How to fall asleep – Cool It!

Bodies cool down while we prepare to nod off. Our blood vessels expand, allowing heat to escape our bodies quicker. Body temperatures, which fluctuate by about 1 degree over the course of 24 hours, will bottom out in the wee hours of the morning.

People tend to sleep best in colder rooms, between 60 and 67 degrees

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Sleepy, from Maui’s Story by Peggy

Sleep researchers know that right before you fall asleep, your body temperature starts to drop; in the deepest stages of sleep, your body is at its coolest, about one or two degrees below normal. Some scientists believe cooler temperatures cause sleepiness, and although the pre-slumber cooling process happens naturally, there are a few things you can do to help it along:

  • Take a warm bath right before bed.  When you leave the tub, your body temperature rapidly cools, triggering that sleepy feeling.

  • Drink a warm beverage – works the same way as a warm bath.

  • Turn on a fan.

  • Stick your foot out of the covers.

But why the foot, specifically? The skin surfaces of both our hands and feet are unique – they’re hairless and contain specialized vascular structures that help with heat loss. Specifically, the hands and feet contain blood vessels called the arteriovenous anastomoses, which — coupled with the lack of hair on the bottoms of your feet — are perfectly designed to help dissipate body heat.

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What is “Over Fat” . . . like me?

I’m writing this post to give myself and my brother Rick (you too, if it fits) more motivation.

A year ago Rick and I made a pact.  Whoever lost 20 pounds first got to choose who visited whom. (He lives in Denver, I live in Southern California).  The first year we did really well, albeit falling short of our 20 pound goal.  The beginning of the second year we both gained back the weight we’d lost the first year . . .

We have very different approaches.  He weighs once a week and I obsesssssively stand on the scale every morning (sometime every night in anticipation of my morning weigh-in).  When I tried his approach I gained 5 pounds in a week.

Neither of us look over-weight by most standards.  We both know that the weight distributed around our mid-section is not healthy, particularly considering we both have heart problems.

Why’s belly fat so bad

“Abdominal fat is one of the most dangerous kinds of fat you can have. The reason it’s so bad is that unlike your love handles — which are the pinchable fat right beneath your skin — the fat that is in your stomach area grows deep inside your body and it wraps around your vital organs. Your liver borrows this fat and turns it into cholesterol that can sneak into your arteries and start collecting there. When it collects, your arteries start to harden, and when they get hard, this can lead you to having a heart attack or stroke.”

 “A new study published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health suggests the number of people who meet the criteria for overfat in the top 30 industrialized countries are more than all of the obese and overweight people in the world. In fact, they estimate that 90% of the men and 50% of the children in the US, New Zealand, Greece and Iceland are overfat. In the top overfat countries, researchers found 80% of the women were overfat, too.
This adds to previous research published in January that first suggested “the term more accurately encapsulates the problem itself.”
And if doctors rely only on the definitions we use to consider someone “obese,” or “overweight,” they may not be helping all the patients they should.”

What is overfat?

Overfat is a term created to describe if you have a body fat level that can actually hurt your health. Even people who are considered “normal weight” or “non-obese” by traditional standards can fall into this category.

 BMI, which stands for body mass index, is determined based on a person’s height and weight. You’re considered overweight if your BMI is between 25 to 29.9 and you’re obese if your BMI is 30 or above.
Chances are, even if you are not “fat,” by definition of these traditional measurements, you may still be “overfat.” And that’s going to have some seriously negative consequences for your overall health.

“If a doctor is relying on BMI to assess your potential danger from your fat, they miss the risk. Earlier studies have also shown that doctors that rely solely on BMI may miss other warning signs for people of different ethnicities put them at greater risk for heart problems and other health issues.

“The authors of this new study argue that BMI misses about 50% of the people who still have dangerous amounts of fat. Those are typically people who have the proverbial beer belly, but are otherwise in decent shape.”
“We shouldn’t be as much worried about weight,” said author Paul Laursen, an adjunct professor and performance physiologist at the Sports Performance Research Institute in New Zealand. Your scale or that BMI calculator don’t know that you could be an athlete and have a lot of muscle mass, or a growing teen. “What we should really be worried about is the fat part and where your fat is concentrated.”

Can apple cider vinegar help with weight loss?

This deep layer of belly fat is also what:

  • Makes your body insulin-resistant, which can lead you to having type 2 diabetes.

  • Cause inflammation, which scientists are finding at the root of many chronic diseases and even cancer and Alzheimer’s.

  • Raise your glucose levels and

  • Decrease your muscle mass. You need good muscle mass to help keep good heart health.

It’s no wonder earlier studies have shown that excess belly fat, even if you are skinny elsewhere, may be even more deadly than being obese or overweight. And that’s saying a lot, since good old fashioned obesity is related to all sorts of diseases and potentially life threatening problems like cancer, heart attacks, stroke, asthma, sleep apnea, high blood pressure and a handful of other problems.

A better measure

“What may be a better way to assess if you are overfat is for your doctor to look more like a tailor and take a tape measure to your waist, the authors argue. If you want to try this at home, measure your circumference at your belly button. If your waist circumference is half your height or less, you are at a healthy fat level. If you are over that number, your fat could put you at risk for ill health.”

