The Heart of The Matter

A study by Dr. AASHISH CONTRACTOR

In the not-to-distant future, India is poised to have the dubious distinction of becoming diabetes and heart disease capital of the world.  Currently, 35% of deaths related to these conditions are taking place between the ages of 35-65, and there is still a big misconception that only men are affected by heart attacks; when in fact women are at equal risk.

The silver lining…

You can reduce your risk of developing heart disease.  It is not an inevitable consequence of age, city living, or even bad genes.  The focus should be on confronting the risk factors, which lead to the disease. Below are some simple guidelines you can follow to reduce your risk of becoming another statistic in this modern-day war against disease.

STUB OUT THAT CIGARETTE

A smoker’s risk of having a heart attack is more than twice that of a non-smoker.  Smoking speeds up the development of plaque in the arteries. It also reduces the level of good cholesterol (known as HDL) and increases the stickiness of blood cells causing blood clots inside the arteries.  If you smoke currently, strongly consider quitting – it’s not cool anymore!

10,000 STEPS A DAY 

Exercise helps protect against heart disease and several forms of cancer. But besides regular exercise, every extra step you take during the day builds up your ‘health balance’, and helps to decrease your risk of disease.  Try and factor in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as walking) in your daily routine.

WEIGHT WATCHING

While it is important to maintain a healthy weight, according to your height, it is more important to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly.  Studies have shown that exercise programs and healthy eating lead to improved health, even in the absence of weight loss.  However, these studies should not be seen as a license to be overweight, but to serve as encouragement to those making a change in their lifestyle, which might not necessarily be reflected on the scale.

EAT RIGHT

Fad diets spring up every day and foods tend to go in and out of fashion as fast as clothes. Make sure you get several servings of vegetables and fruits (not juices!) daily, keep the oil content of your food low and eat several small meals per day.  Keep the intake of ‘simple sugars’ (e.g. soft drinks and desserts) to a minimum, while consuming more of complex carbohydrates. Try to drink between 8-12 glasses of water a day, but be careful not to go overboard as this may have adverse effects and be harmful to those with certain heart conditions.

GET YOURSELF CHECKED

We all feel that it will ‘never happen to me’, but heart disease is an equal opportunity killer.  Unfortunately, most of the risk factors for heart disease are silent and they give you no warning of their presence. You should get your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and weight checked on a regular basis.  Ideally, these tests should start at the age of 15 and be repeated periodically. If you have crossed 40, it is also a good idea undergo a stress test.

SUGAR IS NOT SO SWEET

If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugars under ‘tight control’ is very important.  Physical activity is the best way to burn off excess sugar in the blood.  People who have diabetes, especially women, are more prone to heart disease.

TAKE THAT PILL

With appropriate lifestyle modification, you should be able to control most of your risk factors.  But at some point, you may need to take medication.  Do not stay away from medicine because of the over-hyped and unjustified fear of side-effects or ‘being on medicines for life’.  You should discuss the risk to benefit ratio of any medicine with your doctor and make the decision.

PICK YOUR PARENTS WISELY

Heart disease has a strong genetic component.  If your parents or siblings have had heart disease you need to be doubly careful and start to have regular check-ups from an early age.  Although genetics are an indicator of your risk, just because you may have a family history of heart disease does not necessarily mean that you are deemed to develop the same condition.

 

Mental Matters

A study by Dr. Karen Hallam

A Clinical Psychologist and Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Chronic Disease, Victoria University

Steady improvements in health care and awareness within the community have led to a dramatic shift in the types of illnesses that people may experience nowadays. Issues such as diabetes, heart disease and some forms of cancer have raised public awareness of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and our ability as individuals to make changes in our behaviours for the sake of our health. It is possible that your own awareness of these ‘lifestyle’ associated diseases has encouraged you to enroll for the Stepathlon 100 Day Race.

In 2001, The World Health Organisation (WHO) predicted that by 2020 over 15% of the global burden of disease will be associated with mental illnesses. Already, major depressive disorder (also called clinical depression, unipolar depression or depression) is the third largest cause of disease burden worldwide, showing the growing need for societies and health professionals to improve the mental, as well as physical health of communities.

While most of us feel the ups and downs of our moods and the circumstances we face in our lives, mental illnesses are not just extensions of our typical moods. Depression and anxiety are some of the most frequently experienced mental health issues. When trying to understand the origins of these illnesses we now believe they are a complex interaction of our inherited genes, our experiences growing up and what is happening to us in life now. The simplest way to think of how these parts interact is to think of our mental health as a glass.

