Exercise and nutrition lead to optimal men’s health

[5 min read] 

In this article:

  • Providence Chief Medical Officer Dan Getz, D.O., explains how good nutrition and regular exercise can impact other aspects of men’s health — at any age.

  • Learn a few important steps you can take that will lead to weight loss: getting good nutrition, exercising and choosing water over other temptations.

  • Understand how exercise and good nutrition, including omega-3 fatty acids, can keep your heart and brain strong.

Attention men: Take steps to improve your health and wellness

The relationship you build with your primary care doctor can be one of the most important relationships in your life. Your provider can advise you on things like healthy eating and safe exercise at any age. These healthy habits can improve your overall health, including keeping a strong heart and good brain function.

“When you come to see a Providence physician or advanced practice clinician for primary care, we want to focus on that bond, that trust,” says Dan Getz, D.O., chief medical officer at Providence. “It’s very important to us that we know you and we understand your goals.”

Learn from Dr. Getz what he describes as “the tapestry of health maintenance” — living a healthy lifestyle, eating a healthy diet low in fat, not consuming excessive alcohol, and exercising that includes weight training.

Q: How does my weight and what I eat impact my overall health?

A: Diet and exercise are important pillars in preventing diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Physical activity is important for maintaining good heart and brain function, and what you eat matters.

Weight loss is a challenging and often emotional topic for patients. At Providence, we have the resources as well as the training needed to help navigate that discussion and drive toward great results. It’s never too late to develop a healthy lifestyle.

Q: Is there a key to weight loss?

A: One of the most valuable aspects of weight management is understanding good nutrition. Make sure you eat a well-balanced composition of many things: lean proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

A critical piece of weight loss is portion control. When we counsel patients on weight management, they tend to be eating more than they thought they were. When they sit down with a kitchen scale and weigh out their food, they’re often surprised at how many calories they’re consuming in a day.

Hydration is key to weight loss. One of the things that people don’t realize about hydration is that if you’re drinking enough water throughout the day, it helps lower your appetite. We see lots of people with cravings. They simply want to consume something, and sometimes the healthiest option is just drinking a glass of water. Also, alcohol moderation is a very important part of weight loss.

Although you can lose weight initially with just dietary measures, regular exercise is a critical aspect of weight loss. It has to do with balancing the intake and output of calories. Regular exercise improves your metabolic rate, meaning that you’re not just burning calories while you’re exercising, but you’re burning calories after exercising. If you’re burning more calories and eating fewer calories, that’s going to lead to slow, steady, sustained weight loss.

It's very important as we lose weight that we’re also controlling body composition. The last thing I want to see a patient do is lose weight too rapidly, particularly lose muscle mass. We know that muscle acts almost like an endocrine organ, and it burns calories. So if we can preserve that lean body mass, we know that patients will burn more calories every day.

Q: How do alcohol and tobacco affect my overall health?

A: Alcohol abuse is one of the worst things for degrading the function of the heart and the mind and can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. It’s horrific for your liver. That choice to drink is something that you can do relatively safely if you adhere to the recommended daily limits, although the safest option will always be complete abstinence.

It’s absolutely clear that tobacco use is all bad. If you had to make one intervention immediately, working with your care provider to figure out how to stop smoking is crucial.

Q: How do diet and exercise impact my heart and brain health?

A: There’s been a little bit of an evolution in how we think about the heart and the brain. Obviously we realize how connected they are. The brain is probably your most important organ. Over time, it can degrade due to a lack of blood flow. As those blood vessels narrow, you get less blood flow to certain parts of the brain, and that can lead to stroke and even promote dementia.

As people age, sometimes they don’t “flex” their brain as much as they used to. That's why it’s so important as we age to continue performing mental activities that challenge the brain.

Physical activity is probably the most important piece of maintaining good heart and brain function. One thing people struggle to realize is that if they’ve been diagnosed with a heart condition, we absolutely need to get them exercising.

A healthy diet is key. Eating the right composition of foods — making sure you have enough of the omega-3 fatty acids — can keep your brain healthy. Making sure that we’re controlling the amount of sodium that we intake will help control our blood pressure, which is a critical portion of heart and brain health.

One of the most important things for heart and brain health is making sure that every night you’re getting very good, regimented sleep. During sleep is when the body really accelerates its repair of different tissues that need to be replaced or healed.

Investing in your heart and brain health is something that will pay dividends in your future. The healthier your brain, the healthier your heart, and the longer and happier life you’ll live independently.

Q: I haven’t exercised in years. How can I start a new fitness routine?

A: Fitness is my favorite discussion to have with patients because it’s so critical to overall health. One thing that defines a lot of males is that feeling of vigor and that ability to interact with the environment — do physical things, go hiking, bike riding. As we age, we reach a point where it feels like we’ve probably lost a step.

Providence is a no-judgment zone. If you want to start a fitness routine, realize that there’s no spot that you can’t start from. A little bit of movement is always better than no movement. We can work with you to obtain better fitness. If we can start making slow, steady progress with physical fitness, it’s going to impact all areas of your health.

Patients who have had a heart attack, stroke or have diabetes will benefit from advancing their exercise routine and hopefully prevent future recurrences. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise.

A critical part of fitness is resistance training. It not only increases muscle mass but also improves bone density, which reduces your risk of having a fracture should you fall or step wrong. Resistance training can increase longevity and also reduce your risk of developing significant health issues like heart attack and stroke. Resistance training also increases a man’s level of testosterone, which leads to better fitness, more muscle mass and improved metabolism.

The ability to exercise and strengthen your body will help all conditions. A major focus of Providence is health advocacy, and focusing on fitness is critical to improving men's health.

Q: Can good nutrition and fitness improve my mental health?

A: One of the most important early strategies in treating somebody who has depression or anxiety is helping them find a good exercise routine. We know that in patients with mild depression and mild anxiety, there’s a clear benefit from exercise that will improve their mental health, often helping them avoid medications.

Good sleep hygiene also helps reduce the risk of depression and anxiety. Depression has very tangible potential health risks in the form of heart disease and stroke.

We want to partner with patients where you are, establishing a relationship and developing routines that lead men to be stronger, more flexible and better able to live fulfilling lives.

Contributing caregiver

Daniel Getz, D.O., is chief medical officer of Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Providence Holy Family Hospital.

Find a doctor

If you haven’t seen a doctor in more than a year — or if you have physical or mental changes that concern you — consider scheduling a wellness visit soon. If you are looking for a primary care provider, you can search for one who’s right for you in our provider directory.

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Related resources

Food can be powerful medicine — and so can its temporary absence

10 superfoods that boost brain function

Healthy heart, healthy life

Eat your heart out: Food for better heart health

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions.

About the Author

The Providence Men's Health Team is dedicated to helping men reach and maintain their optimal health by providing relevant and helpful clinically based advice.

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