Sep
19
2021

World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

A CNN article points out that world suicide prevention day is on September 10.

Some statistics regarding suicides

According to the WHO more than 700,000 People die from suicide every year.

In the US suicide rates have risen between 1999 and 2018. President Joe Biden stated: “In 2019, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 34.”

This was further underlined by a study from the CDC. It pointed out the emergency room visits started to climb in May 2020 for attempted suicide in youth. The CDC stated: “The mean weekly number of these visits was 26.2% higher during summer 2020 and 50.6% higher during winter 2021 compared with the corresponding periods in 2019”.

Triggering factors that make people commit suicide

Suicidal thoughts start when a vulnerable person encounters stressful events. The life situation can become so painful that in their way of thinking suicide is the only way to stop the pain. There are huge differences of opinions: what may be meaningless to one person, may feel devastating to another.

Common triggering factors are as follows.

  • Illness and physical discomfort
  • Conflicts with family or friends
  • Illness of family members
  • Death of family member or friend
  • Loneliness

In a study 50% expressed two of these 5 triggers, 37.5% expressed one of the 5 triggers. 12.5% expressed three of the 5 triggers.

With the Covid-19 epidemic there are new pressures on people. They cannot freely move around or travel. He/she may have lost a friend or relative to Covid. And people may be anxious about their own survival. I described this here before.

Biochemical changes in the brain with depression

In the past low serotonin levels in the brain were thought to be the main cause of depression. But researchers realized later those medications that increased serotonin levels did not always help depression. They found that dopamine and norepinephrine are also important brain transmitters that play a role in depression. When dopamine levels are low, depression occurs. Similarly, when norepinephrine is low, the patient can develop depression. On the other hand, in bipolar disorder the brain produces too much norepinephrine, which causes manic episodes. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-chemistry-of-depression-1065137 The physician needs to take a thorough history and note from that which brain transmitter system would be mainly affected. This helps the physician later to decide which antidepressant to choose from to rebalance the brain transmitters.

How to detect stress signals

There are a number of risk factors, which the CDC has outlined, for which the health professional or a family member wants to look in order to assess the suicide risk.

Does the patient have a history?

People with a mood or anxiety disorder, or with an alcohol or substance abuse disorder are at a higher risk of developing depression and suicide.

Did the person experience a loss?

A loss can be a death in the family, a loss of a job or the loss of an important person in a relationship. This is particularly bad when there is social isolation and a lack of support. With Covid-19 millions of people have suffered the loss of a job, social isolation and having to quarantine.

Is it easy for the distressed person to get a gun?

Firearms are a common means for people to kill themselves. When there is easy access to a gun, there is a high probability that the person uses it in times of distress.

History of previous suicide attempt

When a person attempted to commit suicide, but failed, there is a higher risk for them to repeat a suicide attempt and succeed. Also, there is a copycat phenomenon when the news comes out that a famous personality committed suicide. For instance, when the comedian Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014 there was a 10% rise in suicides in the following months all over the US.

Belief system that honours personal sacrifice

Some religious or cultural groups consider suicide a noble solution to a personal dilemma.

A person from this background is at a much higher risk to commit suicide.

Warning signs of pending suicide attempt

There are a number warning signs that point to a higher risk of possibly planning suicide.

  • A person may talk about wanting to die or kill themselves.
  • Searching online for ways to kill oneself or buying a gun.
  • Feeling trapped or feeling unbearable pain.
  • Talking about feeling hopeless and having no reason to live.
  • Stating that they feel they are a burden to others.
  • Drinking more alcohol and using more drugs.
  • Acting agitated or anxious. Reckless behavior.
  • A person withdrawing or isolating themselves.
  • A person sleeping too much or too little.
  • Extreme mood swings.
  • Talking about seeking revenge or showing rage.

These are all red flags that should alarm you to ask for help. Not all of these alarm signs are present all the time with people who are considering to attempt suicide. When you have suicidal thoughts in the US, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. For Spanish crisis support call: 888-628-9454.

World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10

Conclusion

World suicide prevention day is on September 10. This reminds us every year that suicide is a colossal problem of society. Stress, loss of health, losing a loved one, a broken marriage and financial loss can all contribute to depression. If patients with mental distress do not receive timely intervention and treatment, the life situation can become so painful that in the patient’s way of thinking suicide is the only way to stop the pain. The key is for the loved ones in the circle of friends to pay attention to the warning signs and bring the suicidal person to the attention of the psychiatric health professionals. Sometimes an in-patient admission to a psychiatric facility may be required to interrupt the negative thinking pattern. Ignoring the warning signs can have devastating consequences. Prevention is the only way to avoid suicide.

Jun
26
2021

Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression

A British study concluded that being a morning person can prevent depression. It was reviewed also in CNN. The study used sleep data from 85,000 UK participants in the Great Britain Biobank Study. They wore wrist activity monitors that provided sleep data. Researchers compared the sleep data with the self-reported mood changes. They found that if the sleep pattern is misaligned with the circadian rhythm, those who are night owls are at a higher risk of developing mood disorders. The controls were those who were morning persons. They were not affected by the misalignment effect.

Normal sleep pattern

Natural sleep habit or the circadian rhythm starts between 10 PM and 11 PM and continues for 7 to 8 hours. Your hormones are replenished during your sleep. This helps your body’s hormones and the immune system to restore itself overnight.

“The health problems associated with being a night owl are likely a result of being a night owl living in a morning person’s world, which leads to disruption in their body’s circadian rhythms”. This is what sleep specialist Kristen Knutson said. She is an associate professor of neurology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Reclaim your natural sleep habit

The key is to learn to live within your circadian rhythm pattern. Caffeine is a powerful stimulant and will stop you from falling asleep. For this reason, it is best to avoid caffeine-containing beverages. If you cannot live without your favourite cup of java, switch to the decaffeinated version. Stop using LED lights (from TV, computers, tablets or smartphones) 2 hours prior to your bedtime. Use dark curtains and enjoy a comfortable bed. Maybe read that thriller, earlier in the day instead of making it your bedtime story. And do yourself a favour: you do not need the eleven o’clock news on TV!  They will probably stop you from falling asleep. Go to sleep between 10PM and 11PM.

Children can have problems with sleep disturbances and depression

Another study published March 22, 2021 in the Jama Network showed that depression had an association with sleep disturbances in youth and children.

A meta-analysis of 16 publications looked at depression and disturbed sleep. It showed that depression was 1.5-fold higher in sleep disturbed youths/children compared to controls with a normal sleep pattern.

Other studies re. being a morning person can prevent depression

Another study with Dr. Knutson as the lead author appeared in 2018. The authors found that various health conditions, mood disorders and mortality were on the increase the more the sleep rhythm deviated from the circadian rhythm. Morning persons were protected from this effect. But night shift workers and night owls were at a higher risk of disease. Specifically, they found the following associations for evening types.

  • Evening types compared to morning types had a 1.94-fold risk of psychological disorders
  • The risk of diabetes was 1.30-fold for evening types
  • Neurological disorders had a 1.25-fold risk in evening types
  • Gastrointestinal/abdominal disorders occurred 1.23-fold more often in evening types
  • respiratory disorders were 1.22-fold more common in evening types
  • Evening types had a 10% increased risk of all-cause mortality

The researchers concluded that externally imposed timing of work and social activities has potentially serious health consequences.

