My num­ber one healthy habit: 4 doc­tors tell

What do our lead­ing med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als do to stay healthy? Lindyl Crabb asks four ex­perts to share the healthy habits they swear by

Good Health (Australia) - - Contents - DR NICOLA GATES, LEAD­ING NEUROPSYCHOLOGIST

We find out what our lead­ing med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als are do­ing to take care of their own health. By Lindyl Crabb.

“I used to be a multi-tasker. I was jug­gling work and do­ing my PHD with par­ent­ing and main­tain­ing re­la­tion­ships but I re­alised it wasn’t work­ing and I couldn’t keep go­ing. As a neu­ro­sci­en­tist, I knew that our brains don’t work ef­fec­tively this way, they just tog­gle be­tween tasks, which uses up our re­sources. Multi-task­ing is in­ef­fec­tive, in­ef­fi­cient, over­whelm­ing and con­trib­utes to stress, so I started uni-task­ing and giv­ing my at­ten­tion to one thing at a time. Ev­ery­thing be­came so much eas­ier.

When we pri­ori­tise our time and en­ergy, we do each thing well. I plan a daily to-do list and stick to it, but I also sched­ule down­time. For ex­am­ple, when I eat a meal I don’t do any­thing else. I turn the TV off, put my phone away and sit down to en­joy it. When I’m work­ing from home, I al­lo­cate time to do each sep­a­rate task and I only fo­cus on that task. I make all nec­es­sary phone calls be­fore my chil­dren get back from school so I can give them 100 per cent dur­ing our af­ter­noon tea to­gether. Giv­ing qual­ity time over quan­tity will strengthen your re­la­tion­ships and I’ve found that al­lo­cat­ing my time has made me more present, con­tent, pro­duc­tive and suc­cess­ful in achiev­ing my goals at work and home.

Our lives have so many de­mands, but they don’t have to be com­pet­ing.” >

“Reg­u­lar med­i­ta­tion cuts your risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease by 50%.”

“About 25 years ago, I was go­ing through a stress­ful time with a busi­ness part­ner. I came in con­tact with Dr By­ron Rigby, an ex­pert in med­i­ta­tion, and as the Bud­dhist say­ing goes, ‘When the stu­dent is ready, the teacher will ap­pear.’ By­ron con­vinced me to start med­i­tat­ing. For the first six weeks I thought it was rub­bish. We have so much stuff go­ing on in our lives that for those six weeks it all came to the sur­face and I felt un­com­fort­able. But I per­sisted and now I’ve been med­i­tat­ing reg­u­larly for over 25 years.

I meditate daily for at least 30 min­utes. It’s the first thing I do in the morn­ing while I’m still in bed, and on the week­ends I some­times meditate for an hour. It makes me calmer, I hardly ever get an­gry and stress doesn’t af­fect me.

When I first started I prac­tised tran­scen­den­tal med­i­ta­tion, which in­volves mantras. I be­lieve that we have en­ergy cen­tres in our bod­ies called chakras, so now when I meditate I start with af­fir­ma­tions, then I tune into each of the chakras, I do tran­scen­den­tal med­i­ta­tion mantras and I fin­ish with grat­i­tude.

I tell ev­ery­one to meditate. It’s good for your health, your brain and mind, and a study shows that reg­u­lar med­i­ta­tion cuts your risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease by 50 per cent. If ev­ery­one med­i­tated the world would be a bet­ter place.”

“Dur­ing my teens I reg­u­larly basked in the sun. Af­ter study­ing to be­come a dermatologist, I found that retinoid creams could re­verse the age­ing ef­fects of years of sun ex­po­sure. I use a top­i­cal tretinoin, which is the ac­tive form of top­i­cal retinoid and needs to be pre­scribed by a doc­tor. It has sci­en­tif­i­cally proven ben­e­fits and can im­prove smooth­ness and re­duce fine lines, coarse wrin­kling, pig­men­ta­tion and sal­low­ness and tighten loose skin.

I ap­ply the cream to my face and neck at night af­ter cleans­ing, and wash it off in the morn­ing as it can make the skin sen­si­tive to sun­light if left on dur­ing the day. It took about six months to see an im­prove­ment in my skin tex­ture and about 12 months to see a re­duc­tion in fine lines. Now my friends and pa­tients com­pli­ment me on my skin.

I’ve re­cently started tak­ing a nicoti­namide tablet – also known as niaci­namide – ev­ery day to pro­tect against the harm­ful ef­fects of the sun. It’s a form of vi­ta­min B3 that re­duces the DNA dam­age caused by UV light and en­hances our DNA’S re­pair. A group of sci­en­tists and der­ma­tol­o­gists in Syd­ney found that tak­ing this tablet daily for four months sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced the in­ci­dence of non-melanoma skin can­cers. I buy it from chemists and health food stores and it’s so easy to in­cor­po­rate into my rou­tine.” >

“I needed to re­duce the added sugar in my diet to pre­serve my own health.”

“As a prac­ti­tioner, I sought to un­der­stand the impact sugar could have on my pa­tients. I re­alised I needed to re­duce the amount of added sugar in my diet to pre­serve my own health, which is how I dis­cov­ered the Su­gar­by­half move­ment. It en­cour­ages peo­ple to re­duce their in­take of added sugar from the Aus­tralian av­er­age of 16 tea­spoons a day to eight, and it’s had a huge in­flu­ence on my life and my fam­ily’s. Re­duc­ing my in­take re­quires daily ef­fort, but like any habit it gets eas­ier over time. I keep the fridge stocked with fruits, veg­eta­bles, fish and meat. I read food la­bels and look for hid­den sugar in fruit juices, low-fat yo­ghurts and pro­cessed snacks and swap them for whole foods. I limit treats to spe­cial oc­ca­sions and don’t keep any in the pantry.

In my field of ex­per­tise, con­sum­ing too much sugar is linked to weight gain, which is as­so­ci­ated with re­duced fer­til­ity. Cut­ting down on sugar is known to have an anti-age­ing ben­e­fit and this in­cludes your re­pro­duc­tive age. If you’re over­weight when you fall preg­nant, the ex­cess weight usu­ally stays on, which can lead to ges­ta­tional di­a­betes, low birth weight, pre-term de­liv­ery and other com­pli­ca­tions.

Since start­ing the Su­gar­by­half pro­gram, the changes in my weight, mood, sleep­ing pat­terns and en­ergy have been re­mark­able. Plus, its ef­fect on my chil­dren’s be­hav­iour has im­proved our fam­ily dy­nam­ics.” #

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