Being a man is a lot less easy than many ladies like to think. We all want to stay healthy, but are we doing everything we can to ensure we do so? Here are some things to consider:
At 46, an age when many men are already troubled by a flagging sex drive or occasional impotence, Dr. Goldstein says he has never encountered any significant problems and is, in fact, enjoying sex more now than he did in his 20s.
“The few bouts of impotence that I’ve experienced have been related to alcohol use,” he says. “It’s a really bad drug to have on board. If I go to a party and see some guys loading down the drinks, I know their evening afterward will be very predictable.”
Dr. Goldstein attributes his sexual health to the following five pillars of potency, tenets that he preaches in his lectures and practices in his private life. 1. I keep my endothelial cells healthy. These cells form the internal lining of all the blood vessels in your body. It’s believed that any injury to them can lead to plaque deposits that cause the narrowing of arteries and heart disease. Unrestricted blood flow is vital not only to cardiovascular health but also to sexual health. Blood makes your penis firm and delivers a fresh supply of nourishing oxygen. Without it, you’d resemble an overripe grape withering on the vine.
Dr. Goldstein scrubs his endothelials by eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet and exercising regularly (situps, stair-climbing, walking). “It’s all pretty straightforward stuff that most physicians will tell you about living your life,” he says. “But a unique way to look at it is that you’re only as healthy as these endothelial cells, and you’ll age only as quickly as they do.” 2. I never ride a bicycle. Dr. Goldstein doesn’t trust bikes because their scats force you to support much of your weight on the soft tissue between your pelvic bones. Since this nether region contains nerves and arteries that feed the penis, any pressure that’s exerted for long periods can have serious consequences. One of Dr. Goldstein’s patients, for example, became impotent from regularly riding a stationary bike. Horseback riding or straddling any narrow seat can do similar damage. “I never sit on anything where my legs are spread and my body weight is on my crotch,” he states. 3. I’m careful during coitus. “During sexual intercourse, I’m very careful not to bend, twist, spindle or mutilate,” says Dr. Goldstein. “Penises in the erect state are very vulnerable to injury. They’re not designed to bear the weight of a 120-pound female on top of you. I had a patient once who was having intercourse with a woman who was expecting an important phone call. When the phone rang, she changed the orientation of her pelvis while he was still inside her and fractured his penis.
“When my wife is in the superior position,” he adds, “we’re both communicating and I’m holding on so she doesn’t get too out of control. To further protect yourself, never have sex when you’re drunk or mind-impaired or, like I tell my friends, with anyone who’s crazier than you are.” 4. I have erections often. “In the flaccid state, the penis receives less than 0.1 percent of the blood circulating through the body,” says Dr. Goldstein. “That’s lower than virtually every other organ. Its oxygen level is also very low, 35 millimeters of mercury compared to 55 to 60 in most organs. The only time the penis gets a lot of blood and oxygen is during erections. Hence the saying, `Use it or lose it.’ Erections recharge your batteries.”
You can accomplish this with frequent sex and masturbation or, if you’re not as blessed or don’t want to regress, a simple good night’s sleep. “You typically have 1 1/2 to 3 hours of penile erection during a normal, healthy night’s sleep,” he explains. He warns, however, that some antidepressants and certain sleeping pills can diminish the deep phases of sleep, when this natural rejuvenation occurs. 5. I know to treat any erection problem quickly. Don’t handle erectile dysfunction as you would a head cold, waiting patiently for it to clear. “It’s far smarter to get treatment earlier rather than later,” says Dr. Goldstein. “If your penis isn’t getting the oxygen it needs, mild impotence can easily become serious impotence, and then many of the newer, noninvasive therapies won’t be useful.”
Dr. Blackburn is one of America’s premier nutrition and weight-loss experts, but he also knows first-hand how food cravings can run amok. He has battled obesity for much of his life and, at age 60, appears to have finally gained the upper hand. He’s 20 pounds lighter than he was a decade ago, and proudly notes that his risk factors are low for every major disease. But just as an alcoholic is never cured, he must be forever vigilant. Here’s how he patrols his perimeter.
* I weigh myself daily.” The biggest health risk for adults is weight gain,” says Dr. Blackburn, “so I monitor mine daily. When I step on the scale each morning, I compare what I’m seeing today to yesterday, this week to last week, this month to last month, this year to last year. When I see an increase, I immediately know to go into portion control and increase my physical activity. I cannot sense a 3- to 5-pound weight gain without a scale.”
