Friday, September 22, 2017

Connecting Sleep and Genes

Scientists have been trying to solve the mysteries of sleep for as long as we’ve been tossing and turning. There are plenty of suggested cures for sleeplessness — avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and computer screens before bedtime; ramping up your exercise; skipping midday naps; and the like. But there’s little consensus on what might be happening physiologically to make us more or less likely to snooze.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School recently entered the debate with a study suggesting it may be connected to the body’s immune response, specifically certain types of brain-based immune proteins known as NLRP3 inflammasome. When the brain detects inflammation in the body, it releases a sleep-inducing immune molecule called interleukin-1 beta.

Lead study author Mark Zielinski, PhD, and his team subjected two groups of mice to sleep deprivation and bacterial exposure. They found it triggered an immune response that led to better sleep in the control group with the NLRP3 inflammasome genes than in a group of mice without them.

“Our research points, for the first time, to the inflammasome acting as a universal sensing mechanism that regulates sleep,” says Zielinski. Those who lack the genes necessary to trigger this molecular action may be more prone to sleep disorders.

But DNA is not destiny. When researchers gave interleukin-1 beta to the mice without the gene, they found they enjoyed better sleep quality.

More research is needed, Zielinski says, but the study could lead to future treatment options for folks hoping for more shuteye.

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Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Dry skin warning: THESE six every day things can trigger eczema symptoms

DRY skin is a common symptom of eczema - a skin condition that can be triggered by every day items such as cleaning products, hot water and even your favourite jumper.

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

How to Mentally Recover From a Sports Injury

Recovering from a sports injury requires more than just physical therapy; there’s also psychological healing. Sports psychologist Alan Goldberg, EdD, offers seven strategies for dealing with an injury.

Go ahead and be sad — at least at first. It’s important to mourn this loss, just like any other. There’s no need to be macho.

Then, maintain a positive attitude. Once you shake off your feelings of sadness and loss, an optimistic outlook will speed the healing process while decreasing the emotional pain. Goldberg encourages his patients to repeat the mantra, “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Focus on “what is.” “Don’t play the ‘coulda, mighta game,’” says Goldberg. You’re injured. Accept it and move forward.

Set new goals for yourself. They may be smaller at first, but that’s OK. The key is to make sure they’re achievable, and build up from there.

Take an active part in your healing. Don’t cut corners. Don’t resist or resent your physical therapy. No one’s making you do this. The only person who loses when you loaf is you.

Continue to practice and work out. Even if you’re temporarily sidelined, you can visualize playing your sport. Goldberg calls this “improving your headset.” A huge part of sports is mental, after all.

Seek out the support of your teammates. You’ll be tempted to isolate yourself. Don’t do it. Show up to that rec-league hoops game just for the camaraderie. Meet your running or biking group when they grab coffee or a beer at the end of their workout. The connection and inspiration are important.

This originally appeared in “Learning From Injury” in the July/August 2014 issue of Experience Life magazine.

For more on recovering from injury, see “Give It a Rest” and “Facing Down an Injury.”

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Skin diet: Which of THESE foods should you avoid to clear up eczema?

SKIN conditions, such as eczema, can trigger unpleasant symptoms on your face. However, changing your diet could help get rid of redness, dryness and itching.

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Monday, September 11, 2017

Classic Family Vacations: South Dakota

There’s a lot that people don’t know about South Dakota — including that it features six national parks, boasts the world’s third-largest cave, and is home to some of the best cycling in the country.

“We’ve recommended visiting South Dakota to all sorts of people. It’s really an underrated part of this country,” says Bob Mobeck, 71, of Branford, Conn., who in August 2016 spent a week biking through the state with his wife and two grandkids.

A few years ago, the Mobecks decided to treat each of their seven grandchildren to a special trip. But these wouldn’t be Disney vacations. They wanted to model their love of physical activity, introduce them to some cultural and historical elements, and make sure to leave plenty of time for bonding. Their oldest two grandkids joined them on a cycling trip in Germany, but the Mobecks decided to offer the next two, ages 12 and 13, a chance to explore some of the natural beauty and culture available stateside.

“I’ve always wanted to see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial, and we thought, Why travel to Europe when we have so much to see here?” Mobeck recalls. They found what they were looking for with the help of Bicycle Adventures, an outfitter offering international and domestic tours, including five in South Dakota.

They chose the Mickelson Trail Bike Tour, a six-day trip along 109 miles of reformed rail-to-trail pathways that included stops at Mount Rushmore, the still-under-construction Crazy Horse Memorial, the legendary town of Deadwood, Wind Cave and Badlands National Parks, and even the site of a paleontological dig.

Starting in Rapid City, the group rode for four to five hours a day and made regular stops, including lunch breaks featuring gourmet dishes. The tour operator supplied maps and encouraged them to pedal at their own pace; they would meet at clearly marked spots along the route. This worked well for a group with mixed generations and abilities.

“The kids didn’t feel inhibited by us,” Mobeck notes. “They went off by themselves or rode with other people.”

At night, in their hotel, the group dined together before retiring to their rooms, where they could relax, recount the day’s highlights, and prepare for the next day’s ride before falling into a welcome sleep.

The trip accomplished everything Mobeck and his wife had hoped it would. He says the kids loved the exercise, experienced American cultural sites and an unfamiliar landscape, and created great family memories.

$2,566/person includes gear, meals, and lodging; discount for kids.

Where: Start and end in Rapid City, S.D., and pedal your way to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Wind Cave National Park, Wall Drug, and other sites.

Perfect for: Couples or a fitness-loving family of all ages looking to explore some of America’s most revered monuments.

Why go: South Dakota offers some of the best road and trail riding in the country, abundant open space, and fascinating geography.

