Are We Infertile? Finding Help When Trying to Get Pregnant

Infertility happens when a couple cannot conceive after having regular unprotected sex.  It may be that one partner cannot contribute to conception, or that a woman is unable to carry a pregnancy to full term. It is often defined as not conceiving after 12 months of regular sexual intercourse without the use of birth control.

In the United States, around 10 percent of women aged 15 to 44 years are estimated to have difficulty conceiving or staying pregnant. Worldwide, 8 to 12 percent of couples experience fertility problems. Between 45 and 50 percent of cases are thought to stem from factors that affect the man.

Treatment is often available.

Causes in men

The following are common causes of infertility in men.

Semen and sperm

Semen is the milky fluid that a man’s penis releases during orgasm. Semen consists of fluid and sperm. The fluid comes from the prostate gland, the seminal vesicle, and other sex glands.

The sperm is produced in the testicles.

When a man ejaculates and releases semen through the penis, the seminal fluid, or semen, helps transport the sperm toward the egg.

The following problems are possible:

  • Low sperm count: The man ejaculates a low number of sperm. A sperm count of under 15 million is considered low. Around one third of couples have difficulty conceiving due to a low sperm count.
  • Low sperm mobility (motility): The sperm cannot “swim” as well as they should to reach the egg.
  • Abnormal sperm: The sperm may have an unusual shape, making it harder to move and fertilize an egg.

If the sperm do not have the right shape, or they cannot travel rapidly and accurately towards the egg, conception may be difficult. Up to 2 percent of men are thought to have suboptimal sperm.

Abnormal semen may not be able to carry the sperm effectively.

This can result from:

  • A medical condition: This could be a testicular infection, cancer, or surgery.
  • Overheated testicles: Causes include an undescended testicle, a varicocele, or varicose vein in the scrotum, the use of saunas or hot tubs, wearing tight clothes, and working in hot environments.
  • Ejaculation disorders: If the ejaculatory ducts are blocked, semen may be ejaculated into the bladder
  • Hormonal imbalance: Hypogonadism, for example, can lead to a testosterone deficiency.

Other causes may include:

  • Genetic factors: A man should have an X and Y chromosome. If he has two X chromosomes and one Y chromosome, as in Klinefelter’s syndrome, the testicles will develop abnormally and there will be low testosterone and a low sperm count or no sperm.
  • Mumps: If this occurs after puberty, inflammation of the testicles may affect sperm production.
  • Hypospadias: The urethral opening is under the penis, instead of its tip. This abnormality is usually surgically corrected in infancy. If the correction is not done, it may be harder for the sperm to get to the female’s cervix. Hypospadias affects about 1 in every 500 newborn boys.
  • Cystic fibrosis: This is a chronic disease that results in the creation of a sticky mucus. This mucus mainly affects the lungs, but males may also have a missing or obstructed vas deferens. The vas deferens carries sperm from the epididymis to the ejaculatory duct and the urethra.
  • Radiation therapy: This can impair sperm production. The severity usually depends on how near to the testicles the radiation was aimed.
  • Some diseases: Conditions that are sometimes linked to lower fertility in males are anemia, Cushing’s syndrome, diabetes, and thyroid disease.

Some medications increase the risk of fertility problems in men.

  • Sulfasalazine: This anti-inflammatory drug can significantly lower a man’s sperm count. It is often prescribed for Crohn’s disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Sperm count often returns to normal after stopping the medication.
  • Anabolic steroids: Popular with bodybuilders and athletes, long-term use can seriously reduce sperm count and mobility.
  • Chemotherapy: Some types may significantly reduce sperm count.
  • Illegal drugs: Consumption of marijuana and cocaine can lower the sperm count.
  • Age: Male fertility starts to fall after 40 years.
  • Exposure to chemicals: Pesticides, for example, may increase the risk.
  • Excess alcohol consumption: This may lower male fertility. Moderate alcohol consumption has not been shown to lower fertility in most men, but it may affect those who already have a low sperm count.
  • Overweight or obesity: This may reduce the chance of conceiving.
  • Mental stress: Stress can be a factor, especially if it leads to reduced sexual activity.

