Holiday News Roundup

From now until New Year's Day, your schedule will likely be filled with family obligations, traveling, and Holiday parties, all of which could present you with temptations that take you away from your health and fitness routines. It is important to sustain your health and physical activity throughout the holiday season, as it could be your best defense against the stress and chaos that can crop up this time of the year.

This week’s news roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts with tips on how to stay fit and healthy over the upcoming Holidays.

Eating and Fitness Hacks for the Holiday Season. The Huffington Post "You might love hour-long workouts at the gym or a one-and-half-hour yoga classes, but squeezing either activity into an already full schedule can be hard, especially with the added demands of the holiday season. Rather than skip working out altogether, redefine your workout."

Stay fit during holidays. Army.mil. "Intensify your workout: Time is always in short supply during the holidays. But don't ditch the workout -- just bump up the intensity if you need to shorten the time. If you usually walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes, do 15 minutes of higher intensity intervals. If going to the gym is cutting into shopping time, use shopping as a workout -- use the stairs, park farther away, walk faster and after a purchase take it to the car."

5 Ways to Stay Healthy During the Holiday Season. Blog.fitbit.com. "If a crazy social calendar means I can’t fit in my usual workout, I don’t just write the day off completely. I still try to walk as much as I can, take the stairs whenever possible, and fit in mini workouts with moves like lunges, squats, and triceps dips wherever I can find a private space."

8 Secrets to Staying Fit During the Holidays. U.S. News & World Report ""In addition to staying active, try to avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time, such as when watching football games or eating. Remember: Too much sitting is hazardous to your health. Research shows that getting up for just five minutes every 30 to 60 minutes and performing light activity (say, pacing around the house or performing simple squat exercises) reduces the risk of diabetes and other heart disease risk factors."

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM ARMY HEALTH! 

How Therapy Can Cure Overeating

We all have certain foods that we would call a “favorite”. We may find that it is difficult to stick to a standard portion with some of these favorite foods. We have all experienced “overeating”. However, for some of us, overeating food in general (not just our favorites) may be a daily struggle. Situations like this often require us to get help to be able to better manage food intake.

There has been a lot of research to help determine what types of interventions/programs help best when it comes to dealing with overeating.  There is a set of criteria that is used to determine severity of a person’s eating difficulties. Some of us have a healthy relationship with food, some of us overeat from time to time, and some of us may struggle with eating disorders, including Binge Eating Disorder (BED).

BED is an eating disorder characterized by frequent consumption of unusually large amounts of food in a small timeframe along with a feeling of being unable to stop eating. Not everyone who overeats has BED. Regardless, both overeating and BED can be successfully helped with various therapeutic techniques.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be one of the most effective types of therapy for treating BED.  This type of therapy is aimed at identifying and changing patterns of thinking and behaviors that may be contributing to the struggle with binge eating. An official diagnosis of BED is not necessary to seek help. Treatment for overeating and binge eating is available and is helpful to those who seek it out. So, for those of us who feel that overeating is something bigger than an occasional indulgence of a favorite food...there are options for getting help which if pursued may lend itself to treatment of a real struggle and improvement of quality of life.

The National Eating Disorders Association Helpline (1-800-931-2237) is a hotline dedicated to offering support, information, referrals, and guidance to those suffering from an eating disorder. If you or someone you know is currently in need of immediate assistance, please call this confidential hotline toll-free Monday-Thursday from 9am-9pm and Friday from 9am-5pm (EST).

News Roundup: New Blood Pressure Guidelines

In a move that will affect millions of Americans, The American Heart Association released new blood pressure guidelines for the detection, prevention, management, and treatment of high blood pressure. Previously, a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm Hg or less was considered the norm. According to the new guidelines, normal blood pressure is anything under 120/80 mm Hg. Blood pressure above 130/80 mm Hg is now classified as hypertension. Although this categorization means millions of Americans will now have high blood pressure, it does not necessarily mean there will be a rise in medication usage. The inclusion of a new category, “Elevated Blood Pressure,” allows for people to notice subtle increases in blood pressure beyond the normal range. This will serve as an early signal to make preventative lifestyle changes in order to avoid a future hypertension diagnosis. 

New ACC/AHA High Blood Pressure Guidelines Lower Definition of Hypertension. American College of Cardiology. “The new guidelines – the first comprehensive set since 2003 – lower the definition of high blood pressure to account for complications that can occur at lower numbers and to allow for earlier intervention. The new definition will result in nearly half of the U.S. adult population (46 percent) having high blood pressure, with the greatest impact expected among younger people.”

Half of US adults have high blood pressure in new guidelines. ABC News. “The change means an additional 14 percent of U.S. adults have the problem, but only an additional 2 percent will need medication right away; the rest should try healthier lifestyles, which get much stronger emphasis in the new advice. Poor diets, lack of exercise and other bad habits cause 90 percent of high blood pressure.”

