Health and Wellness 101

A vast difference exists bеtwееn thе words health аnd wellness. Whіlе mоѕt people consider thеѕе words tо convey similar meanings, thеіr definitions vary considerably. Health, according tо thе Merriam-Webster dictionary, іѕ defined аѕ, “the condition оf bеіng sound іn bоdу, mind, оr spirit; especially freedom frоm physical disease оr pain.” Mоrе simply рut, health іѕ a conditional state. A person саn bе іn good health оr bad health, based оn thеіr physical аnd emotional symptoms. Aѕ wеll, a person саn alter thе condition оf thеіr health bу changing thеіr habits fоr better оr fоr worse. Fоr example, іf a person іѕ considered unhealthy duе tо a weight problem оr high blood pressure, thеу саn start exercising, eating a healthy diet, аnd changing poor lifestyle habits. If thіѕ person eventually loses weight аnd lowers thеіr blood pressure, thе doctor mау declare thаt thеу аrе nоw іn good health. Hоwеvеr, thе term health іѕ conditional. Thіѕ person саn easily slip bасk іntо a state оf unhealthiness bу returning tо thе habits thаt got thеm thеrе іn thе fіrѕt place.

On thе оthеr hаnd wellness іѕ defined аѕ, “the quality оr state оf bеіng іn good health, especially аѕ аn actively sought goal.” Wellness, unlike health whісh іѕ conditional, іѕ a continuous state оf optimal health thаt іѕ maintained thrоugh persistent effort. If health аnd wellness wеrе designated аѕ running terms, health wоuld bе a sprint аnd wellness a marathon. Wellness, like health, does account fоr thе physical, emotional, аnd spiritual state оf a person. Hоwеvеr, wellness primarily refers tо a person’s continual effort tо strive fоr peak performance аnd overall well-being іn thе physical, emotional, аnd spiritual realms.

It іѕ fоr thіѕ reason thаt corporate wellness plans аrе essential tо a company’s long-term success. Workplace health programs dо nоt just promote employee health, but аlѕо stress thе importance оf wellness-a continuous state оf health аnd well-being. Thе benefits оf long-term employee health fоr a company include lеѕѕ payment tоwаrdѕ health plans, happier workers, аnd higher production rates. Whіlе іt mау ѕееm tо bе common knowledge, a person whо іѕ physically healthy аnd emotionally stable wіll perform аt higher levels thаn аn employee whо іѕ dissatisfied wіth hіѕ оr hеr overall health. Thіѕ does nоt just benefit a company whіlе thе program іѕ іn place, but lоng аftеr аѕ a result оf іtѕ employees profiting frоm a healthy lifestyle. A wellness lifestyle encompasses mоrе thаn a person’s physical state. Emotional аnd spiritual health іѕ аlѕо taken іntо consideration. Nоw, thе importance оf good employee health ѕhоuld nоt bе downplayed. It іѕ extremely important tо encourage аll employees wіthіn a company tо endeavor tо reach a healthier state. Hоwеvеr, striving fоr good health ѕhоuld nоt end оnсе a person reaches thеіr desired health goals. A journey tоwаrdѕ wellness іѕ whаt constitutes effective corporate wellness plans.

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Vitamin A deficiency is blind: which foods protect them – and which are no-gos

Vitamin A is a generic term for several vital substances, including beta-carotene. A deficiency is rare, but there are risk groups, for example with liver or intestinal diseases. The signs of A-deficiency, how to avoid it and how dangerous an overdose can be.

Carrots are high in vitamin A and beta carotene, hence their name, and are important for the eyes and the immune system. Most of them do not know more about these vital substances – and this statement is sometimes even incorrect.

Vitamin A, provitamin A and beta carotene – what are they?

Because vitamin A is a complex of vitamins that includes retinol and retinyl esters . These forms are mainly found in animal foods.

There is also provitamin A as a precursor, which is found in plant-based foods. “There are also various representatives of provitamin A, the best known is beta carotene,” explains Andrea Henze, nutritionist at the University of Potsdam. The body has to convert provitamin A such as beta carotene into vitamin A so that it can be used. This processing takes place mainly in the intestines and liver.

