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5 Ways Hope Improves Your Success

The Challenge: We all want to find inner peace and perform at our best -how can we do it?
The Science: Hope is a little-known secret to getting ahead and improving well-being! 
The Solution: Implementing a hopeful mindset in life gives you 5 serious advantages!

Psychologists have proposed lots of different vehicles to success over the years. Grit, conscientiousness, self-efficacy, optimism, passion, inspiration, etc. They are all important. One vehicle, however, is particularly undervalued and underappreciated in psychology and society. That’s hope.

Hope often gets a bad rap. For some, it conjures up images of a blissfully naïve chump pushing up against a wall with a big smile. That’s a shame. Cutting-edge science shows that hope, at least as defined by psychologists, matters a lot.

Here are 5 reasons hope gives you a serious advantage:

Hope Gives You Willpower

Why is hope important? Well, life is difficult. There are many obstacles. Having goals is not enough. One has to keep getting closer to those goals, amidst all the inevitable twists and turns of life. Hope allows people to approach problems with a mindset and strategy-set suitable to success, thereby increasing the chances they will actually accomplish their goals.

In 1991, the eminent positive psychologist Charles R. Snyder and his colleagues came up with Hope Theory. According to their theory, hope consists of agency and pathways.  The person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved, and a set of different strategies at their disposal to reach their goals. Put simply: hope involves the will to get there, and different ways to get there.

hope

Hope Makes You a Better Learner

Hope is not just a feel-good emotion, it actually makes you a more resilient and better learner:

Hope leads to learning goals, which are conducive to growth and improvement. People with learning goals are actively engaged in their learning, constantly planning strategies to meet their goals, and monitoring their progress to stay on track. A bulk of research shows that learning goals are positively related to success across a wide swatch of human life—from academic achievement to sports to arts to science to business.

Those lacking hope, on the other hand, tend to adopt mastery goals. People with mastery goals choose easy tasks that don’t offer a challenge or opportunity for growth. When they fail, they quit. People with mastery goals act helpless, and feel a lack of control over their environment. They don’t believe in their capacity to obtain the kind of future they want. They have no hope.

Hope Improves Performance

In one study, researchers looked at the impact of hope on college academic achievement over the course of 6 years. Hope was related to a higher GPA 6 years later, even after taking into account the original GPA and ACT entrance examination scores of the participants. High hope students (relative to low hope students) were also more likely to have graduated and were less likely to be dismissed from school due to bad grades.

In fact, in more recent research, Liz Day and her colleagues found that being a hopeful person was related to academic achievement above and beyond IQ, divergent thinking (the ability to generate a lot of ideas), and Conscientiousness!

In another recent study with athletes, hope predicted GPA and, among female cross-country athletes in particular, the state of having hope predicted athletic outcomes beyond training, self-esteem, confidence, and mood.

Hope Improves Creativity

Rebecca Görres at University College Utrecht found that when people were made to think hopefully, their creativity improved! In her study, participants who were instructed to think hopefully were better at making remote associations, generated a higher quantity of ideas, and added more details to their ideas, compared to those who weren’t instructed to think hopefully. This link between hope and creativity makes sense because hope involves coming up with a number of different strategies for obtaining a goal.

Hope is one of the most powerful mindsets for success & well-being.

Talent, skill, ability—whatever you want to call it— can help you get to your goal but aren’t enough to get you there. A wealth of psychological research over the past few decades show loud and clear that it’s the psychological vehicles i.e. mindsets that really get you there. You can have the best engine in the world, but if you can’t drive it, you won’t get anywhere.

And hope is superior to other psychological vehicles, such as self-efficacy and optimism. Self-efficacy refers to your belief that you can master a domain. Optimism refers to a general expectation that it’ll all just ‘be alright’. Hope, self-efficacy, and optimism are all incredibly important expectancies and contribute to the attainment of goals. Even though they all involve expectations about the future, they are subtly, and importantly, different from each other. People with self-efficacy expect that they will master a domain. Optimism involves a positive expectancy for future outcomes without regard for one’s personal control over the outcome.

