Your heart, which started as a tiny spec when you were just a fertilized embryo, beat months before you were even born. This heartbeat was the very first sign that you were alive and since then this same heartbeat has become the governor of your life.
Your heart beats snuggly in a well-designed safe space within your rib cage, between your lungs. The average adult heart is the size of 2 fists clasped together. Hollow, and vaguely cone-shaped, it weighs about 250-350 grams, a pretty modest size considering it is your body’s greatest workhorse. Powering the entire circulatory system, it transports nutrients, oxygen, waste, heat, hormones and immune cells throughout the body over and over. Lub Dub, Lub Dub.
Night and day, it beats consistently. 100 000 beats per day, 35 million beats per year, 2-3 billion beats in a lifetime. Your loyal friend.
To put it simply, your heart is just a pump, and its main concern is to maintain the pressure gradient in the circulatory system. It does this by generating high hydrostatic pressure to pump blood out of your heart, while also creating low pressure to bring blood back into your heart. This pressure gradient is essentially what we mean when we talk about blood pressure. Blood pressure is a measure of the amount of strain your arteries feel as your heart moves your 5 litres of blood around your body. For blood pressure to be considered normal, the systolic pressure (the peak pressure on the contracting ventricles) should be less than 140mmHg. Conversely, diastolic pressure (the pressure in your arteries when the ventricles are relaxed) should be less than 90mmHg.
The easiest way to break a heart is to mess with its pressure. 1 in 2 South Africans suffer from hypertension and these figures are on the rise. Not a very nice way to treat your loyal friend, is it? Often there are no symptoms until it’s too late, so it’s best to keep your finger on the pulse, and check your blood pressure regularly.
How Your Heart Does Its Job
Your heart, and its vessels, is a relatively simple yet elegant set-up that requires precise coordination to create the high and low pressures required to pump blood around the body. Your heart gets this right by using its own anatomical pacemaker, and some heart cells can generate their own electricity, which controls signal and communication throughout your heart so that each section works together in unison.
Your heart receives deoxygenated blood through the vena cava vein, where it spends a second in the right atrium before dropping into the right ventricle. From there it is sent quickly to the lungs where your blood it packed full of oxygen and then returns to your heart into the left atrium before sliding down to the left ventricle where it will build up pressure again. Blood then leaves your heart from the left ventricle through the aorta, the biggest and toughest artery in your body roughly the diameter of a garden hose. From your heart, your oxygenated blood travels through your circulatory system in order to feed every single solitary cell in your body with the nutrients you need to stay alive. It takes about a minute for all the blood in your body to complete that circuit which means even if you are at rest your hardworking circulatory system moves about 7500L of blood through your heart every day.
Blood vessels are sometimes described as ‘a glorified plumbing system of the body’, but they are not just passive tubes, made merely to carry liquid around. Blood vessels are actually dynamic organs capable of contracting and expanding as they deliver oxygen and nutrients to cells, carry away waste products and maintain blood pressure. If all your blood vessels were strung together in a single line they would measure 100 000km! Keeping these blood vessels healthy, unclogged, supple and functioning well can be achieved by having good quality blood pumping through them as opposed to blood dripping with bad cholesterol.
It is safe to say that your heart is probably the most iconic muscle in the body. However, as with all muscles your heart, as well as your entire cardiovascular system, needs exercise to maintain its form and function. Cardiovascular exercise is really just any physical activity that raises your heart rate sufficiently and is an essential component to any exercise program. Cardiovascular exercise greatly reduces the risks of cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, risk of heart attack and stroke. We hope you are getting enough of it.
Stop for a moment, put your finger on your pulse and ask yourself; how much love do you give your very own heart? The workhorses of your body, the most iconic muscle that you own, and the governor of your life. Lub Dub, Lub Dub…
The human body operates best when it moves. With sufficient practice, a movement can become a learned skill that through regular use becomes second nature. The converse is also true. When we avoid or stop moving in certain directions or dimensions the body slowly loses the ability to do those movements or skills and this affects our functional ability, imposing on our independence.
How easy is it currently for you to get up and down from the floor? The answer to that question may depend on a few factors—your age, how many injuries you’ve had, your confidence and, of course, whether there’s something down there that’s really that important.
If it’s too difficult or painful you may avoid getting up and down from the floor altogether. This is an important skill to have, though, especially when we get older. In fact, it is so important that our ability to do so is actually a measure of fitness and longevity. The World Health Organisation describes the ability to be able to get down and up safely off the floor as “an important skill for older adults to learn which will help them in coping with a fall”.
Despite this, only about 50% of people are able to get up from the ground. This then results in a ‘long lie’ which is defined as “remaining on the floor or ground for more than one hour following a fall”. All of which is a marker of weakness, illness, isolation and is associated with high levels of mortality rates in the elderly following a fall. Furthermore, half of older adults who remain on the floor for an hour or longer, die within 6 months following that fall. Unfortunately, the amount of time spent on the floor following a fall is then associated with the fear of falling, muscle damage, pneumonia, pressure sores, dehydration and hypothermia.
No one wants to fall. And most people think it will not happen to them. However, research shows us that 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 years will fall over each year. All people at risk of falling should have a strategy for getting up following a fall. Preparing for this, will make it easier to minimise further injury and expedite getting up from the ground.
Getting up and down from the floor calls on almost every area of fitness and many parts of our bodies: balance, core strength, lower body strength, flexibility, and coordination.
If you have any issues in those areas, say you don’t have much flexibility in your hips or your balance is wobbly, it may be a difficult challenge. Feeling shaky may make it seem impossible but there is a safe way to get up and down from the floor, whatever your situation. Taking it step by step and practising on a regular basis can help you master this important skill. The issue also reminds us of how important it is to engage in an exercise programme (especially one that is specifically targeted towards to needs of older adults). Not only will exercise significantly reduce your risk of falling but, through targeted exercise, moving down and up off the floor will become much easier.
Imagine being able to play games on the floor with your grandchildren or to know confidently that if you have a minor fall you would be able to get up independently.
For some: easier said than done… but practice makes perfect.
Not sure where to start?
Click here to learn more!
Silver Fit has recently launched a new component to its exercise classes that includes teaching members how to get onto the floor (or as close to as possible) and back up again safety. This is done through a range of exercises and stretches that each member does at their own pace and level of ability.
If you would like to benefit from a class voucher (for you to participate in a FREE class) please contact Silver Fit by completing the form at the link below:
As we age, our bodies change, and we find ourselves struggling with issues we didn’t even think about 10 years before. Part of this change includes the transformation of our lifestyles, including our social lives, eating habits, and exercise routines. The difference in eating behaviours can be a result of many things, such as; an increased/ decreased appetite, a new living space or a decrease/ loss of taste.
Assessing Your Appetite:
When trying to assess your appetite, it is best to look back at how your eating has changed over the last few years. Think back to two years ago – what, and how much did you eat? Are you eating the same kinds of food, and are you eating the same volume of food? If not – why not?
Make a list of what differences there are in your life – did you move, or lose a loved one? Did you used to cook, and now have meals delivered?
Take a look at this list and analyse what you see. Do you think you eat better now than you did two years ago? If so – well done. If not – what are the reasons?
If it’s because you have moved, or lost a loved one, have you spoken to someone (be it a psychologist, counsellor, religious leader) about your feelings? Emotional strain is often reflected in our eating behaviours, as when we are hurting, we often tend to adjust our eating, without realising it. We feel nauseous, have stomach cramps, lose our appetite, or even overeat, all as a way of trying to hide our emotions. This uncontrolled eating behaviour can be detrimental to our health – Overeating may result in gaining weight, which could result in an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. While under-eating can cause someone to lose weight, become frail, which could result in a falling and serious injury.
Ballerinas, tight rope walkers, ice skaters… they seem to have such poise and a natural balance that most of us dont possess. But I want to share a secret with you today… That balance comes from lots and lots of practice. Which shows us that while our balance can worsen with age and different conditions that we cant avoid, it can also improve with practice.
WHAT IS BALANCE?
For one to stay upright, 3 things need to happen:
- Your sensory system accurately portraying information on your body’s position in its environment – Hearing, vision and touch (such as our feet on the floor).
- Your brain processing that information – Neurons and sensory receptors in the brain (i.e. making decisions).
- Your muscles and joints coordinating movement based on the information your brain gives them – Being able to contract and relax your muscles to move how you want to.
These 3 factors are usually an automatic process for our body, and so when we feel our balance worsening, we need to explore which of these steps are not working how they should be. Generally, balance is caused by a variety of factors, so we need to know what these factors can be and work to correct them.
So what are some of the things to be aware of?
- Chronic conditions, such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis.
- Poly pharmacy (taking 4 or more medications).
- Hearing Problems (hearing loss, infection, vertigo).
- Vision Problems (poor sight, macular degeneration, cataracts) .
- Low Blood Pressure or Low Blood Sugar.
- Nerve problems.
- Muscle Weakness.
For example, if our brain is not receiving good signals from the eyes, ears and skin, it will affect the information our brain has to work with. So it is important to get glasses and/or hearing aids if function has deteriorated. Or if we have a disease that affects the brain this may compromise motor function and movement, and so we will need to make sure our sensory input and muscle output are stronger to compensate. If our muscles and joints are too weak to carry out the messages they receive, it will be beneficial to stretch and strengthen our muscles to ensure they can adequately respond to the information they are receiving.
With balance, it is a case of practice makes perfect. If you are challenging your muscles in a controlled environment and encouraging them to be aware and responsive to the brain’s messages, your body will respond quickly and efficiently to keep you upright and stable. As a result you have better control, stability and essentially balance.
Our challenge for you this month is to find time to exercise. Many of us do not prioritise exercise, and we suffer as a result. The benefit of exercise on health and balance is very well known; let’s make May a month of finding the balance – not only physical!
Click here to start practicing your balance today!
Do you wake up and need to rub your knees or shoulders or back, because your joints are aching? This is joint pain… There is a variety of pain and a variety of reasons why we experience pain. So today, I want to focus on understanding joint pain, and specifically, why we have MORNING JOINT PAIN
We go to bed… we have a good night of sleep… and yet, we wake feeling like we have been hit by a ton of bricks! You may know that morning stiffness is more common as one gets older… but is it inevitable?
Lets start by looking at some of the causes of morning stiffness:
1. Inactivity – General inactivity leads to muscle weakness and poor flexibility that puts extra strain on our joints.
2. Poor sleep – Interrupted sleep, too much or too little sleep, can affect our joints the next day.
3. Being overweight – Excess weight puts extra strain on our joints as well as causing us to feel lethargic.
4. A cold or damp environment – If we are sleeping in an area that is cold of damp, that will cause us to be tense during sleep and the cold will stiffen the joints.
5. Prolonged stillness – when we sleep we are still, therefore the fluid in our joints moves to where gravity tells it and our joints aren’t lubricated evenly when we start moving in the morning.
6. Arthritis or other chronic conditions – Joint stiffness is often worst following periods of inactivity. So in the morning our joints have stiffened up and you may experience pain.
So now that we know some of the things that cause us to be stiff… how do we counterbalance this and relax our stiff muscles???
The body is a magical thing. We have millions of cells that work together to create everything we need to stay alive and functioning. Our cells keep us going 24/7, 365. The way it works is simple: Every day our cells take in nutrients, air, and more. They use what they can and dispose of what they cannot. Of course, our cells are subjected to an ageing process as well. In fact, how we age is influenced by the wear and tear of our cells. We subject our cells to oxidative stress when we ask them to dispose of toxic by-products that we receive from the air and food we consume. So how we manage this oxidative stress, results in how well our cells manage wear and tear.
Much research is being done into how and why certain species live for hundreds or years and others for only a few weeks. Most of the evidence comes back to this oxidative stress. If our cells are constantly working overtime to remove bad products from the system, they will deteriorate faster. This is why we know that part of delaying our “wear and tear” comes with not subjecting our cells to extra oxidative stress. At the same time, we are continually developing strategies to prolong life and delay ageing.
One study from Future Learn, found that successful ageing comes down to 3 things:
1. Managing your health
We all know that being healthy involves eating right and exercising, doing things that are good for you and avoiding things that are bad for you. Yet, very few of us seem to follow these guidelines. Managing your health is about more than “putting out fires” when they pop up, we need to make it a priority to put our health first.
