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Having a ‘Life Purpose’ Is Linked with Better Brain Health, Study Shows

  • New research shows that positive mental well-being may help protect brain health as we age.
  • The findings strongly linked having purpose and meaning in life with a reduced risk for mild cognitive impairment and dementia.
  • Meaningful activities that engage the mind, body, and spirit may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

The meaning of life might just be about finding meaning in life itself.

A new meta-analysis in Ageing Research Reviews suggests that a life lived with purpose and meaning is good for brain health, offering implications for cognitive impairment in older adults..

According to the National Institute on Aging, people over 65 will account for 16% of the world’s population by 2050 — a 50% increase from 2010. The global prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is expected to triple by 2050Trusted Source, from about 57 million to 152 million.

While prior evidence shows that a healthy lifestyle — such as keeping your brain active, regular exercise, and a balanced diet — reduces the risk of dementia, the new research offers insight into how psychological well-being may also play an important role in slowing cognitive decline.

How does having a sense of purpose improve brain health?

Older adults with dementia face increased risks for mental health conditions like depression.

Prior research has shown a strong link between positive psychology and physical health outcomes, while healthy aging research shows that mental well-being may play a role in longevity.

To better understand how mental well-being is associated with cognitive function and dementia risk, researchers at University College London examined data from 62,250 people across three continents with an average age of 60.

The systematic review of 11 studies observed the link between positive psychological constructs (PPCs) like purposeful living and the risk of dementia and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in older adults.

The results indicate that having purpose and meaning in life is significantly associated with a 19% reduced risk for dementia. This was more statistically significant than other positive constructs like optimism and happiness.

Still, the mixed findings for different PPCs highlight a need for further research to explore the causal relationship between positive psychological factors and cognitive health.

Purpose vs. happiness: What’s the difference?

Georgia Bell, a PhD student at University College London and lead author of the study, told Psych Central that purposeful living may be more impactful for reducing MCI risk than happiness due to the differences between eudemonic (e.g., purpose or meaning) and hedonic (e.g., positive affect or pleasure) well-being.

“People with higher eudemonic well-being may be more likely to engage in other protective behaviors, such as exercise and social interactions,” Bell said by email.

“Whilst an individual may gain happiness from these, the goal-oriented pursuit to live in a way that is purposeful [or] meaningful may act as motivation to live a healthier lifestyle.”

Hedonic pursuits

David A. Merrill, MD, an adult and geriatric psychiatrist, and director of the Pacific Neuroscience Institute’s Pacific Brain Health Center in Santa Monica, California, explained that hedonic activities that bring you happiness are often fleeting, satisfying needs or urges.

“The hedonistic pursuit of happiness can involve mindless or unhealthy behaviors, like overindulgence, at times,” Merrill said by phone.

Eudemonic pursuits

According to Merrill, eudemonic pursuits meet a certain human need through purpose or meaning.

Older adults may find meaning in strengthening interpersonal relationships, especially for those who’ve lost loved ones or have become estranged from other family members.

“If you can find a purpose in deepening your relationships with others, that may end up promoting all these other health behaviors that protect your brain and your body,” Merrill said.

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The science of living with purpose

If having purpose or meaning in life leads to better brain health, it’s possible that biological and neurological factors play a role.

For instance, a study published in April 2022 in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience shows that life satisfaction increases with age due to the increased release of oxytocin.

According to Bell, it’s possible that purpose and meaning are also associated with key dementia-related biomarkers, such as neuroinflammation and cellular stress response.

“Whilst we offer possible explanations, we would like to emphasize these are only speculative and largely based on mechanisms for depression and dementia risk,” Bell said. “More research is needed to better understand this.”

Merrill agreed that having a purpose could play a protective role in decreasing the stress response. “If you have lower levels of cortisol, then hopefully it’s dampening any chronic neuroinflammation response or cellular response,” Merrill said.

What lifestyles can improve brain function?

Exercise is good for the body and the brain. Research shows that lifestyle factors, such as physical activity and social connectedness, may be helpful for preventing cognitive decline.

An April 2022 study published in The BMJe suggests that a healthy lifestyle is associated with a longer life expectancy and a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Meanwhile, a March 2022 study in Alzheimer’s & Dementia suggests that managing cholesterol and glucose in early adulthood can lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

If purposeful living is indeed a protective factor for memory loss, Merrill suggested modifying your behaviors to pursue meaningful activities.

“Excessive amounts of resting or inactivity aren’t really promoting physical health or brain health,” Merrill said.

“Just because you’re happy that you’ve obtained or achieved something, it may not necessarily reinforce any of the positive biological effects that are related to behaviors that improve physical health or brain health.”

Purpose-driven tips to promote brain health

Pursuing purpose protects against depression, and depression is a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

“When people are not depressed, they take better care of themselves overall — from their general physical health to their mental well-being, social connectedness, and activities.”

Merrill recommends goal-directed activities that are cognitively stimulating and help you stay physically active and engaged.

“There’s a chain reaction of positive events when you’re pursuing purpose,” Merrill said. “You’re boosting your mood, which boosts how well you take care of yourself.

