Men’s Health Scorecard: Three Areas to Manage for Optimal Health

June is coming to an end, but before Father’s Day and Men’s Health Week have slipped to the back of your mind, I’d like to summarize by encouraging you to create a Men’s Health Scorecard either for yourself (for the guys out there reading this) or for the important men in your life (for the gals out there reading this). When it comes to men’s health there are three super important changes you can make to dramatically improve your health. While some of these changes won’t happen overnight, they can certainly add years to your life.

So write it down on paper and review and grade yourself or your loved one on these three categories at least once a quarter until you make some notable progress.

Get Active, Stay Active

It’s hard to overstate the benefits of even minimal amounts of exercise. A study done in Copenhagen just last month revealed that as little as an hour to two-and-a-half hours of jogging per week (that’s right, per week!) was linked to substantial improvements in life expectancy: men who jogged every week lived 6.2 years longer on average than those who did not.

Better still, you don’t have to get this exercise all in one shot to get the benefit. Even something as simple as stretching at work can get your muscles working and your blood flowing.

Eat Better

No surprises here. Eliminate trans fats and processed foods and cut WAY back on sugar consumption. Get your sugar from fruit and swap out baked goods and flour-based products in favor of whole grains. Substitute low-fat dairy for full fat and add in lots of veggies for vital nutrients including calcium and lycopene (from tomatoes), which has been shown to help prevent prostate cancer. Always ask yourself “does this food nourish me and my body or does it have an adverse impact?” This question will help you stay focused on eating the right foods.

Not ready for a radical change? Start small. Eliminate one ingredient or food type completely (i.e. processed sugar or trans fatty acids). Oftentimes, doing just that forces you to give up unhealthy foods that not coincidentally, also contain other harmful ingredients. Opt for veggies instead of fries when you eat out, or reach for a glass of water instead of a can of soda. Have a cup of herbal tea instead of a second or third cup of Joe. Small consistent changes eventually lead to big results!

Stop Smoking

According to the Center for Disease Control, smoking is responsible for one in every five deaths. It increases the risk of coronary heart disease by 4 times for men, and increases the likelihood of a man developing lung cancer by 23 times. And yet, a higher percentage of men still smoke compared to women.

If you need more motivation to quit smoking, consider the danger that your smoking poses to other people, especially young children. Second-hand smoke is one of the leading causes of new cases of asthma in children, especially those under six years old. For children that already have asthma, second-hand smoke can make the symptoms more severe, resulting in increased cost of medication and lost school time and lost work when the parent must get the child medical help.

If you’re struggling to kick the habit, there are a wealth of programs out there that can give you support you need to change your life. This site is a great online resource, and you can also try to find  help in person through groups like Nicotine Anonymous.

Hello Boys! How a Glass a Day Can Keep the Doctor Away

Whether out at the bar with buddies, tailgating before a big sporting event, or kicking back a few after a long hard day at work, alcohol seems to be prevalent in multiple contexts of men’s lives. But alcohol can do more than turn your next party into a smashing success. It can save your life if consumed in proper quantities.

A recent study that concluded earlier this year found that men who drank three ounces of alcohol per day were 17% less likely to have a stroke compared to those who abstained, while men who drank six ounces a day were 21% less likely to have a stroke. That’s not an endorsement for consuming larger quantities of booze because as we all know excess consumption can lead to other serious health problems.

But it is interesting to note the reason alcohol helps reduce the risk of stroke. According to Dr. Monik Jimenez, one of the study’s lead researchers, alcohol has special properties that “prevent blood clots and promote HDL (good) cholesterol.” Nevertheless, Dr. Jimenez stresses the importance of moderation when it comes to drinking.

The study found that there were no further benefits to health after the first drink, and that drinking in high volumes can increase your likelihood of having a stroke by leading to high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation –two more reasons not to overdo it.

The best alcohol to drink when it comes to stroke prevention is red wine. This alcohol is famous for its heart benefits, thanks in part to its antioxidant content in the form of resveratrol. Resveratrol has been shown to prevent damage to blood vessels, prevent blood clots, and reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Besides bringing wellness to your cardiovascular system, drinking red wine can be a benefit to your health in a number of other ways. Research has linked red wine consumption with a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease and death from cancer. Red wine has also been proven to reduce the impact of smoking on blood vessels and to reduce post-meal blood pressure in people with hypertension. So substitute a glass of red wine for your usual beverage of choice and start reaping some of those benefits today!

