Is Not Sleeping the New Smoking?

Sleep is one of those things that we have to do, but who among us gets enough of it? It doesn’t help that for a long time, we were acting as if needing to sleep was some sign of laziness!

The truth is that everyone needs sleep. Adults are supposed to get at least seven hours and teens need eight, according to the Mayo Clinic (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/how-many-hours-of-sleep-are-enough/faq-20057898). But most of us aren’t getting that, and a lack of sleep can really be a drag on our physical and mental health.

What a lack of sleep can do to you

Sleep deprivation can do everything from making you more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease–the plaques associated with it drain from your brain while you sleep–to dinging your immune system and lowering your protection against cancer.

Even driving while you are low on sleep can be as bad as being drunk behind the wheel in terms of your mental state and behavior. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that driving while fatigued makes you less attentive, hurts your ability to make decisions and slows your reaction time (https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/drowsy_driving.html).

On top of all this, the West has some cultural problems when it comes to sleep. We push “sleep less, do more” pretty often. Even if the words “don’t sleep” are never said, self-help gurus, business leaders and other influential people often offer advice that simply doesn’t leave room for enough sleep time.

Matthew Walker, a sleep neurologist with the University of California at Berkeley, recently said in a podcast that we are now with sleeping where we were with smoking decades ago (https://www.sleepdiplomat.com/). Despite all the evidence we had that smoking was bad for you, the public was still not aware and continued to smoke because the message had not been made clear.

As you work throughout the night with your phone in one hand and a cup of coffee in another, you’re probably struggling against the urge to sleep without realizing that you are already in a mental slumber due to the effects of sleep deprivation. It’s not lazy to make sure you sleep eight hours each night, but it is irresponsible to ignore your personal health and try to tackle important things while you are sleep-deprived.

Changing your sleep habits can be difficult, but it’s well worth it given the negative effects of sleep deprivation. Start making more time for your bed–and your health–by adjusting your routine today!

Canada’s New Food Guide Rooted in Research, Not Food Industry Lobby

Who doesn’t love food? I certainly do, and I bet you all do too!

As awesome as it is to have a ton of food choices, we still have to watch what we eat if we want to feel and look as good as we possibly can. Lucky for us, Canada has just released a new food guide that doesn’t include studies backed by the food industry lobby. Remember being told we should drink two glasses of milk every day? Guess where that came from!

The guide, which has a handy visual representation in the form of a plate, is pushing dairy and protein to the side and letting plant-based diets take center stage. Shown as a colorful dish, the new guide has fruits and veggies taking up one half, one-fourth devoted to plant-based proteins such as tofu, beans and nuts, and one-fourth earmarked for whole grains such as quinoa and brown rice. Instead of milk, a glass of water is shown next to the plate as the beverage of choice.

Although the new Canada guide is mainly about dietary recommendations, it does offer more than just food advice. On Canada’s official food guide, there are many new eating habit recommendations, including: (https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/healthy-eating-recommendations/)

  • Be more aware of your eating habits.
  • Cook for yourself more often. Going with take-out food is more likely to lead to bad food choices.
  • Enjoy what you eat. Take the time to slowly chew and taste your food.
  • Eat some meals with other people. It makes meal time more pleasant, and you may end up eating less.
  • Read food labels carefully so you make better choices when you’re out and about.
  • Limit foods that are high in sugar, sodium or saturated fat.
  • Be aware of how food marketing may try to influence what you buy and eat. Some marketing forms, such as on social media, are less obvious that traditional tactics.

Of course, this isn’t some radical, off-the-wall advice. We have been hearing for years that you need to eat more fruits and veggies. However, what Canada has done is make it simple for people to see what they need to do, and they’ve really honed in on ways of getting protein from sources beyond animals.

Consider Canada’s new food recommendations, which are based on research and not on studies paid for by the highest bidder, as you change your current diet to a healthier one.

Huge Study Confirms Purpose and Meaning Add Years to Life

Huge Study Confirms Purpose and Meaning Add Years to Life

Having a purpose in life is more that just a good idea, my friends: it turns out it’s absolutely vital if you want to live as long as you possibly can.

A new study has shown that when you’ve got a sense of purpose, you live longer and you’re more on the ball. This gives a whole new meaning to “finding yourself”!

One 2014 study, spearheaded by the first National Institute on Aging director, Dr. Robert Butler, found that people who had a clear reason to get out of bed each morning were mentally sharper and lived longer than people who did not have a reason (https://academic.oup.com/gerontologist/article/54/6/1064/565962).

