Keep moving, and other advice to keep men healthy with age

1:29 PM, Sep 24, 2012   |    comments
Fred Green, left, works out on an elliptical trainer as William Johnson rides a bike Monday at Hadley Park Community Center in Nashville. / Sanford Myers / The Tennessean
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Bring 'em on. Hundreds of hours of football games and baseball pennant races beckon.

But before flopping down on that cherished spot on the sofa, along with the television remote, a salty snack and cold one, consider these tips about how to score some big points for your health and still enjoy the games.

"Men are the king of the remote control but they're going to have to get up and do something instead of watching sports all weekend or late into the night," says Martha Grogan, a cardiologist and editor of the Mayo Clinic book Healthy Heart for Life!

Even working out earlier in the day doesn't get you off the hook. Being still for long periods is harmful, she says, adding prolonged sitting can be as harmful as smoking for the heart. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the USA. Exercise can help prevent it, and can also help decrease your chances of getting cancer, diabetes, dementia and a spare tire.

"You don't have to get up and move around for long but you should move for 10 minutes every hour," she says. "You can even run in place in front of the TV or move around during the commercials. My brother always says he can do the Nordic Track quickly when watching a football game."

If you don't like aerobic exercise, it's OK, says James Levine, also of the Mayo Clinic. He is the author of Move a Little, Lose a Lot and pioneered the concept of NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). NEAT consists of all the movements you do during the day, from tying your shoes to walking to the coffee counter to pacing when you're on the phone. They help you burn fat and lose calories. The longer we sit, Levine says, the more likely it is we'll switch off enzymes that burn fat that can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

Most men's health issues are largely preventable, says the Mayo Clinic, when men make healthy choices and keep their weight under control. What else to avoid:

•Drinking in excess: According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, drinking in moderation is defined as having up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men. This definition refers to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days.

•Risky sex: Use condoms to avoid unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV/AIDS. The ranks of those engaging in risky sexual or drug-related behavior dropped from 13% of men and 11% of women in 2002 to 10% and 8%, respectively, in 2010, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

•Unhealthy foods: Don't think about what you can't have (unhealthy fats, sugars), says Grogan. Think about what you can fill up on: Fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, fish and lean proteins are recommended.

But aging can bring on special health concerns for men. Two key ones:

•Lower sex drive. Libido can decrease in the 60s and 70s because levels of testosterone, the male sex hormone might drop; but a common problem, erectile dysfunction, should not be ignored by anyone in their 40s or younger, says Grogan. It affects 1 in 5 men, and might be present three to five years before life threatening problems such as a heart attack or stroke occur. Loss of sex drive can also be a symptom of depression or a side-effect of a medication.

•Prostate problems. Medical organizations differ on their recommendations for prostate cancer screening, but many advise men in their 50s to discuss the issue with their doctors. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men.

Grogan says it's also important to get blood pressure and cholesterol screened every year or every two years. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can lead to heart disease and stroke.

And even if the game goes into extra innings, don't rob yourself of sleep. The Mayo Clinic recommends adults get eight hours a night.

"Getting inadequate sleep is linked to heart disease, gaining weight, and diabetes,'' she says. "We have a tendency to think that not sleeping is a badge of honor. You're shooting yourself in the foot if you're always just trying to get by."

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