Men's Health: A Comprehensive Guide to Longevity and Wellness

Men's Health: A Comprehensive Guide to Longevity and Wellness

Did you ever wonder why women live longer than men?

It’s true, you know.

In nearly every country studied, women outlive men by an average of 5 to 7 years. This longevity gap is not just in first-world industrialized countries like ours. It’s consistent across all different cultures and lifestyles.  And because it’s universal, we can assume that a lot of factors are at work here, including biological, social, and behavioral ones.

Worth noting is that genetic factors do play a role. But as the saying goes, “Genetics loads the gun, environment pulls the trigger”. You could have the greatest genes in the world, but if you smoke a pack of cigarettes and drink a quart of Jack Daniels every day while sitting on your porch, you’re just unlikely to get the benefit of those genes. (And vice-versa! Stuck with “bad genes”, people can nonetheless make lifestyle choices that will never turn those “bad genes” on!)

Any individual man can live as long as the longest-lived woman in the world. The population figures are averages, and don’t tell you anything about any one particular man (like you, for example). There's a great overlap in these things, so let's figure out what you need to do to have a long, healthy, happy, and productive life. (Spoiler alert: Those four things—longevity, health, happiness, and productivity—are more related (statistically and experientially) than you might imagine!)

In this blog, we’ll explore key aspects of men’s health, including diet, exercise, and supplements, with insights drawn from scientific research and the wisdom of the world’s healthiest centenarians.

 The Gender Divide in Health and Longevity

Men and women share many health needs, but there are critical differences. Prostate health, for example, is a unique concern for men. Prostate cancer is also one of the most common cancers in men, and maintaining prostate health through diet and lifestyle is crucial. Nutrients such as zinc, selenium, and lycopene have been shown to support prostate health. So do pumpkin seeds, which is why you find them in the ingredients of so many “men’s” formulas.

Heart disease—which is the leading cause of death for both men and women--- does not look the same in both sexes. (For a wonderful resource on the unique ways heart disease affects women, take a look at cardiologist Steven Sinatra’s book, “Heart Sense for Women”).

Men are more likely to have heart attacks earlier in life, women are more prone to have them post-menopause. The initial symptoms can be quite different as far as the location and the type of pain the person feels. This difference is partly due to hormonal variations. Testosterone in men and estrogen in women play pivotal roles in cardiovascular health.

Hormones and Their Impact

Hormones significantly influence health in both men and women, particularly as they age. Men experience andropause, characterized by a gradual decline in testosterone levels that can last for years. This decline in testosterone affects energy, mood, and muscle mass. (Meanwhile, women undergo menopause, which is marked by a sharp drop in estrogen, influencing bone density and cardiovascular health.)

Both sexes produce testosterone, but in different amounts. While testosterone is vital for men’s health, it’s present in much lower levels in women. Ensuring balanced hormone levels is crucial for overall health and well-being. This is one reason so many people of both sexes turn to hormone replacement therapy. While it’s certainly not for everyone, in the right hands, done by experienced practitioners in what’s now called “age-management medicine”, hormone replacement can be a game-changer.

The Role of Diet in Men’s Health

Hormones and supplements aside, a good diet is the cornerstone of good health. For men, this includes adequate protein to maintain muscle mass, healthy fats for hormone production, and a variety of fruits and vegetables for essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Low-calorie, high-carbohydrate diets are not the way to go—at least not for most men. Protein is absolutely critical for building and maintaining muscle, and we probably need more of it than we thought. Fat is equally essential, and has been wrongly demonized for decades. (Though it’s not the only kind of fat that’s important—olive oil is pretty high on the list as well—omega 3 is especially important, and, as omega-3 ratio tests show, many people just don’t get enough.)

Eating patterns are also important—some say almost as important as what you eat is how you eat it. Whether you eat two or three meals a day, the best way to control blood sugar and keep energy high is to let four hours go between meals and leave at least two hours between your last meal and bedtime. No snacking!

The Importance of Supplements

While a good diet is ideal, supplements can play a crucial role in filling nutritional gaps and supporting overall health. And there are some nutrients, very important to men’s health, that you simply can’t get in significant amounts from your diet (Coenzyme Q10 being one example). Here are some supplements you should consider for optimal health and performance.

 Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3s are essential for heart health, reducing inflammation, and—especially--- supporting brain function and brain health. Barlean’s flaxseed oil and fish oil are excellent sources of omega-3s, making them a valuable addition to any diet. The Swirls version of omega-3 products are even better absorbed than regular fish oil/ flax oil products, and because of their amazing taste—they’ve been a consumer fan fave for years--- they’re ideal for getting kids to get omega-3s in their diet.

Magnesium and Vitamin D3: Magnesium is crucial for muscle and nerve function, while Vitamin D3 supports bone health and immune function. Many men are deficient in these nutrients, so supplementation can be beneficial.

Multivitamins: A good multivitamin can help fill nutritional gaps, ensuring men get the necessary vitamins and minerals to support overall health. Our scientific advisory board recommends you look for a multiple that contains 1) the methylated versions of folate, B6 and B12, 2) 100-200 mcg of selenium, and 3) 15-25 mg of zinc.

Fiber: Most men are not getting anywhere near the 38 grams of fiber recommended by the WHO, the Institute of Medicine, the Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association. Fiber comes mainly from nuts, legumes, fibrous vegetables, and beans. If you’re not getting your 38 grams daily, many nutritionists recommend an easy-to-dissolve tasteless fiber supplement. There are many on the market—look for PHGG (partially hydrolyzed guar gum) to be the main ingredient. PHGG is a type of prebiotic fiber that’s been shown to have high quality and effectiveness, and to feed the good guy bacteria in your gut (probiotics) Unlike a lot of other types of fiber supplements its completely odorless and tasteless and mixes in anything.)

Prostate Health Supplements: For men, supplements containing saw palmetto, lycopene, and selenium can support prostate health.

 Exercise and General Health

Regular exercise is essential for maintaining muscle mass, cardiovascular health, and mental well-being. Men should aim for a mix of aerobic exercises (like running or cycling) and strength training (like weight-lifting or bodyweight exercises). Tailoring exercise routines to different decades of life can help address changing health needs.

In Your 20s and 30s: Focus on building muscle mass and cardiovascular endurance. The protein intakes that have been recommended for years are currently being questioned by many in medicine and nutrition and the likelihood is that they will be revised upward. So keep the protein coming! And for building muscle, high-intensity workouts and weightlifting are excellent choices. Just be sure to balance that with stretching and recovery time!

In Your 40s and 50s: Maintain muscle mass with strength training and incorporate more flexibility exercises like yoga. Cardio remains important, but it’s essential to balance it with joint-friendly activities.

In Your 60s and Beyond: Pepperdine University sports medicine doc, Dr. Terry Weyman says that at this point in your life, about 70% of your workout should be balance and stability training. Prioritize joint health and mobility training with low-impact exercises like swimming or walking. Strength training should continue to prevent the otherwise inevitable muscle loss that comes with age, and to improve bone density.

Lessons from the World’s Healthiest Men

In Sardania—one of the five Blue Zones ---men enjoy some of the longest lifespans in the world. Researchers have identified three key factors contributing to their remarkable health and longevity:

  1. Physical Activity: Living in a place with lots of stairs and hills encourages daily physical activity. Walking everywhere keeps them fit and active.
  2. Connection with Nature: Many Sardinians are shepherds, spending their days in peaceful, green pastures with gentle animals. This lifestyle reduces stress and promotes mental well-being.
  3. Social Connections: The most important factor of all—and this is confirmed by other long-term studies like the Happiness Study out of Harvard--- is prioritizing friends and family. Strong social bonds are a consistent predictor—in fact, the most important predictor--- of longevity and health. Making time for loved ones, engaging with groups, volunteering, or anything that you can participate in that has you spending time with other kind humans can significantly improve quality of life and increase lifespan. And that’s in the science!

Conclusion

Men’s health is a multifaceted topic that requires attention to diet, exercise, and lifestyle. By understanding the unique aspects of men’s health and incorporating essential nutrients like omega-3s, magnesium, and vitamin D3, men can take proactive steps towards a healthier, longer life. Emulating the lifestyle of Sardinia’s centenarians by staying active, connecting with nature, and prioritizing social bonds can further enhance health and longevity.

Remember, the foundation of a healthy life is built on small, consistent actions and the support of a loving community.