So how does hope stack up against other vehicles of success? Philip R. Magaletta and J.M. Oliver measured hope, self-efficacy, and optimism and found that hope stood head and shoulders above the other vehicles.  In contrast to both self-efficacy and optimism, people with hope have both the will and the pathways and strategies necessary to achieve their goals. The scientists also found specific effects: the will component of hope predicted well-being independent of self-efficacy, and the ways component of hope predicted well-being independent of optimism.

In another study Kevin Rand and his colleagues found that hope, but not optimism, predicted grades in law school above and beyond LSAT scores and undergraduate grades. Interestingly, LSAT scores were not even a significant predictor of law school GPA. Seems like if you want to predict law school performance, a 12-item measure of Hope is more predictive than looking at a person’s LSAT scores! Additionally, both hope and optimism uniquely predicted greater life satisfaction at the end of the first semester.

Important psychological studies show that ability is important, but it’s the vehicles that actually get people where they want to go. Oftentimes, the vehicles even help you build up that ability you never thought you had. And hope—with its will and ways—is one of the most important vehicles of them all.

By Scott Barry Kaufman        October 2, 2014
Scott Barry Kaufman is Scientific Director of The Imagination Institute and a researcher in the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania, where he investigates the nature, measurement and development of imagination. In his book, Ungifted: Intelligence Redefined, Kaufman presents a holistic approach to achievement that takes into account each person’s ability, engagement, and personal goals. Kaufman is also co-founder of The Creativity Post, and he writes the blog Beautiful Minds for Scientific American Mind.


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The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

It is becoming increasingly clear that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious illnesses – including heart disease, many cancers, and Alzheimer’s disease. We all know inflammation on the surface of the body as local redness, heat, swelling and pain. It is the cornerstone of the body’s healing response, bringing more nourishment and more immune activity to a site of injury or infection. But when inflammation persists or serves no purpose, it damages the body and causes illness. Stress, lack of exercise, genetic predisposition, and exposure to toxins (like secondhand tobacco smoke) can all contribute to such chronic inflammation, but dietary choices play a big role as well. Learning how specific foods influence the inflammatory process is the best strategy for containing it and reducing long-term disease risks.

pyramid

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is not a diet in the popular sense – it is not intended as a weight-loss program (although people can and do lose weight on it), nor is the Anti-Inflammatory Diet an eating plan to stay on for a limited period of time. Rather, it is way of selecting and preparing anti-inflammatory foods based on scientific knowledge of how they can help your body maintain optimum health. Along with influencing inflammation, this natural anti-inflammatory diet will provide steady energy and ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids dietary fiber, and protective phytonutrients.

You can also adapt your existing recipes according to these anti-inflammatory diet principles:

General Diet Tips:

  • Aim for variety.
  • Include as much fresh food as possible.
  • Minimize your consumption of processed foods and fast food.
  • Eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables.

Caloric Intake

  • Most adults need to consume between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a day.
  • Women and smaller and less active people need fewer calories.
  • Men and bigger and more active people need more calories.
  • If you are eating the appropriate number of calories for your level of activity, your weight should not fluctuate greatly.
  • The distribution of calories you take in should be as follows: 40 to 50 percent from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fat, and 20 to 30 percent from protein.
  • Try to include carbohydrates, fat, and protein at each meal.

Carbohydrates

  • On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, adult women should consume between 160 to 200 grams of carbohydrates a day.
  • Adult men should consume between 240 to 300 grams of carbohydrates a day.
  • The majority of this should be in the form of less-refined, less-processed foods with a low glycemic load.
  • Reduce your consumption of foods made with wheat flour and sugar, especially bread and most packaged snack foods (including chips and pretzels).
  • Eat more whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat, in which the grain is intact or in a few large pieces. These are preferable to whole wheat flour products, which have roughly the same glycemic index as white flour products.
  • Eat more beans, winter squashes, and sweet potatoes.
  • Cook pasta al dente and eat it in moderation.
  • Avoid products made with high fructose corn syrup.

