How is Excess Body Fat Priming Our Brains for Mental Decline?

As today marks the 81st birthday of Krispy Kreme – an American doughnut company and coffeehouse chain based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina built off an ancient, secret cajun recipe – it seems a fitting day to talk about obesity, fat, and its effect on the brain.  Let’s start with “skinny fat”.

Sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle mass, tends to happen naturally with age. So, in older people with sarcopenia, excess body fat may not be readily visible. But hidden fat, paired with muscle mass loss later in life, could predict Alzheimer’s risk, researchers warn, and Sarcopenic obesity may exacerbate the risk of other cognitive decline later in life.

A recent study — the results of which have been published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging — has found that sarcopenia and obesity (independently, but especially when occurring together) can heighten the risk of cognitive function impairments later in life.

The research was conducted by scientists at the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.

“Sarcopenia,” explains senior study author Dr. James Galvin, “has been linked to global cognitive impairment and dysfunction in specific cognitive skills including memory, speed, and executive functions.”

“Understanding the mechanisms through which this syndrome may affect cognition is important as it may inform efforts to prevent cognitive decline in later life by targeting at-risk groups with an imbalance between lean and fat mass.”

Dr. James Galvin

“They may benefit from programs addressing loss of cognitive function by maintaining and improving strength and preventing obesity,” he adds.

Beware sarcopenic obesity

The scientists analyzed health-related data collected from 353 participants — aged 69, on average — all of whom registered to take part in community-based studies on aging and memory.

To establish whether or not there was a link between sarcopenic obesity — that is, the presence of excess body fat in conjunction with muscle mass loss — and cognitive decline, the team assessed participants’ performance on tests evaluating cognitive function, including the Montreal Cognitive Assessment and animal-naming exercises.

Also, the participants’ muscle strength and mass were evaluated through grip strength tests and chair stands, and they also underwent body compositions assessments, which looked at muscle mass, body mass index (BMI), and the amount of body fat.

The researchers discovered that the participants with sarcopenic obesity had the poorest performance on cognition-related tests.  The next poorest performance on cognition tests was seen in people with sarcopenia alone, followed by participants who only had obesity.

Both when occurring independently and when occurring in concert, obesity and loss of muscle mass were linked with impaired working memory — which is the type of memory we use when making spontaneous decisions on a daily basis — as well as less mental flexibility, poorer orientation, and worse self-control.

Keep changes in body composition in check

The scientists explain that obesity could exacerbate the risk of cognitive decline through biological mechanisms that influence vascular health, metabolism, and inflammation.

Moreover, they warn that in people who already face impaired executive functioning, obesity might also impact energy resources through poor self-control that affects nutrition.

As for sarcopenia, the researchers note that it could influence brain mechanisms related to conflict resolution skills and selective attention.

Based on the study’s findings, Dr. Galvin and his colleagues are particularly concerned that a mix of sarcopenia and excess body fat in older adults could become a serious public health issue, so they believe that any significant changes in body mass composition should be closely monitored to prevent negative health outcomes.

“Sarcopenia either alone or in the presence of obesity, can be used in clinical practice to estimate potential risk of cognitive impairment,” notes study co-author Magdalena Tolea.

But such health issues can be kept under control, and the risks associated with them averted, she suggests.

“Testing grip strength by dynamometry can be easily administered within the time constraints of a clinic visit, and body mass index is usually collected as part of annual wellness visits,” concludes Tolea.

How Aging and Obesity Prime the Brain for Alzheimer’s

According to another new study, the effects of natural aging processes, combined with those of obesity and a poor diet, affect certain brain mechanisms, thereby boosting the risk of Alzheimer’s. The new study, conducted on mice, uncovered how a high-fat, high-sugar diet renders the aging brain more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative condition that is characterized primarily by memory loss and impaired cognition.  Some risk factors for the development of this disease are aging and metabolic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.  However, many of the biological mechanisms underlying the onset and progression of this disease remain unknown.

This is despite the fact that our understanding of the predisposing risk factors is growing all the time.  Now, Rebecca MacPherson, Bradley Baranowski, and Kirsten Bott — of Brock University in Ontario, Canada — have conducted a study that has allowed them to uncover some more of the mechanics at play in the development of this type of dementia.

The team worked with aging mice to investigate how a high-fat, high-sugar (HFS) diet that fueled obesity might also prime the brain for neurodegeneration in this sample.  Their findings are described in a paper now published in the journal Physiological Reports.

How unhealthful diets impact the brain

Specifically, the researchers examined how an HFS diet, in conjunction with the effects of normal biological aging, would affect insulin signaling, which helps to regulate the amount of glucose (simple sugar) absorbed by muscles and different organs.

They also looked at how this obesity-inducing diet might alter biomarkers relating to inflammation and cellular stress.

To understand the impact of an HFS diet on aging mice, the research team put some mice on a regular type diet, while others were given food that had a high fat and sugar content.

After the mice had been fed their respective diets for a period of 13 weeks, the team looked for signs of inflammation and measured cellular stress levels in two brain areas associated with memory and cognitive behavior: the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex.

The researchers also compared the effects of an HFS diet on the brains of aging rodents’ baseline measurements effected on the brains of younger mice.

They found older mice on an obesity-inducing diet had high levels of brain inflammation and cellular stress, as well as insulin resistance in parts of the hippocampus linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Although more markers of insulin resistance were observed in the prefrontal cortices of mice that had been on an HFS diet, inflammation status and cellular stress markers remained the same.

The study authors hypothesize that “region-specific differences between the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus in response to aging with an HFS diet [suggest] that the disease pathology is not uniform throughout the brain.”

Obesity boosts aging’s negative effect

Notably, the researchers also found that brain inflammation levels had also increased in the mice that had been on a regular diet, compared with baseline measurements.

The researchers note that this could be taken as evidence of aging’s role as an independent risk factor in Alzheimer’s. Obesity, they add, boosts the risk by affecting key mechanisms in the brain.

“This study,” they claim, “provides novel information in relation to the mechanistic link between obesity and the transition from adulthood to middle age and signaling cascades that may be related to [Alzheimer’s] pathology later in life.”

“These results add to our basic understanding of the pathways involved in the early progression of [Alzheimer’s] pathogenesis and demonstrate the negative effects of an HFS diet on both the prefrontal cortex and hippocampal regions.”

Every day, there are physicians in the HealthLynked system ready to help those combating obesity and care for Alzheimer and dementia patients  to help them live the best lives possible.  If someone you love is showing signs of memory loss beyond what might be considered normal for their age, or if too many donuts have made their way into your system, go to HealthLynked.com to connect and collaborate with any number of specialists at the ready.

 

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Adapted from:

Cohut, Maria. ”Skinny fat’ linked to cognitive decline, study warns.” Medical News Today, Friday 6 July 2018

Cohut, Maria. ”Aging, obesity may prime the brain for Alzheimer’s.” Medical News Today, Monday 2 July 2018

 

Will We Soon Reverse Diabetes and Obesity with Gene Therapy?

New research shows that gene therapy can completely reverse markers of Type 2 diabetes and obesity in rodents.  If the theory holds, small alterations to our genes could soon repair metabolic disorders such as obesity and Type 2 diabetes in humans.

The prevalence of diabetes, or the total number of existing cases, is on the rise in the United States and globally.  According to recent estimates, over 30 million U.S. adults had diabetes in 2015.

Although the number has been relatively steady in the past few years, rates of newly diagnosed cases among children and teenagers have increased sharply.  And, worldwide, the situation is even more alarming; the number of people with diabetes almost quadrupled between 1980 and 2014, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Now, new research brings much-needed hope of curing this metabolic disorder.  Scientists led by Fatima Bosch, a professor at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in Catalunya, Spain, have successfully reversed the disorder in rodents.  Prof. Bosch and her colleagues achieved this using gene therapy, a technique that introduces new genetic material into cells to create beneficial proteins or to offset the effects of malfunctioning genes.  The findings were published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.

Using the FGF21 gene to reverse diabetes

Prof. Bosch and team designed two mouse models of obesity and type 2 diabetes. One was diet-induced, and the other one was genetically modified.  Using an adeno-associated viral vector as “transport,” the team delivered the fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) gene.

This gene is responsible for encoding the FGF21 protein, which is seen as a “major metabolic regulator” that stimulates the absorption of blood sugar in adipose tissue.  By delivering this gene, the researchers stimulated the production of the protein, which caused the rodents to lose weight and lowered their insulin resistance — a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Additionally, the mice lost weight and the treatment reduced the fat and inflammation in their adipose tissue.

The fat content, inflammation, and fibrosis of the rodents’ livers were completely reversed, with no side effects. In turn, these improvements increased insulin sensitivity.  These beneficial effects were noted in both murine models. Also, the team found that administering FGF21 to healthy mice prevented age-related weight gain and led to healthy aging.

Gene therapy was used to alter three tissue types: liver tissue, adipose tissue, and skeletal muscle.  “This gives a great flexibility to the therapy,” explains Prof. Bosch, “since it allows [us] to select each time the most appropriate tissue, and in case some complication prevents manipulating any of the tissues, it can be applied to any of the others.”

“When a tissue produces FGF21 protein and secretes it into the bloodstream, it will be distributed throughout the body,” adds Prof. Bosch.

First reversion of obesity, insulin resistance

Study co-author and UAB researcher Claudia Jambrina explains that their findings are particularly significant given that “the prevalence of type 2 diabetes and obesity is growing at alarming rates around the world.”

The team also says that delivering FGF21 as a conventional drug would not yield the same benefits as gene therapy; firstly, the drug would have to be administered periodically for long-term benefits, and secondly, its toxicity would be high.  Using gene therapy, however, is free of side effects, and a single administration is enough to make the mice produce the protein naturally for several years.

“This is the first time that long-term reversion of obesity and insulin resistance have been achieved upon a one-time administration of a gene therapy, in an animal model that resembles obesity and type 2 diabetes in humans.”

First study author Veronica Jimenez, a UAB researcher

“The results demonstrate that it is a safe and effective therapy,” she adds. The next steps will be to “test this therapy in larger animals before moving to clinical trials with patients,” notes Prof. Bosch.  “[The] therapy described in this study,” she concludes, “constitutes the basis for the future clinical translation of FGF21 gene transfer to treat type 2 diabetes, obesity, and related comorbidities.”

Statistics and facts about type 2 diabetes

Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, is a disease that causes high blood sugar. It occurs when there is a problem with insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that takes sugar from foods and moves it to the body’s cells. If the body does not make enough insulin or does not use insulin well, the sugar from food stays in the blood, resulting in high blood sugar.

Diabetes is a key health concern worldwide. In the United States, the rate of new cases rose sharply from the 1990s, but it fell between 2008 and 2015, and it continues to fall, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Diabetes Report, 2017. Meanwhile, the number of adults living with diabetes continues to rise.

The most common of diabetes is type 2. According to the CDC, 90 to 95 percent of people with diabetes in the United States have type 2. Just 5 percent of people have type 1.

Key facts

Diabetes is at an all-time high in the U.S. The CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation states that 1 percent of the population, which is about a half of a million people, had diagnosed diabetes in 1958.

In 2015, around 9.4 percent of the population in the U.S. had diabetes, including 30.2 million adults aged 18 years and over. Nearly a quarter of those with the condition do not know they have it.

Between 1990 and 2010, the number of people living with diabetes more than tripled, and the number of new cases doubled every year.

Figures suggest that the incidence is levelling off and may even be falling, but it remains unclear whether this will continue as other factors come into play, such as the aging population.

The risk of developing diabetes increases with age.

