HAWMC Day 7: World Health Day

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Welcome to the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge brought together by WEGO Health – a social network for all health activists.  Again, I am participating in the annual Writer’s Month Challenge in which I will be writing about my health activism and health condition based upon given prompts.

Tuesday April 7th: World Health Day 

April 7th is World Health Day – so let’s talk about daily nutrition and diet.  After your diagnosis, did you alter your diet or health routine?  If so, how so?  How do you maintain a health regiment?

Water.  Leonardo di Vinci, famously said that “Water is the driver of nature.” Drinking plenty of water and keeping well hydrated is vital for a healthy functioning brain and nervous system.  Therefore, when living with a neurological disorder, hydration and proper nutrition are not only critical to sustaining health but can also prevent a progression of the condition, or worsening of symptoms.

After being diagnosed with a neurological therefore, I take steps to ensure that I drink enough water throughout the day and even downloaded an app for my phone to remind myself to drink a glass of water, as living with symptoms such as fatigue, and brain fog, it can be really easy to forget!  And nowadays, water is generally the main beverage that I choose to drink.  I have never been one to drink hot drinks, such as tea or coffee, although I do enjoy the occasional hot chocolate for a treat!  But knowing all of the benefits of water for not just the brain, but the whole body I am happy drinking it, knowing I am doing something good for my health.

Doctors estimate that we need to drink around 8 glasses of water a day
Doctors estimate that we need to drink around 8 glasses of water a day

Since my diagnosis, however, I would not say I have taken huge alterations to my diet or daily health regiment.  I have been aware more of my diet and the importance of maintaining a healthy weight, especially as the weakness in my legs, and the other symptoms have made it difficult to regularly take part in cardiovascular exercise.  I am now therefore more aware of what I eat, and if we are having a take-away or eating out, then I will choose a dish that is healthy and not overloaded with salt or fat.  Recently, I have been opting to eat dishes with chicken, or seafood, especially king prawns, which not only have plenty of protein but are also low in fat.

Over the past couple of years, I have also developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which can result in agonising stomach cramps, bloating, and diarrhea.  As a result of this new diagnosis, I now have to be careful what I eat, especially for any potential trigger foods.  For example, dairy products can often be a trigger for an IBS flare, in particular cream and to have ensure that I ask for any desserts or my order of a hot chocolate not to be topped off with the whipped cream.  Luckily, in terms of the IBS, I have found a great friend in peppermint tea, as if a bad flare of the symptoms occur, after a mug or tea of the tea, I often find that the symptoms such as the stomach cramps eases off.  Yay for peppermint tea!

Would recommend for anyone with IBS to keep some peppermint tea handy in case of a flare
Would recommend for anyone with IBS to keep some peppermint tea handy in case of a flare

Exercise, as previously mentioned is often very difficult when living with a chronic illness, due to debilitating symptoms, such as pain, fatigue and weakness inhibits us to be able to do so.  However, last year I joined, what is known as a feel-good factory.  It is different from a conventional gym, as the equipment there consists of toning tables rather than giving a cardiovascular workout.  These toning tables are designed to rebuild muscle strength, tone, improve posture, increase circulation and mobility, just some of the examples of the benefits of the equipment.  And as the equipment consists of chairs and beds, I am not at risk of falls due to legs giving way.  Although I may not have seen improvements in the muscle strength and tone in my legs, it may be that without regularly working out at the feel-good factory, the weakness may be even worse.

FeelGood Factory in Llantrisant - photograph from their Facebook page
FeelGood Factory in Llantrisant – photograph from their Facebook page

All these steps, may not have had any effect on the symptoms caused by my neurological condition, which is evident by the recent worsening of my symptoms, however by taking small steps in maintaining a healthy regiment such as drinking plenty of water, and eating a healthy low-fat diet I can not only have control over aspects of my health that I can control but also helps to avoid even more health problems often caused by an unhealthy lifestyle.

