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Stretch Your Way to Better Health

Stretching is widely viewed as a part of fitness and fitness routines- pilates and yoga both combine stretching with strength training in a utilitarian way.  And while people will debate whether or not stretching prevents injury,  there is no doubt that stretching is good for health in many different ways:

 

  • Eases Stress:  Stress causes your muscles to contract, becoming tense. This muscle tension has negative effects on almost every part of your body. When this happens, it is important to stretch to relax the muscle and cause the release of endorphins, which not only boost your mood but also aid in stress elimination.
  • Increased Range of Motion:  Stretching regularly increases flexibility and range of motion in your joints, which promotes increased balance and motion throughout an entire lifetime.
  • Flexibility:  The 4 main measures of overall fitness are: aerobic, muscular, body composition and flexibility.  The way to increase flexibility is stretching- which becomes increasingly important as you age because your muscles become shorter and tighter.  Short and tight muscles cause restriction that make you more susceptible to tendon, muscle, and joint injuries.
  • Increase Blood Circulation:  Stretching increases blood flow to muscles, which bring an oxygenated supply of nutrients to muscles and cartilage.  This means, stretching reduces muscle soreness and accelerates muscle repair.
  • Eases Lower Back Pain: There are so many muscles that play a role in posture (quadriceps, hamstrings, lower back muscles and hip flexors), that stretching these muscles can greatly reduce or even eliminate the lower back pain that so many of us suffer from.

Tips for Stretching:

  • Ease in and hold for 10-15 seconds/ 30 seconds if you’re over 50
  • Breathe out as you go further into the stretch
  • Listen to your body, you should not be feeling sharp pain
  • Don’t bounce in your stretch, hold it- bouncing can lead to little muscle tears
  • Repeat- it is beneficial to do the same stretch 2 to 3 times
  • Don’t compare yourself to others and work at your own pace.  You will get more flexible with consistency and time.

 

Natural Remedies to Allergies

It’s that time of year, when you wake up with swollen eyes, sniffles, and dry coughs- it’s the time of year of allergies!  Since we never recommended you to develop dependencies to over-the-counter pharmaceuticals, we have made a list of natural ways to alleviate allergies:

  • Drink More Water:  Many allergy sufferers will feel some relief as soon as they drink 2 or more glasses of water at once.
  • Eat Simple:  Eat as minimally processed foods (in their most natural form) as often as possible.
  • Avoid Exercising Outside During Peak Pollen Times: It is often most high in the morning, so push that workout back to later in the day.
  • Eat More Omega-3 Foods:  A german study found that participants who ate  Omega-3 rich foods had less allergy symptoms.  Omega-3s help fight inflammation and can obtained by eating walnuts, cold-water fish, and flaxseed oil, as well as grass-fed meat and eggs.
  • Honey:  For centuries, the medicinal properties of honey has been used to alleviate allergy symptoms. Add to warm tea as warm liquids help with chest and nasal congestion. Make sure to purchase honey which is locally produced to get the best benefits of this amazing remedy!
  • Sleep:  Get 7-8 hours a night so that your body can heal itself and rest.  The more rest your body gets, the more efficient it becomes at fighting inflammation and mucus buildup from allergens.
  • Raw, Organic, Apple Cider Vinegar: Taking a tablespoon of raw, organic, apple cider vinegar (ACV) every morning (before going outside) blocks our body’s histamine reaction and it reduces inflammation.  For even more of a boost, mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar  in warm water with a tablespoon of raw honey.
  • Eat Probiotics: this will boost your immune system and make your body more efficient at combatting allergies.  Probiotics can be found in yogurt, kombucha, and supplements.
  • Essential Oils:  lavender, lemon balm (melissa), peppermint, blue tansy (or roman chamomile), lemongrass, and eucalyptus are great for relieving allergy symptoms.  They can either be diffused or mixed with coconut oil and applied to the body.
  • Don’t Line Dry Your Clothes: especially outside, this allows allergens and pollen to become imbedded in the fabric and worsens allergies.  If you need to line dry clothes, do so inside.
  • Sleep With Windows Closed: Placing in fan of an open windows pulls allergens and pollen into the house.
  • Invest In A Humidifier: Water droplets bind to the allergens, and they get heavy and fall to the floor so you don’t inhale them.
  • Netti Pot: Can be found in health food stores and is a natural way to cleanse your nasal passages from pollens, pollution, dust, and a variety of allergens.  Only for use in adults.