Try engaging in volunteer work

If volunteering gives you purpose, you might prioritize a good night’s sleep and nutritious breakfast to hold yourself accountable for the job you need to do. You’re also socializing and connecting with others who are passionate about the same cause.

Spend more time outside

A large body of research shows that being outside in nature is beneficial for mental and physical health and improves cognitive function. Outdoor activities also tend to inspire social connections with others.

Prioritize your relationships

The Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest studies of adult life for more than 80 years, found a strong link between longevity and meaningful relationships.

According to Merrill, nurturing our relationships with our family, friends, and community, may also help protect us against depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Well-being and health are related to the success of our relationships,” Merrill said. “Purposefulness can decrease the pain that comes from disconnect, shame, and isolation.”

Takeaway

While there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, a healthier lifestyle combining diet, exercise, and purpose may help prevent cognitive impairment in older adults.

Still, adults of all ages may wish to consider how we could make our lives more meaningful now.

Remember, there’s a distinct difference between hedonistic pleasures and purposeful activities.

Engaging in what gives you purpose and meaning may also make you more inclined to choose other healthy behaviors.

“It’s kind of futile to just chase after pleasure,” Merrill said. “Purposefulness, by happy coincidence, activates these other behavioral changes that are healthy for your body and your brain.”

source: psychcentral.com


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9 Simple Ways To Be Happy Every Day

Cloud 9 isn’t as far out of out of reach as you might think. We asked the experts for simple strategies to wake up with a smile each and every day.

Sure, life is filled with ups and downs. Who doesn’t feel sad, anxious or a little bit lost every now and then? But these feelings don’t define us—and they don’t define our year, our week or even our day. The ability to change our thoughts, moods and, in effect, lives lies in the power of positive thinking, so we consulted the pros about what we can do from day to day to turn that proverbial frown upside down and discover greater happiness within.

1. Take frequent breaks.

Though easy access to smartphones and com­puters means we can solve most conundrums with the touch of a but­ton, many apps are highly addictive and take time away from the things that really matter, such as family, friends and com­plex problem-solving that leads to personal growth. “These days, tech is in charge of us; we’re not in charge of it,” says leadership coach Ellen Petry Leanse, author of The Happiness Hack. To break the cycle, take a tech time­out at the start of every day and during social inter­actions.

2. Interrupt adverse thought patterns. 

“Negative thinking creates negative feelings,” says California-based corporate-culture consultant Larry Senn, author of The Mood Elevator. “And grateful thinking creates grateful feelings. If you can change your thoughts, you can change your life.” One easy tactic for transforming your mindset is to interrupt it. If you notice you’re bombarded by stressful thoughts, go for a walk, help someone with a problem or play with your pet and see if you feel your mood shift.

3. Stay curious. 

When someone cuts you off during rush hour or a coworker argues with you during a presentation, it can suddenly seem like the world is out to get you. But feeling affronted and judgmental is a choice—and you can pick a different attitude. “Everybody is doing what makes sense to them based on their own think­ing,” says Senn. “We don’t have to agree with it, but we can decide not to take it personally.” Instead, choose to be curious about the thought processes and circumstances that lead to a person’s actions, and while you’re at it, consider the underlying reasons for your reactions.

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4. Build deeper in-person connections. 

“The majority of the people I interact with in my work as a teacher and a coach say that the thing they want most is a sense of deeper connection,” says Leanse, who’s an instructor at California’s Stanford University. “They say things like, ‘I want to find my tribe’ or ‘I want to be with people I understand and who understand me.’ ” Building those connections is easier than you think. “It can be as simple as trying to engage with others by being curious about them and asking questions to under­stand more.” Try to follow this simple rule: Listen more than you talk.

5. Take care of your body.  

It’s tough to have a positive mindset if you’re running on little sleep, no exercise and a steady diet of burgers and chocolate bars. “We know that when people get run down physically, they catch colds more easily,” says Senn. “When you get run down physically, you also catch moods more easily.” By ensuring that you maintain a healthy diet, engage in vigorous exercise and get adequate sleep, you’ll build resilience to life’s hardships—and you’ll probably feel better about yourself overall, which is another key component of positive thinking.

6. Make time for meditation. 

Spending quiet time focusing on breathing or completing guided meditations is one way to train your reactive mentality—the one that jumps to conclusions and is quick to react—to pause before acting and can promote greater emotional intelligence and a profound sense of calm. “It’s like weight lifting for the mind,” says Leanse. But if setting aside a spec­ific chunk of time seems impossible right now, simply try to be more mindful in your day-to-day life. “Find moments to be reflective and pay attention to the ‘now’ as you navi­gate everyday tasks,” says Leanse. For instance, when you wash the dishes, focus on the temperature of the water, the smell of the soap and the feel of each item in your hands.

