Settlement Guide

Healthy habits of people who don’t get sick

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How have some people remained healthy and energetic amid the pandemic, while others have become ill or demotivated? The secret, according to those who rarely get sick, lies in the mindset and habits that contribute to your overall wellbeing.

Highlights

  • Human health is linked to the gut which is responsible for about 70 per cent of the immune system.
  • A CSIRO survey found that two-thirds of people felt their exercise had been impacted in a negative way during COVID-19.
  • Almost 40 per cent of people had put on weight amid restrictions during COVID-19 in Australia.

Over three months of lockdown in Victoria has taught its residents that wearing masks, keeping social distance and regular hand sanitisation are key habits to reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus.

But Beyond Blue’s lead clinical advisor and a general practitioner Dr Grant Blashki says the way you think can affect not only your mental wellbeing but also your physical health.

It’s easy at the moment to sort of stay up late and get caught up with all the news and social media until early hours in the morning but try and keep your sleep pretty normal.

Dr Blashki says those who are having a hard time can access Beyond Blue’s 24-hour phone support line.

They can link you in with the translator service if you wanted to have a chat to a confidential person about your mental wellbeing at the moment.

While some cultures have stigma around mental health which is perceived as shameful and weak, Beyond Blue found that 10 to 15 per cent of older adults experience depression, and approximately 10 per cent experience anxiety. 

Dr Blashki says general practitioners are a good starting point as they can devise a GP mental health care plan for people with mental health issues.

This entitles you to Medicare-subsidised appointments with psychologists.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, medical evidence suggests that people with mental health problems are more likely to suffer from physical illness.

Brisbane-based Core Health Coaching’s holistic lifestyle coach and fitness instructor Cameron Corish has witnessed how the fear of catching coronavirus prevented his older clients from working out in the studio until their anxiety receded.

There was a significant portion of people that put on weight, emotional eating to try and boost them up at this period of time.

The trend in weight gain coincides with CSIRO’s recent survey findings that almost 40 per cent of people had put on weight and about one-third of respondents indicating that they had poorer diet during COVID-19.

Corish saw worsened health outcomes in some of his rest home clients who have lost their usual social interaction and connection with the outside world.

Their physical condition dropped, their mental health dropped, their memory dropped.

A former sports junkie who thrived in triathlons, Corish admits his former fitness pursuits did not prevent him from getting sick once every quarter.

It wasn’t until he finally understood the importance of attending to his overall wellbeing ten years ago that he became sick far less frequently.  

We say that we work with four doctors: Dr Diet, Dr Movement, Dr Happy and Dr Quiet. 

Healthy diet
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Corish says exercising does not mean you have to do high intensity workouts even though it is critical for people over the age of 50 to keep moving.

The fear that we have around getting sick can actually weaken our immune system that we actually get sick. 

Personal trainer, 58-year-old Norsiah Binti Subri is always on the move. She lives a sustainable and charitable lifestyle growing her own food and cooking for the needy.

Hardly sick and looking ten years younger than her real age, Subri believes her good health is the direct result of her active lifestyle.

Her secret is keeping herself busy and active, smiling, helping others, eating healthy and fresh food, and drinking plenty of water.

With about 70 per cent of human immune cells housed in the gut, Corish encourages seniors to avoid damaging their immune system with stress and sugar, and instead cultivating good bacteria to strengthen our immunity by taking probiotic supplements or eating more fermented food.

Sauerkraut, kimchi, miso soup, apple cider vinegar, kombucha - they all support our immune system but support that good bacteria in our gut.

Dr Blashki recommends older people eat a Mediterranean-style diet which is characterised by plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds and olive oil for better heart and mental health.

Joy of cooking
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He says even though the overall health of migrants tends to improve when they arrive in Australia, the risk in western culture is the high availability of very high sugar and high fat foods that are readily available.

Try and stay in a healthy weight range. Try not to smoke. A little bit of alcohol is fine but during COVID some people have been drinking too much.

The CSIRO survey on wellbeing during COVID-19 also found that two-thirds of people felt their exercise had been impacted in a negative way.

While Subri also saw a drop in gym attendance from older clients during the coronavirus pandemic, she has also witnessed positive transformations in some of her clients who never used to exercise.

She shares the example of a recovered cancer patient in her late sixties who recently started to train at the gym.

The doctor tells her that she need to exercise or else her body getting worse and die early.

Tying shoelaces
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At first, the client could hardly move and had to rely on a trolley to walk whenever she went grocery shopping. Subri trained her once a week for about a month working on stretching, techniques, movements, accelerating the heart rate and breathing.

In one month, she can go grocery without pushing a trolley, can go upstair and now she do body pump.

It’s the same kind of transformation Subri frequently notices in her older and formerly inactive clients who regain their energy and health after a period of regular workouts.

Don’t tell yourself it’s too late. Stretch even if you just get up in the morning, do a bit of yoga, do some stretch in the bed. Never, never, never stop.

Dr Blashki acknowledges that some older people have lost their confidence and stamina to leave home during COVID-19. But as a general practitioner, he believes it’s vital to reengage with their normal life even if it means just going for a walk down to the shop or catching up with easy going friends.

The truth is in Australia at the moment the risk of catching COVID is getting quite low.

Mindset
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For 24/7 free over-the-phone emotional support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.

If you need interpretation, call the national Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and ask to connect to your preferred service.

 

 

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