You probably know someone with diabetes. Now get to know the disease!

You probably know someone with diabetes. Now get to know the disease!

Who would you say is the greatest Canadian of all time?

The CBC TV series “The Greatest Canadian” put Tommy Douglas — aka the “Father of Medicare” — at the top of its 2004 list, just ahead of Terry Fox and Pierre Trudeau.

No. 4, however, is a man whose name is less recognizable. Sir Frederick Banting won the 1923 Nobel Prize in medicine for his co-discovery of insulin, a hormone that regulates how our bodies use sugar and other nutrients. Why was this such a breakthrough? Until then, diabetes was one of the deadliest diseases on Earth. After being diagnosed, diabetic children rarely lived a year, and less than 20 percent of adults lived more than 10 years.

The discovery of insulin has saved hundreds of millions of lives and continues to keep diabetics alive and kicking. Today 11 million Canadians live with diabetes or prediabetes, with a new case being diagnosed every three minutes. No wonder Diabetes Awareness Month — November — is such a big deal.

The discovery of insulin was a game-changer, to be sure. But has it made all the health issues surrounding diabetes disappear? Not even close!

What is diabetes, anyway?

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the body can’t make insulin or properly use the insulin it produces. This leads to high blood sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels, and nerves.

There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 usually develops in childhood or adolescence, so type 2 is the kind most adult men need to watch.

The image below explains how diabetes affects your body.

Want to know more about the diabetes diagram above? Read about it here.

For healthy guys, digested food in the stomach breaks down into sugar or glucose sent to the bloodstream. Meanwhile, the pancreas makes insulin that helps move glucose from the blood into muscle cells to be used as fuel for energy right away or stored for later use. For guys with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas cannot produce insulin, so the glucose cannot get into the cells needed for energy. Glucose stays in the blood, which makes the blood sugar level very high and causes health problems. For guys with type 2 diabetes, the pancreas still makes insulin, but it doesn’t work in the body as it should. Blood sugar levels get too high, causing health problems that can be prevented with healthy eating and regular exercise.

What causes type 2 diabetes?

There is no single cause for type 2 diabetes, but several factors boost your risk of developing it. Here’s what increases diabetes risk:

  • Being over 40 years of age.
  • Being overweight, especially around the middle.
  • Having high blood pressure.
  • Having high cholesterol or other fats in the blood.
  • Being of Aboriginal, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian, or African descent.

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Many people who have type 2 diabetes show no symptoms. That’s why guys aged 40 and up should see their doctor about checking their blood-sugar levels through a quick and easy test.

When symptoms do occur, they can include the following:

  • Unusual thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Extreme fatigue or lack of energy
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent or recurring infections
  • Cuts and bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
  • Trouble getting or maintaining an erection

If you have any of these symptoms, contact your health-care provider ASAP.

How can I reduce the chances of getting type 2 diabetes?

Good news! There’s plenty you can do to prevent or delay type 2 diabetes, and it can all be done by making small, easy changes to your daily routine.

Know where you stand with your overall health: Use the free (and completely anonymous) Men’s Health Check Tool to assess your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other common health concerns among men.

Be physically active: If working out is not your thing, be sure to start simple. There are plenty of fitness apps out there that help make starting the process less painful. Does 7-minutes a day sound doable? Start there!

Cut down on fats and sugar in your diet: You’ve come to the right place for tips on eating healthier. See how a few small changes to how you eat can make a big difference!

Achieve a healthy weight and maintain it: Put exercise and healthy eating together, and naturally control your weight. With these easy recipes, great taste is also part of the equation.

Don’t smoke: It’s hard to quit smoking. If it’s something you’ve been thinking about, there are some things you can try to kick the habit.

Maintain a healthy blood pressure: This can be achieved by exercising (check!), limiting your alcohol intake — there are lots of easy ways to do that — and cutting back on smoking (check!).

If left untreated or improperly managed, diabetes can be fatal, with severe complications including blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, erectile dysfunction, and amputation.

