It’s easy to lose track of your health and fitness – especially when your life is busy. Below, we take a look at some of the most common heart health mistakes that men make and how making a few minor adjustments can improve your overall cardiovascular health.
Heart Health Mistakes That Men Make
#1 – Bad Diet
One of the biggest mistakes that men make is eating a poor diet. Most people know that good health starts in the kitchen. Eating poorly can lead to weight gain, which can lead to all sorts of health issues beyond just cardiovascular problems.
If you are carrying a few extra pounds, consider the benefits of eating better and maintaining a healthy weight. A lot of men carry weight in their midsection. Losing weight (or keeping weight off) in this area will reduce abdominal fat, which can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
#2 – Skipping Preventive Care
Do you have a relationship with a primary care physician? Statistically, more men than women don’t bother to go to the doctor at all. In fact, most men only go to the doctor when they’re feeling sick or have a medical emergency.
The problem with this is it means that men are less likely to get important routine tests for things such as: cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar – all of which are important indicators to gauging your heart health.
Men are also less likely to report symptoms such as: chest pain and breathlessness – both of which can be indicative of heart attack.
Prevention is better than cure. Men who have a primary care physician and keep regularly scheduled annual physicals have a greater chance of preventing diseases, or at least catching something early before it gets worse. Don’t wait until you have a problem. See your primary care doctor on a regular basis for ‘preventive maintenance’ to avoid bigger medical issues down the line.
#3 – Mistaking Erection Problems for Something Else
Men of all ages can experience some form of erectile dysfunction (ED). However, most men make the mistake of assuming that erection troubles stem from a mental state. In fact, getting or maintaining an erection has more to do with your heart than with your mind.
Erectile dysfunction (sometimes referred to as ‘impotence’) is actually a barometer of a man’s overall health. ED is caused by a problem of blood flow to the penis. Those damaged blood vessels in the penis may be an early sign of damage to the heart or another serious issue.
If you are experiencing regular problems with getting and maintaining an erection, you should schedule an appointment with a urologist.
#4 – Not Exercising
How frequently do you exercise per week? The United States is known for being a nation that is overworked, overtired and overweight. Roughly half of Americans fail to get the proper amount of exercise.
Make fitness and your health a priority. Instead of watching 30 minutes of television, substitute that for 30 minutes of cardio. Break up workouts into 15 minute increments throughout the day if you have to.
Grab a friend and make exercise a group activity. Enjoy the health benefits of exercise, and avoid exercising when angry.
Find a way to fit fitness in!
#5 – Smoking & Drinking Alcohol
Everyone knows the health risks associated with smoking. Firsthand smoking has been linked to both lung and pancreatic cancer as well as an increased risk for heart attack. Hang around someone who smokes and think you’re ok? Think again.
The health risks associated with secondhand smoking are just as bad. Secondhand smoke causes lung cancer – even if you’ve never smoked a cigarette or used a tobacco product in your life. While you may not be able to quit smoking over night, consider the bigger picture, and consider getting help to quit smoking. Smoking not only affects your life but the lives of those around you.
Alcohol is part of the American culture. We drink it to celebrate and socialize. However, consuming alcohol regularly and/or in excess can lead to increased blood pressure, which can lead to an increase chance for heart disease.
Alcohol affects each of us differently. Binge drinking has been linked with causing irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias). To give you a better idea of what constitutes one standard alcoholic drink, the NIH offers the following:
- 12 fluid ounces of beer (~5% alcohol)
- 8 to 9 fluid ounces of malt liquor (~7% alcohol)
- 5 fluid ounces of table wine (~12% alcohol)
- 1.5 fluid ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (40% alcohol)
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism cited research, which demonstrated that:
…low risk drinking levels for men involve no more than 4 alcoholic drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week.
Your best bet? Everything in moderation. Consume alcohol every now and then, but don’t go overboard.
How Men Can Take Care of Their Hearts
It’s not too late to start taking better care of your heart. Regardless of whether you have a family history of heart disease or not – there is a great deal that men can do to jump start their path to better heart health. The first step involves making an appointment with your primary care doctor. Bring him/her up to speed with what’s been going on in your life – including family history, lifestyle, and more.
Have your overall health assessed each year to see where you stand and to see what positive changes you can make – from meal planning to moving your body – to improve your heart health.
Cardiovascular Care at WakeMed
Learn more about the cardiovascular services offered at WakeMed, and request an appointment with one of our cardiologists today.