Friday, December 19, 2008
By: Gen Wright
Stress is a part of life whether we like it or not. One of the most important self improvement skills you can ever learn is to better manage your stress levels in your lifestyle and workplace. Problems, big or small, can affect us emotionally, mentally and physically. High stress levels can leave us feeling chronic emotions of doubt, desperation, anxiety, and leave us feeling generally short tempered and irritable if we let it get out of control. It is important you learn to control stress before it even begins to grow – and the secret to that self improvement success depends on you.
* Body self-improvement techniques *
Learn fundamental self improvement techniques to better manage your stress levels and how you respond to stress. We should be sensitive to what our body needs by knowing how stress affects our physical self to adapt to it.
Here are some techniques that you can use to improve your body and getting stress out of your system.
1. It is very important to know the limits of our body especially when it comes to dealing with stress. Some people would justify that the more our body is exposed to stress, the stronger we become – this is just not true. If you feel constant aches and pains while working, then you should take some time off work and relax before it turns to something really serious. Chronic fatigue syndrome is one of the most common side effects of chronic stress out of control in your life.
2. Relax and enjoy. To help your body relieve stress then you need to engage in some fun activities that will help it along the road to recovery. A massage is perfect for energizing your body while getting rid of those tight muscles that will eventually lead pain and limit your body flexibility. Pamper yourself by visiting a health spa or massage clinic at least once week; a few hours with professional hands can do wonders.
3. Exercise and sweat it out. Not many people can allocate the time and effort for physical exercise, but if you really want to enjoy a stress free life then you better learn to manage your time to include some physical activity every week. Even better, some daily 1 hour exercise can do wonders to your cardiovascular functions and keep your heart in proper working order.
* Self-improvement for a stress free life *
The tips above cover the physical side of releasing stress, but your mind is still vulnerable to its attacks. Even if we feel the physical and emotional backlash of the problems that we face, it will always start with how you think and how you come up with creative ways in dealing with it. So before you can apply the tips above, you have to first condition your mind by focusing on the need to improve yourself and your lifestyle choices in getting rid of stress.
* Some Mental Activities That Will Help Relieve Stress *
Most stressed individuals think that doing fun activities will not reduce the effect of problems that they tackle under career, social or personal pressure. Since stress will first affect the mental functions of an individual, it is very important to teach the person focus his mind on positive thoughts rather than dwelling on negative ones. Logical functions are put to the test by introducing the Rubik’s Cube, Scrabble, and Bridge, into their curriculum. If you have no plans of visiting health centers to deal with stress, you can easily incorporate these games into your daily routine to give your mind some diversion from problems.
Engaging in some form of sports is a great way to relieve stress. You can opt for team sports like basketball, soccer or volleyball which provides socializing functions and exercise. If you go to a health gym your instructor will design a workout program to suit your needs and fitness levels.
Cardiovascular workouts can improve your heart and strengthen it to avoid stress related problems like strokes, high-blood pressure, chest pains and rapid heart beat. Note however that working out at the gym needs proper diet as well since your physical attributes will be worked to the limit to help fight off stress. Fresh fruits and vegetables are necessary improves digestion and supplies the body with the required nutrients it needs. Red meat can give your muscles proteins that will strengthen muscle tissues for added flexibility. Drink plenty of filtered water and cut back on soda and coffee. A healthy dose of mental activities, physical exercise coupled with a balanced fresh diet can help a person avoid the signs and symptom of stress and will be on the road to recovery to a stress free life. These fundamental self improvement skills will help you to get and stay healthy for a better and stress free life.
If you would like more valuable free online self improvement resources you can drop by here www.squidoo.com/selfhelp_resources and also help yourself to some daily motivational self improvement tips here: www.squidoo.com/self-improvement-daily-motivation. Help is only a click away!
Smart Articles @ http://www.articlebrain.com
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The Brain That Changes Itself: Stores of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, is a compelling collection of tales about the amazing abilities of the brain to rewire, readjust and relearn after having a slice of itself rendered dysfunctional. The first seven chapters captivated me for their personal stories; the final four chapters for the science and philosophy.
Part of what makes Doidge’s writing so accessible is he tells stories, and his stories just happen to incorporate brain science. As a result, his book is easy to digest. The neuroscience behind Doidge’s book involves neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to rewire itself. This means that the brain – our intelligence – is not something fixed in concrete but rather a changing, learning entity. On the face of it, this concept should not sound unusual, for it is what happens to individuals all the time as we go about the learning process, from infancy onwards.
What separates the stories in this book from daily learning is that the brains in question have been damaged in some form or other. Each tale is inspirational in that the individuals are able to overcome substantial, life-altering events, such as severe illness and stroke, in part thanks to the research of visionary scientists and doctors who developed methods and tools to facilitate neuroplasticity.
NeuroplasticityThe catchy phrase behind neuroplasticity is “neurons that fire together wire together”. The idea is that when two events (neurons firing) occur in the brain at the same time, the events (neurons) become associated with one another, and the neuronal connections (wiring) become stronger.
For many years, it was thought that each area of the brain had its own responsibilities; in other words, certain functions were localized or hardwired to certain brain areas. If something is hardwired then it is fixed and not capable of change.
However, while certain areas of the brain do tend to be responsible for specific functions, since the brain is plastic, areas overlap and even can co-opt one another’s functions. Initial maps drawn of our mental system turn out to be not as static as originally thought. If one pathway gets blocked, the brain is very good at finding alternative pathways.
As with any pathway, the more a particular path is used, the more ingrained it becomes, and pathways near one another become associated with each other. If a path is underutilized, over time it will be co-opted by other pathways that are branching out and need more space.
Hence, plasticity can be summed up in a few succinct statements all from chapter three – Redesigning the brain:
- Neurons that fire together wire together.
- Neurons that wire apart fire apart.This is also stated as Neurons out of sync fail to link.
- Use it or lose it.
The ScientistsDoidge includes stories of the neuroscientists, among them Paul Bach-y-Rita, who pioneered the idea of “polysensory”. Polysensory refers to the sensory areas of the brain, which rather than only processing information from just the senses that normally report to those areas, are actually able to process information from any of the senses.
Michael Merzenich, a developer of the cochlear implant and founder of Posit Science, is another of the scientists noted by Doidge. Merzenich says that “You cannot have plasticity in isolation…it’s an absolute impossibility. (and Doidge continues) His experiments have shown that if one brain system changes, those systems connected to it change as well.”
Following on his heels is Edward Taub, who established constraint induced therapy, an alternative therapy for individuals felled by stroke. Taub’s research supported Merzenich’s findings that “when a brain map is not used, the brain can reorganize itself so that another mental function takes over that processing space.”
Alvaro Pascual-Leone’s experiments began with looking at what happens in the minds of those who read Braille, and transitioned to looking at how “our thoughts can change the material structure of our brains.” His goal was “to test whether mental practice and imagination in fact lead to physical changes.” This is, indeed, what happens when athletes use visualization to help prepare for sports trials.
In the last quarter of Doidge’s book, which is equally interesting for the clarification of theories, he discusses the work of Eric Kandel, Sigmund Freud, Santiago Ramón y Cajal, Jordan Grafman, and several other scientists who are exploring neuroplasticity.
I see plasticity and metacognition as closely entwined. This combination of knowing that intelligence is not fixed and thus you can change it, and knowing how you learn, is immensely positive and powerful, and has huge implications for students of any age. I translate this to students who struggle with learning issues, and aging adults who fear their brains will fade. I also think it is important for teachers to understand the concept of brain plasticity, as a means for no longer pigeon holing students.
