Who doesn’t live with stress these days?! There’s no such thing as a completely stress-free life, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A certain amount of stress is necessary to get through life. Many life events can produce stress—both positive events (getting married, having children, or retirement) and negative events (loss of a loved one or being laid off at work).
Stress is a risk factor for both heart disease and stroke. It is a two-fold risk—the state of being stressed, especially over a long period of time can result in higher cholesterol and increased blood pressure. Additionally, people who are highly stressed often turn to unhealthy habits to ease the stress (such as smoking, over eating, too much alcohol, etc.), which further increases the risk! Stress is one of the controllable risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Reducing your stress also reduces your risk for heart disease and stroke.
How many symptoms of stress do you experience regularly?
Common symptoms include: anxiety, headaches, stomach issues, depression, muscle aches, insomnia, weight gain, frequent colds or illness, low energy, agitation, etc. Does this list seem all too familiar?
For women who fit into the sandwich generation, a major stress factor can be the dual caregiving of raising children, while also providing care to aging parents. Today’s healthcare system is increasingly difficult to navigate, and advocating for a loved one can become a full-time job!
In an effort to be the sole caregiver for their parents (while also maintaining all of their other commitments), today’s women are often placing their own health at risk by increasing their stress levels. Women are notorious for taking care of everyone else that they neglect their own needs. Receiving help with family caregiving can be an important component to reducing your stress. Completely eliminating stress is not an option. Instead, we must focus on reducing our stress, and managing the stress that remains.
There are several ways to manage and reduce our stress!
A few common tips include: exercise (such as daily walks, cycling, yoga classes, etc.), meditation and prayer, engaging in a favourite hobby (such as reading, knitting, painting, etc.), and most of all, reaching out for support.
Professional caregivers can provide hands-on help to your parents, freeing you to focus on your own health and wellness!
Reducing stress is sometimes seen as a wish-list item. One day, you hope to be stress free. You might be thinking your stress will evaporate “when the kids move out of the house” or “once I retire.” But that could be years from now! You can’t afford to put your own health in jeopardy for years, and just hope that the stress you experience is not leading to either heart disease or stroke. Stress is a preventable risk factor. Support your own health by reducing your stress levels starting today!
You’re sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, watching the clock, waiting for your mother’s medical tests to finally be over. Mentally you’re calculating whether you have enough time to drive your mother home, pick up some groceries, and cook dinner for your teenager. . . or will you be ordering pizza yet again tonight?
If this scene feels at all familiar to you, then you’re likely one of the 712,000 Canadians who fit into the infamous “sandwich generation”. The sandwich generation generally applies to those in their 40’s to 60’s who are simultaneously caring for their aging parents as well as their growing children.
Advances in healthcare are allowing people to live longer lives, though not necessarily healthier lives. The end of one’s life may include more intensive care, further demanding the time and energy of the sandwich generation who is caught between their parents and children. The increased life expectancy has led to another possibility—the club sandwich generation. The club sandwich refers to people who are assisting their aging parents, while also being involved in their children’s, and grandchildren’s lives.
Four living generations is no longer a rare scenario.
It is now possible for families to have two generations who are both in their senior years at the same time! The club sandwich can also apply to someone who is in her 40’s who has teenagers at home, while also assisting her 68 year old parents and her 92 year old grandparents. A woman in this situation is caring for two senior generations simultaneously, while also raising her own family.
Add to this the pressures of work, marriage, personal life, volunteer commitments, and personal health—no wonder there is concern about the sandwich generation suffering burn-out! Often people feel that they should be able to manage all of the simultaneous caregiving because previous generations managed to do so. In reality, previous generations did not experience the sandwich generation phenomenon to the same degree, and they certainly did not experience club sandwich generations!
Recognizing the unique challenges faced by today’s sandwich generation will help to alleviate guilt and replace the sense of “I should be able to do this” with “where can I find meaningful assistance?". Acknowledging that you cannot do it all alone and that you deserve assistance is the first step. There are services available to help so that you don't have to this all alone!
Caring for your own health and well-being is crucial!
Managing to eat healthy meals, and getting exercise needs to be a personal priority, not just something to do if you have time left over—because there is never time left over. If you are feeling completely stressed and burned out, you are in not in the best condition to care for loved ones.
Intead, think about accepting homecare assitance so that you are able to lead a balanced lifestyle that cares for you too! Put support systems in place to assist you in caring for your parents and grandparents. A loving companion aide might be just the solution to support your parents while caring for your health at the same time.
With support systems set in place, you can avoid being toasted, and enjoy as many of your “sandwich” years as possible!
On Thursday May 31st, a one day conference for family caregivers, and health care professional, will be held at Conestoga Place from 9-3pm. You'll be able to view community displays, engage with experts, and enjoy lunch! We are looking forward to be participating at this event, so we invite you to come! We hope to see you there!
Did you know that your body shape can indicate your risk for heart disease and stroke?
Maintaining a healthy weight is important but where you carry your weight is just as important! Simply weighing yourself is not the only way to determine your health risk.
