HEALTH- Reasons for a better you: £11billion of NHS costs down to poor lifestyle.

We all know that it's a good idea to take good care of ourselves, both physically and mentally. But there are far more compelling factors involved in trying to be the best person you can be, some of which actually impact on the entire country.  
Whilst it has long been debated- at least in pubs and amongst friends- whether or not people who eat poorly should be financially penalised, in the same way as smokers and drinkers are through taxation, and the newly increased, additional Inland Revenue receipts from sugary drinks are going someway towards levelling at least part of that playing field, many people still don't fully understand just how much their choices are actually costing the country.  
According to a recent report by BBC News, this could be as much as £11billion extra to the NHS alone, with two of the biggest causes for concern equally untreatable- type 2 diabetes, and smoking-related bronchitis. However, the actual outlay on the part of the State could be significantly more when other factors are taken into account, such as welfare payments resulting from ill health, which, although unavoidable once someone's health deteriorates, could have been sidestepped earlier in life with care and attention.  
And we're not just talking about booze and fags, either. Consider every aspect of your health and there are so many ways in which problems can escalate unnecessarily, potentially leading to the need for more expensive forms of treatment. Everything from diet to exercise is important to avoid, or at least attempt to avoid problems ranging from digestion to back ache, all of which can quite easily become long-term issues that require drugs, hospital appointments, or both in order to be managed. Perhaps shockingly, one in four middle-aged people in the UK now lives with some kind of chronic condition that has no current known cure. A sign of just how much work there is still to do in this country when it comes to educating people on looking after themselves, it's further evidence that any and all options for taking care of the most precious think you'll ever have should be exploited, when and where possible.  

Image credit:  (C) Jason Duesing 
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HEALTH- A happy home might just be the best way to a healthy you.    

If someone was to suggest that we're healthier when our partners are happy, it probably wouldn't come as that much of a surprise to anyone in a relationship, or anyone who has ever been in a relationship. After all, things are a lot less stressful when our other half is content, rather unpleasant to be around when things go awry, and our emotional and mental states have been linked to our physical condition.  
As such, perhaps it didn't need a study by Michigan State University academics to deliver the not-so-startling news. Or maybe it did. Either way, it has happened, or at least it has happened to some extent. From 1,981 married couples that took part in the Health and Retirement Study, those whose most precious were happy reported back as having the least health worries overall.  
Spanning ages 50 to 94, perhaps what's most interesting about it all is that by this 'second half' of many people's lives they are naturally becoming less mobile, and that means maintaining good health can become more difficult. Add to this the fact that rates of long term illness naturally rise the older we get, and you start to realise just how much environment could make a difference in getting people to take the necessary steps towards keeping themselves in good shape.   
For one thing, when we're happy we tend to want to go outside more- whether that's walking, socialising, or simply shopping. Either way, that's good exercise, and it also encourages trying new things- for example yoga, or seeing a specialist about that bad back, which we might be less inclined to do under more metaphorical grey skies. As with so many things in life, even the most disparate health problems can be linked to each other, and have an effect on each other. The point being we cannot remove psychological wellbeing, and mental health, from the physical, because that's not how humans- or any other animal- works. This should be the first thing any 'better' or 'healthier' you article makes clear, so consider what you've just read an introduction to the wider subject.  

Image credit:  (C) Neaj Jean 
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HEALTH FACT: Drinking coffee can reduce the risk of depression, especially in women.

HEALTH FACT: Swearing can make you feel better when you’re in pain.

HEALTH FACT: Chewing gum makes you more alert, relieves stress and reduces anxiety levels.

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How Does Our Body Know Where To Store Fat?

All of us have fat in our bodies, but different people seem to store it in different regions. Some people have fat in their abdominal region, while others have it in their thighs and hips and other common areas. Unfortunately, we have no direct control over where our body stores fat

Good fats play an important role, not only in providing energy to our body, but also in the regulation of our body temperature, the production of hormones, the reduction of inflammation and so on. The question of what good and bad fats are is a topic for another day, but another question remains – how does our body decide where it stores fat?