Of course, we take away from an author’s writing what we want or need to learn. As a provider of professional development to faculty, the final lesson I take from Doidge’s book is the power of multifaceted professional development to foster neuroplasticity in adults, and therefore enhance their creativity. I take the message that most of us have the ability to break out of habits and to learn something new, and each time we do this, it strengthens our ability to do it the next time!
Further InformationFor more about Norman Doidge:
interview on The Brain Science Podcast and Blog with Ginger Campbell
For more about some of the neuroscientists mentioned by Doidge:
Edward Taub’s Revolutionary Approach to Stroke Rehabilitation – interview on the Brain Science Podcast
Mixed Feelings – Wired Science’s video article on Paul Bach y Rita’s research
Scientific American Frontiers: Changing Your Mind – The Sight of Touch story of Alvaro Pascual-Leone’s experiments
Dr. Posner, many thanks for your time today. I really enjoyed the James Arthur Lecture monograph on Evolution and Development of Self-Regulation that you delivered last year. Could you provide a summary of the research you presented?
I would emphasize that we human beings can regulate our thoughts, emotions, and actions to a greater degree than other primates. For example, we can choose to pass up an immediate reward for a larger, delayed reward.
We can plan ahead, resist distractions, be goal-oriented. These human characteristics appear to depend upon what we often call "self-regulation." What is exciting these days is that progress in neuroimaging and in genetics make it possible to think about self-regulation in terms of specific brain-based networks.
Can you explain what self-regulation is?
All parents have seen this in their kids. Parents can see the remarkable transformation as their children develop the ability to regulate emotions and to persist with goals in the face of distractions. That ability is usually labeled ‘‘self-regulation.’’
The other main area of your research is attention. Can you explain the brain-basis for what we usually call "attention"?
I have been interested in how the attention system develops in infancy and early childhood.
One of our major findings, thanks to neuroimaging, is that there is not one single "attention", but three separate functions of attention with three separate underlying brain networks: alerting, orienting, and executive attention. 1) Alerting: helps us maintain an Alert State.
2) Orienting: focuses our senses on the information we want. For example, you are now listening to my voice.
3) Executive Attention: regulates a variety of networks, such as emotional responses and sensory information. This is critical for most other skills, and clearly correlated with academic performance. It is distributed in frontal lobes and the cingulate gyrus.
The development of executive attention can be easily observed both by questionnaire and cognitive tasks after about age 3–4, when parents can identify the ability of their children to regulate their emotions and control their behavior in accord with social demands.
"Executive attention" sounds similar to executive functions.
Executive functions are goal-oriented. Executive attention is just the ability to manage attention towards those goals, towards planning.
Both are clearly correlated. Executive attention is important for decision-making (how to accomplish an external goal) and with working memory (the temporary storage of information). For example, given that you said earlier that you liked my monograph, I have been thinking of the subheadings and sections there as I provide you my answers, using my working memory capacity.
You said that each of the three functions of attention are supported by separate neural networks.
Neuroimaging allows us to identify sets of distributed areas that operate together. Different techniques allow us to see different things. For example, fMRI lets us see the activation of areas of grey matter. A more recent technique, diffusion tensor, is focused instead on the white matter. It detects connectivity among neurons, it helps us see a map of networks.
How many networks have been identified so far?
So far, a number of networks have been identified. For an illustration, you can see the wonderful interactive Brain Map by the University of Texas, San Antonio (Note: http://www.brainmap.org/).
Let me mention another fascinating area of research. There is a type of neuron, named the Von Economo neuron, which is found only in the anterior cingulate and a related area of the anterior insula, very common in humans, less in other primates, and completely absent in most non-primates. These neurons have long axons, connecting to the anterior cingulate and anterior insula, which we think is part of the reason why we have Executive Attention. Diffusion tensor allows us to identify this white matter, these connections across separate brain structures, in the live brain. From a practical point of view, we can think that neural networks like this are what enable specific human traits such as effortful control.
What is effortful control?
It is a higher-order temperament factor consisting of attention, focus shifting, and inhibitory control - both for children and adults. A common example is how often you may make plans that you do not follow through with. A test often used to measure executive attention is the Stroop Test (you can try it here). Effortful control has been shown to correlate with the scores on executive attention at several ages during childhood, and imaging studies have linked it to brain areas involved in self-regulation.
Good parenting has been shown to build good effortful control, so there are clear implications from this research.
Tell us now about your recent research on attention training
Several training programs have been successful in improving attention in normal adults and in patients suffering from different pathologies. With normal adults, training with video games produced better performance on a range of visual attention tasks. Training has also led to specific improvements in executive attention in patients with specific brain injury. Working-memory training can improve attention with ADHD children.
In one recent study we developed and tested a 5-day training intervention using computerized exercises. We tested the effect of training during the period of major development of executive attention, which takes place between 4 and 7 years of age.
We found that executive attention was trainable, and also a significantly greater improvement in intelligence in the trained group compared to the control children. This finding suggested that training effects had generalized to a measure of cognitive processing that is far removed from the training exercises.
A collaborator of our lab, Dr. Yiyuan Tang, studied the impact of mindfulness meditation with undergrads to improve exec attention, finding significant improvements as well. We hope that training method like this will be further evaluated, along with other methods, both as possible means of improving attention prior to school and for children and adults with specific needs.
Can you explain the potential implications of this emerging research on Education and Health?
It is clear that executive attention and effortful control are critical for success in school. Will they one day be trained in pre-schools? It sounds reasonable to believe so, to make sure all kids are ready to learn. Of course, additional studies are needed to determine exactly how and when attention training can best be accomplished and its lasting importance.
In terms of health, many deficits and clinical problems have a component of serious deficits in executive attention network. For example, when we talk about attention deficits, we can expect that in the future there will be remediation methods, such as working memory training, to help alleviate those deficits.
Let me add that we have found no ceiling for abilities such as attention, including among adults. The more training, even with normal people, the higher the results.
Let me ask your take on that eternal question, the roles of nature and nurture.
There is a growing number of studies that show the importance of interaction between our genes and each of our environments. Epigenetics is going to help us understand that question better, but let me share a very interesting piece of research from my lab where we found an unusual interaction between genetics and parenting.
Good parenting, as measured by different research-based scales, has been shown to build good effortful control which, as we saw earlier, is so important. Now, what we found is that some specific genes reduced, even eliminated, the influence of the quality of parenting. In other words, some children's development really depends on how their parents bring them up, whereas others do not - or do to a much smaller extent.
Too bad that we do not have time now to explore all the potential ethical implications from emerging research like that...let me ask a few final questions. First, given that we have been talking both about formal training programs (computer-based, meditation) and also informal ones (parenting), do we know how formal and informal learning interact? what type can be most effective when, and for whom?
Great question. We don't know at this point. A research institute in Seattle, funded by the National Science Foundation, is trying to address that question. One practical issue they address is the influence of bilingual education on cognition.
How can SharpBrains readers access the computer-based attention training program you talked about earlier?
Researchers and parents can download the program, which is aimed at kids aged 4 to 6. The computerized exercises are available on www.teach-the-brain.org. Click on learning tools and follow attention.Finally, what can we expect from your lab in the next years?