Cheating the Grim Reaper: Outsmart the #1 Leading Killer in Men

Being in the health and wellness business, it always amazes me that knowing what we now know about the role nutrition and diet play in our overall health how many people are still dying from totally preventable diseases like heart disease. Last year alone fatal conditions resulting from heart disease claimed more than 800,000 Americans. Yikes! The good news is that even with a lifetime of bad habits behind you, there are still changes you can make right now to reduce your risk of having a heart attack (this goes double for men!).

1. Exercise for minimum of 30 minutes, four times a week

Regular, daily exercise is the most powerful health and body shaping option that is available to most people. It offers great benefits to the entire body, but is especially potent because it reduces the risk of heart disease. Combining a workout with other lifestyle changes compounds the benefits and can make it easier to reach other health goals, like maintaining a healthy weight, safe blood pressure and cholesterol readings, and prevent diabetes. It can even help you to manage your stress which often contributes to disease-related symptoms!

No matter how busy you think you are, you can definitely find time to exercise. You don’t even have to workout for a continuous half-hour; instead, you could do fifteen minutes when you wake up and fifteen minutes in the evening, though be sure to give yourself some time between exercising and going to bed. And remember, you don’t have to push yourself to the limit to see results. Activities like walking the dog and going up and down stairs can contribute to your exercise goal, but you will see greater results by exercising a little more intensely and consistently.

2. Switch to a heart-healthy diet

Adopting a heart-healthy diet goes hand-in-hand with regular exercise and arguably can make up for a less than consistent fitness regimen. The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) encourages dieters to eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. The best foods to protect the heart from disease are low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Substituting quality proteins for processed foods and foods that are high on the glycemic index can stoke your metabolism to increase your body’s fat-burning capacity as well.

Increasing your intake of essential fatty acids (omega 3s found in flaxseed, olive oil, avocados, nuts and wild salmon or taken as fish oil supplements) can significantly reduce your cholesterol and improve your overall health. It’s also important to drink in moderation; one or two drinks a day can have a protective effect on the heart, but more than that and it becomes a hazard to your health.

3. Schedule regular health screenings

Cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol can cause long-term damage to the heart and blood vessels, but without testing for them, it’s hard to discover that you have these conditions in the first place. Besides getting a physical every year, it’s important to have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels tested regularly especially if you are at high risk for one of these conditions, and as you age.

Blood pressure should be checked every one to two years, though more frequent checks may be in order if your results are borderline or getting worse. Cholesterol screenings can be less frequent, though no less than once every five years. Like blood pressure tests, you may need to schedule them more frequently depending on the results.

Top 3 Critical Health Challenges Men Face Today

Men like to pretend that they’re invincible, but they’re not. Even though they are styled as the stronger of the two sexes, men are ironically, much more vulnerable than women when it comes to their health and taking care of their bodies. This is borne out by the statistics: men die at higher rates than women do for the top 10 causes of death, and on average, women outlive men by more than five years. Contrary to what one might believe, the difference between men’s and women’s health isn’t gender-based so much as lifestyle based and stems from poor health care monitoring early in life.

So besides visiting the doctor regularly (at least once a year), what can a man do to stave off the leading causes of death? Here’s a quick look at the top 3 critical health challenges men face today and what can be done to prevent them.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both American men and women. According to the Center for Disease Control, one-in-four men has some form of heart disease. Nearly twice as many males die from cardiovascular conditions as females, and the complications from heart disease (such as a heart attack) typically occur ten years earlier in men than in women. Early detection and appropriate lifestyle changes are key to addressing this problem.

Stroke

A stroke is similar to a heart attack, but is caused by a blood clot in the most vital human organ: the brain. Though the American Stroke Association states that there is effectively no difference in susceptibility between the sexes, as people get older, men experience 25% more strokes than women do. Strokes may not kill as many people as cardiac disease does, but it is the leading cause of long-term disability for American men. Since high blood pressure is the most common cause of cerebral hemorrhage, a diet and fitness program designed to keep blood pressure low and coupled with stress and anger management techniques can help protect against strokes (and heart attacks!).