If we have any mental illness in our families, then, unfortunately, we begin with adding a bit of water (which represents risk) to our glass in the beginning. If we have troubles in childhood such as bullying at school or physical health problems, we add a bit more to the glass. Finally, if we are having normal troubles such as problems with our partner or finding it hard to make money stretch from week to week, this again adds more water to the glass. We all have glasses, many will be lucky enough to have small amounts added in various combinations and never become over full. Unfortunately, others will have more than enough of these contributions to overfill their glasses and develop a mental illness. This period is often called ‘first episode’ and this tends to be a critical time to get help if you need it. If you get help with medication, talking therapies or even asking friends or family for help, the level of water can be reduced and the chance of more overfilling minimised. Unfortunately, when the glass is continually overfilled for many years, people can develop chronic mental illnesses, which has a huge impact on most parts of life. I often share this example with clients to explain why different people do and don’t become unwell and that there are some elements of our risk that we can control and those we cannot.ea3

Lots of factors contribute to us potentially developing mental health issues.

This model is formally known as the stress-diathesis model. It is a helpful example for discussing risk for many illnesses. For example, the risk of type 2 diabetes may result from a family history of diabetes, a sedentary lifestyle and a diet high in sugars.

In mental health, the stress-diathesis model can give you back some control. This is because the stress component (the water added to the glass throughout life) is somewhat up to you to influence and learning new coping skills can potentially ameliorate the risk. We can manage stress differently, choose behaviours and pick up skills in life that minimise stress and reduce that water level. In some cases, people with a diagnosed mental illness may also benefit from taking medication to assist with this on a biochemical level. The other benefit of this model is that it recognizes that we are all different, we all have different risks and predispositions but in the world of mental health, we can make changes to these.

In deciding to take up the Stepathlon 100 day program you are already changing these risks. Next week we will give you some information about the benefits of exercise on your physical and mental wellbeing. You can take your first step towards measuring this impact by taking the Happy Feet: Stepathlon Mental Health Assessment by clicking the ME tab on the Stepathlon website. With every step you take, you improve your mental health, so congratulations on beginning your journey.

A final note to some who might read this and be aware that you are struggling with some of these issues. I would encourage you to seek some help, in whatever form works for you. It might be talking to your family, friends or colleagues, looking it up on the internet (there is fantastic information available at Psychcentral.com) or talking with your general practitioner or a health professional. I look forward to sharing more insights with you on understanding and improving your mental health over the coming weeks.

Best Stepping!

Author credentials – Dr. Karen Hallam is an experienced clinical psychologist, educator and currently holds a position as a Senior Research Fellow with the Victoria University Centre for Chronic Disease.

 

 

Staying Fit Just Got 10 Steps Easier

Tips to stay fitLong work hours, too tired, feeling stressed, busy at work? Yes, these are our daily excuses for not being active and not following a healthy diet during our busy work schedules. However, being active does not require finding time to get to the gym or following a stringent diet. Here are 10 ways to get fit whilst having fun:

 1. Be an active TV watcher. When you watch television, try to incorporate some physical activity. Put a treadmill in front of the TV and walk whilst watching. You could also add in some stretching, abdominal exercises or push-ups during commercials. Doing a little activity during the commercial breaks can add up to almost 20 minutes of activity for every hour of TV you watch.

2. Try an active commute. One of the best ways to fit activity into your life is by incorporating it into your school or work transportation routine. If you live close enough, consider cycling to work. If you take the bus or taxi, walk to a bus stop that’s an extra block or two away, or get off the bus a stop sooner than usual and get a few more steps in. Alternatively, if you drive to work, park as far away as you can from the building—even a few blocks away, if possible.

3. Mix socialising with exercising. Do you normally spend time with your family or friends by going to dinner, watching sports on TV or going to the movies? Make your social time more active by planning events that are fun and get all of you moving. Go for a family hike on a Saturday morning, play a game of football with your buddies, or just go to a park and run around with your children. There are so many options for squeezing more activity into your social calendar.

4. Turn chores into workouts. When you go grocery shopping, take an entire lap around the store before you begin purchasing grocery items.  When you go to a shopping mall, ensure you see every floor.  You could even climb up the steps to each and every floor at the mall. Also, increase the intensity with which you do your regular household chores, such as cleaning, mowing and shopping. Mow your neighbour’s yard in addition to yours, or park at the end of the lot when you go shopping.

