Thursday, Nov 25 2010 

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
– Thornton Wilder

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Sleep Late to Restore Brain Power Monday, Nov 22 2010 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

Oh boy, do I have good news to share!

Evidence demonstrates that sleeping in on the weekend is a smart idea after a tough week at work (or anywhere else). I’ve been known to sleep late myself on occasion, but always with a twinge of guilt, since we’re told that it’s better to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. But juggling my job, kids, household tasks and other requirements all week sometimes leaves me weary and sleep-deprived by Friday afternoon — and I bet you know exactly how I feel.

Americans have a sleep debt that makes the national budget deficit look minor, warns Matthew Edlund, MD, MOH, an expert on rest, biological clocks, performance and sleep based in Sarasota, Florida, and author of the new book, The Power of Rest. Sleep is as important to health as food and water, and we should stop feeling guilty for allotting time for our bodies to rest, recharge and regenerate, he said.

Here’s Proof…

At the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, researchers conducted a study of the effect of sleep deprivation on the brain power of 159 healthy adults aged 22 to 45. A control group of 17 spent 12 consecutive days in the sleep lab — 10 hours in bed each night for seven nights — while the others spent 10 hours in bed for the first two nights, then were in bed only from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. for five consecutive nights. Next, this group was assigned randomized amounts of recovery sleep, up to 10 hours per night.

All participants completed 30-minute computerized tests to assess their levels of alertness and neurobehavior performance every two hours while awake — and no one will be surprised to learn that in comparison with those who had adequate sleep, people with restricted sleep experienced:

  • Impaired alertness
  • Shortened attention span
  • Reduced reaction time.

Why You Need a Vacation

But here’s the happy finding: Normal function (alertness and performance, as above) was restored in sleep-deprived participants after just one solid night of recovery sleep — 10 hours, or the equivalent of squeezing in extra shut-eye on Saturday morning after a long week. (The more recovery sleep, the higher the scores.) In contrast, participants whose sleep continued to be restricted to an average of four to six hours per night performed poorly on tests and continued to get worse as their restricted sleep continued. Researchers also warned that even 10 hours of sleep in one night is not enough to bounce back if you continually push yourself too hard and burn the candle at both ends. Dr. Edlund said that, in fact, many studies have shown that even a few weeks of normal sleep won’t make up for a longtime habit of sleep deprivation — and he added that nowadays people rarely know what it’s like to feel fully rested. In that case, it is likely to take more than a day — think many weeks, and that’s only if you don’t go back to your old ways — to get back to par… which is why we need to take vacations!

These results were published in the August 2010 issue of the journal Sleep.

Just as we don’t expect our bodies to function without adequate nutrition, we can’t expect to feel fully fueled and alert without sufficient sleep, Dr. Edlund told me. The best scenario, of course, is to not allow yourself to become sleep-deprived in the first place — but this is not always possible. Most people require seven or eight hours a night to be at their best the next day. But when that doesn’t happen, we now know that you can get tremendous benefit from snoozing a little longer even for just one morning. It gives your brain time to recover and reboot — you’ll be more focused, productive and energetic as a result.

Source(s):

Matthew Edlund, MD, MOH (masters in occupational health), Center for Circadian Medicine, Sarasota, Florida. Dr. Edlund is author of The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Alone is Not Enough: A 30-Day Plan to Reset Your Body (HarperOne). Visit his Web site at www.TheRestDoctor.com.

Thursday, Nov 18 2010 

If a man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favorable to him.
– Seneca

Pecans Protect Neurological Function Monday, Nov 15 2010 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

Here’s a not-so-nutty idea: Urge your holiday guests to get over the guilt and enjoy a piece of pecan pie as a healthy (albeit occasional) indulgence that can enhance their neurological function!

It’s not such a stretch. New research finds that eating pecans helps strengthen your nervous system, thus helping your brain to function better. Pecans are the tree nuts highest in disease-fighting antioxidants (such as vitamin E), according to the US Department of Agriculture, and they number among the 15 top antioxidant foods overall. Antioxidants shield your body’s cells from oxidative damage and may offer protection against central nervous system diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease). While it is true that pecans contain significant levels of saturated fats, they also contain protective antioxidants (including proanthocyanidins) that make them helpful to heart and brain health.

The Study

At the Center for Cellular Neurobiology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Thomas B. Shea, PhD, director and professor of biological sciences, and his colleagues conducted several lab studies on the effects of pecan-enriched diets in mice. Mice bred to experience age-related neurological decline in motor neuron function (motor neurons are the nerve cells that send signals to the muscles) were divided into three groups. One group was given food that had lots of pecans ground into it… one group got somewhat less pecans… and the third group ate food with no pecans at all.

