Nov
19
2022

Lack of Sleep Harms the Immune System and Causes Inflammation

A research group from Boston, MA and New York, NY found that a lack of sleep harms the immune system and causes inflammation. This was summarized in this CNN article.

Specifically, they first conducted experiments with a mouse model. They studied the effects of sleep disruption and sleep deprivation and could later confirm identical changes in man. The observation was that a lack of sleep caused the hematopoietic cells in the bone marrow to proliferate, but the cell diversity was less than in people with normal sleep patterns. The same pattern of bone marrow proliferation was present in mice. This research was published Sept. 21, 2022 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

Chronic sleep deficit

A chronic sleep deficit caused chronic inflammation and eventually autoimmune diseases. Again, this was a pattern present in both the mouse model and in humans. Next the researchers observed what happened with sleep recovery. In the past it was assumed that with sleep recovery all of the physical changes from sleep deprivation would disappear. However, the opposite was true: both in mice and in humans the bone marrow stimulation and the lack of cell diversity persisted.

In the mouse model the researchers could show that there were permanent epigenetic changes, which were caused by sleep deprivation. The same is true with humans, but this is more difficult to show than in the mouse model. The researchers came to the conclusion that sleep deprivation stimulates bone marrow maturation, but restricts the clonal differentiation. In doing so the body initiates inflammation, which becomes chronic even with sleep restoration.

Human sleep studies

There were 14 volunteers that were the test subjects. One group was the normal sleep control. The other group underwent chronic sleep deprivation. Each group did this for 6 weeks. There was a 4-to-6-week washout period. Following this the previous normal sleep group started a 6-week sleep deprivation program. On the other hand, the prior sleep-deprived group switched to 6 weeks of normal sleep. All of the participants had daily late afternoon blood tests.

There are many sleep disruptions, which cause a sleep deficit

In modern life sleep gets disrupted in many ways. There can be sleep fragmentation, sleep restriction, jet lag, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and insomnia.

People with these conditions often oscillate between these various types. They may have a few days of normal sleep, but then have sleep deprivation again for a few days. Every time they have sleep deprivation the bone marrow enhances hematopoietic activity. Normally there is a high leukocyte number in the blood at the end of the day and in the morning a lower leukocyte count. But with sleep deprivation there is a high monocyte count in the blood that stays high even when subjects switch back to a normal sleep pattern.

Epigenetic effect of sleep deprivation on bone marrow cells

The authors found that sleep deprivation affects the genetic control of hematopoietic cells in the bone marrow. They called this the epigenetic effect of sleep deprivation. This is responsible for the evening leukocyte response, the monocytosis and the tendency for autoimmune diseases. They summed this up by saying: “Our findings support the hypothesis that periods of poor sleep, even if followed by sleep recovery, have sustained consequences on immunological health.”

Lack of sleep harms the immune system and causes inflammation says the literature

There is ample evidence that a lack of sleep causes cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and more frequent infections. Healthy sleep is important when you want to age well without complications. But enough sleep is also necessary to prevent obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Experts consider getting enough high-quality sleep as essential as a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Lack of Sleep Harms Immune System and Causes Inflammation

Lack of Sleep Harms Immune System and Causes Inflammation

Conclusion

So far, most researchers believed that when you miss some sleep for a few nights that a afternoon nap or a few nights of longer sleep would compensate for the sleep deficit with no sequelae. Think again, because new research from a group in Boston, MA and New York, NY found that lack of sleep harms the immune system and causes inflammation permanently. Sleep deprivation stimulates the bone marrow cells to multiply and causing proliferation of monocytes, called monocytosis as well. Despite afternoon naps and recovery sleep this condition remains  and can lead to autoimmune diseases. All this was unknown up to now. Our bone marrow cells need regular sleep hours to stay diversified and to optimally fight infections in the body. This prevents autoimmune diseases and keeps our defenses against viral diseases strong.

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Oct
08
2022

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives are Healthier

A recent study showed that plant-based meat alternatives are healthier than the original meat dishes. This spread into various health websites on the Internet. One example is this one.

Some statistics about plant-based meat alternatives

Plant-based meat alternatives came to the market in the 1960’s. At that time, they consisted mainly of soy. Later textured vegetable protein joined soy products. Today they consist of pea protein, soy, potato, oils, various binders and flavorings to mimic the texture and flavor of meat.

The global plant-based meat market was about 5 billion USD last year. It is projected to increase by 19% from 2022 to 2030. The plant-based dairy alternatives market totaled 11 billion in 2020. The estimate is that this will grow to 32 billion in 2031.

How healthy are plant-based substitutes?

In the center of this discussion is the publication of Christopher J. Bryant from the Bath University in England. This publication reviewed 43 studies regarding plant-based substitutes regarding healthiness and environmental sustainability. In the following I am discussing the findings, particularly about health benefit of plant-based foods versus meat-based foods.

Problems with our current food consumption

There are several problems with human diseases that are transmitted from wildlife. HIV arouse from hunting of non-human primates. Rabies was transmitted in South America by vampire bats from cattle to humans. Early cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) came from contact with wild life. Finally, bats transmitted the SARS coronavirus-like virus from wild animals and live animal markets to humans. Subsequently human to human transmission caused the spread of Covid all around the world as a pandemic.

Use of antibiotics in feedlots

In order to control diseases in closely kept animal feedlots farmers feed the livestock antibiotics. This helps to contain infections, but it also poses a grave problem to humans as antibiotics become more and more resistant. Superbugs developed this way. 18% of meat imported from China was contaminated with Salmonella. 88% of those exposed to contaminated meat were resistant to at least one antibiotic. But 58% were resistant to multiple antibiotics.

