There’s something or the other to worry about for everyone in life. It might be anything-money, power, position, survival, health, attention, beauty or brawns. Constant worrying over some issue turns into stress which affects well-being ultimately. We are equipped to handle stress when we are young but as we grow old, dealing with stressful issues becomes difficult and we resent facing it. We are the same individual who thinks and deals in the same way then what’s so different about coping with stress as we grow older?
An ageing person’s cells are also ageing. Various systems in the body seem to decline in functionality including the circulatory and respiratory system. Lung capacity declines more in people who lead a sedentary lifestyle. All these prevent our body from issuing the same natural response to stress. For example, when we see a racing car coming right against us our adrenal glands release cortisol and adrenaline hormones. Cortisol is the primary stress hormone which acts as the major alarm system communicating with the brain and other parts of the body balancing the fight-or-flight situation. In an ageing person, the automatic response of moving away from the position to a safer place is lacking and the individual stands still sometimes.
Stress also diminishes our ability to focus, make decisions and stay attentive. Some might also suffer from memory-related problems while others find it difficult to fall asleep.
Stress Factors Change with Age
Stress remains constant but factors that induce stress keep changing. As children it might be fear of an examination or losing a friendship. As adults it might be office-related stress or parenting a disabled child that needs constant attention. But as a person grows old common reasons for stress include loss of a loved one, ample time but not much fruitful work to be done, relationship changes with children or a chronic illness that keeps haunting your mind. Common symptoms of such stress include:
A lot many people ignore subtle indications of stress and run to a physician for help only when it has reached a point of no-return. Look for subtle signs of stress in your life and discuss with your beloved friend/family members. Go for a physical checkup to track down any underlying condition such as high blood pressure levels which might need immediate treatment. The physician is sure to recommend eating a healthy diet and doing physical activity regularly. Include those activities that make you happy, satisfied and complete. It might be gardening, walking in the park together with friends or a group yoga class. This gives you ample time to socialize and take time off your daily stressors as your mind is occupied with some other activity. Some believe that adopting a pet is best as you have a companion in the form of a dog or cat. But ensure that you are physically and monetarily able-enough to own one.
An important part stress management includes triggering relaxation response that lowers blood pressure, stress hormones, heart rate and oxygen consumption. Yoga, tai chi, meditation and breathing exercises are great ways to manage stress. There are many other effective ways to deal with stress mentioned at www.firsteatright.com that are practical and result-oriented. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be pursued for fighting stress. It involves throwing away negative thoughts and replacing them with positive thoughts. All these are great ways to fight stress but don’t show effects immediately. Hence, the physician might prescribe antidepressants along with these practices for better results.
The chances of frustration or anger are zero when some individual loves what he/she does. Ask yourself some simple questions-Do I love my job? Do I love the course which am pursuing? Most of your answers would be a strong ‘No’. We have either chosen the job just because we got no other job offers or it was the best one that paid a hefty salary. We have chosen the discipline of study because that’s the course which was offered for the mark scored, that’s the course which offers the best future in terms of job availability or simply because all our friends have taken it up. When that’s the attitude we have towards life, what would be our approach to exercise and activity?
Exercise is appreciated and advocated because its good for the heart, mind and soul. Apart from helping an individual stay on a healthy weight or build muscles exercise helps to release endorphin hormones that help to generate happiness. Even research shows that people who are physically active have better pleasant feelings than others and also found that when they are more physically active their pleasant feelings too increase.
Most physicians, fitness experts and health specialists talk about the benefits of exercising, such as the number of minutes of exercise needed per day, efforts required to sustain it and the hard work needed to achieve results. What most of us keep forgetting is to experience the happiness and joy involved in exercising. For instance, cycling at the gym or going for a run is going to burn more calories and tax your heart than running behind your toddler. Cardio and weights are definitely going to help you move and feel better, but they don’t do any good unless you want to do it heartfully.
For those uninterested in exercising there are an ‘n’ number of ways to back out from it-it seems tiresome, bit complicated, you don’t know whether you can do it or you are not the active-type. If you look at the advantages going a blind eye to the disadvantages maybe your heart will take a turn for the better. Also, perfection is the result of repetitive action. Instead of worrying about your performance and output, choose the right exercise suitable for you. Start with anything that keeps you moving. The only concern now is to ensure that it is convenient and enjoyable.
