7 Common Men’s Health Problems (and the supportive steps you can take)
Men’s Health Week takes place in June every year. It is designed to raise awareness of why men’s health is important, and help men and boys access the information they need to live healthier. The theme this year is ‘Time For Your M.O.T’.
In this blog we will look at some of the health issues commonly faced by men, and what can we do to minimize the risks of these problems. We will also investigate the role of nutrition in our efforts to support those affected by these issues.
Stress is an essential part of our lives and helps us to react to certain situations via the so-called fight or flight mechanism. It’s important to recognise that stress isn’t just a state of psychological turmoil – it can also have a significant physical impact.
Being in a situation which feels stressful all the time has a very negative impact on our health. We become alert even though we’re exhausted, we can’t get a restful sleep despite being tired, our digestion is compromised, and our immune system hits rock bottom. This downward spiral ultimately leads to issues such as:
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
If you think that chronic worry or stress is making you ill, the most sensible advice is to try and find some time to unwind through the day. Indulge yourself with some well needed respite and take some time just for you. Not just once, when stress catches up with you, but every day. Take some time to enjoy your favourite, engage in a hobby, or just enjoy the quiet moments on a regular basis – giving yourself time to recover from whatever stressors you’ve been wrestling with.
As the fight or flight response diverts energy away from the digestive system, long term stress can lead to poor digestion and absorption of all nutrients. Certain nutrients are particularly affected by stress though, these include vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium and magnesium.
The adrenal glands are responsible for producing stress hormones during the fight or flight reaction. These glands use a lot of vitamin C and B vitamins.
- The adrenal glands are thought to have the highest concentration of vitamin C in the body, and in times of chronic stress, the diet may be unable to keep up with demand.
- B vitamins are required to produce both excitatory stress hormones during the stress response, and calming chemicals when the stress has gone.
Diets which contain high levels of refined or processed foods are likely to be low in these vitamins.
Additionally, constant stimulation of the adrenal glands, during prolonged periods of stress, leads to an increased production of mineral corticoids, which in turn can cause blood losses of both calcium and magnesium.
2. Heart Disease
Heart disease kills one in four British men, many of whom are smokers. Obviously, for those that smoke a good first step to better health would be to quit the habit. However, smoking is not the only risk factor affecting heart disease. Men can take positive steps to look after the diet by:
- Limiting portion size
- Trying to achieve your 5-a-day
- Eating more wholegrains
- Limiting salt and unhealthy fats
Nutritional support can be provided by consuming more essential fatty acids from oily fish and ensuring that the diet contains good quantities of magnesium, vitamin E, fibre, garlic and co-enzyme Q10.
Co-enzyme Q10 (also known as co-q-10) plays an essential role in the release of energy from our food to power parts of our body that work particularly hard, such as the heart. Good sources of co-q-10 are organ meat, oily fish and whole grains. However, for those that struggle to consume sufficient of these foods, there are supplements available as either Co-enzyme Q10 or Ubiquinol – which is a more absorbable alternative.
Latest U.K. statistics show that 28% of the population are obese and a further 36% are overweight. These statistics have made the U.K. the most overweight nation in Europe, with men the more likely to be obese than women. This excess weight being carried around certainly has a devastating effect on health with heart health being one area that is particularly affected. However, excess weight can also lead to other health complications such as gallstones, back pain and low sperm counts.
Making small positive changes to the diet and setting achievable goals are important to finding a healthy relationship with food. For those who have a sweet tooth, the mineral Chromium can also be helpful: Chromium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels, which will hopefully support those in the fight against sugar cravings.
4. Prostate Problems
By the age of fifty up to half of men will have problems with their prostate gland, while as many as 20% of those under 40 will experience the unpleasant symptoms of an inflamed prostate. It is important that anyone who experiences changes in the frequency of urination should see their GP for a prostate gland examination to eliminate prostate cancer.
