It is interesting that so many people can be very focused on saving money for the future and not even think about the investment that they make in their health and bodies on a daily basis. You need to think of your body as a pension fund and make healthy investments sooner rather than later.
World health statistics are currently very disturbing, with the World Health Organization reporting that one in three adults worldwide have raised blood pressure – a condition that causes half of all deaths from strokes and heart disease – one in ten people have diabetes, and in the last 30 years obesity has doubled!
With so much pressure on health services, it is becoming more and more important that you take more responsibility for your own wellbeing.
What are your energy levels like? Do you refuse the snooze button on your alarm clock and wake up full of beans with a ‘ready to get up and get going’ attitude? Are you able to maintain high levels of energy throughout the day? Or perhaps like so many people, you rely heavily on caffeine or sugar to keep you going? Do you have any energy left at the end of the day? Or do you crash in front of the television feeling exhausted?
During the day you are bound to go through stages of feeling up or down due to changing energy levels. Your body goes through a repeating energy cycle (an ultradian rhythm) every 90 to 120 minutes. The implications of this are that we can only do solid work for up to about 90 minutes at a time and then we need a break or to at least switch off and do something a bit easier or lighter. So the real skill in managing your health and daily energy is to work on the more difficult things when you are alert and focused and to work on the easier things when you’re feeling lower in energy. To maximise your energy, take that short break every 90 minutes; if you are desk-bound get up and have a good stretch.
Regular exercise also improves mental and emotional health. The chemicals and hormones that are released in the brain through exercise can help deal with stress, promote wellbeing and provide you with more sustainable energy. If you are challenged with depression, research has shown that 30 minutes of exercise a day can be as effective as a mild anti-depressant. So get up and get going!
Learning to relax and let go of worry and stress at the end of the day is key. By keeping a clear conscience so that you can relax in the knowledge that you have stuck to your values and principles is one way of being able to clear your mind of anything.
‘And what is a man without energy? Nothing – nothing at all.’
Healthy Living – Steps to Success
Refuse the snooze on your alarm
Take a break every 90 minutes
Exercise for 30 minutes every day
Always eat breakfast
Reduce caffeine, alcohol and refined sugar intake
Drink two litres of water a day.
A Well Balanced Diet
How many times have you followed a diet without really understanding the difference between a protein and a complex carbohydrate, what their function is, or in which foods they are found? No dietary plan is ever going to be truly successful if you don’t have a little background knowledge. So here is a basic low-down on which nutrients are found in what foods.
The word protein comes from the Greek word ‘protos’ meaning ‘first things’. Three-quarters of all the solid matter in your body is protein, which forms the building blocks of the body. Without sufficient proteins, the body actually breaks down faster than it repairs itself.
There are two main types of carbohydrates: complex and simple. Complex carbohydrates are those found in whole grain, and give us energy – they are the body’s fuel. Simple carbohydrates are those that have been processed and broken down, have little nutritional value and therefore should be eaten in small quantities.
The body needs a certain amount of fats for various vital functions. The brain and the nervous system are made up of around 60 per cent fats. All your hormones are created from essential fats and the skin is lubricated and protected by them. Your skin is your largest bodily organ and is the first line of defence, so a lack of fats in your diet will actually show in dry, scaly skin. The condition of your skin is a great indicator of whether or not you are eating the right kind of fats.
The ideal fibre intake is not less than 35 grams a day. It is relatively easy to take in this amount of fibre – which absorbs water into the digestive tract making the food bulkier and easier to pass through the body – by eating whole grains, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds on a daily basis. Cereal fibre and linseed is especially good for avoiding constipation.
Although required in smaller amounts than fat, protein or carbohydrates, vitamins are vital to our diets. They stimulate enzymes, which trigger the various processes within our bodies; vitamins are needed to balance hormones, produce energy, boost the immune system, produce healthy skin and protect our arteries. They are also essential for our brain, nervous system and just about every other bodily function.
Like vitamins, minerals are essential. Calcium, magnesium and phosphorus help maintain the bones and teeth. Nerve signals, which are vital for the brain and muscles, depend on calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium. Other crucial minerals include chromium for controlling blood sugar levels and selenium and zinc, which are essential for bodily repair and the immune system.
In moderation, caffeine is not overly unhealthy. However, it is a drug, and many people become addicted to it and over-indulge, which is when it becomes harmful. A maximum of two cups of coffee or three cups of tea per day can be consumed without the caffeine they contain having a negative effect. Replace tea and coffee with herbal infusions where possible, and drink lots of water.
