Health and Wellbeing

Sixtyplusurfers Competition

Win Two Ravensburger Jigsaw Puzzles

Sixtyplusurfers has teamed up with Ravensburger to offer one lucky reader the chance to win two fabulous Jigsaw Puzzles including Lochside Cottage and The Collector’s Cupboard.

Jigsaw Puzzles are the perfect way to relax, improve your manual dexterity, and keep your mind active and alert. Enjoy them on a rainy day indoors, as a break from the television, and with family and friends.

Each beautifully illustrated puzzle can also stimulate an interesting conversation, bring back happy memories, and tells its own fascinating story. You can also glue them to a board and frame them once complete.

Lochside Cottage

This little cottage nestles between towering mountain peaks and the deep, still waters of a Scottish Loch. The owner has created a lovely seating area surrounded by conifers, heathers, hydrangeas and spring bulbs. Wildlife visitors include butterflies, a red squirrel, crested tits, goldfinch, siskin and even a capercaillie. 

We hope the Highland cow stays by the shoreline, and doesn’t decide to roam into this magical garden!  What a wonderful place to sit and appreciate the beauty of the Highland landscape. Number 12 in the country cottage collection. This high quality 1000 piece cardboard jigsaw puzzle measures 70cm x 50cm when complete and is suitable for ages 12 years and up.

The Collector’s Cupboard

Collecting is a popular hobby, and finding storage for all that ‘treasure’ can be a challenge. But the owner of this curious cupboard has everything under control. There’s space for an amazing array of valuables, including Cornish kitchenware, buttons, bottles, cameras, stamps and timepieces. We hope Colin Thompson’s wonderfully inventive puzzle will keep you entertained and amused!

Created by British born artist Colin Thompson. He is best known as a writer and illustrator of children’s books. Born in London, Colin has lived in the Outer Hebrides, in a farmhouse near Hadrian’s Wall and in Mallorca. But he now lives in Australia with his wife, two dogs and three ducks in a beautiful valley called the ‘Promised Land’

This high quality 1000 piece cardboard jigsaw puzzle measures 70cm x 50cm when complete. Suitable for ages 12 years and up. The puzzle is made from strong premium grade cardboard, with linen finish print to minimise the glare on the puzzle image.

For more information about Ravensburger click on www.ravensburger.org

For Your Chance to Win

Tell us what towers
in the background of
the Lochside Cottage jigsaw puzzle?
 

      a) Windmills
      b) Skyscrapers
      c) Mountain peaks
      d) Electricity pylons

To Enter the Competition

Tell us what towers in the background of the Lochside Cottage jigsaw puzzle from Ravensburger? Then send in your answer together with your full name address and telephone number to the Sixtyplusurfers email address below:

sixtypluscomp@hotmail.co.uk 

* Please label your entry
Ravensburger Puzzles
Competition (January)

* This Competition is open to our
UK readers only

* Names and addresses of entrants
will not be shared with third parties
and will be deleted after the
prize draw has been made

Handling Stressful Situations

Stop Overreacting to the Small Stuff with the STOP Technique

The Wellness Society advices on stress and handling trauma

How do you react to the minor hassles that characterise everyday life? Your response to getting stuck in traffic? A cancelled train? A stranger pushing past you? Think about it. Notice it today.

We all overreact to the small stuff from time to time, but here’s the thing: research has shown that accumulated daily hassles show stronger relationships with psychological and physical issues than major stressful episodes.

That’s right: how you react to the small stuff has a bigger impact on your health than major stressful life events.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman coined the term “amygdala hijack” to describe emotional overreactions.

There are three key signs of an amygdala hijack:

1. A sudden strong emotional reaction out of proportion to the situation

2.  A realisation afterward that the reaction was disproportionate

3. Regret or embarrassment around the reaction

If you’ve experienced trauma, you may feel you experience more emotional overreactions than other people. This is because early chronic stress biologically reprograms how we respond to stress as adults. You may experience “emotional flashbacks”, which is when intense feelings occur in the present that you originally felt during the trauma, such as fear, shame or sadness.

The good news is that everyone can learn simple methods to help nip dramatic reactions in the bud – your ability to prevent, recognise and control emotions is part of your emotional intelligence, a.k.a. EQ.

People with high EQ have developed strong connections between their brain’s emotional centre and the executive (thinking) centre.

One simple yet powerful method for developing these connections is the mindfulness-based STOP Technique, a quick, four-step mental checklist.

The idea is that taking a brief pause – even for less than one minute – helps us shift out of the emotional brain and into our brain’s thinking centre.

Doing this helps you gain perspective and determine the best action you can take in the moment.

The STOP Technique

1) STOP!

Interrupt your thoughts with the command ‘STOP!’ and pause whatever you’re doing.

2) Take a Breath

Notice your breathing for a few moments.

Breathe in slowly through the nose, expanding the belly, and exhale slowly out of your mouth, through pursed lips.

3) Observe

Become the observer of your thoughts, emotions and physical reactions.

