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Thursday
Jul142016

Why Interrupted Sleep Makes You Grumpy

New parents and on-call health workers know what its like to be awakened multiple times per night. They’re likely to be in a bad mood the next day even when the overall amount of sleep they get equals that of people who go to bed late but sleep through the night. Researchers at Johns Hopkins enrolled 62 healthy men and women for a sleep study that measured their moods after 3 consecutive nights of either forced awakenings, delayed bedtimes or uninterrupted sleep. After the first sleep period, the participants who were awakened eight times during the night and those whose bedtimes were delayed were in bad moods. But after the second night those whose bedtimes were delayed had a 12 percent reduction in positive mood, while those who were awakened had a 31 percent reduction. Tests showed that the participants who were awakened had shorter periods of deep-slow wave sleep compared to those in the delayed bedtime group. This difference had a statistically significant association with the participants’ bad mood. The researchers also reported that interrupted sleep reduced feelings of sympathy and friendliness toward others, as well as energy levels. In addition to new parents and health care workers, insomnia itself often involves interrupted sleep, and an estimated 10 percent of the U.S. adult population is affected. If you can’t blame interrupted sleep on a crying baby or a medical emergency, consider whether heat, light or noise is a factor and take corrective measures. And take a nap the next day if you can.

Wednesday
Jul132016

How Bad Air Affects Your Mind

If your office is a newer, energy efficient one with dedicated ventilation, you might actually be thinking better than your peers who work in typical older efficiency offices, where it turns out indoor pollutants are potentially accumulating at higher levels. This news comes from a Harvard School of Public Health study that tested workers in green vs. “non-green” office conditions. The study was double blinded, meaning neither the participants nor the investigators knew whether the air quality in a controlled environment was bad or good when the tests were run. For the study the researchers evaluated the decision-making performance of 24 professionals including architects, designers, programmers, engineers, creative marketing professionals and managers while the participants worked in a laboratory where the environment could be manipulated and air quality adjusted. The Harvard team wanted to assess the impact of ventilation, chemicals, and carbon dioxide on employees’ cognitive function because as buildings have become more energy efficient, they have also become more airtight, increasing the potential for poor indoor air quality unless ventilation to maintain air quality is part of the design. They reported that when air quality was best the workers scored 131 percent higher in response to crises than when it was poor. Under the same conditions the workers scored 288 percent higher in strategizing and 299 percent higher in information usage.

My take: You probably can’t do much about the indoor environment where you work other than draw attention to the findings of the Harvard study. The improvements in thinking seen when the air was most “clean” should impress managers concerned about the productivity of their workers. If you’re apprehensive about the air quality at home you might read up on the various sources of indoor air pollution and consider incorporating solutions from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). I often recommend HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters to people who have allergies to pollen, dust, or other particulates and to those who live with smokers or in smoggy urban areas. These devices work by forcing air through screens containing microscopic pores, which remove all airborne particles above a very small size. Over the years, I've found that HEPA filters work very well and aren't too expensive.

Tuesday
Jul122016

Why Watch Your Blood Pressure While You’re Young?

Blood pressure that’s on the high side of normal in young adults could forewarn heart trouble later in life. Researchers led by a team at Johns Hopkins followed nearly 2,500 young men and women for 25 years. Some of the participants, who all were between the ages of 18 and 30 when the study began, had blood pressure that was slightly elevated, although still in the normal range. When the study ended, the investigators found that the participants whose blood pressure was high normal were more likely to have left ventricular dysfunction in middle age. This type of heart damage is a major cause of heart failure. The researchers reported that the higher the blood pressure measured in youth, the greater the damage to the left ventricle. They said their findings suggest that young adults should try to reduce slightly high blood pressure by cutting sodium intake, maintaining an ideal body weight, being physically active and sticking to any recommended treatments for high blood pressure. The lead investigator noted that if you’re under 50, your blood pressure goal should be under 130/80.

Sunday
Jul102016

6 Reasons It May Seem Like You Are Always Hungry

Even if you just ate a meal, you can still feel hungry soon afterwards. Although an uptick in appetite is common after a big workout or during pregnancy, it might be worth understanding why you might be feeling constant hunger throughout the day. Read about six hidden causes of hunger that might be affecting you: 

  1. Not Getting Enough Sleep. Among many other side effects, sleep deprivation disrupts the production of the appetite regulating hormones ghrelin and leptin.
  2. Dehydration. With hunger and thirst both regulated in the same part of the hypothalamus, mild dehydration can trick your brain into thinking its hungry. Try drinking a glass of water and waiting 15 to 20 minutes to see if you're still hungry. A sparkling version or club soda may provide even greater satisfaction and less hunger.
  3. Stress. When the body is under stress, the system increases production of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline. With the system thinking it is under attack and in need of energy, your appetite kicks into overdrive. Manage your stress with alternative methods like meditation to prevent feeling unnecessary hunger. 
  4. Eating Too Fast. It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to signal the brain that you're full. Remind yourself to eat slowly and savor the food you are eating, allowing your brain time to register fullness.
  5. Eating Too Many Refined Carbs. Rapidly converted into blood sugar, refined carbs cause corresponding rises and falls in insulin levels, which can lead to feelings of extreme hunger for more sugary carbs. Instead of giving up all carbs, opt for minimally processed carbs such as whole grains, beans, nuts, vegetables, and fruits. 
  6. Not Getting Enough Fat Or Protein. Unsaturated fat (such as the fats in avocados, olive oil, and nuts) and protein can help you feel fuller, longer. Refer to my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid for suggested serving amounts for healthy fats and protein.
Friday
Jul082016

