Healthy Gains, Happy Brains

Healthy Gains, Happy Brains

by Kristal Lam

Ever miss those days on the playground? Recreation centers on college campuses are where big kids go to run like there’s no tomorrow, discover new toys, and spark some friendly competition. With so much equipment to play around with, it is not uncommon for students to injure themselves in their activity. From simple muscle cramps to life-changing injuries and illnesses, there is a large range of risks that comes with working out. Though, these risks can easily be prevented given a few simple reminders.

thumbnailConsidering that Berkeley students are studying at the top public university in the world, there is no question that they face rigorous academics on a regular basis, which can easily develop into stress. UC Berkeley’s Tang Center provides resources for stress management, but because individual counseling is limited, the Recreational Sports Facility can be a hot spot for quickly improving both physical and mental health. These preventative tips will ensure that going to the RSF does more good than harm.

Working out is a common habit in the college environment, but it has its risks. Overworking of the muscles can lead to injury, no matter how experienced one is in the gym. To prevent oneself from getting hurt, it is important to start with a stretch and a warm-up. Stretching increases flexibility, which gives the muscles a greater range of motion, and warming up further loosens the body up to ease it into the workout. After working out, a cool-down period allows the body to recover.

While exercising is strongly encouraged, compulsive exercising is a commonly neglected condition that can casually develop from a regular workout habit. After constantly setting goals for oneself, one may begin to feel obligated to workout. In addition to feeling guilty when not working out, individuals suffering from this condition may begin to cut back on food to compensate for not burning enough calories. Unlike those temporary muscle cramps, this condition can result in long-term damage in the muscles, the bones, and even the heart.

It is also important to remember that the body needs proper nutrients to work. Weight loss may be a common goal of exercise, but that does not mean one should mindlessly cut back on all foods. To fuel up prior to a workout, eat a light meal that is low in fat and fiber, and moderate in carbs and protein. After exercising, protein is important to help the muscles recover and grow. Most importantly, keep the body hydrated to help maintain homeostasis.

thumbnailFor those who are taking a break from the gym due to injury or other reasons, do not be afraid to get back to the grind. Stephanie Jenks, a cross country and track runner at Cal, understands the difficulty of building the muscles up again. In the midst of rehabilitating her muscles from multiple stress fractures and Achilles tendonitis, she has advice for those who are getting back to it.

“Start slow and don’t overdo it. Never push too hard,” Jenks said.

College is a stressful environment, especially when one attends a prestigious university like Berkeley. Sometimes exercising gets put on the back burner, but it is actually vital to one’s physical and mental health. Next time studying becomes overbearing, check out the Recreational Sports Facility for some stress relieving activity!

Be Mindful: The Homeless Population and Mental Illness

Be Mindful: The Homeless Population and Mental Illness

by Daniela Morales

“It’s okay to not be okay.” This is a phrase I have heard over and over in the year that I have been in college, mainly when dealing with matters of mental health. As college students, we are trying to remove the stigma that stems from mental health and mental illness, especially when it comes to the mental wellness of our peers. We support each other by saying that we can overcome many of the obstacles put in our lives by mental illness and that mental well-being is something to work towards, not something that just happens. So why is it that we hold others to a higher standard? Why are we so afraid of the mental illness that affects those who are homeless? Why do we contradict our own words and look at their mental state as anything different than our own? Mental illness is something that can affect anyone at any time and does not select for certain races, classes, or genders. As we move towards a better understanding of mental health and the stigmas related to mental illness, it is important to take into account the homeless people that we encounter every day and struggles they face with their own mental health.
Homelessness is a state where the victims are susceptible to health risks, violence, and loss of basic human rights such as privacy, resources, etc. Homeless people are put in a position where often their health—both mental and physical— is compromised. Their situation leaves them in the impossible crossroads to decide whether they should pay money for clothes, food, and other necessities or for healthcare. A misconception of the homeless is that they are lazy when in reality about 45 percent of the homeless population has a job. Another misconception is that all homeless people are crazy. The reality is that only 20-25% of adult homeless people suffer from a chronic and severe form of mental illness. Quite often this mental illness is depression and many people develop other illnesses while on the streets. According to an EveryOne Home report from 2011, 818 of the estimated 4,200 homeless in Alameda County are severely ill. In the city of Berkeley alone, 41 percent of the homeless population has a severe mental illness.
Many people believe that the homeless are drug addicts and while this may be the case for 40% of Berkeley’s homeless population, much of the time these people are trying to self-medicate, due to the lack of healthcare services provided to the homeless. Over half of Berkeley’s homeless population has both severe mental illness and substance abuse problems. While there’s no reason to justify their substance abuse, the pattern of mental illness and the drug problem in the homeless community exposes an opportunity for us as Berkeley community members to do more to address these issues.
You might be wondering “what can I do to help address the issue of homelessness and mental illness in Berkeley?” There are many solutions to this unfortunate problem. One solution is to start a conversation. Many people still have a lot of misconceptions about the homeless and by stimulating a discussion about these issues, more people will be educated and informed about the problems surround mental health in the homeless population. Another way to help aid the homeless is to volunteer at a local clinic. Clinics that offer health and wellness services in the Berkeley area include The Suitcase Clinic and the Berkeley Free Clinic. The clinics base themselves on the ideas of public health, social welfare, and activism in the community. Students are encouraged to apply as volunteers and the websites for both are provided below.

