Yes, You Should Nap at Work

July 1, 2015 7:43 am 0 comments

b_300_200_16777215_01_images_2015_sleeping-on-the-job-actually-that-s-a-good-thing-orig-20150629It’s OK, close your eyes, breathe deeply. Your boss will wake you up soon enough. When she does, direct her attention to a recent study conducted at the University of Michigan, showing that sleeping on the job can actually boost productivity. A U of Michigan news release reports that researchers at the school asked 40 study participants, ages 18-50, to maintain a consistent sleep schedule for three nights prior to the test. Then the participants completed tasks on computers and answered questions about sleepiness, mood and impulsivity. They were randomly assigned to a 60-minute nap opportunity or no-nap period that involved watching a nature video. Research assistants monitored the participants, who later completed those questionnaires and tasks again. Ready? The envelope please…. The researchers found that those who napped spent more time trying to solve a task than the non-nappers, who were less willing to endure frustration in order to complete it. Wait, there’s more. The nappers also reported feeling less impulsive. The conclusion? Staying awake for an extended period of time hinders people from controlling negative emotional responses. “Our results suggest that napping may be a beneficial intervention for individuals who may be required to remain awake for long periods of time by enhancing the ability to persevere through difficult or frustrating tasks,” says Jennifer Goldschmied, a doctoral student in the Department of Psychology and the study’s lead author.

Men and Women Feel Pain Differently

June 30, 2015 8:15 am 0 comments

He hurts; she hurts, but she hurts differently–and probably more often. That’s the opinion of researchers at McGill Universityimages-1, who took a close look at the longstanding theory that pain is transmitted from the site of injury or inflammation through the nervous system using an immune system cell called microglia. Their research, yes, on mice, not humans, shows that this is only true in male mice. When the researchers altered the function of microglia in a variety of different ways, the action effectively blocked pain in male mice, but it had no effect in female mice.  So how does pain work with women? The researchers believe that a completely different type of immune cell, called T cells, is responsible for sounding the pain alarm in female mice, although they don’t yet know how that works. Why do we care? Because understanding the pathways of pain and sex differences is absolutely essential as we design the next generation of more sophisticated, targeted pain medications. So says Michael Salter, Professor at The University of Toronto, the co‑senior author of the study. “We believe that mice have very similar nervous systems to humans, especially for a basic evolutionary function like pain,” says Salter,  “so these findings tell us there are important questions raised for human pain drug development.”

Do Knee Braces Do Anything Useful?

June 29, 2015 8:19 am 3 comments

imagesDo knee braces to anything useful? That’s the question put to New York Times health columnist Gretchen Reynolds. The answer, says Reynolds, is possibly, but it depends on the brace and on the injury. Reynolds quotes Dr. Robert A. Gallo, an associate professor of orthopedic sports medicine at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, saying that for each study that suggests wearing a knee brace can produce a clinical benefit in reducing pain or feelings of instability there usually is a counterstudy which demonstrates no difference in symptoms between those using a brace and those who are not. No, that’s not encouraging, but wait, there’s more. Gallo says some specialized braces that take some pressure off the knee joint have been shown to help people with knee arthritis remain active and put off knee replacement surgery. And more: knee braces, but not sleeves, he says, may also help after certain types of knee trauma such as a torn medial collateral ligament. So the answer is, no, yes, and maybe.

You Still Can’t Trust Your Pot Dealer

June 26, 2015 7:41 am 0 comments

Drug dealers were never the most imagestrustworthy of businesspeople, but that was usually because of a strategic disregard for the truth. Now comes a report claiming that many merchants of legal marijuana are selling pot whose potency labels are way off the mark, not for dishonest financial gain, but because they don’t know any better.  A news release from Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that researchers collected 75 different edible cannabis products — baked goods, beverages and candy/chocolates — representing 47 different brands, all legally purchased from three medical dispensaries in each of three cities:  Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. When the researchers compared the THC content listed on product labels with the laboratory measures, they found that only 13 products (17 percent) were accurately labeled. When lab results differed from the product label by more than 10 percent, the team categorized those products as either under- or overlabeled. Some 17 products (23 percent) had more THC than advertised, which could lead to overdosing. The majority of products — 45 products (60 percent) — were overlabeled, meaning patients purchasing those products for their THC content are not getting the dose of medicine they believed they purchased.

The Best Time of Day for Yoga

June 25, 2015 8:19 am 0 comments

What’s the best time of day for yoga? It depends on what kind of yoga. No, this is not a joke; it’s serious advice offered in the Wall Street Journalimages by Andrew Tanner, a serious Framingham, Mass., yoga instructor and chief spokesman for the yoga teacher association, Yoga Alliance. Tanner points out that the philosophy of yoga is rooted in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian healing tradition that divides the day into blocks of time, some of which are better for exercise than others. Take the under-utilized block of time between 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., a spiritual time known as Vata. That, says Tanner, is actually a very good time for a meditative practice, and, unsurprisingly, a bad time for intense physical exercise. Next up is the the time between 6 a.m and 10 a.m., known as Kapha. This, says Tanner, is the best time to move your body. Following Kapha is Pitta, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and not recommended for movement, because, Tanner says, “your engines are already running” and you are probably digesting food. Now things get easy, because the blocks of time repeat, with Vata revisiting between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. followed by Kapha and Pitta. Finally, a practical note: if, like most people, you exercise when you get home from work at 6 p.m. you should do it vigorously, and you should stop by 8 p.m. or your buzzing body could keep you up at night.

