Tag: health

Yoga and Meditation can change your genes, study shows

Yoga and Meditation can change your genes, study shows

Yoga and meditation may do more than just help you feel relaxed in the moment. A new scientific review suggests that these and other mindfulness exercises can actually reverse stress-related changes in genes linked to poor health and depression.

In the new paper, published in Frontiers in Immunology, British researchers analyzed the findings from 18 previously published studies—involving a total of 846 people—on the biological effects of meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, Qi gong and Tai Chi. Together, the authors say, the studies show that these mind-body exercises appear to suppress the expression of genes and genetic pathways that promote inflammation.

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The Importance of Silence

The Importance of Silence

In 2011, the Finish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sort to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

 A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice. The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

“We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.”

When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

As Herman Melville once wrote, “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

Silence relieves stress and tension.

It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

“This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.

Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.

Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise. 

Summation

Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

Source: lifehack.org

Drinking 7 glasses of water can cut 200 calories off daily intake

Drinking 7 glasses of water can cut 200 calories off daily intake

A US study has found that drinking just 1% more water can reduce total daily calorie consumption, in particular the intake of sugar, sodium and cholesterol. In fact, drinking seven glasses of water per day could cut total daily intakes by up to 200 calories.

Current guidelines recommend drinking 1 to 1.5 litres of water per day. There’s nothing new or revolutionary about that advice, especially for dieters or detoxers looking to flush out the body’s toxins.

However, new research, published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, has found that a few extra glasses of water can increase the feeling of “fullness” and reduce daily calorie consumption.

The researchers studied the dietary habits of more than 18,300 people between 2005 and 2012.

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Interrupted sleep worse than not getting enough sleep

Interrupted sleep worse than not getting enough sleep

Being interrupted during sleep is likely to affect your mood more than not getting enough sleep, a study suggests.

Researchers at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, USA studied 62 men and women and split them into three experimental conditions.

One group were subject to “forced awakenings” during sleep, others went to bed late and the last group went to sleep uninterrupted.

The study analysed the participants over three days and published their research in the journal Sleep.

The group who were regularly woken displayed a “low positive mood” after the first night, however after the second had a reduction of 31 per cent in positive mood.

Click here for the complete report.

Sleeping posture could affect brain health, study shows

Sleeping posture could affect brain health, study shows

Sleeping on your side rather than your back or stomach might play a role in helping reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other neurological diseases, according to a new study.

Side sleeping opens a passage in the brain called the glymphatic pathway that dispels waste and other chemicals, say the researchers from Stony Brook University in the US.

“It is interesting that the lateral sleep position is already the most popular in human and most animals – even in the wild – and it appears that we have adapted the lateral sleep position to most efficiently clear our brain of the metabolic waste products that built up while we are awake,” says Dr Maiken Nedergaard of the University of Rochester.

For the complete story, click here.

Processed meat links to early death

Processed meat links to early death

Sausages, ham, bacon and other processed meats appear to increase the risk of dying young, a study of half a million people across Europe suggests.

It concluded diets high in processed meats were linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer and early deaths.

The researchers, writing in the journal BMC Medicine, said salt and chemicals used to preserve the meat may damage health.

The British Heart Foundation suggested opting for leaner cuts of meat.

The study followed people from 10 European countries for nearly 13 years on average.

Lifestyle factors

It showed people who ate a lot of processed meat were also more likely to smoke, be obese and have other behaviours known to damage health.

However, the researchers said even after those risk factors were accounted for, processed meat still damaged health.

One in every 17 people followed in the study died. However, those eating more than 160g of processed meat a day – roughly two sausages and a slice of bacon – were 44% more likely to die over a typical follow-up time of 12.7 years than those eating about 20g.

In total, nearly 10,000 people died from cancer and 5,500 from heart problems.

Prof Sabine Rohrmann, from the University of Zurich, told the BBC: “High meat consumption, especially processed meat, is associated with a less healthy lifestyle.

“But after adjusting for smoking, obesity and other confounders we think there is a risk of eating processed meat.

“Stopping smoking is more important than cutting meat, but I would recommend people reduce their meat intake.”

Health benefits

She said if everyone in the study consumed no more than 20g of processed meat a day then 3% of the premature deaths could have been prevented.

The UK government recommends eating no more than 70g of red or processed meat – two slices of bacon – a day.

A spokesperson said: “People who eat a lot of red and processed meat should consider cutting down.”

However a little bit of meat, even processed meat, had health benefits in the study.

Ursula Arens from the British Dietetic Association told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that putting fresh meat through a mincer did not make it processed meat.

“Something has been done to it to extend its shelf life, or to change its taste, or to make it more palatable in some way… and this could be a traditional process like curing or salting.”

She said even good quality ham or sausages were still classed as processed meat, while homemade burgers using fresh meat were not.

“For most people there’s no need to cut back on fresh, red meat. For people who have very high intake of red meat – eat lots of red meat every day – there is the recommendation that they should moderate their intake,” she added.

Ms Arens also confirmed that the study’s finding that processed meat was linked to heart disease was new.

