By Juliet Fearnhead – Locum Dietitian for Leanne Kiezer, Pick n Pay Dietitian

As men get older, their risk of developing chronic diseases increases. However, adopting healthier lifestyle habits can dramatically reduce the risk of the following health conditions and ensure a higher quality of life for years to come.

Heart Disease
More men die from cardiovascular disease than any other condition. The good news is that men can take control of their heart health through a few positive changes:

• Shrink your serving sizes to prevent unnecessary weight gain 
• Make plant based foods the basis of all your meals
• Don’t smoke
• Plan a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise daily

It is well known that a poor diet as well as being overweight and inactive are risk factors for cancer. The two most common cancers affecting men are prostate and colorectal cancer, but these simple guidelines are followed the incidence of these cancers can be halved:

• Maintaining or achieving a healthy weight
• Being physically active every day for 30 minutes or more
• Eating a plant-based diet that limits red meats and avoids processed meats
• Aiming for a sensible alcohol intake – no more than two drinks per day.

A lot of men think that they simply only need to ‘cut carbs’ to prevent or manage diabetes but what they really need to do is ‘cut the pounds’. For men who are at risk, these simple guidelines can prevent the onset of diabetes:

• A loss of 5% to 10% of starting weight
• Have less energy dense foods and cut down on fat intake
• Increase exercise to a minimum of 150 minutes per week

Vision Loss
Reading glasses and bifocals may seem like a normal part of aging, but many men suffer from significant vision loss and even blindness as they age. This can be caused by cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A definite link exists between nutrition and AMD, and the following guidelines are important:

• Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables
• Emphasise the intake of lutein- and zeaxanthin-rich foods such as dark leafy greens (spinach, broccoli, kale), egg yolk, citrus fruit and carrots
• Have fish, especially the oily varieties such as salmon, herrings, pilchards and sardines, at least twice a week

While there are different types of arthritis, what they all have in common is inflammation. Research has shown that some foods seem to increase inflammation, and others may decrease it. 

• Tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, nuts, and fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, as are olive oil and fatty fish. 

• Fried foods, refined carbohydrates, sugar-sweetened beverages, red and processed meats, and fats such as margarine, shortening, and lard are considered inflammation-promoting.

While the most common diseases that affect men as they age all seem different, the diet and lifestyle advice for prevention essentially is the same: eat a nutrient-rich, plant-heavy dietary pattern that includes fish, whole grains, dark leafy greens, and nuts and seeds; be active at least 30 minutes every day; watch your weight and don’t smoke.

You might also want to read this post on nutritional supplements

Pick n Pay is committed to promoting health and wellbeing among South Africans, and employs the services of a registered dietitian to provide food and nutrition-related advice to the public.  For your nutrition and health-related queries, contact [email protected] or toll free on 0800 11 22 88.