 

Avoiding Muscle Soreness

Musclesoreness after working out is a completely normal phenomenon that leads to greater stamina and strength as the muscles recover and build.  Although it can not be completely avoided, there are natural ways to alleviate some of the pain and discomfort during the time period of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS):

 

  • Get Adequate Nutrition after your Workout:  Drinking a protein shake right after a workout is good but eating a balanced meal within 2 hours of your workout is ideal.  There is so much research that points to the importance of getting nutrients after a workout!  We always advocate getting your vitamins and minerals through whole food sources rather than supplements.
  • Active Recovery:  Thought resting was best? Nope.  Moving around is actually better for you to reduce soreness. This is any form of light activity, such as jogging, body resistance exercises, or light weights.  Getting moving actually lessens muscle soreness because its breaks up the lactic acid buildup in the muscle fibers.
  • Take a Cold/Hot Shower:  Athletes often use this technique- alternate showering with cold water and hot water (not too hot) in 30 second intervals.  These contrast showers increase bloodflow and help get nutrients from your bloodstream to you muscles.
  • Take a Relaxing Epsom Salt Bath: Relaxing in a warm bath for 30 minutes will certainly ease some muscle soreness and reduce stress.  Epsom Salts should be added in because they are powerful at flushing toxins out of your muscles, decreasing muscle inflammation, and improving nerve function.
  • Stretch:  Stretching will help reduce muscle soreness by increasing blood flow in stretched areas.  Hold stretches for 15-20 seconds, repeat 3 times.
  • Ice your Muscles:  In severe cases of soreness, icing the muscle is beneficial because it reduces swelling and pain.  It does not accelerate the healing process though.
  • Get a Massage: Massages aid in muscle relaxation, pain reduction, and stress relief. Just make sure you go somewhere that is familiar with sports massages.
  • Sleep! Getting adequate sleep is paramount to allowing your body to heal.  Get 7-8 hours a night.

 

* Always listen to your body.  If you experience sharp or extremely severe pain after a workout, please seek professional help.

 

 

Abnormal growth rate in womb linked to autism

‘Babies that are abnormally heavy or underweight are at 62% greater risk’ of developing autism, reports the Daily Mail. The news is based on a large study of Swedish children with and without autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

 

Researchers compared healthy children up to the age of 17 with children who had a diagnosis of ASD. They examined whether there were any differences between the children in terms of how quickly they grew while in the womb (foetal growth) and the length of the pregnancy.

 

They found that babies with unusually low and unusually high levels of foetal growth had an increased risk of ASD (with or without intellectual disability).

 

This large study does suggest a possible association between foetal growth and ASD, but it does not prove a direct cause and effect. It could well be that there are underlying factors that cause both abnormal foetal growth and ASD.

 

While the researchers did try to account for a number of factors that could be linked to both foetal growth and ASD, this is not an exact science.

 

However, this study does raise interesting questions about how development in the womb could affect a child’s risk of ASD, and will hopefully lead to further research in this field.

 

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from Manchester and Bristol Universities, Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden, Columbia University in the US, and other institutions. Sources of funding were not reported. It was published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Psychiatry.

 

The study was covered by the Daily Mail, whose reporting was arguably not as clear as it could have been. While the main findings of the study were reported accurately, there was no discussion about the limitations of the study, or that other factors could have been at play.

 

The headline and much of the reporting also focuses on birth weight. However, the researchers specifically did not want to use birth weight as the prime measurement, as they said this is often prone to inaccuracy and misinterpretation. This is why they took the decision to focus on foetal growth.

 

What kind of research was this?

This was a nested case-control study within the Stockholm Youth Cohort study looking at the associations between the growth of babies in the womb, gestational age (length of the pregnancy) and ASD.

 

Autism spectrumdisorder (ASD) is the name given to a group of developmental disorders that start in very early childhood and tend to have characteristic impairments in three main areas:

  • social interaction, such as having difficulty understanding emotions
  • communication and language difficulties
  • a restricted, repetitive collection of interests and activities, or set routines or rituals

 

ASD includes both autism and Asperger syndrome. The main difference between the two disorders is that children with autism tend to have some degree of learning difficulty or intellectual impairment, while this is less common in Asperger syndrome.

 

In some cases, children with Asperger syndrome can be particularly gifted in certain areas, such as mathematics or computer science, though this is less common than the media would lead you to believe.

 

The causes of ASD are not known. Current thinking on the matter speculates that a combination of genetic and environmental factors disrupts the development of the brain during pregnancy.

 

A nested case-control study is a special type of cohort study where people who have the condition (cases) and a selected matched group who don’t (controls) are selected from the same population, or cohort, of people (nested).

 

In contrast to non-nested case-control studies, data is usually collected prospectively, which means that researchers can be sure of when certain exposures or outcomes happened. This also avoids the difficulties or biases of participants remembering past events. Also, as cases and controls are selected from the same cohort, this means that they should be better matched than if researchers identified cases and controls separately.

 

What did the research involve?

The researchers used data from the Stockholm Youth Cohort study, which included all children up to the age of 17 who lived in Stockholm county between 2001 and 2007.

 

They identified 4,283 children with ASD (cases) and compared them with 36,588 healthy children randomly selected from the community (controls).

 

The cases were matched to controls by age and sex. For each child with ASD, there were nine children without the condition.

 

Of the children with ASD, 1,755 had an intellectual disability and 2,528 did not. Children who had been adopted or had missing data were excluded from the study.

