House Call

The path to bet­ter health and longer life is paved with good in­ten­tions. Here’s your A to Zzz guide

ZOOMER Magazine - - CONTENTS - By Dr. Zachary Levine

Dr. Zach

JULY 24, 2018, was pro­claimed In­ter­na­tional Self-Care Day by the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO). The WHO de­fined it in 1998 as: “Self-care is what peo­ple do for them­selves to es­tab­lish and main­tain health, pre­vent and deal with ill­ness. It is a broad con­cept en­com­pass­ing; hy­giene (gen­eral and per­sonal); nu­tri­tion (type and qual­ity of food eaten); life­style (sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, leisure, etc.); en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors (liv­ing con­di­tions, so­cial habits, etc.); so­cio-eco­nomic fac­tors (in­come level, cul­tural beliefs, etc.); self-med­i­ca­tion.”

Your doc­tor and your fam­ily are part­ners in main­tain­ing your well-

be­ing. But there is no medicine as pow­er­ful as what you can do to take care of your­self. Your health-care pro­fes­sion­als can be guides in what has been shown to be healthy and what is rec­om­mended for you. By do­ing every­thing you can to take care of your­self, you will limit the num­ber of ex­ter­nal in­ter­ven­tions (med­i­ca­tions, pro­ce­dures) you need. Your friends and fam­ily and your com­mu­nity are also vi­tal to your men­tal health. Men­tal health is just as im­por­tant to your over­all health as phys­i­cal health, and the two are very closely in­ter­twined.

4 key facets to self-care

The most ob­vi­ous to peo­ple is the phys­i­cal. There are a num­ber of ways to do this: By get­ting the amount of sleep you need (most adults need seven to eight hours a night). By ex­er­cis­ing reg­u­larly (at least 30 min­utes a day at least five days out of seven – and more is even bet­ter). By eat­ing well – fruits and veg­eta­bles, choos­ing un­re­fined car­bo­hy­drates (brown rice, bread and pasta; fruits) rather than re­fined ones (white rice, bread and pasta; sugar), choos­ing health­ier fats (plant-based, fish) as op­posed to un­healthy ones (trans fats, sat­u­rated fats).

The next way is men­tal, which goes with so­cial: do what you need to do to keep your­self men­tally healthy. Take time for your­self. Think of oth­ers (do­ing for oth­ers has been shown

to make us feel bet­ter). Be ac­tive, as ex­er­cise has been shown to help stave off de­pres­sion. Spend time with those whom you care about and who care about you. Prac­tise your faith. Prac­tise mind­ful­ness.

And yet another way is en­vi­ron­men­tal: make your space clean and neat and com­fort­able. An or­ga­nized workspace makes one more ef­fi­cient, and a com­fort­able home base is a place to recharge and feel re­laxed.

The re­main­der make up the seven pil­lars of self-care (see side­bar) – be­ing knowl­edge­able about your health, when some­thing is wrong and when you need to seek help, avoid­ing risk by do­ing things such as not smok­ing and prac­tis­ing good hy­giene to pre­vent the spread of in­fec­tion. Fi­nally, us­ing health-care prod­ucts and ser­vices in an ed­u­cated, in­formed man­ner will save you and the sys­tem time and money.

8 pos­i­tive ef­fects of self-care

1 Less re­liance on med­i­ca­tions. By tak­ing care of your­self your health will im­prove, and you won’t need med­i­ca­tions for some things that are re­lated to an ideal life­style. For ex­am­ple, if you are health­ier and slim­mer, you may no longer need blood pres­sure and choles­terol med­i­ca­tions, you may not need anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion med­i­ca­tion and, if you are di­a­betic, you may need less med­i­ca­tion to con­trol it. 2 Im­proved feel­ing of self-re­liance, self-con­fi­dence and well-be­ing 3 Im­proved phys­i­cal health 4 Im­proved men­tal health 5 Im­proved re­la­tion­ships with fam­ily and friends. As noted above, self-care ac­tu­ally in­volves nur­tur­ing the im­por­tant re­la­tion­ships you have, which in turn leads to bet­ter re­la­tion­ships and bet­ter men­tal health. 6 Savings of time and money spent on health care 7 Stronger so­cial net­works 8 Bet­ter doc­tor-pa­tient re­la­tion­ships. Doc­tors and pa­tient re­la­tion­ships thrive when both are ac­tive part­ners.

3 things you can do to prac­tise bet­ter self-care

1 Read and fol­low the la­bel di­rec­tions when us­ing over-the-counter medicines and nat­u­ral health prod­ucts 2 Talk to your doc­tor, your phar­ma­cist or trusted health pro­fes­sional about your self-care op­tions, and ask them to rec­om­mend trusted ac­ces­si­ble re­sources, such as Tele­health On­tario, in­clud­ing those on­line 3 Re­mem­ber that you do not have to and should not do this alone. Even though it is called self-care, it is best achieved with the help of trusted ad­vis­ers (your doc­tor, phar­ma­cist) and those who sup­port you (friends and loved ones).

Dr. Zachary Levine is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in the fac­ulty of medicine at McGill Univer­sity Health Cen­tre and med­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for AM740 (a ZoomerMe­dia prop­erty).

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