World Cancer Day: How the alarming rise in cancer impacts South African workplaces

Stock photography - Therapy

Hair coloring - JobThis is according to Siphokazi Parirenyatwa, Disability Claims Manager at Momentum Corporate, who says the figures paint a concerning picture for employers.

“It seems that a big part of the increase can be attributed to claims by women. Claims by women increased from 16% of total claims in 2010 to 24% in 2020. The comparative figures for men were 8% in 2010 and 10% in 2020,” says Parirenyatwa.

She adds that your younger employees, the Millennial and Gen Z generations, are also at risk. “Again women employees appear to be at higher risk than their male counterparts, with 27.5% of women cancer disability claimants under 40. The comparative figure for men is 17.5%” says Parirenyatwa

Also worrying for businesses is that claims by employees in management are higher than for non-management employees when it comes to cancer, with around 18% of the total income disability claims by management due to cancer. “This can have a major impact on the smooth running and productivity of a business”, says Parirenyatwa.

“The sharp rise in cancer claims shows the increasing importance of having the appropriate mix and level of employee benefits to protect employees against potential loss of income, the high cost of treatment which is increasing exponentially and the cost of lifestyle adjustments that can accompany a cancer diagnosis,” says Parirenyatwa.

She adds that partnering with a provider that offers effective rehabilitation services to facilitate a quicker return to work after a cancer-related disability absence can improve productivity drivers.

“In addition, employers should ensure effort is injected into raising employee awareness around the need for regular health screenings for the most common cancers which can lead to early detection, and improves cancer treatment outcomes,” says Parirenyatwa.

 

She points to effective employee engagement/reward programmes as a practical way employers can encourage and reward healthier lifestyle choices that reduce the risk of cancer.

 

Please let us know if you’d like an interview with Siphokazi to unpack the latest cancer statistics in more detail, and what they mean for South African employers.

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STUCK IN A PERPETUAL STATE OF JETLAG? YOU MIGHT BE SUFFERING FROM “PANDEMIC BURNOUT”

Mental Health

Are you feeling exhausted and run down even though the year has just begun? You’re not alone. These could be symptoms of “pandemic fatigue”.

Abdurahman Kenny - Mental Health Portfolio Manager at Pharma Dynamics - says among the primary reasons for feeling mentally drained during the pandemic is being in a constant state of high alert, which takes its toll on our energy levels over a prolonged period.

“Similar to physiological threats, when faced with psychological stressors, it takes up a lot of energy. Anxiety, depression, and stress are exhausting by nature and have a huge impact on our mood, ability to concentrate, and our energy levels. Add ten months of living through a pandemic to the mix and it takes matters to an entirely different level. We’ve been in constant fight or flight mode and many have reached a mental health breaking point.”

He says those who are starting the year off still working or studying remotely, are also feeling the compounded effects of hours of video conferencing, lectures or seminars that have been forced online due to COVID-19. “Many feel they are being pushed to do more than ever before.”

While the use of Zoom, Skype, Teams and Google Meet have now become commonplace, video conferencing can be exhausting. Kenny explains why it is a lot more taxing for our brains than face-to-face engagements.

“When on a video call our brain must work much harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, tone and pitch of voice and body language. Having to pay more attention to these cues can become tiring. Our minds are together when our bodies are not. That dissonance causes mental confusion and can be exhausting. It’s important to think about ways to optimise video conferencing to reduce fatigue. Do this by setting strict time limits on meetings, taking regular breaks and drawing up an agenda to focus on only pertinent points during the discussion, otherwise, it can drag on for hours.”

“Similarly, the constant bombardment of information around COVID-19 on TV, radio, social media and other forms of media has also contributed to the mental exhaustion experienced by so many. The natural reaction to this is to back away or retreat to a safe space. The brain simply can’t cope with the overload.”

“In some cases, pandemic fatigue could induce reckless behaviour, such as ignoring or abandoning precautionary health measures altogether. This type of conduct can put you, your loved ones and society at risk. No matter how intense your fatigue around the crisis, you should continue to exercise caution for as long as COVID-19 remains a threat,” he encourages.

 

If you’re suffering from pandemic fatigue, try the following coping mechanisms to help you stay the course:

  1. Recognise and deal with signs of COVID-19 fatigue as soon as they arise instead of repressing them. Re-evaluate your situation and behaviour(s) by putting things in perspective. Write down your thoughts or discuss it with someone close to you.
  2. Don’t be a martyr by continuing to self-isolate if you’re not sick. Practicing social distancing doesn’t mean you need to isolate yourself completely from others. Humans have an innate need for social connection. Make time to see close friends and family (in person) at least weekly.
  3. Create a healthy routine that will make you and your family thrive in the new normal, such as eating right, drinking enough water, going to bed early, exercising, limiting caffeine or alcohol intake, enjoying meals together etc.
  4. Practice self-care. While it may be difficult with competing work and family demands, it’s important to create time for yourself and to not feel guilty about it. Whether it’s exercise, meditation, reading or getting creative – find something that invigorates your body and mind.
  5. Limit media consumption by following one or two reliable sources of information, which can help you sift through information without feeling overwhelmed.
  6. Plan fun outings and things to look forward to without putting you or your loved ones at risk.
  7. Give yourself a pep talk every morning to stay positive.
  8. Be kind to yourself. If you’re not as productive or motivated as you used to be, it’s okay, we’re all living through a time of heightened anxiety and uncertainty.
  9. Get some sunshine by working in the garden or going for a walk. Sunlight has a direct impact on our mood and general well-being.
  10. If your symptoms don’t improve within a few weeks, it may be more than just pandemic burnout and could have progressed into a mental condition such as depression, a mood, or anxiety disorder. If this is the case, you need to seek professional help. Don’t be embarrassed about it. We all need a little help from time to time and we’re living in extraordinarily challenging times.

“It is important to watch for early warning signs of burnout, such as feeling withdrawn, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, low mood and feelings of helplessness during the pandemic and to put strategies in place to work towards a healthier and balanced lifestyle,” says Kenny.

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms and don’t know who to turn to, contact Pharma Dynamics’ toll-free helpline on 0800 205 026, which is manned by trained counsellors who are on call from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week. For additional support, visit www.letstalkmh.co.za

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From Surviving to Thriving

 

The past couple of months have been stressful for all of us. Not only are we in the middle of a pandemic, but we have also had to manage possible financial loss, homeschooling, and working from home, amongst others. All of this can cause high-stress levels which affect our mental health. Catherine Clark, Owner and Founder of The Harvest Table, says we can shift our mindset by filling our lives with positive habits that will enable us to deal with challenging times.

“When stress affects our lives, we’re required to dig deep. Many of us go into 'survival mode’ — we either attempt to get everything done or completely avoid taking any action. This causes more harm than good. We have to find ways to navigate life in a way that will benefit our mental health and ultimately, our entire lives,” she says.

Catherine offers these five tips to take care of your mental health:

1. Get some sunshine: A study from Central Michigan University found that sunlight exposure was associated with lowered anxiety. So, whether you’re working for home or are back at the office, be sure to take a break every few hours and instead of sitting in the canteen, on the couch or at your desk, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee in the sunshine.

2. Focus on what you have: When you focus on all the good things in your life, you begin to realise that you have everything at your disposal to create a life you love. This shifts your attention from what you lack to cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Over time you have more to be grateful for, whether it’s the fact that you woke up, have a roof over your head, or that you are well fed. Shifting your mindset from the negative to the positive ultimately improves your mental health.

3. Control what is controllable: There are many distractions at home and work, and they tend to come with more stress than calm. We become flustered, frustrated, and out of balance, but this usually means we’re trying to control things that are beyond our control. Whether you’re at work or home, there will always be stressors in your life. The trick is to establish which ones you can control so that you create structures that will help you deal with them. Then, you need to make peace with what you can’t control and figure out how you will react the next time they affect you.

4. Rest: We often think rest means sleep. Of course, sleep plays a crucial role in your mental health, but rest also means making room for the things that revitalise us, allow us to relax, and make us feel more like ourselves. Make time for relaxation and the things you enjoy. Whether you’re reading a book, watching your favourite show, or doing an online Pilates or yoga session. Whatever it is, take the time to prioritise rest.

5. Take care of your gut: Around 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the gut. So, when you take care of your digestive health, you support the production of the happy hormone. You can start by including collagen-rich foods like fish, chicken and egg whites in your diet as this will have a positive impact on your digestive system and nourish your body. If you are looking for a more convenient solution, The Harvest Table has a range of collagen products that are beneficial for your gut health (and so much more). When one part of your body is well taken care of, the rest of your body benefits too.

“Make 2021 the year you take charge and prioritise your mental health. Make it the year you thrive and embrace a healthy mental state so that you’re able to experience and appreciate all that life has to offer,” Catherine concludes.

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Indulge Without the bulge

Indulge without the bulge

5 healthy habits to adopt this festive season

Finally on track to reaching your goal weight? Catherine Clark, Owner and Founder of The Harvest Table advises not to waste all your hard work this festive season by throwing caution to the wind and eating everything that comes your way. She says, “Many of us see the holidays as an opportunity to let loose and overindulge, but come January we are riddled with guilt and regret.”

She adds that whilst December isn’t necessarily the time to lose weight, you don’t have to put on weight either, “The fact is that you will be tempted to overeat and do less exercise, so key is not to deprive yourself, but rather to navigate the festive season so that you can indulge without the bulge,” she says.