The CDC report that 4.0 percent of people aged 18 to 44 years are living with diabetes, 17 percent of those aged 45 to 64 years, and 25.2 percent of those aged over 65 years.

Causes

Type 2 diabetes is thought to result from a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors.

The exact cause is unknown, but risk factors appear to include:

  • excess body fat
  • high blood pressure or cholesterol
  • having a close family member with the condition
  • a history of gestational diabetes
  • higher age

As obesity has become more prevalent over the past few decades, so too has the rate of type 2 diabetes. In 2013, more than 1 in 3 people in the U.S. were considered to have obesity, and over 2 in 3 were either overweight or had obesity.

In 1995, obesity affected 15.3 percent of Americans, and in 2008, the figure was 25.6 percent. From 1998 to 2008, the incidence of diabetes increased by 90 percent.

Although the link between obesity and diabetes is well known, the reasons they are connected remain unclear. A report in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism asks why obesity does not always lead to diabetes, given the established link between the two conditions.

The same report notes that the location of body fat appears to play a role. People with more fat in the upper body area and around the waist are more likely to get diabetes than those who carry their body fat around the hips and lower body.

Diabetes and ethnicity

Rates of diabetes vary between ethnic groups.

There may be a combination of factors, including:

  • genetics
  • health conditions
  • lifestyle
  • finances
  • environment
  • access to healthcare

The CDC’s National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017, found that, among people aged 20 years and over, diabetes affects:

  • 7.4 percent of Non-Hispanic whites
  • 8.0 percent of Asian Americans
  • 12.1 percent of Hispanics
  • 12.7 percent of Non-Hispanic Blacks
  • 15.1 percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives

Why diabetes is serious

Diabetes can have serious health consequences.

The ADA report that more Americans die from diabetes every year than from AIDS and breast cancer combined.

According to the CDC, 79,535 deaths occur each year due to diabetes. The number of fatalities related to diabetes may be underreported.

Why and how does diabetes damage the body and cause complications?

The ADA says:

  • Adults with diabetes are significantly more likely to die from a heart attack or stroke.
  • More than a quarter of all Americans with diabetes have diabetic retinopathy, which can cause vision loss and blindness.
  • Each year, nearly 50,000 Americans begin treatment for kidney failure due to diabetes. Diabetes accounts for 44 percent of all new cases of kidney failure.
  • Each year, diabetes causes about 73,000 lower limb amputations, which accounts for 60 percent of all lower limb amputations (not including amputations due to trauma).

Costs

Because of its high prevalence and link to numerous health problems, diabetes has a significant impact on healthcare costs.

The productivity loss for reduced performance at work due to diabetes in 2012 was 113 million days, or $20.8 billion, according to the ADA.

Diabetes cost the U.S. $327 billion in 2017, including $237 billion in medical costs and $90 billion in reduced productivity.

However, this number does not include:

  • the millions of people who have diabetes but are undiagnosed
  • the cost of prevention programs for people with diabetes, which are not counted under standard medical costs
  • over-the-counter medications for eye and dental problems, which are more common in people with diabetes.
  • administrative costs for insurance claims
  • the cost of reduced quality of life, lost productivity of family members, and other factors that cannot be measured directly

Because diabetes affects various parts of the body, the medical costs span different areas of specialty. The ADA report that:

  • 30 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for circulation problems that reduce blood flow to the limbs
  • 29 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for kidney conditions
  • 28 percent of medical costs associated with diabetes are for nervous system conditions

Despite its complications, people can manage their diabetes with a comprehensive plan that includes lifestyle changes and proper medical care. If they control their blood sugar levels well, many people with diabetes can lead full, active lives.

Difference between types 1 and 2

In type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. As a result, the body does not produce insulin, and people with this condition must take insulin by injection or pump every day.

Type 1 diabetes usually develops in children or young adults, but it can occur at any age. There is no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes, and there is no cure.

In 2011-2012, around 17,900 children under the age of 18 years received a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes in the U.S., or around 49 children each day. Type 1 diabetes affects around 1.25 million American adults and children.

People with type 2 diabetes may still have insulin in their bodies, but not enough for proper blood sugar control. Or, the body may not be able to use the insulin it has properly. As a result, blood sugar levels can become too high.

Typically, adults are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, but children can get it too. Certain factors increase a person’s risk of getting type 2 diabetes, including:

  • obesity
  • older age
  • a family history of diabetes
  • lack of exercise
  • problems with glucose metabolism

The annual relative increase for type 1 diabetes in 2002-2012 in the U.S. was 1.8 percent, but the annual increase for type 2 diabetes was 4.8 percent.

If diabetes or any other medical concern has you  running a little slow, join our ecosystem designed to support your well being.  Here, at HealthLynked, we are building a network that connects patients to physicians in ways never before possible for the purpose of Improving HealthCare.

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Adapted from:

[1]  Murrell MD, Daniel.  “Statistics and facts about type 2 diabetes.” Medical News Today. 12 June 2018

[2]  Sandoiu, Ana. “Type 2 diabetes, obesity may soon be reversed with gene therapy.”  Medical News Today, 12 July 2018

Loneliness – A Gene Deep Epidemic that Raises Health Risks and Can Be Spread

A 2016 survey of more than 2,000 American adults found 72 percent report having felt a sense of loneliness, with nearly a third (31 percent) experiencing loneliness at least once a week. The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of the American Osteopathic Association in September.

Isolation is often an underlying factor in many of the most common health conditions, including chronic pain, substance abuse and depression, according to osteopathic physicians.

Long working hours, increased use of social media—in many cases surpassing in-person interaction—and a mobile workforce traveling or living far from family contribute to the high rates of loneliness, noted Jennifer Caudle, DO, assistant professor of family medicine at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine.

“Loneliness is an invisible epidemic masked by our online personas, which are rarely representative of our real emotions,” said Dr. Caudle. “It’s important for patients to understand how their mental and emotional well-being directly affects the body. By taking a whole-person approach to care, osteopathic physicians are trained to address these underlying issues that can quietly erode patients’ health.”

Damage to the Immune Response

Research links loneliness to a number of dysfunctional immune responses, suggesting that being lonely has the potential to harm overall health.

In one study, researchers found that people who were more lonely showed signs of elevated latent herpes virus reactivation and produced more inflammation-related proteins in response to acute stress than did people who felt more socially connected.

These proteins signal the presence of inflammation, and chronic inflammation is linked to numerous conditions, including coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as the frailty and functional decline that can accompany aging.

Reactivation of a latent herpes virus is known to be associated with stress, suggesting that loneliness functions as a chronic stressor that triggers a poorly controlled immune response.

“It is clear from previous research that poor-quality relationships are linked to a number of health problems, including premature mortality and all sorts of other very serious health conditions. And people who are lonely clearly feel like they are in poor-quality relationships,” said Lisa Jaremka, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at Ohio State University and lead author of the research.

“One reason this type of research is important is to understand how loneliness and relationships broadly affect health. The more we understand about the process, the more potential there is to counter those negative effects – to perhaps intervene. If we don’t know the physiological processes, what are we going to do to change them?”

The results are based on a series of studies conducted with two populations: a healthy group of overweight middle-aged adults and a group of breast cancer survivors. The researchers measured loneliness in all studies using the UCLA Loneliness Scale, a questionnaire that assesses perceptions of social isolation and loneliness.

Jaremka presented the research at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual meeting in New Orleans.

The researchers first sought to obtain a snapshot of immune system behavior related to loneliness by gauging levels of antibodies in the blood that are produced when herpes viruses are reactivated.

Participants were 200 breast cancer survivors who were between two months and three years past completion of cancer treatment with an average age of 51 years. Their blood was analyzed for the presence of antibodies against Epstein-Barr virus and cytomegalovirus.

Both are herpes viruses that infect a majority of Americans. About half of infections do not produce illness, but once a person is infected, the viruses remain dormant in the body and can be reactivated, resulting in elevated antibody levels, or titers – again, often producing no symptoms but hinting at regulatory problems in the cellular immune system.

Lonelier participants had higher levels of antibodies against cytomegalovirus than did less lonely participants, and those higher antibody levels were related to more pain, depression and fatigue symptoms. No difference was seen in Epstein-Barr virus antibody levels, possibly because this reactivation is linked to age and many of these participants were somewhat older, meaning reactivation related to loneliness would be difficult to detect, Jaremka said.

Previous research has suggested that stress can promote reactivation of these viruses, also resulting in elevated antibody titers.

“The same processes involved in stress and reactivation of these viruses is probably also relevant to the loneliness findings,” Jaremka said. “Loneliness has been thought of in many ways as a chronic stressor – a socially painful situation that can last for quite a long time.”

In an additional set of studies, the scientists sought to determine how loneliness affected the production of proinflammatory proteins, or cytokines, in response to stress. These studies were conducted with 144 women from the same group of breast cancer survivors and a group of 134 overweight middle-aged and older adults with no major health problems.

Baseline blood samples were taken from all participants, who were then subjected to stress – they were asked to deliver an impromptu five-minute speech and perform a mental arithmetic task in front of a video camera and three panelists. Researchers followed by stimulating the participants’ immune systems with lipopolysaccharide, a compound found on bacterial cell walls that is known to trigger an immune response.

In both populations, those who were lonelier produced significantly higher levels of a cytokine called interleukin-6, or IL-6, in response to acute stress than did participants who were more socially connected. Levels of another cytokine, tumor necrosis factor-alpha, also rose more dramatically in lonelier participants than in less lonely participants, but the findings were significant by statistical standards in only one study group, the healthy adults.

In the study with breast cancer survivors, researchers also tested for levels of the cytokine interleukin 1-beta, which was produced at higher levels in lonelier participants.

When the scientists controlled for a number of factors, including sleep quality, age and general health measures, the results were the same.  “We saw consistency in the sense that more lonely people in both studies had more inflammation than less lonely people,” Jaremka said.

“It’s also important to remember the flip side, which is that people who feel very socially connected are experiencing more positive outcomes,” she said.

Loneliness Can Add 30 Points To Your Blood Pressure

In another study conducted at the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, researchers found that if you are over 50 and lonely, you could be adding 30 points to your blood pressure and raising significantly your chances of suffering from hypertension.   The increase in blood pressure due to loneliness was present after taking into account a person’s emotional state (how sad or stressed the person was).

The older the lonely person gets, the higher his/her blood pressure seems to get, said the researchers.   Lead researcher, Louise Hawkley, said “The take-home message is that feelings of loneliness are a health risk, in that the lonelier you are, the higher your blood pressure. And we know that high blood pressure has all kinds of negative consequences.”

229 people were monitored in this study, aged 50-68. The participants had to answer a questionnaire which determined each person’s level of loneliness.

Hawkley said it is not as simple as that. She said “Remember, people can feel lonely even if they are with a lot of people. You can think of Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana – there was certainly nothing lacking in their social lives, yet they claimed to have felt intensely lonely. They may want to go out and make friends, and yet they have a nagging lack of trust with whomever they want to interact with, or they may feel hostile. So, they end up behaving in ways that force potential partners away.”

Loneliness Is Gene Deep

Loneliness has a molecular signature is reflected in the lonely person’s DNA. This was the conclusion of a new US study by scientists at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and other US academic centers.

The study is published in an issue of the journal, Genome Biology.  The researchers discovered a distinct pattern of gene expression in immune cells of people who are chronically extremely lonely.

