A Man's World: Supplements Support at Every Age
American men have plenty to be proud of. Between educational and career achievements, enlightened attitudes at home (cooking, cleaning, and coparenting—all in a day’s work), and one hell of a spiral on the touch football field, you could say guys have it all. Or could you?
The National Center for Health Statistics recently ranked life expectancies in a number of developed countries and territories worldwide. There’s no easy way to break it: Men from the U.S. didn’t crack the top 10. They didn’t even make the top 20. With an average life span in 2004 of 75.2 years, American males ranked 23rd on the list. Twenty-third! We were the first nation to send a man to the moon. We’ve mapped the human genome. Surely we can do better when it comes to health.
The good news is it’s easy for men to boost wellness and longevity 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. Start with a high-quality multivitamin/mineral formulated for men. Then check your age range below for targeted supplements to support your goals. It’s never too early—or too late—to make your health a number-one priority.
20-35: A Well-Spent Youth
Be honest: Do you eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day? Are these foods organic? Even diet-conscious guys don’t always meet the goals for optimal nutrition—let alone the 30-plus grams of fiber that experts recommend for digestion, heart health, and more. Consider supplements that offer phytonutrients from whole fruit and vegetables to balance out a less-than-perfect diet. Psyllium, flaxseeds, or Salba (a proprietary, heirloom seed from Peru) are useful sources of extra fiber.
No matter your age, it’s a good time to kick harmful habits. All the better if you quit drinking excessively or smoking early in adulthood. (For example, your stroke risk drops to that of a nonsmoker as soon as five years after quitting. Fifteen years later, coronary heart disease risk is the same as a nonsmoker’s.)
Make exercise part of your routine at least three times a week. Help your body benefit from a fitness plan by supplementing with protein before and after each session. To fight postworkout inflammation, consider omega-3-rich fish oils. 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 like C and E. An anti-inflammatory regimen is among the best choices you can make now for long-term heart health. A factor in both joint pain and gum disease, inflammation can also lead to cardiovascular problems. (This helps explain why half the heart attacks and strokes in the U.S. occur in those with normal cholesterol levels.) Ask your healthcare provider about a C-reactive protein (CRP) test to measure inflammation levels.
36-50: Hitting Your Stride
If you’re concerned about weighing more as the years go by—especially with gains in the midsection—you’re not alone. Overweight is pandemic around the globe, and its serious health consequences can include Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Belly fat, however, has the most dire effect on health. Even for lean individuals, a growing waist measurement signals chronic disease risk, and for each additional 5.5 inches he packs around the middle, a man’s chance of experiencing heart disease rises by 35 percent.
In addition to a healthful diet and exercise regimen, certain supplements can help you safely trim the fat. Start with vitamins and minerals that support healthy metabolism: vitamin-B complex, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and chromium. Green tea extract, particularly its active constituent epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), shows positive research results in supporting weight loss. An antioxidant involved in energy production at the cellular level, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) tends to be low in overweight people. CoQ10 is also essential for anyone taking statin drugs, so consider whether supplementation is right for you.
While you may be hitting your stride in midlife, you’re also likely to be overworked and under-rested. When stress and fatigue hit, a few supplements may help you regain balance. Nutrition expert Patrick Holford suggests the following to combat the negative effects of stress: B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12, folic acid, and choline) along with CoQ10, vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and chromium.
Reduce or eliminate caffeine, sugar, and other short-term energy crutches, and replace them with natural options like the amino acid tyrosine. Middle-aged adults may find that 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.
51 Plus: Growing Wiser
Some form of erectile dysfunction affects an estimated one-third of sexually active men over their lifetimes. After ruling out underlying causes such as high cholesterol, diabetes, or certain pharmaceuticals with your doctor, consider natural alternatives to prescription drugs. Ginkgo, L-arginine, choline, B vitamins, and zinc support erectile health, particularly after two to six months of use. Antioxidant vitamins C and E, the trace mineral selenium, and essential fatty acids also support optimal sex drive and functioning.
Talk to a trained herbalist about botanical boosters for the thyroid and adrenal glands. Both of these glands provide a foundation for sexual and overall well-being. (Helpful herbs may include bayberry, passionflower, and skullcap.)
Choices that enhance cardiovascular health touch every aspect of life—from sex and everyday activities to longevity. Maintain your anti-inflammatory supplement routine and healthy-weight habits. Fill nutritional gaps with a multivitamin/mineral, and add vitamins C, E, B complex, magnesium, and essential fatty acids.
Anyone with hypertension (high blood pressure) is wise to cut salt intake and seek stress-reducing techniques such as meditation or biofeedback. Supplemental garlic, quercetin (a flavonoid found in fruits and vegetables), and hawthorn have been found to help lower blood pressure in recent studies—the latter may also help lower cholesterol.
Stay sharp as you live longer. Gotu kola, a popular Indian herb, works to stimulate the brain, strengthening memory and mental ability—as do strong social ties. Large-scale, long-term studies confirm that loners are more likely to fall ill and die early, so cultivate friendships. Health, longevity, and a prescription for fun with the guys? Maybe it is a man’s world after all.