Healthy Eating – More than Food

Spring abundance

Written by Komalpreet Kaur

Food and nutrition are a way to fuel the body. When choosing foods to eat it’s important to consider all the vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals as these are required for good health. Good nutrition means choosing healthy food items over unhealthy food items. According to Canada’s Food Guide, a healthy diet must constitute a lot of natural foods such as fruits and vegetables (especially red, orange and dark green), whole grains such as whole wheat and brown rice, a portion of protein such as lean meat, poultry, eggs, seafood, beans, legumes, and soy products such as tofu. A person must consume a diet containing adequate amounts of all the nutrients to prevent nutritional deficiencies. Foods that should be avoided are fried foods, solid fats, trans fats, processed foods rich in sodium, refined grains, and refined sugars considering these items have degrading effects on your health.

How You Eat Is Important

Dieticians of Canada suggest that eating habits play just as an important role as food choices. You can change your eating habits a little bit at a time. A small change is easier and with consistency, it leads to better health. Some measures to make healthy changes:

  • Adding more healthy food items in your diet rather than just avoiding unhealthy food items. Try replacing unhealthy foods with healthy food items, for example, replacing trans fats with healthy fats. Adding fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein in your diet as per Canada’s Food Guide. 
  • Packing healthy food items such as fruits, whole-grain granola bars, etc. for lunch at work — or healthy sandwiches, salads, and fruits for kids at schools. This gives you more control over what you eat! 
  • Cooking meals at home: When you cook at home you can take charge of what you eat and make changes in your food as per your choice. You can follow healthy recipe books and plan meals ahead. You can visit Cookspiration or download the Dietitians of Canada Recipe E-book to see Nutrition Month 2020 recipes.
  • Don’t skip or delay meals: Nutrition and healthy eating is not just about healthy food items but also about how you eat and when you eat! When you delay your meal or skip meals your body enters a survival mode. It makes your body crave food more and that’s when you end up eating a lot. Skipping meals also results in a drop in blood sugar level which impacts your brain’s ability to think straight. It also causes your metabolism to slow down resulting in weight gain.
  • Relax and enjoy your meals with family and friends: It improves social relationships and prevents mindless overeating.
  • Drink water instead of high-sugar drinks: Water flushes out all the toxins from the body. It helps keep you hydrated so you can function actively throughout the day.
  • Control emotional eating: Some people resort to eating food in order to get away from stress. Try these healthy coping mechanisms to manage stress or help get rid of unpleasant emotions to help make sure you steer away from indulging in eating unhealthy foods.
  • When you eat matters as well: Starting your day with a healthy breakfast improves metabolism and keeps you active. Eat small portions throughout the day to avoid overeating. Eat your dinner early and fast until breakfast; this will help you sleep better, improve digestion, and also help prevent weight gain.
  • Learn to read nutritional labels: It is important to decode nutrition labels. Food Labels can be confusing here are a few things to look out in nutrition labels.
  • Stick to products that carry the “organic” or “USDA organic” label rather than ‘All-Natural’, as FDA considers it to mean that the food contains no artificial synthetic substances such as colouring agents. However, these products still contain pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones.
  • Free-Range: If you want to buy free-range, look for products that have the American Humane Certified seal. This means that the hens were given access to the outdoors for at least 8 hours a day, weather permitting.
  • Grass-Fed: Look for products that have the American Grassfed or PCO Certified 100% GrassFed label. This guarantees that the animals were grass-fed throughout their lives and after being weaned and that they weren’t raised in confinement.
  • NON-GMO: GMO stands for genetically modified organisms and refers to plants or animals whose genetic material has been altered. To buy NON-GMO products look for these seals: Non-GMO Project Verified and USDA Organic. These seals mean the product has been tested by a third party and is found to have met a non-GMO standard of less than 0.9%.

Are you getting enough sleep?

Sleepy young man with pillow on light background

Written by Komalpreet Kaur

We often relate health with a healthy diet, physical activity, mental and emotional health but sleep is in some ways neglected in health conversations today. Sleep is the foundation of good health and it is important for every facet of life. Sleep deprivation affects every aspect of life whether it is physical wellness, mental wellness, job performance or social relationships. 

Why do you need to sleep?

  1. To improve your energy levels
  2. Boosts your immune system
  3. Improves heart health 
  4. Improves brain function 
  5. Good for memory 
  6. Better cognitive functions
  7. For the emotional well being
  8. For better weight management
  9. For better mental health 

Canada and the USA are the third and fourth most sleep-deprived countries respectively. One in three Canadians isn’t getting enough sleep and almost half of Canadians do not find their sleep refreshing.  

