Improve Your Health With a Digital Detox

Today we explore how you can improve your health with a digital detox.

Social media is central to so many of our lives. Many spend hours each day on Facebook, Instagram, and other popular social media. Given the adverse effects of social media use on health, should you take a break from your devices? What is the evidence for doing a digital detox? Today we explore the evidence for taking a break from your device screens.

Social media has become part of people’s daily activities; many spend hours on Messenger, Instagram, Facebook, and other popular social media. Excessive social media consumption can lead to health problems, including anxiety and depression.

We begin with a systematic review that indicates that excessive social media consumption can lead to adverse psychological outcomes like anxiety and depression.

The analysis included 16 studies, with anxiety and depression being the most commonly measured outcomes. Three risk factors emerged as the most important. These variables included time spent, activity, and addiction to social media.

Digital detoxification: Can reducing your exposure to social media be worthwhile? One research study sought to determine whether taking a break from social media improved psychological measures.

Recognizing the association between excessive screen time and anxiety, mood disorders, distress, impulse control, substance abuse, and other ills, researchers looked at the effects of social media use and digital detoxes among a group of 68 college students.

Subjects answered a survey during the 2018 to 2019 academic year. Forty percent voluntarily did social media detoxification. The detox had benefits for the majority of the participants. Most saw improvements in academic performance, mood, sleep, and anxiety. By the study’s end, 46 percent responded that they would consider repeating a digital detoxification period in the future.

Does the study offer high-level evidence of the benefits of a social media detox? No. For example, the participants had a low response rate. Many students could have ignored the email request for participation in the research investigation. The researchers also did not standardize what constitutes social media detoxification.

I want to present another study that randomized 143 undergraduates to either social media use of no more than ten minutes daily versus continuing their usual social media use. The study spanned three weeks.

Please go to my newer blog site here (and don’t forget to sign up to follow me there!):

Body Mass Index and Heart Disease Risk

Body Mass Index (BMI) and Heart Disease Risk

Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers that BMI estimates body fat and a good gauge for diseases that can occur with more body fat. As BMI rises, so does the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, gallstones, and other health problems.

Is BMI a perfect indicator for determining your risk for heart disease? No. For example, it may be an overestimate if you are an athlete or have a muscular build. On the other hand, BMI can underestimate body fat in older individuals and in others who have lost muscle.

A better approach is to assess health risk by combining three key elements, including 1) BMI, 2) waist circumference, and 3) risk factors for conditions associated with obesity. This brings us to a new statement from the American Heart Association published last month in the organization’s flagship journal, Circulation.

The most recent research informs the new scientific statement on the relationship between obesity and coronary heart disease, heart failure, and abnormal heart rhythms. We are getting a better understanding of obesity and its impact on cardiovascular health. There is an increasing focus on abdominal obesity (visceral adipose tissue is the technical term) as a cardiovascular disease risk marker.

In essence, visceral adipose tissue (VAT) is the ratio of waist circumference to height (taking body size into account). One may also use the waist-to-hip ratio, as it has been shown to predict cardiovascular death independent of body mass index.

Please go to my newer blog site to learn more (and don’t forget to sign up to follow me there):

Scrotal Veins and Risk of Disease

Scrotal veins and risk of disease

When I first saw this Stanford University School of Medicine study, I did not take it very seriously. But upon closer reading, I discovered that researchers had harnessed the power of big data to gather this insight: Enlarged veins on the male scrotum are associated with a higher risk of vascular (blood) and metabolic disease.

Have you ever heard of a varicocele? A varicocele (VAR-ih-koe-seel) is vein enlargement within the loose bag of skin that holds a man’s testicles (scrotum). These veins are called the pampiniform plexus. A varicocele is a kind of like the varicose veins that can happen on a leg.

Varicoceles are common, found in about 15 percent of adult males. They’re more common in men ages 15 to 25 and are more common on the left side of the scrotum. Varicoceles can result in drops in sperm quantity and quality, which in some cases can result in infertility or shrinkage of the testicles.

Now comes a new study suggesting that men who have symptoms from varicoceles are more likely to develop vascular and metabolic diseases (such as diabetes). The Stanford researchers mined data from medical insurance records to see if varicoceles are associated with health problems other than infertility.

As described in the journal Andrology, the study authors sorted through 77 million insurance claims, identifying more than 4,400 men with known varicoceles. The scientists created a comparison group of men without varicoceles (including fertile and infertile men). They then followed the subjects over time, monitoring the men for metabolic or blood vessel conditions.

We know that varicoceles are associated with low testosterone. We also know that low testosterone raises the chances one will have metabolic problems and heart disease. But could there be an association between varicoceles and these medical problems? Monitoring the subjects for three years, the study authors suggest that there is a connection.

Men with varicoceles had a higher incidence of heart disease, diabetes, and high fat levels in their blood.

To determine if symptoms associated with varicoceles correlated with risk, the researchers categorized the men by symptoms. Those with no symptoms had no increased risk, compared with men without varicoceles. Those with varicocele-related symptoms (especially scrotal pain and fertility problems) had a higher risk of these diseases.

Please fo to my newer blog site to learn more 9and consider following me there):

Can Fasting Lower Your Blood Pressure?

Fasting and blood pressure

NEARLY HALF OF the adults in the United States have high blood pressure or hypertension. Most don’t even know they have it. Usually, there are no symptoms. Unfortunately, hypertension can raise our risk for heart attack and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States. Today we look at how fasting may lower your blood pressure.

The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association offer that for normal blood pressure, the systolic (top number) pressure should be less than 120 mmHg and the diastolic (bottom number) pressure under 80 mmHg. If the systolic pressure is 120 to 128 mmHg and the diastolic under 80 mmHg, you have elevated blood pressure.

Let’s keep going. Those with a systolic pressure is 130 to 139 mmHg or your diastolic blood pressure of 80 to 89 mmHg have Stage I hypertension. For those with a systolic of at least 140 mmHg or a diastolic of at least 90 mmHg, we have stage 2 hypertension.

Pro Tip: Making a diagnosis of hypertension is complex and integrates repeated blood pressure measurements (with appropriate technique) both inside and outside the healthcare provider’s office.

Please go to my newer blog site to learn more:

High-Intensity Interval Training and Health

The HIIT Approach to Fitness: Can Short Duration Approaches Enhance Health?

DO SHORTER VERSIONS of high-intensity interval training improve health? Researchers have recently analyzed short variations of HIIT to see if as little as four minutes per session (not including a warm-up and a cool-down). I want to share my take on a new review paper that puts together a decade of research on low-volume HIIT.

I have increasingly turned to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) during the novel coronavirus pandemic. It is an efficient way to exercise. But what is the minimum volume of activity we need to do to improve health? Do short variations of HIIT enhance health?

The HIIT Approach to Fitness: What is High-Interval Fitness Training?