A Harvard study from Boston showed in 2020 that red meat and processed red meat consumption caused 15% more heart attacks compared to those who substituted the protein source with plant-based foods. The same study also noted that the heart attack rates were about 15% less for subjects who substituted meat with plant products in comparison to meat eaters. 

Other results of the study

Several of the reviewed studies compared the nutritional profile of plant-based meat with the animal-based counterparts. Plant-based meat was significantly lower in saturated fat, and protein. However, they were significantly higher in fibre and salt. 40% of meat products were classified as ‘less healthy’. In comparison to that investigators assessed that only 14% of plant-based meat was ‘less healthy’. When saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and overall calorie content were tabulated, plant-based meat products compared favorably to meat. But salt content was often too high in plant-derived foods.

Plant-based burgers were much healthier than conventional beef-burgers, as they contained no cholesterol, less trans-fatty acids and less saturated fat. Vegetable-based food that contains pea protein is particularly valuable with regard to a high protein content.

Criticism of plant-based meat alternatives

At the present time many plant-based meat products have too much sugar and salt in it, but lack iron and vitamin B12. Various authors suggested that the food industry should add iron and vitamin B12 to their products and reduce the sugar and salt content.

Muscle synthesis

Mycoprotein is the active biochemical that builds up the protein of the muscle mass in man. Non-animal-derived dietary protein contains ample amounts of mycoprotein according to this publication. These authors investigated the ingestion of mycoprotein in a dose-response manner. They also measured insulin levels for 4 hours after ingestion of plant-derived mycoprotein. Insulin levels remain higher than normal for a sustained period.

Weight loss

A 2017 study showed that 40 grams of mycoprotein, which is the equivalent of 18 grams of protein was sufficient to lead to a robust muscle synthetic response. 60 g of mycoprotein (27 g protein) provided an optimal response regarding muscle synthesis. Gram for gram milk protein and mycoprotein were equivalent in amino acid bioavailability. Several studies examined weight loss following mycoprotein meals. One study found in overweight patients that chicken protein consumption was  higher in comparison to consumption of plant mycoprotein. The mycoprotein consuming group chose to eat 10% less calories than the chicken control group.

Greenhouse gas emissions and other factors

The publication cited above also included a lot of findings regarding how plant-derived food saves greenhouse gas emissions and other facts. For instance, the pork supply chain requires 3.3-times more fertilizer and 1.6-times more pesticides than the production of plant-derived food. What this means is that plant-derived foods are more environmentally sustainable than animal products.

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives are Healthier

Plant-Based Meat Alternatives are Healthier

Conclusion

Plant-derived foods have improved in the past few decades. Pea-derived plant products are now equivalent in terms of protein content to milk and meat. By eating more plant-derived food people consume less meat, which helps the environment, but also benefits the person who eats it. We know that with the consumption of a certain amount of plant-derived food less people develop cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. 40 grams of mycoprotein, which is the equivalent of 18 grams of protein was sufficient to lead to a robust muscle synthetic response.

Consumer beware

It is important to realize that not all is well with the list of “fake meat” and other highly processed plant-based products. Consumers must read the list of ingredients. If a product contains a laundry list of ingredients that not even an adult can pronounce and understand, it is very likely a highly processed food product that only pretends to be good for you. Should the sodium content be too high, steer away from it. High sugar content means that you put it back in the shelf. All in all, eating more plant-derived foods makes you healthier and improves the environment at the same time. But it is up to us to be discriminating colourful advertising from a nutritionally sound product.

Sep
04
2021

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

A study followed younger patients for 32 years looking for the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. The researchers determined the heart attack and stroke rates when the participants were in their 50’s to 60’s. When on a plant-based diet cardiovascular disease rates fell by 52% compared to a control group with a meat containing diet. One subgroup changed the diet from a regular diet to a plant-based diet over 13 years. This reduced the risk ratio by 61% for heart attacks and strokes when assessed later.

Details of this study

There were 4946 adults as participants of this 32-year study. They were recruited in 1985 and 1986, at which time none of them had cardiovascular disease. The study completed in 2018. The results were published on Aug. 4, 2021. The researchers assessed the plant-centered diet quality using a tool with the name “A Priori Diet Quality Score” (APDQS). The higher the score, the higher the quality of the food. This means the person consumed nutritionally rich plant foods, limited amounts of high-fat meat products and less healthy plant foods.

Although a plant-rich diet consisted primarily of nutritionally rich plant foods, small amounts of animal products were also allowed. This involved low-fat dairy products, non fried poultry and steamed or grilled fish. This made the diet tastier and ensured that people would stick to this diet for decades.

Improvements of heart attack rates with plant-centered diet

After 32 years 289 cases of cardiovascular disease developed. The researchers compared participants with the highest food quintile to participants with the lowest food quintile. As mentioned, the risk for participants on a plant-based diet was 52% lower to get a cardiovascular disease. Moreover, a subgroup changed from a higher risk (fatter meals, meat, less vegetables) diet to a lower risk diet (lean fat, lean poultry, vegetables). Physicians followed this subgroup for 13 years and the risk ratio for heart attacks and strokes fell by 61%.

Comparison to other diet studies

There are other studies that looked at the effect of diet changes on the risk of developing heart disease. One such study examined 86 cross-sectional studies and 10 prospective studies in a meta-analysis. Vegetarian diets reduced deaths from heart attacks by 25% and brought down the incidence of total cancer rates by 8%. A vegan diet reduced the risk of total cancer by 15%.

In a study from the United Kingdom dated March 2019 several clinical trials were analyzed regarding non-diabetic populations. The question came up, what the effect of a Mediterranean diet was on cardiovascular disease incidence and mortality. The authors reviewed 30 RCTs (49 papers) with 12,461 randomized participants and seven ongoing trials. In one study the observation time was 46 months. A Mediterranean diet reduced the cardiovascular disease mortality by 65%!

