Several years ago, when I worked in a cardiac unit at our hospital, I was asked to provide nutrition counseling to a man who had recently suffered a heart attack. After we talked about his current habits and what he might wish to change, the man’s wife openly expressed her gratitude for the information. The patient, however, sat with arms crossed and said, “I’d rather die than eat like that.”
Granted, we women don’t always change harmful habits either. But statistics tell us that men typically see their physicians for preventive health services half as often as women. And on average, men die five years sooner than women of the same age.
Hence the emphasis every June on men’s health, according to a Congressional education program that sponsors Men’s Health Month.
Nutrition is just one topic that men might miss when they fail to show up for health-related visits, and that’s unfortunate. Lifestyle choices — what we eat or don’t eat, whether we get off the couch to take a walk or not — can have a major impact on many of men’s health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. And the pot of gold for men who make a habit of good choices is often a longer and more vital life.
Where’s a good place for a strong independent guy to start? Here are some ideas from the Men’s Health Network, a national nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C.:
▪ Eat breakfast. It fires up your metabolism to power your day. Game plan: Whole-grain cereal with fruit, or grab a yogurt or a healthy granola bar for the road. (Look for health bars with at least two grams of dietary fiber, 10 grams of protein and no more than two grams of saturated fat per serving.)
▪ Eat at least one fruit and one vegetable at each meal. Even Paleo guys need the nutrients and dietary fiber packed into these foods. And they provide healthful carbs to fuel your brain and muscles.
▪ Super-size salads, not meat and potatoes. If your idea of a “portion” of meat is putting half the cow on your plate, it’s time to cut back.
▪ Whole grains, whole grains, whole grains. Whatever grain food you choose — corn, oats, wheat, rye, barley — select those made with the whole seed of the grain. Whole grains supply micronutrients and antioxidants that protect against diabetes and heart disease.
▪ And get this: Men’s health experts say that what’s good for your health — nutrition, regular physical exercise and health check ups — is good for your love life. Just sayin’.