This November marks the return of Men’s Health Awareness Month which is aimed at raising awareness of health issues and encouraging men to take control of their own health, be it physical, mental or emotional. On average, men die almost five years earlier than women and three times more men die by suicide than women.
While these statistics don’t make for happy reading, there are steps men can take to improve their physical and mental health, along with their general wellbeing. This article will explore some of those steps.
Male weight loss tips
A recent Government report revealed that 68% of men in England are classed as overweight or obese, which is 8% higher than women. Obesity increases the risk of several diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and some cancers, which is why it’s important to try and maintain a healthy weight and focus on good nutrition. We’ve included some tips for losing weight below which might help you on your journey.
- Have a clear, realistic goal and stick to it - the NHS has a free weight loss plan app which helps you set goals, make healthier food choices and monitor your calorie intake. You can also use LiveWell Dorset’s very own Habit Hacker tool to identify bad eating habits and make better choices.
- Eat the right food - sounds simple, but this is as much about willpower as it is about knowledge. Avoid processed foods such as sugary drinks, pizza, chips and many breakfast cereals. They may taste good, but they’re stuffed full of added ingredients that aren't good for you. Swap these for high protein foods such as chicken, fish, nuts and wholegrain. Fruit and vegetables also have plenty of fibre and few calories. If you are someone who struggles to achieve their five a day, try starting every meal with a salad which will help fill you up.
- Ditch the car and walk - according to the NHS, a daily 10 minute walk can count towards your recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise. If you increase that to 30 minutes of moderate to fast walking, you can burn around 100-400 calories. Parking further away from the office or walking to the shops or park can all help, and in Dorset you’re never short of wonderful places to take a stroll. Plus leaving the car at home means you’ll save money on petrol too!
- Avoid alcohol - cutting down on booze is not only good for your health overall, but can also help with shedding weight. A standard glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of chocolate, while a pint of lager is the equivalent to a bag of crisps.
- Don’t shop on an empty stomach - we’ve all been guilty of this at some stage or another. Larger supermarkets will always try and entice you with wafts of freshly baked bread or sweet treats by the checkouts. Make sure you do your grocery shopping after a meal and be sure to stick to your shopping list.
- Make losing weight a social activity - think weight loss groups are just for women? Think again. LiveWell Dorset has helped men all across the region find the right group for them with some phenomenal results. Read about some of their inspirational journeys in our weight loss groups for men article.
Taking care of your mental health
According to Mental Health Foundation, three times as many men than women die by suicide, with men aged 40 to 49 claiming the highest suicide rates in the UK. In recent years, we have seen awareness around the issue of male mental health grow, but while it is not the ‘taboo’ subject it once was, many men feel unable to talk openly about their own mental health or attempt to seek support. If you are struggling, you may find these tips useful.
- It’s ok to not be ok - recognising and admitting that you’re struggling is not a sign of weakness. The world has thankfully moved on from outdated concepts such as ‘manning up’ and ‘real men don’t cry’. Understanding that you’re not ok takes courage and is the first step to helping you on the road to recovery.
- Get active - exercise is an excellent way to boost your mood, even if it might be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re not in a great place mentally. A short 10 minute walk increases mental alertness and energy levels. Being active will keep your mind and body in a positive place.
- Talk to your GP or a health professional - they’ll be able to refer you to someone who specialises in mental health, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.
- Make time for yourself - work and family life can often mean you end up forgoing time spent doing things you enjoy. Ensure you make time for you. After all, you can’t care for others if you can’t take care of yourself.
- Mental health and sleep are closely connected - having a good, regular sleep pattern can help you to feel less tired throughout the day and more able to cope with the tasks of daily life. Limit the amount of time spent using phones or tablets at night - your bedroom should be a haven for sleep.
- Reach out - talk to friends and family about how you are feeling. Be open and honest and avoid ‘bottling things up’. If you want to speak to other men experiencing similar mental health issues, charities such as Mind and ManHealth have directories of local mental health groups across the UK.
Looking after your general wellbeing
It’s often said that women are generally better at taking care of themselves than men, but that shouldn’t be the case. At LiveWell Dorset we want everyone to lead a healthier, happier life, so here are some steps you can take to help you on that path.
- Don't smoke - stopping smoking is one of the kindest things you can do for your health. If you’re struggling to quit, the Stop Smoking section of our website has lots of helpful tips to empower you to stub out the cigs for good.
- Maintain a healthy weight – being overweight or obese can decrease fertility and puts you at risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
- Have regular check ups with your doctor - this will help spot any early signs of diseases such as cancer or heart disease. If you’re aged between 40 and 74, you are eligible for a free NHS Health Check which will look at your overall health and advise you if you're at a higher risk of certain health problems.
- Check yourself - it’s very important you check your testicles for any abnormalities at least once a month. If you feel any changes or notice anything unusual about your testicles, you should see a GP as soon as possible. Macmillan Cancer Support has a useful guide demonstrating how to check for testicular cancer.
- Take regular exercise - not only does it aid weight loss, it can reduce your risk of major illnesses and lower your risk of early death by up to 30%. It is also a fantastic mood booster.
- Everything in moderation - a combination of a well-balanced diet plus regular exercise is vital to good health, however it’s important to recognise that obsessive calorie counting or excessive exercise can lead to eating disorders, injuries, exhaustion and depression.
The team at Livewell Dorset is committed to helping men and women achieve a healthier lifestyle. We've helped men across the whole of Dorset become healthier and happier - men such as Martin, whose story we’ve shared below: