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HIS: Hey guys—check out these quick and easy strategies for he-man health at every age.
If you’re like most men, talking about health isn’t a top priority. In fact, it probably falls somewhere down the list after work, women, and how well your fantasy baseball team is doing this season. But paying attention to your health—and taking a few simple steps to make it better—can pay big dividends for you energy levels, your performance at work and at play, and yes, even your sex life.
Is your ticker a timebomb?
According to the American Heart Association, one in three men suffer from some sort of cardiovascular disease. You can avoid becoming a statistic, starting at the dinner table. Swap out that greasy burger for 4-6 ounces of heart-healthy salmon. And ditch the fries in favor of steamed or grilled veggies seasoned with herbs. And adding a glass of red wine to that healthy meal can give you a dose of cardiovascular-friendly resveratrol. Just don’t overdo it. Studies show that any more than two glasses per day actually undermine the benefits.
Supplements can boost heart health, too. Take a look:
Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which studies show can enhance all facets of heart health. A recent research review in the journal Atherosclerosis concluded that supplementing with omega-3s can significantly improve how well your arteries function. Other studies have found that fish oil helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels and reduces low-grade inflammation that can lead to atherosclerosis.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is another essential nutrient for a healthy heart. Research shows that it can improve energy production in heart cells, inhibit blood clot formation, and act as an antioxidant. Yet your natural CoQ10 levels take a nosedive as you age, and statin drugs can reduce levels even more. The problem is, supplemental CoQ10 isn’t well absorbed by the body. The fix? A more bioavailable form known as ubiquinol that is eight times more absorbable than traditional CoQ10 supplements.
Aged garlic extract (AGE) is another heart-healthy supplement that should be in every man’s toolkit. New findings confirm that AGE can reduce arterial calcification, lower blood pressure, improve the elasticity of blood vessels, clear arteries of deposits, help maintain a healthy cholesterol profile, act as a natural blood thinner, and increase blood flow. Worried about garlic breath? Don’t be. Aging the garlic removes the pungent odor found in other types of supplemental garlic.
Searching for Superman
Have you noticed that you’re just not the powerhouse you used to be? When it comes to strength and muscle mass, time can be your enemy. Spero Karas, MD, assistant professor of orthopedics at Emory University, says that testosterone maxes out during your teens and plateaus during your 20s. After that, your natural testosterone levels start to decline. But you can boost your levels with strength training and smart supplementation. New evidence in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that a daily dose of 50 mg of DHEA combined with high-intensity interval training increased free testosterone levels in a group of young and middle- aged men. DHEA is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that declines with age, and it’s available in supplement form. As a bonus, a Japanese trial found that just 25 mg of DHEA led to gains in heart health by improving arterial flexibility after just four weeks.
During the first weeks of a new training regimen, strength gains come from the recruitment of new muscle fibers. Adding protein to the equation enhances this effect. According to researchers at Northern Illinois University, to max out muscle protein synthesis, eat or drink a bar or shake with at least 20 gm of whey protein and a fast-acting carb like maltodextrin within 30 minutes of your workout.
Below the belt
While testosterone is necessary for muscle strength and body composition, this manly hormone can cause prostate enlargement when it’s converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This is a common problem for men over age 40—and it’s one reason the odds of an enlarged prostate (technically called benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH) become much greater as you age. In fact, 50 percent of all men will experience BPH by the time they hit their 60th birthday.
As the prostate gets larger, it puts pressure on the urethra, eventually causing a number of uncomfortable and inconvenient urinary problems. Fortunately, relief for mild-to-moderate BPH may be a simple as supplementing with the herb saw palmetto. In one study of 110 men, Saw Palmetto decreased night-time urination by 45 percent, increased urinary flow rate more than 50 percent, and reduced the amount of urine left in the bladder after urination by 42 percent. It’s no wonder this herb works so well. Like the BPH drug finasteride, saw palmetto inhibits 5-alpha-reductase, an enzyme that converts testosterone to DHT.
Prostate problems not only interfere with urinary function, they can put a serious crimp in your sex life. An enlarged prostate can, by itself, interfere with sexual function—and many of the drugs used to treat the condition have been linked to erectile dysfunction (ED). Conditions that reduce blood flow, including atherosclerosis and diabetes, can also lead to ED. But before you reach for that little blue pill, consider a more natural approach.
