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Staying Healthy After Fatherhood

August 14, 2015

I love my 3 daughters. Everything I do revolves around their happiness. But does being a father adversely affect my overall health? According to recent studies, the answer may be yes.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland examined 10 years’ worth of data for more than 30,000 men who became fathers by the age of 45. They found that men who fathered children in their early 20s were at greater risk of dying by middle age than men who became fathers in their 30s and 40s.

Though researchers don’t have a definitive answer for why this link exists, they think becoming a father earlier in life may cause "considerable psychological and economic stress for a young man and deprive him of the ability to invest in his own well being." In other words, the financial and emotional commitment of fatherhood may lead some men to move their health further down their list of priorities.

This study follows a recent Northwestern University study which showed men gain weight and have a higher body mass index (BMI) after they become fathers. Ironically, men who didn’t become fathers actually lost weight. Similar to the previous study, Northwestern researchers think this trend occurs because of the lifestyle changes that accompany fatherhood.

The notion of weight gain after fatherhood even has inspired a new phrase—the dad bod.

The dad bod trend applauds men with soft round bodies who rather spend their time indulging a little than hitting the gym.

But a beer belly isn’t healthy for any man—whether or not he’s a dad. As we get older, our bodies and our lifestyle may change but that just means we have to work harder to maintain good overall health.

Being a dad doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be overweight, but it does mean you’ll have to find creative ways to get enough exercise, rest and proper nutrition. Here are some tips for how to stay healthy:

You are What You Eat

You’ve probably heard this phrase from your doctor countless times, but that’s because it’s true. What you put into your body has a direct effect on how it functions. Food is fuel and eating the right things—and the right amount of them—will help you maintain a healthy weight. Every meal should have color on the plate. That means a balanced diet filled with fruits and vegetables. Lean protein is important, too, because it’ll keep you fuller for longer. And I know most guys love beer, but too much of it isn’t a good thing. It’s empty calories and some studies have suggested that beer actually can affect testosterone levels.

Stay Active

Exercise does a body good. Along with proper diet and nutrition, it’s the only tried and true way to minimize your risk of chronic diseases and gaining excess weight. The great thing is that you don’t have to do it alone. Dads can make exercise a family affair by going on a weekend walk with their kids or running a 5K with the entire family. One of the best things about living in Central Florida is the good year-round weather. Dads can take advantage of this by playing ball with their kids in the backyard, riding bikes around the neighborhood, or going for a walk in the theme parks. Doing these things will increase your heart rate, strength and overall fitness, and most importantly, allow you to spend quality time with your family.

Get Rest

Getting enough sleep is a crucial part of staying healthy. Lack of sleep can compromise your immune system and affect how well your brain functions. Everyone should get between six to eight hours of sleep a night. And while quantity of sleep is important, so is the quality of the rest you’re getting. Several hours of uninterrupted sleep is better than eight hours of interrupted sleep where you wake up continuously in the middle of the night. Getting enough rest can be difficult when you have kids and a busy life, but making the effort is worth it for your health.

Becoming a father is one of the most joyful experiences anyone can have. While these studies may seem alarming, the most important takeaway is that as your lifestyle changes you need to put in more effort into staying healthy. In my view, fatherhood isn’t the reason dads are unfit. It’s the most important reason they should do everything possible to maintain good health.

For more information and health tips, follow Dr. Brahmbhatt on Twitter and Facebook

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