Birthdays become a dreaded affair as we grow old. It comes and goes as a strong reminder of our ageing process indicating every time that we are becoming older and wiser but what about staying healthier? Ageing is not a standalone process that happens without any consequences-it is an irreversible process that makes it a cherished experience for some and a dreaded affair for some others depending on their body’s response and the mind’s attitude towards it. Not many individuals are hale and healthy even during their younger years which makes growing old a tiring and an apprehensive affair for most. Besides physical health, it takes a toll on our mental well-being too. This is mostly because of the fact that most seniors suffer from loneliness, self-pity and depression mostly due to seclusion and the behaviour of the society towards the elderly population. Memory fades away and even the smartest person starts forgetting things as he/she grows old. Mental health and staying mentally sharp have been important fields of study for researchers who have come up with different suggestions for improving brain health and delaying dementia onset.
Dementia, the loss of cognitive functioning, is an over concerning issue for more senior citizens as we can see increasing rates of this disorder in a majority of them. Though there have been different suggestions such as solving puzzles, staying active and performing exercise for minimizing its risk we don’t see much difference in rates. The good fact here is that people have started recognizing the high prevalence rates of this disorder and have started taking precautionary steps in recent times. Its already been proved that exercise helps in improving brain health of old people but now researchers at McMaster University have discovered that high-intensity workouts improve memory in older adults. The researchers included 64 older participants aged 66-80 years splitting them into different groups based on exercises performed-stretching, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT). The first group did gentle stretches, the HIIT group did intense workouts that pushed their heart rates up by 90-95% and the MICT group did moderate -treadmill exercise that pushed their heart rate up by 70-75%. All of them were healthy, sedentary adults who exercised thrice a week for 12 weeks.
Results showed that HIIT group showed substantial increase in high-interface memory compared to MICT or control group. Those who exercised using short, bursts of activity observed a 30% increase in memory performance while those who worked out moderately saw no improvement. The study also showed that increased fitness led to improved memory-greater the adherence to the training schedule, greater was the fitness levels and better was their memory. This study comes as a cheer for elderly individuals who suffer greater mental trauma fearing dementia risk, suffer from increased dementia attack debilitating their quality of life and making the life of both, the sufferer and the caretaker a greater pain. Caretaking is no simple chore and it needs umpteen levels of patience and perseverance to fulfil the job’s demand that can disturb one’s health in many ways-read more about this from the website www.firsteatright.com and learn simple tips to keep your physical and mental health in shape. Physical activity is the biggest modifiable risk factor for dementia and if you are someone who hasn’t exercised since decades it is better to increase exercise intensity when you start working out if you want to see quick results. While dementia might be genetic it is always wiser to take steps and do everything possible from our end to reduce the risk as much as possible-one of which is physical exercise.
Your joys have no boundaries when you experience your baby kicking inside the womb for the first time between the 16th and 25th week of pregnancy. If its your first pregnancy you are sure to ask your hubby to experience the movement too by placing his hand over your tummy. It’s a feeling of excitement, elation and happiness. While the movement of the fetus assures the pregnant woman that the infant is growing normally why do these little ones kick us in the first place?
A Quick Kick
Known as ‘quickening’ most pregnant women express the kick as a butterfly feeling, nervous twitching or a tumbling motion. While a first-time mom finds it difficult to find it until the 22nd week of pregnancy maybe and fail to differentiate it from hunger pangs or other movements, a second- or third-time mom can feel one instantly and differentiate it from other feelings too.
The kick starts off slowly but during the second and third trimester the kicks grow stronger and become more frequent. There are studies showing that the baby moves between 25 and 30 times an hour during the third trimester. These little ones are up to their own naughty little stuff inside the womb. They become most active when you try to sleep at night and might even try to kick anyone who tries to cuddle you while sleeping-its not restricted to your spouse but it could even be your elder son/daughter. Hmmm, the fetus claims full ownership of the mommy even before he/she sees the light of the world. This is pretty tough to deal with I say!
Doctors request the pregnant lady to keep a count of the number of kicks that you experience to assure yourself that the baby is growing normally. You should be able to experience at least 10 good movements through the day. But the number of movements varies baby to baby. Some are very active and keep moving around while other babies don’t. But absence of movement might also mean that your baby is sleeping. If it is beyond the 32nd week, it might mean that the baby has become big and there is not much space for the movement.
While what I’ve listed above is well-known by all, a new study gives us another perspective about why a fetus kicks and how it helps them grow. The study researched on the sleep patterns of 19 newborns between 31 and 42 weeks of which some of them were premature babies. The researcher noted the infants corrected gestation age which helps denote the exact age of the baby from conception regardless of when the baby was born. Only when an infant is born between 37-42 weeks of pregnancy, he/she is labeled as a full-term baby. So, while it might be a week after birth, the preterm baby would be considered as 35 weeks old if he/she was born at the 34th week of pregnancy. Read more about preterm babies and their ways into the world by visiting the website www.firsteatright.com.
