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.

How The 'Low-FODMAP Diet' Can Help Manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Read more about the benefits the Low-FODMAP Diet can have for people with IBS.

From How The 'Low-FODMAP Diet' Can Help Manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome 

Abdominal pain and a swollen belly, gas, constipation, or diarrhea—these symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affect one in seven American adults. A common gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, IBS is a long-term but not life-threatening condition. Still, it can interfere with many aspects of daily life, and is one of the top reasons for missing work.

There is no specific test for IBS, so gastroenterologists typically diagnose it only after testing for and ruling out all other GI problems. We do not know exactly what causes it, and so far there is no cure, so treatment focuses on controlling symptoms.

Traditionally, IBS has been managed in many different ways, including dietary intervention, supplements, and medications like anti-cramping and anti-diarrheal drugs. A relatively recent approach, called the low-FODMAP diet, has helped many people with IBS and is fast becoming the new gold standard for managing symptoms.

What Does ‘FODMAP’ Mean?

FODMAP is an acronym for a group of carbohydrates: fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols. These are sugars that occur naturally in a variety of foods and are added to many processed foods. They are normally good for us, but people with IBS tend to be sensitive to them. FODMAP foods include:

Fructose. Typically found in many fruits, like watermelon, apples, and cherries, as well as honey and high-fructose corn syrup.

Lactose. Found in dairy products, like milk, cottage cheese, and thin yogurt.

Fructans. Found in wheat, including many bread products, as well as garlic and onions.

Galacto-oligosaccharides. Typically found in beans.

Polyols. Found in mushrooms and peaches, and in artificial sweeteners like sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol.

The Low-FODMAP Diet

Formalized in 2010, the low-FODMAP diet was developed by a team of researchers at Monash University in Australia. They found that removing foods with the highest concentrations of FODMAPs from the diet improves IBS symptoms. A low-FODMAP diet can also help people with other ailments, like small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and in some cases Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. This is specifically when they are in remission and have IBS symptoms.

The diet, which should be followed under the guidance of a registered dietitian, involves eliminating FODMAP-containing foods for two to eight weeks, depending on the person and the severity of their symptoms. Once all GI distress has disappeared, the person slowly adds the foods back to their diet to determine the level they can handle before IBS symptoms start to return.

There are many different ways to accomplish this “reintroduction process.” I have found it most helpful to eat a small amount of food in one FODMAP category once a day for three days, while observing how the body reacts. This method isolates each sugar and will show clearly how your body reacts to it.

For example, if you eat a couple of teaspoons of honey once a day for three days and find you are perfectly fine, you have passed the fructose “test.” You would then take fructose back out of your diet and go on to lactose. (You remove the category of food you have tested to avoid building up these sugars.) If you have a negative reaction, you would take that category back out of your diet, give yourself a few days without any FODMAPs, then go on to the next category.

This system helps empower people by teaching them which foods make them feel better or worse. They can then decide how and when they want to manage their symptoms. For instance, if ice cream upsets your stomach, you might choose to avoid it during the week because you want to focus on your job and avoid stomach rumblings during meetings. While on weekends, you may not worry about that and decide to have a scoop.

The Low-FODMAP Diet Is Not Forever

We do not know the long-term effects of adhering to this restrictive diet, but we do knowyou should not stay on it indefinitely. It is healthier to have some FODMAPs in our diet because fermentable carbohydrates are necessary to provide energy to the “good” bacteria in our colon.

Keep in mind that people with IBS are not allergic to these foods—they are intolerant of them at varying levels. It is important to determine how much of the problematic food types you can tolerate by retesting them in smaller amounts. If fructans trigger your IBS symptoms, say, you might still be able to eat a small amount without reacting. So instead of cutting out garlic entirely when cooking, use the level you can tolerate, which might be a half or quarter clove.

Also, try to avoid consuming multiple FODMAPs all at once, because the cumulative effect can be challenging. Monash University offers a helpful app that uses a “traffic light” system to indicate whether a food is considered low, moderate, or high in FODMAPs.

