Men’s Health: Decade By Decade
Knowing your body and being aware of what it needs in the different stages of your life is the key to a healthy life
The basic health message is the same for every man — eat right, exercise, cut down on stress, don’t smoke and go easy on the booze. But that said each decade is different and needs a different focus, so follow this decade-by-decade guide to keep the signs of ageing to a minimum and your health to the maximum, even as you get older.
The Roaring Twenties
This is the most forgiving decade and most of us get away with late nights, smoking and drinking - and still get up for work the next day.
But (like is always the case), its too good to last. Besides, this is the decade to lay a strong foundation for the later decades as what happens in your 20s will effect you in your 50s.
Too much partying, booze, not enough sleep may lead to some deficiencies in the body.
Alcohol interferes with the absorption of nutrients in the body. B vitamins particularly B1, B3 and folate and Vitamin A are especially affected, and it can also keep your body from fully absorbing and using zinc, iron and calcium.
Smokers, besides the toxins you take in, you also deplete the vital nutrients in your body with each puff.
Smokers also tend to be deficient in vitamin C, as their body uses it to detoxify. And C deficiency could lead to iron deficiency too.
Calcium absorption is also jeopardized. You may need to up your intake of vitamin E (eat nuts and seeds everyday) too. So get enough of these nutrients.
In your teen years you could have gone on a gluttony-fest, but now your body won’t cooperate that much so begin eating less salt (no extra sprinkling on salads, soups), consciously cut down on your fat intake (target 3 tsp - about 15 gm fat per day) and rein in the sugar intake too.
Get checked for STDs regularly, as an undiagnosed STD can put you and your partner in danger, leading to long-term health and fertility issues.
Thirties: The Hustle Years
This is usually a very busy decade professionally, where health takes a backseat (who has the time to go to the gym?)
Your ability to control the weight decreases with age which is a sudden change from the twenties, so it’s imperative to make healthy, nutritious choices consciously and cut down on junk eating.
It’s all too easy to slip into an exercise comfort zone in this decade — but make sure you exercise five times a week, every week.
Your Hairline Isn't the Only Thing That Begins Receding in This Decade
Telomeres, the tiny strands of DNA that help preserve your genetic code need protection too. They shrink as we age, a condition linked to heart disease, diabetes, and early death. Exercise is the best way to prevent their decline.
That said, you must not ignore taking care of your skin and hair too, otherwise you’ll suddenly wake up and find it already damaged.
This is the decade when the heart begins to get bogged down a bit so keep a check on your waist-hip ratio.
Keep it in check to reduce the risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Weight training three times a week may be the best way to fight belly fat.
Schedule that yearly physical: an annual checkup is a chance to identify potential problems at the onset. Screen yourself for nutritional deficiencies. Low levels of vitamins B and D, can lead to an inflammation in the body and signal the advent of non communicable disorders like diabetes, heart disease and more. Find and rectify these early.
Keep a check on the cups of tea and coffee you are downing. Tannins in tea hinder the absorption of iron and zinc from foods and caffeine in coffee reduces our body's ability to absorb dietary calcium and also increases its excretion via the kidneys.
Drink tea at least half an hour before/after the meals, and take your iron and calcium supplements too two hours before/after your cuppa.
Coffee and soft drinks (sodas) too contain caffeine, and can lead to bone loss.
Forties: The Climb to the Middle
The busiest time at work! Stress takes a front seat — all this contributes to a higher risk of heart disease and other lifestyle disorders. Plus, most men get stuck in a catch-22 situation, where they feel they simply don’t have the time and energy to devote to workouts.
Anger/anxiety issues too begin around this age, as patience tends to run low and frustrations add up. This should be addressed right away.
Make time for your family and friends.
Proactively avoid gaining weight to prevent added stress on the heart and lungs, and on the weight-bearing joints of the knees, hips, ankles, and feet. Keep the joints supple: stretch, rotate, bend and extend your joints regularly.
Your brain is probably not at its peak performance wise and the speed of responding to new information could be waning a bit. Don’t let that bother you. Just put in more effort and make smarter choices.
Schedule your eye exam every two years. Your 40s are when many men begin to experience problems with their sight.
Keep a lid on stress. Stress hormones are linked to visceral fat, heart disease, diabetes, and even early death. Meditation or regular vacays, maybe you need both, so take time out of your busy schedule from time to time and focus on yourself .
Fifties and Beyond
These can be difficult decades health-wise what with physical strength, energy and libido starting to go south.
Pre-retirement blues and empty nest syndrome hover and affect the mood too. You may want to talk to your doctor or counselor about this.
These decades can be both exciting and challenging. It is up to you to know how you handle them.
Exercise Your Brain to Keep It Sharp
In these years it is important to keep your brain active with mind workouts and crossword puzzles to prevent the likes of dementia and Alzheimer's later on. Vigorous workouts at least twice a week also help reduce the risk of developing these two.
Begin your day with some form of physical exercise to activate the body and stimulate the mind; the feel-good endorphins released in the body will give you a head start.
Resistance training and weight-bearing aerobic exercise will help preserve bone density. But if your joints hurt, maybe you could switch to less impact exercises like swimming or Tai Chi and yoga to improve your flexibility and balance.
Keep a Check on the Pills That You Are Popping
Some medicines like aspirin, beta-blockers, antacids, anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer and diabetes control drugs can decrease your body’s ability to absorb vitamins (particularly D, A, C and E, and B 12).
Antibiotics too also disturb the bacterial flora in the intestine (kill the good digestion aiding bacteria), which also affects absorption.
Get screened regularly - no excuses there. You need a more extensive checkup now compared to the earlier decades.
(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People (Jaico) and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits for a Fitter You (Rupa).)
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