Migraine Visual Aura

Migraine visual aura spoils a summer afternoon.

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To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare.  Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Could Your Kid’s Growing Pains Be Something More?

When you think about arthritis and its associated swelling and joint pain, you likely relate the problem primarily with the elderly. However, statistics are clear it is not just the oldest (and wisest) among us who suffer from arthritis; there’s a whole range of problems under the Juvenile Arthritis (JA) umbrella negatively impacting the lives of kids, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

July is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, a month dedicated to increase awareness about the early signs and symptoms of juvenile arthritis and to increase the focus and expand resources for the fight against JA. The campaign was initiated by the Arthritis Foundation and targets a condition that currently affects 300 000 children nationwide, making it one of the most common childhood diseases in the US.

What is Juvenile Arthritis?

The word “arthritis” means joint inflammation in Latin, but juvenile arthritis can impact eyes, skin and the gastrointestinal tract. The disorder takes on a large variety of forms, and researchers and doctors alike are working to better understand the key differences and how varying approaches can help.
Juvenile arthritis (JA) is not a disease in itself. Also known as pediatric rheumatic disease, JA is an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions or pediatric rheumatic diseases that can develop in children under the age of 16.
Although the various types of juvenile arthritis share many common symptoms, like pain, joint swelling, redness and warmth, each type of JA is distinct and has its own special concerns and symptoms. Some types of juvenile arthritis affect the musculoskeletal system, but joint symptoms may be minor or nonexistent.

Three classifications of juvenile arthritis exist: juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA), juvenile chronic arthritis (JCA), and juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), of which, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis is the most common. The classification is made based on symptoms, number of joints involved and the presence of antibodies in the blood

Facts About Juvenile Arthritis

1. Juvenile Arthritis Affects more than Joints

According to the Arthritis Foundation, JA can do more than cause joint discomfort in young people. While many types of JA share commonalities like swelling, “each type of JA is distinct and has its own special concerns and symptoms”, it notes.

For example, some versions of JA don’t fall under the classic definition of arthritis at all; the problem can affect the eyes, skin (Juvenile dermatomyositis) and digestive system as well, according to the foundation.

2. One of the Early Signs of JA is Limping

While some children may not express any pain from the disease, their actions can speak for themselves. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases notes that JA often targets the knees and feet, creating a telltale limp in junior’s walk.

The source also notes that the problem is usually worse first thing in the morning or after a nap, when the joints have a chance to stiffen. Keep an eye out for any strange walking patterns of your child, especially if you can’t recall any recent accidents that would contribute to the limping.

3. It’s Difficult to Say It’s a Genetic Problem

While many diseases are passed down from one parent or both, The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases notes that it’s “very rare” for more than one family member to have JA.

That being said, children who have another family member who has JA are at “slightly increased” risk of developing the problem. Since JA is largely an autoimmune disease (when you immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells), families with a history of autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis or Thyroid inflammation may be at higher risk.

4. Girls are More at Risk

According to HealthCentral.com, Juvenile Arthritis affects more girls than boys, and is likely to develop from ages 2 to 4 or during the adolescent/teen years (but under the age of 16).

While there doesn’t seem to be any solid statistics for girls versus boys when it comes to JA cases, KidsGetArthritisToo.org notes that the most common form of JA is mild oligoarthritis (affecting fewer than five joints) that is usually found in girls aged 8-or younger.

5. Juvenile Arthritis Can be Fatal

Apparently arthritis and other rheumatic conditions (collectively known as AORC) in youth has accounted for deaths in the U.S., according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The source notes that between 1979 and 1998, there were roughly 50 deaths per year (of children younger than 15) attributed to the diseases.

The slightly better news is that during this roughly 20-year period, the death rate related to AORC diseases fell 25-percent from 1.2 deaths per million to 0.9 deaths per million, according to the CDC. These deaths are more common among females than males, according to HealthLine.com, which paints a somewhat bleaker picture regarding JA mortality rates.

6. Juvenile Arthritis is Treatable

At this moment, there is no cure for juvenile arthritis. The custom approach to the disorder is to control pain levels, reduce inflammation and maintain mobility, while in more extreme cases surgery is the only possible solution to prevent further joint damage. Many treatment plans are based on proper medication, therapeutically physical activities, eye care and healthy eating.

The treatments used for Juvenile Arthritis focus on improving quality of life for young people. In some cases, pain medication is the solution, but in some cases anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are used. Doctors may also prescribe DMARDs, a family of drugs that are designed to slow the progression of the juvenile arthritis. Chemotherapy drugs have also been used to battle JA, although in lower doses than when treating cancer patients.

Physical therapy may also be part of the treatment plan to help maintain your child’s flexibility and maintain muscle tone. Probably the most important component of any plan is the way in which all measures are customized for a child’s daily schedule in order to affect the quality of life as little as possible.