Suicide and Depression

Though many men are aware of their limitations, the ideal model of masculinity that society creates encourages men to ignore and hide their pain. For men, this leads to severely under-diagnosed depression, which is partly to blame for the vast difference in suicide rates between men and women: men are four times more likely to commit suicide than women. Men are more prone to suicide because they rarely openly show the signs of depression, so they fail to get the help they need before it’s too late.

Depression is often associated with sadness, but depression in men can play out in a number of different ways, including anger and aggression, increased risk-taking behavior or a midlife crisis. Of course alcohol and drug abuse can also be driven by depression. Meditation seems to be gaining credence as a valuable tool for controlling or preventing depression, and in older men, staying physically and socially active play an important role.

Happy Father’s Day! Celebrate Men’s Health Week with Your Dad

Happy Father’s Day! Hope you are out celebrating and enjoying the company of your father. As you probably know from my last blog post today is also the last day of National Men’s Health Week. I know I talked a lot about some ways you can support the men in your life during this time so I thought it would be interesting to share some factoids with you about how Men’s Health Week began in the first place.

This weeklong event was created to address the growing gap in health and life expectancy between men and women. It began as a bill in the U.S. House and Senate in May of 1994 and was created to address or head off growing health problems for men, as evidenced by statistics gathered at that time. So back in 1993 when it all began:

  • Men lived an average of 7 years less than women
  • The likelihood that a man might develop prostate cancer was 1 in 11
  • The number of men who developed prostate cancer was over 120,000
  • The number of men who developed lung disease was over 100,000, with an expected 85 percent of cases being terminal
  • The number of colon cancer cases among men was over 80,000, with nearly one-third of the cases expected to be terminal

Nowadays the statistics are still fairly alarming

  • Men still die at higher rates than women for the top ten leading causes of death
  • African-American men in the United States have the highest incidence in the world of prostate cancer
  • Testicular cancer is one of the most common cancers in men aged 15-34, and when detected early has an 87 percent survival rate

I guess the point is with the appropriate use of tests like Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) exams, blood pressure and cholesterol screenings along with clinical examination and self-testing for problems like testicular cancer many of these potentially life threatening problems can be detected in their early stages and increase survival rates to nearly 100 percent!

If men’s awareness of these problems was more pervasive, their survival rates would also be a lot higher! So while you’re celebrating Father’s Day be sure to encourage your dad to get regular screenings and exams. It could save his life!

Helping Men Achieve Total Body Health: National Men’s Health Week

June marks the official start of summer. It’s also the month that we celebrate National Men’s Health Week, which takes place every year during the week leading up to and including Father’s Day. During this time (i.e. THIS week), our focus is (or should be) on the men in our lives and how we can support them in achieving optimal health and longevity.

The whole point of Men’s Health Week is to increase the life expectancy and quality of life for men and boys by promoting awareness of preventable health problems and encouraging early detection and treatment of disease. If you’re a man then the easiest way to participate is to head to your doctor’s office for a health screening and physical, then be sure to set up an annual screening for next year. If you’re a woman then you can participate by reminding and encouraging your dad, husband or brother to do this. On average, men visit the doctor only once every two years, which makes it difficult to detect health problems while they are still easy to treat, so this occasion offers the perfect opportunity to get the men in your life into an annual screening routine.

For those of you who are looking to be more active in your participation, the good people over at Howcast.com have put together a video to show you other ways you can take part in Men’s Health Week. While some of their suggestions are personal things that can (and should) be done all year long, like exercising and eating well, many of the activities they cover involve connecting with other people, like planning a health fair or organizing a “Wear Blue Day: in support of men’s health. One of the most important parts of Men’s Health Week is sharing information with others about the health risks that men face.

I like their last recommendation best: be sure to talk to the men and boys in your life about the most common health problems for men. Men tend to keep their health a private matter, which is why they don’t visit the doctor as often as they should, but by taking the initiative to talk with them about their health, you can get them to share things they normally wouldn’t and use that information to encourage timely action.

Watch for suggestions on how to participate in Men's Health Week

So what actions are you taking or encouraging in support of men’s health this week? Please share with us below.

