A new study by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation is shedding light on how a large majority of Canadian men are living unhealthy lifestyles.
Joe Rachert, program manager for the foundation, said the study looked at five things: bad diet, drinking, smoking, not exercising and sleep.
Rachert said more surveys are showing men having cancer and heart disease due to some of those factors, which he called the “destination,” while this new study is about the past.
“We know that these five unhealthy behaviors lead to chronic disease conditions down the road for guys, so we’re trying to get guys to pay attention to the past rather than the destination and go ‘ah, dang! I have it, why didn’t I prevent it?'” he said.
The study showed 72 per cent of men regularly demonstrated two or more of those habits.
When the study combined both Saskatchewan and Manitoba, it found:
- five per cent of men display zero of those behaviours
- 16 per cent of men display one of those behaviours
- 33 per cent of men display two of those behaviours
- 45 per cent of men display three to five of those behaviours.
Rachert said unhealthy eating was the biggest factor with 62 per cent of men saying they are unhealthy eaters.
“When you take a look at the other four behaviours, three of those are about 50 per cent,” he said, adding smoking came in at 20 per cent.
One of the behaviours that often gets overlooked is sleep.
Rachert said if you aren’t getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night, there will be some other health outcomes. He said seven to eight hours is the sweet spot.
“A lot of people don’t think about sleep as a health behaviour, but it really is. When you sleep, that gives your body that chance to reset itself and repair itself,” he continued.
He said getting less than seven hours a night puts you at risk for things like Type II diabetes, heart disease and, surprisingly, getting more than nine hours can be detrimental as well.
“Nine or more, again, factors into your risk of Type II diabetes — it can affect depression and back pain,” Rachert explained.
The study showed 54 per cent of men either under or oversleep.
In order to curb some of those behaviours, Rachert said to use an incremental approach and to start small.
“Let’s say you’re looking at diet. Choose something really easy to start with, and say, ‘I am going to drink five glasses of water a day’ or ‘I am going to eat five to seven servings of fruit and veggies’ … it’s all those little things,” he explained.
Rachert said once you understand it’s about the little changes, and letting those small changes multiply when you do it in one area, it often translates to the other four behaviours.
“What happens is, a lot of guys will go ‘I’m going to watch my drinking, I’m going to stop smoking, and start exercising,’ you’re almost setting yourself up for failure because you’re taking on way, way too much, so start with something that you can do,” he added.
He said once you’ve achieved that first small change, move on to the next.
Preventative Health: Men versus Women
Rachert said women are introduced to the health care system at a younger age than men.
“They have babies, they menstruate, so there’s two reasons why women actually get entered into the health care system much earlier than guys,” he said.
Women often have a different perception of health as well as they tend to share their health updates with other women.
Rachert said men don’t tend to chat with their buddies about their health.
“There’s a lot of stigma around men’s health amongst men — even something as small as (going out for burgers), who’s going to be the first guy to have, instead of fries with their burger, salad?”
According to Rachert, those are important differences to make to help get rid of the stigma.
— With files from John Gormley