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    How To Adapt Your Fitness and Nutrition For Every Age

    30s: The decade to… optimise your prime
    So your face has a few more lines, your hairline some silver intruders and your list of responsibilities… let’s not go there. But arm yourself with some essential skills and you’ll enjoy your best decade yet.
    Support your fertility
    If you’re looking to start a family now or later, there are practical steps you can take. Here, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Larisa Corda and nutritional therapist Melanie Brown walk you through the essentials.
    Mind your movement
    “Sitting down all day can reduce blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, so stand up as much as possible,” says Brown. Be careful about overexercising, too. “Exercising too intensely for too long can increase levels of cortisol in the body, which can be a barrier to conceiving.”
    Mitigate stress
    “This is essential if you’re looking to get pregnant,” says Dr Corda. Plot out your stressors on a page, then note the things you can’t control (an unwell parent, for example), the things you can take steps to address (long working hours) and the things you can fix without much hassle (too many plans).
    Reach your body’s happy weight
    “If you’re overweight or obese, take sustainable steps to reach a healthy weight,” advises Brown. “If you’re underweight, increasing your body fat will signal to your brain that your body can support a pregnancy.”
    Eat for balance
    “It’s important to consume enough complex carbs,” notes Brown, who points to research indicating that they promote ovulation. “You need good fats for fertilisation, and quality protein provides the building blocks to eggs.”
    Panic stations
    As the responsibilities start to bite in your thirties, you’re more vulnerable than ever to anxiety-based mental health problems, such as panic attacks. Use our expert-backed timeline to dial down the intensity.
    0 to 3 mins 
    What’s happening: A panic attack occurs when the mind makes a negative interpretation of normal events. When your boss sets you an impossible deadline, for example, your hypothalamus activates your pituitary and adrenal glands, causing stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol to flood into your system: the fight-or-flight response. The result? Shallow breaths, an accelerated heart rate and trembling.
    Your defence: A US study found that refocusing the mind on simple tasks can calm you down. The solution can be as mundane as counting the number of tiles on your office ceiling until the panic passes.
    3 mins to 2 hours
    What’s happening: Adrenaline has a half-life of three minutes, so the initial panic soon passes – your breathing normalises and your heart rate falls. Cortisol, however, sticks around for longer. It can take two hours for your more chronic feelings of stress to subside.
    Your defence: Take a 10-minute break and divert your attention to what’s around you, even if it’s just your neighbour taking the bins out. Your cortisol levels will fall and you can return to a more even keel. Ahhh…
    1 week 
    What’s happening: Anxiety can easily extend beyond a specific stimulus and its chronic form can leave your hypothalamus in a state of constant agitation. It’ll keep releasing adrenaline and cortisol and, with levels set to surge at any point, the simplest upset can burst the dam.
    Your defence: In severe cases, doctors may prescribe you anti-anxiety medication, along with beta blockers, to steady your heart rate. Omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish can curb adrenal activation caused by stress and there are cortisol-slashing B vitamins in legumes, meat and eggs. Plus, a run produces mood-boosting endorphins while using up extra adrenaline.
    Nutrient to know: healthy fats
    Found in olive oil, avocado, nuts, mackerel and anchovies, they’re hallmarks of the Mediterranean diet, which studies suggest can reduce your risk of heart disease. That shoots up in your forties, so take pre-emptive steps now. Doubts remain about the effectiveness of supps, so stick to natural sources. More

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    Could Intermittent Resting Be The Key To Your Fatigue Problems?

