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Supporting your friends when the going gets tough

Mental health is a very large umbrella term, and it incorporates all sorts of different things. Think of it as an equivalent term to cancer. There are many different types of cancers, and each affects the mind, body and soul different. Well, so do the different types of mental illness. Just because you can’t see a lump or a scar, it doesn’t mean they are not there.

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Do you need some guidance on supporting a friend through a tough time?

Then read on for three scenarios, and how you can be the best friend possible.

Supporting a friendIMAGE SOURCE

If your friend… is suffering from a mental health problem

Mental health is a very large umbrella term, and it incorporates all sorts of different things. Think of it as an equivalent term to cancer. There are many different types of cancers, and each affects the mind, body and soul different. Well, so do the different types of mental illness. Just because you can’t see a lump or a scar, it doesn’t mean they are not there. People suffering from mental illnesses worry greatly about how they will be perceived by others. They also worry that they will be judged, or thought badly of. This is why one of the best things you can do in this scenario is to make it clear that you think no less of them. This goes for whether or not you spots signs and symptoms and bring it up with them, or if they come to you. Whichever, make sure you are available for them 24/7 while they work their way through it. They may need a hug or a cry, but they may just want to go for a coffee. Let them know you’re available to support them however they want, whenever it is they want it.

If your friend… is drinking too much

It can be tricky to tell the difference between enjoying a drink, binge-drinking, and impending alcoholism. While a touchy and delicate subject, it is part of your responsibility to watch out for these things. After all, too much alcohol can cause things from blood poisoning to blackouts to addiction. Similarly, if your friend comes to you have spotted a problem themselves, they will need your help and support more than ever to quit.

When it comes to how to stop drinking alcohol, different things work for different people. As well as providing your friend with solutions, you must reassure them that it’s okay if it doesn’t work straight away. It may take a period of trial and error until they find a technique or method that helps them.

If your friend… is struggling in their relationship

If your friend is having trouble with their relationship or love life, there is probably not much you can do to help. After all, a relationship is between two people, not two people and a best friend. With this in mind, the most valuable thing you can do for your friend is to listen to them. Give advice if you feel like you have something valuable to offer, and if they seem receptive. Do remember, though, when listening to them and giving advice, to be careful. Even if they are ranting and raving about their partner, keep an eye on what you say. If they make up with them, they will probably forget what they said to you. However, they might not forget what you said. Agree with their sentiments if you wish, but don’t let your own rant take over. It could make for some awkward dinner parties further down the line otherwise.

A registered nurse, “Ching” – as many fondly call Rachelle Grace – believes that a holistic approach to health and wellness is what everyone should aim for. She is, therefore, always on the lookout for what could help achieve this. And yes, she shares them openly, believing “knowledge about what works won’t be much use if it’s not known by as many as possible”.

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5 Steps for women to reduce their risk of COPD

Women tend to develop COPD earlier in life than men and are more likely to have severe symptoms and be hospitalized with the disease. The good news? According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk for COPD.

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If you’re a woman who tries to stay healthy, you may exercise several times per week, watch what you eat and get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. But are you listening to your lungs?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a leading cause of disability and death in the United States, takes an especially heavy toll on women. You may think problems like shortness of breath, frequent coughs or wheezing are just signs of getting older, but it’s important to pay attention to these symptoms and discuss them with your doctor.

COPD is a serious lung disease that causes breathing problems and worsens over time. It has often been considered a man’s disease. Yet more women than men have been diagnosed with COPD in the past decade, and over the past 20 years more women have died from it, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Women tend to develop COPD earlier in life than men and are more likely to have severe symptoms and be hospitalized with the disease. The good news? According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk for COPD.

Don’t Smoke

You probably already know cigarette smoking is harmful  but did you know that women may be more vulnerable to the effects of smoking? Women who smoke tend to get COPD at younger ages and with less cigarettes smoked than men. COPD is the leading cause of death among U.S. women smokers.

If you do smoke, it’s never too late to quit.

If you thought vaping was a healthy alternative to smoking, think again. Researchers are still learning about the long-term health effects of e-cigarettes, but they may contain as many, if not more, harmful chemicals than tobacco cigarettes.

Avoid Pollutants

Among people with COPD who have never smoked, most are women. Women may be more vulnerable to indoor and outdoor air pollution. Women’s smaller lungs and airways mean the same amount of inhaled pollutants may cause more damage.

Working in places like nail salons, hair salons or dry cleaners can expose you to harmful chemicals. If you’re exposed to chemical fumes at your job, talk to your employer about ways to limit exposure. Better ventilation and wearing a mask can help.

Stay Current on Vaccines

People at risk for COPD are more likely to have serious problems resulting from some vaccine-preventable diseases. Ask a health care provider about getting vaccinated against the flu, pneumococcal disease and COVID-19.

Talk to Your Doctor About COPD

Women with COPD tend to be diagnosed later than men when the disease is more severe and treatments are less effective. If you think you could be at risk, or you are having symptoms, bring it up with your health care provider. Treatment can ease symptoms and improve your ability to exercise.

