Father’s Day is almost here; a day when dads lovingly accept another polka-dot tie or a “World’s Best Dad” mug from the loved ones in their life. June is also Men’s Health Month, and heart disease is still the number one leading cause of death for men in the United States.
So in honor of all men and the dads, here are ten foolproof ways to keep men’s hearts beating strong for years to come:
1. Eat a low carbohydrate diet.
For your main sources of sugars and carbs, choose low-glycemic index fruits and vegetables, like broccoli and cherries, and whole grains (if your diet includes grains). We recommend consuming less than 40 grams of sugar per day. But watch out—those grams add up quickly!
2. Include fiber at every meal.
Strive to eat more than 20 grams of fiber per day. This not only lowers cholesterol and improves bowel function, but helps to prevent overeating as well.
3. Choose fresh, lean, and organic protein sources.
This includes organic poultry, grass-fed beef or wild game. Wild-caught, sustainably harvested fish are the best source of seafood. Avoid predator fish that accumulate heavy metals, such as shark or swordfish. Vegetable proteins such as organic tempeh, beans, kale, spinach, quinoa and oats (gluten free) are also good choices of protein.
4. Maintain a healthy weight.
Know your Body Mass Index (BMI). The ideal BMI for men of average build is about 18-25, but may appear higher for very muscular physiques. Alternatively, you can purchase a body fat measuring device online to track your weight loss, aiming for between 10-20 percent body fat. For a more sensitive (though more expensive) reading, try a water immersion test or the BODPOD®.
5. Exercise often and vary the form.
There’s no need to exercise like you’re training for a marathon! To improve heart health, just include simple practices such as stretching for 10 minutes before bed, going for a brisk 20 minute walk 3-4 times per week, and doing light resistance training 2 days per week. What’s important is to include all three forms of exercise weekly: strength, endurance, and flexibility.
6. Know your risk factors and minimize them.
Learning your genetic, family and congenital history is important for predicting and preventing health issues, but aim to address and minimize the risk factors you can control. These include: smoking, excessive drinking, recreational drug use, response to stressors, inadequate sleep, uncontrolled high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes and high cholesterol.
7. Learn techniques to manage your stress response.
Stress seems built in to our culture and society. We probably cannot change it, but we can work on our response to our unique stressors. Incorporating a mindfulness technique such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, qigong, or medical hypnosis can work wonders in managing stress and improving your heart health.
8. Schedule wellness visits with your doctor.
Prevention is the key to your health and a good doctor will help you get there! Find a doctor you like and trust and schedule regular preventative visits, not just sick visits. Get annual lab work, colonoscopy, eye exam, hearing test and other indicated screening tools before disease surfaces.
9. Include intimacy.
Studies show that men (and women) who are regularly intimate with their life partners are more satisfied in their relationships and are generally happier. It’s also a form of exercise that’s good for your heart!
10. Eat rainbow food.
No, we don’t mean Skittles. Consume fruits and vegetables of every color of the rainbow each day. Phytochemicals, the pigments in plants, are potent antioxidants that are not only colorful, but help reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
Remember dads, you don’t have to incorporate these tips all at once. Start gradually if necessary, but always remember to keep your health a top priority for yourself and your loved ones! And for the wives and moms out there, share these tips with the men in your life. Let’s keep our dads healthy for the long haul!
-Dr. Zach MD