The Power of Probiotics

Extensive research has shown that beneficial bacteria, aka probiotics, can play a significant role in numerous areas of human health. Because these good microorganisms are concentrated in the digestive system, and especially in the intestinal tract, their interactions with food and their impact on all things related to digestion are of most interest.

For example, one of the strengths associated with probiotics is an ability to help balance the healthy bacteria in your digestive system. An imbalance can occur for many reasons, including use of antibiotics, illness, and eating a poor diet, such as one that includes processed meats, sugary beverages, and refined carbohydrates. We could easily be talking about a hot dog or sausage on a white flour bun accompanied by greasy French fries and washed down with a cola. This combination could cause some internal fireworks!

Probiotics can defuse that fire. For example, people who take probiotics have experienced a reduced risk of experiencing diarrhea. Several factors can be involved in diarrhea, including the use of antibiotics and traveling to a different country, but it also can develop if you consume foods that have been left out on a serving table too long or not stored properly. Cases of food poisoning are not uncommon during the summer months because higher temperatures foster more rapid growth of harmful bacteria.

Probiotics are insurance

Taking probiotics is an insurance policy. Even if you try to eat a balanced diet and avoid food additives and other harmful ingredients, it’s a challenge. Holidays and special occasions are prime opportunities to step away from your usual diet. Although the end result may be stomach pain, diarrhea, or other intestinal disturbances, use of probiotics can step in and help restore balance.

In fact, daily use of a wide spectrum probiotic, which is one that contains many different species of beneficial bacteria, is a prudent way to protect your digestive and immune systems every day.

Health benefits of probiotics

If you take probiotics on a regular basis, you can set yourself free from stressing over the detrimental effects of poor dietary choices. That does not mean you can make bad food choices on a continuous basis and expect probiotics to save you! However, if you provide your body with beneficial bacteria daily, you can help create and maintain a healthy intestinal (gut) environment where beneficial bacteria secure the upper hand over disease-causing, system-disrupting microorganisms.

For example:

Heart health. Heart disease is still the number one killer of men in the United States and many other countries, and probiotics can help change that statistic. Studies show probiotics can lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and blood pressure and also raise good cholesterol (HDL). It’s recommended you take at least 10 billion CFUs daily for 8 weeks to experience results.

Digestive disorders. If you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, or irritable bowel syndrome, then probiotics can be helpful. One study even found that a specific probiotic called E. coli Nissle was as effective as drugs in maintaining remission in ulcerative colitis cases. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can be reduced when using probiotics.

Immune system function. Probiotics can enhance the function of the immune system. One study, for example, showed that probiotics limited damage to the epithelium by certain pathogens and also promoted the restoration of the tissue. In a 2018 Swiss report, the authors noted that probiotics can increase the activity or natural killer cells and other natural antibodies, modulate the secretion of cytokines (molecules that regulate immunity and inflammation), enhance the epithelial barrier in the gut, and help keep out damaging bacteria.

Weight problems. How can microorganisms help with weight loss? Study results suggest probiotics may prevent the absorption of dietary fat in the intestinal tract and help you feel fuller for longer, store less body fat, and burn more calories.

In one study in women, use of Lactobacillus rhamnosus for three months resulted in a 50 percent greater weight loss than among women who did not take the supplement. Another showed that those who took L. gasseri for 12 weeks had an 8.5 percent reduction in belly fat. Given the challenge associated with losing weight, probiotics could offer this benefit along with the other health advantages.

Mental health. Studies in both animals and humans show that probiotic supplements can improve some mental health issues. In a review of 15 human studies, for example, supplementation with various Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus strains resulted in an improvement in anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and memory.

In a group of chemical workers, those who ate 100 grams of probiotic yogurt daily experienced improvement in anxiety, depression, stress, and general health when compared with those who took a placebo. In a study of 40 individuals with depression, taking probiotics daily for 8 weeks reduced levels of depression and levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation) and insulin when compared with individuals who did not take the probiotic.

Bottom line

Are you ready to set yourself free from worry about the damaging effects of some of your dietary choices? Would you like to improve your heart health, boost your immune function, enhance the ability to lose weight, and improve symptoms of digestive problems and depression and anxiety?

Then a daily dose of probiotics may help. A wide spectrum of strains should be present in the supplement you choose (i.e., at least 8 to 10). Declare your independence from worry about digestive health or slipping up on your diet. Always strive to eat organic, all-natural foods and exercise regularly, and complement your efforts with daily probiotic supplementation.

