Heart Health for Men at Any Age

CBN.com - God fashioned your physical heart to last for a long, long time. It has a lifetime warranty! But, like any product with a good warranty, there are conditions. As long as you follow the “manufacturer’s guidelines,” your heart will work hard to keep you healthy. Here’s a look at a man’s heart through the decades and some important tips for keeping it strong.

The Twenties: Gentlemen, Start Your Engines

Life really gets on track for men in their twenties. Education completed, many launch into a career, some marry and start a family, and most live away from parental control—sometimes far away. But without some attention to self-discipline, a man’s life of independence and adventure can easily get offtrack before it gets very far. A successful career demands hard work within the framework of superiors and corporate goals. A healthy marriage and family
requires a man’s devotion and compassion to those dearest to him. And achieving financial goals is impossible without paying careful attention to budgeting and spending. Lack of focus, discipline, and drive at this stage can ruin everything a man hopes to achieve and enjoy.

This first decade of adulthood is the time to set productive lifestyle patterns. The twenties is the time to establish good heart health habits that will benefit you for the rest of your life. As a growing teenager, you could get by without paying close attention to what you ate. But when the growing years are over, maintaining normal weight for your height means eating healthy foods and getting sufficient exercise. Resist the temptation to eat only what is convenient and cheap. Learn to eat meals that are nutritious and well balanced, keeping the total number of calories low. It can be done—even on a limited budget.

oin a gym, participate in sports leagues at the local community center, or invest in free weights or an exercise machine of some kind. If you can’t afford these exercise options, get into running, walking, or doing push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, and so on. Chapter 16 will give you sound advice on how to put together a personal exercise program.

Along with diet and exercise, consult your physician to make sure you are getting sufficient quantities of vitamins and minerals in your diet. In Chapters 13 and 14 we will explore more fully the diet and dietary supplements important to men at all life stages. Start your life healthy and you will likely stay healthy. Your twenties is the best time in your life to launch into a Total Heart Health lifestyle!

The most important decision you can make for your heart at this stage is to not smoke—or to stop smoking if you got into it as a teenager. Smoking is a heart killer.

The Thirties: Jockeying for Position

Increasing responsibilities in career and/or family life at this stage of life can be taxing. It may take some creative planning to maintain a Total Heart Health lifestyle through your thirties. Investing long hours in the pursuit of career goals and financial rewards, you may find it difficult to carve out time for physical exercise. Don’t go soft on your running, workouts, or sports activities, even if you have to wake up a little earlier or hit the gym during lunch hour.

Healthy eating habits may be tested in the midst of a busy life. You may be tempted to skip breakfast, grab a quick lunch (instead of a healthy lunch), snack too much, and eat too much at dinner. It is important during your thirties to maintain healthy eating habits and, if you’re married, to pass those habits along to your family. Your kids may not believe it at first, but prove to them that healthy meals served at the family dinner table can actually taste good! In the process, use this time to teach them about good nutrition.

Often during this decade, hypertension (high blood pressure) and lipid (cholesterol) abnormalities begin to manifest themselves. It’s important to schedule regular checkups with your doctor so any problems can be diagnosed early and treated.

The Forties: Battling for the Lead

Most men in their forties are fully involved—and sometimes overinvolved— in career pursuits. This is the decade when some men begin to put on weight. Increased earnings and a higher standard of living often accompany career success at this stage. And with more discretionary income comes the temptation to eat richer foods and dine out more often, resulting in greater calorie intake. Some men eat more at this stage in response to job stress and life pressures.

Also, as energy begins to wane, forty-something men may become lax when it comes to exercise, resulting in fewer calories burned. More calories taken in coupled with fewer calories worked out equals weight gain. Disciplined diet and exercise are a must at this stage to avoid unwanted pounds.

Important note: any signs of high blood pressure or cholesterol problems must be treated aggressively with medication. This is also the time for your doctor to check for the presence of latent diabetes, especially if you are overweight.

The Fifties: Lapping the Competition

After twenty to thirty years of hard work, many of a man’s long-term career and financial goals are within sight in the decade of his fifties. By this time he may have more subordinates than superiors in the workplace and enjoy greater control over his schedule and responsibilities on the job. As a result, he may have more time flexibility for maintaining a workout routine. This is the decade when some men finally decide to do something about the “spare tire,” the low energy level, and high blood pressure. Many guys at this stage lament, “I wish I’d been more disciplined about staying at my college weight.”

This is the decade when many married couples ride an emotional roller coaster. For those who started families in their twenties, the kids are grown and leaving home for college, marriage, and career. Those couples who delayed parenting until midlife may still have children at home, but the empty nest is within sight. Let’s be honest here: as much as we want our children to
move into adulthood, it’s not easy—and sometimes it’s downright tough—to see our young ones leave the nest. Furthermore, when the children leave home and Dad and Mom are alone again, a couple may learn that they have less in common. It can be a crisis point for many marriages.

Even though it may be a time of sadness, the season of the empty nest is
also a time for taking on tasks you have put off through the busy childrearing years. It’s a time when many husbands and wives rediscover the romance and fun that sometimes gets buried under an avalanche of career building and kids’ sports and school programs. It’s a time to get serious about the plans, dreams, vacations, and hobbies you just didn’t have time for while the kids were still at home. And with education expenses reduced, now’s the time to get that fitness club membership you always wanted.

The Sixties and Beyond: Turning Toward the Checkered Flag

Some men have the luxury at this stage of choosing between continued advancement in their chosen field, an exciting second career, retirement, or semiretirement. But this is not the time to pull the plug on healthy heart pursuits. It is important to keep exercising. You probably won’t be able to crank the treadmill up to top speed like you did as a young buck, but the good news is you don’t need to. Just maintain an active life as much as possible and spend at least thirty minutes a day six days a week in some form of purposeful exercise:
walking or jogging (on the treadmill, in the neighborhood, or on a local track), playing a sport such as tennis or golf, or working out on a resistance machine set to accommodate your level of strength.

No matter what decade you find yourself in, physical heart health is both important and achievable. Don’t allow the duties and demands of these normal life stages to rob your heart of the care it deserves. Whether you’re a single twenty-something or a grandfather, now is the time to establish a healthy heart lifestyle.

Copyright © 2006 Dr. Ed Young, Dr. Michael Duncan, and Dr. Richard Leachman, Reprinted with permission from Total Heart Health for Men, W Publishing Group.

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