2. Staying involved with your community
People who are isolated are more likely to develop depression, frailty and overall poor health. Humans are designed to live in community and so it is vital to stay involved in the community.
3. Focusing on personal development
It is never too late to learn new skills and keep growing. When we stagnate and stop challenging ourselves, this is when we will see a decline. Grow in your strengths… learn new things… develop yourself personally and continually.
Ageing is a natural process. Ageing well is a conscious effort.
Do you want to start your journey of ageing well?
Why don’t you start with an exercise class?
Click here to come book a free trial exercise class specifically designed for older adults!
Exercise. It gets the blood pumping and the muscles going. It energises you and it tires you out. And sometimes, after a good workout, you wake up feeling all sorts of stiffness in muscles you didnt know you had. So what causes this?
Let’s start by looking at something called: Muscle Hypertrophy:
This is when your muscles increase in size as they get stronger. Due to:
- Mechanical tension
- Metabolic stress
- Muscle damage
This muscle damage is what can cause Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). So while muscle damage is not an essential aspect of hypertrophy, it is a sign that you are on the right track to building muscle… albeit a painful sign.
DOMS is a distinct muscle pain that is caused by overloading the muscles through heavy or unaccustomed activities. It can range in severity and timing and is characterised by a feeling of being sore, achy, weak and generally quite “pap”. Often it develops overnight and one will wake up feeling this soreness. Unfortunately DOMS can often deter people from exercising as they feel they are getting hurt, however this is not the case and DOMS is a natural reaction that does subside.
It is 2018!! Most likely you have sat down at some point recently and written out some New Year’s Resolutions. Did any of these include the decision to make a change with your health and wellness? Have you made similar goals like this that you have struggled to keep in the past?
Most people want to be fit and healthy, however it is not well executed and carried out often. So, what we want to look at is… how are you setting your exercise goals? Are those goals attainable? And how do you set realistic goals, particularly when it comes to exercise.
You may have heard of SMART goals at some stage. SMART, stands for:
Specific – Make your goal clear and easy to understand
Measurable – Be able to quantify your results
Attainable – Be realistic in your endeavours
Relevant – Does it fit where you want to go in life
Time-bound – Know what your time frame is
So, how do we translate this to be specific to exercise?
Humans have always felt the need to keep time and divide our days and nights and seasons. Timekeeping dates back to 10 000 BC, however, the calendar we use today, the Gregorian calendar was developed in 1582, as a refinement of the Cesarean calendar, which was the first to follow an algorithm that was independent of the moon.
So why do we feel the need to divide our time into years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds?
With the evolution of humanity and modern society, we rely on time to tell us when to wake up, go to work, catch a bus or meet up with friends. This all allows our lives to run more efficiently.
So, with there being 23 days till 2018, let us use this time to look back and look forward, on our journey through health.
December is a wonderfully festive time, with Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years, and general merriment. However it also allows for an important time of reflection, as we look at what we have done over the year, and what we would like to change for the next year.
So I want to ask you 3 questions:
- What is something positive you have done in 2017?
- What is something you would like to leave in 2017?
- What is something you would like to improve in 2018?
The dictionary defines balance as:
- an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady
- put (something) in a steady position so that it does not fall
- an instrument for weighing
- an oscillating wheel operating with a hairspring to regulate the movement of a timepiece
- physical equilibrium
Perhaps you have also heard people say things such as, “My balance has always been bad”, or “Poor balance is a part of getting old”, or even “I am thinking about getting a stick now that my balance is so bad”
So in your context, what is balance?
Maintaining ones balance depends on the following 3 processes happening:
- Your sensory system accurately portraying information on your body’s position in its environment – Hearing, vision and touch (such as our feet on the floor)
- Your brain processing that information – Neurons, sensory receptors in the brain and the decision making centres.
- Your muscles and joints coordinating movement based on the information your brain gives them – Being able to contract and relax to move how you want to.
These 3 factors are usually an automatic process for our body, and so when we feel our balance worsening, we need to explore which of these steps are not working how they should.
Most of the time, poor balance is a combination of a few factors, each adding a little bit to our instability. It is important to explore each of these factors and see which are lacking. Most of the time our balance problems can be anticipated and corrected if we know what to look out for.