References

Agerholm-Larsen L et al. The effect of a probiotic milk product on plasma cholesterol: a meta-analysis of short-term intervention studies. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2000 Nov; 54(11): 856-60

Aronsson L et al. Decreased fat storage by Lactobacillus paracasei is associated with increased levels of angiopoietin-like 4 protein (ANGPTL4). PLoS One 2010 Sep 30; 5(9)

Behm B. Avoid food poisoning during summer picnics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2017 Jul 10

Kadooka Y et al. Effect of Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 in fermented milk on abdominal adiposity in adults in randomized controlled trial. British Journal of Nutrition 2013 Nov 14; 110(9): 1696-703

Kiessling G et al. Long-term consumption of fermented dairy products over 6 months increases HDL cholesterol. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2002 Sep; 56(9): 843-49

Khalesi S et al. Effect of probiotics on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized, controlled trials. Hypertension 2014 Oct; 64(4): 897-903

La Fata G et al. Probiotics and the gut immune system: indirect regulation. Probiotics and Antimicrobial Proteins 2018 Mar; 10(1): 11-21

Moayyedi P et al. The efficacy of probiotics in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review. Gut 2010 Mar; 59(3): 325-32

Mohammadi AA et al. The effects of probiotics on mental health and hypothalamic-ituitary-adrenal axis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in petrochemical workers. Nutritional Neuroscience 2016 Nov; 19(9): 387-95

Ogawa A et al. Lactobacillus gasseri SBT2055 suppresses fatty acid release through enlargement of fat emulsion size in vitro and promotes fecal fat excretion in healthy Japanese subjects. Lipids in Health and Disease 2015 Mar 20; 14:20

Resta-Lenert S, Barrett KE. Live probiotics protect intestinal epithelial cells from the effects of infection with enteroinvasive Escherichia coli (EIEC). Gut 2003 Jul; 52(7): 988-97

Sanchez M et al. Effect of Lactobacillus rhamnosus CGMCC1.3724 supplementation on weight loss and maintenance in obese men and women. British Journal of Nutrition 2014 Apr 28; 111(8): 1507-19

Wang H et al. Effect of probiotics on central nervous system functions in animals and humans: a systematic review. Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility 2016 Oct 30; 22(4): 589-605

 

8 Things Men Do When They Get Cancer

I had a conversation with one of my team members this morning that reminded me of one of my main principles of healthy living.

Without going in to too much detail, this team member was concerned that her boyfriend wasn’t paying enough attention to his health. He was eating badly, not exercising and was probably about 70-80 pounds over his healthy weight. In short, he was a classic case of chronic disease just waiting to happen!

The thing is, I told her, most people don’t really focus on their health UNTIL they get sick. It takes a life event like getting a serious disease (cancer being “the” BIG one) to wake most people up to getting healthy and making the right choices — choices that have a positive impact on their health and prevention of chronic disease. Continue reading

8 Reasons to Avoid Energy Drinks

Energy drinks ARE convenient. If you feel hammered after a gym workout, are fading at the end of a long day at the office, or need a boost to get you through a long study session or meeting, you can just pop the lid or tab on an energy drink bottle or can and you’ll feel the energy flow in no time. The problem is, you’re getting much more than just an energy boost.

The makers of energy drinks say their products contain natural ingredients that can improve concentration, energy, attention, and sports performance. The most prominent ingredients are caffeine and sugar (with some products including artificial sweeteners); other ingredients may include ginseng, taurine (an amino acid), B vitamins, and guarana (which contains caffeine), among others. The ingredient posing the biggest problem is caffeine, although sugar isn’t so sweet either.

According to a 2013 report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the number of emergency department visits that involved energy drink consumption doubled from 10,068 visits in 2007 to 20,783 visits in 2011. Men were more likely to make these visits, and the age group with the greatest number of visits were between 18 and 39. However, the largest increase was seen among individuals aged 40 and older.

Why should you stay away from these highly concentrated forms of caffeine? Here are 8 reasons pretty good reasons: Continue reading

7 Foods That Boost Your Sex Drive

The meals you ate yesterday could have improved your staying power in the bedroom last night. That’s great, you may be thinking, but which foods are we talking about? Is there any proof that certain foods can boost sexual stamina?

The 7 foods discussed here have components known to enhance and prolong sexual stamina. But how long is right for you and your partner? American and Canadian sex therapists have reported in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that the average length of intercourse is 3 to 7 minutes, while 1 to 2 minutes is considered to be “too short” and from 10 to 30 minutes is “too long.”

If the survey findings of the makers of a sexual activity app called Nerve are any indication, these sex therapists were right on the money. The producers teamed up with Spreadsheets App to uncover the sexual longevity time of 10,000 app users across the United States. They found that couples in New Mexico ranked highest (7:01 minutes), followed by West Virginia (5:38) and Idaho (5:11). It seems people in the coldest states are quick to warm up the sheets: South Dakota came in at 1:30 while Alaska finished the list at 1:21.

Regardless of where you live, if you are looking to give some extra charge to your lovemaking, then you may want to add the following foods to your menu on a regular basis. Continue reading

Top 9 Ingredients for Men’s Health

The supplement market has become a challenging environment to navigate. Not only are there scores of different ingredients from which to choose; you also have different formulations, manufacturers, sources, and claims to sift through before you make up your mind which product to buy. We’re here to help make your choices a bit easier, especially in the first category by talking about the top 9 ingredients for men’s health.