Another study from Spain

Another study from Spain published in 2019 examined 7356 older adults (average 67 years) and followed them for 6.8 years. The investigators kept track of the physical activity and put everybody except the controls on a Mediterranean diet. The group on the lightest leisure-time physical activity consuming a Mediterranean diet had the lowest mortality. The all-cause mortality of this group was 73% lower than the control group.

What is so healthy about the Mediterranean diet?

Despite a wide variation between all the 15 countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, there are common characteristics: an abundance of vegetables and fruit, along with nuts and legumes. Cereal products are largely whole grain. Olive oil is the principal fat source, and people eat fish, seafoods and poultry in moderation. They consume red meat rarely. Cheese and yogurt can be part of the diet, depending on the region.

The first clinical evidence supporting the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet came from the Lyon Heart Study. The researchers placed patients who had a heart attack either on the diet designed by the American Heart Association or a Mediterranean style diet. After a follow-up of 27 months, the group eating the Mediterranean diet had a reduction of heart attacks by 73% and a decreased mortality by 70% compared to the other group.

More detail on the ingredients of the Mediterranean diet

An analysis of the various foods of the Mediterranean diet shows the reasons for the health benefits clearly. The fats that people on a Mediterranean diet eat are heart-healthy monounsaturated fats like olive oil or fats that contain omega-3 fatty acids. They come from fish (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines) or from plant sources (walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed).

As there is an emphasis on natural foods, the diet is extremely low in trans fatty acids (hydrogenated fats), which otherwise increases the risk for cardiovascular disease. As people consume more than 300g of vegetables per capita daily, the contents of antioxidants and other beneficial plant chemicals is much higher in comparison to Western diets. There are many individual components of the Mediterranean diet that contribute to the reduction of disease. This is particularly true for heart disease. It also is apparent, that there is not one single food or nutrient that is responsible for the health benefits. What matters are the interactive effects of all the nutrients that lead to the health benefits.

No processed food means healthier living

The practical application does not mean deprivation and starvation, but a move away from processed fats (margarine), baked goods (donuts, muffins, pastries), and high saturated fat snacks and trans fats (chips, crackers, cookies, pies). Food choices move towards those of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Portions or servings have to be adequate to maintain a healthy weight.

Mediterranean food is not the heaping plate of pasta with an afterthought of vegetables. It also is not the super-size fast food pizza with pepperoni and cheese. Mediterranean food incorporates fresh food rather than fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Low amounts of alcohol, especially red wine can make a meal enjoyable, which means that the limit is one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men. After dinner go for a walk!

Olive oil is one of the reasons why the Mediterranean diet is so healthy

In the past it was thought that the monounsaturated fatty acids in olive oil would be the reason why it is protective of the heart. However, newer studies have shown that it is the polyphenols and among these in particular hydroxytyrosol that lower blood pressure and protect you from hardening of the arteries.

A 2012 study from Spain has found that mortality from heart attacks was 44% lower than that of a control group who did not incorporate olive oil in their diet.

How polyphenols in olive oil work for you

Only two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil per day protect you from heart disease. It does so by reducing the total cholesterol level in the blood as well as the LDL cholesterol level. When there is more polyphenol in olive oil (such as in extra virgin olive oil), the body produces more HDL, which is essential to extract oxidized LDL from arterial plaque. On top of that polyphenol rich olive oil increases the size of the HDL particles (these larger particles have the name HDL2), which are more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL from arterial plaques. A Sept. 2014 study in humans showed that higher polyphenol olive oil as found in extra virgin olive oil caused an increase in the more effective HDL2 particles. This cleans out plaques from arteries more effectively than the regular, cheaper olive oil.

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

Effects of a Plant-centered Diet on Cardiovascular Disease in Midlife

Conclusion

Several large, well-controlled studies showed that there are pronounced effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife. Heart attack rates and mortality rates were reduced by 25% to 73% on a Vegan diet or a Mediterranean diet. When people combine a plant-centered diet with regular physical exercise they also live longer. One of the ingredients of a Mediterranean diet is extra virgin olive oil. It contains polyphenols that lower total and LDL cholesterol. It also increases the larger particles of HDL cholesterol with the name HDL2. HDL2 is more efficient in extracting oxidized LDL cholesterol from arterial plaques.

What you can eat on a plant-centered diet

A plant-centered diet incorporates fresh food rather than fast food. It entails a shift from large portions of red meat to smaller portions of fish, a transition from highly processed foods to ample helpings of dark green vegetables with a dose of olive oil. Instead of large portions of beef and sausages shift to seafood (tuna, salmon, trout, sardines), walnuts, other tree nuts and flax seed. The statistics clearly showed the effects of a plant-centered diet on cardiovascular disease in midlife with a reduction of heart attacks and mortality.

Some of the text above was published previously here.

Aug
21
2021

When Stress Becomes Abnormal

Recently CNN published an article that dealt about when stress becomes abnormal.

We all have experienced stress. It makes our heart beat faster and our breathing speeds up as well. But when the stressful situation is over, stress usually subsides also. Some people though have so much stress in their lives that they never completely recover from any stressful situation. They develop chronic stress, which can lead to physical illnesses or mental disease. I have previously written about “stress drives our lives”. In the following I am reprinting the next 5 paragraphs.

Heart attacks and strokes when stress becomes abnormal

In a 2015 Lancet study 603,838 men and women who worked long hours were followed for an average time of about 8 years with respect to heart disease or strokes. All of the subjects were free of heart attacks and strokes when they entered into the study. There was a total of 13% more heart attacks in those who worked extra hours in comparison to those who worked 40 hours per week or less. With respect to strokes there were 33% more strokes in those who worked long hours. Researchers noted a dose-response curve for strokes in groups with various workloads. Compared to standard working hours there were 10% additional strokes for 41-48 working hours, 27% for 49-54 working hours and 33% for 55 or more working hours per week.

