Smorgasbord Health Column – Major organs of the body – Part Three – The Heart and Stress Connection by Sally Cronin


Over the last three weeks I have been looking at the heart, its structure, function and some of the more common health problems associated with the organ. Also the food that provides the nutrients necessary for the organ’s health: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/07/02/smorgasbord-health-column-major-organs-and-systems-of-the-body-the-heart-is-only-as-healthy-as-the-food-we-eat-by-sally-cronin/

Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy when it comes to our heart health, as whilst there may be some factors beyond our control, our diet and lifestyle is usually our responsibility, as is the management of the stress in our lives.

One of the leading causes of heart attacks in men and increasingly in women is stress. It is a silent killer that lies in wait and pounces when you least expect it. It is not helpful that the stress that we experience is as unique as our own bodies.

What is Stress?

You need stress in your life, does that surprise you? Perhaps so, but it is quite true.

Without stress, life would be dull and unexciting. Stress adds flavour, challenge and opportunity to life. Too much stress, however, can seriously affect your physical and mental well-being. In recent years several high profile personalities have died suddenly and we recognise that most of them lived highly stressful lives, which finally took its toll. But how many times have we been surprised by the premature death of someone we know, a friend or family member, who on the outside seemed to be healthy and active with a good diet. Unfortunately, what is going on with major organs inside the body tell a different story. Stress is silent and can be deadly.

What causes a stress reaction?

Stress is the modern day equivalent of our ancestral ‘flight or fight’ mechanism that was necessary in the highly competi­tive and predatory world throughout our evolution. There may no longer be sabre-toothed tigers or mammoths in our world but the modern day alternatives can be just as daunting.

A threatening or tense situation triggers this stress response demanding that we take physical action. Unfortunately most modern day stress involves situations that we cannot run away from; such as relationship issues, a demanding job and boss and not forgetting the traffic jams on the way home.

There are two types of stress, Acute Stress and Chronic Stress, and both have very distinctive patterns.

Acute Stress is a short-term response by the body’s sympa­thetic nervous system and the response may only last for a few minutes or a few weeks. How many times have you said that your heart stopped or your stomach lurched during a moment of intense stress such as an accident? We have all heard stories of mothers and fathers who have been suddenly infused with superhuman strength and able to lift cars and other heavy objects off their trapped children. They are empowered to do this by the actions of their body in a moment of crisis.

Blood sugar levels rise and additional red blood cells are released to carry strength giving oxygen levels a boost. The pulse quickens, blood pressure rises and the digestive process stops to enable the focus to be entirely on regaining safety.

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body, after a hundred thousand years, is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example, ongoing stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which are the master controllers for the body, to release a chemical called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress.

Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness.

How can we manage this modern day stress that is going to be a part of our lives in one way or another?

A major challenge in this stress filled world today is to make the stress in your life work for you instead of against you. Stress is with us all the time. It comes from mental, emotional and physical activity. It is unique and personal to each of us because we all handle it in a different way. So personal in fact that what may be relaxing for one person may be extremely stressful to another. For example, my husband loves the challenge and rush of downhill skiing on the most difficult of runs. When I tried skiing I created so much stress and fear for myself that I lasted about two days. I was terrified and it made me feel physically sick.

Another example might be a busy high level executive who can find ‘taking it easy’ at the beach on a beautiful day extremely frustrating, non-productive and upsetting. You can be stressed simply doing nothing.

Too much emotional or mental stress can cause physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers and heart disease, whereas physical stress from work or exercise is not likely to cause these problems. The truth is that physical exercise can help you relax and to handle your emotional and mental stress. Following a healthy diet that provides you with all the essential nutrients to help your body manage stress is even more important.

Symptoms of stress can be subtle such as fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, back or neck pain, irritability and sudden weight loss or gain. The less common but more damaging are heart palpitations, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, nausea, panic attacks, inability to concentrate and chronic fear.

Many people resort to stimulants such as smoking, alcohol or even drugs in the efforts to calm themselves down but in fact they are merely stoking the fires and increasing the levels of stress on the body, which can lead to disease.

Others create stress for themselves and those around them. They love the drama it creates and they rarely know how damaging this behaviour is for all concerned. We have all had drama queens in our lives and knowing how to handle them to prevent a knock on effect on your own health is essential.

Here are some basic techniques to help you manage whatever stress you do have in your lives.

It would be a perfect world where we had absolutely no worries whatsoever but I am afraid there are only a few people who live in that serene an environment.

It is easier said than done, but you must find a way to relax that suits you. Think carefully about what makes you feel alive but calm, that gives you satisfaction and creates a feel good factor.

For you as an individual it could be skiing down a mountain or it could be walking along a sandy beach at sunset. For me it is sitting in the garden, in the sunshine with music.

As unique as the causes of stress are, so are the ways that we find to counteract the tension. It might be that you have several physical, mental and emotional activities that you find distracting and calming. Perhaps a game of tennis, followed by doing the Sunday crossword and then watching a weepy movie.

Certainly you will find it very beneficial to learn some deep breathing techniques. Counting to ten before blowing your top can actually be very effective.

You will find some excellent breathing exercises here that only take a few minutes at the beginning and the end of the day: Breathing exercises

If you really cannot think of anything on your own then find yourself a professional advisor who can help you find your bit of space and peace. It is always a good idea to find someone who has been referred by a friend or family member but your G.P should also be able to recommend someone.

Keep to a regular sleep pattern, although people do need varying amounts of sleep the average is seven hours. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time even at the weekends. Lack of sleep is one of the leading causes of stress. After several nights of less than your normal quota you will begin to feel stressed and also very tired.

I am afraid that stimulants such as cigarettes and alcohol and recreational drugs are absolutely the wrong things to rely on during a stress episode, as hard as it may be, avoid these at all costs.

When other people are the cause of your stress.

I mentioned that others can induce both acute and chronic stress on you and your life. Sometimes it is difficult to manage if the person is someone dependent on you; an elderly parent for example. In my experience a lack of reaction is probably one of the best strategies in those circumstances as a calm response is no fun at all! Walking away is not always an option but if you are to remain both physically and mentally healthy you need to fix the situation or ask professional advice.

Next Time: foods and nutrients that are vital when your body and your mind are under stress.

©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2019

My nutritional background

I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.

If you would like to browse by health books and fiction you can find them here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/my-books-and-reviews-2019/

As always delighted to get your feedback and questions. This is not intended to take the place of your doctor’s presence in your life. But, certainly in the UK, where you are allocated ten minutes for a consultation and time is of the essence; going in with some understanding of how your body works and is currently functioning can assist in making a correct diagnosis.

Some doctors believe that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. However, I believe that understanding our bodies, how it works, how we can help prevent health problems and knowing the language that doctors speak, makes a difference.  Taking responsibility for our bodies health is the first step to staying well.

Thanks for dropping in and I hope you find useful.. Sally.

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Guest Post – On Getting Away With It by Julie Lawford


Welcome to another lifestyle post from author Julie Lawford and this week the effect of stress on our health and the accumulated issues of middle-age.

On Getting Away With It by Julie Lawford

Several people in my circle and my general age-bracket, are in a poor or deteriorating state of health at present. There’s cancer, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, a stomach ulcer, the after effects of blood clots, ulcerative colitis, diabetes, high blood pressure and even heart disease. I don’t have an enormous circle of friends and acquaintances, and that’s a lot of un-wellness; a combination of the diseases of middle-age, auto-immune conditions and the impact – physical, psychological and emotional – of modern living.

And that means… stress.

Stress brings with it a heavy payload of physical and psychological symptoms (just Google ‘stress symptoms’ and check out some of the lists). But chronic stress also opens the door for some far more serious conditions and diseases to enter. Who knows whether it actually causes them, but it certainly makes you more vulnerable.

Stress is about helplessness and feeling out of control. It’s not, as some people assume, about having too much to do. It’s far more about the feeling that, for whatever reason, you can’t cope with what you have to do or deal with. It’s about feeling ineffective, pushed around by others, powerless to influence your circumstances, or spiralling into some kind of a hole that you don’t feel able to climb out of.