    Ever randomly left your desk mid-morning to bask in the sun, head buried in a racy novel? Or taken a quick post-run nap on your lawn? You’re in tune with your body’s needs and on the right track, according to experts. There’s a term for these regular breaks — Intermittent Resting.
    You’re probably already familiar with the term Intermittent Fasting — cycling between eating what you like and restricting your food intake via techniques like the 5:2 and 16:8. For the uninitiated, the theory goes like this: by giving your body a break from food you can not only lose weight, but potentially improve your metabolism and reduce your risk of certain diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
    Now, health and fitness experts are talking about Intermittent Resting, the idea that the body also needs to cycle through small bursts of inactivity (activity fasting, if you will) in order to perform at its best. So, can scheduling rest with the enthusiasm you usually reserve for scheduling workouts really support your health and fitness goals?
    Nahid de Belgeonne, a former fashion industry employee and owner of a London-based fitness studio Good Vibes started creating deliberate pockets of rest throughout the day — a kind of deliberate down time — once she discovered the power of rest.
    That she felt happier, healthier and more productive as a result of her new regime will come as news to nobody. But she also credits intermittent resting with making her fitter, stronger and improving her quality of movement. She now trains others in the art of snacking on rest via her yoga-meets-meditation technique, The Human Method.
    READ MORE: The 16 Best Mental Health Podcasts To Help You Cope With Anxiety, Depression, And More
    Nahid explains that her theory is based on the body’s ultradian rhythms. The sister science of circadian rhythms – which control your 24 hour sleep-wake cycle – ultradian rhythms refers to the cycles that the systems in your body move through during the waking day. The concept is nothing new; it was proposed in the 1950s by sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman, whose contribution of the field of shut-eye is such that he’s often referred to as the ‘father of sleep’.
    That the wellness industry is finally sitting up and taking notice doesn’t surprise Dr Kat Lederle, chronobiologist and sleep coach at the sleep education platform Somnia. “We’ve seen significant scientific interest and progress in nutrition, fitness and sleep — circadian health is the next big topic,” she explains.
    While much of the focus in recent years has been on how your behaviour impacts your ability to fall – and stay – asleep, your behaviour impacts your waking function, too. “The body clock is made up of two clusters of 50,000 cells in the hypothalamus and we refer to that as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN),” Dr Lederle explains. “The SCN is like a conductor, setting the timings for everything else that happens in your body, so while your ultradian rhythms vary from system to system, your body clock ensures they’re working in harmony together. If your internal rhythms become misaligned, that can lead to all sorts of problems.”
    It’s thanks to a raft of circadian rhythm research that we now understand that the repercussions of this ‘misalignment’ extend far beyond a night spent tossing and turning. A disrupted body clock has been shown to interfere with everything from your appetite to your co-ordination and mood. Extreme disruption, the likes experienced by shift workers, has even been linked with depression.
    But if the behaviour that contributes to a broken body clock sits on a sliding scale, with the shift workers whose livelihoods depend on keeping variable hours at one end. On the other, you’ll find the kind of habits you know you shouldn’t do, but you probably do anyway — working through your lunchbreak, doing a HIIT session when your body is begging for yoga and reading the internet instead of your book come bedtime.
    It’s these everyday behaviours, Dr Lederle explains, that present an opportunity to optimise your circadian health. “By becoming more aware of your body clock and adopting behaviours that supports its optimal functioning, as opposed to railing against it, you can not only reduce your risk of various diseases, but improve your day to day functioning.”
    Essentially, it’s about practising sleep hygiene, but for the waking day, too. And among the tools in Dr Lederle’s ‘wake hygiene’ toolkit is a habit that sounds a lot like Intermittent Resting. Regular rest, it transpires, is the backbone of good body clock behaviour.
    “I call them ‘mini breaks’, but they amount to the same thing — taking a break of up to 20 minutes every 90 minutes or so. For me, it’s sitting back for a moment and bringing an awareness to my breaths. But I think the key is doing something in that time that you enjoy. It’s not paying your bills or contacting your accountant — it’s something you’ve chosen to do.”
    READ MORE: Struggle to Get to Sleep? Try These 5 Breathing Techniques
    What seems to elevate Intermittent Resting from your average work break is its intuitive nature; the idea that tapping into the times when your body is best primed for activity and rest could be a useful tool for those in the business of incremental gains. “Mini breaks are just one example of how aligning your schedule with your body clock can support your health goals,” adds Dr Lederle, who gives the example of planning when you exercise.
    If the idea of taking a 20-minute break every 90 minutes makes your heart race (not the goal), even breaking for five or 10 minutes can help. “I’m a huge believer in doing your own experiments and seeing for yourself what works for you,” adds Dr Lederle. “If you’re truly free to plan your life in the way that suits you, the repercussions on your health and wellbeing could be huge.”
    READ MORE: How To Get Better Quality Sleep
    Make Intermittent Resting Work For You
    Take a chronotype holiday
    Dr Lederle suggests taking a five-day trip with the goal of tuning into your natural waking and sleeping hours. Go to sleep when you feel tired, rise when you’re ready and avoid sleep saboteurs like screens. “By day five, you should know what your natural sleep timings are, and ideally you’ll start sleeping in that time window every night.”
    Find out your MEQ
    By now you’ll already known what hours you like to sleep, but for a more scientific approach, take the Morning-Evening questionnaire. There are 19 questions designed to tell you where you sit on the sliding scale of morning person and evening person.
    Keep an energy diary
    You’ll know intuitively when your energy ebbs and flows throughout the day by the times you usually reach for a coffee or a snack. Start consciously tuning into your feelings, and noting them down. Look out for the obvious signs, like yawning, as well as how engaged you feel in a task. Keep it up for a week and see what patterns you notice. This will guide you to your own Intermittent Resting breaks.
    Make it stick
    Your body clock is like a baby – it loves routine. “Anything you do that’s part of a routine will help your body clock to know what to expect, be that the time you do a workout or when you eat your lunch,” adds Dr Lederle. Once you’ve identified your energy peaks and troughs, schedule your breaks accordingly, and stick with it.

