Tag Archives | health

Image by Peter Hellberg, Flickr

Image by Peter Hellberg, Flickr

When there are finals to study for and frat parties to attend, our health usually takes a back burner during college. Whether this happens intentionally or unintentionally, severe consequences are usually the result.

No One Worries About Vitamin Deficiencies

For many college students, the extent of our concern for nutrition extends to:

  • What seems most edible at the dining hall
  • Which foods can safely be prepared in a microwave
  • How many restaurants deliver
  • The best foods to keep you awake during a late night cram session
  • The easiest things to eat while walking to class
  • Whatever sops up alcohol the quickest

Even if you are the exception to the norm and actually try to eat healthy, there is still a very real possibility you aren’t doing enough.

Nutrients are complicated. They need to be consumed at certain times with certain other foods and at a certain rate each day. College students have enough to deal with—worrying about the recommended daily intake for zinc isn’t high on anyone’s to-do list.

But it’s a pretty safe bet that you will, at some point, think about vitamins. The question is…will you think about them now while you can still do something to guard your health or will you only acknowledge them when you are faced with a deficiency?

Vitamin B12 Takes the Cake

A vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common forms of nutrient shortages. This is especially true for college students.

Let’s take a look at some of the most probable reasons for a vitamin B12 deficiency in college.

  1. Your poor eating habits started a long time ago. For most of us, our hectic schedules started back in high school. We’ve been eating poorly for a long time. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning you need to consume it each day. However, the liver is capable of storing some of the nutrient for a short period of time.

    Unfortunately, the liver can only store vitamin B12 for a maximum of five years. That means, by the time you reach college, there is a good chance your B12 levels have already been depleted.

  2. You’re still eating unhealthy foods. Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products — beef, pork, lamb, seafood, milk, eggs, etc. It isn’t present in Ramen Noodles, Pop Tarts or Easy Mac. If your diet revolves around those things (and a microwave), you’re doing serious damage to your body.

Getting Help

Let’s be real. You aren’t going to snarf a steak dinner every night of the week. Even if your schedule allowed for a sit-down healthy meal on a regular basis, your wallet sure wouldn’t.

It is probably safe to say you won’t be able to get enough vitamin B12 from your diet alone. You’ll probably need supplementation.

There are two forms of supplementation: oral pills and vitamin injections.

Oral pills might seem like the lesser of two evils. After all, who voluntarily agrees to poke themselves? But for many, vitamin B12 injections are actually the better option.

Oral pills need to be taken once a day (sometimes twice). Vitamin B12 injections, on the other hand, are usually only a once-a-week dose. You’ll only need to remember your supplement once a week, rather than every day.

If you want to talk to someone about the different forms of supplementation, ask your doctor or campus nurse.

Fix it Now!

A vitamin B12 deficiency is only one nutrient shortage you need to worry about. If you are short on B12, you are probably missing out on other essentials too.

Technically, you should work on improving your overall health—getting enough of all the essential nutrients. But if you are only going to focus on one nutrient—make it B12.

Even a mild deficiency can seriously damage your college career. Those who don’t get enough vitamin B12 experience…

  • Exhaustion (the frat parties and weekly cram sessions are tiring enough, thank you very much)
  • Light-headedness (if you are walking up eight flights of stairs to get to your dorm room because someone hurled in the elevator, you don’t want to get tippy)
  • Rapid heartbeat and breathing (the attractive co-ed sitting in front of you in Econ 101 is distracting enough)
  • Pale skin and a sore tongue (totally not cool on the dating scene)
  • Easy bruising or bleeding (unless it is Halloween, you don’t want to look like someone beat you with a baseball bat)
  • Diarrhea or constipation (ew!)

If left unchecked, these issues will only get worse. Since vitamin B12 is responsible for maintaining the nervous system, you can expect to experience mental damage including depression, mania, dementia and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. We’re pretty sure those issues would put a damper on your future career.

Chances are we lost some of you when we first suggested you add one more thing to your overflowing college responsibility plate. But if you’ve stuck around this long, it means you acknowledge the possibility that your diet is pretty lousy. If so, then it is time you did something about it!

Image by hyperakt, Flickr

Image by hyperakt, Flickr

There are few things more exciting than having the opportunity to pack your bags and set off to explore a new place! While nobody really plans on getting sick, injured, or pickpocketed while on holiday, it’s best to be proactive and prepare for events which might pose an inconvenience to your adventure. Before you leave, check out this list of things that will keep you covered in case something goes wrong:

Keep copies of important documents.
Make two photocopies of your passport, flight tickets, hostel or hotel reservations, credit card, and driver’s license. In the event that any of these items are misplaced or stolen, you will still have access to your personal identification. Leave one set of the copies with a close friend or family member, and take one the other set of copies with you. Make sure to keep them separate from the original documents. You can also keep an electronic copy by e-mailing yourself a scan of the documents.

Update your address book
In case you have to make an emergency call, look up the phone numbers and contact information for your insurance company, credit card issuers, or health professionals, and put them in your phone before you leave.

Consider getting travel insurance
Nobody plans on getting ill or injured while on holiday, but unfortunately, it can happen. As someone who once ended up in a Belgian hospital with a broken nose, I’d recommend taking the extra cost into consideration – you never know what will happen.

