It’s the International Moment of Laughter, so grab the opportunity with both hands.

Today, Sunday 14 April, we celebrate the International Moment of Laughter, an opportunity for everyone to laugh loudly, freely and openly, without holding back. The day was initiated by American motivational speaker and ‘humorologist’ Izzy Gesell to encourage people to laugh more.

Laugh long and hard enough, and eventually the world will laugh with you. (© All Rights Reserved)
Laugh long and hard enough, and eventually the world will laugh with you.
(© All Rights Reserved)

I’ve posted a couple of times before about the benefits and value of laughing and smiling, and generally having a positive attitude. After all, “laughter is the best medicine”, as the saying goes.

So let’s just say that today is yet another chance to cash in on some free medication – smile, laugh and be positive, and feel the benefits flowing back to you, reducing your stress, relaxing tired muscles, and strengthening your immune system.

Watch your favourite funny movie, share some jokes, or simply get silly. And if you really want to optimise the benefits, share the laughter with those around you! As the great Mark Twain once said, “The human race has only one really effective weapon and that is laughter.”

Raising awareness about hypertension on World Health Day

It’s 7 April, which means it’s one of the big days on the World Health Organisation (WHO) calendar – it’s World Health Day.

The day marks the anniversary of the founding of the WHO in 1948. Each year a theme is selected to highlight an area of public concern in world health, and in 2013 the theme is high blood pressure or hypertension.

Internationally, high blood pressure is a major cause of death – it is a causative factor in heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. Left uncontrolled it can result in blindness. According to the WHO, one in three adults worldwide suffers from high blood pressure (ranging from about 10% in their 20’s to 50% and higher in their 50’s). While high blood pressure is definitely not a condition only affecting those in the developing world, its prevalence is highest in low-income countries in Africa, due mainly to inadequate diets.

While high blood pressure is a global problem, its prevalence is greatest in poor countries in Africa and other parts of the developing world.(© All Rights Reserved)
While high blood pressure is a global problem, its prevalence is greatest in poor countries in Africa and other parts of the developing world.
(© All Rights Reserved)

In developed, higher income communities, other factors influence high blood pressure – these include high salt intake, excessive alcohol use, obesity, lack of physical activity, smoking and stress.

The goal of World Health Day 2013 is a global reduction in heart attacks and strokes caused by high blood pressure. Specific objectives include:

  • Making available information and raising awareness of the causes and consequences of high blood pressure;
  • Encouraging adults to have their blood pressure checked regularly (part of this involves making blood pressure measurement more affordable to all); and
  • Inciting local and national authorities to create enabling, healthy environments, and to promote healthy behaviour among it’s people.

High blood pressure is a health danger that can affect us all, and it is something we can each address through healthy lifestyle choices. For more info, have a look at this Q&A on hypertension from the WHO. Let’s use World Health Day 2013 as the necessary kick in the backside to get each of us to opt for a healthier, more active lifestyle.

Celebrating a good night’s sleep

Today, 15 March, is World Sleep Day, an annual event to celebrate healthy sleep, and to call attention to important issues related to sleep, including sleep problems and disorders. The day is organised by the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM).

A good night of sleep - just what the doctor ordered.(© All Rights Reserved)
A good night of sleep – just what the doctor ordered.
(© All Rights Reserved)

A good night’s sleep is critical for a healthy body and mind. Yet, sleep deprivation is becoming more and more common – a trend that robs millions of people of the necessary rest and rejuvenation offered by adequate, quality sleep. Sleep deprivation is harmful to the body’s metabolism and endocrine functions, and may increase the severity of age-related chronic disorders.

Conversely, researchers agree that adequate sleep has numerous benefits – it improves energy levels, boosts productivity and sociability, and increases overall wellbeing. Quality sleep can also strengthen your immune system and improve your memory. It helps you metabolise sugar, thus helping to fight diabetes, and it can help prevent hypertension, heart disease and stroke.

Your environment has a major impact on sleep quality. Factors like temperature, noise, light, bed comfort and electronic distractions (TV, computers) all affect one’s ability to get a proper night’s rest. As far as noise is concerned, intermittent sounds (cars honking or revving, alarms going off, etc) are said to be more disturbing than even rather high levels of continuous noise. As such, many city-dwellers suffer from chronic sleep deprivation – a condition that affects their moods and can have numerous detrimental health effects.

To improve your sleep, consider the following suggestions:

  • Make your bed inviting – invest in comfortable pillows, good quality sheets etc.
  • Turn out the lights – darken the room and eliminate possible light with curtains or shades.
  • Turn off the TV – ideally keep TVs, computers, cell phones and other electronic devices out of the bedroom.
  • Turn down the volume – turn off all electronics, close the door, block out external noises using heavy curtains.
  • Adjust the thermostat – try to maintain a temperature that you are comfortable at; not too warm or too cold.
  • Protect your bed – keep your bed a sanctuary for sleep and sex only; it is not an office or recreational space for the family.

With that, all that’s left for me is to wish you all a happy sleep!