    The article Can Intermittent Resting Help You Reach Your Goals? was originally published on Women’s Health UK.

    READ MORE ON: Activity Fasting Health Advice Intermittent Resting Mental Health mental health advice More

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    10 Signs You May Have a Magnesium Deficiency

    Magnesium is a key mineral to women’s health, and yet many women are low in this essential mineral, suffering from a magnesium deficiency. Stress, caffeine and alcohol deplete our magnesium stores faster than we can replenish. Could it be time for a little top up?
    Along with increasing fresh produce in your diet, many of us require further supplementation to meet our recommended daily intake of 310g for women. Magnesium is best absorbed as a powder or liquid with magnesium glycinate, magnesium biglycinate or magnesium citrate being the easiest for the body to absorb and utilise. 
    READ MORE: Cold versus COVID — How To Tell The Difference
    Here are 10 signs you might have a magnesium deficiency and may need to pick up a supplement. But even if you check out for all 10 and think you have a magnesium deficiency, remember that you should always speak to your health practitioner before starting a new supplement.
    1. You have period pain
    While period pain is common, it is not normal. Magnesium can reduce inflammation and relax the smooth muscles of the uterus to reduce symptoms of dysmenorrhea (period pain) for some women.
    2. You are tired all the time
    Magnesium plays a major role in our energy levels, supporting energy production at a cellular level. If you are not consuming enough magnesium, your body simply may not have enough resources to create the daily energy it requires.
    READ MORE: Yoga Moves That Bonnie Mbuli Swears By
    3. You crumble under pressure
    Magnesium helps to calm our nervous system. During times of stress, our magnesium levels deplete rapidly, meaning there isn’t enough stores to support our nervous system and calm the body. Stress naturally produces cortisol and adrenaline, a little is a good thing, but when these two are elevated for too long we start to see the body crumble under the pressure.
    Magnesium changes how the body responds to stress in the first place – meaning, we are more likely to stay calm and collected.
    4. You are feeling anxious 
    Dopamine is our relaxing hormone; low levels of magnesium is associated with lower dopamine production. Increasing your daily magnesium intake can support dopamine production and provide support against the symptoms of anxiety.
    5. You have monthly PMS
    Research has shown that women with PMS have lower levels of magnesium when compared to those without reoccurring PMS. This is thought to be due to magnesium’s role on women’s hormones, in particular progesterone. After ovulation we produce progesterone; it is our calming superpower. When the body is not producing enough progesterone, we start to see mood shifts prior to a bleed.
    READ MORE: Are You Ready to Make The Switch to a Menstrual Cup?
    6. You have a serious sweet tooth
    Magnesium plays a role in our blood glucose management, improving insulin receptors and supporting blood sugar levels. This means that we have less sugar cravings when we have adequate magnesium supplies.
    7. You are often constipated
    For a happy digestive system we want to be moving our bowels once or twice a day. If you are feeling that your bowels are slow moving or that the stool itself is hard to pass, small pellets or thin like a snake, then Magnesium may be the helper you need.
    During times of stress our internal organs feel it too, magnesium can support by relaxing the digestive system so that waste can eliminate easily. Daily elimination is essential to hormonal health as well, as we need to clear oestrogen to support healthy hormone function, such as progesterone production.
    8. You are having troubles falling asleep
    Magnesium’s role on the nervous system extends into our sleep routine as well. Firstly, by supporting our overall stress response to feel calmer and unwind into the evening with ease, and by enhancing the quality of sleep each night. Magnesium is best taken in the early evening to best support sleep.
    READ MORE: Struggle to Get to Sleep? Try These 5 Breathing Techniques
    9. You have high blood pressure
    Magnesium and calcium work together to support healthy blood pressure and cardiovascular health. Increasing your dietary sources of magnesium such as dark leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and wholegrains will further support overall cardiovascular health.
    10. Your muscles cramp and twitch
    Magnesium plays a role in muscle contraction and relaxation. If you are experiencing sore limbs after exercise, restless legs during sleep or even frequent eye twitches it may be time to increase your magnesium. 
    *This article was originally published on Women’s Health AU

    READ MORE ON: Health Advice Health Conditions Vitamin Deficiency More

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    Cold versus COVID — How To Tell The Difference