When people decide to lose weight, one of the first changes they make to their diet is to replace sugar with artificial sweeteners.
The government maintains that artificial sweeteners are safe, but current research has found many indicators that suggest the contrary. Aspartame, for example, comprises three components: 50 per cent phenylalanine, 40 per cent aspartic acid and 10 per cent methanol or wood alcohol, which was developed as an ulcer treating drug, not as a sweetener.
According to government guidelines, a healthy adult male can drink up to three units of alcohol per day and a healthy adult female up to two units per day without harming their health. The latest advice is to have at least three or more alcohol-free days per week.
Two thirds of our bodies consist of water, so it is therefore the most important nutrient. Water is the basis of all life, and that includes your body. The muscles that move your body comprise 75 per cent water, the blood that transports nutrients is 82 per cent water, the lungs that provide oxygen are 90 per cent water, the brain – the control centre of the body – is made up of 76 per cent water. Even your bones are 25 per cent water. The biggest tell-tale signs of lack of hydration are low energy, headaches and irritability. Water can have a great effect on our energy at work. One suggestion to prevent the adverse effects of dehydration is to keep a large bottle of water with you and to set yourself a goal of drinking it all by the end of the day. Try it – it really does work wonders!
Whilst cats like the taste of proteins, humans are principally attracted to the taste of carbohydrates – sweetness. The inherent attraction to sweetness worked well for early man because most things in nature that are sweet are not poisonous. Unfortunately, however, we have learnt how to extract the sweetness from nature and leave the goodness behind. White sugar, for example, has 90 per cent of its vitamins and minerals removed. Without sufficient vitamins and minerals, our metabolism becomes inefficient, contributing to poor health and weight management issues. Sugary foods can also compromise your immune system. Research has shown that white blood cells are less efficient at fighting illness when exposed to refined sugar. A diet high in refined sugar will also quickly raise insulin levels, which can lead to many other health problems. You will also lack energy as a result of these sugar spikes and the drop in blood sugar that follows. Fruit contains a simpler and more natural sugar
called fructose, which needs no digestion. However it does need to be converted into glucose, which slows down the metabolism so that blood sugar levels are more effectively balanced. Keeping your blood sugar levels balanced is probably the most important factor in maintaining even energy levels.
Exercise at Work
This basic work workout offers stretches for your arms, wrists and back – the body parts that suffer most from sitting at a computer all day. Equipment required: A chair and a water bottle or light to medium weight dumbbell
Extend one arm, palm up, in front of you and take hold of the outstretched fingers with your other hand. Gently pull the fingers downwards to stretch the forearm, holding for 20-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Press your hands together in front of your chest, elbows bent and parallel to the floor. Gently bend your wrists to the right and then to the left. Repeat ten times.
Sit tall and place your left arm behind your left hip. Gently twist to the left, using your right hand to deepen the stretch, holding for 20 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
The way in which pedometers are used may be responsible for these positive benefits. A further study divided women into two groups. Everyone wore a pedometer daily, but only one group kept a daily record of their steps. After 12 weeks, the record-keeping group logged around 2,000 steps more than the other group. That’s equivalent to an extra mile a day!
Sit tall with your abdominal muscles pulled in, and lift your left foot off the floor a few inches, knee bent. Hold for two seconds, lower and repeat 16 times. Repeat on the other side.
Sit tall with your abdominal muscles pulled in, and extend your left leg until it is level with your hip, squeezing the quadricep muscles. Hold for two seconds, lower and repeat 16 times. Repeat on the other side.
While sitting, lift yourself up until your hips are hovering just over the chair, holding your arms out at the sides for balance. Hold for two seconds, stand all the way up and repeat 16 times.
Make sure that your chair is stable. Lower yourself in front of the chair and place your hands on the chair behind you at hip level. Lower your hips straight down in front of the chair, bending at the elbows. Continue to lower your body until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle. Push back up with your arms, and repeat 16 times.
Hold your water bottle or dumbbell in your right hand and, with your abdominals pulled in tight and your spine straight, curl the bottle towards your shoulder 16 times. Repeat on the other side.
Hold your water bottle or dumbbell with both hands and stretch it up over your head, with your arms held straight up. Gently bend towards the left as far as you can, contracting your abdominal muscles. Come back to the centre and repeat to the right. Complete ten repetitions (bending to the right and left is one repetition).