Types of Juvenile Arthritis

  • Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Considered the most common form of arthritis, JIA includes six subtypes: oligoarthritis, polyarthritis, systemic, enthesitis-related, juvenile psoriatic arthritis or undifferentiated.
  • Juvenile dermatomyositis. An inflammatory disease, juvenile dermatomyositis causes muscle weakness and a skin rash on the eyelids and knuckles.
  • Juvenile lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease. The most common form is systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. Lupus can affect the joints, skin, kidneys, blood and other areas of the body.
  • Juvenile scleroderma.Scleroderma, which literally means “hard skin,” describes a group of conditions that causes the skin to tighten and harden.
  • Kawasaki disease.This disease causes blood-vessel inflammation that can lead to heart complications.
  • Mixed connective tissue disease. This disease may include features of arthritis, lupus dermatomyositis and scleroderma, and is associated with very high levels of a particular antinuclear antibody called anti-RNP.
  • Fibromyalgia. This chronic pain syndrome is an arthritis-related condition, which can cause stiffness and aching, along with fatigue, disrupted sleep and other symptoms. More common in girls, fibromyalgia is seldom diagnosed before puberty.

Juvenile Arthritis Causes

No known cause has been pinpointed for most forms of juvenile arthritis, nor is there evidence to suggest that toxins, foods or allergies cause children to develop JA. Some research points toward a genetic predisposition to juvenile arthritis, which means the combination of genes a child receives from his or her parents may cause the onset of JA when triggered by other factors.

Juvenile Arthritis Symptoms

Each of the different types of JA have their own set of signs and symptoms. You can read more specifics about the diseases by following the links above, and by visiting the Arthritis Foundation’s website dedicated to pediatric rheumatic diseases, KidsGetArthritisToo.

Juvenile Arthritis Diagnosis

The most important step in properly treating juvenile arthritis is getting an accurate diagnosis. The diagnostic process can be long and detailed. There is no single blood test that confirms any type of JA. In children, the key to diagnosis is a careful physical exam, along with a thorough medical history. Any specific tests a doctor may perform will depend upon the type of JA suspected.

Juvenile Arthritis Self Care

An important part of JA treatment is teaching chidlren the importance of following the treatment prescribed by their healthcare team. Self care also involves helping the child address the emotional and social effects of the disease. Self management encompasses the choices made each day to live well and stay healthy and happy.

Finding the Right Physician

You’ll probably first bring your symptoms to the attention of your family doctor, who may refer you to a rheumatologist — a doctor specializing in the treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bone. Because JA can affect many organ systems, you may need to see a variety of medical specialists.

To get the right help, find a rheumatologist or other physician who knows how hard it is to endure a disease so few understand and can truly help. To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Sources:

Arthritis.org

ActiveBeat.com

DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images and information, contained on or available through this web site is for general information purposes only.  Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of HealthLynked Corp and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to health and wellness.

#ArthritisAwareness#ArthritisFoundation#JuvenileArthritis#StrongerThanJA#KidsGetArthritisToo#Arthritis

What They Don’t Tell You About CPAP Machines

At first sight, this mask with an attached hose is intimidating. But it doesn’t take long to get used to your CPAP, and the payoff is a better night’s sleep.

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To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

New Options in the Fight Against Obesity – Future of Health

A promising new device could help treat obesity without altering the stomach like many weight loss surgeries. Called VBLOC, this pacemaker-like device is designed to control hunger and fullness by affecting signals between the stomach and the brain.

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To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Getting a Kidney Transplant: What You Need to Know

In the U.S., an estimated 14 percent of the population has chronic kidney disease, and roughly 661,000 Americans have kidney failure. Of these, 468,000 people are on kidney dialysis, and almost 200,000 live with a functioning kidney transplant.

MedlinePlus and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases have helpful information about how kidney transplants and other options can help.

What are kidneys?

Your kidneys are two bean-shaped organs that filter out waste and extra water, make hormones, and do other important things to keep you healthy. They are located on either side of your spine and are each about the size of your fist.

What causes kidney failure?

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the main causes of chronic kidney disease, which is the gradual loss of kidney function. Other conditions that affect the kidneys include autoimmune diseases like lupus and inherited diseases like polycystic kidney disease.

Some people live with kidney disease for years, others quickly progress to kidney failure. Kidney failure means that your kidneys have lost most of their ability to function–less than 15 percent of normal kidney function.

Medication and other methods of managing kidney disease help some people maintain kidney function for years. Others progress quickly to kidney failure.

Dialysis and kidney transplants are two treatments used to replace failing kidneys. Dialysis takes the place of your kidneys by helping remove waste and water from your blood, but doesn’t fully replace everything your kidneys normally do.

Can a transplant help?

When your kidneys have failed, a transplant may also be a good option. Compared to dialysis, a working transplanted kidney does a better job of filtering waste, replacing your failed kidneys, and keeping you healthy.

However, a kidney transplant isn’t for everyone. Anyone interested in a kidney transplant should be evaluated by a transplant center, as some people may not be healthy enough for transplant surgery.

While a transplant is a good treatment for kidney failure, it’s not a cure. You need to take medicines daily so your body doesn’t reject the new kidney. You also need to see your health care professional regularly.

Getting a transplant

Your health care professional will refer you to a transplant center for tests to see if you’re healthy enough to receive a transplant. Living donors, such as family or friends, need to be tested to make sure they’re healthy enough to donate a kidney.

