All Posts Tagged: Men’s Health Month

Diabetes in Men

There’s no better time than Men’s Health Month to discuss an issue that is unfortunately on the rise for men – diabetes. In fact, one of the biggest jumps in type 2 diabetes was among men, and the risk for diabetes usually increases with age. But a lack of understanding and education about the disease is a significant barrier when it comes to good health.

What is diabetes?

When you have diabetes, your body can’t properly control blood glucose. Food is normally broken down into glucose, a form of sugar, which is then released into the blood. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, stimulates cells to use glucose for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when tissues in the body become resistant to the effects of insulin. Eventually, blood sugar levels begin to climb.

The Dangers of Diabetes

High glucose levels in the blood cause nerve damage, as well as damage to blood vessels. In turn, this damage can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke, gum infections, blindness, as well as issues like erectile dysfunction and sleep apnea. Moreover, the death rate from heart disease is much higher for men who have diabetes, while amputation rates due to diabetes-related issues are higher for men than women.

Who is at risk?

As mentioned, the risk factor for type 2 diabetes usually increases with age, and it’s advised that testing for this disease should begin at age 45 – even in the absence of risk factors. Those risk factors include:

  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle with little activity. Studies show that overweight people improve their blood sugar control when they become active.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Having a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates and sugar and low in fiber and whole grains.
  • Having a history of type 2 diabetes in your immediate family, such as a mother, father, sister or brother.
  • Those with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes also includes African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Native Alaskans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Aging – because the body becomes less tolerant of sugars as you get older.
  • People who have metabolic syndrome, which is a group of problems related to cholesterol.

What’s scary is that an estimated 7 million people in the United States don’t know that they have diabetes. Meanwhile, millions of people have elevated blood sugars that aren’t yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, but are considered to have prediabetes and are at greater risk for diabetes in the future. However, doctors can easily check for diabetes through blood tests that measure blood sugar levels.

Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Any of the following are symptoms of diabetes, and you should get tested for the disease if you’re experiencing them:
  • An increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination, particularly at night
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Unexplained weight loss

Preventing Diabetes

Diabetes clearly is a disease with serious health implications, but the good news is that the vast majority of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or significantly delayed through a combination of exercise and healthy eating. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, losing a modest amount of weight (10 to 15 pounds) can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes. Cells in the muscles, liver, and fat tissue become resistant to insulin when you’re carrying excess weight. It’s recommended that you build up to 30 minutes of activity a day, five days a week.

Experts also say that a healthy diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – with small amounts of sugar and carbohydrates – can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Treating Diabetes

In many cases, lifestyle changes like the ones listed above can keep diabetes under control. Many people, however, need to take oral medications that lower blood sugar levels. When those aren’t effective, insulin injections (or insulin that’s inhaled) may be necessary, sometimes in conjunction with oral medication. Diabetes treatment has improved over the years, but controlling it still remains a challenge.

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How Men Handle Stress

Everyone deals with some stress, and we can sometimes shrug it off as just being part of day-to-day living. But dealing with too much stress has become a serious issue for a lot of men, who can experience several serious health issues as a result. Here’s a look at the dangers of stress, but also healthy ways to deal with it.

Stress and its Dangers

Stress is hardly a modern phenomenon; our ancient ancestors found it helpful for prompting fight-or-flight responses that came in handy when dealing with the physical dangers of their day. While that sort of response isn’t usually necessary in today’s world, it’s still an instinctual part of us, releasing hormones that trigger an increased heart rate and breathing, constricted blood vessels, and the tightening of muscles. And that’s what stress is all about, which in turn is linked to:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Migraines
  • A weakened immune system
  • And a variety of other issues, such as insomnia, depression, and fatigue. 

How to Deal With Stress

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to deal with the natural responses of stress. Your mental outlook is part of it, but so are things you can do physically that will help relieve stress and prevent it from becoming a hazard to your health.

1. Exercise

There’s not much that exercise won’t cure, and that certainly applies to stress. Exercise releases endorphins into the body that can give you a sense of ease and contentment, plus it removes you from the place/situation of stress and worry. Moreover, studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to develop an anxiety disorder within the next five years. And that’s not to mention the positive effects exercise has on your physical health.

2. Accept What You Can’t Change

Some things, like bad weather, can cause stress, but they’re things that you have no control over. Accept the things you can’t change but look for ways to make the best of your circumstances. Spend a rainy day reading, or go outside and play in the snow like you did as a kid.

3. First Things First

Determine your most important tasks of the day and tackle those first. Those are usually the things that cause the most stress, and saving them for later, when you may not be as physically or mentally sharp as you were earlier in the day, can create undue stress. 

4. Laugh

When you continually treat stress with the over-serious attitude, chances are you’re only going to make it worse. It’s OK to laugh it off instead of getting defensive. You’ll ease anxiety and potentially defuse the situation.

5. Avoid Stressful Situations

Recent studies show that men’s stress levels rise significantly in situations such as traffic jams. If possible, figure out different routes, or time your driving to avoid rush hour. Similarly, shop at times when stores are less crowded and spend less time with people who aggravate you.

6. Schedule Wisely

Stress is usually a consequence when you over-schedule yourself or have a hard time saying no. Only take on what you can handle, and always give yourself time to finish the things you’ve promised to get done.

7. Deal With Stress Directly

A sure way to build stress is to do nothing about it. Deal directly, and quickly, with the cause of your tension. If you’re having problems at work, talk to your boss about possible solutions. If you have a noisy neighbor, talk to them rather than simmering in your stress.

8. Meditate

Meditation is beneficial in so many ways, not the least of which is the positive affect it has on dealing with stress. Try to spend 15 to 20 minutes a day in contemplation to help clear your mind. Yoga, tai chi, and contemplative prayer are other great ways to cut the tension.

9. Savor Victories

Do something nice for yourself if you finish a major project or meet a personal goal. No matter what you choose, it’s important to celebrate before moving on to the next big task.

10. Be Positive

Having a negative outlook can turn minor annoyances into major ones. Try to always look at the sunny side of things instead.

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