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The 3 Pillars Of Good Mental Health

These are three factors that you can change.

Exercise, quality sleep and eating raw fruits and vegetables are the three pillars of good mental health, a study suggests.

Among the 1,100 young adults who were surveyed for the research, those who slept well, did more exercise and ate better were more likely to be flourishing.

Out of these, quality sleep was most strongly linked to better mental health, followed by exercise and then diet.

The finding that sleep quality rather quantity was so important was surprising, said Ms Shay-Ruby Wickham, the study’s first author:

“This is surprising because sleep recommendations predominantly focus on quantity rather than quality.

While we did see that both too little sleep — less than eight hours — and too much sleep — more than 12 hours — were associated with higher depressive symptoms and lower well-being, sleep quality significantly outranked sleep quantity in predicting mental health and well-being.

This suggests that sleep quality should be promoted alongside sleep quantity as tools for improving mental health and well-being within young adults.”

The study’s results showed that those who slept an average of 8 hours had the highest mental well-being.

Those sleeping almost 10 hours, though, had the lowest chance of developing depressive symptoms.

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People in the study were in their early 20s, however, and generally we require less sleep with age.

Having too much sleep is generally considered almost as bad as having too little.

Diet also played an important role in mental health.

Those who ate 5 servings of raw fruit and vegetables per day had the highest mental-wellbeing and those who ate less than 2 servings each day had the worst.

Ms Wickham said:

“Sleep, physical activity, and a healthy diet can be thought of as three pillars of health, which could contribute to promoting optimal well-being among young adults, a population where the prevalence of mental disorders is high and well-being is suboptimal.”

Dr Tamlin Conner, study co-author, warned that the findings were correlational:

“We didn’t manipulate sleep, activity, or diet to test their changes on mental health and well-being.

Other research has done that and has found positive benefits.

Our research suggests that a ‘whole health’ intervention prioritising sleep, exercise, and fruit and vegetable intake together, could be the next logical step in this research.”

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.

The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology (Wickham et al., 2020).

September 30, 2022

source: PsyBlog


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A Connection Between a ‘Calm Mind’ and Better Capacity for Self-Control

Summary: People with greater self-control have calmer minds, which in itself generates fewer distractions from stimuli.

People who have a “calmer mind”—that is, their neuronal processes take longer on average and whirl around less than others—have greater self-control.

This was the finding of Dr. Tobias Kleinert, Prof. Dr. Markus Heinrichs and Dr. Bastian Schiller from the Department of Psychology at the University of Freiburg, together with Prof. Dr. Kyle Nash and Dr. Josh Leota from the University of Alberta/Canada, and Prof. Dr. Thomas König from the University Hospital of Bern/Switzerland.

Their research is being published in the journal Psychological Science. The paper has been accepted and is already available online as a preprint.

“Self-controlled behavior is important to achieving long-term objectives—for example when we do without high-calorie food to lose surplus pounds,” explains Schiller.

Why is this easier for some people than for others? Are these individual differences based in a fundamentally different organization of the brain?

To find answers to these questions, the Freiburg researchers recorded the electrical activity in the brains of over 50 relaxed yet wakeful participants in the laboratory.

The scientists also recorded the participants’ capacity for self-control in other ways: self-evaluation reports, behavioral tasks and the brain activity recorded while they did these tasks. The results of the study carried out at the University of Freiburg were confirmed in a second cooperative study that took place at the University of Alberta/Canada, with more than 100 subjects.

“On both sides of the Atlantic we were able to prove a robust connection between non-task-dependent neuronal processing and the capacity for self-control,” explains Kleinert.

Schiller says, “Our results indicate that people with greater self-control have a calmer mind, which in itself generates fewer distracting stimuli.”

Heinrichs adds that “these findings are hugely significant to a better understanding of clinical disorders associated with deficient self-control processes.”

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Abstract

A Self-Controlled Mind is Reflected by Stable Mental Processing

Self-control–the ability to inhibit inappropriate impulses–predicts economic, physical, and psychological well-being. However, recent findings demonstrate low correlations among self-control measures, raising the questions what self-control actually is.

Here, we examine the idea that people high in self-control show more stable mental processing, characterized by fewer, but longer lasting processing steps due to fewer interruptions by distracting impulses.

To test this hypothesis, we relied on resting EEG microstate analysis, a method that provides access to the stream of mental processing by assessing the sequential activation of neural networks.

Across two samples (N1=58 male adults from Germany; N2=101 adults from Canada [58 females]), the temporal stability of resting networks (i.e., longer durations and fewer occurrences) was positively associated with self-reported self-control and a neural index of inhibitory control, and negatively associated with risk-taking behavior.

These findings suggest that stable mental processing represents a core feature of a self-controlled mind.

 

University of Freiburg    August 15, 2022

Original Research:  A Self-Controlled Mind is Reflected by Stable Mental Processing” by Tobias Kleinert et al. Psychological Science

source: neurosciencenews.com


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More And More People Have ‘Lifestyle Fatigue.’ Maybe You Do, Too.

Two-plus years of a pandemic have altered our mental health. Here are the signs and what you can do to cope.