Circadian misalignment responsible for disease

Dr. Knutson also said: “Circadian misalignment could also lead to inadequate sleep duration and quality, which could also impair mood and exacerbate mood disorders.”

In other words, circadian misalignment to circadian rhythm problems. This can cause mood disturbances, but eventually lead to the diseases listed above.

Evidence of health risks in night shifts workers

The medical literature is full of examples that the health of night shift workers is significantly affected by circadian misalignment. Here are a few examples.

1.Here is a random selection to illustrate the health risks of night shifts workers. A study from 2015 examined the sleep patterns of 315 shift nurses and health care workers in Iranian teaching hospitals. They found that 83.2% suffered from poor sleep and half of them had moderate to excessive sleepiness when they were awake.

2.This South Korean study examined 244 male workers, aged 20 to 39 in a manufacturing plant. Researchers compared blood tests from daytime workers to blood tests from night shift workers. They also obtained inflammatory markers like the C-reactive protein and leukocyte counts. Night shift workers had significantly higher values. The investigators concluded that shift workers have increased inflammatory markers. This is a sign of a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future.

Higher mortality and higher cancer risk in nighttime workers

3. A Swedish study found that white-collar shift workers had a 2.6-fold higher mortality over a control group of daytime white-collar workers.

4. Another study compared night workers in the age group of 45 to 54 with daytime workers and found a 1.47-fold higher mortality rate in the night shift workers.

5.In a study from China 25,377 participants were part of a study that investigated cancer risk in males with more than 20 years of night shift work. They had a 2.03-fold increased risk to develop cancer compared to males working day shifts. Women with night shift work in this study showed no effect with regard to cancer development.

Healthy telomeres with healthy sleep pattern

It is true that you can suffer multiple health problems, as all of your hormones depend on the resetting during your deepest sleep between 2AM and 4AM triggered by the nighttime melatonin response. Even your telomeres, the caps of chromosomes in every cell get shortened from too much stress and too little sleep.

One example of such a study comes from Milan, Italy. https://oem.bmj.com/content/75/Suppl_2/A480.1

In this 2018 study researchers compared 46 nurses who had worked in night shifts with 51 nurses working day shifts. Among the night shift workers breast cancer was common, but not among day workers.

Shortened telomeres, hypomethylation of BRC1 gene and p53 gene

In the night shift nurses from Milan there was hypomethylation of the breast cancer gene BRC1. There was also hypomethylation of the general cancer gene p53. At the same time significant telomere shortening occurred in night shift nurses who had worked night shifts for more than 15 years. This likely all worked together in causing night nurses to develop breast cancer more frequently.

Shortened telomeres mean a shortened life span. The reason for this is that people with shortened telomeres develop heart attacks, strokes and cancer. This is what shortens the life span. How do we avoid this risk? Go back to healthy sleep habits. As mentioned above it is best to start going to sleep between 10PM and 11PM and sleep for 7 to 8 hours. Night owls delay going to sleep by 2 to 3 hours.

Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression

Being A Morning Person Can Prevent Depression (click image to enlarge)

Conclusion

A publication in Molecular Psychiatry demonstrated that evening person (night owls) are more likely to develop depression. This is in comparison to morning persons. As discussed, other researchers showed that evening persons also can develop diabetes and neurological disorders. In addition, respiratory disorders and gastrointestinal disorders are more common in night owls as well. When it comes to mortality, evening persons have a 10% increase of mortality over morning persons. There is a large body of literature regarding diseases of night shift workers. Night Shift work is perhaps the most extreme example of a circadian misalignment. It leads to poor sleep, inflammation in the body, increased cancer risk and higher mortality compared to day shift workers.

Prevent telomere shortening

Even the telomeres get shortened in night owls and night shift workers. We can prevent problems like these by going to bed in time and sleeping according to our circadian rhythm. If you had a poor night’s sleep, make up for it with the help of an afternoon nap. Do not sleep all afternoon though; half an hour or one hour will be enough. Even a short, restful nap after coming home from work can restore your feeling of wellness.

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Nov
28
2020

Mental Illness and Covid-19

A topic less discussed is mental illness and Covid-19. Covid-19 has been noticeably around us since March of 2020. With the various social distancing and quarantining methods people become more or less isolated emotionally. Social gatherings are outlawed depending on where you live. This helps to interrupt the spread of the virus, but it makes people feel more stressed as their relationships get interrupted.

Symptoms of stress

The CDC sums up that stress during a pandemic can cause the following:

  • Fear of your own health and the health of your loved ones
  • Loss of your job or financial support
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sleep pattern with lack in concentration
  • Increase in use of tobacco, alcohol or other substance consumption
  • Chronic health problems may deteriorate
  • Worsening of Mental health conditions

The more isolated we are, the more stress we feel. This undermines our stress coping mechanisms, makes us more anxious and more depressed.

Develop coping skills

Taking care of your family and friends may relieve your stress, but it needs to be balanced by taking care of yourself. Although you are physically isolated from others when you are in quarantine, you can stay in contact with others by phone or video chats. This makes you less lonely and isolated.

Take care of yourself. This includes eating well balanced meals, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. Avoid the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Share with a family member or friend how you feel. Maintain friendships through the phone, emails, social media and computer chats. This builds a strong support system for you.

Avoid too much exposure to news stories. Seeing negative stories about Covid-19 over and over again can be undermining, so take a break from the news media. Go for a walk. Take a nap.

Suicide

Sometimes depression can get out of control to the point of driving a person to the brink of suicide. In the US major depression is the leading cause of disability for ages 15-44.  At any given year 16.1 million American adults (about 6.7% of the U.S. population age 18 and older) suffer from major depression. 10.3% of Americans have thought about suicide. If you feel that way, do not act on this impulse. Call 1-800-799-4889. That is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline & Chat.

Medical literature about the psychological impact of Covid-19

In a July 2020 publication the authors pointed out that Covid-19 infection is a significant psychological stressor. There is the fear of getting the virus and uncertainty about the future. Pre-existing anxiety and depression disorders get accelerated from the stress. In addition, mental disorders like schizophrenia with psychosis may worsen. This may require more antipsychotic medication to control it.

A Kaiser Family Foundation poll found in March 2020 that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a major impact on US citizens. 45% of respondents said that the pandemic has affected their mental wellbeing significantly. If you are scared, depressed or anxious, you are tense and you have problems falling asleep, you are not alone. You can seek and receive help!

Prevention of mental disease from Covid-19

Here is some practical advice from the World Health Organization.

  • Stay informed.
  • Have a daily routine. Get up and go to sleep at regular times. Eat healthy balanced meals. Exercise regularly. Have your work routine and also find time to rest. Do things that you enjoy.
  • Watch the news only to be informed, but limit news watching to a minimum. This will keep anxiety and depression in check.
  • Stay in contact with close friends by phone and computer technology.
  • Keep your alcohol consumption low. If you did not drink before at all, don’t start drinking in an attempt to deal with boredom, fear, anxiety or social isolation.
  • Take breaks from screen time. This reduces tension.
  • Video games: doing this may relax you for a short time. But longer video game activities can make you tense; you should balance this with the rest of your daily activities.
  • Social media. Use this for honest communication. Keep it brief. If you see misinformation, point out the truth.
  • Helping others: if you can, help others in the community with shopping or other chores.