7. Practice gratitude.

According to Senn—and a whole host of researchers—cultivating a perspective of gratitude is one of the best ways to tap into a happier life. To do so, keep a gratitude journal, take a few minutes each day to think of three things you’re grateful for or compliment other people to show appreciation. “If you want to be happier, forget the myth that achievements or acquisitions bring happiness,” says Senn. “Instead, focus on activities that will nourish gratitude for the blessings you’ve already been granted.”

8. Challenge yourself.

Guilty pleasures like watching TV or checking social media reward our brains with quick spikes of dopamine, but they don’t offer a lasting sense of satisfaction in the same way that “completing projects, being creative, learning, working on long-term goals or doing routine tasks like weeding the garden will,” says Leanse. That’s not to say we should never enjoy a mindless distraction, but completing “deep work”—the things that actually matter to us as individuals—will provide far more happiness in the long run.

9. Delay reactions.

You will have hard days. That’s a given in life. But the occasional bad day or mood can’t hurt you if you press pause on rash actions (think yelling at a loved one or sending a snooty email). “Your thinking is unreliable in the lower mood states,” says Senn, meaning that you may not be able to think clearly if you’re anxious, angry, impatient or sad. “Don’t trust your feelings during lower mood states. Instead of acting on unreliable thinking, delay important conversations and decisions.”

BY: ANDREA KARR

source: www.canadianliving.com


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How To See Through The ‘Health Halo’ That May Be Hiding Ultra-Processed Foods

The main issue is finding time to read labels and figuring out what they really mean, experts say.

Most of us have probably heard that food marketers play it a little fast and loose with health claims.

So how much of what we read on a label can we trust? What, exactly, makes my bag of cereal clusters “lean,” for example? We asked two Toronto registered dietitians to separate fact from fiction to make it easier for us to navigate the grocery aisle. And the first thing we learned is that, even though there are tricky terms out there, words still have meaning and many of them are actually tightly regulated.

Sugar, Fat and Salt

“The truth is, the Government of Canada, specifically the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, does govern many of the terms that are seen on food packages,” explains Cara Rosenbloom, a registered dietitian and co-author of the book, “Food to Grow On.” “So, calories, salt, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugar, fibre, vitamins and minerals, all of these are all highly regulated.”

Every claim related to any property listed on the nutrition facts table is regulated, explains Rosenbloom: “So, if it says 25 per cent less sugar, that manufacturer has to be able to prove that product has more than 25 per cent less sugar than the most well-known competitor product.”

Cholesterol-Free and gluten free

Even though the nutritional world has softened its stance on cholesterol, most people like to see the words “No Cholesterol” on a package. Often, though, those words are found on foods that never would have contained cholesterol in the first place.

“Some clients can get confused as to what cholesterol is and where it comes from,” says Amanda Li, registered culinary dietitian and founder of Wellness Simplified, a practice in Toronto. “It only derives from animal products, but marketers know that not everyone knows that and use that to their advantage, because people think it’s better for their heart.”

Similarly, the term “gluten free” is slapped on a lot of packages, from potato chips to coleslaw, even though gluten comes from grains, most commonly wheat, barley and rye. “I’ve seen the words ‘gluten free’ on water,” says Rosenbloom.

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No Refined Sugar

“The other one I see a lot that is a source of irritation is ‘no refined sugar,’” says Rosenbloom, who says that a lot of consumers infer that product is sugar-free.

Sadly, there are a lot of sugars that come from a less-refined source, such as agave syrup or honey, that sneak through on a technicality. That doesn’t make these sugars any healthier, though.

“At the end of the day, your body just knows it’s had sugar,” says Li. “People think maple syrup is better just because it contains tiny amounts of minerals, but there are much better ways to get minerals.”

A cup of maple syrup might supply about 20 per cent of our recommended daily intake of calcium, potassium and iron but, chugging back a cup of maple syrup is, um, really not a good idea.

Made with “Real Fruit”

“The other thing that bothers me is when a food package says ‘made with real fruit,’” Rosenbloom says. “Like, for example, there are ‘real fruit’ gummies which are literally candies made by taking some fruit juice concentrate and turning it into a sugar.”

The same is true for many “plant snacks” (including veggie straws and chips) that appear to be “healthier” choices but may not be any better than a (gluten free and cholesterol-free) potato chip. It’s worth pointing out that potato chips are also plant-based, they’re just plant snacks with an image problem.

“I like to call them hyper-palatable foods,” says Li. “Moms often say ‘I give my kids veggie chips’ and I’m not sure if they understand that they aren’t really vegetables. Most of them are just a lot of refined carbohydrates.”

Rosenbloom says she’s seen school lunch boxes packed with fruit candy and veggie straws and known that parents think they’ve done a great job and covered all the major food groups. “It tricks many Canadians into believing they are eating fruits and vegetables when they’re not getting the real deal.”

If we had the time to really think about what we were buying at the grocery store, we’d be able to see through a lot of meaningless sales pitches on packaging. The problem, especially for parents, is that time is a precious resource and decision fatigue is a real thing.

