June is National Men’s Health Month.
As the United States gears up to honor fatherhood this month, let’s also remember to think about men’s health. When you were young, you may have thought the older men in your life – fathers, uncles, brothers, and cousins – were indestructible. And then you grew up and realized they, too, are not superhuman. They age and get sick just like everyone else.
It’s not enough anymore to eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise. It helps, but what supplements should the men in our lives be taking?
1) A Good Multivitamin
This is a no brainer. In fact, a multivitamin is good across the board for both men and women, from childhood to advanced adulthood. Because men’s and women’s bodies are built differently, they have different health needs. But nutritionally speaking, both genders have similar needs.
The common differences in men’s formulas:
- No iron or less iron - Men need much less iron than premenopausal women.
- Addition of lycopene – Lycopene is a phytochemical that has been linked to prostate health when combined with other nutrients, but the effect of lycopene alone remains unclear.
- Addition of herbs – Mainly herbs that are thought to support virility and prostate health.
Can’t figure out which men’s formula is best for you (or the men in your life)? Sticking with a unisex multivitamin is still good nutritional insurance. You can always supplement nutrients that are absent or in smaller amounts than recommended by your doctor. And the unisex versions often cost less than the gender specific formulas.
2) Omega-3 Fatty Acids
It’s no surprise that the leading cause of death in men in the United States continues to be cardiovascular disease. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer globally, according to the World Health Organization.
Why are men more prone to cardiovascular disease? There are several factors that come into play. Psychosocial and behavioral factors see male consumption of alcohol and tobacco – both contributors to heart disease – higher than female consumption. Men are also less adaptive to stress, also a contributor, compared to women.
How can men (and women, too) decrease the risk of heart disease? Get your omega-3 fatty acids. They are found in both plant and animal sources, most notably in certain fish and krill oils. It’s the omega-3s EPA and DHA from fish and krill that are promoted for their heart health benefits.
Studies support omega-3 fatty acids’ positive influence on normalizing and regulating triglyceride levels. There’s also evidence to support omega-3 fats discourage blood clots within blood vessels and prevent fatty deposit build up inside the arteries. That’s all good news for the muscle in charge of keeping the liquid life flowing inside you.
If you’re not a regular fish eater, not to worry. There are high quality omega-3 fatty acids readily available in supplement form. And if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, look for omega-3 supplements derived from algae – that’s where fish and krill get their omega-3s from anyway.
Combine omega-3s with the usual players for cardiovascular health:
- Eat a healthy diet
- Exercise regularly
- Consume alcohol moderately
- Don’t smoke
- Maintain healthy blood sugar levels
- Maintain a healthy weight
The collective herbal medicine cabinet is chock-full of botanicals for just about every ailment. And there are some herbs for men’s health issues that top the rest.
3) Saw Palmetto
Saw Palmetto is a popular botanical for men. The herb works in favor of men’s health by inhibiting the production of the enzyme 5-alpha reductase. While this enzyme is important in male hormone balance, it also contributes to some health problems seen in men of middle-age and older, including enlarged prostate, baldness, and loss of libido.
By inhibiting 5-alpha-reductase’s ability to transform testosterone, the body retains higher levels of testosterone to help regulate body weight, promote sexual function and discourage male pattern baldness.
4) Ginkgo Biloba
The effects of aging are often cumulative. One area of particular importance when it comes to general decline with aging is the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is another top-10 leading cause of death for men in the United States.
Ginkgo Biloba comes to mind when promoting memory function, but it also increases the amount of available oxygen across the blood-brain barrier. Resistance of this barrier tends to increase with age and especially in those who smoke, causing the brain to receive less oxygen. Ginkgo helps to make adequate oxygen readily available for brain activity.
Ginkgo is also a potent antioxidant. Oxidative stress builds up over time and is further fueled by certain lifestyle habits such as smoking, excess drinking, and unhealthy eating. Ginkgo and other antioxidant foods and supplements help to diminish the effect of oxidative stress, including inflammatory conditions and weakened immune function.
Here’s one you may not have heard of – Shilajit. It’s not a herb, but rather it’s an organic tar-like substance that is found in mountain ranges around the world. Shilajit is a traditional Ayurvedic remedy that contains over 80 minerals and fulvic and humic acids, which help the removal of toxic metals from the body.
Shilajit has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to support male fertility and also to promote testosterone levels naturally, which helps to protect muscle tissue, balance weight and stabilizes mood. The nutrient profile of Shilajit also promotes enhanced energy production in the mitochondria, cardiovascular health, and memory.
Gentlemen, we appreciate all you do for the loved ones in your lives. Let the “young at heart” feeling radiate throughout your body by taking proactive measures to maintain good health as you age.