Dr. Shea and his team tested the motor neuron function in the mice before and after instituting the three diets. They found that…

  • Both groups of pecan-eating mice staved off motor function decline significantly, compared with the group that ate no pecans.
  • The mice who ate the most pecans (0.05% of their diet) fared the best.

These results were published in the June 2010 issue of Current Topics in Nutraceutical Research. Dr. Shea told me that the findings suggest that pecans “may enhance or sustain motor neuron health as we age.”

These findings motivated me to search out a really great recipe for a pecan pie that is healthful while also being delicious. After all, to my way of thinking, Thanksgiving isn’t complete without pecan pie for my dessert… and the recipe I discovered also includes heart-healthy dark chocolate.

Recipe: Dark Chocolate Pecan Pie

This pecan pie recipe comes from Southern cook extraordinaire Paula Deen, and since I’ve invited a friend with celiac disease to Thanksgiving dinner, I plan to make it with a ready-made gluten-free crust.

The Filling:

Ingredients
2 cups pecan halves
3 large eggs, beaten
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup dark corn syrup
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons good-quality bourbon
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Cover bottom of pie crust with pecan halves.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, sugar, bourbon and the chopped chocolate. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour mixture into the pie shell over the pecans and place on a heavy-duty cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350°F, and continue to bake for an additional 25 minutes or until pie is set. Remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack.

Recipe courtesy of Paula Deen.

Source(s):
Thomas B. Shea, PhD, professor of biological sciences, and director, Center for Cellular Neurobiology and Neurodegeneration Research, University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Thursday, Nov 4 2010 

When you’re the boss, you’re responsible for your own morale.  – Admiral Thad Allen, USCG Ret.

Disconcerting Dementia News Thursday, Nov 4 2010 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

I’m still deeply involved in the time-intensive job of raising my family, so I admit to harboring some wistful dreams of the days and years ahead when I’ll be able to indulge myself with brainy pursuits such as doing crossword puzzles, playing Sudoku and taking classes at the local college just because I want to — all the more so since it’s been thought that these activities help us stay sharp and stave off dementia.
That’s been the conventional wisdom, at least… but new research I’ve just read adds a bizarre twist — it appears that using your brain is protective only to a point. Then it may make matters worse. A new study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago shows that once dementia symptoms set in and affected people who had been mentally active, the deterioration seemed to occur faster and to be more destructive. Can this really be true?
You can bet I picked up the phone right away to learn all I could about this study from its author, senior neuropsychologist Robert. S. Wilson, PhD. He told me that he and his research team evaluated 1,157 healthy people age 65 and older who did not have any signs of dementia. At the start of the 12-year study, each participant was assigned points (from one to five) based on the quantity and quality of mental activities he/she engaged in regularly. When these folks were checked again about six years later, about half (614) had no cognitive impairment… and, over the next six years, each point that they had earned on their mental activity scale correlated to a reduced rate of cognitive decline by an impressive 52% per year.

But there was a bit of bad news, too: Mentally active participants who did develop symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease had an average 42% increase (compared with those who weren’t as intellectually active) in their annual rate of decline for each point that they had originally scored on the mental activity scale.
In other words, said Dr. Wilson, exercising mental skills did help people retain their cognitive abilities if — and it’s a big if — they did not develop Alzheimer’s. For people who did, once symptoms were apparent, the decline appeared to be much faster than if they had been living a less stimulating life.

What Does This Mean?
How to make sense of these results? Dr. Wilson believes that the protective effect of increased mental stimulation actually masks the early signs of cognitive decline. When the symptoms finally do become evident, the disease is already far along — more so than among people who showed signs earlier because they had less mental stimulation.
Dr. Wilson told me that his research team is still following the same subjects — those who are still mentally sharp as well as those who now are officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s — in order to learn more about how long a “cognitive lifestyle” is protective. Since other research has now established that Alzheimer’s starts decades before symptoms actually start to show up, it’s important to learn whether keeping the brain active is a way to delay the onset of disease symptoms even as the disease pathology moves forward, which may be a way to keep people living in a vital, independent state for a longer time.

Source(s):
Robert S. Wilson, PhD, senior neuropsychologist, professor of neurological sciences and psychology, director of the section of cognitive neuroscience, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago.

Teamwork at its Best: How to sell ideas to your staff Wednesday, Nov 3 2010 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

In the workplace and the sporting world, teams that buy into their coach’s vision have a much better chance of success. How can you get your team all working toward the same goal—your goal?

Start by following these four steps to build support:

Step 1: Spend time with your people. It’s important to get to know people and to respect their individual goals and aspirations. Doing so allows you to more easily build win-win rewards if you really understand other people’s needs.

