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Stress Can Kill You; Science Shows How to Beat It.

In previous posts, we’ve discussed the deleterious effects stress has on brain health. Stress is linked to headaches, stomachaches, missed periods and erectile dysfunction. It is also tied to type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, depression and insomnia. It may be a risk factor for cancer and, by weakening the immune system, make us vulnerable to illnesses of all kinds. There is a growing body of knowledge of how using various techniques of controlled breathing can offset stress effects. The Science of Deep Breathing and Breath Control Medical science discovered the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems years ago. Among other functions, those systems control our breathing automatically. At the base of the brain is the brain stem which includes the medulla oblongata. The medulla oblongata extends from the spinal cord into the brain. Among its functions are monitoring carbon dioxide levels in the blood and adjusting as appropriate. Doctor Matthew MacKinnon uses an automobile metaphor…
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Go Barefoot - Have a Healthier Heart & Brain?

Robert Parker had a hit with his song “Barefootin” in 1966. Who knew he was talking about brain health. Hypothesis 1 There is a hypothesis that we need to spend more time barefoot. Those holding the view that we should spend more time shoeless base it on the idea that our ancestors spent eons that way. By wearing shoes all the time, our brains are not getting important signals from those thousands of nerves on the soles of our feet. By going barefoot, we restore the flow of information into the brain, keep those nerve pathways active and so on. Hypothesis 2 There is an additional, related hypothesis in favor of us spending a lot more time barefoot-particularly outside. The leading proponent of this idea is Dr. James Oschman. Dr. Oschman has degrees in Biophysics and Biology from the University of Pittsburgh. According to him, planet earth gives off free electrons, which can transfer into our bodies if we don’t have an insulation layer in the form of shoes. And that those free electrons…

Is Coffee Carcinogenic- or a Miracle Drug?

COFFEE CAUSES CANCER!!!Wait, not so fast. You might have seen that CA Judge Elihu Berle has ruled that coffee shops, convenience stores and others selling coffee must publicly post in each location that it contains a carcinogen named acrylamide. Background Here’s the Cliff Notes version of a complex story. In 1986, CA passed Prop 65, which required retailers and others to post a list of any toxic materials that someone might be exposed to while in their store. The list must be easily visible. Since a lot of stuff is toxic in large quantities-e.g-aspirin- or a lot of common household products are toxic if consumed – e.g.- Clorox- the list of dangerous products that could be in a clothing store or coffee shop quickly became enormous. (Probably defeated the original purpose of Prop 65, but that’s a different discussion). What’s “acrylamide”? You probably consume some every day. Any time a starch is cooked at over 250 degrees, acrylamide is produced. French fries. Potato chips. Toast. And, …

Eat Chocolate: Prevent Heart Disease?

Regular consumers of chocolate are about 42% less likely to develop cardiovascular heart disease. A research team from The University of Manchester and other institutes set out to determine if there is a relationship between chocolate consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. (Chocolate is rich in flavonoid catechin.) The researchers included Dr. Chun Shing Kwok, S. Matthijs Boekholdt, Marleen A. H. Lentjes and others from the Medical Schools at the University of Manchester, University of Aberdeen, University of Cambridge, the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam and other research institutes. They used data from the massive European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) study. (You may recall that we’ve referred to other research reports stemming from EPIC). They isolated a qualifying group of 21,000 adults in the UK who have participated in the study for about 12 years. The data recorded for that group included frequency of consumption of chocolate (or no co…

Is Too Little Sleep As Bad For Your Brain as Crack?

Sleep is essential to brain health. Dr. Nora Volkow just gave a speech titled Probing the Sleep-Deprived Human Brain. Dr. Volkow is the Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse-part of the National Institute for Health She gave that speech at Radcliffe College which was reported in the Harvard Gazette.Dr. Volkow is an expert on the effects of addictive drugs on the brain, particularly the effects that cocaine has on the brain. She has found that cocaine disrupts dopamine transmission. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an essential role in brain function. In part, it is released by neurons to signal other neurons.Specifically, she found that that using cocaine resulted in brain cells releasing dopamine but being unable to receive it. She has found that lack of sleep can have the same effect on dopamine transmission. Here is a quote from her: “Yet lack of sleep itself produces some of the same effects that drugs do: It disrupts memory, inhibits alertness and can contrib…
The approach that Kan Ding, MD, Takashi Tarumi, PhD, and team used to evaluate brain health in relation to breathing is unique and interesting. They used oxygen uptake as a measure of fitness. You’ve likely seen a tv commercial or video with a professional athlete or perhaps an Olympic hopeful running or biking with a mask and tube strapped to their face. That equipment is measuring “VO2Max” or the use of oxygen by someone exercising. Distance runners, cross country skiers and the like must consume and burn oxygen highly efficiently if they want to be competitive The University of Texas Southwest Medical Center recently opened its new Brain Institute. That’s where Doctors Ding, Tarumi and associates work. They recruited 91 participants diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. Generally, that means they were able to care for themselves but were noticing some memory difficulty. Participants in the study had VO2Max measured, had brain image scans, and various tests of cognition performe…

Lusting for That Standing Desk? Researchers Say Think Twice

Standing desks are the rage. Star coders demand a standing desk, along with a truckload of stock options, to change jobs. TV commercials show these lean, obviously high-achiever types using their stand-up desks. Can’t wait to get one? Think twice. A team at the University of Toronto School of Public Health did a study. Here’s the punch line: Prolonged standing at work doubles heart attack risk. Peter M. Smith, MD, PhD led the study of over 7,000 individuals. The research goal was to get real-world measurement of standing versus sitting in a business setting. They divided the individuals into four groups: mostly standing, mostly sitting, stand and walk, mix of positions like crouching and kneeling. Those who stood the most head a greater risk of heart disease. Importantly, most of the tests were done in a factory setting where workers had less opportunity to move, stretch or sit. Overall conclusion – move around some. If your job allows, sit when you get tired of standing. Link to a r…