Do you even self-care, bro? Compared to women, Canadian men are less likely to visit the doctor and more likely to die from diabetes and other diseases. Yet 70 percent of men’s health issues are preventable. Give your body a tune-up and slash the risks that every guy faces.
The manly art of self-improvement
Despite alarming health statistics, why do most guys avoid the issue?
“Most men define themselves by their ability to provide and care for others,” says psychologist David Ezell, to the point that men ignore their own health. “For many, masculinity is defined by invincibility.”
Ezell argues that self-care is a sign of strength, not weakness. “Without your health, you [can’t] provide for and protect your loved ones,” he says. “You can’t save someone from drowning if you can’t swim.”
Sometimes, common men’s health issues fall into distinct personalities or lifestyles. See if you fit any of the following.
The Bacon Lover
If your perfect summer afternoon involves grilling hot dogs and sipping beer, heads up: processed meat and excess alcohol consumption are two risk factors for heart disease. And while Canadian guys are 79 percent more likely to die from the disease than women, many of these deaths are preventable.
Show your heart some love. Explore Canada’s great outdoors on a run or hike (exercise strengthens your heart and boosts circulation). Eat less sugar, salt, and saturated fats.
Oh, and don’t forget to floss. Although cause and effect has yet to be proven, there is a link between heart disease and oral health. Atherosclerosis—where plaque builds up in your arteries—is an inflammatory disease.
“The more inflammation in your body, the more likely atherosclerosis,” warns Dr. David Greuner, a cardiovascular surgeon. “A common source of chronic inflammation in otherwise healthy men is poor dental health. Just in case you needed another reason to invest in a killer smile!”
“It made me appreciate life more, and our family—which was already close—got even tighter,” reminisces Derrick Hall, president of the Major League Baseball team the Arizona Diamondbacks. He isn’t talking about a family vacation. He’s remembering his journey with prostate cancer.
One in seven Canadian men will receive a prostate cancer diagnosis in their lifetime, while testicular cancer ranks as the most common cancer in young Canadian guys. Exposure to toxins such as pesticides and DDT has been linked to increased testicular cancer.
“You learn quickly how many other men have been through the same journey or are about to, and everyone in the fraternity is there for support,” says Hall.
When it comes to things like testicular cancer, the ball’s in your court. These cancers are highly treatable if you catch them early enough. Do regular self-checks for testicular lumps or other abnormalities. And once you hit age 50, your doctor may recommend prostate cancer screenings.
“My wife and I immediately became vegan,” Hall says. He also exercises daily, which is estimated to slash prostate cancer death risks by 61 percent.
For prostate cancer, diet has a big impact. Reduce dairy and red meat. If you take calcium supplements, don’t take more than 1,500 mg a day. And eat more omega-3 fats.
The Weekend Warrior
It’s finally summer, and it’s been months since you kayaked, hiked, or __________ (fill in the blank with your favourite sport). You’ve got all the gear and you’ve set your goals. But before you head out, remember that you aren’t invincible.
Every year, millions of men are benched by an accidental injury. A third of these injuries are sports-related.
Be sure you’ve trained properly, and don’t forget to do a proper warm-up before you begin. It’s one of the best ways to prevent injuries.
Next, mix it up. Cross-training with a different activity improves strength and flexibility. It can even make you better at your favourite sport. Think cycling and swimming, or basketball and soccer.
Finally, listen to your body. If you feel tension, aching, or soreness, take a time out.
Injury-proof your sports
Help repair with a protein shake, protect your joints with glucosamine and chondroitin, and boost bone strength with magnesium and calcium.
The Sweets Lover
Diabetes is more common in Canadian men than in Canadian women. And a man with diabetes is expected to live 8.5 years less than his nondiabetic friends.
Approximately 90 percent of guys who have diabetes have type 2, which is when your body can’t use the insulin it makes or doesn’t make enough.
A healthy diet and exercise, as usual, is the best preventive strategy. And while you might fall into the trap of focusing just on dietary sugar, Dr. Barry Sears argues there’s a hidden culprit: inflammation. “Inflammation causes insulin resistance,” he warns. He says inflammation can also destroy the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin.
Knock back inflammation
Sears recommends (after checking with your health care practitioner, of course) taking polyphenol extracts and omega-3s, while eating a low-inflammation diet (one that includes adequate protein and moderate carbs from nonstarchy veggies, and is low in unhealthy fats). For general blood sugar control, research suggests taking vitamin D and extra fibre.
The Party Animal
Some guys save alcohol for celebrations. But for the average Canadian man, who drinks an estimated 3.6 times the world average, drinking is a daily habit that helps him relax and feel good. Unfortunately, his liver might not be feeling so good.
Alcohol-related liver disease is just one of many forms of liver disease. Because your liver is your body’s filtration system, every toxin, drug, and pollutant puts strain on this hard-working organ.
To prevent liver disease, the Canadian Liver Foundation recommends some general pointers.
- Drink less
- No more than three alcoholic drinks a day, maxed out at 15 drinks a week.
- Create a liver-friendly home
- Keep rooms well ventilated. Avoid inhaling airborne chemicals. Choose organic, nontoxic products.
- Eat liver-friendly, organic foods
- Foods that support liver health include cabbage, garlic, onions, cauliflower, and broccoli.
While guys don’t like to talk about any issues they’ve got “down under,” more than half of men aged 40 or older experience erectile dysfunction.
Erections kick in after a long chain of events between your brain and body. When just one of these systems isn’t working properly (such as poor blood circulation), the process breaks down.
If you want to be ready to go at any moment, check out the following.
Go hard in the gym
“Exercise is vital,” says Dr. John Robinson, a naturopath specializing in hormonal and sexual health; it boosts your circulatory health. “A lack of blood flow affects the ability to achieve and maintain an erection.”
Lose the love handles
Excess weight gain reduces testosterone and sperm count. In one study, men who lost only 5 percent of their weight increased their erections and sex drive.
De-stress before disrobing
Performance anxiety and daily stress can kill the mood.
Eat like a man
“Testosterone and sperm are enhanced by lowering sugar and soy,” says Robinson.
One in 10 Canadian men will experience depression at some point in their life, and suicide rates are four times higher in men than in women.
Mental health self-care starts with valuing yourself. Invest in your passions. Avoid self-criticism. Do things that show love to yourself.
Next, surround yourself with friends who support you. Strong social support boosts mental health. You can find like-minded men through clubs and classes.
Finally, learn how to quiet your mind and experience peace. Healthy ways to unwind include mindfulness and meditation.
Speaking with a professional can also be immensely helpful. There’s no shame in reaching out for help.
Who you gonna call?
Call the 24-7 mental health hotline at 1-800-463-2338 for information on mental health resources and support. In an emergency, call 911.
Ace the men’s health quiz: True or false?
1. Erectile dysfunction only affects older men.
FALSE: 40 percent of men experience ED by age 40.
2. Prostate cancer is the deadliest cancer for men.
FALSE: It’s the most common diagnosis (excluding non-melanoma skin cancers), but lung cancer kills more men.
3. Heart disease has nothing to do with genetics.
MOSTLY TRUE: 90 percent of heart disease is lifestyle related.
4. You only get liver disease if you drink.
FALSE: Toxins, viruses, and many other factors can cause liver disease.