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Statistics suggest that many men avoid visiting the doctor—until something serious develops. The problem with this “don’t look for trouble” approach is that trouble can end up finding you anyway. As men age, their risk increases for conditions like cardiovascular disease, prostate cancer, and others. The good news is that there are broad-spectrum solutions that can support key areas of men’s health and help safeguard long-term wellness.
No clear evidence that lowering cholesterol reduces risks of heart attacks
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in men. Elevated cholesterol is seen as the chief culprit, with statins among the most commonly prescribed drugs. Unfortunately, a hard look at statin studies suggests that they provide on average only a 3 percent reduction in risk of heart attack—but the risks of developing side effects like type II diabetes are much higher.
Here’s another problem: There’s no clear evidence that lowering cholesterol reduces risks of heart attacks. Prevailing wisdom states that high cholesterol causes arterial plaque buildup, generating blockages and fueling heart disease. However, it’s the type of cholesterol, specifically oxidized LDL cholesterol, that contributes to plaque buildup. Oxidized LDL cholesterol comes from eating cooked (rancid) vegetable oils, found in fried and/or processed foods. It’s also created by chronic inflammation, toxins, and free radical damage.
Indeed, the real heart disease risks come from chronic inflammation, which fuels uncontrollable scarring (fibrosis) and damage in tissues and organs. Large-scale studies show that people with high levels of the pro-inflammatory biomarker Galectin-3 (Gal-3) have a much higher risk of heart disease. A Gal-3 blood test is covered by most insurance for cardiovascular screening, and is also used to measure other areas of health.
Compared to statins, more studies show that interventions like healthy diet, exercise, stress relief, and targeted supplements effectively reduce heart disease risks. For example, supplementing with modified citrus pectin, a well-researched Gal-3 blocker, has been shown to reduce fibrosis and reverse atherosclerosis and related cardiovascular damage, among other benefits.
Compared to statins, more studies show that interventions like healthy diet, exercise, stress relief, and targeted supplements effectively reduce heart disease risks.
Prostate Health: Do You Really Need Regular PSA Tests?
In addition to cancer, other prostate problems are common as men age, including Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) and prostatitis (prostate inflammation), which can cause pain, discomfort, and urination problems. BPH and prostatitis don’t necessarily indicate cancer, but they can increase the risks by fueling abnormal cellular growth and other factors, so getting the right diagnosis is critical.
For many years, the PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) test was regarded as the gold standard for assessing prostate health. However, research now suggests that regular PSA screening does not improve outcomes, and raises risks of problems from invasive interventions. It’s now recommended that the PSA test be performed less frequently, in context with additional diagnostics including the Gal-3 test.
A supplement program for prostate health should emphasize botanicals and nutrients that support cellular health, reduce inflammation, remove toxins, balance hormones, and provide antioxidant support. Clinical studies show saw palmetto may be effective for treating symptoms of BPH as well as prostate infections.
In my practice, I recommend a comprehensive prostate formula shown in preclinical and clinical studies to effectively support prostate and urinary health. The formula contains 33 botanicals and nutrients including saw palmetto, turmeric extract, resveratrol, and others that support prostate function, immunity, detoxification, and other key areas. The formula is also shown in published research to work synergistically with modified citrus pectin.
Testosterone and Vitality
Low testosterone can lead to weight gain, lost muscle mass, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease. Some studies show that men with low testosterone have an increased risk of early death, particularly from heart disease, so it’s important to accurately diagnose the condition. In some cases, hormone replacement therapy may be necessary. However, this treatment comes with risks, and it’s important to remember there are gentler options.
There are several herbs known to boost male vitality. The herb ginseng, particularly red ginseng, can help increase hormone levels. A type of wild yam called shan yao can support the body’s production of testosterone precursors. Epimedium (more commonly known as horny goat weed) can increase testosterone.
A small number of human studies show that Asian ginseng may promote sperm motility and increase libido and erectile function in men. Effects are believed to be due to the actions of certain ginseng components on the central nervous and vasculature systems, with evidence that ginseng may modulate nitric oxide activity, allowing for more blood flow to the genitals.
Zinc deficiency has been associated with testosterone loss, so be sure to get enough of this mineral. Wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, oysters, beef, and lamb are good sources.
Men’s Hair Loss
Aging can bring imbalances in androgenic hormones, with elevated dihydrotestosterone (DHT) stimulating “male pattern baldness” in men and women. But as with any health condition, whether we retain healthy hair follicles can depend on genetics, nutrition, hormones, circulation, and other factors.
Here are a few natural remedies that have been shown in studies to increase hair growth:
- Eclipta Alba, also called False Daisy, has been shown to encourage hair growth.
- Flax seed extract is thought to help treat male pattern baldness by blocking the enzyme that converts testosterone into DHT.
- Teak (Tectona grandis Linn) seeds have long been used by Ayurvedic practitioners to increase hair growth. One study found they are at least as good as the drug minoxidil.
- Indian gooseberry (or amla) has been shown to promote hair growth and thicken hair when applied topically.
Don’t Ignore These Symptoms
Small problems may be the body’s way of signaling something serious.
Here are some potential red flags for men:
- Constipation could indicate digestive problems or even colon cancer. If problems persist for more than two weeks, see your doctor.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED) may signal heart disease, diabetes, or other conditions.
- Acid reflux can lead to ulcers and even cancer.
Many of these recommendations support total-body wellness, while also reducing risks of common conditions. The most important thing is to find a system for promoting health that works, and stick with it. Your body will reward you with greater strength, resilience, and long-term vitality.
Men’s Cognitive Health
As rates of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive loss climb, some experts are using the term “type III diabetes” to describe it. That’s because insulin resistance (common in diabetes) damages brain cells and aggravates memory loss. Also, sugar and excess blood glucose fuel inflammation throughout the body, furthering cognitive decline. Many of the steps we take to address metabolic diseases—such as a low glycemic (low sugar) diet and regular exercise—can also support brain health.
A low glycemic diet that includes nutrient-dense foods like lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates from vegetables, sprouted grains, and legumes, offers sustained energy for the brain and keeps inflammation in check. Emphasize green leafy and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. Some research has shown these can reduce cognitive decline. Vitamins A, C, and E, and B-complex vitamins have been shown to support neurotransmitter activity in the brain.
Also, the relationship between regular physical activity and brain power has been known for some time. Aerobic exercise, as well as more complex activities like dancing, are shown to help prevent cognitive decline.
Editor’s note: See Can Alzheimers Disease Be Prevented for more on Alzheimer’s prevention.
Supplements for Men
All products are available at The Vitamin Shoppe stores or on vitaminshoppe.com