Study author Steve Cole, associate professor of medicine at the Division of Hematology and Oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, member of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, and member of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center said in a press release that:

“What this study shows is that the biological impact of social isolation reaches down into some of our most basic internal processes: the activity of our genes.”  Cole and colleagues suggest that feelings of isolation are linked to changes in gene expression that drive inflammation, one of the first responses of the immune system.  They hope the study gives a framework for understanding how social factors and increased risk of heart disease, viral infections and cancer are linked.

Scientists already know that social environments affect health. People who are lonely and socially isolated die earlier.  What they don’t know is if the higher rate of death among lonely people is because of reduced social resources or because of the effect of isolation on their bodily functions, or perhaps both.

However, Cole and the other researchers found that changes in the way immune cells express their genes were directly linked to the “subjective experience of social distance”.  The differences were independent of other known risk factors like health status, weight, age and use of medication, they said.  “The changes were even independent of the objective size of a person’s social network,” said Cole.

Cole and colleagues enrolled 14 participants from the Chicago Health, Aging, and Social Relations Study and scanned their DNA using a chip technology called DNA microarrays that allowed them to survey all known human genes in the samples.  6 of the participants scored in the top 15 per cent of a well known psychological test for loneliness that was developed in the 70s called the UCLA Loneliness Scale.  The remaining 8 participants scored in the bottom 15 per cent of the Loneliness Scale.

The DNA survey showed that 209 gene transcripts (where the gene gets its code ready to start making proteins) were expressed differently between the two groups. All the genes coded for leucocytes, agents of the immune system.  78 of the gene transcripts were “over expressed” (resulting in too much protein) and 131 were “under expressed” (not enough protein) in the lonely individuals compared to the others.

The over expressed genes included many that control immune system functions like inflammation.  However, it was also interesting that the under expressed genes were those involved in antiviral responses and production of antibodies.

“These data provide the first indication that human genome-wide transcriptional activity is altered in association with a social epidemiological risk factor. Impaired transcription of glucocorticoid response genes and increased activity of pro-inflammatory transcription control pathways provide a functional genomic explanation for elevated risk of inflammatory disease in individuals who experience chronically high levels of subjective social isolation.”

Distinguishing between the various aspects of loneliness that are closely linked to these changes in gene expression, the scientists discovered:  “What counts at the level of gene expression is not how many people you know, it’s how many you feel really close to over time,” said Cole.  He added that the findings could identify molecular targets for blocking the negative health impact of social isolation.

Loneliness Can Spread Through Social Networks

A US study of social networks found that a person’s loneliness can spread to others, in that when they become lonely they move to the edge of the network and transmit feelings of loneliness to their few remaining friends who also become lonely, leading to an effect that the researchers described as an unravelling at the edges of our social fabric.

The study, which was sponsored by the National Institute on Aging, is the work of John T Cacciopo of the University of Chicago, James H Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas A Christakis of Harvard University and is about to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Cacciopo, a social neuroscientist and lead investigator on the study, is Tiffany and Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology at Chicago. He told the press that:

“We detected an extraordinary pattern of contagion that leads people to be moved to the edge of the social network when they become lonely.”

“On the periphery people have fewer friends, yet their loneliness leads them to losing the few ties they have left,” he added.

Loneliness is often associated with mental and physical diseases that can shorten life, said Cacioppo, so it is important for us to recognize it and help people reconnect with their social group before they move to the edges.

He and his co-authors wrote that while previous studies have already shown that a person’s loneliness and the number of people they are connected to in a network are linked, we don’t know much about “the placement of loneliness within, or the spread of loneliness through, social networks”.

Using longitudinal data from a large-scale study, they found that loneliness, like a bad cold, spreads in groups: people share their loneliness with others.

Cacioppo and colleagues used data on 5,124 people in the second generation of participants from the Framingham Heart Study, which has been tracking the health of individuals and their descendants for more than 60 years. The data set included information taken every two to four years on participants’ friends and social contacts.

For the study, Cacioppo and colleagues charted the friendship histories of participants and linked them to their reports of loneliness. This showed a pattern of loneliness that spread as people reported fewer close friends, and that lonely people appeared to transmit loneliness to others, and then moved to the edges of their social networks.

“Loneliness is disproportionately represented at the periphery of social networks and spreads through a contagious process,” wrote the researchers.

For example, one pattern might start when a participant reports one extra day a week of loneliness. This is followed by similar reports among his or her next-door neighbors who are also close friends. The pattern of loneliness then spreads as the neighbors spend less time together.

“These reinforcing effects mean that our social fabric can fray at the edges, like a yarn that comes loose at the end of a crocheted sweater,” explained Cacioppo.

The researchers also found that:

  • Women were more likely to report “catching loneliness from others” than men (perhaps reinforcing findings from studies that suggest women rely more on emotional support than men).
  • Loneliness occurred in clusters and extended up to three degrees of separation.
  • A person’s chances of reporting increased loneliness were more likely to be linked to changes in friendship networks than changes in family networks.

The authors concluded that the study helps us better understand the social forces that drive loneliness.

Society may benefit by “aggressively targeting the people in the periphery to help repair their social networks and to create a protective barrier against loneliness that can keep the whole network from unraveling,” they added.

Other studies suggest that as people become lonely they trust other people less and less, and this leads to a cycle of less trusting and more loneliness, which leads to less trusting, and so on, and as time goes by it becomes harder and harder to make friends.

Cacioppo said researchers have seen this social tendency reflected in monkey colonies that drive out members who have been removed and then reintroduced.  He said such a pattern makes it all the more important for us to recognize and offset loneliness before it spreads.

Overcoming Loneliness

The first step in addressing loneliness is to determine whether those feelings are caused by depression. A physician can diagnose any existing mental health conditions and suggest treatment options. To limit loneliness, physicians recommend some simple steps to help increase real social engagement:

  1. Consider a digital cleanse. Social networks can offer real connections, but the curated platforms may over-emphasize the success of others, which can lead to feelings of inadequacy. For more empowering activities, consider enrolling in a continuing education course or spending time enjoying nature.
  2. Exercise with others. Participating in a running club, group fitness course or team sport can have dual benefits, creating opportunities to meet new people while also improving physical health. Many sports stores, churches and community groups offer free weekly activities including fun runs and yoga.
  3. Buy local. Developing a routine that includes visiting a local shopkeeper, coffee shop, farmers’ market or gym builds roots in the community. Creating relationships with local vendors can lead to a sense of shared history and camaraderie.
  4. Step out of your comfort zone. Introducing yourself to nearby neighbors or engaging with people in the building elevator—while initially uncomfortable—can begin the process of developing community and has the added bonus of alleviating loneliness for others.
  5. Change jobs, schools or cities. This drastic option is not always possible, and certainly not easy, but it may have the most significant impact. Start by identifying the culture that would best fit your personality and work toward a transition.

“Face-to-face communication is critical for emotional and mental health,” Dr. Caudle added. “Seeking out meaningful human interactions makes patients happier and, ultimately, healthier overall.”

Conclusion

Loneliness has negative effects on your immune system, creates a genetic signature and can spread through social networks.  Our digital addictions seem to be contributing to our disconnectedness.  Additional studies indicate loneliness significantly shortens lives and can lead to or magnify dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Today is National Cheer up the Lonely Day.  Visit with the lonely and bring happy things to talk about. Keep the conversation upbeat, and lively. When you leave, give a big hug and let them know you enjoyed the stay. Sending cards or making a phone call is okay if they live too far away to visit, but what a lonely person really needs is face to face time with other people.

If you are feeling lonely, other studies indicate you are more likely to see a physician with increased frequency.  At HealthLynked, we can connect you to those physicians who really care and want to spend time with you.

To find a physician you really, well, click with, click on this link and get Lynked today!  It is free, and a great way for you to begin taking control of your health!

 

Adapted from:

[1] Caldwell, Emily. The Immune System Taxed By Loneliness, Similar To The Effect Of Chronic Stress.  Medical News Today, Tuesday 22 January 2013

This work was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society Postdoctoral Fellowship and a Pelotonia Postdoctoral Fellowship from Ohio State’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Co-authors include Christopher Fagundes of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research (IBMR); Juan Peng of the College of Public Health; Jeanette Bennett of the Division of Oral Biology; Ronald Glaser of the Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics; William Malarkey of the Department of Internal Medicine; and Janice Kiecolt-Glaser of the Department of Psychiatry, all at Ohio State. Bennett, Glaser, Malarkey and Kiecolt-Glaser are also IBMR investigators.

[2] Lombardi, Yvonne. Loneliness Can Add 30 Points To Your Blood Pressure If You Are Over 50.  Medical News Today. Wednesday, 29 March 2006.

[3] Paddock, Catharine PhD.  Loneliness Is Gene Deep. Medical News Today. Friday, 14 September 2007

“Effects of loneliness on gene expression.”
Cole SW, Hawkley LC, Arevalo JM, Sung CY, Rose RM, Cacioppo JT.
Genome Biology 2007, 8:R189.
doi:10.1186/gb-2007-8-9-r189
Published online 13 September 2007 (provisional version).

[4]  Paddock, Catharine PhD.  Loneliness Can Spread Through Social Networks.  Medical News Today. Wednesday, 2 December 2009

“Alone in the Crowd: The Structure and Spread of Loneliness in a Large Social Network.”
John T Cacciopo, James H Fowler, Nicholas A Christakis.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, December 2009 (pre-publication proof).
DOI:10.1037/a0016076

[5] American Osteopathic Association.  Survey Finds Nearly Three-Quarters (72%) of Americans Feel Lonely: Osteopathic Physicians Say Silent ‘Loneliness Epidemic’ Contributes to Nation’s Health Woes. PRN. Oct 11, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The AntiBiotic Resistance Crisis and How the Platypus Might Save Us All

Although platypuses are deeply unusual animals, as researchers dig deeper into their biochemistry, it seems that they might hold the key to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is a topic that sits squarely in the center of medical researchers’ minds; it’s a huge concern.  In fact, many scientists consider it to be one of the “world’s most pressing public health problems.”

In a nutshell, antibiotic resistance occurs when a species of bacteria becomes immune to antibiotics.  Once bacteria have developed an ambivalence to these drugs, they are able to survive their onslaught and pass antibiotic-resistant genes onto the next generation.

But today, diseases that were once very easily treatable with antibiotics — such as pneumonia and tuberculosis — are becoming life-threatening.  The World Health Organization (WHO) pull no punches when they write, “Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.”

As we use these drugs more and more, an increasing number are becoming ineffective.  On this dimly lit and deeply worrying backdrop, the platypus waddles into the spotlight. Can this reclusive, semi-aquatic weirdo lift this sense of impending doom?

The peculiar platypus

The platypus needs no introduction, but I’ll give you one anyway because they’re just so pleasing to consider.

Platypuses are monotremes — that is, a subgroup of mammals that comprises just five species (the platypus and four species of the hedgehog-like echidna). The former is one of the most iconic and baffling animals on the planet.

She’s hairy and warm-blooded, similar to standard mammals, yet she lays eggs. She has a duck-like bill and a beaver-like tail, and she is one of the very few venomous mammals.

The strangeness doesn’t stop there, however; the female has two ovaries — no surprise — but only the left one actually works. Also, baby platypuses are born with teeth, but, at an early age, they all fall out, leaving a horny plate.

So, how on earth could such a natural oddity help to save the human race from the horrors of antibiotic resistance? Well, the answer might lie in its milk.

According to an earlier study, platypus milk contains unique antibacterial properties. The authors report that proteins in their milk “were effective in killing a broad range of bacterial pathogens.”

Investigating platypus milk in detail

Recently, a team of researchers from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) combined forces with Deakin University in Victoria, also in Australia. They wanted to examine the almighty prowess of platypus milk and attempt to understand why it’s so potent. Their results were recently published in the journal Structural Biology Communications.