 

Children with ASD were determined by linking with national registries containing information about all assessments or care of ASD in Stockholm county. The researchers say that children in Stockholm have assessments of development carried out by nurses or paediatricians at the ages of 1, 2, 6, 10-12, 18, 36, 48 and 60 months, or when there is concern about a child’s development.

 

They say the type of care a child receives following a diagnosis of ASD is determined by whether the child also has an intellectual disability or not. This allowed the researchers to determine how many children with ASD also had an intellectual disability.

 

The researchers then collected information on the birth weight of each child and the length of the pregnancy (gestational age). The length of the pregnancy was determined using ultrasound dating.

 

They used information from the national registry of births to determine averages of foetal growth by gestational age, so they could determine which children were above or below these averages.

 

The researchers analysed the results to determine the risk of developing ASD (with and without intellectual disability). Results were adjusted for known factors that may have influenced the results (confounders), including:

  • parent age when the baby was born
  • country of birth
  • socioeconomic status
  • household income
  • family psychiatric history
  • whether the mother had diabetes or high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • congenital disorders

 

What were the basic results?

The main results of this study were:

  • below-average foetal growth was associated with an increased risk of ASD – the poorer the growth, the higher the risk
  • foetal growth that was higher than average was associated with an increased risk of ASD, but only when the growth was in the extreme ranges of higher than normal
  • these findings were for children with and without intellectual disability, although below-average foetal growth was more strongly associated with ASD with intellectual disability than without
  • following adjustment, children who were born small or large for their gestational age were at greater risk of developing ASD with intellectual disability, irrespective of the length of the pregnancy
  • preterm birth increased the risk of ASD independent of foetal growth

 

The researchers also found:

  • parents of children with ASD were more likely to have experienced admission to hospital for psychiatric reasons (18.7%) compared with parents of children without ASD (11.3%)
  • children with ASD were more likely to have congenital malformations compared with children without ASD

 

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The authors concluded that foetal growth above or below the average in Stockholm is an independent risk factor for developing ASD. They say this risk is greatest when growth is well below or above average, as well as for ASD with intellectual disability.

 

The researchers suggest these findings may allow for the possibility of early intervention in order to reduce poor developmental outcomes, through monitoring as well as follow-up, screening and the management of children who may be most at risk.

 

Lead researcher Professor Kathryn Abel from Manchester University is reported as saying, “We think this increase in risk associated with extreme abnormal growth of the foetus shows that something is going wrong during development, possibly with the function of the placenta.”

 

Conclusion

This large study suggests a possible link between foetal growth and very low or very high birth weight and ASD, with or without intellectual disability. However, it only observes an association and does not prove cause and effect.

 

Parents expecting a baby who is showing below- or above-average foetal growth, or who have a baby born with below- or above-average birth weight, should not be overly concerned that their child may be at risk of developing ASD.

 

If there is a direct link between foetal growth and ASD, the reasons why this may be the case are not clear. The authors’ suggestions of possible reasons, such as the function of the placenta, are only theories.

 

Importantly, although the authors have tried to adjust for possible confounders, there could be other factors at play that may have affected the results. These include genetic, environmental or health-related conditions that the child or mother were exposed to during the pregnancy or after the birth.

 

Examples of possible factors not taken into consideration include alcohol and substance misuse, and obesity or weight gain around the time of the birth.

 

The study also only relates to a Swedish population sample. There may be environmental and population health differences between Sweden and elsewhere, meaning that care should be taken when generalising results to other countries.

 

Overall, the possible causes of autism spectrum disorder remain unknown, and further research is needed.

 

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices

Is An Economic Crisis Good For Your Health?

One of the most common reactions to earnest recommendations that we overhaul our eating habits, from a diet based largely on red meat and highly processed foods to one more focused on vegetables, fruit and whole foods, is that we can never really be sure what’s good for us. “Just wait,” someone inevitably jokes. “Tomorrow they’ll tell us that broccoli will kill us.”

 

Well, science has yet to suggest that. But it has delivered proof of the positive effect a societal change in diet can have on citizens’ health.

 

The subjects of the study were the people of Cuba, who unknowingly took part in a large-scale study on the effect of lifestyle change during their country’s extended economic downturn in the 1990s.

 

The economy began to collapse after the government of its state sponsor, the Soviet Union, fell in 1989. The Russian republic that emerged from the former regime soon ended its subsidies of cheap oil for Cuba. As Richard Schiffman reports in a fascinating new article in The Atlantic, the shift sent Cuba “into an economic tailspin from which it would not recover for over half a decade.”

 

The effects were widespread. Most motorized agriculture and food distribution systems halted. The ongoing U.S. trade embargo, strengthened by Congress in 1996, further prevented the import of many drugs, manufactured goods and food products. “Cubans survived drinking sugared water and eating anything they could get their hands on,” Schiffman writes, “including domestic pets and the animals in the Havana Zoo.”

 

And yet the population’s health actually improved, in some ways dramatically, according to a study recently released by researchers working in Cuba, Spain and the United States and published by the medical journal BMJ.

