If you really have to make new year resolutions..

Mike the Psych's Blog

here are some sensible ones from Dr Mark Porter who writes for the Times (with my own comments added):looking_in_mirror_1600_wht_5647

  1. Get a tape measure and measure your waist. This should be less than half your height to maintain good health. Body Mass Index (bmi) is so out-of-date as I’ve written before.
  2. Buy a blood pressure monitor as one in three of us develops high blood pressure which often requires lifelong treatment. Taking your BP at home may be more accurate than if taken in a stressful environment such as a hospital or GP’s surgery (the well-known white coat effect).
  3. Buy a petrol car next time as diesel has been proved to be dirtier fuel and unhealthy in built-up areas
  4. Learn what sepsis looks like. Blood poisoning or septicaemia as it was once called kills thousands of people a year. It typically starts with bacterial infections of the chest…

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What becomes of the broken-hearted? Latest update

broken_heart_pc_1600_wht_1665Well some of them actually die it seems.

In the post below, updated a couple of times, it’s clear that there’s a real risk of someone elderly dying following a bereavement, particularly if they have a pre-existing condition.

Danish researchers have now found that younger people are also at risk of heart irregularities after the death of a partner.

People under 60 are 40% more likely to develop atrial fibrillation which has high risks of stroke and heart failure. They are more vulnerable to heart complications in the weeks following their loved one’s death or if it was unexpected. The risk is highest between 8 and 14 days after the loss of a loved one and it takes up to a year before the risks drop to normal levels.

The loss of a partner is considered one of the most stressful life events and is likely to affect most people, independently of coping mechanisms” the researchers said.

Previous posts

Researchers at St Andrews University looked at more than 58,000 couples and discovered that 40% of men and 28% of women die within 3 years of their partners – and some actually die on the same day or within a couple of weeks.

For men in particular this widowhood effect shortens their life expectancy, regardless of the actual cause of death.

After making allowances for the usual suspects ie cancer, accidents, alcohol, and even murders, they found that after the death of a partner the survivor is more likely to die as a result.

Famous examples include Johnny Cash who died 4 months after his wife, James Callaghan who died just 11 days after his wife of 67 years, and more recently a relatively young 40-year old man Simon Monjack died of a cardiac arrest 5 months after his wife Brittany Murphy and was said to have died of a broken heart.

The social effect of losing a partner means that the survivor can give up on life within 6 months. The japanese identified a condition 20 years ago known as stress cardiomyopathy, characterised by a sudden, temporary, weakening of the heart muscles, which is triggered by emotional stress or a break-up and is called the broken heart syndrome.

American doctors say the condition can be treated with heart drugs or aspirin.

But research from the Paul-Brousse Hospital in Paris – on 6,000 middle-aged adults over 5.5 years – found that people who were both depressed and had heart diseases were 5 times more likely to die than people who had only one of the diseases.

The combination tripled their chances of dying of any cause and quadrupled their chances of dying from a heart attack or stroke.

The good news is that carrots and broccoli can cut the risks of cancer and heart disease. Anti-oxidants such as carotenoids, which help fight the disease, are found in sweet potatoes, pumpkins, carrots, broccoli, green beans and spinach.

The high level of alpha-carotene found in the blood was linked to a reduced risk of death over 14 years from cardio-vascular disease and cancer. These carotenoids, alpha- and beta-,  and lycopene act as anti-oxidants which combat oxygen-related damage to DNA.

The research was carried out in Atlanta at the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention between 1988 and 2006 on over 15,000 adults from the age of 20.

And more research from America shows that middle aged men who drink a half-litre (nearly a pint) of orange juice a day can lower their blood pressure and cut heart disease.

Orange juice was known to be good for your heart but no-one was sure why. The research, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that it contains a naturally occurring plant chemical called hesperidin. Drinking the orange juice every day for only 4 weeks can reduce average diastolic blood pressure readings by 3 to 5 points.

Updated 6 September 2011: Interesting Times article today on microneurographer Dr Yrsa Sverrisdottir who led a Swedish team which has discovered exactly how you can die of a broken heart.

This was a familiar problem to Japanese doctors in the 90s who found that the hearts of people who suffered emotional crises changed shape constricting blood flow. Sometimes people recovered spontaneously, sometimes they died.

Two years ago Sverrisdottir began studying patients with broken hearts, patients who would not necessarily be considered at risk of heart attacks but who had the symptoms.

She measured the activity of the sympathetic nervous system and related it to brain wave patterns. She says that when someone has a big shock or suffers distress the brain sends out waves of stress hormones – the fight or flight reaction – which can be overwhelming and affects the heart; in some cases stunning it.

It may stay in a constricted state for days as the person recovers – or doesn’t. Older women seem more at risk due to loss of oestrogen and testosterone which protect the body and give people mental stability.

It just demonstrates the fine balance between the brain and the body and also confirms what people have believed for centuries – that you can die of a broken heart.

Updated 12 September 2014: Researchers at Birmingham University think that during the grieving period elderly people may suffer from lowered immunity leaving them open to infection according to a report in Immunity & Ageing.

