Father's Day: Men's Health

By Parul Kharod

We devoted our last month's article to women's health. This month, let us talk about men's health issues.

Chronic Liver Disease - According to the US Department of Health and Human Services studies, chronic liver disease is a leading cause of death among Asian American men. Asian American men have the highest incidence rates and mortality rates of liver cancer. One of the major influential factors is chronic alcohol consumption. Asian men consume not only beer and wine, but a larger amount of hard liquor. Combining that with high fat greasy food leads to liver disease. Studies have shown that a high fat diet significantly increases total body weight, triglyceride and cholesterol, whereas alcohol increases liver weight. The combination of alcohol and high fat diet produces maximum hepatic steatosis or fatty liver. Recent evidence suggests that patients with fatty liver have a higher incidence of heart disease.

Heart Disease - South Asians have four times the risk of heart disease as the general population and have a much greater chance of having a heart attack before age 50. Heart attacks strike South Asian men at younger ages and the attacks are more deadly compared to any other ethnic group. Heart disease can be preventable. Dietary and lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. It is possible to lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and inflammation by knowing what foods to add and what to avoid.

Prostate Cancer - According to the American Cancer Society, Prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer to strike American men. Studies show that South Asian men — those from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Bhutan — are 40 percent more likely to die from the disease. Moderate liquor consumption has been associated with a significant (61-67%) increased risk of prostate cancer.

Diet and Lifestyle, Negative Effect:

One of the major lifestyle factors that increases risk of these chronic diseases is our party culture. Food and sleep are two of the major factors related to health. Both are affected if you stay up late and eat party food almost every weekend. Most parties include alcohol and high fat foods. We also tend to eat larger portions when in company of others.

Alcoholic beverages such as beer, wine, and cocktails can add calories. Alcohol is processed in the body as sugar. An ounce of alcohol has 80-110 calories depending on the proof. If you're also adding a mixer, the calories may add up! If you are having mixed drinks, the calories in juice, soda, and other additions can easily total up to over 500 calories.

In addition to the calories, alcohol interferes with fat burning. Normally, the liver metabolizes fats. But if there is alcohol present, the liver will break down the alcohol first for energy. The alcohol's presence spares the fat from being burned for energy. Alcohol also causes a drop in blood sugars and stimulates appetite in many people.

Diet and Lifestyle, Positive Effect:

There are several dietary and lifestyle changes that can help with all of the above conditions.

• Eat small balanced meals at regular intervals. Avoid large portions, especially late at night.

• Choose healthy fats. Avoid/limit fried foods. Eat good fats from nuts, seeds, and avocado. Avoid Trans fats (hydrogenated fats), which are present in ready to eat snack foods.

• Choose healthy carbohydrates. Simple starches and sugars can raise triglycerides, increase insulin resistance, and thus increase the risk of heart disease. Avoid foods made with maida or enriched bleached flour (all-purpose flour. Include whole grains, which are higher in fiber. Choose brown rice and other whole grains including whole wheat, brown rice, bulgur, barley, ragi, oats, bajri, jowar, or quinoa.

• Don't overdo protein. Excessive protein from animal sources has been proven to increase the risk of heart attacks. This includes meat, dairy (milk & cheese), eggs, and whey protein powders. Overdoing protein can also damage kidneys. Choose plant-based proteins such as beans and nuts. Sprouting beans makes them easier to digest.

• Limit Sodium. All packaged foods, including snack foods, frozen meals, and instant foods have extra sodium. Restaurant foods and fast foods also have an excessive amount of sodium, so limit eating out.

• Stay well hydrated. Drink 7-8 glasses of water. Avoid other beverages such as soda, juice, Gatorade, Kool-Aid, and other sugary drinks and diet drinks.

• Avoid or limit alcohol.

• Daily physical activity has protective influence on the heart. Make a resolution to move more.

• Reduce Stress and Anger. Stress and negative emotions such as anger have a negative effect on the body. These conditions can increase inflammatory hormones and start a chain reaction that can lead to heart attack or stroke. Practice mindfulness and stress relieving activities such as yoga, deep breathing, or meditation.

• Get 7-8 hours of sleep.

Specific nutrients

In addition to focusing on a healthy, plant-based diet, specific foods and nutrients may help men reduce risk of heart disease, liver disease, and prostate cancer.

Isoflavones: tofu, soymilk, soy nuts, tempeh, and edamame (steamed soybeans in the pod).

Green tea: Steep for about four minutes to maximize the flavonoid content. Drink without adding sugar or sweetener.

Red fruits and vegetables: Cooked tomato (sauce or soup), watermelon, red grapes, pomegranates.

Yellow fruits and vegetables: papaya, mango, peaches, cantaloupe, oranges, carrots, butternut squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes.

Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, kale, collard greens, and several other pungent and bitter vegetables.


Parul Kharod, MS, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian and licensed nutritionist and works as a Clinical Dietitian with Outpatient Nutrition Services at WakeMed Hospital in Cary and Raleigh. She can be reached at parulkharod@gmail.com