Staying Safe During Holiday Travel

holiday travel 1If you’re one of the millions of people planning to travel over the holidays, we’d like you to do it safely. Whether your plans involve car, plane or train take a minute or two to study these simple steps to stay healthy while traveling.

One health risk to consider when traveling is simply sitting for too long,” says Clayton Cowl, M.D., an expert in travel medicine at Mayo Clinic. “Concerns like blood clots in the legs from sitting too long, becoming dehydrated from lack of fluid intake or drinking too much alcohol, and not walking much when delayed in an airport or train station can be serious. Driving for hours to reach a destination after a long day at work can be as equally worrisome due to fatigue and eyestrain.”

Blood clots can be a concern when a person sits for too long because leg muscles aren’t contracting and blood can pool and stagnate in the vessels. This can lead to deep vein thrombosis and even pulmonary embolism – a potentially fatal condition, caused by clots becoming lodged in the lungs.  When travelling by car, both driver and passengers should stop every few hours to hydrate and walk. Plan ahead, and pick some good rest stops along your route. How about a park, a mall, or a place of interest?

As an added benefit, allowing children to run or play in a safe environment while traveling will often help curb their excessive energy in a confined space and may help them relax while traveling for longer periods.

full planeWhen traveling by plane, check the in-flight magazine for tips on how to exercise in your seat and on trips longer than three hours, get up at least once to take a walk to the bathroom or other end of the plane.

And regardless of how you travel, try to avoid crossing your legs while sitting for long periods, because this can inhibit adequate blood circulation.

If you’re the one doing the driving, plan to get a good night’s sleep the day before the trip, to avoid drowsiness during the journey. If possible, take turns at the wheel with other passengers. Take breaks at rest stops and chose healthy low carb meal options, to avoid crashing after a sugar high. Combining meals or rest room stops with a short walk to get fresh air and stretch can make a big difference in staying more alert and refreshed.

planesWhile we all want to just get to our destination for the holidays, budgeting a little extra time to account for unexpected weather delays and adequate driving breaks is a really smart plan.

To avoid stiffness from sitting too long, if you’re a passenger try doing some simple stretches, such as extending legs out and back several times and massaging thighs and calves.

To avoid eyestrain and its associated annoying symptoms including sore or irritated eyes, dry or watery eyes, double vision or blurriness, increased sensitivity to light or unremitting shoulder and neck fatigue never drive if you are sleep deprived.

A short nap can significantly relieve these symptoms and non-medicated eye drops can help if eye irritation persists

Whatever your travel method, avoid dehydration. Drink plenty of water and minimize or eliminate alcohol consumption as alcohol dehydrates at a cellular level.

holiday trafficAbove all, plan for the worst, and enjoy the best: When severe winter weather hits, many vehicles may become stranded and help may be hours or sometimes days away. Pack a simple emergency kit, including blankets, snacks, water, charging devices, flashlights and activities to keep kids amused.

Thank You for your attention. Now, please fasten your seat belts, place doors to manual and turn off all cellular devices. You’re ready for the holidays!

Bon Voyage.

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Side Effects of Sex

monday-morning-blues--large-prf-1124686656It’s Monday morning, it’s cold and the holidays are still too far away to be a reality for most of us.  Not a lot to be cheerful about?  Right!

Never fear, SRxA’s Word on Health is here to help start your week off right with some health news that may just bring a smile to your face.

While many people associate a healthy lifestyle with grueling workouts, strict dieting and general deprivation and misery  – this is a misconception.

According to Dr Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician, web entrepreneur and New York Times best selling author, healthy habits can be among the most rewarding.  Take sex. It counts as moderately intense exercise plus it boosts numerous aspects of both physical and mental health. As long as you’re engaging in safe-sex practices, increasing your sexual activity is a surefire strategy to better health!

benefits of sexMercola suggests regular sex can reduce stress, bolster self-esteem and foster feelings of intimacy and bonding between partners.  Better still, a healthy sex life can result in a longer, healthier and, most would agree, more enjoyable life.

In case that’s not enough – here’s 10 more healthy side effects of sex:

1. Improved Immunity

People who have sex frequently have significantly higher levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA is part of the immune system that forms your body’s first line of defense. Its job is to fight off invading organisms at their entry points, reducing or even eliminating the need for activation of your body’s immune system. This may explain why people who have sex frequently also take fewer sick days.

