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Healthcare Phobia, and 3 Ways to Overcome it

Healthcare Phobia, and 3 Ways to Overcome it

Keeping in check with proper healthcare is vital to long lasting good health. Yet fear and phobia of healthcare is quite common among many people. Whether it’s a yearly routine check-up with your general practitioner, a regular dental check-up, or going in for an examination on any abnormal symptoms that have just been discovered, it’s important to overcome this phobia and make it a point to visit your doctor to prevent a long-term future illness.

Unfortunately, healthcare phobia, or the correct medical term ‘Tomophobia’, is a common anxiety disorder, and sufferers of this disorder fear seeking much needed medical attention. This fear will delay treatment of perhaps a serious or life threatening condition. As a result, their condition could worsen.

This delay in treatment will increase stress and in turn further increase their symptoms resulting in a negative cycle. Studies have shown that stress releases a hormone called cortisol, and with prolonged stress this increase of cortisol will suppress the production of certain cells called Lymphatic-t cells, and NK cells which fight against diseases such as cancer, and will weaken your immune system.

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According to ‘The Psychology of Health and Healthcare’, (Poole, Matheson, Cox, 2012) there are various levels of delay between acknowledging that something is medically wrong and actually seeking medical attention.

The ‘appraisal delay‘ occurs in the time it takes to realize what they are experiencing is a symptom.  The ‘illness delay‘ is the time they take to acknowledge they are ill and deciding to seek medical heathcare. The ‘behavioural delay‘ is the time it takes to actually make the call to their doctor’s office, and the ‘medical delay‘ is the time period the patient must wait for their first appointment.

Studies have found those suffering from personal problems, those who believe they cannot be cured, and those who have lived with the symptom for a long period of time, have the highest rate of delay in seeking required care. While noting this, it’s also very important not to ignore those long-term symptoms…. as they need to be examined, especially if it’s been long-term.

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In fact, many people will seek medical advice on their newer symptoms but ignore older ones due to the fact that they have had them for so long. Does that by chance sound familiar?

Another obstacle preventing patients from treatment is ‘Adherence to Medical Advice‘. For example, they’ve visited their medical practitioner, but for various reasons did not follow through with the medical advice given, or they have altered that advice to fit in with their own plans or schedule. Not following medical advice is quite common and another obstacle in prevention treatment.

Most of the time, these delays are a result of Tomophobia, and this phobia has recently been acknowledged as a disorder. The following forms of treatment are now available.

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1. Hypnosis and Systematic Desensitization

This is used to treat dental phobia, and works well in alleviating fear of the unknown. The patient will imagine the scenario through this systematic desensitization, and thus have a greater comfort level going into their appointment. This form of hypnosis can be successful in teaching the patient to transport themselves to a more meditative state during the procedure.

2. Self Injection Anxiety Therapy (SIAS)

Blood-Injection-Injury Phobia‘ is a classified psychological disorder that includes intense fear of blood, injury, needle injection and invasive medical procedures. SIAS has been found to be very successful in relieving some of the anxiety with relaxation techniques during an easy introduction to the tip of a needle.

3. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

This form of therapy helps with these phobias as it focuses on a new and more appropriate thought process. The patients are asked to question their own maladaptive thinking and to challenge their negative thoughts, replacing them with new and more productive thoughts. This can be beneficial in the long-term because once the new thought process takes over and replaces the old one, it usually lasts.

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Seeking medical attention when you first discover a new symptom and following the exact instructions of your healthcare provider will benefit your health greatly in the prevention of a possible illness. If you can relate to any of the examples in this article then these treatments could help you improve your own personal healthcare routine, and in turn could improve your lifestyle and even possibly extend life longevity!

Featured photo credit: Brogan & Partners via flickr.com

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Kathleen Lum

Freelance Writer

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Last Updated on December 2, 2019

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

7 Natural Memory Boosters That Actually Work for All Ages

Forgot a name? Misplaced your keys? Taking longer to find the right words? Don’t panic. There’s plenty you can do to improve your memory.

You’re probably expecting us to reveal 7 little known and newly discovered herbs from the forests of the Amazon, the peaks of the Himalayas and the Arctic tundra. No such luck.

Despite Americans spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on Ginkgo Biloba, Ashwagandha, Periwinkle, Bacopa, Vitamin B’s, Omega 3’s and memory boosting supplement cocktails, there is very little scientific evidence they actually work. [1]

So, how do we remember?

The first process in remembering is creating a memory.

This is where our brain sends a signal, associated with a thought, event or piece of information our mind is processing, over our brains neural pathways, called synapses.

Think of our neural pathways like roads and information like trucks. The better the roads, the more trucks can be driven.

The second step in remembering is memory consolidation.

Consolidation is when the brain takes that thought, event or piece of information and actually stores it in the brain. So now we’re talking about taking delivery of the trucks and storing its contents in the warehouse.

Consolidation helps us store information and label it properly, so its organized and easy to retrieve when needed.

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The last step is memory retrieval.

That’s the step whereby we try to retrieve the information stored in our brains. You know when you have the name of someone on the tip of your tongue.

You have the information; it’s been stored, but you just can’t find it. Our memory recall is typically better the stronger the memory is and the more often we’ve used it.

Memory decline is a normal part of aging. However, new scientific research is discovering many new ways for us to improve memory creation, consolidation and retrieval–no matter our age.

I’m going to offer you 7 completely natural memory boosters, backed up by scientific research. It may take a little more effort than a magic memory pill, but the benefits will transcend your memory and improve your overall quality of life as well, making you more fit, energetic, happy and sharp.

1. MIND Diet

Healthy eating, particularly more dark colored fruit, vegetables and oily fish has been shown to improve memory and stave off cognitive decline.