Keys to Success

The diet takes time and patience, and you need to be very organized. Having the right information is critical. There is a lot of FODMAP data on the internet, but some of it is incorrect or outdated. The diet is constantly being updated, with researchers continuing to test different foods, and adding items to the list of tolerable and intolerable foods. While on this diet, it is also important to make sure you are still getting all the essential nutrients, as well as plenty of fiber. These are all reasons it is important to work with a registered dietitian (RD) who is well versed on the low-FODMAP diet and can help you follow it in the most effective and healthy way.

As an RD in gastroenterology, I have seen how difficult living with IBS can be. But I have also seen how managing the disease by changing how one eats has been incredibly helpful—even life-changing—for many people.

The Father's Day 4-Pack

Treat Dad (or the man in your life) to our exclusive Father’s Day promotion!
— Dr. Dale
Father's Day.jpg

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I Meditated Every Day For A Month And Here's What Happened

An interesting read about what meditation can do for someone.
— Dr. Dale

From I Meditated Every Day For A Month And Here's What Happened.  

I first tried meditation in my office about three years ago, when a group of colleagues met in a conference room for a quick guided session.

I remember that first simple meditation so well: After about 10 minutes of sitting with my eyes closed, in a circle of plastic chairs, I felt like I’d been in a spa for hours. My mind was quiet and my body moved slowly. I walked back to my desk bleary-eyed and relaxed, like I had just consumed a glass of wine.

What was this, magic? I was hooked.

Meditation, in its simplest form, is the practice of observing your breath. It can reshape behaviorchange brain composition and permanently boost your ability to regulate emotions. Studies have also shown meditation reduces inflammation in the brain, thus lowering your risk for cancer and other diseases. Additionally, it sets you up to feel awerelieves pain and protects the brain from aging. Meditation can help with anxiety, depressioninsomnia and fatigue. It’s no wonder the humble practice has grown into a billion-dollar industry.

Despite the benefits, I hadn’t continued to meditate on my own outside of those office sessions. So I decided to try it out for a month. I set a modest goal to meditate for five minutes, three times per day.

I failed miserably. On average, I’d say I meditated for five minutes only once per day. But I still noticed results. They’re by no means scientific and just my personal experience. However, if I feel that I’ve changed this much from a relatively small dose of meditation, then just imagine what a consistent practice could accomplish.

Here’s how my month of meditation made a mark on my life:

I talk more like a podcast host. 

Since starting my meditation experiment, it feels like my brain works more slowly and rationally. This becomes most apparent when I’m speaking. You know how podcast hosts soothingly enunciate every word and outline their thoughts deliberately? That’s how I talk now.

It also helped me stay more aware in the moment. I used to struggle with staying focused in conversations. While my mouth moved, my brain would wander to my to-do list or fall into cyclical thoughts about upcoming plans. Since learning to live in the present with meditation, those issues don’t crop up as often.

Experts say meditation can help you become more self-aware of your thoughts as they come, which I’ve found to be true. I feel like I inherently know what’s important to me and what I should focus on in a given moment or conversation. And I’m better at letting those other random thoughts go. 

Freeways don’t make me sweat anymore.

Situations that used to make my face burn with anxiety (traffic jams, tightly-packed elevators and time crunches, just to name a few) don’t fluster me as much since I started meditating. Without even needing to remind myself, I feel my attention drift toward my breath and it becomes an anchor that keeps me calm until the frustrating event ends.

Yes, I’m aware this sounds like mindfulness mumbo-jumbo, and I wouldn’t have believed it could happen a mere month ago. But it has. And it’s backed by science: Research has continually shown that mindfulness can ease stress.

I fell in love with yoga. 

Now that I know meditation improves my mental state, I’m hyper-interested in any activity that can spark that feeling. Yoga is one of those practices. 

I find it easier to stay focused in a yoga class than when I’m meditating alone, because it’s guided and other people are there to keep me on task. It’s longer than a typical five-minute meditation session, so my brain feels calmer afterward. I can also write it off as my workout for the day: Research shows it certainly is a healthy form of physical activity. Win, win, win.

“Productivity” has a whole new meaning.

I’ve learned that taking time to “just be” is not only permissible, it’s necessary if I want to feel my best. I don’t need to constantly be doing something, goingsomewhere or achieving some goal in order to feel like I’m spending my time wisely. 

Sometimes it’s hard for me to believe that five minutes of forgetting about my to-do list is more productive than five minutes of working on it. But after I take a meditation break, the tasks simply don’t feel as urgent or stressful anymore. I’ve realized that “just being” is an okay place to be.