In the laboratory, the scientists replicated the platypus milk protein responsible for its antibacterial powers and gave it a long, hard inspection. As Dr. Julie Sharp, from Deakin University, states, “We were interested to examine the protein’s structure and characteristics to find out exactly what part of the protein was doing what.”

Recreating a protein in the laboratory sounds, at first reading, to be a relatively simple job — but it’s not. Achieving this feat took the combined might of the Synchrotron, a cyclic particle accelerator, and the CSIRO’s ultra-hi-tech Collaborative Crystallisation Centre.

The magical, bacteria-slaughtering capabilities of the milk protein might come from its unique 3-D folding. The protein has a ringlet-like formation, thus earning it the nickname Shirley Temple. The intriguing format of the protein has not been seen in nature before.

“Platypus[es] are such weird animals that it would make sense for them to have weird biochemistry.”

Lead study author Dr. Janet Newman

Why is the platypus’s milk so powerful?

The platypus is a conundrum of a creature with miraculous milk.  Unlike the vast majority of mammals, the platypus has no nipples (which is yet another reason why platypuses are considered one of planet Earth’s oddest residents). So, without nipples, the mother platypus secretes milk from a patch of skin.

As an aside, baby platypuses — rather boringly — are officially called “baby platypuses.” However, there are more pleasing, if unofficial, names, including puggles and platypups, so feel free to use whichever you deem cutest.

I’ll stick with baby platypuses for the sake of maintaining some degree of scientific integrity. But as I was saying, since there are no teets, the mother’s milk comes into contact with the outside world, and the baby platypus must lick the milk from the surrounding hair.

Of course, this opens the young animals up to an unholy array of bacteria and other nasties. This, perhaps, is the reason that platypus milk needs to be so profoundly antibacterial.

Shirley Temple may open the door to other fields of study, too; Dr. Newman says, “Although we’ve identified this highly unusual protein as only existing in monotremes, this discovery increases our knowledge of protein structures in general and will go on to inform other drug discovery work done at the Centre.”

For now, we will have to wait and see how this new protein might be unleashed in the war against antibiotic resistance. Hopefully, the wait will not be a long one. God bless the platypups!


While we cannot yet guarantee you find a physician in our ever-growing network to supply you with platypus milk, you can certainly find one to help with any lingering infection you may have…or any other concern for which you should see a good doctor .  At HealthLynked, we are connecting patients and the physicians that care for them in a social ecosystem with a higher purpose – Improving HealthCare.

Ready to get Lynked?  Go to HealthLynked.c0m today to sign up for free and start taking control of your healthcare.

Sources:

Newman, Tim. “Platypus milk: The key to preventing deadly infections?”, Medical News Today, Wednesday, 21 March 2018

 

 

Is Working Long Hours Raising Your Risk for Diabetes?

Women who work 45 hours or more each week may be upping their risk of diabetes, new research finds. Men who work the same number of hours, however, are not affected.

While prior research has suggested a link between a long work week and an increased risk of diabetes, most of these studies focused on men.  Interestingly, this recent research seems to find the opposite effect in males: the longer the work week, the lower the incidence of diabetes.

For women who work 45 hours per week or more, though, their risk was considerably higher.  When compared with women who work 35–40 hours each week, they had a 63 percent higher risk of developing diabetes.

The authors of the new study, which was published in BMJ Open Diabetes Research and Care, looked at data from the 2003 Canadian Community Health survey, which included respondents aged 35–74.

They also looked at the Ontario Health Insurance Plan database for physician services, as well as the Canadian Institute for Health Information Discharge Abstract Database for hospital admissions.

In all, over 7,000 Canadian employees were included in the research. As well as looking at hours worked, the researchers also included other factors in their analysis, such as: sex, marital status, parenthood, ethnicity, place of birth, place of residence, long-term health conditions, lifestyle, weight, and body mass index (BMI).

They also considered unique workplace factors, such as shift work and the type of job the respondents did — for instance, whether it was predominantly active or sedentary.

Overall, the risk of diabetes was “only slightly reduced” when factors such as smoking and alcohol levels were considered.

While the researchers could not establish a definitive cause and effect from these data, they note that encouraging women to work fewer hours may be a key component of reducing the number of diabetes cases.

The shape of diabetes

Diabetes is a widespread issue around the world and impacts many lives. When someone has diabetes, their body does not utilize insulin properly; the pancreas increases production of the hormone until it can no longer keep up with the body’s demands.

This leads to higher-than-normal blood glucose levels and can eventually cause a wide range of problems throughout the body.

The American Diabetes Association say that over 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 7 million of these individuals are unaware of it.

Diabetes remains the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S., and, each year, doctors discover 1.5 million new cases. Worldwide, this number jumps to 425 million adults, with half remaining undiagnosed.

Diabetes prevention and management, then, are an essential facet of public health. Studies such as this one can help doctors to create guidelines that can positively impact the health of their patients and lead to fewer cases of diabetes down the road.

Limitations and next steps

Although the records used in this study did not distinguish between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, it is estimated that type 1 diabetes accounts for around 5 percent of cases among those aged 18 or over, so most of these cases were likely to be type 2.

In the future, if further studies agree with these findings, healthcare providers may recommend that women work 40 hours per week or under.

The study authors write, “Considering the rapid and substantial increase of diabetes prevalence…worldwide, identifying modifiable risk factors such as long work hours is of major importance to improve prevention and orient policy making, as it could prevent numerous cases of diabetes and diabetes-related chronic diseases.”


Ifworking long hours is causing you to feel poorly, consider talking to a physician.  You can quickly find and connect with one in the largest ever healthcare ecosystem designed to vastly improve the relationship doctors and patients are meant to enjoy and find great value in….

Ready to get Lynked?  Go to HealthLynked.com to sign up for Free and start taking control of your healthcare today!

Source:
Beyer, Monica. “Diabetes risk increased in women who work long hours.” Medical News Today. Sunday, 8 July 2018.

Time for a Recess; Today, Play Like a Kid Again!

 

In our hectic, modern lives, many of us focus so heavily on work and family commitments that we never seem to have time for pure fun. Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, we’ve stopped playing. When we carve out some leisure time, we’re more likely to zone out in front of the TV or computer than engage in fun, rejuvenating play as we did when we were kids.

Just because we’re adults, that doesn’t mean we have to take ourselves so seriously and make life all about work. We all need to play.

Why should adults play?

Play is not just essential for kids; it can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing with your romantic partner, friends, co-workers, pets, and children is a sure (and fun) way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being.

Adult play is a time to forget about work and commitments, and to be social in an unstructured, creative way. Focus your play on the actual experience, not on accomplishing any goal. There doesn’t need to be any point to the activity beyond having fun and enjoying yourself.

Play could be simply goofing off with friends, sharing jokes with a coworker, throwing a Frisbee on the beach, dressing up at Halloween with your kids, building a snowman in the yard, playing fetch with a dog, a game of charades at a party, or going for a bike ride with your spouse with no destination in mind. By giving yourself permission to play with the joyful abandon of childhood, you can reap oodles of health benefits throughout life.

The benefits of play

While play is crucial for a child’s development, it is also beneficial for people of all ages. Play can add joy to life, relieve stress, supercharge learning, and connect you to others and the world around you. Play can also make work more productive and pleasurable.

You can play on your own or with a pet, but for greater benefits, play should involve at least one other person, away from the sensory-overload of electronic gadgets.

Play can:

Relieve stress. Play is fun and can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Improve brain function. Playing chess, completing puzzles, or pursuing other fun activities that challenge the brain can help prevent memory problems and improve brain function. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression.
Stimulate the mind and boost creativity. Young children often learn best when they are playing—and that principle applies to adults, as well. You’ll learn a new task better when it’s fun and you’re in a relaxed and playful mood. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and problem solve.
Improve relationships and your connection to others. Sharing laughter and fun can foster empathy, compassion, trust, and intimacy with others. Play doesn’t have to be a specific activity; it can also be a state of mind. Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships.
Keep you feeling young and energetic. In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” Playing can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you feel your best.

Play and relationships

Play is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. Playing together brings joy, vitality, and resilience to relationships. Play can also heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Through regular play, we learn to trust one another and feel safe. Trust enables us to work together, open ourselves to intimacy, and try new things.

By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your love relationships—as well as your connections with co-workers, family members, and friends.
Play helps develop and improve social skills. Social skills are learned in the give and take of play. During childhood play, kids learn about verbal communication, body language, boundaries, cooperation, and teamwork. As adults, you continue to refine these skills through play and playful communication.

Play teaches cooperation with others. Play is a powerful catalyst for positive socialization. Through play, children learn how to “play nicely” with others—to work together, follow mutually agreed upon rules, and socialize in groups. As adults, you can continue to use play to break down barriers and improve your relationships with others.
Play can heal emotional wounds. As adults, when you play together, you are engaging in exactly the same patterns of behavior that positively shape the brains of children. These same playful behaviors that predict emotional health in children can also lead to positive changes in adults. If an emotionally-insecure individual plays with a secure partner, for example, it can help replace negative beliefs and behaviors with positive assumptions and actions.
Fixing relationship problems with humor and play.  Play and laughter perform an essential role in building strong, healthy relationships by bringing people closer together, creating a positive bond, and resolving conflict and disagreements. In new relationships, play and humor can be an effective tool not just for attracting the other person but also for overcoming any awkwardness or embarrassment that arises during the dating and getting-to-know-you process. Flirting is a prime example of how play and humor are used in adult interactions. In longer-term relationships, play can keep things exciting, fresh, and vibrant, and deepen intimacy. It can also help you overcome differences and the tiny aggravations than can build up over time.

Play at work

Many dot-com companies have long recognized the link between productivity and a fun work environment. Some encourage play and creativity by offering art or yoga classes, throwing regular parties, providing games such as Foosball or ping pong, or encouraging recess-like breaks during the workday for employees to play and let off steam. These companies know that more play at work results in more productivity, higher job satisfaction, greater workplace morale, and a decrease in employees skipping work and staff turnover.

If you’re fortunate enough to work for such a company, embrace the culture; if your company lacks the play ethic, you can still inject your own sense of play into breaks and lunch hours. Keep a camera or sketch pad on hand and take creative breaks where you can. Joke with coworkers during coffee breaks, relieve stress at lunch by shooting hoops, playing cards, or completing word puzzles together. It can strengthen the bond you have with your coworkers as well as improve your job performance. For people with mundane jobs, maintaining a sense of play can make a real difference to the work day by helping to relieve boredom.

Using play to boost productivity and innovation.  Success at work doesn’t depend on the amount of time you work; it depends upon the quality of your work. And the quality of your work is highly dependent on your well-being.

Taking the time to replenish yourself through play is one of the best things you can do for your career. When the project you’re working on hits a serious glitch, take some time out to play and have a few laughs. Taking a pause for play does a lot more than take your mind off the problem. When you play, you engage the creative side of your brain and silence your “inner editor,” that psychological barrier that censors your thoughts and ideas. This can often help you see the problem in a new light and think up fresh, creative solutions.

Playing at work:

• keeps you functional when under stress
• refreshes your mind and body
• encourages teamwork
• increases energy and prevents burnout
• triggers creativity and innovation
• helps you see problems in new ways

Tips for managers and employers

It’s tempting to think that the best way to cope with an ever-increasing workload is to have your employees work longer and harder. However, without some recreation time, it’s more likely the work will suffer and your workers become chronically overwhelmed and burned out. Encouraging play, on the other hand, creates a more lighthearted work atmosphere that in turn encourages employees to take more creative risks.