Stress… actually weighs you down

Interestingly, stress is also an inhibitor to weight loss, as cortisol, the hormone produced in circumstances of stress, causes the body to hold on to its fat stores. The more chronic your stress, the harder it becomes to lose weight. And of course, the harder it is to lose weight, the more out of control the overweight person will feel. It’s one of those cruel vicious circles of life.

A contributor, for sure, to my yo-yo-ing weight and its gradual upward trajectory over the years, was the level of stress I lived with, mostly through the sort of work I used to do (which was wrong for me in many ways, but well-paid, so I pushed myself onward), and occasionally in bad relationships and their fallout too. Divorce, financial pressures, unsatisfactory living arrangements, poor relationship decisions, work related anxiety including two redundancies and striking out as a solo-preneur, a problematic menopause, and a constant, gnawing sense of being not quite good enough at everything I tried to do. All these things contributed to a fluctuating but ever-present level of stress throughout my thirties and forties and right through until a couple of years ago. And all the while the weight piled on.

Until such point as it was no longer a product of stress, but one of its causes.

Fat stresses

Yes, fat itself became the stressor. Here’s how it gets you: You stress about what people are really thinking of you. You see a bucket chair in a cosy coffee bar or gastro pub and wonder if you’ll be able to squeeze into it. You see a different kind of chair in a school assembly hall, at the end-of-year stage production starring your young nephews, and wonder whether it will hold your weight for a whole two hours. You worry about getting too hot or sweaty when you go out somewhere, to meet clients or be social. Wherever you go, you worry you’ll be the fattest person in the room. You stress about being out of control, about your excess weight being so overwhelming that you’ll never feel normal again. You stress about never having something comfortable or stylish to wear for an important event. You become acutely aware of heaving yourself about, hoping others will not notice the effort. When your well-meaning friends ask kindly if you’re OK to walk a few steps, or climb to the second or third floor, and you realise they think you’re almost disabled, you stress about it. You stress about weight limits on fitness equipment and spa facilities, because you exceed them. And that’s just where it starts…

Health anxiety

This is the next layer of fat-stress. Health anxiety, or hypochondria, is a fearful thing. Health anxiety surfaced for me as the menopause kicked in, and a confusion of symptoms became very unsettling. Beneath my intellectual appreciation that I was immersed in the time-of-life experience, lay an occasionally paralysing fear – because I was fat – that there was somehow something far more serious going on, that I had brought upon myself by being overweight. The sense of impending doom I would eventually learn to manage as I tried to calm my palpitating heart in the wee small hours, was frequently overwhelming. I called an ambulance on two occasions (and nearly called them on a dozen more) and once spent the whole night in A&E wired up to heart monitors as stress and anxiety exacerbated those all-natural hormonal misbehaviours.

Statistically speaking

And health anxiety isn’t just an internal thing – it’s fed by the media, in their pursuit of emotionally-charged headlines. The voices of statistical authority would have me believe that my excess weight (well over 100 surplus pounds when I started this healthy lifestyle thing last September) made – still makes – me a candidate for all manner of disease, including most of the conditions my circle of friends and acquaintances are suffering. Obesity, so say the statistics, puts me at significantly elevated risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer of numerous kinds, high blood pressure, high cholesterol (whatever the implications of this are supposed to be) and diabetes – and that’s just for starters. Add osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea and asthma, gout, gallstones and fatty liver disease. Oh, and anxiety and depression too.

All in all, it’s a misery-laden feast, particularly if you’re inclined to let scary headlines get under your skin.

A matter of time

But despite those 100 or more excess pounds, I’m one of the fortunate overweighties not eating at this misery-laden table. I wasn’t at 270 pounds, and I’m still not at 207 pounds either. In fact, notwithstanding the 50 pounds or so of excess weight I still have to get rid of, and the anxieties related to my state-of-weight that I carried for years, my health is very good. I’m through the menopause (hurrah!) so I’m even feeling like an actual human being again, no longer screaming at the universe whilst sweating from every pore. As I shed my surplus tonnage, I’m getting fitter and healthier by the day.

Believe me when I say I’m not in the least bit smug about my current state of health and wellness. And things could always change, I know this; I’m only 56 years old after all. But at the moment I suffer none of the ailments that should, if the statistics are to be believed, be my misfortune.

I changed my lifestyle last September because I finally acknowledged I was getting away with it. The slew of disabling and depressing ailments within my circle of friends and acquaintances had made me realise this, and want – at long last – to do whatever I could to avoid these conditions becoming part of my lot in life.

I know no amount of healthy living can guarantee this, but common sense tells me that it must help, to manage my weight better, eat more healthily, improve the state of my heart, lungs and circulation, and exercise regularly. I just finally got to the point where the push to do something was greater than the pull of the sofa, the packets of crisps and the ready-meals.

Now my stress level has dropped to a record low. I’m handling work better as my brain is more alert and I no longer suffer the 3pm slump. I am calmer, more relaxed, less easily provoked to irritation. I have energy to enjoy more social activities. I have self-respect again. What little disquiet as I may occasionally feel, as anyone does, is counterbalanced by a growing sense of confidence and wellbeing which has come from looking better and feeling healthier and knowing that at long last, I’m doing right by myself.

©Julie Lawford – first posted July 18th 2016.

About Julie Lawford

Always engaged with the written word, Julie Lawford came to fiction late in the day. Following a career in technology marketing she has been freelance since 2002 and has written copy for just about every kind of business collateral you can imagine. By 2010, she was on the hunt for a new writing challenge and Singled Out – her debut psychological suspense novel – is the result.

Julie is based in London in the UK. Whilst penning her second novel, she still writes – and blogs – for marketing clients.

Singled Out by Julie Lawford

‘There’s something delicious about not being known, don’t you think?’

Brenda Bouverie has come on a singles holiday to Turkey to escape. Intent on indulgence, she’s looking for sun, sea and … distraction from a past she would give anything to change.

But on this singles holiday no one is quite who they seem. First impressions are unreliable and when the sun goes down, danger lies in wait. As someone targets the unwary group of strangers, one guest is alone in sensing the threat.

But who would get involved, when getting involved only ever leads to trouble?

Singled Out subverts the sunshine holiday romance, taking readers to a darker place where horrific exploits come to light, past mistakes must be accounted for and there are few happily-ever-afters.

A simmering psychological suspense laced with moral ambiguities, for fans of Louise Doughty, Sabine Durrant, Gillian Flynn, Elizabeth Haynes, S.J. Watson and Lucie Whitehouse.

A recent review for Singled Out.

Very good on 18 June 2017

A very well written thriller set during a holiday trip to Turkey, organised for singles. You might assume that this could be chick lit, but that would do the character depth and writing style grave injustice. While certainly appealing to female audiences this novel doesn’t limit itself to pure light-hearted romantic interests but visits darker sides of the dating game and crime.

Using alternate narrative strands and voices we get insight into the characters, but we’re shown enough to be drawn deep into these characters.
Things are not as they seem and while you have an incling what is about to happen, be assured that there are always surprises waiting for you.

Not the kind of book I had originally expected but in fact, a much better one. Very good!

Read all the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Singled-Out-Julie-Lawford-ebook/dp/B00RO1GH28/

Connect to Julie Lawford at her website and on social media.

Website: https://julielawford.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JulieLawford
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/julie.lawford.1
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/julielawford/

You can find the previous guest posts in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/guest-writer-julie-lawford-health-and-weightloss/

Thanks for dropping in today and I would love it if you would share Julie’s post – Thanks Sally

Smorgasbord Health 2017 -Top to Toe – The Male Reproductive System – Part One


men's health I am aware that some of you will have also seen these articles before on Men’s Health but I hope the message that they are trying to convey will encourage you to read again and also to share.

Understanding how our bodies work is the first step to prevention and then next and very vital step is knowing when something is not right. Early diagnosis saves lives and not only impacts your life but those closest to you.

The articles are aimed at increasing awareness about diseases, that if diagnosed early, can be monitored or treated to ensure that they do not reach a point where the outcome is fatal.

