Being of South Asian origin puts you in a high risk group
Health and men are two things that do not always match up to what they should be, especially with British Asian men. Only a small part of this can be blamed on heredity genes whilst the majority is very much to do with their particular lifestyle.
Heart disease and diabetes are two typical illnesses British Asian men of South Asian origin suffer from highly. Research by the British Heart Foundation and the University of Oxford has found incidents of heart disease to be much higher in Asian men than in any other group. Being of South Asian origin puts you in a high-risk group and increases the chances of up to 50% more of coronary heart disease.
In addition, other key reasons for the risk are social exclusion, limited awareness, poor diet, lack of exercise, over-indulgence in drink and smoke. These reasons contribute highly to the poor health of this community of men.
These issues need to be addressed if British Asian men wish to be out of the radar for such illnesses. A minority of the new generations of this community are involved in specific physical activities such as using the gym regularly and developing more muscular bodies but this enthusiasm is not present in the population at large; where more awareness needs to be raised and action needed.
Many of the habits have been residue from earlier family members who were from the homelands. Where their lifestyle, climate and physical activity was very different from those in the UK today.
Eating rich foods cooked in fresh ghee (butter), white flour chapatis and white rice, drinking full-fat milk and drinking excessively were some of the things men did back home without any need for worrying about their health because of the hot climate and physical activity in the form of work, kept them in shape.
This was also true of those men that first arrived in Britain to do labouring, factory and foundry jobs. The work was very demanding physically and in many cases was in steelworks where furnaces were part of the environment. Making it easier to burn fat and keep active. But as these jobs demised, so did the health of South Asian men deteriorate, especially amongst the earlier generations that were not warned of the dangers of poor diet and importance of exercise, like today.
However, the incident rates of these illnesses are not lowering and British Asian men need to learn to look after their health more pro-actively.
We have compiled ten health tips aimed at British Asian men to introduce changes for a healthier lifestyle. It is important to check with your doctor if you are under any treatment before adopting any programme to change your lifestyle.
Review Diet and Nutrition Regularly
Not many British Asian men review their diet and nutrition on a regular basis. Due to busy lifestyles, long working hours, meals are not really checked for their nutrition values. Often, men just eat what they are given as part of a family or eat restaurant and fast foods frequently.
It is important to understand and know what effects the food has on your body that you eat. Therefore, getting into the habit of reading labels and nutrition values if they are available, is important for your health. When food shopping for yourself or the family, make healthier choices. Making some basic changes to bad diet habits can go a long way to help you keep healthy.
For example, making take-out food a treat instead of regular meals, checking what’s in your sandwich and drinking less pop or soda, are all steps that help. It’s not about eliminating all the foods and drinks you enjoy. It’s about portions, quality and how much fat content you consume.
Eliminate Trans Fats from Diet
Overall fat intake needs to be lowered to enjoy any kind of healthier lifestyle. But more importantly, it’s imperative to watch the types of fat you eat. Trans fats are the most harmful kind of fats in a diet the need to be eliminated.
Deep-fried foods and anything made with hydrogenated oils such as vegetable oil, margarine, lard, puria, chips, cakes, shortening, pastries, biscuits, cookies, Bombay mix, chevda, Indian sweets and savouries, all can contain trans fats that raise your risk of heart disease.
Some evidence suggests that the effects of these trans fats may be worse than saturated fats. It’s important to try to eat less of both saturated fat and trans fats. Therefore, aim to eat only healthy fats, such as olive oil, rapeseed oil and the omega-3 oils found in salmon, mackerel and other cold-water fish, which actually protect against heart disease.
Reduce ‘White’ Foods
Try and reduce actively the intake of white colour foods such as white rice, white flour-based products such as bread, cakes, biscuits, chappati, naans and parathas; white sugar or anything made from it such as Indian sweets in your diet and any other processed foods that are made from them including sugary drinks and pops. Avoid eating too much white rice in your diet.
These foods are low in vitamins and minerals and have also been stripped of their natural fibre. As a result, they rapidly drive up blood sugar levels, which contributes to weight gain, diabetes and a host of other health problems. Eat more wholegrain and wholemeal flour based foods, natural sugars, fibre rich fruits, beans, pulses and vegetables.
Reduce Portion Sizes and Increase Meals
The old-age habit of three big meals a day is being questioned for its effect on the body and storage of fat. New studies reveal that having smaller portion sizes and eating five times a day is much more beneficial.