The MIND diet is proven to reduce the risk of dementia. It’s a mix of the popular Mediterranean diet and the low blood pressure DASH diet.[2]

The study kept track of the diets of almost 1,000 older adults. They were followed for an average of 4½ years.

The study concluded that “people whose diets were most strongly in line with the MIND diet had brains that functioned as if they were 7½ years younger than those whose diets least resembled this eating style.”

The study also showed that people who followed the MIND diet in the study reduced their chance of getting Alzheimer’s disease in half.

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So what does the MIND diet consist of? Lots of vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, berries, beans, fish, poultry, olive oil, whole grains and wine.

2. Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic activity is about as close as we get to a magic pill for our memories. Exercise helps your brain create new capillaries and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which creates new brain cells and connections. To put it in plain english, aerobic activity changes our brains and helps it grow.

Studies have shown that exercising increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. In fact, even if you start exercising as an older adult, you can reverse cognitive decline by 1 to 2 years and protects against further decreases in the size of the hippocampus, which is essential for memory.[3]

In another study, reviewed by Dr. Ian Robertson of the University of Dublin, they looked at a group of people of 60 years and older, who engaged in “active walking” for four months.

They compared them with another group of people who only stretched over the same period of time. After testing both groups before and after the 4 month period, the walkers improved their memory and attention considerably more than the stretching group.

So which exercises are best and how much do we have to exercise?

Turns out, it doesn’t really matter whether you run, swim, row or bike. What does matter is that you push yourself beyond your current abilities, keep doing more, keep getting better. Set yourself short term goals and keep pushing the goal posts.

3. Sleep

You need your sleep. The deeper the better. Sleep helps improve your procedural memory (how to do things, like how do I navigate my iPhone) and declarative memory (facts, like what’s my password).[4]

Even short naps from 6 to 45 minutes have been shown to improve your memory. In one Harvard study, college students memorized pairs of unrelated words, memorized a maze and copied a complex form. All were tested on their work. Half were then allowed to take a 45 minute nap. They were then retested. Those who took a nap, got a boost in their performance.[5]

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Another study showed that getting REM (deep) sleep can increase your memory and mental performance by 33% to 73%. Getting a deep sleep helps the brain consolidate memories through dreams and “associative processing”. However, the study also revealed that heart rate variability in deep sleep also contributed significantly to increased memory performance.[6]

4. Relax

We all know that stress is bad for our health. It can raise our blood pressure, impact our immune system and interrupt our sleep. Stress also impairs our memory.

When our body gets stressed, it releases cortisol into our blood stream, which can cause short and long term physical changes to the brain. While cortisol has sometimes been shown to cause increases in short term memory, it can actually decrease our long term recall memory.

To help reduce the stress in your life, try relaxing with meditation, yoga or breathing exercises. Unplug–even for just a few hours. Stop checking your emails, social accounts and news. Release some endorphins with some exercise.

Bottom line, the more anxious and stressed we are, the less clearly we think, the poorer our memory works.

5. Continuous Learning

The mind is like a muscle. The more you challenge it, the stronger it gets. The more you learn, the more you can learn.

Research shows that learning can actually change the physical makeup of your brain. Not too long ago, we used to think that you were born with a fixed amount of brain cells, which declined with age. New research now shows that we can actually increase the number of brain cells we have throughout our life.

Aside from staying physically active, learning new skills and studying can actually keep our brains healthier. Consider taking a continuing education class, studying a new language, learning a new instrument, playing new card games.[7]

Studies show that the more complex the task, the more benefits for your mind. Simply showing up to class is not enough. You need to be actively engaged. Anything that forces you to focus and learn something new and get out of a rote routine will help you sharpen your mind and boost your memory.

Try these 15 Ways to Cultivate Continuous Learning for a Sharper Brain.

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6. Stay Social

The more deep and meaningful social connections you maintain, the more you protect your brain. Bottom line, the more friends you have, the more people you work with, the more you’re forced to use your brain.

Social isolation and loneliness are significant risks of dementia. Without interacting with others, our brains wilt. Isolation and loneliness lead to depression, physical and mental decline.[8]

In a 2016 study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, seniors with a full social calendar did better on memory, reasoning, and processing speed tests.[9]

What to do?

Party! Seriously, get together with friends as often as possible. Have family dinners. Choose social activities or sports like tennis, golf, cards or go for walks with a friend. Bottom line have fun, build meaningful social relationships and stay connected. Not only will it make your mind sharper and your memory better, you’ll be happier, too!

7. Wakeful Rest

This one is getting harder and harder to do. In a world where we can’t sit on a bus, go up an elevator or go to the bathroom without our phones, doing absolutely nothing to distract our minds is becoming increasingly difficult.

But, the results are in. Doing nothing is great for your memory. Quietly resting for 10 minutes, after you learn something will help you remember and help you create more detailed memories.[10]

What we do minutes after we learn something new has a significant impact on how well we retain the new information. In another study, it didn’t matter what you did after you learned something new, as long as you weren’t distracted by outside factors. In other words, you could be thinking of your day, making a grocery list, or thinking of a story.

In either case, wakeful rest for a period of 10 minutes helped the brain process and consolidate your memories so that you were better able to recall the information at a later date.[11]

Bottom Line

You don’t have to spend a dime on cocktails and supplements promising a quick boost to your memory power. There is very little conclusive scientific evidence suggesting supplements will help improve the memories of healthy individuals–not for Ginkgo Biloba, Vitamin B, fish oils, Vitamin D, Folate or other supplements claiming they a secret formula.

There are far cheaper and more effective ways to boost your memory: exercise, rest, eat well, learn, love, laugh and relax. Who wouldn’t want that prescription?

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

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