Grape extracts may protect against colon cancer

A study that can change the future of colon cancer.
— Dr. Dale

From Grape extracts may protect against colon cancer  

Colon cancer is a very common form of cancer, affecting tens of thousands of people across the United States. Researchers may have just moved closer to a prevention strategy for this condition, as a compound that suppresses colon cancer stem cells is found in grapes.

In the U.S., colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death from cancer among women and the second in men. 

The American Cancer Society estimate that in 2017, more than 95,500 people will develop cancer of the colon, almost 40,000 people will have rectal cancer, and more than 50,000 deaths will be caused by colorectal cancer. 

A team of researchers led by Jairam K. P. Vanamala, associate professor of food sciences at the College of Agricultural Sciences at Pennsylvania State University in State College, set out to examine the effects of grape compounds on colon cancer stem cells. 

More specifically, the researchers tested the effect of a combination of resveratrol - a polyphenolic compound found in grapes, red wine, peanuts, and some berries - and grape seed extract.

As the authors write, the study rests on the theory that "most, if not all, cancerous tumors are driven by [cancer stem cells]." 

"Cancer stem cells are capable of self-renewal, cellular differentiation, and maintain their stem cell-like characteristics even after invasion and metastasis," explains lead researcher Prof. Vanamala. 

The findings were published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Grape extracts halved cancer tumors

Prof. Vanamala and colleagues examined 52 mice with colon cancer tumors. They divided the rodents into three groups: one group was fed the grape compound combination, another group was fed sulindac (an anti-inflammatory drug previously found to reduce tumors in humans), and one group was given a normal diet.

The researchers found that the number of tumors in the mice that had the grape compound diet decreased by 50 percent. This drop was similar to the one seen in the sulindac group, but unlike the anti-inflammatory drug, the grape compounds did not cause any gastrointestinal toxicity. 

In vitro, the experiments yielded similar results, determining the "molecular basis for the beneficial effect" of the grape compounds on human cancer stem cells. 

The study also found that resveratrol and grape seed extract did not suppress cancer stem cells as effectively when taken separately and in small doses. It seems to be the combined effect of the two that produces the best results.

"The combination of resveratrol and grape seed extract is very effective at killing colon cancer cells," says Prof. Vanamala. "And [...] the combination of these compounds is not toxic to healthy cells."

Colorful diet may prevent colon cancer

Prof. Vanamala suggests that the findings may bring us closer to understanding why cultures that traditionally eat more fruits and vegetables have lower colon cancer rates. 

For instance, some studies have hypothesized that the West African diet may be the reason that Nigerians have a much lower rate of colon cancer compared with Caucasians. 

Nigeria, along with other African countries, has been shown to have the lowest cancer rates in the world. 

Plant-based diets may provide several key compounds that kill off cancer stem cells, says Prof. Vanamala. He also recommends consuming a large variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to prevent colon cancer and other chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes

"This also connects well with a plant-based diet that is structured so that the person is getting a little bit of different types of plants, of different parts of the plant, and different colors of the plant.

Prof. Jairam K. P. Vanamala

He adds, "This seems to be beneficial for not only promoting bacterial diversity, but also preventing chronic diseases and eliminating the colon cancer stem cells."

However, Prof. Vanamala also adds that more work is needed to fully understand the anti-cancer mechanism behind grape compounds and other extracts in fruit and vegetables. 

The researchers hope that their findings will set the stage for human trials that could test the effects of the grape compounds on colon cancer. 

If these trials are successful, the researchers hope that the combination of resveratrol and grape seed extract could be taken in the form of a pill; this may protect against colon cancer and prevent the disease from recurring in those who survived the condition.

People Are Still Getting the Plague. Here's What You Need to Know

Important public health information about the plague.
— Dr. Dale

From People Are Still Getting the Plague. Here's What You Need to Know  

Two cases of plague were recently confirmed in New Mexico. Should you be worried? TIME breaks down what you need to know about bubonic plague in the U.S.

What is the plague?

Plague is an infectious disease that is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria. It largely affects rodents, but other animals and humans can be infected as well. People can get the plague if they are bitten by an infected flea or if they come in contact with tissues or fluids of an animal that has the disease. There are three different types of plague: b ubonic, septicemic and pneumonic. More than 80% of plague cases in the U.S. are bubonic, which causes fever, headache, chills and weakness. There is a chance that people can become infected from close contact with humans who have the pneumonic plague, but it's not common.