Treatment for Mental disease from Covid-19

When you notice anxiety, depression or a flare-up of psychotic symptoms from schizophrenia, it is important to see your health professional right away. You may need some counselling. Others may need an antidepressant (for depression) or an adjustment to your antipsychotic medication. Some patients with milder depression or anxiety may benefit from cognitive/behavioral therapy. Most importantly, know that help is available! More info about cognitive therapy for suicide prevention.

Mental Illness and Covid-19

Mental Illness and Covid-19

Conclusion

Mental illness and Covid-19 is a huge topic. People definitely have experienced more anxiety and depression since the Covid-19 epidemic. This is because our lifestyle is suddenly restricted. We may have to go through a 14-day quarantine. But we also cannot participate in large gatherings with more than 50 people. Often, we have to wear masks in stores. In areas with high cases of Covid-19 there is also a severe restriction regarding with whom you can visit, leading to feelings of isolation. All of this can lead to mental illness. Essentially there are two ways of coping with this. First, we need to get a routine that makes us more resistant to mental illness. Secondly, if this fails, seek the advice of a health professional right away.

Seek mental illness treatment right away

When you catch mental illness early, it is much easier to treat. Milder cases of depression or anxiety may benefit from cognitive/behavioral therapy. More severe cases often require medication. In this outline I have discussed mental illness during the Covid-19 epidemic. I have not discussed the cases where people came down with Covid-19 coronavirus and got affected in their brain function from the virus. These cases need treatment by a neurologist and psychiatrist, and they are much more complicated.

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Jan
11
2020

Centenarians Are Positive Thinkers

Dr. Thierry Hertoghe gave a presentation in Las Vegas on Dec. 14, 2019 where he stated that centenarians are positive thinkers. This was at the 27th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine. The topic of his talk was “Positive Psychological Attitudes of Centenarians “.

Dr. Hertoghe is an endocrinologist in Belgium. Dr. Hertoghe took an interest in people above the age of 100. He felt that these people are special people with a very optimistic outlook on life. He went on to study the literature about this topic in detail and this is what this talk was about.

The oldest man, Gustav Gerneth died at 114 years 7 days in Germany (Oct. 22, 2019). The oldest female is Japan’s Kane Tanaka at 117 years (birthday Jan. 2,1903).

So, what is their secret to age that well? Here is what Dr. Hertoghe found out about centenarians.

Attributes of centenarians

Centenarians have a will to live. They adapt to changes; they have a sense of purpose, and they stay active. Other psychological features show that they have is a positive mood and they avoid stress and anxiety. Another important attribute is self-determination. They are very sociable, have close family ties, love their relationships and often have a strong religious faith. There is a connection between their basic values and beliefs and their spirituality. Centenarians insist on their freedom and they have a feeling of youth. Centenarians have their own centenarian spirit where they can feel young or old.

In the following I am reviewing the details that Dr. Hertoghe gave. He covered 13 subtopics regarding causes of longevity in centenarians.

The will to live

It takes courage to grow old and all centenarians have this. They say “Life is worth living”. They have a certain resiliency in a world that has an obsession about youth. Despite negative experiences they had to overcome they do not give up and they enjoy life as much as they can. A Finnish study examined 400 individuals aged 75-90 and followed them for 10 years. Group 1 who wished to live less than 5 years had a mortality rate of 68%. Group 2 wished to live for 5-10 years. They had a mortality of 45.6%. The last group, group 3 wanted to live more than 10 years. Their mortality was only 33.3%. Be careful what you wish for!

Adaptability

This describes the capacity to overcome adversity and your ability to adjust. In a study of 7400 Chinese centenarians’ resilience to changes was measured with psychometric psychological tests. The majority of subjects did not qualify for being resilient. Only 9% of male centenarians and 6% of female centenarians had the resiliency where they qualified for high adaptability. This high resilience group was associated with 2%-4% lower mortality risk. They had a 36%-55% higher odds of not developing cognitive impairment and they rated themselves as being in good health and having a “good life” satisfaction. These resilient centenarians had a 7%-12% higher probability of not developing a physical disability. Short-term health decline was not associated with these high resilient centenarians.

A sense of purpose

Centenarians can still contribute to society. Tao Porchon-Lynch turned 100 in 2014. She opened the Westchester Institute of Yoga in 1982 and is still practicing yoga. There are many ways how centenarians express a sense of purpose. Males often work in their old job, but only part-time. They may help with babysitting the great-grandchildren. Others do volunteer service. Still others may enrol in a university and study what they always wanted to do.

In a 2016 publication people older than 65 were followed between February 2011 and November 2014. Those who had neither hobbies or a purpose in life did not fare well. They had a risk of mortality of 2.08-fold compared to those with a sense of purpose. Dr. Hertoghe provided 9 more references regarding studies that showed the same finding.

Remaining active

If a centenarian remains active and moves about several hours per day, the body functions are preserved. Anna Mary Robertson Moses who was known by her nickname “Grandma Moses” took up painting at age 78. She died at age 101 in 1961.

Positive emotions

One study of 54 Ashkenazi Jewish older adults (aged 98-107) compared those with positive emotions to those with negative emotions. The researchers noted that a positive attitude about life allowed centenarians to live longer.

A study involving 2282 Mexican Americans aged 65 to 99 showed that positive affect scores were a predictor for the following. Subjects with a high positive affect had a 52% lower probability of becoming physically disabled. They were 36% less likely than the negative controls to lose their walking speed. In addition, they were 47% less likely to die during the two-year observation period than their negative controls.

Nurses’ Health Study and Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study

Two studies, the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and men from the Veterans Affairs Normative Aging Study measured optimism. The researchers found that those with the highest optimism scores had a 1.5-fold higher probability in women and 1.7-fold in men to survive to age 85. This was compared to a control with the lowest optimism scores. Dr. Hertoghe provided 19 more studies that showed the effects of positive emotions regarding long term survival. For brevity reasons I will not dwell on them here.

Better stress management

Centenarians avoid excessive stress and attempt to relax instead.  It has been known since the ground-breaking work by Dr. Hans Selye that stress undermines longevity. By using relaxation methods intermittently one can reduce the stress response, which normalizes the excessive ACTH production in the pituitary gland and the concomitant cortisol production in the adrenal glands.

Self-determination

Long-living people have a strong willpower and are determined to succeed with what they want. They have a sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Centenarians have concerns for others, but they also have a healthy regard for themselves. Dr. Hertoghe provided 4 references to illustrate this, but for brevity reasons I will omit them here.

Social involvement

Centenarians have an active social life. They are involved with their family, with the community including often church communities. Sociability has a 2.3-fold higher probability of survival (mortality reduced by 57% due to sociability).

Practicing religion

Those who are centenarians were often raised in religious families. They developed a strong faith in God. A common theme among centenarians is that they trust in God and believe it is His will that they lived a long life. They also believe that eventually God will call them “home” when He is ready for them. Centenarians who practice religion have a strong belief in an afterlife, which sustains them to live and they accept death when it comes. In a 2017 study 18,370 participants aged 50 and older were interviewed in 2004 and followed for all-cause mortality to 2014. Regular church attendants had a mortality that was 40% less than those who did not attend. Dr. Hertoghe provided 20 more references that showed similar findings.