 

Researchers tracking the health of about 6,000 residents and analyzing national data compiled by the Cuban Ministry of Public Health found that mortality in the island country dropped during the depression. Death from cardiovascular disease fell by a third, and from adult-onset Type 2 diabetes by half. The rate of strokes was reduced, too.

 

Despite its economic struggles, Cuba maintained an effective health-care system. But the study found that it was not the doctors that kept citizens healthy but the lifestyle changes poverty forced on them.

 

With public transportation largely idled by the gas crisis, more people walked and bicycled. Adults also ate less, losing an average 12 pounds as their daily calorie intake dropped from about 3,000 to between 1,400 and 2,400, according to the new research. Diets were transformed as well. Protein intake dropped an average of 40% as meat and dairy products became luxuries and families turned to de facto veganism, Schiffman reports, living off “what they could grow, catch and pick for themselves — including lots of high-fiber fresh produce and fruits, added to the increasingly hard-to-come-by staples of beans, corn and rice.”

 

Cuba had gone green, even if unintentionally. With limited access to agro-chemicals, “farmers returned to the machetes and oxen-drawn plows of their ancestors,” Schiffman notes. Community gardens flourished in major cities.

 

Cuba’s state-controlled economy regained some of its footing in the late 1990s, due in large part to the support of oil-rich Venezuela. And as soon as cheap access to oil was restored, Cubans began exercising less and eating more. By 2011, the researchers found, the nation’s obesity rate had almost tripled from its 1995 low. Diabetes and cardiovascular disease rates rose in lockstep with obesity and the national mortality rate returned to pre-downturn levels.

 

In an editorial accompanying the study in BMJ, Professor Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health wrote: “Although the hardships experienced by Cubans in the 1990s were unfortunate, the present findings add powerful evidence that major population-wide benefits will be obtained rapidly by reducing overweight and obesity. To achieve this is perhaps the major public health and societal challenge of this century.”

 

Schiffman joins Willett in wondering what the United States can learn from the Cuban experience as our own health care system struggles to manage soaring rates of Type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association’s chief medical officer, Dr. Robert Rattner, says 1 in 3 American adults could have the condition by 2050. Meanwhile, heart disease, which like diabetes is closely linked to a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy diet, remains the leading cause of death in the United States.

 

The authors of the Cuban study suggest that other countries seek to recreate the Caribbean nation’s experience — without the economic downturn — through public health campaigns, redesigned public spaces, limits on unhealthy food and drink, especially for children, and taxes on sugary and fatty foods. They acknowledge, though, a troubling reality: “No country or regional population has successfully reduced the distribution of body mass index or reduced the prevalence of obesity through public health campaigns or targeted treatment programs.”

 

In the absence of national initiative, it’s up to each of us to do what we can to improve our own health. What can you do? Here are some fundamental steps that could boost your health and prolong your life. If enough of us adopt them, we may see a reduction in our national rates of diabetes and heart disease, and we’ll ward off more cases of dementia, too:

 

  • Eat healthier. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to help prevent 30 percent of heart attacks and strokes for people at high risk of those conditions. It features olive oil, fish, fruits, vegetables and unrefined grains. Wine, eggs and low-fat dairy products are allowed in moderation. One key to the diet’s success is that it eschews highly processed snacks and prepared foods that are low on nutrients and high on additives. 
  • Try vegetarianism. We saw the impact a meat shortage had on Cubans’ health. Forgoing meat in this country is easier than ever as alternatives continue to improve and become more affordable. Becoming a vegan or vegetarian is no protection against obesity or metabolic syndrome if you continue to feast on processed foods low on fiber and loaded with fat and sugar. Focus on whole foods.
  • Get movingA sedentary lifestyle is one of the greatest health risks. Sitting for more than three hours a day can cut one’s life expectancy by two years and the effects are not entirely offset by regular exercise. C. Everett Koop, a former surgeon general, recommended a minimum of 10,000 steps a day — about five miles. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises all adults to get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week. Barely half of us do either.

 

The Cubans, in a way, had good health forced on them. The discouraging news is that when it was no longer economically necessary to live a healthier, more active lifestyle, the population basically dropped it. Clearly the challenge for our country — to make such changes voluntarily and stick with them — is even more daunting.

 

As published originally in Forbes

Job stress may raise our ‘bad cholesterol’ levels

 

“Bad” LDL cholesterol can raise your risk of heart disease

‘A stressful job really can kill you – by raising your cholesterol,’ reports the Mail Online website. This headline is based on Spanish research that looked at the relationship between job stress and lipid (fat) levels in the blood of more than 90,000 people.

 

The research found that people who reported difficulties coping with their job had higher levels of what has been dubbed “bad cholesterol” (LDL cholesterol) and lower levels of “good cholesterol” (HDL cholesterol). High levels of LDL cholesterol can clog up the arteries, increasing an individual’s risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such ascoronary heart disease.