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Exercise: Taking back control from symptoms…

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Welcome to the Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge brought together by WEGO Health – a social network for all health activists.  Again, I am participating in the annual Writer’s Month Challenge in which I will be writing about my health activism and health condition based upon prompts given.

Today’s prompt reads as follows:

Fitness Friday…What do you do to stay fit?  Tell us about your efforts in maintaining a healthy lifestyle

Living with a chronic illness can often mean that you are not in control over a number of different aspects in your life.  More often than that not, your life is controlled by the symptoms associated with your condition.  For example, on the days where the weakness and trembling in my legs is very bad then I am unable to get out of bed because I can hardly stand or walk.  Therefore, my life is being controlled by symptoms because my ability to do certain tasks is dependant on the severity of the trembling and weakness in my legs.  However, an aspect of our lives that we do have control over is our personal fitness and general health. Taking part in regular exercise and eating healthy are things that are in our control.

It took me a long while, however, to find exercise that suited my abilities and symptoms due to my neurological condition.  Due to the pain, weakness and trembling in the legs I am unable to take part in activities such as running, or going to the gym.  Furthermore, my hand and eye coordination is also affected and therefore, I am not suited to be able to take part in sports which require good hand and eye coordination.  In the past, I have tried pilates and yoga but as the balance problems associated with the neurological condition I live with, I eventually had to give it up due to the falls I was experiencing when taking part in these exercise regimes.  There was also the Wii Fit, that my parents and I bought together for Christmas one year, but as the balance problems causes a swaying motion when standing, the Wii Fit board would no longer register me, as it would constantly tell me to stand still, which I was doing to the best of my ability!

Then the perfect solution found me whilst watching QVC on television (well, Mum had it on much to my dismay!).  The special value item for that day was an AeroPilates machine.  Aeropilates is a machine that incorporates basic Pilates movements whilst supporting the spine, joints and muscles of the body and uses resistance to strengthen muscles that are weak and lengthen muscles which are tight.  The machine has a bed as all the exercises require either sitting or lying down.   Therefore, this form of exercise is perfect for me as it is an exercise that I can still do even when my legs are weak as it requires either lying or sitting and in addition I do not have the worry of suffering a fall and injuring myself.  Furthermore, this form of exercise also concentrates on areas that I need to work on to prevent further deterioration of symptoms as the resistance training is designed to strengthen and tighten muscles which are weak and tight, which mine are due to the spastic paraparesis.  The machine can also be used as a rebounding machine by which the body moves back and forth thereby elevating your heart rate and providing an excellent cardiovascular workout.  It is a great machine, especially for those with problems similar to mine.  To find out more about this form of exercise, then watch this great video by Marjolein Brugman who developed the machine and form of exercise:

More recently, I have also started going to a place nearby to where I live called ‘The FeelGood Factory‘.  This is not a conventional gym, but they instead provide power assisted toning equipment.  These pieces of equipment (there are 12 pieces of equipment in total) facilitates both passive and active exercise and as a result can be used by anyone regardless of age, mobility, weight or fitness level.  Furthermore, they are even suitable for those with medical conditions such as MS, fibromyalgia, ME and arthritis.  The circuit of machines exercises all the major muscle groups in the body, and you can expect results whether you actively use the machines or allow the machines to work your body.   To find more about this particular form of exercise then watch the film below:

Not only does The FeelGood Factory provides a relaxing and safe workout but it is a lovely place to go with a lot of lovely and friendly faces and you are always guaranteed interesting conversations.  I go approximately twice a week and me and my carer always look forward to going and seeing everyone we have had the pleasure of meeting there.   If you suffer from a chronic illness and live near Llantrisant then I cannot recommend this enough and I have seen great results even after two months with various parts of my body feeling toned.  It has also given me psychological benefits as I feel more relaxed, happy and even confident since I first started attending The FeelGood Factory.

There are other FeelGood Factories around the UK, to see if there is one near you then visit the Shapemaster website here.