Spiritual involvement

Attributes of spiritual involvement are high ethical principles, resilience and hope that everything will turn out OK. Dr. Hertoghe cited from 7 different references that the average effect of spirituality leads to a 2- to 4-fold greater survival over 17 years.

A feeling of freedom

This makes centenarians less concerned what other people think of them. Dr. Helen Langner, a psychiatrist, still does a part-time psychiatric practice at age 100. She says about a feeling of freedom: “In old age, there’s often a sense of personal freedom because there is less pressure of a career or the responsibilities of work or raising a

family. It can and should be a time for people to do the things that are important to them and a time to enjoy. “

A feeling of youth

Many centenarians are young at heart. Even though they may look physically old, they don’t feel old in their heart.

What is the centenarian spirit?

When people are older than 100 years, they often have a mix of humor and eccentricity; they express emotions openly and they are happy people. They accept the death of spouses, siblings and significant others.

By the way, humor has a strong predictive survivor value. In a study that researchers conducted over 15 years, there was a clear positive effect of humor regarding mortality. A sense of humor reduced the all-cause mortality by 48%. In women humor lowered mortality regarding cardiovascular disease by 73%. Humor reduced death due to infections in women by 83%. Men had a non-significant reduction of all‐cause mortality by 12% and a significant lower mortality due to infections by 74%.

Dr. Hertoghe cited three more publications that showed the power of humor in reducing disease and disability.

Jeanne Louise Calment 

As an illustration for humor Dr. Hertoghe introduced Jeanne Louise Calment to the audience. She was a French woman who broke the record for being the oldest centenarian in the world.  Jeanne Calment died on August 4, 1997 at the age of 122 years and 164 days. She was asked by someone: “Why do you live so long?” She replied: “Because God has forgotten me…” Next question: “How do you consider your future life?” “Very, very short”. Last question:” What do you think of your wrinkles?” “The only wrinkle I have is the one I am sitting on”.

Centenarians Are Positive Thinkers

Centenarians Are Positive Thinkers

Conclusion

Centenarians have certain attributes that make them more resilient than others who die earlier. They have a will to live, an ability to adjust, a sense of purpose and they stay active. Their psychological make-up is such that they have a positive mood and they tend to avoid stress and anxiety. They have a sense of self-determination. They are very sociable, have close family ties, love relationships with people around them, and often have a strong religious faith. Their spirituality has a connection to their basic values and beliefs. Centenarians insist on their freedom and they have a feeling of youth. They have their own centenarian spirit where they can feel young or old. But they also have humor as documented above with the oldest woman that lived. She was 122 years and 164 days old when she died in 1997.

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Mar
09
2019

Live The Life That We Evolved For

A review article at CNN by a psychiatrist recommends that we live the life that we evolved for. Dr. Arash Javanbakht, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI explains that man lived on this planet only since 200,000 years. But it takes about 1 million years for evolutionary changes to take place. As a result of this we tend to still behave in our lives the way we may have reacted 10,000 years ago. It is useful to think back of us being hunters and gatherers.

Anxiety, an ancient emotion

Anxiety, for instance, is an emotion that goes far back to 10,000 years ago when humans had to be part of the tribe. If an opposite tribe was fighting them chances were high that they could get killed. Even if your own tribe did no longer like you, there was a strong possibility that you were driven out or killed. This left us with an inheritance going back many millennia of anxiety. In modern life though it is the boss who does not like something you did. It could be a deadline for a school or college project that makes us anxious or some political news. The reasons have changed, but anxiety is still there!

Live the life that we evolved for: assess what we eat

Food was very scarce 10,000 years ago. When the tribe finally caught some prey, there was a feast where fatty food, meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds were eaten. Refined sugars were not available. You did not know when the next time would come where you had ample food. Today we still behave this way: we eat what we can and eat some more. The only problem is that there is no longer the pattern of famine orfeast. Instead there is easy access to the fridge with all kinds of food. We also have access to fast food places. And we drink sodas, eat candies and other sweets. Eventually we end up fat and fatigued.

Live the life that we evolved for: which way do we move?

Our ancestors had to run and walk many miles a day to find food. They may have been attacked by wild animals and had to flee. They also needed to chase a prey for food. Constant movement was the order of the day. What are we doing today? We did not evolve to step into a car and drive to work. We also did not evolve to sit at a desk from 9AM to 5PM. In the evening we sit in front of the TV or lie on a couch eating munchies and drinking beer.

Our modern life

It is no wonder that we gain weight, that our heart and lungs do not get conditioned, and that our muscles are a pile of mush. We need to think back what our bodies were built to do. Perhaps a long walk would be healthier than sitting all the time. Some of us do not mind to visit a gym daily and build an exercise routine into the day. This mimics the activities of the hunter/gatherers and is a lot better for our bodies.

Live the life that we evolved for: sleep problems

Many people today have problems to fall asleep. The sun had 100% control of the diurnal rhythm in the past. Now we have artificial lightning, blue light from TV’s, computer screens and iPhones. We are constantly getting stimulated. In addition, the stories we read or see on TV get us excited, so that the stress hormone, cortisol is released and melatonin, the sleeping hormone gets suppressed. Taken all this together, it is not really a wonder we have problems sleeping. Relaxation methods can help us to tone down before we go to sleep. You may want to meditate, do self-hypnosis, practice some yoga or just lie still and relax, clearing your mind, and more importantly switch the TV off and put the computer on “sleep”. Sleep for you comes easier this way.

Live the life that we evolved for: our fears

10,000 years ago fear was a normal part of our lives. There were predators you had to fear. There were tribal wars where you had to fight for your survival. You had to fear starvation. The fight/flight response was a reality. Compare this to our lives now. We may fear an exam, a meeting at work or agonize what to wear for a party. We have no real existential fears unless you live in a war zone. Many people may feel that they do not have enough fear in their lives, so they get drawn to horror and mystery stories, computer games, haunted houses etc. But this is fodder for anxiety!

Live the life that we evolved for: how to feel better

When we adopt a pet, let’s say a dog, we understand that it needs food, exercise, love and sleep. But when it comes to the human animal in us, we find it hard to understand that we need that too. In fact, we need to live the life that we evolved for. We need some form of exercise all the time, because that is what we were meant to do 10,000 years ago and our bodies are still built for that. When you walk the dog, you may make new friends or even a date. If you go to the gym, you realize that your muscles work better and begin to make your body fitter. You will also feel better about yourself. You appreciate that your mood is lifting, and you feel the increased energy and strength.

Dr. Arash Javanbakht said about the bottom line:

“If we treated our body the way responsible dog owners treated their dog, we would live a much happier life.”

Live The Life That We Evolved For

Live The Life That We Evolved For

Conclusion

It takes people 1 million years for evolutionary changes. We do not change our behavior fast. Dr. Arash Javanbakht, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI compared our lives now with the lives of the hunters/gatherers in the past. People ate fatty food, meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds when a prey was hunted. But then there was an episode of fasting. People then had to walk and run all day long to catch some food again or they had to run to escape from a predator. Nowadays we use cars for transportation, use the elevator to get upstairs and walk from the table at home to the TV set. If we do not move enough and we eat the wrong foods, we do not turn fit but we turn fat.