    There’s been a lot of confusion over cold versus COVID symptoms since the advent of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-pandemic, it was easy to brush off symptoms like a runny nose, cough, and congestion as just the common cold. But now, those symptoms can send anyone into a panic spiral of worrying that they have COVID-19.
    Enter the latest COVID-19 variant, omicron, and you have an even more complicated picture. Medical doctor and Wits University Associate lecturer Dr Nthabiseng Kumalo advises that omicron symptoms tend to present themselves fairly quicker than those of previous variants. “Fatigue, congestion and a cough are amongst the top three omicron symptoms,” says Dr Kumalo.
    Real talk? “There are no easy ways to tell the difference,” says Lewis Nelson, MD, the chair of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Each illness can have its own range of severity, he points out, leaving a lot of grey area.
    READ MORE: Are COVID-19 Outcomes Worse For People Living With HIV?
    A common cold and COVID-19 share some symptoms, but there are differences in other symptoms, and their impact on you. Here’s how to tell them apart—and when you need to see a doctor.
    What’s the difference between the common cold and COVID-19?
    You probably have this memorised by now, but it never hurts to go over it again: COVID-19 is a disease caused by the respiratory virus SARS-CoV-2, according to the CDC. The virus is thought to mainly spread through respiratory droplets that are produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks.
    The common cold can actually be caused by many different viruses, the CDC says. These include rhinoviruses, respiratory syncytial virus, adenoviruses, and coronaviruses—excluding SARS-CoV-2, of course. The viruses that cause colds can also spread from infected people to others through the air and close personal contact.
    But how serious these infections are can be very different. “COVID, if unvaccinated, can lead to hospitalisation or worse,” Dr. Nelson says. “Clearly COVID is readily spread, and it can lead to more severe disease, primarily in the lungs at first.”
    READ MORE: The To 3 Cancers Affecting Women In SA — And How Much They Cost To Treat
    “The best way to think about cold viruses is that they’re pretty harmless,” adds Timothy Murphy, MD, senior associate dean for clinical and translational research at the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “We all get the common cold, sometimes several times a year. People get through colds just fine as opposed to COVID-19, which can cause a systemic illness and be far more dangerous.”
    What are the common symptoms of a cold and COVID-19?
    Common symptoms of a cold can include the following:

    Runny nose
    Sore throat
    Body aches

    The CDC lists these as the most common symptoms of COVID-19:

    Fever or chills
    Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    Muscle or body aches
    New loss of taste or smell
    Sore throat
    Congestion or runny nose
    Nausea or vomiting

    READ MORE: 4 Ways to Support Healthy Ageing
    So, how can you tell if you have a cold or COVID-19?
    Dr. Murphy says it’s hard for even doctors to know just from examining you and hearing about your symptoms if you have a cold or COVID-19. There is one symptom, though, that makes it more likely that you have COVID-19: losing your sense of taste and smell.
    “Though that does occur sometimes with colds, it’s far more likely with COVID,” he says. “With colds, you would typically get really stuffy first before you lose your sense of smell. With COVID, many people just lose their sense of smell altogether.”
    Still, plenty of people have COVID-19 and never lose their sense of taste and smell. Given that we’re still living through a global pandemic and COVID-19 is practically everywhere, Dr. Murphy says it’s important to at least consider that you could have the virus if you develop even mild symptoms.
    Dr. Nelson agrees. “Anyone with viral illness symptoms, particularly if they’re not COVID vaccinated, should wear a mask and take a COVID test,” he says.
    *The article Cold Vs. COVID: How Do I Tell The Difference In Symptoms? was originally published on the Women’s Health US website.

    READ MORE ON: Common Cold COVID-19 COVID-19 Symptoms Health Advice Health Tips More

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    4 Ways to Support Healthy Ageing

    Want to support you body through its healthy ageing? Try these four simple steps and you’ll never look back (or if you do, at least your neck won’t hurt).
    1. Load it up
    To optimise your bone health through perimenopause and beyond, resistance train twice weekly. Studies show it helps kick bone-forming cells into action, while slowing down age-related bone mass decline.
    Any form is great, but compound lifts such as squats and deadlifts deliver the heaviest skeleton benefits*.
    READ MORE: Millennials Are Turning 40, But How Healthy are They, Really?
    2. Wear SPF, rain or shine
    You heard: even when the cloud cover is more dense than your grade 9 bully, it pays to slap it on.
    In a 2016 study, people who applied an SPF straight after washing their face each morning showed reduced symptoms of skin ageing – such as wrinkles and uneven skintone – after an 18-month period.
    READ MORE: 10 Mineral Sunscreens That Won’t Damage Your Skin Or The Environment
    3. Eat for your hormones
    With oestrogen stores declining as you head towards menopause, including phytoestrogens (naturally occurring plant substances that imitate the OG) in your diet can have a balancing effect.
    According to an Iranian study*, help reduce the frequency of hot flushes in menopausal women. Find them in soya beans, legumes and whole grains.
    4. Take it to paper
    If life right now feels like you’re juggling an impossible amount, whack out your journal.
    Journalling had been shown to boost cognitive function and memory, relieve stress, improve mindfulness and even help support your immune system, per a US study*. Research suggests 20 minutes, three or four days a week, is plenty.
    READ MORE: Struggle to Get to Sleep? Try These 5 Breathing Techniques
    This article was originally published in the September issue of Women’s Health UK.