Step 2: Communicate fully, regularly and consistently. You can’t suddenly try to open the lines of communication when you need support for an idea or project. It’s vital to have them open and functioning at full capacity all the time.

Step 3: Encourage people to bring you bad news as well as good. To supervise a group effectively, you need current information about what is going wrong—the more current, the better. So never shoot messengers who bring bad news. Instead, thank them and give positive rewards.

Step 4: Set up a climate of healthy dissent. Encourage people to tell you frankly what they are thinking. In addition to bad news, you also want to hear them object to ideas they don’t think will work. Then you want to nix idle sniping by asking people to back up their objections with facts or hard logic, listening carefully all the while.

Bottom line: Reward people for shooting holes in your ideas, but make them help you patch them up.

The selling process: a checklist

In many ways, selling ideas to your staff is not much different than selling an idea to anyone else. Use the following checklist as your guide:

Start by stressing benefits. Talk realistically about all the good things that can result from a job well done—benefits to the department, the company and the people involved.

Don’t oversell your idea. People will react negatively if you present a distorted picture. Talk in terms of realistic results.

Make sure the idea is understood. It’s not enough to talk through an idea, assign it and walk away. The only way to make sure someone really understands is to have that person recap your idea. You could say, “Just to be sure we’re on the same wavelength, tell me what you understand the idea to be.”

Give employees latitude. It’s unrealistic and counterproductive to expect others to act on your idea exactly as you would. People will be far more eager to “buy” your ideas when they know they have your permission to act autonomously.

Set up appropriate checkpoints. In a three-month project, for example, set up meetings every two weeks. This helps the project stay on track, plus it boosts the odds that your idea will receive a favorable reception. Why? Because workers like knowing they’ll have your support during the course of a project.

Commit resources. At the outset, give a clear description of the resources that will be made available. If people must beg for needed resources, their enthusiasm for a project will wane.

Don’t overuse compliments. If you try to sell every idea, for example, by saying, “You’re just terrific at this kind of thing. Nobody else could handle it as well as you!” people will brand you as insincere. It’s better to thank people for work well done and then …

Give positive rewards for work well done. It could be anything from a simple “thank you” at a staff meeting to a major promotion. The point is that you boost the chances of selling your ideas when you take the time to reward and recognize people who have done a good job.

Source:  Business Management Daily

Get to the point! Tips for simplifying PowerPoint Wednesday, Nov 3 2010 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

You know a presentation is going badly when audience members start tapping on their BlackBerrys. These days, especially, it isn’t easy to capture and hold a group’s attention.

Keep your presentation clear and effective with these PowerPoint tips:

Save the presentation as a .pps file, rather than a .ppt file. That saves the presentation as a full-screen slide show, so you don’t have to make the audience wait while you open PowerPoint, find the right file and (finally) hit “view slide show.”

Maneuver easily through the presentation with this trick: Hit the “F1” key once in “Slide Show” mode. Now, you have the option of hitting Control + P to make the marking pen appear, allowing you to highlight, circle and make notes on the on-screen image. Or, you can hit Control + A to make an arrow appear that you can maneuver by mouse.

Keep it simple by choosing effective graphics. Using PowerPoint visuals that only Einstein could decipher doesn’t make the presenter look smarter. Complicated visuals will cause an audience to focus less on what the presenter is saying and more on trying to figure out the images.

So, when creating a PowerPoint presentation, follow these seven rules for keeping visuals clear and powerful:

1. Follow the “Six-by-six rule”: Use no more than six words per line and no more than six lines per visual.

2. Apply the “billboard” test to each slide or transparency: “Could people read and understand the information while driving?”

3. Realize that people may forget lists, but they’ll recall images. Just don’t overdo the graphics.

4. Avoid using “chart junk,” fancy shadings and patterns in most drawing software. You’ll create the “Two C” effect—comical and confusing—by trying too hard to jazz up a chart.

5. Think “thin” when deciding on line thickness and “discreet” when picking colors. Reason: Thick lines and garish colors will distract readers.

6. Use the “one” principle: Limit each visual to one idea, one concept or one point.

7. Put it to the one-minute test: If the audience will need more than 60 seconds to figure it out, it’s too complex.

Source:  Business Management Daily

7 Ways to Use Leverage–Not That Chip on Your Shoulder–to Become More Effective at Work Tuesday, Nov 2 2010 

by the writers of Business Management Daily

“People who go on and on about ‘fairness’ waste a lot of time,” says Marie McIntyre, author of Your Office Coach.

When there’s something you want at work—an assignment, a raise, acknowledgment—make better use of your time by asking yourself these two questions: (1) Who has the power to help or hurt my ability to accomplish those goals? And (2) how well am I managing those people?

