Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Dangers of Inadequate Sleep

Lack of Sleep Can Lead to Health Problems

The end of the year is almost upon us, which means that this is the time that we begin to run around like crazy, trying to get everything done on our lists. Between gift shopping, holiday functions, traveling, and/or school finals, this is a busy time for virtually everyone. Many times, our sleep schedule suffers because of it.

Sleep is largely underrated. It's estimated that over a third of Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep in a typical 24 hour period, according to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) Sleep module. People think that skimping on sleep every once in a while isn't a big deal. Unfortunately, "once in a while" becomes a habit; and this habit could kill you.

Hazards of Insufficient Sleep

1. Motor Vehicle Crashes
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 automobile crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths per year in the U.S., with the greatest problem being with people aged 25 years and younger.

2. Cognitive Impairment
Sleep plays a vital role in various mental processes. Lack of sleep hurts your ability to think and learn by impairing attention, concentration, alertness, reasoning, and problem-solving. Additionally, getting enough sleep is critical in long term memory function. If you don't get enough sleep, you won't be able to remember later what you learned that day.

3. Depression
Insomnia has a strong link to depression. A 2005 Sleep in America poll found that people diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to get less than six hours of sleep per night. Lack of sleep can lead to the symptoms of depression, and even make it harder to fall asleep, exacerbating the problem. On the other hand, improving sleep habits may help to reduce or reverse the symptoms of depression.

4. Premature Aging
Lack of sleep causes extra cortisol (a stress hormone) to be released in your body. Cortisol can begin to break down the collagen in skin when it is released in excess amounts. Therefore, chronic sleep loss can lead to dull skin, wrinkles, and dark under eye circles. Sleep also helps to repair tissues and other structures, so your body can't properly strengthen bones or increase muscle mass if you are sleep deprived.

5. Weight Gain
Lack of sleep may be connected with an increase in appetite and hunger. Shortened sleep is associated with an increase in the hormone that makes you hungry, and a decrease in the hormone that lets you feel satiated. As if that weren't bad enough, the foods you crave when you're tired tend to be high in fat and carbohydrates. All of this can lead to unwanted weight gain.

6. Disease
Lack of sleep is associated with chronic diseases and conditions such as:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart failure
Tips for Successful Sleep

If you're having trouble sleeping, the following are some things that you can do:

  • Fix a bedtime. Be consistent with your bedtime. You will help to train your mind and body that it should be getting tired at a certain time, making it easier to fall asleep.
  • Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime. The effects of caffeine may take several hours to subside, making it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise in the morning or afternoon can help deepen sleep. However, be weary of exercising before bed, as your body is active for a period of time even after you work out.
  • Make your sleeping environment comfortable. Use comfortable bedding, making sure the temperature is moderate and the room well ventilated, reserving the bed for sleep only, and blocking out excess noise.
  • Establish a pre-bed routine. This could include reading a book (not on your phone, as this stimulates the brain and may keep you from falling asleep easily), a personal hygiene routine, writing in your journal, etc.
  • Practice relaxation methods. Try meditation, deep breathing techniques, and/or stretching routines prior to going to bed or while trying to fall asleep.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

What You Need to Know About Ebola

Everything You Need to Know About Ebola

The Ebola outbreak of 2014 is the largest in history, and there have been confirmed cases in the United States. About half of the people who have been diagnosed with Ebola in this outbreak have died, making it all the more important for you to know what you're dealing with.

The following are some important items of information that you need to know about the Ebola virus.

1. A person infected with Ebola can't spread the virus until symptoms appear. 
The incubation period for Ebola is, on average, 8 to 10 days. Signs and symptoms include: fever, severe headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or unexplained bleeding or bruising.

2. Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids. 
Bodily fluids including urine, feces, saliva, vomit, blood, and sweat, are the means by which Ebola is spread. Objects, like needles, that have been contaminated by these fluids are also a source of infection. Ebola is NOT spread through air, water or food.