Those five minutes are a small investment that pays off in big ways. 

National HIV Testing Day

A day to be responsible and involved.
— Dr. Dale

From National HIV Testing Day  

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day, a day to get the facts, get tested, and get involved!

Around 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and one in eight people don't know they have it. Nearly 45,000 people find out they have HIV every year.

HIV testing is the gateway to prevention and care.

  • People who test negative have more prevention tools available today than ever before.
  • People who test positive can take HIV medicines that can keep them healthy for many years and greatly reduce their chance of passing HIV to others. Learn more about living with HIV.

More than 90% of new HIV infections in the United States could be prevented by testing and diagnosing people living with HIV and making sure they receive early, ongoing treatment.

Find more information about HIV testing, and who should be tested, on CDC's HIV Testing Basics web page.

What Can You Do?

Get the Facts. Learn about HIV, and share this lifesaving information with your family, friends, and community. Tell them about the importance of making HIV testing a part of their regular health routine.

Get Tested. Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information to help keep you and your partner healthy.

CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. People with certain risk factors should get tested more often. Learn what those risk factors are and how often you should be tested.

To find a testing site near you:

  • visit ActAgainstAIDS,
  • text your ZIP code to KNOWIT (566948), or
  • call 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).

You can also use a home testing kit available in drugstores or online.

Get Involved. CDC offers many resources to help you raise awareness about HIV testing in your community. Doing It is a new national HIV testing and prevention campaign designed to motivate all adults to get tested for HIV and know their status. Join Doing It on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter, share videos of volunteers, community leaders, and celebrities explaining why they're getting tested, and download posters and other materials.

National Men's Health Week

It’s time make your health a priority.
— Dr. Dale

From National Men's Health Week

Take action to be healthy and safe and encourage men and boys in your life to make their health a priority. Learn about steps men can take each day to improve health.

Celebrate National Men’s Health Week, June 12-18, 2017.

Get Good Sleep

Adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep. Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. Also, poor sleep is responsible for motor vehicle and machinery-related accidents.

Toss out the Tobacco

It’s never too late to quit. Quitting smoking has immediate and long-term benefits. It improves your health and lowers your risk of heart disease, cancer, lung disease, and other smoking-related illnesses.
Also avoid secondhand smoke. Inhaling other people's smoke causes health problems similar to those that smokers have. Babies and kids are still growing, so the poisons in secondhand smoke hurt them more than adults.

Move More

Adults need at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week, and muscle strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms) on two or more days a week. You don't have to do it all at once. Spread your activity out during the week, and break it into smaller amounts of time during the day.

Eat Healthy

Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Fruits and vegetables have many vitamins and minerals that may help protect you from chronic diseases. Limit foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, salt, fat, and alcohol.

Tame Stress

Sometimes stress can be good. However, it can be harmful when it is severe enough to make you feel overwhelmed and out of control. Take care of yourself. Avoid drugs and alcohol. Find support. Connect socially. Stay active.

Stay on Top of Your Game

See your doctor or nurse for checkups. Certain diseases and conditions may not have symptoms, so checkups help identify issues early or before they can become a problem.

Pay attention to signs and symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, excessive thirst, and problems with urination. If you have these or symptoms of any kind, be sure to see your doctor or nurse. Don’t wait!

Keep track of your numbers for blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol, body mass index (BMI), or any others you may have. If your numbers are high or low, your doctor or nurse can explain what they mean and suggest how you can get them to a healthier range. Be sure to ask him or her what tests you need and how often you need them.

Get vaccinated. Everyone needs immunizations to stay healthy, no matter how old you are. Even if you had vaccines as a child, immunity can fade with time. Vaccine recommendations are based on a variety of factors, including age, overall health, and your medical history.

6 Tips for Mindful Eating

Food just tastes better when eating mindfully.
— Dr. Dale

From 6 Tips for Mindful Eating

With the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, sometimes it seems nearly impossible to eat intentionally (especially when some of your meals are on the go!). Nevertheless, research shows that mindful eating can lead to greater awareness of how and why you are eating. This enhanced awareness may reduce “mindless eating” and subsequently help with weight management. Mindful eating may even help you have a more satisfying eating experience. Here are 6 quick tips that you can use to start eating more mindfully.