“It’s not as perfect a measure as if your doctor were to calculate your fat using an X-ray, but it’s a good indicator, suggests Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a cardiologist and obesity expert at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.”

 You could even do something simpler and look at your hip to waist ratio —

“If the waist is bigger than the hips, it tells me that the risk carried with that weight is much higher for that person for premature death,”

All doctors agree that dealing with excess fat needs to be a priority,as it truly can put someone’s life in jeopardy.

Are you listening, Rick?

xxxx jw

Read CNN article Overfat & Obesity Study

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Feeling down? Take a hike!

A new study finds quantifiable evidence that walking in nature could lead to a lower risk of depression.

“Specifically, the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.”

“These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world,” said co-author Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “Our findings can help inform the growing movement worldwide to make cities more livable, and to make nature more accessible to all who live in them.”

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban settings, and that is forecast to rise to 70 percent within a few decades. Just as urbanization and disconnection from nature have grown dramatically, so have mental disorders such as depression.

“City dwellers have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders as compared to people in rural areas. People born and raised in cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia.”

Is exposure to nature linked to mental health? If so, the researchers asked, what are nature’s impacts on emotion and mood? Can exposure to nature help “buffer” against depression?

Natural vs. urban settings

“In the study, two groups of participants walked for 90 minutes, one in a grassland area scattered with oak trees and shrubs, the other along a traffic-heavy four-lane roadway. Before and after, the researchers measured heart and respiration rates, performed brain scans and had participants fill out questionnaires.”

“The researchers found little difference in physiological conditions, but marked changes in the brain. Neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination – repetitive thought focused on negative emotions – decreased among participants who walked in nature versus those who walked in an urban environment.”

“This finding is exciting because it demonstrates the impact of nature experience on an aspect of emotion regulation – something that may help explain how nature makes us feel better,” said lead author Gregory Bratman, a graduate student in Stanford’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, the Stanford Psychophysiology Lab and the Center for Conservation Biology.”

“In a previous study, also led by Bratman, time in nature was found to have a positive effect on mood and aspects of cognitive function, including working memory, as well as a dampening effect on anxiety.”

“The studies are part of a growing body of research exploring the connection between nature and human well-being. The Natural Capital Project, led by Daily, has been at the forefront of this work. The project focuses on quantifying the value of natural resources to the public and predicting benefits from investments in nature. It is a joint venture of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, The Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.”

Coauthors of “Nature Experience Reduces Rumination and Subgenual Prefrontal Cortex Activation” include J. Paul Hamilton of the Laureate Institute for Brain Research and Kevin Hahn, a psychology research assistant at Stanford.

Take a look at these!

5 Things you can do to cheer up quickly according to Neuroscience

Falling Waters and rising Spirits

 

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NEUROSCIENTISTS FIGURE OUT HOW TO WIPE INDIVIDUAL MEMORIES FROM THE BRAIN . . .

 . .  . of a snail

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center and Montreal’s McGill University researchers have figured out how to selectively wipe some memories belonging to a certain type of marine snail, while leaving others intact.

They believe the research could make it possible to one day develop drugs that can “delete” certain traumatic memories without negatively impacting memories of other past events.

“To carry out their targeted memory erasure, the researchers blocked certain molecules associated with an enzyme called Protein Kinase M (PKM), which is a crucial part of retaining long-term memories.”

“While it’s so far only been demonstrated on snails, they believe the work represents a valuable insight into the way that memories are laid down, and that its findings could be extrapolated to humans as well. That’s in part due to the fact that the PKM-protecting protein KIBRA is expressed in humans, and that mutations of this gene have been shown to result in intellectual disability.”

“What makes the results reported in the paper promising is that the molecules examined are expressed in mouse and man, and have been found to participate in long-term memory and long-term synaptic plasticity,”  . . . Elderly people with Alzheimer’s and old-age forms of dementia, the expression of KIBRA is compromised.”

Read the entire article here: MINDWIPE NEUROSCIENCE

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The life expectancy of snails in the wild is about 3 to 7 years, but in captivity, they can live up to 10-15 years or even more.
  • The biological features of snails are fascinating. For example, most are hermaphrodites, which means that a single snail has male and female reproductive organs at the same time.
  • Their quantity and diversity are vast. There are anything between 85,000 and 150,000 mollusks of which 80-85 percent are gastropods. Therefore, the world is home to more than 60,000 species of them.
  • Land snails range greatly in size. While some of them are only a few inches long and often weigh only a few ounces, there are land snails that reach almost 12 inches, like the Giant African Land Snail, a species endemic to Africa.
  • The largest land snail recorded was 12 inches long and weighed near 2 pounds.
  • Garden snails (helix apersa) a top speed of 50 yards per hour, this is about 1.3 cm.
  • Land Snails aren’t able to hear at all, but they have eyes and olfactory organs. They use their sense of smell to help them find food being their most important sensory organ.

