Archive for June, 2012

Can taking vitamin D and calcium help you live longer? – Vitals


Vitamins!

Vitamins! (Photo credit: bradley j)

Can taking vitamin D and calcium help you live longer?

By Susan E. Matthews

MyHealthNewsDaily

Older people who take vitamin D supplements along with calcium may live longer than others, according to a new review of previous studies.

The researchers looked at data regarding the vitamin D intake  of more than 70,000 adults in their 60s and 70s. They found that people who took vitamin D, along with calcium supplements, were 9 percent less likely to die over a three-year period, compared with people who took neither supplement.

However, they found that taking vitamin D alone had no effect on mortality rates.

For every 151 people who took with daily vitamin D and calcium for three years, one life would be spared, according to the researchers’ calculations.

The finding comes on the heels of several studies with conflicting results about the health benefits of vitamin D, including its possible effects on longevity. The new review is the largest of its kind, and included eight randomized controlled trials, said study leader Lars Rejnmark, of Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark. Such trials are considered the strongest type of scientific evidence.

The study confirms researchers’ suspicions  that vitamin D may increase longevity, said Dr. Philippe Autier of the International Prevention Research Institute, who was not involved in the review.

Study participants were generally older people with health conditions, and possibly had inadequate nutrition. Therefore, it’s “not guaranteed that anyone in good health  who takes these vitamins would increase life expectancy,” Autier said.

In the review, the researchers found that 5.5 percent of the 35,412 people who didn’t take vitamin D or calcium died during the study period, whereas 5.3 percent of the 35,116 people who took vitamin D died.

Taking vitamin D, with or without calcium, had a significant effect on mortality rates only after three years; mortality rates were not significantly different among those taking the vitamin after one or two years, according to the study.

Vitamin D and calcium are important throughout life, because of their role in bone health, Rejnmark said. But he recommends people start paying particular attention to their intake “around menopause for women, and around the age of 50 for men.”

While the review was based on studies of people who took supplements, Rejnmark said he does not believe the benefits would be any different for people who get the nutrients through food.

Autier noted that the greatest source of vitamin D is what the skin makes naturally when it is exposed to sunlight. People with darker skin tones, who are less able to produce vitamin D  in response to sunlight, should consider supplements as a viable option, he said.

A total of 87 percent of the studies’ participants were female, but Rejnmark said this had no bearing on the results, and vitamin D and calcium are equally beneficial to both sexes in terms of preserving longevity.

More from MyHealthNewsDaily:

9 Good Sources of Disease-Fighter Vitamin D

8 Tips for Healthy Aging

7 Common Summer Health Concerns

via Can taking vitamin D and calcium help you live longer? – Vitals.

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Response to painkillers may be linked to genetics


Response to painkillers may be linked to genetics

Susan E. Matthews

MyHealthNewsDaily

How the body responds to opiates — the powerful, pain-relieving drugs that carry a high potential for addiction — may be partly determined by genetics, according to a new study.

Researchers studied 121 pairs of twins to look at the role of genetics in people’s reactions to the pain medications. They found that genetic predisposition accounted for 59 percent of the variation between people’s levels of nausea, 36 percent of the differences in how much people disliked the drug and 38 percent of the variation in itchiness in reaction to the drug.

The findings are important because the degree to which people experience unpleasant side effects, and like or dislike the drugs, can be a sign of how effectively the drugs treat their pain, and their potential to develop addiction, the researchers said. Liking a drug increases the susceptibility to addiction, while experiencing negative side effects decreases it.

Genetics matter … people are different, and if we understand why they are different, we can take better care of them,” said study author Dr. Martin Angst, professor of anesthesia at the Stanford University Medical Center.

It’s well-known that the pain relievers cause extremely different reactions in people, but the new study gives researchers a better understanding of how genetics could play a role in those reactions.

“Patients vary dramatically in how much pain relief they get, what extent they suffer from opiates and how much pleasure they get from opiates,” Angst said.

Opiates: reactions and addictions

Nearly 2 million people in the U.S. are addicted to prescription painkillers, a 2009 government survey found, and the problem is growing. Painkiller addiction often begins with a patient taking legitimate prescriptions.

Researchers believe the addiction problem could be curbed if people’s reactions to the drugs were better understood, or could be predicted. Some patients may require 10 times the typical dose for adequate pain relief; others prefer lower doses that cause less extreme side effects, even though it means experiencing more pain.

