A Man's Guide to Great Health

Check out these top tips to boost your health and well-being starting now.
  • Boost sexual health
  • Avert a heart attack
  • Prevent prostate problems
  • Discover a diet aid to fight midsection fat
  • Stop baldness
  • You may have noticed a trend in the topics featured on the covers of many men’s magazines: rock-hard abs, killer pecs and the secrets to ultimate lovemaking. Men may claim to resent this superficial focus on appearance and performance, but most guys do, in fact, want to look good, feel good, be in shape and enjoy a healthy sex life. The good news is the male life span is on the rise. But we still suffer more chronic conditions, have higher death rates for all 15 leading causes of death, and die seven years younger than women. Here’s a roundup of the latest research and real-world advice on how to stay healthy—starting now.

    What You Can Do To Boost Sexual Health
    We’re all living longer, men included. According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), men now typically live an average of 73.8 years, and, of course, we all want to live well. One of the first concerns that comes to mind is, arguably, impotence. It’s fair to say that men want to consistently achieve and maintain an erection long enough to engage in satisfying sexual activities. Those who can’t do this suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED), a problem that affects 10 to 15 million American men. There are a variety of causes of ED, including endocrine, vascular, neurologic and psychiatric diseases. Diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, chronic alcoholism and atherosclerosis, account for about 70% of impotence cases. Side effects of certain drugs account for about 25% of the cases.

    Here’s a look at the top natural remedies for ED:
    • L-arginine. It has been established that nitric oxide is involved in the neurotransmission that facilitates smooth-muscle relaxation in the corpus cavernosum tissue, which permits penile erection. Abnormal function in this pathway may cause some forms of impotence. Since arginine is the precursor for the synthesis of nitric oxide, supplementation with this amino acid may help to improve erections.

      In one study involving 50 men with ED, participants received high-dose arginine (5 gm per day) or a placebo for six weeks. Nine of 29 patients taking arginine and two of 17 controls reported a significant improvement in sexual function.
    • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Research has found that serum levels of DHEA are lower in men with ED, suggesting that supplementation may be helpful. And one study, published in Urology, concurs. In this study, researchers looked at 40 patients from a Vienna, Austria, impotence clinic. Twenty patients received 50 mg of DHEA once a day for six months and 20 patients received a placebo once a day for the same time period. The DHEA group had improved response scores in all of the five main areas addressed by the International Index of Erectile Function.
    • Tribulis terrestris. Many herbs have shown promise in erectile function, but according to researchers who reported a study in the International Journal of Andrology, an active compound in the botanical Tribulis terrestris, called protodioscine, has been clinically proven to improve sexual desire and enhance erection via the conversion of protodioscine to DHEA.
    What You Can Do To Avert a Heart Attack
    Let’s face it: since cardiovascular disease is the No.1 killer of Americans, protecting our hearts is a priority. Interestingly, from 1979 to 1997, the number of coronary bypass procedures increased 432%. And, in 1997, 69% of bypass procedures were performed on men. But, you don’t have to be a statistic. There’s a lot you can do to keep your heart beating strong.

    Here’s a look at the top natural alternatives to maintain good heart health:

    The first steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart disease are fairly basic: Maintain a proper weight, don’t smoke and exercise. From a nutritional standpoint, there is a lot you can do to lower your risk of heart disease.
    • Take vitamin E daily, which some studies suggest may be more protective than aspirin at fending off heart disease.
    • Vitamin C is also important because it has been shown in studies to reduce blood pressure as well as improve endothelial dysfunction, a risk factor for heart disease.
    • Carnitine, the nutrient that shuttles fat across cellular membranes to be burned as fuel, is also extremely valuable for the heart since the heart is the most energy-demanding muscle in the body.
    • CoQ10, the vitamin-like nutrient that functions as an antioxidant and cofactor in several enzymatic steps in energy production, is also key to healthy heart function.
    • Magnesium, which is quickly depleted by stress, is involved in vital enzyme activities in the body. It has been shown that people who die of a heart attack have lower heart magnesium levels than people of the same age dying from other causes.
    Top Remedies To Prevent Prostate Problems

    Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
    As boys mature, the prostate (a walnut-sized gland that is a key component of a guy’s reproductive system) goes through its first big growth cycle—doubling in size during puberty. After age 25, the prostate starts its second growth phase. This post-25 growth phase often brings on benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), symptoms of which normally make themselves known after age 40. In fact, according to the National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases, more than 50% of men in their 60s and as many as 90% of men in their 70s have some symptoms of BPH.