The internet and other media sources often tout the supplements that are important for men’s health, and that list can be rather lengthy. However, there are certain ingredients that are especially worthy of mention because they are most often deficient in men’s lives or essential for their overall health and well-being. So if you are looking for the ingredients you should focus on the most, these are our choices. We hope you agree and will take the time to evaluate your possible need to take one or more of these substances to support and promote your health today.

Arginine

Arginine (aka, L-arginine) is an amino acid that your body produces naturally. However it is also present in foods that contain protein, such as soybeans, turkey, peanuts, and pumpkin seeds. In fact, arginine is essential for the body to make proteins.

Much of the research on arginine has involved its ability to improve compromised blood flow, which is characteristic of heart disease, erectile dysfunction, congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, male infertility, and clogged arteries. Because these are common problems among men, getting sufficient arginine is important.

Some men take arginine supplements to improve their athletic performance, but it’s also used to enhance mental function and improve immune system activity. The reason arginine is able to help with all of these conditions is that once it enters the body, it is converted into nitric oxide, a chemical that causes blood vessels to open wider for improved blood flow. The amino acid also has an ability to stimulate the release of insulin and growth hormone.

Talk to a healthcare provider before taking arginine supplements. A typical dose of arginine supplement is no less than 5 grams daily for erectile dysfunction, while men with congestive heart failure may take 6 to 20 mg daily in three doses. Dosing to enhance athletic performance should be determined by a health professional.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10, aka CoQ10 and ubiquinone, is a potent antioxidant that is found in nearly every cell in the body. It is most abundant in the heart, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. As a coenzyme, it helps enzymes do their job. The body’s cells use CoQ10 to produce the energy cells need to grow and thrive. More specifically, CoQ10 is key in the making of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is essential for energy transfer within cells.

CoQ10 is also used as an antioxidant, especially when it comes to heart health. In fact, CoQ10 is used to treat heart conditions, including heart failure, and may improve some symptoms and reduce the risk of future attacks when it is used along with traditional medications.

Levels of CoQ10 decrease with age. Research also shows that people with heart disease, brain disorders, diabetes, and cancer have low levels of this antioxidant. Do low CoQ10 levels cause or contribute to these diseases or is it the other way around? The jury is still out on this question.

CoQ10 supplements are available as ubiquinone and ubiquinol, and the latter is the more absorbable form. The standard dose ranges from 90 mg to 200 mg daily. Because this supplement is fat soluble, you should take it with a food that contains healthy fat, such as avocado, nuts, or coconut oil. Your body will absorb it up to three times faster than if you take it without food.

Fiber

Are you getting the 25 to 35 grams of fiber you should have every day for optimal health? Far too many adults don’t get the amount of fiber they need for optimal health.

What’s so great about fiber? First of all, it’s a carbohydrate that your body can’t digest, so it passes through the body and in the process performs some essential functions, such as helping in the elimination of cholesterol, moving along stool in the intestinal tract, regulating sugar, and keeping blood sugar and hunger in check.

Fiber comes in two forms, and fiber-containing foods typically have both types in varying percentages. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and helps lower cholesterol. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water but it does promote regularity and help prevent constipation.

Fiber has been credited with assisting in reducing the risk of heart disease, constipation, diverticular disease, diabetes, and colon cancer. To increase fiber intake, you should include more foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and beans, and nuts. The best way to get fiber is to eat high-fiber foods.

However, fiber supplements are available in many forms. Natural fiber powders, including psyllium and methylcellulose, are typically safe to take daily. However, you should discuss fiber supplement use with your healthcare provider before you start because they can interact with some medications.

Folic acid

Folic acid (aka folate, which is the form found in foods) is a B vitamin (B9) that is essential for producing white and red blood cells in the bone marrow, converting carbos into energy, and making DNA and RNA. It also is involved in the production of sperm and may reduce the risk of depression.

The foods that are the best source of folate include leafy greens (e.g., spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens, collard greens, kale) as well as asparagus, oranges, pinto beans, lentils, pumpkin seeds, and sesame. If you choose a supplement (folic acid), look for methylfolate on the label. The recommended daily intake is 400 micrograms. 

Magnesium

This mineral is one of the busiest in the body, as it is involved in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate a wide range of reactions in the body. Magnesium has a role in protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, regulation of blood pressure, energy production, and blood sugar control, among others. It also plays a role in normal heart rhythm and the conduction of nerve impulses and muscle contractions.

Magnesium insufficiency is common, and groups most often affected are those with gastrointestinal problems, type 2 diabetes, alcohol dependence, or who are 50 or older. It’s not difficult to get the amounts necessary for optimal health if you select green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains on a daily basis.

If, however, you choose to take a magnesium supplement, the forms that are best absorbed are aspartate, chloride, citrate, and lactate rather than oxide or sulfate.

Omega-3 fatty acids

When you see the words “omega-3 fatty acids,” you may immediately think of fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, and sardines. These and similar fish are the richest sources of this essential fatty acid. Omega-3s are credited with many health benefits, and a reduction in the risk of prostate cancer is one of them.