Read a guidebook
Abandon any pretensions of not wanting to do anything “touristy” and embrace being a tourist wholeheartedly. You’re not a local, it’s not a secret, and it’s time to do your research. Travel websites like Lonely Planet and other travel blogs will not only help you navigate your way around the city and help to tailor your trip to your specific interests – they will have a lot of useful information about the culture, laws, and customs of your destination.

Bon voyage!

Image by epSos.de, Flickr

Image by epSos.de, Flickr

Do you know what really causes the “freshman fifteen?” Hint: it’s not just about what you eat! What you drink has a lot to do with unhealthy weight gain, and being sedentary and sleep-deprived just pack on the extra pounds. Due to the myriad of social and academic obligations of university life, the variable schedule of the average student can wreak havoc on one’s diet, sleep pattern, and exercise regimen. Staying healthy, however, will boost your mood and energy levels, which will bolster your academic performance and help you to maintain a positive mindset. Here are some basic ways to stay healthy at university:

1. Sleep well

Good sleep is essential for your physical and mental wellbeing – it will help maintain your metabolism, improve your memory, and heighten mental clarity. Poor sleep, on the other hand, reduces your energy level and ability to concentrate, and results in higher levels of irritability, anxiety, and depression. Moreover, sleep deprivation causes an increase in appetite, which may result in weight gain. Try to establish a regular sleeping pattern of eight hours each night, going to bed and getting up at the same time.

2. Exercise frequently … and sneakily
It’s easy to lead a sedentary lifestyle at school. What do you do in a lecture hall? You sit. What do you do in the library? You sit. What do you do in the cafeteria? You sit. While university seems to require a lot of sitting, it is important to be active in order to stay healthy. Establish a routine of regular exercise – treat your gym time like an extra class in your schedule, or split your workouts into shorter and more frequent increments that will fit into a busy schedule. If you don’t think you can muster the self-discipline to make it to the gym alone, sign up for an exercise class with a friend. Try something interesting and new – kickboxing, squash, yoga, tennis, or Pilates are all great ways to get moving. Don’t forget the little things that you can do in between workouts to maximize your level of activity – walk to class, take the stairs, and stand up to stretch your legs for every hour you find yourself sitting in the library.

3. Watch your beverages
There are four types of beverages that can have an impact on your health: alcohol, soda and soft drinks, caffeinated drinks, and water.

Alcoholic drinks contain empty calories and no nutritional value whatsoever. The excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages can have serious physical effects – if it isn’t enough that a single shot of vodka contains a whopping 100 calories, studies show that regular consumption of alcohol impairs your ability to absorb nutrients and burn fat over time.

Soft drinks, sodas, and sweetened fruit juices also cause unhealthy weight gain and slow your digestion. They contain high levels of sugar, and their diet equivalents simply substitute the sugar content with chemicals that are just as toxic for your system. Soda should be a treat, not a habit. Substitute your sugary fix with a refreshing cup of tea (chamomile and mint tea promote relaxation and digestion, and sweeter flavours such as strawberry, peach, ginseng, or lemon keep it interesting). You can also switch your soda for a sparkling water.

Keep an eye on your caffeine consumption, too. Caffeinated drinks are often dehydrating – remember to drink two glasses of water for every coffee or energy drink you consume. Also, drinking coffee too late in the day might disturb your quality of sleep at night. Most importantly, watch out for the unhealthy additives in calorie-laden lattes or specialty drinks at your favourite coffee shop – one chai tea latte from Starbucks sounds innocent enough, but even its smallest size packs an incredible 240 calories (not to mention 41 grams of sugar).

Make sure you drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is essential to maintaining general health and energy levels, and helps to control your weight and appetite, improve your skin, flush your system, and improve your quality of sleep. Try to drink a glass of water every hour and before each meal.

4. Everything in moderation
Don’t be afraid of bread, pasta, and cereals – in moderation, they can be part of a healthy diet. Avoiding them completely can have a negative impact on your metabolism, which is essential to fighting that freshman fifteen. Just keep in mind that dessert should be a treat, not a habit. Make sure you fuel up on nutrient-rich foods with plenty of fibre – whole grains, lentils, spinach, broccoli, beans, and zucchini, among others. Add avocado, lettuce, and tomato to your sandwiches. In the cafeteria, avoid fried or breaded items, and choose the grilled option instead. Add chicken to your salad for a protein boost. Substitute brown rice for white rice, mustard for mayonnaise, whole grain for white bread, and olive oil and vinegar for creamy salad dressing. For motivation and inspiration, look to food blogs and Pinterest recipes to get you excited about eating healthy.

5. What you eat is just as important as when you eat it.
Between classes, assignment deadlines, exams, parties, and going out with friends, it can be difficult to plan a regular meal schedule. Remember to eat breakfast (it starts your metabolism and gives you a boost of energy, which will help control your appetite and prevent overeating throughout the day) and pack healthy snacks to bring to campus (baby carrots, pretzels, apples, and almonds are all great ideas) to tide you over until lunch (a sandwich with a soup or salad is always a healthy option). Avoid midnight snacking, ordering pizza at two in the morning, or grabbing a greasy bite after a night out with your friends – studies show that eating late at night can cause unhealthy weight gain. Stress can also have an effect on how you eat, so try to avoid unhealthy and excessive snacking when you are bored or worried about something, and do not skip meals – a diet of regular meals and nutritious snacks is important to the maintenance of your overall health.