Stress drives some of us to substance abuse

In order to cope with stress many of us “treat” daily stress with alcohol. It makes you feel good subjectively, but it can raise your blood pressure causing heart attacks and strokes down the road. A low dose of alcohol may be healthy, but medium and high doses are detrimental to your health.

Next, many people still smoke, although scientists have proven long time ago that it is bad for your health. It can cause heart attacks, various cancers and circulatory problems leading to leg amputations.

Overeating is another common problem. Comfort food relieves stress, but it causes us to put on extra pounds. As you know it is easier to put weight on than to take it off. Being overweight or being obese has its own problems: arthritis in the hips and knees makes walking more difficult. The metabolic syndrome sets in, which is a characteristic metabolic change causing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes and certain cancers. The more weight you carry, the less likely you are to exercise. This can lead to further deterioration of your health.

Diabetes can occur when stress becomes abnormal

Stress causes too much cortisol secretion from the adrenal glands. This raises blood sugar, and when chronic can cause diabetes. In addition, unhealthy eating habits in an attempt to cope with stress can cause weight gain. Insulin resistance causes high blood sugars and diabetes.

Korean immigrant study

In a 2012 California study 148 adult Korean immigrants were examined. They all had elevated blood sugars confirming the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. They had an elevated waist/hip ratio.

A high percentage of the study subjects had risk factors for type 2 diabetes. This included being overweight or obese and having high blood glucose readings. 66% of them said that they were feeling stressed, 51% reported feeling anxious, 38% said they were feeling restless, 30% felt nervous and 3% said they were feeling hopeless. It is easy to see the connection between stress and disease!

Australian study showed that anxiety can cause diabetes

An Australian long-term follow-up study computed risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. Stress was a major contributor to diabetes.

A 30-day episode of any anxiety disorder had a 1.53-fold risk to cause diabetes. A depressive disorder had a 1.37-fold risk to cause diabetes and posttraumatic stress disorder had a risk of 1.42-fold to cause diabetes.

Infertility may develop when stress becomes abnormal

Stress changes hormones in women causing ovulation problems and infertility. 1 in 8 couples in America have problems getting pregnant. Physicians identified stress as at least one of  the contributing factors. But in men stress can also reduce sperm count and semen quality as this study describes.

Alzheimer’s disease and stress

2010 study from Gothenburg University, Sweden examined 1462 woman aged 38-60 and followed them for 35 years.

Psychologists assessed the stress score in 1968,1974 and 1980. 161 females developed dementia (105 Alzheimer’s disease, 40 vascular dementia and 16 other dementias). The risk of dementia was higher in those women who had frequent/constant stress in the past. Women who had stress on one, two or three examinations suffered from higher dementia rates later in life. Researchers compared this to a group of women who did not have any significant stress. Specifically, dementia rates were 10% higher after one stressful episode, 73% higher after two stressful episodes and 151% higher after three stressful episodes.

Hormone system affected by stress

I have written an article before about how stress affects our hormone system.

I am reprinting excerpts from this here (the next 4 paragraphs).

Dr. Andrew Heyman gave a talk about how stress affects our hormone system. He presented his talk at the 24th Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine (Dec. 9-11, 2016) in Las Vegas that I attended. It was entitled “Understanding the Stress, Thyroid, Hormone Connections & Prioritizing Systems”.

Dr. Heyman emphasized in particular that there is a triad of hormonal connections that is important to remember: the thyroid hormones, the stress hormones (adrenal glands) and the pancreas (insulin production). It seems like we need a balance of these hormones for optimal energy production and circulation. Under stress our sugar metabolism can markedly derail, we develop obesity and fatigue. But when balanced, we experience vitality and wellbeing.

Metabolic activation pathways

Dr. Heyman projected a slide that showed the metabolic activation pathways. Likewise, he stated that a number of different factors could influence the hormone system:

  • Diet: trans fats, sugar, too many carbs, food allergies.
  • Drugs: drug-induced nutrient depletion (over-the-counter drugs, prescription drugs).
  • Physical exercise: frequency and type matters.
  • Environmental exposure: chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, heavy metals, plastics, molds, and pollens.
  • Stress: physical stress, psychogenic stress.
  • Genetics: methylene-tetra-hydro-folate reductase enzyme deficiency (MTHFR mutation), APOE genes, lack of vitamin D
  • Disease: past or present conditions, active disease or syndromes.

Target areas within your system

The target areas in your system are the

  • Pancreas, where blood sugar can rise because of insulin resistance. In particular, too much insulin production causes inflammation, hormone disbalances, kidney damage, and hardening of the arteries through plaque formation.
  • Thyroid gland, which depends on TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) for activation. Autoantibodies can also affect it negatively.
  • Brain: decrease in serotonin resulting in anxiety, depression and food cravings; decreased melatonin causing sleep disturbances; increased ghrelin and decreased leptin secretion leading to overeating and obesity.

Other target areas of stress

  • Liver/kidneys: both of these organs are important for detoxification; the liver produces thyroid binding globulin, which when increased can lower the free thyroid hormones.
  • Immune system (gut, lymph glands): the Peyer’s patches in the gut mucosa produce a large portion of the immune cells; lymph glands, the bone marrow and the spleen supply the rest. A leaky gut syndrome can affect the whole body, in addition causing inflammation and autoimmune reactions.
  • Hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal glands: this is the main axis of the stress reaction. A brain under stress activates the hypothalamus. It sends a cascade of activating hormones via the pituitary gland and likewise activates the adrenal glands. Finally, this leads to cortisol overproduction, and release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the center of the adrenal glands. High blood pressure, anxiety, heart palpitations, arrhythmias and more can finally develop from this.