In a recent case-control study, investigators discovered why omega-3 fatty acids can lower the risk of prostate cancer: the fatty acids interfere with the activity of pro-cancer molecules called soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (slCAM-1).

What other benefits have been bestowed upon omega-3s? How about reduction of inflammation, lowering of triglycerides and cholesterol, prevention of excessive blood clotting, helping prevent obesity, reduction in symptoms of depression, psychosis, and bipolar disorder, and enhancement of memory.

The American Heart Association recommends eating 7 ounces of fatty fish per week to get an adequate amount of the two main omega-3s, EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, respectively). However, if fish is not your game, then you can take fish oil supplements. An omega-3 supplement that provides approximately 1,080 mg EPA and 720 mg DHA daily in no more than three doses is suggested.

Probiotics

Beneficial bacteria, aka probiotics, play an essential role in supporting, promoting, and maintaining healthy immune function. In fact, the good and harmful bacteria in your gut form a precarious balance that makes up about 80 percent of your immune system. Therefore, you want this relationship to be harmonious as much as possible.

If the bacterial environment in your gut is out of balance, it can result in a variety of health issues, ranging from headaches and nutritional deficiencies to gastrointestinal problems, autoimmune disorders, depression, brain fog, and more. The secret is to keep the level of good bacteria up so it can counteract any ill effects of the harmful microorganisms.

To accomplish that, you can include foods rich in probiotics in your diet, such as fermented tofu (tempeh), kimchee, some yogurts (look for “active cultures” on the label), sauerkraut, kefir, or foods fortified with probiotics. However, it can be challenging to get the beneficial bacteria you need from foods alone, which is why a high-quality probiotic supplement can be a great option.

Look for products that contain a variety of bacteria species and strains that have been shown to remain viable on the shelf and in your body. Reputable brands will have available scientific evidence to back up their claims. A suggested dose is 1 to 10 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) daily, but higher doses are generally recommended if you are dealing with a health issue such as diarrhea or gastrointestinal problems.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world, with about 40 percent of men having levels that are below what is considered to be healthy (28 nanograms per milliliter). In fact, since many experts consider this figure to be too low, the percentage is even higher.

Best known as the sunshine vitamin because the body produces vitamin D from sunlight exposure to the skin, a deficiency of this nutrient has been associated with high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, depression, bone loss, back pain, hair loss, poor wound healing, frequent infections, muscle pain, and fatigue.

So where should men get their vitamin D? If you don’t get at least 15 to 20 minutes of sunlight on your skin every day, there’s a good chance you are deficient in vitamin D. Only a few foods are considered good to excellent sources, including egg yolks, beef liver, fortified cereals and milk, cheese, and mushrooms.

That leaves vitamin D supplements. The National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine set recommendations on vitamin D intake at 600 International Units for individuals up to age 70 years and 800 IU for those aged 71 and older. These figures are considered low by some experts, however, such as the Vitamin D Council, which recommends 5,000 IU daily. You should have your vitamin D levels checked using a simple blood test to determine your specific needs before taking this supplement.

Zinc

If you want testosterone, then you need zinc. However, many adults don’t get enough of this trace element. Zinc is necessary for the production of testosterone, which in turn can affect erectile dysfunction. Other noteworthy things about zinc are its ability to help metabolize nutrients, support immune system function (which is why some people take zinc for a cold), and promote the production of protein and DNA.

Although a zinc deficiency is rare in the United States, men can notice significant problems if their levels are below the recommended threshold, which is 0.66 to 1.10 micrograms per milliliter (mcg/mL). Signs and symptoms can include low testosterone levels, decreased sense of taste and smell, diarrhea, wounds that won’t heal, lack of alertness, and diarrhea. Taking zinc supplements also has been found to boost testosterone in men with moderately low levels.

Zinc is abundant in oysters, and more moderate amounts can be found in beef, pumpkin seeds, lentils, cashews, mushrooms, spinach, whole grains, and avocados. The recommended daily intake for men is 11 mg. Zinc supplements are available alone and in multivitamins. The most accessible form of zinc for the body is zinc orotate; other forms include zinc acetate, gluconate, and sulfate.

Bottom line

No matter how much we try to eat right and take care of our body, life often gets in the way. Stress from jobs and relationships, financial worries, social demands, and environmental toxins can all take a toll on us. It’s easy to lose focus on some of the nutritional factors that can help us maintain and optimize our health. Take time to make your well-being a priority and examine your nutritional needs today.

References

Garrido-Maraver J et al. Coenzyme Q10 therapy. Molecular Syndromology 2014 Jul; 5(3-4): 187-97

Glover EI et al. A randomized trial of coenzyme Q10 in mitochondrial disorders. Muscle & Nerve 2010 Nov; 42(5): 739-48

Lafuente R et al. Coenzyme Q10 and male infertility: a meta-analysis. Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics 2013 Sep; 30(9): 1147-56

Mayo Clinic. Nutrition and healthy eating.