Recommended healthy sleep hours by the sleep foundation are as followed:

  • Newborns (0-3 months): Sleep range narrowed to 14-17 hours each day (previously it was 12-18)
  • Infants (4-11 months): Sleep range widened two hours to 12-15 hours (previously it was 14-15)
  • Toddlers (1-2 years): Sleep range widened by one hour to 11-14 hours (previously it was 12-14)
  • Preschoolers (3-5): Sleep range widened by one hour to 10-13 hours (previously it was 11-13)
  • School-age children (6-13): Sleep range widened by one hour to 9-11 hours (previously it was 10-11)
  • Teenagers (14-17): Sleep range widened by one hour to 8-10 hours (previously it was 8.5-9.5)
  • Younger adults (18-25): Sleep range is 7-9 hours 
  • Adults (26-64): Sleep range did not change and remains 7-9 hours
  • Older adults (65+): Sleep range is 7-8 hours 

Both too little and too much sleep can have poor health impacts.

Effects of too little sleep :

  • Poor concentration, memory and vigilance
  • Sleepiness, tiredness, fatigue, irritability and weariness
  • Increased risk-taking, suggestibility
  • Weight-gain
  • Depression
  • Poor immune system
  • Increased risk of diabetes and morbidity 
  • Increased mortality
  • Early ageing

Effects of too much sleep:

  • Obesity
  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Depression 

Sleep is a basic physiological need. The less good-quality sleep you have, the greater your sleepiness will be, not only when you’re about to go to bed, but at other times as well. According to Dr. Chris Idzikowski (an expert on sleep and its disorders), the three main factors that affect daytime sleepiness are:

  1. The duration of your nighttime sleep (how long you’ve slept during the night)
  2. The quality of your nighttime sleep (how well you’ve slept)
  3. The circadian time (the time of the day)

Restful Sleep – Reachable Dream

Your sleeping space

Your bedroom must only be used for sleep and intimacy. Make some ‘keep out’ rules.

Keep out TV – Television is one of the greatest reasons for ignoring the urge to fall asleep. Television acts as a stimulant and keeps the brain active. Moreover keeping the TV on while getting ready for bed and then keeping it on when you are in the bed may make you overlook your body’s sleep signals. So place your TV out of the bedroom. 

Keep out work – Your bedroom is not an office where you need to check your emails, texts or read papers. Keep your notifications on silent for the night and your phone’s screen light to a minimum. Do not bring your laptop by your bedside. Your brain links work to being alert and focused, work is not conducive to sleep.

Bedroom Ambience

Create your sleep paradise!

The temperature, light and noise levels, and your bed are crucial factors that make the bedroom a perfect place to sleep. The first step in getting a better night’s sleep is to create a perfect bedroom environment. 

  • Turn off the lights, turn your alarm clock to face away from you, your phone must be away and on silent
  • Close the drapes or curtains or use a sleep mask
  • You can use earplugs to keep noise out or keep windows closed to block heavy traffic noise out
  • Consider double or triple glazing your bedroom to block the noise out
  • The mattress soft or hard must be according to your comfort
  • The National Sleep Foundation suggests that the bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67degree Fahrenheit for optimal sleep.

You can also consider the colours in your bedroom. Studies show that peaceful whites, pale blues, and calming greens make it easier for us to fall asleep. Another way to make your bedroom feel calm is to cut down on the clutter. If you do not have much time to clean up and declutter simply spend 15 minutes cleaning up what bothers you the most. Feng Shi consultants and Zen practitioners insist that free flow of energy in your physical environment brings peace, prosperity and love.

Undo your stress

Limit your exposure to stressful situations and take frequent breaks during the day and learn to say no to any additional projects. Jot down your thoughts in a diary before going to bed. It will help empty your mind and help you relax and sleep better.  Use music as therapy for relaxing. The calm music such as zen music or wave sounds can calm your mind and help you sleep. For some people, aromatherapy with essential oils such as lavender or jasmine is also beneficial. A gratitude journal before sleep can also help you feel better and promote sleep and meditation before bedtime also has a calming effect. Healthy eating, physical exercise and connecting with friends and family can help reduce stress and help you get better sleep.

Eat well and right for better sleep 

Caffeine and alcohol are sleep thieves!!

Limit your caffeine intake, reduce the amount of caffeine consumed in the afternoon and evenings. Caffeine stimulates the brain by blocking the action of hormones that makes you feel sleepy. The effects of caffeine might persist for up to 4-6 hours after consumption – always avoid caffeine consumption right before bedtime.

Energy Drinks are more of a hype than help as they contain lots of sugar. Caffeine hampers the normal mechanisms in the body (i.e. the sleep/wake cycle). The only way to rest the body is by getting a good night’s sleep.

Alcohol sedates you but does not put you to sleep – instead, it fragments your sleep all night. Beer, wine, etc. are poor sleep aids, as they stop your brain from entering the deeper stages of sleep, making you feel less rested and tired the next day. This is another reason why hangovers occur. Alcohol is one of the most powerful suppressors of REM or dream sleep.

Avoid eating dinner right before bed as it is hard to fall asleep with a fuller stomach, considering it keeps your body active and delays sleep. You must try to finish dinner 3-4 hours before bedtime for easy sleep.