Catherine offers these 5 healthy habits to adopt this festive season:

1. Don’t drink your calories: Most alcohol, juice and carbonated drinks are high in sugar and can significantly contribute to your calorie intake. What tends to happen is that you don’t realise you are on your third drink, and by then, you’ve consumed empty calories that can lead to weight gain. Choose low-calorie alcohol alternatives or non-alcoholic options like water or soda water, flavoured with fruits, herbs and extracts which will help quench your thirst without the added sugar.
2. Steer clear of the snack table: The best way to navigate the snack table is to not socialise around it as this will lead to mindless eating. Also, instead of ‘finger-picking’, dish up your snacks (even crisps!) on a small plate. According to Harvard Health Publishing being distracted or not paying attention to a meal tends to make people eat more. As such, you can also adopt mindful eating habits and ask yourself simple questions like, “Am I hungry or am I just eating because there is food?”
3. Eat your greens first: Reach for the green leafy vegetables before you pile on foods with high fat and sugar content. Fill half your plate with healthy vegetables and eat those first as this will prevent overindulging because there will be less room for the rich-food items. One way to achieve this is by using the 60/40 rule, which is an extension of the 80/20 rule. While at a gathering, you can eat 60% nutritious food and 40% of your favourite things to help you stay on track with your goals.
4. Watch your eating in the day so that you don’t have to at night: Most festive season activities go into the evening, so if you know that you going to an afternoon/evening event, eat low-energy-dense foods over breakfast and lunch, and watch your portions. This way, you can space out your energy intake, ensure that you’re full throughout the day, and you will have a chance to enjoy supper with no guilt.
5. Drink lots of water: Water has zero calories and many benefits like helping you stay hydrated, maintaining the balance of body fluids in your body and easing constipation. Plus, it keeps you fuller for longer! Your body is comprised of 60% of water which is necessary for functions such as digestion, transportation of nutrients, the creation of saliva and more, so it’s good to drink it throughout the day. Always carry a water bottle with you, and if you’re entertaining at home, make sure to place a jug of water where you can see it as it will be easier for you to drink.
“The festive season doesn’t have to result in extra kilos by January. The important thing is to be mindful and adequately prepare to ensure that you don’t regret your food choices and the consequences thereof,” Catherine concludes.

ABOUT HARVEST TABLE
Since inception in 2018, The Harvest Table has been creating pure, wholesome products packaged earth consciously to change the lives of our customers positively by educating them and helping them to make better food choices daily.
For more information, please visit: www.theharvesttable.co.za

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ROOIBOS’ ROLE IN MANAGING DIABETES BECOMING MORE PROMINENT

Decades of local and international research into Rooibos’ anti-diabetic properties confirms its effectiveness at improving sugar levels when used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle and should form part of a holistic strategy to tackle the disease say, experts.

According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), an estimated 4.5 million South African adults are likely to have diabetes. What’s even more frightening is that diabetes rates in the country have increased by an alarming 155% in the last decade alone – making it the second most common cause of death in SA.

Prof Christo Muller, Chief Specialist Scientist at the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) says approximately 463 million people suffer from diabetes around the world – 90% of which are type 2 diabetics.

“Diabetes is possibly the biggest non-communicable (NCD) epidemic of the 21st century. It’s a major public health threat everywhere in the world and there is a growing incidence of type 2 diabetes among adolescents and children as well, which is of grave concern.

“In most cases, type 2 diabetes is a result of poor eating habits and sedentary living, aggravated by other detrimental lifestyle behaviours, such as smoking and excessive alcohol intake. Research has shown that in many cases the disease (if intervened early on) could be reversed by making the necessary dietary and lifestyle modifications. Rooibos tea could play an important role in this approach.

“Aspalathin – a unique phenolic compound found only in the Rooibos species – has been shown to improve blood glucose levels and therefore could help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Our research found that green Rooibos, which is more abundant in Aspalathin, was especially effective at lowering raised blood glucose levels in animal studies. In these studies Aspalathin, enhanced insulin activity, the hormone that controls blood sugar levels, by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress, which are factors that underlie the development of metabolic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease,” explains Prof Muller.

Diabetics are two to four times more likely to die from heart diseases or stroke. Here, Rooibos can be of benefit too. Aspalathin also protects the heart by suppressing vascular inflammation and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up inside artery walls) that occurs as a result of high blood sugar levels.

Due to Rooibos’ rich antioxidant activity and potential for clinical use, it is gaining more attention worldwide.

Joe Swart, Research Director for the SA Rooibos Council (SARC) says in view of the limited access, long-term inefficacy and side effects of oral anti-diabetic medication in Africa, plant-based therapies for the treatment and prevention of NCDs are gaining considerable prominence.

Scientists have already developed a method for the synthesis of Aspalathin into an active pharmaceutical ingredient and for use as a nutritional supplement.

“Aspalathin-rich green (ARG) Rooibos extract can be utilized in novel therapeutic preparations for the treatment and management of metabolic dysfunction, including the control of glucose and cholesterol, which in turn reduces the risk of heart disease. The products have applications in complementary medicine, nutritional supplement, and veterinary markets. Rooibos shouldn’t be viewed as a panacea, but in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, it could significantly improve health outcomes,” he says.

In the lead up to 14 November, which is World Diabetes Day, the aim is to bring attention to diabetes and to encourage cleaner living as a preventative measure.

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