We will hear soon if we obtain the NIH proposal to train children at age 5 and then follow-up over the years, compared to a control group. The program I mentioned earlier showed good short-term results, but we would like to track those kids over time and see what happens. For example, we will examine whether or not an early intervention might translate into a "snowball effect" of higher levels of cognitive and school performance.
- Tang, Y., Ma, Y., Wang, J., Fan, Y., Feng, S., Lu, Q., et al. (2007). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104(43), 17152-17156.
-Rueda, M.R., Rothbart, M.K.. & Saccamanno, L. & Posner, M.I. (2005) Training,maturation and genetic influences on the development of executive attention. Proc.U.S Nat'l Acad of Sciences 102, 14931-14936.
- Rueda, M.R., Posner, M.I., & Rothbart,M.K. (2005) The development of executive attention: contributions to the emergence of self regulation. Developmental Neuropsychology 28, 573-594.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Release Date: September 24, 2007
Strength training effectively prevents increases of percentage body fat and attenuates increases of intra-abdominal fat in overweight and obese premenopausal women, according to the results of a 2-group, randomized controlled trial reported in the September issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"American women aged 25 - 44 y gain 0.5 - 1 kg yearly, most of which is fat," write Kathryn H. Schmitz, from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues from the Strong, Healthy, and Empowered study. "Because few midlife women participate in strength training, this mode of activity may be a novel intervention for preventing age-associated fat increases in this population."
An ethnically diverse sample of 164 overweight and obese women was randomized to twice-weekly strength training for 2 years (treatment group) or to a standard care (comparison) group that received brochures recommending aerobic exercise. Age range was 25 to 44 years; body mass index (BMI) was 25 to 35 kg/m2. Computed tomography scan to measure intra-abdominal fat and dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry to measure body fat and fat-free mass were performed at baseline, 1 year, and 2 years.
Changes in percentage body fat during the 2-year study were –3.68% ± 0.99% for the treatment group vs –0.14% ± 1.04% for the control group (P = .01). Changes in intra-abdominal fat were 7.05% ± 5.07% for the treatment group vs 21.36% ± 5.34% for the control group (P = .05).
"This study suggests that strength training is an efficacious intervention for preventing percentage body fat increases and attenuating intraabdominal fat increases in overweight and obese premenopausal women," the study authors write. "This is relevant to public health efforts for obesity prevention because most weight gain can be assumed to be fat, including abdominal fat."
Limitations of the study include greater loss to follow-up in the standard care group and lack of objective monitoring of dietary changes.
"Because these women are already overweight or obese, weight-loss efforts would be desirable," the study authors conclude. "That said, obesity prevention interventions such as twice-weekly strength training are vital to our efforts to slow the increase in population prevalence of obesity and weight gain among overweight and obese women. These findings are particularly relevant to an aging population and the avoidance of the development of sarcopenic obesity in the elderly."
Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;86:566-572.
You know those people that get up before dawn to exercise and the ones that work out for hours at the gym like its their part-time job? They seem to live for exercise! Maybe you are not one of them. Even those who hate to work out may come to learn to enjoy the benefits of exercise with these 5 easy exercise tips.
1) Set small goals. You are setting yourself up for failure if you think you are going to lose 30 lbs. next month or if you sign up for a marathon when you can't walk a mile. Take 'baby steps' for success. Make your goals more realistic, like losing 2 lbs., or walking 20 min. 3 times a week. When you see you have achieved those smaller goals you'll feel better about what you are doing.
2) Use others successes to motivate you.If you see a friend lose weight you might feel a bit envious. You might even think that losing weight is just easier for them. Instead of feeling discouraged, make your friend's success a motivation for you. "If she can do it, so can I!" It makes it seem more possible...so cheer your friend on !
3) Say Good-bye to negative self-talk.It's really easy to get down on yourself, especially at the beginning of an exercise program. You know the words: "How did I get so fat? I can never look as good as I used to." So, while working out concentrate on what your body can do. Avoid negative thoughts and say things like, " I am getting stronger every day." Studies show that your body believes what the mind keeps telling it.
4) Finish with a 'Bang'...Studies show that if you finish your workout doing things you like that are relaxing and pleasurable, you will have the tendency to come back. If you finish your work out with a series of grueling exercises that cause you pain, that is what you'll remember and you'll avoid coming back. So, finish that workout with a relaxing stretch, maybe to some fun music, and your mind will remember that good feeling. You want to keep up the exercise routine for the best health benefits so do what you can to make that happen.
5) Treat yourself.This doesn't mean to treat yourself with a double-dip ice cream cone. Set your small goals for the week...like 3 mornings a week of 30 min. exercise = a hot bubble bath or a massage. Pick something you enjoy and set your sites to having it when you achieve your goals. Your body will thank you by feeling more energetic and looking better!
Debbie Mumm is an Indoor Air Specialist in northern IL. She has been working in this industry since 1996.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
from Brain and Mind Fitness News
October 10, 2006
It’s clear that our society has changed faster than our genes. Instead of being faced with physical, immediately life-threatening crises that demand instant action, these days we deal with events and illnesses that gnaw away at us slowly without any stress release.
Dr. Robert Sapolsky, in an interview about his book Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, points out that humans uniquely “can get stressed simply with thought, turning on the same stress response as does the zebra.” But, the zebra releases the stress hormones through life-preserving action, while we usually just keep muddling along, getting more anxious by the moment.
Prolonged exposure to the adrenal steroid hormones, like cortisol, released during stress can damage the brain and block the formation of new neurons in the hippocampus, which is the key player in encoding new memories in your brain. Recent studies have shown these neurons can be regenerated with learning and environmental stimulation, but while short-term stress may improve attention and memory, chronic stress leads indirectly to cell death and hampers our ability to make changes and be creative enough to even think of possible changes to reduce the stress.
What are the best defenses against chronic stress?
1. Exercise strengthens the body and can reduce the experience of stress, depression, and anxiety. Exercise promotes arousal and relaxation and improves quality of sleep.
2. Relaxation through meditation, biofeedback, yoga, or other techniques to lower blood pressure, slow respiration, slow metabolism, and release muscle tension.
3. Empowerment because attitudes of personal confidence and control of your environment, even if illusory, resolve the stress response.
4. Social network of friends, family, and even pets help foster trust, support, and relaxation.
So hey, go ahead, call your mom. It may save your life!
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Twenty-nine randomized trials of people over the age of 50 met their rigorous criteria for inclusion. In their study, recently published in The Lancet, the results demonstrated a significant reduction of bone loss at the hip and in the spine. Plus, there was a 12% reduction of fractures of all kinds. The dose did matter.
At least 1200 mg of calcium and 800 international units of vitamin D daily seemed best. Ongoing studies may further elucidate any potential risks or additional benefits.
Monday, September 1, 2008
Back in July, I wrote a post entitled 10 Brain Tips To Teach and Learn. Those tips apply to students of any age, including adults, for ideally adults are still learners. Why is adult learning relevant in a brain-focused blog, you may wonder:
The short of it…
As we age, our brain:
• still forms new brain cells
• can change its structure & function
• finds positive stress can be beneficial; negative stress can be detrimental
• can thrive on novel challenges
• needs to be exercised, just like our bodies
The long of it…
Adults may have a tendency to get set in their ways – I’ve been doing it this way for a long time and it works, so why change? Turns out, though, that change can be a way to keep aging brains healthy. At the April Learning & the Brain conference, the theme of which was neuroplasticity, I attended several sessions on adult learning. Here’s what the experts are saying.