Fat

  • On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, 600 calories can come from fat – that is, about 67 grams. This should be in a ratio of 1:2:1 of saturated to monounsaturated to polyunsaturated fat.
  • Reduce your intake of saturated fat by eating less butter, cream, high-fat cheese, unskinned chicken and fatty meats, and products made with palm kernel oil.
  • Use extra-virgin olive oil as a main cooking oil. If you want a neutral tasting oil, use expeller-pressed, organic canola oil. Organic, high-oleic, expeller pressed versions of sunflower and safflower oil are also acceptable.
  • Avoid regular safflower and sunflower oils, corn oil, cottonseed oil, and mixed vegetable oils.
  • Strictly avoid margarine, vegetable shortening, and all products listing them as ingredients. Strictly avoid all products made with partially hydrogenated oils of any kind. Include in your diet avocados and nuts, especially walnuts, cashews, almonds, and nut butters made from these nuts.
  • For omega-3 fatty acids, eat salmon (preferably fresh or frozen wild or canned sockeye), sardines packed in water or olive oil, herring, and black cod (sablefish, butterfish); omega-3 fortified eggs; hemp seeds and flaxseeds (preferably freshly ground); or take a fish oil supplement (look for products that provide both EPA and DHA, in a convenient daily dosage of two to three grams).

Protein

  • On a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, your daily intake of protein should be between 80 and 120 grams. Eat less protein if you have liver or kidney problems, allergies, or autoimmune disease.
  • Decrease your consumption of animal protein except for fish and high quality natural cheese and yogurt.
  • Eat more vegetable protein, especially from beans in general and soybeans in particular. Become familiar with the range of whole-soy foods available and find ones you like.

Fiber

  • Try to eat 40 grams of fiber a day. You can achieve this by increasing your consumption of fruit, especially berries, vegetables (especially beans), and whole grains.
  • Ready-made cereals can be good fiber sources, but read labels to make sure they give you at least 4 and preferably 5 grams of bran per one-ounce serving.

Phytonutrients

  • To get maximum natural protection against age-related diseases (including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurodegenerative disease) as well as against environmental toxicity, eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and mushrooms.
  • Choose fruits and vegetables from all parts of the color spectrum, especially berries, tomatoes, orange and yellow fruits, and dark leafy greens.
  • Choose organic produce whenever possible. Learn which conventionally grown crops are most likely to carry pesticide residues and avoid them.
  • Eat cruciferous (cabbage-family) vegetables regularly.
  • Include soy foods in your diet.
  • Drink tea instead of coffee, especially good quality white, green or oolong tea.
  • If you drink alcohol, use red wine preferentially.
  • Enjoy plain dark chocolate in moderation (with a minimum cocoa content of 70 percent).

Vitamins and Minerals

The best way to obtain all of your daily vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients is by eating a diet high in fresh foods with an abundance of fruits and vegetables. In addition, supplement your diet with the following antioxidant cocktail:

  • Vitamin C, 200 milligrams a day.
  • Vitamin E, 400 IU of natural mixed tocopherols (d-alpha-tocopherol with other tocopherols, or, better, a minimum of 80 milligrams of natural mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols).
  • Selenium, 200 micrograms of an organic (yeast-bound) form.
  • Mixed carotenoids, 10,000-15,000 IU daily.
  • The antioxidants can be most conveniently taken as part of a daily multivitamin/multimineral supplement that also provides at least 400 micrograms of folic acid and 2,000 IU of vitamin D. It should contain no iron (unless you are a female and having regular menstrual periods) and no preformed vitamin A (retinol). Take these supplements with your largest meal.
  • Women should take supplemental calcium, preferably as calcium citrate, 500-700 milligrams a day, depending on their dietary intake of this mineral. Men should avoid supplemental calcium.

