Tag Archives: depression

Six reasons to add exercise into your day

Your body was made to move. But because of the hectic pace of 21st century living, many of us don’t fit enough exercise into our day.

Research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that 56 per cent of us don’t get close to the recommended 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most days of the week[i].

If you make time for exercise you’ll benefit not just your body, but your mind, too. Sports and exercise help boost your mood and blast stress. As you know prolonged stress can lead to serious health problems.

Different exercise, different health benefits

Aerobic or cardiovascular exercise helps to protect your heart and lungs, improve endurance and builds your fitness, strength and stamina.

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Strength training (working with weights) will sculpt your body because it builds muscle and burns fat. By the way, ladies, don’t worry that weight training will make you look like a man – you don’t have enough of the muscle building hormone testosterone so weight training will make you look slender – not manly!

If you have a lot to lose or have stiff joints, swimming is a great low impact-exercise. And walking is a great workout too, especially if it’s brisk.  All types of exercise burn kilojoules, helping you manage your weight.  And if you want to lose a few kilos, exercise also helps you to focus your mind on your healthy plans so it’s easier to get to a healthy, happy weight!

Not convinced? Here are six super reasons you should fit exercise into your day! 

  1. Burn those kilojoules

Dieting 101: Consume more kilojoules than you burn and you’ll gain weight. Burn more kilojoules than you consume and you’ll lose the kilos. But whether you want to lose weight or not, exercise is vital to help you get lean and stay that way. Though beware, if you’re exercising to lose weight – the exercise will need to be intensive and prolonged.

Not seeing the results you want? You may not be burning off as much as you think. For example, if you weigh around 60kg and you eat a 50g chocolate bar (1,130 kilojoules) you’ll need to cycle at a moderate pace for 35 minutes or walk for over an hour to burn it off! So, think about what kind of exercise you do and your exercise intensity so you become an active exerciser and not a distracted dieter!

  1. Boost circulation

When you exercise your working muscles produce chemicals, which leave the muscle cells and dilate (widen) tiny capillaries (blood vessels). This makes it easier for blood to reach your body and brain cells, bringing more nourishing oxygen-rich blood to your cells. Another benefit of better circulation is that you’ll nourish your internal organs. So you feel good on the inside – and on the outside, too!

  1. Support the muscles that support your joints

Exercise helps to build strong bones and maintain strength and flexibility. Strength and flexibility is important at every stage of your life but especially as you get older.

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  1. Shape up!

Ever heard that if you build lots of muscle that it will turn to fat if you don’t exercise as much? Not true. Muscle and fat are two completely different tissues so it’s not possible to replace one with the other. But you can build muscle and reduce body fat with weight training and strengthening exercises. Muscle burns more kilojoules than fat because it needs a lot more fuel to simply exist, compared with fat, which is a storage material. Exercising helps your body use up fat stores and gives a sleeker shape. That’s because muscle and fat take up a different amount of space in your body.

  1. Tone up the right places

Everyone has target areas they’d like to tackle. Aerobic exercise blasts fat from all of you, but you can target your problem areas. Fat from around the exercising muscle is used for energy as the muscle grows, enabling you to trim down and firm up trouble areas.

Lifting weights can really help to tone up! Aim for strengthening exercises with weights at least twice per week for up to 30 minutes, to slowly build up your body’s muscle. If you haven’t exercised for some time, speak with your doctor first and get the help of a qualified personal trainer who can help you get your technique, posture and balance right.

Your posture is about the way various parts of your body align in relation to one another. Good posture can help to prevent fatigue, headaches and chronic muscular tension. Perfecting your posture can also help to boost circulation, aid digestion and may help you sleep more soundly.

For good balance, you have to be able to control a number of muscles in order to prevent falls, which may help prevent injuries as you age.

  1. Feel good about you!

Australia’s Black Dog Institute says, ‘Numerous studies have shown that people who exercise regularly experience fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety than those who do not exercise regularly. Several trials have shown that regular exercise of moderate intensity can be an effective treatment by itself for mild-to-moderate depression[ii].’

One of the reasons is that exercise boosts the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers and feel-good chemicals, which helps to boost your mood[iii]. And as regular exercise helps to tone and shape your body, you’ll have another reason to feel good!

So go on, get moving!

This health information is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health fund.