First, what is HIIT? High-intensity interval training is a way for you to take your cardio workout to a new level. While challenging (as the name implies), you may wish to incorporate HIIT training into your cardio workout. You may be able to use this training approach for everything from running to jumping rope to rowing.

With HIIT, you work at a very intense level before backing off for a slower recovery period. For example, you may run for 30 seconds to three minutes. You then recover for about the same amount of time or longer. Another round of high-intensity activity follows this. By doing this routine, you can lose weight, build muscle, and boost your metabolism.

High-intensity interval training is not a good approach for everyone. It requires physical stamina and high motivation. If you are new to the game, you are at a higher risk of injury (including sprains and strains). On the other hand, your body will burn calories for about 2 hours after you exercise.

I use HIIT to lower my chances of health conditions such as high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, heart disease, and diabetes. It helps me maintain an optimal weight, too. Before you use high-interval intensity training, please check in with a valued healthcare professional, as HIIT does place significant demands on your heart. Once you begin, please start slowly.

Please go here to learn more (and don’t forget to follow me at that newer blog site):

Thank you!

Two Exercise Myths You Should Know

Weight loss is guaranteed, right? You can lose weight from spots, no?

Today I want to explore two exercise myths with you. I remember that I gained about 10 pounds after I turned fifty years old. In retrospect, I gained the weight for a simple reason: I became a bit obsessed with fitness. I worked out up to four hours daily, mixing in Vinyasa flow yoga, aerobic activity, walking, and some serious weight-lifting.

I offer my experience as an example of how exercise can result in weight gain. I put on a lot of muscle, and as you already know, muscle is heavier than is fat. Now before we dismiss exercise as a means of losing weight, I would note that you will likely lose weight if you exercise a lot. Exercise for 250 minutes each week, and you may experience weight loss in excess of five percent.

Of course, exercise-associated weight loss is variable. Our circadian rhythm may matter: The time of day you exercise may influence how much weight you lose. Biological and behavioral variables may play roles, too. While it is true that high-volume exercise typically is associated with weight loss, it is not always the case. Pack the muscle on, and you may gain weight, as I discovered.

Please go here to learn more:

PS: Please consider signing up to follow me (when you get to that newer blog site).

Take Out Meals and Risk of Early Death

Take-out meals and risk of early death

DO YOU ENJOY TAKE-OUT meals? I know that I do, at least on occasion. But did you know that scientists recently showed how too much of it does not bode well for a long life? In the end, I will offer strong criticism of the study but will end with some takeaway messages about the perils of take-out meals.

I enjoy dining out on occasion. Unfortunately, there is not much evidence on the association between consuming meals from outside the home and long-term health. Enter researchers at the University of Iowa (USA). They examined the association of frequency of eating meals prepared away from home with mortality.

The study included over 35,000 adults from the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey. Participants reported their dietary habits — including frequency of eating meals prepared away from home — in face-to-face interviews.

The investigators determined all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and cancer mortality by examining death records. During 291,475 person-years of follow-up, 2,781 deaths occurred, including 511 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 638 death from cancer.

The study authors adjusted for variables such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, dietary and lifestyle factors, and body mass index. They discovered that the risk of death among participants who consumed meals prepared away from home very frequently (two meals or more daily) had a 1.5-times higher risk of death than those who had fewer than one meal per week away from home).

The frequent consumers of outside meals also had a 1.2-fold higher chance of death due to cardiovascular events and a 1.6-times chance of death from cancer.

The researchers concluded that frequent meals prepared away from home are significantly associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality. They offered that the “association of eating meals prepared away from home with cardiovascular mortality and cancer mortality warrants additional investigation.”

Take-out meals and risk of early death – Please go here to learn more (and don’t forget to consider signing up to follow me at that newer blog site!):

Thank you!

Does Cold Water Swimming Improve Health?

Does cold water swimming improve health?

Have you done cold-water swimming? As a part of a karate club ritual, I once found myself plunging into the Puget Sound on a cold New Year’s Day. While I will never do it again, others think differently: Cold-water swimming in lakes, rivers, or the ocean is becoming more popular. Today we ask whether there are health benefits to a polar plunge.

Swimming in cold water has a long history. In 450 BC, the ancient Greek historian Herodotus described the unfortunate expedition of the Persian General Mardonius, noting that “those who could not swim perished from that cause, others from the cold.”

After bathing in hot water pools, Romans would enjoy a quick dip in the frigidariumcold water bath, brace their skin, and close back up their pores. Despite an aversion to cold and damp weather, Thomas Jefferson bathed his feet in cold water every morning for 60 years. He cited that practice as responsible for the very few colds he had suffered in his lifetime.

In the middle ages, people did not learn to swim. Many feared that if they did learn, they would not cross the river Styx when condemned to enter hell. In 1538, Wynmann wrote the first swimming book to introduce a ‘human stroke’ and thereby reduce the number of drownings.

Does cold water swimming improve health? Please go here to learn more:

Don’t forget to sign up to follow me at this newer blog site. Thanks!

Walk Your Way to Better Health

IS WALKING AMONG THE most underrated form of exercise? We read so much about running, arguably the poster child for aerobic exercise. With some precautions and preparation, running can be an excellent approach to fitness and health. But what about moderate exercise, say in the form of walking? I think it should be a gold standard for moderate exercise.

As we think about how physical activity gives us benefits, I focus on three essential elements: the exercise duration, intensity, and frequency. Walking is less intensive than running, but so we walkers may wish to extend our ambulation period. We often think of physical activity as vigorous, but anything that gets you moving counts.

The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americansoffer that adults need to do two types of activity weekly to improve their health–aerobic activity and muscle strengthening. While 150 minutes of weekly activity sounds daunting, it appears more doable when we think of it as 30 minutes daily for five days per week. I ask my reluctant patients to break the activity into smaller pieces throughout the day, with a minimum ten-minute length for the activity.

Charles Dickens said it well: “The sum of the whole is this: walk and be happy; walk and be healthy. The best way to lengthen out our days is to walk steadily and with a purpose.”

Walk (or Run): How You Can Improve Your Health – Please go here to learn more:

The Leading Cancers are Changing

Top Cancers Shifting in Incidence

THE MOST COMMON CANCERS in the United States are breast, lung, colorectal, and melanoma. Currently, cancer is the leading cause of death for those 45 to 64 years. Last year, there were an estimated 1.8 million diagnoses and more than 600,000 deaths.

According to a recent report, the rankings of cancer by incidence (and mortality) are likely to shift substantially over the next two decades. Let’s look more closely at the changing landscape. In part, we are shifting the dynamics of cancer incidence and mortality through more effective screening and treatment.

Researchers from MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, Texas), Cancer Commons (Mountain View, California), and Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (Manhattan Beach, California) compared cancer statistics and projected ahead two decades.

