Archive for November 30, 2009

Healthy Exercise Can Reduce Male Stroke Risk

A stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is disrupted. This can be due to a ruptured or blocked brain artery. Plaque or blood clots can block totally or partially the blood flow from the carotid arteries to the brain. When this happens, the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain becomes limited, thereby damaging the cells in the brain.

Stroke results in the loss of sensation, voluntary movement, or function in the parts of the body controlled by the damaged part of the brain. In a severe stroke, the person may lose consciousness, or may die.

There are conditions and behaviours that may raise a man’s risk for stroke. Smoking raises one’s risk of a stroke by four times compared to the risk for non-smokers. Another cause of stroke is high intake of salt or sodium.

A stroke can be fatal. Men with a family history of heart disease are more likely to have higher risk for peripheral artery disease. The risk of an attack further increases with aging, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol level, and obesity.

If a man has one or more of the risk factors, his next step should be prevention.

Healthy Exercise Can Reduce Male Stroke Risk

Primary stroke prevention includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, and clean living. Moderate daily workouts can improve a man’s health and may reduce one’s risk for stroke.

An American Heart Association Scientific Statement from the Council on Clinical Cardiology stated, “Because increased levels of physical activity are associated with a reduced risk for stroke and cardiovascular disease and enhanced physical and psychosocial performance, such interventions performed in a stroke rehabilitation program may have a favorable effect on the prevention of recurrent stroke and cardiovascular events.” [AHA Scientific Statement: Physical Activity and Exercise Recommendations for Stroke Survivors (Circulation.2004; 109:2031-2041) © 2004 American Heart Association, Inc., circ.ahajournals.org]

Therefore, a regular workout can help men build a healthier and stronger body. A regular workout also helps speed up metabolism and boost energy levels.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General Report on Physical Activity and Health, lack of exercise can increase risk for stroke and other cardiovascular diseases. [Article: Your Guide to Physical Activity and Your Heart]

How Jogging, Swimming and Walking Lower Vascular Disorder

Studies show that physically active persons were less likely to have a stroke. Dr. Carl Remeirs wrote in his article “Exercise as Stroke Prophylaxis” that physical activity has an independent protective effect against stroke. He also wrote that a regular workout can lower arterial blood pressure and body weight and improves glucose and lipid metabolism. Exercise prevents stroke and lowers the risk by up to 40%.

The other effects of exercise on the body are remarkable. Frequent and regular exercise promotes good physical shape, ideal weight, strong bones, and healthy immune system. Regular exercise can boost the mechanical efficiency of the heart. Men who regularly jog, swim, and walk will have a better physical ability later in life.

Who Needs a Dose of Jogging, Swimming and Walking?

“Lifelong Exercise Keeps Seniors Young at Heart”, is the headline of an article posted on health.usnews.com.

Seniors can keep their hearts healthy with a regular exercise. A dose of exercise can lower feelings of fatigue and stress. A regular exercise routine also enhances older people’s level of balance and endurance, which they need to be able to perform their daily tasks alone.

In addition, routine exercise is helpful to those who are obese— those with 25 or more Body Mass Index (BMI). Obese individuals have a high risk for life-threatening blood clots, which block veins and arteries. Blood clots may lodge in a blood vessel and cut off blood circulation to vital organs, which will result in a heart attack.

Dynamic activities such as sports can help dissolve blood clots. Physical activities can reduce one’s risk of blood clots. “Exercise can reverse blood clot formation,” concludes lead researcher Derek T. Smith of the University of Colorado, Health Sciences Center. [Article: Exercise Can Help Dissolve Blood Clots by Jeanie Lerche Davis, WebMD Health News, webmd.com]

Aim for half an hour a day of exercise, preferably every day of the week. Moderate exercise such as jogging, swimming and brisk walking is wise to consider for the lonely, the sedentary, the middle-aged, and the 65 and counting . . . a step to better health and younger heart.

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Increase In Boys Calling Childline

The number of boys calling the UK child telephone helpline ChildLine is starting to increase. Historically boys have only represented 20% of calls to the service but this has increased over the last 5 years to 33%.

The most common concerns of boys calling ChildLine in 2007/8 were:

  1. Bullying (12 568 calls).
  2. Physical abuse (6 403 calls).
  3. Family problems (6 016 calls).
  4. Facts of Life (5 362 calls).
  5. Sexual Abuse (4 780 calls).
  6. Sexuality (3 510 calls).
  7. Loneliness (1 817 calls).
  8. Rape (1 803 calls).

Although it is clear that boys are starting to call ChildLine more, the raw facts are still disturbing. On first appearance, it seems that even as children, boys feel less able to seek help for their problems compared to girls. Even now, twice as many girls phone the ChildLine service than boys. Why is this?

One reason might be that as girls hit puberty, there unfolds a biological process whereby girls network with other girls and women. The evolutionary reason for this is that such talk builds a social network to help with child rearing. Boys at puberty, on the other hand, are faced with a different task, namely to establish themselves on a dominance hierarchy of other boys and men. The evolutionary reason for this is to secure the best sexual partners with the best genes. Talking about problems to other boys and adults may be seen by boys as incompatible with their social expectations ‘to compete’.

Evolutionary theory may account for why boys are less likely to talk about their problems than girls, but does not imply that we should be content with the status quo. What is needed is greater imagination by ChildLine and others who offer services to boys, to engage with them and their problems. Boys, like men, need a different approach to engage with services.

