Healthy Living in the North

Invest in your mind – use that muscle in your head!

This month, we want to know how you are preparing for the future by investing in your health! Tell us (or show us) what you do to invest in your body, your mind, and your relationships for your chance to win great weekly prizes and a $150 grand prize! To inspire you, we’ll be featuring regular healthy aging content on the Northern Health Matters blog all month long!


Puzzle on a table

Puzzles, learning something new, being creative, and reading are great ways to exercise your brain! How do you invest in your mind?

I have to admit this was a frustrating morning. I couldn’t find my truck keys. When I get home from work, I always put my truck keys in the same spot. So why weren’t they there this morning? There are two likely explanations for this. Either I put my keys somewhere else and promptly forgot about that, or gremlins hid them on me. I blamed the gremlins, and as it turned out, I was right. They stole my keys and hid them in my coat pocket!

While not everyone may suffer the scourge of key hiding gremlins, one thing is for sure. As we age, our brains change. It’s normal to experience some changes in some cognitive functions such as memory or visuospatial abilities. While it’s true that conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia are associated with aging, maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help maintain a healthy brain.

The point is that investing in your brain is very important to healthy aging. So how can you do that?

Think of your brain as a muscle

Your brain is much like a muscle in the fact that regular exercise helps keep it healthy. Numerous studies have shown that “exercising your brain” has real benefits. For instance, a study at Stanford University found that memory loss can be improved by 30 to 50 per cent through doing mental exercises.

So how can you exercise your brain? Well there are the usual suggestions such as:

  • Taking a course at your local college or university.
  • Reading newspapers, magazines and books.
  • Playing games that make you think like Scrabble, cards, Trivial Pursuit, checkers or chess.
  • Engaging in creative activities such as drawing, painting or woodworking.
  • Doing crossword puzzles and word games.

Think outside the box

Sometimes, it can be helpful to think outside the box as well. If you like watching game shows, try to guess the answer before the contestants. Or the next time you’re at a social gathering, use the opportunity to engage in stimulating conversations.

While technology may be baffling at times, learn to use it to your advantage. Look into using apps or games for your tablet or smartphone that exercise your brain. Many offer a free version that let you try before purchasing a full version. If there isn’t a college or university in your community, look online for courses. Most post-secondary institutions offer many courses and programs online. Some websites such as coursera and edX offer free courses from various colleges and universities.

Manage lifestyle risk factors

Staying physically active, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, making healthy food choices and eating a well-balanced and healthy diet rich in cereals, fish, legumes and vegetables are all good investments in a healthy brain. While genetics certainly plays a role in the aging process, you do have control over how you live life. Choosing a healthy lifestyle will pay off with a better quality of life.

Manage stress

It’s also important to make sure that you manage stress. Stress wears us down both mentally and physically over time. Even a low level of stress can be detrimental to our health if it persists for an extended period. Look for more on managing stress in my next blog post!

So, what will you do this week to invest in your mind and keep the gremlins from stealing your keys? Remember to send us a picture or quick line about how you kept your brain engaged.

(What am I doing to stay mentally engaged? I’m working on a gremlin trap!)

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Drop and give me twenty!

Army patch

The shoulder patch of the 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. Reg was a part of Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), which is an armoured regiment in the brigade. There, he learned a lot about motivation and physical activity!

The New Year is upon us and no doubt many of us are setting goals to become more physically active. If you’re one of those people, I have a question for you: How motivated are you?

If you don’t feel motivated, have you thought about joining the army? I can tell you from experience that it works! But why does it work so well?

One is that the army ensured that I got regular physical exercise. No matter what the weather, there was always the physical training that I took part in, no exceptions, no complaints allowed.

Second, the army has a set of specific goals and objectives that I was expected to meet. It has very specific, measurable goals, like being able to run a kilometer within a certain amount of time. Not to mention pushups!

Soldiers marching

Footage from Reg’s graduation parade.

And then there was the built-in motivator, otherwise known as the Master Corporal (the Canadian version of the Drill Sargent in basic training). He was the guy barking at me as I moaned and groaned my way through the obstacle course. Master Corporals weren’t always nice in their “motivational methods,” but you know what, for me, it worked. I ran that kilometer and did those pushups. I made it through the obstacle course.

Then again, it’s not necessary to join the army if you’re looking to get more physically active. But in reflecting on my own time, I think that some of the principles are the same and definitely taught me a lot. You need to make time for physical activity and do it. You need to set SMART goals and strive to reach them. You need to find your motivation.

I often see the scale or body measurements used as motivators. While it’s important to measure your progress towards your goals in other ways (like how many minutes of activity you did today), don’t get hung up on those numbers. Health is measured in more ways than pounds or inches. For some, buying something special upon reaching a milestone can be a motivator. However, that might not work in the end and it’s possible that your motivation may falter between milestones.

So, what are you to do?

Motivation needs to come from within if it’s going to last. Here are some suggestions for building up your motivation:

  • Make sure that you find ways to be active that you enjoy. Find activities that keep you coming back.
  • Focus on the experience. Enjoy the surroundings if you’re outside. Enjoy the camaraderie of team sports. Enjoy the solitude if you’re on your own.
  • Learn to recognize and appreciate the health benefits of being active. Enjoy your improved mood and increased energy.
  • Engage in physical activity as a way to reward yourself. A nice walk down a forest trail is a great way to relax after a long day at the office.
  • Keep challenging yourself. Walk an extra ten minutes or lift that extra ten pounds.
  • Acknowledge and celebrate your successes.
Medal

A medal from Reg’s time peacekeeping in Cyprus. What did his time in the army teach him about physical activity and setting SMART goals?

It can also help to let people know about your goals and ask them to help you stay on track. If your motivation slips a little, they’ll let you know (sort of like the Master Corporal did for me!).

I have to admit, writing this blog rekindled some great memories from the old army days.

Q: Is having a Master Corporal shouting in my ear one of them?

A: No.

Q: Would I push harder if he was standing there “motivating me?”

A: You bet I would.

As much as I enjoy the memories and the lessons, I’m not re-enlisting in the army for the motivation – not even for the food or the cool uniforms! But I’ll definitely use the things I learned about motivation to stay physically active in 2016!

The only person responsible for motivating you to be physically active is you.

Unless you join the army, and they take that responsibility very seriously, even when you don’t.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Go with the flow!

Boy with toy bow and arrow

When we were young, imaginative play could transport us to faraway lands! When’s the last time your leisure activities have had that effect on you?

In the past, I’ve written about tobacco reduction and tobacco free sports. However, this time I’m going back to my old recreation therapist days to talk about “going with the flow.”

Let me start by telling you a little story:

When I was a young boy, my friends and I had great imaginations. We spent hours in the woods, having grand adventures! Sticks became swords, and danger lurked behind every tree. Dragons and thieves ran amok, but they were no match for us, the brave knights of the realm.

Back then, we went wherever our minds would take us. The outside world faded away as our imaginary world took over. We became so involved in our games that we would be oblivious to people around us, especially adults who had no place in our kingdoms.

Often, we would forget the time and come home late for dinner, much to the dismay of our mothers. Not that it really bothered us that much. After all, great knights on an epic quest shouldn’t have to stop having fun because of a little thing called dinner!

So what do knights, dragons, and kingdoms have to do with leisure? To an adult, probably not much, unless you’re into Dungeons & Dragons. However, what’s important is the idea that leisure activities you take part in should enable you to become totally absorbed in the experience.

Now, about going with the flow.

Meaningful leisure experiences can result your mind entering what has be described as a state of “flow.” The concept of flow was developed by a psychologist named Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. He described it as a rare state of consciousness where you pay complete attention to what you’re doing and forget about everything else.

This state of flow is characterized by a few things, such as:

  • Losing complete track of time.
  • Becoming so involved in what we’re doing that the outside world fades away.
  • Experiencing enough of a challenge to keep us completely involved and interested in the activity.

Getting into a state of flow can do wonders for your mental and physical health. Flow can help deal with the stressors that we all experience on a daily basis. It takes us to a place where you can just be in the moment. Entering a state of flow silences the noise of the outside world.

Sometimes, getting into a state of flow takes a bit of effort. However, it can be helpful to look at your past. Can you remember a time when you experienced the sensation of flow?

  • What were you doing?
  • How did you feel?
  • Did the experience have a positive effect on your emotional state?
  • Is this something you could do now?
  • Is there another activity that could result in the same sensation?