What happened in New Mexico?

The New Mexico Department of Health reported on Monday that it had identified plague in two women from Santa Fe County, bringing the total number of plague cases in the state to three so far in 2017, though no one has died. The cases were confirmed in two women, one age 52 and another age 62, and both women needed to be hospitalized. No further information has been provided about how the women contracted the disease.

Is the plague common?

No. In the United States there are an average of seven human plague cases reported each year. Between 1900, when plague first appeared in the U.S., and 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there have been 1,006 cases of confirmed or probable plague cases in the U.S. There have been outbreaks of the disease worldwide, and about 1,000 to 2,000 cases are reported globally each year.

What are the symptoms of the plague?

People who get the bubonic plague may experience fever, chills and weakness as well as painful lymph nodes. Septicemic plague has similar symptoms, as well as possible shock and bleeding in the skin and organs. Some of a person's tissue on their toes, fingers and nose could turn black and die. The last type of plague, pneumonic, is also characterized by fever and chills, as well as respiratory problems like chest pain, cough and shortness of breath. It's considered the most severe form of the disease.

Is it deadly?

The death rate from plague is about 11%, thanks to the availability of antibiotics that can treat it. The CDC says the risk of death from the bubonic plague is likely even lower than that of the other strains. In the past, when there were no antibiotics to treat the plague, the mortality rate was estimated to be more than 65%. Left untreated, the disease can still be serious.

How can I protect myself?

For people who want to lower their already-low risk, experts recommend reducing the likelihood that rodents are around your home by getting rid of junk, cluttered firewood or brush or pet food outside. If a person needs to handle a potentially infected animal, the CDC recommends they use gloves and call their local health department about how to dispose of a dead animal. During camping or hiking, people should use bug repellent. Lastly, pets can pick up the disease, which is why people should use pest control products and seek medical help right away if a pet seems ill.

“Pets that are allowed to roam and hunt can bring infected fleas from dead rodents back into the home, putting you and your children at risk,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, a public health veterinarian for the New Mexico Department of Health in a statement. “Keeping your pets at home or on a leash and using an appropriate flea control product is important to protect you and your family.”

 

WORLD HEPATITIS DAY 2017

Increasing awareness of Hepatitis and making a difference to eliminate Hepatitis. I specialize in Hepatitis C treatment for anyone who has questions or needs treatment.
— Dr. Dale

From: http://worldhepatitisday.org/en/2017-campaign

WHAT IS WORLD HEPATITIS DAY?

World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes places every year on 28 July and brings the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change. One of just four disease-specific global awareness days officially endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), WHD unites patient organizations, governments, medical professionals, civil society, industry and the general public to boost the global profile of viral hepatitis.

WHY IS WORLD HEPATITIS DAY IMPORTANT?

Viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year – that’s as many as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. Together, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C cause 80% of liver cancer cases in the world.

Viral hepatitis is not found in one location nor amongst one set of people; it is a truly global epidemic that can affect millions of people without them even being aware. Currently, 90% of people living with hepatitis B and 80% living with hepatitis C are not aware of their status. This can result in the real possibility of developing fatal liver disease at some point in their lives and in some cases, unknowingly transmitting the infection to others.

With the availability of effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C, the elimination of viral hepatitis is achievable, but greater awareness and understanding of the disease and the risks is a must, as is access to cheaper diagnostics and treatment. 

With the inclusion of viral hepatitis in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the recent adoption of the world’s first global hepatitis strategy, we are at a pivotal moment. Now more than ever political commitment is needed. Without urgent action, deaths will continue to rise and the epidemic will continue to grow.

World Hepatitis Day presents an ideal opportunity: an opportunity to join together and raise the profile of viral hepatitis among the public, the world’s media and on the global health agenda.

ELIMINATE HEPATITIS

The elimination of viral hepatitis has now been firmly put on the map. At the 69th World Health Assembly in Geneva, 194 governments adopted WHO’s Global Strategy on Viral Hepatitis, which includes a goal of eliminating hepatitis B and C in the next 13 years. The community responded by launching NOhep, the first ever global movement to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030.

On WHD 2017, we can build on this momentum and accelerate progress towards achieving the goal of elimination by 2030. 