Best time of year: Late spring to early fall.

Don’t miss: Badlands National Park.

Pack: A camera.

This originally appeared as “Family Classics” in the September 2017 print issue of Experience Life.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Symptoms of CANCER, acne and eczema can show on your skin – five signs to look out for

CANCER, acne and eczema can all show on your skin with lumps, ulcers and even red patches sometimes a cause for concern. Here are five symptoms and the conditions they relate to.

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Stronger Together: Christina Coleman’s Success Story

It was a cold December morning in 2015 when I waited anxiously in a brightly lit doctor’s office with my young son, feeling both hope and dread in anticipation of a diagnosis that would explain his recent behavior. Max, then 2 years old, sat in the middle of the floor ignoring the various toys scattered around him. He seemed distant and wouldn’t look at me. Shouldn’t he want his mother right now? I thought. Shouldn’t he be anxious?

As a baby, Max had been lively and sweet. He loved our bedtime-reading routine and playing with his stuffed animals. But my boyfriend, Eric, and I started noticing changes in Max’s demeanor around his second birthday. He stopped making eye contact with us. When we sat on the floor to play with him, he seemed uninterested, almost as if he was lost in his own world. He wouldn’t respond when we called his name.

I don’t know what I was expecting that morning, but I think part of me hoped for some reassurance that my son would simply progress in his own time. So, when the doctor told me Max had autism, I didn’t know how to respond. A flurry of questions arose in my mind: Would Max ever start speaking? What did this mean for our family? If Eric and I got pregnant again, would that baby have autism, too?

Suddenly, I was trying to recall every detail of my pregnancy: the nights I’d stayed late at work, what I’d eaten, how I’d slept. Had I done something wrong? Was this my fault?

I work as a TV news anchor-reporter, and I’m often first on the scene to cover homicides and other high-stress events. I’ve always been able to remain calm and confident under pressure. For the first time in a long while, I felt scared. What would the rest of my son’s life be like?

Slippery Slope

The first few months after Max’s diagnosis were overwhelming. I often felt like every parenting choice I made — the groceries I bought, the places I took him to play — would have a significant impact on his well-being. Suddenly, the weight of those decisions seemed twice as heavy.

Eric and I didn’t know whether to put Max in daycare or to look for a place that could offer him more specialized attention. Our calendar quickly filled with new appointments with specialists: occupational therapy, speech therapy, behavioral therapy.

Trying to balance it all while also working full-time — and working with Max at home — began to wear on me. I worked in the newsroom until midnight sometimes and then had to be up early the next morning for Max’s therapy sessions.

Eric and I had opposite work schedules and were like ships passing in the night. When we were together, all we talked about was Max’s cognitive development or whether we should join a support group for help in coping with parenting a special-needs child. It began to feel like Max was a project we were tackling rather than our son who just needed our love and support.

I started eating when I was stressed, which was nearly all the time. If someone brought doughnuts to the newsroom, I’d go back for seconds. I began to linger at the office into the wee hours, poring over books on autism while munching mindlessly on popcorn.

In just a couple of months, I gained 15 pounds. I felt sluggish and weary; I didn’t recognize my own reflection.

I was once an active person — I played basketball in high school and college and loved running and working out. I always imagined having a child who would play sports with me, who I could take into the newsroom to cavort with my colleagues. I felt confused and uncertain about what Max’s diagnosis meant for the life I’d envisioned for us.

Most of all, I wasn’t the best mother that I could be — and I knew my son needed me.

One Step at a Time

Max’s therapists recommended that we try to socialize him as much as possible, and we immediately thought of the Child Center at the Life Time near our home. Eric and I had often brought Max to the club with us when he was younger, and he crawled around on the mats at the play center while we worked out.

I knew I needed to recommit to a regular fitness routine; it would be a better stress reliever than late-night snacking. Plus, it would be a win for everyone: Max could spend time around other children, and Eric and I could get some much-needed exercise.

Each time we opened the door to the Child Center, the staff there greeted Max with huge smiles and called him by name. That spring, he started looking them in the eye and smiling back. Outside, he climbed on the jungle gym and ran around with the other children. He looked just like any other 2-year-old: active, boisterous, and happy.

Eric and I began going to the club more regularly, excited about the progress Max was making. It was such a comfort to take him to a place that embraced what makes him special. Driving home after each visit, we were relaxed and happy, a far cry from the overstressed, disconnected family we’d been just a few months before.

Walking the Walk

Once I got back into a regular fitness routine, I realized what I’d been missing during all those months of sleeplessness and stress-eating. It was like a chain reaction: I’d found an active outlet for my stress, so I was sleeping better; that gave me the energy to make healthier choices. I started prepping meals with fruit and lean proteins to take to work, which made me less likely to reach for chips or popcorn. I began drinking more water — and less coffee — and found myself feeling vibrant and energized.

These days, I’m showing up more fully at work and at home. Feeling more rested and purposeful has made my mornings less hectic, so I can have quality time with Max before I head into the newsroom. I’m able to work ahead on stories, so I feel more prepared and less rushed. And since my clothes are fitting better, I’m more comfortable on camera.

As we watched Max become more active, and as Eric and I grew stronger and fitter, we realized how important it is to take care of ourselves. Last October I ran a half-marathon. I felt so proud crossing the finish line, knowing I’d accomplished something great while also modeling healthy behaviors for my son.

That summer while I was training for the half-marathon, Eric and I would take Max to the pool at Life Time. Watching him giggle and splash around in the water was a welcome reminder that while Max may have his challenges, he’s still so full of life and love. And we know that living a healthy lifestyle will make us better prepared for any challenges the three of us might face together.

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