Laboratory studies have suggested that long-term acetaminophen use during pregnancy may affect fertility in males by lowering testosterone production. Women are advised not to use the drug for more than one day.

Causes in women

Infertility in women can also have a range of causes.

Risk factors

Risk factors that increase the risk include:

  • Age: The ability to conceive starts to fall around the age of 32 years.
  • Smoking: Smoking significantly increases the risk of infertility in both men and women, and it may undermine the effects of fertility treatment. Smoking during pregnancy increases the chance of pregnancy loss. Passive smoking has also been linked to lower fertility.
  • Alcohol: Any amount of alcohol consumption can affect the chances of conceiving.
  • Being obese or overweight: This can increase the risk of infertility in women as well as men.
  • Eating disorders: If an eating disorder leads to serious weight loss, fertility problems may arise.
  • Diet: A lack of folic acid, iron, zinc, and vitamin B-12 can affect fertility. Women who are at risk, including those on a vegan diet, should ask the doctor about supplements.
  • Exercise: Both too much and too little exercise can lead to fertility problems.
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): Chlamydia can damage the fallopian tubes in a woman and cause inflammation in a man’s scrotum. Some other STIs may also cause infertility.
  • Exposure to some chemicals: Some pesticides, herbicides, metals, such as lead, and solvents have been linked to fertility problems in both men and women. A mouse study has suggested that ingredients in some household detergents may reduce fertility.
  • Mental stress: This may affect female ovulation and male sperm production and can lead to reduced sexual activity.

Medical conditions

Some medical conditions can affect fertility.

Ovulation disorders appear to be the most common cause of infertility in women.

Ovulation is the monthly release of an egg. The eggs may never be released, or they may only be released in some cycles.

Ovulation disorders can be due to:

  • Premature ovarian failure: The ovaries stop working before the age of 40 years.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): The ovaries function abnormally and ovulation may not occur.
  • Hyperprolactinemia: If prolactin levels are high, and the woman is not pregnant or breastfeeding, it may affect ovulation and fertility.
  • Poor egg quality: Eggs that are damaged or develop genetic abnormalities cannot sustain a pregnancy. The older a woman is, the higher the risk.
  • Thyroid problems: An overactive or underactive thyroid gland can lead to a hormonal imbalance.
  • Chronic conditions: These include AIDS or cancer.

Problems in the uterus or fallopian tubes can prevent the egg from traveling from the ovary to the uterus, or womb.

If the egg does not travel, it can be harder to conceive naturally.

Causes include:

  • Surgery: Pelvic surgery can sometimes cause scarring or damage to the fallopian tubes. Cervical surgery can sometimes cause scarring or shortening of the cervix. The cervix is the neck of the uterus.
  • Submucosal fibroids: Benign or non-cancerous tumors occur in the muscular wall of the uterus. They can interfere with implantation or block the fallopian tube, preventing sperm from fertilizing the egg. Large submucosal uterine fibroids may make the uterus’ cavity bigger, increasing the distance the sperm has to travel.
  • Endometriosis: Cells that normally occur within the lining of the uterus start growing elsewhere in the body.
  • Previous sterilization treatment: In women who have chosen to have their fallopian tubes blocked, the process can be reversed, but the chances of becoming fertile again are not high.

Medications, treatments, and drugs

Some drugs can affect fertility in a woman.

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Long-term use of aspirin or ibuprofen may make it harder to conceive.
  • Chemotherapy: Some chemotherapy drugs can result in ovarian failure. In some cases, this may be permanent.
  • Radiation therapy: If this is aimed near the reproductive organs, it can increase the risk of fertility problems.
  • Illegal drugs: Some women who use marijuana or cocaine may have fertility problems.

Cholesterol

One study has found that high cholesterol levels may have an impact on fertility in women.

Treatment

Treatment will depend on many factors, including the age of the person who wishes to conceive, how long the infertility has lasted, personal preferences, and their general state of health.

Frequency of intercourse

The couple may be advised to have sexual intercourse more often around the time of ovulation. Sperm can survive inside the female for up to 5 days, while an egg can be fertilized for up to 1 day after ovulation. In theory, it is possible to conceive on any of these 6 days that occur before and during ovulation.

