Many people go through short periods of time where they feel sad or not like their usual selves. Sometimes, these mood changes begin and end when the seasons change. People may start to feel “down” when the days get shorter in the fall and winter (also called “winter blues”) and begin to feel better in the spring, with longer daylight hours.
In some cases, these mood changes are more serious and can affect how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities. If you have noticed significant changes in your mood and behavior whenever the seasons change, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression.
In most cases, SAD symptoms start in the late fall or early winter and go away during the spring and summer; this is known as winter-pattern SAD or winter depression. Some people may experience depressive episodes during the spring and summer months; this is called summer-pattern SAD or summer depression and is less common.
1. Move your body
Countless studies demonstrate that regular physical activity can help combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and improve your mental health. Moving your body several times a week can also reduce stress and ease symptoms of depression. Join a group class or get a gym membership to improve your flexibility, strength, and cardiovascular capacity.
2. Stay entertained
A great way to counteract SAD symptoms and lift your spirits is to seek out fun diversions. Browse the entertainment offerings in your area and select performances that interest you. Choose dates that fit your schedule and bring along friends or family members. Surrounding yourself with good company and keeping busy are excellent ways to get through a long winter.
3. Redecorate a room
You may be able to reduce the symptoms of SAD by setting a manageable goal. This winter, consider revitalizing the decor in your bedroom or living room. On top of a fresh coat of paint, accessories like picture frames, vases, and mirrors can completely renew the look of your space. This type of project can help motivate you and provide a sense of satisfaction once completed.
4. Give yourself a new look
SAD causes feelings of despair and distress similar to those experienced during a breakup. Sometimes, refreshing your appearance can help you get out of a slump. Schedule an appointment at a salon to change your hairstyle. This may boost your self-esteem and make you smile.
5. Renew your wardrobe
SAD can impact your inclination to go out and do things. Regain your desire to leave the house by purchasing new outfits and fashionable accessories that will make you look and feel your best. You’ll likely find yourself looking for occasions to wear your new clothes.
6. Try light therapy
As the days become shorter and darker, your body produces less melatonin, a hormone that helps you sleep. Fortunately, light therapy can be used to treat SAD. Purchase a lamp that mimics sunlight and expose yourself to it every morning for a boost of energy.
7. Escape reality
Though taking a trip is a great way to get away from it all, venturing abroad can be expensive and difficult to fit into your schedule. However, reading and playing board games are fun and inexpensive ways to take your mind off things. Talk to an employee at your local bookshop or game store for recommendations.
8. Enjoy a good meal
To look and feel your best, you need an assortment of nutrients. Therefore, you should make sure you eat well-balanced meals that’ll give you the energy you require to get through the day. If you don’t want to cook, turn to local restaurants and food delivery services for healthy dishes that will satisfy your needs.
9. Clear your mind
Regular meditation or yoga practice can positively affect your body and mind. These activities may help combat stress, reduce feelings of depression and restore your energy. If you’ve never tried yoga or meditation, consider signing up for a class near you to clear your mind and improve your sense of well-being.
10. Make sleep a priority
Getting adequate rest allows your body and mind to recuperate so you can easily take on daily tasks. You can improve your sleep hygiene by adopting an evening routine and limiting your exposure to blue light from screens before bed. In addition, if your mattress or pillow is worn out or uncomfortable, consider investing in a replacement.
Heart Month: Learn the difference between cardiac arrest, heart attack
February is National Heart Month, and doctors want Virginians to understand heart health better – specifically, heart attacks and cardiac arrest.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 800,000 people have heart attacks yearly, most of which are first-time heart attacks. Cardiac arrest can involve numerous factors, and heart attack is the most common.
Dr. Benjamin Galper, assistant chief of cardiology at Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group in northern Virginia, said this is partly why the two get mixed up. He said signs of a heart attack typically could be chest pressure, nausea, or sweating – but the signs of cardiac arrest are more dire.
“Cardiac arrest itself is not subtle,” he said. “If you’ve gotten to the point of cardiac arrest, it means the person is unconscious and doesn’t have a pulse when you take their pulse, and they’re not breathing. So, when someone’s had cardiac arrest, it’s usually obvious and usually quite concerning.”
National Heart Month is a good time to commit to reducing those risks with a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise. Galper also encouraged people to get CPR training to aid someone having a heart attack until first responders arrive – and possibly save a life.
Underlying diseases such as diabetes or prediabetes can make a person more susceptible to heart problems. Dr. Ravi Johar, chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare, said genetics could be another risk factor.
“Things like Marfan Syndrome increases the risk of aneurysms and abnormal blood flow to the heart, and things of that sort, so there can be some genetic consequences,” he said. “There can also be genetic history; if your parents had problems with their hearts, there’s a higher likelihood that you may.”
He added that heart disease could affect people at any age. CDC research has found it can start as early as 35, and the risks increase with age. Anyone experiencing new chest pains or shortness of breath is encouraged to talk with their doctor about their heart-health options.
By Edwin J. Viera
Public News Service
Hey, watch your back!
Watching your back — or watching out for it, to be precise — is a good practice for anyone. It’s especially true when lifting is involved.
Lifting injuries are a common cause of back pain. You can protect yourself by being physically fit, managing your weight, and practicing good lifting habits at home and in the workplace.
Your physical condition is important. For example, stiff joints and muscles can limit your ability to keep your back safe position as you lift. If your leg muscles are not very strong, you may find crouching hard. Low fitness will cause your muscles to tire quickly, placing more stress on your spine.