 

A significant strength of this study is its size – an impressive 90,000 people participated. But the study did not look at diet, which can also affect cholesterol levels. It could well be the case that people in stressful jobs tend to have unhealthy diets and it is this, rather than stress itself, that is to blame for their higher “bad” cholesterol rates.

 

While increased LDL levels are a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases, this study did not explore the effect this would have on people’s long-term health. The Mail Online’s claim that a stressful job will kill you is therefore not supported by this study.

 

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from Ibermutuamur – a mutual insurance company dealing with work-related accidents and occupational illnesses – and two universities in Spain. There were no external sources of funding for the study.

 

It was published in the peer-reviewed Scandinavian Journal of Public Health.

 

The Mail Online’s headline over-interprets the research, as the study did not assess whether people in stressful jobs were more likely to die. The body of the story was reasonably accurate, but it did not highlight that this type of study cannot prove that one factor is definitely causing another.

 

What kind of research was this?

This was a cross-sectional study that explored whether there is a link between job stress and abnormal levels of fats (lipids) in the blood.

 

Some studies have found a link between job stress and an increased risk of coronary disease. There are various theories about how this link might come about – for example, by stress increasing the likelihood of unhealthy habits such as smoking.

 

Some studies have also suggested that stress could directly influence levels of lipids in the blood by possibly adversely affecting the body’s metabolism. However, these studies have been small and in selected populations, and have had mixed results.

 

In the current study, researchers wanted to assess stress and lipid levels in a large representative sample of workers. As this study is cross-sectional, both stress and lipid levels were assessed at the same time. This means the study cannot establish whether participants‘ lipid levels were directly influenced by their stress levels.

 

What did the research involve?

The study involved workers covered by the Ibermutuamur insurance company who had yearly medical check-ups. More than 430,000 participants were recruited between 2005 and 2007, and a study questionnaire was sent out to more than 100,000 randomly selected individuals. Completed questionnaires were returned by 91,593 of these people.

 

The questionnaire included the question, “During the last year, have you frequently felt that you cannot cope with your usual job?”. Participants who answered “yes” were considered to have job stress.

 

The questionnaire also included 11 questions relating to anxiety and depression symptoms, such as “Have you felt keyed up, on edge?” and “Have you had difficulty relaxing?”.

 

The researchers took fasting blood samples from participants and measured levels of total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol (so-called “good” cholesterol), and levels of a type of lipid called triglycerides. The levels of so-called “bad” cholesterol were calculated based on these measurements.

 

Participantswere classed as having abnormal lipid levels based on pre-specified levels if they reported taking lipid-lowering medication or had been diagnosed as having abnormal lipid levels.

 

The researchers then looked at whether abnormal lipid levels are linked to job stress. They took into account the followingconfounders:

  • age
  • gender
  • smoking
  • basic measures of alcohol consumption and physical leisure activity
  • obesity
  • type of job (“blue collar” or “white collar”)

 

What were the basic results?

Job stress was reported by 8.7% of participants. Participants reporting job stress also had higher levels of anxiety and depression symptoms.

 

After the researchers took into account factors that could affect the results and adjusted them accordingly, people who reported job stress were found to have 10% higher odds of having abnormal lipid levels (odds ratio [OR] 1.1, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04 to 1.17).

 

They also had increased odds of:

  • high levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL)
  • low levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL)
  • a high total cholesterol to “good” cholesterol ratio
  • a high “bad” cholesterol to “good” cholesterol ratio

How did the researchers interpret the results?

 

The researchers concluded that their results support an association between job stress and abnormal lipid levels in the blood. The best weight loss supplement is Keto Lean Force

 

Conclusion

This study has found an association between job stress and abnormal lipid levels in the blood. Its strengths include the large number of workers assessed (more than 40,000) and the use of the same methods to assess all of the participants.

 

However, the fact that both job stress and lipid levels were assessed at the same time means it is not possible to say for certain whether job stress might have directly caused changes in blood lipid levels.

 

There are also other limitations and points to note:

  • The study did not assess diet. People with job stress may have less healthy diets, which could account for the differences seen in the blood lipid levels, rather than these differences being a direct impact of job stress.
  • Jobstress was assessed by a single question, which may not fully capture all aspects of job stress. Also, different people may consider different things stressful, and the question did not disentangle the exact stressful workplace situations and an individual’s ability to cope with them.
  • Workers who were off sick would not have had the routine medical check-up. This means the sample may have missed some people with more serious health problems with stress.
  • The authors acknowledge that the effect of job stress seen is relatively small – a 10% increase in the odds of having abnormal lipid levels.

 

Overall, it is not clear from this study whether stress is a direct cause of the increased lipid levels seen. Studies looking at whether interventions to reduce work stress can reduce lipid levels in the blood would provide an indication if this is in fact the case.

Despite these limitations, there is a wide range of good quality evidence that workplace stress can have a harmful effect on your physical and mental health.

While some people may thrive on pressure, persistent high levels of stress are likely to be harmful.

Read more about what you can do to reduce your levels of workplace stress.