American Heart Association Announces New Blood Pressure Guidelines. 5 News. ““This particular group of people who had more than 130/80 but less than 140/90, we used to call prehypertensive. Now we've completely scraped off that term,” Cardiologist Dr. Ashu Dhanjal said […] this is important because such a large portion of people in the U.S. were becoming hypertensive. She said people will have to act to make lifestyle modifications like eating a healthy diet and exercising.”

New Blood Pressure Guidelines Mean Yours Might Be Too High Now. NBC News. “Previously, people were not considered to have high blood pressure until the top reading hit 140. “Normal hasn’t changed. We are still saying that it is great and it is normal to have a systolic blood pressure reading below 120 and a diastolic reading under 80,” Whelton said.”

Under New Guidelines, Millions More Americans Will Need to Lower Blood Pressure. The New York Times. “While agreeing that lower blood pressure is better, Dr. J. Michael Gaziano, a preventive cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the VA Boston, worries about having doctors and patients fixating on a particular goal. It’s true, he said, that doctors ought to be more aggressive in treating people at high risk. But, he added, “If a patient comes in with a blood pressure of 180, I will not get him to 130.””

For more information on high blood pressure and the new guidelines visit the American Heart Association’s Understanding Blood Pressure Readings and High Blood Pressure pages.

News Roundup

This week’s news roundup is a collection of health articles focusing on healthy habits that will help us live our lives in a way that promotes thriving and longevity. 

One Simple Way to Make a New Healthy Habit Stick. TIME. “There could be several reasons why habits are easier to form in the mornings…But people’s cortisol levels also tended to be highest in the morning, and the researchers suspect that may be a big part of the explanation. Their findings backed up their theory: Once they adjusted for individual variations in cortisol levels, the gap between the morning and evening groups disappeared.”

How to Age Well. NEW YORK TIMES. “Getting older is inevitable (and certainly better than the alternative). While you can’t control your age, you can slow the decline of aging with smart choices along the way. From the foods you eat and how you exercise to your friendships and retirement goals — it all has an effect on how fast or slow your body ages.”

Is Your Gut Microbiome the Key to Health and Happiness? THE GUARDIAN. “Over the past decade, research has suggested the gut microbiome might potentially be as complex and influential as our genes when it comes to our health and happiness. As well as being implicated in mental health issues, it’s also thought the gut microbiome may influence our athleticism, weight, immune function, inflammation, allergies, metabolism and appetite.”

Pesticides in Produce Linked to Women Not Getting Pregnant with IVF. TIME. “The results only associate a higher measure of pesticides residues with lower IVF success rates; the findings do not establish that pesticide exposure through the diet causes poor reproductive health. But the results suggest that the amount of pesticides women are exposed to may be one factor that could affect whether they are able to get pregnant and carry a baby full term using IVF.”

10 Things to Know About Sleep as the Clocks Go Back. BBC. “People across the [world] will wake up having gained an hour's sleep on Sunday morning, as the clocks go back heralding darker evenings and shorter days. But how much do we know about sleep and its impact on our lives, from our health and mood, to how long we'll live?”

The Connection between Lack of Sleep and Dementia

 

We know that failing to get enough sleep can seriously mess with your head – and that’s not a metaphor. There’s an established link between lack of sleep and memory issues, performance issues, and even the presence of symptoms of depression and anxiety. Now, recent studies have begun adding an additional possible issue that results from sleep deprivation to the list: the development of dementia. 

Dementia is a blanket term for a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory and other thinking skills. Although Alzheimer’s disease comprises roughly 60-80% of the cases, the category includes other types of dementia such as vascular dementia, which can be brought on as a result of a stroke. Regardless of the cause, this cognitive decline can eventually become severe enough to interrupt a person’s ability to perform daily activities.

The (often bad) relationship between dementia and sleep is well documented. People with dementia will frequently experience sleep issues ranging from sleep disturbances to a mood state called “sundowning,” which is a tendency to become restless or agitated in the late afternoon and early evening. Although specific causes are still unclear, one prevailing theory is that sleep disturbances and reduced sleep quality lead to sleepless nights and drowsy days. This can upset one’s internal clock and cause a biological mix-up of day and night, leading to difficulties falling or staying asleep at night and taking long naps during the day.

But lack of sleep doesn’t just plague those who have dementia; recent studies are showing that chronic sleep deprivation may contribute to the development of dementia. One possible reason for this is that during sleep, our brains clear out toxins that accumulate during the day. One such toxin is beta amyloid, which is a protein that can kill brain cells and slow information processing. Beta amyloid is strongly linked to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Less sleep means an inability to clear out these toxins, and as the toxins add up so too does the risk of developing dementia. A study that followed adults for 12 years and documented their sleep habits and potential dementia development found that those who spent more time in REM sleep at night had a lower risk of developing dementia (and vice versa).

Before you panic, this research is still in its early stages and a true causal link has yet to be established. Researchers have referenced this as a “chicken and egg” scenario – no one is entirely sure if poor sleep causes dementia, if dementia causes poor sleep, or (most likely) some combination of both. However, given the existing research on the benefits of sleep, trying to get more sleep can help more than just your risk of dementia.