I wanted to talk about the idea of flow because this time of year can be very stressful. Christmas activities fill our calendars and presents need to be bought. Every now and then, we feel just as busy and tired as Santa’s elves. If there’s a time where we could use a bit of flow now and then, this can be it!

Just remember, there are, of course, times when you need to be paying attention to what is happening around you.

However, in those moments where you can get into a state of flow, go with it!

Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play -Heraclitus (Greek Philosopher)

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Teachers! Don’t just blow smoke – Cut through the smoke screen!

Outside of school building with sign that says "Student Drop Off Ahead"

With kids back in school, teachers are uniquely placed to prevent smoking amongst youth. Reg shares some great tips for teachers!

While the prospect of youth starting to smoke is concerning, there’s some great news from the 2012-13 Youth Smoking Survey. The percentage of Canadian youth who currently smoke and the percentage of youth in British Columbia who have ever tried a cigarette have both declined.

Unfortunately, some youth will start using tobacco. Teachers play an important role in educating students about the harmful effects of tobacco use.

If you’re a teacher, when you talk about tobacco, remember the following:

  • Start talking about tobacco early in the school year. Don’t wait until it becomes a problem on the school grounds before addressing it. Ensure that your school has a clear policy on tobacco and that it’s clearly communicated.
  • Speak to your students as intelligent people who can make good decisions. Don’t speak down to them or try to intimidate them into not using tobacco – rather than starting a genuine conversation around tobacco, this is more likely to create barriers.
  • Don’t make assumptions about how much your students know about tobacco. Most students are likely aware that tobacco is harmful, but might underestimate the health risks or long-term consequences of tobacco use. Be creative and engage your students in exploring the harms of tobacco use. Use a biology class to look at what using tobacco does to the body. Explore other alternatives for dealing with things like peer pressure or stress as part of a social studies class.

According to the Youth Smoking Survey, the average age a young person tries a cigarette is 13.6 years old. As a teacher, you are at the right place and in the right time to address it!

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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The fountain of youth

Man in boat on lake.

Reg plans on spending his senior years on the lake and is making choices now to help make that happen. What will you choose?

Have you ever heard about the fabled fountain of youth? In the 1400s, the indigenous peoples of Puerto Rico and Cuba told early Spanish explorers about a fountain with miraculous powers that would restore the youth of whoever drank from it. Many explorers searched for the fountain of youth including Juan Ponce de Leon, who accompanied Christopher Columbus.

But enough about the fountain of youth for now and onto something more local!

It’s Seniors’ Week in B.C., which is a good time to remember that eventually, we all become seniors. I’m sure that most of us picture our senior years as a time to enjoy ourselves. I plan to spend lots of time fishing, cycling and reminding my children that I don’t have to get up and go to work every day!

All I need now is a fountain of youth from which to make my morning coffee. That would make my days on the lake and my epic bike rides much easier, wouldn’t it?

But the fountain of youth is a legend, isn’t it?

If you think about seniors, what comes to mind? For instance, you may be picturing a senior sitting in a rowboat on the lake, smiling as he fishes and enjoys the day. Alternatively, you may be picturing that same senior sitting in a wheelchair staring out the window at a lake. Why is there a difference?

Did one senior take a trip to Florida and meet a Spaniard named Juan Ponce de Leon? Or is it just the luck of the draw? I’d bet the senior in the rowboat realized that the real fountain of youth can be found in the choices we make and actions we take that affect our lives.

You might be thinking that we have no control over the future and that sometimes things happen despite our best efforts to lead healthy lives. You’re right, they do. However, there’s also truth in the idea that our choices and actions have a huge impact on the quality of our lives.

Why not choose to believe that we can create our own fountain of youth and act in ways that support our health?

  • Staying physically active can reduce the risk of chronic disease such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. It helps keep you independent and taking part in things you like to do. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines recommend 150 minutes of activity per week for adults.
  • Eating well supports your physical health, provides energy and keeps your immune system strong.
  • Staying connected to friends and family plays a huge role in supporting your mental health and happiness.
  • Challenging yourself intellectually keeps your mind sharp (perhaps sharp enough to outsmart the fish!).

The choices we make and actions we take today will affect how we get to live our tomorrow.

Personally, I’m looking forward to spending lots of time on the lake. What will you choose?