Both men and women are aware of the external components of their bodies but what lies beneath the skin is where silent killers prefer to lurk. Most of us did biology at school, but the nearest I got to seeing the internal reproductive organs, was the horrifying sight of a splayed dissected frog on a work bench one science lesson.

This means that most of us do not have a working knowledge of the organs or the systems that make up this amazing and miraculous system that reproduces another human being.

This series is not just aimed at men but to their partner in life.  They often notice changes in our bodies or our normal behaviour before we do. Also in the case of men, it is often their partners who are doing the shopping and the cooking. Diet and lifestyle play a crucial part in our health and having someone working with you to ensure you are eating a balanced diet is ideal.

Between 16 to 19 million men will die worldwide in the next 12 months. It is estimated that once you take out the non-medical reasons that over 65% of those men will die from noncommunicable diseases. This term applies largely to what I call Lifestyle induced disease.

The top killers of men are:-

  1. Cardiovascular disease
  2. Certain cancers such as lung and prostate,
  3. Chronic lung disease,
  4. Diabetes. 

The formula for most of these diseases that are lifestyle related are:

Diet + Lifestyle choices + lack of exercise + stress.

I will be posting articles on the male reproductive system since this is what makes men unique from women. This is as important for the women in your life as it is to you. Since diet and lifestyle plays such a fundamental role in our health it is also important that if you are in a relationship that you are on the same page about this.

In my years of working in nutrition with clients, I soon discovered that when I reached the point where I was designing an eating programme for someone to improve their health or to lose weight, I needed to ask their partner along.  This came about after a wife accosted me in the supermarket one day. She gave me a severe talking to about how her cooking had been good enough for 25 years for her husband and how dare I suggest otherwise. I do most of the cooking in our household and I do understand the issue. Actually we did all work together and her husband lost five stone and was able to come off his blood pressure meds.. She also lost two stone and gave him a run for his money.

My point being? If you do decide that you need to make changes to your diet and lifestyle to improve your health or diet, don’t do it in isolation. Work together with your partner and explain the reasons why you want to make the changes and the benefits at the end of the day.  In some cases this could mean you being around for several more years so it is an important discussion.

The male reproductive system

Although this first comment has raised many a laugh over the years…the drivers behind our reproductive systems are indeed all in the mind.  Of course we will have certain organs in place before birth. However, it is the master controllers in the brain that will send out messages at various stages in our lives to increase or decrease the reproductive system’s development and activity levels.

You can find the posts on the brain in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/smorgasbord-health-2017-top-to-toe/

For the purposes of this series though I want to focus on the physical aspects of the system.

Although the male reproductive system is not quite as complex as the female system it still is prone to infections and diseases that can affect men at different stages in their lives.

As with women, men’s reproductive organs are divided into two parts, the internal and external organs and the gonads called the testes. When boys reach puberty, between 10-14 years old, gonadotropic hormones are secreted by the pituitary gland in the brain and the gonads grow and become active. The gonadotropic hormones also stimulate the production of the androgens or testosterone hormones, which in turn will promote the growth, and development of external genitalia as well as stimulating changes in the larynx. One of the outward signs of a boy reaching puberty is his voice breaking and then becoming deeper over the next few months.

The male reproductive organs are external and internal and include the testicles; duct system made up of the epididymis and vas deferens, the spermatic cord, the seminal vesicles and the penis.

The testicles or testes are oval shaped and grow to about 2 inches (5 centimetres) in length and 1 inch (3 centimetres) in width. They are formed in the embryo from a ridge of tissue at the back of the abdomen. They gradually move down the abdomen during the pregnancy, reaching the scrotum in time for the birth. They consist of seminiferous tubules, where sperm is manufactured and interstitial cells which produce the hormone testosterone. As a boy matures he produces more and more testosterone, so in addition to his deepening voice, he will develop more body hair, bigger muscles and produce sperm.

Alongside the testes are the epididymis and the vas deferens of the male duct system. The epididymis consists of elaborately coiled tubes that are attached to the back of each testis. These carry the sperm into the vas deferens, an extension of the epididymis that has become a muscular tube that takes the sperm up into the penis in semen.

The testes and the duct system are protected by a skin bag called the scrotum. One of its main roles is to maintain a slightly lower temperature than the rest of the body otherwise the testes will be unable to produce sperm.

There is a complex connective system between the penis and the testes called the spermatic cord that not only suspends the testes but contains and protects the blood vessels, sperm and hormone carrying tubes, nerves and lymph system that supply the scrotum. It is also covered by a number of layers including the cremasteric muscle, which is responsible for contracting the scrotum in extremes of temperature or during ejaculation.

As the sperm move up the vas deferens they pause in a storage area called the ampulla where they are bathed in seminal fluid from the vesicles situated just above each side of the prostate gland. This fluid stimulates the sperm to move spontaneously and actively as it passes through the prostate gland and penis into the vagina.

The prostate gland is a very small walnut shaped structure that sits at the base of the bladder and surrounds the ejaculatory ducts at the base of the urethra. Its role is to produce an alkaline fluid that mixes with the semen from the vesicles before it is passed into the penis to be ejaculated. This probably acts as a booster for the sperm keeping them active and therefore more likely to fertilise an egg should the opportunity arise. Unfortunately problems with the prostate can arise as men age and this either results in difficulties with the bladder or actual disease of the prostate. I will cover that in more detail later in the series.

The shaft of the penis contains a central tube, the urethra, leading to a small hole in the head of the penis called the meatus. This enables urine to pass from the bladder and out of the body or allows for the ejaculation of semen during intercourse. Because the urethra has a dual purpose, a strong muscle ring at the connection between the bladder and the tube ensures that urine only passes through when intended.

The penis is made up of groups of tissue that are responsible for erections. These tissues are supplied with a rich network of blood vessels, which become distended when a man is aroused. The blood is unable to flow back into the body and the penis therefore stiffens and rises as the internal pressure increases. After ejaculation the blood flow reduces to normal levels and the penis returns to a flaccid state.

All boys are born with a fold of skin that protects the glans from injury. This is called the foreskin and during an erection this peels back to allow the tip to be stimulated during intercourse. A lubricant called smegma is produced by the foreskin and the skin on the glans to make this action smooth, but poor hygiene, or irritants can lead to severe infections. Circumcision is often carried out on baby boys for both religious and health reasons.

Next time- The hormone element – Testosterone.

©sallygeorginacronin – Forget the Viagra, Pass Me a Carrot – Men’s health workshop manual 2012.

Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Heart and the Stress link


Smorgasbord Health 2017

One of the leading causes of heart attacks in men and increasingly in women is stress. It is a silent killer that lies in wait and pounces when you least expect it.  It is not helpful that the stress that we experience is as unique as our own bodies.

What is Stress

You need stress in your life, does that surprise you? Perhaps so, but it is quite true. Without stress, life would be dull and unexciting. Stress adds flavour, challenge and opportunity to life. Too much stress, however, can seriously affect your physical and mental well-being. In recent years several high profile personalities have died suddenly and we recognise that most of them lived highly stressful lives, which finally took its toll. But how many times have we been surprised by the premature death of someone we know, a friend or family member, who on the outside seemed to be healthy and active with a good diet. Unfortunately, what is going on with major organs inside the body tell a different story. Stress is silent and can be deadly.

What causes a stress reaction?

Stress is the modern day equivalent of our ancestral ‘flight or fight’ mechanism that was necessary in the highly competi­tive and predatory world throughout our evolution. There may no longer be sabre-toothed tigers or mammoths in our world but the modern day alternatives can be just as daunting.

A threatening or tense situation triggers this stress response demanding that we take physical action. Unfortunately most modern day stress involves situations that we cannot run away from; such as relationship issues, a demanding job and boss and not forgetting the traffic jams on the way home.

There are two types of stress, Acute Stress and Chronic Stress, and both have very distinctive patterns.

radio stress

Acute Stress is a short-term response by the body’s sympa­thetic nervous system and the response may only last for a few minutes or a few weeks. How many times have you said that your heart stopped or your stomach lurched during a moment of intense stress such as an accident? We have all heard stories of mothers and fathers who have been suddenly infused with superhuman strength and able to lift cars and other heavy objects off their trapped children. They are empowered to do this by the actions of their body in a moment of crisis.

