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Benefits of breaking a sweat

18Most people know that routine exercise does a body good. While it may not require a degree from medical school to know that exercise can be a great way to lose weight and reduce risk for various illnesses, there’s even more beneficial side effects of regular exercise that might surprise even the most ardent fitness enthusiasts.

Exercise produces positive psychological benefits. WebMD notes that there are several psychological benefits of routine exercise. Those benefits occur because exercise triggers the release of endorphins, which are hormones that interact with receptors in the brain that reduce a person’s perception of pain. Some additional psychological benefits of exercise include stress reduction and prevention of anxiety and depression.

Exercise can improve your social life. WebMD also notes that routine exercise can improve self-esteem, which can make it easier for people to connect with others. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Sports

Economics concluded that participation in sports activities can induce prosocial behaviors.

Though participation in sports is often promoted as a great way for kids to make new friends, the social aspect of exercise and sports participation is no less beneficial for adults.

Regular exercise can benefit your career. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Labor Research linked regular exercise with an annual wage increase between six and 10%. Researchers found that moderate exercise yields a positive earnings effect, but individuals who exercised frequently had even higher wage increases.

Exercise can benefit long-term cognitive health. Though the reasons remain unclear, there seems to be a link between regular physical activity and long-term cognitive health. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that regular exercise can positively influence cognitive ability, reduce the rate of cognitive aging and lower the risk for certain dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Many people feel a significant sense of accomplishment by the end of a vigorous workout. Such feelings could grow even more profound when individuals recognize the many lesser known benefits of breaking a sweat.

Mental health issues that affect men

16Studies have shown that men have historically been less likely to report mental health issues than women.

Lower rates of self-reporting among men may be attributable to a number of factors, including the stigma that’s still attached to the issue of mental health. Mental health issues can affect all aspects of a person’s life, and if left untreated, these issues can have grave consequences.

Men are not immune to those consequences. In fact, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates age-adjusted suicide rates are substantially higher among men than women. Among men, that rate is 14 per 100,000, which is more than twice as high as the rate among women (6.1 per 100,000).

There’s no formula to identify which men will develop a mental health issue or which condition they might experience. But it’s worth noting some of the more common mental health issues, and equally important that all men recognize these issues can affect any man at any time.

Anxiety: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services notes that anxiety disorders affect roughly 20% of the adult population in the United States each year.

Anxiety is an umbrella term that alludes to a number of issues that each produce their own symptoms and side effects, but the DHHS notes that anxiety disorders are marked by feelings of fear and uncertainty that interfere with everyday activities. These feelings persist for six months or more and can increase a person’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse and depression.

Depression: The World Health Organization reports that roughly 5% of the global adult population suffers from depression.

Depression is more than the feelings of sadness that everyone experiences from time to time. The National Institute of Mental Health notes that depression produces persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety or an “empty” mood. Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism are some additional characteristics of depression.

It’s important to recognize that these symptoms must be persistent. Symptoms that persist for at least two weeks and interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study,and eat may indicate major depression, while less severe symptoms that last for at least two years suggest the presence of persistent depressive disorder.

Substance Use Disorder: The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics has identified substance use disorder as a public health emergency. Statistics support that assertion, as data from the National Center for Health Statistics indicates more than 20 million Americans ages 12 and over are affected by a substance use disorder.

Though anyone, including children, can develop substance use disorder, a 2016 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicated that men have higher rates of use or dependence on illicit drugs and alcohol than women.

The National Institutes of Health notes that substance use disorder affects a person’s brain and behavior, which makes them incapable of controlling their use of substances, including medication and alcohol.

Men are no less vulnerable to mental health issues than women. The NIMH urges individuals in crisis or people who suspect someone is in crisis to call 911 or to call or text the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.
More information about mental health can be found at nimh.nih.gov.

The history of America’s Independence Day

11Few summertime holidays elicit as much excitement as the Fourth of July, also known as Independence Day. Each year, family, friends and revelers anticipate the arrival of the holiday so they can host barbecues, enjoy the sun, listen to their favorite summertime tunes, and commemorate the freedoms afforded by the monumental events that led to the holiday’s establishment.

Independence Day became a federal holiday in 1941, but July 4th has stood as the birth of American independence for much longer. July 4th marks a pivotal moment in the American Revolution. The colonies were forced to pay taxes to England’s King George III despite having no representation in the British Parliament. “Taxation without representation” became a battle cry and was one of several grievances the colonists had with Great Britain.

Conflict between the colonies had been going on for at least a year before the colonies convened in Philadelphia in June of 1776, says Military.com.
On July 1, 1776, delegates from the original 13 colonies, making up the Second Continental Congress, met to vote on Richard Henry Lee’s motion for independence.

