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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.

    READ MORE ON: Fitness Advice Health Advice Mental Health millennials More

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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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    How To Get Better Quality Sleep

    As someone who has struggled to sleep from time to time, it’s been a pursuit of mine to understand how to get better quality sleep.
    I suffer from panic attack disorder – a type of anxiety disorder – and sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night in sheer panic. There have been times when I’ve launched out of bed with my heart racing in pure “fight or flight mode” and it takes me a while to calm down enough to get back into bed. Sometimes I have a little hamster on high alert, racing on his little wheel in my head from 2am to 4am. A metaphor for my thoughts.
    Thankfully there are ways to help set you up for sleep success.
    At Women’s Health, we hosted an event with sleep expert Dr Dale Rae whose current research focuses on the study of sleep and circadian rhythms as they relate to both general health and sports performance. Dr Rae is also the Director of Sleep Science at the Sports Science Institute of South Africa.
    7 Hacks To Sleep Better
    Below I’ve created a list of hacks and tips I’ve learnt from Dr Rae as well we further research into the field.
    1. Set up your sleep environment for success
    Take a look at your bedroom. Does it ooze comfort? What about safety? And is it a place you feel like you can really relax in? Making small adjustments to your bedroom can help set you up for better quality sleep. Take note of any noises that can be fixed: that creaky door, the window shutters, a ticking clock. Think of scents as well. Perhaps light a candle or get a diffuser that creates calming scents for the room. We all know that lavender is a win!

    2. Check your lighting
    Are your curtains dark enough? Are there any flashing or distracting lights in the room? Make sure you minimise artificial light. Another great idea is to invest in a dawn simulator light that works for bedtime and morning, adjusting levels of light in your room over time to help you unwind and wake up.
    3. What is your temperature like?
    Contrary to what you might think, we actually struggle to sleep well when we’re too warm. I know – you’re thinking “but it’s so easy to snooze on the couch in the sun”. That said, it’s also hard to drop off if you’re too cold! Your body heat peaks in the evening and then drops to its lowest levels when you’re asleep, so a cool 16-18°C is thought to be an ideal temperature in a bedroom. Temperatures over 24°C are likely to cause restlessness, while a cold room of about 12°C will make it difficult to fall asleep.
    My solution is to have a lighter duvet in summer and a heavier duvet and blanket in winter. Also, I like placing a hot water bottle in my bed in winter just to warm up the sheets. I also use a portable air conditioner in summer for those scorching evenings.
    4. Set your phone aside
    A great way to help the mind calm down is to switch off the sensory overload. Many of us take our laptops and phones into bed with us to play games, reply to texts and scroll through TikTok. But beeps, buzzes and even the tiniest lights can wreak havoc with the body’s circadian rhythm. So try set aside your phone or laptop as you wind down. And avoid the sensory overload!
    I have started placing my phone in my bedside drawer. Plus, I keep a few books on my bedside table, so I try tuck into one of these instead, while I wind down.
    5. Avoid stimulants
    Having caffeine too late in the day or alcohol or sugar can all mess with your sleep. I make a rule with myself that I don’t have caffeine after midday. If I’m feeling tired, I have more water (often we’re dehydrated and this makes us feel lethargic). While a few glasses of wine may help you fall asleep, it often causes disruption a few hours into your sleep. Hello hamster!
    6. Set up a bedtime routine
    I have set up a routine to help “tell my body” that it’s bedtime. I make a cup of plain black rooibos or chamomile tea every night. Yes, I travel with teabags. And this forms part of my bed-time routine.
    If I have had a stressful day or if I’m going through a period where my anxiety is high, I practise 10 to 20 minutes of yoga and meditation before going to bed. Gentle, easy stretches and mindful breathing can help you physically and mentally wind down. As a qualified yoga teacher, I can advise on some postures to try to help ease the body and mind.
    Here is a quick, beginner-friendly yoga sequence I created:
    [embedded content]
    Also try this: 14 Yoga Stretches To Do If You Want To Soothe Anxiety And Find Calm
    7. Examine your bed
    The biggest investment you can make in your sleep hygiene is to invest in a good mattress. We’re all different and have different likes and dislikes when it comes to what feels comfortable. But it’s not always easy to know what actually works for you, unless you spend some time sleeping “on it” – am I right?
    There is a local South African company called SLOOM, who have invested an adjustable mattress. How it works: inside each Sloom mattress is two interchangeable foam layers, of which each have two sides with different comforts. So that means four different comfort options. Place the clearly marked layer of your comfort choice facing upwards on top.