*The advice provided is for the average adult and should not be interpreted as being applicable to children, the elderly or those with a chronic medical condition necessitating prescribed diets and physical activity regimens.

[i] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Risk factors to health. http://www.aihw.gov.au/risk-factors/ 

[ii] Black Dog Institute. Diet & exercise – Exercise  – Getting help. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/gettinghelp/exercise.cfm

[iii] Black Dog Institute. Diet & exercise – Exercise  – Getting help. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/public/gettinghelp/exercise.cfm

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So what is stress really doing to your body?

It’s a buzzword – one that you hear all the time. But what exactly is stress? Why do you feel it? And what is it doing to your mind and body?

Stress is a whole range of reactions to danger – it’s one of the ways your body protects itself. In the face of ­threat, a range of stress hormones are released. One result of this is the release of glucose, to provide energy for the large muscles that you need to use to fight or take flight. Your heart beats faster and your blood pressure rises to ensure that oxygen and nutrients in your blood can reach every cell in your body. And, the systems that aren’t needed to fight or take flight are turned down a notch or two – such as your digestive system. This is one reason why stress and depression are sometimes linked with digestive problems.

Although your stress hormones play a vital role in keeping you ready to protect yourself – or others – too much of them circulating for too long can trigger physical and emotional problems over time.

And, it doesn’t have to be a major danger that triggers your stress response. It can be anything from a niggling neighbour to a frustrating experience online. If you don’t address your stress, the result can be problems with …

  • Anxiety and depression
  • Memory and concentration
  • Tiredness
  • Headaches, aches and joint pains
  • Digestive problems
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems and more.

Hello belly fat!

When stress hormones such as cortisol hang around in your body for long periods and aren’t burned off, changes in your weight can result – particularly weight gain around your middle. Cortisol orders your body to release glucose from cells raising the amount in the blood. And, when there is too much glucose in your blood, your body tries hard to normalise it and return it to within safe levels. One of the ways it does this is via the action of your liver, which converts the excess glucose into fat. Fat that’s processed in the liver tends to be laid down near the liver i.e. around your middle – hello belly fat!

Belly fat is different to the fat on other parts of your body. It is linked with many chronic (long-term) conditions such as heart disease and cancers[i]. Belly fat has four times as many cortisol receptors as other types of fat[ii] which moves fat from areas such as your bottom and thighs (fat in these areas is relatively inactive) and transports it to the belly. Belly fat is much more metabolically active and triggers inflammation. And, since belly fat has more cortisol receptors, your cortisol levels rise and rise and rise.

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Also on the rise …

Your blood pressure jumps every time you feel stressed. And, over time, high blood pressure damages your heart and is a major risk factor for heart disease. You can’t tell whether you have high blood pressure – this is why regular medical check-ups are important. Your GP can check your blood pressure quickly and easily and guide you about what’s needed.

How’s your emotional health?

As well as the effects on your body, high levels of cortisol are potent risk factors for anxiety and depression[iii]. Both can contribute to physical symptoms such as altered sensitivity to pain, tiredness, headaches, poor sleep or excessive sleep. Emotional problems can also trigger digestive problems and vice versa, as there are nerve cells all along your intestines which send signals to your brain in a two-way communication[iv].

So what can you do?

Find out what presses your buttons. Make a stress diary and keep it for two weeks or so. Make a note of what triggers your stress – times, places, people and situations. Then write down how you felt and how you reacted to the stress. Looking back at your stress diary can reveal some interesting insights into your personal stressors.

Then think about how you can reduce your stress. If it’s lack of time, there is no option but to start earlier. If it’s people, think about how you can see less of negative people and more of people who lift you up. And if you can’t do this, try to counter negative comments with positive or neutral ones. Decide what kind of pain you’re willing to bear. For the vast majority of us, it isn’t possible to have it all – at least not at the same time. So consider what you’re willing to give up or reduce. This isn’t a forever decision – review your views periodically to make sure you’re making the right decisions for you at the right time.

Follow Elsa’s lead. Although everyone feels guilt, too much can drag you down. The next time you feel guilty, try to pinpoint exactly why you’re feeling it. Do you need to alter your behaviour? Do you need to apologise? Or, are you making too much of it? Do what you need to do and then try to let it go. Even Disney heroines such as Elsa from Frozen now recognise that they can’t do it all and get it right all of the time – and about the need to let it go. So learn from what happened, try not to do it again and move on. And if you can’t move on, talk to someone who can help you such as a trained psychologist or counsellor. Otherwise, your guilt could fester and interfere with relationships.

