Category Archives: Health/Fitness

Don’t Be Afraid to Confront Your Addictions

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 14: CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the game on September 14, 2013 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 14: CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Boston Red Sox during the game on September 14, 2013 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Don’t be scared by the fact I am featuring a New York Yankee on this blog.  I am still a Die-Hard Red Sox fan.  Even more surprising is that I am not featuring C.C. Sabathia or a Yankee in a funny, sarcastic or negative way.  Actually I am sharing this because it is pretty serious and hits close to home for me for a lot of reasons.

We share a lot at Be a Better Man about addiction, depression, mental health and other related issues.  We do this because so many times men refuse to get help when they struggle in life.  There are tons of excuses we fall back on: “It’s embarrassing,” What will people think?” “I will lose my job if I get help” “I am strong enough to handle this alone” etc.

Alcohol and drug addiction has not only robbed us of some great men over the years but it continues to limit our potential as men, husbands, fathers, friends and employees.  I am sharing C.C.’s story in the hopes someone out there may take comfort in it and decide enough is enough and will seek help.

Sabathia recently penned an article for The Players Tribune about his struggles with alcohol and his decision to get help.  If you aren’t familiar with his story last October, the day before the Yankees were to start the playoffs, C.C. checked himself into a alcohol rehabilitation center.  This meant he would be unavailable for the entire playoffs and the World Series.  Not an easy decision any time of the year but especially difficult given what was at stake.

His article is entitled “My Toughest Out” and I hope you enjoy.

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Take Care of Yourself – 6 Cancers and Ways to Prevent It

illustration-of-cancer-cells

Cancer.

Easily one of the worst, if not THE worst, thing on this planet.  It seems that rather than finding a cure for it, Cancer is instead finding more and more creative ways to kill us.  This is especially true among the male population.  A recent study suggested a 24% increase in Cancer diagnoses in Men over the next 8 years.  The one we always hear about is Prostate Cancer and it certainly should be taken seriously.  Yet there are other forms of the disease which are killing us way too early.  Below are six of them along with ways to fight and hopefully prevent it from happening to you.  Nothing is shown to totally prevent cancer but taking the steps to develop a healthy lifestyle is a good start.

Pancreatic Cancer

Potential warning signs: recently diagnosed diabetes, unintended weight loss, jaundice and/or back/abdominal pain.

These kind of cancer cells devour glucose and use it to spread rapidly in the body.  Thus, the huge increase of people diagnosed with diabetes has increased the numbers of people who end up with this kind of cancer.  Due to the location of the pancreas in the body it is almost impossible to remove the tumors.

How to prevent it:  according to a recent study conducted by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, people who performed 50 minutes of high-intensity resistance training for seven weeks reduced their fasting glucose levels by about 13mg/dl after just 10 minutes of recovery post-workout.  Your muscles will burn up the blood sugar in order for them to grow thus robbing any potential cancer from using it.

Liver Cancer

Potential warning signs: weight loss (without trying), loss of appetite, swelling in your abdominal cavity, nausea, vomiting and yellowing skin or eyes.

For many, many years this was generally only associated with alcoholism.  However, in the last 20 years doctors have seen a rise (especially in men) with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD.) Approximately 20% of U.S. males currently suffer from this disease. The fatty deposits around the liver can eventually lead to cirrhosis and in turn liver cancer.

How to prevent it:  stay away from Fructose.  It took me a long time to cut out those sugary beverages from my life so trust me I know it is hard to do but the benefits of cutting them out far outweigh the happiness of drinking a Coke.  Sixty-one percent of men who drink soda and similar sugary concoctions are more likely to develop NAFLD than those who don’t.  Some studies have suggested to drink coffee instead (again stay away from the sugar) because results have shown coffee helps to prevent fatty deposits around the liver.

Testicular Cancer

Potential warning signs: we talked about this particular one a few times a year.  Check out our blog about it here.  If your balls have changed size/shape, are swollen, have lumps and/or you have pain in your scrotum or lower abdominal you should see a doctor.

Doctor’s are still perplexed by the steady rise of this kind of cancer and haven’t necessarily been able to pin point causes.  Obviously, any exposure to carcinogens will put you at risk but it is almost impossible to keep track of everything that may contain that kind of material.  Unfortunately, if this kind of disease runs in your family you are ten times more likely to get it yourself.

How to prevent it:  early detection is still your best friend as there are plenty of treatment options available.  Survival rates for all 5 stages still sits in the 90% range.  So be sure at least once a month, while you are in the shower, give your boys a check up.  If you feel anything like a lump or swelling you should call your doctor immediately.  Unsure if it is lump?  You should still see your doctor immediately.

Melanoma

Potential warning signs: scan your body for moles.  If any of them are larger than 1/4 inch with irregular borders, have an odd shape, change color/size or are not asymmetrical, you should see your dermatologist right away.

87% of Melanoma is caused by exposure to sunlight.  As a group we are doing poorly.  Only 20% of men even bother to apply sunscreen. Most of us (including myself) head out the door with a baseball hat and maybe some sunscreen and think it is enough.  The hat doesn’t even cover your entire face and you also miss the neck and ears. Your best bet is to get a wide brimmed fedora.

How to prevent it:  this one isn’t tough.  Put on some damn sun screen!  Nothing less than SPF +35 will do.  You should also be putting it on in the winter (regardless of where you live.)  You should also make it part of your yearly physical to see a dermatologist to get checked for irregular moles.

Kidney Cancer

Potential warning signs: low back pain, a lasting fever not caused by an infection, low back pain or a bump on your side or lower back.

Your kidney has several functions and one of them is to control your blood pressure.  When we gain excess weight it causes an increase in our blood pressure which takes a toll on our kidney.  This of course wreaks havoc on your metabolism which in turn can lead to inflammation in your kidney.  It is the inflammation that can help to facilitate the growth of cancer cells in your kidney.

How to prevent it: the best way is to maintain an active lifestyle. This is not always easy (as I know) when you have a desk job that requires you to sit for hours on end in front of a computer. However, just walking or running for 3 hours a week will help reduce your chances of getting this kind of cancer by 61%.

Thyroid Cancer

Potential warning signs: a lump or swelling in the neck, hoarse voice, trouble swallowing or a persistent cough you can’t get rid of.

This is another one the doctor’s have a hard time figuring out. However, they point to several likely culprits.  Since the 1970s furniture companies have been spraying their products with flame retardant material.  Fumes from this spray can attack your thyroid and disrupt your thyroid function.  In addition, radiation can be a huge cause of this cancer.  Experts estimate we are exposed to twice as much radiation today as we were 25 years ago.

If you are like me and suffer from a Thyroid condition you also need to be more careful regarding this particular kind of cancer.

How to prevent it: like many of the ones above, getting a routine screening is important.  Having been checked several times I can tell you it is an easy procedure.  The most common way is via an ultrasound.  If that is inconclusive you may need to get an MRI.  As an additional step you may want to invest in a HEPA-filtered vacuum and be sure you wipe down your furniture with a wet rag to remove dangerous particles.

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Five Steps to Conquering Your Fear

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(I am sharing this article courtesy of Huffington Post)

Editors Note: I came across the below excerpt on Huffington Post a while back and I found it spoke quite a bit to where I am, not only in my career but also in my personal life.  The example of being a photographer is not mine but you can insert whatever it is you are fearful of doing and it will work just the same.  Fear can rob us of a lot of things including happiness, our destiny and over satisfaction with life.  I hope you will find the motivation to tackle at least one of your fears after reading this.

It is certainly true that no matter how positive-minded you try to be, it can be painful when things don’t work out the way you want — when your application isn’t accepted at an elite school, you don’t get the job, your artwork isn’t taken by a gallery, your business doesn’t catch on or you find that you aren’t as talented as you hoped. When this happens, it is going to feel disappointing. It may make you doubt your intelligence, abilities and ideas.