    READ MORE ON: Health Advice Hormones Mental Wellness Periods More

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    Millennials Are Turning 40, But How Healthy are They, Really?

    As the eldest members of the generation accused of never wanting to grow up enter their fifth decade, one older millennial writer consults the experts to give her peers a general check up – and asks how they might fare in middle age and beyond.
    Allow me to introduce myself: My name is Anna, I was raised on Friends and I used to call myself a digital nomad (cringe).
    I’m also bisexual, earn my crust as a self-employed writer-slash-podcaster and I’ve just managed to buy a small flat in Margate, which I share with my best friend – a gay man.
    READ MORE: These Are The Top 10 Health Conditions Affecting Millennials Today
    I have no pension, I’m single, and a scroll through my grid would reveal captioned posts on the subject of everything from managing anxiety to cold water swimming.
    No, I haven’t copy-and-pasted my Instagram bio – although admittedly there is some crossover. I’m telling you this by way of letting you know that I’m a millennial. And if you happen to have been born sometime between 1981 and 1996, I suspect aspects of your life look a lot like mine.
    We have two men called Neil Howe and William Strauss to thank for the term, millennial. And in the years since they coined it in 1991, ‘millennial’ has gone from being a descriptor to an insult.

    25% of the world’s population are millennials, totalling 1.8 billion people worldwide.

    To baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1964 – we’re spoiled, insecure commitment-phobes who care more about Instagram likes than a mortgage.
    To Gen Z (born 1997 to 2015) we’re ‘cheugy’ – a term doing the rounds on TikTok (where else?) that loosely translates as a blend of basic and past it. And don’t get them started on our side partings.
    But perhaps the most cutting among the insults levelled at my generation is that we’re the ones who refused to grow up. It’s ironic, then, that the oldest of our cohort turn 40 this year.
    Meghan Markle celebrated her fortieth on 4 August followed by Fearne Cotton, Rebel Wilson and Beyoncé in September.

    While my own Big Birthday is still three years away, seeing my peers on the cusp of midlife has left me feeling reflective.
    That millennials are entering positions of financial, political and social power during the biggest humanitarian crisis since the second world war is more than a little daunting.
    But quite besides the fact that we’ve thoroughly outgrown the labels of ‘kidults’ and ‘snowflakes’ – to tell the truth, they never really fitted in the first place – I want to know how our health is faring as we reach this milestone.
    READ MORE: Meet Evie Richards — The Millennial Making Cycling Cool Again
    Plus, what the choices we’ve made so far will mean for our wellbeing – now, and in the decades to come.
    How Healthy are Millennials, Really?
    That ‘millennial’ is almost synonymous with ‘wellness’, I hope, bodes well. While the origins of wellness as a movement can be traced back to the 1950s, it was between 1980 and 2000 – while millennials were all being born – that it began to gain momentum, coming of age around the same time we did.
    The Global Wellness Institute put the movement’s ‘tipping point’ at 2010, after which fitness, diet, healthy living and wellbeing offerings proliferated.
    While mine certainly isn’t the first generation to take an active interest in our health, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that we were fundamental in making wellness a credible, 360-degree health concept that means far more than simply not being ill.

    Nor does doctor, private health coach and fellow millennial Dr. Christie Lewis. ‘I’d certainly agree that millennials are more aware of the benefits of good nutrition, exercise and low stress levels than any generation before us,’ she tells me, from her consulting room.
    20% of millennials have changed their diet to reduce their impact on the planet
    Take our health and fitness spending – there are countless studies that show millennial continuously spend an impressive amount on health and fitness.
    Meanwhile, the number of vegans has risen 350% over the past 10 years, with millennials making up one third, according to The Vegan Society.
    What Drives Millennials’ Health Consciousness?
    ‘There are a number of factors, from the acceleration of research into preventative medicine to how pivotal a role social media plays in our lives,’ adds Dr. Lewis. Something that speaks to both, she explains, is the rise of doctors-slash-influencers.
    ‘The fact that social media users have been able to access scientific research, explained in an accessible way and by aspirational figures, has gone a long way to increasing engagement with health topics – particularly the kind that were previously considered taboo, like mental illness and menopause.’
    READ MORE: Less Sex Could Lead To Early Menopause, According To This Study
    As to whether taking an active interest in our health will translate into a healthier midlife and beyond, Dr. Lewis is optimistic. ‘If you form healthy habits earlier on in life, you’re more likely to continue them through to your middle years,’ she explains.

