Icelandic men are amongst the men who live the longest in the world.
Another fairly recent discovery is that Iceland has one of the healthiest diet in the world. The typical and uncomplicated diet of fresh fish, meat and dairy produce secures them one of the top ranks in studies by leading nutrition and health experts. Food is usually kept in its most simple and unprocessed form.
Some of the major health benefits of an Icelandic diet include weight loss, decreased risk of heart-related diseases, diabetes and cancer.
Back in Ireland, there are unprecedented levels of serious illnesses including cardiovascular-related diseases, cancer, diabetes and obesity amongst men. There is not one clear reason for this, but men’s attitude to food is a key factor. According to one food expert from a leading Irish food body, “many don’t regard eating well as an important factor in their long-term health”.
Diet surely plays an important role in overall health, but there are other factors involved in a healthy and long life.
What other things can you do? Get active! Aim to get at least 30 mins of moderate exercise a day. Regular, daily exercise is now proven to be more beneficial than 2 or 3 times a week on the treadmill.
Maintain a healthy weight. Watch the tummy fat as this can be harmful, covering the internal organs and can contribute to many health issues. Limit alcohol. Although France and Italy rank high in the world’s healthiest people, they do enjoy their red wine, but they drink it in moderation - generally no more than 2 glasses, and usually with a meal. Watch your stress levels. While we all need some stress to keep us motivated and alert, we need to find balance in our day-to-day lives. Find the thing that helps you switch off and gives your stress levels a chance to drop – many health problems can be masked under “stress”. High stress levels can also contribute to weight gain.
THE NATURE OF STRESS
Everybody know how it feels to be stressed. The racing heart, the pressure in the chest, the feeling of being overwhelmed, sweating, sleep problems, lack of concentration, back/shoulder/neck pain or tension, … the list goes on.
Chronic or long-term stress is often where it can become a problem. Stress can be behind many different health problems, including back and other muscular pain, high blood pressure, fatigue, anxiety, depression, poor concentration, headaches, infertility, and more. It can also have a negative impact on relationships, behaviour, judgement, sleep, and so on.
Stress affects both men and women – however, it is thought that it can have a greater impact on men than women.
As well as affecting physical health in many ways, stress also has a huge impact on mental and emotional health – it can affect work performance, behaviour and overall resilience, or ability to recover from setbacks.
What triggers your stress response? What can you do to restore calm, balance and clarity?
It doesn’t matter what that thing is, the important thing is to do it regularly!
HOW DOES STRESS AFFECT MEN AND WOMEN DIFFERENTLY?
During stress, the body releases stress hormones to help us cope with the stressful event or “trigger” – this is also known as “fight or flight”. The physical or chemical reaction is the same, whether there is a real physical danger, or a non-life threatening “stressor” such as a work deadline, or a difficult meeting looming, or constant financial or relationship concerns. Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released – this hormonal reaction has many consequences – it raises blood pressure, compromises the immune and digestive systems and causes the muscles to constrict and tighten.
Over prolonged periods of this “fight or flight” mode, health problems may start to occur – if left unchecked, many can lead to some of the serious diseases mentioned above.
When women feel stressed, they often talk about it with friends or family. This reaction to talk about how they are feeling and share their problems often helps the person to relax and feel better, physically and emotionally – the stress levels in the body return to normal.
Men are generally more reluctant than women to admit feeling stressed or overwhelmed. This reaction can make the levels of stress increase further.
TALKING ABOUT CHALLENGES IS HEALTHY!
They are more prone to bottling up their feelings and not discuss what they are finding difficult. Men are also less likely to visit a doctor or psychologist than women, missing out on some necessary support.
While stress cannot be removed from work or life in general, there is much that can be done to manage stress and reduce its impact on physical and emotional health.
What’s the good news on men’s health in Ireland?
On the positive side, the roads and mountains are full of bikers, runners and walkers. Organised runs and triathlons are taking place most weekends around the country. There’s great awareness about the importance of a healthy diet, and getting moving.
Yoga, Mindfulness and self-development courses are becoming more and more normal as a way of coping with the day-to-day challenges of busy and demanding lives.
The good news is that Irish men are starting to take their health more seriously. By moving and talking more, eating healthier, and stressing less, our men are on the road to outlive the Icelanders!
Ladies, please share this article with the men in your life! It just takes one small step to move towards better physical and mental health.
Article by Kerry White
Kerry is a Workplace Health & Wellbeing Facilitator, Speaker, Holistic Coach, Yoga Teacher & Shiatsu Therapist and the founder of Kerry Wellbeing.
Kerry specialises in workplace sessions to help people feel as well as possible, physically & mentally. Through practical and collaborative sessions, Kerry equips people in the workplace with effective tools and insights to help them deal positively with everyday stress, challenges and common health and well-being complaints (including backache, headaches, fatigue and anxiety).
Kerry has brought her unique health & wellbeing sessions to many top corporates and organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO). Because she has spent many years working in pressured office-based roles, Kerry understands the challenges many people experience, both physically and mentally.
For more information on Kerry's workplace sessions, visit: https://www.kerrywellbeing.com/workplace-wellness-health-wellbeing