Midlife Man Health

 Man health as a category determines quality of life at any age, but it is critical at midlife and beyond.

When we look at health, it is relatively simple. No complicated equipment or medications are required, but it does take a certain amount of commitment. The results though, create a healthy man well into old age. I assume that appeals to you?

Maintaining a man's health (or woman's for that matter) is literally that simple. Of course, it's not necessarily easy, but I guarantee it is easier than becoming weak, out-of-shape, and even disabled, which is far more likely if you do not maintain your health.

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Side Bar

For my American friends - Getting decent health coverage is also important. Most jobs come with health concerns not least of which is stress.

Low cost health insurance from a private vendor may provide more peace of mind than Medicare.

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Let's start with Nutrition, because this may be the most important of the three keys in maintaining your long-term health.

The Source of the Food You Eat is Important

By 'source' I mean literally the soil your food was grown in. I have a long history in agriculture (including a Master of Agriculture degree from the University of Alberta), and in my studies I learned the critical role soil plays in creating healthy food, which translates to healthy people who eat the food.

If you live in North America, or any 'New World' country, you will have noticed that immigrants to your country from Europe or Asia are often short in stature, but their children who are raised here are often much taller.

Why is that?

In a word - nutrition. The children of immigrants get food from healthier soils. They also often have more variety in their diets, which is also critical.

Here's why: different plants extract different nutrients from the soil. When we eat them, we take those nutrients into our bodies. The healthier the soil our food is grown in, and the wider the range of plants we eat, the more nutrients we get.

The same applies to meat. Animals that have eaten a wide variety of plants will give us more nutritious meat than those that have had a diet of just two or three plants. That is one reason beef from cattle finished on pasture is better for us than cattle finished in a feedlot. Another reason to eat grass-finished is that it is higher in Omega-3 fatty acid and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) both of which help keep you healthy. You can find lots of information on both these substances, and discover farms that sell grass-finished animals at eatwild.com.

(Also see note on how to get more Omega-3 fatty acid in your diet below.)

Organic Foods

Since 1998, Elizabeth and I have been buying organic foods almost exclusively. We do this for two reasons:

  • We believe it is healthier food
  • Organic farmers tend to take better care of their soils, which means more nutritious food, and a healthier ecosystem, and we want to support those farmers.

I did plot research with farm chemicals as a summer student in the 1960s. At that time, as an undergrad in agriculture, I believed what the professors said about herbicides being safe, and that if we didn't use all the technology available for growing food, the world could not produce enough to feed all the people.

I have since learned that neither of those beliefs is true.

Many pesticides (herbicides, insecticides and fungicides) have proven to be unsafe, after having been thought safe to begin with. As our ability to test for safety increases, we discover more and more unsafe chemicals - both those used in agriculture, and in home garden and lawn care. You can get lots more information about pesticides at the Pesticide Action Network North America site.

As for not being able to provide the world with food if we don't use all the available technology, again this is simply untrue. I have been on many organic farms, both large and small, that have every bit as much production as conventional farms. In fact in dry years, organic farmers usually have better yields than their conventional neighbours, because the organic farmers' soils are higher in organic matter, and are able to hold water longer so the effect of drought is not as severe.

It is true that organic food can cost a bit more money, but Elizabeth and I believe if you add in all the costs (the cost of losing soil to erosion, the cost to our health, the costs associated with pesticide run-off into streams and groundwater, and so forth), organic food actually costs less overall. And it helps us leave a better world for our children and grandchildren.

Kinesiology, which is a method of determining truth about everything from the health of various foods and supplements, to the integrity of investment opportunities, can be used to evaluate the health of the foods you eat. You don't even have to believe in it in order for it to work. Kinesiology has been scientifically tested in double blind tests repeatedly, and is 100% replicatable, and scientifically sound. I won't go into details here, but if you want the whole story on this fascinating subject, read Power vs Force by David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D.

Dr. Hawkins and his associates have done thousands of test on foods, and have found that organic foods invariably test stronger (more healthy) than foods grown with chemical inputs and pesticides.

