Men's Health Week: Doctor gives 15 tips to men on how to live longer

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It’s Men’s Health Week - here’s what men can do to slash their risk of premature death.

The last consensus showed that the life expectancy of men, for the first time in the history of the human race is getting lower than their fathers.

On average, men also still die four years younger than women, at about 79 years old. Men are more prone to have higher levels of risky behaviours such as smoking, eating less fruit and vegetables, drinking excessive alcohol and are less likely to seek medical help or adhere to healthcare advice.

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As a full-time oncologist for over 25 years and lead of a lifestyle research unit which has designed and conducted some of the world’s largest scientific studies looking at nutritional interventions, I am pleased to share practical strategies, which could slash men’s risk of premature aging, early death and chronic disease.

Here are the most important:

Regular exercise for about 2.5 to 3 hours a week and avoiding long periods of sitting have been linked to a significantly lower risk of hypertension, cholesterol, heart disease, dementia and cancer. Any exercise which increases heart and breathing rates is good but it’s important to find an activity which is enjoyable, hence sustainable, including running, brisk walking and even cycling.

Smoking causes heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and increases the risk of many cancers including a more aggressive type of CaP.

Low levels of vitamin D are linked to an increased risk of cancer, dementia, Covid, depression and heart disease. Sunbathing, without burning, is the best way to increase vitamin D levels, so a winter holiday can help maintain levels over the darker months. Otherwise, vitamin D supplementation, especially if combined with a probiotic that enhances its effect, is a sensible alternative.

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Having more sex or, more specifically, 21 or more orgasms a month, has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer of the prostate (CaP) by 31 per cent compared to men who report having four to seven ejaculations per month.

A few glasses of red wine a week has been linked to better gut health and a lower risk of CaP, probably due to its high concentration of a phytochemical called resveratrol. It must be noted, however, that consuming more than two drinks a day increases the risk of bowel cancer, and any amount of alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer in men and women.

Eating more fruit, cruciferous vegetables, and spices also increases the intake of healthy phytochemicals, which protect individuals from dementia and cancer by reducing excess inflammation, and improve gut flora. In 2013, a blend of pomegranate, broccoli, green tea, and turmeric was found to slow the progression of CaP. In 2024, the world’s largest nutritional intervention study for CaP builds on this data by boosting phytochemical levels using targeted extracts and adding other foods such as cranberry and ginger, which enhance the absorption of phytochemicals.

Reducing meat and particularly processed meat intake such as grilled sausages, bacon, sliced ham and tinned meats will reduce the risk of cancer 20% compared to low or no meat eaters. Processed meats contain toxins which increase inflammation and directly damage our precious DNA causing premature aging and disease.

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Poor gut health has been linked with a higher risk of many cancers, fatigue, low mood and demotivation to lead a healthy life. Factors which affect gut health include exercise, processed sugar, smoking, obesity and stress. As mentioned above, a combination of lactobacillus and vitamin D was the choice for latest national intervention study.

Ditch the processed sugar especially in drinks as this increases the risks of many diseases including high cholesterol and cancer. Adding sugar to tea or coffee negates their otherwise protective benefits.

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of many diseases. The combination of abdominal obesity, raised sugar, fats, blood pressure and inflammation, a condition called metabolic syndrome, is particularly harmful.

Eating more nuts helps lower cholesterol and reduces the risk of bowel and CaP but more importantly it reduces the risk of death because nut eaters develop slower-growing more curable cancers.

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Cleaning teeth reduces chronic inflammation in the gums, a strong driver of cancer cell growth. Studies show that men with poor teeth hygiene have higher benign prostate hyperplasia, many types of cancer, heart disease and dementia.

Eating more unfermented soy products such as soy milk, tofu and edamame has been linked to a reduced risk of CaP. Fermented soya products such as miso and tempeh can help reduce many other chronic disease and help lower cholesterols. Caution must be taken with concentrated soy extract in supplements as these could cause hormonal changes which could increase CaP progression.

Eating oily fish 2-3 times a week has been linked to a lower heart, cancer and dementia risk probably due to its omega 3 and mineral content. Unfortunately, evidence from two large studies had raised most concerns with fish oil supplements. Their negative effect more-likely relates to excess vitamin E intake which is used as a preservative. Omega 3 can also be derived from flax and chia seeds and avocados and non-fish supplements made from algae.

High intake of dairy products have been linked to a slightly higher risk of prostate cancer and weight gain. However, a recent large USA survey suggested that men who included dairy in their diet had a lower risk of heart disease. Low quantities, such as in tea, clearly carry very little or no risk as do fermented cheeses and yogurt provided individuals do not have lactose intolerance.

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So, in conclusion, there is a lot men can do to reduce their risks of chronic disease, premature aging and death. For further advice, the book How to Live provides more in-depth explanations of how and why lifestyle interacts with disease and longevity.

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