Researchers looked at the brainwaves that fetuses produce when they kick during their rapid eye movement sleep (REM). Premature babies generally have a faster brainwave but the fast waves disappear as the babies grow past a few weeks. Researchers say that kicks during the third trimester help the infant in developing brain ideas that are linked to sensory input and also helps the little one realize about his/her own body. In animals such as rats, reflex movements and constant environmental feedbacks are necessary for clear brain mapping and researchers feel that this might be true in the case of humans too.
As brain development takes place the fetus kicks and responds to his/her own brain activity and also other things such as maternal movement, light, sound and other such stimuli. During the last trimester, it is more of a rolling than kicking but any movement is appreciated. It gives scope for a little exercise to the muscles and limbs, response to stimuli and also helps the brain make connections to the spatial sense.
But one question that still keeps haunting physicians includes what changes in frequency of movements mean. There’s no evidence that kick counts are a sure-shot way to prevent stillbirths. Every mother should realize what’s normal for herself and the baby, the number of kicks and the time of the kick. Some women might not feel a kick when they are busy with some chore. Hence, it is best to notice movements when they sit down peacefully feeling relaxed.
“Tell me your friend, I will tell you who you are” is a famous quote that has been received well by one and all as we all believe that individuals influence and are also influenced by other individuals surrounding them. This doesn’t mean that wise people group together or like-minded people only become friends. Best friends might be two opposite poles yet there are some personalities and characteristics that attract each other making them vow to a lifelong friendship commitment. We choose our friends based not on our requirements but due to some underlying spark that makes us feel good in their presence and value the time spent in their company. For many of us, our friends are the pillars of strength to whom we lean upon in times of happiness as well as struggle. These people walk with us in all phases of life and would love to accompany us anywhere anytime-it might be to a wedding, a funeral or even a simple workout.
Regular physical activity is essential for good health and except for some who lead a disciplined lifestyle all others need motivation and a constant push to walk them through their exercise schedule daily and no one’s much better for this than your closest buddy! Walking or jogging might be an individual activity but having someone to walk or jog with provides constant motivation, a commitment to the activity and a constant rush of adrenaline that makes you push harder each day to beat your mate in your endeavor to a healthy lifestyle.
A wearable fitness tracker might do the trick in predicting your daily activity and health. It gives you the exact heart rate numbers just when you want it-right after an important business deal closing or after the exams of your most-dreaded subject. These trackers also motivate us with the close count of the number of steps we’ve taken through the day, reminding us to drink water every few hours, prompting to stand every once an hour, tracking our daily food intake and also coming up with stars and awards for better performance every now and then. Advancement in technology has made many of us neglect our relationships with others as we have become masters of our lives relying upon our very own self and technology to help us through thick and thin in life. Indeed, the GPRS helps us navigate revoking the need to ask a passerby for location, virtual friends cheer for our successes and the television/mobile has become the best friend during mealtimes. Despite all these, a latest study has once again established the fact that no technology and science can replace human feelings and emotions. A new study published in a reputed journal shows that to be able to better predict your overall health and wellness one needs to simply look at the strength and structure of your close circle of friends.
Learning to Cherish Our Friends for Wellness in Life
For the study, the participants were provided Fitbits which they wore to assess their activity level, step count, sleep hours and heart rate. They also took up surveys and assessments about their feelings of stress, happiness and positivity. The research team later modeled the data using machine learning and an individual’s social network characteristics that indicate different properties such as connectivity, social balance, reciprocity and closeness within the social network. The study showed a strong correlation between social network structures, heart rate, number of steps and level of activity. These structures were more indicative of one’s health and well-being rather than using a wearable device to measure health. Using a social network structure along with data from wearables helped machine learning models achieve a 65% improvement in predicting happiness, 54% improvement in predicting one’s self-assessed health prediction, 55% improvement in predicting positive attitude and 38% improvement in predicting success.
There are many moments during which we present a Fitbit to our dear ones-their birthdays, promotions in companies or likewise. Employers too sometimes gift their employees such wearable devices to track their health. Along with that, if they also provide a platform for their employees to share their experiences and motivate each other this would ultimately help in boosting their health and well-being.
Having a laugh with your bestie, performing floor exercises or Zumba with a group of friends and playing baddie with your buddy would reap you greater benefits in terms of health as you are ought to share your worries, deal with your stressors, open up on conflicting issues and have a laugh together that would melt away many of the problems and give you energy to tackle life’s crunches with a positive frame of mind. Not one set of exercises fits all and the exercise you choose mostly depends on the type of person you are-introvert or an extrovert. To check what suits best for your characteristics and reap maximized benefits please visit www.firsteatright.com.
