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Healthy Man

Men's Health

By Dietitian, Juliette Kellow BSc RD

According to the Men’s Health Forum, men are increasingly unlikely to visit a doctor. The forum aims to increase awareness of men's health issues so that men can detect and get them treated earlier.

More than 4 percent of men have diabetes, with a further 3 percent estimated to have the condition without knowing it. More than 30,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year; and more than 40,000 men in the UK have HIV or AIDS – that’s over twice the number of females. But without a doubt, it’s coronary heart disease, a condition that can result in angina or a heart attack, which remains the biggest killer.

Sadly, it’s responsible for more than one in five deaths in men each year compared with around one in seven deaths in women.

Lifestyle changes for men that can be made to help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease

Give up smoking

Both carbon monoxide and nicotine in cigarettes make the heart work harder and make the blood more likely to clot, which can potentially block the arteries, leading to a heart attack or stroke.

Meanwhile, other components of smoke may damage the lining of the coronary arteries. This can result in fatty material building up in the artery walls, causing them to become narrower and harder. In turn, this potentially restricts blood flow to the heart, causing angina or in severe cases, a heart attack.

Get your blood pressure checked

Raised blood pressure (hypertension) increases your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.

High blood pressure occurs when the larger artery walls lose their elasticity and become rigid, and the smaller blood vessels become narrower. As it rarely has any symptoms, it’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly.

Most people should aim for a figure below 140/85mgHg or below 130/80mmHg if they suffer with another condition such as diabetes or heart problems. Losing weight, eating less salt, drinking less alcohol, munching more fruit and veg and being more active can all help to lower blood pressure.

Lower your blood cholesterol

Too much cholesterol in the blood can increase the risk of coronary heart disease. In particular, it’s important to lower levels of LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Eating fewer foods that contain saturates or trans fats can often help achieve this. Saturates tend to be found in animal foods such as butter, lard, cream, full-fat dairy products and fatty meats. Trans fats are found in processed foods such as biscuits, pies, pastries, takeaways and fried foods. Losing weight can also lower high blood cholesterol.

Lose weight if necessary

Being overweight increases the risk of coronary heart disease but also increases your chances of developing high blood cholesterol and hypertension, both of which are also risk factors for heart disease. Being an ‘apple’ shape where most of the fat is stored around your middle is even more of a risk. The easiest and safest way to lose weight is to moderately restrict your calorie intake and take more exercise.

Be more active

A lack of exercise is considered to be a risk factor for coronary heart disease. After all, the heart is a muscle and so needs exercise to keep it healthy and fit so it can pump blood around the body. Plus exercise can help to lower blood cholesterol and aid weight loss.

As a guideline, adults should aim to do 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise at least five times a week. Walking, jogging, swimming and cycling all count. But if you haven’t exercised for a long time, check with your GP first and start off slowly.

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Further advice

For all aspects of men’s health, visit www.malehealth.co.uk.

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