2. Heart Health

According to one study, men who made love regularly (at least twice a week) are 45% less likely to develop heart disease than those who did so once a month or less.

Sexual activity not only provides many of the same benefits to your heart as exercise but also keeps levels of estrogen and testosterone in balance, which is important for heart health.

3. Lower Blood Pressure

Sexual activity, and specifically intercourse, is linked to better stress response and lower blood pressure.

4. It’s a Form of Exercise

Sex helps to boost your heart rate, burn calories and strengthen muscles, just like exercise. In fact, research recently revealed that sex burns about 4 calories a minute for men and 3 for women, making it (at times) a ‘significant’ form of exercise. It can even help you to maintain your flexibility and balance.

5. Pain Relief

Sexual activity releases pain-reducing hormones and has been found to help reduce or block back and leg pain, as well as pain from menstrual cramps, arthritis and headaches. One study even found that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete relief of headache in some migraine and cluster-headache patients.

6. Help to Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer

Research has shown that men who ejaculate at least 21 times a month (during sex or masturbation) have a lower risk of prostate cancer.

sex and sleep7. Improve Sleep

After sex, the relaxation-inducing hormone prolactin is released, which may help you to nod off more quickly. The “love hormone” oxytocin, released during orgasm, also promotes sleep.

8. Stress Relief

Sex triggers your body to release it’s natural feel-good chemicals, helping to ease stress and boost pleasure, calm and self-esteem. Research also shows that those who have sexual intercourse responded better when subjected to stressful situations like speaking in public.

9. Boost Your Libido

The more often you have sex, the more likely you are to want to keep doing it. There’s a mental connection there but also a physical one, particularly for women. More frequent sex helps to increase vaginal lubrication, blood flow and elasticity, which in turn make sexual activity more enjoyable.

10. Improved Bladder Control in Women

Intercourse helps to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, which contract during orgasm. This can help women improve their bladder control and avoid incontinence.

Happy Monday!

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10 Brain Damaging Habits

brain damageAccording to the World Health Organization here’s 10 habits that can severely damage your brain:

No Breakfast1.  No BreakfastSkipping breakfast in order to lose weight or save time is totally wrong and directly affects our brain. Those who don’t take breakfast or take unhealthy breakfast having lower blood sugar level and sometime it may cause overweight.

2. Overreacting – causes hardening of the brain arteries, leading to a decrease in mental power.

3. High Sugar consumption – Too much sugar will interrupt the absorption of proteins and nutrients causing malnutrition and may interfere with brain development by reducing the production of Brain Derived Neutrotrophic Factor, without which the brain cannot learn.

Smoking4. Smokingcauses brain shrinkage, damages memory, judgment, learning and thinking powers and may even lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

5. Air PollutionThe brain is the largest oxygen consumer in our body. Inhaling polluted air decreases the supply of oxygen to the brain, bringing about a decrease in brain efficiency.

6. Sleep Deprivation Sleep allows our brain to rest. Long term deprivation from sleep will accelerate the death of brain cells.

7. Head covered while sleeping – Sleeping with the head covered decreases available air space and forces you to start breathing carbon dioxide instead of oxygen. This leads to a rise in intracranial pressure and results in brain hypoxia which may lead to brain damaging effects.

8. Working your brain during illness – Working hard or studying with sickness may lead to a decrease in effectiveness of the brain. When we are sick the brain is at its weakest and becomes more easily stressed. This stress can also affect memory.

9. Drinking too little water – Water is the main source of energy and is essential for brain function and activity of neurotransmitters. Dehydration can lead to anger, stress, exhaustion, depression and lack of mental clarity.

Talking Rarely10. Rarely Talking – Intellectual conversations help to train and promote efficiency of the brain. Conversely, lack of stimulating thoughts may cause brain shrinkage. Reading SRxA’s Word on Health and discussing the content with friends is an excellent way to avoid this!  So grab a glass of water and subscribe today. Consider it free brain fuel!

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Sleep Better, Look Better

wake up beautifulGetting treatment for a common sleep problem may do more than help you sleep better – it may help you look better too. So says new research study from the University of Michigan Health System and Michigan Technological University.

