A stronger approach to cholesterol management

We all know that living with high cholesterol can lead to all sorts of anxiety and stress about the potential health repercussions. Repercussions that can be very real. Real, but manageable, and hopefully avoidable.

That is after all why the Medicinal Nutrition Institute invested so heavily in researching plant-based ingredients, establishing the optimal blends of Continue reading “A stronger approach to cholesterol management”

Avoiding Technology Before Your Child’s Bedtime

Sleep is one of the most important parts of staying mentally and physically healthy. Quality sleep is essential to self-regulation, immune function,and cardiovascular health, development of the brain, memory, attention and motivation. Inadequate sleep, has been associated with poor mental health outcomes, including ADHD-like symptoms, low mood, anxiety, depression, poor performance at work and school, and even diabetes and heart disease.

One of the major contributors to poor sleep is digital media. This is especially true in children as they have not developed an ability to self-regulate and are more likely to spend extended periods on their phones, computer, or in front of the TV. Use of technology before bed has been shown to lead to trouble falling and maintaining sleep, less sleep overall, a lower quality of sleep and more sleep disturbances.

Technology leads to negative sleep outcomes for a number of reasons:

  • Light emissions: Light tells your brain that it is day time, and prevents the brain from relaxing and preparing for sleep. One of the major reasons is due to light’s effect on sleep/wake hormones. The blue light emitted from LED screens reduces the synthesis of melatonin – the sleep promoting hormone- and the removal of cortisol, a hormone involved in keeping you awake and alert. Natural sleep-wake cycles therefore become disrupted.
  • Stimulating content: Exciting and stimulating information can cause emotional and hormonal responses (such as release of adrenalin) that do not go away immediately. These cause the brain to remain active and alert even if the light and stimulation is removed. They can also cause bad dreams or anxiety which result in trouble sleeping.
  • Motivation to stay awake: Social media, TV programs and video games are available and active 24 hours a day. There is constantly something to take part in or someone to speak to. The fear of missing out, or the urge to watch just one more program can cause children to stay up long past their bed time, or be woken up in the middle of the night by a message or notification on their phone. Increased use of technology also prevents children from taking part in other activities which lead to healthy sleep, like exercise.

In order to help your children get a better night’s sleep, a number of household rules will need to be put in place. Importantly, these rules should apply to everyone in the house so that children are more likely to adhere to them.Read more on behavioural modelling here.

Use some of the following as tips for improving sleep quality in your household:

  • Prevent digital media use before bed time. Set a ‘black-out time’ and enforce it. The TV should be switched off and cell-phones placed in an inaccessible location at least 30 minutes before bed time. For more highly stimulating activities, like video games, this should be at least an hour. As parents, keep in mind that children model what their parents do. If they are not allowed to watch TV but you are they will put up more of a fight. Background noise of the TV while trying to fall asleep can also be distracting.
  • Replace use of digital media in this time with less stimulating activities. These can be reading, board or card games, family discussions, bath time, playing music, art or writing. These activities will prevent your children from becoming bored and craving digital media, help them develop other skills and family relationships, as well as allow their brain to relax before bed.
  • See the bedroom as a sanctuary for sleep. Remove all technology from the bedroom where possible and don’t allow your children to take their phones to bed. This will also help you keep better track of their screen time and what they may be doing while online.
  • Encourage exercise and other activities in place of digital entertainment, especially during the day. Exposure to daylight and use of energy will help train your children’s sleep-wake cycle, as well as use up extra energy that may be available to keep them awake at night.
  • Talk to your children, especially teenagers, about the benefits of good sleep, and set the example. If they are sporty, explain how it will impact their performance, if academic: how their grades are suffering, or if social: how good sleep helps them look healthy and attractive.


Sleep is extremely important to your child’s mental and physical health. Through following these techniques you and your children will have better quality sleep, and as a result, a better quality of life.

SleepVance Kids has been developed to optimise sleep quality, duration and sleep patterns.  It contains a unique blend of plant derived (phytochemical) ingredients and nutrients involved in regulating the sleep cycle.

An Organised Work Space Reduces Homework Time

Procrastination, or the delay of tasks that need to be completed, can be affected by both internal (personality, motivation and concentration and so on) and external (a distracting or disorganized environment) factors. The ability to concentrate is also highly dependent on what is going on around someone when they sit down to try work.

It is important to address all these issues if your child has difficulty focusing on or getting started with their work. While internal factors can take a lot of work to improve, optimizing the environment in which your child does their schoolwork can have much more immediate results and is fairly easy to address. One of the most effective ways to achieve this is to ensure they have a specific homework space conducive to all of their needs.

To start with, designate an area where your child can sit and complete homework. This area should be away from household traffic, quiet and free of distractions. It should also be comfortable, well-lit and visible or easily accessible to you as a parent. Importantly, the area should be work focused, with only items that will be needed for study. Feel free to decorate the area so it is not boring. Creating this will help set up a routine in their work, associating this space with getting things done and minimizing distractions. It will also help you monitor them and provide assistance easier than if they are sent to their room to do homework.