That’s OK. It is a short-lived pain that will go away. It is nothing compared to the fear of failure, which drains your vitality and paralyzes you from taking the actions that bring joy and meaning into your life. So what can you do? Here is an easy-to-implement practice that will allow you to use your fear of failure as a means to take action and explore new things.

1. Identify Your Fear

Find something that you would like to try but have hesitated to do because of your fear of failure. (I want to try working as a professional photographer, but I am afraid that I might not be good enough at it to be successful.)

2. Reverse Your Thinking

Come up with a way that you can fail at it as quickly as possible. (I am going to find a setting where I can take lots of bad pictures and let people see them. I can try at my cousin’s wedding, which is happening next month.)

3. Do It Anyway

Get out there and give it a try. Make mistakes and have fun doing it. Ask others for help and feedback. (While taking pictures at the wedding, I will let people know I am a beginner and ask for comments and suggestions.)

4. Fail Forward

Use your exploratory actions as a means to learn and discover what you need to know. (What parts of taking the wedding photographs were the most or least enjoyable? What pictures did people like or dislike? What came naturally, and what do I need to work on?)

5. Find the Next Challenge

Seek out the next opportunity to do things at the limits of your abilities. (Next time, I will ask to take pictures at a wedding where I get paid for my work.)

Until tomorrow, make it a better day.

Andrew

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The Cautionary Tale of Scott Weiland

scott-weiland

Happy Friday Gents!  I hope you have had an awesome week and will be cruising into the weekend with some major relaxation planned.

It was very sad to wake up and hear the news that Scott Weiland had passed away over night in my hometown of Minneapolis, MN.  If you don’t know who he is then this post probably isn’t going to be for you.

Scott was previously the lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots (STP) and Velvet Revolver.  In recent years he was primarily a solo act but was currently on tour with a group called the Wildabouts. Normally I am not often broken up over the passing of a celebrity, rock star or famous person but I have to admit this one hurts.  I just hate seeing men leave this plain of existence way too early, especially when they have struggled to overcome so much in their lives. Scott Weiland fits that to a T.  The fact that he was only 48 years old and that I am quickly approaching 40 makes it all the more relevant and hard to swallow.

Being an 80’s kid and a Hair Metal fan I despised the rise of the grunge bands in the early and mid-90’s.  If you were a follower of Hair Metal you were used to some pretty impressive stage theatrics with fireworks, guitars on fire, smoke, lasers etc.  The grunge era had none of that.  It was just a stripped down show with very little excitement outside of stage diving and the mosh pit.

However, STP was a bit different in that regard.  Scott Weiland had a very unique stage presences compared to his 12346341_10153681922041427_3996813497711366191_npeers at the time.  He would often sing through a megaphone but even beyond that he was a wonderful stage performer.  He had a very unique voice when the majority of bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana were simply mumbling into the microphone.  Nowhere was this more obvious then in their video/song entitled “Creep.”  Both “Plush” and “Creep” were on their 1992 initial recording entitled “Core.”  You should seriously download the album if you haven’t already.

Anyone familiar with Scott or the various bands he fronted are well aware of his ongoing struggle with drugs and mental health issues. He was sexually abused when he was in high school and would turn to drugs at an early age to deal with the aftermath.   This would set him on a course for the rest of his life where the only solution he could find to his mental health struggles was heroin and cocaine.  I am not here to judge Scott or his choices.  He had a difficult childhood and adolescence and he has talked about it in various interviews over his career.  I can’t imagine having to deal with some of his struggles at such an early age and I am sure drugs and alcohol were an easy choice to try and drown the demons in his head.