ELIMINATE HEPATITIS is a simple call to action that everyone can get behind. Regardless of your priorities, the theme can be easily adapted for local use; to achieve elimination, greater awareness, increased diagnosis and key interventions including universal vaccination, blood and injection safety, harm reduction and treatment are all needed. Every activity that addresses viral hepatitis is a step towards eliminating it. 

No matter what your plans are to mark WHD, be it a rally or press briefing or testing events, they can all come under the theme of Eliminate Hepatitis

About World Hepatitis Day

A day the world comes together to raise awareness of the hepatitis infection
— Dr. Dale

From About World Hepatitis Day 

WHAT IS WORLD HEPATITIS DAY?

World Hepatitis Day (WHD) takes places every year on 28 July and brings the world together under a single theme to raise awareness of the global burden of viral hepatitis and to influence real change. One of just four disease-specific global awareness days officially endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO), WHD unites patient organisations, governments, medical professionals, civil society, industry and the general public to boost the global profile of viral hepatitis.

WHY IS WORLD HEPATITIS DAY IMPORTANT?

Viral hepatitis is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for 1.34 million deaths per year – that’s as many as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. Together, hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C cause 80% of liver cancer cases in the world.

Viral hepatitis is not found in one location nor amongst one set of people; it is a truly global epidemic that can affect millions of people without them even being aware. Currently, 90% of people living with hepatitis B and 80% living with hepatitis C are not aware of their status. This can result in the real possibility of developing fatal liver disease at some point in their lives and in some cases, unknowingly transmitting the infection to others.

With the availability of effective vaccines and treatments for hepatitis B and a cure for hepatitis C, the elimination of viral hepatitis is achievable, but greater awareness and understanding of the disease and the risks is a must, as is access to cheaper diagnostics and treatment. 

With the inclusion of viral hepatitis in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the recent adoption of the world’s first global hepatitis strategy, we are at a pivotal moment. Now more than ever political commitment is needed. Without urgent action, deaths will continue to rise and the epidemic will continue to grow.

World Hepatitis Day presents an ideal opportunity: an opportunity to join together and raise the profile of viral hepatitis among the public, the world’s media and on the global health agenda.

ABOUT WORLD HEPATITIS ALLIANCE

The World Hepatitis Alliance (WHA) is a patient-led and patient driven non-governmental organisation (NGO). With over 249 member patient groups from 84 countries, WHA works with governments, national members and other key partners to raise awareness of viral hepatitis and influence global change. To achieve a world free from viral hepatitis, they provide global leadership in advocacy, awareness-raising and the fight to end its social injustice.

What's Your UV: IQ?

Read about how you can protect your skin from UV sun rays.
— Dr. Dale

From What's Your UV: IQ? 

The skin is the body's largest organ. It protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. Yet, some of us don't consider the necessity of protecting our skin.

It's just smart to take good care of your skin

The need to protect your skin from the sun has become very clear over the years, supported by several studies linking overexposure to the sun with skin cancer. The harmful ultraviolet rays from both the sun and indoor tanning “sunlamps” can cause many other complications besides skin cancer - such as eye problems, a weakened immune system, age spots, wrinkles, and leathery skin.

How to protect your skin

There are simple, everyday steps you can take to safeguard your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation from the sun.

  • Wear proper clothing Wearing clothing that will protect your skin from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is very important. Protective clothing are long-sleeved shirts and pants are good examples. Also, remember to protect your head and eyes with a hat and UV-resistant sunglasses. You can fall victim to sun damage on a cloudy day as well as in the winter, so dress accordingly all year round.
  • Avoid the burn Sunburns significantly increase one's lifetime risk of developing skin cancer. It is especially important that children be kept from sunburns as well.
  • Go for the shade Stay out of the sun, if possible, between the peak burning hours, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. You can head for the shade, or make your own shade with protective clothing - including a broad-brimmed hat, for example.
  • Use extra caution when near reflective surfaces, like water, snow, and sand Water, snow, sand, even the windows of a building can reflect the damaging rays of the sun. That can increase your chance of sunburn, even if you’re in what you consider a shady spot.
  • Use extra caution when at higher altitudes You can experience more UV exposure at higher altitudes, because there is less atmosphere to absorb UV radiation.
  • Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen Generously apply broad-spectrum sunscreen to cover all exposed skin. The “broad spectrum” variety protects against overexposure to ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. The FDA recommends using sunscreens that are not only broad spectrum, but that also have a sun protection factor (SPF) value of at least 15 for protection against sun-induced skin problems. 
  • Re-apply broad-spectrum sunscreen throughout the dayEven if a sunscreen is labeled as "water-resistant," it must be reapplied throughout the day, especially after sweating or swimming. To be safe, apply sunscreen at a rate of one ounce every two hours. Depending on how much of the body needs coverage, a full-day (six-hour) outing could require one whole tube of sunscreen.