If you have a living donor, don’t worry about being a perfect “match.” Today, innovations such as kidney exchanges allow transplant surgeons to get around incompatibilities and make many living donor transplants possible.

If you don’t have a living donor, you’ll be placed on a waiting list to receive a kidney. You’ll have regular blood tests while you wait for a kidney. The center must have a recent sample of your blood to match with any kidney that becomes available. As soon as a kidney is available, you must go to the hospital to have your transplant. Donated organs need to be used in a specific amount of time or they may not be usable.

During surgery

Surgery usually takes three to four hours. The damaged kidneys are not usually removed.

If a family member or friend is donating the kidney, you’ll schedule the surgery when it’s best for you, your donor, and your surgeon. One surgeon will remove the kidney from the donor, while another prepares you to receive the donated kidney.

After surgery

Many people report feeling better right after having transplant surgery. For others, it takes a few days for the new kidney to start working.

You will probably need to stay in the hospital for several days to recover from surgery–longer if you have any problems. You’ll have regular follow-up visits after leaving the hospital.

If you have a living donor, the donor will probably also stay in the hospital for a couple of days, although probably less time than you will.

Transplant rejection

Transplant rejection often begins before you feel any symptoms. Rejection occurs when the immune system attacks the “foreign” transplanted kidney.

The routine blood tests that you have at the transplant center will reveal early signs of rejection. You may develop high blood pressure or notice swelling because your kidney isn’t getting rid of extra salt and fluid in your body.

If you think you may have transplant rejection, contact your health care professional immediately. Rejection can often be treated, but only if it is detected early. Your health care professional will treat early signs of rejection by adjusting your medicines to help keep your body from rejecting your new kidney. Rejection does not necessarily mean you will lose your transplant.

Additionally, when you’re taking anti-rejection medicines, you’re at a greater risk for infection.

Anti-rejection medicines can dull symptoms of problems such as infection. Call your transplant center right away if you aren’t feeling well or have:

  • a fever of more than 100 degrees
  • drainage from your surgical scar
  • burning when you pass urine
  • a cold or cough that won’t go away

SOURCES: MedlinePlus; National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: Kidney Transplantation;  National Kidney Foundation

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To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Can a Sneeze Kill You?

Sneezing – It’s your nose’s reflex to something that’s irritating. But have you ever wondered if a sneeze can kill you? See what actually happens when you sneeze, and whether or not an achoo can be deadly.

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To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Understanding a Difficult Joint Disease

When you hear about someone who has arthritis, you might think of an older person with pain or stiffness in his or her joints. But that’s not always the case.

There are many types of arthritis and millions of people in the U.S. have some form of it. One type of arthritis that affects more than 1.5 million people in the U.S. is rheumatoid arthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the tissues that line your joints instead of fighting infections.

RA causes pain, swelling, and stiffness in your joints. It usually affects your wrists, hands, and knees, preventing them from working properly. While RA is more common in women age 30 or older, RA can affect all people.

RA is different from the more common osteoarthritis, which is the arthritis that many older people develop over time. No one knows what causes RA. While there is no cure, it can be treated.

What to look for

Symptoms of RA range from mild to severe. Sometimes RA affects one joint at a time, but more typically it presents as pain, warmth, and swelling in the joints on both sides of the body at the same time or on alternating sides.

It can also affect body parts that are not joints, including your eyes, mouth, heart, and lungs. Symptoms can last for only a short time or they can come and go.

It’s important to recognize the signs of RA and see your health care provider as soon as possible to get a proper diagnosis. Your provider will use tests  to help diagnose you and then refer you to a rheumatologist, who focuses on autoimmune illnesses–many of which target the musculoskeletal tissues. You and your rheumatologist can determine the treatment that is best for you.

Symptoms of RA include some or all of the following:

  • Swollen, tender, or warm joints
  • Symmetric swollen joints (on both sides of the body), such as in both your right and left wrists
  • Swollen joints in the wrist and finger joints closest to the hand
  • Other swollen joints such as the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, and feet
  • Feeling tired and having low energy
  • Fevers
  • Pain and stiffness that lasts for more than 30 minutes in the morning or after a long rest
  • Symptoms that last for many years

SOURCE: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: Rheumatoid Arthritis

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To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Awaken Your SuperHero Within | The Anti-Kryptonite Powers of Napping

At the Academy (Harvard on the Severn, Canoe U, Squid Tech), I was into napping.  Any time I could squeeze a few zzzzs into a day, especially after lunch, I would; and so would many others.  For me, I counted it as an essential escape from the rigors of military school, thinking if I slept half the day, I would be “away”from USNA half the time.

It wasn’t until much later I learned napping had other health benefits, too.

Sadly, napping is often frowned upon in our workaholic American culture. When we think of napping men, we think of Dagwood passed out on the couch after consuming a giant, delicious sandwich. Naps are thought to be habits of the lazy and unambitious, or the privilege of retirees with plenty of time on their hands. The person who falls asleep at his desk at work is laughed at and often fired.  And when we doze off, we feel guilty —  except in planes.  Always nap on planes!

