Science is beginning to identify a number of unsettling and far-reaching health consequences of losing sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a quarter of U.S. adults don’t get enough sleep at least half the time. 2 Further, a 2012 CDC study found that 41 million workers gets less than 6-hours of sleep per night. 3 These numbers are frightening.
These findings along with a growing body of research indicate that a majority of Americans experience regular symptoms of sleep disorders. These symptoms include chronic patterns of insufficient sleep (< 6 hrs. per night), insomnia in it’s various forms, sleep-related breathing disorders (such as sleep apnea), along with almost 100 specific sleep disorders that afflict us. 4
It seems obvious that anything we do for a third of our lives is important! Getting too little sleep can seriously affect productivity and safety in the workplace and in life in general. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. 5
Think about this during you next commute. The person in the car next to you is frustrated by the traffic, possibly talking on the phone or texting, thinking about the argument they had with their spouse or children before leaving the house, and are drowsy from lack of sleep. How can they possibly be paying attention to their driving?
Did you perhaps recognize yourself in that description? Scary isn’t it! And that’s just one aspect of sleep-related issues we face each day. There’s more.
Recent research shows that being chronically sleep deprived can disrupt several components of physical health such as pain perception, inflammation processes, immune function, hormone regulation, glucose metabolism, and insulin resistance.
Those last two health issues, glucose metabolism, and insulin resistance will be discussed in a future post in this series.
So until next time, try to get some … sleep that is! You probably need it.
- Cutting back on sleep harms blood vessel function and breathing control (sciencedaily.com)
- Acting out dreams linked to development of dementia, Mayo Clinic study finds (stonehearthnewsletters.com)
- Sleep duration associated with higher colorectal cancer risk (stonehearthnewsletters.com)
- Sleep quality, heart risk link: more evidence (stonehearthnewsletters.com)
- Charts from the American Time Use Survey. (2012). Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://www.bls.gov/tus/charts/#other ↩
- CDC – Data and Statistics – Sleep and Sleep Disorders. (2012). Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.htm ↩
- CDC-NIOSH Science Blog – Sleep and Work. (2012). Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-science-blog/2012/03/sleep-and-work/ ↩
- Naiman, R. R. (2006). Healing Night: The Science and Spirit of Sleeping, Dreaming, and Awakening. Syren Book Company. ↩
- Facts and Stats : Drowsy Driving – Stay Alert, Arrive Alive. (2013). DrowsyDriving.org – National Sleep Foundation. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://drowsydriving.org/about/facts-and-stats/ ↩
Did you know that your bones are alive? We might not think of them that way—but to keep themselves strong and usable, our bones are always changing. As you get older, your bones may be at increased risk for osteoporosis (oss-tee-oh-pore-OH-sis), when the bones become weak, fragile and more likely to break. And once they break, they take longer to heal. This can be both painful and expensive.
According to National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, more than 40 million people in the United States either already have osteoporosis or are at high risk due to low bone mass
The Silent Disease
Osteoporosis is a “silent” disease. You may not realize you have it until a sudden strain, twist or fall causes a broken bone or fracture. With osteoporosis, even a minor tumble can be serious, requiring surgery and hospitalization.
If you have osteoporosis, you can get a broken bone even though you haven’t fallen—by shoveling snow, for example. A spinal fracture, a break in one of the small bones in your back, may be subtle and go unnoticed. Or it may cause back pain, which you shouldn’t ignore. Research shows that childhood is the best time to build up bone tissue. Most bone is built by age 18 in girls and 20 in boys.
Healthy Lifestyle Habits = Healthy Bones
You can build and protect your bones with healthy lifestyle habits:
Start With A Well-Balanced Diet Rich In Calcium And Vitamin D
Most of our bone is made of a rigid protein framework. Calcium (a mineral) adds strength and hardens that framework. Vitamin D helps the intestine absorb calcium.
Calcium is found in many foods, but the most common source for Americans is milk and other dairy products. One 8-ounce glass of milk provides about one-third of the recommended intake for younger children and about one-fourth of the recommended intake for teens.
Your body makes vitamin D in the skin when you’re out in the sun. Some people get all they need from sunlight, but others need to take vitamin D pills. Talk to your doctor to find out how much calcium and vitamin D you should get each day.
Get Regular Physical Activity
Physical activity is also important for building bone strength. The more work bones do, the stronger they get. That’s why it’s so important for kids to run and play.