* I eat quarter-portions of fatty foods. “To enjoy the pleasure of the taste, and avoid making myself feel like a martyr for denying my craving, I’ll eat a tiny portion,” he explains. “You simply take the food that’s associated with gaining weight and allow yourself a fourth of a serving.” If you eat it slowly, you’ll be satisfied, and you won’t inflict as much caloric damage.
* I eat one sensible meal a day. “For people like me, it’s often very difficult to stop eating once you’ve had a sensible portion,” admits Dr. Blackburn, “so I expose myself to that risk only once a day whenever there is time to enjoy.” His main, sit-down meal usually consists of two or three vegetables, plus a 2- to 3-ounce portion of fish or fowl, for a total of 500 to 700 calories. Overall, he adheres to a plant-based diet that’s low in fat and high in fiber. He also exercises regularly.
* I keep healthful meal-replacement items and snacks on hand. “To keep myself from getting stark-raving hungry, I eat a healthful breakfast that includes high-fiber whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk. I’ll have one or two Slim Fast shakes during the day,” he explains. “Or I’ll heat up a Healthy Choice entree and add a piece of fruit for lunch.” This keeps the edge off his appetite.
The Framingham Heart Study is the longest continuous investigation of heart disease ever conducted. Begun in 1948, it has provided new insight into the workings of the most mysterious muscle in our body and has contributed to the declining incidence of heart disease in America. Dr. Castelli, a cardiologist and epidemiologist who has been involved with the project since the mid-1960s, has learned its lessons and taken them to heart.
“One day, years ago, when we were going over the reports, I noticed that the average cholesterol count of the men in the study who had suffered heart attacks was around 240,” he recalls. “My cholesterol at the time was about 270. [In those days, 300 + was considered the danger zone.] So I suddenly said to myself, if these guys are dropping dead and they all had cholesterol lower than mine, then what makes me think my cholesterol count is so good?”
Compounding this fear was Dr. Castelli’s family history. Then in his mid-30s, he knew his family had a “terrible history of heart disease,” plus he was already wearing a spare tire around his middle. So he decided to make an experiment of himself and has continued with this plan.
* I eat more fiber. “I start every day with a big bowl of rolled oats,” he explains, “to which I add an equal amount of applesauce or nonfat yogurt. It gives me a great dose of soluble fiber, which has been shown in about 37 studies to lower cholesterol and heart-attack rates.”
* I reduce saturated-fat intake to less than 10 grams per day. “I cut out butter, fatty beef, hot dogs and high-saturated-fat cheeses,” he says. But he didn’t totally eliminate the foods he loves. Rather, he searched for more healthful alternatives. For example, he found a Vermont cheddar that has 75 percent less saturated fat, 98 percent fat-free filet mignons from a ranch in South Dakota and, of late, low-fat hot dogs (see Malegrams for our recommendations).
* I eat fish often. “I eat grilled fish about five times a week,” says Dr. Castelli. The omega-3 fatty acids that it contains have been shown to prevent arteriosclerosis. “We give fish oil to all our patients who have extremely high triglycerides.”
* I eat lots of fruits and vegetables. “I eat at least five servings a day,” he says. “Most of these come at lunch when I eat an extremely large salad. Two vegetables and a smaller salad with dinner round out the day. I snack on fruit.”
* I drink alcohol moderately. Whether it’s wine, beer or whiskey, Dr. Castelli points out, having one alcoholic drink per day (no more) lowers heart-disease risk and even the threat of death from cancer. If you can’t tolerate alcohol, however, don’t start drinking, he advises. You don’t want to replace one risk with another. “I love red wine,” he adds. “I generally buy a nice bottle and make it last one week.”
* I take supplements. “I take 400 I.U. of vitamin E, 200 micrograms of selenium and 200 micrograms of chromium every day because there are good clinical trials showing their effectiveness in fighting heart disease,” he says. “I also take folic acid and 81 milligrams of enteric-coated aspirin daily.”
* I exercise to raise “good” cholesterol. “I jog about 15 miles a week, usually three 5-mile runs,” explains Dr. Castelli. “Each one of the runs usually takes about an hour. I’ve been doing this since the late ’70s, and my ratio of total cholesterol to HDL [the good kind) has improved dramatically.”
* I control stress. “The best way I’ve found is to pray, and never ask yourself how you’re doing. You’ll never be young, pretty, handsome, popular or rich enough, so don’t try.”
So what has been the result of all these changes? “Now my cholesterol is under 200,” he boasts, “and at age 65 I’ve outdistanced both my brother and my father by more than 25 years in staying free of cardiovascular disease. I’m convinced it’s because I’ve led a prudent lifestyle.”