I just wanted to write this post because if you are out there and struggling with drug and alcohol addiction please get some help.  If you feel like you are struggling with any mental health issues or even if you are unsure if you are, please seek counseling.  Scott tried on several occasions to get help, including several stops in rehab and mental health counseling.  He admitted to being diagnosed as bipolar and sought treatment for that condition.  There is no way for me to know what happened with his treatment or why it is that he never seems to stay sober for very long.  All I know is how terrible this story ends.  I hope that Scott has found peace and that he made amends with his maker.  Please send prayers for Scott and his family. He has two kids who are still relatively young and this won’t be an easy time for them.  Losing a father can be a very difficult situation for younger children to overcome.  It is a reminder of how important it is to live a healthy lifestyle if you are a dad.

If you know someone who struggles with drug and/or alcohol or someone who you believe may be struggling with mental health issues please don’t enable them.  Encourage them to seek help. Offer to attend counseling with them.  Do whatever you can to eliminate their objections for getting help. Most importantly don’t ever give up on them.  We all need other people to believe in us and to show us we have value in their eyes. Too often people who struggle with mental health issues and substance abuse don’t believe they have value.  Let’s work as hard as we can so the next Scott Weiland will be writing music well into his 80’s.

Here are some more videos.  If you stopped following Scott’s career after Velvet Revolver you should check these out.  The first one is a little Bob Dylan-esque and is from his solo album “Happy in Galoshes.”

 

Here is a recent video of Scott with his new band the Wildabouts. Very solid music.  Damn I am going to miss this dude’s music.

 

And last but not least here is a recent video of Scott discussing his career and the new music he was making with the Wildabouts.

Let us know what you think!

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Twelve Signs of Male Depression

Did you know that over 5 million men suffer from depression EVERY YEAR!  That is a lot of dudes.

Today’s post comes from Health magazine which did a focus article on how to spot the signs of male depression.  If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from depression please don’t ignore it.  Seek immediate help and counseling from medical professionals.  Having depression doesn’t make you less of a man.  It just means you need a doctor for your brain and hopefully a temporary solution.  Often times depression is a symptom of another treatable and survivable disease or condition.  Don’t be ashamed, get help!  So with that let’s get started!

Clinical depression—in women or men—can cause sadness and a loss of interest in once pleasurable activities. But depression can sometimes manifest in different ways in different people.

“While the symptoms used to diagnose depression are the same regardless of gender, often the chief complaint can be different among men and women,” says Ian A. Cook, MD, the Miller Family professor of psychiatry at the University of California–Los Angeles.

Here are 12 signs of depression in men:

Fatigue

People who are depressed undergo a series of physical and emotional changes. They can experience fatigue, as well as psychomotor retardation, or a slowing down of physical movements, speech, and thought processes.

According to Josh Klapow, PhD, a clinical psychologist with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Public Health, men are more likely than women to report fatigue and other physical symptoms of depression as their chief complaints.

If you are getting enough sleep (at least 6 – 8 hours) but still feel fatigued you should check this on your list.

Sleeping too much or too little

On the flip side, too much or not enough sleep can also be a sign of depression.  Sleep problems—such as insomnia, waking up very early in the morning, or excessive sleeping—are common depression symptoms.

“[Some people] sleep 12 hours a day and still feel exhausted or toss and turn and wake up every two hours,” says Dr. Cook.

Like fatigue, sleep troubles are one of the main symptoms that depressed men may discuss with their doctor, experts say.

Stomachache or backache

Health problems such as constipation or diarrhea, as well as headaches and back pain, are common in people who are depressed.

But men often don’t realize that chronic pain and digestive disorders go hand in hand with depression, according to focus groups conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health. Norman Sussman, MD, a professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center, says people who are depressed do genuinely feel bad physically.

Irritability

Instead of seeming down, men who are depressed often show signs of irritability. “If they talk about an emotional component, it could be sadness with irritability,” says Dr. Cook.

In addition, says Klapow, negative thoughts are a common aspect of depression. “Men will report feeling irritable because they are having negative thoughts constantly,” he says.

Difficulty concentrating

Psychomotor retardation can slow down a man’s ability to process information, thereby impairing concentration on work or other tasks.

“Depression fills one with negative thoughts, almost like an intrusion,” Klapow says. “You’re slowed down and constantly thinking about negative things in your world. As a result it makes it very difficult to focus on anything.”