Treatment suggestions to cope with stress

There are thyroid supplements that can support the function of the thyroid gland. Similarly, there are several supplements to support the adrenal glands.
Chromium, vitamin D, magnesium, alpha-lipoic acid, fish oil and others are useful to support the pancreas. Relaxation methods like self-hypnosis, meditation, yoga, Tai-Chi and others are very useful to counter stress. If you can change your job to evade stress, take the opportunity and find another job with less stress. See a health professional and discuss what you can do to become more stress-resistant. If you are overweight or obese, see a dietitian to help you lose weight. Aerobic exercises like running for 30 minutes on a treadmill can help reduce stress. Various relaxation methods mentioned earlier also can counter stress. They help you to block out worrying about the past and the future, but instead focus on what is positive in the present.

When Stress Becomes Abnormal

When Stress Becomes Abnormal

Conclusion

I have described what stress can do to your body. It can give you heart attacks and strokes. Stress in some people can lead to substance abuse. It can cause diabetes, infertility and even Alzheimer’s disease. I described how thyroid hormones, insulin and brain hormones are interconnected and suffer with stress. Other factors can make the effects of stress worse or better as I discussed in detail. Treatment of stress-induced conditions requires a combination of preventative steps and medical therapies. Ignoring stress is not an option as this could lead to premature death. Managing stress, as mentioned before, and keeping it to a minimum is the answer.

Aug
07
2021

A New Disease, Long Covid

Some of the Covid cases do not resolve; this created a new disease, long Covid. The German news magazine “Der Stern” described this in detail. I summarized this in  English here. The English literature also mentions long Covid. Certainly, physicians learnt from observing the course of many Covid-19 cases. It is important to realize that they did not all heal. Some of them seemed to resolve, but then they reoccurred. Other patients suffer from ongoing exhaustion, shortness of breath, tiredness and pains.

When do physicians diagnose long Covid?

If symptoms of Covid-19 do not resolve within 4 weeks after the beginning, physicians diagnose this condition as long Covid. Different subtypes exist.

  • Persistent symptomatic Covid-19: Covid-19 symptoms persist between 4 and 12 weeks from the beginning of Covid-19.
  • Post Covid-19 syndrome: After more than 12 weeks the patient still has Covid-19 symptoms.
  • Long Covid: when a patient develops new Covid-19 symptoms or still has symptoms beyond 4 weeks after Covid-19 physicians diagnose the patient with long Covid.

Who is getting long Covid?

A longitudinal study showed that about 1 in 10 Covid-19 cases can turn into long Covid. In some cases, this can develop out of relatively benign courses of Covid-19 cases. In other cases, a severe Covid-19 case can develop into long Covid. Notably, a research study identified risk major factors for developing long Covid. They found that increasing age, an increased body mass index and female sex were risk factors for developing long Covid. Persistent symptoms of headaches, fatigue, difficulties to breathe and a loss of smell characterize the presence of long Covid. Another criterion was whether a person had to be treated in an ICU setting during the acute phase of Covid-19. These people are at a higher risk to develop long Covid at a later time.

Long Covid symptoms

The most common symptoms of long Covid are tiredness, headaches, problems breathing, concentrating and circulation problems. But fast heart beats, sleeping disorders, chronic pains and hypersensitivity to light and sound are also part of the symptom complex. Researchers found that in 70% of patients with long Covid one or more organs were damaged by the virus. All the affected organs had ACE2 cell receptors. Many patients with long Covid have lung problems.

Pre-existing lung problems

According to one review it was mainly patients with pre-existing lung problems, older patients or patients who had other pre-existing health problems who developed lung complications. 3-5% of long Covid patients can also develop heart problems. Most patients have reduced pumping capacity, heart muscle inflammation, pericardial inflammation or scarred heart tissue. One symptom is very common: fatigue, which is a state of persistent tiredness, exhaustion and listlessness that cannot be managed with sleep. These are the symptoms of a new disease, long Covid.

Treatment possibilities for long Covid patients

The therapy is based on the symptoms. A guideline on post/long Covid, which was recently published by several professional societies, states that there is still no scientifically reliable evidence for a specific therapy. The guideline lists diagnostic recommendations as well as therapy options for various symptoms such as fatigue, olfactory disorders, cardiological, neurological and psychiatric aspects.

Oxygen therapy

The researchers are currently working on a variety of different treatment approaches. Oxygen therapy is one of them. Hyperbaric oxygen tanks are used for this. Patients breathe pure oxygen in these tanks for about two hours a day for several weeks. The first patients treated with this oxygen therapy have reported positive effects according to Dr. Ullrich Siekmann in Aachen, Germany. Further studies, however, are required to confirm these preliminary investigations.

Blood washing or HELP apheresis

Doctors see another possibility of treatment in blood washing. With the so-called “HELP apheresis“, the blood is freed from harmful substances in a similar way to dialysis in kidney failure patients. Blood washing is already in use for people who have had strokes or heart attacks and where other medicines do not help. Researchers used this procedure also for long Covid patients.

Supplements that may help

According to Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, a board-certified internist, these supplements may be helpful: N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), glutathione, CuraMed (a curcumin supplement), and omega-3 supplementation. These supplements treat chronic inflammation.

A New Disease, Long Covid

A New Disease, Long Covid

Conclusion

Long Covid is a sub-category of Covid-19 in patients whose symptoms do not resolve. This is subject to intensive research, which I summarized here. These patients have characteristic symptoms. Newer treatment options seem to consist of pressurized oxygen therapy and of blood washing with the name of “HELP apheresis”. Certain supplements that are anti-inflammatory may also be of benefit. Despite these new efforts this leaves many patients with organ damage and continuing chronic symptoms.