Even though we’re armed with COVID-19 vaccines and updated booster shots, the world is still largely in a different (and oft-worried) place compared with before the pandemic.

This, experts say, can lead to a feeling of malaise — or “lifestyle fatigue,” in the words of Sean Grover, a psychotherapist who writes for Psychology Today. Lifestyle fatigue can be summed up as “feeling stuck in a rut,” Grover wrote ― and who hasn’t felt at least a little stuck at some point in recent years?

“As it says in the article, lifestyle fatigue’s not any sort of clinical diagnosis,” Alayna L. Park, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, told HuffPost. “You’re not going to go to a psychologist and get a diagnosis of lifestyle fatigue.”

But she said the concept can relate to “feeling off, feeling down [or] feeling tired,” all things that fall into larger areas of mental health research.

Such feelings are normal right now, and sad days are a part of life. However, a few warning signs can indicate that you may be dealing with something bigger.

Here, experts share what lifestyle fatigue means to them and why society is experiencing it more than ever. (If you’re feeling this way, you are certainly not alone.) Plus, they offer some advice on how to feel even just a tiny bit better.

Lifestyle fatigue may be related to a symptom of depression.

The description of lifestyle fatigue resembles the clinical signs of anhedonia, or an inability to feel pleasure, Park said. And while it’s a symptom of depression, experiencing anhedonia does not automatically mean you are depressed, she stressed.

“There can be a lot of causes for anhedonia or lifestyle fatigue,” Park said. One is engaging in very few pleasurable or productive activities. This contributes to a feeling of boredom, sadness or tiredness.

“We’ve definitely had a very prolonged period of that during the COVID pandemic,” she said, adding that this is due to (very necessary!) restrictions that meant we couldn’t take part in many activities and social interactions.

“Even if we’re not outgoing extroverts, we still crave that social interaction. And that social interaction does tend to bring us a sense of pleasure,” Park said.

And even now that restrictions have lifted and people are vaccinated, we are still faced with tough decisions as we consider the risks of certain activities. Our overall life may look different, too: Our friendships are changing and maybe leaving less room for social interactions. Our workplaces are more tiring or demanding, causing many to feel less pleasure from a career. All of this can take a toll.

It could also be related to emotional exhaustion.

Society is emotionally exhausted because of what is going on in the background of our lives — that is, the pandemic on top of any other stressful life events you’re experiencing — according to Dr. Elaina DellaCava, a psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

When experiencing emotional exhaustion, “you’re lacking the energy to do things, lacking the motivation [and] finding that there are things that you feel you should do [but] don’t have the desire to anymore,” she said.

In other words, you’re exhausted and don’t feel like doing something that would have felt pretty normal in 2019, whether that’s a trip to the grocery store or grabbing a drink with a friend.

“Over time, what I’ve seen in my practice is that people are reporting they try to make themselves do things but just the enjoyment isn’t there in the same way it used to be,” DellaCava said.

After two-plus years of less structure than ever (like rolling out of bed and logging in to your computer) and more isolation from loved ones compared with before the pandemic, any kind of structure — such as plans, chores or an in-person meeting — can feel like an unwanted responsibility.

Your ‘fight-flight-freeze’ response has likely been activated for too long, resulting in sadness.

The pandemic has activated people’s “fight-flight-freeze” response — named for the possible reactions to a perceived threat — for the past two and a half years, according to Park.

“What our bodies naturally do when our fight-flight-freeze response [has] been activated for so long is they start to experience some depressive symptoms,” she said.

These will tire you out so you can get more sleep and heal from this stress response, Park said, adding that the symptoms are essentially telling your body: “Hey, you’ve been in this fight-flight-freeze response for two years. That’s way too long. You need to rest.”

This is your body’s way of trying to get back to its normal state, but as the pandemic continues all around us, these fight-flight-freeze responses are still reacting to that stress. So instead of going back to its typical state, your body could be experiencing depressive symptoms over and over as it pushes for rest.

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Though lifestyle fatigue isn’t depression in all cases, it may be in some.

It’s normal to feel sad or off at times, Park said, but if you feel tired or down for the majority of the day on most days for at least two weeks, this may be cause for concern. At that point, you should get in touch with a doctor or therapist, she said.

DellaCava said that many people attribute these emotions to burnout — a term that is now pervasive. But feeling down for long periods of time could be a symptom of something larger than burnout, which is generally more work-related and comes from chronic stress.

It’s OK to feel this way.

After multiple new COVID-19 variants, politicized public safety protocols and a sometimes overwhelming fear of getting the virus or passing it on to a loved one, it is normal to feel different than you did before the pandemic.

“If people are feeling this way, they’re certainly not alone,” DellaCava emphasized.

Much of this exhaustion or lifestyle fatigue may be due to the feeling that the pandemic cost someone an element of their identity.

People who love to travel may not feel comfortable getting on a plane now, or if they do go on a trip, they might worry about getting sick abroad and dealing with canceled plans. Similarly, someone who once considered themselves an extrovert might struggle with small talk or meeting new people. It’s hard to be the 2019 version of yourself in the world we live in right now. And that’s exhausting.

DellaCava added that social media makes this even tougher. People are inundated with happy images that can be tough to look at when you’re having a hard day.