Now, a newer study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association has confirmed these findings and taken it a step further (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2734064). This study looked at 7,000 adults aged 50 and older, all of whom were interviewed via a questionnaire to rank the purpose of their lives.

Researchers assigned a score for life purpose based on the answers they received and followed up with the participants five years later. After five years had passed, the researchers found that the people who had the lowest scores for life purpose were twice as likely to have died than the people with the highest scores.

It’s time to find your purpose

Finding your purpose is obviously important for your lifespan and your overall sense of well-being, as studies have now shown. But it can seem like an impossible task and a question with no satisfying answer. If you have ever found yourself feeling envious of those people who seem to know exactly what they were put on Earth to do, you’re certainly not alone. Many people struggle to uncover what drives them underneath the hood.

The good news is that your sense of purpose won’t necessarily come from your career, and if that’s where you’re looking, it could be why you don’t recognize yours yet. People find their purpose in a variety of ways, from their hobbies to volunteer work or even just watching their grandchildren grow up. In short, your purpose is uniquely yours, and it doesn’t have to be something grand or vital to society. It just needs to be something that is fulfilling to you, motivating you to keep going when things are tough and getting you out of bed on days when you’d rather just stay under the covers.

Low Back Pain

Does your lower back ever hurt? Is it hurting right now?

If so, you’re certainly not alone. The mouthful that is the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes says that 80 percent of adults have to deal with this at least once in their lives. If this isn’t you yet, it probably will be at one point (sorry!), so now’s the time to learn a bit about it and what you can do.

What causes lower back pain?

Lower back pain, whether it’s acute or chronic (lasts more than three months), can be caused by many factors, including spine ligament, muscle or bone sprain. It can also come from more serious issues, such as cancer or problems with the spine’s structure. In some cases, this condition comes from a herniated disk in the spine.

What can you do?

Unfortunately, there’s no magic cure-all for lower back pain. What will help you will depend largely on the cause of your pain, so it’s important to try to identify that first. Lifting objects properly, having good posture and doing exercises that tone the back can go a long way for many people suffering from lower back pain and aches.

The conventional treatment for this type of pain is usually medications to reduce inflammation and over-the-counter pain relievers for the discomfort. In some more severe cases, prescription drugs are used. A more serious lower back problem might require physical therapy, surgery or both.

There are other, less conventional methods you can use to treat your low back pain. A relaxation technique, such as meditation, can help some people, and therapeutic yoga can help you ease muscle tension, promote flexibility and strengthen your back.

Exercise, as long as your form is correct and you don’t overdo it, is always good, and both aerobic and strength training can help boost your back. There’s also chiropractic care, acupuncture and therapeutic massage to consider. All three have been shown to help ease pain in numerous studies conducted over the years. To find a qualified massage therapist in your area, visit the official website of the American Massage Therapy Association.

If you have low back pain, you don’t have to just sit there and take it or pop another Advil and hope it all goes away. Take action now so you can start living a life where you are free of pain and feel better than ever!

Brain Boosting Strategy

Brain Boosting Strategy

Hello, fellow brain-boosters! Are you ready to give your brain a much-needed workout?

Our brain is still mysterious in some ways, but we can all agree on one thing: it’s very, very important. This organ is the most complex one in your body, and it’s the conductor of your body’s symphony. Having it in top form is vital at all ages, and it becomes very important as you grow older. So if you’re ready to get the most out of your mind and keep yourself protected from age-related conditions that can affect it, keep reading!

A lot of research has found that mental and physical exercise can help your brain as you age. According to Scientific American, everything from aerobics to yoga has a positive effect on the brain (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-exercise-affects-your-brain/). A more recent study out of the University of Canberra in Australia demonstrated brain improvement in people over 50 who did a combination of strength training and aerobic exercise, and this was true regardless of the state of the participant’s brain when the study started (https://www.canberra.edu.au/about-uc/media/newsroom/2017/april/uc-research-exercise-delivers-brain-boost-for-over-50s).

In the study, UC researchers took a look at 39 studies to gauge the impact of various types of exercise in varying degrees of duration and intensity on the brain health of people aged 50 and older. In addition to strength exercises in the form of resistance training and aerobics, the researchers examined studies that combined both exercise types and also those that evaluate activities such as tai chi and yoga.

