Category Archives: Health & Well-being

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Keeping Your Home Warm in Winter

With winter well on its way here are a few budget-friendly tips on how to keep your home warm during those cold winter evenings.

WarmHome

Let the Sun Shine In

The sun is a free and natural source of warmth, especially in winter. Once the sun is up open the curtains in rooms that get sunlight and allow the sun to warm things up for you.

Close the Curtains

I know…I just told you to open them BUT as soon as dusk falls closing your curtains will help you retain heat which escapes via cold windows. Curtains aren’t just for decoration, in the winter months they play a practical role in helping keep your home warm.

Pick a Room

Decide which room you intend on spending most of your time in (e.g. the lounge) and then close the doors leading to it, that way you create a smaller, insulated space that is easier to heat and keep warm.

You should also close the doors of rooms that aren’t being used (e.g. bathrooms, bedrooms etc.) this will prevent cold air from circulating around the house.

Cover the Floors

Many South African homes have tiled floors, which are great in summer but suck up any warmth in the room in winter. Carpets and rugs, like curtains, aren’t just for decoration they too help to keep rooms warm.

Seal Any Leaks

Check your windows and doors for gaps that allow cold air to creep in through and warm air to escape.

A cheap and effective way of stopping cold air sneaking in from under doors is by using a “door snake” or door draft stopper, these can be bought ready made or you can easily make your own:

  • The Pool Noodle Draft Stopper – cut a pool noodle in half, insert it into a pillow case or sheet, secure the noodle to the fabric with a safety pin and it’s ready to use.

pool noodle draft stopper

  • The Stocking Draft Stopper – cut the leg off of an old pair of stocking or tights, stuff it like a sausage with old pillow stuffing, scrap material, other old stockings or socks, even shredded paper, tie a knot at the open end and place it in front of your door.

sock door draught stopper


References:

Allen, P. (2014). Make an Under-the-Door Draft Blocker with a Pool Noodle. Retrieved from: http://lifehacker.com/make-an-under-the-door-draft-blocker-with-a-pool-noodle-1660816290?utm_campaign=socialflow_lifehacker_facebook&utm_source=lifehacker_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow [Accessed on: 06 July 2016]

Anderberg, J. (2014). 13 Ways to Keep you House Warmer this Winter. Retrieved from: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/11/14/how-to-keep-your-house-warm-in-the-winter/ [Accessed on: 06 July 2016]

Heyden, T. (2013). 14 Low-Tech Ways to Keep your House Warm Over Winter. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-24757144  [Accessed on: 06 July 2016]

 

 

Staying Healthy This Winter

Winter has arrived and with it comes cold and flu season. There are a few things you can do to keep yourself and your home healthy this winter.

flu

Rub-a-Dub & Scrub 

Common winter ailments such as colds, flu and gastroenteritis (aka the stomach flu) are spread by germs on your hands. Frequently washing your hands, wiping down surfaces that get touched often (e.g. cell phones, remote controls, door handles) and covering your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing are all ways of avoiding getting sick and spreading illness.

washing hands

You Are What You Eat

Winter time is synonymous with comfort food and eating but are you getting the immune boosting nutrients you need from that bowl of rich and gooey mac ‘n cheese?

Regardless of the time of year, you need to keep eating healthy in order to keep your immune system strong. Foods high in vitamin C will help boost your immune system include fresh fruits like: oranges, naartjies, kiwi fruit, and vegetables like: green peppers and broccoli.

It’s also important to keep hydrated during winter, so keep that water bottle out and full all year round, not just during summer.

winter soup

Be Social

As tempting as your couch, blanket and tv are during those cold winter nights, being social helps strengthen your immune system by reducing stress levels and keeping you active.

So instead of binge watching the latest “It” series, why not invite friends over for a games evening or dinner or warm up with a walk around the local park or shopping centre with your partner or family.

151217_EM_BoardGames

Catch Some Zzzzzzz’s

Lack of sleep can deplete your immune system leaving you more susceptible to catching colds and flu.

Spoil yourself on cold winter nights with a relaxing bedtime routine – have a warm bath or shower, warm your bed with a hot water bottle, switch off your tv, computer, tablet and cell phone at least an hour before you climb into bed, this will allow melatonin (the sleep hormone) to do its job and help you get a good nights sleep.

warm bed


References:

Conville, N. (2011). 5 Steps to Staying Healthy in Winter. Retrieved from: http://www.bodyandsoul.com.au/health/health-advice/5-steps-to-staying-healthy-in-winter/news-story/df8b268bf97e2b2d7c8165c5799b13aa. [Accessed: 05 July 2016]

SA Health. (2015). Keeping Healthy this Winter. Retrieved from: http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/healthy+living/top+tips+for+healthy+living/keeping+healthy+this+winter. [Accessed: 05 July 2016]

 

