Posts Tagged ‘J-Health & Lifestyles’

Sleep: What’s Going On Behind That Shut-Eye?

What’s Going On During Sleep?

Have you ever watched someone sleep and wondered what he or she was dreaming? Slow breathing, eyes occasionally fluttering, but mostly the very picture of peace and stillness. When people sleep, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye. Sleep is an active process, in which the brain can be remarkably active, even if the body remains (mostly) immobile.

Experts have divided it into two main categories, based on observations of sleeping persons and recordings of the brain’s electrical activity during sleep:

Non-REM Sleep – Four Stages, with Stage 1 the Lightest and Stage 4 the Deepest.

Rapid-Eye Movement (REM) Sleep – During REM sleep, dreaming is common, muscles (other than the eyes) are inactive, and electrical activity in the brain is similar to that of an awakened person. The blood pressure and heart and breathing rates may suddenly increase for short periods of time, just as they do during wakefulness.

During a typical eight-hour period of sleep, a person drifts from wakefulness to Stage 1 non-REM sleep, through Stages 2, 3 and 4 and finally REM sleep over the first several hours. During the last half of the night, REM sleep and Stage 2 sleep alternate for 90 to 120 minutes each. As we age, brief awakenings increase in frequency, while deeper stages of non-REM sleep decrease.

Why Do We Sleep?

The function of sleep is not entirely clear, but researchers believe that REM Sleep is important for solidifying memories, and perhaps for even more critical functions. Rodents completely deprived of REM sleep die after a few weeks. Non-REM sleep, meanwhile, seems to be important in providing a sense of restored energy and ability to concentrate during the day. A number of theories about sleep attempt to explain its role or roles: a restorative for the mind and body in preparation for the day ahead; or a way of reducing energy consumption, to save energy for activities occurring during the day. Some scientists believe that sleep is evolution’s way of improving survival by preventing animals from preying on each other 24 hours a day.

Consequence of Sleep Deprivation:

It is hard to define just how much sleep is normal; different people seem to need different amounts. Sleep experts define “enough” sleep as how long a person would sleep if there were no alarm clocks; that is, left to decide entirely on your own, how long would you sleep? The other way to define it is how long one needs to sleep in order to feel alert and rested the next day. However, duration of sleep is not the only thing that matters – the quality of sleep also matters.

Too little sleep or poor-quality sleep can cause a number of problems, including difficulty with short-term memory, concentration, depression, anxiety, irritability, poor energy and reduced libido. In short, quality of life at work and at home may suffer terribly due to insufficient or poor sleep. All of these problems may resolve when sleep duration increases or sleep quality improves.

One problem related to sleep deprivation deserves particular emphasis: Automobile and truck accidents attributed to sleepy drivers account for thousands of deaths each year.

Although the impact is uncertain in humans, sleep-deprived rodents have reduced immune function and higher susceptibility to infection.

Sleep Disorders:

There are more than 80 individual sleep disorders, but they are divided into 4 main categories:

§ Dyssomnias, in which there is insomnia (difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep), sleepiness during the day, and abnormal sleep-wake timing; examples include sleep apnea and the effects of medications or alcohol.

§ Parasomnias, in which there is abnormal behavior around sleep, but without excessive sleepiness or insomnia; examples include sleepwalking or night terrors.

§ Medical-psychiatric sleep disorders, in which a condition that causes other problems disrupts or impairs sleep; examples include anxiety, depression, Parkinson’s disease, dementia or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

§ Sleep problems that cannot be clearly separated from normal variation, or for which there is no consensus among experts; examples include pregnancy-associated sleep disorder and sleep hyperhidrosis (excessive and unexplained sweating during sleep).

Good Advice for Getting A Good Night’s Sleep:

There are changes you can make to improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep. Sleep experts call this “sleep hygiene,” and these measures are routinely recommended for almost anyone complaining of sleep trouble. Some are just common sense, but, unfortunately, many people for whom sleep is a problem do not recognize their importance.

Here are some general guidelines to follow:

§ Establish a schedule and stick to it; sleep when you are sleepy but try to get up and go to bed each day at about the same time.

§ Use a fan or other means of creating a steady, soothing sound to drown out other noises.

§ Reduce alcohol and caffeine intake; avoid caffeine after noon and don’t use alcohol as a sedative before bed.

§ Get heavy curtains or shades to block out bright light early in the morning if you are awakening earlier than you’d like.

§ Check your medication list. Because some medicines can interfere with sleep, ask your doctor or pharmacist about the medicines you take.

§ Do not exercise vigorously after within several hours of bedtime.

§ Avoid heavy meals or excessive fluids within an hour or two of bedtime.

The Bottom Line:

The importance of sleep is self-evident, yet much remains unknown or uncertain about how we sleep, why we sleep and how to improve sleep. One thing is certain, however: Sleep is not a passive process or a complete “shut down” of the body – many stages of sleep are as active for the mind as being awake. So, the next time you see someone sleeping, keep in mind that though the body may look quiet and peaceful, there is much more to the story.

(Source: HarvardHealth Publication – Harvard Medical School)


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Brain Cells Start To Grow

A new study suggests that seniors who line dance, play bridge or a musical instrument may be doing more than just having fun: They may be warding off the risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s, a progressive brain disease which afflicts four million Americans.

People who played the hardest gained the most. For example, seniors who did crossword puzzles four days a week had a 47% lower risk of dementia than those who did puzzles once a week.

Line dancing also offered a hedge against dementia because it forces the brain to work and the body parts to coordinate. Any mentally challenging activity like learning a new dance step might spur the brain to establish new connections or perhaps to grow new brain cells. The extra brain power may compensate for any loss of brain cells that could result from Alzheimer’s.

According to the Keiser Institute on Aging, by the year 2010, those in the 55-74 age group will outnumber 25-34-year-olds by 18 million. Statistics show 800,000 individuals are turning 65 every month with China, the US and UK leading the pack.

More ageing-related health problems are expected to surface around the world. So, do something to keep your brain active and protect yourself against future memory loss.

(Source: New England Journal of Medicine)

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Health and Fitness: Exercise Guideliness


Exercise Guidelines – Less Gym, More Fun

Federal Guidelines released on 7 October 2008 say Americans Should Pick a Physical Activity They Can Stick With.

Children and adolescents should get at least one hour of exercise every day, and adults should get at least two and one-half hours of physical activity per week, according to New Federal Guidelines, the first comprehensive national recommendations on physical activity.

The guidelines urge Americans to become physically active to reduce weight, stave off chronic diseases, and live longer. But unlike previous efforts, the recommendations de-emphasize gym exercise in favour of activities people are more likely to enjoy.”Pick an activity that’s easy for you to fit into your life,” says Michael O. Leavitt, secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, which released the guidelines. “You just need to get moving.”

An advisory panel that authored the guidelines recommended daily physical activity for nearly all Americans. Children and adolescents, they said, should get at least one hour of physical activity each day, with more intense exercise on at least three days out of the week.

“They can climb trees, they can go on the playground, do hopping and skipping games.”

More than a third of U.S. adults get less than the recommended amount of physical activity, and a quarter get no regular leisure time exercise at all, according to the CDC. That puts them at risk for chronic diseases including diabetes and heart disease, and premature death.

The guidelines recommend that healthy adults get either 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity activity or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity each week. The guidelines urge adults to “mix and match” their activities and intensity levels but recommend a minimum of 10 minutes per day. Adults should do muscle-strengthening exercise involving all major muscle groups at least two days per week.

Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities include ballroom dancing, walking briskly, bicycling less than 10 miles per hour, water aerobics, and gardening.

Vigorous intensity activities include jogging, running, jumping rope, hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack, and bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster.

The Guidelines also recommend:

(1) For Healthy Pregnant Women:

At least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

(2) For Disabled Adults:

2.5 hours of physical activity per week for those who are able.

(3) For Adults Over 65:

2.5 hours per week, depending on capability. Seniors at risk for falls are recommended to perform exercises to help with balance.

Leavitt acknowledged that many Americans “might think they’ve heard this all before.” But the guidelines de-emphasize gyms and exercise classes in favor of activities that might be easier for many Americans to stick with.

“Pick something that you like to do,” Galson says.

“Where I’m at is ‘the more is better.’ I think it’s fine. I think now we just help people understand how to get there and how to increase physical activity,” says James O Hill, Director of the Centre for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado & President of the American Society for Nutrition.

(Source: http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/news/20081007/exercise-guidelines-less-gym-more-fun?ecd=wnl_nrn_100708

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Your Health: Exercise And Live Your ‘Golden Years’

EXERCISE increases lifespan by an average of one to four years for people who engage in moderate to difficult exercise routines. Those additional years will be healthy ones because exercise benefits the heart, lungs, bones and muscles. Even moderate exercise has warded off many dreaded diseases. Walking briskly for three hours for about half an hour with a day of rest per week can reduce your chances of developing many chronic health problems.

Exercise benefits your brain too. Exercise causes the production of the brain’s endorphins – the body’s own morphine-like substances that promotes a “feel good” effect.

Thus, exercise may alleviate depression and enhance self-image as well as the quality of life. It can promote weight loss. It is also well known that exercise can aid in the prevention of a number of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.

Exercise can benefit the gene level. A new evidence was presented in an article entitled, “Endurance Exercise As A Countermeasure For Aging”, published on August 20th in the online Journal Diabetes. Researchers concluded that the reduction in insulin sensitivity that often occurred in one’s later years might not be an inevitable consequence of aging.

We have assumed all along that we will become increasingly less sensitive to insulin as we age. In fact, there is a notion that “you will eventually become diabetic if you live long enough”.

We have believed for a long time that the only way to prevent this condition was by severe calorie restriction. We have seen that underfed animals live longer.

This new study was done by researchers at the world-famous Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. They sought to determine whether long-term endurance training could improve lowered insulin sensitivity.

This is a factor in the metabolic syndrome, which is more prevalent with aging and mitochondrial dysfunction, a widespread condition of aging which has been associated with reduction in insulin sensitivity.

Mitochondria are units in cells that produce energy. Simply put, they are the cell’s “power plants”.

The team enrolled 22 adults aged between 18 and 30 years, and 20 adults between the ages of 59 and 76 years for this study.

Participants were divided into those who reported less than 30 minutes of exercise per day two times weekly, and those who participated in at least one hour of running or cycling per day six days per week over the past four years.

Blood samples were tested for lipids, glucose, and other factors, and dual x-ray absorptiometry was used to measure fat and fat- free mass. Insulin sensitivity, whole-body peak oxygen uptake, muscle mass, mitochondrial function and SIRT3 expression were also measured.

SIRT3 is a mitochondrial gene of the sirtuin family linked with longevity, whose expression has been found to increase with calorie restriction.

Older participants had less muscle mass, greater adiposity (stored fat) and reduced capacity to use oxygen. However, among those who exercised, oxygen peak was higher and fat was lower than in the age-corresponding sedentary groups.

In the subjects who exercised, insulin sensitivity was greater than the sedentary groups. There was no significant difference between young and old groups.

The age-related decrease in mitochondrial oxidative capacity observed in older individuals was not seen in exercise-trained participants.

Although mitochondrial DNA was higher in those who exercised compared with sedentary participants, it remained greater in younger than in older subjects.

No decline of SIRT3 expression with age was observed among trained adults, although a significant decline was noted in older sedentary participants.

In summary, the authors wrote that “endurance exercise-trained young and older people have substantially higher insulin sensitivity than the sedentary groups, and no differences between young and older people were observed in either sedentary or exercise trained groups”.

Second, in contrast, age-related declines were found in various markers of mitochondrial function in the sedentary groups, but these age-related differences were partly, but not completely, abolished in people who practised regular endurance exercise.

Finally, we can see that endurance exercise may exert similar potentially lifespan-enhancing effects as calorie restriction through elevated SIRT3 expression in both young and older adults.

The authors conclude that exercise could have similar effects on lifespan as those observed with calorie restriction in other organisms.

What this means is you are in control of your aging process. Just the simple act of moving your body in a purposeful way could make you not only live longer but also live well in your “golden years”.

(Source: 05 October 2008, New Straits Times, by Datuk Dr Rajen M., a pharmacist with a doctorate in holistic medicine.)

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Your Health: Dozing Off Driven By Genes, Say Scientists

SCIENTISTS in Japan have identified a genetic mutation linked to narcolepsy, a disease that can cause someone to doze off in mid-sentence or behind the wheel of a car, according to a recent study Other symptoms of the condition, which shows up in late adolescence or early adulthood, include excessive daytime drowsiness, vivid hallucinations on the threshold of sleep and the sudden, temporary loss of muscle control, often triggered by emotional shock.

A team of researchers, led by Katsushi Tokunaga, at the University of Tokyo compared the genetic profiles of persons with and without the sleep-inducing disease.

Across four different ethnic groups, patients with narcolepsy were far more likely to carry a specific mutation of DNA located between two genes, one of which has been associated with sleep regulation and the other with the sleep-wake cycle.

The statistical link was strongest among Japanese, but was also significant among Europeans and persons of African descent.

The study also showed that the suspect genetic variant — known as rs57770917 — is common among Koreans.

The prevalence of the disease varies widely in different countries. In Europe and the United States, narcolepsy is roughly as common as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, affecting on average one in every 2,500 people.

But in Japan, the frequency is four times higher and in Israel, only one in half-a-million people have the condition.

There is no known cure for narcolepsy, which is often treated with stimulants to combat daytime fatigue.

Previous studies had already pointed to genetic factors as playing a role.

An immediate family member with narcolepsy increases one’s chances of having the disease by 10 to 40 times.

It was found all Japanese suffering from the disease carried another genetic variant.

But fully 10 per cent of the Japanese population shared that same mutation, so researchers suspected the existence of additional genetic drivers as well.

The authors of the new study said their findings could point the way to “new therapeutic approaches” designed to target the neurchemical reactions patterned by the wayward genetic material.

(Source: New Straits Times – Your Health – 5 October 2008)

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Nutritionist and Author Jonny Bowden has created several lists of healthful foods people should be eating but aren’t. But some of his favourites, like purslane, guava and goji berries, aren’t always available at regular grocery stores.

Here’s his advice.

1. Beets:

Think of beets as red spinach, Dr. Bowden said, because they are a rich source of folate as well as natural red pigments that may be cancer fighters.

How to eat: Fresh, raw and grated to make a salad. Heating decreases the antioxidant power.

2. Cabbage:

Loaded with nutrients like sulforaphane, a chemical said to boost cancer-fighting enzymes.

How to eat: Asian-style slaw or as a crunchy topping on burgers and sandwiches.

3. Swiss chard:

A leafy green vegetable packed with carotenoids that protect aging eyes.

How to eat it: Chop and saute in olive oil.

4. Cinnamon:

May help control blood sugar and cholesterol.

How to eat it: Sprinkle on coffee or oatmeal.

5. Pomegranate juice:

Appears to lower blood pressure and loaded with antioxidants.

How to eat: Just drink it.

6. Dried plums:

Okay, so they are really prunes, but they are packed with antioxidants.

How to eat: Wrapped in prosciutto and baked.

7. Pumpkin seeds:

The most nutritious part of the pumpkin and packed with magnesium; high levels of the mineral are associated with lower risk for early death.

How to eat: Roasted as a snack, or sprinkled on salad.

8. Sardines:

Dr. Bowden calls them “health food in a can.’’ They are high in omega-3’s, contain virtually no mercury and are loaded with calcium. They also contain iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese as well as a full complement of B vitamins.

How to eat: Choose sardines packed in olive or sardine oil. Eat plain, mixed with salad, on toast, or mashed with dijon mustard and onions as a spread.

9. Turmeric:

The “superstar of spices,’’ it may have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.

How to eat: Mix with scrambled eggs or in any vegetable dish.

10. Frozen blueberries:

Even though freezing can degrade some of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables, frozen blueberries are available year-round and don’t spoil; associated with better memory in animal studies.

How to eat: Blended with yogurt or chocolate soy milk and sprinkled with crushed almonds.

11. Canned pumpkin:

A low-calorie vegetable that is high in fibre and immune-st

(Source: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/30/the-11-best-foods-you-arent-eating/?em)

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Running on a regular basis can slow the effects of ageing, a study by US Researchers shows.

Elderly joggers were half as likely to die prematurely from conditions like cancer than non-runners.

They also enjoyed a healthier life with fewer disabilities, the Stanford University Medical Centre team found.

Experts said the findings in Archives of Internal Medicine reinforced the importance that older people exercise regularly.

Survival of the Fittest

The work tracked 500 older runners for more than 20 years, comparing them to a similar group of non-runners. All were in their 50s at the start of the study.

Nineteen years into the study, 34% of the non-runners had died compared to only 15% of the runners.

Both groups became more disabled with age, but for the runners the onset of disability started later – an average of 16 years later.

The health gap between the runners and non-runners continued to widen even as the subjects entered their ninth decade of life.

Running not only appeared to slow the rate of heart and artery related deaths, but was also associated with fewer early deaths from cancer, neurological disease, infections and other causes.

And there was no evidence that runners were more likely to suffer osteoarthritis or need total knee replacements than non-runners – something scientists have feared.

At the beginning of the study, the runners ran for about four hours a week on average. After 21 years, their weekly running time had reduced to around 76 minutes, but they were still seeing health benefits from taking regular exercise.

Lead author Professor James Fries, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at Stanford, said: “The study has a very pro-exercise message. If you had to pick one thing to make people healthier as they age, it would be aerobic exercise.

“The health benefits of exercise are greater than we thought.”

Age Concern says many older people do not exercise enough.

This research re-confirms the clear benefits of regular exercise for older people.

Exercise can help older people to stay mobile and independent, ensure a healthy heart, keep weight and stress levels under control, and promote better sleep.

While younger people are barraged with encouragement to lead healthier lifestyles, the health needs of older people are often overlooked.

(Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/health/7554293.stm)

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