And here is some advice from Norm Schwartz, M.D., as quoted in Dr. Candace Pert's book Molecules Of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine:

Fairly high doses of Vitamin C (1,000 mg. or more) should be a part of everyone's basic nutritional defense kit. For lots of great information on Vitamin C, as well as every other Vitamin, go to Vitamins-Info-Guide.com

Only eat food that has been around for at least six thousand years

Don't eat something if you can't pronounce the ingredients

Try to buy organic fruits and vegetables, or grow your own garden

Buy 'free range', or better yet pasture-finished meat (beef, lamb, chicken, pork)

A minute ago I mentioned Omega-3 fatty acids. If there is a 'magic bullet' for health, Omega-3 might be it. For more details on the benefits of this amazing substance, go to this page:

midlife-men.com/Omega-3

Then come back here to learn ways to manage your weight for staying fit, strong and handsome!

Before we go over the 2nd key of physical health, I'd like to mention a resource for your mental health, “A Harley or My Wife?”

I encourage you to click here and gain an understanding of how this resource I've developed can help you.

This book isn't about motorcycles. It is about the quandary a man often finds himself in at midlife, where it looks tempting to buy a Harley and hit the road

Cleansing and Weight Loss

The second key to health maintenance is controlling your weight and clearing toxins out of your body. More and more research shows that toxins can interfere with a whole variety of physical and emotional processes.

Here's a little not-so-fun news...

A study by Paul Williams of the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (reported in the May, 1997 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) found that weight gain may be inevitable, even among serious athletes.

The study looked at 4,769 male runners under the age of 50, with the idea of discovering whether vigorous exercise can prevent weight gain with age. Williams found that in middle-aged men, waist-line expansion is almost a force of nature. Those who exercise will be leaner than their sedentary brethren, but even devoted runners will find it increasingly difficult to maintain their svelte appearance.

The story is the same for men over 50. In a second set of 2,150 male runners (all over the age of 50), Williams found that men over the age of 50 appear to gradually lose muscle mass and weight as the years pass. Unfortunately, the runners' waist sizes generally did not deflate with age.

Expanded waists usually are the result of increased abdominal fat. According to a large body of scientific evidence, this fat is linked to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

Williams says the current study was designed to explore the fundamental question of whether middle-age weight gain is a basic physiological consequence of aging or the result of declining activity levels.

The study showed that in 4,769 runners between the ages of 18 and 50, weight gain occurred at the same rate almost regardless of the number of miles run per week. Per decade, the average six-foot-tall man gained about 3.3 pounds and about 3/4 inches around the waist. Over the years, this weight gain adds up. Among the under-30 age group of runners in the study, 21 percent were moderately overweight; in the 45-49 age group, 30 percent were overweight.

Says Williams, "Our data suggests that you can probably compensate for middle-aged weight gain by becoming more active. By annually increasing weekly running distance by about 1.4 miles, we estimate that the effects of exercise should compensate for the expected weight gain during middle age. What this means is that runners who average 10 miles per week at age 30 should increase their weekly running distance to 24 miles by age 40 if they plan to still fit into the tuxedo they bought a decade earlier."

Not So Fast There...

The problem with the above-noted study is that it assumes the only way to manage weight gain as you age is to exercise more. In this case, run.

If you would have to run 24 miles a week at age 40 to keep your waist line at your 30-year-old size, by the time you are 60 you would have to be running more than 100 miles per week! And at 100 years, you would be running pretty well all the time. Sounds a little excessive to me!

So here is some better news. A couple of other reasons we gain weight as we get older is that our body metabolism rates slow down a bit, especially if we are inactive, plus the toxins we slowly accumulate over the years makes us put on weight.

Here's why. Our bodies have a couple of ways to try to cope with the toxins that come into them as part of everyday living:

  • Our livers try to burn off the toxins
  • Our bodies isolate the toxins in fat deposits

Ergo, another approach to managing our weight is to detoxify our bodies, and do a fat-burning program at the same time. As the toxins get released, the fat-burning part of the program gets rid of the fat that surrounded the toxins, and can lead to fairly fast weight loss.

This is a subject all its own, so I have created a separate page for it. Just click here:

www.midlife-men.com/weight-loss

Then come back here when you're done.

Fitness

Fitness is perhaps the most important key to preventing disabilities as you age.

I don't know about you, but as I get older, I don't want to be incapacitated.

Where would the fun be in spending your retirement years walking with a cane, or a walker, or getting around in one of those little electric scooters you see so many people using today?