Goodbye Trans Fats (Again)

Most foods containing high percentages of unhealthy trans fatty acids (TFAs) have already disappeared from the shelves of U.S. supermarkets, but on June 16, 2015 the FDA gave food manufacturers a three-year deadline to get rid of the rest of them. Trans fats have been linked to heart disease and diabetes, they can raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and lower HDL (“good”) cholesterol and have more recently been found to impair memory. In tests given to men age 20 to 45 – the more TFAs in their diets, the worse their performance on the exams. Although trans fat consumption has declined dramatically over the past decade or so, they’re still present in about 37 percent of the food on the market including crackers, cookies, cakes, frozen pies and other baked goods, microwave popcorn and other snack foods, coffee creamers, and refrigerated dough products such as biscuits and ready-to-use frostings. The FDA has estimated that removing the remaining TFAs from foods could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease annually and would save about $140 billion over 20 years in health care and other costs. 

My take: It’s about time. In 2013 the FDA ruled that trans fats are not "generally recognized as safe" leading many manufacturers to remove them from product formulations.

In part because of their known health risks, the FDA requires that trans fats be listed on the labels of foods that contain them under the "Total Fat" heading. Trace levels of TFAs are found naturally in milk fat (created by bacterial action in the stomachs of cows), but, even in butter, the amounts are so small that they are probably not a worry. But as far as the artificially created TFAs in other foods are concerned, don’t wait for 2018. Avoid products containing trans fat now.

Thursday
Jul072016

More Dangers of Sitting

Ladies: consider filing this news under “life isn’t fair”. New research from the American Cancer Society shows that women who spend more time sitting had a greater risk of cancer in general and three kinds of cancer in particular. The researchers reported that women who sit for six hours or more a day during their free time had a 65 percent higher risk of multiple myeloma (a cancer that forms in bone marrow), a 43 percent greater risk for ovarian cancer, a 10 percent greater risk for invasive breast cancer and a 10 percent greater risk for any type of cancer compared with women who sat for less than three hours during their free time. No such risks were seen in the men in the investigation, except those who were obese. The researchers analyzed data from 77,462 women and 69,260 men participating in the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort. The women were followed for an average of 15.8 years and the men for 13.2 years.

My take: A number of studies already have shown that too much sitting isn’t good for your long-term health. It has been linked to deposits of fat around the heart (pericardial fat) associated with cardiovascular disease, whether or not it was related to weight gain and regardless of whether or not study participants exercised. Sitting for more than seven hours a day has been linked to type 2 diabetes in women, even those who reported exercising for 30 minutes a day. This risk wasn’t seen in men or in women who sat for less than seven hours a day. Given the fact that so many people today have desk-bound jobs, it can be challenging to avoid prolonged sitting. But the more we learn about the health risks posed by sitting for hours at a time, the more important it becomes to find ways to move as much as possible.

Tuesday
Jul052016

The Path to More Weight Loss

If you’ve been on track to lose weight by following the national recommendations to exercise 150 minutes a week, new research from Canada suggests that you can boost your results by doubling your exercise time to 300 minutes a week. This simple strategy worked for a group of postmenopausal women in a yearlong study. The investigators enrolled 384 women whose BMI ranged from 22 (a healthy weight) to 40 (obese) and divided them into two groups. Half the women were asked to exercise the recommended 150 minutes a week. The other half committed to five hours (300 minutes) of exercise per week. All the women were non-smokers, had no other medical diagnosis, and were not on hormone replacement therapy. None of them changed their diets, but all were asked to exercise intensely enough to raise their heart rate for at least half their exercise session to 65 to 75 percent of their heart rate reserve – the difference between resting heart rate and maximum heart rate – by performing aerobic activity. Most of the women worked out on an elliptical trainer, walked, biked or ran. The participants who exercised for 5 hours a week lost significantly more weight, lost more belly fat, dropped their BMI and pared their waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio to a greater degree than did the women who exercised for only 2.5 hours a week. The exercise effects were most pronounced for the obese women, the researchers reported. And since body fat is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, they noted that the weight loss can help lower the risk. In addition, by paying attention to diet, you could likely lose even more weight with the extra exercise. 

Thursday
Jun302016

Healthy Chocolate Pudding Recipe 

Looking for a quick and easy dessert to whip up?

The Dr. Weil staff loves this True Food Kitchen Chocolate Pudding recipe because it is not only delicious, but also vegan friendly and gluten-free!

Packed with potent antioxidants from dark chocolate and cocoa, this dessert makes a great addition to a barbecue and is a healthy treat that kids will also enjoy. Try this recipe and let us know how you like it!