Beta carotene – like all provitamins A – in turn belongs to the large group of carotenoids, of which there are more than 600 different ones. All of them have the property, as a natural coloring agent, of coloring plants yellow, orange, red and are therefore found in many orange-red vegetables. “But green vegetables such as spinach can also contain a lot of carotenoids,” adds the scientist, who is also researching the subject of vitamin A. In green vegetables, however, the orange-red color of the carotenoids is masked by the green plant substance chlorophyll.

The function of vitamin A.

Vitamin A is vital. “We need vitamin A for almost all body functions because it enables cells to differentiate,” explains Andrea Henze. This means that under the influence of this vital substance, the cell can become a skin cell, a mucous membrane or nerve cell. The other functions of vitamin A:

  • Immune system: Vitamin A primarily promotes the development of lymphocytes and thus a strong immune response to foreign substances and pathogens.
  • Skin and mucous membranes: It ensures healthy cell growth and cell integrity, thus preventing cracks and other damage, improving wound healing, i.e. regenerating. In this sense, vitamin A also acts on the lung epithelium and supports the constant renewal of the fine cilia that line the lung surface. It is similar in the intestine with the intestinal epithelium. Vitamin A is responsible for this constant renewal.
  • Blood formation: Vitamin A promotes the formation of red blood cells (erythrocytes) and thus improves the transport of oxygen into every cell.
  • Bones: It influences the storage of calcium phosphate in the bones.
  • Reproduction and fertility: Vitamin A is extremely important for the formation of healthy egg cells and sperm as well as for embryonic development. “We know from studies that vitamin A deficiency in animals often causes infertility or, if fertilization does take place, the offspring can have deformities of the limbs,” adds the scientist.
  • Seeing: Vitamin A is important in the eye as a pigment that enables the process of vision. It plays a key role in the nerve impulse that is triggered by the incidence of light and sent to the brain. Vitamin A, so to speak, mediates this signal cascade during the visual process.

Vitamin A does not have an antioxidant effect

From a purely chemical point of view, vitamin A is an antioxidant, but it does not play a role in the body in this context, for example because of its binding to transport proteins and its intracellular localization. As is often assumed, it is not a radical catcher and does not protect against “cell rust”, i.e. oxidation. “Vitamin A has no direct effect in this context, only an indirect one,” explains Andrea Henze more precisely: Vitamin A increases the absorption of vitamin E and selenium in the intestine, which have an antioxidant effect.

Pro-vitamins A such as beta carotene, on the other hand, can develop an antioxidant effect in the body before they are converted into vitamin A.

Why is this distinction important? Andrea Henze explains why it is best to use both animal and vegetable sources of vitamin A: Only then can the full spectrum of activity of these vital substances be used to the full.

Foods that are high in vitamin A and beta carotene

Among the foods of animal origin, the following are particularly rich in vitamin A:

  • Beef liver
  • Pork liver
  • poultry
  • butter
  • cheese
  • Eggs

When it comes to plant-based fruits and vegetables, these are good provitamin A suppliers:

  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • spinach
  • Apricots
  • paprika

Store and prepare foods rich in vitamin A correctly

Vitamin A is sensitive to light, so food should be stored in the dark. In addition, the vital substance is relatively heat-stable and fat-soluble. This means that it is bound to fat and can therefore best be absorbed by the body.

In the case of animal sources, this is usually given or due to the preparation, for example the extremely low-fat liver is fried in oil. For the preliminary stage vitamin A, however, the corresponding vegetables should be prepared together with fat. “Studies have shown that it is particularly well absorbed by the body when it is crushed and steamed with a little fat,” reports Andrea Henze. Grinding is important so that the provitamin is released from the cellular structures.

An example: carrot vegetables, chopped up and steamed with a little safflower oil, provide the body with the vitamin better than nibbling raw carrots.