What thoughts do you notice? What emotions are present? How does your body feel?

Perhaps you can your heart rate rising, your fists clenching, your cheeks flushing?

4) Proceed

Mindfully consider how you’d like to respond – and feel yourself shift into your brain’s thinking centre. Perhaps you want to assess and reframe the thoughts you’re having.

Overreactions often happen when we become overly absorbed with ourselves, our emotions and our expectations.

You might notice thoughts along the lines of “why does this have to happen to me?” and “this isn’t fair!” Here lies the erroneous belief that we shouldn’t have to experience inconveniences like everyone else does (“should/must statements”).

You may realise you’re making assumptions about what someone else is thinking (“mind reading”), blaming yourself (“personalising”), or engaging in another type of cognitive distortion.

Could the best action be to remove yourself from the situation?

To allow your emotions to naturally defuse by focusing on something else?

Prevention is key with emotional overreactions. Notice if this situation is one of your common triggers, and consider how you’d like to respond in future.

Top Tool: Stop, Breathe & Think

Use the guided breathing exercises on this free app to help you diffuse emotional overreactions in the moment.

Find out about The Wellness Society at https://thewellnesssociety.org

Personal Care Range

Aroma Care Solutions Develops Unique Range for Home Care

A new range of personal and home care products is set to revolutionise the health and wellbeing industry by providing a touch of luxury for people receiving care whilst offering a practical solution for carers.

Designed by Aroma Care Solutions, the range is aimed at elderly, sick or disabled people and their carers. It combines nurturing natural ingredients and exquisite aromatherapy to create practical, effective solutions banishing daily indignities such as incontinence or accidents.

Created by experts with backgrounds in aromatherapy and industrial cleaning, Aroma Care Solutions uses long-lasting fragrances, making life easier for the carer and giving a boost to people in their care.

The extensive range is the first of its kind on the market, encompassing both personal care and care around the home.

Its launch comes at a time when the care industry is reaching crisis point with the number of carers set to rise from seven million to over 10 million within the next 12 years with more than a million people over the age of 65 needing round-the-clock care during the next 20 years, according to recent research by Newcastle University and the LSE.

The Aroma Skincare Solutions range is ethical and gentle, with fragrances to help calm, soothe and uplift spirits. The premium products include the Hand and Nail Barrier Formula, Nose Guard Aromatic Balm, English Florals Hair and Body Wash, Fresh Green Handwash, English Florals Hand and Body Lotion, Organic Rose Water Spritz and English Florals Hand Sanitiser.

The Aroma Homecare Solutions range comprises ethical, gentle products designed to revive the body and mind while keeping the home clean and protected.

Within the range is the ground-breaking Bio-Enzyme Odour Management Formula, which not only manages but eradicates malodours caused by bodily fluids on textiles, sinks, baths, showers, plug holes and wet rooms; the Antibacterial Hard Surface Cleaner, which leaves surfaces around the home hygienically clean with an exquisite fragrance; Protective Loo Guard, an antibacterial, fresh-smelling liquid leaving the loo thoroughly cleaned; Absorbent Aromatic Granules, which help with the clean up of bodily fluid spills, and Deodorising Powders for Carpets, a floral scented solution.

Aroma Care Solutions is the brainchild of co-founders Julie Foster and Quentin Steele. An expert aromatherapist and perfumer, Julie had spent a considerable amount of time caring for a close relative with a terminal illness.

During this time, she was surprised at the lack of products which could enhance the experience of carers, and to help maintain the dignity and self-respect of people being cared for. She felt much more could be done to provide a pleasant-smelling environment for patients and surroundings alike, cutting out the associated medical odours.

It was by chance that Julie later crossed paths with London businessman Quentin Steele who has a pedigree of 30 years in the cleaning industry with specific expertise in hygiene and odour management. Between them they identified a much needed niche in the market and Aroma Care Solutions was formed.

Quentin says, “We know there is a need for the home and personal care range but the problem here in the UK is that it is not within our nature to talk about our problems. So, if someone asks how your mother is, you naturally say OK and leave it at that. It would be very un-British for us to expand on the problems we face in looking after her.

“Therefore, dignity and discretion are at the very heart of our solutions and this gap in the market has never really been identified.

“Our beautiful fragrances are the sort you would expect in high quality creams and lotions, giving individuals a treat whilst solving a practical problem.”

Julie adds, “Many of us would never expect to find ourselves having to care for someone, but the reality is there are millions of us looking after relatives or close friends. And this number will continue to increase.

“It is well documented that our population is growing older. And with ever increasing care home fees and rising property prices, more and more of us are choosing to keep our loved ones at home with us, expanding our properties to build an annex, rather than spend £1,500 a week on care.”

For further information about Aroma Care email info@aromacaresolutions.co.uk

Or visit the Aroma Care website at www.aromacaresolutions.co.uk  

Healthy Eating and Vitamins

Six Reasons to Eat More Beetroot

Ever wondered what health benefits beetroot could provide? Nutritionist, Alix Woods shares the top benefits of this nutrient dense superfood

Prevent winter sniffles

Beetroots are full of vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system and protects cells from inflammation and free radical damage. It promotes collagen production, wound healing and aids iron absorption.

