Boost Your Heart Health

Boost Your Heart Health

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by Annabel Rainsford

Why is it that males can pull apart a laptop or phone, and put it back together so that it works? Or know exactly what is wrong with the car engine and fix it in a flash? They can fix the taps and the broken kitchen cupboard… but when it comes to looking after themselves, they often don’t know where to start.

Although often overlooked, the body needs just as much maintenance as the house, garden and car. It can be easy to avoid taking responsibility for your body - you don’t have time, you don’t want to worry your family, you never get sick, you can stomach anything, your dad ate and drank whatever he wanted and he lived to be 98… Well, it’s time to pay closer attention to your body and give it the attention it really needs. Think of it like your own mini engine and powerhouse - you  need to look after it because it’s the only one you have, and exchanging old broken parts for new ones isn’t as simple as getting a new car battery. To keep on top of your heart health in particular, think of the things that are in your power to change, like improving your diet, getting exercise and quitting smoking. Take control of your body. Eat seven to nine fruits and vegetables each day, says Dr Richard A Stein. He recommends the Dash Diet: a Mediterranean, fruit-and-vegetable-based diet, but you should remember to eat lean protein at every meal too to help prevent  unhealthy snacking.

I don’t need to visit the doctor because I’m not sick.

High blood pressure and diabetes are referred to as “silent killers” because they have no obvious symptoms, yet for men, blood pressure starts climbing around the age of 45, and 24% of those with diabetes don’t know it. An annual check-up also gives men the opportunity
to talk with their doctor about any concerns; erectile dysfunction, for instance, can be an early indicator of heart disease. By having regular  check-ups, it’s not as daunting as going in to a total stranger and trying to explain why you think you’re having problems. You can build a relationship and feel comfortable with the same doctor and then a visit to the GP isn’t something you have to dread or use as a last resort.

I can stomach it!

Making healthy food choices is important for heart health, but many men skip meals, snack during the day, eat a big meal loaded with fat and calories at night, and, not surprisingly, have increased body fat. Don’t finish your kids’ meals if they can’t finish it, and avoid the tempting bread wipe-up of the leftover sauces on the plate. Load your meals with lots of fresh herbs or spices so that you don’t feel the need to add salt - which raises blood pressure. Switch your beer gut for defined wine abs. A small glass of wine is a healthy way to lower blood pressure.

I’m tired from work, I don’t want to walk.

Physical inactivity is a big reason heart disease may occur. Yes, more men exercise than women - so well done, men! However, the figures aren’t overly impressive - about 50% of men don’t exercise regularly, according to a CDC survey. In men, a waistline of 101cm or more may be dangerous for health. Losing stomach fat is important and slow weight loss offers the best results. Like women, men find lots of reasons not to work out and can get discouraged if they had been athletic in high school but find they now lack that same energy and motivation. Many men lift weights because they want to build muscles and think that that’s all that counts. Lifting weights is great, but men also need to include cardiovascular exercise for heart protection. Dogs are a man’s best friend, right?  So put Spot on a leash and take him out for a half-hour jog before dinner. Aim to do half an hour of cardiovascular exercise five times a week.

Pampering is for poodles

There are many stressors on men in modern-day society and often it gets all bottled up. This can put pressure on your heart and may increase your chance of having heart problems. There’s nothing wrong with a good boxing class, but don’t overlook a massage and meditation either. Deep breathing is also a subtle way to manage stress and reduce heart tension. Treat yourself to some form of relaxation by taking time out once a week.

If you experience chest pain or shortness of breath due to exertion, get to the hospital right away. These are the two primary symptoms of heart disease and should never go unchecked. “Men are deniers,” Dr John Elefteriades says. “It’s usually someone else in their lives - wife, girlfriend, mum - who forces them to confront symptoms.” Other warning signs to speak up about are lightheadedness
and heart palpitations (an abnormal heart beat). Don’t be the one to leave it too late.

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