5. Make a work meeting a form of exercise. If you have a lot of meetings at work, tryhaving standing meetings which will give you a break from sitting at your desk for too long. You could even go one step further and initiate walking meetings, by taking a walk with your colleagues within the office or around the office building or compound. When on your mobile phone, walk around, rather than sit at your desk.

6. Have breakfast every day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, when you wake up it gives your body that well needed energy and sets your metabolism up for the rest of the day. People who skip breakfast are also more likely to gain weight.

7. Schedule regular snacks. Try to have one mid-morning and one mid-afternoon. Have healthy things available for grab-and-go snacks, like fruit, granola bars, dried fruit, or trail mix.

8. Utilize your lunch hour. Look for a gym nearby where you can get a quick workout in.  Alternatively, you can go on a long walk around the building compound with a colleague or even a quick run during your lunch hour. You will go back to the office feeling more energetic in the afternoon.

9. Take 5 minute breaks. When work stress starts knocking, take a five-minute break and go for a stroll. This will not only help to clear your head, but it is also a good way to both increase your metabolism and stay active.

10. Offer your services. Volunteering for a community-service project, such working with an NGO  or a  or cleaning up a park or other green space, on weekends is a great way to add some activity to your day while improving your community at the same time.

 This article is contributed by Shane Bilsborough, COO & Co-Founder, Stepathlon Lifestyle Pvt ltd. 

Move the nation. Lead the World: One Step at a Time

“Health is a right and not a privilege they say!”

Being fit and healthy has both physical and mental benefits, but it is not always possible for us to squeeze it into to a busy schedule. Even the media is filled with images of what is considered “to be fit”, yet these seem unattainable for many of us.

So how does the average person find a way to be active in both easy and achievable way?


post 1- stepathlon blog Shane Bilsborough, Co-Founder and COO of Stepathlon Lifestyle Pvt Ltd
was asked a similar question quite frequently, particularly by people working in office buildings, who found it hard to be active when their work required them to sit at a desk for long hours. From this thought, Shane was determined to find a solution and successfully co-founded an internationally proven model –that encourages people to take at least 10,000 steps a day to stay fit and healthy!

Based on this concept he co-founded a unique initiative called Stepathlon. Stepathlon seeks to create an ecosystem that promotes corporate health, fitness and productivity by encouraging participants to take at least 10,000 steps a day, and increase their daily activity.

 What is Stepathlon?

A majority of corporate employees take as little as 2,000 – 3,000 steps per day due to intense work schedules and long hours, which takes a toll on both body and mind.  Global health authorities recommend a minimum of 10,000 steps per day to be active.

Stepathlon is a race around a ‘virtual world’ for companies of all sizes, across all industries and countries.

It is a pedometer-based, mass participation event which takes place over 100 consecutive days and motivates individuals to take at least 10,000 steps a day.

It encourages activity in a simple, inclusive, fun and relevant manner to complement hectic lifestyles.

 How does it work?

  • Companies can participate with as many employees as they choose. Employees form teams of 5 and are provided with a Stepack that includes a backpack, cap and pedometer. Employees then become part of a community of like-minded people from across the globe, through an innovative, interactive and insightful interface.
  • Over 100 days, participants then put their step count for each day into the Stepathlon Course Website, these steps are then converted into kilometres and mapped on a “virtual world”, where they race others around the “virtual world” and visit some great locations along the way
  • The race is conducted over 100 consecutive days to promote positive habitual change, for “anyone, anywhere, anytime”

With more people experiencing a decline in physical activity, resulting in increasingly sedentary lifestyles, health concerns are increasing worldwide.  Risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer can be reduced by walking more. Simple, isn’t it?

The company was co-founded by Shane Bilsborough and Ravi Krishnan.  Shane chose to come to India, because he believes that, as a country with one of the highest rates of diabetes and heart disease, India needs to be more physically fit!

Stepathlon can help make that positive change and contribute to a healthier country. Ravi’s experience in sports, media and entertainment and relationships with corporate India, coupled with Shane’s domain expertise has worked well to ensure Stepathlon’s success in achieving their mission to ‘Move the Nation. Lead the World’.

 In our next post, read Ravi Krishnan’s views on how employee wellness initiatives undertaken by corporates influence their productivity levels at work.