Healthy Living in the North

Tales from the Man Cave: “Man Maintenace,” because men need tune-ups too

A man is seeing his family physician.

Regular “man maintenance” can help you live a healthier life.

Every day, we seem to hear the same general suggestions about how to live healthy – don’t smoke, moderate your drinking, avoid drug use, eat healthy and live actively. But maybe, as we men age, we should add “get it checked out” and “talk to someone” to that list.

We think it’s common sense to see your family doctor if your health is distressing you, but common sense isn’t always common, especially when it comes to guys and their health. Remember, health is one of those things you might not think of until it’s too late. However, with a few well informed truths perhaps you can avoid some of the nasty issues that are out there, waiting in the wings.

“Getting it checked out.”

For young men, one step towards avoiding testicular cancer is a self-exam; however, your GP is your best bet if you aren’t sure and is definitely your next step if you think there may be an issue. As for us older fellas, in each successive decade of life there are other tests and checkups we should have done, like blood pressure, cholesterol, and the less pleasant prostate and colorectal screening. Once again, your GP is the best person to talk to about what’s right for you.

“Talk to someone.”

Stress is unavoidable in modern life – pressure at work, trouble with relationships, and our own expectations can all lead to increased levels of stress. What is a guy to do?

Well, let me suggest that any time is a good time to talk to someone about stress.

A few words with your significant other or a close friend may be all you need. However, if it persists or even worsens, then you may need to see a health care provider. Stress can affect your sleep, appetite, concentration, mood, and more.  These things can actually lead to the early development of disease and they are signs that it is time to see a professional. To say that managing stress is important is an understatement!

What are some things that can reduce stress and help us deal with it in healthy ways? That everyday advice we mentioned is a start: healthy diet, be physically active for 150 minutes a week, don’t smoke. Also, remember to be social, make sure you have a healthy work and life balance, get enough sleep, and practise relaxation. I find relaxation tapes help and information on mindfulness is plentiful on the web as well. All of these things will help you take small steps towards a healthier life.

What do you do to reduce stress in your life?

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Keep Your Breath

A man rides a bike

Smoking will be detrimental to your physical performance.

I have to admit, it’s been a great summer. The decent weather has let me ride my bike to work often and encouraged me to work towards my goal of running five kilometers. With all this exercise, I’m feeling great.

But it’s not going to last forever, the decent weather that is. When it’s cold and wet, the last thing I want to do is go for a run or hop on my bike. Fortunately for me, hockey is just around the corner. For others, sports such as basketball, racquetball, squash, volleyball, indoor badminton and floor hockey may be appealing ways to keep active over the winter.

Typically, when you think of these activities, you don’t think of smoking, but how often do you see someone having a smoke outside the arena or recreation center? Some of the guys I’ve played hockey with have told me that a smoke before the game “picks them up” and “helps them focus.” However, smoking is not going to help your game in the end.

A 2013 study of female university athletes looked at the effect of smoking on athletic performance. In this study, 12 smokers and 21 non-smokers were asked to perform stress tests and six shuttle run tests to determine the impacts of smoking on aerobic capacity and anaerobic capacity.* What the researchers found was:

  • During shuttle runs four to six, the smokers’ average power decreased significantly.
  • Non-smokers were able to take in and use more oxygen during intense exercise.
  • The smoking group was less capable of dealing with fatigue.
  • Smoking impaired the athletes’ ability to recover after high intensity exercise.

Another study that examined the effect of smoking on the cardiovascular system noted a 10% decrease in the time smokers could exercise before becoming exhausted. This was attributed to a lack of available oxygen to the muscles.

Sports like hockey, basketball and racquetball all require short, intense bursts of speed and/or power that are anaerobic in nature. As the studies show, smoking has a negative impact on our body’s ability to absorb and use oxygen. This results in a loss of power, endurance, and a decreased ability to recover from intense activity.

If you have a quick smoke before the game, it’s going to catch up with you. In the second or third period, you’ll be gasping for air on the bench between shifts and lagging behind the play when you’re on the ice. That awe-inspiring, highlight reel move is going to be harder to pull off when the power in your legs is used up in the first half of the game.

Is that bit of a pick-up worth a weak finish? I don’t think so.

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

*Anaerobic exercises are done with maximum intensity for short bursts (i.e. sprinting) where the energy requirement of the body exceeds that provided by breathing, and therefore, the body is forced to work without oxygen.  Aerobic exercises are the ones where oxygen is used to produce energy in order to fuel the body for a prolonged activity (i.e., marathon running)

Reg Wulff

About Reg Wulff

Reg is a Regional Tobacco Reduction Coordinator 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. 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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Tales from the Man Cave: Knowledge versus “knowledge”

Are you using credible sources to create your knowledge?

Are you using credible sources to create your knowledge?