Keeping Warm on Campus this Winter

Attending lectures during the winter months can be challenging especially if you are not dressed and prepared for the weather. Here are some ideas for keeping warm on campus this winter.

frost on grass

Layers of warmth

Insulate your body against heat loss by wearing layers of clothing:

  1. Start off with a base layer that lies next to your skin and helps regulate your temperature e.g. vest, long johns, tights, thermal underwear
  2. Next you have an insulating layer which helps retain warmth by trapping air close to your body e.g. jersey, fleece, thick shirt or top
  3. Finally you have a shell or outer layer which protects you from wind and rain e.g. jacket, body warmer, rain coat

winter layers

Head, Hands and Feet

Also known as your extremities, these parts of your body tend to get cold the easiest during winter because when the temperature drops, your body instinctively keeps your core warm because that is where all your vital organs are. Thus the blood vessels in your fingers, toes, ears and nose constrict in order to limit circulation to these parts.

The best way to keep your extremities warm is to dress them warmly, so either get knitting or else go get yourself a warm scarf, beanie, socks and gloves. And don’t forget your shoes – closed shoes with a thick sole that can be worn with socks (like trainers or boots) are best for cold winter days.

scarf and hat

For those of you who like to craft here are some ideas for making your own gloves and hand warmers:

Sock gloves

sock hand warmers

fingerless gloves knit

Tea for Two

You are just as susceptible to dehydration during winter as you are in summer, so keep hydrated and warm with a cup of tea. Drinking tea counts towards your daily water intake and spiced teas like ginger or cinnamon will also help to warm you up.

Although coffee and alcohol may leave you feeling warmer for a bit, neither count towards your water intake. The caffeine in coffee is what gives you that initial warm feeling as it stimulates your metabolism and so your body starts to burn fuel;  too much caffeine however can also result in headaches, restlessness, heart palpitations, nervousness and insomnia. Alcohol, besides the fact that it is not allowed on campus, may give you a rush of warmth but this is caused by the dilatation of the peripheral blood vessels near your skin, meaning your blood and warmth leaves the core of your body. So you may feel warm in the short-term but it is difficult to maintain your core body temperature and your risk of hypothermia increases.

Buying tea on campus or from restaurants can quickly add up. Why not consider buying yourself a flask and filling it each morning with your favourite tea to sip on throughout the day or even a nice soup for lunch.

tea


References:

All Day Chic. (2013). Fingerless Gloves Made From Socks – DIY. Retrieved from: http://alldaychic.com/fingerless-gloves-made-from-socks-diy/ [Accessed on: 06 July 2016]

Drink Aware. (n.d.). Alcohol and Cold Weather. Retrieved from: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/advice/staying-safe-while-drinking/alcohol-and-cold-weather/ [Accessed on: 06 July 2016]

Hillman, Z. (2016). 7 Food and Drinks Scientifically Proven to Warm You Up (and One That Won’t). Retrieved from: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/advice/staying-safe-while-drinking/alcohol-and-cold-weather/ [Accessed on: 06 July 2016]

Popsugar. (2009). What’s the Deal with Cold Hands and Feet?. Retrieved from: http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Why-Your-Toes-Fingers-Always-Cold-Winter-2849454 [Accessed on: 05 July 2016].

Snails Pace Transformations. (2013). Simple to Knit Fingerless Gloves. Retrieved from: https://www.tescoliving.com/articles/easy-diy-hand-warmers [Accessed on: 06 July 2016]

Styles, S. (n.d.). Foods to Eat in Cold Temperatures. Retrieved from: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/foods-eat-cold-temperatures-2240.html [Accessed on: 05 July 2016]

Tesco Living. (n.d.). Easy DIY Hand Warmers. Retrieved from: https://www.tescoliving.com/articles/easy-diy-hand-warmers [Accessed on: 06 July 2016]

Tischler, S. (2015). Layering Basics. Retrieved from:  https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/layering-basics.html [Accessed on: 05 July 2016].

How’s Your Brain Doing?

With the Summative Assessment period upon us you may be interested to know that your brain needs some TLC in order to help get you through the next few weeks.

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This may come as a shock to many but your brain plays a very important role in how productive and successful you are when studying and working on assignments. The internal environment of your brain plays a vital role in learning; meaning that you can study all day and all night but if you don’t look after your brain, it will all be for nothing.

A healthy brain can lead to improved:

  • concentration
  • memory and retention
  • mental performance

 

What your brain needs to survive and thrive are often the exact same things you tend to neglect when preparing for exams or working flat out on a deadline.

