As men get older, it can become more difficult to stay active and manage your health. Work and family commitments might mean you don’t have as much time for exercise. You may suffer from more illnesses than you used to, or be more prone to injury. Or perhaps you feel like your energy levels have dropped.
Pedro Santos, registered nurse in AXA Health’s 24/7 health support line for members, explains that these are all natural parts of ageing, and all men will experience some or all of these challenges. But the more difficult it becomes to look after yourself, the more important it is.
There are numerous reasons to stay fit and healthy, but managing your weight is one of the most important. When it comes to your overall health, your bodyweight is at the very heart of it (pun intended).
What are the main risks of obesity?
One of the most common health issues for men is weight-management. In the UK, 68.2% of men are overweight or obese, a statistic that has been rising steadily since the early 90s.1
Being overweight, obese or severely obese doesn’t just impact day-to-day comfort, physical capabilities and clothing size. It also poses a number of significant health risks.
Here are some of the most serious conditions among men that are associated with being at an unhealthy weight:
Coronary heart disease
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is the leading cause of death for men in the UK.2 It’s a condition that develops when fatty substances build up within the coronary arteries, blocking or slowing the blood supply to the heart. It can cause heart attacks, palpitations or heart failure, and often comes with no symptoms.
Obesity is one of the main risk factors, as well as certain lifestyle choices that often go hand-in-hand with obesity, like an unhealthy diet or lack of exercise.
Visit our article on coronary heart disease for more information.
Type 2 diabetes is a serious, lifelong condition that can have a significant impact on a person’s day-to-day life. It affects the body’s insulin production, causing blood sugar levels to become too high. It can lead to fatigue, heart and circulation problems, sight issues and even nerve damage.
Obesity, poor diet and lack of exercise are all significant risk factors, so the treatment is often lifestyle-based to begin with. It’s thought that over 4.9 million people in the UK have diabetes and around 90% of them are type 2.3
Over one in 20 cancer cases in the UK is said to be caused by excess weight, making it the second biggest cause of cancer in the UK.4
For men, cancers linked to obesity include bowel cancer (which is one of the most common cancer types), kidney, liver and blood cancer, as well as three of the most difficult cancers to treat: pancreatic, oesophageal and gallbladder.
Obesity can also put you at a higher risk of developing other potentially serious health issues, including:
- high blood pressure,
- high cholesterol,
- liver and kidney disease,
- erectile dysfunction
- and sleep apnoea.
It can also have a hugely significant impact on your mental health, with depression being another very common symptom.
Depending on its severity, obesity can reduce life expectancy by three to ten years, and it’s estimated that being overweight contributes to at least one out of every 13 deaths across Europe.5
We’re all different, so what is a ‘healthy weight’?
The word ‘obese’ describes someone who’s overweight because of excess body fat. A relatively simple way to find out if you’re obese, and to determine what a healthy weight would be, is to use the body mass index (BMI).
While this isn’t used to diagnose obesity, it’s a useful indication. To find out where you are on the body mass index, you just use your weight and height to calculate your BMI score, then cross-reference it as follows:
- 18.5 to 24.9 = healthy weight
- 25 to 29.9 = overweight
- 30 to 39.9 = obese
- 40 or above = severely obese
You can work out your score by using the NHS BMI healthy weight calculator.
It’s important to note that a high BMI score doesn’t always mean obesity. Muscle weighs more than fat, so very muscular people can have a high BMI score without being obese or at risk.
How do I maintain a healthy weight?
The best way to curb weight gain or address obesity is to make lifestyle changes. This will involve reducing your calorie intake and exercising regularly. Some of the steps you can take include:
Eating a healthy, balanced diet. Any changes should be made sensibly – no crash or fad diets. A good starting point is to eat plenty of vegetables, wholegrains and fruits and reduce your intake of fat and sugar.
Exercise. The type of exercise you do, and the intensity and regularity, will depend on your age, weight and overall health. A useful guide is to aim for around two and a half hours of moderate-intensity activity per week. Don’t worry if you can’t manage that to start with. Just try and get moving and enjoy feeling active.
Monitoring or reducing your alcohol intake. Everyone has different reactions and tolerance levels when it comes to alcohol.
As a guide, the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines suggest that men shouldn’t drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.6 That’s around six pints of average-strength beer or six 175 ml glasses of average-strength wine.
Talking to someone. Obesity can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of isolation and depression. Mental health issues are very common with people who are overweight, and those issues can lead to overeating and excessive drinking, which then make it harder to lose weight. It’s a vicious cycle.
Psychological support can help motivate you on your weight-loss journey and change your attitude towards food and drink.
If you are obese or severely obese, it’s important to lose weight safely. Eating plans and exercise regimes won’t be the same for everyone.
You should speak to a doctor if you’re unsure and do your research. You’ll need to make a plan that works for you and be patient and kind with yourself throughout.
Diet and nutrition | AXA Health
Exercise and fitness | AXA Health
Mental health | AXA Health