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Living Better

Author: Robert (page 2 of 25)

How much leisure time do we need to be happy?

Research shows that too little leisure time leads to people feeling stressed. And there’s such a thing as too much leisure time, which tends to make people feel overly idle.

A research paper released late last year investigated this trade-off, attempting to pinpoint how much leisure time is best. Its authors examined the relationship between the amount of “discretionary time” people had—basically, how much time people spend awake and doing what they want—and how pleased they were with their lives. (Some examples of “discretionary” activities were watching TV, socializing, going to the movies, spending time with family, and doing nothing.)

The paper, which analyzed data covering about 35,000 Americans, found that employed people’s ratings of their satisfaction with life peaked when they had in the neighborhood of two and a half hours of free time a day. For people who didn’t work, the optimal amount was four hours and 45 minutes.

More at The Atlantic

The best thing you can do for your health is to sleep well

Getting a consistent seven- to nine-hours of sleep each night is the single most effective thing each of us can do for our health and wellbeing.

Matthew Walker, writing for The Guardian:

Related is the association between plentiful slumber and athletic performance. Sleep is perhaps the greatest legal performance-enhancing “drug” that few people are taking advantage of. Obtain less than eight hours of sleep a night, and especially less than six hours a night, and the following happens: time to physical exhaustion drops by 10 to 30%, as does aerobic output; limb extension force and vertical jump height are reduced; peak and sustained muscle strength decrease. Add to this the cardiac, metabolic and respiratory effects: higher rates of lactic acid buildup and reductions in blood oxygen saturation with converse increases in carbon dioxide, due in part to a reduction in the amount of air that the lungs can expire in a sleep-deficient state. And then there is injury risk. Relative to sleeping nine hours a night, sleeping five to six hours a night will increase your chances of injury across a season by more than 200%.

Routinely sleeping less than six hours a night also compromises your immune system, significantly increasing your risk of cancer. So much so, that recently the World Health Organization classified any form of night-time shiftwork as a probable carcinogen.

Inadequate sleep – even moderate reductions of two to three hours for just one week – disrupts blood sugar levels so profoundly that you would be classified as pre-diabetic. Short sleeping increases the likelihood of your coronary arteries becoming blocked and brittle, setting you on a path towards cardiovascular disease, stroke and congestive heart failure.

All it takes is one hour of lost sleep, as demonstrated by a global experiment performed on 1.6 billion people across more than 60 countries twice a year, otherwise known as daylight saving times. In the spring, when we lose one hour of sleep, there is a 24% increase in heart attacks the following day. In the autumn, we gain an hour of sleep opportunity, and there is a 21% reduction in heart attacks.

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Mystery Meat: Your “all-beef sausage” could have pork, sheep, or chicken in it

Do you really know what you are eating for dinner tonight?

A study by the University of Guelph looked at samples of sausage collected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) from 100 grocery stores across Canada. They found that 14 per cent of them contained meat from a source other than what was labeled.

Sausages labelled as beef were found to have sheep, pork, or chicken. Some chicken sausages were found to have turkey.

One concern is that the source of the mystery meat cannot be traced.

Read more at CBC

If you want to be smarter, you need to sleep more

It’s been repeatedly shown that sleep is essential to how we form memories.

The human brain requires we sleep roughly one third of every day to properly process and store thoughts so they can be remembered at a later time. Depriving ourselves of sleep, especially over the long term, can disrupt this process. And it can make learning more difficult.

Researchers at the Sleep Research Laboratory at the University of Ottawa have found that once you drift off, your brain shifts information from the hippocampus, which is only used to store recent memories, to the prefrontal cortex. It’s how we learn new things, and remember them for the future.

A short night of sleep may translate into learning less. Our brain requires suffecient time to store everything it took in during the day. Researchers say it’s clear that if you want to be smarter, you may need to sleep more.

Read More at CBC

The fat-burning heart-rate zone is a myth

Your primary goal should be to get active and stay motivated to keep moving.

Scott Douglas writing for the Washington Post:

If you’re the kind of exerciser who constantly checks your heart rate to ensure you’re in the fat-burning zone, you should stop. You’ll probably never meet your weight-loss goals that way. That’s because there’s no special fat-burning zone that’s key to getting lean.

And

Your body primarily fuels itself by burning a mix of stored fat and carbohydrates. The less active you are at a given moment, the greater the percentage of that fuel mix comes from fat. As your intensity of activity increases, the percentage of carbohydrates in that fuel mix also increases. At rest, fat constitutes as much as 85 percent of calories burned. That figure shifts to about 70 percent at an easy walking pace. If you transition to a moderate-effort run, the mix becomes about 50 percent fat and 50 percent carbohydrates, and it moves increasingly toward carbohydrates the faster you go.

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Doctors are saying gut health is as important as heart heath

Increasingly researchers are finding that your intestines not only digest food, but may also regulate mood, emotion, and play a central role in your body’s response to disease.