“They say comparison is the thief of joy, and I think there is validity in that,” DellaCava said, but remember that “you’re seeing everyone’s best day on social media.” Others aren’t posting about their bad moments or restless nights, she added.

Certain activities can help you feel better.

Adding some productive and pleasurable activities to your week can help calm feelings of lifestyle fatigue, Park said. But with many people feeling exhausted due to their work and home lives becoming intertwined, productive activities do not have to revolve around your job, she added.

“Things that can be productive are things like exercising — so, running further than you did two weeks ago — or learning a language,” Park said. Both of these can give a sense of accomplishment if you’re feeling down.

Pleasurable activities can include visiting a friend, playing an online video game with a family member or calling up a loved one.

For those feeling unmotivated or anhedonic, DellaCava suggested focusing on self-care, which can include getting a good night’s sleep or, if you’re a parent, taking time for yourself. If you’re caring for your own elderly parents, try going for a walk alone or using a meditation app. Self-care should consist of enjoyable activities that are just for you, she said.

That said, it may seem tough to go for a walk or visit a friend when you’re feeling this way. But once you’re engaged in something you enjoy, you’ll likely notice that you’re happy to actually be doing it. Plus, you should be proud of yourself for mustering up the motivation to try the activity.

But if you’re not noticing any change in mood while taking part in once-pleasurable activities, do not hesitate to reach out to a doctor or therapist, DellaCava said. There is a lot going on in the world, and it’s OK if you need someone to talk to right now or a little extra help.

Jillian Wilson – Wellness Reporter, HuffPost       Sep 12, 2022

source: HuffPost


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4 Ways To Boost Your Well-Being And Happiness 

These are the four psychological pillars of well-being-being.

Awareness, connection, insight and purpose are the four pillars of psychological well-being, a study concludes.

In the face of rising mental health problems, made worse by the pandemic, these pillars can help everyone improve their emotional well-being.

The researchers focus on areas that can be improved with training or other effortful practice:

  • Awareness: being attentive to ones’ environment and one’s own body.
  • Connections: experiencing kindness and compassion.
  • Insight: increasing curiosity and self-knowledge
  • Purpose: understanding one’s motivations and values.

 

Dr Cortland Dahl, the study’s first author, said:

“There are qualities of a healthy mind that many people don’t know are even trainable.

We don’t think of them as skills.

Many of us have thought we are hardwired to be like this or that, but the reality is these qualities are much more trainable and malleable than we think.

It’s a very empowering view of the human mind — we can learn to be in the driver’s seat of our own mind.”

Increasing awareness, for example, helps increase positive emotions and reduce stress.

Awareness also helps to reduce mentally damaging habits like distraction.

A common way to improve awareness is through meditation.

 

Meditation, though, describes a huge range of different practices, Dr Dahl said:

“Different types of meditation do different things for your brain, just as different sports trigger different changes in your body.

You can train your mind in different pillars that go beyond mindfulness or even gratitude practices.”

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Cultivating insight, meanwhile, explained Professor Richard Davidson, study co-author, is…

“…about getting curious about your own preconceived thoughts and opinions.

Your brain is not set.

You can question your own assumptions and biases, and this has tremendous potential to heal the division and ‘othering’ that we see in today’s society.”

 

Even if our circumstances are difficult to change, our minds can be trained, said Dr Dahl:

“This work is parallel with what we’re learning about human biology.

We’re just at the beginning of understanding that our biology is also malleable.

We are not born a certain fixed way.

Our brains and nervous systems and biology can be shaped.

That’s such a hopeful view to have — there are many ways we can influence our minds, brains and bodies for the better.”

 

A few resources to get you started

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Dahl et al., 2020).

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. 

September 5, 2022

source : PsyBlog


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This Sleep Pattern Increases Heart Disease Risk 54% 

People who ignore this risk factor increase their odds of developing heart disease or stroke.

Less than seven, or more than eight hours of sleep can cause arterial stiffness leading to heart disease or stroke.

If you like to stay up late and have a drink or check your emails or watch TV and sleep until mid-morning, remember the quantity of sleep is important for your heart health.

The incidence of arterial stiffness is much lower in people who sleep seven or eight hours a night compared to those who sleep for shorter or longer hours, a study has found.

Consequently, people who sleep more than eight hours or less than seven hours are at higher risk of heart disease or stroke.

A research team measured 1,752 adults’ sleep patterns in Greece and based on duration of sleep they were divided into four groups.

The first was ‘normal’ group meaning their sleep was seven or eight hours per night, the second was the ‘short’ group meaning they slept six to seven hours nightly, the third one ‘very short’ meaning they had less than six hours sleep, and the last group ‘long’ as they had more than eight hours sleep nightly.

The results showed that participants who had more than eight hours a night were at a 39 percent higher risk of plaque build up inside the arteries and for those who slept less than six hours the odds increased to 54 percent.

This shows that duration of sleep is as important as exercise and diet for cardiovascular health.

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Dr Evangelos Oikonomou, the study’s lead author, said:

“The message, based on our findings, is ‘sleep well, but not too well.’

Getting too little sleep appears bad for your health but too much seems to be harmful as well.