Our modern lives

We also use LED lights from TV’s, computers, iPhones and tablets that interfere with our diurnal hormone rhythm. It is not about going back to sending smoke signals, but it is all about setting limits and when to stop and disengage from social media and the phone. Not setting limits is part of why we have problems to sleep. Stress can also be a factor of insomnia. Dr. Javanbakht says that we need to relearn how our bodies were built. We need proper nutrition without high-energy carbs. In addition we need regular exercise that will help us to relax and feel more energy. Anxieties will lift and we will feel better about ourselves.

Nov
03
2018

When you are sleepless

You are not alone when you are sleepless. Insomnia is a widespread problem in society.

Previous review of the topic of insomnia

I have reviewed the topic of insomnia before in a blog.

Briefly I pointed out that in some people there is a mutation of the gene that controls the circadian sleep rhythm. It is called the CRY1mutation. Some people have sleep disturbances from working night shifts. I mentioned the blue light of electronics that is produced by the TV screens or computer screens. The more you are exposed to it, the more it stimulates the brain to produce serotonin. This undermines the melatonin production, and as a result the person finds it extremely difficult to fall asleep. Children playing with i-phones, tablets or watching children’s programs on television can have sleep disturbances from the blue light. Blue has the frequency that over stimulates the brain and interferes with melatonin production. Drug and alcohol abuse can also interfere with the normal circadian sleep rhythm and cause insomnia.

Hormone factors of insomnia

For natural sleep to occur, we need melatonin which the pineal gland releases in the evening. It initiates and maintains sleep during the night. The natural opponent of melatonin is cortisol, the stress hormone, from the adrenal glands. Both hormones need to be in balance to allow you to sleep normally. Shortly before we wake up in the morning melatonin production goes down and cortisol production is up. Cortisol levels are low at night and high during the day. So it is cortisol that keeps us going throughout the day. But an excess of cortisol from chronic stress can also interfere with falling asleep and sleeping through the night.

Stress and insomnia

When we feel stressed, cortisol production goes way up. This has consequences regarding our sleep pattern. It can interfere with falling asleep, causes us to wake up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and can give us problems falling asleep again. Chronic stress exposure leads to high cortisol production by the adrenal glands, which in turn will lower melatonin and cause sleep disturbances. Older people (above the age of 50) have very little melatonin production left, as there is an age-related decline of melatonin production. The melatonin production is highest in younger years and lowest in older age.

What to do when you are sleepless

There are several over-the-counter remedies, which in combination can be quite effective.

Melatonin for when you are sleepless

Melatonin (3 mg at bedtime) is a good start to see what it does for your sleeplessness. Taking a small amount of melatonin at bedtime we can re-establish the balance between cortisol and melatonin, which helps the circadian hormone rhythm and sleep pattern to come back. Some people wake up in the middle of the night and find it difficult to fall asleep again. If this happens at 3 AM, a good remedy at this time is to take another 3 mg of melatonin. Melatonin stays in the system for about 4 hours. Light during the day de-activates the effect, when light hits the retinas upon opening your eyes. You should not exceed 6 mg of total melatonin overnight. Otherwise it will interfere with the balance of cortisol and melatonin, lowering cortisol levels, which would rob you of energy during the day.

Phosphorylated serine (Seriphos)

A supplement that is freely available in the US (but not in Canada) consists of a simple amino acid. As this link shows (second item in the link) phosphorylated serine Seriphos) helps to down-regulate cortisol levels (lowering them). This means that melatonin gets the upper hand and you can sleep again.

The dosage for phosphorylated serine (Seriphos) varies from person to person, but will be in the range of 1000 mg to 3000 mg in the evening. After about 30 days the circadian rhythm may have recovered and you can stop the Seriphos. A one-day pause is required once a month for resetting the hormone receptors. Should you still have problems sleeping, you can continue with it for another month and pause again for a day. Seriphos has very few side effects.

Valerian root capsules

Another useful sleep aid is valerian root (as capsules). 500 mg to 1000 mg will help you to relax. It does not have the side effect of feeling groggy the next morning.

Other considerations when you are sleepless

Hormone problems like thyroid abnormalities (too much or too little thyroid hormones) are issues that your doctor has to investigate. Women in menopause often have sleep disturbances due to a lack of estrogen and progesterone. A knowledgeable healthcare professional is able to take care of that by prescribing bioidentical hormone creams.

When men approach andropause (the equivalent of menopause in women), they lose testosterone production. This can cause insomnia. The doctor can verify the hormone loss by a blood test. Replacement with either bioidentical testosterone cream or injections will rebalance testosterone levels. Insomnia may disappear. It is essential not to overdose testosterone, as this can also cause insomnia.

Sleep lab for when you are sleepless

When home remedies do not help, it may be time to check into one of the sleep labs to diagnose the kind of sleep disorder you are suffering from. Here is an overview what is happening there.

Essentially you get hooked up to monitors and are encouraged to just sleep as you would normally do. The physician in charge of the lab will later explain to you what the monitors showed, and tell you what type of sleep. According to the findings your doctor will recommend what measures are appropriate to remedy the situation.

Treatment for insomnia when over-the-counter remedies fail

Short acting benzodiazepams

When anxiety is not a problem, but only insomnia is (falling asleep or staying asleep) lorazepam 1 mg (Ativan) or temazepam 10 mg (Restoril) are shorter acting benzodiazepams that will help. It is not a permanent but a short “emergency break” for intermittent use, so that the GABA benzodiazepine receptors have time to recover. Otherwise, with continuous use tolerance would set in. This means higher and higher doses of the sleep medication would be necessary to achieve the same effect. Another non-benzodiazepine is Zolpidem 5 mg (Ambien). Even though this medication is not a benzodiazepine, it works on stimulating the same GABA benzodiazepine receptors.

Longer acting benzodiazepams combined with antidepressant Trazodone

For several years the combination of a small amount of the longer acting benzodiazepams, clonazepam (Rivotril) at 0.5 mg combined with a small amount of the anti-depressant trazodone (Oleptro or Desyrel) at 50 mg at bedtime has been has been in use quite successfully.

But there is a concern of drowsiness caused by Rivotril as this link shows.

Trazodone, which is an antidepressant has a sleep cycle restoring effect at low doses and has less side effects, because it is used at ¼ the dose for a full-blown depression. Males are often complaining that it reduces their sex drive, and it may cause erectile dysfunction.

Clonazepam side effects

Rivotril was originally in use to control epileptic seizures and anxiety. The combination therapy for sleep disorders uses Rivotril at ¼ of the regular dose. Although it is good as a sleep aid, it has a long half-life and stays in the system well into the next day. This may present as sleepiness and cause falls in elderly patients because of clouded attention. Replacement by one of the medium long acting benzodiazepams could be the solution. A drug pause for 1 day will help to reset the GABA benzodiazepine receptors and prevent tolerance from happening. Knowing all those effects and side effects it is wiser to reserve the use of these medication strictly when everything else has failed!

When you are sleepless

When you are sleepless

Conclusion

As I mentioned before, you are not alone when you are sleepless. Insomnia can present as having problems to fall asleep, but it may present in others as a problem in the middle of the night waking up and having problems going back to sleep again.

I described non-conventional methods to help you to sleep using melatonin, Seriphos and valerian root capsules. If this fails, a sleep lab investigation may be necessary to get to the bottom of your insomnia problem. Physicians often prescribe short acting benzodiazepams like lorazepam (Ativan) and temazepam 10 mg (Restoril).