According to Michael F. Roizen, MD; Professor of Anaesthesiology and Internal Medicine, SUNY Upstate Medical Center in New York, there is well-quantified research to show that physical fitness gives us benefits in three major areas:

  • It reduces arterial aging, which is associated with memory loss, impotence, heart disease, stroke, reduced orgasm quality, even wrinkling of the skin.
  • It slows down immune aging, which is associated with infections and cancer, and auto immune disease such as many forms of arthritis.
  • It reduces accidents, and disability from accidents.

And here are a few more benefits from regular exercise:

  • Increased Strength
  • Increased Bone Density (this matters more as we age)
  • Exercise increases the production of Human Growth Hormone, which helps build and maintain muscle tissue
  • Increased Ability to Handle Stress (a biggy during midlife transitions!)
  • Increased Flexibility (again, increasingly important as we get older)

There are other advantages to fitness:

  • Your mental outlook is more positive when you are more fit
  • Your digestive and elimination systems work better
  • Even your sexual equipment stays in better shape
  • You can lose weight easier - muscle burns more calories than fat

Fitness helps prevent osteoporosis as well, so you don't end up all bent over and short of breath.

Aerobic exercise can also keep you mentally sharper. The Journal of Aging and Physical Activity reported a study in 2002 of a research project at Duke University, where study volunteers took part in a three-day-per-week, 16-week exercise program. Their ability to remember and to juggle different tasks was significantly increased. The researchers believe it was partly due to the fact that exercise improves the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain.

You don't have to go at it hammer and tong in order to benefit from exercise either.

What a difference a mile makes

A study in Hawaii examined 707 non-smoking retired men of Japanese ancestry aged 61 to 81 years who were enrolled in the Honolulu Heart Program, which has been going since 1965. When they enrolled between 1980 and 1982 (then aged 45 to 68 years) they had a physical examination. They were asked about the average distance walked each day. The average distance was 1.8 miles (2.9 km).

In the 12 years of follow up there were 208 deaths - 33 from heart disease, 19 from stroke, 68 from cancer and 88 from other causes. The death rate was examined according to whether men walked less than 1 mile, 1 to 2 miles, or more than 2 miles a day.

There were no differences between these three groups in terms of cholesterol, HDL, weight, hypertension, diabetes, diet or alcohol consumption. After 10 years, walking patterns were checked, and confirmed that men, by and large, maintained their walking patterns. The results were clear: the less men walked, the more likely they were to die.

The reduction in death rate came not only from reduced heart disease or stroke, but also from cancer and other causes. The risk of death in men who walked less than 1 mile a day was almost twice that of men who walked more than 2 miles a day.

Another study of twins in Finland found similar links between physical activity and mortality.

The study looked at the physical activity of about 8,000 male and 8,000 female twins in 1975 (all born before 1958). After a comprehensive questionnaire subjects were classified into three broad bands of physical leisure activity:

  • Sedentary subjects - not participating in leisure time physical activity.
  • Occasional exercisers - participated in physical activity less than six times a month.
  • Conditioning exercisers - exercising at least six times a month for an average of 30 minutes with an intensity equal to vigorous walking or jogging.

Again, the overall death rate between 1977 and 1994 was 12% for the couch potatoes, 7.4% for occasional exercisers, and 4.9% for the most active group.

The effect of moderate exercise was similar in both studies: over 12 years, walking two miles a day reduced the risk of death by half in the Hawaiian study, while in Finland over 17 years, moderate exercise reduced the risk by 60%.

Whup Them Younger Fellas

Staying physically fit can give you a body that looks and performs far younger than your years. At the Veterans Medical Center in Salt Lake City Utah, physically fit men in their mid-fifties were compared to inactive men in their mid-twenties.

The results were impressive. Active older men had lower resting heart rates - 64 beats per minute versus 85 beats per minute for the younger men, higher oxygen uptake during maximum exercise, and slower heart beats in the first minute after exercise than the out-of-shape men in their 20s. The older men weighed less than their couch-potato young counterparts too. An average of 166 pounds vs 192 pounds.

I pity those younger men when they reach middle age. They are perfect candidates for everything from Type II diabetes to heart disease and stroke!

And here's another interesting bit of information: an active person will decline physiologically only by about half a per cent a year compared to an inactive person who will decline by about 2 per cent.

Much research shows there is a direct link between fitness and the prevention of heart attacks and strokes. For example a study in Finland with more than 800 men aged 42 to 60 showed that those who were most fit had lower levels of atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in their arteries that cause heart attacks and strokes) and the least fit men had higher levels.