By becoming an active participant in the rights and wellness of the homeless, you are increasing awareness of mental health and healthcare rights not only for the homeless community but also for those in the Berkeley community that are underserved as well. Homelessness can affect anyone at any time, much like mental illness, so it is important to make sure we strike up a conversation and get involved in breaking down the walls of homelessness and mental illness’ reputation. And while we are making great strides in reducing the strain of mental illness in the campus community, it is just as powerful to be mindful of our fellow Berkelians and say “it’s okay to not be okay.”

Health and Education

Health and Education
by Jacob Demé

While health education falls within a diverse spectrum of public services to improve a community, its full potential for positive change has been lost in the tumultuous political struggle that permeates a developed society. For many government agencies, determining the efficient allocation of funds to public programs, their decision-making process boils down to a concentrated pool of factors. The most prominent of these factors is need of service in a given population as well as potential for monetary gain. Therefore, I contend that focus on these two determinants of funding for public health and community development programs contributes to the integral pitfalls that hinder their progress.
By utilizing an as-needed basis for health education funding, the door is opened to a host of problematic consequences affecting the sustainability of these projects and the results they provide. Many grants for health education programs run on a rolling application process, in which approval is required for renewal following the end of a determined time interval. Requiring continuous support presents a paradoxical state that jeopardizes the continued funding of successful programs. Furthermore, as the successful programs accomplish positive change in their target community, statistical representation of their need for consistent funding decreases, making them less likely to receive adequate financial support. Conditional and intermittent funding for health education is an issue that permeates health programs globally, and places health care practices at risk of devoting greater attention and resources toward a treatment-minded approach. The danger lies not in the development and implementation of treatment options for any given health issue. Instead, with greater focus on treatment, preventative methods will remain less developed, defeating hopes for progression in health care in the generations to come. At the core of this serious public health issue lies the ever-present motivation of profit maximization.
When asked about the attitude toward preventative medicine, Candice Jensen, program coordinator for the Placer County HIV/AIDS Testing and Surveillance Program, responded, “Cost speaks volumes to tax payers and policy makers and whether return on investment is the most compassionate reason or not, it can’t be denied that preventative care and other strategies that contribute positively to overall health and wellness may be less expensive than chronic medical treatment and hospitalization.” This type of profit-driven behavior is clearly exemplified in the pharmaceutical industry, the greatest source of support for treatment-based health care. While Jensen also expressed a positive outlook for a shift towards preventative medicine, this brighter future cannot be achieved without greater awareness of these problematic issues and support for their resolution.


PHA Print Publication: Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 Issues

The Public Health Advocate Online Publication will be posting Public Health Advocate Print Publication issues! Below are Issues 14 (Fall 2011) and Issue 15 (Spring 2012). Take a read through UC Berkeley’s premier publication distributed bi-annually throughout campus. Click on the links below to read the complete 2011-2012 issues!

FALL 2011:

Head and Brain Injuries Induce Early Onset of Death

By Penelope Chuah

Yesterday, BBC published an article highlighting the fatal effects of post-head injuries. The analysis supports the fact that “injuries to the head can leave victims susceptible to early death” leading to a three times greater risk of death compared to people who did not suffer any damage to the brain (BBC).

Damage to certain brain areas can cause severe impairment to fundamental physical and mental body controls, some of which include motor function, memory function, executive function, and regions involved in personality formation. The frontal lobe, for example, is a region that specializes in memory function, executive function, and personality formation. When the frontal lobe undergoes damage from a concussion or repeated forceful strikes to the area, completing cognitive tasks becomes difficult, as well as initiating behavior and organizing tasks becomes impaired (Jagust). Furthermore, the frontal lobe is the area that involves personality formation. When this region is affected, preservation and inappropriate behavior with feelings of agitation develop. Among damage to these functional areas, The BBC article concludes that “common causes of premature death among those who had suffered previous brain injury included suicide, being a victim of assault or suffering fatal injuries, for example in a car crash” (BBC). Overall, brain and head injury commonly cause a change in potentially fatal mental and physical behavior. Punch-Drunk Syndrome exemplifies the effects of head injuries and the likelihood of the onset of premature death. This syndrome is common in boxers or those who are taking constant impact to the head. This eventually leads to cognitive and behavioral alterations that include personality changes and depression, accompanied with motor weakness. Problems in the brain lower the reserve and increase the potential of having problems with amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles, a type of protein and fiber, respectively, that contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease through neuronal degradation (Jagust).

Traumatic injuries to the brain can trigger a series of neuronal degradation that is particularly destructive to brain and bodily function, causing a higher risk of death. The brain, with all its intricacies and production of complex output, is a lot more fragile than people expect and require a lot more protection than given.


Brain blow leaves life-long dangers. (2014, January 15). BBC News. Retrieved January 16, 2014, from

Dr. William Jagust, UC Berkeley, Public Health/Cognitive Science 129