Skip the Monotony
There is no hard and fast rule that insists that you run on the treadmill, go for a walk or cycle. Skip the conventional, prescriptive and common practices and choose something such as riding the same bicycle with your toddler, swimming a few laps or playing a game of basketball. For many other different exercising options please visit the website www.firsteatright.com. The primary goal is to keep you off the couch and make you realize the pleasures of being active. Ultimate aim is to make you exercise and bring a smile on the face, but initial focus is to simply make you move around. Once you realize the one activity that you feel like repeating every day and look forward to it daily that’s the day when you start realizing your dream and experiencing magic. There is always this thing of sticking by your exercise when you do it for the joy of experience rather than treat it as a chore to burn calories to achieve weight loss or some other goal.
If you are new to exercising don’t start off with the prescribed 150-minutes-a-week challenge in one go but slowly build over your efforts. Every time you complete the target minutes, reward yourself with a point. Calculate the total number of points at the end of week. More the points, more confident you feel and more the confidence greater is the inclination to exercise.
Its nice to work towards a goal in mind but when it comes to exercising its always better to live the moment and enjoy the joys of moving around and staying active. Aiming for a weight loss or a fitter body is good but exercising with this target in mind and taxing your body to work towards accomplishing this goal without relishing the journey is not going to be extremely fruitful. Aim for the goal but enjoy the process in between to make your life happier and sweeter.
Life is a balance. Each of us have faced our ups and downs, positives and negatives, good and bad, failures and success and misery and joy. If you try to draw a graph of your emotions and experiences, it would be a V-shaped one for most of us with positives and negatives altering between each other throughout life’s journey. The quality of life is defined by the number of positives over negatives. Some feel satisfied with their life and some others are greatly displeased with it. How you feel emotionally impacts your heart health greatly. Our heart and brain are located in two very different positions and the studies dealing with them, cardiology and neurology respectively, are also completely different. Despite these differences both the organs are interconnected to each other. Emotion is a strong feeling which is a result of one’s mood, relationship or circumstance. These emotions affect the brain which in turn affect the heart.
Two Sides of a Coin
Stress can be a motivator sometimes helping you get things done and a demotivating factor some other times leading to tiredness and heart disease. What each of us must do is to worry less and feel better which helps to reduce stress greatly. It was not more than a century ago that a scientist found a common pattern of death between husband and wives-both died within a year of one another. It was not a time when stress, brain health and its impact on the heart were widely known. But now, people are desperately seeking for peace and solace in this power- and money-dominated world. Various studies show that despair and stress affect health, specifically heart health. One of great interest is the Takotsubo cardiomyopathy or the broken-heart syndrome which was not discovered until 1990. Most interesting is that this syndrome is mostly exclusively present among the women population and mimics a heart attack.
Death of a spouse, financial problems, domestic violence or an unexpected emotional event triggers the syndrome. Such triggers change the shape of the heart to resemble a traditional Japanese pot called the takotsubo used to catch octopus. Read more about the syndrome and understand its effect on heart health by visiting the website www.firsteatright.com.
Staple causes of heart disease have been analyzed but what scientists and physicians are missing out is to understand emotional factors such as tangled relationships, work stress, poverty and economic crisis that can trigger a heart disease.
An Organ of Fascination
Our heart is the only organ that has an independent electrical supply which can continue to function even outside the human body and survive up to four hours. It can pump blood up to 1,00,000 kilometers of blood vessels. A human heart beats three billion times averagely in a human’s life in accordance to the fact that a woman’s heartbeat beats faster by 8 beats per minute compared to a man’s heartbeat. Such a masterpiece of nature requires utmost care but sadly heart disease due to malfunctioning of this vital organ remains as the number one cause of death worldwide.
Recent studies show that depression can double the risk of dying from heart disease even in those who don’t suffer from any prior heart problems. All the more, people who suffer from a heart failure as well as depression are twice likelier to suffer from worse symptoms. While more common in women with heart failure, depression can play a severe role in men with heart failure. Social isolation and loneliness are also other factors that worsen the risk of a heart failure. Its easier for physicians to deal with high LDL cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels as a risk factor for heart disease but most don’t know to tackle depression, stress or isolation likewise.