Digestion review

To understand how the storage and distribution of body fat works, we must first briefly understand how food is digested in our body. Digestion starts the moment we put food in our mouths, where it is mechanically digested as we chew, and then chemically digested due to the enzyme amylase present in our saliva. Once we swallow the bolus, the process of digestion becomes automatic. Food reaches our stomach through the esophagus, where it is churned, broken down into smaller pieces and mixed with acid and digestive juices.

This partially digested food is emptied in portions into the small intestine, where most of the digestive process takes place. Here, pancreatic juice, bile (produced by the liver) and intestinal digestive juices mix with this pre-digested food and break down the complex nutrients into their simpler forms.

who are we meme

The proteins are broken down into amino acids, fats are broken down into fatty acids, and carbohydrates are broken down into simple sugars or monosaccharides, such as glucose. These digested nutrients from the food are then absorbed into the bloodstream through the walls of the small intestine, while waste products are passed along to the large intestine for stool formation and excretion.

How are fats produced?

When the nutrients broken down in the small intestine are absorbed into our bloodstream, the glucose (sugar) level in our blood increases. The pancreas, which constantly monitors the sugar levels in the blood, secretes a hormone called insulin when it senses such an increase. Insulin released in the bloodstream signals the muscle cells and other cells of our body to take up glucose from the blood in order to decrease the blood sugar level. These cells receive the message—thanks to insulin receptors embedded in the cell membrane—and take up the glucose from the blood for energy.

When the cells have taken up all the energy they need, insulin signals the liver to take up glucose and store it as a starch called glycogen (glycogen will be converted back into glucose once the sugar content in blood decreases). However, when the glycogen stores are full, lipogenesis (fat production) is stimulated.

Where are fats stored?

Fats are stored in adipocytes, the cells of a loose connective tissue called adipose tissue. An adipocyte is like a little packet in which a droplet of fat can be stored.

White adipose tissue

White adipose tissue. (Photo Credit : Falty14/Wikimedia Commons)

Adipose tissue is found under the skin (subcutaneous), around the internal organs (visceral), within the bone marrow, and in breast tissue. It is found in different locations of the body, called adipose depots. Subcutaneous adipose tissue is found in the abdomen, hip, thighs, etc. Visceral adipose tissue is intra-abdominally located around the vital organs of the body.

fat diagram

Distribution of fat

We often hear the terms ‘apple’ or ‘pear’ body types in relation to the region of the body where fat is stored. Apple-shaped body types store fat in the central part of their body, while pear-shaped types store it in the lower part of their body. Let’s try to understand the possible reasons why different people store fat in different regions of their body.

We need to consider two points when discussing the distribution of body fat – the number of adipocytes (fat cells) in a certain region and their degree of filling with fat. These two points determine the total and regional masses of adipose tissue in our body. Current available evidence does not suggest a reason for the region-based multiplication of fat cells, but does give some idea about the latter, the degree of filling. Thus, it can be safely said that the differences in the regional mass of adipose tissue is due to the differences in the degree of fat filling in these cells.

Differences in men and women

Steroid hormones play a huge role in this process. Thus, the secretion of various steroid hormones and the regional density of their receptors will decide, to a large extent, the distribution of adipose mass. Differences on the basis of sex are such that women have a larger amount of fat stored subcutaneously as compared to men, who have a higher visceral fat rate. In addition to this, women have more enlarged adipose tissues in the gluteal-femoral (hips and thighs) region. Fat storage in this region is also a result of the ready receptivity caused by higher lipoprotein lipase activity in this region due to female sex steroid hormones. As a result of these hormones, women store most of their fat in the lower portion of the body, whereas men store it evenly all over their body, mainly in the central section.

body apple and pear shape

On the other hand, women tend to have a redistribution of adipose mass towards the abdominal region and a rise in visceral adiposity after menopause, presumably due to a fall in estrogen (female sex hormone) levels. Women, before reaching menopause, have a greater ability to protect their visceral deposits from fat accumulation up to a certain extent of obesity. Men accumulate fat in this region almost in parallel with other regions. This is at least partly explained by the fact that women have more space in their adipose tissue.


