning or painful urination, the urgent need to urinate, trouble urinating and other symptoms;  2). benign enlargement that can compress the urethra and slow or stop the flow of urine, a condition that affects about ¾ of men over 60; and 3).  prostate cancer, affecting about 1 in 7 men during their lifetime. As men approach their 40s, familiarity with the prostate gland becomes important. The prostate gland is a walnut sized male accessory sex gland that rests in front of the bladder. It usually enlarges with age and can constrict the urinary tube, thereby causing trouble with urination. Symptoms can include: diminished urinary stream, excessive nighttime urination, increased frequency and urgency.

 

by Gina Stallone

People on exercise bike

Sweat – The Foundation of Youth?

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Today, the closest thing to the fountain of youth is sweat- your own, that is.  If you want to live a longer and healthier life, make sure at least 30% of your physical activity is vigorous.  In other words, make sure you break a sweat.  This means that if you’re getting the minimum recommended amount of exercise per week of 150 minutes, at least 45 of those minutes should be composed of vigorous activity.  According to recent studies, individuals who engaged in vigorous activity for up to 30% of their weekly exercise decreased their mortality risks by 9%.  Those who engaged for more than 30% weekly, reduced it by 13%.  No increases in mortality risks were noted among individuals who completed higher amounts of weekly vigorous activity.

Exercise also helps prevent obesity, by reducing the amount of visceral fat in the body.  Visceral fat accumulates around vital organs- liver, intestines, and pancreas.  Excessive amounts of this type of fat, versus subcutaneous fat found just beneath the skin, leads to coronary artery disease (CAD).  In CAD, stiffening of the blood vessels occurs, decreasing circulation throughout the body- including the penis. Erectile dysfunction is a common symptom of CAD in overweight or obese men.  To improve your physical and sexual health, exercise is paramount.

Examples of vigorous exercise include:

  1. Running or Jogging
  2. Race-walking or aerobic walking at least 5 mph
  3. Hiking/backpacking
  4. Skipping rope
  5. Bicycling at least 10 mph, or uphill
  6. Calisthenics- vigorous effort: push-ups, pull-ups, lunges
  7. Jumping Jacks
  8. Circuit training
  9. Tennis- singles
  10. Field sports (ex: soccer)
  11. Court sports (ex: basketball, racquetball)
  12. Swimming- continuous laps
  13. Rowing- at least 4 mph
  14. Cross-country skiing
  15. Beach volleyball

There are many ways to incorporate vigorous exercise into your regime, and you don’t need a whole lot of time to do it.  Here are some examples of brief high intensity exercise routines:

  1. Elliptical Intervals: 2 minute warm-up, 8 minutes of intervals- first 10 seconds of each minute are at maximal effort, last 50 seconds are easy active recovery.  After 8 intervals, 2 minute cool-down. (Can also use Stair-stepper, treadmill/running, rowing machine… etc.)

Total time = 12 minutes.

  1. Calisthenics Circuit: Jumping Jacks x 1 minute, push-ups x 10-15 reps, lunges x 1 minute.  Repeat 3 times. Total time = 7-10 minutes
  2. Cycling/Spin bike: 5 minutes warm-up, 10 minutes of intervals resistance (climbing) intervals- first 20 seconds of each minute increase resistance (“climb”), last 40 seconds easy “flat”.  After 10 intervals, 5 minute cool-down.

Total time = 20 minutes

As you can see, the time commitment is minimal compared to the pay-off.  Depending on your own fitness level, you may modify the protocols to make them easier or more difficult.  Remember, whatever makes you sweat, will help you live longer and stronger.

by Rima Sidhy

Rima Sidhu is an Exercise Physiologist at Maze Sexual and Reproductive Health.  At Maze, Rima focuses on improving patients’ health behaviors through diet and exercise modifications, in order to assist in the therapy of male sexual dysfunction and improve endothelial function.  She utilizes a lifestyle and behavioral approach to create wellness goals for patients to enhance their treatment outcomes. 