What exercises are you doing to get active during the COVID-19 pandemic? Share your tips from the comments below.

This article was originally published on November 2, 2018.

Take control of your health with YouCheck!

The first online tool of its kind is free, confidential, and will help you dodge 8 of the most common men’s health conditions from erectile dysfunction to type 2 diabetes.

What Bike Should You Get? Different Types of Bikes Explained

What Bike Should You Get? Different Types of Bikes Explained

So you’ve decided to take advantage of the many benefits of riding a bike. Well played, sir, well played. There’s only one tiny problem: you don’t own a bicycle or yours has collected dust and you’re curious to know if it’s still the right bike for you.

We can help you figure out what type of bike you should get now that you’re in the market. It depends mainly on the kind of rider you are, but it breaks down broadly, as shown below. Read on to find out the different types of bikes explained to figure out which type will work best for you.

Utility Bikes / Fixed Gear

The priority is simply getting from A to B, rather than racing or heading off-road. Utility bicycles feature an upright riding position with curved handlebars positioned higher than the saddle.

Benefits

These are the most comfortable, easy-going rides on this list. Not flashy, just practical.

Drawbacks

Because they usually feature only a few gears — and often have none at all — utility bikes aren’t ideal for hilly rides.

Buying tip

With mountain bikes and road bikes being so popular in Canada, these straightforward machines can often be found second hand on the cheap.

Mountain Bikes

Originally designed for off-road riding, these durable, knobby-tired bikes typically include at least a dozen gears for climbing and often feature suspension systems on the frame and/or fork. Because the handlebar is straighter and lower than that of utility bikes, the riding position is more crouched.

Benefits

These bikes can handle a wide variety of terrain and provide extra comfort on rough roads. Potholes, curbs and paths are not an issue on a mountain bike.

Drawbacks

Unless you intend to take them off road, the extra weight and more aggressive riding position of mountain bikes may seem overkill.

Buying tip

Mountain bikes are perhaps the most widely available and popular type of bike in Canada, with prices ranging from less than $200 (new) to more than $2,000. If you’re looking for a decent mountain bike that you plan to take off-road, you’ll likely need to spend at least $600.

Road Bikes

Road bikes are the ones you see in big races like the Tour De France: seats are high, curved handlebars are low, and tires are skinny.

Benefits

If speed is your top priority on smooth, paved roads, a road bike is what you need.

Drawbacks

The aggressive riding position means road bikes are not especially comfortable or easy on the body. Also, potholes and bad pavement will most definitely chew up a road bike.

Buying tip

Before the rise of mountain bikes, steel-framed road bikes were the most popular type of recreational ride. For that reason, you can find surprisingly high-quality road bikes at yard sales or online.

Hybrid Bikes

This relatively new type of bike combines select attributes of all three of the styles above: the more upright position of the utility bike, the generous gearing of a mountain bike, and the narrower tires of a road bike, although a range of tire widths are available.

Benefits

Fans of hybrid bikes will say they combine every bike type’s best features in something fast yet comfortable.

Drawbacks

Because they are relative newcomers to the biking scene, it can be hard to find inexpensive second-hand hybrids.

Buying tip

It’s fairly easy to turn a mountain bike or road bike into a hybrid by swapping out the tires, changing the handlebars, etc.

Electric Bikes

E-bikes are gaining popularity these days. They help you get to where you’re going faster, they make going up hills a breeze, and you still get in some good exercise. What’s not to love about that? E-bikes are bicycles with battery-powered assistance. They accelerate quickly and make you feel more powerful. When you push the pedals, a small motor engages and gives you a boost. You control your speed just like with a regular bike, by using your feet.

Benefits

This helps you get where you’re going without needing to shower once you get there. They are particularly beneficial to people living in hilly areas.

Drawbacks

Electric bikes are pricey, and maintenance is also more expensive than a regular bicycle.