Other Dietary Supplements

  • If you are not eating oily fish at least twice a week, take supplemental fish oil, in capsule or liquid form (two to three grams a day of a product containing both EPA and DHA). Look for molecularly distilled products certified to be free of heavy metals and other contaminants.
  • Talk to your doctor about going on low-dose aspirin therapy, one or two baby aspirins a day (81 or 162 milligrams).
  • If you are not regularly eating ginger and turmeric, consider taking these in supplemental form.
  • Add coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) to your daily regimen: 60-100 milligrams of a softgel form taken with your largest meal.
  • If you are prone to metabolic syndrome, take alpha-lipoic acid, 100 to 400 milligrams a day.

Water

  • Drink pure water, or drinks that are mostly water (tea, very diluted fruit juice, sparkling water with lemon) throughout the day.
  • Use bottled water or get a home water purifier if your tap water tastes of chlorine or other contaminants, or if you live in an area where the water is known or suspected to be contaminated.
 Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Diet         Courtesy of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging, Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.
 


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The Immune System Affects Social Behaviour and Personality

The immune system was thought to have little effect on the brain — until now.

The immune system is directly responsible for social behaviour and even our personalities, new research finds.

The conclusion comes as a shock to scientists and raises questions about the cause of mental health problems like schizophrenia and autism.

A malfunctioning immune system could be at the heart of these disorders.

Professor Jonathan Kipnis explained why the finding is so shocking to scientists:

“The brain and the adaptive immune system were thought to be isolated from each other, and any immune activity in the brain was perceived as sign of a pathology.
And now, not only are we showing that they are closely interacting, but some of our behavior traits might have evolved because of our immune response to pathogens.
It’s crazy, but maybe we are just multicellular battlefields for two ancient forces: pathogens and the immune system.
Part of our personality may actually be dictated by the immune system.”

For the research in mice and other animals, the scientists blocked a critical immune molecule called interferon-gamma.

The mice (and other animals) then became much less social than they had been before.

The study follows on from findings published last year that there is connection between the brain and the immune system previously thought not to exist.

immune

The link between the immune system and social behaviour makes sense, though, as being social is important but also raises the risk of disease.

Dr Anthony J. Filiano, the study’s lead author, explained:

“It’s extremely critical for an organism to be social for the survival of the species.
It’s important for foraging, sexual reproduction, gathering, hunting.
So the hypothesis is that when organisms come together, you have a higher propensity to spread infection.
So you need to be social, but [in doing so] you have a higher chance of spreading pathogens.
The idea is that interferon gamma, in evolution, has been used as a more efficient way to both boost social behavior while boosting an anti-pathogen response.”

Professor Kipnis said:

“Immune molecules are actually defining how the brain is functioning.
So, what is the overall impact of the immune system on our brain development and function?
I think the philosophical aspects of this work are very interesting, but it also has potentially very important clinical implications.”

The study was published in the journal Nature (Filiano et al., 2016).

source: PsyBlog       21 JULY 2016


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Where Neuroscience is Making the Impossible, Possible

Glimpse a revolutionary future enabled by neuroscience

Recently, while preparing to deliver a TED talk on Broadway, “What Will Be the Next Big Scientific Breakthrough?,” I thought a lot about the impossible.

Once, human flight was impossible. Instant communication anywhere, anytime was impossible. Leaving Earth was impossible. Seeing farther than the naked eye was impossible.

Scientific revolutions have turned a long list of impossibilities into everyday possibilities. And science is far from finished transforming absurd fantasies into everyday realties.

Nowhere is this more true than with neuroscience.

Thanks to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) we can already see living brains think, we can relieve Parkinson’s tremors with the flip of a switch through brain implants, and we can beam thoughts instantly across the planet from one person to another via sensitive scalp probes and superconducting brain stimulators.

Where is neuroscience poised to elevate the art of the possible and change our lives?