Chronic stress for long periods of time is a major factor in deciding where fat is stored, regardless of gender. Exposure to stress releases the stress hormone cortisol, and higher than normal levels of this hormone leads to fat being stored centrally in the abdominal region. Everyone is exposed to stress, but not everyone responds by secreting the same levels of cortisol. Thus, people who secrete higher levels of this hormone accumulate more abdominal fat.


Other factors

Genetics play a huge role in deciding our reactivity to stress, metabolism, sensitivity to insulin etc.,  all of which contribute to deciding where our body stores fat. Factors like lifestyle and age also heavily influence one’s levels of abdominal fat. Alcohol, smoking, lack of sleep and minimal exercise contribute to a greater amount of abdominal fat.

Excess fat, regardless of the region in which it is stored, comes with many health problems, but the fat stored centrally comes with more health risks than the lower body fat; visceral fat is more dangerous than subcutaneous fat. Abdominal obesity comes with a greater risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, insulin resistance and other serious side effects.

Whether you are an apple or a pear, a regime of proper nutrition, exercise and a healthy lifestyle is crucial to stay fit.


  1. National Institutes Of Health (NIH) (Link 1)
  2. UPMC Children’s Hospital Of Pittsburgh
  3. National Institutes Of Health (NIH) (Link 2)
  4. Colorado State University
  5. National Institutes Of Health (NIH) (Link 3)
  6. Institutes Of Health (NIH) (Link 4)
  7. Yale University

HEALTH- Don't lament summer passing, kick autumn into gear.     

Right then, let's get a few things straight here. We all know that the warmer months are great, and for more reasons that the fact many of us manage to escape the UK and head off into some beautiful but all-too-brief sunset.  
During the summer we feel motivated, energised, and generally full of the sun's good stuff. Even early mornings can feel hotter than an October afternoon. We spend our days doing things, often outside, and the idea of playing sports on a pitch exposed to the elements no longer sounds like some athletic vision of hell.  
The point being we're usually healthier in the summertime. Yes, OK, this might not be taking into account all the pub garden days, but on the whole we are eating less stodgy foods, boosting our salad intake, and staying active for more hours in the average day. Sadly, though, this is often a height we're only ever destined to fall pretty badly, and rather sharply from. That's if we're not careful.  
Autumn can either be a mean-spirited month, or the beginning of a whole new you. Let's face it, nobody wants to be trapped in a gym on the hottest morning of the year, so maybe this is now the time when you can finally start making the most of that £30 a month membership you've been paying for the last 12 months (and used about 12 times). There's a whole new range of food coming into season, which is ready to be explored and experimented on in the kitchen. And this is the perfect time to take up a new hobby that will keep you active through winter- like yoga, for example. 
It will certainly help those aches and pains, making it easier to keep up with exercise when perhaps the most appealing option is likely to be staying indoors. When it comes to things like lower back pain, amazingly despite the potential severity with which it can affect people, many still opt for the put up and shut up approach, when this really doesn't have to be the case. 
The point being, just because that great ball of joy in the sky is beginning to be shrouded in a kind of nimbus pea soup doesn't mean we have to let everything go to pot and start gorging on all the things we deem to be comfort-based. We can still quite easily motivate ourselves to continue taking the steps needed to be a better self. And if it really does all head down the hole hop on the next flight to the Caribbean; it's bound to be lovely.  

Image credit: (C)  Mateus Lunardi Dutra  
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HEALTH FACT: There are more bacteria in your mouth than there are people in the world.

HEALTH FACT: Laughing 100 times is equivalent to 15 minutes of exercise on a stationary bike.

HEALTH FACT: You burn more calories sleeping than you do watching television.