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Month: April 2019

A Beautifully Simple Way to Deal With Loneliness

The disease of loneliness is spreading. And it’s getting worse as we get more attached to technologies that isolate us from others, and away from ‘the real world.’

But the Danish have come up with a simple and elegant way to cope with loneliness. The program is call Ventilen, or “friend to one” in Danish.

First some background from Jenny Anderson’s piece in Quartz :

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study showed that 22% of Americans, 23% of Brits and 9% of Japanese adults said they felt lonely all the time. When the BBC asked 55,000 people about their experiences with loneliness,33% of respondents said they were “often” or “very often” lonely. Among those aged 16-24, the figure was a shocking 40%.

Vivek Murthy, the former US surgeon general, has declared loneliness an “epidemic,” noting that it was dangerous both in its own right and because of its links to deep societal problems such as addiction and violence: “It’s prevalent, it’s common, and the studies Julianne [Holt-Lunstad] and others have done have shown a robust association with illnesses that we actually care about, including heart disease, dementia, depression and anxiety, and very importantly, longevity.”

Indeed, Holt-Lunstad’s research shows that being disconnected poses comparable danger to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is more predictive of early death than the effects of air pollution or physical inactivity.

Read More…

Time to Unplug Our Kids: WHO Recommends Zero Screen Time for Children Under One

Craig Timberg and Rachel Siegel writing in the Washington Post:

The World Health Organization issued strict new guidelines Wednesday on one of the most anxiety-producing issues of 21st Century family life: How much should parents resort to videos and online games to entertain, educate or simply distract their young children?

The answer, according to WHO, is never for children in their first year of life and rarely in their second. Those aged 2 to 4, the international health agency said, should spend no more than an hour a day in front of a screen.

The WHO drew on emerging — but as yet unsettled — science about the risks screens pose to the development of young minds at a time when surveys show children are spending increasing amounts of time watching smartphones and other mobile devices. Ninety-five percent of families with children under the age of 8 have smartphones, according to the nonprofit Common Sense Media, and 42 percent of children under 8 have access to their own tablet device.

Read More…

Flavonoids may be the key to the health benefits of drinking black and green tea

From the Harvard Heart Letter:

“Tea is a good source of compounds known as catechins and epicatechins, which are thought to be responsible for tea’s beneficial health effects,” says Dr. Howard Sesso, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. These compounds belong to a group of plant chemicals called flavonoids. Research suggests that flavonoids help quell inflammation, and that in turn may reduce plaque buildup inside arteries. Green tea has slightly higher amounts of these chemicals than black tea. Both black and green teas also contain modest amounts of caffeine, ranging from about 20 to 45 milligrams per 8-ounce cup. That’s roughly half the amount of caffeine in the same amount of coffee.

Short-term studies have shown that drinking tea may improve vascular reactivity—a measure of how well your blood vessels respond to physical or emotional stress. There’s also evidence that drinking either black or green tea may lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels. Blood pressure may also dip slightly in people who drink tea, but results from these studies have been mixed.

Several large, population-based studies show that people who regularly drink black or green tea may be less likely to have heart attacks and strokes. However, people who drink tea tend to be different from people who don’t drink tea. “We can’t quite disentangle whether it’s their tea drinking or something else those people are doing that lowers their risk of cardiovascular disease,” explains Dr. Sesso. “Some experts believe that tea may have cardiovascular benefits, but it’s not considered a slam-dunk proposition.”

Read more…

If you are not getting enough sleep, it’s killing you. Literally

According to neuroscientist Matthew Walker, not sleeping enough makes you:

… makes you dumber, more forgetful, unable to learn new things, more vulnerable to dementia, more likely to die of a heart attack, less able to fend off sickness with a strong immune system, more likely to get cancer, and it makes our bodies literally hurt more. Lack of sleep distorts your genes, and increases your risk of death generally, he said. It disrupts the creation of sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and leads to premature aging. Apparently, men who only sleep five hours a night have markedly smaller testicles than men who sleep more than seven.

“Sleep loss will leak down into every nook and cranny of your physiology,” he said. “Sleep, unfortunately, is not an optional lifestyle luxury. Sleep is a nonnegotiable biological necessity. It is your life support system.”

Read more of the Emily Dreyfuss’ article on Wired

How much water should we drink every day?

It’s important to listen to what our bodies are telling us.

Jessica Brown, writing for the BBC:

Water is, of course, important. Making up around two-thirds of our body weight, water carries nutrients and waste products around our bodies, regulates our temperature, acts as a lubricant and shock absorber in our joints and plays a role in most chemical reactions happening inside us.