And it’s more than just being being bright-eyed after a good night’s rest.  For the first time, researchers have shown specific improvement in facial appearance after at-home continuous positive airway pressure [CPAP] treatment for sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea affects millions of adults, many of them undiagnosed.  It is a condition marked by snoring and breathing interruptions and can put sufferers at higher risk for heart-related problems and daytime accidents.

Using a sensitive “face mapping” technique usually used by surgeons, and a panel of independent appearance raters, the researchers detected changes in 20 middle-aged apnea patients just a few months after they began using CPAP to help them breathe better during sleep and overcome chronic sleepiness. CPAP also helps to stop snoring, improve daytime alertness and reduce blood pressure.

patient_cpap_frustratedWhile the research needs to be confirmed by larger studies, the findings may help sleep apnea patients comply with their treatment.  Compliance is a challenge for some because of the cumbersome breathing mask they have to wear to bed.

Sleep neurologist Ronald Chervin, M.D., M.S., director of the U-M Sleep Disorders Center, led the study, which has just been published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Chervin says the study grew out of the anecdotal evidence that sleep center staff often saw in sleep apnea patients when they came for follow-up visits after using CPAP.

The common lore, that people ‘look sleepy’ because they are sleepy, and that they have puffy eyes with dark circles under them, drives people to spend untold dollars on home remedies,” notes Chervin. “We perceived that our CPAP patients often looked better, or reported that they’d been told they looked better, after treatment. But no one has ever actually studied this.”

They teamed with U-M plastic and reconstructive surgeon Steven Buchman, M.D., to use a precise face-measuring system called photogrammetry to take an array of images of the patients under identical conditions before CPAP and again a few months after.

The technology used in this study demonstrates the real relationship between how you look and how you really are doing, from a health perspective” says Buchman.

sleepyfacehires1The researchers also used a subjective test of appearance. 22 independent raters were asked to look at the photos, without knowing which were the “before” pictures and which the “after” pictures of each patient. The raters were asked to rank attractiveness, alertness and youthfulness – and to pick which picture they thought showed the patient after sleep apnea treatment.

About two-thirds of the time, the raters stated that the patients in the post-treatment photos looked more alert, more youthful and more attractive. The raters also correctly identified the post-treatment photo two-thirds of the time.

Meanwhile, the objective measures of facial appearance showed that patients’ foreheads were less puffy, and their faces were less red, after CPAP treatment. The redness reduction was especially visible in 16 Caucasian patients.

However, they didn’t see a big change in facial characteristics often associated with sleepiness. “We were surprised that our approach could not document any improvement, after treatment, in tendency to have dark blue circles or puffiness under the eyes,” says Chervin. “Further research is needed, to assess facial changes in more patients, and over a longer period of CPAP treatment.”

I don’t have sleep apnea but if CPAP makes you look younger, more attractive and alert, tell me where do I sign up?!?

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Put on the red light

asleep-at-deskWe’ve all been there, some of us more often than others. You know what I’m talking about. That mid-afternoon moment where we find ourselves crashing at our computers. Or nodding off into our notebooks.

And it’s not just our productivity that’s affected.  It turns out that acute or chronic sleep deprivation and the resulting fatigue is one of the leading causes of workplace incidents and related injuries. Most performance failures, including car accidents, occur in the mid-afternoon hours known as the “post-lunch dip.”  Typically this occurs sometime between 2-4 p.m., or about 16-18 hours after the previous night’s bedtime.

Now a new study from the Lighting Research Center [who knew there was such a thing?]  at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute – the nation’s oldest technological university – suggests that there may be a way to alleviate afternoon accidents.  Their research shows that exposure to certain wavelengths and levels of light have the potential to increase alertness during the post-lunch dip. These results pave the way for a non-pharmacological intervention to increase alertness during the daytime.

Mariana Figueiro, LRC Light and Health Program director, has previously conducted studies that show that light has the potential to increase alertness at night. Exposure to strong levels of white light at night increases performance, elevates core body temperature, and increases heart rate.

light-therapy2In most studies to date, the alerting effects of light have been linked to its ability to suppress the circadian rhythm regulating hormone – melatonin, the levels of which are typically lower during the daytime, and higher at night. However, results from a previous study by Figueiro demonstrated that acute melatonin suppression is not needed for light to affect alertness during the nighttime. While both short-wavelength (blue) and long-wavelength (red) lights increased measures of alertness, only short-wavelength light suppressed melatonin.