They combined the most recent sex, age, race and origin, and cancer-specific incidence rates with existing US Census Bureau demographic projections by sex and race for 2016 to 2040.

pink ribbon on pink surface
Photo by Anna Shvets on

The top cancers are shifting in incidence: By 2040, there will be more deaths from pancreas and liver cancer, but fewer breast cancer deaths. Please go here to learn more:

Lung Cancer: Reduce Your Risk

Lung cancer: Reduce your risk

If you came to hear me scream about the perils of tobacco, let me get this out of the way: Cigarette smoking is associated with about 90 percent of lung cancer in the United States. Now that we have that clearly stated let’s pivot to some other risk factors.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer worldwide in men and the second leading cause in women. Worldwide, lung cancer occurred in 2.1 million patients in 2018 and caused an estimated 1.8 million deaths.

Sometimes lung cancer arises in the setting of no apparent cause. In uncommon cases, inherited genetics may play a role. While there is no way to reduce one’s lung cancer chances to zero, there are ways we can drop the risk of developing cancer in general (and lung cancer in particular).

We know the significant role tobacco can play in cancer. So the first pro tip is one you already know: Avoid tobacco. But avoiding cigarettes aside, what are practical ways we can lower the probability of getting lung cancer?

Please go here to learn more (and don’t forget to sign up to follow me!):

Watch Your Stress, and You May Drop Your Heart Attack Risk

Stress and cardiovascular risk

IF I ASKED YOU if long-term stress increased your risk of having a heart attack, you probably would answer in the affirmative. You may be surprised to learn that there is not much high-level evidence to confirm the stress: heart attack connection. A new study from Sweden confirms that long-term stress is likely a risk factor for heart attacks.

Stress can be valuable. For example, it can help your performance in meeting an important deadline. When we are in danger, stress can help us to avoid harm. However, chronic stress is different: You may experience anxiety, depression, irritability, challenges with sleep, and more. Can long-term stress lead to heart attack?

We have historical hints that chronic stress plays a causative role in heart attacks. Researchers in 2017 examined images of parts of the brain associated with fear and stress. They discovered links between stress and cardiovascular disease episodes. Now comes a new study doubling down on the proposition that we ought to avoid chronic stress.

Here’s what the researchers in the present “Streeheart” study did: They measured the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in hair. Our hair is a bit like a tree (with its growth rings): Scientists can measure cortisol levels backward in time.

Using hair samples measuring one to three centimeters in length, the study authors measured cortisol levels from 174 men and women admitted for a heart attack in south-eastern Sweden. The researchers also evaluated 3,000 age-matched controls.

Watch your stress and drop your cardiovascular risk – Please go here to learn more:

Does Listening to the Sounds of Nature Sooth Our Brains?

Music and mental health

GET OUTDOORS, and you just might improve your health and well-being—the gentle sounds of moving water, the rustling of leaves in the trees. You may drop your blood pressure and stress levels. You may also improve your mood and focus, too.

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth. — Henry David Thoreau

How do sounds change our brain? Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (England) provide some answers. They used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to examine brain activity in subjects as they listened to sounds recorded from either artificial or natural environments. The scientists also monitored autonomic nervous system activity via minute changes in heart rate.

Here are their findings: Listening to natural sounds resulted in brain connectivity reflective of an outward focus of attention. This appeared similar to a state of daydreaming. On the other hand, artificial sounds led the brain to “turn inward,” a state seen with anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Please go here to learn more about music and mental health:

Please consider signing up to follow me at this newer blog site. Thanks!

Sleep Divorce, Health, and Sex

Sleep divorce, health, and sex

Sleep is often noisy and interrupted. Despite these challenges, couples typically share a bed, with 60 percent of couples sleeping together. Is it bad if you and your partner sleep apart (if you are privileged enough to have space to do so)?

If you are in a relationship, do you prefer to sleep with your partner or sleep alone? A 2017 survey from the US National Sleep Foundation indicates that almost one in four married couples sleep in separate beds; most of us prefer to sleep with our partners. Do we sleep together at a cost to our sleep?

Please go here to learn more (don’t forget to follow me there) :

Exercise and Hunger

Exercise and hunger

DO YOU EVER WONDER about the relationship between sports participation and direct eating habits? We know exercise burns calories, but how much does it drive us to overeat? For the first time, we have a study that probes this intriguing question.

Researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and the University of Nebraska (USA) explored the phenomenon of people overeating after physical activity. I know that I often want to reward myself after a good workout.

The researchers aimed to understand the influence of exercise on hypothetical decisions regarding the timing and amount of food consumption. The study randomized young participants to either a 45-minute exercise session or a rest period of equal duration at the first visit. They completed the other study condition at the second visit.

The training group answered an electronic questionnaire before the physical activity. The survey focused on subjective assessments of satiety and hunger, preferred amounts of food to eat, and food choices. The participants noted their food quantity preferences (immediately and after four hours) by listing their desired portion size.

After completing the first questionnaire, the participants did 45 minutes of aerobic exercise on a stationary bicycle. Immediately after that, they completed the questionnaire again and then a third time after a 30-minute break. The non-training group completed a similar procedure, but they had a rest break instead of physical activity.

Exercise-induced hunger. Please go here to learn more at more newer blog site (and don’t forget to sign up to follow me!):

Thank you.

How Much Exercise Do You Need for Good Heart Health?

EMBRACE EXERCISE and general fitness, and you will likely experience improvements in heart health and quality of life. Also, we have the known beneficial effects on weight control, lipids, blood pressure, and more. Today I want to share with you a new study that gives some clues about your volume of exercise and the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Historical studies have often been suboptimal, relying on people’s memories and self-reports about their exercise. In this context, we have an imperfect understanding of whether too much exercise harms our heart. We don’t have a good sense of whether physical activity leads to a comparable heart health improvement for men and women.

Enter Dr. Terence Dwyer of the University of Oxford (England) and his colleagues. They turned to the United Kingdom Biobank, a repository of health and lifestyle information about more than half a million men and women in the UK.

The data included blood, urine, and saliva samples obtained for medical and genetic testing. Participants (without heart disease) completed comprehensive questionnaires about their lifestyles. They also wore activity trackers for a week to assess their volume of movement.

The study authors collected data from hospitals and death records, tracking who developed heart disease in the years after joining the study. The scientists then cross-checked their diagnoses against their activity levels.

The researchers’ conclusions are clear: For heart health, the more you exercise, the better off you are. Active people had a much lower chance of developing heart disease compared to more sedentary individuals.

Virtually any amount of physical activity appeared associated with better cardiovascular health. Those who did a few minutes of daily jogging had better outcomes. Walk for hours, and voila! Improved health.

Please go to my newer blog site to read more (and don’t forget to sign up to follow me!):

Lessons From Chadwick Boseman’s Death from Colon Cancer

Chadwick Boseman’s Death from Colon Cancer

OkoyeWhen you said you were going to open Wakanda to the rest of the world, this is not what I imagined.

T’ChallaWhat did you imagine?

OkoyeThe Olympics, maybe even a Starbucks.

