Live to 100: Do This, Not That

By: Ben Smart

With the advent of improved scientific and social structures, it’s easier today than ever before to live well. But so often we neglect the healthy choice for the more convenient (and often less healthy) one. Let’s take a look at simple switches you can make to live longer- maybe even to 100.

Do This: Exercise 5x per week 

Not That: Avoid exercise because, like, who wants to get all sweaty

photo: "Exercise" by: Andyinnyc; source: flickr creative commons

photo: “Exercise” by: Andyinnyc; source: flickr creative commons

Regular exercise has been scientifically studied for its role in increasing lifespan. Here’s a list from heart.org of the benefits of regular exercise:

  • Improves blood circulation, which reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Keeps weight under control
  • Helps in the battle to quit smoking
  • Improves blood cholesterol levels
  • Prevents and manages high blood pressure
  • Prevents bone loss
  • Boosts energy level
  • Helps manage stress
  • Releases tension
  • Promotes enthusiasm and optimism
  • Counters anxiety and depression
  • Helps you fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly
  • Improves self-image
  • Increases muscle strength, increasing the ability to do other physical activities
  • Provides a way to share an activity with family and friends
  • Reduces coronary heart disease in women by 30-40 percent
  • Reduces risk of stroke by 20 percent in moderately active people and by 27 percent in highly active ones
  • Establishes good heart-healthy habits in children and counters the conditions (obesity, high blood pressure, poor cholesterol levels, poor lifestyle habits, etc.) that lead to heart attack and stroke later in life
  • Helps delay or prevent chronic illnesses and diseases associated with aging and maintains quality of life and independence longer for seniors

Do This: Floss daily

Not That: Floss only when you feel like

Picking up the dental floss and cleaning out the gaps between your teeth nightly can add up to 6 years to your life! How can this be? The line of thinking is that flossing reduces harmful bacteria between your teeth, reducing inflammation. And less inflammation means a healthier heart and a reduced risk of stroke. Make it a habit, and reap the benefits. You’ll even get a prettier smile as a side benefit.

Do This: Sleep 7-8 hours a night

Not That: Stay up late every night, because sleep is for the weak!

There’s this belief that when you sleep, you’re missing out on life. This idea isn’t just flawed logic- it’s dangerous to your health. Sleep is reparative, necessary, and can make your waking hours feel better. When you sleep, your brain and body repair cells in preparation for the next day. Aim for 7-9 hours, depending on your age and activity level.

How to Not Get Sick

Have you been sick recently? I know that my family is just coming out of a persistent and lingering head cold that turned into a fever, lot of coughing, and a double ear infection for my daughter. I also heard that folks around campus were talking about the #uncplague. Yep, it is that time of year again: Cold and Flu season, which warrants the annual reminder about what to do to not get sick.

And I have three suggestions:

Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons

Photo (Wash Hands Frequently) by (Fairfax County), Flickr Creative Commons

The world is certainly on high alert right now when it comes to contagious diseases, with thousands of people in Western Africa suffering and dying from Ebola, and cases starting to pop up in the United States and across the globe. However, though this current outbreak is devastating and scary, the Flu kills many more people each year on average than Ebola ever has. According to the CDC the number of deaths due to the flu has ranged from as low as 3,000 to as high as 49,000 per year in the United States in recent years.

The Flu is often spread by people getting the Flu virus on their hands from touching someone or something that a sick person has coughed on, sneezed on, or touched, and then touching their face. You may remember from the movie Contagion that people touch their face 2,000 to 3,000 times a day. This might be a bit of an overestimate, but in a recent study, random people touched their face 3.6 times an hour and with the same hand also touched common objects that others had touched. So wash your hands and stop touching your face so much.

Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons

Photo (Flu vaccinations make their way to U.S. Army in Europe) by (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District), Flickr Creative Commons

Get a flu shot. You do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Let me say that again: you do NOT get the Flu from a Flu shot. Some people do get a low-grade fever and headache from the vaccine, but this is just the body reacting to the foreign substance, not the Flu. According to the CDC, vaccines given to children have saved more than 732,000 lives and trillions of dollars over the last 2 decade. There is also absolutely no evidence that the Flu vaccine –or any other vaccines– present significant harm, and the idea that vaccines cause autism is a complete myth. The worst that could happen is that the Flu shot does not provide protection for the strain of the Flu that is being passed around but, even in that case, there is nothing lost by getting the shot. Most people who work in public health will agree that vaccinations are one of the most important innovations of modern medicine and protect not only the individual getting the shot, but others around them.

Lastly, if you are sick, stay home. Email your professors, let group partners know that you are sick, or tell your coaches that you cannot come to practice. I am as guilty as anyone I know of breaking this rule regularly, and there is still part of me that thinks I just need to “tough it out” and work through it. Unfortunately, our society often still rewards or finds it admirable when individuals fight through a sickness, but we need to change this norm. I am not saying take advantage of a sickness. If you have a sniffle or a tickle in your throat I might not advise that you lay in bed all day, but if you truly are sick, you are protecting others by staying home. You also most likely will not get much out of being in class or at a meeting if you are not feeling well.

So wash your hands, get your shot, and stay home when you feel bad. It will help you and the rest of us as well. (Oh, make sure you sleep, exercise, get lots of antioxidants, and stay hydrated as well)

Stop the Stigma: Mental Health Depictions in the Movies

scary hand

photo Scary Movie 5 – in theaters next spring! by M Rasoulov from flickrcreativecommons

Fall is my favorite time of year; the leaves begin to fall, the weather gets a little cooler, and the aroma of spiced coffees and teas fills the air. And you can’t forget about all of the scary suspense-filled movies that start to take over your television screen. In light of mental health awareness week, as well as practicing being a more critical consumer of media, I think it’s worth exploring the stigma surrounding mental illness that is often carried out in some of our favorite movies.

Oftentimes in suspense or horror movies the villain is seen as an antagonist, a violent, evil genius with mental illness that is rampant beyond the help of doctors. In contrast, protagonists are seldom portrayed as having some sort of mental illness. A great example of this is demonstrated in the movie American Psycho. The main character, Patrick Bateman, is glamorously portrayed as a wealthy, standoffish killer suspected to have antisocial personality disorder and possibly dissociative identity disorder, while all of the other characters are depicted as “normal” friends and coworkers. This discrepancy between Bateman’s character and the other characters within the movie highlights the “them vs. us” mentality that is often associated with persons with mental illnesses.

In order to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness, education and awareness must be raised. When something is unknown it is easy to be fearful of it and project that fear onto the unknown entity. While movies that depict characters living with mental illness may be entertaining to watch, it is important to understand how this can have unintended effects on those who deal with mental illness on a daily basis.

With this in mind, here some things to keep in mind to reduce stigma:

  • Treat someone as a person, not a label

Treat people as individuals rather than the labels that society places on everyone. Continuing to utilize labels further repeats the cycle of stigma.

  • Use “person first” language

Instead of saying “that bipolar guy in class”, when referring to someone, use wording such as “the guy in class who has bipolar disorder”. People are not their diagnoses. They just happen to have a diagnosis.

  • Avoid using harmful words

Words such as “crazy” and “psycho” are not only hurtful, but also disrespectful.

  • Be sure to check out Stigma Free Carolina for more information about how you can get involved in reducing stigma on campus!

Find more information on how to reduce stigma here: http://www.disabilityrightsca.org/pubs/CM0201.pdf

Six Steps for Using Everyday Language to Help Prevent Violence

When you think about how you can help prevent sexual or interpersonal violence, what comes to mind? Learning how to be an active bystander through workshops or trainings like One Act? Keeping your friends safe when partying or socializing? Joining a student organization like Project Dinah? These are all great ways to get involved in violence prevention and make our campus a safer place for everyone!