However, a survey has suggested that the 3 days most likely to offer a fertile window are the 2 days before ovulation plus the 1 day of ovulation.

Some suggest that the number of times a couple has intercourse should be reduced to increase sperm supply, but this is unlikely to make a difference.

Fertility treatments for men

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the infertility.

  • Erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation: Medication, behavioral approaches, or both may help improve fertility.
  • Varicocele: Surgically removing a varicose vein in the scrotum may help.
  • Blockage of the ejaculatory duct: Sperm can be extracted directly from the testicles and injected into an egg in the laboratory.
  • Retrograde ejaculation: Sperm can be taken directly from the bladder and injected into an egg in the laboratory.
  • Surgery for epididymal blockage: A blocked epididymis can be surgically repaired. The epididymis is a coil-like structure in the testicles which helps store and transport sperm. If the epididymis is blocked, sperm may not be ejaculated properly.

Fertility treatments for women

Fertility drugs might be prescribed to regulate or induce ovulation.

They include:

  • Clomiphene (Clomid, Serophene): This encourages ovulation in those who ovulate either irregularly or not at all, because of PCOS or another disorder. It makes the pituitary gland release more follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
  • Metformin (Glucophage): If Clomiphene is not effective, metformin may help women with PCOS, especially when linked to insulin resistance.
  • Human menopausal gonadotropin, or hMG (Repronex): This contains both FSH and LH. Patients who do not ovulate because of a fault in the pituitary gland may receive this drug as an injection.
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (Gonal-F, Bravelle): This hormone is produced by the pituitary gland that controls estrogen production by the ovaries. It stimulates the ovaries to mature egg follicles.
  • Human chorionic gonadotropin (Ovidrel, Pregnyl): Used together with clomiphene, hMG, and FSH, this can stimulate the follicle to ovulate.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) analogs: These can help women who ovulate too early—before the lead follicle is mature—during hmG treatment. It delivers a constant supply of Gn-RH to the pituitary gland, which alters the production of hormone, allowing the doctor to induce follicle growth with FSH.
  • Bromocriptine (Parlodel): This drug inhibits prolactin production. Prolactin stimulates milk production during breastfeeding. Outside pregnancy and lactation, women with high levels of prolactin may have irregular ovulation cycles and fertility problems.

Reducing the risk of multiple pregnancies

Injectable fertility drugs can sometimes result in multiple births, for example, twins or triplets. The chance of a multiple birth is lower with an oral fertility drug.

Careful monitoring during treatment and pregnancy can help reduce the risk of complications. The more fetuses there are, the higher the risk of premature labor.

If a woman needs an HCG injection to activate ovulation and scans show that too many follicles have developed, it is possible to withhold the HCG injection. Couples may decide to go ahead regardless if the desire to become pregnant is very strong.

If too many embryos develop, one or more can be removed. Couples will have to consider the ethical and emotional aspects of this procedure.

Surgical procedures for women

If the fallopian tubes are blocked or scarred, surgical repair may make it easier for eggs to pass through.

Endometriosis may be treated through laparoscopic surgery. A small incision is made in the abdomen, and a thin, flexible microscope with a light at the end, called a laparoscope, is inserted through it. The surgeon can remove implants and scar tissue, and this may reduce pain and aid fertility.

Assisted conception

The following methods are currently available for assisted conception.

Intrauterine insemination (IUI): At the time of ovulation, a fine catheter is inserted through the cervix into the uterus to place a sperm sample directly into the uterus. The sperm is washed in a fluid and the best specimens are selected.

The woman may be given a low dose of ovary stimulating hormones.

IUI is more commonly done when the man has a low sperm count, decreased sperm motility, or when infertility does not have an identifiable cause. It can also help if a man has severe erectile dysfunction.

In-vitro fertilization (IVF): Sperm are placed with unfertilized eggs in a petri dish, where fertilization can take place. The embryo is then placed in the uterus to begin a pregnancy. Sometimes the embryo is frozen for future use.

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI): A single sperm is injected into an egg to achieve fertilization during an IVF procedure. The likelihood of fertilization improves significantly for men with low sperm concentrations.