When to protect your skin

UV rays are their strongest from 10 am to 4 pm Seek shade during those times to ensure the least amount of harmful UV radiation exposure. When applying sunscreen be sure to reapply to all exposed skin at least 20 minutes before going outside. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.

Protecting your eyes

UV rays can also penetrate the structures of your eyes and cause cell damage. According to the CDC, some of the more common sun-related vision problems include cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium (non-cancerous growth of the conjunctiva that can obstruct vision). 

  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat To protect your vision, wear a wide-brimmed hat that keeps your face and eyes shaded from the sun at most angles. 
  • Wear wrap-around style sunglass with 99 or higher UV block Effective sunglasses should block glare, block 99 to 100% of UV rays, and have a wraparound shape to protect eyes from most angles.

Using the UV index

When planning your outdoor activities, you can decide how much sun protection you need by checking the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) UV index. This index measures the daily intensity of UV rays from the sun on a scale of 1 to 11. A low UV index requires minimal protection, whereas a high UV index requires maximum protection.

Protect your skin from cancer!

It's summer! Stay protected.

Protecting your skin

Most skin cancer can be prevented. Use the following tips to protect your skin from the sun. You may decrease your chances of developing skin cancer and help prevent wrinkles.

Although people with darker skin don't sunburn as easily, they can still get skin cancer. So it's important to use sun protection, no matter what your skin color is. 

Avoid sun exposure

The best way to prevent a sunburn is to avoid sun exposure.

Stay out of the midday sun (from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon), which is the strongest sunlight. Find shade if you need to be outdoors. You can also calculate how much ultraviolet (UV) exposure you are getting by using the shadow rule: A shadow that is longer than you are means UV exposure is low; a shadow that is shorter than you are means the UV exposure is high.

Other ways to protect yourself from the sun include wearing protective clothing, such as:

  • Hats with wide 4 in. (10 cm) brims that cover your neck, ears, eyes, and scalp.
  • Sunglasses with UV ray protection, to prevent eye damage.
  • Loose-fitting, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Clothing made with sun protective fabric. These clothes have a special label that tells you how effective they are in protecting your skin from ultraviolet rays.

Preventing sun exposure in children

You should start protecting your child from the sun when he or she is a baby. Because children spend a lot of time outdoors playing, they get most of their lifetime sun exposure in their first 18 years.

  • It's safest to keep babies younger than 6 months out of the sun.
  • Teach children the ABCs of how to protect their skin from getting sunburned. 
    • A = Away. Stay away from the sun in the middle of the day (from 10 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon). Seek shade. Be sure to use sun protection when you are near water, snow, or sand, because the sun's rays reflect off of these.
    • B = Block. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher to protect babies' and children's very sensitive skin. 
    • C = Cover up. Wear clothing that covers the skin, hats with wide brims, and sunglasses with UV protection. Even children 1 year old should wear sunglasses with UV protection.
    • S = Speak out. Teach others to protect their skin from sun damage. Tanning beds can cause the same skin damage as sunburns and suntanning.

Sunscreen protection

If you can't avoid being in the sun, use a sunscreen to help protect your skin while you are in the sun.

Be sure to read the information on the sunscreen label about its SPF value and how much protection it gives your skin. Follow the directions on the label for applying the sunscreen so it is most effective in protecting your skin from the sun's ultraviolet rays.

Choosing a sunscreen

  • Sunscreens come in lotions, gels, creams, ointments, and sprays. Use a sunscreen that:
    • Has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 or higher.
    • Says "broad-spectrum" that protects the skin from ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) rays.
  • Use lip balm or cream that has SPF of 30 or higher to protect your lips from getting sunburned or developing cold sores.
  • Use a higher SPF at when you are near water, at higher elevations or in tropical climates. Sunscreen effectiveness is affected by the wind, humidity, and altitude.

Some sunscreens say they are water-resistant or waterproof and can protect for about 40 minutes in the sun if a person is doing a water activity. 