    I tested the Sloom mattress and love it! I have a queen-sized bed and the advantage of this size is that the mattress can be split for independent comforts. So, you don’t have to argue with your bed partner if you have different sleep desires. Simply adjust each side to suit you!
    They also offer a 100-night sleep trial. Click here for more info.
    I actually sleep with the Sloom Pillow now too, which has breathable tech so it does not get too hot. Bonus!
    READ MORE: The 10 Best Sleep Apps To Help You Fall Asleep Faster And Sleep Through The Night
    How To get Back To Sleep
    It’s important to note that sometimes, in periods of high stress, that the above methods may not entirely prevent a bad night’s sleep, but they will certainly make them less frequent. So, if you find yourself in a state of anxiety or with a little hamster in your brain at 3am, here are some ways to calm yourself down in the moment:
    Do a breathing exercise. Focusing on your breath and taking longer inhales and exhales helps to activate your parasympathetic nervous system. A pranayama I try is: breathing in through the nose for a count of four; holding the breath for a count of four; and exhaling through the nose for a count of four. The focus on the breath helps to calm your thoughts and body.
    Listen to a meditation. I know its not always easy if you have a partner. What I do is place one of my little earbuds in, roll on to my opposite side and listen to a meditation or sleep story from the Calm app.
    Journal. If the above two methods don’t seem to be helping in anyway, sometimes I get up and write down my thoughts and stressors. This helps me to feel more in control and like I’ve “sorted through” the issues in my head.
    READ MORE ON: Health Health Advice Sleep More

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    This Is The Best Way To Support Your Immune System, According To A Dietitian

    With the COVID-19 pandemic, most of us are trying our best to keep our loved ones and ourselves safe and protected. From wearing masks to washing our hands regularly to social distancing, we each have to do our part to flatten the curve. And while we’re doing everything we can to protect ourselves from the outside, we should also dedicate time to getting our immune systems in fighting shape.
    “If it’s not already a focus of family life, this is actually an ideal time to prioritise nutrition and health,” says Retha Harmse, a Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa). “As lockdown restriction levels fluctuate; we will have more freedom of movement, but also more risks of contracting COVID-19. Eating a balanced diet plays an important role in maintaining health and supporting the immune system, as well as all the body’s vital systems.
    A balanced diet is the best immune support
    We’ve all seen the Whatsapp group messages that tell you to eat or drink various foods, medicinally-used plants or nutritional supplements as ‘immune-boosters’, treatments or even ‘cures’. But many (if not all) of these are misinformed and have no scientific evidence that can help protect you from the virus.
    “Of course, everyone would like to minimise their risk for contracting COVID-19, however, there is no simple quick fix to boost our immune system to guarantee that we won’t be infected. Simply put, you cannot ‘boost’ your immune system through diet, and no specific food or supplement will prevent you from contracting COVID-19. Good hygiene practice and social distancing remain the best means of avoiding infection,” explains Retha.
    READ MORE: COVID-19: Here’s How Risky Normal Activities Are, According To Doctors
    Maintaining a healthy balanced diet made up of different foods that provide a spectrum of nutrients that include copper, folate, iron, selenium, zinc and vitamins A, B6, B12, C and D is the very best way to support immune function.
    “In addition to a healthy balanced diet, a generally healthy lifestyle is also important to support your immune system,” says Retha, “This means not smoking, exercising regularly, getting adequate sleep and very importantly, minimizing stress, which is very intense at this time.”
    Enjoy a variety of foods
    Although certain foods might be a bit harder to come by, don’t fall in the trap of eating only certain foods. Variety also means including foods from two or more food groups at each meal.
    Support local businesses like Yebo Fresh who deliver fresh fruits and vegetables straight to your door. There are also options for you to donate to families in need.
    Be active
    Regular, moderate exercise is very beneficial for getting outdoors, stress relief and improved immune function. Try some of these lockdown ideas:
    You don’t need big spaces for cardiovascular exercise — running up and downstairs is great; as is skipping, and skipping ropes are inexpensive cardio tools.
    Download exercise apps for daily workouts.
    Similarly, there are many physical activity videos, including dance, martial arts and yoga, available on YouTube (check out our selection of workouts while you’re there).
    If you have a closed-in garden or courtyard-type space, play physical games such as handball, bat and ball, mini-cricket or mini-soccer as a family or couple, combining fun, bonding and exercise.
    READ MORE: How Can I Tell If My Symptoms Are Allergies, Or A Possible COVID-19 Infection?
    Make starchy foods part of most meals
    Choose whole grain, unrefined foods to add more fibre, vitamins and minerals to your diet. Good options to choose are whole-wheat pasta, multigrain Provitas or cracker bread, brown rice and bulgur wheat.
    Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day
    This can be challenging while we are under lockdown and want to avoid frequent shopping.
    Choose fresh, whole fruit that is naturally longer lasting such as apples, pineapple and citrus fruits.
    Eat fruits as snacks and desserts. Add sliced fruit or dried fruit to your cereal, muesli or yoghurt.
    As some fresh vegetables don’t last long, blanche or cook them on the day of purchase and then freeze for later use.
    Root and bulb veg options such as carrots and turnips, onions, garlic and ginger are longer lasting.
    Frozen and canned vegetables are also good options.
    Eat dry beans, split peas, lentils and soya regularly
    Dried legumes are not only good substitutes for meat, fish, eggs or cheese, but can also be used as affordable ‘meat extenders’ to make meals go further.
    Have milk, maas or yoghurt every day
    Maas and yoghurt will last longer in the fridge than fresh milk. For more long-term milk options buy long-life milk, skim milk powder or evaporated milk.  Fresh dairy products can also be frozen.  Eat yoghurt, with added fruit, as a snack between meals instead of a packet of chips as this contributes to the day’s nutrient intake and does not contain excess fat and salt.
    Fish, chicken, lean meat or eggs can be eaten daily
    Stock up on tinned fish options such as tuna, pilchards, and sardines. And meals such as quiches and omelettes are an easy and tasty way to use up vegetables that might spoil soon.
    READ MORE: Are COVID-19 Outcomes Worse For People Living With HIV?
    Drink lots of clean, safe water
    This is perhaps the easiest time to get into the habit of drinking enough water because you are confined to one space. Keep a bottle of water nearby so that you can stay hydrated throughout the day.
    Use fats sparingly
    Choose vegetable oils rather than hard fats, and always use only a little, as fats are high in energy but provide relatively few nutrients.