Unlike other heart disease risk factors such as age or genetics, sleep habits can be adjusted, and even after taking into consideration the impact of established risk factors for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases — for example age, gender, obesity, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, high blood pressure and even a history of coronary artery disease — both short and long sleeping duration may act as additional risk factors.”

Plaque build-up causes the arterial walls to thicken and narrow so the blood flow in the brain and the body will decrease leading to cardiovascular disease or stroke.

Dr Oikonomou, said:

“We don’t fully understand the relationship between sleep and cardiovascular health.

It could be that sympathetic nervous system withdrawal or a slowing [of this system] that occurs during sleep may act as a recovery phase for [usual] vascular and cardiac strain.

Moreover, short sleep duration may be associated with increased cardiovascular risk factors — for example, unhealthy diet, stress, being overweight or greater alcohol consumption — whereas longer sleep duration may be associated with a less active lifestyle pattern and lower physical activity.”

How much sleep we need is related to different factors such as age.

The guidelines for adults are mostly seven to nine hours sleep a night, however, one in three American adults gets less than six hours sleep.

Studies have shown that people who sleep poorly are at greater risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, mental health problem, and early death.

Experts say a regular six to eight hours a night is spot-on.

Dr Oikonomou, said:

“It seems that this amount of sleep may act as an additive cardioprotective factor among people living in modern western societies, and there can be other health benefits to getting sufficient and quality sleep.”

The study was presented at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session Together with World Congress of Cardiology, March 2020.

Mina Dean September 1, 2022

source: PsyBlog


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Nine benefits of antioxidants: From disease prevention to healthy aging

We explore the well-known — and the lesser-known — benefits of antioxidants

What are the benefits of antioxidants? From blueberries to pumpkin, and beyond, there are many antioxidant-rich foods. Although the word antioxidant may be a bit of a mystery, what antioxidants do in the body is straightforward. An antioxidant is a compound that inhibits oxidation. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that can produce chain reactions and free radicals, and therefore has the potential of doing damage to the body’s cells.

You may already be familiar with some of the most important antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E, selenium, and carotenoids like beta-carotene. Most of the antioxidant rich foods in which you find them – especially in high quantities – are fruits, vegetables and other naturally occurring plant foods. Berries, carrots, coffee, red grapes, green tea, turmeric, onions, peppers, avocados, radishes, kale and lemon are all great foods to consume in order to get your daily dose.

But what does your daily dose do? Even the knowledge that antioxidants are good for you and how they function in the body to benefit you isn’t enough to say precisely what sensations and improvements they are responsible for. So here are nine benefits of getting your daily serving of antioxidants.

1. THEY REDUCE OXIDATIVE STRESS

Oxidative stress is a form of physiological stress caused by an imbalance between the production and accumulation of oxygen-reactive species in the cells and tissue. This can result in a gap in a system’s ability to detoxify reactive products. While this may seem abstract, research shows that oxidative stress can be responsible for the onset of diseases like cancer, diabetes, metabolic disorders, atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases. By consuming antioxidants you can prevent that state of oxidative stress, which can set you up for success in many areas of your health.

2. THEY SUPPORT DISEASE PREVENTION

Most of the disease-prevention capabilities associated with antioxidants are also related to oxidative stress. A report in Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences shows that by reducing oxidative stress, antioxidants can support normal cellular function and offer additional protection against diseases. Antioxidants have been linked to lower rates of cancer, tumors, diabetes, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular diseases and metabolic disorders in many cases. Although research is ongoing, the outlook on their impact is positive.

3. THEY SUPPORT EYE HEALTH

Introducing more antioxidant rich foods into your diet can have a particularly effective impact on your risk for certain major eye concerns, specifically, age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. In fact, a 2013 study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging(opens in new tab) found that it may also slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration. Beta-carotene and vitamin E are also quite well known for these properties.

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4. THEY AID IN BRAIN FUNCTION

Did you know that due to the amount of oxygen the brain uses in daily functioning through naturally high metabolic activity, it is more susceptible than most of the body’s other systems to free radical attack? One of the major ways you can protect your brain against this attack is by consuming antioxidants. Specifically, antioxidants have the potential to delay various forms of cognitive decline, like memory loss. This is all related to oxidative stress, too, which can contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss and decline in cognitive function.

5. THEY CAN CONTRIBUTE TO MENTAL HEALTH IMPROVEMENTS

Brain health and mental health are different from one another, but antioxidants can lend both a helping hand. Research in Current Neuropharmacology shows that oxidative stress is often related to anxiety and depression. Although eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes a rich array of antioxidants isn’t a replacement for proper mental health medication or care, it is among the lifestyle changes that can be of help to plenty of individuals.

6. THEY CAN REDUCE INFLAMMATION

Inflammation often gets a bad rap, but it’s not always negative or concerning. In fact, inflammation serves an important purpose in the body, within reason. Inflammation is the process of your white blood cells protecting you against infections from outside the body, such as bacteria. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always comfortable, or necessary.

Inflammation can manifest in a variety of symptoms, including headaches, joint and muscle pain. The way that antioxidants prevent inflammation is relatively simple; as they protect the cells from damage, they can prevent those unwanted inflammatory responses from occurring at all.