In reality, the nap stigma is incredibly misplaced. Naps can be one of the most powerful tools for self-improvement; they can increase not only our health and well-being but our intelligence and productivity. This is something great achievers have known all along. History is full of famous nappers. Noted thinkers, creators and leaders, like Edison, JFK, Churchill, Aristotle, Margaret “Iron Lady” Thatcher, and Napoleon, all were ardent nappers.

Cats and Dogs Know Something You Don’t

Humans are among the few animals that take their sleep in one shot. The rest of the animal kingdom consists of polyphasic sleepers; they alternate sleep and wake cycles throughout a 24-hour period. Cavemen likely slept in multiple phases too, so someone was always up to keep an eye out for saber tooth tigers. While experimenting with a return to polyphasic sleep has become trendy in recent times, the ideal pattern for human sleep appears to be biphasic–a long stretch at night along with a shorter respite during the day.

The ancient Romans were biphasic sleepers; at sexta (the sixth hour or their noon) everyone would turn in for some midday shut eye. This is where we get the terms siesta and reposo — traditions once popular in Spain and Italy respectively but which have largely succumbed to the encroaching go-go-go Western business style.

While the pace of modern life may keep us from being the biphasic sleepers we were meant to be, the urge for a daytime snooze is still hardwired into our biology.  Many of us find it nearly impossible to get enough z’s at night, and sleep deprivation causes a host of bodily and mental ills, keeping us from performing at our best and enjoying life to the fullest.

I feel it every day, and stave it off with the obligatory midday caffeine injection.

Studies have shown when people are put into an environment that lacks any indication of time, they will fall into the long sleep at night/shorter nap during the day pattern. Thus, most of us are daily fighting tooth and nail against our body’s natural circadian rhythm.  Match this with the fact most Americans report being sleep deprived, and we are becoming a horde of drowsy zombies in mindless, relentless pursuit of espresso instead of brains.

While a good night’s sleep is essential, a daily nap can buoy us up when we’re not getting quite enough shut eye. And for those who already sleep well at night, a nap can take take the performance of your body and mind to the next level.

The Benefits of Napping

Increases alertness. When your eyelids are almost too heavy to keep open, you’re not doing your best work. Make time for a nap and then go back at it. A NASA study found a 40-minute nap increases alertness by 100%. Other studies have found that a 20-minute nap is more effective than either 200 mg of caffeine or a bout of exercise. Yet another study showed that pilots who were allowed to take a 25-minute nap (while the co-pilot manned the controls!) nodded off fives times less than their nap-deprived peers. They also made less errors during take-offs and landings.

Power naps are effective at making you more alert when you wake up because there’s very low risk of falling into a deep sleep or another sleep cycle that causes grogginess. Your brain shuts down just enough that when you wake up, you experience a jolt of alertness. Study after study has shown that people working night shifts or in high pressure jobs with long shifts are much more alert when given the opportunity to power nap, sometimes several times a day.

Beyond pilots and space jockeys, there are many jobs that require you to be alert and can be dangerous to yourself and others if you aren’t. Firefighters are a good example, though your job or situation doesn’t need to be that extreme to benefit from being alert as a result of a power nap. New parents learn to nap when their newborn does, even if it’s only for 10 minutes at a time, though other factors affect fatigue in that case. Regardless, research is solid in that power naps provide a higher level of alertness and even awareness than before catching those short z’s.

Studies have shown that if you break up your day with a nap, you will be as alert and energetic for the second part of your day as you were for the first. So, if you’ve got an event planned for after work, take a nap before going out on the town.

Improves learning and working memory. Naps improve your working memory. This type of memory is involved in working on complex tasks where you have to pay attention to one thing while holding a bunch of other things in your memory. Napping also improves your memory retention; during sleep, recent memories are transferred to the neocortex, where long-term memories are solidified and stored.

For many people, everything from power naps to 90-minute naps can be very restorative, resulting in improved memory and cognitive function. Some experts say that people who can nap properly—meaning being able to take a nap without falling into a deep sleep and waking feeling refreshed—benefit much more from these short naps than turning to energy drinks and caffeine. The nap allows them to reactivate their memory and organize information more easily.

Improved memory can be really helpful for people who have to absorb and remember a lot of information. Some require this for their jobs, but students are a prime example, and a lot of research has been done about the ways students can effectively absorb the mountain of information they’re required to learn during high school, university and college. Studies have shown that students who nap after a round of studying often wake up with a better memory of what they had been learning and reading before their nap. It’s almost like hitting reset on the brain, allowing you to remember things that you would have otherwise forgotten.

Prevents burnout and reverses information overload.  While we often refuse to take a nap because we feel like we have too much to do, studies have shown that putting in extra hours without rest dramatically reduces your productivity. It would be better to take a 30-minute nap and return to your work refreshed.

This was demonstrated in a study in which subjects performed a visual task over the course of four days. With each successive session, the subjects’ performance on the task deteriorated. But when the subjects were allowed to take a 30-minute nap after the second session, the decline in performance was halted. And after a one-hour nap, their performance actually improved in the third and fourth sessions.