Here are three of the most tantalizing possibilities. Some of these seem far-fetched at best and absurd at worst, but that is always true of revolutionary advances just before they happen. Physicians thought Ignaz Semelweiss was insane for believing microbes caused disease. Ditto for Wegener who postulated that continents drift and for Barry Marshall, who argued that the bug h pylori causes ulcers. The list of insane ideas that ultimately proved correct goes on and on: a meteor wiped out the dinosaurs, humans descended from primitive species, Earth revolves around the sun.

Buckle your seat belts for a wild ride through a (possibly) revolutionary future, brought to you courtesy of modern neuroscience. Some of this work may fizzle out, but some will dynamite our concept of what is impossible.

  • Implanting and triggering false memories. MIT neuroscientists Liu and Ramirez (see TED talk) injected mice with nanoscopic optical switches that are absorbed by neurons in the hippocampus while the neurons are form new memories. The MIT scientists then trained these mice to fear a particular environment through mild shocks. Using implanted lasers to turn on optical switches can excite the same hippocampal neurons that recently formed the “fear” memories. Liu and Ramirez got mice to “replay” fear memories in new environments that the rodents had no reason to fear. This was an astonishing accomplishment at multiple levels. Tagging and identifying nerve cells that hold specific memories was once thought to be impossible. Selectively activating such a small population of neurons to replay the memories was believed to be even more improbable.

Why should we care?

If this technique were to work in humans, it might be possible to create and stimulate positive memories to overwrite bad memories, such as those of PTSD sufferers. Or, as Steve Ramirez himself has speculated, perhaps we can someday erase the pain of bad romances!

brain

 

  • Bring the dead back to life. Recent advances in stimulating growth of new brain cells using stem cell implants, genetic switches, and other tricks, raise the possibility of reviving patients who are clinically “brain dead.” Through the “ReAnima” project, biotech companies BioQuark and Revita Life Sciences received approval to attempt to revive 20 patients declared brain dead using a combination of peptides and mRNA that stimulate new nerve growth, stem cell implants, optical and electromagnetic brain stimulation, and other techniques to kickstart stalled brains. Finally, cryopreservation of brain tissue shows some promise in cats, rodents, and other mammalian species. For example, cat brains frozen for years, then carefully thawed, exhibit measurable neural activity. Perhaps, someday, even after brains “die” they can be frozen and later brought back to some semblance of  life.

Why should we care?

Apart from giving new hope to deep coma victims and their families, the combination of neural regeneration and revitalization techniques could help treat Alzheimers, Parkinson and stroke patients. The methods may even restore healthy “older” brains to youthful vigor. And the possibility that we might succumb to an incurable disease, be frozen (or preserved some other way), and later be resurrected when the disease becomes curable, cannot be completely ruled out. It sounds crazy and probably is crazy, but based on the cryo-neuroscience, I would never say such a thing is impossible.

  • Making animals as smart as humans. Rash and colleagues at Yale University discovered that they could make embryonic mouse brains more human-like by delivering fibroblast growth factor to the animals’ developing brains. Rash succeeded in inducing mice brains to develop gyri and sulci typical of more “advanced” mammals such as cats, monkeys, and humans. As shown in the photo, mouse brains are normally smooth, lacking the complex folds that allow human brains to pack in hundreds of billions of neurons into a small volume. But Dr. Rash induced “gyrification” in mouse brains that gave these normally unfolded brains folds. Other researchers have achieved similar results by activating the Trnp1 gene in mice (a gene shared with humans) permitting embryonic rodent brains to develop and grow longer than they normally would.

Why should we care?

I am not eager to have a pet mouse or dog that is as smart—or even smarter—than I am. I like  dogs who are loving, uncomplicated, and not prone to argue with me about when to take a walk.  But, if the early promise of “induced gyrification” pans out, someone is bound to create smarter animals to perform tasks that were once the sole province of humans. This will reduce payroll costs, employee medical insurance costs, and get around unions (unless the newly intelligent creatures decide to unionize, demand the right to vote and so forth). Perhaps we will need smarter humans just to cope with the smarter animals we create!

This raises a question: if increased gyrification produces smarter animals, why not smarter humans? Countries wishing to field smarter soldiers, or smarter scientists might be tempted to turbocharge human brains.