Twisting or jerking while lifting or carrying can injure the small facet joints that guide back movements. The discs that separate the vertebrae (bones) and the ligaments that hold them together are also at risk. Discs are composed of a jellylike core surrounded by a strong fibrous ring. Repeated unsafe lifting may tear or rupture the fibrous ring or its supporting ligaments.
Lifting while bent forward increases stress on your spine. Other factors can compound this stress, like the weight of the load, how far it is held away from your body, how often and how fast you lift, and how long you hold the load.
According to the Australian Physiotherapy Association, back injuries are most likely when the spine is bent forward and twisted simultaneously.
Make your work easier:
- Always check the weight of the load and get help if necessary.
- Wherever possible, lift and carry heavy items with a tool. Instead of carrying parcels, use a hand trolley.
- Repackage heavy articles to reduce the size and weight of individual loads.
- Wear comfortable clothing and flat, nonslip shoes.
- Store loads at waist height so you don’t have to bend or lift overhead.
How heart disease and mental health are related
February is American Heart Month and is an excellent opportunity to focus on improving your cardiovascular health. After all, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Although many associate heart health with physical health, mental health can also negatively impact your ticker.
Studies show that people who experience depression, anxiety, and isolation often have elevated heart rates, increased blood pressure, and reduced circulation. Individuals with mental health disorders may experience changes to their nervous system and hormonal balance, which can contribute to heart arrhythmia.
Mental health disorders prevent people from maintaining a healthy lifestyle and increase the likelihood of adopting behaviors like smoking, excessive drinking, inactivity, and a poor diet. Consequently, it’s important to address mental health disorders early and provide access to support services to promote mental wellness and reduce the risk of heart disease. Here are a few ways to do so.
• Exercise regularly. Being active can help boost your mental health by releasing chemicals in your brain that ease anxiety and depression. Find an activity you enjoy and can commit to practicing consistently.
• Practice mindfulness. Relaxation techniques like meditation and guided breathing promote mental wellness by reducing stress, improving sleep quality, and helping you feel calmer and more balanced.
• Seek out meaningful social interactions. Taking up a new hobby, learning a new skill, joining a neighborhood group, and volunteering in your community are great ways to combat isolation and reduce chronic stress.
If you find it challenging to manage stress or are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, reach out to a healthcare professional in your area.
True or false: human papillomavirus (HPV)
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted infection. Some strains can cause genital warts or cancer. These four true or false statements can help you learn more about this disease.
1. HPV is only transmitted through penetrative sex
False. HPV can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, such as intimate touching, oral sex, or sharing sex toys with an infected partner.
2. Treatment can cure HPV
False. There’s no cure for HPV. However, doctors can often treat warts and precancerous lesions caused by the infection.
3. A person can be infected with HPV without knowing it
True. HPV typically doesn’t cause symptoms, making it easy to transmit unknowingly. In most cases, the body’s immune system will get rid of the infection naturally within two years.
4. A diagnosis can be a sign of infidelity
False. Signs of infection, such as warts, can appear weeks, months, or even years after someone has been infected with the virus. It’s difficult to determine when or from whom the virus was transmitted, especially for people with multiple sexual partners.
Several vaccines can protect you against HPV. Talk to your healthcare provider about which ones are available to you.
Flavonols may slow cognitive decline
Higher dietary intake of flavonols — antioxidants found in tea, wine, and certain fruits and vegetables — may help preserve memory and cognitive abilities among older people, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.
Researchers followed 961 study participants whose ages ranged from 60 to 100 years old for an average of 6.9 years, tracking their intake of flavonols called quercetin, kaempferol, myricetin, and isorhamnetin. None of the participants showed symptoms of dementia at the beginning of the study, and all participants underwent annual cognitive and memory assessments.
The study conclusion: People whose diets were highest in flavonols, particularly kaempferol, displayed measurably slower rates of cognitive decline than those who consumed flavonols in lower quantities. You can find kaempferol in apples, grapes, tomatoes, green tea, and several types of berries, among other foods.
Though the results are promising, researchers aren’t jumping to conclusions or recommending flavonol supplements yet, according to CNN. Flavonol-rich diets typically include larger quantities of fruits and vegetables, which provide an array of health benefits. More research is needed to determine whether the cognitive benefits directly resulted from flavonol consumption or due to healthy diets and other factors.
Still, a few extra daily servings of flavonol-rich foods, like leafy greens or berries, are unlikely to hurt you, and the benefits may be greater than we know.
How to choose the right multivitamin
Multivitamins contain a combination of at least three vitamins. Some also contain minerals like calcium and iron and natural substances like omega-3s. Do you have a health concern or feel the need to supplement your diet with a multivitamin? Here’s how to choose the best one for you.
• Age. Your nutrient needs vary according to several factors, including your age. Consequently, children, adults, and seniors require different multivitamins. For example, formulas for seniors contain higher doses of calcium to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
• Gender. Women should look for a multivitamin high in iron to replenish what the body loses during menstruation. Moreover, women wanting to conceive a child, are pregnant, or are breastfeeding should consider a multivitamin with folic acid.
• Dose. The doses of vitamins and minerals and the number of tablets to take daily can vary considerably from one product to another. Moderation is best. Avoid formulas that contain a higher dose than you need.
It’s best to consult your doctor or pharmacist before buying a multivitamin.