Global Wellness Day

Have you heard of “Global Wellness Day”? Wellness is far more than spa and beauty. They define wellness as:

“Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making choices towards a healthy and fulfilling life.  It is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth. A good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterized by health, happiness, and prosperity; welfare.

“Wellness is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” – The World Health Organization.”

In their 7 step manifesto they promote

  1. walking an hour a day
  2. drinking more water
  3. don’t use plastic bottles
  4. eat healthy food
  5. do a good deed
  6. have a family dinner with your loved ones
  7. sleep at 10:00pm

Sound familiar to anything you know?

This year its on Saturday June 10. Is there a way we can use this to connect with people?

Check out there website for more info at http://www.globalwellnessday.org

Successful long-term learning happens after sleeping

Credit: xiaphias/WikipediaResearchers

Successful long-term learning happens after sleeping on the new material from the University of London. 

Academics from the Department of Psychology at Royal Holloway taught a group of people new words from a fictional language, which unknown to them, was characterised by a rule relating the new words to one another. They found that although learners became aware of the rule within the new language shortly after being taught it, they were unable to apply it to understanding new, untrained words until after a period of rest.Kathy Rastle, Professor of Cognitive Psychology at Royal Holloway, said: “Teachers have long suspected that proper rest is critical for successful learning. Our research provides some experimental support for this notion. Participants in our experiments were able to identify the hidden rule shortly after learning. However, it was not until they were tested a week after training that participants were able to use that rule to understand a totally new word from the fictional language when it was presented in a sentence.”She added: “This result shows that the key processes that underpin long-term learning of general knowledge arise outside of the classroom, sometime after learning, and may be associated with brain processes that arise during sleep.”

More: Successful long-term learning happens after sleeping on the new material

How Much Sleep Do You Actually Need?

About 24 years of our lives are being used for sleeping, yet the exact function of sleep is still not a 100% clear and debated by scientists.

Three groups of participants have been tested by scientists. The groups slept either 4, 6 or 8 hours per night over an extended amount of time. After two weeks, the group who slept 6 hours per night showed interesting results: Their reaction was similar to a person who had  blood alcohol concentration of 0.1 %. And even better: Those who slept only 4 hours per night would actually fall asleep during their cognitive testings.

Source: ASAPScience

The other side of stress

Stress. It makes your heart pound, your breathing quicken and your forehead sweat. But while stress has been made into a public health enemy, new research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

Anxiety and sleeping pills ‘linked to dementia’

pillsLong-term use of pills for anxiety and sleep problems may be linked to Alzheimer’s, research suggests.

A study of older Canadian adults found that past benzodiazepine use for three months or more was linked to an increased risk (up to 51%) of dementia. NHS guidelines say the drugs should be used for eight to 12 weeks at most. The French-Canadian team says while the link is not definitive, it is another warning that treatments should not exceed three months. “Benzodiazepine use is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” lead researcher, Sophie Billioti de Gage of the University of Bordeaux, France, and colleagues wrote in the BMJ.

“This study shows an apparent link between the use of benzodiazepines and Alzheimer’s disease although it’s hard to know the underlying reason behind the link.” Dr Eric KarranAlzheimer’s Research UK

“Unwarranted long-term use of these drugs should be considered as a public health concern.” The study involved about 2,000 cases of Alzheimer’s disease in adults aged over 66 living in Quebec. All had been prescribed benzodiazepines. They were compared with about 7,000 healthy people of the same age living in the same community. While an increased risk was found in those on benzodiazepines, the nature of the link was unclear.

Dr Eric Karran, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This study shows an apparent link between the use of benzodiazepines and Alzheimer’s disease although it’s hard to know the underlying reason behind the link. “One limitation of this study is that benzodiazepines treat symptoms such as anxiety and sleep disturbance, which may also be early indicators of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Long-term use

Prof Guy Goodwin, president of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology, said the findings “could mean that the drugs cause the disease, but is more likely to mean that the drugs are being given to people who are already ill”.

Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said with 1.5 million people in the UK being prescribed benzodiazepines at any one time, “evidence that their long-term use increases the risk of dementia is significant, and raises questions about their use”. Benzodiazepines are used to treat anxiety disorders and insomnia. Despite published guidance on their appropriate use for short-term management, inappropriate prescribing of the drugs is still a concern. Experts are calling for better monitoring of side-effects, particularly in older adults. Source: BBC Health News

Poor sleep quality increases suicide risk for older adults

sleep deprivationOlder adults suffering from sleep disturbances are more likely to die by suicide than well-rested adults, according to a study. “This is important because sleep disturbances are highly treatable, yet arguably less stigmatizing than many other suicide risk factors,” noted the lead author of the study.

