What do the statistics say?
Men are generally bigger, taller, and carry more muscles than women. Even in sports, men are often judged with a higher criteria, have broken higher records, and are generally faster and stronger.
But medically, the statistics tell a different story.
Men die younger than women. In Singapore, women tend to outlive men by another 5 years; worldwide, the average is 7 years. There are many factors at play here, such as the fact that men usually take bigger risks (the frontal lobe of their brain, which controls judgement and consideration of consequences, develops slower than a female’s), and they also take on more dangerous jobs (such as the military or firefighting) . But there are also health-related factors: men are more likely to die of heart disease than women, are more likely to have diabetes, and are more likely to succumb to Parkinson’s disease. 
With such a disparity in health, are there things that men are doing wrong, or is it actually something that is beyond our control? For our Father’s Day special this week, we are going to explore different ways men’s health can be affected and determine, ultimately, if there are ways to help them.
The gap in life expectancy is quite a complex issue, but the main bulk of it has been categorised into biological, social and behavioural differences.
Biologically, — besides the frontal lobe story I mentioned at the beginning — having XY chromosomes instead of XX ones means that some diseases don’t get cancelled out. In women, if one of their X chromosomes has a disease-producing gene, but the other one doesn’t, the normal gene would help counterbalance it. But for men, their Y chromosome (which is only about one-third the size of an X chromosome) will not have the gene to help protect against that.
Reproduction anatomy is also another factor, though this goes the same for women as well. Just as how women are likely to get breast cancer, men are also susceptible to prostate cancer (with prostate cancer being the 3rd most common cancer in males in Singapore). As such, prostate health is also a concern.
Now, while researching this topic, I found out a rather alarming fact: though women are more likely to suffer from depression, men are more likely to commit suicide. This also contributes to the low life expectancy of men, but this rather tragic paradox is a strong representation of the social difficulties that men face. Work stress or emotional pain can often lead to hypertension, heart attack, and even stroke. This, coupled with the fact that men are generally less willing to open up about their issues and feelings, or seek out social support during times of difficulties, might explain why their life expectancy is shorter than women’s.
A lot of things come under behavioural factors, such as habits (men are more likely to take up unhealthy behaviours such as smoking and alcohol), lifestyle choices (those who work in an office may not be getting enough exercise), and even simple decisions such as choosing not to visit the doctor (men are three times more likely to avoid visiting the doctor). Men are also known to be less health conscious than women, and as such many health details may fly under their radar.
The most straightforward of all the factors is diet, where the daily nutritional intake, or calorie intake, may affect their health. In Singapore, an adult male will require about 2,200 calories a day, while an adult female requires only about 1,800 calories a day. The dietary needs of men are slightly more than those of women, and because of this they often have larger appetites. However, though men do eat till they are full, not all the foods contain the nutrients they need. In fact, Singapore food is known to be carb-heavy and lack a lot of healthy nutrients such as vitamins, zinc, iron and protein. In recent years, the dietary quality of Singaporeans have improved, but we have also started to look for richer, sweeter and saltier foods, with increased sugar and sodium consumption levels, way beyond what is recommended.
How do we close the gap?
Now, there aren’t a lot of things we can do in regards to genes and chromosomes, but other factors, such as habits, social life, and especially diet, can be controlled. Learning to open up to your friends about your feelings can really help boost your emotional strength, while choosing to forgo unhealthy behaviours will definitely improve your life expectancy. It is also important to get medical check-ups regularly, ensuring that your health is at the best it can be.
Diet, on the other hand, is perhaps one of the most important and best ways to improve your health, especially in regards to your nutritional needs. But these needs may differ depending on the individual. If you like to eat vegetables, then it’s likely that you have enough iron in your diet, but if you are also stuck in an office for 10 hours every day, then you might be lacking in Vitamin D. In this case, you will need Vitamin D way more than you need iron, and you can replenish it either by finding time to go out into the sun, or through the convenient use of supplements.
Most men do share some common nutritional deficiencies, which I’ll list down below. It might be worth checking them out if you’re concerned about staying in your best shape possible.
Singaporeans are known to be deficient in vitamins — especially Vitamin D. Most of us spend too much time indoors and lack sufficient exposure to sunlight that would give us enough Vitamin D for our health. This is concerning since Vitamin D is essential in boosting our immune system, and without it, we may become more prone to cancer. Vitamin D is also crucial in enhancing bone strength, and this is especially important for older people who have brittle bones and are more prone to falls.
The lack of Vitamin D is especially dangerous for men as well, as it is linked to their testosterone levels. Testosterone is not just responsible for men’s sexual characteristics, but also helps improve bone strength, stimulate the development of muscle mass, strength, and improve moods. Without Vitamin D, the testosterone levels will drop, leading to a variety of health problems like low metabolism, fatigue, and even sleep apnea.
Add some Vitamin D into your diet if you are concerned. Dairy products, such as cheese, yoghurt and milk, are known to contain it, as well as leafy green vegetables. If you’re interested in looking for supplements to improve your vitamin intake, NOW Foods also carries soft gel tablets for men, such as Vitamin D3 and Multiple Vitamins.