Blood sugar levels rise and additional red blood cells are released to carry strength giving oxygen levels a boost. The pulse quickens, blood pressure rises and the digestive process stops to enable the focus to be entirely on regaining safety.

stress three

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body, after a hundred thousand years, is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example, ongoing stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which are the master controllers for the body, to release a chemical called ACTH  (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress.

Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness.

How can we manage this modern day stress that is going to be a part of our lives in one way or another?

A major challenge in this stress filled world today is to make the stress in your life work for you instead of against you. Stress is with us all the time. It comes from mental, emotional and physical activity. It is unique and personal to each of us because we all handle it in a different way. So personal in fact that what may be relaxing for one person may be extremely stressful to another. For example, my husband loves the challenge and rush of downhill skiing on the most difficult of runs. When I tried skiing I created so much stress and fear for myself that I lasted about two days. I was terrified and it made me feel physically sick.

Another example might be a busy high level executive who can find ‘taking it easy’ at the beach on a beautiful day extremely frustrating, non-productive and upsetting. You can be stressed simply doing nothing.

Too much emotional or mental stress can cause physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers and heart disease, whereas physical stress from work or exercise is not likely to cause these problems. The truth is that physical exercise can help you relax and to handle your emotional and mental stress. Following a healthy diet that provides you with all the essential nutrients to help your body manage stress is even more important.

Symptoms of stress can be subtle such as fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, back or neck pain, irritability and sudden weight loss or gain. The less common but more damaging are heart palpitations, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, nausea, panic attacks, inability to concentrate and chronic fear.

Many people resort to stimulants such as smoking, alcohol or even drugs in the efforts to calm themselves down but in fact they are merely stoking the fires and increasing the levels of stress on the body, which can lead to disease.

Others create stress for themselves and those around them. They love the drama it creates and they rarely know how damaging this behaviour is for all concerned. We have all had drama queens in our lives and knowing how to handle them to prevent a knock on effect on your own health is essential.

©sallycronin Just Food For Health 1998 – 2017

Next time some strategies to combat stress and some nutritional support from foods that you eat regularly.

Please feel free to comment and to share. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask. thanks Sally

 

Smorgasbord Health 2017- Weight Reduction – Stress factor.


Smorgasbord Health 2017

Stress is the modern equivalent of being chased by a mammoth which you promised your wife you would bring back for dinner and knowing how ‘disappointed’ she is going to be when you fail to do so! In our modern world we have a different set of stress triggers and it can certainly cause you to gain weight and certainly sabotage your efforts to lose excess fat. Stress is silent and can be deadly. It is useful to understand why we react in this way and to manage this natural response to life’s ups and downs.

mammoth

WHAT CAUSES A STRESS REACTION?

Stress is the modern day equivalent of our ancestral ‘fight or flight’ mechanism that was necessary in the highly competitive and predatory world throughout our evolution. There may no longer be cave lions or mammoths in our world but the modern day alternatives can be just as daunting.

A threatening or tense situation triggers this stress response demanding that we take physical action. Unfortunately most modern day stress involves situations that we cannot run away from such as relationship issues, a demanding job and boss, financial worries and traffic jams on the way home. There are two types of stress. Acute and Chronic stress and both have very distinctive patterns.

Acute stress is a short-term response by the body’s sympathetic nervous system and the response may only last for a few minutes, days or a few weeks. How many times have you said that your heart stopped or your stomach lurched during a moment of intense stress such as an accident? We have all heard stories of mothers and fathers who have been suddenly infused with superhuman strength and able to lift cars and other heavy objects off their trapped children. They are empowered to do this by the actions of their body in a moment of crisis.

Blood sugar levels rise and additional red blood cells are released to carry strength giving oxygen levels a boost. The pulse quickens, blood pressure rises and the digestive process stops to enable the focus to be entirely on regaining safety.

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body after a few hundred thousand years is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example on-going stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland that are the master controllers for the body to release a chemical called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress. Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness.

Symptoms of stress can be subtle such as fatigue, insomnia, depression, headaches, back or neck pain, irritability and sudden weight loss or gain. The less common but more damaging are heart palpitations, shortness of breath, diarrhoea, nausea, panic attacks, inability to concentrate and chronic fear. If not controlled stress leads to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and ulcers. Mental health is also affected as people struggle to contain what is essentially a heightened sense of fear.

HOW DOES THIS AFFECT WEIGHT GAIN AND LOSS?

I understand after all these years, that my relationship with food has always been dependent on my stress levels. It is learned behaviour. As a child our parents or older family members did not just reward us with sweets and food if we had been good. They would also indulge us if we skinned our knees, banged our heads, were frightened by next door’s dog, and had an earache. How many of us have run off, lost sight of our mother or father, been in panic mode, been found and given a great big hug, lots of attention even if it meant being scolded, everybody so happy to see you. “Come on we will all have an ice-cream. That will make it feel better”. How many times have we seen the toddler, working up a head of steam, stamping feet, getting red in the face being appeased by a cuddle and some food?

What I want to illustrate is that we are not just at the mercy of outside stress we also are quite capable of working ourselves up into a frenzy and creating a physical response that activates all the same reactions. The expression “worrying myself to death” is firmly established in our modern language.

If you are mentally, physically and emotionally under pressure, being concerned about the food you are putting in your mouth seems to take a back seat. Just give me chocolate!

baby-eating-chocolate

Also when hormones like cortisol which have normal, daily functions in the body are being secreted all the time, some of your maintenance systems are affected. Cortisol should be at different levels at certain times of the day – highest in the morning and lowest last thing at night. This makes sense as it helps maintain a healthy blood pressure, raising it early in the morning as you wake up and decreasing it as you go to sleep.

You can imagine how confused the body is going to get if you are pumping cortisol into the system at increased levels throughout the day in response to your stress triggers. Cortisol is also necessary for metabolism or the fats and carbohydrates that we eat for that fast hit of energy and also the management of insulin and blood sugar levels.

We all know that sugar high that we get after eating too many sweet foods and then the sudden drop that urges us to consume even more of the nectar…. And that is why diving into the chocolate biscuits or the tub of ice-cream when stressed is so predictable. Particular if this has been your learned response since childhood.

As I mentioned earlier during a stress response the digestive process stops. That may be fine for an hour or two but if you are stressed the whole time you are not going to be able to process any healthy foods that you do eat efficiently. Long term this can lead to nutritional deficiency syndrome that encourages your body to store rather that utilise fat.

So if you are on a weight loss programme and even if you are eating a wonderfully rich diet of unprocessed foods, if you do not get your stress levels reduced, you will find it difficult to lose the excess weight.

HOW CAN WE MANAGE MODERN DAY STRESS AND SUCCESSFULLY LOSE WEIGHT?

When I started this theme of weight loss, I mentioned that we need to have a three dimensional approach to losing weight.

Physically, mentally and emotionally.

The physical is getting the foods right and by consuming non industrialised foods (some of our foods have to be processed such as milk, cheese so it is wrong to cut out all processed foods). We also need to limit our sugary food intake as this causes a chemical imbalance in our blood that encourages storage particularly around our middles. You need to consistently provide your body with the basic nutrients it needs on a daily basis to function efficiently and healthily.

But you also need to back this up by recognising where you are in real terms in the stress cycle – acute or chronic? Is the stress external or are you the one that is creating the stress yourself. Whatever the origin you have to learn how to drop the threat level. This is not just about losing weight but preventing possible long term health problems.

A major challenge is to make the stress in your life work for you instead of against you. Stress is now on tap 24/7; you only have to switch on a communication device including the mobile one in your pocket, to get a slice of world stress. At another level we have our own personal stress and we also affected by the stress we inflict on others around us. We have all heard the term ‘mass hysteria’ and you can see the affect if you watch an audience of mainly teenage girls at a One Direction concert. Within minutes thousands are screaming, crying, some are distraught. This might only be for a 2 hour concert but it is still a stress reaction. In more subtle ways this happens to our family and friends as our behaviour raises their stress levels. You need to recognise if this is your pattern and if so learn how to adapt that behaviour for your own health’s sake and those around you.