Once you have decided on a space, make sure it is stocked with all the stationary that may be required by a child, including pencils, scissors, glue, calculators, dictionaries,paper and textbooks. By ensuring everything they need to finish their homework is available within arm’s reach, you will minimize the time spent trying to find things all over the house. Ensure you keep track of what is being used and restock appropriately. Make sure the desk is well organised so that objects can be easily found and accessed.

Creating opportunities for your child to organize their work can also be very useful, especially in terms of what tasks still needs to be done and what tasks have been completed. For instance,two baskets can be used, with one basket containing work that needs to be completed, and the other the work that has been completed. Due dates and important events can be organised on a calendar or check list. A pin-board with one half labelled “to do” and the other “done” can also be used. Notes with tasks that need to be done can be written down as soon as your child gets home from school and pinned up in “to do”, and then moved over to “done” as they are finished.All of these techniques make it easier for you and your child to keep track of what needs to be done, as well as allow your child to feel a sense of accomplishment as they fill their basket or board with finished work. As the work would always be visible to the child, they would be less likely to forget about it.

The last step of homework should be tidying up. Help your child keep the area organised and tidy. This is both a useful skill and will ensure their workspace remains optimized for concentration.

Through allocating a designated area to do homework and ensuring it contains everything that your child will need to do their work, you will be helping introduce structure in their work routine, minimizing time wasted and distraction as well as helping them learn to stay organized and keep track of goals. For more helpful tips on improving your child’s concentration, motivation and performance, read some of our other articles such as how to Help Your Child Break Tasks Into Small Manageable Sections Or Parts.

NeuroVance kids and NeuroVance Focus has been developed to optimise concentration, brain function and calmness and combat the effects of stress on your immune system.

Inactivity and your health – Sitting could be just as bad as smoking

Why is sitting bad for you?
It is not only sitting, but inactivity (sedentary behaviour) in general that is bad for you. Until about 200 years ago, people were not inactive for more than 5 hours a day (excluding sleeping), and most periods of inactivity were broken up relatively often with movement. These days, our work environment, how we spend leisure time (watching TV, spending time on the computer or phone) and how we travel, can lead to some of us remaining inactive for up to 15 hours a day.
This lack of movement is one of the main reasons that so many chronic diseases have become more common. Physical inactivity is bad for us – surprisingly even for our brains – resulting in reduced muscle mass and strength, metabolic problems, and lower fitness. In fact, some reports suggest that sitting could be killing even more people than smoking. Specifically, sedentary behaviour, including sitting and TV watching, has been associated with increased all-cause mortality, reduced heath in general, and over 35 chronic diseases and conditions.

What counts as a sedentary lifestyle?
Inactivity is defined as any activity where we our metabolic rate is less than 1.5 times of that when we are resting and we are in a sitting or reclining position. Light physical activity, classified as strolling, cleaning the house, or cooking food, does not fall under this definition. In general, inactivity while standing, or even squatting, does not seem to be as detrimental – most likely due to the fact that major muscle groups are still active. In order to be sedentary, you need to be inactive for long periods of time – typically over an hour. In order to be classified as living a sedentary lifestyle, these bouts of inactivity need to add up to more than 6 hours a day – the point where studies have suggested that a significant risk for disease begins developing.

What happens when I’m inactive?
It is important to note that all of the following are independent of the amount of exercise you get, and therefore you might be at risk even if you exercise regularly. When you are sedentary, your muscles, especially the big ones in the lower part of your body, bear less weight and experience abnormal activation patterns. This leads to stress and strain on the back, neck and shoulders, as well as less blood flow to muscles. In addition to strain, your muscles switch off, decreasing your metabolic rate, and leading to metabolic changes, such as decreased sugar and fat metabolism.
These changes resulting from inactivity set in rapidly, and even a day of inactivity can reduce insulin sensitivity by 39%. Immediately after becoming sedentary, calorie burning processes slow down to about 1 calorie per minute (5% above basal energy expenditure). After an hour inactivity, enzymes involved in fat and glucose metabolism lose activity, resulting in fat deposition instead of metabolism. Within a week of adopting a sedentary lifestyle, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides begin to rise. Within two weeks of sitting muscle degeneration begins to set in, even if you work out. After a year of inactivity (while still exercising), effects such as weight gain, bone degeneration and high cholesterol, become noticeable.

What specific diseases are caused by a sedentary lifestyle?
A sedentary lifestyle has been associated with at least 35 chronic diseases, many of which you will recognise as being caused by other unhealthy habits imposed through our modern lifestyles. Prolonged inactivity has also been linked to chronic and increased inflammation, which can lead to numerous diseases, including those following, and has been heavily linked to metabolic syndrome (MetS).