Based on this finding the researchers hypothesized that if light can impact alertness via pathways other than melatonin suppression, then certain wavelengths and levels of light might also increase alertness during the middle of the afternoon.

During the study, participants experienced two experimental lighting conditions in addition to darkness. Long-wavelength “red” light and short-wavelength “blue” light were delivered to the corneas of each participant by arrays of light emitting diodes (LEDs) placed in light boxes. Participant alertness was measured by electroencephalogram (EEG) and subjective sleepiness (KSS scale).

The team found that, compared to remaining in darkness, exposure to red light in the middle of the afternoon significantly improves alertness.

red-light_2725743Co-author Levent  Sahin, a doctoral student  at the Lighting Research Center, was interested in this study from a transportation safety perspective, and what the results could mean to the transportation industry. “Safety is a prerequisite and one of the most important quality indicators in the transportation industry,” said Sahin. “Our recent findings provided the scientifically valid underpinnings in approaching fatigue related safety problems in 24 hour transportation operations.”

Those of us who remember the lyrics of the 1978 Police hit Roxanne – “You don’t have to put on the red light,” may need to rethink…

Even though the present results don’t fully explain the underlying mechanisms of light-induced changes in alertness it seems we could all benefit from a little red light on our desks.

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Don’t Lose Sleep Over Daylight Savings Time

sleep-deprivedDid you have trouble getting up this morning?  Did Sunday’s ‘spring forward’ fail to put a spring in your step? You are not alone.  Daylight saving time wreaks havoc on the millions of people because it affects our circadian rhythms, Losing that precious hour doesn’t just cause pain the next day, but temporarily causes or internal body clocks to become out of sync with the day-night cycle.

Approximately 70 million people in the United States are affected by a sleep problem. Sleep disorders cause more than just sleepiness. The lack of quality sleep can have a negative impact on your energy, emotional balance, and health.  Sleeping well is essential to your physical health and emotional well-being. Unfortunately, even minimal sleep loss can take a toll on your mood, energy, efficiency, and ability to handle stress. Ignoring sleep problems and disorders can lead to poor health, accidents, impaired job performance, and relationship stress. If you want to feel your best, stay healthy, and perform up to your potential, sleep is a necessity, not a luxury

Yawn2Dr. Aparajitha Verma, a neurologist with the Sleep Disorders Center at the Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas;  recommends that people make sure they are well rested going in to the time change.

One way to do that is to start changing your hours before the time change. Get up an hour earlier. Retire an hour earlier.”

Great advice but how many of us take it…and of course it’s too little, too late for this year.

To whether, like me, you’re one of the 70 million with a sleep disorder or whether you’re just having trouble adjusting to the time change, here’s some tips for a good night’s sleep:

  • Keep a regular sleep schedule, going to sleep and getting up at the same time each day, including the weekends.
  • Set aside enough time for sleep. Most people need at least seven to eight hours each night in order to feel good and be productive.
  • Sleep in a quiet and dark environment and set the thermostat at a slightly cooler temperature
  • Don’t allow pets in the bed
  • Turn off your TV, smartphone, iPad, and computer a few hours before your bedtime. The type of light these screens emit can stimulate your brain, suppress the production of melatonin, and interfere with your body’s internal clock.
  • No reading, eating or watching TV in bed
  • Don’t watch the clock
  • Set a “wind down” time prior to going to bed
  • Try drinking warms teas or milk to increase your body temperature, which helps induce and sustain sleep
  • Exercise is good for sleep, but not within two hours of going to sleep

And remember, while some sleep disorders may require a visit to the doctor, you can improve many sleeping problems on your own. The first step to overcoming a sleep problem is identifying and carefully tracking your symptoms and sleep patterns using a sleep diary.

sleep diary page 1This can be a useful tool for identifying sleep disorders and sleeping problems and pinpointing both day and nighttime habits that may be contributing to your difficulties.  Your sleep diary should include:

  • what time you went to bed and woke up
  • total sleep hours and perceived quality of your sleep
  • a record of time you spent awake and what you did (“stayed in bed with eyes closed,” for example, or “got up, had a glass of milk, and meditated”)
  • types and amount of food, liquids, caffeine, or alcohol you consumed before bed, and times of consumption
  • your feelings and moods before bed ­(e.g. happiness, sadness, stress, anxiety)
  • any drugs or medications taken, including dose and time of consumption

And if none of that works, just remember we’ll all get that hour back on November 3rd.