Think your way to a good night’s rest

Develop a sleep ritual like brushing your teeth or a warm shower right before bed every day, as these can signal your brain for sleep. Reading a few pages of a book while in bed can also help put you to sleep. This practice is conducive to sleep. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day sets your body clock and is helpful in getting good quality sleep. If you need to reset your sleep cycle in one day, stop eating for the 16 hours before the time you want to wake up.

Sleep is crucial for living a healthy life. Sleep deprivation triggers both physical and mental illness and may also bring social isolation and despair. If you struggle with sleep, have sleep anxiety or sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, please speak with your physician and take measures to get a better sleep today.

Improve your sleep to enhance the quality of your life.

Employees who sleep better work better. 

Sleep Deprivation negatively impacts the energy levels and productivity of the employees and the company. Sleep insufficiency and sleep deprivation are linked to various physical and mental health issues and increased risk of workplace injury leading to more disability claims in the company thereby increasing the health cost for the employer. Here’s how employers can improve the sleep of their employees:

  • Promote the importance of sleep in their company culture

When employers talk to their employees about the importance of sleep they are more likely to influence their employees into sleeping better. Employers can circulate monthly newsletters stressing on a healthy lifestyle and some tips to improve sleep to help employees improve the quality of their life.

  • On-site napping

Employers can have on-site nap stations to facilitate 10-30 minutes of power naps for their employees. It improves the energy and productivity levels of the employees and reduces work-related stress.

  • Workplace wellness programs

Smoking cessation programs, onsite fitness facilities, meditation, mindfulness and yoga as wellness programs in an organization can help improve the general health of employees. The programs on healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle can help reduce stress and improve sleep quality and quantity in employees.

Optimity can help you improve your sleep and health through various activities and challenges. Reach out to us at engage@myoptimity.com for more information on how Optimity can help you.

 

Adapted from Sound Asleep – The expert guide to sleeping well by Dr. Idzikowski C; Ten natural ways to a good night’s sleep by Dr. Linardakis N.

Show your heart, you care!

Heart health, health care concept. Stethoscope near rubber heart on blue background top view space for text

Written by Komalpreet Kaur

As humans, we spend a lot of time taking care and worrying about our loved ones but are we paying attention to our own health and well being? Are we taking care of ourselves enough? 

Around millions of people in North America either suffer from heart disease or are at borderline risk for getting a heart disease diagnosis. 80% of heart diseases are preventable, all you need to do is understand the risk factors that predispose you for heart disease and take adequate measures to live a healthy life. Heart diseases contribute to many deaths, to read about risk factors and warning signs you can check out our blog post here.

When it comes to prevention there is no quick fix, the magic is achieved by incorporating healthy approaches in your lifestyle for the long term, not for a few days or weeks. All it takes to make a positive change for yourself and your family is your determination and willingness to make heart-healthy choices.

Here are a few changes that you can make for a healthy heart:

  • Eat well and right 
  • Stay active 
  • Don’t stress too much 
  • Sleep well
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol
  • Stay connected with the people you love

Believe in the power of healthy eating

Rates of obesity are soaring and with obesity comes high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high risk of coronary heart disease. Maintain a healthy weight through a healthy well-balanced diet and exercise. Changing or restricting your food habits is always challenging. A balanced diet that’s low in saturated fats and high in fresh fruits and vegetables will set you in the right direction toward protecting your heart from heart disease. Be proactive about your health. Instead of fad diets, you should refer to Canada’s food guide to know about recommended healthy food sources and food portions.

Five keys to a healthy diet according to Mayo clinic are:

  • Boost your vegetables and fruits

People who regularly consume five or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day cut their chances of heart attack and stroke. Vegetables and fruits are low in cholesterol.  An Australian study reported a reduction in blood cholesterol in people eating an avocado a day for a month. Avocados are also a good source of potassium which can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure and stroke. You must include more fresh fruits and vegetables in your daily meals. At the workplace or at home keep a bowl of fruits handy for a snack. Reduce or limit your salt intake, most of the dietary sodium comes from processed foods that people consume. Replacing processed meals with fresh foods whenever possible can have a great impact. When shopping you can choose to buy low-sodium or reduced-sodium options. You can also add extra vegetables and fruits to the food you commonly eat – for example, extra veggies in your soup. Eat at least two meatless dinners each week. For more information on heart-healthy food click here.

  •  Eat breakfast and eat it right 

Never miss your breakfast, your body needs energy. Eating a healthy breakfast is one of the ways to ensure you eat a balanced and moderate diet. Some healthy breakfast options can be fruits and nuts, low-fat dairy products and whole-grain products. Avoid sugary cereals and baked goods. If you don’t have enough time to fix a healthy sandwich for breakfast in the morning instead of pastries, muffins and doughnuts (food items high in saturated fat and sugars) you can always grab on the go-food such as apple, bananas, whole-grain bagels or low-fat yogurt. You can also prepare breakfast the night before and simply grab it in the morning rush hour.