Blue with Flu? 5 Tips for Post-Holiday Natural Health & Wellness

We all tend to become more gluttonous during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving! This can mean more refined sugars and carbs, extra alcoholic drinks, extra hours up after bedtime, extra stress from cooking and entertaining … you know the drill. All of this, coupled with the natural tendency for our bodies to go into hibernation mode as the days get shorter and darker, can cause us to become dangerously depleted and often result in the unwelcome but all too common post-Thanksgiving cold or flu. This can seem especially daunting as we gear up for the next round of holiday fun! Here are some useful tips for staying well and taking care of yourself after all the indulging:

  1. Get lots of rest! The best remedy for the common cold or flu is to get as much rest as possible. Be sure to have plenty of Chamomile tea and use a drop of Lavender essential oil on your pillow to help you get a good night’s rest. Or try our Sleep Ease natural remedy diffuser blend. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, or make up for lost sleep by taking frequent naps and sleeping in whenever possible, especially if you are feeling under the weather.

  2. Avoid refined carbs and sugars (I know, it’s hard). This is a tough one for most people with all the delectable desserts that surround you everywhere you go. But refined carbs tend to spike, then deplete, your serotonin levels leaving you worn-out and more sensitive to colds and flu bugs, and can keep you from healing if you are already sick. You can indulge a little, but try to avoid overly sugary items and stick to healthier treats like dark chocolate or seasonal fruits. As a general rule avoid carbs and refined sugars altogether when experiencing flu-like symptoms.

  3. Boost your immune system with Vitamin D and C supplements, essential fatty acids and antioxidant-rich foods. Taking Vitamin D supplements is especially important during the winter months due to insufficient exposure to sunlight. In addition, naturally vitamin-rich green leafy foods, berries, and orange juice pack a punch to protect you from colds and flu. Essential Fatty Acids like Flaxseed or Hemp Seed can alleviate dry skin, hair, and nails; balance and regulate hormones and cholesterol; and help ease depression too.

  4. Surround yourself with uplifting and nurturing smells. Citrus essential oils like grapefruit, orange, tangerine, and lime are especially effective for improving low moods and alleviating depression. Check out our citrus essential oils collection! Simply put a few drops of any oil or blend of oils in a diffuser or potpourri burner, or in a cup of Epsom salts and add to a nice hot bath. Or try one of our Aromatic Bath Salts. Make a lovely spritzer to use as a room and body spray by adding 15 drops of any essential oil or combination of oils to one ounce of purified water, or try one of our Aromatic Mister sprays.

  5. Don’t be bamboozled by Over-The-Counter meds! Don’t be fooled into thinking that the only effective way of dealing with a common ailment is to take harsh meds. Next time you’re tempted to reach for the Nyquil, try an herbal, homeopathic, or essential oil-based natural remedy instead! These can be remarkably effective at addressing a wide range of symptoms associated with colds and flu. For a sore throat try Slippery Elm lozenges or a drop of Organic Tea Tree essential oil in a spoonful of honey added to a cup of Sage or Elderberry tea. For fast relief of congestion whether due to colds and flu or seasonal allergies, reach for an essential oil remedy like our Breathe Ease Diffuser Blend to quickly open nasal passages and improve breathing.

These tips can help you feel great and stay active throughout the holidays. Take advantage of the myriad natural remedies available to help you stay healthy this holiday season!

p.s. Our Cyber Week special starts tomorrow. Get free shipping (no minimum order) at Dropwise.com! Visit our web site and shop the Holiday Gift Buying Guide for great gift ideas for everyone on your list!

The Best Essential Oils for Relieving Stress and Insomnia

Essential oils can play a valuable role in managing or relieving your stress and can help you induce a state of calm for a restful sleep. The trick is to find the right combination of oils that resonate with you, and then the best way or ways to use them for maximum benefit.

Let’s start by look at which essential oils have calming, soothing, and sedative properties that can be used alone or combined for even greater impact. Of course the first ones that immediately come to mind are Lavender, Chamomile, Geranium, Clary Sage, Cedarwood and Sandalwood.

Next up are citrus essential oils like Sweet Orange, Lemon, Bergamot, Petitgrain, Grapefruit, Tangerine, Mandarin, and Lime. While these oils are generally stimulating and uplifting, when used in small quantities and properly combined with other essential oils, they can do wonders for your state of mind, and state of mind is really what it’s all about when it comes to relaxing and falling asleep!