7. THEY SUPPORT HEALTHY AGING PROCESSES

Amid claims that a diet rich in antioxidants can slow, prevent or even reverse the aging process, it’s time to set the record straight. There’s nothing that can scientifically disrupt the aging process. However, there is evidence to suggest that antioxidants can support a healthy aging process. From the mental elements of improving memory and preventing Alzheimer’s, to general disease prevention (and even playing a vital role in the bone remodeling process), antioxidants can work to keep the body protected and agile throughout the aging process.

8. THEY CAN KEEP THE SKIN HEALTHY

Antioxidants can contribute to healthy aging on the inside, and they can also do the same on the outside. By helping to fight free radical damage, antioxidants can offer extra protection for the skin. Not only can the prevention of inflammation help to ward off things like redness, puffiness, and premature aging, but antioxidants can also protect against UV sun damage (which causes premature aging and wrinkles).

One of the most common and effective antioxidants for skin care is vitamin C. Vitamin C can help reverse and prevent discoloration, as well as aid in collagen production. And one of the best ways to use vitamin C for the skin is to apply it topically. This is why so many skin and face products contain vitamin C. In skin care products, you’ll often see it listed as L-ascorbic acid and/or ester-C.

9. THEY PARTICIPATE IN A HEALTHY GUT MICROBIOME

Your gut health has the potential to impact your body from head to toe. Everything from your mental health to your skin can be affected by the state of your gut microbiome and it really is a microbiome — complete with healthy bacteria that keeps everything in balance.

Research in the journal Antioxidants shows that antioxidants can reduce intestinal oxidative stress levels by modulating the composition of beneficial microbial species within the gut. This can help to provide a strong and balanced foundation for your gut health. Antioxidants are just one part of a healthy, balanced diet and they can give you a boost from the inside out – as if you needed another reason to eat your fruits and veggies!

Jamie Kahn        August 26, 2022

source: www.livescience.com


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Almost half of cancer deaths globally are attributable to preventable risk factors, new study suggests

Globally, nearly half of deaths due to cancer can be attributable to preventable risk factors, including the three leading risks of: smoking, drinking too much alcohol or having a high body mass index, a new paper suggests.

The research, published Thursday in the journal The Lancet, finds that 44.4% of all cancer deaths and 42% of healthy years lost could be attributable to preventable risk factors in 2019.

“To our knowledge, this study represents the largest effort to date to determine the global burden of cancer attributable to risk factors, and it contributes to a growing body of evidence aimed at estimating the risk-attributable burden for specific cancers nationally, internationally, and globally,” Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and his colleagues wrote in the study.

The paper, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, analyzed the relationship between risk factors and cancer, the second leading cause of death worldwide, using data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease project.

The project collects and analyzes global data on deaths and disability. Murray and his colleagues zeroed in on cancer deaths and disability from 2010 to 2019 across 204 countries, examining 23 cancer types and 34 risk factors.

The leading cancers in terms of risk-attributable deaths globally in 2019 was tracheal, bronchus and lung cancer for both men and women, the researchers found.

The data also showed that risk-attributable cancer deaths are on the rise, increasing worldwide by 20.4% from 2010 to 2019. Globally, in 2019, the leading five regions in terms of risk-attributable death rates were central Europe, east Asia, North America, southern Latin America and western Europe.

“These findings highlight that a substantial proportion of cancer burden globally has potential for prevention through interventions aimed at reducing exposure to known cancer risk factors but also that a large proportion of cancer burden might not be avoidable through control of the risk factors currently estimated,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, cancer risk reduction efforts must be coupled with comprehensive cancer control strategies that include efforts to support early diagnosis and effective treatment.”

cancer

The new study “clearly delineates” the importance of primary cancer prevention and “the increasing cancer numbers related to obesity clearly demands our attention,” Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer for the American Cancer Society, who was not involved in the new study, wrote in an email to CNN.

“Modifying behavior could lead to millions more lives saved greatly overshadowing the impact of any drug ever approved,” he wrote, adding, “The continued impact of tobacco despite approximately 65 years of a linkage to cancer remains very problematic.”

Although tobacco use in the United States is less than in other countries, tobacco-related cancer deaths continue to be a major problem and disproportionately impact certain states, Dahut wrote.

A separate study, published earlier this month in the International Journal of Cancer, found that the estimated proportion of cancer deaths in 2019 attributable to cigarette smoking in adults ages 25 to 79 ranged from 16.5% in Utah to 37.8% in Kentucky. The estimated total lost earnings due to cigarette smoking-attributable cancer deaths ranged from $32.2 million in Wyoming to $1.6 billion in California.

“In addition, it is no secret that alcohol use as well as the dramatic increase in the median BMI will lead to significant numbers of preventable cancer deaths,” Dahut added. “Finally, cancer screening is particularly important in those at increased risk as we move to a world where screening is precision based and adaptable.”

In an editorial that was published alongside the new study in The Lancet, Dr. Diana Sarfati and Jason Gurney of Te Aho o Te Kahu Cancer Control Agency in New Zealand wrote that preventable risk factors associated with cancer tend to be patterned according to poverty.