Can you name that 2018 film? If you guessed Avengers: Infinity War, that’s a bingo! Chadwick Boseman brought T’Challa to life. You may remember as the star of Black Panther. Alas, the actor died of colon cancer last year at the young age of 43.

Boseman received a diagnosis of Stage III colon cancer in 2016. Cancer subsequently metastasized, found to have spread to distant organs by 2020. Even as he continued to make films, The Hollywood Reporteroffers that“only a handful of non-family members knew that Boseman was sick… with varying degrees of knowledge about the severity of his condition.”

Last night, I watched the film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Playing the trumpet player Levee Green, Boseman has what I consider his most exemplary performance. Fast-talking and ambitious, the Boseman joins Viola Davis in tour de force performances.

Watch Boseman as he listens to a conversation occurring in an adjacent room. The camera spotlights the young actor as his face illustrates a wide range of emotions. The acting is extraordinary and represents the calm before a tremendous storm crashes the film. The actor died of colon cancer complications on August 28, 2020.

Lessons From Chadwick Boseman’s Death from Colon Cancer: Read more here:

Please consider following me at my newer blog site. Thanks!

You May Live Longer If You Optimize Your Sleep Hygiene

You May Live Longer If You Optimize Sleep

SPRING IS HERE, and it may be time for a bit of spring cleaning for your brain. Let’s look at how optimizing sleep can help your brain flush out toxins and potentially lower your risk of chronic diseases such as memory problems.

Do you have chronic sleep insufficiency? You may have a higher risk of several health problems. Did you know that sleepiness is a common cause of car crashes? Sleep contributes to more than half of fatal truck crashes in the United States.

Inadequate sleep is associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, even among those of us who do not report excessive sleepiness. Moreover, we commit more errors at work. Here are the eye-opening results of a study of nearly 5000 police officers: Forty percent screened positive for at least one sleep problem (primarily obstructive sleep apnea).

Of the officers who had a sleep disorder, there appeared to be an increase in the number of work-related administrative errors, falling asleep while driving, and exhibiting uncontrolled anger towards suspects. Sleep deprivation doubled the risk of falling asleep at meetings.

heart shaped red neon signage
Photo by Designecologist on

Sleep deprivation has implications for your heart health, too. The United Kingdom Biobank study of nearly half a million adults age 40 to 69 is illustrative. None had cardiovascular disease at study entry. Those who habitually slept less than six hours daily (self-reported) had a 1.2-fold increase in the risk of a heart attack.

You May Live Longer If You Optimize Sleep. Please go here to learn more:

Change Your Biology with Exercise

Exercise and your biology: How physical activity influences the telomeres and mitochondria of your cells

You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old. So opined the late comedian George Burns. Today, I want to briefly explore the health-promoting habits of physical activity and sleep, respectively.

Making changes to your lifestyle can pay huge health dividends: A Harvard study discovered that those who adhered to five habits — eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy body weight, not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and not smoking — increased life expectancy by more than a decade.

Move! If you have higher levels of physical activity, you will tend to have longer telomeres. These protective caps on the ends of our chromosomes shorten with age. Telomeres are a kind of biological clock. Get moving, and you can slow this shortening process. One study from Brigham Young University (Utah, USA) discovered this:

Adults who got 30 minutes of exercise five days per week had telomeres that appeared to be nine years “younger” than those who were sedentary.

I am often asked by my patients what kind of physical activity is best for effects on telomeres. While resistance training has great value, the available research suggests that cardio-type activity might be preferred. High-intensity interval (HIIT) and endurance training appear to slow telomere shortening more than does resistance training.

Please go here to learn more:

Thanks for joining. And don’t forget to follow me at this newer blog site!

Into the Future: Detecting Cancer Through Exhaled Breath

Into the Future: Detecting Cancer Through Exhaled Breath

Lung cancer is the most common cancer type worldwide. Over two million individuals presented with the disease worldwide, and 1.8 million died from it in 2020. In the United States, lung cancer makes up 13 percent of all cancer diagnoses.

The number who die from lung cancer annually has gone up over the past 25 years and is greater than the number of people who die from breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer combined. As you know, the leading (and modifiable) risk factor for lung cancer is cigarette smoking.

Let’s look at the science before we turn to a new and exciting study. Here is how the Broad Institute explains the technique used in the study:

Mass spectrometry (MS) measures the mass-to-charge ratio of charged particles. You can use it to find out the mass of particles and uncover the basic chemicals in a sample or molecule. The techniques can also tell you the chemical structures of molecules, such as peptides and other chemical compounds.

An early lung cancer.

Recently, we have been using low-dose CT scans for those at high risk for lung cancer. Such screening is associated with a one-fifth reduction in mortality from lung cancer. Unfortunately, CT scans expose individuals to radiation and have a high false-positive rate (the screening study suggests there is cancer, but in reality, there is not). Enter mass spectrometry.

Please go here to learn more:

Please consider following me at the newer blog site. Thanks!

Sex and Exercise

Let’s begin with this simple observation: Sex can improve your health and quality of life. The famous researchers William H. Masters, MD, and Virginia E. Johnson, examined physiological responses to sex as far back as the 1950s.

The sex investigators discovered that during sex, breathing rates rose to about 40 respirations per minute, and blood pressure went up too; systolic blood pressure rose by up to 80 mmHg, with the heart rate rising by 110 to 180 beats per minute.

Okay, sex is great and invokes an impressive physiologic response. But did you know that it is associated with improvements in blood pressure and memory, mental health, pair-bonding, and more?

Is the reverse true? Can physical activity improve sexual performance? The answer appears to be yes. If you want to the best you in the bedroom, you may want to hit the treadmill.

Please go here to learn more:

I Need to Lower My Sugar Intake! Here’s Why

More proof I need to lower my sugar intake: A new study examined the effects of fructose and sucrose on fat production.

I recently stumbled on a provocative research study. As you know, diet studies are notoriously challenging to complete. We have few well-done nutrition trials with long-term compliance and follow-up.

Now we have new research that provides more evidence of the harms of sugar consumption. Let’s start with the takeaway message: Even moderate consumption of certain types of sugar may negatively affect your metabolism. That’s the conclusion of researchers from Graz (Austria) and Zurich (Switzerland).

Please go here to learn more about why you may want to lower your sugar intake:

Please sign up to follow me at the newer blog site. You can get free access to my Medium articles on health and wellness. Thank you.

Runner’s High: Not the Endorphins?

Runner’s High: Not the Endorphins?

Have you ever experienced a deeply relaxing state of euphoria after a nice run or another intense exercise? Some who experience the so-called runner’s high experience less anxiety or pain shortly after exercise.

You have probably heard how aerobic activities can lead to the release of endorphins into your blood. Many have long believed that these “feel good” chemicals are the reason for runner’s high. More recently, a new entrant (endocannabinoids) on the block is challenging this decades-long belief.

Here’s the caveat: The available evidence indicating a control role for endocannabinoid in runner’s high has historically been from mouse studies until now. We have a new study that I am excited to share with you. First, though, a quick look at endorphins.