    READ MORE ON: Health Health Advice Healthy Eating Tips More

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    Get A 5-Star Hotel Sleep At Home With These Simple Tips

    A couple weeks before lockdown, I spent a night at The Westin Cape Town to experience their World Sleep Day package. The Westin is a five-star hotel located right next to the Cape Town International Convention Centre and a two-minute walk from those iconic Foreshore high-rises. Many guests are in town for meetings and conferences where they’ll need to be on top of their game. So the Westin takes sleep very seriously. They celebrated World Sleep Day like it was a holiday, right down to reception staff in nightgowns. It was hilarious. Until four-months into SA’s 21-day lockdown when all I could think about was that glorious hotel sleep and why I didn’t treasure it more at the time. Fortunately, it is possible to simulate the experience at home. Use these tips to (finally) get a good night’s sleep during lockdown.
    READ MORE: This Is The Effect Lockdown Is Having On Your Sleep, According To New Studies
    1/ Start with your bed…
    One of the reasons a hotel sleep is so blissful is the bed. The Westin hotel chain has its own signature bed (The Heavenly® Bed) that’s been specially designed to promote deep, restful sleep – from the supportive, padded mattress with its individual pocket springs to the high-thread-count linen. Like I said, they take sleep very seriously. Assuming you don’t have €3 000 to shell out on your own Heavenly® Bed, upgrade your existing one with bedding. Use a fitted sheet that fits your mattress well and won’t come loose. Similarly, your duvet cover should fit your duvet well. If you can’t afford to splurge on a new mattress, splurge on a pillow that offers good support.
    READ MORE: This Might Just Be The Best Type Of Pillow For Every Sleeper
    2/ Set The Temperature For Sleep
    To ensure a good night’s sleep, the room should be a little on the chilly side. Even in winter. This prevents you from overheating during the night, causing you to sweat and toss and turn, which disturbs your slumber. At a hotel you can simply set the air con (I usually opt for a cool 18 degrees). If you don’t have an air con at home, mimic a climate-controlled hotel sleep by cracking the window open slightly. You want it just wide enough for that wintery air to cool the room, but not so wide that it feels like you’re sleeping in a fridge! While you’re at it, make sure your room is properly dark. Light signals your body to wake up and we don’t want that. So you chose your curtains for aesthetic appeal rather than blackout capability? Get a soft, comfy sleep mask.

    The Silk Lady Sleeping Mask
    R 395

    3/ Scent Of Dreams
    At The Westin we got little bottles of lavender oil in the room. Lavender has long been used to promote sleep and relaxation and a number of small studies suggest there could be some truth to this old home remedy. In any case, drifting off to the sweet smell of lavender makes you feel like you’re experiencing an indulgent hotel sleep rather than just a regular Saturday in your own creaky bed.