In the study, participants were randomly assigned to receive either a small amount of a short-acting opiate or a placebo, followed by a heat probe or ice-cold water. Researchers spent 6 hours with each participant, but didn’t know which treatment they’d received. General tolerance to pain was also assessed by applying the heat probe or cold water without any medication.

The study demonstrated that one of the most uncomfortable side effects, nausea, is strongly inherited, as genes account for almost two-thirds of variability between people.

The more severe side effects that come with opiates include slow breathing, which can result in death. Genetics accounted for 30 percent of the variation between people in respiratory depression, and 32 percent of dizziness, the study found.

Opiates represent a “double-edged sword — they’re really important drugs to relieve pain, but they come along with side effects,” Angst said.

More personalized treatment

This line of research could result in a more personalized approach to administering the medications, the researchers said. Someday, people could be screened prior to use so doctors could understand their predispositions, and respond appropriately.

For example, screening could prevent a patient with a low tolerance for opiates from getting a high dose that could bring such euphoric feelings that they predispose the person to seek out the drug in the future, which could be the start of an addiction, said Dr. Doo-Sup Choi, who studies addiction at the Mayo Clinic.

Angst said further research must be done to determine which genes affect tolerance.

The study of 242 participants was large considering the amount of time spent with participants, and it was well-designed and well-performed, Choi said.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Anesthesiology.

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via Response to painkillers may be linked to genetics – Vitals.

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A Simple Strategy to Let Go of Painful Thoughts and Feelings


English: Managing emotions - Identifying feelings

English: Managing emotions – Identifying feelings (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No one wants to experience pain.  Whether it’s physical, emotional or mental, once we’ve encountered pain, it’s natural to want it to end.

But, if you pay attention, you will likely find that there are certain emotionally or mentally painful circumstances that you get caught in.  Maybe it’s the angry thoughts about someone who has hurt you or pessimistic thinking about troubles you have faced.

Each of us has a tendency to get caught in certain types of thinking that prolongs painful emotions.  Instead of enjoying a relaxing evening, we might find ourselves ruminating on something hurtful someone said or rather than solving a difficult problem and moving on, you may find you are again and again drawn to thoughts about how unfair your circumstances are.

Sometimes it seems as if the mind just wants to hold on to these painful thoughts and circumstances.  Even as we try to get rid of unpleasant thoughts, we may find ourselves rethinking and reliving painful situations.

Try this:

  • Take a situation that you often find yourself either avoiding and pushing away or painful stuck in.  It may be a situation in which you are ruminating and worried or one that you are fearful of and want to avoid dealing with.
  • When you encounter that situation or thoughts and feelings about that situation, don’t attempt to engage in thinking about it and, at the same time, don’t try to push your thoughts and feelings away.
  • Focus instead on noticing your experience.  You might say to yourself “I’m thinking angry thoughts about that” or “It’s painful to remember my mistake.”  Allow yourself to observe, without judging the situation, your thoughts about the situation or your feelings.

Over time, as you observe your own internal response to this situation, you will find that you no longer need to ruminate about it or push it away.  You will be able to recognize your self-judgments and criticisms of others and let them be.  The pain and the need to attach to it or push it away will pass and you will be able to let it go.

Still having trouble letting go?  In his book, Full Catastrophe LivingJon Kabat-Zinn suggests that when something has a strong hold on your mind, try to direct your attention to what “holding on” feels like.  Become an expert in understanding your own attachment to this worry or problem.  Even when you are struggling to let go, you can become skilled at understanding yourself and the consequences of both holding on and letting go.

You can find more strategies to improve how you feel in my new book, The Stress Response and by clicking here to sign up for more of my tips and here for podcasts using DBT strategies to improve how you feel.

 

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5 mind-bending facts about dreams


sleep

sleep (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

5 mind-bending facts about dreams

By Jeanna Bryner

LiveScience

When your head hits the pillow, for many it’s lights out for the conscious part of you. But the cells firing in your brain are very much awake, sparking enough energy to produce the sometimes vivid and sometimes downright haunted dreams that take place during the rapid-eye-movement stage of your sleep.

Why do some people have nightmares while others really spend their nights in bliss? Like sleep, dreams are mysterious phenomena. But as scientists are able to probe deeper into our minds, they are finding some of those answers.

Here’s some of what we know about what goes on in dreamland.