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Does Belly Fat cause tumors to go Belly Up?

belly_fat6People store fat in two ways – one you can see and one you can’t. The fat you can see is just under the skin in the thighs, hips, buttocks, and abdomen. That’s called subcutaneous fat. The fat you can’t see is deeper inside, around the vital organs – heart, lungs, digestive tract, liver as well as in the chest, abdomen, and pelvis. That’s called visceral fat.

Many people are self-conscious about the fat they can see. But actually, it’s the hidden visceral fat that may be a bigger problem, even for thin people.  Having too much of it is linked to a greater chance of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and certain cancers.

According to a new study published in the journal Cancer Prevention Research, visceral fat is directly linked to an increased risk for colon cancer.

There has been some skepticism as to whether obesity per se is a bona fide cancer risk factor, rather than the habits that fuel it, including a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle,” said Derek M. Huffman, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y. “Although those other lifestyle choices play a role, this study unequivocally demonstrates that visceral adiposity is causally linked to intestinal cancer.

Prior research has shown that obesity markedly increases the likelihood of being diagnosed with, and dying from, many cancers. In this animal study, Huffman and his colleagues wanted to see if removing visceral fat in mice genetically prone to developing colon cancer might prevent or lessen the development of these tumors.

To do this they randomly assigned the mice to one of three groups. Mice in the first group underwent a sham surgery and were allowed to eat an unrestricted “buffet style” diet, which resulted in them becoming obese. Those in the second group were also provided an unrestricted diet and became obese, but they had their visceral fat surgically removed at the outset of the study. Mice in the third group underwent a sham surgery, but were then put on a calorie restricted diet causing them to lose visceral fat.

obese mouseOur sham-operated obese mice had the most visceral fat, developed the greatest number of intestinal tumors, and had the worst overall survival,” Huffman said. “However, mice that had less visceral fat, either by surgical removal or a calorie-restricted diet, had a reduction in the number of intestinal tumors. This was particularly remarkable in the case of our group where visceral fat was surgically removed, because these mice were still obese, they just had very little abdominal fat.”

The researchers then subdivided the groups by gender. In female mice, the removal of visceral fat was significantly related to a reduction in intestinal tumors, but calorie restriction was not. In male mice, calorie restriction had a significant effect on intestinal tumors, but removal of visceral fat did not.

abdominalobesityThese finding suggest what most women have known for years i.e., that there are important gender differences when it comes to weight. But it also provided an explanation for how belly fat, diet and cancer risk are linked.  In addition, the study emphasizes the need to promote strategies that reduce abdominal fat in obese individuals.

So how can you get rid of this dangerous deep belly fat?  According to experts, there are four: exercise, diet, sleep, and stress management.

Exercise: Vigorous exercise trims fat, including visceral fat. It can also slow down the build-up of visceral fat that tends to happen over the years. But forget spot-reducing. There aren’t any moves you can do that specifically target visceral fat. Half an hour of vigorous aerobic exercise, done four times a week is ideal.  Jog, if you’re already fit, or walk briskly at an incline on a treadmill if you’re not yet ready for jogging. Vigorous workouts on stationary bikes and elliptical or rowing machines are also effective.

Diet: There is no magic diet for belly fat. But when you lose weight on any diet, belly fat usually goes first.  A fiber-rich diet may help. Research shows that people who eat 10 grams of soluble fiber per day, without any other diet changes, build up less visceral fat over time than others. That’s as easy as eating two small apples or a cup of green slimpeas.

Sleep: Getting the right amount of shut eye helps. In one study, people who got six to seven hours of sleep per night gained less visceral fat over 5 years compared to those who slept five or fewer hours per night or eight or more hours per night.

Stress: It’s unavoidable, but what you do with your stress matters. When you’re stressed you  tend not to make the best food choices when they’re stressed. Getting social support from friends and family, meditating, and exercising can all help to tame stress.

Short on time? If you could only afford the time to do one of these things, exercise probably has the most immediate benefits, because it tackles both obesity and stress.

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Don’t Ignore the Snore

snoringThink for a moment about the factors that influence health.  Chances are you thought about: smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and insufficient exercise. Maybe you added in family history of disease, and stress. How about snoring?

What!?!  Well, according to researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, snoring may put your health at a greater risk than any of the above.

Their study revealed that isolated snoring may not be as benign as first suspected.  The trauma and subsequent inflammation caused by the vibrations of snoring can lead to changes in the carotid arteries – the pair of blood vessels that deliver blood to your brain and head. Snoring can cause a build-up of plaque which can eventually block the blood supply to the brain and increases the risk of stroke.

Snoring is more than a bedtime annoyance and it shouldn’t be ignored. Patients need to seek treatment in the same way they would if they had sleep apnea, high blood pressure or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” says lead author Robert Deeb, M.D., with the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery at Henry Ford.

Obstructive sleep apnea– a sleep disorder that occurs due to the collapse of the airway in the throat during sleep and causes loud snoring and periodic pauses in breathing – has long been linked to cardiovascular disease, along with a host of other serious health issues.

But the risk for cardiovascular disease may actually begin with snoring, long before it develops into obstructive sleep apnea.

carotid arteryInvestigators reviewed data for 913 patients aged 18-50, who had participated in a diagnostic sleep study, none of whom had sleep apnea.  54 patients completed a survey regarding their snoring habits, and underwent a carotid artery ultrasound to measure the thickness of the innermost two layers of the carotid arteries. This test is able to pick up the first signs of carotid artery disease.

What they found was that snorers were had significantly greater thickening of the carotid arteries, compared to non-snorers.  Interestingly, no statistically significant differences in carotid artery thickening could be found for patients with or without some of the traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease – smoking, diabetes, hypertension or hypercholesterolemia.

Snoring is generally regarded as a cosmetic issue by health insurance, requiring significant out-of-pocket expenses by patients. We’re hoping to change that thinking so patients can get the early treatment they need, before more serious health issues arise.”

The Henry Ford research team plans to conduct another long-term study on this topic, particularly to determine if there’s an increased incidence of cardiovascular events snoring2in patients who snore.

In the meantime, instead of kicking your snoring bed partner out of bed, seek out medical treatment for him…or her.

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Ho Ho Ho: health hazards for Santa

santa_claus obesityAfter weeks of harried holiday shopping, when the stores finally close on the evening of December 24, it will be a welcome reprieve from the madness. Families and friends gather together and enjoy a relaxing day or two of rest.

But for one man, the real work is just beginning. That’s right – Santa Claus is coming to town!

And while he spends most of the year enjoying a flexible work schedule, monitoring naughty-and-nice behaviors around the world and occasionally checking in on his elves and reindeer, things are about to get frantic for Old Nick.

And to be honest, this year we’re a little concerned about his health.  That belly fat!  The all-nighter he’s about to pull!  All those cookies!

He may know when you are sleeping, but the only way for Santa to get the job done is to stay up all night on December – and that can lead to some serious health concerns.
Studies have suggested that drowsy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving.  Even if he manages to get Rudolf and his friends safely parked on the rooftops, sleep deprivation could cause his judgment to become fuzzier, leading to the wrong presents traveling down the wrong chimneys.
What’s worse is that sleep loss has a cumulative effect. So while people in the Southern hemisphere might do OK, those of us in Northern climes, and especially those on the West Coast aren’t so lucky. Chronic sleep deprivation could mean he could fly over some houses altogether.

santa + sackBut even if we manage to keep him awake with coffee and Red Bull rather than the usual glass of milk, we’ve got to change Santa’s sack. By carrying something that weighs more than 10% of his body weight, one shoulder is going to end up taking on most of the burden, which could lead to back strains, sprains and spasms.
If you’re thinking of getting Santa a gift this season maybe you could consider a backpack, or better still, a rolling suitcase.