In addition to exercising as regularly as possible, I of course take control over what goes in my body by maintaining a healthy and balanced diet, which is just as important as exercise for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Of course, I still enjoy chocolate on occasion, but I do tend to avoid junk food and instead eat a balanced and sensible diet.

Unsure of the Path I’m On…

Hey Friends

Me again, for another post to my blog.  Hope all of you are OK.  I have to admit, lately I am struggling – feeling down, alone, sometimes I feel as if I have no friends or no-one that I can turn to – although absolutely no idea as to why I have been feeling like this…

May be down to the deterioration of my condition – the dizziness, which has been constant for some time now, seems to have become more intense, as well as the episodes of vertigo becoming much more frequent, and are often times are worse to deal with than the constant dizziness, especially when you take into account the visual disturbances – vision becoming foggy or blurry and unable to focus on anything, sometimes not even being able to recognise what I am looking at.

As well as that, my legs seem to be gradually becoming worse too – experiencing many ‘drop attacks’ in which my legs suddenly give way from under me, with no warning.  That is the one of the hardest things to deal with also – the unpredictability of it all – going out perhaps, not knowing whether my legs will collapse, and when you take into account that often I find myself often unable to get up after these ‘attacks’ making plans to go anywhere becomes very difficult.

Take one example: on a Monday, I volunteer for a local Mental Health charity, which I have done for a couple of years now.  So, on my way, my Dad takes me to a local supermarket to go and buy some lunch, and last Monday was no exception.  However, whilst  buying my lunch, my legs gave way, and like on several occasions found difficulty in being able to get back on my feet again as my legs were so weak, and felt as if they were trembling a lot, so consequently  my Dad had to take me back to the car and buy lunch for me.  Legs never really recovered after that, so felt as if I wasn’t much use at the Centre, but often is nice just to get out of the house for a few hours.

Later on, had another appointment with the doctor.  Basically, told him of all the difficulties I have been having, the seemingly progression and deterioration of the condition, etc.  And once again was told “unfortunately, with conditions like these it isn’t much that we can do, and  no drugs are going to help with the weakness…”, basically another way of saying “There isn’t anything we can do, you just have to live with it.”  Mum even asked whether there was any possibility that I may need to use a wheelchair in the future, and the doctor just nodded his head in agreement, that may be my future…  I was shocked and a little upset, as I honestly never really thought that I may need one, people have said that maybe I should, but never really thought that I may need to actually us one, more so for going out, as still need to use the muscles so they don’t atrophy.  But if I need one, then so be it, as there are worse things in life, hey?

I have been often told that I need to exercise and make use of the muscles as often and as much as I can, however, as I am unable to stand for very long, it makes finding any forms of exercise that I am able to do very difficult, my legs and problems with balance and co-ordination, etc. My exercise bike has been increasingly difficult to use as often feel that I am going to fall off, and the Wii Fit that we have does not often recognise me during some of the games as when you are required to stand still, my body is swaying back and forth…

However, I have recently bought a machine that hopefully may increase the strength in legs (although isn’t  guaranteed that it will work) and also keep me fit and in shape.  It is called an Aeropilates Machine  –  a machine that incorporates pilates exercises with a resistance machine….

AeroPilates 4695 4 Corded Machine and Cardio Board
AeroPilates 4695 4 Corded Machine and Cardio Board

“Pilates was invented by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s as a way of incorporating a full body workout to build muscle and core strength. Over time pilates has come to be the preferred means of exercise for a wide range of people from athletes and dancers to those with common household injuries like injured backs. It’s benefits are wide-reaching and provide not only fitness and toning, but also help with injuries that you might have. An aero pilates machine apply the basic principles and effectively ‘super charge’ your workout so that you reap the rewards of pilates with an aerobic workout that aids with blood flow and muscle growth.”

Anyway, I’ll be off now, doing some exercises on my new AeroPilates machine – fingers crossed that I will see some benefits soon…