 

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices.

Time off

Breaks from caring

Breaks or time off from caring are vital. Whether it’s an hour every day, a couple of hours a week or a two-week holiday, we all need some time to ourselves, and carers are no exception. Breaks for carers are meant to give you time off from your caring role as well as enable you to do something that you want to do for yourself.

 

It’s easy to run out of time for yourself, and you may feel that you have to give up your work or studies in order to cope. Giving up important things in your own life can leave you feeling cut off from friends and workmates, and you may miss out on qualifications or get into financial difficulty.

Why breaks are important

Breaks from caring (sometimes called respite care) are important because of the potential health consequences of being a long-term carer. Research suggests that carers who provide high levels of care are more than twice as likely to have poor health than people with no caring responsibilities.

 

For this reason, local authorities consider time off from being a carer as part of your carer’s assessment. The carer’s assessment has to consider your needs relating to your:

  • Health – for example, whether you are able to cope with moving someone if you have your own health problems.
  • Choices – such as whether you want to continue caring.
  • Work – for example, you may find it easier to continue working if a paid care worker cares for the person you’re looking after for at least part of the day. Remember to talk to your employer about ways of combining work and caring.
  • Learning – for example, where and how you want to study and how much time you want to spend learning.
  • Leisure – having interests of your own outside your caring role is important, for example, reading, seeing friends, fishing or swimming.

Other commitments

You may also get a break from caring because the person you care for is assessed as needing ‘replacement care’. For more information on how the person you care for may qualify for replacement care, see the community care assessment pages.

 

A break from caring does not have to mean a break from the person you look after. A break from caring means that you have time off from the responsibility of looking after the person’s care needs. Indeed, many carers use their break from caring to spend time on activities or holidays with the person they care for.

Your rights and breaks from caring

The Carers Equal Opportunities Act (2004) was introduced to ensure that you have the support you need to achieve a better balance in your life. The Act gives you the right to ask the local authority of the person you look after for a carer’s assessment of your needs. During a carer’s assessment, the local authority will ask you about your work, learning and leisure requirements.

Your needs

Many carers have friends and family who are able to help you with caring at home on an informal or regular basis. However, you may need more help than that, or you might have no friends or relatives around to help.

 

You can have your own needs assessed even if the person you’re looking after hasn’t had their care needs assessed. The assessment will help you and the local authority social services department to draw up a care plan with details of the support and services you need, including breaks.

 

There may be some tasks that you find difficult, or you may find it too difficult to continue caring. It’s important to tell the person carrying out the carer’s assessment if you’re finding it hard to manage.

 

After the assessment, the local authority must consider your needs when it decides what help to give you and the person you look after. This is sometimes called a care plan. You should be given a copy of this.

 

The local authority sometimes charges for the services it provides you. The amount you’re charged varies around the country. Make sure that you understand the charging policy, and ask to have it in writing.

Help with getting breaks from caring

The pagesin this section can give you more information about how to get a break from caring including what to do if you are going away without the person you care for. There are also tips and suggestions on different holidays, day trips and accessible leisure activities that might be of interest to you and the person you care for.

 

Edited by NHS Choices

Barbecue Food Safety

Food poisoning cases double over the summer, so remember these simple steps to help keep food safe.

 

 Food poisoning is usually mild, and most people get better within a week. But sometimes it can be more severe, even deadly, so it’s important to take the risks seriously. Children, older people and those with weakened immune systems are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning.

“The safest option is to cook food indoors using your oven,” says a spokesperson from the Food Standards Agency (FSA). “You can then put the cooked food outside on the barbecue for flavour.” This can be an easier option if you’re cooking for a lot of people at the same time.

If you are only cooking on the barbecue, the two main risk factors are:

  • undercooked meat
  • spreading germs from raw meat onto food that’s ready to eat

This is because raw or undercooked meat can contain germs that cause food poisoning, such as salmonella, E.coli and campylobacter. However, these germs can be killed by cooking meat until it is piping hot throughout.

Germs from raw meat can move easily onto your hands and then onto anything else you touch, such as food that is cooked and ready to eat

Cooking meat on a barbecue

When you’re cooking any kind of meat on a barbecue, such as poultry (chicken or turkey), pork, steak, burgers or sausages, make sure:

  • the coals are glowing red with a powdery grey surface before you start cooking, as this means that they’re hot enough
  • frozen meat is properly thawed before you cook it
  • you turn the meat regularly and move it around the barbecue to cook it evenly

Remember that meat is safe to eat only when:

  • it is piping hot in the centre
  • there is no pink meat visible
  • any juices are clear

“Don’t assume that because meat is charred on the outside it will be cooked properly on the inside,” says the FSA spokesperson. “Cut the meat at the thickest part and ensure none of it is pink on the inside.”

Some meat, such as steaks and joints of beef or lamb, can be served rare (not cooked in the middle) as long as the outside has been properly cooked. This will kill any bacteria that might be on the outside of the meat. However, food made from minced meat, such as sausages and burgers, must be cooked thoroughly all the way through. Best weight loss supplement Radiantly Slim Diet.