Other essential oils that are also useful in this area are Marjoram (Sweet or Spanish), which is a muscle relaxant, Fir Balsam, Spruce, Peru Balsam, and Melissa, all of which calm and balance the nervous system and assist with opening your breathing passages – enabling deeper breathing. And last but not least, Frankincense & Myrrh, which are often used to assist with meditation.

That’s a lot of essential oils I just listed! The key is to find three to five oils that work together and create a blend. If you’re not that into experimenting or don’t have access to a wide selection of essential oils, then start with individual notes and see how each makes you feel. Keep a notebook handy and record which ones and how much they helped. Then after you’ve identified a handful of oils that seem to work on their own, you can try combining them. Of course you can always try our Sleep Ease Diffuser Blend, which combines Tangerine, Lavender, Pine, Marjoram, Fir Balsam and Petitgrain, as a starting point.

Magnesium & Vitamin B: Supplements for Easing Stress-Related Insomnia

Experts say magnesium helps ward off sleeping problems at the cellular level by regulating and balancing the flow of calcium in and out of cells. A diet deficient in magnesium can cause a lot of symptoms like stress, low energy, fatigue, anxiety, headaches, muscle tension, cramps, irritability, and the inability to sleep. This is partly due to the fact that Magnesium controls the channels that allow calcium to flow in and out of a cell (which, in turn, controls the cell’s movement from active to resting state). Without sufficient nutritional magnesium, the cells cannot fully close the channels and calcium leaks into the cells. This is much like leaving a light switch half on. The current is still flowing, but the light is never fully off. In the body, with the cells never fully able to rest, this results in stress.

Most of us (75%) don’t consume enough daily amounts of this vital mineral. But You can address this problem by eating foods naturally high in magnesium like raw almonds and cashews, dates, brown rice, sardines, steamed shrimp, cheddar cheese, and roasted turkey. For a variety of reasons, including foods grown in mineral depleted soils, farming methods that don’t create nutrient-dense produce, and our consumption of processed foods, we simply don’t get enough magnesium in our diets, so taking it in supplement form can really help.

Increasing your consumption of B-complex vitamins and various antioxidants can also ward off stress and sleepless nights. Another supplement you can try is Lactium – a milk-derived protein that’s been clinically shown to promote restful sleep in individuals with moderate anxiety or depression, or who show high reactions to stress-related events.

More Natural Solutions for Insomnia: Reduce Physical Stress with Massage

If your stress is physical (i.e. chronic pain due to injury or illness), some of the methods listed above like Hatha or Iyengar yoga and deep breathing can help. But if you have an acute case or suffer from chronic pain you might consider getting a regular massage and consulting a naturopathic doctor for alternative solutions for pain management.

Extensive research on the use of massage therapy in the treatment of specific medical conditions by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) among others, has demonstrated a wide variety of benefits including: reduced swelling and pain, improved immune system function, better sleep patterns, lower levels of stress hormones, improved mobility and range of motion after injury, lower levels of depression, faster recovery from surgery, and in some cases lower blood pressure and blood glucose levels.

Muscle tension, stiffness, and soreness are often the result of overuse, strain or injury, compounded by inadequate blood flow (which is required to provide oxygen and nutrients to the tissue), and the build up of cellular and metabolic wastes like lactic acid due to the insufficient flow or movement of lymph fluid (the body’s primary mechanism for waste transport and elimination). Chronic muscle tension can reduce the circulation of blood and movement of lymph in the areas of the body where it is prevalent.

The physical contraction of muscles accomplished via various massage techniques stretches the muscles and connective tissue surrounding them, stimulates nerve receptors which in turn dilate blood vessels enabling increased blood supply, and creates a pumping effect that gets lymph moving. So the first job of a massage is to release the tension and the build up of toxins in the muscle, the second is to stimulate the movement of lymph to “cleanse” the muscles by carrying the toxins away, and the third is to stimulate blood circulation to nourish and regenerate tissue. The other benefits naturally follow from the increased movement of fluid and muscles that were previously stuck.

There’s nothing quite like the euphoric sense of peace and relaxation one experiences after a really good massage. Heck, even an average massage can make you feel like a new person if you were feeling like hell before you indulged. The release you experience from it can definitely help you get some deep restful sleep if it has been evading you!