Men’s Health and Weight Gain

Five of the top ten health conditions related to men’s health and aging are heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, and depression. All five are highly correlated to weight gain and obesity. To be even more specific, the location of fat storage in men is most important. Men with the highest risk are individuals who store belly fat above all other areas.

Here are a few tips to learning about and reducing risk:

  1. Get checked out by your doctor. Health screenings are available for all of the above conditions. Schedule your annual physical, request a heart scan and calcium score, verify your fasting blood sugar and triglyceride levels, schedule a body check with your dermatologist, schedule your colonoscopy, ask for a body composition analysis, and learn how to recognize depression symptoms, such as anger, irritability, fatigue or apathy.
  2. Lose weight. Optimal male abdominal circumference should be lower than 37” according to the Heart Foundation. Another quick check is to be sure the waist measurement is smaller than the chest and hips. If the ratio is off, risk increases.  Sometimes weight isn’t the best measurement; and oftentimes, BMI is not helpful since many men have higher BMI values due to significant muscle mass. Body fat percentage and/or a body shape index (ABSI) are more reliable.
  3. Meet with an anti-aging or age-management health specialist to measure hormone levels. Unfortunately, testosterone doesn’t get stored for future use when production declines. Instead, the stored fat holds estrogen as it does in women and further suppresses testosterone production. Reduced testosterone lowers energy and motivation, reduced energy decreases likelihood of exercise, reduced exercise increases risk of depression, depression increases poor lifestyle decisions such as diet, alcohol and other risk behaviors, etc.  See the correlation.
  4. Exercise. Resistance training and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are both proven to increase testosterone levels, which in turn help to build muscle, shed stored fat, and increase endorphin production helping to elevate mood.
  5. De-stress. Find your best strategy. It could be meditation, yoga, music, art, cooking, gardening, etc. Just discover what works and repeat often.

June is Men’s Health month. Safe and effective interventions are available. Men don’t always like to talk about health, so they may need a push in the right direction.  Encourage the men in your life to identify their risks through health screenings, lab testing, body composition measurement, and self-reflection. Understanding the risks is the first step toward optimal health and wellness.

Women & Heart Disease

The #1 cause of death in women is heart disease. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women alike. Here are the top risk factors:

  1. Smoking – [please quit]
  2. Diabetes
  3. Metabolic syndrome (a combination of high triglycerides, high blood pressure, obesity and high blood sugar)
  4. Family history
  5. Obesity
  6. High levels of certain inflammatory markers

Women also have risk factors for heart disease that are less often shared by men, notably:

  1. Autoimmune disease
  2. Inflammatory conditions
  3. Hormone imbalances
  4. Hypertension during menopause
  5. Stress and depression
  6. Low risk factor awareness

What do I mean by “low risk factor awareness”?  Well, women’s symptoms often do not include the classic presentation of sharp or crushing chest pain, with radiation to the jaw and down the arm. Rather, women frequently report nausea, vomiting, indigestion, back pain, fatigue or shortness of breath. Because their symptoms may seem non-threatening, women don’t always seek intervention quickly.

Moreover, these symptoms can be vague enough that healthcare providers fail to consider the situation urgently. Women also tend to visit their primary care doctors at rates much higher than men do.  Because they often report the same symptoms for less harmful reasons (such as reflux, the flu, muscle strain, or even depression), it can be very difficult to diagnose heart disease in women who don’t already have a history of heart disease.

The other unique feature for women is simply one of anatomy. Women’s arteries are generally smaller than those of men, so a much smaller clot can completely block essential blood flow to the heart, brain, or lungs. Smaller arteries also mean that the placement of arterial stents and cardiac bypass surgery are more challenging and less successful.

Ladies, I encourage you to make your health a priority.  Listen to that inner voice and, if you feel something is off or that your primary care physician is not properly addressing your concerns, seek out another doc.  If you’re not sure where to begin, feel free to visit us in Highland Park.