Finding ways to reduce both externally and internally created stress is a challenge. It is unique and personal to each of us because we all handle it in a different way. So personal in fact that what may be relaxing for one person may be extremely stressful to another. One person may delight in throwing themselves out of a plane at 15,000 feet attached to a small, silk umbrella which would frankly freak me out!! A busy executive might find a beach holiday boring and unproductive leading to stress whereas another can completely chill out.

Although too much emotional or mental stress can cause physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers or even heart disease, physical stress from work or exercise is very unlikely to cause these problems, unless you really do overdo it. The truth is that physical exercise can help you relax and to handle your emotional and mental stress. That is another good reason to include a regular exercise programme alongside the changes you have made to your foods.

Here are some basic techniques to help you manage whatever stress you do have in your lives. It would be a perfect world where we had absolutely no worries whatsoever but I am afraid there are only a few people who live in that serene an environment.

  1. It is easier said than done, but you must find a way to relax that suits you. Think carefully about what makes you feel alive but calm, that gives you satisfaction and creates a feel good factor. For you as an individual it could be skiing down a mountain or it could be walking along a sandy beach at sunset. As unique as the causes of stress are, so are the ways that we find to counteract the tension.
  2. Next time you begin to hyperventilate, and start getting wound up, saying things like “I’m freaking out!” take a breath and check to see if this is an external threat that needs to be dealt with or it is your own creation. If in doubt walk away and find somewhere you can think about the situation for a few minutes calmly and rationally. Of course if you are faced with immediate physical danger then you need to do whatever you must to survive.
  3. If you really cannot think of anything on your own then find yourself a professional advisor who can help you find your bit of space and peace. Learn relaxation techniques and new coping mechanisms that are not based on your reward system. It is always a good idea to find someone who has been referred by a friend or family matter but your G.P should also be able to recommend someone.
  4. Keep to a regular sleep pattern, although people do need varying amounts of sleep the average is seven hours. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time even at the weekends. Lack of sleep is one of the leading causes of stress and has been linked to weight gain
  5. Try to find at least 30 minutes in the day when you are not being bombarded by any outside stimulus. Music does not count. As you know I consider it to be another food group, and provided it is your favourite type of music, sticking your headphones on and closing your eyes for half an hour will help break the cycle of daily stress.
  6. I am afraid that stimulants such as cigarettes and alcohol and recreational drugs are absolutely the wrong things to rely on during a stress episode. As hard as it may be, avoid these at all costs.

DIET AND STRESS.

A healthy diet is absolutely necessary whatever lifestyle we have but if we are under excessive levels of stress then it becomes critical.

Make sure that you are hydrated. Dehydration is a leading physical cause of stress and you need at least 2 litres of fluids from various sources per day and more if you are exercising hard or live in countries with very low humidity. (See last Friday’s blog) This is particular important for young children – they need moderate amounts of fluids regularly as their small bodies get dehydrated very quickly.

We have already established that when the body is under stress, the digestive process is compromised and your body will use stored nutrients in an effort to keep the systems functioning. However, if the stress situation continues for a period of weeks or months you will not be replacing these stored vitamins and minerals and you need to increase levels of particular foods as they contain specific vitamins and minerals which the body needs.

The shopping lists that I have already given you have plenty of these vitamins, however, they are basic levels needed during normal activity and you need to up slightly during stressful times. If you cannot eat because you are stressed then at the very least make some homemade soup – Chicken and vegetables, blitz in a blender and drink three or four cups during the day.

VITAMINS ESSENTIAL FOR THE BODY TO MANAGE STRESS.

Vitamin A mops up the toxic residue of elevated stress hormone levels. (Liver, fish oils, butter, cheese, Free range eggs, oily fish and Beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A from carrots, green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli, spinach, orange and red coloured vegetables such as apricots)

Vitamin B1 improves your mood and is vital for nerve function. (Whole grains, seeds, peas, beans and nuts.)

Vitamin B3 helps you regulate your sleep patterns. (Liver, brewer’s yeast, chicken, turkey, fish, meat, peanuts, whole grains, eggs and milk.)

Vitamin B5 better known as Pantothenic Acid controls the action of the adrenal glands, which play a vital part in the stress response. (Liver, yeast, salmon, dairy, eggs, grains, meat and vegetables.

Vitamin B6 is essential for the manufacture of the brain chemical serotonin which is also called the feel good chemical. (Potatoes, bananas, cereals, lentils, liver, turkey, chicken, lamb, fish, liver, avocados, soybeans, walnuts and oats.)

Vitamin B12 is necessary to help produce brain chemicals such as serotonin (dairy, eggs, meat, poultry and fish, for vegetarians in Miso and Tempeh both fermented soybean products)

Vitamin C is one of those vitamins that is used up very quickly during a stress reaction and needs to be replaced immediately as a deficiency leads to increased levels of anxiety and irritability. Smokers should take in Vitamin C in their diet and under the supervision of a professional should also take supplemental Vitamin C. (found in all fruit and vegetables but best sources are blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruits, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, parsley, peppers, rosehips, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.)

MINERALS NECESSARY TO HELP THE BODY MANAGE STRESS.

Calcium helps you relax. (Dairy, sardines, canned salmon with the bones, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and soy products such as tofu.)

Magnesium works with calcium and also helps to reduce stress. (Whole grains, beans, seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables, soybeans and fish)

Chromium stabilises blood sugar levels that create stress. (Brewer’s yeast, whole grains, shellfish, liver and molasses)

As we get older and our body less efficient in processing foods it can be a good idea to take the B-vitamins in supplement form. Make sure you get good advice and get the best quality you can. If you feel that you are under stress for long periods of time, do not be afraid to ask for help from a nutritionist and get some counselling.

Finally something to watch to calm your frayed nerves from reading this lengthy blog on stress.. I would not want you tearing your hair out in frustration!  Down girls……..

You can find all the other posts in the series on Weight Reduction in this directory.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/weight-reduction-programme-2017/

©sallycronin 2016

Please feel free to ask any questions in the comment section and if you would like a private word then please email me sally.cronin@moyhill.com.

Men’s Health Week Revisited- One of the most dangerous silent killers of men – Stress


men's health

In the first post in the series I identified the main risk factors that are likely to result in serious health issues in men.

Stress is becoming a great deal less gender specific in our modern age as we are all bombarded with dire news from around the world, we struggle with finances, jobs and relationships. However, men still appear to be most effected physically than women.

I usually approach my work from a three dimensional perspective when working with clients. Physical, mental and emotional.  Women are more open to talking through their problems amongst themselves and this is a great stress release valve.  Men not so much.

We have all heard the expressions ‘The Strong Silent Type’ and ‘Real Men Don’t Cry’ or ‘Man Up’.  Unfortunately bottled up stress and emotions are not great for the body physically.

Raised blood pressure, over production of stress hormones leads to poor digestion and absorption of nutrients and if prolonged can lead to serious physical and mental health issues.

So part one today is a recap of stress and the effects on the body and if you recognise some of the symptoms then I suggest you read part two which I will post on Friday.

I have worked with Cathy Blackburn D.Hyp MIAPH for several years and asked her last year to put together a stress busting, self-hypnosis post.  You will find it very relaxing and puts the control firmly in your own hands when faced with stressful situations.

In the third post on stress I have some breathing exercises that you can complete every morning and evening for five minutes a time that will help to increase the flow of oxygen to the entire body and also reduce stress.

Stress

You need stress in your life, does that surprise you? Perhaps so, but it is quite true. Without stress, life would be dull and unexciting. Stress adds flavour, challenge and opportunity to life. Too much stress, however, can seriously affect your physical and mental well-being. In recent years several high profile personalities have died suddenly and we recognise that most of them lived highly stressful lives, which finally took its toll. But how many times have we been surprised by the premature death of someone we know, a friend or family member, who on the outside seemed to be healthy and active with a good diet. Unfortunately, what is going on with major organs inside the body tell a different story. Stress is silent and can be deadly.

What causes a stress reaction?

