While many think of testicular or prostate cancer when it comes to raising awareness for men’s health during November, the health experts in the 72nd Medical Group’s Health Promotion Wing at Tinker Air Force Base remind Airmen that daily health habits are just as important.
Among Tinker’s male Airmen, the biggest health problem that Nutrition Program Manager Wendi Knowles, 72nd Medical Group, has seen is basic lifestyle and nutrition issues: adoption of fad diets, excess caffeine and supplement use, lack of sleep and a lack of physical exercise.
“What we saw a lot, and I see it probably more with men than women, is fad diets,” Knowles said. “It’s important to watch out for fad diets and sticking with a healthy diet that meets USDA guidelines’ MyPlate that shows how much you need from each of the food groups. It’s important not to leave any of those out.”
Knowles said that while not exclusive to men, she has seen the adoption of the keto diet among a lot more men. As keto is a high-fat diet, Knowles said that excessive consumption of saturated and animal fat can be detrimental in the long term for an individual’s health.
“If they’re doing it with a healthy fat that’s better, but there still is not enough science to support it,” Knowles said.
Among men, Knowles said excess use of supplementation can also create a nutritional imbalance in diets – especially the use of post-workout supplements to aid in muscle development and energy drinks to combat drowsiness.
“Our young male population are heavy users of both of these,” Knowles said. “Especially for caffeine, which is present in both, recommendations are not to exceed more than 400 milligrams a day for men.”
Knowles said that energy drinks especially can have negative health impacts because they only give users mental energy and not physical energy, which can make them dangerous before taking a PT test.
“At the extreme, this can be deadly,” Knowles said. “We have seen some people pass out as a result of this (during a PT test).”
Next on Knowles’ list of things to avoid is sleep deprivation, which she said would in turn decrease reliance on caffeine consumption. She said that adults ages 18-64 need at least seven to nine hours of sleep a night for optimal health, something that she said has become more and more noticeable among both men and women in the Air Force.
A lack of physical activity is also something that can lead to health problems, according to Exercise Physiologist Traci Fuhrman, 72nd Medical Group, who said that this is a problem that is impacting young Airmen as well.
“Physical activity that combines strength, cardio and core flexibility is important,” Fuhrman said. “A lot of men think they just need to lift weights, but cardiovascular conditioning is so important to their heart health and for their fitness tests.”
To help Airmen who might be struggling with either fitness or nutrition, the Health Promotion Wing offers several programs to support Airmen in meeting their goals.
These include the Fitness Assessment Success Training Program, that offer classes on run conditioning, strength training, core fitness, flexibility and nutrition, and the Air Force Nutrition and Weight Management Program, which has six classes that educate Airmen on nutrition and food. For more information on any of the programs, contact the Health and Wellness Center at 734-5400.