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Category: Health & Wellbeing (page 1 of 20)

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.

Starting to exercise in midlife may be as beneficial as starting early

Reserch has shown that getting fit in middle age could be as good for you as starting young when it comes to reducing the risk of an early death. But the reverse is also true.

If you have been fit and drop off in later years, there is no difference in the risk of an early death when compared to those who had always been couch potatoes. In other words, there’s no bank, no accumulation of the protective effect of exercise and for having been fit in younger years.

Nicola K S Davis, writing at The Guardian:

“If you are not active and you get to your 40s-50s and you decide to become active, you can still enjoy a lot of those benefits.”

The study, published in the journal Jama Network Open, was based on data from more than 300,000 Americans aged 50-71 who undertook a questionnaire in the mid-1990s. They were asked to estimate the extent of their moderate to vigorous leisure exercise at different stages of their life. Researchers then used national records to track who died in the years up to the end of 2011, and from what.

After taking into account factors including age, sex, smoking and diet, the team found that those who were exercising into middle age had a lower risk of death from any cause in the years that followed than those who had never carried out any leisure exercise. However, when the team looked at 10 different patterns in the way people were active over their life, it found a surprise.

Men and women who ramped up their activity gradually to about seven hours a week by the age of 40-61 reduced their risk of death from any cause in the years that followed by about 35%. The benefit was similar to that seen for people who reached and maintained similar activity from their teens or 20s onwards, or who exercised at such a level when young and middle-aged but dipped in activity in their 30s.

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Why walking helps us think

Ferris Jabr, The New Yorker:

When we go for a walk, the heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen not just to the muscles but to all the organs—including the brain. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.

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Who lives alone in Canada and how does that impact their health and wellbeing?

Questions continue to be raised about the possible impacts of living alone on the prevalence of social isolation and loneliness in society.

Statistics Canada has released a study that looked at the Canadian population living alone, using data from both the Census of Population and the General Social Survey on Family. Here’s some of what they found.

Continue reading

These Three Steps Might Help Prevent Dementia

There is no magic shield against Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Supplements don’t work. Yet there is evidence that some strategies may help.

Paula Span at the New York Times writes:

The three:

  • Increased physical activity;
  • Blood pressure management for people with hypertension, particularly in midlife;
  • And cognitive training.

That last recommendation doesn’t necessarily refer to commercial online brain games, said Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a neuropsychiatrist and epidemiologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who served on the panel.

“It’s really the concept of being mentally active,” she said. “Find something you enjoy where you’re learning something new, challenging and stimulating your brain.”

Though the evidence to date doesn’t establish which mental workouts have the greatest impact or how often people should engage in them, “they’re not expensive and they don’t cause side effects,” Dr. Yaffe pointed out.

The blood pressure recommendation got a boost in January with the latest findings from the Sprint trial, a multisite study stopped early in 2015 when intensive treatment of hypertension (a systolic blood pressure goal of less than 120, compared to the standard 140) was shown to reduce cardiovascular events and deaths.

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