SLCo Healthy Lifestyles Blog
As our society becomes increasingly technologically advanced
and more and more of us are “plugged in,” we can easily lose touch with the
benefits of the simple activity of being outside and enjoying nature. This becomes even more of a
challenge when the areas we live and work in are highly urbanized and our time
spent in nature becomes less and less. We may be so busy that we don’t even
notice the growing lack of green space around us and some of the negative health consequences we may be experiencing because of this decline. What are the health
benefits of spending time outside and how can we better incorporate this into
our busy lives?
Definition of a Green Space
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
green space is defined as any space that is partly or completely covered with
grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation. Green space includes parks,
community gardens, and cemeteries. Typically, urban environments tend to be
somewhat void of the above listed attributes, while suburban and country areas
typically contain more green space.
Physical Health Benefits of Green Space
- Urban green spaces encourage exercise and are a more restorative environment than indoor settings
- Green spaces offer a free, accessible, public environment in which to exercise and play to those who cannot afford a private gym membership.
- Having plants within view of workstations decreasesoth illness incidence and the amount of self-reported sick leave
- Green spaces provide necessary places and opportunities for physical activity. Exercise improves cognitive function, learning, and memory.
Also, individuals are more likely to exercise if:
- Walking trails, parks and gyms are accessible
- Sidewalks are present and scenery is enjoyable
This short video documents how the health of a community is in part determined by its access to green space and how much the neighborhood you live in affects your overall health and well-being
Mental Health Benefits of Green Space
- Stress recovery is faster when viewing nature
- Many studies connect urban park use to decreased stress levels and improved moods. In one study, the longer participants stayed in a park, the less stress they exhibited.
- Researchers found that 71% of people found a reduction in depression after going on an outdoor walk versus a 45% reduction by those who went on an indoor walk.
- Brief glimpses of natural elements improve brain performance by providing a cognitive break from the complex demands of urban life.
How to Bring More Green into Your Work Routine
- Take frequent walks outside, weather permitting
- Adorn your office or cubicle with live plants or flowers
- Encourage co-workers to keep plants in their offices as well
- Bike or walk to work
- Suggest holding meetings at a nearby park
- Eat lunch outside
1Grinde, B., and G.G. Patil. 2009. Biophilia: Does Visual Contact with Nature Impact on Health and Well-Being? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 6, 9: 2332-343.
2 Pretty, J., R. Hine, and J. Peacock. 2006. Green Exercise: The Benefits of Activities in Green Places. Biologist 53, 3: 143-48.
3 Kaplan, S. 1995. The Restorative Benefits of Nature: Toward An Integrative Framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology 15, 3: 169-182.
4Bringslimark, T., T. Hartig, and G.G. Patil. 2007. Psychological Benefits of Indoor Plants in Workplaces: Putting Experimental Results Into Context. Hortscience 42, 3: 581-87.
5 Grahn, P., and U.K. Stigsdotter. 2010. The Relation Between Perceived Sensory Dimensions of Urban Green Space and Stress Restoration. Landscape and Urban Planning 94, 3-4: 264-275
⁶ Burls, A. 2007. People and Green Spaces: Promoting Public Health and Mental Well-Being Through Ecotherapy. Journal of Public Mental Health 6, 3: 24-39.
The Neoroscience of Wellness
The Neuroscience of Wellness
The secret to a healthy brain may not be so secret at all. Most everyone would like to see enhanced memory and cognitive abilities in their daily lives. Who doesn’t want to be able to remember the names and faces of new people they meet, remember important facts, and improve their problem solving skills? However, one concern that many people have is whether or not their cognitive functions will decrease as they age. The answer might not come in expensive supplements or other intelligence-enhancing products. Scientific studies have shown that one great way to enhance cognitive abilities may simply be to move more.
How Our Brains Work
Our brain is built up of neurons, which make up the connections that our brain uses to process information. Basically, neurons are how we think. Scientists used to think that we were born with all the neurons we would have, and we slowly lost those neurons over time. While many neurons in our brain cannot recover from damage, neurons can develop new connections and even regrow in certain areas of the brain (Cotman, Berchtold, & Christie, 2007).