Other possibilities to treat insomnia

There are other possibilities to treat insomnia, with a combination of a low-dose antidepressant (trazodone, brand name Oleptro in the US) and low-dose anti-seizure and anti-anxiety drug clonazepam (Klonopin or Rivotril). Anxiety can often be a big component in insomnia and this treats both. On the other hand, anxiety is a separate problem, which needs professional treatment. There can be side effects of sleepiness from clonazepam and men complain of a lack of sex drive and erectile dysfunction from trazodone. Help is available when you are sleepless. But you need professional help to work on the problem and find the solution.

Oct
13
2018

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

The distribution of obesity in women and men is different, when they gain weight on a low fat/high carb diet. The distribution of fat follows a pear shape in women due to fat accumulated around the hips. In males excessive fat accumulates around the waist, which gives them an apple shape appearance.

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) have done experiments using a mouse model. They wanted to see what changes take place when obesity develops. Djurdjica Coss was the lead researcher of the study from the UCR School of Medicine.

The reason why this study was thought to be necessary

Many men and women have relatively normal weights until their mid 50’s. But when women approach menopause, they tend to accumulate fat in the thigh areas (pear-shape obesity). When their weight continues to rise, they also accumulate weight in the abdominal area. It is general knowledge that the fat in the abdominal region is metabolically more active producing inflammatory kinins.

Men above the age of 50 or 60 are also accumulating fat, but typically in the abdominal area right away. The name for this is apple-shape obesity. Unfortunately this is the fat we just discussed, metabolically active with inflammatory kinins. It is known to be the cause for heart attacks and strokes as it accelerates hardening of the arteries in the whole body. Dr. Coss found in doing experiments on mice that estrogen plays a major role in the development of obesity as discussed below.

The mouse experiments to study the development of obesity

The research team of Dr. Coss compared a group of mice that had their ovaries taken out. The ovaries in females are the main source of estrogens. They fed them a high-fat diet comparing their weight gain to that of male controls on the same diet. Obesity leads to a change in metabolism, called metabolic syndrome. This condition has an association with the production of inflammatory substances originating from the abdominal fat accumulation. Both male and female mice underwent a series of blood tests. They were also physically inspected. The female mice had the pear-type accumulation of fat, the males an apple-type fat accumulation.

More details about what obesity did to the experimental mice

In males there was a reduction of sperm count in the obese group as well as low muscle strength. In addition they were low in energy, had a lack of libido and their testosterone levels were low. The sperm number and the testosterone level had fallen to 50% of what they were when their weight was normal. This is what happens in human obese males as well. The inflammatory substances, that the abdominal fat creates, broke down the blood/brain barrier, and this affected the brain.

Among the female mice there was no neuroinflammation in the brain. There was no change in their hormones, which was quite a remarkable finding. This was a surprise and points out that beside estrogens there are other mechanisms to protect females from the effects of obesity.

Brain inflammation from obesity

Dr. Cross explained that in male mice the fat accumulation was of the apple-type. Female mice had the pear type fat accumulation. The fatty tissue in females did not release inflammatory kinins. On the other hand, the abdominal fat in the males released inflammatory kinins. These attracted macrophages, which is a cell type of the immune system. Activated macrophages now became aggressive and broke down the blood/brain barrier. This resulted in neuroinflammation of the brain. The brain normally is an immune protected site because of the blood/brain barrier. When this breaks down because of the action of inflammatory kinins from abdominal fat, the brain starts to develop memory loss like in Alzheimer’s disease.

Women before and after menopause

In females who still produce enough estrogen, fat from the pear type obesity distribution does not produce inflammatory kinins. This explains the relative protection of premenstrual women from heart attacks and neuroinflammation. But menopausal women start accumulating fat around the abdomen as well. At that point they can also develop inflammatory kinins and neuroinflammation. This is why the heart attack and stroke rate increases in postmenopausal women with apple-shape obesity.

Other studies supporting the effects of obesity in men and women 

Inflammatory substances in obese people affecting their brain

This publication shows that in a group of 141 neurologically healthy obese individuals the anti-inflammatory defense in the brain was weakened. Subsequently, various brain conditions developed because of the inflammatory substances affecting the brain.

How obesity affects your body functions

Obesity affects the body in various ways. It is particularly the apple type obesity that causes inflammatory substances circulating in the blood. A multitude of conditions can develop from this.

  • The cholesterol shows an increase of the bad LDL cholesterol and a reduction of the good HDL cholesterol.
  • The blood pressure rises. Without treatment high blood pressure can cause strokes.
  • Type-2 diabetes often develops because the insulin production cannot keep up with the demand. A second factor is a loss of insulin receptor sensitivity. As a result the insulin receptors of the body cells become resistant to insulin.
  • The gallbladder often develops stones, which may require gallbladder surgery.
  • Some cancers are increasing in frequency: endometrial cancer, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver cancer.
  • Anxiety, depression and other mental disorders are more common, in part because of the neuro-inflammatory processes that I mentioned before.
  • Body pain and problems with physical functioning: obese people have more back pains, hip and knee pains from the extra weight. Slim people are less likely to have these problems. Obese people require more hip and knee replacement surgeries for end-stage arthritis than slim people.

Difference of metabolism in pear-shape versus apple-shape obesity

Back to the pear versus apple distribution of fatty tissue in obesity. diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and strokes as the apple type obesity. The difference in metabolism between the two is explained in detail here.

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

Distribution Of Obesity In Women And Men Is Different

Conclusion

You may have heard that women tend to accumulate fat more around their hips, possibly because of hormonal factors. This is a pear-type fat distribution. In men who turn obese the fat accumulation follows an apple pattern. This type has a more aggressive metabolism in the fat tissue with inflammatory kinins accessing the blood circulation. It also affects the blood/brain barrier. Normally this barrier does not allow proteins to enter the brain. But when a person is obese, inflammatory kinins and proteins can enter the brain freely causing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Many obese people also develop type-2 diabetes leading to heart attacks and strokes.

Low fat diet from the 1980’s

The low fat diet of the 1980’s has caused a lot of obesity around the world. The problem is that merchants who provide low fat products have replaced fat with refined sugar. The liver converts refined sugar into fatty acids and triglycerides. These end up as fatty tissue. Given enough time this is causing obesity. Those who are obese need to cut out refined sugar in its many disguises. In addition they also need to cut down their starchy food intake. In the gut starchy foods break down into sugar.

When you cut out sugar and starchy foods, a person will typically lose 50 pounds in 3 months, at which point they have lost the label of “obesity”. They will also feel more energetic. The best advise for you is to maintain your weight loss with a Mediterranean diet. Research studies have shown that it is beneficial and anti-inflammatory.

May
12
2018

Sex Stimulates Your Brain

Sex usually causes positive feelings, but how is it that sex stimulates your brain? Recently this publication reviewed exactly what is going on. The reason both sexes seem to seek out sex is the fact that it is sex that stimulates the brain a certain way, which is pleasing to both partners. Due to the stimulation the brain will release hormones that make us feel good. Following sex there is post-coital afterglow for a period of time, which I have addressed under this link before. Here I am reviewing what physical stimulation of the brain takes place during sex. Next I will touch on the hormonal changes that happen during and after sex.