Taken together, if all three of these impossible neuroscience advances make the impossible possible, what will our future hold?

  • Can we learn new things simply by going to a memory salon for treatments?
  • Can we regrow lost brain tissue and recover from “incurable” neurodegenerative diseases?
  • Can we come back to life after leaving it?
  • Can we discuss Proust and Goethe with our Labrador retriever and seek his opinion on our troubled relationships?
  • Can we ask this same canine where he believes science will next make the impossible, possible

 Possibly!

To have more fun with neuroscience, learn more about my new book, Brain Candy.

References


https://www.ted.com/talks/steve_ramirez_and_xu_liu_a_mouse_a_laser_beam_…
Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2014 Jan 5; 369(1633): 20130142.
Xu Liu,† Steve Ramirez,† and Susumu Tonegawa, Inception of a false memory by optogenetic manipulation of a hippocampal memory engram
Negishi T, Ishii Y, Kawamura S, Kuroda Y, Yoshikawa Y. Cryopreservation of brain tissue for primary culture. Exp Anim. 2002;51:383–390. doi: 10.1538/expanim.51.383
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/341/6144/387
http://www.nicolelislab.net/?p=369
http://www.nicolelislab.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/SREP-12-04012-5e8…
Trnp1 Regulates Expansion and Folding of the Mammalian Cerebral Cortex by Control of Radial Glial Fate Ronny Stahl,Tessa Walcher, Camino De Juan Romero,5 Gregor Alexander Pilz,3 Silvia Cappello,3 Martin Irmhttp://www.cell.com/abstract/S0092-8674(13)00349-8
http://www.jneurosci.org/content/33/26/10802.full
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/repairing-the-damaged-spinal-c…
http://www.mayo.edu/research/departments-divisions/department-neurology/…
http://www.medicaldaily.com/smart-drug-modafinil-improves-memory-and-cog…
http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/can-pill-make-you-smarter-brave-…
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/meet-two-scientists-who-implant…
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/nov/20/brain-damage-nerve-cells…
http://www.mayo.edu/research/centers-programs/center-regenerative-medici…
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2016/05/03/dead-could-be-brought-back…
http://www.alcor.org/Library/html/caseforcryonics.html 
Trnp1 Regulates Expansion and Folding of the Mammalian Cerebral Cortex by Control of Radial Glial Fate, Ronny Stahl et al
Cytotechnology. 2015 May; 67(3): 419–426.
Freshly frozen E18 rat cortical cells can generate functional neural networks after standard cryopreservation and thawing proceduresKim Quasthoff, Stefano Ferrea, Wiebke Fleischer, Stephan Theiss, Alfons Schnitzler, Marcel Dihné, and Janine Walter [Description: orresponding author]

Eric Haseltine Ph.D. Eric Haseltine Ph.D.      Long Fuse, Big Bang      Jul 09, 2016


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Why Is Sleep Important?

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life. Getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. In children and teens, sleep also helps support growth and development.

The damage from sleep deficiency can occur in an instant (such as a car crash), or it can harm you over time. For example, ongoing sleep deficiency can raise your risk for some chronic health problems. It also can affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others.

Healthy Brain Function and Emotional Well-Being

Sleep helps your brain work properly. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information.

Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning. Whether you’re learning math, how to play the piano, how to perfect your golf swing, or how to drive a car, sleep helps enhance your learning and problem-solving skills. Sleep also helps you pay attention, make decisions, and be creative.

Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.

Children and teens who are sleep deficient may have problems getting along with others. They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. They also may have problems paying attention, and they may get lower grades and feel stressed.

Physical Health

Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.

healthyliving

Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well-rested.

Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.

Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility.

Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections.

Daytime Performance and Safety

Getting enough quality sleep at the right times helps you function well throughout the day. People who are sleep deficient are less productive at work and school. They take longer to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes.

After several nights of losing sleep—even a loss of just 1–2 hours per night—your ability to function suffers as if you haven’t slept at all for a day or two.