Nourish yourself. What you eat, when you eat and how you eat can relieve your stress – and can contribute to it, too. For example, too much alcohol, too much sugar and too much caffeine can all stress your body triggering the release of stress hormones. Try to avoid foods made from white flour – the process of making white flour not only removes the minerals and vitamins, but also the fibre. Fibre is important as it holds onto carbohydrates in foods, releasing energy slowly and in a way the body can control, which won’t stress it. With the fibre removed, glucose is released rapidly into the blood in a way that is difficult for the body to control and adjust to.

For a calmer life, be picky about what you eat and drink. Make meals rich in veggies (five or more servings per day) and try to eat two fruits per day – they’re rich in vitamins, minerals and plant pigments. Plus, the fibre they contain helps to ensure that the energy inside is released slowly. Choose lean meats such as skinless chicken and turkey, opt for fish a few times a week and use pulses (peas, beans and lentils) in your cooking. Pulses are rich in fibre and protein but low in fat and calories. Add them to casseroles, stews, soups and salads. Be careful about how much alcohol you drink, too. This can stress both body and mind and rob you of restful sleep, too. If you’re drinking too much alcohol, do what you need to do to cut down or cut it out altogether. Talk to your GP for help.

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Remember stress isn’t just about your mind – it can have a whole host of physical consequences and in the long-term, trigger serious chronic conditions. So do what you can to beat your stresses today. Your mind and your body will thank you for it. And your friends and family probably will too!

Ravinder Lilly
Ravinder Lilly, Dietitian at rt health fund

 

[i] Harvard Health Publications. Abdominal fat and what to do about it. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/abdominal-fat-and-what-to-do-about-it

[ii] University of New Mexico. Stress Cortisol Connection. https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/stresscortisol.html

[iii] Mayo Clinic. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037

[iv] Harvard Health Publications. The gut-brain connection. http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-gut-brain-connection

 

Depression – it’s all about you!

This month we’re shining the health spotlight on men’s emotional health. Do you know a man who thinks he’s too macho to talk about depression? If you do, he’s not alone …

Although both women and men are affected by anxiety and depression, men are much less likely to seek the help they need[1] (only 28 per cent of men seek professional help). Around one in eight men are likely to be affected at some time in their life[2] so it’s pretty common.

The kind of symptoms you might experience include:

  • Stress – which can be a symptom of depression but can also be part of the cause (stress can trigger changes in both the body and the brain).
  • Anxiety – although it’s more likely to affect women than men, men are more likely to report anxiety rather than say that they are feeling depressed.
  • Fatigue and sleep problems – which can make day-to-day challenges more challenging.
  • Moodiness
  • Changes in eating behaviours
  • Negative thoughts – including negative thoughts about self worth
  • Irritability, anger and/or hostility towards others
  • Difficulty in concentrating – and in making decisions
  • Substance abuse – men are twice as likely to turn to destructive behaviours such as drug and alcohol use, if affected by depression[3].
  • Sexual problems – men may not want to openly talk about this with others
  • Loss of interest in the pleasures of life – where once enjoyed activities are no longer enjoyed.

What can you do?

Everyone is different and every person is affected differently. But there are a range of treatments that can really help; including talk therapy and medication. Speak with your GP about the best treatment options for you. There are also some lifestyle changes you can try.

Exercise

Not just important for your body; exercise is also good for your mood. Regular exercise can help lift you, provide a distraction
from worries, help you feel better about your body and your mental strength, boost energy levels, help you feel like part of a team (if you play team sports) and even help you sleep. Exercise seems to alter the levels of chemicals in the brain – such as mood-lifting chemicals, serotonin and endorphins, while reducing stress hormones.

Relaxation training

Stress involves the release of hormones like adrenaline, which causes tension in your muscles and amplifies stimulation of the nervous system. Anxiety and stress can lead to depression, too, so if you’re feeling either of these, it’s important to try and tackle them early.

Relaxation training (like yoga) connects your breath with each movement helping to relax and stretch the muscles. It may also help reduce anxious thoughts and behaviours and make you feel as if you have more control over feelings of anxiety and/or stress.