Stress is the modern day equivalent of our ancestral ‘fight or flight’ mechanism that was necessary in the highly competi­tive and predatory world throughout our evolution. There may no longer be sabre-toothed tigers or mammoths in our world but the modern day alternatives can be just as daunting.

A threatening or tense situation triggers this stress response demanding that we take physical action. Unfortunately most modern day stress involves situations that we cannot run away from; such as relationship issues, a demanding job and boss and not forgetting the traffic jams on the way home.

There are two types of stress, Acute Stress and Chronic Stress, and both have very distinctive patterns.

radio stress

Acute Stress is a short-term response by the body’s sympa­thetic nervous system and the response may only last for a few minutes or a few weeks. How many times have you said that your heart stopped or your stomach lurched during a moment of intense stress such as an accident? We have all heard stories of mothers and fathers who have been suddenly infused with superhuman strength and able to lift cars and other heavy objects off their trapped children. They are empowered to do this by the actions of their body in a moment of crisis.

Blood sugar levels rise and additional red blood cells are released to carry strength giving oxygen levels a boost. The pulse quickens, blood pressure rises and the digestive process stops to enable the focus to be entirely on regaining safety.

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body, after a hundred thousand years, is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example, ongoing stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which are the master controllers for the body, to release a chemical called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress. Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness.

How can we manage this modern day stress that is going to be a part of our lives in one way or another?

A major challenge in this stress filled world today is to make the stress in your life work for you instead of against you. Stress is with us all the time. It comes from mental, emotional and physical activity. It is unique and personal to each of us because we all handle it in a different way. So personal in fact that what may be relaxing for one person may be extremely stressful to another.

Too much emotional or mental stress can cause physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers or even heart disease, whereas physical stress from work or exercise is not likely to cause these problems. The truth is that physical exercise can help you relax and to handle your emotional and mental stress. Following a healthy diet that provides you with all the essential nutrients to help your body manage stress is even more important.

Symptoms of stress can be subtle such as fatigue, insom­nia, depression, headaches, back or neck pain, irritability and sudden weight loss or gain. The less common but more damaging are heart palpitations, shortness of breath, diar­rhoea, nausea, panic attacks, inability to concentrate and chronic fear.

Many people resort to stimulants such as smoking, alcohol or even drugs in the efforts to calm themselves down but in fact they are merely stoking the fires and increasing the levels of stress on the body, which can lead to disease.

A Word about Diet and stress

A healthy diet is absolutely necessary whatever lifestyle we have but if we are under excessive levels of stress then it becomes critical.

Make sure that you are hydrated. Dehydration is a leading physical cause of stress and you need at least 2 litres of fresh, pure water per day and more if you are on holiday or living in very hot climates.

There are some vitamins and minerals which the body needs to handle stress especially as during a stress interval the body will use up additional reserves of many nutrients. Lots of fresh fruit and vegetables are necessary and here are a few of the particular nutrients that will help you handle the stress in your life.

  • Vitamin A mops up the toxic residue of elevated stress hormone levels. (Liver, fish oils, butter, cheese, Free range eggs, oily fish and Beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A from carrots, green leafy vegetables such as asparagus and broccoli, orange and red coloured vegetables such as apricots)
  • Vitamin B1 improves your mood and is vital for nerve function. (Whole grains, seeds, peas, beans and nuts.)
  • Vitamin B3 helps you regulate your sleep patterns. (Liver, brewer’s yeast, chicken, turkey, fish, meat, peanuts, whole-grains, eggs and milk.)
  • Vitamin B5, better known as Pantothenic Acid, controls the action of the adrenal glands, which play a vital part in the stress response. (Liver, yeast, salmon, dairy, eggs, grains, meat and vegetables.)
  • Vitamin B6 is essential for the manufacture of the brain chemical serotonin, which is also called the feel good chemical. (Potatoes, bananas, cereals, lentils, liver, turkey, chicken, lamb, fish, avocados, soybeans, walnuts and oats.)
  • Vitamin B12 is necessary to help produce brain chemicals such as serotonin (dairy, eggs, meat, poultry and fish, for vegetarians in Miso and Tempeh both fermented soybean products)
  • Vitamin C is one of those vitamins that is used up very quickly during a stress reaction and needs to be replaced immediately as a deficiency leads to increased levels of anxiety and irritability. Smokers should take in Vitamin C in their diet and under the supervision of a professional should also take supplemental Vitamin C. (found in all fruit and vegetables but best sources are blackcurrants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, cherries, grapefruits, guavas, kiwi fruit, lemons, parsley, peppers, rosehips, potatoes, tomatoes and watercress.)

Minerals necessary to help the body manage stress

Calcium helps you relax. (Dairy, sardines, canned salmon with the bones, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and soy products such as tofu.)

Magnesium works with calcium and also helps to reduce stress. (Whole grains, beans, seeds, wheat germ, dried apricots, dark green vegetables, soybeans and fish)

Chromium stabilises blood sugar levels that create stress. (Brewer’s yeast, onions, whole grains, shellfish, liver and molasses)

Don’t allow your stress levels today creep up on you unawares in 20 year’s time, deal with it today.

 

Men’s Health Week Revisted – Key Risk Factors for major and fatal diseases – Number 1 – Obesity


men's health

Welcome to the second in the posts from Men’s Health Week last year and I hope that you will find the articles useful and informative.  If you read them last year then I would be grateful if you would still share on social media to reach a new audience.

On saturday I gave you some statistics that are pretty concerning.

An estimated 56 million people die each year worldwide.Tragically, 6 million children die before the age of five years old and of the remaining 50 million, more men than women will die at certain life stages. Particularly during the years 18 to 24. After that it will converge.

However, assuming that there is a more or less an even division, it is estimated that 25 million men will die in the next twelve months. It is even more disturbing that 65% to 75% of those men, depending on the report, will die from noncommunicable diseases.

Noncommunicable includes the top four diseases – Cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung diseases. Diseases that are usually lifestyle related.

That means that in the next twelve months 16.25 million to 18.75 million men will die from mainly preventable diseases. Or diseases that if detected early enough can be cured.

There is rarely just one factor that triggers a lifestyle related disease. It is usually a combination of all the following. However, there is no doubt that obesity not only impacts our size but also severely impairs the functions of both organs and operating systems in the body.

When I weighed 330lbs, twenty-five years ago, being that overweight was not common. The reasons were simply put down to eating too much. I discovered during my studies and my own weight loss that there were a number of factors in play. Today the rise in obesity has at least provided plenty of scope for intensive and desperate research programmes!

Being overweight in itself leads to the other six risk factors that I shall be covering.  I have therefore put it into pole position. I have written a number of posts on the subject that I have linked to and the serialisation of my own book. However, the decision for you to lose weight is not mine… but YOURS.

Do the simple sum below and determine if you are overweight. If you need to lose more than three stone you are obese and therefore at far greater risk of the other factors that could develop into a life threatening condition.

Scare tactics? Absolutely.  And if a doctor had not scared the wits out of me 22 years ago that pushed me to study and to change my lifestyle… I would not be here today.  I already had the other six risk factors.  Today I do not.

It is as simple as that.

Here are the seven main risk factors for cardiovascular disease, cancers, diabetes and other potentially fatal conditions.

  1. Being more than two to three stone overweight.
  2. Late diagnosis of fatal diseases
  3. High Blood Pressure,
  4. Poor balance between LDL (unhealthy) and HDL (healthy)cholesterol
  5. High Blood Glucose Levels.
  6. Low Exercise levels.
  7. Stress

Risk factor Number One – Obesity

Being more than two to three stone overweight puts enormous pressure on your body structurally and also on your major organs. Unhealthy fat is not just stored under your skin but around major organs and is especially dangerous if around your middle. A beer belly is not about the beer but is about the sugars.

The closer you are to a healthy weight the lower your risk for most of the major and fatal health issues such as cardiovascular disease, cancers and diabetes.

There are a number of ways to measure your weight but it can get complicated. I use this method for a quick and dirty check on weight.

Using the method for a medium framed men

As a base, use 106lbs up to five foot and then 7lbs for every inch over that height. Modify either way by 5% if you have a light frame or heavy frame.