Excess weight that is carried around your mid-section can affect your heart health in different ways than weight carried on your hips or legs. Your waist measurement is an important number to know!
What is the magic number?
Women: 88cm / 35 inches
Men: 102cm / 40 inches
If you are over the recommended maximum, or even if you are within 3 inches of the recommendation, you are at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type-2 diabetes. Reducing your risk for each of these significant health issues can be highly motivating for weight loss!
Unfortunately, nearly 60% of Canadians are overweight or obese, and that increases their risk for each of the above health concerns.
Obese adults are:
4x more likely to have diabetes
3x more likely to have high blood pressure
2x more likely to have heart disease
Maintaining a healthy weight is a key component of prevention for heart disease and stroke. Even modest weight loss can have a positive impact on your health. Shedding 5% of your current weight can be enough to reduce your cholesterol level and your blood pressure. Only a 5% change in your weight and your body begins to thank you with better health!
Exercise and eating well-balanced meals is key!
Shedding those unwanted pounds can be terribly difficult and keeping the pounds off can be even harder. When you realize the goal of weight loss is not just a vain endeavor, but a key component of your health, you might be far more motivated to maintain a healthy lifestyle of daily exercise and well-balanced meals.
Track your progress by measuring your waistline and aim to maintain a waistline that is below 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men. Remember—each reduction of an inch reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke making the effort all the more worthwhile!
When asked “how much do you exercise?” the answer is invariably “not enough!” We know that we should exercise more, but do we know what the consequences are if we fail to exercise regularly?
Lack of physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke(as well as other many other illnesses such as diabetes and even dementia). It is a risk factor that we have control over, so we should reduce our risk!
How much exercise do we really need?
The official guidelines from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommend a minimum of 150 minutes per week of aerobic physical activity. That’s it! That’s an attainable goal—within reach, even for people who aren’t accustomed to exercise. Even 10 minute increments of activity count toward the total of 150 minutes.
Of course, 150 minutes doesn’t need to be a limit. More activity is even better. The guideline is a base limit for how much activity adults (middle age, baby boomers, seniors, and even the frail elderly) require each week.
Which activities count toward your 150 minutes?
The good news is that going to the gym is not your only option! Walking is a simple and easy heart-healthy activity, and counts toward your minutes. Even household activities can count—vigorous cleaning, gardening and yard work all elevate your heart rate and get your blood pumping, and that’s the goal of physical activity!
I find it encouraging to measure exercise in terms of 150 minutes weekly because it allows for flexibility. In contrast, if you measure exercise as ’30 minutes most days of the week’, the focus is on 30 minute intervals, and missing a few days in a week can feel like overall failure.
For the frail seniors who are utilizing our Triple Vitality program, they appreciate the flexibility in measuring total minutes over the course of a week. Ten-minute increments feel very accessible. Frail seniors can manage 10 minutes of light exercise! Thirty minutes may be out of reach when we first start, but 10-minute activity sessions throughout the day add up quickly!
Our clients are so encouraged by the progress that they experience. You can feel the benefits of exercise very quickly. Increased energy and stamina, renewed interest in activities, reduced stress, better sleeping and digestion, are all immediate benefits to exercise. Knowing that you are contributing to improved overall health and reducing your risk factors for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other illnesses only increases the incentive to continue being active!
Be sure to track your minutes of activity this week and see how close you are to the recommended minimum of 150 minutes. Remember that 10 minutes of activity at a time can count toward your total!
If you know someone who is elderly and they are unsure about how to become active, be sure to contact Warm Embrace. Our Triple Vitality program is specifically designed for the frail elderly who need assistance to become active. We love to make a healthy, proactive difference in people’s lives, regardless of age!
thank you for the email.. it has been quite some time since I received your emails. I found this exercise information interesting. I just started the wellness program for diabetics at the Y and am slowly getting more active again.
It’s no secret that the holiday season has become increasingly complicated with a heavy focus on commercialism—lots of shopping, busy malls, huge meals, many parties...the list goes on. While some people may enjoy making detailed desserts that look like a Martha Stewart display, many others find it stressful. When did all this pressure become the norm?
If you ask your grandparents what Christmas used to be like, I’ll bet they would tell you a different story. If they were of the generation that lived through the depression era, you can be certain that there was very little—if any—Christmas shopping to be done.
Instead, the focus was on being together with loved ones, and participating in activities together. Rather than rushing around trying to have everything in perfect order before family arrived, the focus was on doing things together as a family. Decorations were much simpler, but usually included extended family members. Popcorn was strung and used as a garland hung outside for the birds to enjoy. Fruit featured prominently in
décor—orange peels were used creatively as little baskets, or peels were dried and cut into shapes.
These simple traditions are low-cost and allow everyone to focus on quality time together, rather than individually rushing about stressing about fancy décor. Perhaps this year you can slow down the pace of the holiday season and revert to some time-honoured traditions from your grandparents’ era. What a special tribute for your grandparents or great-grandparents this holiday season!