Bigger companies have started to recognize the benefits of daytime napping and allow or even encourage employees to take a power nap. Some have even gone as far as to designate an area for napping. Not every company will jump on the bandwagon, but if you can go somewhere to grab a quick power nap during a lunch or early afternoon break, you could be more productive at work. But if you work the standard 9-5 shift, avoid taking naps mid to late afternoon because it could prevent you from falling asleep and sleeping well that night.

Heightens your senses and creativity. According to a foremost nap scientist (napologist? Napster? Napmeister?) Sara C. Mednick, napping can improve your sensory perception as effectively as a night of sleep. This means that steak tastes better, the sunset looks purtier, and Annie’s Song sounds even better after a good nap.

Napping also improves your creativity by both loosening up the web of ideas in your head and fusing disparate insights together.

Between your job, family responsibilities, personal relationships, social and volunteer commitments, and even just running errands, a lot of things drain you—both physically and mentally. This stress and exhaustion is a clear strain on your creativity, and it can seem almost hopeless to get back. But getting the creative juices flowing could come from taking a power nap. Stress takes it toll on the mind so shutting down with a nap could revive your mind and organize your thoughts, bringing your creativity back to you.

You don’t need to have what’s considered a creative job for waning creativity to negatively impact what you do at work. Power naps have been proven to help in this area, and a not-so-surprising amount of people struggle with it often. Every job requires some level creativity, from the obvious artistic requirements of graphic designers and architects to the deft creativity of administrative personnel organizing schedules or the insightfulness of an accountant balancing books. So, take a nap and see where your creativity goes — it could benefit you and your employer greatly.

Improves health. Sleep deprivation leads to an excess of the hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, helps us deal with fight or flight responses. But excess cortisol increases glucose intolerance and abdominal fat, weakens the muscular and immune systems, stymies memory and learning, and decreases levels of growth hormone and testosterone in our bodies. These deleterious effects can lead to diabetes and heart disease.

When you sleep, you release growth hormone, the antidote to cortisol which which boosts your immune system, primes your sexual function, reduces stress and anxiety, and aids in muscle repair and weight loss. Napping gives your brain a chance to rest and your body a chance to heal.

The proof’s in the pudding. A study done with Greeks found those that took a 30-minute nap at least three times a week had a 37% lower risk of dying from a heart-related condition. Among working men their risk of death was reduced 64%! So, not only should you dance like Zorba the Greek, you should nap like him, too.

Improves mood. Odds are you know someone who is really cranky when they don’t get the sleep they need, or you might be that person. If so, you understand even more how important feeling rested is to your mood. Being tired can have a sort of snowball effect –  you are likely to feel grouchy, be short with those around you, or simply have a tough time focusing.  These and other physical and emotional reactions as a result of lack of sleep only continue to keep you in a bad mood or worsen it as the day or weeks go by.

The neurotransmitter serotonin regulates our mood, sleep, and appetites. It produces feeling of contentment and well-being. But when our bodies are stressed, higher levels of serotonin are used and the production of more is blocked. As a result, we can become anxious, irritable, depressed, overwhelmed, and easily distracted. According to Mednick, “napping bathes your brain in serotonin, reversing those effects and creating a more positive outlook.”

And the fact is, some days you just need that extra bit of shut eye. Whether you have a restless night or a stressful (and therefore tiring) week at work, a power nap can keep your spirits high. But if you have insomnia, sleep apnea, or other form of sleep condition, talk to your doctor before scheduling in any naps. People with these conditions aren’t usually encouraged to nap because of other health implications and risks, so speak to a professional first. Saves money. Instead spending $30 a week on Five Hour Energy or Starbucks, take a nap and boost your energy the natural and more effective way.

Lowers Stress.  Stress is inevitable at certain times of your life, but it doesn’t need to be constant. Research has shown that psychological pressure and stress can be reduced by taking a nap. Stress is hard on your body and getting rest from a nap after you experience an increase in stress has been linked to improved cardiovascular healing, lowering the possible effects of stress on your heart. In addition, the hormones released during a nap or night of sleep contribute to decreasing your level of stress.

A lot of people find it hard to fall asleep during the day, even when they need it or could really benefit from it. If you give napping a try and just can’t do it, don’t force it but consider still taking the time to lie down and relax. Similar to when you go to sleep, your mind has to reach a certain level of relaxation and your thoughts can’t be too loud. Achieving this during the day in place of a power nap has been shown to have similar benefits to that of actual napping, so keep that time set aside to reduce stress.

Reduced Risk of Depression.  Studies have linked people who get enough/the right amount of sleep to a lower chance of developing depression. And naps can help you get that perfect amount of rest if you don’t get it over night, so taking your power naps could be greatly beneficial to your mental and emotional health. Of course, everyone is different, and the amount of sleep needed will vary.  Get in tune with your body and figure out the length and amount of naps you need to help both your mind and body.

Similar to the reasoning for lower stress, naps give your body the rest it needs to function and perform at its best, and feeling your best all around plays a role in depression. Depression may also be reduced because stress can cause excess hormones linked to depression. Since naps can lower stress, it can then lower the risk of depression as well—napping can help balance hormones that cause mental health problems. Or even just considering the energy, alertness, reduced stress and increased productivity, the other benefits can contribute to improved mental health.

Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease.  There’s still debate and differing opinions about whether or not naps can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, but as research continues to link the two more experts are beginning to see the potential of it. It’s believed that regular naps can lower blood pressure, but even more staggering are the results of studies that have shown a significant decrease in the risk of dying from a heart attack. People in high stress jobs greatly benefit from the cardiovascular healing properties of naps because stress can strain the heart and increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.

Studies in countries that typically have a lower mortality rate and lower risk of heart disease emphasize the importance of not only getting your rest but being healthy in other ways—exercise and healthy diets are main contributors to heart health. When mixed in with regular power naps, this type of lifestyle is bound to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. So, if you haven’t tried napping, it’s not too late to enjoy the many possible benefits of rejuvenating and healing your body in many ways, and you may even help your heart.

It’s awesome. Seriously, people. Napping is awesome.  Take it from my new grandbaby.

Understanding the Stages of Sleep

All napping is good, but you can also tailor your nap to your specific needs. But before we delve into that, we need to talk about what each stage of sleep does for your mind and body.

There are five various stages of sleep, 1,2,3,4, and REM (Rapid Eye Movement). You cycle through them repeatedly as you sleep or nap: 1,2,3,4, 2, REM, 2,3,4,2, REM and so on. Each cycle lasts 90-100 minutes.

Stage 1: Lasting 2-5 minutes, this stage transitions you into sleep. Your thoughts and mental associations loosen up. This state of sort of wakeful dreaming has been used by artists and thinkers to cultivate rich ideas. We’ll cover this in-depth in a future post.

Stage 2: Motor skills and complex tasks you’ve been working on are solidified. Your energy and stamina are strengthened and senses sharpened. You spend about 50% of your sleep time in Stage 2.

Stages 3 and 4: In these stages you slide into Slow Wave Sleep. Your body stops releasing cortisol altogether and extra growth hormone goes to work restoring your body, repairing tissues, lowering stress, metabolizing fats and moving carbs out of your body. And your mind is cleared; memories that aren’t being used are pruned away, strengthening what remains and making room for new information. Information that you’ve recently and consciously learned such as the dates for a history test are solidified. You spend about 30% of your sleep time in Stages 3 and 4.

REM: During REM your brain shuttles your recently-made memories from their short term holding tank in the hippocampus to long term storage. The information is thus made permanent; if you don’t sleep soon after a learning session, you’ll lose much of what you studied. Creativity is given a boost as spatial orientation and perceptual skills are sharpened and the different insights and complex ideas you have swirling around in your melon are fused together. You spend about 20% of your sleep time in REM.

Tailoring Your Nap to Your Needs

According to Dr. Mednick, the perfect nap for everyone is 90 minutes long and taken between 1 and 3 in the afternoon. At this time, and at this length, your nap will consist of the optimal balance of all the different sleep stages. The ratio of the sleep stages in this nap exactly mirror that of nocturnal sleep. But of course, not everyone has an hour and a half to saw off during the day. And sometimes you want to tailor your nap to your particular needs on a particular day.

Note: These recommendations are based on an average adult sleep schedule (11-12 am to 6-8 am). If you’re a night owl or have a different sort of schedule, check out Dr. Mednick’s book, Take a Nap! It has a “nap wheel” and formula for calculating your perfect nap based on when you wake up and your particular needs.

You need a boost of creativity. Don’t know how many happy little clouds to add to your painting, and Bob Ross won’t be on until 3? Does writing your essay for English class feel, as Ronald Reagan put it, like crapping a pineapple? Then you need a dose of REM sleep, which increases your creativity. You’ll need a longer nap to get to the REM stage; and since potential REM peaks early in the day and declines from there, aim for something like a 90-minute nap before 2 pm.

You need stamina. Running a race that evening? Going from one job to the next? You need Stage 2 sleep which you can get in a 20-minute power nap. Don’t go down for any longer than 20 minutes though. We’ve all experienced naps that leave us groggy when we wake up. This is sleep inertia and happens when you awaken during Slow Wave Sleep. So, you need to wake up before you slip into Stage 3.

Studies have found that a 20-minute nap 8 hour after you wake up will boost your stamina more than sleeping an extra 20 minutes in the morning. So instead of hitting the snooze button, save those minutes for an afternoon siesta.

You need to relax. While REM sleep declines during the day, SWS increases. So, if you’re feeling stressed, shoot for a longer nap after 2 pm and ideally in the early evening, so your body can get a cortisol break and repair itself. Naps will not affect your nighttime sleep as long as you wake from your nap three hours before bedtime. 

You need to pull an all-nighter. Instead of downing can after can of Red Bull, try what researchers call the “prophylactic nap.” Taking a preventive nap in anticipation of sleep deprivation is more effective in maintaining cognitive performance and alertness than taking no nap at all, taking a nap when your sleep debt has already made you tired, and even taking multiple doses of caffeine. Any length of nap will help, but according to Mednick an hour and a half is the preventive nap sweet spot because “it will take you through a full cycle of sleep and bring you out in REM or Stage 2 Sleep, allowing you to avoid sleep inertia.” Keep in mind that the effects of a prophylactic nap only last 8-10 hours; nothing can keep your brain from starting to unravel if you skip two nights of sleep.

