Are Irish Men Healthy?

The Truth…..
There’s no doubt that men can get a bad deal when it comes to their health. We’ve all heard the depressing statistics about life expectancy for the Irish male being five years less than the average Irish female. And we only need to look around us for evidence of this; I’m more often attending the funeral of a friend’s father than their mother in the last few years.

But we want to look beyond just statistics (although we’ll start with those), into what the potential is for men to start taking their own health into their hands, without huge transformations but, rather, small, simple changes to their diet and fitness. It’s highly possible but, not only that, it’s life-changing, not just in terms of longevity but also in terms of the feelgood factor. Many of our male clients mention benefits that seem small – but are huge in the context of their lives – such as being able to walk up several flights of stairs without being out of breath, or being able to kick around a football with their son or daughter for longer than usual.

The Good News
Firstly, I bet it’s good to hear that men are more likely to be ‘highly active’ than women? So, in other words, whilst women might be doing well in terms of moderate exercise like walking, men are generally twice as likely to engage in the type of exercise that is higher intensity, which is very good for heart health.

Well done to those men!

Men can also be more social than women, on a regular basis, with 52% reporting to take part in a regular social activity with friends compared to just 43% of women (this is important as research shows that strong social bonds are crucial for our health). In terms of longevity, although women still outlive men in many cases (see below), things are improving; in the 1960s the average Irish man could expect to live to about 68 years; now he should be around to celebrate his 75th birthday. That’s an extra seven years – let’s go for more and bring that up to 78, come on guys!

The Not So Good
Unfortunately 43% of men are more likely to be overweight compared with 31% of women. And, although ‘beer bellies’ are often the butt of many jokes, it’s no laughing matter as this puts men at greater risk of a heart attack. Irish women also tend to eat more healthily than men (83% of women regularly eat vegetables as opposed to 73% of men). Slightly more men (24%) smoke compared to women (21%), although there is not much in the difference. And women are 12% more likely to visit a GP than men – researchers do think this attendance record is improving though, with it becoming more acceptable in our culture for men to ask for help (about time).

A Way of Life
But there is so much hope – if men would come and ask for the right help. Joining Motivation teaches our clients to work simple habits into their daily life so that weight loss becomes relatively simple. We’re not saying it’s easy, but it is straightforward. Yes, it requires a little bit of time and effort, such as preparing your lunch the night before or taking the stairs at work instead of the lift, but the benefits are almost instantaneous.

As a collective group, the truth is that all the figures could improve, not just the waistlines of men in Ireland (which, if yours is over 40 inches / 101 cm, you’re putting yourself at serious risk of heart disease and cancer).

But, by losing weight, you could even reduce your chances of developing cancer (as it is thought that as many as 30 percent of several major cancers could be attributed to being overweight and inactive). Also, losing 5 to 10 percent of your weight can lower your chances of developing coronary heart disease or having a stroke. If you weigh 200 pounds / 90.7 kgs, this means losing as little as 10 pounds / 4.5 kgs – that’s not too difficult at all!

In fact, by losing almost any amount of weight, you may well improve your blood pressure, triglyceride and cholesterol levels; improve your heart function and blood flow and decrease any inflammation that may occur throughout your body. That, and if you suffer from erectile dysfunction, losing weight could be one of the best, drug-free ways to restore normal function – so, say welcome back to a healthy sex life too!

A Straightforward Approach
My intention here is not to compare men and women without purpose; instead, I’m trying to put things in context to show men the potential for their improved health. Women are generally better at doing this than men, so why not take their lead? Invest in yourself, and the dividends are huge.

And, without feeding into too many stereotypes it’s worth mentioning here that when male clients come into our clinics we generally find that they do very well. They want to know what to eat, how often and when and then, armed with a shopping list and portion guide, they set to work. Nine times out of ten, their approach is very straightforward and their improved blood sugar control (which happens within three to four days only) is life-changing for them. Their cravings for the sweet stuff almost disappears, allowing them to more easily make the healthier choice. This, teamed with the positive feeling they get from exercising (just walking is enough – and counting steps is a great incentive) and seeing results quickly, often leads to great success.

So please don’t hesitate any longer men! That beer belly that’s hiding under your shirt – isn’t it time you got rid of it? You’re never too old and it’s never too late to start changing your habits. Like any decent car, you need to start looking after your body if you want it to last. We can educate you on the right fuel and the type of exercise that will work best for your body…so that, some day soon you’ll be inhabiting a new, improved version of yourself; meaning many more happy years enjoying your family, your career and your favourite pastimes.

Put the effort in now, and the pay-off will be huge.

Blog Post by Maebh Coyle