Marketers know that. Which is why, over the past decade, a lot of food has been rebranded as accessories to wellness culture. Increasingly, food is packaged in shiny white bags that are decorated with a splotch of green or eye-catching pictures of colourful fruits that pop, all of which give it what American nutritionist and food studies scholar Marion Nestle calls a “health halo” — a carefully constructed image that often hides yet another ultra-processed food.

So, it’s not so much that you can’t believe anything you read, since a fair bit of the information on packages is actually quite reliable. It’s finding the time to do it that’s the real problem.

Christine Sismondo        Mon., April 18, 2022

source: www.thestar.com


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Dirty Dozen 2022: Produce with the most and least pesticides

Strawberries and spinach continue to top the annual list of the “Dirty Dozen” fruits and veggies that contain the highest levels of pesticides, followed by three greens – kale, collard and mustard – nectarines, apples, grapes, and bell and hot peppers, according to the Environmental Working Group’s 2022 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce.

Cherries came in eighth this year on the list of the 12 most contaminated foods, with peaches, pears, celery and tomatoes rounding out the list.

But don’t stop eating these foods, which are full of the vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants needed to battle chronic disease, experts say.

“If the things you love to eat are on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list, we recommend buying organic versions when you can,” said Alexis Temkin, a toxicologist at the EWG with expertise in toxic chemicals and pesticides.

“Several peer-reviewed studies and clinical trials have looked at what happens when people switch to a fully organic diet,” she said. “Concentrations and measurements of pesticides decrease very rapidly.”

Consumers can also consult EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” – a list of produce with the least amount of pesticides. Nearly 70% of the fruits and veggies on the list had no detectable pesticide residues, while just under 5% had residues of two or more pesticides, the report said.

Avocados had the lowest levels of pesticides among the 46 foods tested, followed by sweet corn, pineapple, onions and papaya.

Multiple pesticides

Issued yearly since 2004, the EWG report uses US Department of Agriculture test data to rank 46 foods that are the most and least contaminated with pesticide residues. The USDA staffers prepare the food as consumers would – washing, peeling or scrubbing – before testing each item.

The USDA does not sample all 46 foods each year, so EWG pulls results from the most recent testing period. Strawberries, for example, have not been tested by the USDA since 2016, Temkin said,

Many samples of the 46 fruits and vegetables included in the report tested positive for multiple pesticides, including insecticides and fungicides. Over 90% of “strawberries, apples, cherries, spinach, nectarines and grapes tested positive for residues of two or more pesticides,” the report said.

Testing found the highest level of multiple pesticides – 103 – on samples of the heart-healthy trio of kale, collards and mustard greens, followed by 101 different pesticides on hot and bell peppers. In general, “spinach samples had 1.8 times as much pesticide residue by weight as any other crop tested,” the report said.

Being exposed to multiple pesticides, even at low levels, is “supra-additive,” with each pesticide having more of a health impact than it might in isolation, said Dr. Leonardo Trasande, chief of environmental pediatrics at NYU Langone, who was not involved in the report.

dirty dozen

Health risks of pesticides

Health dangers from pesticides depend on the type, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Pesticides can impact the nervous system, irritate the eyes and skin, interfere with the hormonal systems of the body, or cause cancer, the EPA said.

The pesticide DCPA, classified by the EPA as a possible human carcinogen and banned in 2009 by the European Union, was frequently detected on collards, mustard greens and kale, the EWG report said.

Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide often used on nut and fruit trees and row crops such as broccoli and cauliflower, was banned by the EPA in February 2022 after a 15-year effort by environmental groups.

Chlorpyrifos contains an enzyme “which leads to neurotoxicity, and has also been associated with potential neurodevelopmental effects in children,” the EPA said.

Babies and children are especially vulnerable to pesticides, experts say, because of the damage the chemicals can cause to the developing brain. A 2020 study found an increase in IQ loss and intellectual disability in children due to exposure to organophosphates, a common class of pesticides.

A large number of pesticides also affect the endocrine system in developing fetuses, which can interfere with developmental growth, reproduction and metabolism.

“Even a brief exposure to pesticides which alter endocrine function can cause permanent effects if the exposure occurs during critical windows of reproductive development,” according to the EPA.

Steps consumers can take

Besides eating organic, there are a number of actions consumers can take to reduce exposure to pesticides – and many other toxins such as heavy metals – that can be found in produce.

Dangerous chemicals found in food wrappers at major fast-food restaurants and grocery chains, report says

Rinse all produce before serving. Don’t use soap, detergent or commercial produce wash – water is the best choice, experts say.

“Soap and household detergents can be absorbed by fruits and vegetables, despite thorough rinsing, and can make you sick. Also, the safety of the residues of commercial produce washes is not known and their effectiveness has not been tested,” the US Food and Drug Administration stated.

Choose local. Buying food that is purchased directly from a local farmer can reduce the risk of pesticide exposure, experts say.

Buy in season. Prices drop when fruits and vegetables are in season and plentiful. That’s a good time to purchase organic foods in bulk, then freeze or can them for future use, experts suggest.