Applying a sunscreen

  • Apply the sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going in the sun.
  • Apply sunscreen to all the skin that will be exposed to the sun, including the nose, ears, neck, scalp, and lips. Sunscreen needs to be applied evenly over the skin and in the amount recommended on the label. Most sunscreens are not completely effective because they are not applied correctly. It usually takes about 1 fl oz (30 mL) to cover an adult's body.
  • Apply sunscreen every 2 to 3 hours while in the sun and after swimming or sweating a lot. The SPF value decreases if a person sweats heavily or is in water, because water on the skin reduces the amount of protection the sunscreen provides. Wearing a T-shirt while swimming does not protect your skin unless sunscreen has also been applied to your skin under the T-shirt. 

Other sunscreen tips

The following tips about sunscreen will help you use it more effectively:

  • Older adults should always use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to protect their very sensitive skin.
  • If you have sensitive skin that burns easily, use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
  • If you have dry skin, use a cream or lotion sunscreen.
  • If you have oily skin or you work in dusty or sandy conditions, use a gel, which dries on the skin without leaving a film.
  • If your skin is sensitive to skin products or you have had a skin reaction ( allergic reaction ) to a sunscreen, use a sunscreen that is free of chemicals, para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA), preservatives, perfumes, and alcohol.
  • If you are going to have high exposure to the sun, consider using a physical sunscreen (sunblock), such as zinc oxide, which will stop all sunlight from reaching the skin.
  • If you need to use sunscreen and insect repellent with DEET, do not use a product that combines the two. You can apply sunscreen first and then apply the insect repellent with DEET, but the sunscreen needs to be reapplied every 2 hours.

Source: Blue Shield https://www.blueshieldca.com/bsca/health-wellness/health-library/article.sp?articleId=HWTV6658SPEC&fromTopics=all_topics&WT.mc_id=nlc-mem-healthupdate-2099&mkt_tok=3RkMMJWWfF9wsRojvqvJZKXonjHpfsX57ukqXaK0lMI%2F0ER3fOvrPUfGjI4ET8RhI%2BSLDwEYGJlv6SgFTrHCMap4w7gJUxg%3D

Do not use tanning booths to get a tan. Artificial tanning devices can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.

For information on sun exposure and vitamin D, see Getting Enough Calcium and Vitamin D.

This Is Your Brain On Warm Weather

An interesting read about why we tend to feel happier in warm weather.
— Dr. Dale

From This Is Your Brain On Warm Weather

There’s just something about summer.

People’s attitudes seem noticeably different with the sunshine. And that isn’t a coincidence: Research shows warmer weather can have a small influence, positively and even occasionally negatively, on your mindset. 

We’ve rounded up just a few ways the toastier temperatures of summer can affect your mood. Check them out below:

Spending time outdoors when it’s sunny is linked with a mood boost...

The gold standard on this subject is a 2004 University of Michigan study that found people who spent at least 30 minutes outside in pleasant weather — either by taking a trip to warmer climates in the winter months or by taking advantage of a newly warm spring day in the park — had happier moods. And in corroborating research, a 2014 UM study found that being outside could lead to a better mindset and reduced stress.

But if you’re still stuck in the tundra, don’t worry too much. Kelly Rohan, a professor of psychiatric science at the University of Vermont, points out that weather pales in comparison to other stress mitigators, such as the lessening of relationship or work pressures. While warmer weather doesn’t make a sizable difference in outlook, research supports the idea that nice weather has a positive psychological impact on the overall population, she told HuffPost.

...But don’t expect the same effect on the dog days of August.

The weather-mood connection is a positive one, up to a point. The original University of Michigan researchers also noted that positive attitudes seemed to wilt in particularly sweltering weather — an idea that’s also supported by other research conducted on climate and mood change.

Despite the fact that summer brings sunnier days and brighter colors, people are at a greater risk for heatstroke and dehydration during the warmer months, Dr. Brent Solvason, a Stanford University clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, told HuffPost.

“There’s clearly a sense of discomfort because of the oppressiveness of the heat,” he said.

Both dehydration and heatstroke can have an influence on mood or behavior and, at their worst, can also damage the brain.

We’re generally happier when the days are longer...

More light = More happiness.

“People simply feel better on longer days and when there’s more available sunshine,” Rohan said. “The winter variety of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is mostly tied to how long the day is. So even though spring was a little slow coming this year... the days are still long. Those extra hours of sunlight make a really big difference.”

