7 ways men can boost their health

Want to be healthier? For Men's Health Week we're sharing seven easy ways men can look after their health and wellbeing. Find out how you can start making positive changes to your lifestyle.

Father and sons preparing healthy dinner

This week is a chance to look at Men's health in New Zealand.

Even though our men's lives are cut short by four years compared with women, men are much less likely to talk to their doctor or whānau about their health.

Heart disease is the single biggest killer in New Zealand, accounting for one third of all deaths each year, and more than 170,000 Kiwis live with heart disease every day.

More than 3,700 men in New Zealand die of heart disease each year, and Māori and Pacific men are even more impacted by heart disease, with the mortality rate among Māori more than two times that of non-Māori.

That’s why Men's Health Week is the perfect opportunity to take stock and think about the conversations we can have to support men to take charge of their health.

Make heart health a priority  

Many men only think about their health when there is a problem, and the reality is that in some cases it can be too late.

There are lots of important reasons for men to make their health a priority - such as being able to work to support the family, seeing their children and grandchildren grow older or being well enough to spend time with family and friends.

7 tips for men to look after their health

1. Prevention is the best medicine

Stay on top of your health by getting the necessary check-ups with your doctor. Whether it's for skin, heart, diabetes or prostate.

You should also get a regular heart health check if you are in one of these groups:

  • Māori, Pacific and South-Asian men over the age of 30
  • Men with known risk factors, such as a family history of heart problems, from age 35
  • European men over the age of 45
  • Men with severe mental illness from the age of 25.

Talk with family members to find out your family history of medical conditions and what to look out for.

Ask your mates how they are doing. Often these casual conversations about health and any experiences they have had can be the reason for a friend getting an overdue check-up.

Man getting health check

2. Get active

Being active and moving more are key to having a healthy heart. A great goal is aiming to be active in as many ways as possible throughout the day and reduce the amount of time you spend sitting down.

Remember that mowing the lawns, getting out and about with the kids, or catching up with friends to kick the ball around all count as exercise.

Doing just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day, can help to reduce your risk of heart disease.

There are plenty of benefits to exercise and simply moving more.

If you are starting out on an exercise regime, remember to:

  • start slowly, stretch and build your exercise routine up over weeks and months.
  • make it interesting and enjoyable, perhaps by working out with a friend or group.
  • set some achievable goals, try to stick to them and don’t give up if you have a setback.1

Family playing rugby

3. Cut back on the booze  

If you drink alcohol then you can reduce your long-term health risks by:

  • drinking no more than three standard drinks a day.
  • have at least two alcohol-free days every week.
  • Take advantage of the many lower alcohol or non-alcoholic drinks available.

Examples of one standard drink:

1 x 330ml beer (4%) = 1 standard drink (note that many craft beers have a higher alcohol content).

1 x 100ml wine = 1 standard drink (note: it’s rare to be served   just 100mls of wine. A 250ml glass of wine is therefore 2.5 standard drinks.)

Alcohol is also high in calories and if you are trying to lose weight, reducing your alcohol intake along with eating healthily and regular physical activity, could help you reach your goal.

4. Power up on plants

Eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant proteins. These foods are nature’s powerhouse and contain fibre, vitamins, protein and a range of phytonutrients (naturally occurring plant compounds that reduce the risk of disease and promote health).

Some simple steps to power up on plants include:

  • eat one extra snack through the day that is based on seasonal fruits or vegetables.
  • replace some or all the meat in bolognaise with extra vegetables and kidney beans.
  • try falafel and hummus in burgers or wraps instead of meat.
  • aim for at least half your plate at main meals to be non-starchy vegetables like carrots, broccoli or cauliflower.
  • choose vegetables from all the colours of the rainbow, as each colour provides a different range of nutrients.
  • use the Heart Foundation's recipes to help you power up on plants when cooking at home.

Healthy shopping basket

5. Get enough sleep 

Many New Zealanders don't get the recommended 7–9 hours of sleep each night. Sleep helps to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. Insufficient or poor-quality sleep can affect how you think, react, work and learn.  

Ongoing poor sleep can also increase your risk of some chronic health conditions. Learn more about how to get better sleep.

6. Quit smoking 

Smoking causes damage throughout the body and is the biggest risk for heart disease, heart attack or stroke. If you do smoke, there are a range of support services available to help you to quit smoking.

7. Mental health 

Whether it’s feelings of being stressed, anxious or feeling down men don’t tend to talk about their mental health and can be slow to get help.  

Stress or anxiety can be caused by a range of things from relationship difficulties,to major life changes,or problems at work. When we are stressed our body's release chemicals into our bloodstream which can be linked to a wide range of harmful health effects. 

How to deal with stress?  

  • Talk to someone, whether it be family, friends, or even a work colleague, it always helps having someone to listen, help identify the cause of the stress and provide support.  
  • Look after yourself - keep a healthy routine of sleep, healthy eating and activity so that you are in good shape for dealing with life's challenges. 
  • Find what relieves your stress - listen to music, going for a run or a walk, or read a book.  

More information and mental health tips.

Be proactive and take some realistic first steps 

The best thing that you can do is to get proactive about your health. Preventative steps can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and a range of other health conditions.  

Become aware of where your health is at and get up-to-date with the necessary health checks. A good first step may be simply to complete the Men’s Health Survey, and to encourage your mates to do the same.  

When it comes to introducing some lifestyle changes, many men will be doing well in some areas and perhaps less well in other areas. Start with small changes and keep them realistic, so you can sustain them over time. 

For more information on Men’s Health Week head on over to their website.

Lower your risk of heart disease
Dave Monro, NZRD

Dave Monro, NZRD

Food and Nutrition Manager

I completed chef training while studying nutrition/ dietetics and enjoy combining both of these elements to develop practical solutions for families to eat healthier.

References 

1. How to start exercising if you’re out of shape, Tim Green, Men’s Health Trust https://www.menshealthweek.co.nz/how-to-start-exercising-if-youre-out-of-shape/