Two recent studies, one by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation and the other by researchers at Harvard University, are combining to emphasize the life-changing importance of healthy habits among men.
The headlines kept coming after the June 11 release of the CMHF’s groundbreaking National Study of Health Behaviours
“72 per cent of Canadian men have unhealthy lifestyles: survey”
— CTV News
“Most Canadian Men Have Unhealthy Lifestyles, Says New Study”
“Canadian men live unhealthy lifestyles: Study”
“Manitoba men among Canada’s unhealthiest”
“B.C. men healthiest in country but still need work, survey finds”
— CBC News
The first-ever study to examine Canadian health behaviours rather than diseases found that 72 percent of Canadian men regularly demonstrate two or more unhealthy habits. Released to coincide with the first day of Canadian Men’s Health Week, which takes place annually leading up to Father’s Day, the study was also the first in Canada to consider five key health behaviours that help prevent chronic disease. Its findings:
- 62 percent of respondents reported having an unhealthy diet, in that they consume foods that are high in salt, refined sugar, or saturated fats more than once a week, and eat less than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
- 54 percent sleep less than seven hours, or more than nine hours, per day.
- 49 percent don’t get 150 minutes of moderate-to-strenuous exercise per week.
- 39 percent have more than 3 alcoholic drinks per day 5 days a week, or more than 6 drinks in one sitting.
- 20 percent smoke cigarettes.
Only 6 percent of respondents exhibited no unhealthy behaviours and were classified as “very healthy.” Those who exhibited only one unhealthy behaviour were deemed “healthy” and accounted for 22 percent of the total. Men with two unhealthy behaviours were considered “borderline” (31 per cent), and those with three or more of the above behaviours were classified as “unhealthy” (42 per cent).
“We now have a platform to evaluate health behaviours of Canadian men over time,” said Dr. Larry Goldenberg, Chairman of the CMHF. “I hope other researchers will use this platform to study different populations around the globe and design targeted interventions to engage men to live healthier lifestyles. After all, 70 percent of men’s chronic health conditions are caused by lifestyle and, unlike genetics, can be changed to improve your health.”
Then, as if on cue, the findings of the CMHF study were corroborated by a recent study out of Harvard University. By using lifestyle questionnaires and medical records from 123,000 American volunteers, researchers at the TH Chan School of Public Health have identified five behaviours that together contribute to longer life expectancy: Following a healthy diet, controlling body weight, doing regular exercise, drinking alcohol in moderation, and not smoking.
Sound familiar? The long-term study then went on to compare the life expectancy of volunteers who had none of the healthy habits with men who have all five. The results were telling: At age 50, the life expectancy of the healthiest men jumped by 12 years (from 76 to 88). This five-healthy-behaviours group was also found to be 65 percent less likely to die of cancer, and 82 percent less likely to die of heart disease.
“The potential for 12 more years of life, and less risk for cancer and heart disease just from embracing the small, incremental lifestyle changes we espouse, is very exciting,” said Wayne Hartrick, President of the CMHF. “It doesn’t take much for a man to go from the unhealthy category to the healthier one. Think of these categories as a ladder. Most Canadian men can move up a rung by changing just one unhealthy behaviour. They can go up two rungs by changing two behaviours, like eating five fist-sized servings of fruit and getting seven hours of sleep. It’s about having the control to reduce the risk of disease.”