June 6, 2022
This month we are focusing on men’s health. Since Sally and I reached our 50’s we have both been looking at how we can optimise our age by making positive changes to our lives. Generally, we are both healthy, lead a pretty active lifestyle and feel generally good. But after losing a close friend who was only in his 60s to a heart attack and then seeing my dad also suffer with heart issues, despite exercising and eating well, it’s made me think a lot more about my own health.
Men at higher risk of developing heart disease
I have discovered that men are more likely than women to develop heart disease, whilst also often have higher levels of cholesterol. This is thought to be due to a number of reasons, including biological, behavioural, and psychosocial factors. For example, men often drink alcohol and smoke more than women, and men often seem to be less able to cope with stressful situations in life which can contribute to an increased risk in heart disease. (*1). All of this results in men dying on average 3.7 years earlier than women and one in five men dies before the age of 65 in the UK, shocking statistics! (*2).
Know your numbers
So what can we do to prevent this happening? I have found that knowing my own numbers has really helped me gain an understanding of my own health. It’s a bit like maintaining my car, which I regularly check for oil levels and tyre pressure, instead I have started to keep an eye on my blood pressure, weight, waist measurements, cholesterol levels etc, which gives me a better idea of how I am doing health-wise. Knowing these numbers means I can then make sure that I am doing the right level of exercise and eating and drinking sensibly.
As we age it’s so important to focus on eating lean protein, lots of fruit and vegetables and choosing wholegrain carbohydrates, such as wholemeal bread, pasta, and rice. We also need to try and limit the amount of foods high in saturated fat, salt and added sugar that we consume. A healthy diet is a really easy place to start when making positive changes and can have a huge impact on our health. Reducing our alcohol consumption is also vital to our overall health. Two thirds of deaths attributed to liver cirrhosis are in men, but according to the British Liver Trust 90% of liver disease is preventable, so cutting back on booze is really important in our as we age.
NHS offers free health checks every 5 years to everyone between the ages of 40 and 74
I love to ride my bike and run, but I have started to worry that I am pushing myself too hard and so recently I booked an appointment with my doctor to have the appropriate tests to make sure that my training is suitable for my age and health. Sadly, it’s often reported that men are more reluctant to visit their doctors than women, particularly before they retire (*2). Often this is due to worrying about taking time off work, especially when it comes to issues regarding mental health. But it’s really important that men view their mental health with the same gravity as their physical health, especially as men are three times more likely to die from suicide than women. The NHS offers free health checks every 5 years to everyone between the ages of 40 and 74. These appointments are designed to spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type two diabetes, and dementia, so are definitely worth attending.
I am not ready to slow down just yet, but I have realised that it’s important as I get older to keep an eye on my health and to understand that despite feeling like I am still in my 20s I may have to make a few adjustments to keep up with my sons who are now in their 20s!
Jon & Sally x