You need to ace a test. After you study and before test time, take a 90-minute nap. Stage 2 will increase your alertness, stages 3 and 4 will clear your mind of unnecessary clutter, solidify the things you just studied, and lower your stress, and REM sleep will move the information into permanent storage and sort through the complex information you just learned.

You need immediate alertness. Try a “caffeine nap.” Researchers at Loughborough University tested several ways to improve the alertness of drivers and found the “caffeine nap” to be the most effective method. You down a cup of coffee or other caffeinated beverage and then immediately hunker down for a 15 to 20-minute nap. Again, don’t go any longer or you’ll awaken with sleep inertia. The caffeine clears your body of adenosine, a chemical which makes you sleepy. It takes awhile for the caffeine to circulate through your system, so it doesn’t affect the quality of the nap. Instead, it kicks in in tandem with the refreshment you would feel upon awakening from a normal power nap. I’ve personally found the caffeine nap to be effective, especially when you’re crunched for time; it’s easier to get up and keeps you from the temptation of turning a 20-minute nap into an hour and a half session.

Squeezing in Nap Time

It would be awesome if offices took a cue from kindergarten and broke out cookies, milk, and nap mats once a day.  Maybe a little finger painting, too.

In the real world, it can be hard to catch some z’s at work. Getting caught asleep at your desk is not a good way to earn respect at your job, but most people get an hour for lunch.  You can easily eat for half that time, skip the double latte, and go take a snooze in your car for the other half. Tell your boss all about the benefits of napping and see if you can get a couch in some rarely-used room.

If you’re a student, toss embarrassment to the wind and curl up somewhere. If you can’t nap during the day, take a short pre-or post-dinner nap.

Remember, all you need to do it carve out 20 minutes somewhere in your day. One study showed that even a 6-minute nap improves memory function. So, you can even sneak one in while the guy at the desk next to you runs to the snack machine.

At the very least, learn to embrace the nap and the napping of others. Napping is not a character defect! Many great people have taken advantage of the benefits of napping. It is a wonderful, wonderful way to improve your life.

Get help Resetting and Recharging

If you are slacking in your sleep game, it places a tremendous strain on your nervous system, body and overall health. Damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

So, if you’re not sleeping well or aren’t feeling rested when you wake up in the morning, it’s important to talk to your doctor and ask if a sleep study is right for you. To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Sources: 

Take a Nap! Change Your Life by Sarah C. Mednick, Ph.D

Unleash the power of the Nap, Brett & Kate McKay | February 7, 2011, Last updated: May 28, 2018

Tobacco Use and Pregnancy | Reproductive Health

How Does Smoking During Pregnancy Harm My Health and My Baby?

Most people know that smoking causes cancer, heart disease, and other major health problems. Smoking during pregnancy causes additional health problems, including premature birth (being born too early), certain birth defects, and infant death.

    • Smoking makes it harder for a woman to get pregnant.
    • Women who smoke during pregnancy are more likely than other women to have a miscarriage.
    • Smoking can cause problems with the placenta—the source of the baby’s food and oxygen during pregnancy. For example, the placenta can separate from the womb too early, causing bleeding, which is dangerous to the mother and baby.
    • Smoking during pregnancy can cause a baby to be born too early or to have low birth weight—making it more likely the baby will be sick and have to stay in the hospital longer. A few babies may even die.
    • Smoking during and after pregnancy is a risk factor of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is an infant death for which a cause of the death cannot be found.
    • Babies born to women who smoke are more likely to have certain birth defects, like a cleft lip or cleft palate.

What are e-cigarettes? Are they safer than regular cigarettes in pregnancy?

Electronic cigarettes (also called electronic nicotine delivery systems or e-cigarettes) come in different sizes and shapes, including “pens,” “mods,” (i.e., these types are modified by the user) and “tanks.” Most e-cigarettes contain a battery, a heating device, and a cartridge to hold liquid. The liquid typically contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. The battery-powered device heats the liquid in the cartridge into an aerosol that the user inhales.

Although the aerosol of e-cigarettes generally has fewer harmful substances than cigarette smoke, e-cigarettes and other products containing nicotine are not safe to use during pregnancy. Nicotine is a health danger for pregnant women and developing babies and can damage a developing baby’s brain and lungs. Also, some of the flavorings used in e-cigarettes may be harmful to a developing baby.

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How Many Women Smoke During Pregnancy?

According to the 2011 Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System (PRAMS) data from 24 states

    • Approximately 10% of women reported smoking during the last 3 months of pregnancy.
    • Of women who smoked 3 months before pregnancy, 55% quit during pregnancy. Among women who quit smoking during pregnancy, 40% started smoking again within 6 months after delivery.

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What Are the Benefits of Quitting?