Magnesium is a vital mineral when it comes to our overall well-being. It doesn’t get as much focus as other minerals such as calcium or iron, but it is the fourth most abundant mineral in our body and is important for a lot of our bodily functions. It can help improve our protein synthesis, regulate our nerve function, control our blood glucose levels, and even lower the risk of high blood pressure. Without it, we might get muscle cramps, fatigue, nausea, type-2 diabetes, low bone density (osteoporosis) and even heart problems. This is especially critical for men in their 70s and above, as they are susceptible to magnesium deficiency.
To improve magnesium levels in your diet, have more spinach, almonds, black beans, or even just a banana or two. But besides just eating more magnesium-rich foods, it’s also been found that supplementation of the mineral can help boost testosterone levels, providing more energy especially when coupled with exercise. In another research, having some magnesium supplements can also support muscle and strength training.
At NOW Foods, we carry Magnesium Citrate supplements that can help boost your magnesium levels.
These polyunsaturated fatty acids are perhaps one of the most notable ones, renowned for many benefits such as brain health (it is part of what makes up our nerve cells), heart health (it is very effective in lowering risks of heart disease), and muscle repair, especially after a workout or for people going through physical therapy.
What’s critical about omega-3, however, is that our body can’t produce it, hence it is vital that we get it through consumption. But that’s alarming is that most people, especially men, don’t get enough omega-3. Omega-3 and omega-6 are two types of fatty acids that need to be in 1:1 ratio balance inside our body, but due most men find themselves consuming more omega-6 in their food than omega-3, resulting in an imbalance of 1:20, with 20 times more omega-6 than omega-3 in their bodies.
Omega-3 is famously found in salmon, flaxseeds and walnuts. But if those are still not enough for you, you can get a boost through supplementation with fish oil, which is rich in omega-3. But fish oil can be a bit tricky to find, as their quality often depends on how well-preserved they are, and how much oxidisation was prevented throughout the manufacturing process. If you’re ever in doubt, you can take a look at NOW Food’s Omega-3 soft gel supplements, which are manufactured under strict quality control standards.
Besides nutrients and minerals, men can also improve their health by looking out for their prostate health and their vitality.
Saw Palmetto Extract, for example, is a well-known remedy for prostate health. It comes from a shrub tree with dark red berries, and has been a traditional medicine meant for reproductive and urinary tract issues. While the research behind its effectiveness is not detailed enough to establish its benefits, it is still widely believed to be able to help balance your hormonal levels and protect the prostate from enlarging. NOW Foods carries the Prostate Health supplement made from this extract, along with other ingredients to further improve your prostate health.
Health and Libido
Besides looking at your diet and the nutrients you might be missing, sometimes it would be better to address another biological component of your body — your libido.
A person’s libido, or sexual desire, is connected to their biological, psychological and social factors. When men’s testosterone levels drop, or when they are facing relationship and financial stress, their desire for sex would take a severe hit. This is especially the case when one ages, as their body ceases to produce as much hormones as before. But this is not necessarily a mid-life crisis — it’s a sign of an actual physical decline of the body.
There’s no way to stop the aging process, but that doesn’t meant that treatment isn’t available. Medication such as Viagra, Levitra or Cialis exists to help cope with your body’s changes, and natural aphrodisiac foods such as pistachios, ginkgo biloba, tribulus, ginseng and maca, are known to help with producing sexual hormones and improve your drive for sex. Of these, ginseng and maca are a few of the popular aphrodisiacs that are actually backed by science.
Ginseng is a traditional Chinese ingredient, both in terms of medicine and in food. These slow-growing roots, especially those of the Asian variety, are known to have an invigorating effect, anti-inflammatory properties, and also boosts the immune system and lowers the risk of cancer. Most notably, it is a popular treatment for erectile dysfunction, having been proven to help improve libido in both men and women. It can be easily added into your dishes if you ever feel like trying it, or you can also choose to take supplements made from ginseng if you aren’t too fond of the taste. At NOW Foods, there are supplements made from Panex Ginseng, which will be sure to help improve your health and vitality.
Maca, on the other hand, is a sweet vegetable root related to cabbages and cauliflower, and has a long history as a traditional medicinal herb in Peru. It is known as a mood booster, improving sport performances as well as endurance. It has also been proven to boost men’s fertility, improve the quality of their semen, and of course, improve their libido. Like ginger, you can try adding some maca into your food, but this vegetable exists as supplements as well. You can find the Maca supplement with NOW Foods, as well as the supplement TestoJack 200, which is made not just with maca, but also other traditional herbs that are known to improve men’s libido and fertility.
Everyone’s health depends on them. While causes and solutions have been touched upon in this post, a lot of the effort comes from the individual himself. It takes two hands to clap, and two to tango. Lifestyle choices and habits will require the individual to take the effort and change themselves. Learning to seek medical check-ups regularly, and speak to others when you’re in pain, will also greatly help you.
If you know anyone who may be having health difficulties, or is choosing to skip the doctor’s visit while citing their busy schedule or the cost as reasons, feel free to share this post with them and alert them to the many health issues that they may be at risk of. Sometimes we just need someone close to us to remind us to take better care of ourselves.
If you’re interested in more health-related topics, this post on boosting your immune system may interest you!