National Men's Health Week - Get your health MOT!

It’s National Men’s Health Week this week so it’s time for you all you gentlemen out there to take stock and think about your health. Men have traditionally been left out of the spotlight when it comes to taking care of their health, but that has all changed in recent years. Men are now being reminded and encouraged to have regular check-ups and to ditch the “ignore it and it will go away” attitude.

If you think about it, you wouldn’t let your car go longer than a year without a service, so why not use that as a reminder to give yourself a bit of MOT.

Most health problems are very easily treated but the longer they’re left, the bigger the problem and the more complications can arise. So don’t try to be macho - save yourself the sleepless nights if you think something’s wrong with a quick visit to the doctor.

Even if you seem to be physically fine, you can help to prevent potential problems by making some lifestyle changes. Giving up smoking is an obvious one that springs to mind. It’s never too late to quit and improve your health. Yes, even if you’ve smoked forever, there are benefits to be had from stopping now.

Regular exercise is very important for preventing that middle-age spread and getting rid of the beer belly. It will also help to reduce your stress levels and boost your energy. So get up off the sofa and get out and about. There’s no excuse in the summer months for not getting fit, even if you just start by kicking a football around during half-time of the World Cup matches - it all helps. In fact kicking a football around for an hour will burn 420 calories, which is the same as burning off a whole Mc Donald’s cheeseburger!

Next on the list is to sit down sometime (soon) and take a good look at your diet. Maybe even write down everything you eat for a few days and then identify where you can make improvements. You might need to start cutting down on high fat foods (burgers, chips, pies, sausage rolls) and introduce more fruit, veg and wholegrain and nutrient-dense carbs. Forget the breakfast roll in the mornings and start the day off with a bowl of wholegrain cereal like Shredded Wheat - or go to work on an egg. It will fill you up for longer and you won’t get those hunger pangs at 11am so you’ll be less tempted to grab a Danish or bacon sandwich. Try to snack on fruit instead of high-fat convenience products like chocolate or crisps.

There are other foods that you can introduce into your diet that might even help you to reduce your risk of developing health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer later in life.

Recent research has shown that, although relatively high in fat, eating peanuts regularly (30 grams per day) as part of a healthy diet can help men to lose weight and keep the weight off for a longer period of time than those following a traditional low fat but peanut-free diet. Peanuts have a low glycemic index (Gi) which means that they take longer to digest, helping you to maintain even blood glucose levels between meals. Low Gi foods can help you to control your appetite by making you feel fuller for longer so that you resist the urge to overeat.

Eating peanuts regularly as part of a balanced diet can also reduce your risk of heart disease because they are a good source of monounsaturated (good) fat and low in saturated (bad) fat.

Oily fish is another great source of “good” fats, like omega-3 and omega-6 which are essential fatty acids and have been proven to be beneficial in reducing heart disease. So swap red meat once or twice a week for tuna, salmon, mackeral or herring.

You might be surprised to hear that good old tomato ketchup is on the 'good food' list! Cooked tomato products contain a potent antioxidant called lycopene that has been found to help prevent many cancers, especially prostate cancer. Prostate cancer is the most common cancer among UK men and the second leading cause of cancer deaths every year, after lung cancer, so it’s important to do everything you can to prevent it. You can add tomato puree or ketchup to stews and casseroles, choose tomato soup for lunch and choose healthy tomato-based pasta sauces. Yes, even pizza can be a healthy choice – just make sure the topping is packed with veggies and lean protein sources, not salami and pepperoni.

Lastly, try to cut down on alcohol. Although moderate intakes of alcohol have been associated with improved heart health, the tendency is more often to over-indulge and all the good effects are wiped out. Recommended levels of alcohol are 21 units per week, but if you are trying to lose weight or even making healthier choices, you should really aim for no more than 14 units per week. A unit is equivalent to half a pint of beer or lager, a glass of wine or a measure of spirits.

So make a big effort this week for National Men’s Health Week and make a few small changes to your lifestyle. Maybe even go for a check-up with your GP to get the all clear and then you’ll have the peace of mind to start your new healthier lifestyle.

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Thanks to tescodiets.com who have provided this article.