By Sandee LaMotte, CNN     Thu April 7, 2022

source:  www.cnn.com


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10 Ways to Ease Stress

Stress refers to your body’s reaction to challenges and demands. Stress can be positive or negative and there are healthy ways to deal with it. Sleeping well is important in stress management.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s response to a challenge or demand. Everyone experiences stress, which can be triggered by a range of events, from small daily hassles to major changes like a divorce or job loss. The stress response includes physical components such an elevated heart rate and blood pressure, thoughts and personal beliefs about the stressful event, and emotions, including fear and anger. Although we often think of it as being negative, stress can also come from positive changes in your life, like getting a promotion at work or having a new baby.

How can we handle stress in healthy ways?

Stress serves an important purpose—it enables us to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. However, lengthy exposure to stress may lead to mental health difficulties (for example, anxiety and depression) or increased physical health problems. A large body of research suggests that increased stress levels interfere with your ability to deal with physical illness. While no one can avoid all stress, you can work to handle it in healthy ways that increase your potential to recover.

  • Eat and drink to optimize your health. Some people try to reduce stress by drinking alcohol or eating too much. These actions may seem to help in the moment, but actually may add to stress in the long run. Caffeine also can compound the effects of stress. Consuming a healthy, balanced diet can help to combat stress.
  • Exercise regularly. In addition to having physical health benefits, exercise has been shown to be a powerful stress reliever. Consider non-competitive aerobic exercise, strengthening with weights, or movement activities like yoga or Tai Chi, and set reasonable goals for yourself. Aerobic exercise has been shown to release endorphins—natural substances that help you feel better and maintain a positive attitude.
  • Stop using tobacco and nicotine products. People who use nicotine often refer to it as a stress reliever. However, nicotine actually places more stress on the body by increasing physical arousal and reducing blood flow and breathing.
  • Study and practice relaxation techniques. Taking the time to relax every day helps to manage stress and to protect the body from the effects of stress. You can choose from a variety of techniques, such as deep breathing, imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, and mindfulness meditation. There are many online and smart phone apps that provide guidance on these techniques; although some entail purchase costs, many are available free of charge.
  • Reduce triggers of stress. If you are like most people, your life may be filled with too many demands and too little time. For the most part, these demands are ones we have chosen. You can free up time by practicing time-management skills like asking for help when it’s appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and reserving time to take care of yourself.
  • Examine your values and live by them. The more your actions reflect your beliefs, the better you will feel, no matter how busy your life is. Use your values when choosing your activities.
  • Assert yourself. It’s okay to say “No” to demands on your time and energy that will place too much stress on you. You don’t have always have to meet the expectations of others.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations. It’s okay—and healthy—to realize you cannot be 100% successful at everything all at once. Be mindful of the things you can control and work on accepting the things that you can’t control.
  • Sell yourself to yourself. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem.

There are several other methods you can use to relax or reduce stress, including:

  • Deep breathing exercises.
  • Meditation.
  • Mindfulness meditation.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Mental imagery relaxation.
  • Relaxation to music.
  • Biofeedback (explained below).
  • Counseling, to help you recognize and release stress.

Ask your healthcare provider for more information about these techniques or other suggestions.

Managing-Stress

Biofeedback

Biofeedback helps a person learn stress reduction skills by providing information about muscle tension, heart rate, and other vital signs as a person attempts to relax. It is used to gain control over certain bodily functions that cause tension and physical pain.

Biofeedback can be used to help you learn how your body responds in stressful situations, and how to cope better. If a headache, such as a migraine, begins slowly, many people can use biofeedback to stop the attack before it becomes full- blown.

What to do if you have trouble sleeping

You may experience insomnia (an inability to sleep) because of discomfort, stress from personal concerns, or side effects from your medications. If you cannot sleep, try these tips:

  • Establish a regular sleep schedule – go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Make sure your bed and surroundings are comfortable. Arrange the pillows so you can maintain a comfortable position.
  • Keep your bedroom dark and quiet.
  • Use your bedroom for sleeping only. Don’t work or watch TV in your bedroom.
  • Avoid napping too much during the day. At the same time, remember to balance activity with periods of rest.
  • If you feel nervous or anxious, talk to your spouse, partner, or a trusted friend. Get your troubles off your mind.
  • Listen to relaxing music.
  • Do not rely on sleeping pills. They can be harmful when taken with other medications. Use them only if recommended for a brief period by your healthcare provider if other non-medication methods don’t work.
  • Take diuretics, or “water pills,” earlier if possible, so you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom.
  • If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel tired. Don’t stay in bed worrying about when you’re going to fall asleep.
  • Avoid caffeine.
  • Maintain a regular exercise routine, but don’t exercise within two to three hours before the time you go to bed.

source:  my.clevelandclinic.org

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If You’re Going To Google Your Health Symptoms, Here’s How To Do It Right

Here’s how to spot bad medical information — and how to stop freaking yourself out as you do your research.

Researching what’s going on with your body can quickly turn from empowering to frightening. Here’s how to make sure you’re getting the correct information.

If the first thing you do when you feel a sniffle or twinge is head to the internet to try to figure out what’s going on, you’re in good company. Surveys suggest about 90% of patients Google their symptoms before they talk to their doctor.