Fancy words and flashy packaging grab a consumer’s immediate attention at the supermarket. In a health-conscious world today, the presence of luring words such as ‘high in fiber’, ‘low in sodium’ and ‘sugar-free’ create magic among buyers as many individuals these days follow a customized food chart which helps them stay within their recommended calorie intake levels. There is more to food packaging than simply focusing on it as a means to hold a product. The history of packaging goes eons back where humans preserved their food in containers they found in nature (such as coconut shells, leaves, logs etc.). We have evolved a long way since its origin where today the food items are wrapped in different materials in different ways to preserve the food within. What started as a means to be helpful for our busy lifestyle, extend shelf life and prevent food contamination has now started fulfilling certain other objectives- food packaging has evolved as a marketing strategy to attract as many buyers as possible.
A couple of years back we had a research result that encouraged consumers that the labels on front of food packaging can enable healthier choices as these labels included values for energy, sugar, fat, saturated fat and salt. Some even include a logo indicating that the food is a healthy choice. While researchers concluded that the front of package food labelling is an important tool in helping consumers to make healthier choices and also a reminder to the food industry to manufacture healthy products maybe the same has backfired!
Be Safe than Sorry
We love to pull a cart along the plush supermarket aisles picking out several things that attracts us rather than those that meet our requirements. But we can also put it this way-the food packaging industry tries to dodge the user’s attention by alluring him/her with superficial information and health. Right from the print design, color and similar elements to bottle shape, packaging size and likewise all of these influence the decision-making capability of the user greatly. Food labelling helps us in making informed decisions about our food choices when we have knowledge about reading these labels. Many of these packages state terms such as ‘low fat’ or ‘sugar-free’ or ‘low sodium’ that confuses the user unless he/she knows how much is low enough. Besides, the health messages of package designs depend completely on the manufacturer. The design techniques that must enable the user to make informed choices about selecting a product are present in misleading ways these days and the user is more commonly duped than directed towards good health.
Consumers these days are conscious about the food they eat and the nutrients present in them but sadly most of them are unable to find reliable nutrition information that can help them in making informed purchasing decisions. Authentic study results show that almost 50% consumers follow a specific diet plan and 75% avoid certain ingredients when they shop around for food products. But 67% complain that its challenging to guess the nutrient content of the food product by looking at the package label while 48% reveal that they don’t find themselves informed enough about the food product even after reading the label (https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/study-consumers-seek-healthy-lifestyles-but-food-packaging-makes-it-difficult-300430044.html).
The advent of obesity and overweight has brought in radical changes in our thoughts. Many choose to eat or drink only after ensuring the presence of nutrients in their food and this compels CPG brands (consumer packaged goods) to provide the user with complete and reliable product information that can help him/her make choices with 100% clarity. To ensure this, the Food and Drug Administration (U.S.A) has proposed the introduction of an agency-approved icon that bluntly shows that the food packaging is ‘healthy’ indeed (https://psmag.com/news/why-the-fda-is-considering-a-healthy-icon-for-food-packaging).
Bright Images that Nullify our Insight in their Health
Looks can be deceptive but it’s the same looks that also interest the consumers in the first place and lure them into buying foods that don’t serve their purpose. Traditional brands were designed in a simple way that delivered the required message, for instance, a bright-red tomato says tomato sauce. But now, the trend has moved on to display more beautiful, colorful and imaginative artworks on everything right from eggs and coffee to dhal and spices with the sole outlook of providing a pleasurable shopping experience to consumers. The user is often tricked into buying many products due to the colorful images and the bright icons.
Many products today contain images of fields, farms, grains and produce that are bright and attractive. Packaged biscuits display grain icon which the human mind immediately associates with whole wheat, energy bars show colorful fruits such as berries and bananas or sketches of garden leaves on bags of coconut sugar create the hype of natural foods that are healthy but inside each package are biscuits full of refined flour, energy bars overloaded with sugar or some snack that does contain unjustifiable amounts of sodium and fat.
There are manufacturers who package foods in dull, brown colors that stand for natural and eco-friendly aspects and the consumer immediately associates the food inside too to be healthy and sustainable. Muted colors are another gimmick used by food manufacturers to portray the impression that the food is healthful and natural-that’s because research shows that individuals often associate bright colors with artificial flavoring and paler colors with healthier products. Many of the healthy terms are magnified to unreasonable proportions which once again deceive the user.
So, if you really want to choose a healthy product ignore the attractive food packaging aspects and look into the nutrition facts panel of the packaging. Food manufacturers must also stop proclaiming their food products to be the best in town with over-ambitious packaging terms, colors and icons that fail to convey the true nutrition aspect of the food inside the package.
How Food Companies Use Packaging to Fool You Into Thinking an Item is Healthful: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/how-food-companies-use-packaging-to-fool-you-into-thinking-an-item-is-healthful/2019/10/23/40304d84-e9d4-11e9-9c6d-436a0df4f31d_story.html
10 Tips for Understanding Food Labels: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/nutrition/sugar-salt-and-fat/10-tips-for-understanding-food-labels
Watch Out for Misleading Food Packaging Claims: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/misleading-food-packaging-claims/
Unwrapped: The Subtle Joys of Food Packaging: https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/08/marks-spencer-whole-foods-packaging-design/400340/
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.