Mortensen SA et al. The effect of coenzyme Q10 on morbidity and mortality in chronic heart failure: results from Q-SYMBIO: a randomized double-blind trial. JACC Heart Failure 2014 Dec; 2(6): 641-49

The National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine. Dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D. 2010 Nov 30

National Institutes of Health. Magnesium

Prasad AS et al. Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition 1996 May; 12(5): 344-48

Stibich M PhD. Health problems linked to vitamin D deficiency. VeryWellHealth 2019 Mar 11

Touvier M et al. Modulation of the association between plasma intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and cancer risk by n-3 PUFA intake: a nested case-control study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012, doi: 10.3945/​ajcn.111.027805

WebMD. Coenzyme Q10: CoQ10

WebMD. L-arginine

Wadsworth TL et al. Evaluation of coenzyme Q as an antioxidant strategy for Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Alzheimers Disease 2008 Jun; 14(2): 225-34

Here’s What Happens to Your Health When You Sit Too Much

If you’re like most Americans, you spend about 65 percent of your waking hours sedentary. That translates into 9 to 10 hours of sitting every day. For people who are in the telecommunications business, the figure tops the 12 hour mark – half a day on your butt!

Even if you work out at the gym for an hour every day or jog to and from work, those 60 or so minutes of daily physical activity surprisingly do not erase the unhealthful impact of too much sitting. In fact, a recent report from the Mayo Clinic noted that six hours of uninterrupted sitting eliminated the benefits of one hour of exercise.

So what happens to your body when you sit too much? Let’s start at the top and work our way down the body: Continue reading

Age creeping up on you? Mid-Life Crisis? Let’s Beat It!

Mid-Life Crisis? You’ve Got it Beat!

Mid-life crisis got you feeling apprehensive or a bit down? Struggling with uncertainty about the direction your health is going? Let’s take stock!

It’s mid-year and chances are any New Year’s resolutions you may have made were shelved long ago. That’s okay, it happens to the best of us. But you’re probably still looking for the right combination of healthy choices and moves that will help you maintain a high quality of life over the next few decades—right?

There’s no time like the present to make those moves.

What improvements can you make to your lifestyle right now to restore, maintain, and improve your vitality, health, and mood?  Sound like a tall order? It could be, but it also can be the greatest opportunity and gift you give to yourself and your loved ones.

Let’s face it: getting older can really be a bummer, but it doesn’t have to be. Change your perspective and you change the outcome. If you are willing to make a few healthy alterations in your daily life, you could get to spend more quality time with your partner or spouse, your children and grandchildren, and your friends, and pursue goals you have set in your life—or reach for new dreams you have yet to realize.

Let’s start with diet

When it comes to diet and food options, you can choose from scores of diets and dietary plans, books, and recipes. However, the ones that make the most sense scientifically may not be sexy (although they can improve your performance in the bedroom), but they work. They include the Mediterranean diet and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), both of which have been shown to help protect against the number one killer of men and women—heart disease—as well as support brain health and also throw in benefits for bone and digestive health as well.

The foundation of a healthy diet is simple: focus on whole, natural foods (i.e., free of artificial preservatives, flavors, colors, sugars, hormones, pesticides, and steroids), which provide a balance of macronutrients (protein, healthy fats, carbs), and are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and enzymes. This gives you a wealth of foods from which to choose—just keep them whole and natural.

  • Feast on fruits and vegetables, seeds, nuts, whole grains, beans, legumes, and teas.
  • Moderate your intake of fish, poultry, meat, and dairy.
  • Choose healthy fats such as olive oil, sesame oil, and coconut oil.
  • Avoid added sugars, alcohol, and too much salt—switch to herbs and spices instead.
  • Drink plenty of pure water.

Lose extra pounds

Have you added a few extra pounds in recent years?  Time to let them go and welcome in added vitality, less stress on your joints, and a significantly reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. If you lose 5 to 10 percent of your current weight, you can appreciate these impressive health benefits.

For example, the Diabetes Prevention Program found that individuals who lost 7 percent of their body weight and exercised about one-half hour daily reduced their risk of diabetes by nearly 60 percent. Did you know that every step you take places up to six times your weight in pressure on your feet and knees. So if you weigh 200 pounds, that’s up to 1,200 pounds of pressure on your joints. Ouch!

So what’s the secret to weight loss? No secret…just patience, dedication, and motivation. Some simple weight loss tips:

  • Skip the fad diets and choose an eating program that you can live with. After all, you don’t want to be miserable while losing weight, right? The Mediterranean diet, DASH, and various plant-based diets provide lots of variety and nutrition and can be easy to follow.
  • Chew! Too many people forget to thoroughly chew their food. This will force you to eat more slowly, feel satisfied in a healthy way, and allow you to better digest your food.
  • Increase your physical activity, and be sure to include things that you enjoy. Consider team sports, exercising with a friend, taking up a new activity, joining a gym, or forming an exercise group at work or in your neighborhood.
  • Make food substitutions. Crunchy veggies are better than chips for dipping. Water with lemon beats soda. Cauliflower rice is a better choice than regular rice. Frozen bananas or berries are much lower in calories than ice cream. There are scores of substitutions you can make to reduce calories.
  • Inadequate sleep contributes to weight gain. Be sure to get your 7 to 9 hours of Zzzzs every night.