Quitting smoking will help you feel better and provide a healthier environment for your baby.

woman breaking a cigarette

When you stop smoking

    • Your baby will get more oxygen, even after just one day of not smoking.
    • There is less risk that your baby will be born too early.
    • There is a better chance that your baby will come home from the hospital with you.
    • You will be less likely to develop heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease, and other smoke-related diseases.
    • You will be more likely to live to know your grandchildren.
    • You will have more energy and breathe more easily.
    • Your clothes, hair, and home will smell better.
    • Your food will taste better.
    • You will have more money that you can spend on other things.
    • You will feel good about what you have done for yourself and your baby.

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Quitting Smoking Can Be Hard, But It Is One of the Best Ways a Woman Can Protect Herself and Her Baby’s Health

How Does Other People’s Smoke (Secondhand Smoke) Harm My Health and My Child’s Health?

Breathing other people’s smoke make children and adults who do not smoke sick. There is no safe level of breathing others people’s smoke.

    • Pregnant women who breathe other people’s cigarette smoke are more likely to have a baby who weighs less.
    • Babies who breathe in other people’s cigarette smoke are more likely to have ear infections and more frequent asthma attacks.
    • Babies who breathe in other people’s cigarette smoke are more likely to die from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is an infant death for which a cause of the death cannot be found.

In the United States, 58 million children and adults who do not smoke are exposed to other people’s smoke. Almost 25 million children and adolescents aged 3–19 years, or about 4 out of 10 children in this age group, are exposed to other people’s cigarette smoke. Home and vehicles are the places where children are most exposed to cigarette smoke, and a major location of smoke exposure for adults too. Also, people can be exposed to cigarette smoke in public places, restaurants, and at work.

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What Can You Do to Avoid Other People’s Smoke?

There is no safe level of exposure to cigarette smoke. Breathing even a little smoke can be harmful. The only way to fully protect yourself and your loved ones from the dangers of other people’s smoke is through 100% smoke-free environments.

You can protect yourself and your family by

    • Making your home and car smoke-free.
    • Asking people not to smoke around you and your children.
    • Making sure that your children’s day care center or school is smoke-free.
    • Choosing restaurants and other businesses that are smoke-free. Thanking businesses for being smoke-free.
    • Teaching children to stay away from other people’s smoke.
    • Avoiding all smoke. If you or your children have respiratory conditions, if you have heart disease, or if you are pregnant, the dangers are greater for you.
    • Learn as much as you can by talking to your doctor, nurse, or health care provider about the dangers of other people’s smoke.

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Source

To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

The Basics: How to Use and Store Mint

Mint can freshen breath and help digestion, but the herb’s cool and refreshing flavor can also brighten your favorite sweet and savory dishes. Here’s how to choose the best bunch and store your mint.

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To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

One Day at a Time: Living with an Unpredictable Disease

Multiple sclerosis patient finds strength in family, friends

Kim Bench likes routines. Every morning, she gets out of bed, does her stretches, and makes breakfast. That is, if she is feeling well enough.

Kim has multiple sclerosis (MS), an often debilitating disease that affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).

“MS is very unpredictable,” Kim says. “I can feel great one day and wake up another day and temporarily not be able to see.”

Kim is 48 years old and lives in Norfolk, Massachusetts.

Her MS symptoms began when she was about 21 years old. She felt a numb sensation in her legs at times and extreme exhaustion. She even passed out from the pain of a sprained ankle and had double vision when driving one day.

Kim didn’t know these were symptoms of MS.

“My doctors kept telling me it was stress-related,” she said.

But Kim wasn’t convinced. She switched primary-care providers four times until one doctor listened to her symptoms.

“He turned out the lights and looked into my eyes. Then he scheduled an MRI,” she said.

The MRI showed lesions on her brain and in her spine, indicating that she had MS. She began seeing a neurologist for treatment and medications.

Once the neurologists told her it was MS, she felt relieved she had a diagnosis.

Over the past 20 years, Kim has had various symptoms. She says her most recent symptoms make her feel like an elastic band is being pulled around her ribcage. She also now needs a walker or scooter to help her get around.

Kim says she has been on different medications and treatments with varying success and side effects. Some medications had side effects similar to the flu.

Despite her MS symptoms and the side effects of treatment, Kim still considers herself lucky.

“I don’t feel bad for myself and I don’t complain,” she says. “There are much worse situations in the world. If I need help, I ask for help.”

That help comes from family and friends. They help keep her company now that she can no longer work due to her symptoms. Even strangers in a grocery store offer to help her.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it were not for my friends and neighbors,” she says. “If I’m having a down day, I call a friend.”

Kim’s advice to someone with MS: “Be open to anything. Go on medication right away. Explore your diet and surround yourself with positive people all the time.”

Source

To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.

Upper Limb Amputation Patient Education Video

Patients have many questions when facing an upper limb amputation. Hear directly from patients about their prosthetics and how they’ve adjusted to every day life.

source

To find a healthcare professional, use HealthLynked. It is a first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – improving healthcare. Go to HealthLynked.com to learn more, sign up for free, connect with your doctor, find a new doctor, and securely store and share your health information. Download our HealthLynked app available on Apple and Android devices.