    This is significant, since one of the best predictors of living well when you’re older is developing healthy habits by the time you reach middle age.
    “Form healthy habits earlier in life and you’re more likely to continue them into middle age”
    Take a 2020 study published in The BMJ; having four out of five low-risk lifestyle habits by the age of 50 (never smoking, eating a good diet, maintaining a healthy weight, doing 30 minutes of daily exercise and drinking a moderate amount of alcohol) meant female participants were likely to live chronic disease-free for 10 more years than those who hadn’t established those healthy habits in their forties.
    There are several lifestyle factors that can help reduce your risk of developing conditions such as cardiovascular disease, like following a balanced, predominantly plant-based diet and keeping your body moving,’ adds Dr. Lewis.
    ‘Weight bearing exercises in particular can help to lessen the risk of osteoporosis, seen disproportionately in women due to hormonal changes,’ she continues.
    The latter is just one of many conditions that she anticipates being less of a burden on our generation, thanks to the rise in supplementation of one vitamin in particular.
    READ MORE: The Top 2 Reasons Why Millennials Cheat On Their Partners
    ‘Vitamin D deficiency can lead to a number of health conditions, so the fact that our generation has increased knowledge about supplementing it – as more research about its benefits has been published – makes me hopeful,’ Lewis explains.
    Are Mental Health issues Common for Millennials?
    But while Dr. Lewis paints a positive image of our physical health in midlife, I suspect the outlook is rather less favourable when it comes to our minds.
    I’ve had several spells of depression, which I needed to take antidepressants to relieve. Most of the creative, high-achieving men and women in my friendship group have had a similar experience with mental health, which is representative of millennials more generally.
    We’re more likely to be depressed than any other generation – lonely, too – with fingers pointing at everything from entering the job market in the wake of the 2008 financial crash to the housing crisis and the un-put-downable nature of our smartphones.

    50% of millennials spend more than three hours a day on their phones

    So I can’t help but feel nervous as we enter our fifth decade – one in which we’re statistically more likely to become a carer to an elderly relative, experience myriad physical and mental symptoms as we go through the (peri)menopause and face mounting professional and financial responsibilities.
    Dr. Emma Svanberg has a front row seat when it comes to the emotional baggage many women in their forties wrestle with.
    A clinical psychologist who often supports mothers, she’s keenly aware of the pile-on of pressures, though she remains optimistic that millennials will rise to the challenge.

    “We’ve created a language and a blueprint for a model of happiness, beyond the traditional”

    ‘Particularly since the #metoo movement, millennials have highlighted many questions about gender equality and the harmful experiences that were too often accepted by previous generations,’ she says, referring to the ways in which we’ve railed against prescriptive social norms.
    READ MORE: If You’re A Millennial, Your Risk For Colon Cancer Just Doubled
    When I think of all the terms we’ve normalised along the way, there are too many to count. From polyamory to being child-free and happily single, we’ve created a language and a blueprint for a model of happiness beyond the traditional (read: marriage and kids) kind.

    57% of millennials have never married, and one in four won’t have married by their fifties

    ‘Millennials have been instrumental in the increased diversity of the concept of family, and for changing expectations of gender roles in parenting,’ Dr. Svanberg explains. On the whole, she believes this will serve us well: family units and partnerships will be shaped more by individuals’ wants, as opposed to society’s say-so.
    But there’s a ‘but’. ‘This can also make parenting more challenging, since we’re trying to do something that’s already immensely difficult while writing our own stories.’
    Millennials at Work: How a Generation Impacted Workplace Mental Health
    Nowhere is millennial-made progress within mental health more profound than at work.
    ‘The movement for mental health to be taken more seriously in the workplace has absolutely been from the ground up, with millennials driving the change,’ says James Routledge, 30-year-old founder of workplace mental health coaching service Sanctus and author of Mental Health At Work.
    ‘If companies want to attract and maintain millennial talent, they need to demonstrate that they have a good mental health culture and that they support flexible working,’ he adds.
    Routledge is confident that as this emotionally-aware generation moves into positions of power and responsibility, it’ll take action to give mental health parity with the physical kind.
    ‘We’re already seeing this with paid leave for pregnancy loss, and hopefully as millennials move into middle age, we’ll see greater support for workers caring for elderly parents, too.’
    READ MORE: Your Postpartum Periods Might Be Heavier And More Irregular Than The Ones You Had Pre-Pregnancy
    That’s not to say that all facets of physical health are taken seriously – not least when they’re ones that exclusively impact female bodies.
    Journalist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour Emma Barnett – who shares details of her struggle with endometriosis and adenomyosis in her book Period: It’s About Bloody Time – is one notable millennial who’s used her platform to make female health conditions newsworthy.

