Why American men die youngEach year, some 150,000 men in the United States die before their time. Don't be one of them
Now that the London games are behind us, we want the International Olympic Committee to add new events for Rio de Janeiro in 2016: the Heart Disease 100 Meter, the Prostate Cancer Pentathlon, and the Diabetes Dash. See, maybe if gold medals were given out for beating diseases, Americans would be more concerned that their men's team is currently dead last. You heard us: The United States has a higher rate of guys dying prematurely of preventable causes, such as heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes, than 15 other developed countries do, according to a recent paper in the journal Health Policy.
"During much of the 20th century, the United States was at the front of the pack in terms of life expectancy and other measures of population health, like reductions in preventable illness," says Glen Mays, Ph.D., a professor of health services and systems research at the University of Kentucky. "But in recent decades it has been falling further and further behind other countries." (Which cities in America are the furthest behind? We crunched the numbers to rank The Worst Cities for Heart Health in America.)
Of course, you don't have to fly down to Rio or wait until 2016. You already possess the mettle; now here's the training program that'll put you on the winners' podium.
Lower risk of fatal heart attack among Italian men, compared with that of U.S. men
Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
State Of The Union: USA
As one of the world's fattest nations, the United States--surprise!--has a ton of men who keel over while clutching their chests. But perhaps it's not just how much guys put in their mouths, but what: Only 2 percent of American men follow all the basic heart-health guidelines, such as eating a healthy diet and not smoking, a 2012 CDC study found.
Role Model: Italy
Even notoriously nicotine-addicted Italians are smoking less, a 2011 study from that country reveals. Ready to kick some butts? New Stony Brook University research suggests that rewarding hobbies--a new sport, say--may lower your neural drive to smoke when you see cigarettes.
What about all that pizza and pasta? Italians' true dietary staples are heart-healthy olive oil, red wine, and legumes--which they consume at a leisurely pace. "Enjoy the pleasure of eating, consume small portions of different things, and drink only one glass of red wine per meal," says Francesco Sofi, M.D., Ph.D., a nutrition researcher in Italy. Bonus tip: Strengthen your body's most important with these 3 New Cardio Workouts. No running required.
Incidence of diabetes among U.S. men...
...and among Swiss men
Source: Swiss Federal Statistical Office
State Of The Union: USA
Here's more evidence that America is eating itself into an early grave: Between 1994 and 2010, the number of men with diabetes--a disease for which obesity is a risk factor--shot up by 23 percent, according to CDC data. Diabetes isn't always a death sentence, but people with the sugar-spiking condition are about twice as likely to die at a younger age than those without it.
Role Model: Switzerland
You already know that fueling your body with excess carbohydrates and calories is bad. Turns out fueling up your car can be dangerous too. Americans are much less likely than Europeans to walk or bicycle to work, according to a recent study from Rutgers University. This may partly explain why our diabetes rate is higher than theirs, the researchers note. And there's another way our four-wheel fixation is hurting us: Drive time can cut into mealtimes, so people with long commutes may grab unhealthy foods on the go, raising their risk of obesity, say scientists at Washington University in St. Louis.
If trading your car for cardio isn't a viable option, you can still carve time out for exercise. For example, use half of your noon break for a brisk walk. A 2011 Australian study reports that boosting your daily step count can help lower body fat and insulin resistance, reducing your risk of diabetes. After you've finished walking, wind up your break by eating a lunch packed with diabetes-fighting fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Try some canned tuna in a whole-wheat pita, and a piece of fresh fruit.
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