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.

Feb
20
2021

Two Articles Showed that Fish Oil Reduces Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality

Recently two articles showed that fish oil reduces cardiovascular disease and mortality.

British study recording the effects of fish oil over 10 years

For one thing, the British Medical Journal published an article comparing people who supplemented with fish oil with people who did not. In this case, the ones who supplemented had a lower risk of mortality and had lower cardiovascular disease than the control group. In brief, 427,678 subjects were enrolled in this British study between 2006 and 2010. Questionnaires at the beginning of the study revealed how many capsules of fish oil the subjects consumed. Hospital records and death certificates provided information about cardiovascular disease mortality at the end of 2018. Altogether, 31% of the subjects said that they were taking fish oil supplements regularly.

In short, here are the results of the study showing what fish oil did.

  • 7% lower cardiovascular events
  • 16% lower risk of cardiovascular disease mortality
  • 20% lower mortality risk from heart attacks
  • 13% lower risk of death from any cause (when compared to people who did not use fish oil)

Discussion

Given these points, the authors stated that it was the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil that caused all the beneficial effects. This included lowering of blood pressure, triglycerides and reducing the heart rate. Fish oil was also responsible for improvement of endothelial function, inflammation and blood clotting. In addition, fish oil protects against cardiac arrhythmias. They stated: “Fish oil supplementation could be an inexpensive, quick, safe way of increasing an individual’s omega-3 fatty acid intake”.

Mayo Clinic study of taking higher doses of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids

A study dated Sept. 17, 2020 showed the cardiovascular benefits of higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids. This was the second of two articles that showed that fish oil reduces cardiovascular disease and mortality. It was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. This metaanalysis involved 40 interventional studies and 135,000 patients. Two types of omega-3 fatty acids, namely EPA and DHA were studied with regard to the prevention of cardiovascular disease. EPA and DHA supplementation had the following effects.

  • 35% reduction of risk of a fatal heart attack
  • 13% reduction of heart attacks in general
  • 10% reduced risk of coronary heart disease occurrence
  • 9% reduction of mortality from coronary heart disease

The researchers described that the higher the dose of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, the greater the protection.

An extra dose of 1000 mg per day of EPA and DHA reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease as follows. There was a reduction of cardiovascular disease by 5.8% and of heart attacks by 9%. I take 1800 mg of EPA/DHA twice a day, a total of 3600 mg per day.

Two Articles Showed that Fish Oil Reduces Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality

Two Articles Showed that Fish Oil Reduces Cardiovascular Disease and Mortality

Conclusion

Two independent studies of fish oil or omega-3 fatty acids came to similar conclusions.  Heart attacks and strokes are significantly reduced. And mortality in the group that used fish oil supplementation was also significantly reduced. An extra dose of 1000 mg per day of EPA and DHA reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease as follows. There was a reduction of cardiovascular disease by 5.8% and of a heart attack by 9%. Based on these findings the researchers recommended that patients should use EPA/DHA supplementation to reduce cardiovascular risk. EPA/DHA supplementation lowers blood pressure, triglycerides and the heart rate. Fish oil was also responsible for improvement of endothelial function, also for the prevention of inflammation and blood clotting. In addition, fish oil protects against cardiac arrhythmias. The end result is that you live a healthier life.

Jan
09
2021

Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Notably, the January 2021 issue of the Life Extension magazine informs you that melatonin is more than a sleeping aid. It contains an interview between Dr. Roman Rozencwaig and a Life Extension (LE) magazine reporter. It must be remembered that Dr. Rozencwaig dedicated much of his career to the healing effects of melatonin. Another keypoint is that in 1987 Dr. Rozencwaig published a paper together with two other researchers. Specifically, it showed that melatonin production by the pineal gland declines in older age. Markedly, they stated that this is the reason why people age and why diseases of aging develop. Another key point is that Dr. Rozencwaig also stated that taking oral melatonin can promote a healthier life.

Melatonin deficiency causing aging and various illnesses

With the aging process the pineal gland calcifies and melatonin production is steadily declining. Surely, along with this is a deterioration of the circadian hormone rhythm. Meanwhile, the neuroendocrine system in the brain gets disorganized. Accordingly, this causes various diseases to occur. To emphasize, Dr. Rozencwaig says that a proper balance between melatonin and neurotransmitters is what we need to maintain health and longevity. As a result, a daily intake of melatonin supports healthy aging and longevity.

The many clinical effects of melatonin

Oral melatonin tablets help you to fall asleep easier, particularly the population that is older than 60 years.

But besides that, melatonin has many other clinical effects.

  • Melatonin improves immunity, which improves resistance against infections. It helps also in cancer prevention
  • Melatonin maintains the circadian hormone rhythm by synchronizing pituitary and hypothalamic hormone production
  • It protects the brain and may prevent Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, and others
  • Melatonin modulates anti-inflammatory cytokinins in different diseases

Dr. Rozencwaig mentioned that melatonin slows down the aging process. There are multiple intertwining reasons for this. 

Melatonin’s actions against the aging process 

  • Melatonin regulates gene expression. This means that some signs and symptoms of aging can be reversed through genetic switches
  • Because melatonin regulates the immune response, the body is more protected against viral, bacterial and parasitic infections
  • Melatonin helps to overcome chronic inflammation that produces cytokines
  • Melatonin is also liver-protective through stimulation of an enzyme (AMPK). This enzyme regulates cellular metabolism.
  • There are other processes that melatonin is involved in: energy metabolism by protection and restoration of mitochondria.
  • Melatonin protects against osteoporosis by balancing and regulating bone formation versus bone loss.

