Stay sharp with stronger muscles

Here’s a surprise, there’s a link between muscle strength and brain health. One study published in the Archives of Neurology, shows that muscle strength is actually linked with a lower risk of cognitive impairment. In older people, lack of strength is an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease.
That doesn’t prove that weak muscles cause Alzheimer’s, but it does support the idea that there is a real link between physical health and brain health. It also suggests that keeping strong is important at all ages.

Lack of sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure

The National Health and Nutrition Survey published in Hypertension identifies sleeplessness as a significant risk factor for high blood pressure.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center say this is the first study that shows a relationship between short sleep duration and high blood pressure.

Included in the survey were people ages 32 to 59 who got five hours of sleep or less a night. They were more than twice as likely to develop hypertension than those who got the recommended norm of seven to eight hours. The difference remained even after controlling for known hypertension risk factors.

On the other hand, people who got nine hours of sleep were no less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who got seven or eight hours.

Many conditions contribute to high blood pressure, such as obesity, but lack of sleep appears to be an independent cause. Normally during sleep the heart rate and blood pressure are lower. In people deprived of sleep over a long period of time, however, the work done by the heart increases. This can lead to irreversible changes in the heart and blood vessels.

The study shows that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders that are often not treated. The disorders include obstructive sleep apnea, chronic insomnia, and restless leg syndrome, according to Tufts University.

Sleep disorders and deprivation are estimated to cost $150 billion in business productivity, $48 billion in vehicle accidents involving tired drivers, and $16 billion in medical care for sleep disorders.

Boost good cholesterol for big benefits

HDL, the good cholesterol, helps to protect you from heart attack and stroke. New research shows it also helps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. If your HDL is below 40 for a man or 50 for a woman, here’s what to do:

* Quit smoking.

* Increase physical activity.

* Lose weight. HDL rises for every 7 pounds you drop, according to Johns Hopkins Medical Centers.

* Avoid trans fatty acids found in many baked goods and margarines.

* Consuming 2 to 6 ounces of wine per day can raise HDL levels.

How to keep arthritis away

May is National Arthritis Month
How to keep arthritis away, or
reduce symptoms if you already have it
If there is arthritis in your family, and even if there isn’t, there is one thing you can do to keep it away. Lose weight. A 10-pound loss reduces joint stress.
If you already have osteoarthritis pain, it could be a symptom of dehydration in the joints. Increasing water intake often improves the condition after about four weeks, the time needed to rehydrate the joints. Drink half your body weight in ounces each day. If you weigh 160 pounds, drink 80 ounces or 10 eight-ounce glasses per day.
Eat foods that fight inflammation such as fish and nuts. Limit animal fats, which can trigger inflammation. Take a multivitamin.
Researchers at Wake Forest University School of  Medicine and elsewhere have found that aerobic exercise or resistance exercise reduces an arthritis patient’s risk of disability. Try walking, riding a bike, tai chi, or swimming.
A new study by the National Institutes of health shows that glucosamine and chrondroiton supplements had little effect on mild to moderate arthritis. In cases of moderate to severe arthritis, however, 79 percent of users reported reduced pain, a higher percentage than from a major prescription drug.
The study leader, Dr. Daniel Clegg, chief of rheumatology at the University of Utah, hopes people who get benefits from the supplements will continue taking them. Long term use of pain relievers like aspirin can result in internal bleeding and life-threatening problems. And prescription drugs don’t work for some people.

A big payoff in taking the optimistic view

optimistic viewIf you’re an optimist, you believe that any defeat is a temporary setback or a challenge. It doesn’t knock you down.
Using this theme in your life helps you move forward in your work. And a positive view helps to prevent illness, improves relationships, and increases self esteem. A study reported in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings shows the optimists live longer, are healthier, and more peaceful and calm.
When you find yourself stuck in pessimism, psychiatrists at Columbia University say there are things you can do to revive your optimistic ways. Developing certain skills can change your view of the world.
* Practice seeing yourself as being better off than someone else. You are better off than many people you see every day.
* Know that everything is not your fault. Pessimists think they cause bad events that will undermine everything, says Dr. Martin Seligman in his book Learned Optimism, How to Change Your Mind (Free Press).
* When things go wrong, realize that the situation will only affect you for a limited time. If you failed, understand that outside factors were partly responsible.
* Decide to be positive even if you don’t feel like it. If you smile, your brain assumes you feel good. Act happy, and you will begin to feel better.
* Be positive with others, and they will reinforce your optimistic attitude. Be upbeat and show interest in them.
* Carry cards with positive statements on them about your life and your future.
If you feel depressed for some time and have negative feelings you can’t overcome, see your doctor. There are many good treatments for depression.

Bike commuting is dirt cheap and healthy

Bike commutingIf you live in a city, you are probably driving to work and paying to park once you get there. One driver in Seattle pays $220 a month to park in the city.
Even if you don’t have big parking costs, it would be nice to save on auto expenses, wouldn’t it?
More than 500,000 Americans think so. That’s the number of people who are currently riding a bike to work each day, according to U.S. census data. In cities such as Davis, Calif., about 20 percent of workers ride their bikes to the workplace.
The League of American bicyclists says getting more of us to do it could reduce traffic jams, air pollution, and obesity. Riding takes only a little more time than driving in most cases. If your commute takes you through congested areas, it could take less.
There’s no need to invest in a fancy bike, just about any 10-speed will do. Whatever you ride, it’s important to have these essentials and accessories: helmet, a helmet- mounted mirror for seeing what’s behind you (About $9), good tires (plus lightweight pump and spare tube), fenders, a bright-colored waterproof vest or jacket, a headlight, a rack and panniers to carry clothes and whatever else you need.
In all seasons except summer, you won’t have to worry about getting sweaty. If you wear a layer or two, you can remove one if you get hot. In summer, some riders carry extra clothes, and some shower at work.
The rewards of riding outweigh the hassles and help keep you healthy. That could result in some cash savings as well.

Health hazard that could come with your promotion

The hazard is stress, but it’s not the work-a-day kind you had before you were promoted to a new job or started a new business.
Almost one out of five business leaders said in a recent survey that their “most challenging” life event was a promotion. It was so scary they ranked it above life-changing events like the death of a loved one or a divorce.
A promotion can shake your confidence for several reasons:
* You were not actually prepared for this particular job. To get support, have a meeting with the person who moved you up. Say you are pleased and excited about the new opportunity, but in order to live up to expectations you will need help in some areas. Be specific.
* It’s important to recognize the trade-offs of moving up and deal with them. You lose the comfort of a familiar role, and you may think you have inadequacies that could be revealed.
* You’ll also have to deal with a certain degree of guilt, says author Kerry Sulkowicz. Writing in Business Week, he says the promotion means you’ve defeated other contenders.
* If you stay in the same area, old friends might now report to you. The relationship changes, and you will feel a little lonely in your new responsibilities.
These feelings will pass over time. Before that happens, you may want to share them with an external confidant, a former colleague, or a professional.
Be sure to recognize your feelings. And you should realize from the start that you don’t know all you need to know about the new position.