What you eat feeds every single cell in your body.

Sushrut Jangi, The Boston Globe:

Avoid processed deli meats and red meat while feeding the dense jungle of bacteria in the colon with fibers, fruits, and vegetables. Siegel says unhealthy and sedentary lifestyles rife with fast foods and processed meats are contributing to the rise in colon cancer among young people. A lot of people go to the deli and buy very expensive turkey breast and think they are eating healthy, Siegel says. Shifting away from the standard Western diet to the Mediterranean diet — composed primarily of plant-based foods, olive oil, fish, and mixed nuts — supports both gut health and a healthy heart. Sprinkling food with curcumin — the activated ingredient in turmeric — may dampen inflammation. Routine exercise staves off obesity, which does wonders for the gastrointestinal tract and reduces cancer risk. While particular diets are effective in treating specific gut conditions, consult with a gastroenterologist or nutritionist before pursuing anything radical.

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Tennis tops list of sports for increasing life expectancy

Social connections look to be a major component of any sport’s longevity benefits.

James Bullen at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

What the researchers think the sports associated with the biggest increases in life expectancy — tennis (9.7 years), badminton (6.2 years) and soccer (4.7 years) have in common is that it takes two or more people to play them.

“The tennis players, they maybe take a beer or something else to drink after the game. They are two at least,” Dr Schnohr said.

Sports near the bottom of the list were more typically done alone, like jogging (3.2 years) and going to the gym (1.5 years).

“I go to a gym twice a week and I don’t talk to anybody. It’s very lonely in Denmark, I don’t know how it is in Australia. But it’s very lonely. You just do this and then you go home. And then you don’t get the social aspect. We think the social aspect is very important.”

There is good evidence that strong social bonds have a protective effect on a person’s health.

Read more

The myth of those very expensive running shoes

“Runners should be instructed to choose a certain type of running shoe over another shoe no more so than a blue shoe over a red shoe,” writes Chris Napier in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

From The Globe and Mail:

A decade ago, an Australian sports-medicine physician named Craig Richards launched a ferocious broadside at the running-shoe industry. Writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, he and two colleagues argued that there was no evidence whatsoever that modern running shoes prevented injuries – and that, as a result, such shoes should be considered “unproven technology with the potential to cause harm.”

That critique went mostly unnoticed at first. But a year later, in 2009, the bestselling book Born to Run ignited a surge of interest in barefoot and “minimalist” running, and a corresponding wave of scorn for conventional running shoes. Richards and his colleagues suddenly looked prescient – the progenitors of a new, evidence-based approach to footwear.

As the years have passed, though, demonstrating the superiority of other types of running shoes has proven to be more difficult than expected. As a new editorial in the same journal now argues, we’re still waiting for evidence about the injury-preventing powers of running shoes – except that the critique now extends to newer approaches such as minimalist shoes, supercushioned maximalist shoes and even the suggestion that you should simply choose a shoe based on comfort.

The editorial, from physical therapists Chris Napier of the University of British Columbia and Richard Willy of the University of Montana, identifies a series of logical fallacies that permeate current debates about running shoes.

The best running shoe, it could be argued, is the one that is most comfortable for you, will get you out the door, and is on sale.

 

Life expectancy for Americans falls even further

According to 2017 data, the life expectancy for Americans fell again. It’s now 78.6 years, down three-tenths of a year since 2014.

Economists consider life expectancy to be an important measure of a nation’s prosperity, but last year’s data paints a darker picture of health in the U.S.

One of the reasons for the drop is the sharpest annual increase in suicides in nearly a decade and a continued rise in deaths from opioid drugs.

Life expectancy for Americans fell again last year, despite growing recognition of the problems driving the decline and federal and local funds invested in stemming them.

Data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Thursday show life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year, to 78.6 years, pushed down by the sharpest annual increase in suicides in nearly a decade and a continued rise in deaths from powerful opioid drugs like fentanyl. Influenza, pneumonia and diabetes also factored into last year’s increase.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal (paywall)

Canadian doctors warn about the dangers of Dsuvia, an even more potent opioid

Canadian doctors specializing in pain management warn that Dsuvia, the pill form of sufentanil — an opioid five to 10 times more potent than fentanyl that was recently approved in the United States — could do more harm than good.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has drawn fire since it gave the go-ahead to Dsuvia — a pill containing sufentanil that is placed under a patient’s tongue — as an alternative to administering the powerful narcotic intravenously during or after surgery.

Critics say having sufentanil available as a pill will open it up for abuse, worsening an already devastating opioid crisis in the U.S.

And

A big driver in the FDA’s decision to approve the drug was the U.S. Department of Defence, Gottlieb said, which wants sufentanil in a pill format to treat wounded soldiers on battlefields where setting up an IV might not be easy.

Read more at the CBC

Related: The making of an opioid epidemic – The Guardian

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