Men’s health matters

May 29, 2023

Men’s health is an important topic that deserves attention, particularly when it comes to the role of nutrition in disease prevention and management. A well-balanced diet can make a significant impact on the overall health and longevity of men.

There are common nutrition-related diseases affecting men and by discussing dietetics-related treatments that can help manage and prevent these conditions, we can empower men to make informed choices about their health and lifestyle.

1.  Heart Disease
Heart disease is a broad term that encompasses various conditions affecting the heart and blood vessels. Understanding the different types of heart disease, their risk factors, and how to prevent or manage them is essential for maintaining good cardiovascular health and overall well-being.

Types of Heart Disease include:

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD):
CAD is the most common type of heart disease and occurs when the arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle become narrow or blocked. This narrowing, often due to a build-up of fatty deposits called plaque, restricts blood flow and can lead to chest pain (angina), shortness of breath, or a heart attack.

Heart Failure:

Heart failure, sometimes called congestive heart failure, occurs when the heart muscle is unable to pump blood effectively. This can result from various conditions, including CAD, high blood pressure, or diseases that weaken the heart muscle. Symptoms may include fatigue, shortness of breath, swelling in the legs, ankles, or feet, and rapid or irregular heartbeat.

Arrhythmia:

An arrhythmia is an abnormal heartbeat, either too fast, too slow, or irregular. There are several types of arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, and bradycardia. Some arrhythmias can be harmless, while others may lead to more serious consequences, such as stroke or sudden cardiac arrest.

Valvular Heart Disease:

Valvular heart disease occurs when one or more of the heart’s valves do not function properly. This can cause blood to flow inefficiently or even backward, putting extra strain on the heart. Valve disorders include stenosis (narrowing), regurgitation (leakage), and prolapse (improper closing).

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men, with various factors contributing to its development. These factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity, all of which play a significant role. A diet high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can increase the risk of heart disease by raising blood cholesterol levels. A heart-healthy diet can help combat these risk factors.

Key dietary and lifestyle interventions include:

  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Monitoring and controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels
  • Reducing saturated and trans fats: Focus on using healthier fats like olive oil, avocado, and nuts, while limiting processed and fried foods. Limit intake of saturated and trans fat by choosing lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and healthy oils
  • Increasing fibre intake: Add whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables to your meals to promote heart health.
  • Increased fibre intake helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels Incorporating lean proteins: Choose lean meats like poultry and fish, which are lower in saturated fats and provide essential omega-3 fatty acids

Limiting sodium: Use herbs, spices, and low-sodium seasonings to flavour meals instead of relying on salt

  • Controlling portion sizes: Practice portion control to maintain a healthy weight and prevent
  • Regular physical activity
  • Not smoking or quitting if you do smoke
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Managing stress through relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga
  • Taking prescribed medications as needed Seeking regular medical check-ups

Understanding heart disease and its risk factors is crucial for men’s health and will empower men to make the necessary lifestyle changes to effectively manage or prevent this life-threatening condition and its associated complications.

2.  Prostate Cancer

Prostate health is a major concern for men, with many at risk for conditions such as prostate cancer and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). BPH is age-associated prostate gland enlargement that can cause difficulties with urination. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among men. While genetics play a role in its development, research indicates that diet can also influence the risk of developing this cancer.

Certain dietary interventions may help maintain prostate health:

  • Focusing on plant-based foods: Offer a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, which are rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients that support prostate health
  • Include omega-3 fatty acids: Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines provide anti-inflammatory benefits that can be helpful for prostate health
  • Reducing red meat consumption: Limit red meat options and focus on leaner protein sources, as high red meat intake has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer. Limit processed meat consumption
  • Include foods rich in antioxidants: Consume antioxidant-rich foods, such as tomatoes, which contain lycopene, a compound known to protect against prostate cancer

3.  Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that affects how your body processes blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is an essential source of energy for your body’s cells, and insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps regulate the amount of glucose in the bloodstream. Diabetes occurs when the body either does not produce enough insulin or is unable to effectively use the insulin it produces. This results in elevated blood sugar levels, which, if left untreated, can lead to various long-term health complications.

Types of Diabetes:

Type 1 Diabetes:

This form of diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. In type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. As a result, the body produces little or no insulin, and individuals with this condition must rely on external insulin administration for survival. Type 1 diabetes typically develops in childhood or adolescence, but it can occur at any age.