  • Go for the grains

All types of grains are good sources of complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, also low in fat. Always look for the word “whole” on the packaging. A simple switch to whole-grain bread, rolls or whole-grain cereals for morning breakfast is a healthier option. Replace white rice with brown rice, kasha or bulgar. Instead of breadcrumbs use rolled oats or crushed bran cereals in recipes.

  • Focus on the fats 

It is important to understand that not all types of fats are unhealthy or harmful. Limit saturated and trans fats (solid fats such as butter and margarine) and replace them with monounsaturated fats (olive, peanut and canola oil) and polyunsaturated fats (found in nuts and seeds). Check the labels of packaged food as some snacks might be labelled as ‘reduced fats’ and may have trans fat in them. Choose the low-fat version of milk and dairy products. Food from animal sources such as meat, poultry, eggs (egg yolk not whites), butter, cheese are some major sources of cholesterol. Watch what you eat.

  • Be Lean with proteins

Consume good sources of protein including lean meat, poultry and low-fat dairy products or simply substitute meat with legumes (beans, peas and lentils). American Heart Association recommends eating fish (salmon, trout, herring, etc) twice a week as it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids that reduce the risk of dying from heart disease.

Always check the label for health check symbol 

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This health check symbol is created by the heart and stroke foundation of Canada and manufacturers are only allowed to use the health checkmark when the food product is approved. It can be found on many foods including grain products, vegetables and fruits, milk products and alternatives, and meat and alternatives. For more nutritional tips and recipes you can visit the health check site.

Stay Active

The best approach for overall good health is good nutrition plus exercise.

The heart and stroke foundation recommends that a normal adult must be moderately or vigorously active for 30 to 60 minutes a day, every day of the week. In busy and sedentary lives where it is hard to find the time, you must embrace a regular, scheduled pattern of activity regardless of age or stage of life. Exercise ranging from a brisk walk, climbing stairs or working out on cardio equipment in a gym helps burn calories and is beneficial to heart and blood vessels. You can simply start with brisk walks in nature with your kids or family members. Minimize using a car and prefer walking to a nearby shopping center. Scheduling time for exercise in your calendar is way better than scheduling visits to the doctor for health concerns.

Five keys to physical activity and heart health by Mayo Clinic are: 

  • Stand up for heart health

Researchers state that a sedentary lifestyle increases your risk of death from heart disease. This risk can be reduced if you find ways to get on your feet:

At Home– simply stand to read your morning newspaper, get off your couch and walk around your house while talking on the phone or during tv commercials. Stationary bike rides or walking on a treadmill while watching tv can help.

At work– Stand and take a break from your computer every 30 minutes. Take a break from sitting during long meetings, walk and talk on the phone or use the stairs instead of the elevator. You can use a height-adjustable desk so you can work while standing. Walk away from your desk for lunch.

  • Start with 10

Start by turning 10 minutes or more each day of a normal sedentary time into active time. For example, walk and talk, take short breaks to climb stairs or ride a stationary bike while watching TV. Even low levels of activity are beneficial but as your stamina for exercise increases, you can engage in more vigorous activity.  

  • Add intervals

Interval training allows you to exercise for longer periods and help burn more calories. It also helps to lower bad cholesterol levels. Once you are able to exercise at a moderate intensity for 30 minutes, you can add interval training. You can alternate one to two minutes of moderate activity such as brisk walking followed by 30 seconds of hard activity such as running. You can gradually increase the length of the higher intensity intervals to 1 to 2 minutes each. For Example:

Warm-up: 5minutes 

Moderate activity: 2 minutes 

Hard activity: 30 seconds 

Moderate activity: 2 minutes 

Hard activity: 30 seconds 

Moderate activity: 15 minutes 

Cool-down: 5 minutes

  • Boost your muscle strength 

It’s important to add muscle and bone-strengthening activities that utilize major muscle groups, at least 2 days per week. Examples of these activities are resistance training with weights or resistance bands. These types of activities have been shown to improve multiple markers related to heart health.

  • Pick things you enjoy 

Most of the time people do not engage in exercise every day as it is hard to find the time throughout their hectic schedules or they don’t like to exercise. What’s important is to move – it could be any activity like dance class, hiking with friends, any sports like soccer or softball, biking or walking in a park.

Click here for information on physical activity recommendations by the American Heart Association.

Quit Smoking 

Every single puff you take from that cigarette, you lose some real chances of having a good quality of life.

I have often heard people saying ‘what harm can a small cigarette cause’ and ignore the ongoing detrimental effects it has on their body that keep increasing with each puff.