1. FOOD

The brain is made up of:

  • fat
  • water
  • neurons – they process and transmit information

To fuel the learning functions of your neurons, you need to feed your brain:

  • good fats
  • protein
  • complex carbohydrates
  • micro-nutrients
  • water

By nourishing your brain with the correct food and adequate water, you are providing your neurons with a healthy environment in which to function. However, by feeding your brain the incorrect foods and dehydrating it you are in fact starving your neurons of the energy they need to function, grow and regenerate. The next time you feel foggy, tired or unable to concentrate take a moment to think about what you have (or haven’t) eaten in the past few hours…

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Good Fats:

Your brain is largely made up of fatty membranes, making up approximately 60% of solid brain matter. As such, fats provide your brain with energy, but we’re talking good fats here namely, Omega 3 and 6 oils which can be derived from:

  • Fatty fish, such as: sardines, tuna, pilchards and salmon
  • Nuts, such as: walnuts, brazil nuts, macadamia
  • Seeds, such as: sunflower seeds, flax seeds
  • Dark leafy greens, such as: spinach, kale, broccoli

Bad fats are literally like sludge in the brain’s circulatory system; they effect the flow of oxygen to the brain, as well as the flow of toxins and waste out of the brain.

Bad fats include:

  • Processed foods, such as: cakes, biscuits, crisps, processed meats (e.g. polony) and processed cheese (e.g. cheese slices)
  • Deep fried foods, such as: chicken (e.g. KFC), chips etc.

Protein:

Protein provides your brain with amino acids, the building block for neurons. Good proteins include:

  • Lean meat – baked not fried (e.g. pork and ostrich)
  • Fish – baked not fried (e.g. salmon, tuna, pilchards)
  • Yoghurt – plain, unsweetened and not flavoured
  • Nuts – raw not roasted or flavoured
  • Eggs – poached or boiled not fried

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Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates (including sugar) are an energy source for your brain. However, excessive consumption of sugar results in bursts of energy, followed by slumps including fidgeting, headaches, lack of concentration and drowsiness. The key is to provide your brain with the right type of carbohydrates i.e. good / complex carbohydrates, such as:

  • Brown rice
  • Wholewheat bread
  • Wholewheat pasta
  • Oats

You should avoid consuming bad / simple carbohydrates, such as:

  • Refined sugar (white sugar)
  • White bread
  • White pasta
  • White rice

Micro-nutrients:

Micro-nutrients are required in small amounts but are essential to a healthy brain; they include:

  • Vitamin B – for focus and concentration
  • Zinc – for the formation of memories
  • Calcium – to help cleanse the brain of toxins and waste

Micro-nutrients can be found in:

  • Fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Plain milk
  • Plain yoghurt

You should avoid consuming anything that includes artificial flavourants or colouring.

Water:

Dehydration results in:

  • Reduced cognitive abilities
  • Poor concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • and may even damage your brain

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2. SLEEP

We spend a 1/3 of our lives sleeping, it is crucial to our health and mental well being. During sleep your brain is nearly as active as it is when you are awake – from the day you are born to the day you die, your brain is active and working. So what is it so busy doing?

During sleep the brain processes complex stimuli and information is has received during the waking hours; it uses this information to make decisions when you are awake.

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While you are sleeping your brain forms and saves new memories and incorporates them with old memories, this is why sleep is so important for learning. By sleeping before you study, you are helping the brain prepare for the intake of new information. By sleeping after you have studied, you are helping the brain save the new information. If you deprive your brain of sleep, your ability to learn new information drops by 40%.

Sleep is also known to boost creativity – the mind in its unconscious, “resting” state makes new connections that it may not be able to make during its waking state.

Sleep gives the brain a chance to do housekeeping – while you are asleep the brain flushes out toxins that build up when you are awake. It also allows the brain to convert short-term memories into long term memories .

Until you reach your early to mid-20s you need approximately 9 hours of sleep per night in order to function optimally the next day. A tired person’s brain works harder and accomplishes less thus adding to the argument that “pulling an all-nighter” is in fact a waste of time and sleep.

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3. EXERCISE

Physical activity boosts blood and oxygen flow through the brain resulting in your neurons being stimulated and thus able to connect with one another better. Exercise is like fertilizer for the brain, in that improved blood and oxygen flow results in improved:

  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Accuracy
  • Information processing
  • LEARNINGdownload

In addition to this, exercise improves your mood and quality of sleep; it also reduces stress and anxiety – all problems that cause or contribute to learning and concentration problems.

Aim for approximately one hour of moderate intensity exercise twice per week, for example: brisk walking or swimming

 

So, what’s the moral of the story?

Eat right. Get enough sleep. Get some exercise.

Look after your brain.

homer


References:

Mastin, L. (2013). Why do we sleep? Memory Processing and Learning. Retrieved from: http://www.howsleepworks.com/why_memory.html . [Accessed: 22 September 2015].

Norman, P. (2014). Feeding the Brain for Academic Success: How Nutrition and Hydration Boost Learning. Retrieved from: http://teacherweb.com/NY/NorthRose-WolcottMiddleSchool/HealthEducation/Academics-and-Nutrition-Article-Assignment.doc . [Accessed: 22 September 2015].