Men’s heart health: Prevention and wellness strategies

Two men running for exercise in a park

[3 MIN READ | 30 MIN WATCH]

In this article:

  • Prevention is the most important step to maintaining heart health in men.
  • Hormonal differences mean men need to start thinking about prevention earlier than women.
  • Dr. Beckerman, Providence Heart Institute, provides his top 7 prevention strategies for heart health.

They might not want to admit it, but men don’t always do a great job of taking care of themselves particularly when it comes to seeing their primary care provider and going to the cardiologist. Men who are young and healthy might not consider that they have a genetic predisposition to heart disease or that taking a medication or developing certain habits in their 20s and 30s might just prevent something far more serious in the future.

That’s why James Simmons, DNP, founder and host of @AskTheNP, sat down with Dr. James Beckerman, MD recently to discuss a wide array of topics related to men’s heart health. Dr. Beckerman has been a cardiologist for 14 years, and serves as Medical Director, Clinical Programs and Strategy, Prevention and Wellness at Providence Heart Institute. He coaches our Heart to Start community exercise program, directs our Play Smart Youth Heart Screening program, and is the regional director of cardiac rehabilitation in Oregon. He is the team cardiologist for the Portland Timbers Major League Soccer team and serves on the Sports and Exercise Leadership Council for the American College of Cardiology. You can watch the full conversation at the link below or scroll down to read and watch some highlights.

Prevention strategies for healthy hearts

Prevention is the most important thing you can do today for your heart health. It may not be as initially intriguing as other aspects of what cardiologists do in healthcare, but Dr. Beckerman has a great way to explain the importance of prevention:

“If you were trying to save money for retirement, it would be really great to win the lottery at age 65. If you could just plan that you win, you’d be set. But we know that life doesn’t work out that way and that isn’t as good a strategy as saving money every week in your 30s, 40s and 50s. Think of prevention as the 401k of health.”

What are the top 7 prevention strategies for heart health?

  • Eating healthfully – it’s important to work with your doctor to find the best plan for you and all dietary plans should be specific to the individual.
  • Exercise – find a way to be active that brings you joy so that it’s easier to establish a routine.
  • Control high blood pressure
  • Manage or prevent diabetes
  • Manage high cholesterol
  • Don’t smoke or quit smoking
  • Get adequate sleep regularly

Watch Dr. Beckerman share more tips on ways to incorporate heart-healthy habits, especially the role sleep plays, into your lifestyle for optimal preventative care in the video below:

How men’s heart health differs from women’s

While wellness practices can be universal, there are certain factors that make heart health unique for both men and women. The major difference is the hormonal makeup between men and women and how that changes throughout our lives. Women have exposure to estrogen and that seems to impact how or when they might develop heart disease. “Men tend to develop heart disease about 10 years earlier than women,” explains Dr. Beckerman. “If we go back to the financial example, men have to retire 10 years earlier than women do so it’s important that they start saving (adopting prevention strategies) earlier than women.”

Prevention is important for men and women, but men need to be prepared to think about prevention strategies in their 20s and 30s. Learn more about how men’s heart health is different in the clip below:

Heart disease symptoms

We all know our bodies well and we know how to recognize the standard aches and pains that come and go. But when something changes and you begin to feel different, that’s the time to pay attention and consider that there might be a medical cause for why you feel so different. The common signs of heart health issues are chest discomfort, shortness of breath and fatigue. But a major change that many people ignore is a change in your exercise of activity capacity.

Perhaps you used to be able to do a particular hike or play a game of basketball with ease, but now you feel really tired afterward. “Heart disease manifests in so many ways, but when you think ‘I feel different than I’m supposed to be feeling,’ that’s the time to see medical care,” says Dr. Beckerman.

Certain medical conditions are precursors to heart disease later in life, and other physical symptoms are more subtle. Learn what to watch for and how to manage it in the video clip below:

How to start exercising for your heart

We all need to be active on a regular basis, but if you’re just starting out or getting back into an activity the best advice is to establish a routine. Dr. Beckerman brings it all back to the financial metaphor:

“When you put money in your retirement account, you don’t write a check. You automate that transaction. People who automate things don’t have to think about and are able to maintain the behavior. With exercise, it’s possible to do that, too. Establish a routine like you do when brushing your teeth. You don’t decide to do it, you just set your life up in a way to automate it.”

Another way to get started is to think of your exercise plan like an appointment you can’t miss and make sure to pick a time that makes sense in your life. Hear Dr. Beckerman and Dr. Simmons talk more about the importance showing up for yourself and establishing exercise routines in the clip below:

 

Find a doctor 

The heart specialists at Providence combine advanced expertise and the latest techniques to protect your health. With Providence Express Care Virtual, you can access a full range of healthcare services. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our online provider directory

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Related resources 

Stress and the heart: What you need to know

Heart health glossary: Here are the terms you should know

The future of cardiovascular care: A conversation with Matt Ducsik

Making lives better: A conversation with Amy Compton-Phillips

 

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