Knowledge is more accessible than ever. Between the internet and 24-hour news stations, we’re swamped with it. But there’s knowledge and then there’s “knowledge.” Let’s discuss the difference between the two, because separating them is vital to your health.

For me, knowledge is information gained through evidence-based research. This includes checking your sources and the sources of the people providing you with the information. That’s one of the reasons I follow the Northern Health position papers. Many heads have worked on them, combining research from a variety of credible sources.

“Knowledge,” on the other hand, is the 10-second sound bite. It’s the picture of a piece of fruit on Pinterest that comes with a quote like, “Seven strawberries a day cures the common cold” without offering a source. These more accurately align with Stephen Colbert’s “truthiness.” They may have portions of the truth or they might just feel like they could be the truth. But we weren’t we all taught from a very young age not to believe everything we’re told?

Between the knowledge and “knowledge,” I always choose the first, burying my head in books and listening to audio books, all by credible sources. And that’s the key isn’t it? It has to be credible.

Here are some tips that are based on sound research from credible sources to help you stay healthy in mind and body:

That’s just scratching the surface of the available knowledge that will help us stay healthy. We can’t fit all of it into our brains, but we have to make sure that what we do hold onto comes from a good place (as is the case with all of the links in the above health tips).

Good luck to you!

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Tales from the Man Cave: World No Tobacco Day

A picture of the sun in the sky with the headline World No Tobacco Day and the subheading the sun will still shine tomorrow

Will this sunrise be the one that sees you quit tobacco?

Last year, when writing about World No Tobacco Day, I challenged you to drop the “World” and make it “Your No Tobacco Day” so that you knew exactly who’s in charge of quitting tobacco products.

I’m happy to report that a friend, and a reader of this blog, took up that challenge and successfully quit. My heart is with my friend’s family, with hopes that they may continue to live smoke free for life.

Quitting tobacco is the most difficult of tasks. There are many theories surrounding addiction. Some are brain based, centered on the mind or psyche. Some suggest that vulnerable individuals are more likely to become addicted than “normal” people. Some say we’re all addicted to something. Maybe it’s work, cleanliness, or food. Perhaps it’s control, the internet, or your own beliefs. Some research suggests there is an empty space deep within each of us that needs filling. An abyss, if you like. Others suggest that we self-medicate to reduce the pain of a stressful world.

Personally, I feel that all of these things ring true to some degree and that if you have to be addicted to something, make that one addiction something positive, like exercise. Am I correct? I don’t think it matters.

At an individual level, there is only you and the struggle you face to be free of that which harms you. There is help out there, like nicotine replacement, and informed evidence suggests that using that help improves your chances of quitting.

But, regardless of the help, the battle is yours.

Sure it’s World No Tobacco Day on May 31, but really its world with a small ”w”, your world. I hope you take up the challenge and good luck to you.

Jim Coyle

About Jim Coyle

Jim is a tobacco reduction coordinator with the men’s health program, and has a background in psychiatry and care of the elderly. In former times, Jim was director of care at Simon Fraser Lodge and clinical coordinator at the Brain Injury Group. He came to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland 20 years ago and, when not at work, Jim plays in the band Out of Alba and spends time with his family.

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Why northern health matters to us

Quesnel Farmer's Market

Farmer’s Markets and local eating are important pieces of community health.

I would like to welcome everyone to Northern Health Matters, an interactive blog aimed at sharing grassroots stories about people, programs and activities going on in the Northern Health region. In Northern BC, we are blessed with a wealth of natural beauty and geography as diverse as the people who live here. Within our region, there are many stories of people working towards positive health outcomes to improve their health and the health of their community; we hope to find as many as we can to share them with you here.

For the past six months, Northern Health has begun developing strategic position papers on key issues affecting people’s health, which we believe can be actively addressed to help improve overall health. These issues include: healthy eating, tobacco cessation, injury prevention, and healthy community development. Northern Health is hoping to begin the conversation about how we can work together with community partners to make health more accessible for everyone who calls the north home. This means aligning with programs and services to promote health during all stages of life.

My hope is that this blog will provide people in the Northern BC area a window into the exciting activities being undertaken by Northern Health staff and our community partners across the region to improve our overall health. We all have a role to play in ensuring that our communities are vibrant and healthy places to live for our families. Join us in this work – share your story, tell us about your successes, and let us know how you showcase the idea that northern health matters.

Dr. Ronald Chapman

About Dr. Ronald Chapman

Ronald Chapman is a physician with a fellowship in community medicine, and extensive experience in the leadership and management of health services with a focus on community health. Dr. Chapman joined the Northern Health team in 2007 as regional director of the Northern Cancer Control Strategy. Dr. Chapman assumed the role of the chief medical health officer of Northern Health in June 2011, and in February 2013, he transitioned to Vice President, Medicine in Northern Health.

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