Many British Asian men will be used to the three meals a day routine, eating meals often large in portion size with the idea being that they will keep you ‘full for longer.’ With the last meal of the day usually being the biggest. Changing this routine to having five smaller portion sized meals throughout the day will give your body the chance to burn the fat more easily. And making the final meal of the day as light as possible will definitely help.
Take Regular Exercise
Many British Asian men are not taking enough time out for regular exercise. It is important to make sure the body is given a workout to enhance overall health and fitness. Whether it is going to the gym or playing sports, at least 3-5 hours of vigorous exercise should be taken per week as a minimum. Making sure you are breathless and sweat during your routine is key to getting the benefit from it.
Ensuring you are well hydrated is important for exercise so drink plenty of water and avoid sugar-laden sports drinks.
Exercise can be from 30 minute walks every day to at least 3 one-hour sessions in a gym.
Cardio exercises, playing squash, badminton, football, rugby, basketball and even kabaddi all contribute to a healthier you.
Including weight training in your exercise regime will definitely help fight the flab. Recent research has shown that as little as once-weekly resistance exercise can improve muscle strength.
Drink Alcohol Moderately
It’s a known fact that majority of British Asian men enjoy their drink and in a lot of cases, drink excessively; especially those from North Indian communities. Weekends and social nights out or in, do contribute to major bouts of drinking.
For those British Asian men that drink, it is important to drink responsibly and moderately. Binge drinking and having to many drinks at a wedding or party are not heroic but simply risking your health to major problems. Numerous studies have shown that if you drinking moderate amounts of alcohol (all kinds), it protects not only against heart disease, but also lowers risk of death from all causes. Since beer impacts weight much more, the number of pints that you drink needs to be consumed with caution. While one to two drinks a day are protective, excess alcohol consumption is devastating to health.
Smoking is a habit that increases many risks to health. Smoking kills around 114,000 people in the UK each year. By smoking you increase the chances of getting Cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, throat cancer and mouth cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and periodontal disease. Smoking also significantly impairs erectile function in men.
British Asian men are active smokers in the statistics for the UK. Smoking rates include 20% (Indian), 28% (Pakistani) and 40% (Bangladeshi) compared with the national average of 24%. Bangladeshi men are more likely to smoke from within the British Asian male population. There are many NHS programmes to help you quit smoking. Take advantage of them before smoking takes advantage of your health.
Maintain Active Sexual Health
Sexual health is important for men to ensure good overall circulation, reduce stress and provide natural pleasure. However, sexual health can suffer due to impotence (erectile dysfunction) and premature ejaculation.
Most cases of impotence can be mind related but the physical cause is that you’re just not getting enough blood circulation into your penis. If you’re taking drugs, review them with your doctor, as many can worsen erectile function and impair libido.
Premature ejaculation can be due to anxiety, lack of good sex and even not being with an understanding partner. The stop-start technique is known to help men with this issue but requires patience and practice.
What you eat and drink can effect your sexual health too. Look at our article: Best Food for Sex and Love for tips on what helps.
Several herbs have been shown to improve sexual function. Ginkgo biloba increases blood flow to the penis, and Panax ginseng, oats, horny goat weed, maca and seroctin improve libido. Other non-herbal drugs are available such as Viagra and Cialis but these need to taken only after consultation with your doctor.
Prostate cancer is a major health issue for men. Therefore, protecting your prostate from cancer is a practice that should be part of your healthy lifestyle. It’s estimated by experts that 80% of all cancers can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle choices.
Therefore, what you eat is very important to maintain good prostate health. Avoid saturated and trans fats, which may fuel prostate cancer growth. Incorporate regular protective foods into your diet such as soy, green tea and tomatoes.
Regular Medical Check-Ups
Men, in general, are well known for not bothering with medical check-ups unless it becomes an emergency. British Asian men are no less in this mentality. Having a macho attitude and ignoring your health is not a good look. Having regular medical check-ups with your doctor are a very key aspect of good health. Many diseases are not caught in time due to the apathy of not getting regularly checked.
Especially, for men over 35, it is important to see your doctor for important checks ups such as for cholesterol, diabetes, weight gain or loss, prostate and general well-being. Find out more from your doctor about how you can improve your health. Even if you are slim and look healthy, it does not mean you should not have a regular check up.
These tips are designed to help British Asian men consider making changes in their lifestyle so that they can be more healthy and combat potential illnesses that frequently occur in this community of men.