Dr. Beth Abramson states in her book that if you quit smoking when you are younger than 40 years of age, you are gaining 9 years of life expectancy and you gain 6 years if you quit when you are under 50 years. If you manage to quit when you are under 60 you can gain 3 years of life. The most important thing is when you quit smoking the quality of your life evidently improves. Within a year of giving up cigarettes, you are 50% less likely to develop coronary heart disease when compared to smokers

Dr. Abramson also suggests that personal rewards are more motivational than health benefits for people who want to quit. Smokers probably spend thousands of dollars a year on cigarettes, so think of all the money you will save if you quit smoking. 

Set goals for smoking cessation that involves milestones that are important to you and your family. Always ask your doctor about smoking cessation drugs. When quitting smoking your mood will change. If you feel irritated, agitated, depressed or suicidal talk to your doctor.

Also, understand that quitting is a process that will test your patience, you will need support from your peers and family. The process can be uncomfortable and uneasy but it will be worth it.

For help contact:

Smoker’s Helpline: 1 877 513-5333 

Smoke-free 

Sleep for the sake of your heart 

Not getting enough sleep at night for days or sleep deprivation can increase your risk of heart attack and heart disease regardless of age, weight, smoking or exercise habits. It’s easy to lose sleep when life gets busy, but you must remember to make rest a priority for your health.

  • Aim for a consistent quality sleep every night
  • Follow a sleep schedule – try to go to bed at about the same time every night 
  • Know your slumber number: The number of hours you sleep at night allows you to wake up in the morning without an alarm clock and feel refreshed. Determine the time when you need to get up in the morning and go to bed 7 or 8 hours earlier. Keep going to bed 10 or 15 minutes earlier until you can wake up without the alarm clock.
  • Make sure you don’t have a sleep disorder such as any form of sleep apnea and if you do consult your doctor

For better quality sleep at night:

  • Calm your mind
  • Create a quiet and dark sleep environment
  • Turn off electronics
  • Avoid eating big meals before bed
  • Resist the urge to nap late in the day
  • Do not consume caffeine or alcohol before bed 

Some measures could help keep your heart healthy:

  • Maintain a healthy weight – determine your body mass index, measure your waist circumference
  • Set realistic, useful, measurable and clear goals
  • Set short term goals and analyze your results every two weeks
  • Use a journal to track your progress
  • You can keep a food diary, sleep journal
  • Self-monitoring helps a great deal
  • Reward your success, celebrate achieving small milestones but not with unhealthy food!
  • Also having a strong social network and close emotional ties with others reduce your risk for heart disease. Having a strong support system and positive emotions improve your chances of living longer even with heart disease.

Start managing your health and take measures to keep your heart healthy. Don’t wait till a heart disease damages your heart and diminishes your quality of life. Keep your heart healthy, have a healthy relationship with your mind and body to develop and maintain good relationships with people you love.

 

Are you at risk of heart disease? Know the risk factors

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Written by Komalpreet Kaur

Americans and Canadians are more likely to die from heart disease than any other disease. Fortunately, most deaths from heart disease can be prevented by recognizing symptoms early enough and seeking medical attention. And no matter what your perceived risks are, it’s extremely important to know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, as there have been cases where people with no known risk factors still experience them.

This article will give you the insight you need to understand signs and symptoms, risk factors and common myths associated with heart disease.

Warning Signs: 

Here are a few warning signs of heart disease as stated in the Mayo Clinic’s book Healthy Heart for Life. If you ever experience any of the symptoms below, please have them checked out by a medical professional:

  • Chest pain or discomfort often noticed with physical activity or emotional stress, which goes away when you rest
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Shortness of breath during normal physical activities

If you have any of these symptoms, contact emergency services immediately:

  • Unexpected chest pain or discomfort that doesn’t go away after a few minutes or occurs when you are resting 
  • Discomfort in other areas of your upper body such as your arms, shoulders, back, neck,  jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath that doesn’t go away
  • Severe weakness, lightheadedness, cold sweat or fainting
  • Severe indigestion or heartburn that lasts more than a few minutes, feeling sick to your stomach, vomiting or abdominal discomfort

These symptoms can be more subtle especially in women, so don’t delay and get yourself checked out. Remember, the delay can be deadly!