We’re constantly losing water through sweat, urination and breathing. Ensuring we have enough water is a fine balance, and crucial to avoiding dehydration. The symptoms of dehydration can become detectable when we lose between 1-2% of our body’s water and we continue to deteriorate until we top our fluids back up. In rare cases, such dehydration can be fatal.

And

“One of fallacies of the 8×8 rule is its stark over-simplification of how we as organisms respond to the environment we’re in,” says Rosenburg. “We ought to think of fluid requirement in the same way as energy requirement, where we talk about the temperature we’re in and level of physical activity were engaged in.”

Most experts tend to agree we don’t need to be concerned about drinking an arbitrary amount of water per day: our bodies signal to us when we’re thirsty, much like they do when we’re hungry or tired. The only health benefit of drinking more than you need, it seems, will be the extra calories you expend by running to the loo more often.

Read the whole article at BBC.

Canada has been ranked highest for quality of life

Through all phases of life, Canada and Scandinavian countries treat their citizens well, according to US News.

Best Countries for Quality of Life

  1. Canada
  2. Sweden
  3. Denmark
  4. Norway
  5. Switzerland
  6. Finland
  7. Australia
  8. Netherlands
  9. New Zealand
  10. Germany
  11. Belgium
  12. United Kingdom
  13. Japan
  14. Luxemburg
  15. Ireland
  16. France
  17. US
  18. Singapore
  19. Portugal
  20. China
  21. Spain
  22. Italy
  23. South Korea
  24. Poland
  25. Czech Republic

More info at US News

Obesity rate among adults

According to the OECD (Organisation for EconomicCo-operation and Development), these are the latest adult obesity numbers available:

  • 🇺🇸 USA: 38.2%
  • 🇲🇽 Mexico: 32.4%
  • 🇳🇿 New Zealand: 30.7%
  • 🇦🇺 Australia: 27.9%
  • 🇬🇧 UK: 26.9%
  • 🇿🇦 South Africa: 26.5%
  • 🇨🇦 Canada: 25.8%
  • 🇩🇪 Germany: 23.6%
  • 🇹🇷 Turkey: 22.3%
  • 🇧🇷 Brazil: 20.8%
  • 🇫🇷 France: 15.3%
  • 🇸🇪 Sweden: 12.3%
  • 🇳🇴 Norway: 12%
  • 🇨🇭 Switzerland: 10.3%
  • 🇮🇹 Italy: 9.8%
  • 🇨🇳 China: 7.0%
  • 🇰🇷 South Korea: 5.3%
  • 🇮🇳 India: 5.0%
  • 🇯🇵Japan: 3.7%

More information is available here.

New study states bad diets kill more people than smoking

A balanced diet, with lots of fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy oils,  is important for a long, healthy life. What we consume is what feeds every cell of our bodies.

Lindsey Bever, Washington Post, writes:

The problem, he said, is not only what people are eating, but it’s also what they’re not eating. The study estimated that globally, 3 million deaths were attributed to too much sodium — but another 3 million deaths were attributed to a lack of adequate whole grains, and another 2 million deaths were attributed to a lack of adequate fruit.

and

Afshin said countries where people eat a Mediterranean diet — high in heart-healthy fats and fiber — scored the best using the researchers’ model, with Israel ranking No. 1 in terms of the least number of diet-related deaths. France and Spain ranked second and third, respectively, according to the research. Afshin defined the Mediterranean diet as one with a high intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts and healthy oils, such as olive oil.

The United States ranked No. 43.

Uzbekistan, a former Soviet republic where refined carbohydrates such as bread and pasta are staples, scored the worst, with a death rate of 891 per a population of 100,000.

Burnt out people are everywhere

It’s important to recognize that balance and self-care are important. There’s nothing fancy about minimizing the effects of stress: daily physical activity, rest and sleep, real social connection with people you care about all go a long way to living a healthy life.

Jenny Rough, Washington Post writes:

Burnout is caused by chronic stress, not stressors, the Nagoskis say in their book. It’s important to differentiate the two. Stressors are external: to-do lists, financial problems or anxiety about the future. Stress, on the other hand, “is the neurological and physiological shift that happens in your body when you encounter [stressors],” the Nagoskis write.

To fix burnout, people need to address the stress itself. They must allow their body to complete its stress response cycle. Instead, people tend to focus on stressors. “They assume their stress will go away if they’re on top of things, if they’re accomplishing things and constantly checking things off their to-do list,” Emily Nagoski says.

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