    Symptoms of BPH
    Many symptoms of BPH come from the blockage of the urethra and gradual loss of bladder function as the prostate gland swells and pushes against these other tissues and organs. Although symptoms of BPH vary, here are a few of the most common:
    • urine flow is hesitant and interrupted;
    • sufferers feel urgency to urinate when it’s unnecessary (or leak by mistake); and
    • sufferers urinate frequently, especially at night.
    Sometimes a man may not know he has urinary obstruction until he suddenly can’t urinate at all. This condition, called acute urinary retention, can be triggered by taking synthetic over-the-counter cold or allergy remedies. Other causes include alcohol abuse, exposure to cold temperatures and long periods of immobility.

    In eight out of 10 cases, the above symptoms suggest BPH, but they could point to other more serious conditions that require immediate treatment, such as prostate cancer. Untreated BPH can ultimately cause urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder or kidney damage, bladder stones or incontinence. The bladder can also be permanently damaged.

    Natural Treatments for BPH
    Considering that a possible side effect of the popular prostate drug finasteride (Proscar) is ED, natural therapies for BPH appear to be a smarter option.

    Saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). In 2001, Egon Koch, M.D., published a key review of the research on supplements of saw palmetto and stinging nettle used in the treatment of BPH and related lower urinary tract symptoms. The review, which appeared in the journal Planta Medica, concludes that the use of these herbs for BPH is backed by "therapeutic efficacy and a favorable safety profile." Other studies show that compared to men receiving the drug finasteride, men who were treated with saw palmetto (160 mg twice daily) had "similar improvements in urinary tract symptoms and urinary flow" and fewer side effects, if any.

    Flower pollen extract. Flower pollen extract (or Cernilton) has been used successfully in Europe to treat BPH for many years. In fact, one of the first published medical reports on the benefits of Cernilton appeared almost 40 years ago. Flower pollen extract appears to improve urinary flow and decrease inflammation associated with BPH. No side effects have been noted, but there is the potential for allergic reactions in some people susceptible to pollen allergies.

    Exercise. That’s right, guys. In a 2001 study in the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, a large percentage of the men who exercised the most at the beginning of the study, burning off between 862 and 7,535 kilo-calories a day, did not have BPH. The authors concluded that exercise protects against development of clinical BPH.

    Prostate Cancer
    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed form of cancer in men (other than skin cancer) and is second only to lung cancer as a cause of cancer-related death in men. More than 70% of all prostate cancers are diagnosed in men over age 65. Here’s what you can do to reduce your risk:
    • Get tested. From age 50 on, get a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and digital rectal exam every year. Black men and any men with a strong family history of prostate cancer should begin testing at age 45, since they are at increased risk of prostate cancer.
    • Drink a cup of soy milk a day. Or, take a soy extract or red clover extract. Research shows that certain isoflavones contained in soy and red clover may inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells.
    • Cut back on trans fats.
    • Consume plenty of fiber.
    • Make sure to get adequate selenium and vitamin E. Supplementation with these antioxidants has been correlated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer.
    • Eat lycopene-rich cooked and/or processed tomato products, such as tomato sauce; or take a lycopene supplement. Research shows that cooked and/or processed tomato products offer more protection than raw tomatoes.
    Discover a Diet Aid To Fight Midsection Fat
    Almost 23% of Americans are obese, with men ages 40 to 59 at the highest overall average of obesity (26.2%). And where do so many men become the most obese? Around the midsection. Beyond hiding those six-pack abs, a broad girth has also been associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

    One study shows that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) may help. Researchers from Uppsala University, Sweden, decided to study 25 obese men between 39 and 64 years of age, who carried the most weight in their midsections.

    The experimental group received 4.2 gm of CLA per day and the control group received a placebo. After one month, there was a significant decrease in midsection girth in those receiving CLA.