For those who are diagnosed with the inconvenient but non-life threatening, prostate swelling, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) there are some tips that might be helpful – such as cutting out alcohol and caffeine. It is important that those affected by this condition do still drink water, but should drink it in smaller, more regular quantities. Nutritional support can be found in the form of the carotenoid lycopene, which is found in tomatoes (strangely, lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body when it’s consumed via cooked tomato in the form of pasta sauce and ketchup!). Other supportive foodstuffs include pumpkin seeds and zinc rich foods. Many men also regularly consume the food supplement Saw Palmetto to support their prostate health.
Baldness may not be a serious problem in itself, however, for some men it can however lead to a great deal of anxiety.
Increasing selenium and silica levels may improve hair growth. Selenium can be found in good quantities in nuts, fish and poultry. Silica is present in leafy greens and green beans. Additionally, foods that are rich in vitamin A such as liver and many seafoods may help prevent initial hair loss – although too much of this nutrient may have the opposite effect.
Men affected by this issue should also remember to take good care of the exposed scalp in warmer weather and use an effective sunscreen and a hat to prevent damage to the skin which could potentially lead to more serious complications.
6. Sexual Problems
A loss of libido and erectile dysfunction are more common problems than you may imagine, and one in ten men over the age of 21 will suffer from impotence in their lifetime.
Several factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and stress can contribute to the problem. Fertility issues linked to this loss of libido and erectile dysfunction have led to many men searching for the ideal testosterone and libido boosters to try to overcome these issues.
Aphrodisiac foods such as oysters have long been valued as libido boosters for men and women, largely due to the presence of the mineral zinc. If oysters and zinc rich foods are not part of diet, then zinc supplements for men can be a good option. The best zinc supplements are those which are presented in the highly absorbable picolinate form.
7. Mental Health
Low mood and mild anxiety are the most common form of mental health problems, with over 5 million people in the UK suffering with these issues.
Men are typically less likely to open up and discuss their emotions than women, and learning to be more open about our mental health struggles is vitally important.
In addition to talking to others about our struggles with mental health, here are some other supportive steps to try if you are struggling with low mood and mild anxiety:
- Reduce caffeine levels. Those who suffer from anxiety appear to be especially affected by caffeine therefore it is advisable to stay clear of all sources of caffeine including tea, coffee, chocolate and caffeinated fizzy drinks.
- Reduce sugar consumption. Restricting sugar intake as well as caffeine has been found to support mood in preliminary research.
- Exercise. Adopting an exercise regime can really help lift the mood and make us less anxious, as exercise increases the production of the body’s natural mood enhancers (endorphins).
Nutritional supplements can also provide support for a healthy mind.
- B vitamins support healthy functioning of the nervous system.
- Vitamin B5 is particularly important, as it helps to support healthy mental performance and the normal production of our important brain chemicals, including serotonin.
- Magnesium supports a healthy nervous system and is known to help relax the muscles as well, easing tension.
- St. John’s Wort is a traditional herbal medicinal product used to relieve the symptoms of slightly low mood and mild anxiety and may be the ideal product to help support those individuals struggling with their mental health.
There are a wide variety of health issues which impact men, but the good news is that nutrition and diet – with support from supplements when required – can offer support in preventing or coping with the symptoms of many of these issues.
In my opinion, the most important vitamins for men – and those I would recommend be included in a men’s daily supplement routine – are:
B Vitamins – the ideal vitamins for energy support, and also support psychological function and the heart.
Zinc – supports immunity, fertility and cognitive performance – in fact, zinc is required for so many of the enzymes within the body that there are very few areas that this mineral does not support!
Magnesium – like zinc, magnesium required for most enzymes to function properly but is also essential for good bone health, muscle function and the nervous system.
Co-enzyme Q10/Ubiquinol – vital for unlocking the energy stored in the food we consume, which ultimately powers high-energy areas of the body such as the heart, brain and even sperm motility.