But it can, of course, quickly go awry. Mental health experts now recognize “cyberchondria” — repeated, compulsive internet searches for medical info that can lead to worry and panic — as a real and troubling phenomenon.

Misguided Google searches can also be a deep source of frustration for doctors and other health care providers who say they spend a good chunk of their time with patients tackling inaccurate health advice and self-diagnoses.

“When I hear a patient say, ‘I Googled it,’ I think: OK. How much misinformation am I going to have to dispel?” said Dr. Beth Oller, a family physician at Rooks County Health Center in Kansas, adding that her patients are often fully aware they’ve unnecessarily freaked themselves out.

“None of us can help it!” Oller said. “I don’t blame people for trying to look up their symptoms.”

She’s also certainly had patients who have used the internet to advocate for the care they need — like women who have come to her wondering about ADHD. (The symptoms often go unrecognized in women.) Or patients who have pushed to get necessary cancer screenings.

So how can you make sure you’re using “Dr. Google” effectively? Here are five simple best practices to keep in mind.

1. Start with the websites of major health organizations, universities and hospitals

Inaccurate health information is, of course, everywhere online. Last year, Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, identified misinformation as a public health crisis ― one that has led to many people eschewing COVID-19 vaccines and mask policies. Before the pandemic, health misinformation directly contributed to measles outbreaks across parts of the U.S.

One of the simplest ways to build what Murthy and other public health leaders call “information literacy” is just to start your search with well-known, reputable sources. Oller said you really can’t go wrong if you begin with the websites of major health organizations, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (especially for COVID-19 information) or the American Academy of Pediatrics (which also has HealthyChildren.org specifically for parents and caregivers). The American Academy of Family Physicians also has a patient-facing website full of helpful information, she added.

Many hospitals and universities also have websites with evidence-based health information ― for example, the Mayo Clinic (which lets you search by conditions and has a symptom checker) and Cleveland Clinic. You might move on to specific studies, articles or even forums and support groups from there, but it’s a good idea to root yourself in basic information from a carefully vetted site.

“It’s important always to get your information from reputable sources, but it’s especially so when it comes to medical things,” Oller said.

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2. Brush up on some study basics

It’s wonderful and empowering that so much research is now directly available online, often without a subscription through a place like PubMed (the major database for scientific papers). But not all studies are created equal.

Look for some basics that can help indicate whether a study holds up: Was it published in a peer-reviewed journal? That means it has been scrutinized by other experts in the field for quality and accuracy. If so, which journal? What was the sample size like? What limitations have the study’s authors pointed out? Are they transparent about the questions their research cannot address? Who funded the research? And have the researchers disclosed any conflicts of interest?

It can also be useful to look for media coverage of a study, because in an ideal world, health reporters and editors are doing their due diligence when deciding what to cover. Did any news outlets pick it up? Who? What did any outside experts they interviewed about the research have to say? Keep in mind: Researchers have found that studies that can’t be replicated (meaning basically that they’re bad science) tend to be cited and shared more than those that can.

“It can be tough for medical providers, absolutely, to look at a study and tell if it’s reliable or not,” Oller said. “I absolutely understand why, for the lay person, it’s even more difficult.”

If you’re worried, chatting with a doctor is always your best bet.

3. Check on how your search is making you feel

If you’re searching your symptoms and getting really stressed out, that’s an immediate red flag. Instead of working yourself into a panic, reach out to an actual medical professional who can help provide answers.

“I’ll tell my patients: ‘If you’re noticing that the search you’re going on is increasing your anxiety, then it’s time to call your family doc and talk to me about it,’” Oller said.

Patients also sometimes have the opposite problem, she noted. So they might spend time searching for reassuring stories or anecdotes that they use to try to feel better or ignore their symptoms.

“It might be a serious symptom that really does need to be looked at,” Oller said, “and they find something that says, ‘Well, this wasn’t anything for me.’ So they go, ‘OK, well it’s probably not anything for me either.’”

As you’re searching, do a gut check. Are you making yourself feel stressed or anxious? Are you trying too hard to push away your nagging concerns?

4. Keep track of any sources you find and want to discuss

As you move through your internet search, be sure to jot down the articles or websites you visit. If a particular study or article is of interest, save it. That way, when you go to your doctor, you bring a list of links that you can discuss together.

Oller said she sometimes has patients who come to her wanting to talk about a particular study they saw shared somewhere, but can’t remember where it was or what exactly it claimed.

Your health care provider should be open to talking with you about any research you bring up. If they’re dismissive — without taking the time to explain why they’re skeptical of certain sources, or carefully explaining why they don’t think they apply to you — it might be time to look for a second opinion. Experts should acknowledge that patient research can be a very good thing.

5. When in doubt, talk to an actual health care provider

At the end of the day, nothing beats going to an an actual doctor, nurse or health care clinic (in person or virtually!) to get answers to the health questions and concerns you have. In fact, Oller said one easy way to know whether you’ve landed at a reputable health website during your search is that those sites tend to direct you to see a health care provider. Credible websites are transparent about the limits of an online search.