  • Provide opportunities for social interaction among employees. Throw parties, put a basketball hoop in the parking lot, arrange a miniature golf tournament, stage an office treasure hunt.
  • Encourage creative thinking or just lighten the mood of meetings by keeping tactile puzzles on the conference room table.
  • Encourage workers to take regular breaks from their desks, and spend a few minutes engaged in a fun activity, such as a word or number game.

Playing with your children

Rolling on the floor with your baby or getting down on your knees to play with a young child is vitally important—both to your child’s development and to your own health.

Play is essential for developing social, emotional, cognitive, and physical skills in children. In fact, far from being a waste of time or just a fun distraction, play is a time when your child is often learning the most. Whether it’s an infant playing “peek-a-boo,” a toddler playing make-believe, or an older child playing a board game, play develops social skills, stimulates a child’s imagination and makes kids better adjusted, smarter, and less stressed.

As well as aiding your child’s development, play can also bring you closer together and strengthen the parent-child bond that will last a lifetime.
How to play with your child

While children need time to play alone and with other children, playing with their parents is also important. Here are some helpful tips to encourage play:

  • Establish regular play times. It may be for twenty minutes before dinner every night or every Saturday morning, for example. Remember, this time spent playing together is benefiting both of you.
  • Give your child your undivided attention. Turn off the TV and your cell phone and make the time to play with your child without distraction. Having your undivided attention makes your child feel special.
  • Get down to your child’s level. That may mean getting down on your knees or sitting on the floor. Match your child’s intensity during play—if your child is loud and energetic, be loud and energetic, too.
  • Embrace repetition. It may be boring to you, but it’s not to your child. Children learn through repetition. Let your child play the same game over and over. Your child will move on when he or she is ready.
  • Let your children take the lead. Become part of their game rather than trying to dictate the play. In pretend play, let your child call the shots, make the rules, and determine the pace of play. Ask questions and follow along—you’ll likely get drawn into imaginative new worlds that are fun for you, too.
  • Don’t force play or try to prolong a game. The best way to teach a new skill is to show children how something works, then step back and give them a chance to try. When your child is tired of an activity, it’s time to move on to something new.
  • Make play age-appropriate and consider safety. If a game is too hard or too easy, it loses its sense of pleasure and fun. Help your child find age-appropriate activities and understand any safety rules for play. Nothing ruins a fun game faster than a child getting hurt.

How to play more

Incorporating more fun and play into your daily life can improve the quality of your relationships, as well as your mood and outlook. Even in the most difficult of times, taking time away from your troubles to play or laugh can go a long way toward making you feel better.

It’s true what they say: laughter really is the best medicine. Laughter makes you feel good. And the good feeling that you get when you laugh and have fun remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Play and laughter help you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss.

Develop your playful side

It’s never too late to develop your playful, humorous side. If you find yourself limiting your playfulness, it’s possible that you’re self-conscious and concerned about how you’ll look and sound to others when you attempt to be lighthearted. Fearing rejection, embarrassment or ridicule when attempting to be playful is an understandable fear.

Adults are often worried that being playful will get them labeled as childish. But what is so wrong with that? Children are incredibly creative, inventive and are constantly learning. Wouldn’t you want to be childish if that is the definition? Remember that as a child, you were naturally playful; you didn’t worry about the reactions of other people. You can reclaim your inner child by setting aside regular, quality playtime. The more you play, joke, and laugh—the easier it becomes.

Try to clear your schedule for an afternoon or evening, for example, and then turn off your phone, TV, computer, and other devices. Give yourself permission to do whatever you want for the time you’ve allotted. Be spontaneous, set aside your inhibitions and try something fun, something you haven’t done since you were a kid, perhaps. And enjoy the change of pace.

Creating opportunities to play

Host a regular game night with friends or family.
Arrange nights out with work colleagues bowling, playing pool, miniature golf, or singing karaoke.
Schedule time in a park or at the beach to throw a Frisbee or fly a kite with friends.
Play with a pet. Puppies, especially, make very willing playmates. If you don’t have your own, borrow one from your local animal shelter.
Surround yourself with playful people. They’ll help loosen you up and are more likely to support your efforts to play and have fun.
Joke with strangers at a bus stop or in a checkout line. It’ll make the time pass quicker and you may even spark up new friendships.
Visit a magic store and learn some tricks. Or invest in art supplies, construction toys, or science kits and create something new.
Play with children. Goofing around with kids helps you experience the joy of play from their perspective. If you don’t have young children, arrange a play date with your grandkids, nephews, nieces, or other young relatives.

Adapted from these Resources and references

Play Science: The Patterns of Play – Learn about the different ways human beings play, the roles these different patterns of play serve, and how we benefit from them. (National Institute for Play)
Parent Handouts: Play – Information about why play matters and what you as a parent can do to encourage your child to play. (ParentingCounts.org)
Help guide.org. Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A., Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., and Jennifer Shubin. Last updated: March 2018.

#BeAKidAgainDay
#mentalhealth
#emotionalwellbeing

Is Eating Chocolate Actually Good for You? Researchers Seem to Think So!

Despite a bad rap for causing weight gain and loosely being associated with acne, Chocolate is the ultimate comfort food for many.  Americans spend $10 billion annually on chocolaty treats.  For many, it is a sure-fire relief in times of stress, a reliable source of consolation in times of disappointment, and a mood-enhancer and romance-magnifier in more positive circumstances.

But is it at all healthy?  If you consume lots of it, obviously not; but the next time you savor a piece of chocolate, you may not have to feel so guilty about it. Countless studies document a host of medically proven ways in which chocolate — good chocolate, which is to say dark chocolate, with a cocoa percentage of around seventy per cent or more — really is good for us.

Fast facts on chocolate

  • Chocolate is made from tropical Theobroma cacao tree seeds.
  • Its earliest use dates back to the Olmec civilization in Mesoamerica.
  • After the European discovery of the Americas, chocolate became very popular in the wider world, and its demand exploded.
  • Chocolate consumption has long been associated with conditions such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and hypertension.
  • Chocolate is believed to contain high levels of antioxidants.
  • Some studies have suggested chocolate could lower cholesterol levels and prevent memory decline.
  • Chocolate contains a large number of calories.
  • People who are seeking to lose or maintain weight should eat chocolate only in moderation.

Benefits

Chocolate receives a lot of bad press because of its high fat and sugar content. Its consumption has also been associated high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and diabetes.

However, a review of chocolate’s health effects published in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine point to the discovery that cocoa – the key ingredient in chocolate –  contains biologically active phenolic compounds.  This has changed people’s views on chocolate, and it has stimulated research into how it might impact aging, and conditions such as oxidative stress, blood pressure regulation, and atherosclerosis.

It is important to note many of the possible health benefits mentioned below are gleaned  from single studies.

1)  Cholesterol

One study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, suggests that chocolate consumption might help reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, also known as “bad cholesterol.”

The researchers set out to investigate whether chocolate bars containing plant sterols (PS) and cocoa flavanols (CF) have any effect on cholesterol levels.

The authors concluded: “Regular consumption of chocolate bars containing PS and CF, as part of a low-fat diet, may support cardiovascular health by lowering cholesterol and improving blood pressure.”

2)  Cognitive function

Scientists at Harvard Medical School have suggested that drinking two cups of hot chocolate a day could help keep the brain healthy and reduce memory decline in older people.

The researchers found that hot chocolate helped improve blood flow to parts of the brain where it was needed.

Lead author, Farzaneh A. Sorond, said:

“As different areas of the brain need more energy to complete their tasks, they also need greater blood flow. This relationship, called neurovascular coupling, may play an important role in diseases such as Alzheimer’s.”

Another study, published in 2016 in the journal Appetite, suggests eating chocolate at least once weekly could improve cognitive function.

Flavanols are thought to reduce memory loss in older people, and the anti-inflammatory qualities of dark chocolate have been found beneficial in treating brain injuries such as concussion.

Research has shown that when elderly people were given specially prepared cocoa extracts which was high in flavanols, their cognitive function greatly improved. The only problem is that when it comes to eating chocolate, the percentage of those cocoa flavanols is much reduced due to the processing and the addition of eggs, sugar and milk.

3)  Heart disease

Lots of studies reveal that the flavonoids in chocolate can help your veins and arteries to stay supple. Over 7 studies followed 114,000 participants who were given a few servings of dark chocolate a week. The results showed that their risk of getting a heart attack was reduced by about 37% while the chances of getting a stroke were 29% less when they had a higher consumption of chocolate.

Research published in The BMJ, suggests that consuming chocolate could help lower the risk of developing heart disease by one-third.  Based on their observations, the authors concluded that higher levels of chocolate consumption could be linked to a lower risk of cardiometabolic disorders.

A 2014 study found that dark chocolate helps restore flexibility to arteries while also preventing white blood cells from sticking to the walls of blood vessels – both common causes of artery clogging.

4)  Stroke

Canadian scientists, in a study involving 44,489 individuals, found that people who ate chocolate were 22 percent less likely to experience a stroke than those who did not. Also, those who had a stroke but regularly consumed chocolate were 46 percent less likely to die as a result.

A further study, published in the journal Heart in 2015, tracked the impact of diet on the long-term health of 25,000 men and women.  The findings suggested that eating up to 100 grams (g) of chocolate each day may be linked to a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.

5)  Good for moms, fetal growth and development

Eating 30 g of chocolate every day during pregnancy might benefit fetal growth and development, according to a study presented at the 2016 Pregnancy Meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Atlanta, GA.

A Finnish study also found that chocolate reduced stress in expectant mothers, and that the babies of such mothers smiled more often than the offspring of non-chocolate-eating parents.

One of the complications of pregnancy, known as preeclampsia, can cause blood pressure can shoot up. Researchers have established that one of the chemicals in dark chocolate, theobromine, can stimulate the heart and help the arteries dilate. When pregnant women were given higher doses of chocolate, they had a 40% less chance of developing this complication.

6)  Athletic performance

Findings published in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition suggest a little dark chocolate might boost oxygen availability during fitness training.

Another magical flavanol in chocolate is epicatechin. Mice were given this substance and they were much fitter and stronger than those mice on water only. Researchers say that to get the best results from your workout you have to limit the amount to only about half of one square of chocolate a day! If you have too much, it could undo the beneficial effects.

7)   It’s mineral rich

Dark chocolate is packed with beneficial minerals such as potassium, zinc and selenium, and a 100g bar of dark (70 per cent or more) choc provides 67 per cent of the RDA of iron.  It has almost all of your RDA for copper and manganese, contains over half your magnesium RDA and delivers about 10% of fiber.

8)  It reduces cholesterol

Consumption of cocoa has been shown to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and raise levels of “good” cholesterol, potentially lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The Journal of Nutrition published an interesting article about the results of a study done to determine whether dark chocolate could have any effect on the LDL cholesterol levels. They found when subjects were given bars of dark chocolate with plant sterols and flavanols, they were getting lower scores on their cholesterol levels.

9)  It’s good for your skin

The flavanols in dark chocolate can protect the skin against sun damage.     One study conducted in London found that women who were given chocolate with a high flavanol content were able to withstand double the amount of UV light on their skins without burning, compared to those on lower doses.  Still, you are probably better off slapping on some sunscreen.

10) It can help you lose weight

Chocolate can help you lose weight. Really. Neuroscientist Will Clower says a small square of good choc melted on the tongue 20 minutes before a meal triggers the hormones in the brain that say, “I’m full”, cutting the amount of food you subsequently consume. Finishing a meal with the same small trigger could reduce subsequent snacking.