They investigated people who had lost loved ones within the last 2 months. People aged 18-45 were more depressed and anxious and had higher levels of cortisol (a measure of stress) but their immune systems were normal. People aged 65 and over shows impaired immune responses which were less efficient at tackling bacteria.

The scientist believe that the immune deficiency may be the result of an increase in cortisol which the younger people were protected from by another hormone DHEA.

Cortisol production doesn’t change over a person’s life-time but the production of DHEA starts reducing at age 30. Professor of immune cell biology at Birmingham, Janet Lord said “We could try and rectify this by giving patients DHEA to address the imbalance or encourage people to  engage with family and friends to keep cortisol levels down“.


I’m so lonely, I could die

stick_figure_liking_it_500_wht_9170It’s not only the elderly who suffer from loneliness.

Scientists at the University of North Carolina now believe that a teenagers are just as much at risk.

Isolation can cause harmful changes to the body in adolescents just as in the elderly. Those with fewer friends are significantly more likely to have high levels of inflammation and higher blood pressure when they reach adulthood.

The scientists examined four age groups to find out why lonely people die earlier and are more susceptible to many diseases.

A large group of 12 – 18 year olds were asked about their friends and 8 years later had their blood pressure, bmi, and a test to measure inflammation. Social isolation made the teenagers 27% more likely to have high inflammation, a sign of biological stress, in their early adulthood.

A professor of sociology at the university, Kathleen Harris, said scientists had been concerned with the impact of loneliness on the elderly but had overlooked the impact on younger people. “Young people are not as healthy as they appear …. because of the obesity epidemic“.

The weight of the adolescents was also a confounding factor in the study as those who were obese as teenagers were twice as likely to have high inflammation as adults. But were the overweight teenagers less popular because of their weight?

Nevertheless the scientists concluded that an adolescence spent in solitude was likely to lead to health problems later in life. After age 18 the size of the social network don’t matter until people reached old age.

Are vegetarian diets secret to long life? People who avoid meat have better health due to lower blood pressure

Flags out in Hebden Bridge?

Kindadukish's Blog - I am not a number, I am a free man (The Prisoner)

Vegetarians live longer because of their diet – with men reaping the most benefits, claim researchers.

They found a cut in death rates for people eating vegetarian diets compared with non-vegetarians in a study of more than 70,000 people.

Over a six-year period, vegetarians were 12 per cent less likely to die from any cause, says a report published Online First by JAMA Internal Medicine. It is thought the benefits come from lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels in people eating low-fat diets based on vegetables, whole grains and fruit.

The health benefits of eating low-fat diets based on vegetables, whole grains and fruit include lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levelsThe health benefits of eating low-fat diets based on vegetables, whole grains and fruit include lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levelsThe research shows vegetarians are less likely to die because of their dietary choices

Vegetarian diets have been linked to lower risk for several chronic diseases, including high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and heart disease.

An estimated three…

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Have a Perfect Day

You’ve all heard about body clocks and thought about whether you’re a lark or an owl.

Looking through my archive of “interesting’ stuff I might use one day I came across an article in the Guardian Weekend by Peta Bee about how to plan your day according to your body clock.

0600-0700 Wake up. Our internal body clocks are programmed to go off after 7-8 hours sleep. With daylight the production of sleep-producing hormones, such as melatonin (now used to treat jet lag), slows down.

This raises your body temperature to make you more active until, in the late evening between 10-11 pm, your heart rate slows, stress hormones drop, and your sleep hormones kick in to make you drowsy.

By  early morning, 3 – 4 am your alertness and body temperature drops to its lowest levels before your body clock kicks in a few hours later to wake you up. That’s according to Dr Michael Smolensky at the Chronobiology Centre at the University of Texas.

0800 -0900 Eat your breakfast.  Your body is ready to digest food most efficiently and a healthy breakfast with carbohydrates will stave off food cravings and improve your mood for the day according to scientists at Leeds University.

0815 Work out. Exercise in the morning is more likely to boost your mood with double the level of well-being experienced by people who exercised in the evening, according to research at Glasgow University.

1000 & 1400 Snack. Regular mealtimes help your metabolism to work more efficiently according to researchers at Nottingham University. People who do this consume fewer calories and burn them faster. Eating every 3 to 4 hours helps control blood sugar levels.

1600-1900 Eat main meal. Eating the major part of your food intake in the evening is controversial but it could improve your health. According to scientists at the American National Institute on Ageing it mirrors the pattern of hunter gatherers who swung between feast and famine. In some parts of the world however, eg in Lithuania, the main meal is taken at lunchtime.

2130 Take Aspirin. Taking pills at the right time can boost their efficacy and minimise side effects according to research at the American Medical Association. Aspirin taken before bed-time can reduce your blood pressure. Osteoarthritis is worse in the evenings and asthma attacks far more likely (like x 300 times) between 0200 and 0600. As your blood pressure starts to increase in the early hours you are more likely to have a burst blood vessel then. But check with your doctor before you start making changes.

Research at Harvard found that the most dangerous times for coronary events including strokes were in the last stages of sleep and in the morning. The risk was 40% higher between 0600 and noon and 3 times higher between 0600 and 0900. Our body clock really does have a major impact on our health so it’s better to work with it than against it.

Source: Guardian Weekend 18/3/06 plus others