Monthly Archives: January 2017
Spending time in nature can work wonders for human health, from lowering blood pressure and stress hormones to sparking feelings of awe. Growing research suggests it may also improve sleep by resetting our internal clocks to a natural sleep cycle. A new study released in the journal Current Biology adds to that evidence by showing the sleep-promoting benefits of the great outdoors.
Kenneth Wright, a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder and author of the new study, embarked on his camping research back in 2013, when he sent people on a week-long summer camping trip to understand how their internal clocks changed without electronics and only natural light. Before and after the trip, he measured their levels of the hormone melatonin, which alerts the body when it’s time to prepare for bed and helps set a person’s internal clock. Wright found that people’s internal clocks were delayed by two hours in their modern environment—which isn’t a good thing, since an out-of-whack sleep cycle has been linked to health problems like sleepiness, mood problems and a higher risk of being overweight. But they were able to recalibrate after a week in nature.
Now, in the new study, Wright set out to better understand how long it takes for people to recalibrate their internal sleep cycles and whether it also works in winter.
In the first part of his study, Wright equipped five people with wearable devices that measured when they woke up, when they went to bed and how much light they were normally exposed to. Wright also measured their melatonin levels in a lab. After that, everyone went on a week-long camping trip—but this time, it was during the winter.
Wright found that people’s internal clocks were delayed during their normal schedules—this time by two hours and 36 minutes—compared to when they were exposed to only natural light on their camping trip. They also had higher melatonin levels, which signals that it’s a person’s biological night. “We don’t know what this means, but we do know some humans are sensitive to seasonal changes,” says Wright. “Some people get winter depression or may gain weight a bit more.”
In the second part of the study, Wright wanted to see what happened when some people went camping for just a weekend and others stayed home. Most who stayed home stayed up later than usual and slept in, and their internal clocks were pushed back even further. But on the two-day trip, campers’ internal clocks shifted earlier. “That says we can rapidly change the timing of our internal clock,” says Wright.
Fun as it may be, camping isn’t the only way to get similar results, Wright says: Exposing yourself to morning light, cutting down on electrical light from smartphones and screens in the evening and even dimming the lights at home can help.
As for Wright, he sets his internal clock by hiking in the morning, then waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day. It appears to be working: he doesn’t even need an alarm clock anymore.
If you often run with music, or podcasts, or while watching television on the treadmill, you might want to listen up—literally. New research supports the idea that auditory and visual distractions while running may raise your risk for leg injuries.
The findings aren’t terribly surprising. It makes sense that the more things we have on our minds while working out, the less careful we may be about our form, biomechanics, obstacles in the way, or how hard we’re really working. But this may be one of the first times researchers have compared distracted versus non-distracted running in a lab setting, and really quantified the results.
To test their hypothesis that distractions could interfere with safety, researchers from the University of Florida asked 14 experienced runners to run on a treadmill three separate times—once while watching a screen that flashed different letters and colors; once while listening to words spoken by different voices; and once with no background images or noise. For both distraction scenarios, they were asked to pay attention and identify certain letter-color or word-voice combinations.
The researchers noted that when the runners concentrated on those distractions, they applied force to their legs at a faster rate, compared to when they had a single focus. They also tended to breathe heavier and have higher heart rates while distracted. During the listening scenario, they also experienced an increased amount of force from the ground—meaning they came down harder with each foot fall.
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The results, presented at the annual meeting of the Association of Academic Physiatrists in Las Vegas, are preliminary and have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. The authors didn’t look specifically at whether these things really do lead to sports injuries. But they say it’s certainly possible—and runners who often train or race with with music, crowd noise, or lots of other people, may be particularly vulnerable, they say.
Sometimes this type of background noise can’t be helped, of course—and sometimes you just really need Spotify to get you though long training runs. But it may be smart not to pile too many new sights and sounds on at once, says lead author Daniel Herman, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the University of Florida’s Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation.
“For example, when running a new route in a chaotic environment such as during a destination marathon, you may want to skip listening to something which may require more attention—like a new song playlist or a podcast,” said Dr. Herman in a press release.
This isn’t the first research to suggest a downside to distracted running: A recent pair of studies found that texting or talking on the phone negatively impacted both balance and workout intensity. (Listening to music, however, did not.)
The bottom line? Be careful out there, and be sure you’re giving your workout the attention it needs.
Medical and public health groups are banding together to explain how global warming has taken a toll on human health and will continue to cause food-borne illnesses, respiratory problems, and deaths unless policy changes are enacted.
In a conference call with reporters, the heads of the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) joined with a pediatrician and a scientist to lay out what they say is a major public health issue: climate change caused by global warming.
The Link Between Air Pollution and Asthma
The “evidence has only grown stronger” that climate change is responsible for an increasing number of health ills, including asthma, diarrheal disease, and even deaths from extreme weather such as heat waves, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the APHA.
For one, rising temperatures can mean more smog, which makes children with asthma sicker, explained pediatrician Dr. Perry Sheffield, assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics and the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.
There is also evidence that pollen season is also getting longer, she said, which could lead to an increase in the number of people with asthma.
Climate change also is thought to lead to increased concentrations of ozone, a pollutant formed on clear, cloudless days. Ozone is a lung irritant which can affect asthmatics, those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and those with heart disease, said Dr. Kristie Ebi, who is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
More ozone can mean more health problems and more hospital visits, she said.
Aside from air-related ailments and illnesses, extreme weather can have a devastating effect on health, Sheffield said.
“As a result of global warming, extreme storms including hurricanes, heavy rainfall, and even snowstorms are expected to increase,” Sheffield said. “And these events pose risk of injury and disruption of special medical services, which are particularly important to children with special medical needs.”
Extreme heat waves and droughts are responsible for more deaths than any other weather-related event, Sheffield said.
The 2006 heat wave that spread through most of the U.S. and Canada saw temperatures that topped 100 degrees. In all, 450 people died, 16,000 visited the emergency room, and 1,000 were hospitalized, said Dr. Cecil Wilson, president of the AMA.
Climate change has already caused temperatures to rise and precipitation to increase, which, in turn, can cause diseases carried by tics, mosquitoes, and other animals to spread past their normal geographical range, explained Ebi.
For instance, Lyme disease is increasing in some areas, she said, including in Canada, where scientists are tracking the spread of Lyme disease north.
Ebi also recounted the 2004 outbreak of the leading seafood-related cause of gastroenteritis, Vibrio parahaemolyticus, from Alaskan seafood, which was attributed to increased ocean temperatures causing infected sea creatures to travel 600 miles north. Visit Obat Pembesar Penis for men vitality
Salmonella outbreaks also increase when temperatures are very warm, Sheffield said.
A 2008 study also projected that global warming will lead to a possible increase in the prevalence of kidney stones due to increased dehydration, although the link hasn’t been proven.
Wilson said the AMA wants to make doctors aware of the projected rise in climate-related illnesses. To combat climate change, Wilson says physicians and public health groups can advocate for policies that improve public health, and should also serve as role models by adopting environmentally-friendly policies such as eliminating paper waste and using energy-efficient lighting in their practices.
“Climate instability threatens our health and life-supporting system, and the risk to our health and well-being will continue to mount unless we all do our part to stabilize the climate and protect the nation’s health,” said Wilson.
Benjamin added that doctors should pay attention to the Air Quality Index. For instance, if there’s a “Code Red” day, which indicates the air is unhealthy, physicians should advise patients (particularly those with cardiac or respiratory conditions) that it’s not the day to try and mow the grass.
“ER docs are quite aware of Code Red days because we know that when those occur, we’re going to see lots of patients in the emergency room,” Benjamin said. use Pembesar Penis for strong vitality
The conference call came as Congress is considering what role the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should have in updating its safeguards against carbon dioxide and other pollutants.
While the EPA has the authority to regulate levels of CO2, a budget bill passed by the House of Representatives last the weekend prohibited the EPA from exercising that authority. Meanwhile, other bills are pending in Congress that would significantly delay the agency’s ability to regulate air pollutants.
AMA has a number of policies on the books regarding climate change, including a resolution supporting the EPA’s authority to regulate the control of greenhouse gases, and a statement endorsing findings from the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that concludes the Earth is undergoing adverse climate changes, and that humans are a significant contributor to the changing weather.
In that statement, the AMA said it supports educating the medical community about climate change and its health implications through medical education on topics such as “population displacement, heat waves and drought, flooding, infectious and vector-borne diseases, and potable water supplies.”
The statement also said the AMA supports physician involvement in policymaking to “search for novel, comprehensive, and economically sensitive approaches to mitigating climate change to protect the health of the public.”