When humans first started to walk the planet, food was pretty scarce. We often went for long periods of time without a big meal, and even when food was plentiful it had to be conserved and eaten judiciously. This stands in stark contrast to today’s world of refrigerated food, drive-thru eating and 24-hour grocery stores. Food is always at our fingertips, and for many of us, that means eating that starts soon after we wake up and finishes just before we go to bed (and sometimes after). This dramatic change in our eating habits pushed a group of researchers to wonder whether our all-day eating habits might also be partly responsible for the recent boom in obesity. »
Congratulations on making it through your first dose of holiday stress. I love Thanksgiving as much as anyone, but the coordination that goes into bringing your entire family together and arranging a huge meal is exhausting, to say the least. I got to the end of the weekend with a sense of relief that it’s all finally finished before remembering I’ll be doing it at least once or twice again in the next month. Are you feeling the same way? This week I wanted to share some of my favorite tips to help get you through the rough patches with minimal stress. »
Uncontrolled blood sugar drops brain power. Diabetes has been known to have damaging effects on many tissues of the body. A new study out this week has found that the brain is yet another victim of the harmful effects of too much sugar in the blood. In a study of more than 13,000 adults, “those with diabetes had a greater cognitive decline during the study compared to people without diabetes. People with pre-diabetes had a steeper decline than people without pre-diabetes. People with uncontrolled diabetes at the first visit had an even steeper decline over the 20 years than those who had their condition under control. Cognitive decline was also steeper among people who were living with diabetes longer, compared to those who were more recently diagnosed.” The researchers hope the findings help boost the number of people getting tested for diabetes and the preventative measures taken to stop the development of the disease. According to the authors, “The earlier the prevention starts, the greater the benefit may be. Our study says you get a 20-year lead time. You can do something about it now, when you’re in your 50s.” (BBC)
Psychotherapy is effective at preventing suicide. The workings of the brain still remain a mystery, sometimes making it challenging to show directly the effects of many psychotherapy treatments. But a new study out of Denmark has found that psychotherapy interventions can dramatically reduce how many people with depression commit suicide. “Researchers studied 5,678 people who had attempted suicide and then received a program of short-term psychotherapy based on needs, including crisis intervention, cognitive therapy, behavioral therapy, and psychodynamic and psychoanalytic treatment. Over a 20-year follow-up, 16.5 percent of the treated group attempted suicide again, compared with 19.1 percent of the untreated group. In the treated group, 1.6 percent died by suicide, compared with 2.2 percent of the untreated. The authors estimate that therapy prevented 145 suicide attempts and 30 deaths by suicide in the group studied.” That’s equivalent to about one third of all suicide deaths. While the numbers seem small overall, the authors say the low rates reflect how rare suicide is compared with how common depression is. (NYT)
Older brains great at learning, worse at filtering. Older adults often get a bad rap when it comes to brain power. While many reports have shown that brain function seems to get worse over time, it hasn’t been clear why this might be. A new study out this week might have the answer. According to the study, “adults who are well into their 60s and 70s can learn visual information just as well as whippersnappers in the 19-to-30-year-old range, but the elders pick up much more irrelevant visual information than do their younger counterparts. At least for visual perceptual learning, older brains remain changeable, but they may sacrifice long-term retention of information. And that’s because of a decline in the ability to suppress information that isn’t germane to the task at hand, according to the study.” The study emphasizes that our brains only have a limited capacity and that a key function needed to think is the ability to filter out information that’s probably irrelevant. This might seem like a bad thing, but “you could make the case that older drivers have an edge over the young when visual information matters. They may pick up subtle signals of potential hazards that youngsters suppress as ‘irrelevant.’ So, noticing a creeping shadow of a car might keep an older driver from executing a dangerous lane change.” (LA Times)
We’re all used to getting vaccines. Whether they’re against the flu, measles or tetanus, vaccines are the best way to prevent infection and have saved hundreds of millions of people from death and disability. The success of vaccines in revving up the immune system to rapidly attack infection has led many scientists and physicians to wonder if the same mechanism might be used to fight or even prevent certain types of cancer. »
Research shows that people who live a meaningful life live longer. If you want to add years to your life, start by increasing your interpersonal connections, cultivating a sense of purpose or mastery and volunteering. All of these cause a reduction in mortality risk and greater life satisfaction. Plus, you can start doing them today! »
A healthy breakfast that can be made in minutes, this smoothie makes it easy to get a load of vitamins, fiber and protein into your daily diet. The recipe makes enough for two, so you can share the health! Get the recipe.
There are many things in life that can add to our stress levels, from work to family to the daily commute. A little stress can be good, but too much is a bad thing. Chronic high levels of stress can be damaging to your body and lead to a variety of health problems including high cholesterol and heart disease. One of the biggest challenges is acknowledging the problem and figuring out the source of your stress.
Thanksgiving comes with mixed emotions for many of my patients. The ones with cardiac conditions have to constantly be on top of their weight and monitor their diet closely. But for most of them, Thanksgiving is about the opposite. It’s about forgetting that diet for one day and eating a few of the things you’ve been staying away from for the entire year. Feeling accountable to your health while also wanting desperately to participate in the festivities can be a serious challenge. More often than not, Thanksgiving wins out over healthy eating.
I know that my patients aren’t the only ones who struggle with these opposing goals during the holiday season. Tomorrow, many of you will reunite with family and friends who will have put hours into the preparation of a meal for your enjoyment. While you might have been good about your diet all year, you’re going to arrive at that Thanksgiving table wanting nothing more than to throw all restrictions out the window. For many of you, like my patients, Thanksgiving will win over whatever healthy pledges you may have made. »