Diagnostic tests that show that sex stimulates your brain

Researchers performed  2005 positron emission tomography (PET scan) studies  during sex at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. They studied males males while they were having sex. The question was what part of the brain would be receiving stimulation. Another question was, what part of the brain was resting during intercourse? They found that the right hemisphere and particularly one area, the right posterior insula received stimulation, when the penis was stimulated. This area allows the man to feel relaxed and it reduces pain perception. The secondary somatosensory cortex also showed stimulation on PET scans. The stimulation of the secondary somatosensory cortex is what carries him to the height of his arousal during intercourse. The hypothalamus, which also received stimulatioh with the initiation of sex, was very quiet during the active part of lovemaking. The thalamus and right amygdala were also quiet during that phase on PET scans.

More on feelings and losing oneself during the height of sex

The same group from the Netherlands did a 2003 study using PET scans to find out what happens during his ejaculation. Male subjects had sexual stimulation (penile stimulation) by their female partners. At the time of his ejaculation the PET scan showed increased brain activity in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and the cerebellum. The frontal brain was remarkably quiet. Other authors point out that there are profound hormone releases during lovemaking. The release of neurotransmitters like noradrenaline, oxytocin and prolactin is taking place during orgasm. Other hormones like dopamine, opioids and serotonin join the hormonal symphony of lovemaking. This leads to detachedness at the height of the orgasm, to emotional closeness and pair bonding toward the end of lovemaking. The authors of the 2003 Netherlands study concluded:

“Our results correspond with reports of cerebellar activation during heroin rush, sexual arousal, listening to pleasurable music, and monetary reward.”

Female orgasm and brain studies showing that sex stimulates your brain

It is only fair that research also studied females, similarly to the male studies. Functional MRI scans were part of a 2017 study from Newark, NJ.

It showed a much broader stimulation of brains in females than in males. Female orgasm includes stimulation of the prefrontal cortex, the orbitofrontal cortex, the insula, the cingulate gyrus, and the cerebellum. These areas take part in the processing of emotions and of pain. There is also some metabolic processing and decision-making. With the male ejaculation study discussed above we had seen that there was no activity in the frontal brain of the male. At this stage of his sexual arousal there is no place for decision-making for the man. Women, however, are still able to think while having an orgasm. Other studies have shown that the rhythmic sexual stimulation during sex can get women into an altered state of consciousness that feels like a trance.

Hormonal activity during and after sex documenting that sex stimulates your brain

We learned already about the profound hormone releases during the height of his ejaculation and her orgasm (noradrenaline, oxytocin and prolactin). But other hormones were also part of it: dopamine, opioids and serotonin. There are two hormones that are particularly important: endorphins and oxytocin. Endorphins are part of the natural endorphins that the brain makes. They help us to feel good and they minimize pain. Their production takes place in the hypothalamus, one of the main hormone producing glands of the brain. The hypothalamus also produces the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which releases ACTH in the pituitary gland. This and cortisol are the stress hormones that make us tense. With the release of endorphins during sex, the stress reaction becomes less. More sex means less stress.

Oxytocin, the cuddling hormone

Oxytocin from the posterior pituitary gland is the cuddling hormone. It is part of the symphony of hormones that show a release during sex. Oxytocin makes you feel close to your partner, but also very relaxed. It may be responsible for the afterglow that I mentioned  in the beginning of my review that can last for up to 2 days after sex.

When sex is painful

Sex can be a bad experience, particularly for women. Many women have experienced sexual abuse in the past, and when they grow up to mature women, the past bad memories often linger on. This is called postcoital dysphoria (PCD). A 2011 Australian/US study has studied this. 32.9% of the students of that study reported ever having experienced this. There were also cases of childhood sexual abuse that were more severe. The authors also found that sexual dysfunction was worse when co-existing anxiety or depression disorders were present.

Better sleep after sex

Prolactin, another brain hormone is released during sex as well. It is responsible for calming the frontal cortex down. This leads to better sleep, but in older men it also causes better cognitive functioning. Prolactin, released during sex is thought to improve memory and to improve cognitive impairment.

In women testosterone and oxytocin are released during sex. This can improve libido (testosterone) and makes you feel like cuddling.

Sex Stimulates Your Brain

Sex Stimulates Your Brain

Conclusion

Sex leads to a battery of hormones that the brain releases after ejaculation and/or orgasm. Both partners experience their own detachedness, which is due to a trance-like mental state where the partners experience each other intensely. The cuddling hormone oxytocin encourages bonding and contributes to a feeling of an intense closeness to each other. Endorphins release stress and amplify the emotional high. Brain studies on copulating couples have shown different stimulation patterns of parts of the brain in women and in men.

Differences in how men and women are wired

Men cannot think at the height of lovemaking because their frontal brain is completely blocked. Women, however, are able to continue to experience all emotions and are able to think at the same time. Having said that, women can easily enter into a trance from the repetitive movements of lovemaking. Whatever it is that we experience during and after sex, it is due to the relationship we have with each other, the past experience, the present experience and the hormone symphony that occurs during all of this. Enjoy what’s going on!

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May
05
2018

The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea

Chances are you heard about the benefits of drinking green tea to reduce heart disease. But the polyphenols of green tea also prevent cancer, depression and cognitive decline.

Green tea lowers cardiovascular mortality

A study in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy consisted of 807 men and women aged 65 years and older. They had urine tests for metabolites of green tea in the beginning of the study. The study went on for 12 years. 274 participants died, which was 34% of the total study group. Tests measured the total urinary polyphenol (TUP) concentration in both groups, the survivors and the participants who died. Those participants whose TUP was in the highest tertile of the TUP values had the lowest all-cause mortality. And those participants whose TUP was in the lowest tertile had the highest all-cause mortality. 

High blood pressure and stroke

A Taiwanese study from 2004 examined the blood pressure of 1507 subjects. There were 711 men and 796 women with a recent diagnosis of  high blood pressure. The investigators looked at tea consumption (green tea and oolong tea) and blood pressure reduction. They found that those who drank 120 to 599 mL/day of green tea or oolong tea decreased their blood pressure by 46%. Those who drank more than 600 mL/day of green tea or oolong tea lowered their blood pressure by 65%.

Another meta-study involving 194,965 people and 4378 strokes found that there was a reduction of strokes with increasing tea consumption. Those who drank 3 or 4 cups of green tea or black tea per day were the experimental group. Researchers compared them  to the control group that drank less than one cup of tea per day. The experimental group had a 21% lower risk of getting a stroke than the control group.

Cancer prevention more with black tea than with green tea

A meta-analysis of 18 studies from China showed that green tea and black tea consumption was beneficial for prevention of cardiovascular disease and for cancer prevention. The highest consumption of green tea reduced cardiovascular mortality by 33%. The highest black tea consumption lowered mortality by 12%. Cancer mortality turned out to be different. Green tea did not produce a reduction in mortality, but black tea lowered it by 21%.

Another study, this one from Shanghai, China, points out that there are 15 polyphenols in green tea that likely work on different target areas of the body. They target 200 different genes in humans affecting diabetes, cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, muscular disease and inflammation.

Other cancers like prostate and breast cancer benefit from green tea

This study shows evidence that habitual green tea drinkers do prevent prostate cancer and breast cancer to a certain extent.

Another study investigates the effect of tea on health. One of the studies from the same authors have shown that the oxidative damage to cells from cigarette smoking can come out in a urine test. Those smokers who drank 4 cups of tea per day had a 31% decrease in their urinary biomarkers to indicate DNA damage. As DNA damage is often the first step in cancer development, these findings are important to note.