After some deliberation, on July 2, 1776, the Continental Congress voted 12 to 1 in favor of independence from England. Two days later, on July 4, 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration of Independence was drafted by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was considered the strongest and most eloquent writer of the declaration writing committee charged with putting the colonies’ sentiments into words.

Richard Henry Lee of Virginia was one of the first people to present a resolution for American independence, and his commentary was the impetus for the formal Declaration of Independence. A total of 86 changes were made to Jefferson’s original draft until the final version was adopted. The signing of the document helped to solidify independence, and eventually lead to the formation of the United States of America.

A total of 56 delegates signed the document. Although John Hancock’s signature is the largest, it did not hold more weight than the other signatures. Rather, rumor has it, Hancock signed it so large so that the “fat, old King could read it without his spectacles.” However, the National Archives says it was also customary that, since Hancock was the president of the Continental Congress, he be the first person to sign the document centered below the text.

The Pennsylvania Evening Post was the first newspaper to print the Declaration of Independence on July 6, 1776. The first public readings of the Declaration were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square on July 8, 1776.

Getting to know the Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence is the formal document that served as the signatory colonies’ statement that they were now “free and independent States.” It also indicates the founding principles of the United States of America and is a vital document in American history.

In recognition of the original 13 colonies, here are 13 details regarding the Declaration of Independence.

  • 1. The drafted document was officially adopted on July 4, 1776, two days after freedom from Britain was approved. However, most delegates signed the document on August 2, 1776, while others signed on a later date. John Dickinson and Robert R. Livingston never signed the Declaration of Independence.
  • 2. While Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, it was carefully reviewed and modified by other members of the Continental Congress, notably John Adams and Benjamin Franklin.
  • 3. John Dunlap was the official printer of Congress at the time. He worked all night and into the morning of July 5 to produce the large, single-sided sheet, known as a broadside. About 200 copies of Dunlap’s broadside were made.
  • 4. The University of Virginia owns two copies of a rare early printing of the Declaration. It is on display in the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library. It is believed the copy once belonged to George Washington.
  • 5. The original rough draft of the Declaration of Independence has been lost.
  • 6. Benjamin Franklin, George Read, Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, George Clymer, and James Wilson signed both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.
  • 7. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were hidden at Fort Knox during World War II, two weeks after Pearl Harbor was attacked.
  • 8. Despite what the movie “National Treasure” will have one believe, the message on the back of the document is visible and reads “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.”
  • 9. Richard Stockton, a lawyer from New Jersey, was a signer of the Declaration who later recanted his support of the American revolution. He subsequently swore his allegiance to King George III after being captured by the British.
  • 10. In 1989, an original Dunlap Broadside was found hidden behind a picture a Philadelphia man bought at a flea market for $4. It later sold for $8.1 million. Ultimately, 26 copies of the original prints have been found.
  • 11. The United States celebrates Independence Day on July 4th, even though independence was accepted on July 2nd. The one-year anniversary of Independence Day and the celebration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence slipped the minds of Congress in 1777. When they remembered it was July 3rd, they planned a last-minute celebration on July 4th, and each year thereafter.
  • 12. Early on, not everyone in America was supportive of the Declaration of Independence. Partisan politics led to discord. Federalist John Adams was feuding with Republicans and Thomas Jefferson. The anniversary date of the signing was not widely celebrated until the Federalists were no longer involved in politics.
  • 13. John Trumbull’s painting “Declaration of Independence,” which was made into a lithograph replica by Ralph Trembly, hangs in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. It is a fictional depiction of the five-man drafting committee presenting their draft to Congress, and not the signing. The painting shows 42 of the 56 signees, since Trumbull couldn’t get likenesses of all involved. The men featured in the painting were never all in the room at the same time during the Declaration’s debate and signing.

The Declaration of Independence is a key document in American history, and its words and spirit are celebrated each Independence Day.

Prepare pets for Fourth of July festivities

10bMany people are eager for Independence Day celebrations. Festivities often begin in the afternoon with barbecues and pool parties, and continue late at night after fireworks shows that light up the night sky. Still, not everyone enjoys the extra noise and busy nature of July 4th parties, including furry members of the family.

Animal control services often report an increase in lost animals between July 4th and July 6th. That’s because the excitement of the holiday puts pets out of their comfort zones.
Pet owners should take heed of the many ways to keep their pets safe during the festivities.

Update identification. Be sure prior to any July 4th events that pets are wearing collars with current identification information. If an address or phone number has changed since the last time you updated microchip records, be sure to check the account is current.

Be careful with alcoholic drinks. Party hosts typically serve beer, wine and cocktails. Alcoholic beverages have the potential to poison pets, says the ASPCA. Animals can become very intoxicated, severely depressed or go into comas if they drink alcohol. Keep spirited drinks well out of reach.

