In 1920, women lived a year longer than men, on average. Today that difference is more than five years in favor of females. Why? Males are less likely to follow preventive health measures and are more likely to engage in risky behavior than females. More than 60 percent of adult men in the United States are also overweight. “If you’re a man, you can’t be healthy and overweight at the same time,” says Frank Shallenberger, MD, HMD. This may help explain why men die younger of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other causes than women.
The good news is it’s easy to improve men’s health with simple lifestyle changes. “Most active, productive men need a good supplement program to protect them from illness and deficiency symptoms and increase their longevity by reducing chronic degenerative disease patterns,” says integrative physician Elson M. Haas, MD. In general, guys need more magnesium and B vitamins than women—but less iron. More common than iron deficiency (especially among males), iron excess can lead to chronic fatigue, depression, heart irregularity, joint pain, and other health problems. Here are some specific suggestions for men at different ages and stages.
At 34, Adam has it all: a wife, baby, mortgage, and an exciting job—everything except the energy to enjoy life. A former cyclist, he gets winded on the exercise bike at the company gym the few times he actually gets there. “No wonder I’m starting to get a gut,” he says, “and I weigh more than I ever did.”
Stamina peaks for most males in their early 30s, as does the body’s ability to extract oxygen from the bloodstream. But this is also the age when blood pressure and cholesterol start to rise, so a thorough checkup is an important first step. Don’t feel as though you have to clean your plate. Invest in a jogging stroller for your baby, and exercise at least three times a week.
An antioxidant involved in energy production at the cellular level, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) tends to be low in overweight people, so try supplementation. Fairly sedentary people find D-ribose (a five-carbon sugar that’s a structural component of DNA and RNA) gives them an energy boost and helps stave off sore, stiff muscles.
At 46, Jonathan feels as though he’s at the top of his game—except on the racquetball court. His shoulder and elbow slow him down, if the pain doesn’t prevent him from playing. He’s also showing signs of periodontal disease, and his dental hygienist has suggested coming in for more frequent cleanings.
A factor in both joint pain and gum disease, inflammation can also lead to cardiovascular problems, explaining why half the heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. occur in people with normal cholesterol levels. If you haven’t had a C-reactive protein (CRP) test, do so right away to measure inflammation.
Follow the Mediterranean diet high in fruits and vegetables, omega-3-rich fish, and a little olive oil, enjoying four or five small meals instead of three big ones. Garlic and ginger are anti-inflammatory herbs that taste great and can be taken as supplements. Make sure you’re getting plenty of antioxidant vitamins C and E in your daily diet and multivitamin/mineral, and consider a fish oil supplement with at least 500 mg EPA and DHA.
Walk briskly for 30 to 60 minutes five times a week. If joint pain continues, try avocado/soybean unsaponifiables, bromelain between meals, glucosamine/chondroitin (for at least three months), MSM, and/or turmeric.
The 50s & Beyond
At 58, Steve has several complaints, “some are pretty minor like dry mouth, and others are more worrisome like having to urinate much more often—especially in the middle of night.” He’s noticing some hearing loss, but what worries him the most is forgetfulness. “My mother has dementia. Half the time I visit her, she doesn’t remember me or even where she is. Nobody looks forward to that kind of old age.”
From 57 to 86, the body literally begins to dry up: Drink more water, even if it means more trips to the bathroom. “One of the problems with aging is that thirst decreases with age, so people tend to drink less,” says Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko, PhD, head of kinesiology at the University of Illinois.
About half of all American men over 50 have an enlarged prostate, which presses on the urethra and causes frequent urination. Also called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), this condition needs be monitored annually by a healthcare provider. Although BPH doesn’t necessarily lead to cancer, it can make a tumor tougher to spot. If you’re overweight, losing pounds may help lessen symptoms. Saw palmetto is as effective as mainstream medicine for this condition, and pygeum is also promising.
Ginkgo helps fight senility and hearing problems. A popular Indian herb, gotu kola works to stimulate the brain, strengthening memory and mental ability. It’s also important to take “an easy-to-digest, well-balanced vitamin and mineral formula for nutritional insurance,” says Dr. Haas.