Runner’s High: Not the Endorphins?

Endorphins are chemicals we produce to relieve stress and pain. We call them endogenous opioids because they work similarly to the class of drugs known as opioids. Endogenous means “from the body,” and combined with the word morphine, we get endorphin.

Let’s look at the new kid on the block, the one linked to marijuana, orgasm, and runner’s high. Endocannabinoids are what are affected by the active ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Runner’s High: Not the Endorphins? Endocannabinoids (think marijuana) may play a central role. Please go here to learn more:

Please considering signing up to follow me at the newer blog site. Thanks!

Can You Use Lifestyle to Improve Heartburn?

Pill-Free Approaches to Heartburn

My patient recently asked me what he could do (besides medicines) to tame his heartburn. I had mentioned that chronic heartburn might increase his risk of cancer, including esophagus cancer. Today, I want to look at some of the ways you may lower your risk via lifestyle.

Let’s begin with esophagus cancer. A risk factor is something that raises your odds of getting a disease such as cancer. Some risk factors, such as smoking or drinking alcohol, are changeable. We know of several factors that are likely to increase the probability of getting cancer of the esophagus.

Risk factors for esophagus cancer include older age, tobacco, alcohol, male sex, and obesity. We have some hints that the consumption of processed foods may also raise your risk. Do you consume scalding liquids with temperatures of 149° F or 65° C or higher? Super hot beverages may increase the risk for the squamous cell type of esophageal cancer.

On the positive side, a diet high in fruits and vegetables probably lowers esophageal cancer risk. And I should mention my favorite risk-reducing maneuver for cancer in general — physical activity.

Pill-Free Approaches to HeartburnPlease go here to learn more:

Don’t forget to sign up to follow me on the newer blog site. Thank you!

The Curious Case of a Woman Crying Bloody Tears

Crying Bloody Tears

A YOUNG WOMAN’s menstrual cycle brought tears to her eyes. But unlike most period-related tears, hers were bright-red tears of blood. I offer you the true story of a 25-year-old who presented to an emergency room. I read about her in LiveScience and wanted to share with you this remarkable story.

Have you ever heard of haemolacria? Sounds a bit like fiction, but haemolacria is an actual condition that causes an individual to produce tears partially composed of blood. Of course, should this happen to you, please seek immediate medical attention, even though the condition is usually benign.

Now, back to our young woman. She presented to a hospital emergency department with bloody tears oozing from both her eyes. She reported no illnesses or injury but offered this clue: The emergence of the bloody tears appeared coincident with the beginning of her menstrual period.

Please go here to learn more:

Please consider following me at this newer blog site. Thank you!

Is Your Desk Working to Kill You?

Is your desk working to kill you?

I don’t usually laugh at my own title, but forgive me today. It reminds me of films that have inanimate objects that threaten humans. For example, Jerry London’s 1974 film Killdozer! is a television movie about a bulldozer that kills (okay, you probably already understood that by the title). More specifically, it is a bulldozer possed by a mysterious alien force. The object fell to Earth in a meteor.

Sorry for my brief diversion. I really want to share a study recently published in the Annals of Internal MedicineIt reports that you can increase your chances of dying prematurely if you have too much inactive time. For we who spend a lot of time at our desks, the research investigation may have particular resonance.

Columbia University researchers monitored the movements of approximately 8,000 adults. The subjects wore accelerometers on their hip. After ten days, the investigators discovered a sedentary lifestyle typically included 12.3 hours of inactivity in a 16 hour day. Put in more stark terms, if you are awake and sedentary, you may be inactive for approximately 77 percent of your day.

Please come to my newer blog site to read more:

Please consider following me at this newer blog site.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The Promise and the Peril

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The Promise and the Peril

Studies in the 1970s demonstrated very low coronary heart disease rates among Eskimos in Greenland who consumed large amounts of seafood. Since then, much research has focused on how long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in fish oil, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are important contributors to these benefits.

I want to share with you some of my concerns. There appears to be a dose-related risk for a heart condition (atrial fibrillation, a condition characterized by an irregular and often rapid heartbeat) with omega-3 fatty acid intake, at least with high doses of the supplement.

white and green medication pills on gray surface
Photo by ready made on

Please go here to read more article Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The Promise and the Peril:

Green Tea and Your Risk for Cancer

Green tea is native to China and India and has been consumed for centuries throughout the world. It is chock full of antioxidants and other substances and may be one of the planet’s healthiest beverages. I recently came across an article lauding the anti-cancer properties of green tea.

We begin with breast cancer. One comprehensive review included 5,617 enrolled in two studies of breast cancer recurrence and seven studies of breast cancer incidence. Those who consumed the most tea had a drop of up to nearly one-third in the risk of getting breast cancer. Promising, but not high-level evidence, given the observational nature of the study.

What about other cancers? A comprehensive review of 29 studies discovered that those who consumed green tea had a 42 percent lower risk of developing colorectal cancer. However, the benefit seemed to accrue only to patients with rectal cancer and to females.

A separate population-based prospective study found regular consumption of green tea to be inversely associated with colorectal cancer risk, particularly among women who maintained the tea-drinking habit over time.

The longer the duration of tea consumption over one’s life, the lower the risk of colorectal cancer appears to be. Risk also drops as the amount of tea consumed rises. The investigators conducted the research prospectively and tried to adjust for a wide range of confounding factors (including socioeconomic status). This Shanghai study of women consumers of green tea represents some of the best evidence I could find.

That’s the good news. The bad? An observational study cannot measure tea intake amount with any degree of high confidence. Therefore, the study does not represent high-level evidence.

Please go here to learn more:

Exercise Eleven Minutes to a Longer Life

Exercise Eleven Minutes to a Longer Life

YOU READ THAT right. It takes only minutes daily to promote health and live longer. A new study from the Norwegian School of Sports Medicine suggests that as little as 11 minutes of moderate activity can yield some long-term health benefits and longevity.

You probably already know that being sedentary is unhealthy. I’m always surprised at how many of my patients sit at a desk all day long, with minimal physical activity. Is this a problem? You betcha: One Columbia University (New York City) study discovered that those who work desk jobs are twice as likely to die early.

But let’s stay on the positive side. You probably have heard the American Heart Association recommendations that you should get a minimum of 150 minutes weekly of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. Alternatively, 75 minutes of vigorous activity is good. I combine the two, aiming to spread the exercise throughout the week.

If you can, be a star and shoot for being active for at least five hours each week. Don’t forget to add moderate- or high-intensity activity to strengthen your muscles for at least two days weekly. It is best to increase the amount and intensity slowly over time.

Here are some moderate activities: Brisk walking (minimum of 2.5 miles per hour); dancing; gardening; biking (slower than ten miles per hour). Vigorous-intensity activities include running, swimming laps, singles tennis, and aerobic dancing.

Not able to do any of this? Any movement is better than none. One simple way for many to get moving to improve health is to start walking.

