Stress is a daily reality for most people, and in particular for your male patients who may carry the ongoing stresses of financial strain, relationships, family issues, getting enough sleep, and work-related problems. To address these issues, you may recommend a three-pronged approach that utilizes physical exercise, balanced diet and nutrition, and mindfulness.
How stress affects men
The adverse effects of chronic stress on men’s health are far-reaching into all areas of their lives, from sexual functioning to the cardiovascular system. When faced with stress, the body excretes cortisol, which in excessive amounts can affect normal biochemical functioning of the reproductive system.1 This may manifest as decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, and impotence.1 Sperm production and maturation can also be affected, giving cause to issues with fertility.1
As chronic stress from family, job, and relationships often drive increased consumption of alcohol and junk food, as well as sedentary habits, we begin to see its effects on cardiovascular health.2 Such habits are also conducive to increased inflammation within the body, which is a known precursor for cardiovascular disease such as atherothrombosis, the underlying cause of approximately 80% of all sudden cardiac deaths.3
Turning to negative behavioral habits such as drinking and overeating as ways to cope with chronic stressors has long-term implications for male health. As a healthcare practitioner, you may recommend certain changes in behavior, including diet and nutritional supplementation, exercise, and mindfulness practices, that may help this patient population achieve better management of stress and thereby reduce risk for issues with cardiovascular and sexual functioning.
Exercising most days--even as little as 20 minutes of walking--can have a profound effect on male health.4 Mood-elevating chemicals that relieve stress increase, while concurrently lowering blood pressure, strengthening the heart, and promoting healthy weight.5 The “runner’s high” is a real response to endorphins released during exercise that help support relaxation and positive mood.
Diet and Nutrition
Just as junk food can exacerbate stress in the body, it is also not unlike medicine as it can help the body manage and recover from stress. A balanced diet, rich in nutrients, can help the male body better manage the stress response. Because the adrenal system can become exhausted from chronic stress, consider supplementing with an adrenal cortex complex to help reduce cortisol levels. Nutrients such as magnesium, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids can also help support the body in times of stress.
There are situations that can be changed, and those that cannot. Male patients who feel overwhelmed by stressors may respond positively by releasing those that cannot be changed, such as the amount of days worked each week, or distance of a commute. Implementing alternatives that provide inspiration such as listening to an audiobook on the drive or ensuring that breaks are taken during the day to go outside and stretch, can support mindfulness and achieve a reduction in stress response.
- Stress effects on the body. The American Psychological Association. https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/stress/effects-male-reproductive. Accessed December 26, 2019.
- Dimsdale J. Psychological stress and cardiovascular disease. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2008 Apr 1; 51(13): 1237–1246.
- Willerson J, Ridker P. Inflammation as a cardiovascular risk factor. Circulation. 2004 Jun 1;109(21 Suppl 1):II2-10.
- Walking: Your steps to health. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/walking-your-steps-to-health. Accessed December 26, 2019.
- Centers for Disease Control.Prevalence of self-reported physically active adults—United States. MMWR Morb Mortal Weekly Report. 2008;57:1297–300. Accessed December 26, 2019.