3. There is currently no vaccine available to protect against Ebola. However, there are some things you can do to prevent infection:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Do not touch the bodily fluids of a person who is sick.
  • Do not come into contact with items that have been touched by a sick person's blood or bodily fluids.
  • Don't touch the body of someone who has died of Ebola
4. You may be at risk for Ebola if you have traveled to an area with an Ebola outbreak and:

  • Had direct contact with blood or bodily fluids or items that came into contact with blood or bodily fluids of a person infected with Ebola.
  • Touched bats or nonhuman primates (like apes or monkeys) or blood, fluids, or raw meat prepared from these animals.
  • Went into hospitals where Ebola patients were being treated and had close contact with these patients. 
  • Touched the body of a person who died of Ebola.*
If any of these points applies to you, you should check for signs and symptoms of Ebola for 21 days. Do this by taking your temperature, watching for other symptoms (listed above). Get medical care right away if you have a fever or any other of the signs and symptoms listed above. Be sure to call and explain your travel history BEFORE you go to the doctor's office or emergency room.

5. Despite what you may think or hear, U.S. hospitals and authorities are equipped to handle Ebola. They have the ability to identify exposed people and take the necessary steps to avoid spreading the virus further. Though even a single case of this highly dangerous virus is considered a threat, it is unlikely that this outbreak will turn into an Ebola epidemic.

*list taken directly from the CDC website



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

The Dangers of Added Sugars

Why Moderation is Key When It Comes to Added Sugars

If you were on a diet forty years ago, chances are it was a "low-fat" diet. In the late seventies a new recommendation was made to Americans by the government to reduce their intake of fats. It was believed that fat was the cause of heart disease and other frightening health problems. Since that time, products have made available reduced, low, and non-fat options for the American consumer. Unfortunately, obesity, diabetes, and cancer rates have only risen since then; and it turns out that the culprit may be sugar.

The average American eats four to five times the recommended amount of added sugar (both table sugar and high fructose corn syrup) daily. Our foods are full of added sugar, including unsuspecting culprits such as salad dressing, tortillas, and "reduced-fat" processed foods. Unfortunately, all of this added sugar has begun to cause serious problems in the American population. A diet full of added sugar is linked to diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

According to trials done on laboratory rats and mice, if sugar (whether it be glucose or fructose) hits the liver quickly and in high amounts, much of that sugar will be converted to fat. Repeat this process enough times and it can cause insulin resistance. You secrete insulin in response to the foods that you eat-- particularly carbohydrates. Insulin is your body's way of regulating your blood sugar levels. If you are insulin resistant, your pancreas responds to the rising blood sugar by producing extra insulin. Once your pancreas tires of creating enough insulin to combat blood sugar levels, your blood sugar rises out of control. This results in type 2 diabetes.

The problem with producing extra insulin, besides the fact that it can lead to diabetes, is that it is remarkably linked with other health problems like fatty liver and cancer (even in lean individuals). In fact, you are more likely to get cancer if you're obese or diabetic than if you're not. Excess amounts of sugar, the consumption of which is not uncommon among Americans, can potentially cause these life-threatening diseases.

What You Can Do to Cut Down on Sugar

Stop the Pop

A study reported at the annual American Heart Association (AHA) meeting in 2013 found that 180,000 annual deaths are attributed worldwide to sugary beverages. Soda is the only thing (food or beverage) that has been directly linked with obesity. Drinking liquid sugar is harmful to the body, especially when consumed daily or even multiple times per day as is the case with many Americans. Given the vast amount of research that has discovered the negative effects of soda on the health of an individual, most would agree that there is no excuse for individuals to continue their poor choices.  Kick the soda habit today.

Take Sugar Off the Table

Adding table sugar to your food simply isn't necessary, especially now that everything comes with it already. Try to cut down or stop completely the addition of sugar to foods that you eat regularly, such as coffee, cereal, oatmeal, or pancakes. If you prefer things a little sweeter, use fruit! It is full of natural sugars that still provide taste, along with much needed nutrients and fiber. Just be sure that it is fresh, frozen, or canned in water or natural juices.