There is not just one way to get involved or prevent violence, because violence operates on a continuum of different levels, ranging from overt acts to participation in a culture that accepts or normalizes those acts. For example, public health professional Lydia Guy conceptualizes violence as a continuum of overlapping circles, ranging from actions complicit in systems of oppression (like racism, sexism, heterosexism, classism, or ableism) to less frequent, more overt acts of violence that most would agree should be treated as violent crimes. The actions toward the “more frequent” end of the spectrum (for example, catcalling or telling racist “jokes”) hold systems in place that make it possible for the “less frequent” violence (sexual assault, rape, or murder) to happen.

            Making our campus safe can start with considering how our everyday language and conversations shape the overall culture that allows or deters violence on our campus. Most examples of language that contribute to violent culture happen frequently and are less noticeable. These ways of communicating not only reflect the culture we live in, but also shape the ways we know how to describe and react to potential situations of violence.

"Languages" by Chris JL, Flickr Creative Commons

“Languages” by Chris JL, Flickr Creative Commons

Examples of this kind of language may include:

  • Trivializing assault or other interpersonal violence, such as casually or jokingly using the terms “rape” or “stalking” (“That test raped me” or “I was totally Facebook stalking you earlier”)
  • Language that contributes to the marginalization of a particular group, such as telling racist, classist, or homophobic jokes, using male-based generics (like “all men are created equal”), or other microaggressions (for example, assuming that everyone you meet is heterosexual when you ask about their dating life)
  • Language that contributes to the silencing or invalidation of victims/survivors of violence, such as victim-blaming or shaming people for their sexual history, choice, or expression (“what a slut”)
  • Language that conflates sexual and violent imagery, like saying “I hit that,” or someone got “banged” or “screwed,” that normalize the combination of violence and sexuality
  • Language that propagates the myth that men are unable to control their sexual urges (“boys will be boys”)—this is not only insulting to men, but can also perpetuate the permissibility of acting on these urges, without regard to the consent of sexual partners.

 

            The good news is that we can also use language to help prevent violence – starting today! Here are some ways you can help change culture and make sure people know our campus is a place that does not tolerate violence of any kind.

  1. Be purposeful with your words. Being conscious of the history and meanings of the words can be extremely powerful. It can be helpful to think about whether language choices make light of violence, shame survivors of violence, or contribute to the marginalization of certain groups of people. Make the decision as often as possible to avoid language that contributes to violent and/or oppressive culture.
  2. Keep your friends accountable, too! People may not be aware of how their language impacts violence. Gently pointing out violent or oppressive language from friends, partners, or acquaintances can create respectful and productive dialogue. Depending on the situation and comfort level, this may as simple as saying “hey, that’s not cool/funny,” or pulling them aside to talk later. It can also be powerful to ask others to identify any language that they think is violent, oppressive, or disrespectful from others.
  3. Stand up to oppressive “jokes.” Lately, my favorite way to do this has been simply saying, “I don’t get it… What do you mean?” The person telling the joke may have a hard time explaining!
  4. Use language to create a community of respect. For example, make an effort to honor the pronouns that a person chooses to go by, whatever they may be, or respect others’ agency by asking how they identify rather than making assumptions based on the way they look or act.
  5. Critically examine the media. For example, in a news story covering a sexual assault case, do reporters include unnecessary details — like what the victim/survivor was wearing, or their sexual history? How can phrasing affect the way the public — or the jury — perceives a crime? Overall, how does language affect the way we view the world?
  6. Educate yourself with some further reading! Here are some helpful articles to start with:

 

If you witness behavior that may cross a line into the territory of harassment or discrimination, check out UNC’s new policy for prohibited discrimination, harassment, and related misconduct for options and resources.