Continue here to learn more:

Please consider following me at that newer blog site. Thanks!

Escaping Chemotherapy: Cancer Cells Can Hibernate

Why do some cancers come back? Some believe that there are differences between cells within a tumor, a phenomenon we call tumor heterogeneity. Imagine that most of the cells are sensitive to chemotherapy and die, but that a small subset of the cells are resistant and subsequently begin to regrow.

Others believe that a subgroup of cancer cells known as stem cells have unique characteristics that allow them to escape chemotherapy-induced destruction.

Now we have a third hypothesis: Perhaps cancer returns because of cell senescence. The Cornell researchers recently added that cancer cell hibernation might be one mechanism of resistance. They looked at acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a particularly aggressive form of blood cancer.

Please go here to learn more (and don’t forget to follow me on the newer blog site there):

Naps: Yea or Nay?

EINSTEIN DID IT. So did Leonardo da Vinci and Winston Churchill. They all took naps. Should you? A brief afternoon nap may boost your memory, improve your mood, ease stress, and make you more alert.

Last Sunday, we Americans switched to Daylight Saving Time. DST is the practice of setting our clocks forward one hour from standard time during the summer months and back again in the fall to make better use of natural daylight.

Last Sunday, we Americans switched to Daylight Saving Time. DST is the practice of setting our clocks forward an hour from standard time during the summertime and back again in the autumn to better use natural daylight.

You know the drill: Spring forward, fall back. We shift our clocks forward one hour in the spring when daylight savings time begins (we lose one hour of sleep) and back one hour when daylight savings time ends in the autumn (we regain one hour of sleep).

It is in the context of this recent one-hour loss of sleep that I want to talk a bit about afternoon snoozing. I often look forward to having one for energy restoration. But am I right to assume that napping is a good way to feel more rested and alert? And what about cognition? Is it true that taking a nap may enhance it?

Please go to my newer blog site to learn more:

Caffeine: How It Stimulates Us

DO YOU CONSUME a lot of caffeine? Does it tend to wake you up? It is all about your brain chemistry. Today, we take a brief look at how caffeine stimulates us by interacting with adenosine receptors in the brain. We’ll then close with a brief look at the body’s physiologic response to this interaction.

Caffeine is consumed daily by approximately 80 percent of the world’s population. Many use it to promote wakefulness and concentration.

Back to the basic science. As adenosine is made in the brain, it binds to adenosine receptors. This binding results in drowsiness, as it slows down the activity of our nerve cells. Enter caffeine. Look how similar the structure of caffeine is to adenosine.

Please go here to learn more about how caffeine stimulates us:

Gender, Jobs, and Alcohol: Who Drinks the Most?

GUESS WHO DRINKS the most alcohol? It turns out that the type of job you have appears to correlate with how much you consume. Let’s take a quick look at the largest study of the subject, recently published in BMC Public Health. Researchers analyzed the United Kingdom Biobank database of over 100,000 participants who reported their weekly or monthly drinking habits and occupation.

Come on over to my newer blog (don’t forget to follow me!) to learn more:

Lung Cancer: New Screening Guidelines

NEW GUIDELINES from the United StatesPreventative Task Force (USPTF) should lead to a major increase in the number of Americans eligible for free screening for lung cancer. This new approach should save lives and especially benefit Black people and women.

Let’s cut to the chase. The USPTF now recommends that current and former smokers ages 50 to 80 (who have a 20 pack-year smoking history) have an annual low-dose CT scan to screen for lung cancer. To calculate “pack-years,” multiply the number of packs of cigarettes smoked each day by the number of years an individual has smoked.

Please go here to learn more about the new lung cancer screening guidelines:

Yoga Improves Cholesterol?

Yoga improves cholesterol? That is our question for today.

IS THE PRACTICE of yoga associated with a lowering of cholesterol? We often hear about the ability of mindfulness practices such as yoga to reduce our levels of stress. Today, I want to share some limited information that hints at the ability of yoga to help us lower our cholesterol levels.

The modern practice of yoga consisted of three elements: 1) postures/poses (āsanas), 2) meditation/relaxation (dhyāna), 2) breath control/regulated breathing (prānāyāma), and 3). The word prānāyāma is a portmanteau of the words “prānh” (vital air, life wind) and “āyāmh” (restraining, extending).

Hundreds of different yoga postures have been described. While yoga is not primarily a treatment tool, research has suggested efficacy for conditions as wide-ranging as risk-reduction for fallsmental health issues, and cardiovascular disease.

Read more here:

Don’t forget to sign up to follow me (if you enjoy the piece)! Thank you.

Habits: How Long to Make a New One?

How Long Do You Need to Create a New Habit?

IF YOU ANSWERED twenty-one days, you might be buying into a slightly misleading claim. I remember explaining to a patient that it would take twenty-one days to establish a new exercise habit. Is the twenty-one-day rule a myth?

Where did we get the idea that it takes three weeks to make a new habit stick? In 1960, Dr. Maxwell Maltz published “Pyscho-Cybernetics.” While the book author didn’t make a claim, he did point to the number 21 as an observable metric in himself and his patients.

Over time, his observation that “one needs about 21 days from an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to gel” has morphed into “it takes that long to create a new habit.” Today we ask if the 21-day observation is hogwash (hint — not completely). I want briefly muse on why we have so much trouble establishing new habits and end with some pro tips on how you can create a new habit.

Read more here:

Please consider following me at the newer blog site once you get there. Thanks!

Virtual Reality to Help Recover from a Stroke

Virtual Reality to Help Recover from a Stroke

A NEW VIRTUAL reality (VR) approach to rehabilitation training yielded benefits comparable to conventional therapy for those who had a stroke, according to a new study from Bergen, Norway. Today we take a quick look at a comparison between virtual reality training versus conventional training for arm function (in addition to standard rehabilitation).

Virtual reality is a new and exciting technology tool for gaming. Have you heard of Oculus Rift or Oculus Quest 2? The technology is now available to the general public. Don a headset and travel to a new world.

VR is not only for gaming, however. It is being incorporated into treatment for anxiety disorders and phobias and is being looked at in the military realm. Let’s look at another application where VR shows promise, stroke recovery.

Virtual Reality to Help Recover from a Stroke: Learn more here (don’t forget to follow me!):

Heartburn Increases Your Risk of Cancer

Photo by cottonbro on

Heartburn and cancer risk

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is quite common in the United States. An estimated eighteen to twenty-eight percent of us suffer from it. Today we look at a possible link between GERD and cancers of the voice box and esophagus. Historical studies have hinted at an association, and now we have a new study that adds additional evidence.

GERD is a gut disorder that affects the ring of muscle (the lower esophageal sphincter) between your esophagus and stomach. If you have GERD, you may get heartburn, acid indigestion, a persistent cough, chest pain, or other symptoms. Some individuals have it because of a condition known as a hiatal hernia. Fortunately, dietary and lifestyle modifications can ease symptoms for most of us. Others may need medication or surgery.

