Stressipedia

The Source for Health and Stress News You Can Use

Sitting is the New Smoking

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Times have certainly changed.  Smokers were “cool” in the early days of movies, and they were even hailed by doctors in media ads. 

Smoking became so popular that anyone who didn’t light up at work was considered “anti-social”. 

 Today, the few remaining smokers are kicked out of the building.  

So smoking is in decline.  It seems the old generation of smokers have killed themselves off faster than new recruits can be found

But just as we have turned back one self-inflicted threat to public health, we see another take its place.  SITTING is now the new smoking.

 In my practice of urban millenials, almost all earn their living by sitting all day long.  Those that commute will sit even more in their cars or trains.  Then, by the time they have eaten, they are too mentally exhausted to do much other than sit in front of their screens.  (That explains part of our fascination with professional sports: it is a lot easier to sit and watch somebody else exercise than it is to do it ourselves!).

Our bodies were carefully evolved for movement, but the new workplace denies all but a few finger strokes on a keyboard or screen.  As a consequence, we are seeing a host of self-inflicted medical complications, from obesity to neck and back pains, and from insomnia to attention deficit disorders. 

Our ancestors never had to think about exercise; they got plenty working the land, rowing the fishing boats, chopping the firewood, walking miles every day.  But today, we need a strategy for movement.  This needs some time management, and some creativity to pull it off. 

One can join a fitness club, buy a bike, or take up a sport like tennis, soccer or ultimate frisbee. For those who find these options impractical, be creative.   Remember that exercise doesn’t need to be formalized as a solid hour, it could also come in random short bursts.  Any kind of movement is better than finding a new place to sit as your day goes along.  Here are a few examples my patients have found useful:

  • Add a few extra minutes to your commuting schedule to allow for some movement.  Get off at the wrong stop on your bus, train, or subway, and walk the rest of the way.  Park your car a long walk from where you work, and walk or jog the rest of the way in. If you are in a huge parking lot, try to find a spot in the most remote corner. 
  • If you work or live in a tall building, get off at the wrong floor, and take a few flights of stairs up and down.  If you see an escalator, make a point of not taking it, but try the adjacent stairs instead. 
  • When you get a break for lunch, take it in a different building, so you need to incorporate some walking.  If you want to catch up on lunch conversation with friends, invite them to walk and talk once the food is eaten. 

If you absolutely have to sit, consider sitting on a Pilates ball, instead of a chair. 

 

With a chair, you can stay at your place without moving a single muscle.  Indeed, you could even fall asleep at your desk.  Can’t do that on a Pilates ball, or you’ll roll right out of the cubicle.  Like riding a horse, sitting on a ball requires great core strength, good posture, and the constant adjustment of muscles from your toes to your neck.  If the actual ball looks too silly to use at your work, consider rigging your work station for standing.


If all else fails, use the front few inches of your chair seat as a “pseudo-ball”, keeping well away from the back rest and arm supports. 

So if you have joined the ranks of the sedentary, don’t despair.  Sitters don’t need to be Quitters!

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Work Stress and Heart Disease

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Are you under a lot of stress at work? Well, if you are not handling it well, it could be making you more at risk for heart disease.

An image of someone stressed-out at work

First, let’s set the record straight. We are all under some stress, and most people at work are under a lot of it. But just because you have a stressful job, such as an air traffic controller, police officer, or computer worker, does not mean your health need suffer. Many such people thrive on their pressures, and indeed wither into death or senility within a few short years of idle retirement. But if you are not handling these job stresses well, then indeed there is cause for concern.

A recently published study in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at over two hundred men, aged 30 to 60 years. About one in five suffered job stress, such as impending mergers, trouble with a bad boss, and economic factors. These highly stressed individuals were three times as likely to have high blood pressure as their peers. Even more alarmingly, all men aged thirty to forty with high stress jobs had a clinically significant thickening of the heart's left ventricle. This means that there is something happening inside your body when you have chronic job stress, and rather than responding by passively adopting bad habits, it is critical for you to take control.

People with highly stressful jobs but little real control over decision making are running a 23% increased risk of a heart attack, according to authoritative research.

Many people in today's world, where the pace of life is fast and money is tight, may consider themselves stressed at work, but the definition used by authors of the study in the Lancet medical journal is precise. They considered job strain to involve high demands on the individual and little freedom to make his or her own decisions about how and when to do the work.

This sort of stress is to be found among all sorts of people, holding down all sorts of jobs on both high and low salaries, said one of the authors of the study, Professor Andrew Steptoe of the department of epidemiology and public health at University College London.