They found that aerobics enhanced a person’s cognitive abilities, while resistance training boosted executive function, which is the brain process people use to set and reach goals. Resistance training also improved memory overall and working memory (or short-term memory). It was also found that tai chi appears to boost cognitive abilities, but so few studies have been done in this area that a larger trial would be needed to confirm the theory.

If you’re ready to boost your brain health, each session of your chosen exercise routine should last at least 45 minutes, be done as many days as possible, and include moderate to vigorous exertion on your part. UC study leader Joe Northey said that just exercising once or twice a week will help your brain, but exercising more often is better.

The brain you have today is the only one you’ll ever get, so devote some time to giving it a little love, and you’ll be much better off for it.

What Happens to Your Body When You Smoke?

Are there any smokers in the room? Raise your hands and try not to cough (kidding!)

I want to talk directly to you today because I’ve got some information you need to know.

I’m not here to point fingers and make you feel bad or embarrassed for being a smoker. No one likes being addicted to something, and it can happen pretty easily.

What I want to do is tell you what is going on in your body every time you light up a cigarette. You have the right to know what your favorite smokes could be doing to you beyond leaving a bad smell on your clothes, hair and breath.

The short-term impact

Over the short term, smoking causes staining on your teeth and can lead to tooth problems, gum loss and a bad taste in your mouth. The Center for Substance Abuse Research also says that smoking, in the short term, can cause asthma and other respiratory problems, decrease your lung capacity and leave you with a cough that just won’t go away (http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/tobacco.asp).

The long-term game

As time goes on and you continue to light up, the damage toll on your body continues to get worse. You may not even realize it; the more severe health consequences of smoking often don’t start to produce symptoms until some damage has been done, and you may not be able to turn back the clock on that damage, either – even if you quit.

When you smoke, it damages your heart and interferes with how your blood vessels work. The vessels in your heart, for example, can thicken, which means pathways narrow and you’re now at a much higher risk of heart disease than a non-smoker, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/smoking-and-your-heart). It also makes your heart beat at a faster pace, boosts your blood pressure and causes your blood to clot, which can impact blood flow to your heart.

You’ve probably already experienced how smoking can mess with your respiratory system, whether it’s that weird cold that keeps coming back or that time you got winded trying to go up the stairs. Your lungs have a protective layer that guards them from the things you inhale, and that layer has small hairs known as “cilia” whose job is to wipe off your lungs, like car window blades clear a windshield. However, when you smoke, your cilia stop working like they should, leaving your lungs unable to clear themselves out correctly. Smoking can also trigger asthma or make it worse and cause respiratory diseases such as COPD and chronic bronchitis.

Regardless of gender, smoking can harm your reproductive system. Other organs may be affected because of the over 7,000 potentially cancer-causing chemicals cigarettes have been known to contain.

Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it is possible and it is worth it. Don’t be chained to your smokes a second later than you have to – take back control over your health today!

Top 8 Tips to Optimize Your Blood Sugar Level

What’s going on, my fellow pre-diabetics?

I wish I could say I’m just kidding, but for some of you, that’s true!

We all need insulin to keep going, but many people are resistant to this hormone, which makes your body grow older faster than it should, putting you at risk for diabetes and other not-so-great conditions. Every time you eat something high in sugar, carbs and grains, your blood glucose levels shoot up faster than a rocket.

The good news is that this common problem is something you can still fix. Just try these eight tips to optimize your blood sugar levels.

Time your meals better

Compressing your eating window, or intermittent fasting, is a recognized approach to lose weight and reduce your risk of conditions such as diabetes, according to Harvard Health Publishing (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/intermittent-fasting-surprising-update-2018062914156).

There are many different fasting protocols to choose from. One popular format is eating all meals within a window of six hours, and fasting for the other 18 hours.

Monitor your blood sugar

Pre-diabetes is medically defined as having a blood sugar level between 100 and 125 mg/d while fasting. With this number in mind, you can start testing your levels over the course of the day to see what is impacting yours.

Watch your blood ketones

A blood ketone test will tell you if you are in nutritional ketosis, a metabolic state during which your body decides to burn fat instead of carbs as its main fuel source. Once you start your fasting routine, you can see how you’re doing in this area, with a blood ketone level above 0.3 millimoles per liter being the goal.

Limit net carbs until further notice

Along with fasting, you’ll need a cyclical ketogenic diet. Here, you will have to radically limit your carbs and replace them with moderate protein amounts and healthy fats. Keep a food diary so know exactly how many total carbs and net carbs you’re eating each day.