    The Latest Ways To Stop Baldness
    So we know that a balding pate, otherwise known as androgenetic alopecia, or AGA (male-pattern baldness), makes men appear older. Is there anything we guys can do to slow, stop or reverse the process?

    Here’s what’s worth a try:

  • Herbs and Supplements
    The Chinese herb He Shou Wu is not only purported to boost strength, color and amount of hair, it may also boost sexual vitality. You also want to boost your intake of biotin and vitamin B6, deficiencies of which may manifest as hair loss. Saw palmetto may also help because it appears to block 5-alpha-reductase type II, which, in turn, blocks the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone (a prime hormonal culprit in hair loss). Vitamin E and zinc are also thought to be helpful in saving your mane.
  • Topical Treatments
    In order to stimulate scalp circulation and, perhaps, new hair growth, massage the scalp with essential oil of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) or rinse the hair with tea made from sage (Salvia officinalis).
      Guys: What You Need and How To Take It:
      Sexual Function
      L-arginine: 1 gm twice daily (or follow label instructions).
      Tribulis terrestris: Follow label instructions.
      DHEA: The most common dosage is 25 mg daily, but ideally doses should be individualized to your needs.

      Heart Health Support
      Vitamin C: 1 gm daily.
      Vitamin E (natural): 400 to 800 IU daily.
      Carnitine: Take 1.5 to 4 gm daily. Individuals with impaired renal (kidney) function, should be monitored by their doctors while taking higher doses of carnitine.
      CoQ10: A preventive dosage is usually 30 mg of an oil-based, softgel preparation, or 90 to to 100 mg of a dry, powdered capsule daily.
      Magnesium: 400 to 800 mg daily.

      Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia
      Saw palmetto: 160 mg twice daily.
      Stinging nettle: 120 mg twice daily.
      Flower pollen extract (Cernilton): Follow label instructions.

      Prostate Cancer Prevention
      Vitamin E (natural): 400 to 800 IU daily.
      Selenium: 100 to 200 mcg daily.
      Lycopene: 3 mg of lycopene daily, the amount found in 100 gm of fresh, cooked tomatoes. Do not take more than 10 mg of lycopene for more than two weeks, unless under a doctor’s supervision.
      Isoflavones: 45 to 50 mg of red clover or soy extract daily. Isoflavone amounts above this dose should come from whole food sources.

      Weight Management
      CLA: 1 to 2 gm daily.

      Hair Loss
      Saw palmetto: 160 mg twice daily.
      He Shou Wu: 30 drops of tincture daily.
      Biotin: 1,000 to 3,000 mcg daily.
      Vitamin B6: 100 mg daily.
      Vitamin C: 1 gm daily.
      Vitamin E (natural): 400 to 800 IU daily.
      Zinc: 25 mg daily.
      (Note: Although some nutrients are recommended for more than one condition, you do not need to take duplicate doses.).

      James L. Gormley is a freelance health writer based in New York. He is also the author of DHA a Good Fat(Zebra Books, 1999)

      Selected References
      Chen, J, Wollman, Y, Chernichovsky, T et al "Effect of oral administration of high-dose nitric oxide donor L-arginine in men with organic erectile dysfunction: Results of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study" British Journal of Urology International (1999) 83: 269-273 • Koch, E "Extracts from fruits of saw palmetto (Sabal serrulata) and roots of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica): Viable alternatives in the medical treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia and associated urinary tract symptoms" Planta Medica (2001) 67: 489-500 • Meigs, JB, Mohr, B, Barry, MJ et al "Risk factors for clinical benign prostatic hyperplasia in a community-based population of healthy aging men" Journal of Clinical Epidemiology (2001) 54: 935-944 • Wilt, T, Ishani, A, Rutks, I et al "Phytotherapy for benign prostatic hyperplasia" Public Health Nutrition (2000) 3: 459-472 • Riserus, U, Berglunc, H, Versloy, B et al "Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) reduced abdominal adipose tissue in obese middle-aged men with signs of the metabolic syndrome: A randomized controlled trial" International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders (2001) 25: 1129-1135
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