Quit smoking

If you don’t smoke, you’re ahead of the game! But if you do, it’s time to escape the clutches of this lethal habit. Don’t think just because you’ve been smoking for decades, you can’t experience some significant benefits once you snuff that final cigarette. Within one week of stopping, blood circulation improves. That’s good news on the bedroom front, since a strong erection depends on a good blood supply. Current smokers are nearly three times more likely to have erectile dysfunction than non smokers and former smokers.

After 30 days, your lungs will function more efficiently. You ay cough up mucus, but that means you are clearing out your lungs and reducing the risk of infection. By your one year anniversary of quitting, your risk of heart disease will be half of someone who still smokes. It takes about ten times longer to reduce your risk of lung disease by half that of a smoker. If you are keen on maintaining your vision, then quit smoking, because this habit increases the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.

To help you kick the habit, devise a plan:

  • Identify a quit date. Choose a time when the stress level in your life is not running high, or you could set yourself up for failure.
  • Establish support. Having a partner, spouse, or friend who can support and encourage you is important. You also could attend a smoking cessation group, listen to stop smoking talks online, or use nicotine patches or similar products.
  • Know your motivations. It helps to write down why you want to quit. Keep that list handy so you can refer to it when you feel tempted to smoke.
  • Find healthy habits. Smoking is a habit as well as an addiction, so you should replace the unhealthy habit with a healthy one. For some it’s going to the gym, joining a sports team, taking up biking or jogging, or adopting a new hobby.

Keep moving

Want to live longer? Adopt the “E” word. Men older than 50 who participated in regular moderate exercise can live about a year longer than their peers who are sedentary, according to the Framingham Heart Study. Kick up the activity to high and you can extend it to about four years. Physical activity improves heart and blood vessel health, enhances brain and cognitive function, helps control blood sugar levels, aids weight loss, improves mood, betters bone strength, and helps sleep.

The exercise formula is BASS: balance, aerobic, strength, stretch. Include activities that promote all of these elements and you will enhance your total health.

  • Balance, incorporate yoga, tai chi, qi gong, or simply practice heel-toe walking.
  • Aerobic activities include walking and jogging, swimming, spinning, jumping rope, and rowing.
  • Strength exercises include lifting weights, using your own body weight, and boxing.
  • Stretching is an activity you should do daily, both before and after exercise, as well as various times during the day. Stretching allows you to stay limber, retain range of motion, and avoid injury.

Keep your eyes on cholesterol

About 14 percent of Americans have cholesterol levels greater than 240 mg/dL, and many more have levels above 200 mg/dL, which is the cutoff point considered to be desirable, according to the National Cholesterol Education Program. If you lower your total cholesterol by 10 percent, you also reduce your risk of dying from heart disease by 15 percent. Many men can reduce cholesterol simply by instituting dietary changes, such as avoiding both saturated and trans fats, eating whole grains, and including more fruits and vegetables in your diet. Both the Mediterranean and DASH diets are healthy plans, as are plant-based models.

Need a few more tips on how to lower cholesterol?

  • Drop excess pounds
  • Increase physical activity
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Consider taking medication. This should be a last resort if lifestyle changes don’t reduce your cholesterol levels to a healthy level

Maintain a healthy blood pressure

If you’d like to stick around for many years to come, keep a watchful eye on your blood pressure. It pays to have a home monitoring device, which are available in drug stores and other retail outlets everywhere. Your healthcare provider will tell you which systolic and diastolic numbers are best for you. Know, however, that experts are not in agreement as to the ideal blood pressure. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend a goal of 130/80 mmHg, which replaced a former recommendation of 140/90 mmHg. However, some other health professionals call for 120/80 mmHg or lower as the goal.

Why focus on blood pressure? When you reduce high blood pressure, you also decrease your risk of stroke by 35 to 40 percent, the incidence of heart failure by more than 50 percent, and the chances of heart attack by 20 to 25 percent.

Ideally you can reduce your blood pressure by making some lifestyle modifications and thus avoid medications altogether. How?

  • Reduce you intake of salt. Check labels on food products, especially processed foods, which can be very high in sodium (salt). Switch to using herbs and spices instead of salt
  • Eat more foods high in potassium. This mineral helps lower blood pressure. Popular choices are avocadoes, bananas, black beans, coconut water, spinach, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tomatoes, watermelon, and white beans.
  • Practice stress management techniques. That could mean exercise, tai chi, listening to music, dance, meditation, deep breathing, visualization, progressive relaxation, or other methods
  • Drug treatment should be your last resort if lifestyle efforts are not reducing your blood pressure adequately. Discuss the possibilities with your healthcare provider.

Reduce stress

The “fight or flight” response of our ancestors kicked in when they had to escape man-eating animals and other life-threatening situations. They experienced a rush of hormones and chemicals throughout their body, faster heart rate and breathing, a rise in blood pressure, and a burst of energy in the form of glucose in their blood stream. Today we experience the same physical responses to stress, but our stress is more likely to involve rush hour traffic, balancing monthly bills, coping with job crises, and struggling with healthcare costs.