“I describe depression as a form of reversible brain failure, Dr. Sussman says. “When you’re depressed, it’s like your CPU [central processing unit] isn’t working properly.”

Anger or hostility

Some men manifest depression by being hostile, angry, or aggressive, says. Dr. Sussman. “A man who realizes something is wrong may need to compensate by demonstrating that he is still strong or capable,” he says.

Anger and hostility are different than irritability. “Anger tends to be a stronger emotion,” Klapow says. “Irritability is a crankiness.”

Dr. Sussman says he’s also seen men become hostile when they have withdrawn as a result of their depression and feel under pressure by friends or family to rejoin society.

As we have discussed many times on the Be A Better Man Blog, isolation and withdrawing from friends and family puts men at greater risk for making life changing mistakes.  When we think people don’t care about us, that we don’t care about them and that our actions don’t matter we make some pretty stupid decisions.  Sometimes these can be suicidal thoughts, heavy drug and alcohol use or high risk sexual activities.

Stress

“Men might be more likely to report symptoms of depression as stress. It’s not that they have more stress; it’s that it’s more socially acceptable to report it,” Klapow says.  According to Dr. Cook, stress and depression can also travel a two-way street. “It’s accurate to say that feeling stressed can be an indicator of having clinical depression but also be part of the cause,” he says.

Research has shown that prolonged exposure to stress can lead to changes both in the body and brain, which can in turn lead to depression.

Anxiety

Research has shown a strong link between anxiety disorders and depression.

Men may be no more likely than women to experience anxiety—in fact, anxiety disorders are about twice as prevalent in women—but it’s often easier for men to talk about feeling anxious rather than sad, Dr. Cook says.

Men may discuss concerns about work and whether the loss of a job will impede their ability to provide for themselves and their family. “It may be easier to put words to worries and fears,” Dr. Cook says.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse frequently accompanies depression. Research has shown that alcoholics are almost twice as likely to suffer from major depression as people without a drinking problem.

“It can happen for both men and women, but using drugs or alcohol to mask uncomfortable feelings is a strategy many men will employ instead of seeking health care,” says Dr. Cook.

“There’s a cultural bias of, ‘I should be able to fix this myself and so I’ll use what chemicals I have available to me to do that,'” Dr. Cook says.

Sexual dysfunction

{Authors Note: I have decided to forego any imagery here for obvious reasons…}

Depression is a common reason for loss of desire and erectile dysfunction (ED), and it’s one symptom that men are inclined not to report. “Performance problems can come from depression and make depression worse,” Dr. Cook says.

However, ED can be the result of other medical conditions or medications (including antidepressants), and ED by itself does not signal depression.

“My strong recommendation…is that you can’t go after one symptom; it’s a group of symptoms,” Klapow says.

Indecision

“I can’t count the number of people who have said, ‘I had money in the bank but the phone got shut off because I couldn’t bring myself to [pay the bill] or decide what to do and when.’ It gets overwhelming,” Dr. Cook says.

Some people naturally have a hard time making decisions, so an inability to make choices is usually worrisome only if it’s a new behavior.   “It’s an information-processing issue,” and depression slows down your ability to decide, Klapow says.

Suicidal thoughts

Women are more likely to attempt suicide, but men are more than four times as likely to die if they do attempt suicide. One reason is SuicidalFacebookthat men tend to choose more lethal methods. “They more often use firearms and kill themselves the first time they try,” Dr. Cook says.

Older men are at highest risk for suicide, and doctors may miss depression symptoms in this group. In fact, more than 70% of older suicide victims saw their primary care physician within the month of their death.

Depression is not a normal part of aging in men or women.

Seriously get help today!  While you might be battling depression there could be another cause, one which may or may not be a serious health concern.  I have known many people who have struggled with depression and the vast majority of them have successfully overcame this condition.  Don’t let the thoughts in your head win; too many people care about you and are depending on you to be there.