    “Millennials have shown that women can hold both power and physical vulnerability at once”

    That one of the most fearsome political interviewers speaks openly about her crippling period pain is powerful – and indicative, I’m learning, of a unique millennial strength: the ability to show both power and vulnerability at once.
    ‘To show pain, to show suffering, can be viewed as weak; we’re educated to believe that’s weak,’ says Barnett. ‘But actually, even to put one foot in front of the other with conditions like endometriosis and adenomyosis, you’re the toughest woman I know.’
    I put it to Barnett that the way in which millennials, like her, have been open when it comes to talking about periods stands us in good stead for what happens when they stop.
    But when it comes to the (peri)menopause, Barnett believes we won’t be the change-makers. ‘Women in the generation above us are talking about it now, and we’re going to be the inheritors of that,’ she says. ‘I feel grateful to the women who have come before me on that.’
    What Wellness Lessons can Millennials learn from Gen Z?
    While props are due to the generation above us, we have a lot to learn from the one below, too. ‘Members of Gen Z are so much more aware of the systemic issues causing mental health issues than we were,’ adds Dr Svanberg.
    ‘This means they may be better adapted to abandon the perfectionism and chronic dissatisfaction that many older millennials struggle with after being brought up in the 1980s and 1990s,’ she continues – ‘when success and outcomes were prioritised over growth and development.’
    She argues that while it’s true that millennials started talking about mental health openly, they often do so in an intellectualised way.
    READ MORE: 6 Tips On How To Protect Your Mental Health During The Coronavirus Pandemic
    ‘We’re still not truly able to contain and validate people’s distress because we can still feel uncomfortable with genuine vulnerability,’ she shares. This resonates, hard.

    “My millennial friends were keen to tie my difficult emotions up in a neat little bow”

    Over the second lockdown, I had a sports injury that required surgery and, without the crutch of exercise, I experienced an episode of depression.
    When I voiced what was going on, the millennials in my circle were keen to tie my problems up in a neat bow: ‘Oh well, it’s a good time to get it done! What else would you be doing?’
    There was a need to patch it up and move on – which, ultimately, made me feel I was being too negative or exaggerating how bad I felt, which only increased the depressive feelings. Clearly, we’ve not got this self-compassion thing licked.
    Health and Happiness: Why this isn’t a Generation Game
    I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about what midlife holds for me. But during this past 18 months of lockdowns and restrictions, I’ve felt grateful for the archetypal millennial lifestyle I’ve built.
    My meditation apps, my yoga habit, my collection of single thirty-something friends; my lifelong commitment to social justice; the life-processing memes sent by friends across the world via Instagram or WhatsApp.
    This millennial baggage, as ridiculous as it might sound, is what got me through a year of career pivots and pirouettes, isolation from my family in another country, and oppressively tragic world events.
    But the other thing that got me through? The wisdom of generations older and younger.
    During this weird time, I’ve relied on the compassion and kindness of baby boomers, the more relaxed and existential beliefs of Gen Xers, and the progressiveness and openness of Gen Zers.
    It’s a comforting thought that, however well I fare in middle age and beyond, I’ll do so with the support of the people I love, regardless of what year they were born.

    This article was originally published in the September issue of Women’s Health UK.

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    Are You Ready to Make The Switch to a Menstrual Cup?