Heartburn and cancer risk: Reflux is associated with cancers of the esophagus and larynx (voice box region). Go here to learn more:

Missing Mammograms is Worse Than I Thought

Photo by Ave Calvar Martinez on

Iam a radiation oncologist with a special interest in breast cancer. A recent study funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS) recently stopped me in my tracks. Researchers looked at over half a million women, representing the first time the ACS has looked at whether regular screening offered a mortality benefit.

Breast cancer screening with mammograms has helped to meaningfully reduce breast cancer deaths by enabling detection of cancer at earlier, more treatable stages.

Today we look at the perils of skipping even a single scheduled mammogram screening study. The new study is particularly timely, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic-associated suspension of some screening services as well as lingering fears caused by the epidemic.

Please go here to learn more (and don’t forget to sign up to follow me!):

Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables! But How Much?

Photo by Nadi Lindsay on

How many fruits and vegetables should you eat? The American Heart Association recommends that we eat four to five servings each of fruits and vegetables daily. The Mayo Clinic offers a so-called 1–2–3 approach, with the aim of a total of six servings. Despite such guidance, we often get mixed messages about the optimal amount and type of fruits and vegetables to consume (or avoid).

Let’s look at a new study that provides good guidance. The Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study included over 100,000 adults followed for up to 30 years. The dataset included detailed diet information obtained every two to four years.

For a new report, researchers also pooled data from 26 studies that included 1.9 million participants from Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Here’s what you need to know:

Don’t forget to follow me on this newer blog site. Thank you!

Even Light Exercise Helps With Weight Loss

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

Even light exercise helps with weight loss: How doing even half the recommended amount of physical activity can lower risk

Let’s focus on the importance of engaging in regular physical activity, even if you cannot achieve the levels recommended by expert guidelines. A recent Taiwanese study looked at the physical activity levels of over 100,000 adults. Of these, 21 percent had obesity.

The researchers use a questionnaire to determine levels of physical activity. They converted self-reported intensity to metabolic equivalents and frequency of activity. The investigators also determined body mass index and waist circumference at each exam and during 5.6 years of average follow-up.

Even light exercise helps with weight loss: How doing even half the recommended amount of physical activity can lower risk. Learn more here:

Thank you for joining, and don’t forget to follow me at this newer blog site.

Dark Chocolate is Good For You

Photo by Delphine Hourlay on

Dark Chocolate is Good for You

A lovely friend of mine astutely observes that I frequently write about the health benefits of dark chocolate. Of course, I do! Dark chocolate is chock full of nutrients that can positively affect health. Created from the seed of the cacao tree, it is a good source of antioxidants.

Did I mention that chocolate is also delicious? I have fond memories of drinking a cup of dark chocolate at Barcelona’s Fargas. This historic chocolate shop has been operating since 1827 on the same corner of the Gothic Quarter. They have been using the same stone grinder since to mill their chocolate. I can smell the chocolate as I write to you!

Today we briefly explore the positive effects of dark chocolate consumption on your brain. Flavanols in dark chocolate may be responsible, at least in part, for the benefits.

Please come over to my newer blog site here to read more (and don’t forget to sign up to follow me!):

Leisure-Time Physical Activity Drops Bone Fracture Risk

Photo by nappy on

Leisure-time physical activity drops bone fracture risk

You already know that exercise has innumerable benefits, including better cardiovascular fitness, improvement of many metabolic factors, a reduction in cancer risk, and an enhanced sense of well-being. As a radiation oncologist, I often recommend regular weight-bearing and muscle-strengthening physical activity and balance training to reduce falling risk.

Unfortunately, it has been difficult to understand the effects of physical activity on bone density, risk of falling, and fractures. Studies addressing these issues are remarkably variable in design.

Now we have a large prospective study from Sweden that gives us good proof that moderate-intensity leisure-time physical activity can drop our risk of having a fracture in middle age.


How you can use moderate-intensity leisure-time physical activity to improve your bone health. Learn more here:

Don’t forget to follow me on this newer blog site. Thanks!

How You Can Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

Photo by Ono Kosuki on

There are two general categories of stroke, hemorrhage, and ischemia. In some ways, these are opposite conditions. Hemorrhage is marked by too much blood in the closed cranial cavity, while ischemia is characterized by too little blood (to supply enough oxygen and nutrients) to a part of the brain. About 20 percent of strokes are due to brain hemorrhage, while 80 percent are secondary to ischemia.

The lifetime risk of stroke for adult men and women (25 years of age and older) is approximately 25 percent. The highest risk of stroke is in East Asia, Central Europe, and Eastern Europe. Worldwide, stroke is the second most common cause of mortality and the second most common cause of disability.

Enough statistics. A stroke can be one of the most devasting illnesses. Today, my charge is to provide you with some tools to lower your risk of suffering from a fatal or debilitating stroke.

I begin by offering that there are some things that you cannot change, including your age and a family history of stroke. But even if you have a risk factor, you may still be able to drop your chances of suffering from a stroke.

Please go here to learn more about how to drop your stroke risk:

(Don’t forget to follow me at this newer blog site… Thanks!)

Aerobic fitness and Cognition

Photo by Julia Larson on

Aerobic fitness and cognition

Exercise enhances our cognitive functioning and can improve mental health, too. Today, I want to share with you a quite quirky finding from researchers in Japan. They have discovered evidence of a missing link between aerobic fitness and cognitive function.

First, a bit of background. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter. After our bodies produce the substance, our nervous systems use it to send messages between brain cells. It is a chemical messenger, one that is essential to our abilities to think, plan, focus, and find things to be interesting.

Please go here to learn more about fitness and cognition:

How Exercise Influences Your Gut Microbiome and Health

Photo by Julia Larson on

Gut microbiome and health

The microbiome, the collection of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live in and on our bodies, is a component of our immune system. The microbiome is essential to the defense systems of our bodies.

We have approximately 100 trillion microbes — including bacteria, fungi, and viruses — primarily found in the gastrointestinal system and our skin and other body parts.

I have a new word for you: Dysbiosis. Dysbiosis is a change in the composition, diversity, or metabolites of the microbiome from a healthy pattern to one associated with a disease. Antibiotics can be a cause. The replacement of microorganisms (via fecal transplants) can be an effective management option for some problems such as inflammatory bowel disease and certain recurrent infections associated with antibiotic use.

What does this have to do with you? 

Please go here to learn more about gut microbiome and health:

Bargain Hunting: Is There a Genetic Component?

Photo by cottonbro on

Add New Post

Is bargain hunting genetic?

My daughter recently bought a winter coat in the Soho part of New York City. When I shared the news with my aunt, she offered stories about the love of bargain hunting among family members. I presumed that love of bargain hunting is exclusively a learned behavior but is it?

