Inflammation is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. A study from researchers at Emory University School of Medicine revealed a possible link between poor quality of sleep or not enough sleep and inflammation. The researchers evaluated sleep quality in a survey of 525 middle-aged men and women. They found that participants who reported sleeping six hours or less had higher levels of three inflammatory markers: fibrinogen, IL-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP). Notably, CRP levels were 25 percent higher in individuals who reported sleeping fewer than six hours a night compared to those who reported sleeping six to nine hours. The difference remained significant even after controlling for other risk factors including smoking, blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Even with the increase in inflammatory activity, the researchers noted that CRP levels among this group were still in the range of what is considered low to medium risk. Earlier research has shown that sleeping between seven and eight hours a night is associated with longer lives. The researchers aren't sure exactly how short hours of sleep may contribute to heart disease deaths. The data were presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Chicago this month.
Despite the advertising hype for various neon-colored concoctions, good old water is actually the best "sports drink" available. While some sports drinks can raise blood sugar and recharge electrolytes, many also contain unnecessary calories, artificial colorants, sweeteners and flavorings, and caffeine and other stimulants as well. If you exercise for less than 60 minutes at a time, water is your best bet for avoiding dehydration and improving your performance. There's no need for casual exercisers who eat a balanced diet to replenish potassium and sodium during a moderate workout - leave that to the endurance athletes. To avoid dehydration, however, you should drink plenty of water before, during and after working out, especially if you live in a hot, dry climate.
More on the essential nutrient that is water.
If you have noticed a change in your voice - and you aren't a boy going through puberty – it may simply be a natural part of aging. Both the volume and quality of the voice is affected as we grow older, often resulting in a pitch change or slight breathiness or hoarseness when speaking. This is due to normal changes in the vocal cords: in men, the cords tend to become thinner, smaller and vibrate faster, resulting in a higher pitch. In women, the vocal cords can thicken and vibrate less, resulting in a deeper voice. Cartilage tissue in the larynx also becomes stiffer and less flexible, frequently causing a weaker-sounding voice.
To help prevent or reduce the effect of aging on the voice, try using your voice more - those with a trained singing or public speaking background often maintain stronger voices as they age. Also - don't smoke: it accelerates the voice changes associated with aging.
More on healthy aging: having a good attitude
Plain old, garden-variety procrastination is very common. But whether it is related to work, home or personal life, chronic indecisiveness and delay can eventually undermine a healthy lifestyle. The good news is there are simple ways to help overcome these tendencies. You can address procrastination - through behavioral workshops, group therapy, individual therapy, or with some of the following lifestyle strategies:
- Break large jobs into small ones. Start with a yearly plan, break it down into months, then weeks, then days. Feel free to specify detailed tasks for the days and weeks only a month or so in advance.
- Organize your environment. Chaotic surroundings can be distracting and stressful, and pull your focus from the task at hand.
- Schedule your time. If you need to, awake an hour earlier or use part of your break time as a temporary strategy to get tasks accomplished.
- Set reasonable goals. Trying to achieve too much in too little time can actually set you back.
- Set deadlines to accomplish your larger tasks. When you achieve them, treat yourself to some flowers or a small piece of dark chocolate.
- Pace yourself. Work on a task you've been postponing for ten minutes and then decide whether or not to continue. If you discontinue the task, schedule another time to get it done.
…and make that a brisk walk. Researchers from Harvard reviewed data from more than 95,000 women who were followed for 20 years. Conclusion: an hour or more of brisk walking daily (or an equivalent activity) made the women 15 percent less likely to develop breast cancer than those who walked less than an hour a week. The exercise seemed to make the difference even after the potential influences of drinking alcohol and excess weight were taken into account. Brisk walking outscored swimming, hiking or jogging in terms of protectiveness. The definition of brisk, according to the researchers: between three to four miles per hour, a pace at which it's difficult to carry on a conversation. While earlier research has shown that exercise might be protective against breast cancer because it reduces levels of estrogen in the blood, this study found that exercise reduced the risk of breast cancers that aren't influenced by estrogen. It was published in the October 25, 2010 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Don't forget: foods to lessen breast cancer risk.
Traditionally a Middle Eastern pilaf is made with white rice, but here we use a healthful grain, toasting it first to bring out its flavor, and mixing in aromatic vegetables to create a delicious and more nutritious dish.
2 cups millet, quinoa, amaranth or a combination
1/8 teaspoon curry powder (optional)
4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock (more, as needed)
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (dried in a package, not in oil)
1/2 cup boiling purified water
1/2 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup shredded yellow summer squash
1/4 cup minced red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped scallions or green onions
Salt to taste
Toast the millet (or other grains) in a large saucepan set over low heat, stirring it constantly until it turns a light brown color, less than 1 minute. Stir in the curry powder until it is blended in. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Add the chicken or vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer. Check after 20 minutes. If the stock has boiled away, add a little more. Cook until the millet has absorbed all the liquid, about 25 minutes in all.
Meanwhile, soak the dried tomatoes in the boiling water for 15 minutes. Drain them in a colander set over a bowl to reserve the liquid, then chop them. Mix the tomatoes, reserved liquid, zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper, and scallions or green onions together in a small skillet set over low heat and cook until most of the liquid is absorbed. Pour into the cooked grain and toss until everything is completely mixed together. Taste and add salt if you think it is needed. Fluff with a fork and serve.
Tip: You can also make this recipe with brown rice, but the cooking time would increase to 45 minutes.
This eight-minute video is the distilled essence of my nutritional teaching! In it, I outline the fundamental elements of my Anti-Inflammatory Diet - including what to eat, what not to eat and other essential bites of food wisdom.
Click to see a text version of this video's information on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.
If you are feeling blue, hang out with happy people! Findings show that being around upbeat people can boost your spirits, and that this cheeriness is contagious: it spreads outwards by three degrees, so friends of friends are happy. Investigators from Harvard and the University of California, San Diego, tracked more than 4,700 people over 20 years, each of whom completed a questionnaire about their moods. The results of being a person who always has a smile? You are more likely to be at the center of social networks and have many friends who are happy. The investigators calculated that each happy friend you have increases your chances of being happy by nine percent, while having downbeat friends reduces the chance by seven percent. It's difficult to say whether acquiring positive friends makes you happy, or whether people who are already cheerful tend to become friends - either way, it can't hurt to surround yourself with positive people!
6 more reasons to be thankful for friends.