Metabolic syndrome (MetS)
Metabolic syndrome has been widely associated with inactivity, as sedentary behaviour results in widespread changes in metabolism. Indeed, each extra hour of sitting may be associated with up to 19% increased risk of developing type II diabetes, and if you are inactive for most of your day, your risk of developing metabolic syndrome may be as much as 75% higher than if you weren’t.

Inactivity leads to worsened blood glucose management and insulin resistance. This happens rapidly after becoming sedentary, and insulin resistance has been one of the most significant conditions related to inactivity. In fact, people who sit the most have double the risk of developing type II diabetes, and a gain an additional 10% for each hour of inactivity.

Obesity or weight gain is most likely linked to a sedentary lifestyle for two main reasons. Firstly, due to less energy use and metabolic changes, and secondly, due to habits that are often associated with sedentary pursuits, such as snacking while watching TV. Not only is fat storage increased while sedentary, but its deposition is also altered. Most of this fat is deposited around the organs, such as the heart and liver, or is abdominal, which is extremely dangerous and further leads to MetS and other health issues.

Cardiovascular disease
Cardiovascular disease is one of the most well supported disease areas associated with prolonged inactivity. Indeed, the risk of cardiovascular mortality increases by at least 5% for each two hours of sitting time, and some reports state that people who sit the most are twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease.
Specific conditions associated with sedentary time include heart attack, increased blood pressure, pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis, venous thromboembolism, as well as increased cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

A number of cancers have been associated with inactivity, including colorectal, breast, endometrial, ovary, and prostate cancer. Research suggests that inactivity for at least 7 hours a day may result in at least 13% likelihood of dying from cancer. A main determining factor may be weight gain, leading to insulin resistance, chronic inflammation and hormonal disruptions, all of which are known to lead to cancer.

Impaired mental health
While research is still unclear in some cases, a sedentary lifestyle has been associated with a number of mental conditions. It has been reported that the risk for developing a mental disorder is increased by up to 31% in adults who watch more than 6 hours of TV per day compared to those who watch less than one and a half hours. This is likely due to both physical factors and psychological factors. Physical activity stimulates numerous biological pathways linked to mental function, maintenance and growth of neurons, reduced inflammation, release of mood modulating chemicals, and is often associated with better mental stimulation). Psychological factors related to inactivity, especially in terms of leisure time pursuits, include impaired social relationships and isolation in general. Of course, in this context, the type of sedentary behaviour is important, and activities, such as reading, playing board games, and crafts, that stimulate mental function are encouraged, especially in the elderly.
Specific conditions which have some evidence of being linked to a sedentary lifestyle include depression, anxiety, reduced academic performance and IQ, impaired memory and concentration, poor social performance, and low self-esteem. Sedentary behaviour has also been linked to worse mental aging (of up to 43%).

Musculoskeletal disorders
Our bodies are not designed to spend long periods of time in a sitting posture, and only use as much energy as is needed. Prolonged inactivity can therefore result in unusual neck and back curvature, back pain, neck and shoulder pain, and other issues such as carpel tunnel syndrome, muscle degeneration and osteoporosis.

Reduced sleep quality
Poor sleep patterns and quality are associated with many detrimental health impacts, including metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and poor mental health. Increased inactivity has in turn been associated with poor sleep quality, duration, frequent waking and apnoea, further adding to the risk of a sedentary lifestyle.

Will doing exercise help?
Exercise can result in improvements in many areas of health, but it appears that many bodily changes during inactivity are independent of the level of exercise – so even if you work out every day, sitting for the rest of it can put you at higher risk of developing this range of diseases

How can I reduce my risk?
The best way is to move as much as possible. Even a minor improvement is better than nothing, so stand up, walk, move your limbs, and change posture as often as possible. Breaks as short as a few minutes every hour can lead to a major improvement in the body’s metabolism and risk reduction, not only improving your health, but also your comfort, work performance, and concentration

It is suggested that at least 2 to 4 cumulative hours of light activity in place of sitting should remove most of the risk associated with a sedentary lifestyle. This would be best implemented as breaks of a few minutes every half an hour, where light to moderate activity is undertaken, although even just standing up can help.
Although standing can help to reduce the effect of inactivity, don’t overdo it. Movement is more important. Standing still for too long can result in discomfort, and a number of cardiovascular disease risks. The most important rule to remember is “everything in moderation”, extremes are bad.

Some simple suggestions to become more active include:

  • Stand up and do something whenever your job or leisure time allows it – while eating lunch or taking a phone call, during the advertisements on TV, while your game is loading, take walking meetings, or walk to your colleague’s office instead of emailing.
  • Some people might like to use a standing desk, with a highchair to sit at for brief periods when you become tired.
  • Park further away from the office or mall, or use the bathroom on the next floor.
  • Use the stairs whenever you can.
  • Move your limbs around while sitting.

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