Buying tip

Consider what your needs are to make sure you get the right kind of e-bike. Also, note that most bikes over $2000 should come with a two-year warranty. A good warranty is recommended, especially since it’s a pricey investment.

Do you have any buying tips you’d like to share with our readers? Please share them below in the comments.

This article was originally published on July 12, 2016.

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Optimal Blood Pressure for Men (and Giraffes)

Optimal Blood Pressure for Men (and Giraffes)

With their super-sized necks, it’s no surprise that giraffes are the tallest mammals on Earth. But did you know that giraffes also hold the world record for having the highest blood pressure of any living animal?

The more you know about blood pressure, the more impressive that fun fact becomes. You’ve probably seen those cop shows where a paramedic bursts into the emergency room with a patient on a stretcher shouting, “Blood pressure 90-over-60 and dropping fast!” But unless you’re a real-life medical professional, chances are you don’t know what this means.

Understand blood pressure, however, and cop shows AND giraffes suddenly become much cooler! Here’s the scoop:

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is a measure of how much force your heart is using to pump blood around your body. Your blood pressure can vary throughout the day, and change from day to day. It can also change according to your activity levels, posture and emotions. These changes are no big deal if your blood pressure is within a healthy range — normal blood pressure for men: 120-over-80 or thereabouts.

What do those two numbers mean? The first one is known as your systolic blood pressure. This measures the force of the blood against your artery walls when it’s at its highest. The second number is your diastolic blood pressure. It measures the blood pressure when the heart relaxes, and the force of the blood is at its lowest.

So when that cop-show paramedic yells “90-over-60!”, you know the patient is fighting for his life!

Why should I care about blood pressure?

An overly high blood pressure — a.k.a hypertension — is not very good news. When it stays above 140-over-90, it can cause strokes, heart attacks, and heart and kidney failure. It may also be related to dementia and sexual problems. The good news: These issues can be prevented if high blood pressure is controlled.

How to lower blood pressure

Talk to a doctor: A doctor needs to check your blood pressure at least once every two years. In between those appointments, many pharmacies have blood pressure machines you can use to track your own BP for free. Give them a try — although they shouldn’t replace a doctor’s visit.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle: A four-part plan can work wonders here. Part 1: Eat a balanced diet that includes more fruits and vegetables and less sugar and salt. Part 2: Maintain healthy body weight. If you are overweight, losing even a modest amount of weight can help reduce your blood pressure. Part 3: Limit your alcohol intake to 1 or 2 drinks per day. And last but not least: learn how to keep stress under control.

So what about giraffes?

The long-necked animal’s record-setting blood pressure — 280-over-180 — is more than DOUBLE that of humans. For a good reason: It takes a lot of force to get blood from their hearts to their brains when the two organs are separated by around two metres! That’s why giraffe hearts, at about 11 kilograms, are the largest of any land mammal.

Now you’re WAY ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding blood pressure AND giraffe anatomy! Useful and useless facts, together at last…

Do you have an awesome animal fun fact you’d like to share? Go right ahead in the comments below!

This article was originally published on February 6, 2019.

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Beat Traffic with Pedal Power: Why Cycling Is Good for You

Beat Traffic with Pedal Power: Why Cycling Is Good for You

Raise your hand if you just love sitting in traffic. No hands? Thought so. We all know the terrible feeling of banging your head against the steering wheel during rush hour. 

Now, imagine replacing a tiresome, expensive drive with something cheaper, healthier, and fun! What is this amazing form of transportation and recreation that’s also ideal for physical distancing? Turns out, it’s been around for more than a century: It’s the bicycle.

Bike boom

There’s never been a better time for Canadian guys to take up cycling. For one thing, a solo ride is a safe and healthy way to get around, get fit, and get some fresh air during the COVID-19 pandemic. For another, cities and towns across the country are spending millions of dollars a year on adding bike lanes and other cycling infrastructure, which leads to faster, safer excursions and commutes. The equipment is becoming more accessible and economical too — gone are the days of having to choose between a Tour de France speed machine and something grandma would ride. Find the type of bike that suits you best.