Looking at how much leverage one has, in relation to those people, is how high-achieving people actually get things done. People who know how to recognize their own leverage, and use it effectively, are also typically good at office politics.
“High-leverage people tend to focus on what they can do, what’s in their control, what they can influence,” McIntyre says. “Low-leverage people tend to complain a lot about things being unfair.”

Here are a few ways to acquire or improve leverage:

1. Exhibit special knowledge or expertise. “People who have information are valuable to an organization,” McIntyre says.

2. Add value to the business by producing results or making a clear, tangible contribution to the organization. Example: Cut department costs by 10%.

3. Cooperate, be a team player and have a good attitude. “Being someone that most people like to work with and be around can give you a lot of leverage,” she says.

4. Show understanding in solving and addressing workplace dilemmas. You need empathy.

5. Develop your network. “The more people you know, the more leverage you have,” she says.

6. Include other people in your projects, share information and involve people, as appropriate.

7. Detach yourself. “People who can step back from their emotions and view situations objectively have leverage,” McIntyre says.

The good news, says McIntyre, is that you can use leverage in any job. And it’s a lot more effective than focusing on unfairness.

Source:  Business Management Daily

SAY WHAT? NEWS ABOUT HEARING LOSS Tuesday, Nov 2 2010 

by Carole Jackson, Bottom Line Health

I know lots of people who complain that they don’t hear as well as they used to — and plenty of others who make similar complaints about their loved ones. When my ears were ringing and I couldn’t hear so well in the days after I took my teenage daughter to a concert, I found myself wondering whether getting older makes us more vulnerable to hearing loss caused by loud noise.

Interestingly, a new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology reported that adults today are actually 31% less likely to suffer hearing loss than the previous generation. This seems to be the result of environmental and not physical causes. Researchers speculate that the reasons relate to workplace trends (fewer people work in factory settings with loud industrial noise, and even those who do are protected by health and safety regulations requiring noise abatement and earplugs) and medical advances (in particular, the fact that antibiotics now treat many illnesses and infections that previously resulted in hearing damage).

But the news wasn’t all good. About 15% of all adults between age 20 and 69 have already suffered some hearing loss specifically from exposure to loud noise, according to the latest statistics from the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

That figure came as no surprise to Aaron G. Benson, MD, a neurotologist in private practice in Toledo and clinical professor of neurotology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Life is loud, he pointed out, even beyond concerts and (as I’m constantly reminding my daughters) in-ear headphones. Dr. Benson rattled off a bunch of examples of noisy assaults we suffer, including sirens, motorcycles and other traffic sounds, lawn mowers, leaf- and snowblowers, hair dryers and vacuum cleaners.

According to Dr. Benson, single explosive sounds and ongoing ambient noise both can be damaging — how much so relates to both the decibel level and length of exposure. For example, you’ll likely experience some hearing loss after eight hours of exposure at 90 decibels (which is the decibel level of a train whistle or trucks on the highway). As the noise gets louder, the damage happens faster, though genetics are a factor in how much noise exposure you can tolerate without damage.

HOW HEARING LOSS HAPPENS

Dr. Benson explained that loud noise is destructive to the tiny hair cells in your ear that convert sound into electrical signals for the brain. The more of these cells that get destroyed over time, the worse your hearing.

Some suggestions on how to protect yourself by turning down the volume in your life…
• Turn down iPods, Bluetooth receivers and other in-ear listening devices. Dr. Benson suggests finding a quiet spot where you can test the volume range at which you can hear comfortably. Use a permanent marker to identify this particular spot on your device’s controls, and avoid turning the volume up any higher.
• When you listen to music, talk on the phone or watch television, don’t use a headset or earbuds all the time. Varying the way sound comes into your ears helps protect your hearing, so use your speakers some times — at a moderate level.
• Consider using noise-canceling earphones if you know that you’ll be spending time in a loud environment, for instance on an airplane or at a racetrack.
• Buy quieter consumer goods. Check out Noise Free America’s site, http://www.NoiseFree.org/quietproducts.php.
• Studies suggest that antioxidants such as magnesium or vitamins A, C and E, if taken prior to noise trauma, may provide some protection. (See Daily Health News, “Everyday Vitamins May Prevent Common Hearing Loss,” January 1, 2008, for more about this.) Check with your doctor first for information about proper dosage and drug interactions.
As can happen after a random exposure, my hearing returned to normal — for which I am thankful. However, Dr. Benson told me that cumulative damage, the kind that’s done over years of exposure to loud sounds, can’t be reversed. Clearly, it makes sense to do all that you can to protect the hearing you still have.

Source(s):

Aaron G. Benson, MD, clinical adjunct professor, division of neurotology, department of otolaryngology head and neck surgery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He is in private practice in Toledo.

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