11) It may prevent diabetes

It sounds mad, but cocoa has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity. So dark chocolate – in moderation – might delay or prevent the onset of diabetes. One small study at the University of L’Aquila in Italy found that the right does of chocolate flavonoids can help the body’s metabolism and enhance insulin function.

12) Chocolate makes you feel better

Chocolate contains phenylethylamine (PEA), which is the same chemical that your brain creates when you feel like you’re falling in love. PEA encourages your brain to release feel-good endorphins. These Endorphins play a key role in helping to prevent depression and other mental malaise.

Some chocolate lovers also add certain kinds of chocolate may be good for the soul: this is chocolate for which the raw materials have been grown with care by farmers who are properly rewarded for their work; then processed by people who take time and care in their work and finished by chocolatiers who love what they do. It is not mass-produced, and it may not be cheap. But it could be good for you, heart and soul.

13) It may help people with Alzheimer’s disease

As we know, the nerve pathways to the brain get damaged when Alzheimer’s disease strikes, causing severe loss in certain mental functions. It is fascinating to read about how one extract from cocoa, called lavado, can actually reduce the damage done to these vital pathways.

Results of a lab experiment, published in 2014, indicated that a cocoa extract, called lavado, might reduce or prevent damage to nerve pathways found in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. This extract could help slow symptoms such as cognitive decline.

14) It can help to lower your blood pressure

You may not know it but having the right amount of NO (Nitric Oxide) in your body can help your arteries to relax. That will, in turn help to take some of the pressure off them and the result is a lower BP count. Just another benefit of the dark chocolate flavanols which help to produce this vital Nitric Oxide.

15) It can also help you see better

University of Reading researchers were curious to see if dark chocolate flavanols could actually improve vision as they knew it certainly improved blood circulation in general. They decided to do a small experiment and gave two groups of volunteers some white and dark chocolate. The dark chocolate groups were doing better on vision tests afterwards.

16) It may help reduce fatigue

If you suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome you should try adding chocolate to your daily diet. One group of sufferers were given a daily dose of chocolate for two months. They were less tired and the best news of all is that they did not put on any extra weight.

17) It may help to lower your Body Mass Index

There has been a lot of emphasis on how chocolate can actually reduce your BMI (Body Mass Index) which is how you measure up as regards your height versus your weight. One study took 1,000 Californians and they found that those who ate chocolate more often during the week had a lower BMI. Overall diet and exercise regimes were not factors which influenced this result.

18) It may help reduce your chances of getting cancer

As we have mentioned, the cocoa flavanols in dark chocolate have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These are important in keeping the actions of free radicals at bay. As we know, these are the protagonists when cancer starts to invade cells.

19) It may help your cough

Another marvelous effect of the theobromine chemical in chocolate is that it can calm a troublesome cough. Manufacturers are looking at this to produce safer cough syrups instead of using codeine which has some undesirable side effects.

20) It may help with blood circulation

Normally you take an aspirin to help prevent blood clotting and to improve circulation. Studies now show that chocolate can have a similar effect.

Light vs. dark chocolate

Chocolate’s antioxidant potential may have a range of health benefits. The higher the cocoa content, as in dark chocolate, the more benefits there are. Dark chocolate may also contain less fat and sugar, but it is important to check the label.

Manufacturers of light, or milk, chocolate, claim their product is better for health because it contains milk, and milk provides protein and calcium. Supporters of dark chocolate point to the higher iron content and levels of antioxidants in their product.

How do the nutrients compare?

Here are some sample nutrient levels in light and dark chocolate,

Nutrient Light (100 g) Dark (100 g)
Energy 531 kcal 556 kcal
Protein 8.51 g 5.54 g
Carbohydrate 58 g 60.49 g
Fat 30.57 g 32.4 g
Sugars 54 g 47.56 g
Iron 0.91 mg 2.13 mg
Phosphorus 206 mg 51 mg
Potassium 438 mg 502 mg
Sodium 101 mg 6 mg
Calcium 251 mg 30 mg
Cholesterol 24 mg 5 mg

The darker the chocolate, the higher the concentration of cocoa, and so, in theory, the higher the level of antioxidants there will be in the bar.

However, nutrients vary widely in commercially available chocolate bars, depending on the brand and type you choose. It is best to check the label if you want to be sure of the nutrients.

Risks and precautions

More research is needed to confirm eating chocolate can really improve people’s health.  In addition, chocolate bars do not contain only cocoa. The benefits and risks of any other ingredients, such as sugar and fat, need to be considered.

Weight gain: Some studies suggest that chocolate consumption is linked to lower body mass index (BMI) and fatness. However, chocolate can have a high calorie count due to its sugar and fat content. Anyone who is trying to slim down or maintain their weight should limit their chocolate consumption and check the label of their favorite product.

Sugar content: The high sugar content of most chocolate can also be a cause of tooth decay.

Migraine risk: Some people may experience an increase in migraines when eating chocolate regularly due to cocoa’s tyramine, histamine, and phenylalanine content. However, research is mixed.

Bone health: There is some evidence that chocolate might cause poor bone structure and osteoporosis. The results of one study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that older women who consumed chocolate every day had lower bone density and strength.

Heavy metals: Some cocoa powders, chocolate bars, and cacao nibs may contain high levels of cadmium and lead, which are toxic to the kidneys, bones, and other body tissues.

In 2017, Consumer Lab tested 43 chocolate products and found that nearly all cocoa powders contained more than 0.3 mcg cadmium per serving, the maximum amount recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Conclusion

All in all, eating chocolate can have both health benefits and risks. As with anything, moderation is key.  Research is continuing, and while experts have already found chocolate is good for the heart, circulation and brain, it has been suggested it may even greater benefit in such major heath challenges as autism, obesity and  diabetes.

If you are interested in speaking with a physician about the delicious benefits of chocolate or starting a workout to shed the unwanted effects of too much, find a doctor in the nation’s largest healthcare social ecosystem – HealthLynked.  Here, patients a connecting with physicians in unique ways to Improve HealthCare.

Ready to get Lynked?  Go to HealthLynked.com to sign up for Free!

 

Sources:

20 Health Benefits of Chocolate, Robert Locke

Health benefits and risks of chocolate, Natalie Butler, RD, LD

 

How is Lack of Sleep Ruining Your Health?

I used to say, “I will sleep when I am dead.”  That’s Old military humor meant as some form of motivation in those days we would go for an eternity without sleep.  What I did not know was that not sleeping can draw us closer to death every day.

Ongoing surveys indicate more people are sleeping less than six hours a night, and sleep difficulties visit 75% of us at least a few nights per week. A short-lived bout of insomnia is generally nothing to worry about. The bigger concern is chronic sleep loss, which can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a weakening in the immune system – all which can cause even greater problems down the road.

Why Is Sleep Important?

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.

Think of your body like a factory that performs a number of vital functions. As you drift off to sleep, your body begins its night-shift work:

  • Healing damaged cells
  • Boosting your immune system
  • Recovering from the day’s activities
  • Recharging your heart and cardiovascular system for the next day

Understanding the sleep cycle

Understanding what happens during sleep also means understanding the sleep cycle, which consists of  two recurring phases: REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-REM or non-rapid eye movement). Both phases are important for different functions in our bodies.

NREM sleep typically occupies 75–80% of total sleep each night. Many of the health benefits of sleep take place during NREM sleep – tissue growth and repair occurs, energy is restored and hormones that are essential for growth and development are released.

REM sleep typically occupies 20–25% of total sleep each night. REM sleep, when dreaming occurs, is essential to our minds for processing and consolidating emotions, memories and stress. It is also thought to be vital for learning, stimulating the brain regions used in practicing and developing new skills.

If the REM and NREM cycles are interrupted multiple times throughout the night — either due to snoring, difficulties breathing or waking up frequently —we miss out on vital body processes.  This can affect our health and well-being the next day and long term.

What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?

If your body doesn’t get a chance to properly recharge – by cycling through REM and NREM – you’re already starting the next day at a disadvantage. You might find yourself:

  • Feeling drowsy, irritable or sometimes depressed
  • Struggling to take in new information at work, remembering things or making decisions
  • Craving more unhealthy foods, which could cause weight gain1

We have all heard about the importance of sleeping well, and we’ve all experienced the feeling of being refreshed after a good night’s sleep, or the feeling of fatigue after a poor night’s sleep. Even though we know this, in our busy society, many of us are not getting the quality sleep needed to truly receive its health benefits.

Here are a few reasons to catch more ZZZZs.

Healthy Brain Function and Emotional Well-Being

Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.

Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning. Whether you’re learning math, how to play the piano, how to perfect your golf swing, or how to drive a car, sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.

Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.

Children and teens who are sleep deficient may have problems getting along with others. They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. They also may have problems paying attention, and they may get lower grades and feel stressed.

Physical Health

Sleep plays a significant role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.

Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.

Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.

Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility.

Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections.

Daytime Performance and Safety

Getting enough quality sleep at the right times helps you function well throughout the day. People who are sleep deficient are less productive at work and school. They take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes.

After several nights of losing sleep—even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night—your ability to function suffers as if you haven’t slept at all for a day or two.

Lack of sleep also may lead to microsleep. Microsleep refers to brief moments of sleep that occur when you’re normally awake.

You can’t control microsleep, and you might not be aware of it. For example, have you ever driven somewhere and then not remembered part of the trip? If so, you may have experienced microsleep.

Even if you’re not driving, microsleep can affect how you function. If you’re listening to a lecture, for example, you might miss some of the information or feel like you don’t understand the point. In reality, though, you may have slept through part of the lecture and not been aware of it.

Some people aren’t aware of the risks of sleep deficiency. In fact, they may not even realize that they’re sleep deficient. Even with limited or poor-quality sleep, they may still think that they can function well.

Drowsy drivers may feel capable of driving. Yet, studies show that sleep deficiency harms your driving ability as much as, or more than, being drunk. It’s estimated that driver sleepiness is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths.

Drivers aren’t the only ones affected by sleep deficiency. It can affect people in all lines of work, including health care workers, pilots, students, lawyers, mechanics, and assembly line workers.

As a result, sleep deficiency is not only harmful on a personal level, but it also can cause large-scale damage. For example, sleep deficiency has played a role in human errors linked to tragic accidents, such as nuclear reactor meltdowns, grounding of large ships, and aviation accidents

Get help

If you are shorting your sleep night after night, 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 provider who is practiced in helping you get a good night’s rest, go to HealthLynked.com.  In our first of its kind healthcare ecosystem, you will find physicians and advice to help you stop counting sheep!

Sign up for Free and start taking control of your health today!

 

Is Workaholism Destroying Your Health and Your Career?

Our society is obsessed with the concept we all must be the best at what we do, and overworking or becoming a ‘workaholic’ sometimes seem the best means to achieving that goal. While researchers and psychologists have been arguing for decades about what constitutes “workaholism” and whether it is a disorder at all, the term started being thrown around in the 1970s.  Since then, mountains of evidence have piled up showing workaholics display many of the same characteristics as those addicted to drugs or alcohol, such as engaging in compulsive behaviors that are ultimately destructive.

Today, there are more ways to overwork yourself than ever, and few leaders will discourage it.  Surveys  consistently show at least one-third of Americans are chronically overworked. According to the current OECD Better Life Index, the United States ranks 30 out of 38 advanced nations in the category of “work-life balance”.  While refusing vacation time, eating lunch at your desk or never shutting off your work email might seem like smart ways to impress the boss, they also could have dire consequences for your health down the road.