Raw meat

Germs from raw meat can move easily onto your hands and then onto anything else you touch, including food that is cooked and ready to eat. This is called cross-contamination.

Cross-contamination can happen if raw meat touches anything (including plates, cutlery, tongs and chopping boards) that then comes into contact with other food.

Some easy steps to help prevent cross-contamination are:

  • always wash your hands after touching raw meat
  • use separate utensils (plates, tongs, containers) for cooked and raw meat
  • never put cooked food on a plate or surface that has had raw meat on it
  • keep raw meat in a sealed container away from foods that are ready to eat, such as salads and buns
  • don’t put raw meat next to cooked or partly cooked meat on the barbecue
  • don’t put sauce or marinade on cooked food if it has already been used with raw meat

Keeping food cool

It’s also important to keep some foods cool to prevent food poisoning germs multiplying.

Make sure you keep the following foods cool:

  • salads
  • dips
  • milk, cream, yoghurt
  • desserts and cream cakes
  • sandwiches
  • ham and other cooked meats
  • cooked rice, including rice salads

Don’t leave food out of the fridge for more than a couple of hours, and don’t leave food in the sun.

See the Food Standard Agency’s GermWatch campaign.

Fire safety

Make sure your barbecue is steady on a level surface, away from plants and trees.

The Fire Service advises covering the bottom of your barbecue with coal to a depth of no more than 5cm (2in). Use only recognised firelighters or starter fuel, and then only on cold coals.

Never use petrol on a barbecue.

See more on the Fire Service’s barbecue safety tips.

Natural Cures for Sunburn

 

The summer is officially here, and with is comes heat, sun, fun, and unfortunately- sunburns!  Health Fitness Revolution always recommends wearing at least SPF 30 and reapplying throughout the day… but what if its too late and you’re already burned and in pain? Well, we have some natural remedies for you!

 

  • Yogurt: Spread yogurt on your burned skin to help cool and heal. Your best bet is to use full-fat, plain, unsweetened yogurt. Let the yogurt stay on the skin until it warms then rinse off. It contains enzymes and acids that can help cure the sunburn. Although slightly unpleasant to begin with, relief comes in minutes.
  • Aloe Vera. Aloe Vera gel is the most common home remedy against sun burns. You can use lotions that contain Aloe Vera, but it is better to apply fresh Aloe Vera gel to the damaged area of the skin, as this will help the epidermis recover faster. The sterols in this healing plant are anti-inflammatory and will prevent skin from swelling, while the nutritive mineral zinc will enhance tissue regeneration. Don’t “rub it in” all the way, like you might with a regular lotion. Leave it a bit goopy and moist on top of the burn, as this helps prevent the skin from drying out and becoming more irritated. If you’re going to buy it in a bottle, the best choice is one that contains no added colors or fragrances.
  • Honey: A thin layer of raw honey (the unprocessed kind; it should say “raw” on the label) spread on the affected area can reduce inflammation and help fight free radical damage incurred by the burn.
  • Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in salmon, sardines, herring and anchovies, can help reduce inflammation and promote tissue healing from the inside out. Not a fish fan? You can also get these healthy fatty acids from walnuts, flax seeds, pecans, hazelnuts, chia seeds and hemp seeds.
  • Tea bags: If your eyelids are burned, apply tea bags soaked in cool water to decrease swelling and help relieve pain. Tea has tannic acid, which is known to ease sunburn pain.
  • Oatmeal: Wrap dry oatmeal in cheesecloth or gauze. Run cool water through it. Discard the oatmeal and soak compresses in the liquid and apply every 2 to 4 hours. Researchers say the anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory compounds found only in oats called avenanthramides are responsible for oat’s ability to soothe itching and irritated skin. Best male supplement Sphere Labs
  • Coconut Milk. After a long day in the sun, keep with the tropical theme as a remedy. Apply a thin layer of cool coconut milk to the sunburned area and the coconut milk with soothe and moisturize the skin.
  • Drink plenty of water:  Very Important! Sunburns are dehydrating, so it’s important to counterbalance this by drinking a lot of water while you recover. Aim for 12 glasses containing 8 ounces/236ml of water each day (or even a little bit more).
  • Cool Bath: Set the water to a cool temperature that’s just below lukewarm (that is, not teeth-chattering cold), and relax for 10 to 20 minutes. The temperature will ease the pain, and the water will stop your skin from becoming as irritated. Repeat as often as you need to.
  • Vitamin E and C: Applying vitamin E oil to sunburns relieves pain, as the vitamin helps to moisturize the skin. Its nice to note that both vitamins E and C have been shown in studies to work as a preventive measure against sunburn, because they act as antioxidants to heal sunburn that is a result of oxidative damage to skin cells.

 

Do iPads and Electric Lights Disturb Sleep?