A light framed man of 5’ 6” would have an optimum weight of: 106lbs + 70lbs = 176lbs Subtract 5% for light frame = 9lbs -This gives an optimum weight of 167lbs or 75.9Kilos.

Most of you will know if you are light, medium or large frame build but if you are unsure here are a couple of sites that will guide you through the process.

Take your wrist measurement with a tape measure and plug in with your height.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/imagepages/17182.htm

http://www.healthstatus.com/calculate/fsz

Further Information.

http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/dietandphysicalactivity/bodyweightandcancerrisk/body-weight-and-cancer-risk-effects

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=39840

Safe weight loss.

Dieting is as individual as we are and if you do need to lose weight safely and healthily then I do suggest that you join a group or find a qualified weight loss counsellor. Please do not use diet programmes that are chemically formulated, often full of sugar and have little nutritional content for your body’s needs. You are simply contributing to the billion dollar diet industry. For the same money you could buy an huge amount of fresh produce.

It is very important that you do not suddenly stop eating. You need a balanced and varied diet that supplies you with all the nutrients you need to be healthy.  This means cutting out the Industrially prepared foods and sticking to natural fresh vegetables, fruit, protein, eggs, dairy and some wholegrains. It definitely means cutting out the refined sugars that are loaded into prepared foods including those using artificial sweeteners.  These have the same effect on your body as actual sugar an can also be toxic.

I will be starting one of my six week weight loss programmes on the blog starting in a couple of weeks and that is aimed at losing a stone in that time safely and eating great food prepared well.

Next time another reason that men are at greater risk from early death. Millions of men do not go to a doctor in the early stages of a disease. This late diagnosis is costly.

Thank you for dropping by and please feel free to comment and share.

©sallygeorginacronin 2015

 

Men’s Health Week Revisited – Some statistics and the posts to come.


men's health

An estimated 56 million people die each year worldwide.Tragically, 6 million children die before the age of five years old and of the remaining 50 million, more men than women will die at certain life stages. Particularly during the years 18 to 24. After that it will converge.

However, assuming that there is a more or less an even division, it is estimated that 25 million men will die in the next twelve months. It is even more disturbing that 65% to 75% of those men, depending on the report, will die from noncommunicable diseases.

Noncommunicable includes the top four diseases – Cardiovascular, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung diseases. Diseases that are usually lifestyle related.

That means that in the next twelve months 16.25 million to 18.75 million men will die from mainly preventable diseases. Or diseases that if detected early enough can be cured.

I have worked with both men and women in my capacity as a health counsellor.  For weight management, but also pre-operative preparation and post-operative nutritional support. Men in particular will admit to only going to the doctor after several months of worrying symptoms or because they were nagged by their wives.

It is recognised that far too many men are being diagnosed with potentially fatal diseases too late.

There are a number of actually quite valid reasons for this. Some are personal, cultural and genetic! However, over the next few weeks as we revisit the posts from last year; I hope to convince all men to look at this from a different perspective.

If you have a partner and a family you owe it to them to be around for a very long time. If single you owe it to yourself to look after your greatest asset, which is your health. The reasons for not being checked are easily worked around and in my first post  I will show you strategies to do that. Ways to get checked for some of the key indicators to your health. Completely free or at a very reasonable cost, during hours that suit you, often with free expert advice and assistance thrown in.

During the the rest of the series I will post articles on the male reproductive system with symptoms you should be aware of. Prostate Cancer and how early diagnosis and targeted treatment can save your life.  Heart disease and symptoms to be keep an eye open for. Stress and how to manage to prevent your body developing many physical and mental lifestyle related health issues. Diabetes and how you, and the person buying and preparing your food, need to work together to reduce your risk. I also have a six week programme to reduce both Blood Pressure and LDL cholesterol levels.

I will be taking a look at some of the silent killers that we invite into our lives. One in particular would seem to be very innocuous.. and 11billion of them are eaten each year in the UK alone.

There are some guest posts lined up from men who have shared their health experiences and those of members of their families. Delighted that Geoff Le Pard, Kevin Cooper and John Maberry have contributed.

I hope that you will join me next Monday for the start of Men’s Health Week revisited and help spread the message to #Getchecked.

Smorgasbord Health – Middle-Age Spread..Not always down to what you eat!


smorgasbord healthI know that the mantra is supposed to be ‘love your body whatever its shape‘ and people ‘tut, tut’ when you complain about your various bits and pieces that seem to distort your image…… but you know what….it can be a real pain at times. It is particularly frustrating when you are doing everything right.. eating, exercising, drinking plenty of green tea and only having one digestive with your coffee!!

Scan221

This is me 22 years ago at age 41 on holiday in America and weighing in at 300 lbs. I would go on to add another 30lbs over the next few months until I was size 32. To put things into perspective… I am 5ft 11inches so the overall impression was huge.  Along with this excess weight came several health problems which led to me studying not just nutrition but also a deep interest in psychology and anatomy.  I made some very interesting discoveries about myself that would help me lose my weight.

I eventually lost 150lbs over 18 months, recovered my health and apart from the occasional period, when I would put on a couple of stone, I have managed to keep most of that weight off. I will never be classified as skinny but I am very happy to be at a much healthier weight rather than fit into a size 10 pair of trousers.

Each time that I have added those extra 28lbs or so, it has been the result of one particular physical response.

I believe that to be healthy you need to focus on three elements; physical, mental and emotional. You also need to identify your triggers that result in a blip in your health and weight.  I know for me it is stress and whilst I might not show it outwardly, inwardly it lays down fat in all the wrong places as my body reacts to a constant level of stress hormones into the system.

Chronic Stress is when this acute stress response is repeated on a continuous basis. Whilst the body, after a hundred thousand years, is well able to handle the occasional stress response and in fact uses it positively, if the response becomes a normal way of life, other parts of the brain and body become involved leading to long term damage.

For example, ongoing stress causes the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, which are the master controllers for the body, to release a chemical called ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) which stimulates the adrenal gland to produce and release cortisol which disrupts sleep patterns leading to increased levels of stress. Our bodies are simply not designed to live at high alert for sustained periods of time; it just wears it down leading to illness and usually weight gain.

How has it impacted me?

In the last eighteen months I have put on 28lbs despite eating normally, cooking from scratch and being reasonably active.  The one added ingredient has been stress.

There is a reason that they say that moving house is as stressful as divorce or a bereavement. And the last eighteen months have certainly demonstrated that point. Between the worry of not selling and subsequent financial concern – the Spanish intricate legal system – packing up a large house ourselves in 3 weeks – selling two cars – waiting anxiously for ten days before the banks got their act together and transferred the funds to Ireland – living under someone elses roof for three months (very gratefully of course) – finding a house as quickly as possible – the buying process – renovations etc. It has been relentless.

Don’t get me wrong, I am loving the end result and in a few weeks time the work will be finished and our furniture will be arriving from Spain. We already love where we are living; despite missing our friends we had to leave behind. We have our family closer both here in Ireland and in the UK which is such a pleasure. We are looking forward to a future that will be so much less fraught with worry.

However, the cost to the body of all this internal stress, is another reason for our middle-aged spread.

If you look around you and even in the mirror…. you will see that there are a great many of us over the age of 50 who carry that evidence of internal stress, particular around our middles. Of course some of that extra weight is down to the hormonal changes that naturally take place for both men and women, but after working with clients all these years, I can also tell you that it is also down to something more dangerous.

Most that I have spoken too about stress have textbook examples across the board. Finances, jobs, relationships, the future, health, family, the world and its apparent spiral into mindless chaos. Even the lack of extended family, as men and women in their 70s and 80s wonder what is to become of them as they become ill. Even those who feel financially secure wonder how long that might last as they see their pensions and dreams of a stress free retirement dwindle.

This is mirrored in much younger men and women too which is even more concerning as it means they will be living with this stress reaction from much longer than those in middle-age. They are the ones who will be fuelling the statistics of heart disease and other chronic illnesses of the future.

Identifying your stress triggers.