Cut the cramps

Beetroots are packed with minerals especially potassium, which is an essential electrolyte mineral for nerve and muscle function. It helps keep the heart beating rhythmically, stops muscles cramping and weakness.

To get your daily dose of Beetroot, as well as Acai Berry and a number of other Superfoods try the brand new sense for Busy Lives Superfood Supplement Powder (RRP £21.99, Boots). This can be added to your favourite smoothies and juices, or stirred into food.

Good for gut health

Beetroot is one of the richest sources the amino acid glutamine, which is essential to the health and maintenance of the intestinal tract, especially if the immune system is under attack when ill. Glutamine is essential for the immune cells and having regular servings of beetroot helps maintain levels.

Can support weight loss

Beetroots are a low calorie, fat free vegetable, full of energy promoting nutrients that can help give one a lift. They have been found to increase plasma nitrate levels, which increases stamina and physical performance and this can help one to lose weight. Beetroots can be added to smoothies and or juices!

Boost brain health

Nitrates in beetroot juice increase blood flow to all parts of the brain and a study found that older people who regularly drank beetroot juice had better blood circulation in the frontal lobes of their brains.

Blood Pressure

Beetroot juice has been found to help lower blood pressure as the nitrates are converted to nitric oxide and help widen and relax the blood vessels, allowing the blood to flow with ease.

For more information about Sense visit https://senseproducts.co.uk

Health & Wellbeing Advice

Loneliness Isn’t
Just the Province
of The Old

By Miriam Stoppard OBE, health and wellbeing advisor at Stannah

When you picture someone who’s lonely, the stereotype is often an older person who lives alone and hardly sees anyone. Indeed, in the BBC Loneliness Experiment, nearly a third of over 75s said they often or very often feel lonely. But would it surprise you to know that loneliness is more common among 16-24 year olds, with 40% saying they often or very often feel lonely? Loneliness isn’t the province of the old.

Loneliness isn’t the same as being alone. A person will always have times when they choose to be alone, soothing themselves, enjoying me time, and taking pleasure in their own company. Rather, loneliness is the feeling of being alone and feeling sad about it. And, of course, all of us feel lonely some of the time. For instance, feeling alone in a crowded room. It’s only when we seem trapped in our loneliness that it becomes a problem.

When my marriage ended, I found myself single and on my own for three years. Without my girlfriends, who rallied round me and with whom I stayed in constant touch, I’d have been without a lifeline to the outside world.

My instinct was to retreat into my personal world, but my girlfriends kept me looking outwards. I also realised I must stay in the mainstream – stay a participant rather than an observer of life.

So I sought a handful of walkers, men friends, who’d accompany me of an evening – a son, a colleague, an old friend or a new friend met at a professional meeting or a dinner party. I became adept at openings like: “Do you like films? Do you fancy seeing..?” It was important that I was not only seen to be engaged with life, but also to feel I was.

You see whatever your age loneliness is a passive state. It persists by our passively letting it continue and doing nothing to change it. We hope it will go away, eventually, and we do nothing but let it envelop us. Strangely, there are times when we might even embrace the feeling of loneliness, even though it can lead to a sense of depression and helplessness.

To stop feeling lonely, we must first accept that we are lonely and sometimes that’s difficult. Keeping a diary, writing an imaginary letter to a friend or relative, drawing or painting a picture, making up a song, or doing anything else that lets us begin to express the feelings we have inside us – including talking with people – can help liberate ourselves.

Expressing our feelings might lead us to discover that we also feel sadness, anger and frustration. We might be able to see where these feelings are coming from and what they’re connected to. As we begin to see the connections we’ll be more able to make changes.

The big change, of course, is to stop being passive and become more active. If we’re missing someone, such as parents, family or friends, we can telephone, write, email, Skype or visit them. Talking to an understanding friend can often help change our moods as well. If we don’t have one, talking with a pastor or counsellor might be a place to start.

Maybe in the past you’ve been looking in the wrong places to make new friends. Activity clubs and organisations are the best places where you’ll meet people who share your interests and enthusiasms. There are literally tens of thousands of clubs out there.

Believe it or not loneliness is bad for your health. That’s the conclusion of American scientists who studied almost 3.5 million people. In fact loneliness could be far worse for your health than obesity, and may even shorten your life. The data shows the risk of premature death is 50% lower for those with “good social connections” than for the lonely. By comparison, obesity raises the risk of early death by 30%. Turns out being connected to others socially is a fundamental human need, crucial for both your well-being and your survival.

One of the best ways to counteract your own loneliness is to do your bit to help lonely or socially isolated elderly people in your community. The person you’re helping will reap health benefits, and you will too.

Start a conversation

It’s not easy to spot if someone needs help. A good start is simply to talk to your elderly neighbour if you pass them on the street.