 

Surgery For Arthritis Of The Knee? Think Again

June 24, 2015 8:36 am 0 comments

arthritis+kneeSurgery for knee pain, at least knee pain caused by degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis, has no lasting benefits, according to researchers at the University of Southern Denmark. Worse, the operation exposes patients to serious health risks like deep vein thrombosis, infection, and pulmonary embolism. The New York Times reports that the Danish researchers reviewed nine randomized trials that involved 1,270 patients ages 50 to 62, and compared the benefits of surgery (for pain caused by degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis, not for repair of traumatic injury to cartilage or ligaments) with control treatments like sham surgery, drug treatment and exercise programs. The envelope please….the researchers found that surgery provided slightly more pain relief than controls in the first six months — only 2.4 points lower on the 100-point scale. Wait, there’s more: there was no difference in pain scores between surgery and controls beyond that period, and there was no difference in physical function.

Extreme Exercise Without Training Can Poison Blood

June 22, 2015 7:44 am 0 comments

mly7LjW3FHtkqEG_cuPVAVYFIZtNRQO-d8KH7mhxhKMoZWvUFCd9TrZcT1oc0LMRTTcQSA=s127OK, it’s possible, but it’s not likely. When researchers at Monash University in Australia studied the biology of athletes who compete in extreme endurance events, like 24-hour marathons, they found endotoxins–gut bacteria that should be contained to intestines, in the athletes blood. No, it’s not good. HealthDay reports that the researchers took blood samples before and after the extreme events, and found that “exercise over a prolonged period of time causes the gut wall to change, allowing the naturally present bacteria, known as endotoxins, in the gut to leak into the bloodstream.” Why do we care? Because when endotoxins enter the bloodstream, the immune system responds as if the body had a serious infection, causing inflammation throughout the body. And now the good news: the researchers also found that fit athletes –those who follow a steady training program to gradually prepare for extreme endurance events– develop immune mechanisms to counter this threat.

Fasting-Like Diet Slows Aging, Reduces Cancer Risk

June 19, 2015 10:42 am 0 comments

The study was first done with yeast, then with mice. A University of Southern California news releasebroccoli reports, researchers at the school showed that cycles of a four-day low-calorie diet that mimics fasting (FMD) cuts visceral belly fat and elevates the number of stem cells in several organs of old mice — including the brain, where it boosts neural regeneration and improves learning and memory. The researchers found that an FMD, which started at middle age, extended life span, reduced the incidence of cancer, boosted the immune system, reduced inflammatory diseases, slowed bone mineral density loss and improved the cognitive abilities of older mice. Now the USC team is testing the diet, which slashes caloric intake down to 34 to 54 percent of normal, on people, and the findings are encouraging. Three cycles of a similar diet given to 19 subjects once a month for five days decreased risk factors and biomarkers for aging, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer with no major adverse side effects. USC’s Valter Longo, director of the USC Longevity Institute and study leader, believes that for most normal people, the FMD can be done every three to six months. His group is testing its effect in a randomized clinical trial, which will be completed soon, with more than 70 subjects.

Once Again, Chocolate Lowers Heart Risk

June 17, 2015 10:17 am 0 comments

Yet another study offersimages good news for chocolate lovers. Researchers at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland are convinced that eating about 100 grams, or 3.5 ounces, of chocolate a day reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. How do they know? Because they studied data from almost 21,000 adults taking part in the EPIC-Norfolk study, which is tracking the impact of diet on the long term health of 25,000 men and women in Norfolk, England, using food frequency and lifestyle questionnaires. A University of Aberdeen news release reports that the highest chocolate intake was associated with a 23 percent lower risk of stroke, a 25 percent lower risk of any episode of cardiovascular disease and a 45 percent lower risk of associated death. Wait, there’s more: the researchers note that, while dark chocolate is considered to be the most healthful, milk chocolate may also offer some health benefits.

No, You Can’t Type Well On A Treadmill Desk

June 15, 2015 10:14 am 0 comments

imagesYou’ve finally persuaded your boss to buy you a treadmill desk; congratulations. Now you have to persuade her that new research suggesting that walking while working seriously damages typing ability and mildly diminishes thinking ability is bogus. And it may be. After all, the research at Brigham Young University involved only 75 people, all of whom were randomly assigned a regular sit-down desk or a treadmill desk. Gretchen Reynolds reports in the New York Times that the subjects, none of whom had ever used a treadmill desk, were tested for manual and mental dexterity. Yes, the manual test required them to type words that flashed on a computer screen, and the mental tests required them to recall a list of words and use basic math skills. The envelope please… Reynolds reports that the treadmill users performed worse on almost all aspects of thinking, including the ability to concentrate and remember, compared with those who had been seated. Wait, there’s more: the treaders were much worse at typing. They typed slower than sitters and they made more mistakes.

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