Focus

Improve Focusing

Focus is the ability to stay in tuned with one’s intentions while ignoring distractions. We are often told to stay focused and we will achieve our best. But, it is not as easy as it sounds. We may have the good intentions to pay full attention to a specific task only to get distracted by not only noises around us, but also by the noises inside of us.

If we could only do as we told ourselves, then life would be sweeter. Imagine if we told ourselves to stay focused and we did or not to worry, and we didn’t. Our brain, as sophisticated as it is, cannot follow every command and disregard everything else that is happening around it. To achieve continued focus, it requires the orchestration of many moving pieces that take place inside our brain.

First, let’s differentiate between two brain functions: a, top-down; b, bottom-up. The top-down brain function is the one responsible for executing orders, voluntary, planner, slower, and able to, when necessary, override emotionally driven impulses. The bottom-up function is super fast, involuntary, emotionally driven and host of habitual patterns.

What we decide to pay attention to or do is often assumed to be a top-down brain function response. We get up in the morning, get ready to go to work or school, plan our way to get there and walk into the office or classroom. As effective our top-down brain function is, these movements would have been impossible to execute had the bottom-up brain function not previously provided with a “go-ahead” signal. This brain function is continually screening for any information that is coming from anywhere which might be a source of potential threat. If the bottom-up brain sees that the coast is clear, the top-down brain function then goes ahead and focus on what we want to do.

We do not realize this brain function dynamic because it happens so fast, but the information that ultimately reaches the top-down function went through a process of screening out so the top-down function can focus on only one task. For example, the squash player focuses on hitting the ball just above the tin on the opposite wall. At the same time, the bottom-up brain function is picking up the sound of the crowd, the movement of the opponent, the sweaty contact on the racquet, the velocity of the ball, the wanting to win, the expectation from coaches and parents, etc. Ideally, all this information is screened out and prevented from reaching to the top-down brain function. Consequently, the fluidity of the arm and the wrist movement will automatically proceed to make the racquet contact the ball and hit it above the tin. This moment will be interpreted as a focused experienced.

Improved focus rests on strengthening the bottom-up brain function to screen out as many threats as possible. If the squash player’s bottom-up function does not screen out the opponent’s noises, then the top-down function must deal with wanting to hit the ball above the tin AND the noises. As the famous Yankee baseball player-philosopher, Yogi Berra, used to say: “I cannot think and hit at the same time.”

One of the most effective ways to improve the bottom-up function is through meditation. This practice serves as a tool to train the brain to re-gain focus every time the mind gets distracted by running thoughts. The goal is NOT to have thoughts, but to be aware that thoughts are running through and bring the attention back to the breath. The more we practice meditation, the better the bottom-up brain function can sustain distractions and screen them out rather than sending that information to the top-down brain function.

Another way to boost bottom-up function is to practice under simulated performance. Tiger Woods conscientiously practiced this technique all the time. He knew he was going to be surrounded by large galleries, which would produce loud noises. He needed to enhance the ability to not allow those distractions interfere with his game. While practicing at the driving range, his father would purposely and unexpectedly yell at the top of Tiger’s swing. The goal was for Tiger to stay focused on his golf swing despite hearing his father’s unexpected noises. Practicing this strategy helped him to transfer that experience and enhance his focus ability when he played on the course.

To enhance focus, one needs to strengthen the bottom-up brain function to help screen out distractions. Telling the brain what not to do only reinforces the top-down function to focus on that error or mistake, hence increasing the chances it will happen again. A tennis player will not improve his serve by telling himself, “do not hit the net.” Instead, the player will be better off imagining where he wants to ball to land and fully trust the bottom-up brain function that the arm, elbow, wrist, and ball toss will be one that produces such a result.

Focus cannot be forced. It can be enhanced, improved, and strengthen. Practice will surely help, especially if done under simulated performance. Meditation will also enhance bottom-up brain function as it will help to re-gain focus when distractions come by. Practice, practice and then practice some more.

Alex Diaz, PhD
Sport Mental Edge
www.dralexdiazconsulting.com