More actions of melatonin

  • An important function of melatonin is the stimulation of antioxidant enzymes like glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase (SOD)
  • Melatonin regulates sirtuins, which are proteins that maintain cellular health. They protect you from obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart attacks and strokes, dementia and more
  • As already mentioned, melatonin is a neuroprotective agent and may prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Melatonin stimulates apoptosis of cancer cells.
  • Oral health and melatonin are related. Melatonin suppresses herpes infections and periodontal disease. Melatonin prevents oral cancers to a certain degree. In addition, dental implants survive better when melatonin is present in saliva.

Prevention of cognitive decline

Dr. Rozencwaig mentioned that melatonin stops much of the cognitive decline of aging. To achieve this the following processes take place.

  1. Melatonin improves the sleeping pattern and increases the amount of REM sleep.
  2. During sleep melatonin removes toxic amyloid and tau proteins. We know that with Alzheimer’s disease these are the proteins that accumulate in the brain.
  3. Melatonin improves myelination of white matter in the brain. This prevents brain atrophy of old age.
  4. The brain is metabolically very active and produces toxic free radicals. But melatonin is a strong antioxidant dealing with free radicals. Melatonin can cross the blood brain barrier and stimulates enzyme production to eliminate toxic reactive oxygen species.
  5. Chronic inflammation also increases with age, but melatonin deals with this condition in the brain.
  6. Here are 3 subtypes of melatonin receptors. The body integrates the multitude of actions of melatonin with the help of these receptors.
Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Melatonin Is More Than a Sleeping Aid

Conclusion

Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that has many other useful protective qualities as explained. The body integrates various functions like anti-aging, anti-free radical activity, neuroprotection in the brain and more. Melatonin even synchronizes pituitary and hypothalamic hormone production. This helps to integrate the effect of melatonin, which benefits the body in many ways. Melatonin prevents Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, autism, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart attacks, strokes and dementia. Melatonin production deteriorates from the age of about 60 onwards. It is important to supplement with melatonin at nighttime from that age on. Usually, you only need small amounts of melatonin, between 1mg and 3 mg at bedtime. This prevents most of the serious diseases of old age, stimulates your immune system and lets you age gracefully.

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Dec
05
2020

Mother’s Lifestyle Predicts Heart Attack Risk for Offsprings

A European Society of Cardiology study found that mother’s lifestyle predicts heart attack risk for offsprings. This study was published in the Journal of Preventive Cardiology, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology. It was also summarized in Science Daily. The study author Dr. James Muchira of Vanderbilt University, Nashville said: “This maternal influence persists into the adulthood of their offspring.” What he meant is that the study found that lifestyles of mothers influence the choices of lifestyles of the offsprings, and with poor choices even determine when the next generation gets their heart attack or stroke.

In previous research the team established that both genetic factors as well as environmental and lifestyle factors are responsible for cardiovascular disease. Now the researchers wanted to determine the influence of each parent on the risk of cardiovascular disease of the offspring.

Set-up of the study

The study was done with offspring and the parents of the Framingham Heart Study. 1989 children from 1989 mothers and 1989 fathers were enrolled 1971 and followed for 46 years. The average age of the offspring at enrolment was 32 years. The study ended 2017. Dr. Muchira said: ”Crucially, the study followed children into most of their adult life when heart attacks and strokes actually occur.”

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease

The researchers rated the risks of fathers and mothers in the study according to 7 factors.

  • Smoking status (non-smoker preferred)
  • Diet (healthy or not)
  • Physical activity
  • Body mass index (normal or not)
  • If blood pressure is too high
  • Level of blood cholesterol
  • Blood sugar values

The researchers established three categories of cardiovascular health: poor (fulfilment of 0 to 2 factors); intermediate (fulfilment of 3 to 4 factors) and ideal (fulfilment of 5 to 7 factors). The researchers wanted to know how long the offspring were able to live without symptoms of cardiovascular disease.

Findings of the study

Here are the findings of the study.

  • Children of mothers with ideal cardiovascular health lived free of cardiovascular symptoms for 27 years; they were on average 32+27= 59 years when symptoms started.
  • Children of mothers with poor cardiovascular health lived free of cardiovascular symptoms for 18 years; they were 32+18= 50 years old when symptoms started; this is 9 years earlier than children from mothers with ideal cardiovascular health.
  • Father’s cardiovascular health did not influence the children’s onset of cardiovascular symptoms.

Cardiovascular risks of the children are due to a combination of things

A combination of the health status during the pregnancy and the environment in early life influenced the children.

Dr. Muchira said: “If mothers have diabetes or hypertension during pregnancy, those risk factors get imprinted in their children at a very early age. In addition, women are often the primary caregivers and the main role model for behaviors.” Sons were much more affected by their mother’s cardiovascular health status. Dr. Muchira explained: “This was because sons had more unfavourable lifestyle habits than daughters, making the situation even worse. It shows that individuals can take charge of their own health. People who inherit a high risk from their mother can reduce that risk by exercising and eating well. If they don’t, the risk will be multiplied.”

Discussion

We remember that the Framingham Heart Study long time ago established the above-mentioned risk factors for heart disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4159698/ It is also important for the offspring to quit smoking as this is a high-risk factor for heart disease. Next eat a balanced diet, like the Mediterranean diet. With this you eat more vegetables, less meat, more fish and add olive oil. Engage in regular exercise, which will raise the protective HDL cholesterol. Keep your body mass index low (in the 21.0 to 22.0 range, but definitely below 25.0). Keep your blood pressure in the normal range (120/80 or less). Make sure that your blood cholesterol and blood sugar values are normal. This will give you the lowest risk to develop a heart attack or a stroke.