“This is important because sleep disturbances are highly treatable, yet arguably less stigmatizing than many other suicide risk factors,” said Rebecca Bernert, PhD, lead author of the study. Bernert is an instructor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the Suicide Prevention Research Laboratory at Stanford.

Bernert said older adults have disproportionately higher rates of suicide risk compared to other age groups, making suicide prevention in elderly populations a pressing public health challenge. Using data from an epidemiological study of 14,456 adults aged 65 and older, Bernert and her colleagues compared the sleep quality of 20 who died by suicide with the sleep patterns of 400 similar individuals over a 10-year period. They found that participants reporting poor sleep had a 1.4 times greater chance of death by suicide within a 10-year period than participants who reported sleeping well.

The study confirmed the relationship between depression and suicide risk, while also assessing poor sleep as an independent risk factor. “Our findings suggest that poor sleep quality may serve as a stand-alone risk factor for late-life suicide,” Bernert said. Surprisingly, the study found that, when comparing the two risk factors, poor sleep predicted risk better than depressive symptoms. The combination of poor sleep and depressed mood was the strongest predictor of suicide risk. “Suicide is the outcome of multiple, often interacting biological, psychological and social risk factors,” Bernert said. “Disturbed sleep stands apart as a risk factor and warning sign in that it may be undone, which highlights its importance as a screening tool and potential treatment target in suicide prevention. “Suicide is preventable,” she added. “Yet interventions for suicide prevention are alarmingly scarce.”

Bernert has two studies now underway testing the effectiveness of an insomnia treatment for the prevention of depression and suicidal behaviors. Most of the study’s suicide decedents were white men, which reflects a group at heightened risk for suicide in the general population, Bernert said, noting that additional research is needed to see if the correlation between disturbed sleep and suicide risk extends to women, minorities and younger adults or teenagers.

Source: Stanford University Medical Center

Treat snoring to avoid deadly heart failure

snoring

Patients with obstructive sleep apnea have the same early cardiovascular damage as diabetics, according to research presented at EUROECHO and other Imaging Modalities 2012. The study ¹ was presented by Dr Raluca Mincu from Bucharest, Romania.

EUROECHO and other Imaging Modalities 2012 is the annual meeting of the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI) ², a registered branch of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC)3.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common sleep disorder that has been associated with cardiovascular disease. OSA increases the risk of hypertension, arrhythmias, myocardial infarction, stroke, sudden cardiac death and heart failure. Dr Mincu said: “There are not enough studies in the medical literature on early cardiovascular dysfunction in patients with OSA, when active steps can be taken to prevent progression to heart failure.” She added: “Because OSA leads to so many cardiovascular disorders, we compared early cardiovascular dysfunction in OSA patients and patients with diabetes mellitus, which is a typical risk factor for cardiovascular disease.”

The study assessed endothelial and arterial function in 20 patients with moderate to severe OSA (and no diabetes), 20 patients with treated type 2 diabetes mellitus (matched for age, sex and cardiovascular risk factors), and 20 healthy controls (age and sex matched). In all subjects, arterial function was assessed by intima-media thickness (IMT). Arterial stiffness was measured by young elastic modulus, beta stiffness index, arterial compliance, first systolic peak and second systolic peak. Endothelial function was assessed by flow mediated dilatation (FMD).

Dr Mincu said: “Patients with moderate to severe OSA had endothelial dysfunction and higher arterial stiffness than controls, and their results were similar to patients with diabetes mellitus. This suggests that OSA is associated with a high risk for cardiovascular disease.” She added: “Patients in the OSA and diabetes groups had a higher intima-media thickness, which shows that their arteries are remodelled in a pathological way.”

All five parameters of arterial stiffness were significantly higher in the OSA and diabetes mellitus groups compared to controls. FMD was lower in these groups, meaning they had poorer endothelial function than controls.

Dr Mincu said: “Patients should realise that behind snoring there can be a serious cardiac pathology and they should get referred to a sleep specialist. If they are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea, they are at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and need to adopt a heart healthy lifestyle to reduce that risk.” She added: “Although OSA treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is inconvenient – it requires sleeping with a mask – patients should use it because it can reverse the parameters measured in our study.”

Dr Mincu concluded: “Our study is a signal for cardiologists, pneumologists and general practitioners to work together to actively diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, administer the appropriate treatment (CPAP) and assess arterial function. This will help avoid progression of early cardiovascular dysfunction through to heart failure, the final stage of heart disease.”

