It’s Father’s Day, and you’ve got love in your heart for the men in your life -- your husband, your dear old dad, maybe even your brother. But it seems they might not be watching after their own hearts. They ignore this vital organ at their peril: As with women, heart disease is a leading killer of Americans. More than a half million men have heart attacks each year.
Even so, fewer people have died over the past decade, largely due to more effective treatments. The American Heart Association also credits prevention efforts, such as quitting smoking. "This proves that even a little bit of awareness and doing something about the risk factors help tremendously," says Samir Kapadia, MD, an interventional cardiologist at The Cleveland Clinic.
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Do you want to help a man in your life get more serious about heart health? Here are six ways to increase his heart smarts:
Encourage men to get checkups. An American Academy of Family Physicians survey found that more than half of men don’t get regular checkups -- and don’t know what their risk factors are. High blood pressure and diabetes are both known as "silent killers" because they give no clues. Yet blood pressure starts climbing once a man hits 45 (or a younger age for black men), and 24% of those with diabetes don’t know it. An annual checkup also gives men the opportunity to talk with their doctor about any concerns; erectile dysfunction, for instance, can be an early indicator of heart disease.
Help men with their diets. Keeping trim is important for heart health, but many men skip meals, snack during the day, eat a big meal loaded with fat and calories at night, and, not surprisingly, gain weight. So why not show your man he can stay fit and full with a healthy meal that’s satisfying and delicious?
Choose fish -- grilled tuna, salmon, trout, or mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids -- and add flavor with fresh herbs instead of salt, which raises blood pressure. You could also serve a glass of wine; Kapadia favors red wine, which contains compounds like flavonoids and antioxidants that might reduce heart disease risk.
Help men get exercise. Physical inactivity is a risk factor for heart disease, and although more men exercise than women, the figures aren’t impressive -- about 50% of men don’t exercise regularly, according to a CDC survey. Like women, men find lots of reasons not to work out and can get discouraged if they were athletic in high school but now find they lack stamina, Kapadia says.
Also, he notes, "many men lift weights because they want to build muscles, and they think that, when it comes to exercise, they’re all set." But men need cardiovascular exercise for heart protection, which means brisk walking, jogging, or biking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, at a pace vigorous enough to increase heart rate and break a sweat.