This is how much vitamin A you need every day

According to the reference value of the German Nutrition Society, the daily requirement for vitamin A is around one milligram per day. However, this is a bit simplified. Other units are used in nutritional science, the requirement is given as so-called retinol equivalents (RE) or retinol activity equivalents (RAE), explains the scientist and explains in more detail. 1 milligram of retinol corresponds to 1 milligram of RE or RAE. For provitamin A carotenoids, the calculation is more complex because additional factors have to be taken into account:

  • Efficiency of absorption in the intestine (this is generally lower for carotenoids than for retinol or retinyl ester and depends on the food matrix)
  • Conversion efficiency of provitamin A into vitamin A (this differs greatly between the provitamin A carotenoids, it is highest for beta carotene)

When using RAE, a conversion factor of 12: 1 is assumed for beta carotene and 24: 1 for all other provitamin A carotenoids. This means that 12 milligrams of beta carotene or 24 milligrams of other provitamin A carotenoids must be ingested with food to meet the requirement of 1 milligram of RAE. If, on the other hand, the intake takes place in the form of retinol or retinyl esters (i.e. from animal foods), the required intake is correspondingly lower.

According to this calculation, the daily requirement for vitamin A is covered with 150 grams of carrots, for example, or with a mixed diet: 1 egg, 100 grams of Gouda cheese and 75 grams of carrots.

Vitamin A deficiency affects certain risk groups

Because these foods are so rich in vitamin A, there is virtually no deficiency in this vital substance in Germany and other industrialized nations. However, that’s only true at first glance. Because experts differentiate between primary deficiency and secondary causes when it comes to undersupply.

Primary means that too few foods rich in vitamin A are eaten. This is almost never the case in this country. Even those who only eat fast food are adequately supplied with vitamin A. Vegans and vegetarians also get enough vitamin A from the preliminary stage.

It is different, however, with a secondary deficiency. In this context, secondary is used when the deficiency arises as a result of illnesses. Digestive diseases that affect absorption, such as:

  • inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • chronic liver disease, because vitamin A can then no longer be stored
  • Diseases of the pancreas, because the digestive enzymes that are important for the absorption of the vitamin are not sufficiently produced.

In addition, there is a risk of undersupply if the vitamin A requirement is increased, this is the case with:

  • pronounced inflammatory processes
  • massive injuries such as burns when much of the skin surface is destroyed
  • Kidney disease, which causes vitamin A to be excreted in the urine without being used
  • Alcohol abuse because liver function is impaired
  • pregnancy

Vitamin A Deficiency: Symptoms can be dramatic

As a rule, these risk groups are well looked after by a doctor, so that symptoms of deficiency rarely occur. Exception: alcoholics and very overweight people with massive fatty liver who do not seek medical advice. Apart from these patients, little is known about vitamin A deficiency in Germany. “Vitamin A deficiency occurs mainly in developing countries, where it is the main cause of blindness,” adds the scientist. Because one of the signs of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness, which can increase to complete blindness and is then no longer treatable.

There are also many other causes of night blindness, which are primarily age-related. The adaptive ability of the eye declines, for example as a result of cataracts, macular degeneration or retinopathia pigmentosa (hereditary disease). In any case, a doctor should always clarify if twilight vision deteriorates.

The other signs are a bit unspecific

  • Susceptibility to infection
  • dry skin and eyes
  • brittle hair
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fertility disorders

Vitamin A deficiency is best compensated for naturally

Anyone who thinks they are undersupplied with vitamin A should simply use more of the corresponding fruits and vegetables. Overdosing is not possible because the body only converts as much provitamin as it needs and it still makes sense to store it.

Over-the-counter supplements are the next step. It is best to get advice from a doctor and trust products from Germany. “Over-the-counter products only contain provitamin A, so overdosing is difficult, and absorption in the intestine is reduced if there is sufficient quantity,” explains Andrea Henze in more detail.

Beware of vitamin A supplements

Vitamin A supplements, on the other hand, can be more problematic, and poisoning is possible if overdosed. In Germany such products are therefore not freely available, but in other countries they are. “Vitamin A supplements should only be used under medical supervision and not for self-medication,” warns Andrea Henze.

Vitamin A poisoning – the first signs

The excess supply of vitamin A does not slow down the body, as is usually the case with provitamin A. The excess vitamin A is mainly stored in the liver; if it becomes too much, the detoxification organ can no longer work. “It leads to intoxication,” says the scientist. In pregnant women, this can also have negative consequences for the embryo.

The signs of vitamin A hypervitaminosis:

  • Nausea and headache ,
  • the bone tissue becomes porous.

If the oversupply lasts longer, it can even lead to death.

Incidentally, high doses of vitamin A supplements also led to the increase in lung cancer among smokers, previous studies warn.