Sperm or egg donation: If necessary, sperm or eggs can be received from a donor. Fertility treatment with donor eggs is usually done using IVF.

Assisted hatching: The embryologist opens a small hole in the outer membrane of the embryo, known as the zona pellucid. The opening improves the ability of the embryo to implant into the uterine lining. This improves the chances that the embryo will implant at, or attach to, the wall of the uterus.

This may be used if IVF has not been effective, if there has been poor embryo growth rate, and if the woman is older. In some women, and especially with age, the membrane becomes harder. This can make it difficult for the embryo to implant.

Electric or vibratory stimulation to achieve ejaculation: Ejaculation is achieved with electric or vibratory stimulation. This can help a man who cannot ejaculate normally, for example, because of a spinal cord injury.

Surgical sperm aspiration: The sperm is removed from part of the male reproductive tract, such as the vas deferens, testicle, or epididymis.

Types

Infertility can be primary or secondary.

Primary infertility is when a couple has not conceived after trying for at least 12 months without using birth control

Secondary infertility is when they have previously conceived but are no longer able to.

Diagnosis

Most people will visit a physician if there is no pregnancy after 12 months of trying.

If the woman is aged over 35 years, the couple may wish to see a doctor earlier, because fertility testing can take time, and female fertility starts to drop when a woman is in her 30s.

A doctor can give advice and carry out some preliminary assessments. It is better for a couple to see the doctor together.

The doctor may ask about the couple’s sexual habits and make recommendations regarding these. Tests and trials are available, but testing does not always reveal a specific cause.

Infertility tests for men

The doctor will ask the man about his medical history, medications, and sexual habits and carry out a physical examination. The testicles will be checked for lumps or deformities, and the shape and structure of the penis will be examined for abnormalities.

  • Semen analysis: A sample may be taken to test for sperm concentration, motility, color, quality, any infections, and whether any blood is present. Sperm counts can fluctuate, so that several samples may be necessary.
  • Blood test: The lab will test for levels of testosterone and other hormones.
  • Ultrasound: This may reveal issues such as ejaculatory duct obstruction or retrograde ejaculation.
  • Chlamydia test: Chlamydia can affect fertility, but antibiotics can treat it.

Infertility tests for women

A woman will undergo a general physical examination, and the doctor will ask about her medical history, medications, menstruation cycle, and sexual habits.

She will also undergo a gynecologic examination and a number of tests:

  • Blood test: This can assess hormone levels and whether a woman is ovulating.
  • Hysterosalpingography: Fluid is injected into the woman’s uterus and X-rays are taken to determine whether the fluid travels properly out of the uterus and into the fallopian tubes. If a blockage is present, surgery may be necessary.
  • Laparoscopy: A thin, flexible tube with a camera at the end is inserted into the abdomen and pelvis, allowing a doctor to look at the fallopian tubes, uterus, and ovaries. This can reveal signs of endometriosis, scarring, blockages, and some irregularities of the uterus and fallopian tubes.

Other tests include:

  • ovarian reserve testing, to find out how effective the eggs are after ovulation
  • genetic testing, to see if a genetic abnormality is interfering with fertility
  • pelvic ultrasound, to produce an image of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries
  • Chlamydia test, which may indicate the need for antibiotic treatment
  • thyroid function test, as this may affect the hormonal balance

Complications

Some complications can result from infertility and its treatment. If conception does not occur after many months or years of trying, it can lead to stress and possibly depression.

Some physical effects may also result from treatment.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome

The ovaries can swell, leak excess fluid into the body, and produce too many follicles, the small fluid sacs in which an egg develops.

Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) usually results from taking medications to stimulate the ovaries, such as clomiphene and gonadotrophins. It can also develop after IVF.

Symptoms include:

  • bloating
  • constipation
  • dark urine
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting

They are usually mild and easy to treat.

Rarely, a blood clot may develop in an artery or vein, liver or kidney problems can arise, and respiratory distress may develop. In severe cases, OHSS can be fatal.

Ectopic pregnancy

This is when a fertilized egg implants outside the womb, usually in a fallopian tube. If it stays in there, complications can develop, such as the rupture of the fallopian tube. This pregnancy has no chance of continuing.

Immediate surgery is needed and, sadly, the tube on that side will be lost. However, future pregnancy is possible with the other ovary and tube.

Women receiving fertility treatment have a slightly higher risk of an ectopic pregnancy. An ultrasound scan can detect an ectopic pregnancy.

Coping mentally

It is impossible to know how long treatment will go on for and how successful it will be. Coping and persevering can be stressful. The emotional toll on both partners can affect their relationship.

Some people find that joining a support group helps, as it offers the chance to talk to others in a similar situation.

It is important to tell a doctor if excessive mental and emotional stress develop. They can often recommend a counselor and others who can offer appropriate support. Online support from organizations such as Resolve can be helpful.

Outlook

For couples who experience fertility problems and those who wish to have children at an older age, there are more options available than ever before.

In 1978, the first baby was born as a result of IVF. By 2014, over 5 million people had been born after being conceived through IVF.

As new technology becomes available, fertility treatment is now accessible to more people, and success rates and safety are improving all the time.

Financing fertility treatment can also be costly, but there are programs that can help with this.

Finding Help

HealthLynked is a great platform for connecting and communicating with medical professionals who can guide and counsel you through the issues of infertility.  Create a free profile today and LYNK with physicians in your area immediately.

Ready to get Lynked?  Go to HealthLynked.com to get started for free…right away!

 

Source:

Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT, Infertility in men and women, Medical News Today, 4 January 2018

 

#ivfjourney,#ivf,#fertilitytreatment,#fertility,#infertility,#friends,#ivfbaby,#ivfsuccess,#infertilitysucks

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

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

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

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

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

Cats and Dogs Know Something You Don’t

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Benefits of Napping

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding the Stages of Sleep

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tailoring Your Nap to Your Needs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Squeezing in Nap Time

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

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

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

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

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

Get help Resetting and Recharging

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

So, if you’re not sleeping well or aren’t feeling rested when you wake up in the morning, it’s important to talk to your doctor and ask if a sleep study is right for you.  To find a healthcare 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 and possibly sneak in a little sleep here and there….maybe even get a doctor’s note for required rest!

So, reignite the day with a nap, and reinvigorate your healthcare with HealthLynked.  Get Lynked now for Free!

 

 

Sources: 

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

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

 

July is Sarcoma Awareness Month – Raise Awareness for this “Forgotten Cancer”

If you see yellow ribbons around your community during the month of July, it may mean something different than the usual “Support Our Troops” many think of when first sighted. Instead, they could be displayed in honor of Sarcoma Awareness Month, observed each July.

Sarcoma is a soft-tissue cancer that may occur in a variety of the body’s soft tissues, including the nerves, muscles, joints, blood vessels, fat and more. Sarcoma may also occur in the bones.  Although rare in adults, making up just ONE percent of adult cancers, sarcoma is relatively common in children, accounting for fifteen percent of childhood cancer cases.  Bone and joint cancer is most frequently diagnosed among teenagers, while soft tissue cancers typically affect those 55 years or older.

Sarcoma is most often found in the arms and legs, where the majority of connective tissues are located, but it can occur virtually anywhere. Because the disease often starts deep in the body, it may not be noticeable until a large lump or bump appears — and at this point the cancer may be difficult to treat.

The Sarcoma Foundation of America (SFA) estimates that about 20 percent of sarcoma cases are curable by surgery while another 30 percent may be effectively treated with surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation. However, in about half of cases, the disease is resistant to all form of treatments, highlighting an urgent need for new therapies.

Soft tissue sarcomas form in cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, tendons, nerves, and around joints. Osteosarcomas develop in bone; liposarcomas form in fat; rhabdomyosarcomas form in muscle; and Ewing sarcomas form in bone and soft tissue.

In 2018, over 13,000 cases of soft tissue sarcoma and 3,400 cases of bone sarcomas are expected to be diagnosed in the United States, according to data from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program (SEER). Approximately 5,100 and 1,590 people are expected to die from soft tissue and bone sarcomas, respectively. The five-year survival rate for soft tissue sarcomas is 50 percent, while the survival rate is 66 percent for bone sarcomas.

Because sarcomas are difficult to distinguish from other cancers when they are found within organs, their incidence is probably underestimated, according to the National Cancer Institute.

 Fast facts on sarcoma

  • There are over 50 types of soft tissue sarcoma.
  • Symptoms may not be apparent; often, the only sign of sarcoma is a lump.
  • Pain may occur depending on where the tumor is located, or if it presses on nearby nerves.
  • Treatment, as for other forms of cancer, can include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Symptoms of soft tissue sarcoma

People with soft tissue sarcomas often have no symptoms. There may be no signs until the lump grows to a large size and can be felt; however, even this may go unnoticed. The main symptoms are:

  • Pain – the most obvious symptom. Once the tumor affects local tissues, nerves, or muscles, it can be felt as pain in the general area.
  • Inflammation – the tumor grows and eventually affects the area with inflammation and swelling.
  • Location specific symptoms – inability to move limbs properly (if the sarcoma is on the arms or legs for example) and other impairments depending on the location.

Specific symptoms may reflect the particular type of sarcoma. For instance, tumors in the gastrointestinal system may bleed, so these sarcomas might produce symptoms like blood in the stool, or a stool that has a black, tarry appearance.

Types of sarcoma

Types of soft tissue sarcoma are defined by the specific tissue or location affected; they include:

  • Undifferentiated pleomorphic sarcoma – previously known as malignant fibrous histiocytoma – this tumor is most often found in the arms or legs but sometimes at the back of the abdomen.
  • Gastrointestinal stromal tumor (GIST) – this affects specialized neuromuscular cells of the gut.
  • Liposarcoma – sarcoma of fat tissue.
  • Leiomyosarcoma – affects smooth muscle in organ walls.
  • Synovial sarcomas – these are usually found around a joint in the arms or legs.
  • Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumor – also known as neurofibrosarcoma, it affects the protective lining of the nerves.
  • Rhabdomyosarcoma – this forms in muscle and is a childhood cancer. While rare overall, it is a relatively common tumor in children.
  • Angiosarcomas – these develop in the cells of the blood or lymph vessels.
  • Fibrosarcomas – sarcomas that usually form in the limbs or on the trunk, forming from fibroblasts, the most common cell type in connective tissue.
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma – a sarcoma that affects the skin and is caused by a virus. The most common form of Kaposi’s sarcoma is related to AIDS.  Kaposi’s tumors often produce distinctive skin lesions but also affect other soft tissues.  Kaposi’s sarcoma is caused by the human herpesvirus 8.
  • Further examples – these include dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, a skin lesion; epithelioid sarcoma, which often affects young adults’ hands or feet; myxoma, which affects older adults, usually in the arms and legs; mesenchymomas, which are rare and combine elements of other sarcomas and can be found in any part of the body; vascular sarcomas, containing many blood vessels; and malignant neurilemmoma (also known as schwannoma).  Sarcoma of the bone includes osteosarcoma, Ewing sarcoma, and chondrosarcoma.

Causes of sarcoma

The causes behind sarcoma are unknown, but there are some known risk factors. In adults, for instance, exposure to phenoxy acetic acid in herbicides or chlorophenols in wood preservatives may increase the risk. High doses of radiation are also known to cause sarcomas in some people, as are certain rare genetic alterations. The following inherited diseases are also associated with an increase sarcoma risk, according to SFA:

  • Li-Fraumeni syndrome, which is associated with alterations in the p53 gene
  • Von Recklinghausen’s disease (neurofibromatosis), which is associated with alterations in the NF1 gene

Having certain inherited disorders can increase the risk for other soft tissue sarcomas, including retinoblastoma, tuberous sclerosis, Werner syndrome, and nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome. Other risk factors for soft tissue sarcoma include past treatment with radiation therapy for certain cancers; exposure to certain chemicals, such as thorium dioxide, vinyl chloride, or arsenic; and long-term lymphedema in the arms or legs.