1] Turn Off or Silence Your Devices

Even when eating from home, this can help minimize distractions. Those texts, tweets, emails, and posts will still be there once you’ve finished. Take the time to relax and enjoy your food without all the interruptions.

2] Take a Moment to Clear Your Head

Appreciate the food that’s in front of you. It takes a lot to prepare and produce the food you’re about to eat. Slow down your pace and pause for a moment of gratitude.

3] Use Your Senses

Mindful eating involves all 5 senses, so take note of the appearance, aroma, textures, flavors, and sounds of your food. You may notice more about the food than you ever have before!

4] Name the Flavors

As you eat your meal or snack, consider the 5 basic tastes and which you are experiencing. The 5 basic tastes are umami, bitter, sweet, salty, and sour. Sometimes foods contain more than one — can you tell the difference?

5] Notice the Texture

Is the bite crunchy or creamy? Is it dry or moist? Paying attention to the texture of each bite you take may help make your eating experience more intentional. Maybe you’ll discover you prefer crunchy and dry over creamy and moist.

6] Set Down the Fork

In between bites, place your utensils down on your plate to help slow your pace. Mindful eating is an experience, not a race! This habit may help prevent overeating as well.

Mindful eating doesn’t always require a quiet space at home. Use these tips to practice mindful eating anywhere, even on the go! Whether you’re eating a meal, enjoying a snack, or indulging in a treat, mindful eating can help make your eating experience more satisfying with every intentional bite.

Healthy Lifestyle Extended Survival After Colon Cancer Diagnosis

An interesting read about the importance of a healthy lifestyle while fighting colon cancer.
— Dr. Dale

From Healthy Lifestyle Extended Survival After Colon Cancer Diagnosis

Patients with stage III colon cancer who maintained a healthy lifestyle during and after treatment had a 42% reduced risk for death and a trend for a lower chance of recurrence compared with patients with less healthy lifestyles, according to the results of a study (abstract 10006) presented during a press conference ahead of the 2017 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting.

The definition of healthy lifestyle was based on guidelines called “Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Survivors” released by the American Cancer Society; the guidelines include recommendations for maintaining a healthy body weight; engaging in physical activity; and eating a diet high in whole grains, vegetables, and fruits, and low in red or processed meats, with only moderate alcohol intake.

“Individuals often seek information on what they can do to lower risk of cancer recurrence, including changes to lifestyle,” said Erin Van Blarigan, ScD, assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, during the press conference. “The American Cancer Society released guidelines based on scientific studies but it is not known if patients who followed these guidelines actually lived longer.”

The prospective study included 992 patients with stage III colon cancer enrolled in an adjuvant chemotherapy trial from 1999 to 2001. Patients were enrolled within 8 weeks of surgery and received 6 months of adjuvant chemotherapy. The trial assessed lifestyle twice using validated surveys. Patients were assigned a score from 0 to 6 (0 = no healthy behaviors) that measured the degree to which their lifestyle matched the American Cancer Society guidelines.

With a median follow-up of 7 years, there were 335 cancer recurrences and 299 deaths. Compared with 26% of patients with the least healthy lifestyle (score 0–1), the 9% of patients with the healthiest lifestyle (score 5–6) had a 42% lower risk for death (hazard ratio [HR], 0.58; 95% CI, 0.34–0.99; P = .01 for trend). They also had a trend toward improved disease-free survival (HR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.45–1.06; P = .03 for trend).

Alcohol consumption is included in the guidelines for cancer prevention, but not cancer survivors. When alcohol was included in the lifestyle score, the adjusted HRs for patients with 6–8 points compared with 0–2 points were 0.49 for overall survival (P = .002 for trend), 0.58 for disease-free survival (P = .01 for trend), and 0.64 for recurrence-free survival (P = .05 for trend).

Commenting on the results of the study, ASCO President Daniel F. Hayes, MD, said, “It should be emphasized that the authors are not suggesting that a healthy lifestyle alone should be considered a substitute for standard chemotherapy and other treatments for colon cancer, which have dramatically improved survival. Rather, patients with colon cancer should be optimistic, and they should eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, which may not only keep them healthier, but may also further decrease the chances of the cancer coming back.”