There is no risk of intoxication from vitamin A through food – with one exception

What is certain is that over-the-counter supplements, which mainly contain beta-carotene, are usually harmless even if taken regularly. It is different with products that contain vitamin A, such as retinol. With them, intoxication is quite possible and can occur with a daily intake of 3 milligrams or more. By the way, retinol can also be found in many care products to keep the skin young and firm. “In this context, there is no need to fear overdosing, the substance does not pass from the skin into the bloodstream,” reassures the expert.

And hypervitaminosis A is hardly to be feared with food either. “Unless you eat liver several times a week,” warns Andrea Henze. Liver can contain over 30 milligrams per 100 grams of goods and thus exceeds the daily requirement by more than 30 times!

A historical anecdote shows how tragic this can end: More than 100 years ago, three researchers set out on an Antarctic expedition, Douglas Mawson, Belgrave Ninnis and Xavier Mertz. The expedition was not a lucky star, the men had to gradually eat the sled dogs in their distress in order not to starve to death. Mertz is said to have eaten the livers as well, subsequently complained of stomach pain, and his skin was partially peeling. After he fell into delirium, he passed away. Experts suspect that it was vitamin A poisoning from the dogs’ liver .

Therefore do not demonize the liver

Nobody knows for sure whether the story is really true. However, it is scientifically proven that hypervitaminosis A from natural foods is not to be feared, unless one eats a liver daily. Apart from that, the liver is an extremely valuable food from a nutritional point of view, contains vitamin A, iron, zinc , copper, vitamin B12 and folic acid, the supply of which is sometimes critical.

The most sensible recommendation: A lack of vitamin A can best be prevented with a balanced mixed diet, i.e. eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, whole grain and low-fat dairy products, sometimes a little fish or poultry.

Magnesium is vital – you need to look out for it to stay healthy

Magnesium is involved in hundreds of different processes in the body. Therefore, the symptoms of a magnesium deficiency can be different. What surprising signs are possible, who is particularly at risk and how you can intelligently compensate for a magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium is particularly well known in connection with magnesium deficiency and cramps. This applies to nocturnal calf cramps, but also massive cramps in athletes. But this important role that magnesium takes on for well-functioning muscles, only reflects a tiny aspect of its very broad spectrum of activity with diverse, vital functions.

What is magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral and belongs to the group of metals. This mineral is essential. This means that the body cannot produce magnesium itself, but the mineral is vital and must therefore be supplied with the diet. It is then absorbed through the intestinal walls and gets into the blood. Any excess is excreted through the kidneys with the urine. High fat foods, oxalates and phosphates can slow down the absorption of magnesium in the intestine.

Around 25 grams of magnesium are present in the organism (in a person weighing 70 kilograms). A good half is in the bones, a little less in the muscles and only one percent in the blood. The bones also act as magnesium stores. However, the magnesium content in bones decreases over the course of life.

In addition, minerals are divided into bulk and trace elements. Magnesium is one of the bulk elements because the body needs relatively large amounts of it, unlike trace elements such as iodine and copper.

Why Magnesium is Vital

Magnesium is involved in the activation of over 300 enzymes in the body, including in the protein structure. The mineral takes on decisive tasks for energy and cell metabolism and regulates many vital functions, including:

  • Impulse transmission in muscle and nerve cells, magnesium ensures normal conduction of excitation in nerves and muscles. In connection with nerves, magnesium also supports brain functions and via the muscles, for example, the heart muscle. Adequate magnesium intake even seems to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death, a study suggests.
  • Magnesium influences the heart rhythm and blood pressure.
  • It relaxes muscles, nerves and blood vessels and can reduce the production of stress hormones. This normalization of the excitability of nerves and the vascular tension is probably responsible for the fact that with an adequate supply of magnesium, among other things, the number of migraine attacks demonstrably decreases, as the analysis of several studies showed.
  • Magnesium can reduce the clumping of blood platelets, so it can support normal blood clotting. The risk of having a stroke decreases when the body receives enough magnesium, further research shows .
  • It is involved in the utilization of glucose and in blood sugar control. The risk of type 2 diabetes has been shown to decrease if the mineral is taken in sufficiently.
  • Magnesium is an important antagonist of calcium, prevents too much calcium from being stored, for example in muscles, but also vessels and organs. Magnesium can prevent the formation of kidney stones, which often consist of calcium oxalate.
  • In addition, magnesium can neutralize too much stomach acid somewhat and thus reduce the risk of heartburn.
  • In conjunction with calcium and vitamin D, magnesium controls the bone metabolism. Among other things, magnesium supports the activation of vitamin D in the kidneys. Magnesium is therefore an important factor in preventing osteoporosis. Already existing osteoporosis could be slowed down somewhat by adequate intake, as a study suggests.
  • The mineral regulates important messenger substances that also play a role in the mental mood. Studies show that magnesium can have a similar effect on mild depression as certain antidepressants , the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). 