Lack of sleep also may lead to microsleep. Microsleep refers to brief moments of sleep that occur when you’re normally awake.

You can’t control microsleep, and you might not be aware of it. For example, have you ever driven somewhere and then not remembered part of the trip? If so, you may have experienced microsleep.

Even if you’re not driving, microsleep can affect how you function. If you’re listening to a lecture, for example, you might miss some of the information or feel like you don’t understand the point. In reality, though, you may have slept through part of the lecture and not been aware of it.

Some people aren’t aware of the risks of sleep deficiency. In fact, they may not even realize that they’re sleep deficient. Even with limited or poor-quality sleep, they may still think that they can function well.

For example, drowsy drivers may feel capable of driving. Yet, studies show that sleep deficiency harms your driving ability as much as, or more than, being drunk. It’s estimated that driver sleepiness is a factor in about 100,000 car accidents each year, resulting in about 1,500 deaths.

Drivers aren’t the only ones affected by sleep deficiency. It can affect people in all lines of work, including health care workers, pilots, students, lawyers, mechanics, and assembly line workers.

As a result, sleep deficiency is not only harmful on a personal level, but it also can cause large-scale damage. For example, sleep deficiency has played a role in human errors linked to tragic accidents, such as nuclear reactor meltdowns, grounding of large ships, and aviation accidents.

Updated: February 22, 2012
 


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Alcohol Causes 7 Kinds of Cancer, Study Concludes

Alcohol researcher Jennie Connor says the link is a causal one and that no alcohol is considered safe and risk does go up as you drink.

Alcohol is a direct cause of seven forms of cancer. Tough words to swallow, but those are the conclusions of researchers from New Zealand, who say they found that no matter how much you drink, alcohol will increase your risk of cancer.

“There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others,” the authors write in the latest issue of the journal Addiction.

Those seven cancer sites are:

  • liver
  • colon
  • rectum
  • female breast
  • larynx, (the throat organ commonly called the voice box)
  • orolarynx (the middle part of the pharynx) behind the mouth
  • esophagus (commonly the “food pipe”)

The researchers from the University of Otago reviewed previous studies and meta-analyses, analyzing all the major studies done over the last decade on alcohol and cancer. They include studies from such prestigious names as the American Institute for Cancer Research and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

alcohol

Several of these studies drew links between alcohol and cancer. But lead researcher Jennie Connor, the chair in preventive and social medicine at the university, says her team wanted to know if there was evidence of a causal relationship — meaning that alcohol was the direct cause of some of these cancers.

“And the first conclusion of the paper is that there is very strong evidence that the link we see between drinking and cancer in all these studies is a causal one,” Connor told CTV News Channel from Dunedin, New Zealand.

In fact, the team estimates that of all cancer deaths worldwide, 5.8 per cent of them can be attributed to alcohol.

The link between alcohol and cancer was strongest with cancer of the larynx and orolarynx than with the other cancers

Perhaps not surprisingly, the team found a “dose-response relationship” between alcohol and cancer, meaning that the more that a person drinks, the higher their risk to develop cancer.
So what constitutes a “safe” level of drinking?

“There doesn’t seem to be any threshold below which drinking is actually safe with respect to cancer,” Connor said.

“So the straightforward obvious answer to your question is that no alcohol is safe, and any alcohol increases your risk of some types of cancer.”

One bit of good news is that the cancer risk will drop for those who quit drinking, falling back to risk levels similar to “never drinkers” after 20 years.
As for what it is about alcohol that causes cancer, the researchers aren’t sure, as their paper was not designed to answer such questions.

“Confirmation of specific biological mechanisms by which alcohol increases the incidence of each type of cancer is not required to infer that alcohol is a cause,” they wrote.

This is not the first paper to conclude that alcohol is carcinogenic, and yet there persists a perception that a small amount of alcohol is not only safe but beneficial.

Many point to studies that found that drinking wine is good for the heart increases longevity. Connor says that there are a still a lot of myths about alcohol out there.

