Health & Nutrition with Rosie Shelley
TYPE 2 diabetes is present in one in 20 men, rising to one in eight in those aged over 60, caused almost entirely from poor lifestyle choices
In part two of my series focusing on men’s health, this week I’m examining more of the issues affecting males of all ages
Dr Ciara Kelly, of Operation Transformation fame, says that the diabetes is ‘a leading cause of death in men and is almost exclusively a function of obesity’.
Dr Michael Mosley, who reversed his own diabetes with a low carb version of a Mediterranean diet, talks about the importance of regular blood tests, as many of us have diabetes without knowing it. He says: ‘If you are prediabetic and lose 10% of your body weight (particularly belly fat) this cuts your risk of becoming diabetic by 90%.’
Thankfully, medical experts are beginning to acknowledge that the best way forward is a relatively low carb, high protein diet (but including plenty of vegetables), rather than the starchy regime traditionally recommended which of course only sends blood sugar levels haywire.
Reducing your risk of diabetes will significantly reduce your risk of heart disease—still our number one killer – and so will eating real food, maintaining a healthy weight and being active. Dr Kelly talks about the importance of avoiding trans/hydrogenated fats but embracing the healthy fats in oily fish (regular consumption can halve the risk of a heart attack), nuts, seeds and avocadoes as well as breakfasting on porridge. She says that older men might consider taking a small daily dose of aspirin, but should discuss this first with their GP.
It’s been shown that the more an older man walks, the better his physical and mental health and quality of life, while people who sit down all day have twice the risk of diabetes and of dying from a heart attack or stroke.
Prostate cancer is the number one male cancer, and while it’s prevalent in older men a more aggressive form is also found in the younger group.
Keeping weight down, not smoking, getting active and regular ejaculation are all highly protective, as is replacing processed meats with seafood and eating plenty of plant foods, especially nuts and seeds, wholegrains, pulses and red vegetables. Cutting out processed meats will also slash your risk of bowel cancer, which is preventable in two thirds of cases with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
BowelScreen has just announced that less men than women responded to their invitation—only 36.4% – stressing that the test is ‘so important, very quick and easy.’
Regular sex not only helps prevent prostate cancer, it cuts a man’s risk of diabetes by 40%, heart disease by 30%, and premature death from any cause by 50%.
Given that sexual function is basically a function of blood flow, emotional wellbeing and hormonal balance, the main aim would be to keep testosterone levels on an even keel, as we discussed last week, and also to eat as you would for a healthy heart.
Particularly useful nutrients here are the omega 3s and vitamin D in oily fish, and the amino acid arginine, which is needed to make the nitric acid that relaxes blood vessels and so improves blood flow.
Arginine is found in nuts and seeds, poultry, pulses, oats, dairy and dark chocolate. It’s also needed for fertility, to make healthy sperm, along with zinc, selenium, vitamins B12, C, D and E, and those healthy fats.
So many of the health issues that we all face have their origins in inflammation, never so obviously as in the case of systemic pain.
Various studies are emerging suggesting that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) like ibuprofen can not only cause gastrointestinal damage but are often ineffective, and raise the risk of heart attack.
The best natural anti-inflammatories are found in oily fish; brightly coloured veg and fruit; the sulphur in eggs, garlic and onions, beans and greens; ginger and turmeric—the latter shown to be as effective for arthritic pain as ibuprofen.
And for strong bones, a brand new study from Trinity College Dublin has determined that while eating plain yoghurt every day reduced the risk of osteoporosis in women by 39%, in men the risk reduction was an even more impressive 52%.
Finally, to return to the issue of men’s emotional wellbeing, which is where we started last week; just as I was writing this I read about a huge new overview of the effects of loneliness on men.
A lack of social support, which has now reached ‘epidemic’ levels, was found to be as harmful as smoking, and not exercising, and twice as harmful as being obese. It also speeds up the rate of cognitive decline and decline in motor functions, while having one good friend was shown to add up to a decade to a man’s life expectancy.
So if you find yourself alone, making an effort to connect could well be the single best thing you could do for your health.