WORKOUT WEDNESDAY: 5 Fit and Healthy “To-Go” Breakfast Ideas

by: Ben Smart

It’s a typical Monday morning: you’re awake, but you have class in 20 minutes. You’re also hungry. But who has time for breakfast, anyway? Well, think again! There are plenty of quick and healthy breakfast options for morning snoozers. Make your fitness and nutrition a priority and reap the benefits all day. Read on for your daily dose of health & fitness inspiration for the Tar Heel Tone Up team.

Fit and Fast Breakfast Options:

  1. Microwaved Cup Eggs: Do you like eggs, but hate the mess and time? Try cooking your eggs in the microwave for a faster way to do things. Spray a mug with non-stick spray, Add scrambled eggs with a dash of milk, and microwave on high for 45 seconds.
  2. Strawberry Smoothie: grab some fresh or frozen berries, add to a blender with almond milk and protein powder. For added nutrition, mix in some Greek yogurt and kale.
  3. Breakfast Cereal and Yogurt: choose some high fiber, low sugar cereal to start. Add Greek yogurt, fruit, and flax seed to finish off the dish.
  4. Morning Pizza: Whole grain toast with a slice of low-fat ricotta cheese. Add sliced tomatoes. Drizzle on olive oil to taste.
  5. Energy/Nutrition Bar: Be careful with these. Too much added sugar and not enough protein can negate your healthy intentions. Reach for a bar that has at least 10 grams of protein and 3-5 grams of fiber, with little to no sugar.

Now that you’re fueled up with a healthy breakfast, it’s time to get active. Pencil in some time for a workout! Let UNC Campus Rec make your workout easy with gyms free of charge to anyone with a UNC one card. facility hours.

The Health Benefits of Altruism

It takes on many forms: paying it forward, peer-to-peer support, volunteering, being there for a friend or partner. Altruism, the concern for well-being of others, is a powerful part of overall wellness. Doing things for other people can help build relationships and bring meaning to life. And, if that’s not awesome enough, altruistic actions can also have health benefits! Though the spirit of altruism is helping others, it has been shown that altruistic actions have an impact both on others and the person doing altruistic things.

Here are some of the health and wellness benefits of altruism:

  • Increases satisfaction and self-esteem

On a psychological level, doing things for other people through service and volunteering has been shown to be associated with greater positive feelings, well-being, and overall satisfaction. In a study by Sawyer and colleagues, most students surveyed who volunteered for a peer education program found it a valuable activity, and nearly half of those surveyed reported increased self-esteem as a result of participating in the program.

 

  • Deepens knowledge

Studies of peer education – or programs where a group is taught how to offer education and support to those in similar situations (ex: college students who are trained to provide health education to other students) – show a wide array of benefits to both the educators themselves, and the persons they are educating. In one study, peer educators were found to have increased their own health and wellness knowledge, with 43% adopting healthier behaviors themselves. Interestingly, the same study also found that some (20%) students participating in peer education programs also changed their career direction as a result of participating in the program.

 

  • Enhances cultural acuity

By being of service to others and advocating for their needs, activities like peer support and volunteerism can help build awareness and perspective. In the study by Sawyer et al, 20% of those participating in peer education programs were more open to students’ behaviors and opinions. Altruistic activities can challenge one to think about issues that another person or group is facing, and increase empathy as a result –important components of cultural wellness.

 

  • Acts as a powerful motivator for individual and population-level behavior change

Mind experiment: pick a health behavior –anything from vaccination, to screening, or smoking cessation. Now think about the following questions: do you want to do this behavior for yourself? How about committing to the health behavior for the benefit of others (partners, family, friends, community members)?