CHANGE and EXERCISE
According to Kathleen Taylor & Annalee Lamoreaux, understanding that we have the ability to change our mental models, also known as epistemological change (a change in the way of knowing), will let us open the door to transformative learning (being willing to change and having an understanding of how to change). You can download the slides from their presentation here.
Learning something new outside our areas of expertise:
• keeps us fresh, which can add a spark to our teaching
• reminds us what it is like to be a student, which can help us empathize with our students
• exercises our mental muscles
Couple mental exercise with physical exercise, and you can improve general cognition and boost your creativity. Learn more about this from John Ratey’s book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, which makes a compelling case that exercise is beneficial for cognitive health.
Our brains may be aging, but they are also continuing to develop. Neurogenesis is the process of forming new brain cells, and unlike what was previously thought, this process continues throughout life, as noted in this Society for Neuroscience brain brief on Adult Neurogenesis.
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to rewire itself. It empowers us to:
• fix damaged areas of our brains (as evidenced by the work of Edward Taub, Michael Merzenich, and Paul Bach-y-Rita, all mentioned in Doidge’s book, referenced below)
• continue to learn well into old age
• alter our behavior and performance over time
Norman Doidge writes extensively about plasticity in The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science, and notes that “brain plasticity occurs in response to the environment, the task at hand, and our thoughts and imaginings.” Indeed, “in some cases, the faster you can imagine something, the faster you can do it.”
STRESS and EXERCISE
In his session on stress and neuroplasticity in learning, Bruce McEwen concurred with Doidge, noting that “structural plasticity in the adult brain is modulated by experience”. He went on to discuss the impact of stressful experiences on neuronal activity, delineating three types of stress:
1. positive, which consists of positive challenges
2. tolerable, which consists of adverse life events coupled with good social and emotional support
3. toxic, which consists of a sustained stress agent and a lack of social and emotional support Exercise, in addition to aiding cognition, can be beneficial in helping the brain and the body manage stress.
CHALLENGE and NOVELTY
Elkhonon Goldberg, neuroscientist and co-founder of SharpBrains, discussing Brain Plasticity and Cognitive Fitness, pointed out that “as we age, our expert knowledge remains strong, and our capacity for solving problems within our areas of expertise can often exceed that of those who are younger.” He further employed us to “turn neuroplasticity to your advantage” by:
• welcoming novel challenges
• beware of being on mental autopilot
• remain cognitively active
Goldberg elaborates on these points in his latest book, The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older.
Taken in sum, all of these ideas have me imagining professional development programs where teachers are encouraged to explore avenues outside of their expert areas. (More on that in a future post!) The combination of being a mentally and physically active lifelong learner isn’t just good modeling for younger brains; it’s also beneficial for us!
(Next post will consist of additional resources on these topics.)
Laurie Bartels writes the Neurons Firing blog to create for herself the "the graduate course I’d love to take if it existed as a program". She is the K-8 Computer Coordinator and Technology Training Coordinator at Rye Country Day School in Rye, New York. She is also the organizer of Digital Wave annual summer professional development, and a frequent attendee of Learning & The Brain conferences
Friday, August 29, 2008
After about age 50, most people begin to experience a decline in memory capability. Why is that? One obvious answer is that the small arteries of the brain begin to clog up, often as a result of a lifetime of eating the wrong things and a lack of exercise. If that lifetime has been stressful, many neurons may have been killed by stress hormones. Given the most recent scientific literature, reviewed in my book Thank You, Brain, For All You Remember. What You Forgot Was My Fault, dead neurons can’t be replaced, except in the hippocampus, which is fortunate for memory because the hippocampus is essential for making certain kinds of memories permanent. Another cause is incipient Alzheimer’s disease; autopsies show that many people have the lesions of the disease but have never shown symptoms, presumably because a lifetime of exceptional mental activity has built up a “cognitive reserve.”
So is there anything you can do about it besides exercise like crazy, eat healthy foods that you don’t like all that much, pop your statin pills, and take up yoga?
Yes. In short: focus, focus, focus.
Changing thinking styles can help. Research shows that older people tend to have lost some of their ability to pay attention, which fortunately can be improved if they work at it. More specifically, older people tend to have difficulty in ignoring distractions and irrelevant stimuli. Distractions and a reduced ability to focus disrupt the consolidation process that converts working memory into long-lasting form.
In one study of this aging problem, a typical group of trials involved presenting a picture of a face for about a second, a picture of a scene for about a second, then a picture of another face for about a second, and then another picture of a different scene for about a second. Then after a nine-second delay a picture was presented and the subject was instructed to press a button to indicate whether the stimulus matched one of the previously presented stimuli. In other words, the subject had to suppress the memory of irrelevant stimuli. In this study (Gazzaley, A. et al. 2005) the investigators went beyond behavioral assessment of the responses, because that kind of thing had been done before. What they wanted to know was what was happening in the brain during this suppression of irrelevant task. They used functional magnetic resonance (fMRI) imaging over a region of brain that was responsive to the visual images. What was being measured was the amount of brain activity under conditions when the instructions were to remember a type of image or ignore it.
What they found was that brain activity in all of the young subjects increased when they were viewing scenes they were asked to remember and decreased when presented with an image that they were supposed to have ignored. That is, the brain suppressed its response to irrelevant stimuli.
Many older participants, however, were unable to suppress brain activity when presented with stimuli that they had been asked to ignore. So what these data suggest is that older individuals have difficulty in ignoring irrelevant or distracting information that is contained in working memory. But let us not come away with the conclusion that memory deficits in the elderly are inevitable, when in fact in this study nearly half of the elderly showed no deficit.
In a study at the University of Illinois (Fabiani, M. et al. 2006.), researchers recorded brain electrical responses in young adults and old subjects (65-78) who were passively listening to bursts of sound that contained a base frequency of 500 cycles per second, with superimposed higher frequencies at lower amplitude. Sound volume was adjusted to the hearing threshold for each subject. Sound was presented while subjects were instructed to concentrate on reading a book and to ignore the sound bursts. Four bursts were delivered with variable silent intervals. The brain registered the memory of each burst in the size of the evoked electrical response. The repetition of sound burst was expected to induce suppression of the sound-evoked electrical response to later bursts in the train, while the silent interval was expected to allow for recovery as the memory of a preceding burst decays. By varying the interval, researchers could evaluate the decay process.
Results revealed that the electrical responses persisted longer in older people, but the effects of delay interval were the same irrespective of age. Since age did not seem to affect memory decay, one is left to conclude that the brains of older subjects were less able to inhibit the sound burst distractions.
The good news for the elderly is that age does not make you forget any faster.
It does, apparently, make you more distractible.
Such studies should probably also be done in children, who I would suspect are more like older people in being less able to inhibit distractions.
A study at the University of Toronto (Grady, C. L. et al. 2006.) used MRI imaging of people while they performed a variety of memory tasks, both during encoding and recognition. They found an age-related increase in activity in brain areas that normally decrease during task performance. This is interpreted to indicate that these areas normally do not respond during a memory task because the brain is paying attention to the task and assigning the memory work only to the parts of brain that need to process the memory. However, another interpretation is that as you get older, your brain has to recruit more help from other parts of the brain. A related finding of the research was an age-related decrease of activity in brain areas that normally become activated during the memory task. The researchers thought that this finding indicated an age-related decline in ability to distinguish task-related demands from those that were irrelevant. It could also be that as you age, the circuits that are normally needed to handle memory are less capable. However you look at it, the findings document an age-related decline in the brain's ability to focus its neural resources on memory tasks. What may be most troublesome to contemplate is that the brain activity-pattern changes showed signs of decline around age 40.