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¹ Obstructive sleep apnea determines endothelial dysfunction and increased arterial stiffness, similarly with diabetes mellitus (abstract 50318)

² About the European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI):
The European Association of Cardiovascular Imaging (EACVI) is a registered branch of the ESC. Its aim is to promote excellence in clinical diagnosis, research, technical development and education in cardiovascular ultrasound and other imaging modalities in Europe. It was formerly called the European Association of Echocardiography (EAE).

³ About the European Society of Cardiology (ESC): The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) represents more than 75,000 cardiology professionals across Europe and the Mediterranean. Its mission is to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in Europe.

Source: Innovations Report

Mental Illness Associated With Shorter Lifespan More Than Heavy Smoking

Mental Illness

Approximately 9.6 million American adults have been diagnosed with serious mental illness (SMI), and a new study indicates that this could have a bigger impact on lifespan than smoking cigarettes, due to an increased risk of suicide and other high-risk behaviors. A team of researchers led by Seena Fazel of Oxford University came to this conclusion following a meta-analysis of over 400 papers. Their full analysis was published in World Psychiatry

The average lifespan in the US and UK is 76.4 and 79.5, respectively. Smoking heavily can take an average of 8-10 years off of that time. However, mental illness and the tendency for suicide and other high-risk behavior including substance abuse can reduce the average lifespan by 10-20 years. The meta-analysis considered over 400 papers and ultimately used 20 papers to compare 20 different mental illnesses in a total of 1.7 million people and over 250,000 fatalities. Where longevity is concerned, certain mental illnesses are on par with smoking a pack or more a day.

“There are likely to be many reasons for this. High-risk behaviors are common in psychiatric patients, especially drug and alcohol abuse, and they are more likely to die by suicide,” explained Fazel in a press release. “The stigma surrounding mental health may mean people aren’t treated as well for physical health problems when they do see a doctor.”

Of course, not all illnesses had equal risk. Those with bipolar disorder have an average lifespan decreased by 9-20 years. Schizophrenia is 10-20 years, depression is 7-11, and those who abuse drugs and alcohol could have their lives reduced by as much as 9-24 years.

A lesser known aspect of mental illness is the profound physical effects it can have. The total breadth of physical ailments is quite extensive, but it spans metabolic disorders, respiratory disease, sexual disorders, cardiovascular disease, and even pregnancy complications. Mental illness can exacerbate certain physical ailments, as they are less likely to seek appropriate medical care.

However, Fazel believes this unfortunate trend can be reversed: “All of this can be changed. There are effective drug and psychological treatments for mental health problems. We can improve mental health and social care provision. That means making sure people have straightforward access to health care and appropriate jobs and meaningful daytime activities. It’ll be challenging, but it can be done.” He also adds that mental and physical health should be treated hand in hand, and not as two separate entities. Considerable money has been spent researching and educating the public about the dangers of tobacco, and Fazel believes a similar approach should be taken with mental health.

“People with mental health problems are among the most vulnerable in society,” Fazel continues. “This work emphasizes how crucial it is that they have access to appropriate healthcare and advice, which is not always the case. We now have strong evidence that mental illness is just as threatening to life expectancy as other public health threats such as smoking.” Full article

Source IFL Health and Medicine / Photo Credit: Porsche Brosseau via flickr

Sleep On It: How Snoozing Strengthens Memories

feature2

When you learn something new, the best way to remember it is to sleep on it. That’s because sleeping helps strengthen memories you’ve formed throughout the day. It also helps to link new memories to earlier ones. You might even come up with creative new ideas while you slumber. 

What happens to memories in your brain while you sleep? And how does lack of sleep affect your ability to learn and remember? NIH-funded scientists have been gathering clues about the complex relationship between sleep and memory. Their findings might eventually lead to new approaches to help students learn or help older people hold onto memories as they age.

“We’ve learned that sleep before learning helps prepare your brain for initial formation of memories,” says Dr. Matthew Walker, a sleep scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. “And then, sleep after learning is essential to help save and cement that new information into the architecture of the brain, meaning that you’re less likely to forget it.” While you snooze, your brain cycles through different phases of sleep, including light sleep, deep sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when dreaming often occurs. The cycles repeat about every 90 minutes.

The non-REM stages of sleep seem to prime the brain for good learning the next day. If you haven’t slept, your ability to learn new things could drop by up to 40%. “You can’t pull an all-nighter and still learn effectively,” Walker says. Lack of sleep affects a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is key for making new memories.

Read the full article.

Source and Photo Credit: NIH News In Health (part of US Department of Health and Human Services)