Offer practical help

Ask your neighbour if they need any help with shopping, posting letters, picking up prescriptions and medicines or dog-walking.

Share your time

Volunteer for organisations that support older people. These often offer “befriending” schemes for isolated people, and rely on volunteers for one-to-one contact.

Help with household tasks

Offer of help with basic chores such as taking out the rubbish, changing light bulbs, clearing snow off the path, putting up pictures.

Share a meal

Older people often need a hand with cooking, so why not take round an extra plate of home-cooked food, or a frozen portion they can heat up or microwave.

Watch for signs of winter illness

Older people are particularly vulnerable during the winter as cold weather increases their risk of illnesses. Check if they’ve had a free flu jab and, if not, offer to make an appointment at the GP surgery.

For more information about Stannah click on www.stannah.com

Loneliness Campaign

New Campaign to
Help Older People
Feel Less Lonely

Age UK and the Masonic Charitable Foundation have joined forces to launch a new, three-year programme to help older people feel less lonely and get the most out of life.

A £1 million grant from the Masonic Charitable Foundation will fund the Later Life Goals programme, which will provide one-to-one support to 10,000 older people who are going through major transitions in their lives, such as bereavement, serious health diagnosis or a partner going to live in a care home.

Age UK research shows that significant life moments like these can be triggers for older people becoming more isolated and feeling lonelier. The new programme aims to support people through these pivotal life moments to help them plan ahead, stay connected and feel less lonely.

Loneliness can have a serious impact on older people’s physical and mental health. Research has shown that being lonely can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Later Life Goals will be run across England and Wales by 12 local Age UKs and one Age Cymru. Trained advisors will provide each older person with tailored support that is right for them, be that information, advice or links to services or social activities.

The Masonic Charitable Foundation is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.

Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK says, “We’re very excited to launch Later Life Goals with the Masonic Charitable Foundation. The programme provides a real opportunity to improve the wellbeing of thousands of older people as they face difficult, life-changing events.

“We’re very grateful to Masonic Charitable Foundation for their generous grant which will allow Age UK to support more older people when they need us most.”

David Innes, Chief Executive of the Masonic Charitable Foundation says, “We’re very pleased to be able to work closely with Age UK to help with one of the most difficult issues affecting older people today. Loneliness not only makes people miserable, but can have a very serious impact on physical health.”

The above photograph is of Bill Griffiths, who features in the specially produced video, which illustrates the major issue of loneliness among older people.

The video can be seen at https://mcf.org.uk/impact-later-life 

For more information about Later Life Goals click on www.ageuk.org.uk

The Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) is one of the largest grant-making charities in the country. The MCF also helps to fund vital services such as hospices and air ambulances and regularly contributes to worldwide appeals for disaster relief. 

For details www.mcf.org.uk

Arthritis and Joint Pain Advice

Busting the Myths
of Arthritis

Arthritis is a very common, painful condition that affects around 10million people in the UK, and not necessarily just elderly people (which is often a misconception).

To raise awareness of the condition, AXA PPP healthcare are busting the 7 biggest arthritis myths.

1. “I have arthritis and there’s nothing I can do about it”

While there is no cure yet for osteoarthritis – the most common type of arthritis that occurs when the cartilage that protects the end of your bones breaks down – there are some simple ways to reduce pain and improve mobility.

These include:

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including exercising, being a healthy weight and having a good diet.

Complementary or alternative therapies, such as acupuncture. Many people find these helpful, although the NHS notes there is a lack of evidence to prove they are effective

Joint supports, such as splints, insoles in your shoes or leg braces.

Hydrotherapy has been shown to improve strength and general fitness of those with arthritis.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis – where your immune system attacks the cells in your joints – new treatments, such as anti-TNF therapy, have been developed through research funded by Arthritis Research UK. In the early 2000s they developed new drugs – known as biological therapies – that target the molecule in the body (tumour necrosis factor – or TNF) that causes joint damage and inflammation.

2. “Damp, cold weather affects my joint pain”

Many people are convinced that damp, cold weather exacerbates symptoms of arthritis.

This is yet to be proven, but researchers have turned to citizen science to see if they can get to the bottom of it. In 2016, the University of Manchester, funded by Arthritis Research UK, launched a huge project to investigate the association. Throughout 2016, they asked anyone over the age of 17 who has arthritis or chronic pain to download their smartphone app, Cloudy with a chance of pain. This allows people to record how they are feeling and collects local weather data via GPS. The data will be used to finally decide if those rain clouds give people with arthritis more reason than most to be glum.

3. “Chillies help my joint pain”

Amazingly, this is true – Capsaicin, a medicinally active component of chillies, is licensed in the UK for osteoarthritis.

Capsaicin is available on prescription in the form of gels, creams and plasters. It is usually used to treat osteoarthritis in your hands or knees.

It mainly works by blocking the nerves in the affected area sending pain signals to your brain.

It can take a while for you to feel the effects of capsaicin cream – it’s usually around 2 weeks before you start to see a difference and around a month until you get the full relief.