Past treatment with radiation can increase the risk of osteosarcoma and other types of bone cancers. Other risk factors for osteosarcoma include treatment with anticancer drugs called alkylating agents, having a certain change in the retinoblastoma gene, and having certain conditions including Paget disease, Diamond-Blackfan anemia, and Werner syndrome.

Tests and diagnosis of sarcoma

After understanding a patient’s medical history and completing a medical examination, medical imaging scans will help to inform a diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed through laboratory analysis of a tumor sample.

The following physical features should prompt a doctor to investigate:

  1. larger than 2 inches in diameter or growing in size
  2. fixed, immovable, or deep
  3. painful
  4. return of tumor previously removed

Medical imaging helps to locate, characterize, and give further information about a tumor to guide diagnosis. It may also be used to gauge the success of treatment or to look for spread of cancer.

Imaging techniques include X-rays, CT scan (computed tomography), MRI(magnetic resonance imaging), ultrasound, and PET (positron emission tomography).

Treatments for soft tissue sarcoma

The following treatment options can be used for sarcomas:

  • Surgery – the most common sarcoma treatment. It aims to remove the tumor and even some of the normal surrounding tissue. A biopsy sample is often taken at the same time to confirm the exact type of tumor.
  • Radiation therapy – this destroys cancer cells and may be done in addition to surgery, before or after the operation.
  • Chemotherapy – this could also be used in addition to surgery, though less often than radiation therapy.

Some soft tissue sarcomas have other available treatments, such as specific drug treatments, gene-targeted therapies, or biological therapies such as immunotherapy.

Treatment choice and intensity are also guided by the stage and grade of cancer, by the size of the tumor, and extent of any spread.

Prevention of sarcoma

Sarcoma is not typically preventable. Radiation therapy is a risk factor, so reducing exposure to it may be preventive, although a need for radiation therapy usually outweighs any subsequent sarcoma risk.

Observing Sarcoma Awareness Month

Sarcoma is still considered to be the “forgotten cancer.”  Efforts to encourage research and drug development are made more challenging due to a lack of awareness and understanding.  How as a community do we raise funds for vital research if people don’t know that this cancer exists?

Though the Sarcoma Foundation of America works tirelessly every day to raise awareness, during Sarcoma Awareness Month, they aim to further highlight the extraordinary challenges sarcoma patients face and the need for more sarcoma research and better sarcoma therapies.  Please join in efforts and pledge to bring awareness to your community.  Here are a few ways you can help highlight the need for ongoing research on sarcoma:

  • This July, take a moment to share a message via social media or speak with your friends and family about this relatively unknown condition.
  • Join sarcoma patients, survivors and their loved ones for the Steps to Cure Sarcoma.  Every dollar raised will be used to fund research, patient advocacy and education.
  • Take a moment to listen to a Sarcoma Awareness Month Public Service Announcement campaign. Share it online to raise awareness.
  • Get together with others in the sarcoma community and donate today!

Getting Help

Since sarcoma is a rare cancer, many people are unfamiliar with the disease and have not been affected personally. However, many children’s lives have been altered because of this disease, and advances in early detection and treatment could help save lives.

A number of clinical trails are underway for people with sarcoma. If you’ve been recently diagnosed, ask your doctor if a clinical trial, which could give you access to novel treatment options, is right for you.

Trying to find the right doctor to determine if that lump or new pain is something more than just a little annoying is made easy at HealthLynked.  We are the first ever social ecosystem designed to connect physicians and patients in a truly collaborative platform to Improve HealthCare.

Ready to get Lynked?  Sign up for free today and take control of your wellness!

 

Sources:

Han, MD, Seunggu.  “Sarcoma: Symptoms, types, treatments, and causes.” Medical News Today.  23 May 2017.

https://www.curesarcoma.org/sarcoma-awareness-month/

https://www.aacrfoundation.org/Pages/sarcoma_awareness_month.aspx

https://www.gatewaycr.org/gateway-blog/posts/2017/july/july-is-sarcoma-awareness-month-what-is-sarcoma/

 

 

 

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.

 

Ready to get Lynked and get help?  Go to HealthLynked.com today to register for free!

 

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.

Ready to get Lynked and take control of your well being?  Go to HealthLynked.com to get started, for free, today!

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.

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#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