The research is pretty cut and dry when it comes to the effects of workaholism on mental health. 32.7 percent of workaholics met ADHD criteria, compared to 12.7 percent of non-workaholics. 25.6 percent of workaholics met OCD criteria, compared to 8.7 percent of non-workaholics. 33.8 percent of workaholics met anxiety criteria, compared to 11.9 percent of non-workaholics. And 8.9 percent of workaholics met depression criteria, compared to 2.6 percent of non-workaholics.

Consider two more facts:

  • People who work eleven hours per day rather than eight have a 67% increased risk of developing heart disease.
  • Those who work more than 50 hours per week are three times more likely to develop an alcohol-abuse problem.

Those are some pretty damning numbers.   The problem is, workaholism is the rare mental health issue that can often have positive rewards in the short term — things like the praise of a happy boss or increased income. For these reasons, psychologist Bryan Robinson once called workaholism “the best-dressed mental health problem.”

So, if you’re trying to wean yourself off your work addiction but are just having a little difficulty, here are some things to keep in mind.

Not taking vacations hurts your career.

Almost three-quarters of American workers don’t use all their vacation time and less than half take the time to plan out their vacations each year, according to Project: Time Off –  sponsored by the U.S. Travel Association. As a result, they end up burning valuable time.

By forfeiting 658 million unused vacation days, workers cost the US economy an estimated $223 billion in total economic impact and 1.6 million jobs. That makes ditching vacation both one of the most costly and common ways Americans overwork themselves.

Workers that don’t take vacation were also found to be less productive and score lower on performance reviews.

According to a new study published in the Journal of Management, there is a significant difference between being engaged at work and being addicted to it. While the former is characterized by hard work because the employee is passionate about the job, the latter is often motivated by negative feelings like guilt, fear and compulsion.

Your brain needs breaks.

So, you are totally engaged, but do you leave time to take a much needed break or two during the day? Giving your brain some down time is essential to increasing productivity. A recent study found that the ideal work-to-break ratio should be 52 minutes of work followed by a 17-minute break.

The study is backed up by several others that have found giving your brain some time to relax and day dream increases productivity, problem-solving and creativity.

Eating lunch at your desk is bad for you.

For one, a lunch break is a perfect time to recharge your gray matter.  Also, the physical activity of getting up and away from your desk can help   improve productivity and stave off obesity.  A U.K. study found that people who ate more meals at work were more likely to be overweight.

What’s more, experts agree that grabbing lunch with co-workers and clients can be a great way to network and further your career.  It is also important to note skipping lunch altogether is maybe the worst thing you can do.

Constantly checking email wastes your life.

No matter what you tell yourself, constantly being on your work email isn’t helping your state of mind or your productivity. A 2012 study found  when workers were forced to take a five-day break from work email they  experienced less stress and became more efficient at completing work tasks. The hiatus even led to workers having “more natural, variable heart rates.”

Workers who answer emails late in to the evening were also more likely to be exhausted the next day and hence less engaged, two 2014 studies found.

You’re probably hurting your relationship.

Being addicted to work can cause serious rifts between partners in romantic relationships. Since workaholism can be thought of as being similar to substance addiction, workaholics often prioritize their job over their friends and family. For example, those addicted to work can leave a disproportionate amount of domestic duties to spouses who have a more balanced approach to their careers.

Marriages involving a workaholic are twice as likely to end in divorce, a 1999 study found. For those that stay together, the psychological damage can be considerable. Kids of workaholics have been found to experience greater levels of depression and anxiety than the children of alcoholics.

You can’t keep it up forever.

In short, workaholics burn out. What may begin as simply spending a few extra hours at the office every week can quickly spiral into much more destructive behavior because workaholics don’t take the time to give themselves a break, CNNMoney reports. All that nonstop activity can result in bad personal habits and ultimately lead to what one expert called “incapacitating ‘burnout.’”  What’s more, studies have shown that limiting workers to a 40-hour week is the best way to maintain long-term productivity.

It’s bad for your co-workers and employers.

Having workers who take on too much stress, as workaholics often do, isn’t just bad for the employee — it’s bad for companies and co-workers, too. Businesses lose an estimated $300 billion in productivity due to stress each year, according to the World Health Organization.

But that stress can also have collateral damage on co-workers. Since workaholics tend to be perfectionists, they can often put added , often unnecessary stress on their colleagues, according to experts.

And even worse for you.

In short, workaholism has been linked with a laundry list of disorders, including alcoholismsleep problems, heart disease, depression and anxiety, weight gainhigh blood pressure and even premature death.

Here are a few tips you can implement to begin a much healthier relationship with your work:

Make Relaxation Part of Your Day

Learning to work smarter, not longer, will increase productivity and help to eliminate the potential disastrous results from being overworked. Take a break for a few minutes at a time each day and relax periodically. You should relax by physically slowing down. Take deeper breaths, drink more water, take a walk outside. All of these things will help you to relax your body and your mind and will make you more productive.

Condense Your Workload

Give yourself a set amount of time to work each day and each week; then stick to it. You’ll find yourself becoming more productive during the time you actually work, because you have to get your stuff done faster. To help you stick with your new schedule, set appointments for 30 minutes after you’re supposed to be done. So, if you tell yourself you’re absolutely going to stop working at 5 p.m., set an appointment for 5:30 p.m. and stick to it. Make it a barber or beauty shop, or an appointment with your spouse or kids or workout partner. Whatever you do, stick to it.

Have Set Email and Social Media Times

Don’t allow yourself to be available to the world every minute of the day. Set times when you will check and respond to email. You really don’t need to be connected all the time. Now, take the time that you save from responding to email, and claim it by reducing your work hours. Also, now that you’re not being interrupted all the time, you can focus more.

Don’t Skip the Vacation

Taking the occasional vacation for a few days at a time can help you physically and emotionally recharge. If you can’t afford your dream vacation, more affordable mini vacations or stay-cations can be the answer. Take a day off to go hiking or sightseeing. Visit a relative within driving distance for the weekend. Pretend you’re a tourist in your own city and visit some attractions. Take the family camping.

Whatever your vacation idea, schedule it on your calendar and plan for it in advance. The payoff is greater balance between your personal and professional lives as well as delivering the emotional lift of something to look forward to. Your business will survive without you, so leave the laptop at home.

To avoid becoming one of the statistics from above, there are resources available for those who feel they may be losing the ability to balance their personal and work lives.   For example, Workaholics Anonymous is a 12-step program based on the one designed for recovering alcoholics. It’s just one of many ways people can learn to set clear boundaries between the office and the home, according to CNNMoney.

Finally, if you are looking for a health professional who might help you find a really great work life balance, you can find them using HealthLynked. It is the first of its kind medical network built as a social ecosystem with a Higher Purpose – Improving HealthCareGo to HealthLynked.com to sing up for free and find our additional resources on mental health information.

 

Why Being A Workaholic Is Awful For You AND Everyone Around You, Harry Bradford, Huffington Post

Being a Workaholic is Bad For Your Health, Scott And Heidi Shimberg, 28 May 2015

 

Why is it Important to Know My Family Health History?

Family Health History: Why It’s Important and What You Should Know
Why is it important to know my family history?

by Kimberly Holland

Family members share more than similar appearance. You may recognize that you have your father’s curly hair or your mother’s button nose. Thank goodness my kids got my wife’s food looks. What is not so easy to see is that your great-grandmother passed along an increased risk for both breast and ovarian cancer.

That’s why discovering and knowing your family health history is vitally important. Your medical history includes all the traits your family shares you can’t see. These traits may increase your risk for many hereditary conditions and diseases, including:

• cancer
• diabetes
• asthma
• heart disease and blood clots
• Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
• arthritis
• depression
• high blood pressure and high cholesterol

Whose history do I need?

The general rule for family health history is that more is better. First, you’ll want to focus on immediate family members who are related to you through blood. Start with your parents, siblings, and children. If they’re still alive, grandparents are another great place to start. They may know partial histories of many members of your family.

You can also gather information from your aunts and uncles, and other blood relatives. Once you move beyond this core circle of family, genetic makeups change so greatly that you may not be able to learn much about your own risk. Still, keep information handy for any family members you learn about during your search for medical history. It may be helpful down the road.

How can I gather this information?

Talking about health may not come naturally to you or your family. You can start the conversation by letting your family members know why you want to gather health information. Also, let them know that you’re willing to share information with them, so that you can all have more complete health histories. It may be easier to start out by having one-on-one conversations.

Get the right information

When you’re ready to gather family health history information, keep these things in mind:

Major medical issues: Ask about every major medical issue anyone in close relation to you has been diagnosed with. In this fact-finding stage, nothing is too small, though issues are only significant if the cause was genetic. Lyme disease, injuries, and other things caused by external factors can’t be inherited.
Causes of death: Find out the cause of death for any family members who’ve passed away. That might provide a clue to your family medical history, too.
Age of onset: Ask when each family member was diagnosed with each condition. This may help your doctor recognize the early onset of certain diseases.
Ethnic background: Different ethnicities have varying levels of risk for certain conditions. As best you can, identify your ethnic background to help spot potential health risks.
Environment: Families share common genes, but they also share common environments, habits, and behaviors. A complete family history also includes understanding what factors in your environment could impact your health.

5 questions to ask

Here are some questions you can ask to start the conversation:

  1. How old was my relative when they died, and what was the cause of death?
  2. Are there health problems that run in the family?
  3. Is there a history of pregnancy loss or birth defects in my family?
  4. What allergies do people in my family have?
  5. What is my ethnicity? (Some conditions are common among certain ethnicities.)

What should I do with this information?

Knowing your own health history is important, and sharing it with your doctor may be more important. That’s because your doctor can help you interpret what it means for your current lifestyle, suggest prevention tips, and decide on screening or testing options for conditions you may be more at risk for developing.

The genes you’re born with can’t be changed or altered. If you know your family history, you’re one step ahead of the game. You can take the initiative to adopt healthier lifestyle habits. For example, you could decide to stop smoking or drinking alcohol, or to start exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight. These lifestyle changes may reduce your chances for developing hereditary conditions.

Is incomplete information still useful?

Even a family health history that’s incomplete is still useful to your doctor. Share any information you have with them.

For example, if you know that your sibling was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 35, your doctor may suspect a possible genetic issue. They may then decide it’s important that you have regular colon cancer screenings before the recommended age of 50. Your doctor may also suggest you undergo genetic counseling or testing to identify any genetic risks.

What if I was adopted

Environment plays an important part in your health history, and you can get the details for this from your adoptive family. Learning more about your birth family’s health history may require a large investment of time and energy.

Ask your adoptive parents if they have any information about your birth parents. It’s possible family health history information was shared during the adoption process. If not, ask the agency that arranged the adoption if they retained any personal health history information for your birth parents. Understand your state’s statutes before you begin requesting adoption history information.

If all of these avenues come up short, you may need to make a choice about seeking out your birth parents. You may not wish to pursue that route, or you may be unable to connect with them. In that case, alert your doctor to your personal history. The two of you can then work to identify ways to screen for and detect your risk of certain conditions.

What if I’m estranged from my family?

If you’re estranged from only part of your family, you can try a few things to collect your family health history:

Talk to the family members you’re connected with. You may not need to reconnect with your whole family to collect your family health history.
Reach out via your doctor. Some medical offices may be able to send out questionnaires to family members asking for information in an official capacity. This may prompt people to respond.

Do some research. You may be able to discover the cause of death of your relatives from death certificates. Search online to find state-specific death records or check ancestry sites for this information. Obituaries, often available online or archived by public libraries, might also provide health information.

What about genetic testing and genetic predisposition?