4. “Hobbies such as knitting and gardening make my arthritis worse”

Keeping up interests and hobbies is a great way to maintain self-esteem and confidence, which can be critical to help you live with arthritis pain.

No scientific research exists to suggest knitting or gardening make arthritis worse. If either increases your pain, then it might be worth adapting the activity to avoid straining particular joints. You can make many modifications to your gardening, for example, long handled tools, such as trowels, can help you avoid bending too much, as can planting in high containers rather than at ground level.

5. “I can’t wear high heels if I have arthritis”

It’s true that high heels can aggravate your arthritis as they place more pressure on your foot, ankle and knee joints.

But the good news is that Arthritis Research UK has funded research on the impact high heels have. They even got together women with rheumatoid arthritis, shoe designers and whole rake of experts to try and design shoes that look good but are also supportive.

Top tips  for wearing high heels include:

Give your feet a break every now and then

Because high heels position your feet at an unnatural angle and usually don’t have any cushioning, the impact moves right into your spine every time you take a step. Over time, this can lead not only to pain and discomfort in your back muscles but also put extra strain on your joints. The less you wear your high heels, the less risk of injury, so try to limit how often you use them.

Think straps and cups

High heels make you more unstable, so the muscles in your leg and back have to do more work to help you keep your balance, which can also lead to back pain. To prevent this, look for shoes with a cup around the heel and decent straps to provide more stability.

Give yourself a cushion

Shoes with cushioning help to absorb the impact of walking. Think about switching to shoes with a lower heel but which also provide some cushioning protection for your feet.

Wear comfortable shoes to work

Don’t wear your high heels to work every day or while doing any strenuous tasks. Any added strain will only increase the impact on your legs and back.

Don’t panic

You don’t have to throw away all your fashion statement heels. It is OK to wear them sometimes – just make it more occasional than every day.

For more tips about wearing heels visit www.axappphealthcare.co.uk

6. “I have arthritis so my children will get it”

Most forms of arthritis are not totally down to genetics – it’s more of a combination of genetic and environmental factors that put you at risk.

For example, family history may play some role in osteoarthritis but studies have not yet found which gene causes this. Likewise, rheumatoid arthritis is thought to run in families but the risk of inheriting the condition is low.

If you have arthritis as a consequence of a condition, such as Stickler syndrome, then it may be that the condition could be inherited.

7. “Exercise will make my arthritis worse”

If your arthritis is painful, it’s understandable that you might not want to exercise. Regular activity, however, is a really important way to manage the condition. It can help by:

  • Building muscle
  • Strengthening the joints
  • Reducing pain and stiffness
  • Improving joint mobility
  • Giving your mood and energy a boost
  • Keeping your weight at a healthy level to reduce pressure on your joints
  • Improving posture.

The important thing is that you do the right type of exercise. Low-impact exercise, such as swimming and walking, are good options. Your physiotherapist should be able to advise you on the types and amount of exercise that will suit you.

For more information on arthritis, please visit AXA PPP healthcare.

Health Benefits of Pet Sitting

Enjoy the Benefits Cats and Dogs Bring Without Owning Them

Having pets is renowned as being good for mental wellbeing. Research published this year in BMC Psychiatry suggests that keeping cats and dogs as pets could be improving people’s mental health and might contribute to the management of long-term mental health conditions.

The study also pointed out the negative aspects of pet ownership, including the practical and emotional burden of pet ownership and the psychological impact of losing a pet.

One way round this is to become a home and pet sitter, which is an increasingly popular form of employment for retired people – allowing them to spend time with cats and dogs and enjoy all the mental health benefits without actually owning one.

The company highlights that its homesitters tend to be fit and active people in their 50s, 60s and 70s who are employed to stay in people’s homes while they’re away and look after their pets. This gives all the benefits of spending time with animals with none of the long-term responsibility.

Alan Irvine, Chairman of Homesitters Ltd says, “Looking after people’s pets is the biggest perk of the job for the majority of our homesitters. Many have either lost a pet and decided not replace it or simply don’t want to commit to owning a cat or dog. Homesitting is an excellent way for animal lovers to gain all the benefits of pet ownership without the commitment.”

“Spending time with pets brings many mental and physical health benefits. For instance, it has been found to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in bodies. In fact, non-pet owners are four times more likely to be diagnosed with clinical depression than pet owners.

The Mental Health Foundation found that 87% of people who owned a cat felt it had a positive impact on their wellbeing, while 76% said they could cope with everyday life much better thanks to the company of their feline friends.

Even a cat purr is known to be medically therapeutic for illnesses in humans, not only lowering stress and anxiety, but reducing blood pressure, helping to heal infections and even healing bones.

One homesitter describes the role as a “cat lovers dream”. Ellen Hart a sixty five year old former orthopaedic nurse from Berkshire has been home and pet sitting since she retired.

Discussing why home and pet sitting appeals, Ellen says, “I wanted to do something useful and interesting when I retired. Since becoming a homesitter I have stayed in gorgeous properties ranging from beautiful townhouses to characterful thatched cottages and met some lovely people.