In adult mental health work there are some interesting and creative ways in which services reach out to men. One includes positioning mental health nurses within football clubs, another involves marketing services to men only groups (men are more likely to open up in single sex groups), and marketing services in a non threatening or stigmatising way, for example by offering workshops on ‘building self confidence’ rather than ‘coping with depression’.

Of course such initiatives in men’s mental health are welcome but they are still rare. It seems to me if ChildLine and other services want boys to engage more equally with girls, then they are going to have to learn some lessons from these projects. It’s simply not good enough to stand by and not engage with boys because the services on offer meet the needs of girls better. ‘Blaming’ boys for not responding to the existing models of intervention is also simply not good enough.

Engaging with boys, however, is not just the responsibility of voluntary and statutory services. As men we have a responsibility to make ourselves available to the boys in our lives, should they have a problem. Simply contracting with boys that you are available if there is a problem is often enough to help boys feel supported in their lives. This is important if you are a father to a boy, but also for uncles, godparents and friends of the family. Though simple, it’s something that I think many adults simply forget to do with boys. The result is our boys battle through childhood on their own with problems that would have been easy to solve in the hands of a sympathetic adult.

Boys need our help, our task is to make it easy for them to do so.

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Heart Disease in the Middle East

A team of researchers from the Population Health Research Institute of McMaster University in Canada recently undertook a study to determine how common are the main risk factors for heart disease in the Middle East region.

They systematically reviewed research studies on this subject that were published between January 1980 and April 2005. They limited their survey to studies done in the Middle East that were published in English which included at least 1000 participants – and looked for prevalence in these study populations of at least one of the following known risk factors for heart disease

  • diabetes mellitus
  • obesity (body mass index greater than 30)
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • smoking

Prevalence of Cardiac Risk Factors in Middle East

Their findings showed that there is a high prevalence of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and smoking in the Middle East. Interestingly, smoking was more common among men than women, whereas obesity and high blood pressure were more common in women.

The authors draw the conclusion that cardiovascular disease – the cause of heart attacks, heart failure and strokes – will be a major health problem in the Middle East in the years to come.

Food Intake Patterns

Another interesting study done in Iran last year drew attention to the link between risk factors for heart disease and patterns of food intake in a population. Although this link has been reported in studies from Europe and America, few data are available at present for Middle Eastern countries.

Studies have revealed marked differences between Middle Eastern countries and other countries in the prevalence of low levels of HDL-cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) and high levels of triglycerides in the blood. For example low serum HDL-cholesterol is seen in 37% of adults in the US compared to 69% of Middle Eastern populations. Genetic factors alone could not explain these discrepancies – and it may be postulated that lifestyle-related factors, including diet, could be the reason – because consumption of high-carbohydrate diets (mostly from refined sources) that are high in hydrogenated fats is widely prevamlent in Middle Eastern countries.

Medical Services at Sheikh Khalifah Medical City

Says Dr. Wael Almahmeed, Consultant Cardiologist and Deputy Director of Medical Services at Sheikh Khalifah Medical City in Abu Dhabi, the capital city of the United Arab Emirates: “Looking at the research, our feeling is that we could be on the edge of a potentially serious epidemic of heart-related ailments in the Middle East – particularly since so many of the subjects were unaware of their conditions. Problems like hypertension or even diabetes can be asymptomatic in the early stages, so patients are unaware of the problems they face.

“It reinforces the need for greater awareness and supports our belief that patients should consult their doctors to have their blood pressure tested and cholesterol measured on a regular basis.”

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The Long Tern Effects Of Bullying

Bullying is a serious matter. I am often invited to hear the ongoing effects in men who have been bullied as a child. Very often the experience of being bullied can leave a man with the world view that other people cannot be trusted. Such paranoia kept the little boy safe, but locks the man he has become, into an unrewarding and isolating experience of the world. Paradoxically, it is also what people who bully adults look out for, and such men often become the focus for bullies in, for example, the work place.

What often complicates matters working with men who have been bullied, is that they have often become bullies themselves. They simply acted out what was dished out to them. In order to acknowledge the true extent of their own damage at the hands of bullies, they also have to acknowledge the extent of the damage they inflicted on others.

Given the propensity to view the world from a paranoid position, it is interesting that a study in the Archives of General Psychiatry claims that being bullied as a child can increase the risk of developing psychotic symptoms later in life. Psychotic symptoms are generally thought to represent a departure from reality by, for example, hearing voices that are not there, or imagining that you are the subject of a conspiracy by aliens.

The study, written by Andrea Schreier and colleagues at the University of Warwick also suggested that there was a ‘dose-response’ relationship. That is to say the children who experienced the worst bullying were most likely to develop psychotic symptoms later. Interestingly the type of bullying, whether it was subtle or overt, did not seem to matter. Both were equally damaging.

This study adds to the body of knowledge that suggests that childhood experiences of bullying are far from trivial and have a long term impact on some children. My experience of working with men, however, suggests that they find discussing their experiences at the hands of bullies extremely difficult. It is as if they take on the responsibility for being bullied, and their failure to respond to the bullies effectively becomes evidence of being inadequate as a man. This is, of course, heartbreaking because it sets the man up for a lifetime of feeling inadequate unless something is done about it.

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