Do you enjoy shopping? You may want to give a shout-out to a chemical in your brain, dopamine. This neurotransmitter is essential to our mental and physical well-being. For example, if you have Parkinson’s disease, you have very little dopamine. Addicted to a drug or other substance? Dopamine may be playing a large role.

Feelings of pleasure and satisfaction are associated with dopamine. Have something challenging, exciting, or new, and you may be firing up your nerve cells with bursts of the neurotransmitter. For some of us, shopping provides all of these characteristics.

Today we take a brief look at “Born to Shop? A Genetic Component of Deal Proneness.” Do you think genes play a role in causing bargain-hunting zeal? By comparing deal-proneness similarity among 78 pairs of identical twins with 43 pairs of fraternal twins reared together, researchers recently gave us some answers.

Is bargain hunting genetic? How the neurotransmitter dopamine powers our shopping habits and a look at the genetic behind bargain hunting. Please go here to learn more:

Better yet, please come to my newer blog site. Thank you for following me.

How Your Muscle Fibers Respond to Exercise

Photo by Markus Spiske on

How Your Muscle Fibers Respond to Exercise

I OFFER YOU the results of the most thorough analysis of slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers and their differing responses to physical activity. Scientists used an innovative approach: They employed large-scale protein analysis of freeze-dried muscle samples.

As you may know, skeletal muscles are composed of individual muscle fibers. There are two primary forms, including fast-twitch and slow-twitch skeletal muscle fibers. “Twitch” refers to the contraction, or how quickly and often the muscle moves.

Each skeletal muscle type has specialized functions. Here are the three types of muscle, depicted at the same magnifications:

Slow-twitch muscle fibers (type I or red fibers, given their blood supply) are more resistant to fatigue and are essential to sustain small movements and posture. Slow-twitch fibers contain more of the cell’s powerhouses, the mitochondria, and have more myoglobin. The latter is a red protein that contains heme, which carries oxygen and stores oxygen in muscle cells.

On the other hand, fast-twitch muscle fibers (type II or white fibers, given their lower blood supply) are more powerful. Alas, they last only short durations. Think of fast-twitch muscle fibers as being more anaerobic.

Skeletal muscles have both fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers. The ratios of the fibers hinge on factors such as your age, muscle function, and training. Functionally, slow-twitch fibers support endurance activities, while fast-twitch types help us with more explosive exercise.

Which exercise type do you prefer? You are taking advantage of slow-twitch muscles if you enjoy walking or jogging slowly. Do you bike, swim, or row? Your slow-twitch muscle fibers are working hard. Many yoga positions put you in this category too.

Or do you enjoy sports that are challenging to do for more than a relatively short time before you tire out? If you love running, jumping, skipping rope, boxing, or jumping rope, you are working your fast-twitch fibers more.

I want to turn to a new study that reports the use of new technology that demonstrates that fast- and slow-twitch fibers respond in differing ways to exercise. University of Copenhagen scientists have created a new technology that allows them to study muscle biology on a more detailed level than historically possible.

Here’s what they did: The researchers extracted fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers from freeze-dried muscle samples taken before and after twelve weeks of cycling exercise training. Their analysis of the fibers’ protein expression provides new evidence that the fiber types respond differently to exercise training.

This groundbreaking research also shows the untapped potential of freeze-dried samples sitting in freezers worldwide. Muscle samples can be confusing, as most people have an approximately even number of fast- and slow-twitch fibers in a muscle. It can be challenging to interpret whole muscle samples.

The researchers had healthy subjects engage in twelve weeks of endurance exercise training. They collected and freeze-dried muscle samples before and after the training. Next, the scientists extracted fast- and slow-twitch muscle fibers from the samples and performed high-resolution mass spectrometry-based proteomics — a tool that allowed them to measure thousands of proteins simultaneously in the different pieces.

Please go here to learn more:

Don’t forget to sign up to follow me! Thank you.

Use Naps to Enhance Your Health

Photo by Burst on

How You Can Use Naps to Enhance Your Health

NAPS AREN’T JUST for babies. Today we explore how you can use an afternoon snooze to get a memory boost, achieve more alertness, and drop your level of stress. Get a short nap, and you may also reduce your level of fatigue, improve your mood, and optimize performance. Did you know that a nap can lead to a faster reaction time?

Do you nap? If you take daytime naps, your genes may be influencing your likelihood of doing so. Researchers from Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital recently collaborated with colleagues at the University of Murcia in Spain and several other institutions. The MGH team had previously identified genes associated with insomnia, sleep duration, and the tendency to be a “morning lark” or a “night owl.”

Daytime napping appears to be driven by one’s biology. The researchers identified dozens of gene regions that govern the likelihood of taking a daytime nap. They also discovered preliminary evidence associating napping habits with cardiometabolic health.

Here’s how they conducted the investigation: The scientists did a genome-wide association study. This method aims to find genetic variations associated with a particular disease or habit. They used the United Kingdom Biobank, a repository of genetic information from over 450,000 individuals.

The researchers asked participants whether the subjects nap during the day “never/rarely,” “sometimes,” or “usually.” The gene examinations identified 123 regions in the genome that are associated with daytime napping.

A subset of subjects wore activity monitors (accelerometers) to gain insight into napping. This objective data indicated that the subjects accurately reported their sleep habits.

The study authors went a step further. Read more about how you can use naps to enhance your health at my newer blog site (don’t forget to sign up to follow):

Sleep Disturbance Associated with Dementia Risk

Sleep disturbance is associated with a higher risk of dementia.

Photo by Burst on

Lack of Sleep and Dementia

Chronic insomnia has adverse health implications. Short sleep can impact your daytime function and quality of life. Insomnia is also associated with an increase in your risk of cardiovascular events and death. Today, I want to turn to a new study, reminding us that lack of sleep may also be associated with dementia.

An irreversible loss of brain function characterizes dementia. It affects language, memory, problem-solving, and more. There are several dementia types, all typically affecting older individuals. Sleep issues are common in individuals affected with dementia, and disturbed sleep can exacerbate the disease’s symptoms.

Sleep and health are inextricably connected. Those with dementia often have challenges with sleep. But is the reverse true? Can sleep problems increase our chances of memory loss or dementia?

Sleep disturbance associated with a higher risk of dementia

There is a decreased percentage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and sleep architecture changes in older adults (average age 76). They appear to be associated with an increased future risk of dementiaNew research from Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found this:

The risk of dementia was double among participants who reported getting less than five hours of sleep than those who reported seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

The team also found associations between sleep deficiency (including low sleep quality and trouble maintaining alertness) and the overall risk of death over the next four to five years. Routinely needing 30 minutes or more to fall asleep was associated with a significantly higher (nearly 1.5-times) risk of dementia.

The scientists used information from the National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS). This longitudinal study of Medicare beneficiaries ages 65 years and older has been active since 2011.

We need additional studies to determine whether poor sleep increases the risk of dementia, or rather whether it is merely an association. What is increasingly clear to me is the sleep appears to be essential for brain health. If you are having trouble sleeping, here are some tips: