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)

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 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

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? 

Millions of people in North America either suffer from heart disease or are at borderline risk for getting a heart disease diagnosis. Eighty percent of heart diseases are preventable—understanding the risk factors that predispose you for heart disease and taking adequate measures to live a healthy life are important first steps in prevention. 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 fruit and vegetable intake

People who regularly consume five or more servings of vegetables and fruits every day cut down 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

Cancer – We Can Escape It

Cancer Prevention

Written by Komalpreet Kaur

Cancer—just the name itself is enough to scare you. It is estimated that nearly half of all Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetime and is also responsible for 30% of all the deaths in Canada. Cancer brings misery of long term illness, treatments and fear of death with its diagnosis. There is no guarantee that cancer can be prevented but the risk of cancer can always be reduced.

Through research, a link has been established between physical and mental state and lifestyle factors that can help individuals avoid and survive cancer. We might attribute its origin to factors beyond our control but most of the time it’s a consequence of lifestyle habits.

“At least 50 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented by making healthy lifestyle changes, and the percentage could be even higher,” says Dr. David Katz. Some basic and sustainable lifestyle choices can help us live a better and full life while avoiding life-threatening diseases.

Here are a few lifestyle modifications that you can implement in your daily life to reduce the risk of cancer.

  • Avoid smoking
  • Limit alcohol consumption and avoid illicit drugs
  • Switching to a healthy diet
  • Active lifestyle
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress
  • Proper sleep pattern
  • Regular medical care
  • Avoid toxins

Avoid Smoking 

Smoking is a cause of about 72% of lung cancer cases in Canada. Smoking and vaping are forms of nicotine consumption that kill up to half of its long term users. Tobacco has been associated with not just lung cancer but it is now linked with 14 different cancers.

Our actions matter not just to us but also to the people around us. People exposed to extreme levels of passive smoke or secondhand smoke are at equal risk for developing cancers.

Exposure to secondhand smoke can be reduced by making your home smoke free and supporting smoke free workplace policies. The Canadian government has policies in place that prohibit smoking in indoor public places such as schools, restaurants, bars, casinos, public transit facilities.

consequences-tobacco-second-hand-smoke

(Source: Adapted from The Health Consequences of Smoking – 50 Years of Progress)

Be a non-smoker, it’s never too late!

For help follow the link:

http://www.cancer.ca/en/prevention-and-screening/reduce-cancer-risk/make-healthy-choices/live-smoke-free/?region=on

Or contact Smoker’s helpline: 18775135333.

Limit Alcohol Consumption and Avoid Illicit Drugs

The heavy consumption of liquor every day can increase the risk of cancer. No safe alcohol limits are known for now but it’s for sure that the more alcohol you drink, the higher the risk for developing cancer, especially for women.

Women who have a family history of breast cancer must reduce their alcohol limit to less than one glass a day as drinking alcohol leads to the release of extra estrogen in the body that heightens the risk of breast cancer.

You should also avoid any illicit drug addiction/habit that impairs the quality of life.

Switch to Healthy Eating

“Let food be your medicine”- Hippocrates

Plants and plant-based food items that can be consumed on a daily basis have been known through research to be a good source of nutrients with the ability to interfere with some processes of cancer development, in a manner similar to the action of many drugs that are used today. For example, sulphur compounds in garlic and vegetables from the cabbage family prevent the activation of carcinogenic substances and facilitate their elimination from the body, preventing DNA mutations and cancer development.

As recommended by the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRFI), you must make whole grains, vegetables, fruits, pulses (legumes) such as beans and lentils as a major part of your daily diet. WCRF suggests that an individual must eat 30g of fibre and 400g of fruit and vegetables every day. It not only protects you against cancer but also helps prevent weight gain and obesity

Fruits and vegetables Cancer they prevent
Cruciferous vegetables Bladder, Lung, Prostate
Green vegetables Breast
Green Tea Colorectal, Stomach
Citrus Fruit Stomach
Blueberries

Berries have anti-inflammatory properties

Breast
Nuts Breast, Colon, Prostate, Pancreas
Garlic and it’s family Esophagus, Stomach, Colon
Soy Breast, Prostate 
Seeds and Grains Breast, Colon
Olive Oil  Colon

(Source: Preventing Cancer, Reducing the risks by Richard Beliveau & Denis Gingras)

As per the research conducted by the International Agency of Research on Cancer(IARC), it is evident that several dietary factors are associated with the risk of breast cancer. The data from the research suggests that alcohol, beer and cider intake in women increases the risk of breast cancer whereas a higher intake of fibre, apple/pear and carbohydrates was associated with a lower risk of breast cancer.

WRCF recommends limiting the consumption of red meat (beef, lamb, pork) to approximately 1 pound (500g) per week, replacing it with meals based on fish, eggs or vegetable proteins. Red meat has a high caloric density and undergoes biochemical changes during cooking or preserving which results in negative impacts on health.

Replacing the red meat with fish, fowl, nuts and legumes can reduce the mortality rate from 20% to 7%.

Limit the intake of sweets, replacing artificial sweets with natural sources like fruit.

Some changes that can be made:

  • Be a greengrocer: Shopping fresh vegetables and fruits
  • Read labels on the back of packed food
  • Limit eating out
  • Limit salt intake in the diet
  • Adherence to the Mediterranean diet

Healthy lifestyle

Physical activity is known to prevent and reduce the risk of various diseases and cancers. Adopt a healthy morning routine by taking a 10 minute morning walk or completing a small morning workout. Aerobic exercise can be incorporated in many forms ranging from a vigorous gym workout, to dance class or a simple stair climbing workout. Don’t forget to count your steps! Setting a step goal will encourage you to walk more.

Be sun safe: Using sunscreen when going out, especially during the middle of the day. You should also avoid using tanning beds and sunlamps.

Maintaining a healthy weight

Obesity is an invitation to diseases like diabetes, cardiac diseases and various carcinomas. Obesity and overweight conditions are assessed by anthropometric measures such as BMI and waist circumference. Excess weight is a result of eating too many calories and not burning enough calories. Eating a healthy diet and maintaining an active lifestyle helps to maintain weight within normal limits.

Managing stress

Stress is a burden on our body, mind and spirit that has the capacity to undermine our physical and mental health. It’s important to effectively cope with the stressors in our lives. If stress isn’t properly managed, it cancels the healthy diet benefits, disrupts sleep and can cause extreme levels of stress projected in the form of body aches. This impairs our health by reducing immunity against diseases and altering hormone levels in the body.

Some solutions to manage stress:

  • Develop daily meditation practices
  • Practice reflective writing
  • Learn to say no and delegate tasks
  • Make yourself a priority, focus on your health and practice self-care
  • Cultivate gratitude
  • Cultivate a positive frame of mind
  • Learn what works for you to effectively manage your stress and anxiety

Proper sleep pattern

Thomas Dekker (dramatist) wrote, “Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

Sleep is integral for the human body to function at optimal levels and proper rest is essential for anticancer living. It’s important to be well-rested to feel relaxed and energetic. Physical activity and sleep go hand-in-hand; exercising requires you to use energy which can help you fall asleep at night. 

Some tips for a better night’s sleep:

  • Have a regular sleep routine
  • Avoid stimulating drinks such as caffeine, alcohol, beer, wine, etc. before sleep as these can delay sleep
  • Using the bedroom only for sleep and intimacy and not using the bedroom for work or watching tv, etc..This way the bedroom can trigger/activate the receptors for sleep in our brain and the sole thought of a bedroom will induce sleep
  • Comfortable clothing and a calm relaxing environment promotes sleep

Regular medical care

Make regular appointments with your doctor and ask about risk factors based on your family history. Also, ask about cancer screening.

  • Colorectal Cancer – Men and women 50-74 must go for FOBT every two years
  • Breast Cancer – Women 50-74 should go for a mammogram every two years
  • Women 30-69 are at higher risk for breast cancer and should have a mammogram and MRI every year
  • Cervical Cancer – Women who are or have been sexually active should start having a pap test every year at 21

Remember:

  • Always consult your doctor whenever your health changes
  • Get vaccinated against HPV and Hepatitis B
  • Consider your family history and be more cautious about health risks

Avoid toxins

You should avoid environmental toxins both at home and outside. Learn more about how to replace highly toxic products with less toxic ones. It’s also important to avoid the seven deadly poisons that cause endocrine disruption and also pose a serious risk for cancer development:

  1. Asbestos
  2. Formaldehyde
  3. PFC’s
  4. Fire Retardants
  5. Vinyl Chloride
  6. Bisphenol A (BPA)
  7. Phthalates

These toxins are commonly found in everyday products like body care products, makeup, laundry, car care products, etc.. Read the labels and know what you are buying. Know the products and chemicals you might be exposed to at the workplace. Carcinogenic products must be replaced with safer options.

Change is a journey and an optimum state of health is the destination. You can only reap the benefits of change within each factor if you make changes in more than one factor, considering they are all entwined. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others.

(Some of the important information to complete this blog post was taken from the book Anticancer Living. To learn more and in-depth about lifestyle modifications to prevent cancer and how to survive cancer you can refer to this book.)

 

Does mental health have symptoms?

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Mental health is recognized as a fundamental factor in our overall health – since it’s clear that it has a great influence both physically and mentally. As human beings, we want to understand the problem at hand and the precautions needed to reduce the problems it could cause. There is no guarantee that mental health disorders can be avoided – disorders that affect the mind, mood and behaviour, different beings react differently in life. However, several questions come attached to this topic when trying to attempt a solution.

How would you know if you have a mental health illness? Is there a guide book that allows you to check off each symptom? Most importantly, what are the symptoms, if any?

The cause of any mental health disorder or illness can vary on several factors, but when assessing the state of mind of a being – here are a few signs and symptoms:

  • Major changes in eating / physical activity habits
  • Substantial alteration in energy/productivity
  • Withdrawal from social life (friends & family)
  • Detachment from reality
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Suicidal thoughts

Mental Health Symptoms

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When any of these symptoms above occur, finding support will resort to great value. Whether it is professional medical care or referring to a friend/family member, the help that you seek can allow you to control the situation and positively adapt. In most cases, many of the mental health illnesses do not cure by themselves – so this is where the ones around you can boost you up before you even fall.

Each symptom attached to the person or mental illness can react accordingly to the environment or condition of the person. The first step is always to understand that there is an issue, and this would be followed by creating a plan that is ideal for the situation. There can be several risk factors and complications that can alter a lifestyle, so understanding when and how to react can have a crucial impact.