Saturday 16 December 2017

A man's guide to healthy ageing

Men forfeit up to six years of their lives because they fail to take care of their bodies. But a new book may help turn back the clock.

Young Boy Resting After Jogging
Young Boy Resting After Jogging

Graham Clifford

More and more of us are now taking to the highways and byways of the country in a bid to get fit. Once it was just active sportsmen and women who would don the runners or get up on their bike. Now the profile of those exercising has changed dramatically.

Those aged over 40 can be found pounding the roads, climbing our mountains and swimming in our seas.

Last year, the Republic of Ireland over-40s international football team was established and they've already locked horns with similar outfits from Northern Ireland, Wales and the Czech Republic.

"There's a lot of depression among players when they stop playing and that's why I had this vision to start up an over-40s side" says the team's founder, former professional Mark O'Neill.

In a new book A Man's Guide to Healthy Ageing by the American professors Edward Thompson and Lenard Kaye, they suggest how they hope to close the gap between the life expectancy for men and women as they urge the former to adopt healthy lifestyles in their later years.

While the average life expectancy for a women in Ireland is 83, the age for men is five years lower at 78.

"Women live longer because they are willing to seek help when they need it, they're willing to take better care of their bodies and to eat a little better,"says Lenard Kaye.

"Men have forfeited, somewhere along the line, five or six years of longevity because they delay asking for help, they deny health problems and they have a sense of being invulnerable. I think that difference would decrease dramatically if men took some lessons from the women in their lives."

Edward Thompson says: "In rural communities, such as those in Ireland, men traditionally haven't paid attention to their bodies as they age – it just wasn't the done thing. Men outsource their problem and let their wives or partners speak for them.

"We believe this is changing though, and there's a cultural shift. And we hope that by explaining what can be done to extend your life, Irish men will realise that it's never too late to change your attitude and live healthily."

The guide is an exhaustive review of current research into healthy ageing from a man's perspective, carried out over four years and vetted by medical professionals.

It focuses on four main areas. 'Managing our lives' describes the actions men over 40 can take to stay healthy. 'Mind and Body' explains how physical health and state of mind are connected.

'Bodily Health' looks at how body systems function and what changes may occur as men age.

The cold sea is a great stress buster


(It also reviews how to manage chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and heart conditions.) 'Living with Others' shows the importance of interacting with friends and family.

"While the typical woman is are more of a social animal, men are reluctant to share and pour out their soul to other men," says Thompson.

"But social interaction is key. Where men in rural Ireland once got together to farm or cut turf, that era has now passed so they need to find ways of filling that void."

It's claimed that men who start working out even at the age of 70 can increase their life span by 12pc. And more of us are heeding this message as sports and social groups for the over-40s spring up throughout the country.

Thompson, a professor of sociology and director of Gender Studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, says the self-help guide is meant to be a one-stop shop for men.

"We're not promising any kind of fountain of youth but the next best thing – the most current thinking on how men can maximise their chances of living well and long."


Irish Independent

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