The Aging Brain & Physical Activity
As we age, our brain size normally decreases, and specific areas related to memory may suffer as a result. Studies have suggested that a person’s brain size can increase in size if they engage in regular physical activity. This proved to be consistent even when taking into account the age of a person. A bigger brain generally means a healthier and smarter brain. Combatting the decrease in brain size that comes with aging with regular physical activity, a person might help prevent the effects of aging in their brain (Wendell, Gunstad, Waldstein, Wright, Ferrucci, & Zonderman, 2013).
The Mayo Clinic suggests that keeping physically active may:
- Keep thinking, reasoning and learning skills sharp for healthy individuals
- Improve memory, reasoning, judgment and thinking skills (cognitive function) for people with mild Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment
- Delay the start of Alzheimer’s for people at risk of developing the disease or slow the progress of the disease (Petersen, 2014)
What Can I Do to Maintain a Healthy Brain?
So what does this all mean for our brain health?
First of all, it means that the activities we engage in affect our brain. Whether or not we engage in physical activity affects the size of our brain, which has been linked to cognitive ability. It means that if we neglect physical activity, our brains may suffer, but it also means that our brains respond quickly when we start engaging in healthier behaviors.
To preserve and protect brain health, follow these suggestions:
- Incorporate physical activity into your daily life. It doesn’t matter what you do, but choose an activity you like as you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
- Visit your doctor to take care of any health problems that could keep you from an active lifestyle.
- Pay attention to your mental health and seek help when needed. Be aware of common signs and symptoms that may warrant attention, such as changes in eating or sleeping habits, and pulling away from people and activities.
- Spend time cultivating relationships with family and friends.
- Eat a variety of fresh, whole, and healthy foods to boost memory.
- Live an active life physically, mentally, and socially. It will keep your brain healthy longer, and who doesn’t want that?
For a more in depth look at how physical activity enhances our memory, cognition, and well-being, check out this video with Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki:
1Cotman, C. W., Berchtold, N. C., & Christie, L.-A. (2007). Exercise builds brain health: key roles of growth factor cascades and inflammation. Trends in Neurosciences, 30(9), 464-472.
3 Petersen, R. (2014). Alzheimer's disease. Retrieved July 21, 2014, from Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/alzheimers-disease/faq-20057881
3 Wendell, C. R., Gunstad, J., Waldstein, S. R., Wright, J. G., Ferrucci, L., & Zonderman, A. B. (2013). Cardiorepiratory Fitness and Accelerated Cognitive Decline with Aging. The Journals of Gerontology, 69(4), 455-462.
Importance of Sleep
Have you ever felt tired when you wake up in the morning or do you feel extremely sleepy in the afternoon? Do you get enough sleep? According to the
Institute of Medicine, the average adult needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep. However, studies show that in 2012 in the United States, only 70% of adults received sufficient sleep. That means that 30% of adults aren’t getting quality sleep every night! Check out the chart below to see how many hours of sleep you should be getting.
What Happens When We Sleep:
Although scientists aren’t exactly sure why we sleep, they have many ideas about the
functions of sleep. Here are a couple of important functions that happen during sleep:
- The cells in your body repair themselves
- Important hormones related to growth are released in children and boost muscle mass in adults
- Your body is able to conserve energy
- The cardiovascular system, including your heart, is given a chance to rest and recuperate
- Important functions in the brain enhance learning and memory
- Immune system is boosted
Harvard Medical School’s website for more information!
Getting enough sleep improves our overall health. Sleep affects our mental, emotional, and physical health so it is very important to get the recommended hours of sleep for your age to stay healthy. Check out the list below to see why sleep is so important.
Benefits of sleep:
- Won’t be as likely to get sick
- Your body will be more likely to maintain a healthy weight
- Increase in cognitive ability and mood
- Ability to think more clearly and do better at work and school
- More energy
- Improved memory function
Who doesn't want all these benefits? The most important thing to remember is that sleep is not just a nice luxury, it’s a necessity! View this video on why sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our health.