Mother’s Lifestyle Predicts Heart Attack Risk for Offsprings

Mother’s Lifestyle Predicts Heart Attack Risk for Offsprings

Conclusion

We are normally concerned about our own cardiovascular health. But in a new study researchers examined children of participants in the Framingham Heart Study and their parents. This showed that the cardiovascular health status of the mother had a significant influence on the children’s  cardiovascular health. The offspring had an average age of 32 years when the researchers started to follow them for 46 years. When the mother was in poor cardiovascular health, the offspring developed cardiovascular symptoms at age 50. But when the mother’s cardiovascular health was ideal, the children got symptoms of cardiovascular disease only at age 59. This delay of 9 years of disease onset was purely due to the mother’s cardiovascular health status.

Risk management of cardiovascular risks

The authors of the study say that the children can do a lot to minimize the cardiovascular risk. They need to work to reduce the known risk factors and also start a regular exercise program. The authors of the study mentioned that even people who inherited a risk for cardiovascular disease benefit significantly from cutting out risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Oct
17
2020

What can Happen to Your Body Over Months of Isolation

A recent article by CNN describes what can happen to your body over months of isolation at home. The article is rather negative showing all the possible things that can go wrong. I have been isolated as well since March 2020. I handle the isolation differently than described in the article. I will comment to each point what can be done differently to avoid the complications mentioned.

Muscle loss

The CNN article makes the point that inactivity can make you lose muscle bulk within only one week. A lack of exercise weakens your muscle strength. And muscle strength has been associated with longevity.

My comment:

I do a brisk walk of 5 to 7 kilometers daily. This maintains my muscle bulk. But I have a treadmill in the basement and a couple of weights that I can use, if it rains outside.

There is a danger that heart and lungs get weaker

You need to raise your heart rate and you also need to perfuse your lungs through exercise. Many people do not like exercise. They sit in front of the TV for hours or they surf the net on the computer. Even just reading a book does not give you enough exercise to get your heart rate up and increase your lung perfusion.

My comment:

A brisk walk with proper distancing gives you fresh air, exercises your muscles, your heart and your lungs. It maintains your cardiovascular fitness.

Weight gain

Being home all the time allows you to look into the fridge more often and eat snacks that are processed. People tend to eat more often than 3 times a day. The end result is that you gain weight. In the beginning of the epidemic people stocked up on non-perishable foods. Often they contain more sugar and carbohydrates. Consuming these foods leads to weight gain. Wearing masks, frequent hand washing, isolation practices and change of normal routines makes people get stressed. Stress leads to overeating and weight gain.

My comment:

In the last 6 months that I did home isolation my body mass index (BMI) stayed in the 21.0 to 22.0 range. I ate three meals a day. I avoided processed foods as they are overloaded with sugar, salt and refined carbs. Once a month I do a 5-day fasting mimicking diet according to Dr. Longo. This ensures that my BMI stays within the range I indicated. Otherwise I eat a Mediterranean diet, which is anti-inflammatory.

Your posture could suffer

When you are seated in front of the computer or the TV you tend to engage in poor postures. This can lead to strains of your back, neck, shoulders and hips. Staring at the computer screen or the TV can also give you eye strain.

My comment:

The key is movement, such as getting up and walking around; doing other activities like lawn mowing, weed eating or doing dishes. This interrupts any longer stretch of bad posture.

Your sleep quality can suffer

The more exposure to sunlight during the day you get, the more vitamin D you produce in the skin. Some people lack the necessary enzymes in the skin to convert cholesterol into vitamin D. But exposure to sunlight also helps to reinforce your diurnal hormone rhythm. This is also called circadian rhythm. Avoid blue lights (TV, computer, iPhones etc.) in the evening before bedtime as this can interfere with a deep sleep later. Also go to bed early enough (between 10 and 11 PM) to allow your circadian rhythm to take over.

My comment:

Some people (above the age of 60) benefit from 3 mg of melatonin at bedtime. After the age of 60 people no longer produce enough melatonin in the pineal gland. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I take another 3 mg of melatonin prior to 3AM. Caution: after 3 AM melatonin can give you a bit of a hangover in the morning.

Your brain can slow down

The brain needs nutrition and exercise. Exercise can eliminate certain amino acid by-products that otherwise turn into neurotoxins. With exercise you even prevent neurotoxins to enter the brain.

My comment:

I find that I must at least do a brisk walk of 4 kilometers a day. It prevents back pain, helps me sleep better and keeps my mind clear. But as mentioned earlier I prefer doing a brisk walk for 5 to 7 kilometers a day. In the past (prior to March 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic started) I went to the gym every day. When it finally reopened, they had one Covid-19 case at the gym. I decided that it is too dangerous to go back to the gym until a safe Covid-19 vaccine is available in the summer of 2021. I feel the same way about flying. It is not worth the risk. I can just stay local and do my own program. The pleasure of traveling can wait until the summer of next year.

What can Happen to Your Body Over Months of Isolation

What can Happen to Your Body Over Months of Isolation

Conclusion

A recent CNN article described the dangers of passively staying in home isolation. I felt that this article was on the negative side. I found that by including a regular brisk walking program into my daily lifestyle the day got more structured. I felt I had more energy and I had no aches or pains. If I spent too much time watching TV or spending in front of the computer, I developed back aches and felt sluggish. I incorporated a 5-day fasting mimicking diet according to Dr. Longo once per month into my regular Mediterranean diet. This allowed me to keep my body mass index in the 21.0- 22.0 range. Doing what I described above I could continue to hold my weight, have energy and stay pain free for many more months. But when the Covid-19 vaccine arrives in spring/summer of 2021 I hope that things will return to normal.