Any imbalance in emotion is a trigger for a heart problem. Women are likelier to suffer from depression and heart problems that arise as a result of the same but are least bothered to allocate time for exercise or stay healthy. They prioritize kids, husband and house chores before their health which needs immediate intervention.
Luckily, depression is a treatable problem that can be sorted out through medications and psychosocial therapy. Each of us need to find out ways through which we can control our fears, anxiety and stress which in turn imposes less stress on the heart. A new way to deal with emotion-related heart effects called as cardiac psychology is becoming famous. Reroute your brain’s thinking strategy and be blessed with a healthier heart as a result. Few ways for effectively doing it include:
Meet a physician: Stress, anxiety or depression is common among the population, but one needs to know where to draw a line. Emotions are common to humans and those that take a peek into your life rarely are admissible but if the same emotion keeps haunting you day in and day out its time to meet a physician and seek treatment.
Psychosocial Treatment: Psychiatric treatments are available since a long time and now its appreciable that we focus on stress management, counselling and relaxation techniques along with newer treatment methods such as acceptance and commitment therapy and expressive writing that can prove to be helpful.
Exercise: Exercise provides us with various important benefits, but we never explore and utilize it properly. There are various studies proving that exercising for at least three days in a week improves well-being and cognitive skills in older adults. Aerobic exercise helps you think faster and clearer. Exercises such as walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, dancing and gardening reduce anxiety, depression and improve self-esteem. That’s because of improved blood circulation to the brain.
Now, if you suffer from depression, stress and anxiety it is better to talk with your physician, especially a cardiologist who can suggest a good solution. Maybe meeting a psychiatric and analyzing practical ways to improve your well-being and protecting brain health is the right way to start dealing with the problem.
Cancer is becoming more common than ever before and everywhere we turn there are cases of cancer-related deaths. Cancer is a genetic disease that is caused by changes to the gene. These genetic changes that cause cancer can sometimes be inherited from our parents or arise as a result of errors during cell division or damage to DNA caused by various environmental factors such as tobacco smoke or harmful radiations. Where does obesity fit into this picture of gene-environment association? Obesity is one of the biggest preventable causes of cancer especially in developed countries such as UK and US where almost 1 in 20 cases are due to excess weight.
The Burden of Heaviness
A new study in the United States shows that almost 7% of cancer deaths and 8% of all cancer are due to obesity/overweight. A new report reflecting statistics between 2011 and 2015 on people 30 years and older shows that 4.7% (37,670) of cancers in men and 9.6% (74,690) of those in women are due to excess body weight. Overweight or obesity is the common cause for cancers of the breast (in women after menopause), colon and rectum, kidney, pancreas, esophagus and endometrium and also holds a good share of responsibility in raising the risk of gallbladder, liver, cervix, ovary, myeloma, lymphoma and prostate cancer. While the risks are clearly proved via different study results the underlying association between body weight and cancer is yet to be unraveled. For instance, breast cancer risk in obese/overweight women is greater only in those women who have crossed menopause and not in others. But studies don’t give us convincing theories for this. Yet, many studies have analyzed the reason behind obesity/overweight increasing risk of cancer and their possible theories include:
There are quite a few risk factors of developing cancer such as age and genes that you cannot change and those such as tobacco, obesity or radiations that can cause the disease but be sure to understand that presence of these factors does not mean that the person will 100% develop cancer in course of time. ‘Where’ fat is stored also determines the risk of cancer. Too much of fat around the belly or an individual with an apple-shaped body is at a higher risk of bowel, kidney, esophageal, pancreatic and breast cancer risk.
Effects of Weight Loss
Research is still underway on the impact of weight loss and the risk of developing cancer. Certain studies show that weight loss decreases the risk of breast cancer, aggressive forms of prostate cancer and other cancers too. That’s because obese/overweight people who lose weight decrease the production of certain hormones such as insulin, estrogen and androgens that affect cancer risk. Though we don’t have clear indications it is always beneficial to lose weight and stay on healthy weight ranges which help in decreasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease too. Losing even 5% of your weight is a good start and helps your body to become healthier and fitter. Registered dietitian nutritionists at www.firsteatright.com can help you in your weight loss journey by suggesting customized diet plans that are scientific and practical.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.