...But some people are more susceptible to depression during warmer months. 

While it’s much less prevalent than the winter variety of SAD, some people do suffer from spring and summer SAD. Diagnosing and treating the disorder can be complicated, Solvason notes, mainly because conducting research on this specific type of depression is more challenging.

Experts theorize that warmer-weather SAD is aggravated by excessive heat and humidity, Rohan said.

“Those triggers are really different than wintertime, which is brought on usually by lack of light and shorter days,” she explained. “It’s really a few people that we’re talking about as opposed to the wintertime SAD people can relate to on some level, but it does happen.”

On the plus side, warm weather may make you more inventive.

The University of Michigan study also found that being outdoors in enjoyable climates can improve memory and broaden cognitive style, which is linked to more creative thoughts.

Being outside in pleasant weather really offers a way to reset your mindset,” said Matthew Keller, one of the study’s authors, when the research was released. “Everyone thinks weather affects mood, but the biggest tests of this theory ... found no relationship, so we went back and found there are two important variables: how much time you spend outside and what the season is. If you go from winter to spring and spend enough time outside, there’s a noticeable change.”

So go on, celebrate that sweet, sweet summertime.

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body

Read more about the short and long-term effects of sleep deprivation.
— Dr. Dale

From The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body  

If you’ve ever spent a night tossing and turning, you already know how you’ll feel the next day — tired, cranky, and out of sorts. But missing out on the recommended 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye nightly does more than make you feel groggy and grumpy. The long term effects of sleep deprivation are real. It drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at real risk. Science has linked poor slumber with all kinds of health problems, from weight gain to a weakened immune system. 

Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Your brain forges new connections and helps memory retention. Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life. A review of 16 studies found that sleeping for less than 6 to 8 hours a night increases the risk of early death by about 12 percent.The obvious signs of sleep deprivation are:

  • excessive sleepiness
  • yawning
  • irritability
  • daytime fatigue

Stimulants like caffeine aren’t enough to override your body’s profound need for sleep. Behind the scenes, chronic sleep deprivation can interfere with your body’s internal systems and cause more than just the initial signs and symptoms listed above. Read on to learn exactly how sleep deprivation affects specific body functions and systems.

Central nervous system

Your central nervous system is the information highway of your body. Sleep is necessary to keep it functioning properly, but chronic insomnia can disrupt how your body usually sends information.During sleep, pathways form between nerve cells (neurons) in your brain that help you remember new information you’ve learned. Sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted, so it can’t perform its duties as well. You may also find it more difficult to concentrate or learn new things. The signals your body sends may also come at a delay, decreasing your coordination skills and increasing your risks for accidents. Sleep deprivation also negatively affectsyour mental abilities and emotional state. You may feel more impatient or prone to mood swings. It can also compromise decision-making processes and creativity.If sleep deprivation continues long enough, you could start having hallucinations—seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. A lack of sleep can also trigger mania in people who have manic depression. Other psychological risks include:

  • impulsive behavior
  • depression
  • paranoia
  • suicidal thoughts

You may also end up experiencing microsleep in the day. During these episodes, you’ll fall asleep for a few seconds or minutes without realizing it. Microsleep is out of your control and can be extremely dangerous if you’re driving. It can also make you more prone to injury due to trips and falls. 

Immune system

While you sleep, your immune system produces protective, infection-fighting substances like cytokines. It uses these substances to combat foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Cytokines also help you sleep, giving your immune system more energy to defend your body against illness.Sleep deprivation prevents your immune system from building up its forces. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body may not beable to fend off invaders. It may also take you longer to recover from illness. Long-term sleep deprivation also increases your risk for chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

Respiratory system

The relationship between sleep and the respiratory system goes both ways. A night time breathing disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can interrupt your sleep and lower the quality of your sleep. As you wake up throughout the night, this can cause sleep deprivation, which leaves you more vulnerable to respiratory infections like the common cold and flu. Sleep deprivation can also make existing respiratory diseases worse, such as chronic lung illness.