Check the Label

Here is a list of names that simply mean "added sugar": agave nectar, barley malt, beet sugar, blackstrap molasses, brown rice syrup, rice syrup, rice malt, brown sugar, buttered sugar, buttercream, cane juice crystals, cane juice, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, caster sugar, superfine sugar, coconut sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystalline fructose, date sugar, demerara sugar, dextran, diastatic malt powder, diastase, ethyl maltol, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, galactose, glucose, golden sugar, golden syrup, refiner's syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, inverted sugar, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, maple syrup, molasses syrup, muscovado sugar, organic raw sugar, oat syrup, avena sativa, panela, ponacha, confectioner's sugar, powdered sugar, icing sugar, rice bran syrup, sorghum syrup, table sugar, sucrose, syrup, treacle, tapioca syrup, turbinado sugar, raw sugar, yellow sugar, sugar

It is important to be educated on the different ways that companies sneak added sugars into their products. Read the labels on all of the food products you buy to be sure that they don't contain unnecessary added sugars. Better yet, buy foods without labels, such as fresh produce!

Portion Distortion

Obviously it is unrealistic to cut every gram of added sugar out of your life forever. There will be the occasional treat. But they should be just that: occasional. And when you do splurge, try and keep it to a few bites. Researchers at Stanford have found that the first few bites hold the most pleasure anyway. Split your dessert with a friend, or only make half the recipe.

Spice Things Up a Bit

Sugar is often added to make things more palatable, but there are plenty of other ways to make things taste better without the added calories and blood sugar spikes! Herbs like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger will add flavor without guilt. You can also use extracts-- vanilla, almond, orange, peppermint, and lemon extracts are all great options for added taste.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Skinny Fat

Why You Should Still Care About Your Health, Even if You're "Thin"

So your weight is within the normal BMI (Body Mass Index) range, and you fit into your size small or medium clothes just fine. Why do you need to worry about nutrition or exercise if you seem to feel and look "healthy?" It turns out, that even though an individual has a normal weight and size, a poor diet can cause them to have unseen health problems. Failure to maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan allows your body to assume the state of being “skinny fat.”

Let's Talk About Fat

Eating a diet consisting of high sugar content, processed foods, and solid fats leads to the storage of what is called visceral fat. Visceral fat is the fat that is stored in your abdomen in between your organs. There are two main kinds of fat: subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is the kind that is stored just beneath the skin. It can be found in your stomach, arms, neck, and even the soles of your feet. This kind of fat is healthy and essential in moderate amounts. Too much can lead to overweight and obesity, which come with a host of problems. However, the hidden killer is visceral fat.

Visceral fat wraps around your inner organs-- the heart, liver, lungs, and other major organs. Carrying excess amounts of visceral fat can be one of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. This disease provides a host of other symptoms such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and elevated insulin levels.  Having visceral fat has also been linked to stroke, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and dementia, among other adverse health conditions.

The problem with visceral fat is that it can be hiding even in relatively thin people. This means that even those who think they're safe and attribute genetics to their physique are not safe from the negative effects of a poor diet. Weight is simple a clue that doctors look for to indicate the state of an individual's health. However, it’s not the be-all-end-all diagnosis. In fact, when a thin person is diagnosed with diabetes they have twice the risk of death compared to that of an overweight person diagnosed with the same disease.

Look at it this way: some cars show their age and you can tell how old it is by the exterior. However, some cars look to be in deceivingly good condition-- until you check under the hood.

What To Do

Whether you feel you need to lose a few pounds or you haven't ever thought you needed to worry about your weight, everyone should strive to eat better and exercise. Eat a diet full of a variety of fruits and vegetables. They should take up half your plate or more. Cut down on added sugars such as soda pop and sugary treats, and choose lean protein instead of bacon or red meat. Avoid processed foods (most things in a package) as much as possible, as these can contain significant amounts of added sugars and extra fat. Additionally, it is important to have whole grains in your diet. This includes whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, and quinoa.
 Try to find ways to be more active that you enjoy. If you hate working out, do Zumba or play a game of soccer with your friends/family. The recommended guideline for the average person is to do 150 minutes a week of moderate activity (rule of thumb: you can still talk while you're doing the activity, but not carry on a conversation easily). Incorporate resistance training into your life (lifting, pushing, and carrying heavy things). This will add to your muscle stores so that you have the strength to do your daily tasks well into your old age, as well as increasing your resting metabolism so that you burn more calories at rest.

All of these tips will help prevent you from developing problems down the road from fat you didn't even know you were accumulating. If you're concerned you might be "skinny fat," have your provider test your blood sugar, blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood cholesterol levels. These results will give a good basic picture of your current state of health.



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