Hold the water bottle or dumbbell at chest level and, keeping the knees and hips facing forward, gently twist to the left as far as you comfortably can, feeling the abdominal muscles contract. Twist back to the centre, then move round to the left for a total of ten repetitions. Don’t force this move, or you may end up with a back injury.
Stretching at your desk and standing up when you answer the phone is also positive practice. Any kind of exercise and movement you can do throughout the day will be instrumental in keeping you active and energised.
Giving Up Smoking
There are actually NO benefits to smoking – if you think it relieves stress, think again. When carbon monoxide and nicotine enter your body, they reduce the supply of oxygen to your brain. Without this oxygen (the brain’s fuel), your brain struggles to function properly, think clearly and concentrate. That, in itself, is extremely stressful!
Good reasons to give up smoking. . .
• You will reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
• You reduce your chances of getting lung cancer and emphysema
• You will smell a whole lot nicer and fresher.
• You will be able to climb stairs and walk without getting out of breath.
• You will have fewer wrinkles.
• You will be free of those horrible hacking morning coughs.
• You will have more energy to pursue physical activities.
• You will be able to treat yourself to things with the money you save.
• You will have more control over your life and potentially live longer.
• You will be making your contribution to supporting a healthier environment.
How to Give Up Smoking
- Start with some preparation by ensuring that you really do want to stop and understanding your reasons for stopping. Are these reasons powerful enough to motivate you when you are faced with those tricky situations? Write down your reasons for stopping.
- Ask your doctor for advice. This is especially important if you have health problems or are concerned about issues such as weight gain.
- Consider finding yourself a stop-smoking buddy – relatives, work colleagues and friends are a good place to start. Set a date together and give each other support.
- Tell your family and friends about your intentions. Ask them for their support before you stop and explain that you may not be yourself while experiencing withdrawal. When you reach your quitting date, rely on those that have been most encouraging for support.
- Think about starting an exercise programme and a sensible eating plan. Again, speak to your doctor or dietician. Exercise will give you more energy and help you to relax and relieve stress.
- You should know what triggers your desire for a cigarette, such as stress, the end of a meal, drinking in a bar, etc. Avoid these triggers while you are trying to quit, or if that’s not possible, decide how you will deal with the triggers.
- Decide what you will do when you experience cravings. Deep breathing, a short walk and keeping yourself busy will help to take your mind off the cravings. Perhaps you can think of other ways. Write them down. Remember: these cravings will only last for three to five minutes at a time.
- If you have tried stopping smoking before, you may have come across a stumbling block, such as finding something to do with your hands. If so, you need to arm yourself with a solution to these foreseeable problems. Get yourself a pen or stress relief aid to fiddle with if occupying your hands is a problem.
- Be positive and confident that you can stop. You have spent time and energy planning how you will deal with the task ahead. You can and will do it if you persevere. Thousands of people around the world stop smoking every day. You can be one of them!
There are ten foods that are so exceptionally good for your health and energy levels that they have been dubbed ‘superfoods’, and it would be greatly beneficial to your well being to include them in your diet on a regular basis.
Berries are extremely rich in antioxidants which help protect the cells in your body from damage and therefore from diseases such as cancer. Among other things, they are also an excellent source of vitamin C and soluble fibre. Blueberries can also help reverse the short-term memory loss that often comes with aging.
Broccoli (and other cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower and cabbage) contains antioxidants and a substance called sulforaphane, which research has shown to be powerful in fighting and preventing cancer. Broccoli is thought to be especially beneficial in fighting cancer of the breast, colon and lung. It also boosts the immune system.
3. Citrus Fruits
The citrus bioflavonoids found in oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruit have anti-cancer and antioxidant properties. Many of these citrus bioflavonoids have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory and blood clot inhibiting abilities.
Numerous studies have shown that regular consumption of garlic can lower blood pressure. It also prevents the blood from being overly sticky and decreases LDL cholesterol.
Walnuts are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, a special type of fat that is essential for our bodies, but that the body cannot produce. Omega-3 essential fatty acids protect us against heart disease. Almonds are also known for their ability to help lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Oats help reduce cholesterol. Research shows that one bowl of oatmeal per day can reduce cholesterol by up to 23 per cent. Oats are also considered an excellent grain for diabetics as they have less impact on blood sugar levels than some other grains.
The Omega-3 fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty fish may help prevent heart disease and stroke by lowering the body’s rate of blood clotting.