"It is the coupling [of high demand and low control] that is problematic," he said. "It is more common in low income jobs where people are doing the same thing again and again, such as assembly line work, but it is across the whole social spectrum.

When one has high job stress, the tendency is to pay less attention to good nutrition, learning skills of relaxation and exercise, and more inclination to talk shop all through one's spare time hours. It may very well be that it is these choices, and not the job itself, that account for most of the associated heart disease. If you are in a stressful job, you owe it to yourself to fight back with ‘active participation’. Eat good foods, exercise regularly, develop skills of relaxation, and focus on other interests in your spare time to get your mind off work.

Given that 1 in 3 Americans suffers from heart problems, managing work-related stress is key. Here are some recommendations from the American Heart Association:

  • Practice positive self-talk: Instead of telling yourself, “everything is going wrong,” think, “I can handle things if I take one step at a time.”
  • Identify emergency stress stoppers that work for you: For example, count to 10 before you speak or go for a walk.
  • Find pleasure in simple activities: Try to do at least one thing a day that you enjoy, like listening to music or meeting friends for lunch.
  • Take time to relax daily: Calm tension in your mind and body through yoga or meditation.

 

Most of all, ask yourself if you really like the job in the first place, or are just in a rut. If you no longer enjoy your work, be flexible enough to consider planning for a change, for the sake of your heart. The most stressful job in the world is after all the one for which you are not suited.


Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Have a Glass of Red Wine to Relieve Stress and Fight Heart Disease and Cancer

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Do you drink an occasional glass of red wine in the evening after a stressful day at work? Are you also a bit confused about which foods are good for you and which ones to avoid? Well, its getting even more interesting now.

An image of glass of red wine

We've long known that dietary factors are being found by researchers to play a role in the prevention or cause of cancers. Edible items from fats to chewing tobacco have been implicated as cancer causing agents, while others such as fiber and some vitamins can offer protection. Well, add to the list of good dietary products: red wine, garlic, onions, and soy sauce, although please, not all at once.

Dr. Terrance Leighton, professor of microbiology at the University of California in Berkley, identified a substance called quercetin which is found in these foods and, ironically, can also be a carcinogen. However, he says that its power as an anticancer agent simply overwhelms its danger as a mutagen, or cancer causing one. Found in a wide variety of foods, quercetin is active in the micromolar range, in directly blocking the proliferation of cancer cells. In case you are not familiar with the micromolar range, try looking for it just this side of the Rocky Mountain range. Dr Leighton noted that Chinese who are on diets high in allium vegetables, such as onions and garlic, which have incredible levels of quercetin, have twenty times less cancer risk than those without these vegetables.

Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Pariza, director of the Food Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin reported that mice given a cancer-causing diet developed fewer tumors if they had soy sauce on their food. Mind you, what they don't tell you is that the salt in the soy sauce probably gave the mice swollen ankles, high blood pressure, heart failure, and kidney disease, but hey, this is only a cancer experiment.

Here's the news about red wine: in moderation, it has long been thought of as heart healthy. The alcohol and certain substances in red wine called antioxidants, such as flavonoids or a substance called resveratrol, have heart-healthy benefits and may help prevent heart disease by protecting against artery damage. Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. A polyphenol called resveratrol is one substance in red wine that's gotten attention. Some research shows that resveratrol could be linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting, both of which can lead to heart disease. 

The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make wine. Because red wine is fermented with grape skins longer than is white wine, red wine contains more resveratrol. Simply eating grapes, or drinking grape juice, has been suggested as one way to get resveratrol without drinking alcohol. Red and purple grape juices may have some of the same heart-healthy benefits of red wine.

Other foods that contain some resveratrol include peanuts, blueberries and cranberries. It's not yet known how beneficial eating grapes or other foods might be compared with drinking red wine when it comes to promoting heart health. The amount of resveratrol in food and red wine can vary widely.

While this update about red wine might sound great if you enjoy a glass of red wine with your evening meal, the medical community is wary of encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol. That's because too much alcohol can have many harmful effects on your body.

 

Here's an action tip:
Medical research comes and goes, and foods that were the villains of yesterday can come back into favor. In the meantime, until we hear evidence to the contrary, it seems we can all sit back to a Chinese vegetable meal, have a glass of red wine, and take the medical news not with a grain of salt, but with a shake of soy.

Share Stressipedia - Help us grow!

Subscribe to get Stressipedia updates by email