“Poverty influences the environments in which people live, and those environments shape the lifestyle decisions that people are able to make. Action to prevent cancer requires concerted effort within and outside the health sector. This action includes specific policies focused on reducing exposure to cancer-causing risk factors, such as tobacco and alcohol use, and access to vaccinations that prevent cancer-causing infections, including hepatitis B and HPV,” Sarfati and Gurney wrote.

“The primary prevention of cancer through eradication or mitigation of modifiable risk factors is our best hope of reducing the future burden of cancer,” they wrote. “Reducing this burden will improve health and wellbeing, and alleviate the compounding effects on humans and the fiscal resourcing pressure within cancer services and the wider health sector.”

Jacqueline Howard     Aug. 19, 2022 

source: www.ctvnews.ca


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Hitting the road? Turn off the GPS, it’s bad for your brain

A memory expert in Montreal has found an association between “habitual” use of GPS and spatial memory deterioration.

Thinking of trying to squeeze in one last road trip before summer’s end?

If so, before you hit the open road, you might want to think about how heavily you rely on a tool that many drivers now go to automatically: GPS (Global Positioning System). It might save you from getting lost, but a memory expert in Montreal has found an association between “habitual” use of GPS and spatial memory deterioration.

“We did spatial memory tests and found that degradation was correlated to GPS frequency,” said Véronique Bohbot, a scientist at the Douglas Research Centre and a professor of psychiatry at McGill University. “There was a difference between people who use GPS every day for every trip and the people who didn’t use GPS at all or just occasionally, say, once a month.”

It’s a commonly held concern that we’re becoming so dependent on certain technologies that we wouldn’t know how to do a number of things without them. The problem with GPS might be far worse, however, because spatial memory isn’t simply a single skill that can be isolated from other brain functions. The hippocampus, which is the part of the brain involved in spatial memory, is also involved in other types of memory, learning and, as well, emotional behaviour.

“And what we’ve found is that when people have good spatial memory they have more activity and more grey matter in the hippocampus,” said Bohbot, who has been studying the hippocampus since 1988. “We also found that people who have better spatial memory have better cognition and less risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”

She adds that all of this fits in with the larger body of research, which has established that a small or shrunken hippocampus is a leading predictor of a future diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

So what’s going on? Obviously, a lot more research is going to be needed, especially since this is only a correlation — we don’t know if GPS is the cause. Increasingly, though, brain researchers are focused on the fact that humans have their own extremely sophisticated GPS-like abilities. Every time we move around, our own geolocation system kicks into gear and starts working on drawing mental maps.

This mental map system is especially active when we’re lost or forced to figure out new routes, like when we’re travelling somewhere new. That helps with neuroplasticity, which is good for our brain health. So take that road trip if you can.

When our internal GPS isn’t active, though, such as in situations that we know a route so well that we can take it without even thinking about where to turn (or, perhaps, being told when to turn by a friendly voice) another part of the brain, the caudate nucleus, takes over.

The caudate nucleus plays an important role. We need to be able to do some things automatically. If we couldn’t, we’d really never get anything done. Unfortunately, while we’re in automaton mode, the caudate nucleus actually inhibits the hippocampus. These are all normal functions, but if the hippocampus is inhibited too much it might have long-term repercussions, a.k.a. shrinkage.

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So the big question is: Should we take our GPS off the dashboard and leave it at home?

Well, if you can, sure. Most people won’t want to, though.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to ask people to completely stop using their GPS,” said Bohbot. “But at least we can make suggestions for healthier ways to use the tools that help us navigate.”

A poll conducted by CAA in 2020 found that 47 per cent of Canadians program a destination into their GPS every time they get in the car. Bohbot suggests trying to get out of the habit of using it every single time.

“If you’re going to use it on your way somewhere, turn it off or close it on the way back,” Bohbot advises. “If you know it’s going to be off, then it’s going to force you to pay attention to the route so you’ll remember where to turn on your way back.”

Another thing you can do is take a moment before you get in the car to look at the actual map display of the route on the GPS. If you can memorize the path, you can try turning off the GPS.

If you forget where to make a turn and get lost, that’s OK. In fact, Bohbot said there’s some evidence that making a wrong turn and losing your way stimulates the hippocampus. Getting lost might be good for brain health.

And, if you’re still not sold on any of this and can’t imagine going back to life before Siri, the best thing you can do is to use as many new routes as possible and always pay close attention to your surroundings.

All of these tips are really designed to make us more mindful of our environment and more active users of our navigational tools, which is good for brain health.

This is the good news part of this story. There’s a lot we can do to help our brains get into better shape, and many of them are actually kind of fun and make us feel good, such as travelling and discovering new things.

So put this story down and go explore something new. Summer is fleeting, after all.

By Christine Sismondo
Special to the Star      Sun., Aug. 7, 2022

source: www.thestar.com


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Stretching, range of motion and aerobic exercise all slow cognitive decline, study says

Cheer up couch potatoes! Regular stretching and balance and range of motion exercises are as good as aerobic exercise in slowing the progression of mild cognitive decline, a new study has found.

“My worry in the beginning of the study was ‘What if only aerobic makes a difference? Good luck getting the majority of Americans to do aerobic exercise on a regular basis!’ It’s not sustainable,” said study author Laura Baker, a professor of gerontology and geriatric medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, via email.

