HCA Midwest Physicians
February 25, 2016

Protect Your Heart

Heart disease is the number one killer of men in the United States. Nothing ages you faster than mistreating your heart. Gain more control over your cardiovascular health by eating a diet low in saturated fat and sugar, working out regularly, and not smoking. For extra heart protection, follow these steps:

  • Include fish in your meals each week. Choose fish such as salmon, haddock, mackerel, or tuna, which are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Studies suggest that eating fish two or three times a week may reduce your risk of heart disease. Omega-3 supplements are another option, but check with your doctor first.
  • Stay active during your downtime. Studies show that people who engage often in leisure-time physical activities, such as taking a bike ride or brisk walk, have a lower risk of heart disease compared with people who pass their free time less actively. Two hours per week of leisure-time activities may decrease heart disease risk by as much as 61%. It just goes to show that playing like a kid can help you avoid aging.
  • Meet your daily requirement for magnesium. Research suggests that men who get adequate magnesium from their diets have a lower risk of heart disease compared with men who don't get enough. Aim to get 400–500 milligrams of magnesium each day.

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Protect Against Cancer

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, and men are more likely than women to develop some type of cancer during their lifetimes. Make sure you're doing all you can to protect against cancer by eating a balanced and varied diet, exercising regularly, avoiding common carcinogens, and getting regular health screenings. Start with these risk-reducing tips:

  • Supplement your diet with vitamin D. A lack of the "sunshine" vitamin has been linked to colon cancer, and studies suggest that deficiencies may contribute to other cancers as well. Your body makes most of its own vitamin D from the sun's UVB rays in a complicated process involving your skin, liver, and kidneys. But because you want to avoid too much sun exposure, and foods, even D-fortified ones, may not deliver all the D you need, a daily supplement is good insurance against a shortfall.
    Take 1,000 international units (IU) of supplemental D if you are 60 or younger; 1,200 IU if you are over 60. The daily upper intake level is 2000 IU, so anything you take up to that dosage is generally considered safe.
  • Fill half your plate with colorful vegetables. Not only will you eat fewer calories, which helps you keep your weight in check, you will also be closing in on your 9-a-day fruit-and-vegetable goal and stocking up on cancer-fighting nutrients. The brighter the color of vegetables and fruit, the more antioxidants, such as vitamin C and carotenoids, are packed inside. While research has failed to show that individual antioxidant supplements prevent cancer, the combinations found in whole foods may be beneficial. Researchers don't know exactly what nutrient -- or combination of nutrients -- is responsible for squelching cancer, but most studies show there is a link between eating more fruit and vegetables and a lower risk of lung, oral, esophageal, stomach, and colon cancers.

Protect Your Skin

As your largest organ, the skin protects your entire body, so defending it against environmental hazards, such as too much sun exposure, is extremely important. The sun's ultraviolet rays not only age your skin by destroying elastin and promoting wrinkles but also injure the chromosomes in your skin cells. This damage can lead to skin disorders and cancers that may be life threatening. Take these steps to keep your skin healthy and discover new ways to stay young:

  • Schedule outdoor activities in the early morning or late afternoon. Avoid spending too much time in the sun during peak hours (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.), and steer clear of tanning beds, which emit harmful UVA rays. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen, SPF 30 or higher, to your face and exposed body areas 30 minutes before you go outdoors. How much should you apply? Enough to fill at least two shot glasses. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming or when you are sweating heavily. Look for these ingredients when shopping for for a sunscreen. Also, cover up with a hat, sleeves, and shades whenever you spend an extended period of time outdoors. Even in warm weather, you'll stay cooler and more comfortable if your skin is shaded with light-colored, breathable fabrics.
  • Perform routine self-examinations for skin cancer. Look for changes in the color, size, thickness, shape, or feel of a mole, freckle, or other mark. A new mole, or one that has irregular borders, has variable colors, or is larger than a quarter of an inch in diameter, should be examined by a doctor. Monthly skin self-exams and an annual total body screening by your doctor are important for the early detection of skin cancer.
  • Eat carotenoid-rich foods. Save your skin from sun damage and wrinkles by eating carotenoid-rich foods, such as cantaloupe, apricots, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, and other fruit and vegetables that have deep green, yellow, orange, and red hues.

Protect Your Mind and Spirit

Chronic stress can rob you of health and happiness. By hindering your immune system response, stress makes you more susceptible to infection, disease, and other health conditions and can cause wrinkles and other visible signs of aging. Stress also causes spikes in blood pressure, which could cause premature aging of the cardiovascular system. To neutralize these damaging effects, try to identify what stresses you, and then develop strategies to help you cope with these situations. Start with these steps:

  • Leave job stress at the office. A study suggests work stress may be even more detrimental to your personal relationships than work exhaustion is. Close personal relationships help you avoid aging and stay healthy. Before you head home at the end of the day, take a few minutes to employ a stress reduction technique, such as meditation or deep breathing. Also, try taking the scenic route home from work. Research suggests that viewing natural scenery helps reduce tension.
  • Set meaningful life goals. Choose a few goals that will make your life feel more meaningful, and devise ways to achieve them. This can help boost your psychological well-being, which in turn may improve your health.
  • Slip some humor-packed pastimes into your weekly schedule. Whether you watch a funny movie, attend a comedy show, or just share good times with people you care about, be sure to set aside some time for age-reducing belly laughs. Research has credited laughter with not only the power to reduce stress but also the ability to relieve pain, improve immunity, and lower blood pressure.

Bonus Step:

Actively patrol your health and see your doctors on a regular basis. Make the most of the time with your doctor, and avoid misdiagnoses by being prepared and informed when you go to an appointment. Write down any symptoms you are experiencing, even if they seem minor. For instance, if you have pain, track when it occurs and how long it lasts. Keep a list of the foods you eat daily as well as any medicines, herbs, vitamins, and supplements you take regularly. Also include information about your chronic conditions and your regular activities. Take this information to your appointment, and discuss it with your doctor.

Follow these steps to avoid aging, and live life to the youngest!

Content courtesy of ShareCare