Spinach’s secret weapon, lutein, makes it one of the most powerful foods in the prevention of both cataracts and age related macular degeneration, the leading causes of preventable blindness in the elderly.
Tomatoes contain high levels of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps to protect the cells in our bodies from damage.
Turkey is one of the leanest protein foods and is low in calories, making it an excellent healthy food choice. Turkey also contains selenium, which has been shown to inhibit cancer development, improve the immune system, and aid in the metabolism of the thyroid hormone.
Winter is that time of year when, if we are not careful, we can fall into the trap of moaning about the weather and not getting enough fresh air and exercise because it’s cold. Two hundred years ago 75 per cent of Europe’s population worked outdoors, whereas now only 10 per cent work in natural outdoor light. Across Northern Europe, 12 million people are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). We are also more prone to comfort eat during the winter, consuming more sugary foods and refined carbohydrates than in warmer months. So making a conscious effort to really look after yourself in the winter will help you to feel healthier and happier. Here are some tips to help you to feel better, protect your immune system and stay healthy during the winter months:
1. Manage your personal stress
Stress is often cited as a nasty precursor to a weakened immune system, thus leaving you more vulnerable to sneaky viruses. If you are feeling run down and over stretched, it is time to slow down, sharpen your stress management skills and strengthen your immunity.
2. Exercise and energise
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to keep your immune system strong and healthy. Wrap up warm and go for a lovely long walk. This is even better than going to the gym because you will also benefit from lots of fresh air and natural daylight. The cooler weather is great for invigorating and stimulating the senses. Buy a pedometer to motivate yourself and aim to walk 10,000 steps a day.
3. Drink lots of water
Water may not be the drink of choice in the winter, yet it is essential for remaining healthy as it is vital for all bodily functions. Water plays an important part in physically flushing out bacteria, so keep a bottle with you at all times and sip it throughout the day. Warming herbal teas will also contribute to your recommended quota of two litres of water per day.
4. Boost your vitamin C levels
Vitamin C is the top natural immune system booster, as proven by extensive research. So taking a vitamin C supplement during the winter is a good idea, as is eating plenty of seasonal satsumas. Hot water with lemon is a great way to start the day as it will increase your vitamin C intake, contribute to your daily water quota, and is a much healthier alternative to caffeine-filled coffee.
5. Eat yourself healthy
You can really protect your immune system by eating healthily. Garlic, ginger, tomatoes and onions are all great for warding off colds, and plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will provide you with antioxidants and a whole host of vitamins and minerals. So let healthy food be your medicine of choice.
6. Take echinacea
Taking the herbal supplement echinacea can more than halve the risk of catching a common cold, according to research. It is extracted from herbaceous plants in the Asteraceae family, (commonly known as purple coneflower) and is available as herbal tea, and in liquid and tablet form. Visit your local health shop for further information.
7. Reduce your sugar intake
Eating or drinking 100 grams (eight teaspoons) of refined sugar – the equivalent of a 330 millilitre can of sugary fizzy soda – can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs by 40 per cent. The immune-suppressing effect of refined sugar starts less than 30 minutes after ingestion and may last for up to five hours! Although it is very tempting to reach out for those comfort foods to get a quick sugar fix, stop before you do so and think about what it is doing to your immune system, which really needs all the help it can get!
8. Drink alcohol in moderation
Despite the fact that it is the season to be jolly, it doesn’t mean the jollity has to be artificially induced! Excessive alcohol intake can harm the body’s immune system in two ways. First, it produces an overall nutritional deficiency, depriving the body of valuable immune boosting nutrients. Secondly, alcohol, like sugar, consumed in excess can reduce the ability of white cells to kill germs and depletes the body of vitamin B, which can leave you depressed. Alcohol, despite the association with celebration, is best enjoyed in moderation with a maximum of three units per day for men and two units per day for women.
9. Wash your hands
With more bugs around, it is important to wash your hands often and well – especially before eating – as this is one of the easiest ways to help prevent the spread of infections. Also, if you have a cold and you use a paper tissue, throw it away after each use rather than reusing it, as the germs will continue to transfer from the tissue to your hands.
10. Sleep well
A good night’s rest is one of the best ways to boost your immune system. The quality of your sleep is very important too – good quality sleep will ensure that you feel energised at the start of the day. Cutting out caffeine and alcohol will help. Try a warm bath with lavender oil and a cup of camomile tea – it will work wonders.