“Looking after cats is my favourite thing though. I love making sure they are happy and we have great fun together. A real highlight is going back to repeat clients as it’s like a home from home, and the animals are so happy to see you again,” adds Ellen. 

Homesitters Ltd are currently recruiting, if you’d like to find out more about home and pet sitting visit www.homesitters.co.uk

Happiness Advice

7 Things You Can
Do to Live a More Content & Happy Life

With the stresses of daily life, it can be hard to find the time to reflect and appreciate the positive things in life. The demands of modern-day living can be overwhelming, leaving many people feeling that they never get a moment to themselves, which can lead to increased levels of stress.

Taking regular time out to relax is essential in helping us lead a fulfilled and happy life. Making ‘me’ time a priority may seem selfish at first, but if you do it on a regular basis, it can improve your overall wellbeing, and reduce stress levels, helping you be more productive, boost your creativity and enhance your self-esteem.

Spending time on yourself can mean lots of things. You may simply want to switch off your computer and phone and bask in 10 minutes of silence. Or you may want to escape from reality by reading a book or watching a film that helps your mind relax.

Whatever you do, try to do it fully and completely. For instance, if you go for a walk try not to listen to music or think about what’s on your to-do list at the same time. Just concentrate on enjoying the sights, smells and sounds around you as you walk, after all research shows that developing gratitude is good for overall wellbeing.

Thankfully, there are lots of simple things you can do that will help you to feel happier, healthier and more content. Here are some natural mood boosters from the wellbeing experts at CABA.

Do something active

Exercise can protect against the effects of stress by taking your mind off anything that’s bothering you and making you feel good about yourself. It’s widely acknowledged that physical activity boosts your brain’s production of ‘feel-good’ hormones called endorphins and can lower your blood pressure, both of which can make you feel calmer.

Do something physical that you enjoy, whether it’s going to the gym, cycling, horse riding, swimming or playing a team sport such as cricket or netball. Just heading outdoors into the fresh air for a brisk walk is enough to elevate your mood. Yoga, t’ai chi and pilates all incorporate controlled movements combined with breathing, which may help you feel more relaxed.

Get a hobby

Activities that help your brain switch off from life’s pressures are a great way to spend your ‘me’ time. Learn a musical instrument, do some gardening, go fishing, try your hand at painting or life drawing – just do something purely because it makes you feel good. Anything that takes you away from problems at home or at work will be worth every minute you spend on it.

A hobby can also be an ideal creative outlet and help you meet and bond with other people. And it can give you a sense of satisfaction whenever you achieve or finish something you’ve been working on.

Pamper yourself

Having a massage is another way to help your body release endorphins while at the same time reducing the production of stress hormones. It can also help your muscles relax, while at the same time reducing your heart rate and blood pressure and boosting your circulation.

If you’re not a fan of a massage, try having a manicure or pedicure, or having a facial treatment. All of these can boost your self-esteem and help you feel calmer, both physically and mentally.

Take a nap

If you don’t have the energy for hobbies or anything active, you could also try recharging your batteries by taking time out for a daytime nap, but try not to nap for longer than 20 minutes or you could wake up feeling groggy. Find a quiet corner, switch off your phone and close your eyes. 

Alternatively, take a midday meditation break. Just 5 or 10 minutes of sitting quietly and observing your breathing could make the rest of your day more enjoyable and productive.

Laugh it off

Experts believe laughter reduces stress hormones and blood pressure while boosting the immune system and triggering the release of endorphins. When you’re laughing, your stress dissolves – even if it’s only for a few moments. So, try to make time during your day to read a funny book, watch a comedy or meet up with a friend who makes you giggle.

Keep a gratitude log

Studies have shown a range of impressive benefits linked to simply jotting down the things you’re grateful for. As we fall asleep, our thoughts set the tone for the next few hours of dreaming, so by writing down the things you’re thankful for, a few times a week just before bed, will help give you a peaceful night’s sleep.

Remember to look over your log regularly or whenever you’re feeling down; it will help you appreciate the positive things in life.

Stop comparing yourself to others

Unfortunately, social media can trigger negative feelings of self-distain. It provides us with the opportunity to judge our accomplishments, appearance and traits against others. In fact, researchers have discovered that 1 in 3 people felt worse and more dissatisfied with their lives after visiting Facebook.

Most smartphones will now tell you how much time you spend using social media apps, take a quick look, you may be surprised by how much time you spend idly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Try switching off completely, whether that’s for a few hours a day or a few days a week, try to reduce the amount of time spent on these sites. Instead, use this time to try 1 of the tips above. And remember, the reality is, people often showcase only the best aspects of their life on social media.

For more information about CABA visit www.caba.org.uk

MRI Scan Advice

Why People with Long Term Joint or Back Pain Should be able to Request an Upright Open MRI Scan

Professor Francis Smith Consultation at Medserena Upright MRI Centre, London

As we age, we may be subject to long term joint or back pain and be required to have an MRI to assess the problem and provide treatment options. 