Type 2 Diabetes:

Type 2 diabetes, or non-insulin-dependent diabetes, is the most common form of the disease, accounting for about 90-95% of all cases. In this type, the body either does not produce enough insulin or becomes resistant to its effects. This resistance leads to a build-up of glucose in the bloodstream. Type 2 diabetes is often associated with lifestyle factors such as obesity, physical inactivity, and poor diet. It usually develops in adulthood but has become increasingly common in younger individuals.

Type 2 diabetes affects millions of men worldwide, and diet plays a significant role in its prevention and management. Diet plays an important role in the prevention of obesity which is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. While type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented, type 2 diabetes can often be prevented or managed through lifestyle modifications.

Key dietary and lifestyle interventions include: 

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats
  • Engaging in regular physical activity
  • Monitoring blood sugar levels regularly
  • Taking prescribed medications as needed
  • Managing stress and maintaining a support network
  • Balancing carbohydrates: Offer complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables, which provide steady energy and help regulate blood sugar levels. Limit refined carbohydrates and added sugars
  • Encouraging portion control: Providing appropriately sized portions can help men manage their weight and prevent insulin resistance
  • Increasing fibre intake: Fibre-rich foods can slow down sugar absorption, thus promoting better blood sugar control
  • Choosing lean protein sources and healthy fats: Choose lean meats, low-fat dairy products, and plant-based fats to support overall health

Maintain a healthy weight through proper portion control and regular physical activity. Understanding diabetes and its risk factors is crucial for men’s health and dietary intervention, as early as possible, can help to effectively manage or prevent this chronic condition and its associated complications.

4.  Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a progressive bone disease characterized by a decrease in bone density and an increased risk of fractures. Osteoporosis occurs when the body loses too much bone or makes too little bone, resulting in weakened and brittle bones. Though often considered a condition primarily affecting women, osteoporosis also poses significant risks to men’s health. It is essential to understand the risk factors, symptoms, and preventative measures associated with osteoporosis to maintain strong and healthy bones throughout life.

Several factors can contribute to the development of osteoporosis in men, including: 

  • Age: Bone density naturally declines with age, increasing the risk of osteoporosis in older men
  • Family history: A genetic predisposition to osteoporosis can increase the risk of developing the condition
  • Low testosterone levels: Testosterone plays a crucial role in bone density, and men with low testosterone levels may be at higher risk
  • Smoking: Smoking has been shown to have negative effects on bone health
  • Excessive alcohol consumption: Chronic heavy drinking can contribute to bone loss and increase the risk of fractures
  • Poor diet: A diet low in calcium and vitamin D can negatively impact bone health
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Physical inactivity contributes to bone loss and a higher risk of osteoporosis
  • Certain medications: Some medications, such as glucocorticoids or anti-androgen prostate cancer treatments, can increase the risk of osteoporosis
  • Underlying medical conditions: Conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, or hyperparathyroidism can affect bone density

Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake is crucial for maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis. Key dietary and lifestyle interventions for Osteoporosis include:

  • Incorporating weight-bearing and resistance (muscle-strengthening) exercises: Include these types of exercises in your routine to help maintain bone density and promote overall physical fitness. Activities like walking, jogging, resistance training and yoga can help maintain or improve bone density
  • Eat a balanced diet: Include adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for bone health. Good sources of calcium include dairy products, leafy green vegetables, and fortified foods which need to be incorporated into your diet. Vitamin D can be obtained through sun exposure, certain foods like fatty fish, fortified foods and supplements. Vitamin D is essential to support calcium absorption and bone health
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Obesity can negatively affect bone health, while being underweight can also increase the risk of fractures
  • Don’t smoke and limit alcohol consumption: Quit smoking and moderate alcohol intake to reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Get regular check-ups: Speak with a healthcare professional about bone density testing, especially if you have risk factors for osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a significant concern for men’s health that should not be overlooked. The key to promoting men’s health and preventing nutrition-related diseases lies in adopting a well-balanced, nutrient-dense diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. By making conscious choices about the foods we consume, we can significantly reduce the risk of these common diseases and improve overall health.

Men should be encouraged to prioritize their health and take advantage of the power of nutrition to help with preventing and managing these common health conditions. Remember, there is always time to change your diet and lifestyle positively. By addressing these critical aspects of men’s health, they can be empowered to live healthier, happier lives.

Yours in Wellness
Thandi and the Empact Team

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