For many behaviors, the desire to perform or commit to a given behavior can be based on a mix of personal versus interpersonal motivations. In a personal example, I recently thought about hand-washing in my house. Don’t get me wrong: I definitely appreciate the importance of hand washing! But, when I thought about it, the desire to wash my hands to keep my partner healthy was as much, or possibly more, of a motivator for me than me washing my hands for my own health’s sake. In yet another example, with behaviors like getting the flu shot each year, it can often be very powerful to consider the benefits both for oneself (i.e., you are less likely to get the flu), and to others (i.e., it reduces flu transmission to the population).  All in all, altruistic reasons for adopting healthy behaviors can be extremely powerful – sometimes more so than the reasons you have for adopting change just to help yourself.

 

Getting involved

 Interested in getting involved in service and volunteering programs on the UNC campus? There are some fantastic service opportunities through the Carolina Center for Public Service, one of Student Wellness’ peer groups, or Student Wellness’ interpersonal violence prevention trainings. Be sure to check out our recent Healthy Heels blog post on being a more conscious volunteer.

It’s important to note that the health benefits of altruistic actions are not limited to formal service and volunteering opportunities. Every day, smaller actions that consider other people’s needs and feelings or help others can also have a powerful impact for oneself and for campus culture.

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Logo from National Alliance for Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=mental_illness_awareness_week

Logo from National Alliance for Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org/template.cfm?section=mental_illness_awareness_week

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), around one in four adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness each year – that’s about 61.5 million people. Furthermore, one in 17 adults is living with a serious mental illness like major depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder. Given these statistics, it’s likely that mental illness affects the majority of us in some way. Yet, it’s a topic that is often misrepresented or ignored altogether in the media and within our society as a whole.

To work towards changing this, Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) was created in 1990 – Each year, the first full week of October (this year, October 5-11) is designated as MIAW. So that’s happening next week! You might be wondering: what exactly is Mental Illness Awareness Week, and how can I get involved? Keep reading for answers to these questions.

NAMI explains that during Mental Illness Awareness Week, “we fight stigma, provide support, educate the public and advocate for equal care.” As NAMI’s definition states, fighting the stigma surrounding mental illness is one of the main objectives of MIAW. According to a study done among students at UNC, 11.3% of Carolina students surveyed said they agreed with the following statement: I would think less of someone who has received mental health treatment. Furthermore, 19% of students surveyed agreed with this statement: I feel that receiving mental health treatment is a sign of personal failure.

As these statistics show, stigma surrounding mental illness in our community is a real issue. For more information on stigma and how to combat it, check out Stigma Free Carolina – a group on campus working to fight stigma and raise awareness about mental health issues in the UNC community.

"People in the summertime," by Gonzalo G. Useta, Flickr Creative Commons

“People in the summertime,” by Gonzalo G. Useta, Flickr Creative Commons

There are a bunch of great events happening at UNC for Mental Illness Awareness Week – if you’re interested in learning more, get involved with some of these opportunities! Here’s a schedule of events for MIAW (and beyond):

  • Mental Health awareness event in the Pit – sponsored by Stigma Free Carolina
    • October 3, 2014 from 12:00-2:00pm
    • Location: the Pit
    • Trivia questions and prizes!
  • Rethink Psychiatric Illness training – sponsored by Stigma Free Carolina
    • October 4, 2014 from 2:00-6:00pm
    • Location: Student Union, room 2423
    • Register here
  • Redefining Mental Health panel discussion sponsored by Stigma Free Carolina
    • October 6, 2014 from 5:30-7:00pm
    • Location: Carolina Inn
    • Register here
  • Interactive Theater Carolina performance on mental health issues
    • October 7, 2014 from 6:00-7:30pm
    • Location: Student Union, room 3203
    • Register here
  • Mental Health 101 training
    • October 9, 2014 from 6:00-8:00pm
    • Location: Student Union, room 3408
    • Refreshments served!
    • Register here
  • Rethink Psychiatric Illness training
    • October 25, 2014 from 12:00-4:00pm
    • November 8, 2014 from 2:00-6:00pm
    • Register here

For more information on mental health services on campus, including individual and group counseling, check out UNC’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).