Need more reasons why cycling is good? Keep reading…

Man riding his bike and smiling

Calories Burned While Biking

A leisurely bike ride burns more calories than walking, 280 versus 175 per hour, give or take, and typically gets you where you’re going more than five times faster. Pedal more quickly or climb a hill, and the fitness benefits only increase. Besides, cycling gets your legs and heart pumping without pounding your joints. This reduces the risk of injury, and as a result, cycling becomes a lifelong activity. Those are just a few of the many reasons why cycling is good for you!

Man riding his bike to and from work

Save Money AND the Environment

Not including the value of the vehicle, driving costs around 50 cents per kilometre when you factor in gas, insurance, maintenance and other fees. So if you live within biking distance of somewhere you would usually reach by car — your workplace, the grocery store, your favourite patio or coffee shop, etc. — let’s do the math. Cycling 10 km instead of driving twice a week saves around $520 worth of gasoline per year and prevents about 400 kilograms of carbon dioxide from polluting the atmosphere.

Improved fitness may save you, and every Canadian, even more in the long run if this Canadian Men’s Health Foundation study is anything to go by.

Young man riding his bike stress free and wearing a mask amid COVID-19 pandemic

Stress, Cycling, and COVID

Any form of exercise reduces stress — including the COVID-induced kind — but cycling is especially beneficial. A recent New Economics Foundation study revealed that bike commuters report lower stress levels than drivers and transit-takers. A 2006 report by the Victoria Transport Policy Institute found that a much higher rate of bike commuters say they like their commute, compared with those using other vehicles.

So, let’s follow the lead of Freddie Mercury when the Queen frontman sings, “I want to ride my bicycle!”

Know of any other healthy, money-saving activities? Share the scoop in the comments below!

This article was originally published on July 21, 2016.

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Repay all that Father’s Day love by giving your family the gift of time

Repay all that Father’s Day love by giving your family the gift of time

Father’s Day gifts are awesome no matter what. Even if your kids bring you burnt toast and eggshell-filled omelettes, your day is still made because it’s the thought that counts. In cases like these, the thoughts revolve around the importance of family. They show their love and appreciation for none other than you, a.k.a. Dad.

What can you do for your family in return? Ultimately, the best gift you can give them is the gift of time. Spending  time with your kids is great because it’s natural, free and fun — as these easy ideas show:

Little boy playing road hockey

Road hockey

Do you have a driveway or live in a cul-de-sac? Is there a schoolyard or park nearby? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re a few hockey sticks and a tennis ball away from hosting your own Stanley Cup Finals. Teaching your kids new skills and watching them improve is incredibly rewarding, and is one of the easiest ways to connect with your child. Plus, you never know,  you might end up with the next Sydney Crosby or Hayley Wickenheiser.

Shooting hoops

Whether you’ve bolted a net to your garage or there’s a court in a nearby park, a game of 21 with your son or daughter lets everyone channel their inner Raptor.

Grandfather, father, and son playing basketball

A Quick Game of Tag

Father and daughter running on the grassy field

No child under the age of 12 can resist joining in when you simply tag them and holler, “You’re it!” You better run fast, though, those kids can move!

Charades

Brother and sisters playing a game of charades

Google “charades clues” on your computer or smartphone, and you’ll get dozens of lists you can use to stage a spirited game. If your teen claims charades are “lame,” get the ball rolling yourself. If they guess correctly, they’ll get into it. If not, at least you’ve shown them that dad can loosen up.

Walk it off

Father carrying his son on his shoulders with sunset behind them

Okay, we know we said time was the greatest gift of all, but that doesn’t mean your family won’t appreciate a frozen yogurt or ice cream after some active Father’s Day fun. Walk with them, talk with them, and who knows? Maybe they will teach you a thing or two!

What’s the best Father’s Day gift you’ve ever received or given? Share your faves in the comments below!

This article was originally published on February 17, 2017.

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