Dilation of the blood vessels necessary for a normal erection depends on nitric acid—and nitric acid formation depends on the amino acid L-arginine. New evidence in the journal Phytotherapy Research found that combining 690 mg of L-arginine with 60 mg of antioxidant-rich pine bark extract Pycnogenol improved the quality of erections as well as overall sexual satisfaction after just eight weeks.
You can also keep the fires burning with the herb Maca. During one clinical trial, Italian researchers discovered that supplementing with maca boosts both erectile function and libido in men with mild ED. Another study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that maca not only amped up sexual desire, it also enhanced athletic performance.
If you’re looking for a better sexual experience and don’t suffer from prostate problems, consider Tribulus Terrestris. This herb’s main claim to fame is its ability to boost testosterone levels. This, in turn, can enhance your performance in both the gym and the bedroom. But this herb also relaxes smooth muscle, allowing more blood to flow into the penis. A handful of human studies suggest that tribulus’ pro-erectile properties can help men conquer ED safely and effectively.
Hers: Natural strategies can help you sidestep some common health concerns
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria that enter the urethra and spread to the bladder. If you have a UTI, the best way to get rid of it is to neutralize the bug that’s responsible—usually E. coli.
D-Mannose. One of the best agents for eliminating UTIs caused by E. coli is D-mannose. This natural substance prevents E. coli from binding to the bladder wall. This bug has tiny “fingers” that clutch and hang onto the cells of the bladder wall. D-mannose sticks to the E. coli even more tenaciously than the E. coli stick to the bladder wall, however, and the result is that E. coli/D-mannose complex gets flushed out through urination. D-mannose comes in capsules and powder form.
If you’re taking D-mannose and don’t experience complete resolution of symptoms within 48 hours, see a doctor immediately; you definitely don’t want the infection progressing to the kidneys.
Cranberry. Cranberry juice is often recommended for UTIs. However, the fructose in cranberry juice can irritate the urinary tract. Some women find it helpful to avoid fruit altogether. Try cranberry tablets or powders instead.
As hormone levels shift and change—leading to sometimes dramatic physical changes—many women come to consider menopause as a condition simply to be “dealt with.” Instead, celebrate the passage into the next phase of your life with supplements that support your body into a more harmonious transition.
Maca Root. Maca can effectively treat many discomforts of menopause, including anxiety, depression, and loss of libido. In one study, 3.5 grams per day of maca reduced anxiety and depression, and helped treat sexual dysfunction in women.
Soy Isoflavones. Soy is rich in isoflavones (phytoestrogens), plant compounds that are very similar in structure to estrogen. A number of clinical studies have found that soy isoflavone supplements were significantly more effective than a placebo in reducing the severity and frequency of hot flashes.
Red Clover. Like soy, red clover is naturally rich in isoflavones. In one study, women who took 80 mg of red clover showed a 60 percent reduction in hot flashes. The herb also helps to reduce anxiety and depression.
Omega-3 Fats. In one study, women who took omega-3 fats had a decrease in the frequency of hot flashes. Other research shows that omega-3 fats eased psychological distress and depressive symptoms often experienced by women during menopause.
Black cohosh, like red clover, is rich in phytoestrogens that may ease both immediate and long-term effects of menopause. In one study, black cohosh was as effective as estrogen and superior to placebo in decreasing hot flash symptoms.
Relief from PMS
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects 30–40 percent of women. One of the best natural ways to relieve symptoms? vitamin B6. This vitamin may work in part by boosting the accumulation of magnesium within cells (magnesium deficiency has been implicated as a contributor to PMS). Studies show that women taking a supplement containing high doses of magnesium along with B6 experience a substantial reduction in symptoms. Recommended daily dosages are 25–5 0 mg of B6 and 300–450 mg of magnesium.
Love Your Heart
According to Harvard Women’s Health Watch, nearly 43 million women in the United States have some form of cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, killing nearly 422,000 each year—six times more than breast cancer.
The good news is that the risk factors are almost all improved by healthy lifestyle choices. Smoking, poor diet, physical inactivity, obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes are the major risk factors.
Mark C. Houston, MD, author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Heart Disease, recommends the following for people who want to prevent heart disease. “Omega-3 fatty acids are No. 1,” says Houston. “I also strongly recommend vitamin K2 (use the MK-7 form), garlic, resveratrol, CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin E (gamma delta tocotrienols), D-ribose, L-carnitine, curcumin, N-acetyl cysteine, and glutathione.” Additionally, Houston recommends a low-sodium/high-potassium and high-magnesium diet, as well as a diet high in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, lean meat, fish and wild game, and limited in carbohydrates.
—Emily A. Kane, ND
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