So, what do we do about attention deficit? One possibility is that by keeping our brain working hard as we age, we might reduce this tendency to lose ability to handle memory workload. Think of it like exercise for the brain, which strengthens the neural circuits in the parts of the brain that have to distinguish irrelevant from relevant information in memory tasks and those parts of the brain that have to do the memory work. Another general strategy is to reduce the distractions in our life, at least distractions that are present when we are trying to remember something. Multi-tasking is hard enough to do when you are young. That ability probably declines markedly as you get older. On those occasions when I forget what I opened the refrigerator door for, it is always because I let myself get distracted between the time I decided what I wanted and the time when I opened the door. Obviously, older people (and children) need to work at paying attention, disciplining the brain to concentrate. Second, since they are so distractible, information should be absorbed in smaller, more manageable chunks. By lowering the memory demand, the brain’s limited resources can deal with it more effectively.
--- W. R. (Bill) Klemm, D.V.M., Ph.D. Scientist, professor, author, speaker As a professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University, Bill has taught about the brain and behavior at all levels, from freshmen, to seniors, to graduate students to post-docs. His recent books include Thank You, Brain, For All You Remember. What You Forgot Was My Fault and Core Ideas in Neuroscience.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
CME Author: Laurie Barclay, MD
une 12, 2007 — Factors associated with weight regain after substantial weight loss are identified in a study in which data from the 1999 - 2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) were analyzed. The study is published online June 5 and will appear in the July print issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"The finding that nearly 6 in 10 adults who had experienced substantial weight loss maintained their weight within 5% in the past year is encouraging," lead author Edward C. Weiss, MD, MPH, a medical epidemiologist at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, told Medscape. "Weight loss as little as 10% in an overweight or obese individual can reduce risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. To be successful at reducing these risk factors in the long term, weight loss must be maintained."
"Mexican Americans had higher odds of weight regain than non-Hispanic whites, and those who were sedentary or not meeting physical activity recommendations and those who reported greater daily screen time, such as TV, video, or computer use, had higher odds of weight regain," Dr. Weiss said. "Regular physical activity has been consistently associated with long-term weight loss maintenance; however, weight regulation depends both upon caloric intake as well caloric expenditure. Balancing caloric intake with activity level works on energy balance from both sides, what is taken in, as well as how much is used; in addition, eating a healthy diet and being physically active can reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease or diabetes."
Pearls for Practice
- Compared with their weight 1 year before they were surveyed, 7.6% of 1999 - 2002 NHANES participants with substantial weight loss had continued to lose more than 5% of their body weight, 58.9% had maintained their weight within 5%, and 33.5% had regained more than 5% of their body weight.
- Factors associated with weight regain, as opposed to weight maintenance or loss, included Mexican-American ethnicity, loss of a greater percentage of maximum weight, fewer years elapsed since reaching maximum weight, reporting greater television or screen viewing time, attempting to control weight, sedentary lifestyle, and not meeting public health recommendations for physical activity.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
I'm trying to lose weight. To keep from snacking between meals, I've been drinking lots of juice and milk. But the scale isn't showing much progress. Am I doing something wrong?- John / Washington
You have the right idea. Drinking beverages can satisfy your urge to nibble when you're trying to lose weight. Although juice and milk have many important nutrients, they also contain a lot of calories. A calorie in liquid form is the same as a calorie in solid food, so it's important to keep track of the calories in the beverages you drink.
A balanced diet includes at least two servings from the milk group and two servings from the fruit group daily. In terms of beverages, the suggested serving size is 8 ounces for milk and 6 ounces for fruit juice. If you drink more than the recommended daily servings, you could easily be getting unwanted calories.
To help cut calories, switch to low-fat or fat-free milk and reduced-calorie ("light") juices. Diluting juices with plain or sparkling water can reduce calories, too.
That said, water is still the best bet overall when it comes to satisfying thirst and trying to cut the urge to snack. Water has no calories and is very cheap if taken from the tap. Try adding a twist of lemon or lime for a change of pace, or try sparkling water if you just don't like plain water.
|Calories in common beverages|
|Beverage||Serving size||Average calories*|
|Water||8 ounces (oz.)||0|
|Coffee or tea (plain)||8 oz.||2|
|Tea, hot or cold, brewed with tap water||8 oz.||2|
|Lipton Brisk iced tea, ready to drink||12 oz.||128|
|Milk, whole||8 oz.||146|
|Milk, 2 percent||8 oz.||122|
|Milk, fat-free||8 oz.||86|
|Fruit juice, frozen concentrate||8 oz.||114|
|Fruit drinks||8 oz.||134|
|Regular soda||12 oz.||152|
|Diet soda with aspartame||12 oz.||0|
|Regular beer||12 oz.||153|
|Light beer||12 oz.||103|
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 2005
*When calorie values varied among like beverages, the average value was used. Actual calories may vary by brand.
Being active — either through physical activity or through a formal exercise program — is an essential component of a weight-loss program. When you're active, your body uses energy (calories) to work, helping to burn the calories you take in with food you eat.
Whatever activity you choose, the key is to commit to doing it regularly. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. Moderately intense activity or exercise should increase your heart and breathing rates and possibly lead to a light sweat.
This chart shows the estimated number of calories burned while performing a variety of exercises for one hour. Calorie expenditure varies widely depending on the exercise, intensity level and individual.
|Activity (one-hour duration)||Weight of person and calories burned|
|160 pounds (73 kilograms)||200 pounds (91 kilograms)||240 pounds (109 kilograms)|
|Aerobics, high impact||511||637||763|
|Aerobics, low impact||365||455||545|
|Football, touch, flag, general||584||728||872|
|Golfing, carrying clubs||329||410||491|
|Jogging, 5 mph||584||728||872|
|Racquetball, casual, general||511||637||763|
|Running, 8 mph||986||1,229||1,472|
|Softball or baseball||365||455||545|
|Tae kwon do||730||910||1,090|
|Walking, 2 mph||183||228||273|
|Walking, 3.5 mph||277||346||414|
|Weightlifting, free weight, Nautilus or universal type||219||273||327|
Source: Ainsworth BE, Haskell WL, Whitt MC, Irwin ML, Swartz AM, Strath SJ, O'Brien, WL, Bassett DR Jr, Schmitz KH, Emplaincourt PO, Jacobs DR Jr, Leon AS. Compendium of physical activities: an update of activity codes and MET intensities. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Sep;32(9 Suppl):S498-504.
Successful weight loss begins with understanding your eating habits. Start with these steps.
If you eat only when you feel hungry, chances are you'll have less trouble reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Most people are not in touch with their hunger signals, though, and instead eat in response to triggers such as stress, anxiety and boredom.
To successfully lose weight, you've got to get in touch with the powerful forces that shape your eating habits — how you think and feel about food and why you eat when you're not hungry.
Here are four steps that can help.
Step 1: Know your habits
To become aware of your eating habits, keep track of situations in which you find yourself craving unhealthy foods. Write them down in a notebook or on your weekly menus. Keep a list of what, when and why you eat for a few days. See if any relationships or patterns emerge. Ask yourself if you tend to eat when you're bored, angry, tired, anxious, stressed, depressed or socially pressured. If you do, try these tips:
- Before eating anything, ask yourself if you're really hungry. If the answer is no, consider having a glass of water. You may find that you're just thirsty.