“But we found that cognitive function did not decline over 12 months for either intervention group — the people who did aerobic exercise or the people who did stretching, balance and range of motion,” Baker said.

Rudy Tanzi, a professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, welcomed the findings that a modest amount of exercise – 120 to 150 minutes per week for 12 months – may slow cognitive decline in sedentary older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

Tanzi, who was not involved in the study, has examined the role of exercise in mice genetically bred to have Alzheimer’s disease and found exercise induces the birth of new neurons in the section of the brain most affected by Alzheimer’s while also boosting beneficial growth factors that improve neural activity.

“So often, the benefits of interventions observed in Alzheimer’s mouse models do not translate to human patients. It is nice to see that in this new study, the benefits of exercise perhaps do translate from mice to human,” said Tanzi, who directs the genetics and aging research unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Tai-Chi-in-Park

WHAT IS MILD COGNITIVE DECLINE?

The study, presented Tuesday at the 2022 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in San Diego, followed 296 participants who were completely sedentary at the beginning of the experiment. All had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment – the earliest stage of the slow slide into dementia.

“Individuals who have mild cognitive impairment are not cognitively normal, but they don’t have dementia,” Baker said. “They’re fully capable of taking care of themselves, but what they have to go through to do so is exhausting.

“‘I can’t remember where I’m supposed to be. Let me check my calendar. Oh, I forgot to write on this calender. Let’s check another calendar. Oh, I can’t find that calendar. I’ve lost my phone. Where is the key? I can’t find the key.’

“They’re able to regroup in the early stages and accomplish things,” Baker said, “but the toll is immense.”

Participants in the study underwent cognitive testing and then were randomized into two groups. One group did moderate-intensity aerobic training on treadmills or stationary bikes, striving for a goal of 70% to 85% of heart rate reserve: “That’s about 120 heartbeats per minute for about 30 to 40 minutes for a standard 70-year-old,” Baker said.

The other group did stretching, balance and range of motion exercises designed to allow them to move their body in ways that would help them navigate in real life.

“Folks in the balance-range of motion group said they were thrilled – they could go to soccer games with grandchildren without being concerned about tripping, or they could drive and turn their neck to see the back, which they had not been able to do before,” Baker said.

IMPORTANCE OF SUPPORT

Both groups exercised twice a week with a personal trainer and then two other times weekly on their own for the first 12 months. Combined, the groups completed more than 31,000 exercise sessions during that time, Baker said.

At the end of the 12 months, cognitive function had not declined in either group. That’s impressive, Baker said, because a control group of equally matched people with mild cognitive impairment – who did not exercise – did decline.

Studies have shown that social support is also key to improving brain health. So is it possible the results of the study were due to an increase of social support and not the exercise?

“Well, we don’t know for sure,” Baker said. “But there is enough science showing the benefits of exercise on brain health alone. So this is not something to sweep under the carpet.

“And our recommendation would never be for people with mild cognitive impairment to do this alone,” she added. “They are going to need support. So exercise alone is not a prescription. Exercise with support is a prescription, and that is going to be our recommendation.”

Sandee LaMotte     Published Aug. 2, 2022 

source: CTV


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3 Reasons to Avoid Farmed Salmon

Not so long ago, Atlantic salmon was an abundant wild species. Born in the rivers of northeastern United States and Canada, after a couple years in freshwater they embarked on an epic migration, navigating 2,000 miles across the Atlantic to feed and mature off western Greenland. Millions of salmon travelled up to 60 miles a day, fending off predators and feeding on zooplankton and small fish. When the time came, instinct and the earth’s magnetic fields led these magnificent fish back to spawn in the precise rivers of their birth.

Today, wild salmon are an endangered species, gone from most rivers in the U.S. There are many culprits, from polluted waterways and habitat destruction to overfishing and climate change. In the last 20 years, however, a new threat has emerged: floating feedlots on the ocean known as open-net salmon farms. The $20-billion-a-year farmed salmon industry is the world’s fastest growing food producer, and it has made farmed Atlantic salmon the most popular fish on dinner tables North America. But at what cost?

This new fish is an industrialized imposter that risks our health and damages our planet. Farmed salmon are bred to grow fast in cages so crammed that they are rife with parasites and disease. The fish eat pellets of fishmeal, vegetables, and animal byproducts; they are doused regularly with pesticides and antibiotics.

We spent more than two years investigating the global salmon farming business and the multinational companies that control it for our book, Salmon Wars. We interviewed scientists, physicians, fishers, activists, and those in the business of aquaculture. We read academic studies, court papers and previously undisclosed investigative files. We identified and tried to answer three critical questions swirling around farmed salmon.

First and most important, is eating farmed salmon healthy?

Doctors recommend salmon for protein, nutrients, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The American Heart Association suggests consuming at least two servings of fish a week. But they rarely spell out the kind of salmon you should eat or warn of the dangers.

Many experts and scientific studies cast doubt on the blanket claim that salmon should be part of a healthy diet when the fish comes from open-net farms. Some farmed salmon may be safer than other types, but consumers rarely have enough information to make that choice. Labels are unlikely to disclose that the salmon was farmed, let alone identify the chemicals used to raise it. The U.S. Department of Agriculture doesn’t even have definition for organic salmon.