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Not so cheap after all

World Health Organization campaign poster

The costs of illegal tobacco are high! The RCMP warns that contraband tobacco “injects criminal activity into our community.” How can you help to stop the trade of illegal tobacco?

May 31 is the annual World No Tobacco Day. It’s an important day for tobacco reduction coordinators like me. This year, it’s given me the chance to talk about an area that I haven’t covered in past blog posts.

For 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) has focused World No Tobacco Day on stopping the trade of contraband/illegal tobacco.* Across the world, the WHO suggests that one out of every ten cigarettes consumed has been sold illegally. The issue affects almost all countries.

You may have heard that Ontario and Central Canada have had issues with contraband tobacco, but what about B.C.?

In 2014, the Western Convenience Store Association commissioned an independent study to determine the percentage of untaxed tobacco sales in B.C. The results were surprising:

  • Contraband tobacco comprised 17.2% of the total cigarettes collected.
  • The three cities with the highest percentages were Vancouver (31.8%), Kamloops (22.4%) and Terrace (19.1%), my hometown.

For some, buying contraband tobacco may not seem like such a big deal. That is definitely not the case! According to the RCMP, organized crime groups are heavily involved in distributing contraband tobacco. The profits from the sale of contraband tobacco are often used to fund other illegal activities.

But it’s not just the criminal connections that are concerning. Contraband tobacco is sold without mandated health warnings or age verification. Since it’s cheaper, contraband tobacco contributes to people starting to use tobacco. For youth or those on a fixed income, it can be particularly attractive. It also takes millions out of the tax system that could be used to fund health care.

It seems to me that contraband tobacco isn’t so harmless after all!

There are things that can be done to stop the illegal trade of tobacco. The WHO suggests:

  1. Policy makers need to recognize that illegal tobacco contributes to the global tobacco use problem and is connected to organized crime. Write your local government representative about this issue.
  2. You can learn more about the negative health, economic and social effects of illegal tobacco. If you know someone who purchases illegal tobacco, talk to them about it. They might not be aware of just how harmful it is.
  3. More research can be done on the illegal trade of tobacco. Its harmful effects need to be fully understood. The role of the tobacco industry in this issue should also be looked at further.

The price of illegal tobacco may be cheap, but the costs to society are high!


*The RCMP defines contraband/illegal tobacco as: “any tobacco product that does not comply with federal or provincial law, which includes importation, marking, manufacturing, stamping and payment of duties and taxes.”

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Make it a tobacco-free season!

Picture of a hockey rink. Bleachers and skating aids on the right side.

Is your local arena tobacco-free? Whether you are a parent, player, coach, spectator, or volunteer, you can help to keep tobacco out of sports!

January 18th to 24th is National Non-Smoking Week and if you use tobacco, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. But wouldn’t it be great if nobody, especially kids, ever started smoking or using any kind of tobacco? While there’s plenty of information available about the harmful effects of tobacco use, there are also influences in society that send the opposite message. It’s no secret that some sports have been associated with tobacco use.

As part of its health promotions, Northern Health is working with sports organizations across the north to promote tobacco-free sports.

Tobacco-free sport represents the idea that everyone taking part in sports and recreational activities does not use any kind of tobacco product during the activity. Tobacco-free sport involves developing, implementing and enforcing policies within sports and recreation organizations that address all types of tobacco use. It sends the message that sports and tobacco don’t belong on the same playing field.

Everyone can be part of the big picture by encouraging their local sports and recreation organizations to develop, promote and enforce tobacco-free sports policies. However, if you’re more involved in a sports organization, there are a few other things you can do as well:

  1. If you’re a parent whose child is active in sports, talk to your children about tobacco. Be involved in the game and help out. Make sure you know what’s going on with your children.
  2. Coaches have a big influence on the players they work with. If you’re a coach, use your influence to support tobacco-free sports.
  3. If you’re a player, don’t use any form of tobacco. Whether you play for fun or in a highly competitive elite league, somebody is probably looking up to you. Set an example for them.

In addition to promoting a healthy lifestyle, tobacco-free sports can also:

  • Protect everyone at the game from second- and third-hand smoke.
  • Help keep our recreation venues and environment free from toxic cigarette butt litter.
  • Prevent youth from starting to use tobacco products.
  • Give everyone a chance to perform at their best.
  • Help tobacco users quit by offering sports environments free of triggers that might lead to cravings for a cigarette.