How Does One Stay Fit?

Recent research shows you need a combination of three types of exercise:

  1. weight training for strength
  2. aerobic exercise for strength and endurance
  3. calisthenics (stretching, bending, and twisting exercises) for flexibility

But... that being said, how does one establish a regular exercise routine?? (Maybe you too have an exercise bike or treadmill acting as a clothes hanger in the basement?)

WELL, here's what the experts say: If you have not been working out, DON'T START WITH STAMINA EXERCISES.

You know how it is. Something - maybe a New Year's resolution, or maybe your favourite pants just got a bit too tight - triggers you to start an exercise routine. Or maybe you just want to be more trim so you will be considered for that promotion to senior manager (research shows that anything above a 34 inch waist reduces your chances of promotion). You get all revved up and buy an exercise machine, or maybe join a fitness club.

You go at it hammer and tong for a session or two, your muscles get sore, and pretty soon you have missed a workout, then another, and then it's gone.

So, start with something easier. Maybe a 30-minute walk. Or 20 minutes of stretching. Or maybe a few isometrics while you watch your favourite TV show. Once you have built up a bit of condition, you might think of increasing the intensity. Maybe that's when you join the fitness club, or simply do more on your own.

It doesn't require Herculean effort to stay fit, but it does require some effort. Experts say walking is one of the best exercise. Walking a few miles gives you the same amount of exercise as running the same distance, but it's not so hard on your knees.

We're talking about brisk walking here, not sauntering or strolling. Something that will make you sweat a little and raise your heart rate a bit.

I have several friends in their sixties who walk four to eight miles a day, and are in better shape now than they have been for a long time. Unfortunately all of them had heart problems before they were motivated to start their regular walking exercise, even though they knew they 'should be' before that.

Swimming is another excellent exercise, that works your whole body, and is especially good if you have a bit of arthritis. Again, you don't have to go at it like an Olympian. Working your way up to an hour of swimming lengths in your local pool three times a week is plenty.

Yes, you say, but how does one overcome the boredom of exercise, and the mental lethargy that makes me want to skip it?

Good question.

Part of it is simple discipline.

Think of it this way - if you had a heart attack or stroke, which is far more likely if you are out of shape - and assuming you could still walk, you would be happy to start exercising. In fact you would be happy just to be alive! And if your doctor said you needed to walk or do some other exercise, you would do it. So why wait till your heart attack?

Here's the other key: Build it into your regular routine, and see it as part of your normal life from now on, not something you do 'if you have time'.

Another key for me is being part of a group. I joined an exercise class at a local community centre, and work out for an hour three times a week. The instructor makes sure we do strength-building work with all the different muscle groups, and that we get enough cardio exercise as well. We do some stretches at the end of the class to cool down and stay more flexible. I don't think it gives as much flexibility as I will want as I get older, so I am thinking of taking up Yoga again (I used to do an hour every morning before work about 20 years ago, but quit when I had a number of major changes in my life).

I have made this workout a regular part of my weekly schedule, and I find it not only helps keep me in shape, but helps me stay mentally alert so I can get more work done when I am at my desk.

Sports are another excellent way to stay in shape. Fast-paced hockey may be a little hard to keep up with at midlife, but tennis, badminton, curling, racquetball and of course golf (without a golf cart) are all good ways to stay in shape.

Dancing is another great way to exercise, and it's fun besides. My parents square- and round-danced for fifty years, and it not only kept them in good shape (my dad is now 89 and still going strong, although my mom has a chronic illness that means she now uses a wheel chair), but gave them a community of friends to socialize with. It added tremendously to their quality of life after they retired.

Any kind of dancing will do. Just get out there and dance! If you don't have a partner, join a dance club and one will be provided. If you don't know how to dance, take lessons. It'll be good for your body and your self-esteem.

Here are some others: hiking, bicycling, canoeing, gardening, jumping on a trampoline, splitting wood, even stationary exercise machines or even climbing stairs can be good, especially in bad weather.

And remember… it takes a while for the benefits to show up, but show up they will.

My goal is to help not only your physical health, but also your mental health in midlife...

In order to directly help you with this process, I’ve written “A Harley or My Wife?”

I encourage you to click here and gain an understanding of how this resource I've developed can help you.

This book isn't about motorcycles. It is about the quandary a man often finds himself in at midlife, where it looks tempting to buy a Harley and hit the road… 


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