Mr Roger Leicester, a consultant surgeon and a member of the Meat Advisory Panel, said: “I would agree people should eat small quantities of processed meat.”

However, he said there needed to be a focus on how meat was processed: “We need to know what the preservatives are, what the salt content is, what the meat content is…meat is actually an essential part of our diet.”

Growing Evidence

Dr Rachel Thompson, from the World Cancer Research Fund, said: “This research adds to the body of scientific evidence highlighting the health risks of eating processed meat.

“Our research, published in 2007 and subsequently confirmed in 2011, shows strong evidence that eating processed meat, such as bacon, ham, hot dogs, salami and some sausages, increases the risk of getting bowel cancer.”

The organisation said there would be 4,000 fewer cases of bowel cancer if people had less than 10g a day.

“This is why World Cancer Research Fund recommends people avoid processed meat,” said Dr Thompson.

Tracy Parker, a heart health dietitian with the British Heart Foundation, said the research suggested processed meat might be linked to an increased risk of early death, but those who ate more of it in the study also made “other unhealthy lifestyle choices”.

“They were found to eat less fruit and vegetables and were more likely to smoke, which may have had an impact on results.

“Red meat can still be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.

“Opting for leaner cuts and using healthier cooking methods such as grilling will help to keep your heart healthy.

“If you eat lots of processed meat, try to vary your diet with other protein choices such as chicken, fish, beans or lentils.”

Source: BBC Health

Volunteering good for the heart

Volunteering good for the heart

OTTAWA, Feb 27 – Volunteer work has long been touted as good for the soul, but the practice is also good for your heart, according to a study out Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver wanted to find out how volunteering might impact one’s physical condition, and discovered that it improves cardiovascular health, said study author Hannah Schreier.

And “the volunteers who reported the greatest increases in empathy, altruistic behavior and mental health were the ones who also saw the greatest improvements in their cardiovascular health,” said Schreier.

Previous studies had shown that psychosocial factors, such as stress, depression and well being, play a role in cardiovascular disease, which is a leading cause of death in North America.

Schreier noted that the first signs of the disease can begin to appear during adolescence, which is why she recruited young volunteers for her study.

She and her team measured the body mass index, inflammation and cholesterol levels of 53 Vancouver high school students who spent an hour a week working with elementary school children in after-school programs in their neighborhood.

They compared the results with a group of 53 students who were waitlisted for the volunteering program.

The researchers also assessed the teenagers’ self-esteem, mental health, mood, and empathy.

After 10 weeks the volunteers had lower levels of inflammation and cholesterol and less body fat than those on the waitlist. – AFP-Relaxnews

Bad sleep ‘dramatically’ alters body

Bad sleep ‘dramatically’ alters body

A run of poor sleep can have a dramatic effect on the internal workings of the human body, say UK researchers.

The activity of hundreds of genes was altered when people’s sleep was cut to less than six hours a day for a week.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers said the results helped explain how poor sleep damaged health.

Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and poor brain function have all been linked to substandard sleep.

What missing hours in bed actually does to alter health, however, is unknown.

So researchers at the University of Surrey analysed the blood of 26 people after they had had plenty of sleep, up to 10 hours each night for a week, and compared the results with samples after a week of fewer than six hours a night.

Click here for the full story.

 

Stress can truly kill

Stress can truly kill

Emotional distress, also known as psychological distress, can increase the risk of death in the general population. Anecdotal evidence has shown that distress leads to a myriad of health disorders. [Psychol Med 1995;25(5):1073-86, Ann Epidemiol 2004;14:467-72]

Emotional distress, a term referring to the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety, has been linked to an increased risk of premature mortality, cardiovascular disease, susceptibility to infection and, potentially, all cancers. [Psychol Med 1995;25(5):1073-86, Ann Epidemiol 2004;14:467-72]

Signs and symptoms of depression can include fatigue and lack of energy; and feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. Signs of anxiety include the feeling of ‘butterflies’ in the stomach, pounding heart, startling easily, muscle tension, and overwhelming feelings of panic and fear.

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Little white lies may be bad for your health

Little white lies may be bad for your health

ILLINOIS, Aug 9 — How to be healthy? Exercise, eat your vegetables, and refrain from telling little white lies, according to a new study.

In early findings from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, US, researchers studied 110 participants who were told to stop telling either major or minor lies for 10 weeks. The control group was given no special instructions about lying. When those in the no-lie group told three fewer white lies than in other weeks, they complained less of headaches, sore throats, tenseness, anxiety, and other problems than those in the control group.

“Recent evidence indicates that Americans average about 11 lies per week,” said lead author Anita E. Kelly in a recent press release. “We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health.”

Kelly presented her research on Saturday at the American Psychological Association’s annual meeting in Orlando, Florida.

Linda Stroh, a professor emeritus of organizational behavior at Loyola University in Chicago, told “USA Today” that the findings are similar to her own research on trust. “When you find that you don’t lie, you have less stress,” she says. “Being very conflicted adds an inordinate amount of stress to your life.”

Some of the ways people refrained from lying in the study included avoiding exaggerating the truth about daily accomplishments and not making false excuses for running late or not finishing tasks. — AFP/Relaxnews