Common myths about heart diseases

    1. ‘There is nothing I can do about it’: If you have a strong family history of heart disease,  that doesn’t mean you are destined to get heart disease and you cannot do anything about it. There are effective ways to prevent it.
    2. ‘I don’t have to worry. Heart disease doesn’t run in my family’: Assuming that you won’t get heart disease because you don’t have a family history doesn’t mean you are immune to heart disease. Most of the risks of heart disease are associated with choices you make in your daily life such as eating habits, level of physical activity.
    3. Only old people get heart disease’: The chances of getting heart disease increases as a person gets older. Most people fail to understand that lifestyle habits formed during childhood or early adulthood can be a threat to heart health. Even in children, plaques start to build up in arteries. People should start forming healthy habits early, as what they do in their youth affects their lives later.
    4. ‘I’ll know if I have a heart problem because I’ll have symptoms’: Sometimes a heart attack is the first sign of a heart problem. 50% of men and 64% of women who’ve had heart attacks showed no symptoms of heart disease before the attack. People with heart valve problems also may not experience symptoms.
    5. ‘Heart disease is more of a man’s issue than a woman’s issue’: Heart disease is a leading cause of death and disability in women. Women are hesitant to seek help with heart-related symptoms and also less likely to make lifestyle changes to help prevent heart disease.
    6. ‘I’ll change my lifestyle if I get in trouble’: It’s never too early to start. We often don’t feel the need to change our lifestyles if nothing is wrong, instead of waiting until after something happens to make meaningful changes. Unfortunately, you can’t prevent heart disease once you have a heart attack or heart problem—only the quality of life can be improved later. 
    7. But I’m already living a healthy lifestyle’: A lot of us think we’re healthier than we really are. There is often a difference between what we think we know about healthy behaviours and what we do. The four primary behaviours recommended for heart health are not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits and exercising regularly.

It’s important to be aware of potential risk factors. Plus, when you reduce your risk factors for heart disease, you also reduce your risk factors for various other diseases such as dementia, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, erectile dysfunction and blindness.

Risk Factors:

Dr. Beth Abramson in her book says “Heart disease is due to bad luck, bad living and bad genes”. This pretty much sums up the major risk factors of heart diseases.

Personal and Family History:

It’s important to build your medical history. It begins with consulting a doctor and understanding your health status. Your doctor can also help you understand how health issues like sleep apnea, being overweight, anemia, and kidney disease can be risks for heart disease. You should also be aware of your family history, specifically how many of your first-degree relatives (parents, siblings or children) have heart disease. Any man or woman with a parent with heart disease has a two times greater risk than a peer with no family history.

Smoking: 

Smoking increases the risk of heart diseases, respiratory diseases, and cancer. The amount of risk associated with smoking and having a heart attack or stroke is even higher when people start smoking at a young age. Smoking narrows your blood vessels, raises blood pressure and increases the risk of blood clots. Any type of smoking is a preventable risk factor—second-hand smoke increases the risk of heart disease by 30%.

Cholesterol, Hypertension and Diabetes:

Cholesterol is the fat in your blood. HDL is high-density lipoprotein, which is good and should be high. LDL, on the other hand, is low-density and having high levels of it is bad, as it promotes the buildup of plaque in blood vessels. 

The impact of cholesterol levels on heart disease is significant. Ask your doctor to regularly check your cholesterol levels if you are a man over 40 years, a woman over 50 years, or if you have other risk factors.

Hypertension means high blood pressure. It’s also known as a silent killer as it damages and scars the arteries. If not treated it can cause stroke, heart attack or heart failure. According to Hypertension Canada, reducing your blood pressure by a small amount can reduce your risk of heart failure by 50%.

Diabetes occurs when your blood glucose levels are too high. High blood glucose levels can also contribute to plaque buildup in arteries. Adults with diabetes caused by an unhealthy lifestyle are two or three times more prone to heart disease than adults who do not have diabetes.

Weight:

Nearly 1/4 of Canadians and more than 2/3 American adults are overweight or obese and it has a staggering effect on their health, increasing the risk of heart disease or conditions leading to heart diseases such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or pre-diabetes, and sleep apnea. Being overweight or obese also reduces your lifespan by 3 years. Body Mass Index can be used as a measure to know if you are overweight or not.

Use the Body Mass Index Table for reference.

It’s important to note that what’s more important is making healthy food choices and staying healthy on the inside, rather than just a lean body achieved through a strict diet as looks can be deceiving.

Sedentary lifestyle: 

An Active Body = A Healthy Body

Out of all the other risk factors for heart disease, a sedentary lifestyle is most common. Being inactive can be detrimental to your heart health. Sitting on your couch or your office chair for hours per day makes you more prone to obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels in the blood, and also increases your risk for diabetes. Little or no physical activity level, when paired with unhealthy food choices, is dangerous to your heart health. 

Sleep: 

People who are sleep deprived most of the time or who do not enjoy a good slumber are more likely to be at risk for heart disease, regardless of age, gender, weight, and eating habits. Not getting enough sleep consistently can lead to an increase in blood pressure during the day, which leads to a greater chance for heart disease in the long term. 

Stress can also increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of heart disease.

Socio-economic status: 

More money= Easy access to better medical care

People at the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum are at higher risk for heart disease.

This is due, in part, to not having the financial freedom to buy healthier food choices (junk food is cheaper than fruits and green groceries). People with low economic status are also more inclined to smoking, one of the four major risk factors.