I can identify the stress over the last two years and can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. I also have something that has gone a long way to mitigate the effects of that stress which is my writing, in its various formats. For me sitting down at the keyboard is hugely beneficial and goodness knows where my weight would be if I had not been able to write every day.

I am also starting swimming again in September once the holiday season is over at the local leisure centre, I am going to be helping out with the decorating which I do with music on my head and paint all over me; we will also be getting one of the greatest stress busters of all times.. a four-legged running machine.

What I want to convey is that our weight and health is not just about eating a balanced diet, watching your fluids, taking regular exercise… You can be doing all of that and still be unable to shift extra weight or even be putting it on.

If you are looking at embracing some health changes to eat a healthier diet, get more exercise etc… you also need to be honest about the stress in your life. Make a list and you will find that by finding solutions to combat that stress will actually do your body as much benefit as making changes to your food intake.

We all have our own ways of combatting stress.. I have mine lined up and I know that by Christmas my extra two stone will have vanished. But, despite my training and experience, even I can get caught out when I allow stress to get the better of me.

I wrote some posts on stress and its impact on the body and here is a couple that you might find helpful.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/04/05/smorgasbord-health-stress-drama-drama-drama-how-is-your-body-coping/

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/04/07/smorgasbord-health-stress-strategies-and-foods-to-support-you/

Thanks for dropping in and if you have any questions you can always ask.. in the comments or if you prefer by email.. sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Smorgasbord Health – Ancient healing therapies – Reflexology


smorgasbord health

It is a couple of years since I posted a series on some of the Ancient healing therapies that are still being practiced today. I am reluctant to call them Alternative therapies as that is an expression that was coined by the medical profession back in the dark ages…up to the present day…. to describe healing that has been used for thousands of years but is beyond their comprehension.  This is not to say that all treatments today that are offered on the back of ancient healing is effective. Over the last twenty years or so I have come across some practices that I find very difficult to support.

To become an effective healer in any of the ancient practices you need to undergo stringent training and to have a broad knowledge of the human body. You also have to understand that even physical therapies that require a hands on application can have a profound effect on mental and emotional health. For example reflexology in the right hands can produce a release of emotions as well as alleviating pain and soreness in a particular region of the body.

The other aspect that it is interesting to note is that some of the ancient therapies such as acupuncture and reiki, are used on pets and they can prove to be very effective. Since animals to not experience the placebo effect, it does go a long way to prove in my mind that the treatments are genuinely beneficial to humans and animals alike.

WHAT IS REFLEXOLOGY?

Reflexology is a form of complementary medicine that was first practised over 5,000 years in China where it was used to correct energy fields in patients. There is evidence in the form of wall art that the Egyptians and Indians also used this form of healing in the same time period. The Incas are believed to have passed down their skill of reflexology to the North American Red Indians who used it extensively for healing and relaxation.

It really only came to prominence in the Western world in the last century when various physicians discovered that reflexology points when stimulated acted as a form of anaesthetic. A doctor in the U.S called Dr. William Fitzgerald developed these first points into vertical zones and connected them to specific organs and parts of the body. He wrote a book on Zone Therapy in the early 1900’s and was the forerunner of modern day reflexology therapy.

Later doctors added additional horizontal zones to the upper and underside of the feet and then to the hands. Other parts of the body such as the face and ears were explored as the connection between massaging certain points on the body and acupuncture became more apparent.

In the 1920’s a therapist called Eunice Ingham completed the chart of the feet and developed the method that today we call reflexology.

HOW DOES REFLEXOLOGY WORK?

As in acupuncture that I  will cover next week,there are a number of places on the body where pressure can be applied to benefit individual organs, systems and the structure of the body. This includes the hands and the ears but today I am going to focus on the feet which are the most common area of the body to be massaged.

In the feet there are reflex areas that correspond to all parts of the body and these areas are arranged in the form of a map on each foot. The right foot mainly corresponds to the right side of the body and the left foot to the left side with shared zones for central areas of the body. This enables therapists to be very specific about areas and conditions that require treatment. The important thing to remember with all natural therapies is that they work from the inside of the body to the outside of the body whereas conventional treatment tends to work from the outside in. In most cases this leads to the symptoms being treated and not the cause. Reflexology can treat the whole body internally and externally just by manipulating these specific pressure points.

Reflexology points

If you imagine the image of the foot from above with the toes facing away from you can get a clearer picture of the reflexology map.

There are horizontal zones running across the centre line of the toes and these pressure points relate to the face, sinus, teeth, gums and jaw on the left foot and the neck and brain stem on the right foot. Above the zone in the nail bed of the big toe is the zone for the head and brain and under the zone at the base of the toe is the zone for the neck.

Another horizontal band runs across the foot just slightly below the toes and this relates to the tops of the shoulders. Half way up the foot is a zone that can be massaged to relieve upper back problems and the zone around the base of the ankle controls the lymph glands, fallopian tubes and the groin area.

Along each side of the foot are smaller zones with specific roles in therapy. Along the outside edge of the left foot are the zones for the arm, lungs, chest and breast areas, elbow, waistline, knee and leg and lower back. Along the inside edge of the left and right feet are zones for the spine and the bladder.

On the bottom of the feet.

On the bottom of both feet you will find specific zones of varying sizes that are massaged to provide therapy for other parts and organs. On the underside of the left foot are the zones for shoulder, lungs, upper chest and back, diaphragm, gall bladder, ascending colon. Just under the last two toes is the zone for the inner ear. The big toe has a zone for the head and brain as well as one for the pituitary gland.

The underside of the right foot contains zones for the thyroid gland, eye, sinus, neck, ear, arm, stomach, spleen, transverse and descending colon and the small intestine.

Both feet share zones on the inside edge and centre which relate to the heart, solar plexus, liver, adrenal gland, pancreas, kidneys, spine, bladder, sciatic nerve and the lower back.

As in acupuncture the gentle manipulation of certain pressure points on the feet releases blocked channels in the body allowing healing to take place.

WHAT HAPPENS DURING A REFLEXOLOGY TREATMENT?

Your therapist should take a full medical history before beginning to treat you. You will then sit in a comfortable position with bare feet.

All the zones on the feet will be massaged usually using the side and end of the thumb to apply firm pressure. If there is a particular part of the body that is affected by pain or discomfort this will often be reflected in the specific zone for that area on the foot. A feeling of tenderness will be experienced that can ease with continued massage. The process should not be in any way uncomfortable and in fact many people find it very relaxing.

WHAT SORT OF MEDICAL CONDITIONS COULD REFLEXOLOGY HELP?

As with any alternative therapy, despite often having thousands of years of history, you have to be very careful about claiming that it works as a cure. Many patients find relief from stress, depression, fatigue, spinal problems, indigestion, Irritable bowel syndrome, hormone imbalance and sinusitis. It is also used for specific muscle and joint pain in conjunction with other complementary therapies.

ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS FROM UNDERGOING REFLEXOLOGY TREATMENT?

This largely depends on the extent of the original problem but there may be slight detox side effects such as mild headaches, diarrhoea, and possible congestion as the body tries to rid itself of toxins that have been released. It is a good idea to combine reflexology with a detox programme along the lines of last month’s plan combined with additional fluids. You might also experience some emotional side-effects and certainly if you have been under stress you might find yourself feeling either a little weepy.  You should certainly feel relaxed.

Reflexology and pets.

Sam enjoyed both reflexology and reiki healing which I will cover in another post. He would actively ask for a massage, not just on his tummy as many dogs do but he would come and sit with his back to me until he was touching my knees… I would then massage the edges of his ears (like in humans probably relating to certain parts of his body ) and then his neck gently and then down across the tops of his front legs and then down his spine… He would occasionally lift his paw and I would massage the pads of his foot and lightly inbetween..He would sit perfectly still for 10 minutes or so before getting up, stretching and moving off to go to sleep.

For those of you who are interested here is the link to Pet massage from last week. Good for them and good for you.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/pet-health-massage-for-your-pet-that-benefits-you-too-3/

Next time a look at Acupuncture which is a healing therapy that I have found to be very beneficial several times in my life.

©sallycronin Just Food for health 2007