How important is sleep?
Along with the benefits of getting adequate sleep, you may experience side effects if you don’t get enough sleep.
Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation:
Short-term side effects of sleep deprivation include:
- Decreased cognitive ability
- Decreased precision in performance
- Longer reaction time
- Decreased higher level cognitive capacity even with stimulant use (such as caffeine) (Kilgore, 2010)
Short-term side effects can be dangerous, especially if a person is driving or operating machinery. The longer a person is awake, the more dangerous it becomes. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation reports that
being awake for 18 hours is equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, which is the legal limit for alcohol consumption. Follow this
link to play a short game and find out how sleep deprivation can affect your daily performance. The longer your reaction time is, the more errors you will make, and that can have disastrous results especially when a high level of concentration is required for a task.
In addition to the short-term side effects, if a person consistently gets less than the needed 7 to 8 hours of sleep over time, they accrue sleep debt. After days, weeks, or months of getting less sleep than needed, a person may develop additional side effects.
Long-term side effects of sleep deprivation include:
- Increased blood pressure (Palagini et al., 2013)
- Increased risk of heart attack
- Decreased immune system function and increased inflammation (AlDabal & Bahammam, 2011)
- Impaired glucose tolerance which is a precursor to diabetes
- Increased tendency to gain weight
- Mental distress, anxiety, depression, and other emotional disorders
relative risk of dying, compared to the general population (Institute of Medicine, 2006)
Getting enough sleep can be a daunting task especially when our busy lives and schedules seem to take over, but you CAN make small changes that will improve your health and well-being in the long run. Follow these guidelines from the
National Sleep Foundation for designing an environment conducive to sleep:
Here are some additional tips to help you fall asleep:
- Exercise early in the day and avoid exercising late at night right before bed
- Don’t drink anything with caffeine late in the day
- Avoid eating a big meal close to bedtime
- Be consistent with the time you go to sleep and wake up
- Drink alcohol in moderation
If you try these tips and still feel extremely tired during the day or have difficulty sleeping, you may have a sleeping disorder. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to see what they can do to help you!
AlDabal, L., & Bahammam, A. S. (2011). Metabolic, Endocrine, and Immune Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. The Open Respiratory Medicine Journal, 31-43.
Kilgore, W. (2010). Effects of sleep deprivation on cognition. Prog Brain Res, 105-129.
National Research Council. (2006). Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. In H. R. Colten, & B. M. Altevogt. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Palagini, L., Bruno, R., Gemignani, A., Baglioni, C., Ghiadoni, L., & Riemann, D. (2013). Sleep loss and hypertension: a systematic review. Curr Pharm Des, 2409-2419.
Breast Cancer Awareness
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and we want everyone to be involved with spreading the important message of early detection and screening! This is a great time to become more educated about breast cancer and what we can do to prevent it. We have all heard about what we can do to reduce our risk such as getting a yearly mammogram once we turn 40, regular exercise, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting enough sleep (American Cancer Society). 1 in 8 U.S. women will still develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. But the good news is, the survival rate is 98% when the cancer is detected early. That’s why mammograms are so important! They can help detect breast cancer in its early stages and save your life.
But we aren't getting our mammograms:
Utah has the second lowest breast cancer screening rate in the country. Only 67% of women in Utah have had a mammogram in the past 2 years. That’s troublesome! Take a look at the statistics below to see why it’s important to get screened.
Why aren’t more women getting mammograms?
There are many barriers that keep women from getting their annual screening. How many of these are barriers for you?:
- No health insurance
- Low perceived risk
- Lack of knowledge about mammograms and their importance
- Haven’t received a recommendation from a Doctor for getting one
- Lack of transportation or access to care
- Embarrassment of the test
- Fear of diagnosis
- Fear of pain from the procedure
- Language barriers and cultural differences
- Inability to pay
- Physical disabilities
- Lack of motivation or desire
How can we overcome these barriers?