Diet

You already know that fast foods can make you pile on the kilos and can contribute to chronic conditions such as heart disease. But new research suggests that too much processed food may also contribute to depression,[4] according to Spanish researchers who studied the eating habits of close to 9,000 people.

Manufactured foods that contain trans fats (artificially hardened fats) and saturated fats (from animal foods) can raise the risk of depression by up to 51 per cent, the researchers found. This could be due to the increased inflammation seen in the body when these unhealthy fats feature in your diet.iStock_000041367902_Double_FINAL

On the other hand, diets rich in green veggies, fruit, oily fish, nuts, seeds and pulses (peas, beans and lentils) – which, combined, provide high levels of antioxidants, B vitamins, folate and Omega-3 fats – have been shown to reduce rates of depression.

Worried about a loved one?

Have you noticed that a friend, colleague or loved one is behaving differently? You may see a difference before the affected person recognises a change themselves. Someone who is undergoing emotional challenges may be reluctant to admit or even recognise if they’re having difficulties.

How can you help?

  • Start a conversation. Talk about what’s going on – but make sure the conversation is private and let them guide what is spoken about. Reserve your judgement about whatever the person you’re speaking with may share with you. Check in a few days later to see how they are feeling and to remind them that help is available.
  • Urge the person you’re speaking with to take action by scheduling an appointment with their GP – but don’t force the issue.
  • See if the person that’s affected might be interested in some resources, such as the ones below.

If you speak with someone and they talk about suicidal thoughts, gently encourage them to seek help immediately from a mental health professional.

When you’re trying to help a depressed friend, be aware that you may also experience a range of emotions such as frustration, sadness and helplessness. So if you choose to reach out, don’t neglect your own mental wellness.

Seek support

Being around people who have had or are going through similar experiences to you can be a great opportunity to connect and discover ways to deal with challenges. Search online for local support groups or contact your GP to find out whether they know of any in your area. The mental health charity, beyondblue, also has a supportive online community that can really help someone who is feeling alone to feel supported.

For more information:

This health information is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health fund.

[1] Black Dog Institute. Facts and figures about mental health and mood disorders. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/Factsandfiguresaboutmentalhealthandmooddisorders.pdf

[2] Beyondblue. Depression in men. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/for-me/men/depression-in-men

[3] Better Health Channel. Men’s health. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Men%27s_health

[4] ScienceDaily. Link between fast food and depression confirmed. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120330081352.htm

Seven important men’s health checks

iStock_000017162400_Large_FINALMen are notorious for ducking regular doctor appointments and for skipping important health checks. Did you know that men between the ages of 15-75+ only account for 36.6% of GP visits? While women in the same age range account for 51.1% of visits to the doctor[i]? If you haven’t been in a while and are wondering which health checks you should be having, this one’s for you …

  1. Mind and mood

Nearly one in two Australians (45 per cent) will be affected by a mental health condition at some stage[ii] and around one in eight men are likely to be affected at some time in their life[iii]. Yet, compared with women, men are much less likely to seek help for mental illness – the majority, 72 per cent, don’t get help when they need it[iv]. Affected men are also twice as likely as women to resort to damaging coping behaviours, like drug and alcohol use. Male depression is also a high risk factor for suicide; men account for the majority (78 per cent) of all suicides[v].

Get it sorted …

No one needs to tough it out. If you notice a period of two weeks or more in which you feel irritable, sad, worried, on edge, or you stop taking an interest in the pleasures of life, speak to your GP.

For more information visit blackdoginstitute.org.au or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

  1. High blood pressureStock image-hands around heart_FINAL

It affects a third of Australian men[vi] and high blood pressure raises the risk of serious conditions like stroke, heart disease and kidney problems. These conditions arise due to the heart working much harder than it should to pump blood.

Get it sorted …

There are no symptoms associated with high blood pressure. But thankfully, a quick, simple blood pressure check by your doctor or health practice nurse can give you your reading. And if it’s high (140/90 or more), there are things you can do to bring it back down to help prevent serious health problems in the future.

Your doctor may prescribe medication, or recommend reducing your alcohol consumption, increasing your exercise or changing your diet. Opting for fresh produce over manufactured food can help to normalise your blood pressure.

For more information visit heartfoundation.org.au.

  1. Check your skin

Melanoma (skin cancer) is the third most common cancer in Australia[vii]. And though both men and women are affected by skin cancer, the death rate is much higher in men because they tend to seek help later[viii].