The vast majority of our stress is not life-threatening, yet the body doesn’t discriminate. So when stress is chronic or unresolved, the body keeps the high blood pressure, the high sugar levels, the elevated heart rate, and even greater mental stress. All of these factors contribute to poor overall health as well as a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal problems, depression, headaches, obesity, and more.

How do you manage stress? It’s important to incorporate easy, enjoyable ways to cope with stress in your daily life. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Meditation of visualization
  • Yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and similar practices
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Enjoyable exercise, such as basketball or touch football with friends, dancing, jogging, swimming, hiking, canoeing, tennis, handball
  • Massage
  • Laughter (funny videos, movies, laughter yoga)
  • Sleep/naps (not as an escape, but if you are overtired, a nap can reduce stress levels)
  • Change your perspective. Often it is how we look at things or situations that determines our stress level and thus our response to it. Ask yourself: how important is this situation? Is it truly worthy getting upset over? What can I learn from this situation? Can I get help with this situation?

Imbibe moderately or not at all

Alcohol can be part of socializing, kicking back, and celebrating with family and friends, and it also has some positive health benefits. At the same time, however, alcohol consumption can have a significant negative impact on the body.

Moderation is the key. For men, a moderate amount of alcohol is two drinks daily, which translates into two 12-ounce glasses of beer, two 5-ounce glasses of wine, or two 1.5 ounce shots of liquor.

Consuming more than two drinks daily can increase the risk of hypertension, stroke, arrhythmia, and sudden death. Having up to one drink daily can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, but heavy drinking increases the risk to 22 percent when compared with nondrinkers. Drinking alcohol at any level increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke by two to four times.

Want to reduce or eliminate your alcohol consumption? Here are a few things to watch for:

  • Looks can be deceiving. A wine goblet can make 5 ounces look like next to nothing and so you can be tempted to fill the glass. The amount of liquor in a mixed drink glass may be more than you bargained for. Pay attention to how much alcohol you are actually consuming.
  • Don’t drink alone. People tend to drink more when they are alone. However, don’t drink with individuals who may keep encouraging you to keep up with them!
  • Take a break. If your habit is to drink every day or nearly every day, take a day or two off every week.
  • Get help. If you find it difficult to reduce or quit drinking, talk to a professional about your drinking habits.

Get enough Zzzzzs

Are you getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night? That’s the amount recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. If you lack sufficient sleep, your mind and body will rebel in various ways. For example:

  • Weight gain. One reason for this response to sleep deprivation is that it interferes with the hormones that regulate appetite. Another reason may be that you may tend to eat more sugary or high-fat foods when you’re tired so you’ll stay awake.
  • Diabetes risk. Studies show that people who sleep less than five hours a night have a threefold greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who sleep six hours or longer.
  • Heart disease risk. Short-term sleep deprivation is associated with risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and high triglycerides, while long-term lack of sleep may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
  • Mental impact. Feeling foggy? You probably know that sleep deprivation can make it difficult to concentrate or remember things, but did you know it also makes you more likely to experience depression and anxiety? A recent review shows that sleep deprivation/insomnia is closely related to depression.

If you’d like to get more shut eye, check out these secrets to better sleep.

Don’t skip health screenings

When was the last time you saw a healthcare professional for a health screening or physical? According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 55 percent of men questioned had not visited their doctor for a physical exam in the previous year. Yet 40 percent of them had high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or some other chronic condition.

Nearly 30 percent of men said they “wait as long as possible” before they would go to a doctor if they were experiencing pain or feeling sick. Many men delay or completely avoid a number of health screenings that are strongly recommended on an as-needed basis, yearly, or less often. To see a list of those screenings and when they are recommended, click here and see page 30.

Make a mental note of how many of the screenings you have done and which ones you plan to do. How did you do? If you have any questions about these tests, discuss them with your healthcare provider.

Bottom line

The mid-life crisis is real only if you allow it to be. Congratulate yourself for making it this far. Then take control of the rest of your life and resolve to live it to the fullest and to be the healthiest and most energetic you can be. You owe it to yourself, your family, friends, and to the difference you can make in the world.

Sources

American College of Cardiology. New ACC/AHA high blood pressure guidelines lower definition of hypertension. 2017 Nov 13

Harvard Medical School. A guide to men’s health fifty and forward.

Riemann D et al. Sleep, insomnia, and depression. Neuropsychopharmacology 2019 May 9

4 Men’s Health Hazards Hiding in Your Medicine Cabinet

When you open your medicine cabinet, there’s a good chance the contents staring back at you are pretty hazardous to your health. Disguised in the canisters, tubes, bottles and sprays are insidious toxic ingredients that the federal government allows manufacturers to use in products men put on, and (when they penetrate your skin), in your body every day. These personal products can smell great, and that’s a big part of the problem.