Boost healthy fats

A key part of nutritional ketosis is replacing your lost carbs with healthy fats. Industrially processed vegetable oils, which are often in restaurant and processed foods, are out. Healthy fats include organic ghee, olive oil, coconut oil, coconut, olives, avocados, raw nuts, seeds and egg yolks.

Drink clean water

Stay away from sweetened drinks and opt for organic black coffee, tea and purified water. Everybody’s water needs are different, so consider how thirsty you are, the color of your urine–it should be light and not dark in color–and how often you go. Most people who drink enough water urinate seven to eight times daily, according to Medical News Daily (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321461.php).

Eat more seeds and nuts

Seeds and nuts are not just high in healthy fats; they also have magnesium, which people are often deficient in. If you’re lacking this mineral, it can raise your risk of insulin resistance because it plays a part in your glucose and carb metabolism.

Commit to more exercise

Exercise does many things for your body, including helping it manage blood sugar levels better. Strength training in particular has been shown to help the body regulate glucose and reduce blood sugar level spikes after meals.

Don’t wait until you’re forced to do something about your blood sugar–get optimizing today!

2 Ways To Protect The Brain

No one wants to get older, but it’s a fact of life, folks! There’s no “growing old” gracefully, either. No magic clock is going to wind back and make you feel like a teenager again.

But there is good news, and I’m here to give it to you. You don’t have to just accept the aging of your brain and all the negative things that come with it. Take these two proven steps to keep your mind on the younger side.

Add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet

Researchers from the University of California at Irvine have found that the omega-3 fatty acid DHA might slow the growth of two lesions on the brain that are known indicators of Alzheimer’s disease (https://news.uci.edu/2007/04/17/omega-3-fatty-acid-may-help-prevent-alzheimers-brain-lesions/). In the study, researchers fed a control group of genetically modified mice the equivalent of the modern American diet with a 10:1 ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids. Three test groups received a 1:1 ratio, with one group receiving supplemental DHA alone and the two other groups getting DHA along with other omega-6 fatty acids.

At the end of three months, all three groups of mice had lower levels of the two proteins that cause the hallmark lesions, but at the nine-month mark, the mice on the DHA diet were the only ones with lower protein levels. This suggests that DHA is better taken alone than paired with omega-6 fatty acids.

Give your brain a workout

Treat your brain like you would any other muscle and exercise it!

You’ve probably already heard that activities that stimulate your mind can reduce your Alzheimer’s risk, but there’s actual proof this is true.

Researchers from the Chicago-based Rush Memory and Aging Project (https://www.judsonsmartliving.org/blog/lifelong-learning-as-we-age-benefits-both-mind-and-body/) conducted a study involving more than 1,200 seniors, and they found that a boost in cognitive activity by older adults left them 2.6 times less likely than their less cognitively-active counterparts to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Stimulating activities include things as simple as reading the newspaper or a book, playing chess and going to the theater. Even when researchers controlled for current physical and social activity levels, socioeconomic status and past cognitive activity, the benefits older adults receiving just by using their minds held strong.

You don’t have to love the idea of getting older to help keep your mind sharp; simply acknowledging that it will happen and taking the steps needed to protect your brain is enough.

What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Gluten?

What’s up, foodies?

If you’re like me and everyone else, you probably love bread, carbs and all that jazz, even if it’s not good for you. I’m sure you’ve heard enough about carbs to last you two lifetimes, and you probably feel the same way about gluten, but how much do you really know about this protein?

What gluten actually is

Gluten is a protein that has molecules known as gliadin and glutenin that make an elastic-type bond when they are mixed with water. This is why gluten is so often used in foods like cakes and breads, because it provides that spongy texture that bakers are usually after. It is also in many flours, brans and germs, which explains why it shows up in everything from pastas and beers to gravies, dressings and sauces.

While it does great things for baked goods, the same isn’t true for what it does to your body. Research indicates that gluten can cause harm because of some of the complications it can cause.

What gluten does

The major issue with gluten is that it can prevent the proper breakdown and absorption of nutrients from foods, and this happens whether those goods have gluten in them or not. This can prevent you from digesting things correctly since excess gluten can lead to the formation of a “glued” lump in your gut that causes constipation. That undigested gluten prompts your immune system to attack the lining of your small intestine, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation (https://celiac.org/about-celiac-disease/what-is-celiac-disease/), and can leave you with stomach pain, nausea, constipation or diarrhea.

Over time, eating too much gluten can make the inflammation and damage to your small intestine worse, leaving you short on nutrients you need for your body to work properly. At that point, you become vulnerable to a large variety of conditions, including osteoporosis, anemia and complications with your nervous system and liver, to name just a few.

People can be allergic to gluten, intolerant to gluten, sensitive to gluten or have a condition known as celiac disease. The disease is an autoimmune condition, according to Coeliac UK (https://www.coeliac.org.uk/information-and-support/coeliac-disease/about-coeliac-disease/gluten-sensitivity/) and not simply a food intolerance or sensitivity.

Gluten can be harmful to many people, and it can be hard to tell which side of the fence you fall on. Eliminating all gluten from your diet can help you determine whether you are suffering from any negative effects when you eat it.

Fasting Prevents and Halts Diabetes

You’ve probably seen people talking about fasting everywhere, but I have to admit, there’s a lot of conflicting info out there. As with a lot of things, the truth is somewhere in the middle: fasting isn’t a cure-all, but it does have some truly remarkable possibilities.

What if I told you that fasting may just be a way to stop diabetes from ever happening and even reverse it in some people? You may be thinking, “Hey, no way that’s true,” but I’m here to tell you that it is, and I’ve brought the research to prove it!

Although fasting can be a challenge and may sound daunting at first, this time-tested practice helps the body remove harmful substances and may just be the key to winning the fight against diabetes.

Improving insulin sensitivity with fasting

Many studies have found that fasting might boost sensitivity to insulin, support weight management when combined with exercise, and even possibly reverse diabetes. One such study was recently presented at the annual Digestive Disease Week professional conference (https://ddw.org/attendee-planning/online-planner).

Based on the fasting practices for prayer that Muslims follow during Ramadan, this study followed 14 people in good health who regularly fasted for 15 hours per day (from dawn to dusk) over a 30-day period. Blood samples were taken from the participants before they began the religious fast and at the end of the final week of fasting, and an additional blood sample was taken one week after their fasts ended.

The researchers found that the 30-day fast had raised the participants’ levels of tropomyosin (TPM) proteins, which boost insulin resistance and lessen the negative effects of a high-sugar diet. Increased levels of TPM 1, 3 and 4 were present in the participants’ blood samples. TPM 3 in particular plays a central role in boosting insulin sensitivity, which results in better control over blood glucose levels.

The research team was led by Dr. Ayse Leyla Mindikoglu, a professor at Houston’s Baylor College, who added that feeding and fasting can have a significant effect on how the body creates and uses the proteins needed for lowering insulin resistance and maintaining a healthy weight.

Fasting might promote the growth of pancreatic beta cells

Established research scientist James DiNicolantonio explored the outcomes of several studies in the Open Heart medical journal (https://openheart.bmj.com/content/openhrt/6/1/e001028.full.pdf?ct), all of which found that repeated fasting episodes may trigger the growth of pancreatic beta cells in mouse-model experiments. The growth comes from an increased expression of a protein that is part of the process that leads to the pancreatic beta cells responsible for producing insulin.

In the animal studies, the boost in these cells also came with an improvement in blood sugar control. In Type 1 diabetes, these beta cells are nearly destroyed, something that also happens in the latter stages of severe Type 2 diabetes. Therefore, it’s possible this could lead to a way to reverse Type 2 diabetes, according to DiNicolantonio. The research scientist recommends practicing a diabetes-preventive lifestyle, with intermittent fasting a good option for those who don’t respond.

Avoiding breakfast before exercising might boost weight management efforts

Do you ever get flak from family members for skipping breakfast? If so, listen up. A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition examined the effects of a person skipping breakfast before working out in the morning (https://academic.oup.com/jn/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/jn/nxz018/5440571?redirectedFrom=fulltext). In this study, 12 fit and active young men ate a breakfast of milk and oats followed by resting during one stage, ate the same breakfast and worked out for 60 minutes in the next stage, and then fasted overnight and worked out the next morning before they ate in the third stage.

The researchers in this study found that the men who fasted before exercise ate 400 fewer calories throughout the day when compared to those who ate and rested or ate and exercised. Javier Gonzalez of the University of Bath, who led the study, theorized that working out on an empty stomach may lead to a calorie deficit and not overeating. Since obesity is often a factor in diabetes, effective weight management is part of the program for preventing it.

It’s time to take control of your health and start living life the way you were meant to. While a lot of people all over the world have diabetes, you don’t have to develop it! Start acting now to get back to your best self, with fasting as a key to open that locked door.