Steps toward a healthy heart

  • Be extra cautious if you have a family history of heart disease
  • Quit smoking
  • Maintain a healthy weight 
  • Switch to healthy food habits such as including more fruits and vegetables, as well as grains in your meals
  • Eat breakfast
  • Be physically active
  • If you have a sedentary working environment or lifestyle, stand for a few minutes, go for a walk, or climb the stairs to take breaks from sitting for long hours
  • Switch to walking or cycling instead of driving
  • Engage in physical activities you enjoy
  • Calm your mind by meditating every day to keep stress levels in check long term
  • Sleep for 8 hours a night
  • Schedule regular visits with your doctor and understand your health status and family history
  • If on any medication, be sure to take it on time

What is Goals-Based Investing?

The hands of women holding watering can sprinkle coins

Written by James Gauthier, Chief Investment Officer at Justwealth

Most individuals are aware of the importance of investing – not everybody does it, but they know that it can be beneficial for their future. For those that are able and engaged in investing, a good percentage will invest their savings through their financial institution, a financial advisor or some will do it on their own. Financial planning helps investors figure out questions such as “How much do I need to save?”, “How much can I spend?” or “What rate of return do I need to make?”.
Before you attempt to answer these questions, you should be asking yourself the question “What is the objective of my investment?” The responses to this question can vary greatly, but might fall into one of the following categories:
• Saving for the short term (such as a down payment for a home in a few years)
• Saving for the long term (such as a retirement nest egg)
• Generating income (either as a primary or secondary source)
• Preserving your capital (looking to keep up with inflation or just very risk averse)

In the absence of having an objective for your investment, it is quite possible that financial planning software could determine that your required rate of return is something like 4% per year. Any asset allocation expert will tell you that there are hundreds of ways to construct a portfolio that can be expected to make a rate of return of 4%: it could be 4% purely in the form of income, it could be 4% through a combination of dividends and capital appreciation across a variety of conservative equity markets or it could be a portfolio that has very limited risk of producing a negative return over short periods of time (i.e. strong downside protection). Until you identify the specific investment objective that you are trying to achieve, there can be a lot of uncertainty in how best to create a portfolio that will satisfy your financial needs.

What goals-based investing attempts to do is to put your investment objective as the starting point in constructing a portfolio that will accomplish what you want it to do. Once that is defined, the variable(s) that need to be optimized are known, and you can place other constraints, limits, or preferences into your quantitative models that collectively produce a portfolio that will be optimal for achieving the investment objective.

As an example, consider a new retiree who is single, has a company pension of $20,000 per year and is entitled to government benefits of $15,000 per year. It is determined that the pensioner will require an additional $10,000 per year from investments to live comfortably, and has a non-registered investment account worth $250,000. If the pensioner were to go to a typical institution or financial representative that does not use goals-based investing, it is most likely that the portfolio recommended would be something along the lines of a “Moderate Growth” portfolio or 40% equity, 60% fixed income. This portfolio would be expected to deliver a return of roughly 4% with the lowest volatility possible. The portfolio would rank as a 2 out of 5 in the risk/return spectrum of the five different portfolio options that the firm offers.

This recommendation is likely the result of using modern portfolio theory (MPT) or optimization to determine the portfolio. Companies who use this approach are quick to point out that a Nobel Prize was awarded for the work done in this area back in the 1950’s by Harry Markowitz. The biggest problem with MPT is that it is 2-dimensional – there is risk (defined as the volatility of investment returns), and there is return; there is nothing else. To many people, risk is not defined as some statistical measure, it is the probability of losing money, making one of the 2 variables used by MPT of questionable value!

Goals-based investing does not restrict the analysis to the same 2 variables. The variables could include theoretically anything: income yield, after-tax total returns, probability of loss in the short term or the long term, etc. Goals-based investing can also use the same principles of MPT, but also add in many other forms of quantitative analysis including simulation, scenario analysis or stress testing to name a few.

Going back to our example, the same pensioner who provides the financial scenario to a company that uses goals-based investing is likely to get a portfolio recommendation that will provide almost all of the 4% required return in the form of income, the income would likely receive more favourable tax treatment, there will be little or no need to regularly realize gains (i.e. sell securities to make up for the shortfall in income) and the probability of losing money should be lower. That would be a win-win-win-win situation!

If done properly, goals-based investing is a more customized approach to building portfolios, and it results in investors having greater choice available to them to have a portfolio that has a greater likelihood of meeting their financial objective. Not using goals-based investing reminds me of a Henry Ford quote: “A customer can have their car painted any colour as long as it’s black.” Don’t settle for a black car, find a company that offers goals-based investing and get any colour that you like!

 

Source: https://www.justwealth.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/What-is-Goals-Based-Investing.pdf?x42623

5 Concepts to Understand Before Taking a Big Loan

Post written by Emma Hughes

When borrowing money, it’s important that you understand some of the key concepts before you choose a lender or a loan. While there are many different loans, the concepts we will go over apply to any loan out there. For instance, loan interest rates are one of the factors to consider when getting a loan, and as Tasneem Panchbhaya discussed it’s also one of the factors to consider when repaying your loan. Interest and other concepts we will cover are important to understand before finalizing any loans and you should avoid the temptation to gloss over them. Here we’ll go over five of the concepts to give you a better idea before taking out a loan.

Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

When shopping for a business or personal loan, one concept to keep in mind is that the total annual cost of borrowing is called the APR. Many confuse this with interest rate; however, interest is just one aspect of APR, which includes other fees like origination fees and monthly maintenance charges. US News reveals that APR is generally a factor in business lines of credit loans, and term loans among others. Unsecured loans will also have higher APRs than secured ones, so do your research first to find the best type of loan suited to you. In their guide to loans, Marcus points out the importance of comparing loaning agents based on their APR. As such, from where and from whom you get a loan is a deciding factor. For instance, loans from online lenders generally cost more than a bank loan and may have other hidden fees.

Loan Repayments

Repaying your loan involves paying the amount you borrowed, as well as the interest rate. As you understand how loans work, you’ll see that each monthly payment is split into two parts, which CFP Justin Pritchard explains are your interest costs and the loan balance. You’ll also understand that through amortization your interest payments will decrease over time as long as you consistently pay the scheduled payment amount. As we mentioned, in the beginning, a good practice is to pay down the loans with the highest interest as in the long run, you’ll be saving on higher interest charges by prioritizing high interest revolving loans, like credit cards.

Non-Bank Loan Options

More and more Americans are turning to alternative options of borrowing, both online and through traditional brick and mortar institutions. Oracle’s Digital Demand in Retail Banking study on 5,200 consumers from 13 countries points out that over 40% of customers think that non-banks can better serve them with personal money management, and loans for their particular needs. These can include payday lenders and check cashing centers. Other non-bank alternatives offer a variety of loan options including mortgages loans and peer-to-peer loans. When compared to banks, however, these might have higher fees, costlier APRs and very high-interest rates.

Loan Collateral

When qualifying for a loan, lenders will look at your credit history. Good credit shows that in the past you’ve paid back loans, which means you’re a low-risk client who will most likely pay back their loan. However, if your credit isn’t good, if you qualify it might mean higher interest rates and you might also be asked for collateral. It can be anything from a vehicle to a house or anything else that is on par or exceeds the loan’s value. Whatever was agreed upon as collateral can be taken by the lender to be sold in the event you aren’t able to repay your loan.

Loan Default

If you fail to make your loan payments on time, your loan can go into default. The amount of time it takes for this to happen will depend on your loan terms, the lender as well as local and federal laws. With loan defaults not an uncommon occurrence in Canada, The Bank of Canada reported that defaults on Canadian consumer loans incur the highest loss rates. Defaulting on a loan can affect your credit score and in many cases, a default may be sent to the lender’s collections department or sold to a third-party debt collection agency. Worse, a default could result in potential garnishing of wages or tax refunds if a judgment is awarded against you.

How to Remain Healthy at Your Workplace

Fruits

A 9-5 job can be very consuming. Additionally, the 8 hours long workday does not begin at 9 and end at 5; it starts from the time you wake up and prepare to go to work until the commute back home. With such a tight schedule it can be easy to prioritize work and chores over health. However, neglecting your diet and physical activity can have deleterious long-term effects. An unhealthy body can further have adverse effects on a person’s mental health as a good diet and regular exercise are essential to maintaining a positive mind. The following tips share how a person can be healthy throughout the day during a workday:

  • Never Skip a Meal: No matter how important a call/task or meeting it, it is crucial to find the time to eat a filling lunch. This will keep you powered up throughout the rest of the day and improve your work performance. Eating out regularly can be unhealthy. Conversely, meal prep in the morning can be time-consuming and you may have to sacrifice some precious sleep to pack your food.  We suggest preparing your meal the night before and refrigerating it. This way you get your daily intake of healthy food and catch some extra minutes of sleep!
  • Physical Exercises: Almost all corporate jobs are desk jobs. Toiling away at your desk all day long promises little productivity. To keep yourself fresh, move around your office every 1-2 hours and get the blood flowing. Furthermore, try to incorporate small exercises (also called deskercises!) while you are sitting at your desk such as shaking your legs and stretching. While the physical effort is minimal, the results can be substantial.
  • Limit Your Caffeine Intake: Caffeine is an essential item in a working adult’s lifestyle. While there is nothing more tempting than chugging cup after cup of coffee or tea, the caffeine can drastically affect sleep and even concentration. Limit your intake to one cup per day. Moreover, avoid coffee after 7 pm so it does not impact your sleep.
  • Make Healthy Choices: Offices often have free food items and snacks lying around in the kitchen. These can be enticing for their easy reach and value for money. But you should keep in mind the nutritional value of each snack. While they may be seemingly harmless, these snacks can pack on calories over-time. Combine this with an inactive work lifestyle and you have a recipe for disaster.

Optimity offers tons of activity packs that employees can make use of to lead a healthier and happier lifestyle. Whether you are a yoga aficionado or a gym beast, we promise we have something right up your alley!