“It is confusing, and I suspect there is willful confusion out there,” Dr. Leonardo Trasande, a professor of environmental medicine at New York University, told us. “We know that every fish is a trade-off between omega-3 content and toxic content like PCBs. From the perspective of salmon in general, the balance favors consumption of that fish. Now the challenge here is that I can’t tell which salmon is farmed the right way or the wrong way.”

As early as 2004, scientists found levels of polychlorinated biphenyls, a probable carcinogen known as PCBs, seven times higher in farmed Atlantic salmon than in wild salmon. More recent studies found high levels of other chemicals and antibiotics in farmed salmon. Researchers at Arizona State University discovered increases in drug-resistant antibiotics in farmed seafood over the past 30 years, leading to concerns about increased risk of antibiotic resistance in humans. Toxins often wind up in salmon flesh and accumulate in people who eat the fish.

Some studies warn that a single meal per month of farmed Atlantic salmon can expose consumers to contaminant levels exceeding standards from the World Health Organization. The risk is greatest for infants, children, and pregnant women because of the potential harm from contaminants to developing brains.

Seafood Watch, an independent guide to fish consumption affiliated with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, recommends avoiding most farmed Atlantic salmon because of excessive chemical use and disease. Nutritionists generally recommend eating wild salmon over farmed salmon.

salmon

Second, is farmed salmon sustainable?

Salmon farmers often advertise their fish as sustainable and naturally raised. These assertions are deceptive.

Salmon are carnivores. Fish meal and fish oil from anchovies, sardines, mackerel, herring, and other small forage fish comprise 25 to 30 percent of most salmon feed. Fully a quarter of the fish harvested from the world’s oceans winds up in feed for aquaculture and pets. To meet growing global demand for salmon, huge trawlers pillage the fisheries off the coast of West Africa and Peru, robbing subsistence fishers of their livelihood and increasing food insecurity.

“You take the food from the plates of people in West Africa to feed the people of Europe and the United States and other countries,” Dr. Ibrahima Cisse of Greenpeace told us.

Salmon farmers argue that they fill the need for protein as the global population grows. Depleting fisheries in low-income countries to provide an unsustainable fish for richer countries sets a dangerous precedent.

Efforts to develop alternative protein sources are under way in university laboratories and start-ups. So far, there is no end in sight for the industry’s exploitation of small fish.

Recent court cases have challenged the industry’s sustainability claims. Norway’s Mowi ASA, the world’s largest salmon farmer, settled a deceptive advertising case in federal court in New York City a year ago. The company paid $1.3 million and agreed its U.S. subsidiaries would stop using the phrases “sustainably sourced” and “naturally raised” to describe its smoked salmon.

Finally, are farmed salmon raised naturally in ways that do not harm the environment?

You be the judge.

The fish spend two to three years in open-net farms that contain up to a million salmon jammed into 10 or 12 cages, which extend 30 feet below the surface and are anchored to the seabed. The crowded cages are petri dishes for tiny parasites called sea lice and many viruses that kill farmed fish and endanger wild salmon when currents carry them outside the farms.

Massive doses of pesticides, including banned neurotoxins, and antibiotics are deployed against the parasites and pathogens. Some of the residue winds up in the salmon, and some falls to the seabed below the cages. Untreated waste from excess feed, decomposing fish, excrement, and chemical residue forms a toxic stew that kills or drives away marine life for hundreds of yards. One photo we found showed a yardstick stuck to the 32-inch mark in slime beneath a salmon farm.

Salmon in open-net farms die from parasites, disease, and warming waters at a staggering rate. Estimates are that 15 to 20 percent of farmed salmon die each year before they are harvested; that is tens of millions of fish. By comparison, the mortality rate for factory chickens is 5 percent and 3.3 percent for feedlot cattle. Young wild salmon beginning their migration are especially vulnerable to the plumes of sea lice from the farms. Escaped farmed salmon compete with wild ones for food and weaken the gene pool through interbreeding.

Up to 85 percent of the salmon we eat is imported from farms along the coasts of Norway, Chile, Scotland, and Canada. Yet the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for food safety, pays scant attention to farmed salmon at a time when food-borne pathogens are on the increase. For instance, an investigation by the General Accounting Office, an arm of Congress, found that the FDA inspected 86 samples out of 379 thousand tons of salmon in 2017.

Fortunately, there are alternatives. New technology, called recirculation aquaculture systems, grows the fish in closed-containment facilities on land. The fish swim in tanks filled with filtered, recirculated water and the salmon never touch the ocean, eliminating the use of chemicals and damage to the environment.

Several recent surveys show that consumers will pay a premium for products that are sustainable and don’t harm the environment. Land-raised salmon may eventually upend the global market. For now, transparency, better regulation, and accurate labels on farmed salmon are essential to ensure good choices for our health and the health of our planet. Until that happens, farmed Atlantic salmon from open-net pens is off our menu and should be off yours.

BY DOUGLAS FRANTZ AND CATHERINE COLLINS        JULY 21, 2022

Source: Time