4 ways men can reduce diabetes and heart disease risk
For men, a pot belly could be a sign of metabolic syndrome—a condition that signifies greater diabetes and heart disease riskBy Diane Peters
Metabolic syndrome affects one-third of men over age 50—and one-quarter of women —and signals that a person is two times more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease and five times more likely to develop diabetes. The condition is diagnosed when a person has at least three of the following five risk factors: high blood pressure, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, high blood triglycerides, high blood sugar and a large amount of abdominal fat. The causes: poor diet, little exercise, being overweight and having a genetic predisposition. Except for a large belly, most aspects of the syndrome are silent. That makes it one more reason for men to get regular checkups. Here are some preventive measures men can take to reduce the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.
Seek help early for erectile dysfunction
Men with metabolic syndrome often also have erectile dysfunction and low testosterone. “These conditions precede the metabolic syndrome,” says Dr. Ridwan Shabsigh, director of the division of urology at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and can act as an early warning sign.
Have his prostate checked
A 2007 study published in the journal Cancer found that black men with prostate cancer were much more likely to have one or two risk factors for metabolic syndrome than cancer-free men. While black men have higher prostate cancer rates than other ethnic groups, researchers believe there could be a connection between prostate cancer and metabolic syndrome for all men.
Be an optimist
A 2008 study found that men who displayed the least amount of hope when asked about the future (although not diagnosed as depressed) were two times more likely to have metabolic syndrome. Feelings of hopelessness may elevate cortisone levels and increase inflammation in the body, both of which have a link to the risk factors. “Individuals with feelings of hopelessness would likely benefit from therapy,” says lead researcher Dr. Maarit Valtonen, since being positive helps people make healthier lifestyle choices.
Exercise and eat a healthy diet
In a 2006 study, researchers put a group of overweight and obese men through a program of exercising daily and eating a high-fibre, low-fat diet. After three weeks, the men lost just a little weight, but everyone’s cardiovascular and diabetic risk factors went down, and nine of the 15 men who had been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome no longer had it. Making healthy lifestyle changes now will have a huge impact on a man's chances of developing metabolic syndrome—and ultimately, diabetes and heart disease—in future years.
This article was originally titled "His Danger Zone," in the May 2009 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience—and never miss an issue!—and make sure to check out what's new in the latest issue of Best Health.
Best Health Magazine, May 2009