Learn More to Breathe Better

Find more information on COPD from NHLBI’s Learn More Breathe Better program at copd.nhlbi.nih.gov.

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Wellness

Sports like soccer, basketball better for young athletes’ bone health than running alone

The study’s findings support recommendations that athletes delay specialization in running and play multi-directional sports when younger to build a more robust skeleton – and potentially prevent bone stress injuries.

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Photo by Md Mahdi from Unsplash.com

Young athletes who participate in multidirectional sports, instead of specializing in a unidirectional sport like running, can build stronger bones that may be at less risk for bone injuries as adults, according to a new study from Indiana University researchers.

Published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, the study examined Division I and II female cross country runners, who often experience bone stress injuries like stress fractures. The researchers found that athletes who ran and participated in sports that require movement in many directions – such as basketball or soccer – when younger had better bone structure and strength than those who solely ran, swam or cycled.

As a result, the study’s findings support recommendations that athletes delay specialization in running and play multi-directional sports when younger to build a more robust skeleton – and potentially prevent bone stress injuries.

Media kit: Access video interview with Stuart Warden

“Our data shows that playing multidirectional sports when younger versus specializing in one sport, such as running, decreased a person’s bone injury risk by developing a bigger, stronger skeleton,” said Stuart Warden, associate dean for research and Chancellor’s Professor in the IU School of Health and Human Sciences at IUPUI. “There is a common misperception that kids need to specialize in a single sport to succeed at higher levels. However, recent data indicate that athletes who specialize at a young age are at a greater risk of an overuse injury and are less likely to progress to higher levels of competition.”

Historically, Warden said, researchers have examined the bone’s mass – how much bone a person has – to determine how healthy their skeleton will be through life. But in previous studies, Warden and his colleagues found that as a person ages, both mass and size are equally important.

In the current study, the researchers used high-resolution imaging to assess the shin bone near the ankle and bones in the feet where bone stress injuries frequently occur in runners. They found that the athletes who participated in both running and multidirectional sports when younger had 10 to 20 percent greater bone strength than athletes who solely ran.

“Our research shows that the runners who played multidirectional sports when younger had stronger bones as collegiate athletes, which puts them at less risk for bone stress injuries including stress fractures,” Warden said. “We want to ensure people have better, stronger bones as they grow, become adolescents and go through life. Specializing in one sport at too young of an age means they are more likely to get injured and not make it at the collegiate and professional levels.”

Warden said that anyone who oversees a junior athlete or team – whether that be parents, coaches or trainers – should think twice about pushing them to specialize in one area too early. To allow for proper growth and development to occur, he recommends young athletes not specialize until at least their freshman year of high school. For athletes who already play multidirectional sports, he said it is important that they take time off for rest and recovery during the year, which can improve both bone strength and performance.

Additional authors on the study were Austin Sventeckis, Ph.D. student, and Robyn Fuchs, associate professor, of the IU School of Health and Human Sciences at IUPUI, and Rachel Surowiec of the School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI.

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Wellness

Vegans who lift weights may have stronger bones than other people on a plant-based diet

The researchers found vegan participants who did resistance training exercises such as using machines, free weights, or bodyweight resistance exercises at least once a week had stronger bones than those who did not. They also found vegans and omnivores who engaged in resistance training had similar bone structure.

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Photo by Meghan Holmes from Unsplash.com

People on a plant-based diet who do strength training as opposed to other forms of exercise such as biking or swimming may have stronger bones than other people on a vegan diet, according to new research published in the Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

About 6 percent of people in the US are vegans. Recent research shows a plant-based diet can be associated with lower bone mineral density and increased fracture risk.

“Veganism is a global trend with strongly increasing numbers of people worldwide adhering to a purely plant-based diet,” said Christian Muschitz, M.D., of St. Vincent Hospital Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria. “Our study showed resistance training offsets diminished bone structure in vegan people when compared to omnivores.”

The authors compared data from 43 men and women on a plant-based diet for at least five years and 45 men and women on an omnivore diet for at least five years. Omnivores eat meat as well as plant-based foods.

The researchers found vegan participants who did resistance training exercises such as using machines, free weights, or bodyweight resistance exercises at least once a week had stronger bones than those who did not. They also found vegans and omnivores who engaged in resistance training had similar bone structure. 

“People who adhere to a vegan lifestyle should perform resistance training on a regular basis to preserve bone strength,” Muschitz said.

Other authors of this study include: Robert Wakolbinger-Habel of the Vienna Healthcare Group and the Medical University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria; Matthias Reinweber of the Vienna Healthcare Group; Jürgen König, Daniel König and Rochus Pokan of the University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria; and Peter Pietschmann of the Medical University of Vienna.

The study received no external funding.

The manuscript, “Self-Reported Resistance Training is Associated with Better HR-pQCT Derived Bone Microarchitecture in Vegan People,” was published online, ahead of print.

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