Overall, these and similar studies provide strong indications that an adequate supply of magnesium, including through dietary supplements, is associated with a lower risk of numerous common diseases.

Still muscles at 70 like at 30? Doctor will explain how to do it

Older people often do not do sports. However, this is exactly the wrong way to protect the joints. Because especially after a certain age, the muscles break down rapidly. That can be dangerous. But with simple training you can maintain your strength well into old age.

If you rest, you rust. There is a lot of truth in this banal wisdom – especially when it comes to muscles and joints. Those who are young have often integrated sport into everyday life as a matter of course. But with age, people often give up. That is fatal.

Because it is precisely at the age of three that there is a significant drop in performance, explains Karl-Dieter Heller, chief physician at the Orthopedic Clinic Duchess Elisabeth Hospital. The muscles begin to break down. Right here it is called to hold against.

The orthopedic surgeon is certain: “With good training, even as a 70-year-old, I can still have the muscles of a moderately trained 30-year-old. Because the healthy old person reacts to stimuli just like the healthy young person. “

If you don’t do anything, you lose your muscles. But: It can also be trained back quickly.

Muscles break down rapidly

From the age of 55 the muscles break down faster than before, from the age of 70 very quickly. “That means that by the age of 70, around 40 percent of muscle mass is lost if you do nothing,” explains Heller. Consequently, people lose strength, endurance and speed. A lack of mobility, coordination and balance increases the risk of falling.

That’s how much sport people should do in old age

An optimal exercise program in old age would be a combination of 60 percent endurance training , 30 percent training in flexibility and agility and 10 percent strength and endurance training (a combination of strength and endurance that trains the various muscle groups with little weight and a lot of repetitions.

“The prerequisite for intensive sporting activity is of course that it is safe for the doctor to stress the circulatory system,” adds the joint expert. The pulse should not exceed certain limits. This is especially true for the untrained.

Endurance training has the greatest health effect : 45 minutes three times a week. As a result, everyone slowly but continuously builds up muscles. If you want to supplement this with strength training, make sure that you do not fall into pressure breathing.

For muscle building Heller recommends an exercise program. Flexibility training is important to keep the joints flexible. For example, do swing, twist, or pendulum exercises three times a day for 15 minutes. The coordination can be trained through games, dancing or similar sports.

Nobody is too old to train

The skeletal muscles can be trained at any age, so that specific exercises can stop and reverse the loss of muscles. Heller knows experiments that have shown: Even those older than 90 can build up muscles again – even if they no longer achieve the status of a 50-year-old.

“It is essential that the elderly remain active,” emphasizes the orthopedic surgeon. Regular exercise is no longer essential, but everyone should exercise.

At least avoid these inactivity traps, like

  • Escalators,
  • Elevators and
  • Treadmills.

Instead:

  • Better to go shopping on foot.
  • Use your bike instead of driving your car.
  • Practice demanding hobbies: hiking, swimming, dancing and gardening.

“That is what every old person can do excellently and he should do without technical aids,” explains Heller. If at all possible, the lawn mower should be pushed and it does not have to be a ride-on mower.

Strengthen muscles and joints to prevent falls

Sport and exercise in old age not only keep you fit, but also make a decisive contribution to falling prevention. Because older people in particular often fall down. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that your joints are no longer as stable. On the other hand, the muscles lose their strength.

When that all comes together and people also see and hear worse, it becomes dangerous. That means, according to Heller: “For this reason, training and sport are of inestimable value, especially for stopping aging.”