Certain ethnic backgrounds and races may be predisposed to conditions for which a genetic test is useful. For example, women of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have an increased risk for breast cancer. A specific gene mutation is more common in these women than in other women. Genetic screening may help your doctor detect this gene mutation and prepare you for treatment options early.

Although genetic tests can help identify potential risks you may have inherited for a specific disease, they don’t guarantee you’ll develop that disease. Results may show you have a predisposition to several conditions. While you may never actually develop any of these, you might feel the added anxiety isn’t worth the knowledge. Seriously consider the benefits and concerns you may have with knowing your genetic risk factors before you do any testing.

How do I record the details?

Make sure you write down or electronically document the health information your relatives provide. You can use HealthLynked for this. Just complete one profile per family member whose medical records you are responsible for and have other family members complete and share their own with you.

Outlook

Knowing your health history helps you to be more proactive about your health. Share this information with your doctor so they can screen early for conditions you’re predisposed to and suggest lifestyle choices that can help reduce your risk.



Also talk to your doctor if you need more help figuring out how to uncover your health history or what questions you should ask. If you don’t have one you depend on today, you might find a great physician using the first of its kind social ecosystem designed specifically for everything described in the article.

Ready to get Lynked? Go to HealthLynked.com now to start compiling your medical history and sharing with those you choose, for Free, today!

Source

 

UV Exposure: Why Do We Ignore the Health Risks?

 

Published Thursday 17 July 2014

By Honor Whiteman

The sun is shining, so what are your plans? For many of us, the answer will be to hit the beach and soak up the rays. But while you are busy packing beachwear and towels, are you considering the dangers of sun exposure?

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation – from the sun, tanning beds, lamps or booths – is the main cause of skin cancer, accounting for around 86% of non-melanoma and 90% of melanoma skin cancers. In addition, excessive UV exposure can increase the risk of eye diseases, such as cataract and eye cancers.

The health risks associated with exposure to UV radiation have certainly been well documented, so much so that the World Health Organization (WHO) have now officially classed UV radiation as a human carcinogen.

This year alone, Medical News Today reported on an array of studies warning of UV exposure risks. One study, published in the journal Pediatrics, revealed that tanning bed use among youths can increase the risk of early skin cancer, while other research found that multiple sunburns as an adolescent can increase melanoma risk by 80%.

Furthermore, in response to reported health risks, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently changed their regulation of tanning beds, lamps and booths. Such products must now carry a visible, black-box warning stating that they should not be used by anyone under the age of 18.

How does UV radiation cause damage?

UV radiation consists of three different wavebands: UVA, UVB and UVC. The UVC waveband is the highest-energy UV but has the shortest wavelength, meaning it does not reach the earth’s surface and does not cause skin damage to humans.

However, UVA has a long wavelength and accounts for 95% of solar UV radiation that reaches the earth’s surface, while UVB – with a middle-range wavelength – accounts for the remainder. Tanning beds and tanning lamps primarily emit UVA radiation, sometimes at doses up to 12 times higher than that of the sun.

Both UVA and UVB radiation can damage the skin by penetrating its layers and destroying cellular DNA. UVA radiation tends to penetrate deeper layers of skin, known as the dermis, aging the skin cells and causing wrinkles. UVB radiation is the main cause of skin reddening or sunburn, as it damages the outer layers of the skin, known as the epidermis.

Excessive UV exposure can cause genetic mutations that can lead to the development of skin cancer. The browning of the skin, or a tan, is the skin’s way of trying to stop further DNA damage from occurring.

Of course, it is not only the skin that can be subject to damage from UV radiation. Bright sunlight can penetrate the eye’s surfaces tissues, as well as the cornea and the lens.

Ignoring the risks of UV exposure

But regardless of the numerous studies and health warnings associated with UV exposure, it seems many of us refuse to take note.

A 2012 survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 50.1% of all adults and 65.6% of white adults ages 18-29 reported suffering sunburn in the past 12 months, indicating that sun protection measures are not followed correctly, if at all.

A more recent study from the University of California-San Francisco stated that the popularity of indoor tanning is “alarming” – particularly among young people.

The study revealed that 35% of adults had been exposed to indoor tanning, with 14% reporting tanning bed use in the past year. Even more of a concern was that 43% of university students and 18% of adolescents reported using tanning beds in the past year.

Overall rates of tanning bed use, the researchers estimate, may lead to an additional 450,000 non-melanoma and 10,000 melanoma skin cancer cases every year.

It seems unbelievable that so many of us are willing to put our health at risk to soak up some sunshine. So why do we do it?

The desire for a ‘healthy tan’

A recent study published in the journal Cell suggested that UV radiation causes the body to release endorphins – “feel-good” hormones – which makes sun exposure addictive.

But Tim Turnham, executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation, told Medical News Today that many people simply favor a tanned body over health:

“Despite elevated awareness of the dangers of UV radiation, people still choose to ignore the dangers in the pursuit of what they consider to be a ‘healthy tan.’ This is particularly an issue among young people who tend to ignore health risks in favor of enhancing their social status and popularity. We know that tanning appeals to people who are interested in being included, and this is a primary driver for teens – being part of the ‘in’ crowd.”

Anita Blankenship, health communication specialist at the CDC, told us that the desire for a tan is particularly common among young women.

“In the US, nearly 1 in 3 young white women ages 16-25 years engages in indoor tanning each year,” she said. “These young women may experience pressure to conform to beauty standards, and young people may not be as concerned about health risks.”

Turnham agreed, telling us that the indoor tanning industry specifically targets this population. “Aggressive marketing, deep discount and package deals are used routinely by tanning salons, who market their services preferentially to young women,” he said.

Blankenship added that the public are also presented with “conflicting messages” when it comes to the safety of excess UV exposure. She pointed out that a recent US report found that only 7% of tanning salons reported any harmful effects from tanning beds, booths or lamps, while 78% reported health benefits.

“It is important to monitor deceptive health and safety claims about UV exposure, as they may make it difficult for consumers to adequately assess risk,” she told us. “It is important for people to understand that tanned skin is damaged skin, and that damage can lead to wrinkles and early aging of the skin, as well as skin cancer including melanoma – the kind of skin cancer that leads to the most deaths.”

Progress has been made, but more needs to be done

This month is UV Safety Month – an annual campaign that aims to increase public awareness of the health implications caused by UV exposure.

With the help of such campaigns and an increase in studies detailing UV risks, many health care professionals believe there has been a change for the better in attitudes toward UV exposure.

Many health care professionals believe much progress has been made in increasing awareness of UV exposure risks in recent years, but more needs to be done.

“Certainly the scientific community, a number of federal agencies, and possibly the general public are more aware of the risk of UV exposure,” a spokesperson from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) told Medical News Today.

“Action and more coordinated efforts increased markedly about 4 years ago, when a number of epidemiological studies documented the harms of indoor tanning, the FDA held their scientific advisory committee meeting to discuss need for changing indoor tanning device regulations, and they also acted on their previous proposals to change sunscreen regulations.”

The spokesperson continued:

“We think these summaries acted as a catalyst for efforts to make the public and policy makers aware of the risks of indoor tanning, and also they gave a boost to efforts to increase awareness of outdoor sun exposure risks and encourage sun safe protective behaviors.”

In addition, some studies have indicated that many youngsters may even be moving away from the use of tanning beds. A recent Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that among high school students, indoor tanning activity decreased from 15.6% in 2009 to 12.8% in 2013.

Turnham told us that since sunless tanning – such as the use of spray tans – is on the increase, it may be that youngsters are using this as an alternative to tanning salons. But the NCI spokesperson said such an association needs to be investigated before any conclusions can be reached:

“We do not know if changes in indoor tanning are related to increases in use of spray-on and sunless tanning products and services,” they told us. “Some studies indicate that sunless products and services are used by people who continue to engage in indoor tanning, but it is an area we continue to research. We are hopeful that we will be able to measure this in an upcoming national survey supplement that is being developed by NCI and CDC.”

But despite widespread efforts to increase UV safety awareness, Turnham believes there is still a lot more that can be done to protect public health:

“Regulators could and should do much more to fight the ravages of UV exposure. We need federal legislation banning the use of tanning beds by minors. We need more funding for awareness and prevention efforts.”

He added that doctors can also play a role in increasing UV exposure awareness by warning patients of associated risks – something the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommend. They state that health care providers should counsel fair-skinned youths between the ages of 10 and 24 about the risks of indoor tanning and how to protect themselves against UV radiation from the sun.

However, Turnham noted that doctors do not have much time with each patient and proposes that signage in waiting areas warning of the risks of UV exposure may also be effective.

Protecting against UV radiation

Whether there will be further regulation for indoor tanning or an increase in awareness efforts is unclear. But one thing is certain: we can help ourselves to avoid the negative health implications associated with UV exposure.

The American Cancer Society notes young children need extra protection from the sun, as they spend more time outside and can burn easily.

The CDC recommend the following for protecting against UV radiation:

  • Stay in the shade if possible, particularly when the sun is at its strongest – usually around midday
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat that provides shade for your head, face, ears and neck
  • Wear wrap-around sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB radiation
  • Use sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 that protects against UVA and UVB radiation, and reapply every 2 hours
  • Avoid indoor tanning.

In addition, the American Cancer Society notes young children need extra protection from the sun as they spend more time outside and can burn easily. They add that babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight and be covered with protective clothing. Sunscreen should never be used on an infants skin.

As  we embark on the glorious, sunny days of the summer season and enter into the Fourth of July Celebration, let’s do all we can to protect ourselves and our little ones from UV rays’ potential threats to our skin. Remember, UV rays are the major causes of several deadly skin cancers and sunscreen is one of the most easy and accessible ways to protect against them. So, get out those sunscreen tubes and cover your head with a hat and your eyes with some shades because sun protection is trending today and everyday!

And, if you do find an odd spot on your body’s biggest organ, you can use HealthLynked to find a great physician near you and get the help you need.  Simply go to HealthLynked.com and sign up for free, then Connect and collaborate through HealthLynked to heal your skin!

 

Genes linked with sunburn, skin cancer risk

 

May 8, 2018

Certain genes can determine which people are more at risk of getting sunburn and possibly develop skin cancer as a result..

In a trawl of the genetics of nearly 180,000 people of European ancestry in Britain, Australia, the Netherlands and United States, researchers found 20 sunburn genes.

Eight of the genes had been associated with skin cancer in previous research, according to findings published in the journal Nature Communications.

And in at least one region of the genome, “we have found evidence to suggest that the gene involved in melanoma risk… acts through increasing susceptibility to sunburns,” co-author Mario Falchi of King’s College London told AFP.

Sun exposure is critical for the body’s production of vitamin D, which keeps bones, teeth, and muscles healthy, and which scientists say may help stave off chronic diseases, even cancer.

But too much can be painful in the short-term, and dangerous for your health.

The new study, which claims to be the largest to date into the genetics of sunburn, helps explain why people with the same skin tone can have such different reactions to exposure to sunlight—some burn red while others tan brown.

It may also begin to explain factors in skin cancer risk.
“It is necessary to explore these genes in more detail, to understand the mechanism by which they contribute to propensity to burn,” said Falchi.

In future, the research may help identify people at risk, through genetic testing.

“People tend to ‘forget’ that sunburns are quite dangerous,” said Falchi.

“Given the rise in incidence in skin cancer, we hope that knowing there is a genetic link between sunburn and skin cancer may help in encouraging people to lead a healthy lifestyle.”

More information: Genome-wide association study in 176,678 Europeans reveals genetic loci for tanning response to sun exposure, Nature Communications (2018).
nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/s41467-018-04086-y
Journal reference: Nature Communications