Get it sorted …

Check your skin regularly; look for colour and texture changes in existing moles or the development of new moles. And, speak with your GP who will know what to look for, what to treat immediately and when or if you need to be referred to a specialist.

For more information visit cancer.org.au.

  1. Count your cholesterol

Over 30 per cent of men over 18 have high cholesterol[ix] – a major risk factor for heart disease. Like high blood pressure, there are no symptoms, so regular GP checks are essential, especially if you have a family history of heart disease, are over 40 or are overweight.

Get it sorted …

A simple blood test can detect the ratio of LDL cholesterol (harmful) to HDL cholesterol (good) and triglycerides (other harmful fats) in your blood. Your GP may suggest medication and a few simple tricks to help lower your blood cholesterol such as eating more veggies, fruits and legumes, eating oily fish at least twice a week and cutting down on sugary treats, high fat eats and alcohol.

For more information visit heartfoundation.org.au.

  1. Lose weight written on a chalkboard next to a kiwi an inchesDo you measure up?

Over 40 per cent of men aged 18 or over are overweight – approximately 1.5 times the rate of women[x]. Being overweight can raise the risk of chronic (long-term) conditions such as heart disease, metabolic disease, diabetes and some cancers[xi].

Get it sorted …

Measuring your waist circumference can indicate whether you need to lose a few kilos. If the tape measure shows that your waist is over 94cm (or more than 90cm if you’re a male of south Asian origin[xii]) you’re at increased risk of serious conditions.

For more information visit shapeup.gov.au.

  1. Don’t ignore diabetes

Diabetes is more common in men than women[xiii] and the risk increases if you’re overweight, have high blood pressure or if you have a family history of the condition.

Get it sorted …

Be on the look out for constant thirst, frequent urination, recurring infections and tiredness (although not everyone has these symptoms). To find out, your GP can perform a blood glucose test.

For more information visit diabetesaustralia.com.au.

  1. Prostate cancer

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australia and represents 30% of all male cancers[xiv]. There are approximately 20,000 cases of prostate cancer diagnosed in Australia every year[xv].

Get it sorted …

It’s important to balance the potential benefit of detecting prostate cancer early against the risk. Discuss the pros and cons of testing with your doctor.

For more information visit prostate.org.au.

Your GP is a great place to start for more information on any of these tests. They can also offer many medical health checks Stock image-doctor talking to patient_xxl_FINALin one appointment – great if lack of time is your excuse of choice. If you know a man who could do with a little encouragement to get his health tested, do what you can to get him there. You could be helping to change a life for the better.

This health information is brought to you by the health and wellbeing team at rt health fund.

i Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. General practice activity in Australia 2009–10. http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=6442472722

ii Beyondblue. The facts about depression and anxiety. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts

iii Beyondblue. Depression in men. https://www.beyondblue.org.au/resources/for-me/men/depression-in-men

iv Black Dog Institute. Facts and figures about mental health and mood disorders. http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/docs/Factsandfiguresaboutmentalhealthandmooddisorders.pdf

v Better Health Channel. Men’s health. http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Men’s_health?open

vi Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. High blood pressure. http://www.aihw.gov.au/high-blood-pressure/

vii Melanoma Institute Australia. Melanoma facts and statistics. http://www.melanoma.org.au/understanding-melanoma/melanoma-facts-and-statistics/

viii Cancer Council Western Australia. Cancer statistics. https://www.cancerwa.asn.au/resources/statistics/

ix Heart Foundation. Factsheet – High cholesterol statistics. http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/Factsheet-High-cholesterol.pdf

x Heart Foundation. Factsheet – Overweight and obesity statistics. http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/SiteCollectionDocuments/Factsheet-Overweight-and-obesity.pdf

xi Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Overweight and obesity.   http://www.aihw.gov.au/overweight-and-obesity/

xii NHS Choices. Why body shape matters for south Asian people. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/SouthAsianhealth/Pages/Waistmatters.aspx

xiii Diabetes Victoria. Diabetes FAQs. http://www.diabetesvic.org.au/guide-to-diabetes/diabetes-faqs

xiv Cancer Council Australia. Prostate cancer. http://www.cancer.org.au/about-cancer/types-of-cancer/prostate-cancer.html

xv Movember Foundation. Men’s Health. https://au.movember.com/mens-health/prostate-cancer