“Terrible night’s sleep? Blame your mobile phone” is the advice on the Mail Online website, as “exposure to artificial light ‘fools’ the brain into staying awake.”

This – and similar headlines in the Daily Express, The Guardian and Metro newspapers – is based on a recent opinion piece in the journal Nature, which has published a dedicated supplement on the science of sleep.

The opinion piece suggests that the invention of electric light has altered our sleep patterns over the last century. In particular, the widespread use of LED lights, which we rely on to view smartphones, tablets, televisions and laptops screens, is disrupting our sleep.

This, the author suggests, could have potentially serious health consequences, as poorly controlled insomnia can cause both physical and mental health problems.

As an opinion piece, this should not be taken as evidence that light exposure hampers our ability to sleep. However, it does suggest several ways the two may be linked. The piece offers the theory that one causes the other, but these associations have not been directly tested. But given that the author is a specialist in sleep medicine, his opinion cannot simply be dismissed out of hand.

 

Who wrote the opinion piece?

 

 

The editorial was written by Charles Czeisler, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of the division of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, US.

Over the past 35 years Dr Czeisler has published widely on sleep, the impact of light on sleep, and the effect of restricted sleep on human behaviour and performance.

 

What arguments are made?

 

 

Dr Czeisler suggests that since the invention of electric light, there has been a fundamental shift in our sleep patterns. He argues that light has enabled us to evolve into a “24/7 society”, and that many of the features of this transformation – early starting times at work and school, long commutes, high doses of caffeine – lead to us getting insufficient amounts of sleep.

Dr Czeisler’s arguments for the link between the increasing use of electric light and disrupted sleep have highlighted several issues.

 

 

The biological effect of artificial light

 

 

Dr Czeisler argues that exposure to artificial light during the evening and at night could block the effects of brain cells that help promote feelings of sleepiness, as well the “sleep hormone” melatonin.

At the same time, artificial light could also stimulate brain cells associated with alertness.

The combination of these effects could result in many of us feeling much less sleepy in the evening than we would normally.

 

 

Time-trends in light use, cost and sleep

 

 

Dr Czeisler reports that the cost of generating light dropped dramatically over the last 50 years, which was associated with an increase in the use of artificial light.

At the same time that the use of artificial light increased, reported levels of sleep deficiency also went up. A recent study looking at data in England from 1993 to 2007 found a continual increase in people seeking treatment for sleep disorders.

However, it is important to note that, as with any observational time-trend data, this argument only outlines associations between light consumption and sleep deficiency, and should not be interpreted as there being a causal relationship based on this editorial alone.

 

 

Increased use of LEDs

 

 

Dr Czeisler suggests that the recent move from traditional incandescent light bulbs to more energy efficient solid-state light-emitting diodes (LEDs) could further disrupt our sleep.

LEDs are commonly used in TVs, computer screens and handheld electronic devices such as tablets. These LEDs are typically rich in shortwave length (blue and blue-green) light, which the cells in our retina are more sensitive to.

He offers the theory that time in front of these blue light-rich screens at night will be more disruptive to our sleep than incandescent lighting.

Interestingly, one of the final discussion points in the editorial is about our ability to control the wavelengths emitted by LEDs. Dr Czeisler suggests that any adverse effect of exposure to these lights at night could be mitigated by replacing blue heavy light with red or orange heavy light in the evenings.

This editorial offers interesting discussion points surrounding the relationship between light – especially evening or nighttime exposure to light – and difficulty sleeping.

 

What evidence is cited?

 

 

Dr Czeisler’s article makes reference to several publications, mainly centred around trends in the average number of hours adults and children sleep each night, and the prevalence of the adverse effects of sleep deprivation. As an opinion piece, the overall discussion points are narrative in nature and are not based on any individual piece of research or evidence.

This specific article on its own cannot provide evidence of a direct link between light exposure and sleep deprivation. However, it is not intended to do so. It offers a broad introduction to a series of articles on the topic, and suggests we consider the ways in which technological changes may impact our ability to get a good night’s sleep.

 

Conclusion

 

 

It is certainly possible to reduce your exposure to artificial lights. For example, you could dump your smartphone, give away your iPad, banish television from your home, and refuse to work in any job that involves using a computer. But adopting this kind of luddite lifestyle is probably not to most people’s tastes.

One proven method of improving your sleep is what is known as “sleep hygiene”. This is where you control both physical and environmental factors in order to promote sleep.

Examples of good sleep hygiene include:

  • not drinking tea and coffee four hours before bedtime
  • avoiding drinking alcohol or smoking before bed
  • using thick blinds or curtains, or wearing an eye mask if the early morning sunlight or bright streetlamps affect your sleep
  • wearing ear plugs if noise is a problem

Read more advice about sleep hygiene.

If you have persistent insomnia (more than four weeks), contact your GP for advice. You may require more in-depth “sleep training” counselling, often done using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) techniques. Alternatively, there may be an underlying condition contributing towards your insomnia.

Read more about the treatment of insomnia.

 

Analysis by Bazian. Edited by NHS Choices.