“Those sites are the ones that at the end of any entry say ‘Please talk to your primary care doc if any of these things seem true or if you have questions,’” she said. “They’re the ones that lead people toward getting that next evaluation they need.”

By Catherine Pearson      Mar. 14, 2022

source: www.huffpost.com


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World Health Day

Are we able to reimagine a world where
clean air, water and food are available to all?
 
Where economies are focused on health and well-being?
 
Where cities are liveable and people have control over their health and the health of the planet?

What can you do to protect our planet and our health?

Governments:

  • Prioritize long-term human wellbeing and ecological stability in all decision-making.
  • Prioritize wellbeing in all businesses, organizations, social and ecological goals.
  • Keep fossil fuels in the ground. Stop new fossil fuel exploration and projects and implement policies on clean energy production and use.
  • Stop fossil fuel subsidies. Re-invest fossil fuel subsidies in public health.
  • Tax the polluters. Incentivize carbon reduction.
  • Implement the WHO air quality guidelines.
  • Electrify health care facilities with renewable energies.
  • Reduce air pollution levels to reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma.
  • Tax highly processed foods and beverages high in salt, sugars and unhealthy fats.
  • Implement policies to reduce food wastage.
  • Repurpose agriculture subsidies towards sustainable and healthy food production.
  • Build cities with green spaces that promote physical activity and mental health.
  • Take the pledge! Adopt WHO’s green manifesto.
  • Tobacco pollutes the planet and our lungs.  Create smoke free cities and tax tobacco.
  • Devise policies on waste and plastic reduction.
  • Integrate mental health and psychosocial support with climate action and policies to better prepare for and respond to the climate crisis.
  • Work together with community leaders that include representatives of refugees and migrants on mitigation and adaptation measures of climate change and support initiatives led by refugee and migrant communities at local level.

Corporations:

  • Switch off lights after working hours.
  • Support teleworking when possible.
  • Remove highly processed and packaged foods from the workplace.
  • Reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of your activities.
  • Protect, promote and support breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is healthy and sustainable food for babies.
  • Ensure safe water is accessible for workers.
whd

Health workers and health facilities:

  • Support efforts to reduce health care waste.
  • Provide sustainably grown local food and ensure healthy food choices by reducing sodas and highly processed and packaged food in health facilities.
  • Decarbonize health facilities.
  • Identify opportunities to save energy.
  • Ensure safe clean water at health facilities.
  • Support purchase of environmentally friendly products that are easily recyclable or reusable.
  • Advocate for health to be at the centre of climate change policies

Mayors promote:

  • Promote energy efficient buildings.
  • Engage low-carbon public transport.
  • Build new bike lanes and footpaths.
  • Protect biodiversity and create new parks and gardens.
  • Switch to renewable energy for municipal operations.
  • Ensure low-income households and health care facilities have access to clean, affordable energy.
  • Partner with the local business community to support sustainability.
  • Regulate the marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages in public spaces.

Individuals:

  • Share your story: our planet, our health.
  • Raise your voice and demand climate actions to protect your health.
  • Take action, inspire others” – join our five-point plan:
  • Walk or pedal to work at least one day a week. Choose public transport.
  • Change to a renewable energy provider; don’t heat your rooms over 21.5C; turn off the light when not in the room.
  • Buy your fresh groceries from local producers and avoid highly processed foods and beverages.
  • Tobacco is a killer and a polluter. Stop consuming tobacco.
  • Buy less plastic; use recyclable grocery bags.

#HealthierTomorrow

source: www.who.int


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5 Foods For a Strong Immune System

There are a number of ways your lifestyle can enhance your immune system, but one of the most important is eating the right foods.
So how do we choose?
It seems like every few weeks there is a new immune-boosting superfood on the scene. But as an immunologist and functional medicine doctor, I’m here to tell you that any nutrient-dense food that’s rich in vitamins and minerals is an immune superfood.
However, some foods seem to stand out from the rest for their beneficial properties. Here are five magical superfoods that I always try to add to my diet for a strong and healthy immune system:

1. Mushrooms

Mushrooms have been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. And now we have modern science to explain the effects of these amazing fungi, which, depending on the species, can boost, redirect or modulate our immune activity.
The one I like best is maitake, also called “hen-of-the-woods” or “chicken-of-the-woods.” Not only do they make delicious tacos, but they can increase Th1 cytokines, which help stimulate cellular immune response when fighting bacterial infections.
I’m a fan of shiitake mushrooms, too. Studies show a pattern of immune-boosting benefits, such as an increase in NK and Cytotoxic T cells — both advantageous in conquering viruses and cancer cells.
Lastly, there’s the reishi mushroom, which has been shown in several studies to increase the Th1 cytokine response and help make chemotherapeutic drugs more effective. In addition, extracts of reishi promote the immune response against certain strains of herpes virus.
Reishi mushrooms have a hard outer shell that makes them inedible, so capsules are the most convenient form.