That’s not to say Santa doesn’t need the exercise of his Christmas Eve jaunt. Like 70% of adult men in the US, he is severely overweight. The health risks linked to obesity include Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, certain types of cancer and osteoarthritis.

With his giant waist comes the risk of belly fat associated problems such as insulin resistance, high triglycerides, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Santa beardThen there’s that beard to worry about. After a month or so of letting thousands upon thousands of kids sit on your lap at the mall, we wouldn’t be surprised if he’s harboring some germs in his whiskers.  So if Santa touches his beard followed by his eyes, ears or mouth, he’s pretty much bound to catch something, especially in the midst of this cold and flu season.

We suggest leaving some hand sanitizer next to the milk and cookies this year to give him a fighting chance.

And finally we’re worried about that thin Red Suit. While we’ll give Santa props for covering his head with a hat, traveling outside all night in December in a red velvet suit and a touch of faux fur seems ill advised. In addition to the hat, he should probably throw on a scarf or knit mask, mittens, thermals and a water-resistant coat to ward off hypothermia.

So whether you’ve been naughty or nice, there’s still time to give some thought to Santa’s Health, as well as your own this Christmas season.

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The Peak Time for Everything

Not enough hours in your day?  So much to do…so little time?  If you’re anything like me, these will be familiar expressions.

And in which case, you should be interested to learn that maybe, just maybe, you could pack more into each day if you did everything at the optimal time?

A growing body of research suggests that paying attention to your body clock, and its effects on energy and alertness, can help pinpoint the different times of day when it’s best to perform at specific tasks.

Most people organize their time around everything but the body’s natural rhythms.

But workday demands such as commuting, social events and kids’ schedules inevitably end up clashing with the body’s natural circadian rhythms of waking and sleeping.

And as difficult as it may be to align your schedule with your body clock, it may be worth a try, because there are significant potential health benefits.

Disruption of circadian rhythms has been linked to problems such as diabetes, depression, dementia and obesity.

When it comes to doing cognitive work, for example, most adults perform best in the late morning, says Dr. Steve Kay, a professor of molecular and computational biology at the University of Southern California.  As body temperature starts to rise just before awakening in the morning and continues to increase through midday, working memory, alertness and concentration gradually improve. Taking a warm morning shower can jump-start the process.

The ability to focus and concentrate typically starts to slide soon thereafter. Most people are more easily distracted from noon to 4 p.m.

Alertness tends to slump after eating a meal, and sleepiness tends to peak around 2 p.m.  But you may want to rethink taking a nap at your desk.  It turns out, somewhat surprisingly, that fatigue may boost creative powers.

For most adults, problems that require open-ended thinking are often best tackled in the evening when they are tired. According to a 2011 study when students were asked to solve a series of two types of problems, requiring either analytical or novel thinking, their performance on the second type was best when they were tired.

Mareike Wieth, an assistant professor of psychological sciences at Albion College in Michigan who led the study says, “Fatigue may allow the mind to wander more freely to explore alternative solutions.”

Of course, not everyone’s body clock is the same. Morning people tend to wake up and go to sleep earlier and to be most productive early in the day. Evening people tend to wake up later, start more slowly and peak in the evening.

Communicating with friends and colleagues online has its own optimal cycles, research shows. Sending emails early in the day helps beat the inbox rush.  6 a.m. messages are most likely to be read.

Reading Twitter at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. can start your day on a cheery note. That’s when users are most likely to tweet upbeat, enthusiastic messages, and least likely to send downbeat tweets steeped in fear, distress, anger or guilt.

Other social networking is better done later in the day. If you want your tweets to be re-tweeted, post them between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., when many people lack energy to share their own tweets and turn to relaying others’ instead. And posts to Facebook  at about 8 p.m. tend to get the most “likes,” after people get home from work or finish dinner.

When choosing a time of day to exercise, paying attention to your body clock can also improve results. Physical performance is usually best, and the risk of injury least, from about 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Muscle strength tends to peak between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. as does lung function which is almost 18% more efficient at 5 p.m. than at midday.

Is there a best time to eat? Experts suggest limiting food consumption to hours of peak activity to keep from packing on pounds.  Perhaps we are not only what we eat, we are when we eat!