In part 1 we looked at some exercise and diet changes that can help you get and stay healthier. Here are some more tips to help you renew yourself in 2020!
What about testosterone? If you are a man taking hormone therapy (androgen deprivation therapy, or ADT for short) for prostate cancer, your lower testosterone is intentional: the goal of treatment is to lower your testosterone level in order to deprive the cancer of its fuel. For these men, it’s even more crucial to maintain lean body mass through proper nutrition and exercise, and incorporate weight-bearing exercise to maintain bone mass. But all men, as they get older, will experience some drop in testosterone level. “This naturally happens,” says Platz, “but it drops in some men more than in others.” Even if your testosterone is not low, it might be on the low side of normal, and it’s still important to exercise and maintain a healthy weight.
An engaged brain functions better. Thus, get a hearing aid if you need one. “This is an emerging area,” Platz says, “but there is solid, very sound research showing that people who have greater hearing loss tend to have greater cognitive decline.” If you can’t hear, “your engagement with others tends to wane. When your brain is no longer stimulated to the same extent, it’s associated with cognitive decline.” This is the “use it or lose it” idea; if your brain isn’t actively engaged – if you’re not hearing conversation, or the TV, or the sounds of nature, or a sermon in church, or your friends and family members talking to you – those un-engaged brain cells can shut down. Isolation is bad for the brain, and bad for your health in general.
So: Stay active. Volunteer, play poker, meet friends for coffee, take a class. Keep your brain working. Talk to people. That kind of engagement is good for your brain, and it prolongs life. We are hard-wired to talk to other people, and to listen to them, and hey! If we can help others while we’re doing it, it’s a win-win. “You’ve accumulated wisdom, experience, and expertise, and if you can share that with others, including the next generation, so much the better.”
Take care of your liver. If you drink too much alcohol, or if you are overweight to the point where you are at risk of becoming pre-diabetic or diabetic, your liver can pay the price. “Fatty liver disease is emerging as an epidemic in the U.S.,” says Platz. If the liver is overloaded, it accumulates fat, becomes inflamed, and several things can happen: the liver can develop fibrosis, or scar tissue, that may even lead to cirrhosis. “If you feel like you’re starting to go down that path, now is the time to reassess your diet and lifestyle. The best analogy is foie gras, where we force-feed ducks to create fatty liver and make good pâté. When you accumulate fat in your liver, it’s the same thing that happens with those ducks.”
Make it your life’s mission not to fall. The older you get, the harder it is to bounce back from a fall. A toddler can face-plant and spring back up. An older man can fall and break a bone, wind up in the hospital, and if he doesn’t push the physical therapy and exercise afterward, not ever fully recover all his flexibility and strength. So, let’s do our best to avoid this scenario! Here’s where yoga and some very simple exercises can help you maintain balance and flexibility. “This needs to be a huge focus for men as they age,” says Platz. It’s not so much about strength – again, nobody’s asking you to heft a giant barbell – as it is about stretching and working on your balance. And, keep your bones strong: make sure you get enough calcium. Calcium doesn’t have to come from milk and cheese. You can get it from leafy green vegetables, and some foods you might not expect – like sardines, and even tofu. However: “The recommended dietary allowances for men aged 51-70 are 1,000 mg a day of calcium; and for men age 71 and older, 1,200 mg. A half-cup of raw broccoli has 21 mg. But if you’re trying to get to 1,000 mg, you’d have to eat an awful lot of broccoli.” In a perfect world, you would achieve dietary perfection by eating an exceptionally well-rounded diet. Most of us don’t achieve that, and if you’re not getting enough calcium, you may need a supplement. Don’t go overboard! With dietary supplements, it’s not a case of, “if a little is good, more must be better.” Just getting enough is fine.
Fasting? Intermittent fasting, in various forms, has been in the news lately, and “some studies suggest there is a biological benefit.” However, there is an easy way for you to take a break from food every day: Cut out the late-night snacks. “If you get the munchies at 10 at night, you’re basically having the calories of another meal. Just not having food after dinner can make a big difference. Sometimes, half the battle is simply recognizing what we’re eating.” Are you eating more than you think? An easy way to find out is to write it down, or use an app on your phone to record everything you eat. Keeping a record – just for a few days, even – might make you think twice before saying yes to that late-night piece of pie.
Try to get more sleep. Most of us don’t get enough sleep, or don’t sleep well. There are some simple things you can do for better “sleep hygiene,” including not being on your phone or the computer right before going to bed; the blue light these devices produce messes up your body’s clock. Drinking caffeine or alcohol too late in the day can affect your sleep, as well. Herbal tea, with lavender or chamomile, or other natural remedies can help; so can taking melatonin, a hormone your body naturally produces. We make less melatonin as we get older; ask your doctor about taking an over-the counter melatonin supplement. Also: “Many men tend to snore as they get older. If your partner tells you that you’re snoring, maybe you should do something about it. Losing weight can help.” If it’s severe, talk to your doctor.
For more tips on cancer prevention and general wellness, download PCF’s latest guide, The Science of Living Well, Beyond Cancer.