2. Ginger

Ginger has several strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The spicy, aromatic root contains compounds called gingerols, which show promise in preventing cardiovascular disease by reducing oxidative stress in blood vessels, as well as inflammation in the heart area.
Studies reveal that ginger extract may help prevent alcohol-induced liver disease and can also block the kidney damage created by chemotherapy drugs.
I often recommend ginger to patients who have nausea, bloating and other GI complaints from imbalances in their microbiome. You can incorporate fresh ginger in savory dishes, smoothies and ginger tea, or grab a ginger shot bottle (found at many juice bars and cafes) to drink plain or dilute in water.

3. Broccoli sprouts

Recently, a great deal of attention has been focused on broccoli sprouts, a potent source of one of the most immune-supportive biochemicals: sulforaphane.
On its own, sulforaphane has been shown to increase the levels of several antioxidant compounds by inducing a compound in our cells called NRF-2. This is sometimes called the “master regulator” of antioxidants, which means it helps increase the production of other antioxidants.
NRF-2 can play a role in lowering inflammation seen in many diseases like cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and liver disease.
Most cruciferous vegetables, such as cauliflower and broccoli, contain large amounts of glucoraphanin, which converts to sulforaphane during digestion. However, young broccoli sprouts contain between 10 and 100 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli!
The best way to eat broccoli sprouts is raw — for instance, in salads — because sulforaphane is easily broken down by cooking. I always aim to eat two ounces of broccoli sprouts a week.
Garlic

4. Garlic

Not only does garlic make everything taste more delicious, but this pungent vegetable has multiple compounds that regulate the immune system.
Studies on garlic find that it is immune-stimulating — increasing the activity of NK cells, a type of immune cell that has granules with enzymes that can kill tumor cells or cells infected with a virus.
At the same time, garlic is anti-inflammatory and can be cardioprotective by lowering cholesterol and blood pressure.
It’s also fabulous for fortifying our gut, for several reasons:
  • It can increase levels of beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus, a natural inhabitant of the GI tract and an excellent probiotic.
  • It’s known to be antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal.
  • It can fix bacterial imbalances in the gut that may be driving inflammation.
You can incorporate garlic into almost any recipe — so use it whenever you can — and you can also find it in supplement form if you’re not a fan of the taste.

5. Turmeric

If I had to pick one culinary compound out of nature’s apothecary for it’s immune-supportive effects, I’d go with turmeric root.
The bright yellow-orange root is not only a staple in Indian cooking, but it contains a magical compound called curcumin.
The bright yellow-orange root contains a magical compound called curcumin, which has many key benefits:
  • It can buffer high cortisol levels.
  • It can suppress some of the immune changes at the root of autoimmune diseases, while generally helpful in reducing chronic inflammation throughout the body.
  • It encourages the growth of beneficial strains of bacteria in the gut and lowers other disease-causing bacterial strains.
  • It’s effective for minimizing joint swelling in rheumatoid arthritis.
Turmeric is a great spice to use in cooking, although it does impart a bright yellow hue to your skin tongue and teeth. And, because it’s not well-absorbed in the GI tract, you’d need to eat gobs of it to achieve immune-modulation effects.
Given that, curcumin supplements are the best way to get this beneficial compound. Dosages vary based on need. For general health, I recommend about 1,000 milligram a day in divided dosages.
Sat, Mar 5 2022      Dr. Heather Moday, Contributor
Dr. Heather Moday is a board-certified allergist, immunologist and functional medicine physician. 
source: www.cnbc.com


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This Personality Trait Boosts Happiness

Acting out this personality trait makes people feel happier.

Acting like an extravert makes people feel happier — even natural introverts, research finds.

Both extraverts and introverts report greater well-being after a week spent being more talkative, assertive and spontaneous.

It is the first study to report the benefits of acting like an extravert over such an extended period.

The study also demonstrates that people who are naturally introverted can enjoy this exercise as much as extraverts.

‘Faux’ extraverts (people who are really introverts) reported no problems acting as extraverts.

Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, the study’s first author, said:

“The findings suggest that changing one’s social behavior is a realizable goal for many people, and that behaving in an extraverted way improves well-being.”

For the study, 123 people were asked to act like extraverts for one week and introverts for another week.

During the extravert week, participants were told to be talkative, assertive and spontaneous.

comfort

During the introvert week, they were told to be more deliberate, quiet and reserved.

People were informed that acting like an introvert and like an extravert is beneficial.

This was to try and dampen the effects of participants’ expectations.

The results showed that people felt better after a week acting as an extravert and worse after the week as an introvert.

The positive effect on well-being is the largest known among happiness interventions.

Surprisingly, acting like an extravert seems to cause people’s personality to shift in that direction.

Professor Lyubomirsky said:

“It showed that a manipulation to increase extraverted behavior substantially improved well-being.
Manipulating personality-relevant behavior over as long as a week may be easier than previously thought, and the effects can be surprisingly powerful.”

About the author

Psychologist Jeremy Dean, PhD, is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. 

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (Margolis & Lyubomirsky, 2019).

March 25, 2022

source: PsyBlog