There is good evidence that you can build the best skeleton by doing physical activity in childhood: jumping rope, playing basketball and running around. But no matter what your age, it’s never too late to promote bone health. Increase your load bearing exercise, like walking, and make good food choices, rich in calcium and vitamin D.
Bone Health: Women Take Special Note
Women are more likely to have osteoporosis and related fractures, particularly Caucasian and Asian women. Osteoporosis becomes more common as you get older. Low body weight can also increase your risk. And so can certain medications (such as steroids) and certain diseases and conditions (such as anorexia nervosa, rheumatoid arthritis, gastrointestinal diseases, thyroid disease and depression).
It’s recommended that all women over the age of 65 should have a bone mineral density test 1. The test uses a tiny amount of radiation to look at how dense your bones are. It isn’t painful, and there’s usually no need to undress.
So ask your doctor about osteoporosis. Remember that osteoporosis remains silent—until there’s a fracture. A big red flag is when a person over age 50 has a fracture of any kind. If you do have osteoporosis, medications can help.
Your bones are so important. They support you and allow you to move. They protect your heart, lungs and brain from injury. They’re a storehouse for vital minerals you need to live. Your bones take care of you in so many ways. Learn to take care of them.
Research shows that there are several ways to take care of your bones:
- Get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet at every age.
- Be physically active.
- Reduce hazards in your home that could increase your risk of falling.
- Talk with your doctor about medicines you are taking that could increase your risk for osteoporosis.
- If you are over 50 and break a bone, ask your doctor to screen you for osteoporosis.
Article partially based on material from Wellness Council of America
- In older hip fracture patients, surgical delay of more than 48 hours increases mortality (stonehearthnewsletters.com)
- 30 per cent of women don’t even pick up new osteoporosis drug prescriptions (stonehearthnewsletters.com)
- NIM Senior Health http://nihseniorhealth.gov/osteoporosis/warningsignsanddiagnosis/01.html ↩
At first you barely notice the changes. Reaching more often for your glasses to see up close, or having more trouble adjusting to glaring lights or reading when the light is dim. You may even have put on blue socks thinking they were black. These are some of the normal changes to your eyes and vision as you age.
As more baby boomers head toward retirement and beyond, scientists expect the number of people with age-related eye problems to rise sharply. NOT all age-related changes to your eyes can be prevented, but you can take steps to protect your vision and reduce your risk for serious eye disease in the future. Effective treatments are now available for many disorders that may lead to blindness or visual impairment. You can also learn how to make the most of the vision you have by understanding simple eye health.
Signs Of Eye Aging
The clear, curved lens at the front of your eye may be one of the first parts of your eyes to show signs of age. The lens bends to focus light and form images on the retina at the back of your eye. This flexibility lets you see at different distances—up close or far away. But the lens hardens with age. The change may begin as early as your 20s, but it can come so gradually it may take decades to notice.
Eventually, age-related stiffening and clouding of the lens affects just about everyone. You’ll have trouble focusing on up-close objects, a condition called presbyopia. Anyone over age 35 is at risk for presbyopia. Cloudy areas in the lens, called cataracts, are another common eye problem that comes with age. More than 22 million Americans have cataracts. By age 80, more than half of us will have had them. Some cataracts stay small and have little effect on eyesight, but others become large and interfere with vision. Symptoms include:
- Faded color vision
- Difficulty seeing well at night
- Lights that seem too bright
There are no specific steps to prevent cataracts, but tobacco use and exposure to sunlight raise your risk of developing them. Cataract surgery is a safe and common treatment that can restore good vision.
The passage of time can also weaken the tiny muscles that control your eye’s pupil size. The pupil becomes smaller and less responsive to changes in light. That’s why people in their 60s need three times more light for comfortable reading than those in their 20s. Smaller pupils make it more difficult to see at night.
Think You Don’t Need An Eye Exam? Think Again!
If you’re not convinced you should have regular eye exams, consider that some of the more serious age-related eye diseases—like glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic eye disease—may have no warning signs or symptoms in their early stages.
A Quick Look At Eye Diseases
Glaucoma comes from increased fluid pressure inside the eye that damages the optic nerve. Glaucoma can slowly steal your peripheral vision. You may not notice it until it’s advanced. It can be treated with prescription eye drops, lasers or surgery. If not treated, however, it can lead to vision loss and blindness.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration
AMD causes gradual loss of vision in the center of your eyesight and is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over age 65. Scientists have found that people who eat diets rich in green, leafy vegetables—such as kale and spinach—or fish are less likely to have advanced AMD.
Diabetic Eye Disease
Diabetic eye disease, another leading cause of blindness, can damage the tiny blood vessels inside the retina. Keeping your blood sugar under control can help prevent or slow the problem.
The only way to detect these serious eye diseases before they cause vision loss or blindness is through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Your eye care professional will put drops in your eyes to enlarge, or dilate, the pupils and then look for signs of disease. Having regular comprehensive eye care gives your doctor a chance to identify a problem very early on and then treat it. Annual eye exams are especially important if you have diabetes.
- Have a comprehensive eye exam each year after age 50.
- Stop smoking.
- Eat a diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and fish.
- Maintain normal blood pressure.
- Control diabetes if you have it.
- Wear sunglasses and a brimmed hat any time you’re outside in bright sunshine.
- Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or doing work around the house that may cause eye injury.
Article partially based on material from Wellness Council of America
- Eye health, AMD, and nutrition: some new research (stonehearthnewsletters.com)
- Ophthalmologists urge early diagnosis and treatment of age-related macular degeneration (sciencedaily.com)
- Here’s Looking at You (well-beingblog.com)
When was the last time someone told you: “Enjoy every moment. Life is short.” You likely smiled and rolled your eyes at this well-intentioned person. But the fact is, there’s something to it. There is a good deal of science indicating that trying to enjoy each moment may actually be good for your health.
The idea is called mindfulness. This ancient practice is about being completely aware of what’s happening in the present—of all that’s going on inside and all that’s happening around you. It means not living your life on “autopilot.” Instead, you experience life as it unfolds moment to moment, good and bad, and without judgment or preconceived notions.
Why Mindfulness Matters
Numerous studies suggest that mindfulness practices may help people manage stress, cope better with serious illness, and reduce anxiety and depression. Many people who practice mindfulness report an increased ability to relax, a greater enthusiasm for life and improved self-esteem.
One National Institutes of Health (NIH)-supported study found a link between mindfulness meditation and measurable changes in the brain regions involved in memory, learning and emotion 1. Another NIH-funded researcher reported that mindfulness practices may reduce anxiety and hostility among urban youth and lead to reduced stress, fewer fights and better relationships 2.
- Hölzel, B. K., Carmody, J., Vangel, M., Congleton, C., Yerramsetti, S. M., Gard, T., & Lazar, S. W. (2011). Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density. Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 191(1), 36–43. doi:10.1016/j.pscychresns.2010.08.006 ↩
- Kerrigan, D., Johnson, K., Stewart, M., Magyari, T., Hutton, N., Ellen, J. M., & Sibinga, E. M. S. (2011). Perceptions, experiences, and shifts in perspective occurring among urban youth participating in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 17(2), 96–101. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2010.08.003 ↩
In 2011 the National Institutes of Health (NIH) asked the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine to convene a panel of experts to investigate potential reasons for the U.S. health disadvantage and to assess its larger implications. Data from 17 industrial countries in Western Europe, Australia, Japan, Canada, and the U.S. was examined. This study found that the life expectancy of American men ranked last at 75.6 and American women ranked 16th at 80.7 (second to last) – the mortality gap.
Although Americans’ life expectancy and health have improved over the past century, these gains have lagged behind those in other high-income countries. This health disadvantage prevails even though the United States spends far more per person on health care than any other nation
The U.S. health disadvantage has multiple causes and involves some combination of inadequate health care, unhealthy behaviors, adverse economic and social conditions, and environmental factors, as well as public policies and social values that shape those conditions.
The U.S. health disadvantage cannot be fully explained by the health disparities that exist among people who are uninsured or poor, as important as these issues are. Several studies are now suggesting that even advantaged Americans— those who are white, insured, college-educated, or upper income—are in worse health than similar people in other countries.
There is some good news coming from this study. Until roughly age 75, men and women in the United States perform poorly, ranking last or close to last in every age group. However, after age 75, the U.S. rankings improve dramatically until men and women experience the second lowest death rates in the age group 95-99. In short, if you make it to 75 in a healthy state you may have many years still ahead of you.
The health disadvantage carries with it some serious economic consequences. Shorter lives and poorer health in the United States will ultimately harm the nation’s economy as health care costs rise and the workforce remains less healthy than that of other high-income countries. Additionally, there is the potential effect on national security due to declining public health and increasing health care costs.
The tragedy is not that the United States is losing a contest with other countries but that Americans are dying and suffering from illness and injury at rates that are demonstrably unnecessary.
WIFM You Ask
What this means to each of us is that we need to begin adopting a healthy lifestyle. We need to eat healthier. We need to move more. We need to pay attention to how our actions today affect our futures – futures with spent enjoying our adult children, our grandchildren, and a long, healthy, and happy life with our spouses. Rather than holding down the bottom rungs of the longevity scale, we as Americans need to start climbing out of the hole we have dug for ourselves. Stand up America, get healthy and, as Spock would say, live long and prosper.
Ho, Jessica Y. “International Comparisons of U.S. Mortality.” Presented at the Population Association of America Annual Meeting, San Francisco, May 2012
Kemp CB. Public Health in the Age of Health Care Reform. Prev Chronic Dis 2012;9:120151. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5888/pcd9.120151
U.S. Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health – Institute of Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved March 12, 2013, from http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2013/US-Health-in-International-Perspective-Shorter-Lives-Poorer-Health.aspx
World Mortality Report 2011 – the United Nations. ST/ESA/SER.A/324. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Population Division. United Nations. New York, 2012
That’s right, Type 3 diabetes – that’s not a typo. Yes you’re likely thinking, “I know about Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, but what the heck is Type 3 diabetes?” A growing body of evidence indicates a strong link between Type 3 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
Type 3 diabetes was first identified in 2005 when Brown Medical School researcher Suzanne M., MD, autopsied the brains of Alzheimer’s patients and found that they had signs of insulin resistance. As you may be aware, insulin resistance is an early indicator of diabetes.
Insulin is a hormone that is vital for the normal functioning of cells throughout the body, including the brain. Our bodies run on glucose. Glucose, a simple sugar, is the primary fuel used by most cells in the body and the brain to generate the energy needed to carry out cellular functions.
But the cells cannot absorb glucose directly from the blood. That’s where insulin comes in. Insulin helps control the amount of glucose in the blood and is the mechanism that transports glucose into our cells.
Insulin resistance is a condition in which the body produces insulin but does not use it effectively. When people have insulin resistance, glucose builds up in the blood instead of being absorbed by the cells, leading to type 2 diabetes or prediabetes.1
In the brain, insulin is also very important for making neurotransmitters, which are chemicals needed for neurons to communicate with each other. Insulin also stimulates many functions that are needed to form new memories and conquer tasks that require learning and memory.2 Now you may begin to see a link to Alzheimer’s disease with it’s characteristic loss of memory.
According to a study by researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, insulin resistance in the brain precedes and contributes to cognitive decline above and beyond other known causes of Alzheimer’s disease. 3
One of the revelations of de la Monte’s research was the discovery of insulin’s effect on the brain–the development of Type 3 diabetes.4 Type 3 diabetes is a condition where the brain does not produce enough insulin. It seems that in the absence of insulin, the brain is affected much the same way the body is in Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. In fact, de la Monte states that “Type 3 diabetes only occurs in people who have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes already”.(4) Worse yet, research is now showing that the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is increased by 50 percent in people with diabetes.
So what does all this mean? We know that obesity is a key factor in the onset of both Type 2 and Type 3 diabetes. With more than 66 percent of Americans over-weight or obese, an enormous increase in Alzheimer’s disease may be inevitable.
But there is some good news in all this. The same lifestyle changes that have been shown time and again to be effective in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes have also be shown effective in the treatment of Type 3 diabetes. Doctor’s have found that one of the keys to treating and preventing the onset of Type 3 diabetes is to exercise.(3) Regular exercise three to five times a week combined with a healthy diet helps to maintain the healthy weight that wards off the disease.(4)
So if you want to live a long healthy life and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as a result of diabetes, start making lifestyle changes now. Lose weight, get active, reduce your stress level, and enjoy all those years you have ahead of you!
Here’s a couple of very good short videos on obesity and the effects of being overweight:
- Insulin Resistance and Prediabetes. (2013). National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/insulinresistance/#resistance ↩
- Alzheimer’s: Diabetes of the Brain? | The Dr. Oz Show. (n.d.). The Dr. Oz Show. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/alzheimers-diabetes-brain ↩
- Perelman School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania Health System. (2012). Brain Insulin Resistance Contributes to Cognitive Decline in Alzheimer’s Disease. Penn Medicine. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2012/03/insulin/ ↩
- De la Monte, S. M., & Wands, J. R. (2008). Alzheimer’s Disease Is Type 3 Diabetes–Evidence Reviewed. Journal of diabetes science and technology (Online), 2(6), 1101–1113. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769828/ ↩