Check with the vet. Many pets are prone to anxiety from loud noises, such as thunderstorms and fireworks, and lots of commotion — something that occurs in spades come July 4th. Some veterinarians recommend a small course of anti-anxiety medication or a sedative to help pets cope with the stimuli.

Create a quiet space. Allow pets to ride out the day in their comfortable, quiet and cozy retreats. If necessary, create a space in an interior room. Cover the pet crate with a blanket and offer favorite toys or bedding to create a soothing environment.

Place notes on doors and gates. While it’s best to keep pets in a locked room away from the fray, some pets like to socialize with guests and are not bothered by noises. However, alert guests with notes posted on doors and fence gates to check to make sure pets are not trying to escape behind them. All doors should be closed firmly when entering or exiting.

Pick up debris. Firework debris can rain down on properties even if you were not shooting off the fireworks. Curious pets may pick it up or eat it, which runs the risk of an upset stomach or even an intestinal blockage. Check your yard before letting pets out to play.

Keep an eye on the grill. Pets can be opportunists, and those burgers and chicken drumsticks smell delicious to pets. Pets that get too close to the grill can become injured. And if pets eat leftovers, they may end up with digestive distress or even be poisoned by foods that are toxic to cats and dogs.

Pets need to be protected during summertime parties like Independence Day celebrations.

Celebrations can trigger combat veterans with PTSD

10aOscar Solis, Jr. is a retired U.S. Marine who doesn’t like celebrating the Fourth of July.

“I’m very honored by the intent, but it’s the celebration behind it — the fireworks, the large crowds — that’s a bit much for me,” the Afghanistan and Iraq War veteran explained.

Solis is not alone. Every year the nation celebrates its independence with fireworks. What some don’t realize is that these colorful celebrations of American freedom can seriously impact the veterans who defended it.

“As beautiful as they are, the sounds, smells and shock waves of fireworks can be triggering for veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD,” said Annie Tang, staff psychologist at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Illinois.

“These can bring up emotional and physiological reactions, and bring up trauma memories from the past, which can bring up intense anxiety and fear.”

Tang explained that the brain is very good at pairing things, especially threat. Combat veterans and those who worked in combat zones can pair threat with whatever was in that environment, including things they saw, heard or smelled.

These pairings can continue after returning to civilian life. So, when fireworks or other loud noises occur, a veteran’s brain can feel in danger.

“That’s absolutely me,” said Solis. “It’s like an animalistic brain. It’s a lot of negative things you associate with that makes you hesitant to do everything.”

Although time and treatment have helped with coping, Solis still prefers to stick to his regular schedule during the holiday.

“I really struggled for a long time. I took a bad turn initially when I first got out. Over the past few years or so, it’s gotten better. Now I can manage,” he explained. “But I stay in; my routine is everything. I stick to my routine.”

According to Tang, avoiding the holiday is a common way of coping with the stress Independence Day can bring but may not benefit someone long-term.

“In our society and military culture, veterans are taught to avoid,” Tang explained. “How many times has a veteran heard ‘suck it up?’ In an immediate threat, [avoidance] can help, but in civilian life, it can really affect many veterans.”

Tang has treated veterans at Hines VA since 2013 and recommends five things to help veterans cope with triggers.

  • 1. Avoid avoidance. Avoidance can be a short-term fix, but it tends to worsen the problem over time. It’s helpful to confront safe triggers you’ve wanted to avoid gradually. Some Veterans may need help from a mental health professional.
  • 2. Remind yourself where you are and what is happening around you. Repeating simple reminders, like ‘this is not a combat zone,’ and ‘these are only fireworks’ can help reset the brain during a PTSD trigger.
  • 3. Change the body’s temperature. Safely lowering body temperatures can quickly remind someone where they are and help quell PTSD triggers. Veterans can take a cold shower, or use an ice pack, ice cubes, frozen vegetable packs or splash cold water.
  • 4. Schedule meaningful activities you enjoy. Planning self-care can boost your mood, which can offset the overall impact of stress triggers.
  • 5. Prioritize your mental health and seek treatment. VA offers support and care through evidence-based treatments for PTSD, stress and anxiety. VA also offers the PTSD Coach Mobile App that provides information and coping skills to help manage anxiety or distress. To schedule an appointment with Hines VA Trauma Services, call 708-202-4668.

“It’s not always easy, but I cannot emphasize enough that help is out there, and it can help people regain their lives,” said Tang.

This year will be the 11th Independence Day since Solis returned from his last combat deployment in Afghanistan. Like most Independence Days since returning, he plans to spend it away from celebrations and large gatherings.

“The fear, the pain — it hurts, but you have to accept it and work through it,” said Solis “It’s the only way I can keep growing.”

Editor’s note: Matthew Moeller is a Public Affairs Officer at Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital in Illinois This article is a reprint from www.va.gov/


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