A lot of women don’t realize the importance and need for a yearly mammogram once they turn 40. Becoming educated about mammograms is one of the most important things you can do to overcome the barriers listed above. When you understand why mammograms are important and what they are, you will be able to overcome the barriers that have kept you from getting your annual mammogram. Help spread the word about the importance of getting a mammogram and encourage the women over 40 in your life to go get screened.
here to send an e-card to a female friend to encourage getting a mammogram!
Watch this short video to see how getting a mammogram saved this woman’s life!
Mary Nickles Mammography Commercial
Is it just about women?
Women aren’t the only ones affected by breast cancer. Men have a small amount of breast tissue so it is possible for them to get breast cancer, although it is rare. It is expected that in 2014 about 2,360 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 410 men will die from breast cancer. Here are some of the symptoms of breast cancer in men to be aware of:
- Any change in the breast, chest area or nipple can be a warning sign of breast cancer in men
- Lump, hard knot, or thickening in the breast (usually painless, but may be tender)
- Dimpling, puckering, or redness of the skin of the breast
- Itchy, scaly, or rash on the nipple
- Pulling in of the nipple (inverted nipple) or other parts of the breast
- Discharge from the nipple
If you are a male and have experienced any of the symptoms listed above, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor right away. Don’t delay getting screened!
The symptoms and warning signs are similar for women:
Here is some additional information about the warning signs of breast cancer.
Get screened and encourage others to do the same!
Is it time for your yearly mammogram? The Mammo-van is coming to the Government Center on October 16 and 17. Check out this convenient way to get a mammogram!
Learn more about the Mammo-van and find out how you can schedule an appointment today.
If you have any questions about getting a mammogram, click
here for a list of common questions and answers about what to expect when going in for a mammogram.
The holiday season is quickly approaching and along with it comes parties, family gatherings, and delicious food! November and December tend to be busy months full of celebrations with family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Navigating the food environment that accompanies these social events can be tricky for many of us during the holidays and often we leave these events feeling shame with overeating or “breaking the diet.” These times are meant to be enjoyed and are good bonding moments with family and friends and shouldn't be stressful times worrying about food. Many wellness programs focus on not gaining weight during the holidays and implementing harsh “food rules”, but our focus at Healthy Lifestyles is promoting healthy and sustainable eating behaviors through eating whole foods and normal eating for lifelong healthy habits.
A lot of us tend to have “food rules” or a diet mentality, especially during the holiday season. These ideas aren't conducive to normal eating. What are food rules? Food rules are restrictions that we set for ourselves that limit our eating habits. Here are a few common food rules:
- Don’t eat after 7
- I can only eat a treat on the weekend
- Don’t eat carbs
- I can only eat 1400 calories a day
The list of “food rules” goes on and on. While we may not always consider “food rules” to be dieting, they can be damaging to our overall health and are part of a diet mentality. Research shows that dieters tend to gain more weight over time. Watch the video below and find out why dieting doesn't work for lifelong health.
Why Dieting Doesn't Work
What is normal eating?
- Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.
- Normal eating is choosing food you like, eating it and truly getting enough of it-and not just stopping eating because you think you should.
- Normal eating is giving some thought to your food selection so you opt for nutritious food often, but not being so cautious that you miss out on enjoyable food.
- Normal eating is sometimes giving yourself permission to eat because you are happy, sad, bored, or just because eating feels good.
- Normal eating is three meals per day-or four to five smaller meals (with snacks).
- Normal eating is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful and you aren’t full.
- Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. It is also undereating at times and wishing you had more.
- Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your “mistakes” in eating.
- Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
- Normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your feelings, and food availability.
(Steiner-Adair & Sjostrom, Full of Ourselves, 2006, p. 85)
If you aren't a normal eater, you aren't alone. Many of us have grown up with a very abnormal eating environment, but fortunately there are ways we can practice and learn the skills of intuitive or mindful eating. Just like everything in life, normal or sometimes called intuitive eating takes practice and you become better at it as you practice it over and over. Be patient with yourself as you develop a normal eating mindset and realize that it can take time to become an intuitive eater.
As the New Year approaches we’ll be hearing about all the miracle diets, but it is important to remember normal eating is something sustainable that we can practice all year long.