Digestive system

Along with eating too much and not exercising, sleep deprivation is another risk factor for overweight and obesity. Sleep affects the levels of two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which control feelings of hunger and fullness. Leptin tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. Without enough sleep, your brain reduces leptin and raises ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant. The flux of these hormones could explain nighttime snacking or why someone may overeat later in night. A lack of sleep can also contribute to weight gain by making you feel too tired to exercise.Sleep deprivation also prompts your body to release higher levels of insulin after you eat. Insulin controls your blood sugar level. Higher insulin levels promote fat storage and increase your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Cardiovascular system

Sleep affects processes that keep your heart and blood vessels healthy, including your blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation levels. It also plays a vital role in your body’s ability to heal and repair the blood vessels and heart.People who don’t sleep enough are more likely to get cardiovascular disease. One analysis published in the European Journal of Preventive Oncology linked insomnia to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.

Endocrine system

Hormone production is dependent on your sleep. For testosterone production, you need at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep, which is about the time of your first REM episode. Waking up throughout the night could affect hormone production.This interruption can also affect growth hormone production, especially in children and adolescents. These hormones help build muscle mass and repair cells and tissues. The pituitary gland releases growth hormones continuously, but sleep and exercise also help induce the release of this hormone.

You Asked: How Can I Use More of My Brain?

Here’s some advice on how to avoid distractions and stay focused throughout the day.
— Dr. Dale

From You Asked: How Can I Use More of My Brain? 

 

It’s a myth that humans only use 10% of their brains. “That idea is not only inaccurate, it doesn’t make any sense,” says Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Even the simplest behaviors engage much of our brain."

But while that old 10% dictum is bogus, it’s true that many of us have some untapped reserves of mental acuity that, if harnessed, could sharpen our powers of insight and analysis. The key to accessing those reserves, Miller says, is to stay focused. “The main thing that impedes our cognition is distraction."

Distractions are powerful drains on the brain's ability to focus, and one of the best ways to get more from your mind is to give yourself the gift of uninterrupted stretches of time.

Think of your mind as a muscle that can be strengthened with exercise. But the latest science suggests that "exercise" doesn't mean app-based brain games or activities like Sudoku, but bouts of prolonged, uninterrupted concentration, Miller says. Put simply, a distracted brain is a dumb brain. Unfortunately, “our brains are curious and are always interested in what’s going on around us, so it’s very hard to ignore all that and to stay focused."

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Distractions are ubiquitous, popping up as email alerts, text messages and social network updates. “People think that they can multitask and check these things without losing their focus, but we have lots of studies showing that task-switching leads to mistakes and back-tracking, and that it wastes a lot of time,” Miller says. And all of these interruptions seem to be getting in the way of more creative, profound insights. When your brain is bombarded by distraction, “your thoughts are more superficial, and you’re not getting as far down that path to where new ideas emerge."

Other experts agree. Switching between tasks can result in a phenomenon called “attention residue,” according to the work of Sophie Leroy, assistant professor of business at the University of Washington. When you ask your brain to quickly shift from one task to another, it struggles to cleanly discard the first and move on to the next. “Let’s say I work on a project right up until I have a meeting,” she says. “I may be at the meeting, but my brain is still trying to find closure on that project I was working on, so questions and ruminations about that project are interfering with my ability to concentrate.”

The more tasks you ask your brain to perform in a short period of time, the more that cognitive clutter accumulates, and the more your performance declines. Calvin Newport, associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University and author of the book Deep Work, puts that performance decline in real-world terms. “Anecdotally, it seems like most people experience a 50% drop in productivity and cognitive capacity when in a state of distraction,” he says. And even though a quick peek at your inbox or social feed only takes a second, "the duration of those checks does not correlate to the magnitude of the distraction,” Newport says.

Newport realized just how much those quick checks were tanking his brain’s performance when he wrote his last book. In an effort to be more productive, he started scheduling blocks of time to check his phone or email, while committing the rest of his day solely to his book or his research duties as an academic. “I should have had less time for my usual work because I was also researching and writing this book,” he says. “But the number of peer-reviewed papers I published that year went up by a factor of two.”

One of the best ways to sharpen your focus—and therefore enhance your brainpower—is to schedule this sort of uninterrupted time to focus on the cognitive tasks that matter to you. “It’s not uncommon for people who do this to talk about their productivity increasing,” Newport says. Research suggests that meditation may be another way to strengthen your brain’s ability to concentrate.

It's also important to complete one mental task before moving on to another. “If you have a meeting at 11, most of us will work until 10:59 and then rush to the meeting,” Leroy says. “That doesn’t give the brain time to figure out what it’s accomplished or what else needs to be done, and so there’s no closure.” Your brain needs that closure, she says, in order to transition effectively to its next chore.