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The Everyday Habits that Reveal our Personality

The results are surprising. Example: If you’re a prolific curser, you can now defend your habit as a sign of your open-mindedness . . .

1. Greater conscientiousness was distinguished by:

  • avoidance of various activities, including such innocuous pastimes as reading  (speculated that it may be seen by the highly conscientious as a leisure-time luxury),
  • swearing 
  • chewing on a pencil.

Agreeably Ironing Things Out by Peggy

2. People scoring high on agreeability said they spent more time:

  • ironing,
  • playing with children 
  • washing the dishes – presumably because their strong motivation to keep other people happy means they’d rather do the chores than have domestic acrimony.
  • more likely to sing in the shower or the car.

3. Strongly open-minded people were more likely to read poetry, eat spicy breakfasts, and lounge around in the nude!

4. Neurotic people engaged more often in:

  • activities associated with helping reduce mental distress, such as taking more tranquilisers and anti-depressants. But they also admitted to more
  • anti-social behaviours, such as losing their temper more often,
  • or making fun of others – perhaps because they struggle to keep their own emotions in check.

    5. Extraverts are more likely to ink themselves with tattoos

    • wallow more in hot tubs
    • spent more time planning parties
    • drinking in bars
    • discussing ways to make money
    • talking on the phone while driving

    6. Open-mindedness went together with some obvious behaviors like:

    Open-minded by Peggy

  • reading poetry
  • going to the opera
  • smoking marijuana
  • producing art
  • swearing around others,
  • eating spicy food at breakfast
  • lounging around the house with no clothes on. (To be precise, the highest scorers said they were about twice as likely to have sat around in the nude for more than 15 times in the past year, compared to the lowest scorers.)
  • less likely to follow a sports team.

     Previous studies had shown that the highly conscientious are more likely to wear a watch, comb their hair and polish their shoes!

The serious side to this field of research is learning more about the harmful and unhealthy everyday behaviours linked to the different personality traits which then could contribute to better, more targeted health campaigns and interventions. 

*”The researchers, Benjamin Chapman at the University of Rochester and Lewis Goldberg at the Oregon Research Institute, profiled nearly 800 people in Oregon, USA, most of whom were white, and their average age was 51. The personality test asked participants to rate how accurately 100 different trait adjectives described their personalities, including words such as bashful, kind, neat, relaxed, moody, bright and artistic. The researchers then compared these personality test scores with the same participants’ answers, recorded four years later, to how often they had performed 400 different activities over the last year, from reading a book to singing in the shower.”

Here’s the entire article: Everyday Habits that Reveal our Personalities 

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The RIGHT way to kiss

An international research team suggests that humans are hardwired to favour leaning to the right while kissing their romantic partners, which may have wider implications for neuroscience and cognitive sciences.

“According to the new academic study, just published in the journal Scientific Reports, over two-thirds of the kiss initiators and the recipient of the kiss have a bias to turn their heads to the right and men were about 15 times more likely than women to initiate kissing.”

“Psychologists and neuroscientists at the universities of Bath Spa and Dhaka, Bangladesh, invited 48 married couples to kiss privately in their own homes, and after kissing they were asked to go to different rooms, open an envelope and then report on various aspects of the kiss independently of each partner.”

“The setting for the study was significant as kissing in Bangladesh is not typically observed in public and may censored from television or films. That means similar results from the western countries could be attributed to cultural factors or having learnt how to kiss through influences on TV or film.”

“According to a press release on Monday, building on the previous studies from western countries, which have involved couples kissing in public places, the new study is the first to investigate an inherent bias for turning the head to one side while people kiss in a non-western context. And it is also the first study in the world to show that the kiss recipients have a tendency to match their partners’ head-leaning direction.”

“Head turning is one of the earliest biases seen in development – even in the womb a preference for turning the head to the right is observable before that of favouring the right hand or foot. Whether this fundamental bias is innate and extends into adulthood is a lingering question for neuroscience and psychology,”

Dr Rezaul Karim, lead author from the Department of Psychology at the University of Dhaka

“The new research suggests that the act of kissing is determined by the brain splitting up tasks to its different hemispheres. Different hormone levels in each hemisphere and neurotransmitters might be unevenly distributed to each hemisphere as giving rise to a bias to turn right, researchers say.”

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2017-07/18/c_136451252.htm

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What hallucination reveals about our minds

In the last weeks of my father’s life he told me about a man who would come into his house at night and lay down in the bed next to him.  Frightened, he would call the authorities.  

It was the first of many hallucinations, some benign, many terrifying, he experienced before he passed.  I learned it was futile to try to convince him that what he saw hadn’t been real.  I wish I had heard this TedTalk to help me better understand what was happening.

Oliver Sacks has passed but his experiences, wisdom and compassion remains with us in his talks and books.  You might know about him from Robin Williams portrayal in the Movie Awakenings.  Take a look and listen to Dr. Sacks’ TedTalk:

“Neurologist and author Oliver Sacks brings our attention to Charles Bonnet syndrome — when visually impaired people experience lucid hallucinations. He describes the experiences of his patients in heartwarming detail and walks us through the biology of this under-reported phenomenon.”

 jw