    In a world of fast fashion, palm oil and David Attenborough, I’m a typical millennial – swinging between being a vego-leaning reusable coffee cup owner and that drunk ordering chicken nuggets. But the news that the plastic in a packet of sanitary pads is equivalent to four single-use bags is sobering, even when it isn’t being delivered in Dave’s dulcet tones. Enter: the menstrual cup.
    You probably remember it as the menstruation solution that elicited the loudest chorus of ‘eww’ during sex ed. Popularised around 20 years ago, the silicone ‘cup’ is designed to sit in your vaginal canal and collect, rather than absorb, your period blood. Presented with a solution that swerves the huge environmental impact, I decide to give it a go and start with a menstrual cup.
    READ MORE: Is It Safe To Have Sex While Wearing A Menstrual Cup?
    Leaky Start
    My first impression is along the lines of ‘square peg; round hole’ – next to a tampon, it looks huge. I study diagrams before I feel confident enough to try it. The first time, I put it in too high. Since it works by forming a seal on your canal wall, this can lead to leaks. 
    I discover my error after a workout first thing and leaking all over my leggings (inserted correctly, a menstrual cup can be worn while you exercise). To be fair, the instructions specifically state not to put it in too high – it sits much lower than a tampon – and, with the help of an online tutorial, I get it right second time (I know because I can’t feel it at all). After a few bathroom checks, I feel pretty confident and leave it in all day at work, removing the need for a tampon-up-the-sleeve situation entirely. How often you empty it depends on your period – four hours for heavy, up to eight for light – and while I preferred to change it at home, it’s doable on the move – just empty it into the toilet and rinse before putting it back in. More

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    Caffeine Effects: ‘What Happens When I Go Hard on Coffee?’

    While a moderate flat white habit is nothing to be worried by, persistently going hard on the java can prove problematic. Here, WH speaks to the experts about what happens in your body, when you mainline caffeine.
    What happens after my first cup of coffee?
    A thirst for Vida e Caffè’s finest is usually the result of a few things – from a late bedtime to a longstanding habit. But caving to your craving is no bad thing, particularly as that first cup is likely to perk you up. ‘Caffeine mainly works by plugging the adenosine receptors in your brain,’ explains GP Dr. Serena Rakha.
    READ MORE: Is Coffee Helpful (Or Harmful) For Weight Loss? Experts Weigh In
    ‘Caffeine and adenosine (a compound that usually promotes sleepiness when it hits the receptors) are similar in structure, so caffeine can bind to adenosine receptors, like different keys fitting the same lock, and cause stimulation across the brain.’ After that first coffee or two, this manifests as you feeling alert, with increased concentration to boot.
    And my fourth?
    Blocking some of these receptors is all good, to an extent, but sipping on four and a half cups of coffee (around 450mg of caffeine) per day can block up to 50% of them. ‘This allows stimulating neurochemicals, such as dopamine, to flood your system,’ says Dr Rakha.
    ‘When your body catches on, it responds by churning out more adenosine receptors in an attempt to restore equilibrium.’
    The upshot? Adenosine starts binding to the free receptors, which slows down neural activity in the brain (winding down for sleep) –thus, your energy begins to wear thin.
    READ MORE: How Much Coffee Is Too Much Coffee? Here’s What Experts And Studies Say
    The obvious solution is, well, even more coffee. But as well as blocking sleep-promoting adenosine (so you struggle to nod off hours after your last espresso), caffeine also triggers the release of adrenaline, the-called fight-or-flight hormone, says Dr Rakha.
    This rushes through your body, giving you the power to blast through that session on your treadmill – at higher doses, though, It’ll leave you tense and anxious, and it contributes to the classic ‘coffee jitters’.
    So potent are the effects that caffeine-induced anxiety disorder is recognised by the American Psychiatric Association.
    So how much coffee is okay?
    While the European Food Safety Authority has determined that 400mg of caffeine per day – around four cups of coffee – is fine for most adults, what works for you may be different. ‘There’s also some evidence that caffeine ingestion can increase your circulating stress hormone cortisol,’ says dietitian Sophie Medlin.
    ‘Cortisol levels peak in the morning, which helps you get up and get on with your day, so if you want to optimise what your Americano is doing for you, you might want to delay it until mid-morning, when your cortisol levels start dropping.’
    READ MORE: 10 Delicious Coffee Smoothie Recipes That Will Give You A Morning Buzz
    Otherwise, think about when you might need it most. A recent review concluded that caffeine was an effective workout performance enhancer, particularly for aerobic exercise.
    And how do I cut back on coffee, if I need to?
    If you want to wind down your dependence, try eliminating one caffeinated beverage at a time.
    ‘If you experience headache, that’s your previously caffeine-tightened blood vessels widening, creating pressure-like tension in your brain,’ explains Dr Rakha. Pop a painkiller if you need to.
    ‘Often, it’s the ritual of making coffee and sitting down with it that you really crave,’ says Medlin. ‘If you’re trying to reduce your caffeine intake, use that time to brew caffeine-free rooibos instead.’
    Still fatigued? Get moving! 10 minutes of climbing stairs will boost your energy as much as an espresso. Plus, the endorphin rush will drown out irritability. Step to it.
    This article was originally published on Women’s Health UK

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