She recommends taking some time between mental tasks—even a minute or two—to consider the work your brain just performed. "Write down where you are and what you want to do when you return to the task,” she says. In one of her experiments, people who followed this protocol improved their performance on a decision-making test by 79%, compared to people who hadn’t taken any time to collect their thoughts between tasks.

Another simple-sounding—yet challenging—recommendation is to inject more boredom into your life. “Don’t pull out the phone when standing in line, and if you’re sitting alone somewhere, try it without looking at a screen,” Newport says. Most of us need these breaks if we hope to stay focused on anything for longer than a few minutes. “The brain has to be comfortable not getting some shiny new stimuli from a device every few seconds," he says.

Indeed, a little digital break goes a long way. “I think being connected all the time is a lot like sugar: it’s easy for us to get accustomed to it and to want more,” Leroy says. “If you’ve been spending a lot of time multitasking, it’s going to take time to teach your brain to maintain focused attention."

We're Doing Something About Colorectal Cancer Disparities

An interesting read about Colorectal Cancer disparities and what is being done about it.
— Dr. Dale

From We're Doing Something About Colorectal Cancer Disparities  

Screening for colorectal cancer is a true public health success story. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), rates of screening for colorectal cancer have increased dramatically over the past two decades. That means that we are preventing more colorectal cancers and picking up many more in the earliest stages, when treatment may be more successful.

Although fewer people are being screened for colorectal cancer screening than we would like, improved screening rates are proof positive that research and outreach can and does have a big impact on people’s lives.

But there is another part of this story that is equally important but is cause for concern rather than celebration. Our progress against colorectal cancer has not been experienced equally.

African Americans, for example, have higher rates of new colorectal cancer cases and deaths than all other racial and ethnic groups. And although colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer overall, it’s the second most common cancer among Hispanics. Underlying these statistics, in part at least, is another well documented disparity.

Although widely accepted screening recommendations call for most people to be screened for colorectal cancer once they reach age 50, screening rates are lowest among those with lower education and income, Hispanics, American Indians/Alaska Natives, and people in rural areas. Screening rates are also low in people who are new or recent immigrants to the United States.

In short, the colorectal cancer disparities gap is significant, and the evidence that colorectal cancer screening saves lives is well documented. So we’re taking concrete steps to increase screening rates and, in so doing, alter the story line.

Earlier this year, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) launched an initiative called Screen to Save that aims to increase colorectal cancer screening rates among men and women age 50–75 from racially and ethnically diverse populations and in rural areas.

As part of this initiative, NCI-sponsored community health educators from 44 different institutions nationwide are fanning out in diverse communities across the country to educate people about the benefits of colorectal cancer screening. These educators are using evidence-based, proven strategies and tactics for motivating people who live in underserved communities to get screened.

Because we know that certain culturally-tailored outreach methods work better in specific communities and populations than in others, educators are using only those methods that have been proven to work, saving time and money. Community hospitals and clinics can incorporate these tools and techniques into their education and outreach arsenal to increase colorectal cancer screening among the communities they serve.

Effective techniques for improving screening don’t have to be fancy or expensive. For example, a recent study showed that sending text message reminders about colorectal cancer screening substantially improved screening rates in American Indian and Alaskan Native women. Another recent study showed that simply providing written information about the fecal immunohistochemical test, or FIT kit—an effective, but often overlooked, screening test for colorectal cancer—to African Americans age 50 and older increased their screening rates.

The latest data, in fact, show that, when it comes to screening for colorectal cancer, rates among African Americans have nearly caught up to the rates among White Americans. Now our challenge is to further accelerate that trend and replicate it in other populations where rates continue to lag.

NCI, CDC, and professional societies, like the American Cancer Society have supported research aimed at addressing cancer health disparities for years, and have laid the foundation for national programs such as NCI’s Screen to Save.

Moving forward, NCI and its partners―including national organizations and smaller, local nonprofits―hope to expand this program to include a larger network of hospitals and clinics that can identify people who are eligible for screening and can provide the appropriate follow-up and linkages to needed care for those who undergo screening.

This is a unique opportunity to help reduce the number of deaths from colorectal cancer. Because the best way to continue the progress we’ve made against this cancer over the past 20 years is to ensure that everybody who should be screened has the opportunity, knowledge, and resources to do so.