Eat Well to Be Well: Help men show their hearts some love – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Eat Well to Be Well: Help men show their hearts some love

Here’s a fact that should get the attention of men and those who love them: About one in every four male deaths is due to heart disease. To make matters worse, half of men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.

Men need help – specifically when it comes to their heart health. Being neglectful of heart health is not in a man’s best interest. This vital organ needs tender loving care throughout a man’s life. However, for the past 90 years, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in men (and women).

Fortunately, thanks to the American Heart Association getting the message out on heart health, fewer Americans are dying of heart disease than ever. But there is still a long ways to go and every little bit of information, awareness and encouragement makes a huge difference in reducing a man’s risk of this killer disease.

Here are some  steps that can boost a man’s heart health helping him live a longer, healthier life:

Encourage him to get an annual checkup

When is the last time a man you love in your life got an annual physical? The American Academy of Family Physicians survey found that more than half of all men don’t get regular checkups. If they are not going to the doctor annually, they will not know what their risk factors are.

Every man should know what his blood pressure number, his heart rate, total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglyceride level. Men should know that once he hits the age of 45 (or younger age for black men), blood pressure begins to climb increasing his risk of a heart attack or stroke. An annual checkup gives a man the opportunity to talk with his doctor about any concerns he has such as erectile dysfunction that can actually be an indicator of heart disease.

Encourage him to eat a healthy diet

This can be a hard one for men to follow. They know in the back of their mind they should eat better but they often choose not to. Many men may skip meals, snack throughout the day, or eat a very large evening meal loaded with fat and calories. Eating in this pattern can, surprise, result in excessive weight gain.

Help him to plan regular, consistent meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – so that his body is being fed at regular intervals throughout the day which can keep his blood sugar levels in better control.

Making frequent heart healthy food choices each day will pay off in good heart health in the long run. Add heart friendly foods of avocados, nuts, beans, ground flaxseed, berries, oatmeal, dark chocolate with at least a 70 percent cacao content, leafy greens, and salmon.

Encourage him to exercise

Lack of physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease – about 50 percent of all men do not exercise regularly. Men often find reasons to not work out – they are too tired, too busy, too little stamina and they no longer are the athlete they once were back in high school.

All men (and women) need to achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week. This should include not only cardiovascular physical activity of brisk walking, jogging, or biking, but also weight training and flexibility movements.

Encourage him to reach a healthy body weight

The goal for men should be to reach and maintain a healthy weight. That means stabilizing body weight to have a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 25. Carrying excess pounds can lead to heart muscle injury including heart failure, even if a man does not have diabetes, hypertension, or elevated cholesterol. The more weight a man gains, the greater the risk for heart disease. Signs of conditions such as heart failure include fatigue, shortness of breath and an irregular heartbeat. The best strategy is for men to lose weight (if overweight). When comparing men in the top 20 percent in body weight to men in the bottom 20 percent, men in the bottom have half the cardiac risk as men who are heavier.

Encourage him to reduce stress

Men tend to handle stress much differently than women. Men tend to sulk or bottle up their emotions while women like to talk and get their feelings out. If a man continually ignores stress, letting it build up, this can lead to chronic stress, a risk factor for heart disease.

Make sure he is practicing stress-reducing techniques such as deep breathing, relaxation exercises, meditation, or enjoying a hobby he loves to do.

Encourage him to quit smoking if he does

One of the worst, if not the worst thing anyone can do is to choose to smoke cigarettes. Smoking is a major cause of heart disease, and even though tobacco use among men in the United States is declining, the number of men taking up the habit is still too high. Currently, nearly 19 out of 100 adult men (18.8 percent) smoke. Smoking damages the lining of the arteries, leading to a buildup of fatty material that narrows the arteries. This can lead to angina, a heart attack, or a stroke.

Quitting smoking is hard. The key to his success at kicking the habit will be a strong support system encouraging him all the way. He can start by talking to his doctor about smoking cessation aids, such as medication or nicotine substitutes in the form of patches or gum, or he can try going cold turkey.

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Kansas, and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and institutional management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for local clinics, an adjunct professor at an area community college where she teaches basic nutrition, and a freelance health and nutrition writer. She is the author of The Nourished Brain: The Latest Science On Food’s Power For Protecting The Brain From Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook. Visit her website at

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