    Lavender In Lavender Hill Essential Oil
    R 75

    4/Restful Eating
    Ever had a really heavy meal right before bed and struggled to sleep? Or woken up with meat sweats? Not pretty. And, yes, I’ve totally been there. Instead, eat a light supper made with ingredients that promote sleep. Dairy products contain tryptophan, an amino acid that your body uses to help make the hormone melatonin and the brain chemical serotonin, both of which promote sleep and relaxation. If, like me, you have a problem with dairy, other sources of tryptophan include nuts, seeds, honey and eggs. I ordered a cheeseless omelette off the sleep section of the Westin’s room service menu. Yes, for supper. Yes, it was delicious. And I had a five-star hotel sleep that night.
    READ MORE: The 10 Best Sleep Apps To Help You Fall Asleep Faster And Sleep Through The Night
    5/ Start Early
    A good sleep starts before bedtime. You want to lay off the caffeine (the Westin provided chamomile tea) and limit alcohol. I failed on that count. My hotel sleep experience might have been even better had I not climbed into that delicious bottle of red wine in the mini bar. In lieu of a hotel spa treatment, treat yourself to a hot bath or shower just before bed. Cooling down afterwards mimics how your body temperature drops as you fall asleep and helps signal your body to nod off.
    READ MORE: Beginner Yoga Poses To Help You Sleep Better.
    If your mind is racing, try doing a mindfulness exercise to ground you in the moment and clear those racing thoughts: try a guided meditation app like Headspace or do a gentle, restorative yoga practice, focusing on your breath.

    READ MORE ON: Health Health Advice Sleep More

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    Are COVID-19 Outcomes Worse For People Living With HIV?

    South Africa has the biggest HIV epidemic in the world, with close to 8 million people living with the disease. With South Africa having recorded over 373 628 cases of COVID-19 positive cases so far, it’s no surprise that there have been questions around how the virus plays out in those living with HIV.
    New research – considered to be the largest study of a group of people who were both living with HIV and hospitalised with COVID-19 – looked to answer this question. According to the study, being HIV positive does not pose a bigger risk for worse COVID-19 outcomes.
    Why you shouldn’t worry
    The worst had indeed been assumed when no research into this had been done at all, and while the scientists don’t necessarily know why, they found that patients living with well-controlled HIV in their study population didn’t have any worse outcomes compared to a similar comparison group. The scientists did mention that more research would need to be done to confirm this.
    READ MORE: Everything You Need To Know About HIV As A Woman: Latest News, Treatments, Breakthroughs
    “In conclusion, we found no differences in adverse outcomes associated with HIV infection for hospitalised COVID-19 patients compared to a similar comparison group,” the study concluded.
    “Verification of this finding in other large cohorts is warranted to improve understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on people living with HIV. If confirmed, investigation of specific factors contributing to similar outcomes in this large group of patients with immune disturbance may provide greater insight into the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2.”
    What you need to know
    If people living with HIV have been anxious about what contracting COVID-19 would mean for them, this study should ease their fears.
    “I’m telling [my patients] ‘look, take standard precautions, but there’s no reason to live in fear that having HIV is causing you to be more likely to die from COVID,” Dr Keith Sigel, lead researcher for the study, said in a statement.
    “Although this, to date, is the largest study that’s been published that has a comparison group, many of the studies without comparison groups have shown a similar finding – that is reassuring.”
    HIV awareness and education organisation Avert offers some other important points people living with HIV should take note of:
    Current evidence suggests that HIV is less of a risk factor for severe COVID-19 than other health conditions.
    People living with HIV not on treatment or virally suppressed may be at a greater risk.
    As with the general population, older people living with HIV and those with other underlying conditions should take extra precautions to prevent illness.
    Try to have at least 30 days’ supply of ART in your home. If possible, ask for three months.
    The new list of underlying conditions that up your risk
    The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recently published a newly expanded list of underlying conditions that put individuals at an increased risk of getting severely ill from COVID-19. This came after the organisation reviewed published reports, pre-print studies and several other sources of data. Here’s the updated list:
    Chronic kidney disease
    Type-2 diabetes
    COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    Obesity (BMI of 30 or higher)
    Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
    Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
    Sickle cell disease
    The CDC also included a list of other conditions that might increase an individual’s risk of severe COVID-19 illness:
    Cystic fibrosis
    Neurological conditions such as dementia
    Liver disease
    Pulmonary fibrosis
    Type-1 diabetes
    Cerebrovascular disease
    They clarified that these lists are living documents that may be updated at any time as the science evolves.
    New isolation guidelines for South Africans
    The minister of health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, announced that the recommended isolation period for someone who tests positive for COVID-19 is now 10 days and no longer 14 days.
    “The presence of a detectable virus when testing does not imply infectiousness – it has been proven that in mild cases, virus cultures are generally only positive for eight to nine days after symptom onset,” Dr Mkhize said in his statement.
    “The duration of infectiousness in patients with severe disease is less well established. In general, patients with severe disease may continue to shed the virus at higher levels for longer periods than patients with mild disease.”
    The new guidelines go as follows:
    An asymptomatic patient can end isolation 10 days after testing.
    A patient with mild disease can end isolation 10 days after the onset of the symptoms.
    A patient with severe disease can end isolation 10 days after clinical stability has been achieved.
    READ MORE ON: Coronavirus COVID-19 Health Health Advice Health News HIV More