- Learn to refuse gracefully when people offer food that doesn't fit into your menu plan such as treats at coffee breaks.
- Do something to distract yourself from your desire to eat — call a friend or run an errand.
- Direct emotional energy from stress or anger outward. Think about taking a walk, sorting through files, or cleaning out a cluttered drawer or closet. The urge to eat will pass.
- If you find that you absolutely can't find an alternative strategy, don't try to restrain yourself too much — that may lead to bingeing. In that case, eat some vegetables or a piece of fruit. You won't have to feel guilty, and it may satisfy your craving.
Step 2: Change gradually
When you've identified an eating habit that you'd like to change, remember that gradual changes work best. Consider this example. Marty works as a customer service manager for a retail department store. Her job is often stressful. She prides herself on meeting the needs of customers and sometimes finds herself juggling the needs of customers with the needs of management. When she feels overwhelmed by stress, she walks to the vending machine for a high-fat, high-calorie snack.
Marty recognized that this was one eating habit preventing her from reaching a healthy weight. She decided to start dealing with on-the-job stress by taking a brisk, 10-minute walk at break time and by eating fruit for snacks.
Like Marty, you, too, can prevent thoughts and feelings about food from standing in the way of your weight-loss program. Choose one area at a time and be specific about how you're going to change. When you feel you've successfully changed one eating habit, work on another.
Step 3: Plan ahead
Your old eating habits may be so ingrained that you're not aware of them. Mentally rehearsing healthier habits can help. Imagine this: You're at a graduation party. The buffet table is packed with all of your favorite treats. Now imagine this: You take a small portion of a few items from the buffet table, leaving space between them on your plate, or you take only fresh fruits and vegetables. Mentally rehearse this plan until you're more likely to remember it — and do it — the next time you need it most.
Step 4: Think positively
Don't dwell on what you're giving up to reach a healthy weight. Concentrate instead on what you're gaining. Instead of thinking, "I really miss eating a doughnut at breakfast," tell yourself, "I feel a lot better when I eat oatmeal and fresh fruit in the morning."
Believe it or not, the process of making changes to your eating habits can be enjoyable and the health benefits will soon become evident.
Monday, June 16, 2008
|YOU Docs Daily |
The online edition of their daily newspaper column
Politicians, gossip columnists, doctors, your best friend -- they’re all talking about the same thing: fat. Especially belly fat. The great thing about belly fat is that the better you get to know it, the easier it is to make it vanish (if only spam e-mail worked the same way!). Digest these stomach-flattening facts.
1. All fat is not alike. Eat more calories than you burn and the extras get packed away in one of two places -- long-term storage depots beneath the skin (subcutaneous fat) or short-term bins deep in the abdomen (visceral fat). Visceral fat is what we call omental fat -- that is, fat in your omentum, a piece of webbing that hangs off your stomach just beneath your ab muscles, sort of like a mesh apron.
2. The fat you don’t see is the most dangerous. The soft, superficial stuff that ripples your thighs and tummy may be a bikini spoiler, but if you can pinch it, it probably won’t kill you. However, if you have a solid “beer belly" . . . well, you’re likely headed for more trouble than a politician hooked up to a polygraph. That’s because too much deep fat churns out supersize amounts of hormones and proteins, which can lead to big hazards. Among them: lousy LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels; high blood sugar and blood pressure; insulin resistance; and widespread inflammation. All are instigators of many diseases -- including dementia, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. But often you can get a “do over,” and it doesn’t take that long and isn’t that hard, if you know what you’re doing. So don’t stop reading!
First, don’t rely on your scale. As you start to reduce risky belly fat, your weight may temporarily go up. So ditch the scale in favor of the tape measure. If you’re a woman, your waist should be 32.5 inches; if you’re a man, 35 inches. Creep past 37 inches for women or 40 for men, and the health dangers increase.
3. Stress makes you fat. Not only does stress lead you to eat Haagen-Dazs straight from the carton, but it also triggers the release of cortisol, a stress hormone. When stress becomes unrelenting, the omentum attempts to control cortisol flow by sucking it out of the bloodstream. Nice try, but cortisol fights back once it’s in the omentum and turbocharges fat there. That sets off other chemical reactions that leave you feeling hungry . . . and looking for the Haagen-Dazs again. Fortunately, any kind of stress reduction, especially exercise, will help short-circuit this stress/fat cycle. Feeling tense right now? Go for a walk the minute you finish this column.
4. The fat you eat affects the fat you get. When monkeys munched on trans-fat laced diets for 6 years, they developed more deep-belly fat than those who went trans-fat-free, even though both ate the same number of calories. Physiologically, we’re close enough to monkeys to extrapolate that trans fat doesn’t do anything good for your waist or your arteries.
5. Blasting belly fat isn’t hard. If you’re not overweight but still have an oversized waist, the fastest way to shrink your omentum is by walking. Taking a brisk 30-minute walk each day will keep those fat cells from expanding. Pick up the pace some, walk a little longer, and you can give your omentum a makeover, turning a flabby apron of omental fat into sheer mesh again. After 30 days of walking, start doing resistance exercises as well to add muscle and lose inches -- otherwise you’ll hit a plateau. No dumbbells? No gym? No problem. You can get an excellent workout in 20 minutes by using your own body as a weight to stretch and strengthen all of your major muscle groups. Find examples at www.realage.com/ct/shape-up-slim-down/.
6. Whole grains scare away belly fat. If you and a friend go on a diet but you eat whole grains (meaning brown rice, steel-cut oats, and whole-wheat pasta, not whole-grain Pop Tarts) and your friend eats processed grains (anything made with white/enriched grains and flours, cupcakes to noodles), you both might lose the same amount of weight, but you’ll shed more belly fat and lower your levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of damaging inflammation. And your food will taste better, and you’ll feel full longer. AND you’ll have a flat stomach!
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Send in some reinforcements so it doesn't get battle fatigue. Here are four foods your immune system loves.
Sweet, Creamy, Steamy, Crunchy . . .
Oranges, yogurt, tea, and pumpkin seeds are the order of the day when it comes to giving your immune system a treat, according to RealAge experts Michael Roizen, MD, and Mehmet Oz, MD, authors of the best-selling (and now newly expanded and updated) YOU: The Owner's Manual. Here's how these four superfoods help:
- Oranges are chock-full of vitamin C, an antioxidant vitamin that helps your immune system fend off disease-causing invaders. Other good C options: bell peppers, strawberries, cantaloupe, and broccoli. Or take 400 milligrams of vitamin C three times daily. (Look up more C sources.)
- Yogurt (unpasteurized) contains Lactobacillus acidophilus -- a healthy bacterium that helps thwart fungus-related infections. Or take a 20-milligram acidophilus supplement twice daily. (Here's another great natural fungicide.)
- Tea is full of flavonoids, powerful vitamin-like substances that reduce immune-system aging. You'll also find them in oats, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, apples, and berries. (Boost your berry intake with this Triple Berry Blender Blast.)
- Pumpkin seeds are great year round, not just at Halloween, because they contain zinc -- a nutrient that's been shown to help reduce the average length of the common cold. (Find out how zinc can make exercise easier, too.)
Saturday, June 7, 2008
'TRIANGLE OF LIFE'
My name is Doug Copp. I am the Rescue Chief and Disaster Manager of the American Rescue Team International (ARTI), the world's most experienced rescue team. The information in this article will save lives in an earthquake.
