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It seems every month is set aside for some kind of health awareness campaign, and this one is no different (No Shave November anyone?) as we focus our attention on a variety of men’s health issues.

Originally started by the Movember Foundation (MO is a slang term for mustache,) it has grown into the larger No Shave November effort to raise money and awareness for prostate cancer, testicular cancer and men’s mental health issues by using unshaven faces as a catalyst to start a discussion. That’s because, according to the Foundation, men die an average of six years earlier than their female counterparts, and are less likely to go to the doctor for well checks and preventative visits.

But this is a mistake, because like many health issues that pertain to women, certain illnesses specific to men, are often preventable. Even though it seems each new study conflicts with the previous ones, research consistently shows that making lifestyle changes is a powerful measure for maintaining prostate health, as well as avoiding cardiac disease, diabetes, and mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

The first change in a proactive approach to healthcare should be eating a well-balanced diet of lean proteins, healthy fats and plenty of fruits and vegetables.  Consuming anti-inflammatory foods naturally high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and limiting processed foods and added sugars will help keep gut health in check, boost immunity and control weight, all things known to reduce the risks of many illnesses and conditions, including mood disorders.

Getting regular exercise also helps with weight control, as well as cardiac health and joint pain.  As a bonus, exercising outdoors, weather permitting, is a proven mood lifter, particularly in the darker, colder months. 

None of that is news to most of us, but something that might be is the impact that environmental toxins have on health.  More and more, science is showing that the increasing amount of chemicals being released into the environment and consumed through many of the products we buy are disrupting animal and human endocrine systems. This affects sexual development in younger people and throws hormones out of whack as we age.

Chemical toxins found in personal hygiene and household cleaning products, drinking water, and many of the foods we eat have been shown to reduce testosterone levels over and above the natural decline associated with aging, putting men at greater risk for prostate enlargement, hair loss and cancer. 

It takes a little effort, and costs a little more, to manage a healthy diet and avoid environmental toxins, but doing so may allow you to enjoy better wellness and quality of life, making it a good investment.  In addition, these lifestyle changes often mean you can avoid many of the medications commonly associated with aging, balancing out the cost differential.