Tobacco-free policies are a great way to send the message that sport and tobacco don’t mix, but they also need to be promoted and adhered to by everybody to be effective. That means nobody uses tobacco while playing, coaching, or watching.

Let’s work together to make National Non-Smoking Week last the entire season!

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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Talk to your kids

Children in hockey gear watching a hockey game from the bench.

Children and youth face pressure from multiple fronts to try tobacco products. Movies, music, television, and even sports can glamorize tobacco. Talk to your kids about tobacco and be a tobacco-free role model!

This blog post was co-written by Nancy Viney and Reg Wulff. Reg’s bio is below and you can read more about Nancy on our Contributors page.


 

Whether you use tobacco or not, you probably don’t want your kids to start smoking or chewing tobacco. Let your kids know how you feel about tobacco and make an emotional appeal to help them avoid becoming addicted.

It’s a fact that if a young person can make it to their 19th birthday without becoming a tobacco user, then chances are they will never become one. Parents need to talk to their children about tobacco use, though, as youth can face pressure to use tobacco from a variety of sources.

We all know that peer pressure is a significant source, but what about other sources?

Movies, television and music have long had a powerful influence on youth. The tobacco industry uses that influence to exploit youth and recruit new tobacco users. Smoking in movies and on-screen is portrayed as glamorous, powerful, rebellious, and sexy while the health consequences are ignored. Listen to music on the radio and you may be surprised at how often smoking or cigarettes are referenced.

In May 2014, the Ontario Tobacco Research Unit released a report that examined the exposure to on-screen tobacco use among Ontario youth. During a 7-year period, approximately 13,250 youth aged 12 to 17 began smoking each year as a result of watching smoking in movies. Of these smokers, it’s projected that more than 4,200 will die prematurely as a result of smoking.

Kids can also face pressures while participating in sports. While Major League Baseball has long been associated with chewing tobacco, other sports like hockey and football have similar issues. The Sport Medicine and Science Council of Manitoba surveyed 2,000 athletes aged 12 to 21 regarding substance use and found that 52 per cent of male hockey players used chewing tobacco or snus. By age twenty, 75 per cent of Manitoba hockey players who took part in the survey reported they had tried “chew.”

Parents, coaches and other role models can counter these influences. Don’t assume that kids have the skills to resist peer pressure or media influences. You can help kids develop refusal skills to avoid tobacco and the addiction that can develop after one or two cigarettes. Coaches and athletes can set the example and not use tobacco products around kids. Sports and recreational organizations can develop, implement and enforce tobacco-free sports policies.

January 18-24 is National Non-Smoking Week. Let’s work together to influence youth to live a healthy, tobacco-free life.

 

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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It’s not about the smoke

Young child holding a hockey stick and wearing a hockey helmet.

Tobacco use is a significant problem on hockey teams. As a parent, coach, or adult player, there are things you can do to prevent or stop tobacco use in sports.

It’s that time of year again. Hockey fans are busy digging out hockey gear, getting skates sharpened and taping sticks – getting ready for the first puck drop of the season.

Unfortunately, hockey has a dark secret – one that’s more commonly associated with Major League Baseball. It’s a problem you can neither see, usually, nor smell. Organized hockey has a tobacco problem that has made its way into the sport — from children as young as 13 to NHL professionals. The problem is the use of chewing tobacco or snus.

The Sport Medicine and Science Council of Manitoba recently surveyed 2,000 athletes aged 12-21 regarding substance use. The survey found that 52 per cent of male hockey players used chewing tobacco or snus. By the age of twenty, 75 per cent of Manitoba hockey players who took part in the survey reported that they had tried “chew.”

They also found that youth in grades 9-12 who participated in team sports had nearly double the risk of trying smokeless tobacco.

Another study by the Waterloo Sports Medicine Centre and University of Waterloo in 2010 found that smokeless tobacco use among Canadian hockey players appears to be common, with results comparable to similar studies in the U.S.

We’re all aware of the dangers associated with the use of smoking. However, I’d be willing to bet a bag of pucks that not many of us are aware of how many hockey players use smokeless tobacco. For hockey parents, this can be particularly troubling as the sport that they put their child in to keep them active and healthy could potentially lead to tobacco use.