I have crawled inside 875 collapsed buildings, worked with rescue teams from 60 countries, founded rescue teams in several countries, and I am a member of many rescue teams from many countries.
I was the expert in Disaster Mitigation for two years. I have worked at every major disaster in the world since 1985, except for simultaneous disasters.
The first building I ever crawled inside of was a school in during the 1985 earthquake. Every child was under its desk. Every child was crushed to the thickness of their bones. They could have survived by lying down next to their desks in the aisles. It was obscene, unnecessary and I wondered why the children were not in the aisles. I didn't at the time know that the children were told to hide under something.
Simply stated, when buildings collapse, the weight of the ceilings falling upon the objects or furniture inside crushes these objects, leaving a space or void next to them. This space is what I call the 'triangle of life'. The larger the object, the stronger, the less it will compact. The less the object compacts, the larger the void, the greater the probability that the person who is using this void for safety will not be injured. The next time you watch collapsed buildings, on television, count the 'triangles' you see formed. They are everywhere. It is the most common shape, you will see, in a collapsed building.
TIPS FOR EARTHQUAKE SAFETY
1) Most everyone who simply 'ducks and covers' WHEN BUILDINGS COLLAPSE are crushed to death. People who get under objects, like desks or cars, are crushed.
2) Cats, dogs and babies often naturally curl up in the fetal position. You should too in an earthquake. It is a natural safety/survival instinct. You can survive in a smaller void. Get next to an object, next to a sofa, next to a large bulky object that will compress slightly but leave a void next to it.
3) Wooden buildings are the safest type of construction to be in during an earthquake. Wood is flexible and moves with the force of the earthquake. If the wooden building does collapse, large survival voids are created. Also, the wooden building has less concentrated, crushing weight. Brick buildings will break into individual bricks. Bricks will cause many injuries but less squashed bodies than concrete slabs.
4) If you are in bed during the night and an earthquake occurs, simply roll off the bed. A safe void will exist around the bed. Hotels can achieve a much greater survival rate in earthquakes, simply by posting a sign on the back of the door of every room telling occupants to lie down on the floor, next to the bottom of the bed during an earthquake.
5) If an earthquake happens and you cannot easily escape by getting out the door or window, then lie down and curl up in the fetal position next to a sofa, or large chair.
6) Most everyone who gets under a doorway when buildings collapse is killed. How? If you stand under a doorway and the doorjamb falls forward or backward you will be crushed by the ceiling above. If the door jam falls sideways you will be cut in half by the doorway. In either case, you will be killed!
7) Never go to the stairs. The stairs have a different 'moment of frequency' (they swing separately from the main part of the building). The stairs and remainder of the building continuously bump into each other until structural failure of the stairs takes place. The people who get on stairs before they fail are chopped up by the stair treads - horribly mutilated. Even if the building doesn't collapse, stay away from the stairs. The stairs are a likely part of the building to be damaged. Even if the stairs are not collapsed by the earthquake, they may collapse later when overloaded by fleeing people. They should always be checked for safety, even when the rest of the building is not damaged.
8) Get Near the Outer Walls Of Buildings Or Outside Of Them If Possible - It is much better to be near the outside of the building rather than the interior. The farther inside you are from the outside perimeter of the building the greater the probability that your escape route will be blocked.
9) People inside of their vehicles are crushed when the road above falls in an earthquake and crushes their vehicles; which is exactly what happened with the slabs between the decks of the Nimitz Freeway. The victims of the San Francisco earthquake all stayed inside of their vehicles. They were all killed. They could have easily survived by getting out and sitting or lying next to their vehicles. Everyone killed would have survived if they had been able to get out of their cars and sit or lie next to them. All the crushed cars had voids 3 feet high next to them, except for the cars that had columns fall directly across them.
10) I discovered, while crawling inside of collapsed newspaper offices and other offices with a lot of paper, that paper does not compact. Large voids are found surrounding stacks of paper.
Spread the word and save someone's life... The Entire world is experiencing natural calamities so be prepared!
'We are but angels with one wing, it takes two to fly'
In 1996 we made a film, which proved my survival methodology to be correct. The Turkish Federal Government, City of Istanbul , University of Case Productions and ARTI cooperated to film this practical, scientific test. We collapsed a school and a home with 20 mannequins inside. Ten did 'duck and cover,' and ten mannequins I used in my 'triangle of life' survival method. After the simulated earthquake collapse we crawled through the rubble and entered the building to film and document the results. The film, in which I practiced my survival techniques under directly observable, scientific conditions , relevant to building collapse, showed there would have been zero percent survival for those doing duck and cover.
There would likely have been 100 percent survivability for people using my method of the 'triangle of life.' This film has been seen by millions of viewers on television in Turkey and the rest of , and it was seen in the USA , Canada and Latin America on the TV program Real TV.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
The morning-after pill — a form of emergency birth control — is used to prevent a woman from becoming pregnant after she has had unprotected vaginal intercourse. Morning-after pills are generally considered safe, but many women are unaware that they exist.
Here's how the morning-after pill works. Human conception rarely occurs immediately after intercourse. Instead, it occurs as long as several days later, after ovulation. During the time between intercourse and conception, sperm continue to travel through the fallopian tube until the egg appears. So taking emergency birth control the "morning after" isn't too late to prevent pregnancy.
The active ingredients in morning-after pills are similar to those in birth control pills, except in higher doses. Some morning-after pills contain only one hormone, levonorgestrel (Plan B), and others contain two, progestin and estrogen. Progestin prevents the sperm from reaching the egg and keeps a fertilized egg from attaching to the wall of the uterus (implantation). Estrogen stops the ovaries from releasing eggs (ovulation) that can be fertilized by sperm.
The morning-after pill is designed to be taken within 72 hours of intercourse with a second dose taken 12 hours later. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fatigue, dizziness, menstrual changes and headache. According to the manufacturer, the morning-after pill is more than 80 percent effective in preventing pregnancy after a single act of unprotected sex.
Morning-after pills aren't the same as mifepristone (Mifeprex), the so-called abortion pill. Emergency contraceptive pills such as Plan B prevent pregnancy. The abortion pill terminates an established pregnancy — one in which the fertilized egg has attached to the uterine wall and has already begun to develop.
Plan B is available to women 18 years and older without a prescription at most pharmacies. Women must show proof of age to purchase Plan B. For women 17 years old and younger, Plan B is available only with a doctor's prescription.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The Fruit That Fights WrinklesCheck out - Real Age web site
It's papaya. What makes papaya so perfect? Easy. Vitamin C. Papaya has loads of it, and getting lots of vitamin C may mean more youthful skin -- fewer wrinkles and less thinning and dryness. A recent study in women over 40 confirmed it.
The Mysteries of C
Vitamin C is a natural friend to skin. The nutrient is essential for making collagen, the protein fibers that give skin its strength and resiliency. And being a powerful antioxidant, C also disarms free radicals that would otherwise chip away and weaken collagen. (Did you know? Vitamin C helps protect skin from this sun scourge, too.)
More Food for Your Face
A little extra vitamin C isn't all it takes to plump your complexion. Here are a few more food tips that can help keep your face fresh:
- Munch on walnuts. In the vitamin C study, researchers also noted that diets rich in linoleic acid -- an essential fatty acid in walnuts -- meant moister, plumper skin. (Bonus: Walnuts will make this happy, too.)
- Ease up on fats and refined carbs. Scientists found both were linked to aging skin. Discover the dark side of processed foods with this article.