Cognitive effects of green tea consumption in dementia patients

A 2017 review of dietary supplements to improve cognitive impairment pointed out several supplements that will improve cognition. Green tea is one of them, but omega-3 fatty acids (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are also useful supplements to restore neuronal functioning.

A 2017 study from Basel, Switzerland found that green tea improved memory, reduced anxiety and activated the working memory, which could be made visible on functional MRI scans. These researchers also pointed out that green tea has this effect as a whole, you cannot attribute it to a single constituent. Separate tests of  caffeine or L-Theanine  showed that the beneficial effect was smaller than when green tea as a whole was tested.

2016 study on severe Alzheimer’s patients

This 2016 Iranian study looked at 30 patients with severe Alzheimer’s disease. A baseline assessment was first, and 2 months after taking 4 green tea pills daily another assessment followed. A blood test measured the oxidative stress before and after, so was the antioxidant level from the green tea. The oxidative stress test showed an improvement during the study. The antioxidant level in the blood was higher than before the start of the study. The cognitive function test improved only slightly.

A 2018 study from Singapore looked at the effect of drinking tea (black tea or green tea) regarding symptoms of anxiety or depression. In a group of 614 subjects who were elderly individuals, aged 60 years and above; 59% consumed tea for longer than 15 years. These tea-drinking people were significantly less depressed and significantly less anxious when they underwent psychological tests, compared to non-tea drinkers.

Depression and green tea consumption

There is a 2018 study from South Korea that looked at the link of beverages from 15 studies with depression. 347,691 participants were part  of  these 15 studies, and 20,572 cases of depression developed. Comparing a high consumption of tea or coffee to low consumption, the following statistics were the result: coffee consumption reduced depression by 27%, green tea consumption by 29%.

The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea

The Benefits Of Drinking Green Tea

Conclusion

Bioflavonoids are powerful antioxidants. But there are many more substances in green tea and coffee that are all beneficial for our health. One of the studies mentioned identified 15 polyphenols in green tea. But another study said that trying to identify one of the components as more active than the others would be a waste of time. They measured some of the factors by themselves and found that the overall effect was much smaller than green tea as a whole.

Other research has shown that the components of green tea activate several genes. This includes anti-inflammatory effects, prevention of heart attacks and strokes, lowering of blood pressure, anti-cancer effects, improvements of cognitive function, as well as improvement of depression and anxiety. As you can see the effect of green tea is diversified. Don’t hesitate to consume another cup of tea!

Mar
31
2018

Self-Love Is Important

You need to appreciate that self-love is important, if you want stable mental health and well-being. Before you can take care of people around you, you need to practice self-love first. You cannot give love, if you don’t love yourself first. We get so busy in working hard, wanting to achieve goals and then surpass ourselves. We want to be perfect. But this is not possible without first looking after our own needs: again, self-love is important to be able to reach the goals you want to achieve.

Perfectionism can be harmful

Most of us were grew up  in the Western society thinking that perfectionism would be good for us. After all, we achieve things; we criticize ourselves and improve it even more; so finally we end up with our dream goal. What is the downside of perfectionism?

Perfectionism often comes with chronic stress, which can shorten our life span. Perfectionism leads to diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression and eating disorders. Depression can have a serious complication, namely suicide attempts and actual suicide. Perfectionists also often suffer from anxiety disorders that can make life miserable. Chronic stress together with perfectionism can weaken the immune system, which in turn can cause infections and even autoimmune diseases.

Moving away from perfectionism

The United Nations passed a resolution in 2012 saying, “pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.”

Psychologists also tell us that happiness is something we deserve to have; it is our right. A clinical psychologist in Vancouver, Canada, compares the inner critic of perfectionists to a “nasty adult beating the crap out of a tiny child”. We don’t have to beat ourselves up internally; it is not healthy for us. Don’t let the inner bully put yourself down for a minor thing that went wrong.

Start cultivating self-compassion. Self-compassion is not something that you have or do not have. According to psychologists self-compassion is something that you can learn.

The more you learn self-compassion, the less important perfectionism will be for you. You will still be productive and successful, but you will stop injuring yourself in the process.

Learning about self-compassion

Psychologists have researched how self-compassion can be developed. They even have invented an 8-week program that helps the client to build up self-compassion. These psychologists could measure a significant improvement of the level of self-compassion before taking the course and after completing it. According to Prof. Neff and associates there are three parts to self-compassion.

  • Self-kindness, which means treating yourself with understanding and forgiveness.
  • Recognition of one’s place in the shared humanity. This acknowledges that people are not perfect. It also means that personal experiences are part of the larger human experience.
  • Mindfulness, which means emotional balance and avoiding over identifying with painful emotions.

Listening to yourself

Dr. Kristin Neff has written a book that describes how to change your inner voice from a harsh voice to a softer, kinder internal voice. By becoming aware what your internal thoughts are, you can gradually change your internal talk. Profs. Neff and Germer have developed an 8-week course called “mindful self-compassion training”. In their own words “Self-compassion says, ‘Be kind to yourself in the midst of suffering and it will change.’ Mindfulness says, ‘Open to suffering with spacious awareness and it will change.'”

Part of the course is to learn how to deal with suffering when things go badly. In this case they recommend to their clients to repeat the following 3 phrases: “This is a moment of suffering,” “Suffering is a part of life,” and “May I be kind to myself.” This will take the sting away from the suffering and reduce the emotional pain.

Doubts about mindful self-compassion training?

You may have some doubts whether or not self-compassion training would work. But psychological tests regarding self-compassion ratings before and after the course have found a significant 43% difference. Similar compassion training can be found under this link.

These mindful exercises in self-compassion have been proven to down regulate the stress response. The hormones ACTH and cortisol in the blood were found to be much less in persons who had undergone self-compassion training. The training also was shown to increase heart rate variability, which is the body’s natural way to react to stress.

Not everybody is a good meditator. But apart from meditating there are other methods to recognize that self-love is important, as is self-compassion. You can write a letter to yourself, but pretend it comes from a close, loving friend. You could also write a letter that you pretend comes from you addressed to a person that you show compassion to.

Yoga to help you realize that self-love is important

Yoga is a great way to re-acquaint you with pleasures you experienced in childhood. Part of a yoga exercise can be “Mindful Eating”. You are simply refocusing your attention to the tastes that you may have taken for granted. Such a technique helps you to listen to yourself, become aware of your needs and train yourself in self-love and self-compassion. One of the top recommended Internet accessible yoga classes was this.

Self-love Is Important

Self-love Is Important

Conclusion

Perfectionism is widespread and is often taught in schools to be desirable. However, we become so good at this that it often turns into self-injurious behavior. We become harsh on ourselves and nothing is good enough to please us. And we expect perfection from people around us. We may even become abusive when they do not measure up to our expectations.

Dr. Kristin Neff has written a book that describes how to change your inner voice from a harsh voice to a softer, kinder internal voice. She also teaches an 8-week course at Harvard University how to develop self-compassion and self-love.

Mindful exercises in self-compassion

Mindful exercises in self-compassion have been proven to down regulate the stress response. It teaches you to deal with suffering when things go badly.

The bottom-line is to find your path away from perfectionism to a feeling of wholeness. And by achieving this we will free the negative energy of harsh and often unjustified criticism to give our best and succeed.

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