Now a revolutionary Upright Open MRI scan offers medical consultants and their patients a better view when the joint, spine or neck is put under natural weight–bearing pressure.  This is performed either standing up, sitting down or in a specific posture, such as, flexing the neck, crouching or twisting – allowing the scan to be carried out in exactly the position that pain is experienced. 

So, why is this latest type of scan not offered more routinely for longer term conditions, especially when it is available to all NHS, health-insured and self-pay patients?  It would appear that the answer to this is simply that very few consultants know about it and rely on traditional MRI scanners where patients are scanned lying down. 

Traditional MRI scanners require patients to slide into a narrow tunnel or tube which many people find uncomfortably hemmed-in, cramped and can induce anxiety or panic.  Importantly, showing joints and the spine in natural weight-bearing positions such as sitting, standing, crouching, twisting is simply not possible. 

Indeed, some conditions may be underestimated or may not even be seen at all in a traditional tunnel MRI scanner. 

For claustrophobic patients, even an ‘open’ MRI scanner still requires you to endure the machine very close to your face as you have to lie between two magnetic poles, often referred to as a ‘double doughnut’ format.  The distance between the upper and lower poles varies, but is typically only around 38cm – 43 cm and you would still have the upper part of the scanner directly in front of your face, as the system is only open at the sides.

The staff at Medserena Upright MRI Centres are also specially trained in dealing with claustrophobic patients.  And, if required, a relative or friend can stay with the patient in the room. Medserena Upright Open MRI centres in London and Manchester offer patients a state-of-the-art MRI examination that even allows you to watch TV or DVD, on a large screen while your scan progresses. 

Scans offered include joint, spinal, neck and brain scans, pelvic floor and breast implant leakage.  All coils (antennae), even the head coils for brain scans, are designed to allow the patient to sit upright and clearly see outside the system, once again, removing feelings of claustrophobia. 

With increased awareness many more patients will benefit from this type of upright positional weight-bearing scan. Some will have had a conventional MRI scan but their condition may not have been properly diagnosed and they still suffer from pain. And others will be claustrophobic or anxious about the idea of going through an MRI ‘tunnel’.

For further information about MRI and back pain visit www.back-pain-mri.com

And www.fear-of-mri.com

Mental Health Advice

Top Tips to Help Prevent Cognitive Decline & Dementia

By Clare Daley, Nutritional Therapist
at Cytoplan

Clare Daley, Nutritional Therapist at Cytoplan provides her six top tips to support brain function and prevent cognitive decline which can lead to dementia.

Six tips to support brain function

Even if unintentional, we can all do things which may damage our brain. Many of us consume too much sugar and refined carbohydrates and neglect the consumption of essential fats. In addition, we get inadequate sleep, experience high levels of chronic stress trying to cope with 21st century living, and on top of that we frequently do not get sufficient amounts of daily physical activity.

All of this can result in cognitive decline – brain fog, poor memory, anxiety, low mood, stress and poor concentration are all warning signs. What’s more, whilst diseases like dementia are often diagnosed in 70 and 80-year olds, the processes that eventually result in dementia occur much earlier – in our 30’s and 40’s.  Here are some top tips for how to future proof your brain for later life.

Improve Your Nutrition

Nutrition is essential for cognitive health. When looking to support brain function, consider foods that are low in sugar and moderate in starchy carbohydrates (e.g. sweet potato, carrots and leafy greens), contain healthy fats (e.g. avocado, nuts) and make sure you have plenty of vegetables with each main meal.

Eating foods that are low in sugar can prevent the development of insulin resistance. This refers to insulin not working properly in helping glucose enter the brain cells where it is needed. This has the dual effect of blood sugar levels remaining high in the brain (and causing damage to neurons) and the brain cells being starved of glucose (i.e. fuel) because glucose cannot get into cells in sufficient amounts.

Vegetables contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidant nutrients. The brain is very susceptible to damage by ‘free radicals’ and antioxidants provide protection from these.  Finally, the brain is 60% fat. Having a diet with adequate healthy dietary fats including the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, is important.

Improve Your Gut Health

Did you know there’s an intrinsic link between gut and brain health? Poor gut health increases inflammation and this is one of the features of many chronic health conditions including cognitive decline. To improve gut health, remove specific foods from your diet that may trigger gut symptoms. Add in nutrients and fibre to support gut health (e.g. green leafy vegetables, chicory, apples, olive oil and even 70% dark chocolate).

Reduce Your Stress Levels

We are all familiar with the causes of stress – in short 21st century living! Persistently elevated levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) can kill brain cells and negatively affect brain function. In order to effectively manage stress, it is important to focus on stress reduction activities that work for you.

These could include yoga, meditation, mindfulness, massage, breathing techniques, gardening, reading, listening to music or keeping a happiness and gratitude journal. When we learn to effectively manage our stress, we see an improvement in our sleep, energy, patience, resilience, focus and memory.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Sleep is vital for optimal brain health as during sleep our brain cells detoxify and cleanse. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for restful sleep, however as we age we produce less, and therefore older individuals often experience more trouble sleeping.

While eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is possibly a dream for many of us, it’s important to find sleep strategies that work for you. For example, you could look to stick to a regular sleep cycle or create a relaxing bedtime routine. In addition, research has shown a number of factors can lead to a good night’s sleep including eating well, getting regular exercise and avoiding screens before bedtime.

Physical Activity

We all know the many health benefits of physical activity, however few of us are aware of the role it plays in optimising cognitive health. Aerobic exercise protects the brain from damage and stimulates the production of new brain cells responsible for memory and emotions. These cells commonly become damaged due to age and disease.

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and thus the delivery of oxygen and nutrients that are essential for brain function including concentration. In addition, physical activity that challenges you mentally, for example table tennis and dancing, has been shown to create new connections within the brain.

The Department of Health recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times per week for adults. It should involve a combination of cardiovascular exercise and strength training. This needs to be a lifestyle change not a quick fix so it’s important to find a type of exercise you enjoy.

Train Your Brain

Challenging and stretching the brain allows new connections to be created and maintained. The adult brain continuously adapts to relevant sensory stimuli. Activities which challenge all the senses will help maintain processing speed.

The wider range of activities you use, the more you will stimulate your brain in different ways. For example, you can read, write, do a crossword or puzzle, play games, use your non-dominant hand for everyday activities like brushing your teeth, cook new recipes or take up a new hobby. Remember, as with physical activity, it’s important to choose activities you will enjoy ensuring you continue to do them regularly!

For more information about Cytoplan visit www.cytoplan.co.uk   

Find out more about Cytoplan’s brain health programme by visiting the website at https://thebrainhealthprogramme.co.uk

Spire Leeds Hospital

Ankle Replacement
is Total Success!

Before having total ankle replacement surgery at Spire Leeds Hospital, Barbara Davison could only walk a short distance with the help of a walking stick.

Today, Barbara, 72, a retired farmer who lives in Barnoldswick in North Yorkshire is pain free and can comfortably walk several miles.

The problem first started three years ago. Barbara woke up with a painful left ankle and a limp which never went away. What started as a niggling pain eventually became debilitating. She developed a slight deformity and wasn’t able to walk without a painfully altered gait – her foot was angled out sideways. Every aspect of Barbara’s daily life was affected, she had to rely on friends to do her shopping and was not able to travel to visit her son and six-year-old twin grandsons in Surrey.

Barbara carried out detailed research online and found Professor Nick Harris, consultant orthopaedic and trauma surgeon at Spire Leeds Hospital. “He had many good reviews and I discovered he was the man to go to with ankle problems.”

She scheduled an appointment with Prof Harris who carried out a thorough examination. X-rays showed severe end-stage arthritis in the left ankle together with valgus tilting. He discussed the surgical options with Barbara, which involved either an ankle fusion or total ankle replacement. Of the 30,000 cases of ankle osteoarthritis seen by hospital specialists every year, only about 1,200 of them will undergo ankle replacement surgery as fusion surgery is much more commonly performed. 

Ankle replacement offers a quicker recovery than fusion with patients being able to fully weight bear after two weeks. Ankle fusion remains the most reliable treatment but has a longer recovery time of around 14 weeks. Barbara chose an ankle replacement and self-funded the surgery in May 2018.

After two weeks immobilised in plaster she spent a further four weeks wearing a special walker boot, which protects the ankle whilst the bone grows into the surface of the implant in a process called osseointegration. This was followed by a prescribed regime from Spire’s physiotherapy team to be done at home, Barbara is now back to full fitness.

Barbara has always led an active life. She and her late husband used to farm 150 acres in Leyburn, North Yorkshire. After losing her husband and daughter in a traffic accident almost 40 years ago, Barbara continued farming on her own for 13 years before retiring and moving closer to her family.

“I’m used to being active. For the first time in three years I’m walking without pain. It’s wonderful!” she said.

Barbara had the Infinity total ankle replacement.  The distal tibia (lower shinbone) and superior surface of the talus (the small bone situated above the heel bone) were replaced. Prof Harris said early results of this implant are excellent.  “The prostheses used in ankle replacement replicate the shape and mechanics of the ankle joint and move in the same way. In difficult cases where there is severe deformity or bone loss it is possible to have custom-made patient-specific cutting blocks (a metal block attached to the bone through which precision cuts are made) with the aim of making the surgery more accurate and reliable.”

Total ankle replacement is still not a common procedure compared to hip and knee replacements.  It’s used to treat end-stage arthritis.  The commonest cause of ankle arthritis is post-traumatic following ankle fractures.  Other causes include primary arthritis and inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Today, commenting six months post-surgery, Professor Harris said, “The future looks bright for Barbara. Her walking distance is improved and she has no limitations on her physical activity. She has excellent range of movement restored and at least an 89% chance the replacement will last for ten years or more.”

For further information please visit www.spirehealthcare.com/leeds

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