- Think whole grains. The magnesium and B vitamins you get from them help with the regeneration of skin cells. Find out what foods are mostly whole grains.
- Keep the fruits and veggies coming. To stay smooth and healthy, your skin needs a whole slew of antioxidant-rich produce. Like this root vegetable.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Medscape Medical Minute.
by Dr. George Lundberg.
Is retirement from work blissful or hazardous? Three Greek investigators studied more than 16,000 men and women who were either gainfully employed or already retired between 1994 and 1999 and had not been diagnosed with stroke, coronary artery heart disease, cancer, or diabetes mellitus. Using Cox regression models and controlling for confounders, they analyzed survival status as of 2006. Retirees had a 51% increase in all-cause mortality, mostly from cardiovascular disease. A 5-year increase in age at retirement was associated with a 10% decrease in mortality. This study, reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2008, suggests that retirement may be a risk factor for both all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. If you like your work and you like being alive, keep working.
This article is selected from Medscape Best Evidence.
Monday, May 12, 2008
I don’t know about you. After so many years of watching people in other countries (on TV) being attacked by tear gas, I have never bothered to learn anything about it till I saw it used for the first time in KL .
My first reaction to the tear gas scenes on the streets of KL was to ask “what should I do if I do get caught in the middle of such unfortunate incident while window shopping”?
How many Malaysian doctors know anything about how to treat those who are exposed? It was never in my medical syllabus nor in the syllabus of the local medical school I helped to plan.
The internet is a great source of information, including sites which give tips to intending activists what to prepare, how to dress and what to do should the police “over-react”!!. Do check it out if you need more details.
This blog is just a quick summary of the internet articles, just in case we may need to treat or help anyone or the innocent bystander ….
Tear gas is the name given to a number of chemical agents which cause irritation of skin, mucous membranes and airways, immediate tearing of the eyes and an increase in blood pressure and pulse. Agents commonly used include CN or Mace, which is sprayed in a weak water solution, CS which is burned, and produces symptoms as long as the victim is in the smoke, and CR which is more potent and longer lasting. CS, used by police to disperse riots, is often delivered in a fine powder via aerosol grenades. Another agent in personal protection spray canisters is capsicum powder, the active ingredient in hot peppers. It is harder to remove from the skin and has the capacity to cause first degree burns.
Tear gas and pepper spray can be sprayed from small hand-held dispensers or large fire-extinguisher size tanks. Pepper spray also comes in plastic projectiles which are fired at the chest to knock the wind out of a person, who then takes a deep breath, of pepper from the burst projectile.
Tear gas is most commonly deployed via canisters, which are fired into crowds, sometimes directly at people. Heavy-duty gloves should be worn for those who may wish to handle hot tear gas canisters as they are extremely hot. Be aware that the time it takes you to throw it will allow you to be heavily exposed.
The exposed person complains of burning of the eyes, nose, mouth, and skin; tearing and inability to open eyes because of the severe stinging; sneezing, coughing, a runny nose, and perhaps a metallic taste with a burning sensation of the tongue, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pains.
Discomfort from tear gas usually disappears after 5-30 minutes, while the worst pepper spray discomfort may take 20 minutes to 2 hours to subside. The effects of both diminish sooner with treatment. Redness and edema may be noted from one to two days following exposure to these agents. Because pepper spray penetrates to the nerve endings, its effects may last for hours after removal from the skin.
Segregate victims lest they contaminate others.
- Medical personnel should don gowns, gloves, and masks, and help victims remove contaminated clothes (which should be placed in plastic bags and sealed) and shower with soap and water to remove tear gas from their skin.
- Exposed eyes should be irrigated with copious amounts of tepid water for at least fifteen minutes. If eye pain lasts longer than 15-20 minutes, examine with fluorescein for corneal erosions, which may be produced by tear gas.
- Look for signs of, and warn patient about, allergic reactions to tear gas, including bronchospasm (especially those with history of asthma) and contact dermatitis.
- Do not rush to help or allow other helpers to rush in heedlessly and themselves become incapacitated.
What to do if you are the inadvertent target of tear gas or water cannon laced with irritating chemicals:
Gas masks provide the best facial protection, if properly fitted and sealed. Alternatively, goggles (with shatter-proof lenses), respirators, even a wet bandana over the nose and mouth will help.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Am Fam Physician. 2008;77:1029-1136.Factors to remember in counseling patients regarding physical activity include the following:
- Accumulated time in physical activity is more important than the intensity of the activity.
- Activity can be accumulated in increments of as little as 10 minutes.
- Lifestyle changes with physical exercise in everyday activities such as walking to the store or mowing the lawn using a push mower are more likely to be sustained than structured activities such as exercise classes at a gym.
- No more than 2 days should elapse between episodes of physical activity because metabolic rate and insulin activity can return to baseline within 3 days after exercise.
- The greatest relative benefits from exercise occur in previously inactive persons, even when the degree of initial activity is modest.
- Strength and flexibility training can enhance health but should not replace aerobic activity.
- Moderate physical exercise should approximate the same level of exertion as walking quickly. Examples of moderate exercise include walking downstairs, gardening, housework, tai chi, weight lifting, and performing automotive work.
- Vigorous exercise should approximate the same level of exertion as jogging or running. Sports such as tennis, soccer, and basketball provide vigorous exercise, as does walking upstairs.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
New Neurons: Good News, Bad News
-- By Dr. Bill Klemm
for full article go to: http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/04/25/new-neurons-good-news-bad-news/
Exercise has been found important for human brain. Researchers have studied MRI images of exercising humans and found that the blood volume increased in the hippocampus in those subjects that underwent a three-month aerobic exercise program. Those subjects also performed better than controls on memory tasks. Such results indicated that new blood vessels had grown into the brain area. The inference is that this new blood supply was needed to support new neurons, and although there are other explanations, this is a reasonable speculation.
The Hippocampus and Memory.
The brain area known as the hippocampus is the one area where everyone agrees new neurons are born in the adult. The hippocampus is crucial for the for the conversion of certain short-term, scratch pad, memories into permanent form. Animal experiments have shown that the production of new neurons in the hippocampus is stimulated by enriched environments and by learning experiences. But do these new cells function normally? Do they support learning? And do these new neurons survive? Some animal observations indicate that new neurons in the hippocampus only live about one month.
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Don't cut that PE class! In 2006, Arthur Kramer of the University of Illinois used MRIs to prove that aerobic exercise builds gray and white matter in the brains of older adults. Later studies found that more aerobically fit grade-schoolers also perform better on cognitive tests.
Impact on intelligence: Strong
When weight lifters talk about getting huge, they aren't referring to their hippocampus. Researchers have found only the most tenuous link between heavy resistance training and improved cognitive function. Got that, meathead?
Impact on intelligence: Negligible
When facing a stressful situation or even a scary email, people often hold their breath. Yoga can break that habit. Under pressure, "most people breathe incorrectly," says Frank Lawlis, a fellow of the American Psychological Association and author of The IQ Answer. The result: more stress and less oxygen to your brain. "So the first thing that goes is your memory."
Impact on intelligence: Possibly strong
Studying on the StairMaster
A spinning class may rev up your mental muscle, but that doesn't mean you should study while huffing and puffing on the StairMaster. Research shows you'll just confuse yourself. "It's like doing something while you're driving," says Charles Hillman, a kinesiology professor at the University of Illinois. In other words, you won't do either task well.
Impact on intelligence: Negligible