Two thirds of the chemicals used by the fragrance industry have not undergone safety testing. In addition, more than three dozen chemicals not listed on the labels of big-name brand men’s personal care products were found to be either not tested or to be associated with allergic reactions, damage to sperm (and resulting infertility), and disruption of hormone levels, including testosterone, other male hormones, and thyroid hormones, according to a recent study. Continue reading

Saw Palmetto for Enlarged Prostate: What’s the Latest?

Maybe your doctor just diagnosed you
with benign prostatic hyperplasia (aka BPH, an enlarged prostate). Perhaps
you’ve had BPH for a while, or you’re wondering whether it’s in your future.
After all, it affects 70 percent of men in the US ages 60 to 69 and 80 percent
of those 70 years or older. What are your treatment options? If you want a
natural approach, you might consider saw palmetto for enlarged prostate.

Why saw palmetto for enlarged prostate?

If you search for information on
natural ways to treat an enlarged prostate, saw palmetto often comes up. A
number of research studies have shown that the herb can be especially helpful
in managing symptoms associated with BPH. Those symptoms, often referred to as
LUTS (lower urinary tract symptoms), include urinary urgency, urinary
frequency, dribbling, painful urination, frequent nighttime urination, and the
annoying start-and-stop urination.

Take this new study on LUTS and BPH,
for example, which was published in March 2019 in Urology. In this multicenter,
double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 354 men were given either 320 mg saw
palmetto (159 men) or a placebo (169) daily for 24 weeks. The investigators
evaluated changes in the International Prostate Symptom Score and peak urinary
flow as well as other LUTS factors, total prostate-specific antigen (PSA)
levels, quality of life score, and sexual function.

How did the men in the saw palmetto
group do? Compared with those who received placebo, they experienced

  • Significant improvement in peak urinary flow, IPSS scores,
    LUTS symptoms, quality of life, and sexual function scores.
  • One or more adverse events occurred in 2 men in the placebo
    group and 3 in the saw palmetto group
  • Overall, the authors stated that the herbal supplement was
    “effective, safe, well-tolerated, and clinically and statistically superior to
    placebo.”

What should I know about saw palmetto for enlarged prostate?

The saw palmetto berries contain
more than 100 compounds, which include fatty acids, long-chain alcohol, and
phytosterols, including beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and others.
Beta-sitosterol is the phytosterol most often mentioned when talking about an
enlarged prostate, because it can attach itself to the prostate and has anti-inflammatory
properties. As beta-sitosterol reduces swelling and inflammation, men can
experience relief from the symptoms associated with LUTS.

More specifically, beta-sitosterol
inhibits the activity of an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase. This enzyme is
responsible for converting testosterone into 5-alpha dihydrotestosterone (DHT),
a hormone that promotes the growth of the prostate. That makes beta-sitosterol
a substance that inhibits the activity of DHT and thus helpful in the
management of an enlarged prostate.

If you choose to take a saw palmetto
supplement, be sure you are getting a pure product that is providing all the
ingredients stated on the label, especially when it comes to beta-sitosterol.
In a 2018 study, the authors attempted to verity the actual amount of
phytosterols in supplements that contained saw palmetto. They used a technique
called gas-chromatography, which is commonly used for this purpose.

They discovered a wide variation in
the amount of phytosterols in the supplements they studied, which included both
those that had saw palmetto as the sole ingredient as well as combination
products. Therefore, it’s best to choose a product from a highly reliable
source when choosing supplements that contain saw palmetto if you want to reap the
benefits of this herb.

As an added bonus, beta-sitosterol
also has been associated with lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) without having an
impact on good cholesterol (HDL). The phytosterol also may help enhance immune
system function, normalize blood sugar (glucose) levels, and help in the fight
against prostate cancer.

The bottom line

There seems to be a place for use of
saw palmetto for enlarged prostate and the LUTS that accompany it. Look for
high-quality supplements with certified amounts of beta-sitosterol.

Sources

Giammarioli S et al. Phytosterols in
supplements containing Serenoa repens: an example of variability of active
principles in commercial plant based products. Natural Product Research 2018 Oct 8:1-5

Kurzweil R, Grossman T. 6 proven
health benefits of beta-sitosterol. Transcend

Parsons JK. Benign prostatic
hyperplasia and male lower urinary tract symptoms: epidemiology and risk
factors. Current Bladder
Dysfunction Reports
2010 Sep 7

Saper RB. Clinical use of saw
palmetto. Up To Date 2019 Apr

WebMD. Beta-sitosterol.

Ye Z et al. Efficacy and safety of
Serenoa repens extract among patients with benign prostatic hyperplasia in
China: a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Urology 2019 Mar 14

Testosterone Doesn’t Increase Prostate Cancer Risk

EveryDay Male

For years, men have expressed concern that using testosterone treatment (hormone replacement therapy) will boost their risk of developing prostate cancer. The results of a new study, presented at the American Urological Association 2016 annual meeting, however, have shown that testosterone treatment doesn’t increase prostate cancer risk. In fact, other new research suggests such treatment may reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer. Continue reading