But there are some things you can do about it:

  • If you’re a hockey parent, make sure that you talk to your children about tobacco. Be involved in the game and help out. Don’t just drop your child off in the dressing room and then head for the bleachers. Make sure you know what’s going on.
  • Coaches have a big influence on the players they work with. If you’re a coach, use that influence to send the message that tobacco and hockey don’t belong in the same arena.
  • If you’re a player, don’t use any form of tobacco. Whether you play in a fun recreational league or a highly competitive elite league, some young hockey player is probably looking up to you. To your children, you are the best player on the ice. Set the example for them.

Hockey organizations and municipalities can also develop, promote, and enforce tobacco-free policies that address tobacco use. Tobacco-free policies send the message that hockey and tobacco don’t mix, but to be effective, they also need to be promoted and adhered to. That means everyone from the fans in the arena bleachers to the players on the dressing room bench has to be in the game.

Hockey is a great sport with a lot of benefits for those who play; we just need to work together to bench tobacco.

If you want more information on tobacco-free sports, visit Play, Live, Be Tobacco-Free.

If you or some you know wants to quit using tobacco, they can receive free counselling, information, and support as well as free nicotine replacement products through provincial programs.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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The last inning

The bleachers at baseball diamond in Terrace.

Athletic venues are usually associated with physical activity, but they are also a place where bad habits can arise.

Recently, I was watching the news and enjoying my morning cup of coffee when something caught my eye. It was one of those lines that runs across the bottom of the TV screen. You know the ones – they keep you sucked into the news as you wait for the actual story.

Curt Schilling, the former Red Sox pitcher who helped lead Boston to the 2004 World Series championship, announced that he was being treated for mouth cancer. Schilling also revealed that he believed the source of his cancer was the chewing tobacco that he used for 30 years, saying: “I do believe, without a doubt, unquestionably that chewing was what gave me cancer.”

But Curt Schilling isn’t the first Major League Baseball player to suffer from oral cancer.

In June, baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn died at age 54 as a result of salivary gland cancer. Like Schilling, he also attributed this to his use of chewing tobacco during his playing days.

In 1948, the legendary Babe Ruth passed away at 53. His heavy drinking and smoking affected his career. Just before retiring, he was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal carcinoma, cancer of the upper throat.

And then there’s centre-fielder Bill Tuttle. Tuttle’s baseball cards often pictured him with a cheek bulging from chewing tobacco. Thirty-eight years after his baseball career ended, Tuttle had a more ominous bulge in his cheek. It was a tumour so big that it came through his cheek and extended through his skin. Doctors were able to remove the tumour, but along with it came much of Tuttle’s face.  Chewing tobacco as a young man cost Tuttle his jawbone, his right cheekbone, a lot of his teeth and gumline, and his tastebuds. In 1998, Bill Tuttle succumbed to the cancer that left him disfigured. He spent his last years trying to stop people from using smokeless tobacco.

While smokeless tobacco is usually associated with baseball, it’s also present in other sports.  Hockey, football, and rugby are other sports where the use of smokeless tobacco is higher than you might think.

In the past, I’ve blogged about going smoke-free, but it is important to raise awareness about the dangers of all forms of tobacco use. Whether it’s smoked, sniffed, dipped, or chewed, tobacco can cost you the biggest game of all: your life.

So instead of chewing tobacco, how about chewing on the following quote from Curt Schilling for a while: “It was an addictive habit. I lost my sense of smell, my taste buds. I had gum issues, they bled  … None of it was enough to ever make me quit. The pain that I was in going through this treatment  … I wish I could go back and never have dipped. Not once. It was so painful.”

If you or some you know wants to quit using tobacco, they can receive free counselling, information, and support as well as free nicotine replacement products through provincial programs.

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a licensing officer with Northern Health and has his BA in Health Science. Previously, he worked as a Recreation Therapist with Mental Health and Addictions Services in Terrace as well as a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator. Originally from Revelstoke, Reg enjoys the outdoor activities that Terrace offers, like mountain biking and fishing. Reg also likes playing hockey, working out, and creative writing. He is married and has two sons and believes strongly in a work/life balance as family time is important to him.

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