“(These myths) arise from research that has been updated now, or discredited, or there’s more doubt about it than they used to be,” she said.

“This paper also examines the connection between alcohol and being good for your heart – coronary disease – and it finds that evidence base is actually quite weak. So information evolves over time.”

Friday, July 22, 2016     CTVNews.ca Staff
 


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The Surprising Factor That Can Predict Long Life

You’re only as old as you feel? Research says it’s true. Here’s why.

As I get older, I find myself drawn to news reports and research findings that provide information about how long I might live. After all, this is a key piece of information that would help me plan the most strategic and successful retirement, even though I think that I do not really wish to know for sure how long I have left. Much advertising aimed at people in my age group involves dietary choices, vitamin and mineral supplements, and medications that directly or indirectly promise not only more years of life, but more years of healthy, productive life. Many, if not most, of these promises are based upon little more than wishful thinking and anecdotal evidence. Hence, it is always exciting for a researcher like myself to see studies that bring actual scientific data to bear.

In a recent issue of Psychological Science, a team of European scientists including Stephen Aichele of the University of Geneva, Patrick Rabbit of Oxford, and Paolo Ghisletta of Distance Learning University in Switzerland published such a study. The researchers reported the results of a longitudinal study of more than 6,000 British individuals conducted from 1983 to 2012. The average age of the participants was 64.7 years when they first joined the study, but ages ranged from 41 to 93.

Key medical and psychiatric data including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, diabetes, and tobacco and alcohol use, were collected at three- to six-year intervals throughout the 29-year duration of the study. Daily life measures such as the number of prescription medications taken, sleep patterns, hobbies, and the rated difficulty of activities such as climbing stairs, traveling, preparing meals, and managing social interactions were also examined.

Longevity

In addition to those measures, each participant had his or her cognitive abilities assessed up to a total of four times at four-year intervals. These included measures of:

  • Crystallized intelligence (the ability to use knowledge you already have);
  • Fluid intelligence (the ability to solve new problems, use logic, and identify patterns);
  • Verbal memory;
  • Visual memory; and
  • Mental processing speed (how long it takes to perform a mental task).

All together, the researchers looked at 65 different mortality risk factors as they tracked participants through the later years of their lives. Once the number crunching was finished, the factor that rose to the top was surprisingly simple and straightforward.

The most sensitive measure of longevity was the individual’s own subjective evaluation of how healthy he or she felt. In other words, a person reporting that he or she feels healthy outweighed any other single predictor of a long life, including any medical measures such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure.    

 

Other variables that fell into the top group of predictors included being female; not smoking (or at least not smoking for very long); and cognitive processing speed.

The researchers seemed genuinely surprised that psychological variables such as subjective health and mental processing speed were better predictors of mortality risk than all the other predictors they studied. It has long been known that remaining cognitively active is associated with aging well, but it has never been clear if the cognitive activity is the cause of healthy old age or the result of remaining healthy into one’s golden years. The findings of this study confirm the association between the two domains, but cannot resolve how the cause-and-effect relationship plays out.

In a completely unrelated study published in 2003, researchers asked college students to rate the attractiveness and perceived health of individuals in photographs from the 1920s taken from high school yearbooks. The researchers then tracked down the age of death for the people whose pictures were rated. They discovered that having a handsome or beautiful face as a teenager predicted a long life but, ironically, participants’ judgments about the perceived health of the photographed individuals were completely unrelated to how long they lived. I replicated this finding several times in projects in my Evolution and Human Behavior class by having students do the same thing with photographs taken from Knox College yearbooks from the 1920s.

The explanation for a pretty face predicting a longer life appears to be that attractive faces are symmetrical and “normal”—average in terms of things like size of nose, distance between the eyes, etc. These qualities may reflect a lack of unusual genes, good health, and freedom from parasites or physical trauma—all of which are good if you wish to live long and prosper.

Posted May 09, 2016     Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D.     Out of the Ooze