1. Violent dreams can be a warning sign

As if nightmares weren’t bad enough, a rare sleep disorder — called REM sleep behavior disorder — causes people to act out their dreams, sometimes with violent thrashes, kicks and screams. Such violent dreams may be an early sign of brain disorders down the line, including Parkinson’s disease and dementia, according to research published online July 28, 2010, in the journal Neurology. The results suggest the incipient stages of these neurodegenerative disorders might begin decades before a person, or doctor, knows it.

2. Night owls have more nightmares

Staying up late has its perks, but whimsical dreaming is not one of them. Research published in 2011 in the journal Sleep and Biological Rhythms, revealed that night owls are more likely than their early-bird counterparts to experience nightmares.

In the study 264 university students rated how often they experienced nightmares on a scale from 0 to 4, never to always, respectively. The stay-up-late types scored, on average, a 2.10, compared with the morning types who averaged a 1.23. The researchers said the difference was a significant one, however, they aren’t sure what’s causing a link between sleep habits and nightmares. Among their ideas is the stress hormone cortisol, which peaks in the morning right before we wake up, a time when people are more prone to be in REM, or dream, sleep. If you’re still sleeping at that time, the cortisol rise could trigger vivid dreams or nightmares, the researchers speculate. [ Top 10 Spooky Sleep Disorders ]

3. Men dream about sex

As in their wake hours, men also dream about sex more than women do. And comparing notes in the morning may not be a turn-on for either guys or gals, as women are more likely to have experienced nightmares, suggests doctoral research reported in 2009 by psychologist Jennie Parker of the University of the West of England.

She found women’s dreams/nightmares could be grouped into three categories: fearful dreams (being chased or having their life threatened); dreams involving the loss of a loved one; or confused dreams.

4. You can control your dreams

If you’re interested in lucid dreaming, you may want to take up video gaming. The link? Both represent alternate realities, said Jayne Gackenbach, a psychologist at Grant MacEwan University in Canada.

“If you’re spending hours a day in a virtual reality, if nothing else it’s practice,” Gackenbach told LiveScience in 2010. “Gamers are used to controlling their game environments, so that can translate into dreams.” Her past research has shown that people who frequently play video games are more likely than non-gamers to have lucid dreams where they view themselves from outside their bodies; they were also better able to influence their dream worlds, as if controlling a video-game character.

That level of control may also help gamers turn a bloodcurdling nightmare into a carefree dream, she found in a 2008 study. This ability could help war veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Gackenbach reasoned.

5. Why we dream

Scientists have long wondered why we dream, with answers ranging from Sigmund Freud’s idea that dreams fulfill our wishes to the speculation that these wistful journeys are just a side effect of rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. Turns out, at least part of the reason may be critical thinking, suggests Harvard psychologist Deirdre Barrett who presented her theory in 2010 at the Association for Psychological Science meeting in Boston.

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Her research revealed that our slumbering hours may help us solve puzzles that have plagued us during daylight hours. The visual and often illogical aspects of dreams make them perfect for the out-of-the-box thinking that is necessary to solve some problems, she speculates.

So while dreams may have originally evolved for another purpose, they have likely been refined over time for multiple tasks, including helping the brain reboot and helping us solve problems, she said.

via 5 mind-bending facts about dreams – Vitals.

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Early male friendship as a precursor to substance abuse in girls


Two girls

Two girls (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

The findings show that girls tend to initiate the transition to a mixed-gender friendship network earlier than boys, and continue this transition at a faster pace during adolescence. As a result girls who experienced this transition early and fast were more likely to develop substance abuse problems during late adolescence.

Researchers followed a sample of almost 400 adolescents (58% girls), aged twelve to eighteen, from a large French-speaking school district in Canada. They were interviewed annually over a seven-year period about their friendship network and their use of alcohol and drugs.

Lead author Dr. François Poulin, “Peer relationships are considered to be one of the main risk factors for substance use. However, for boys, the formation of other-sex friendships is not associated with later substance use problems. Boys reported receiving higher levels of emotional support from their other-sex friends, whereas girls receive more support from their same-sex friends. It is possible that having other-sex friends is protective for boys because they gain emotional support and are therefore less likely to engage in problem behavior.”

The study finds that among girls, antisocial behavior and early pubertal maturation accelerated the increase in the proportion of other-sex friends. Compared to their same-sex friends, girls tended to form friendships with older males in out-of-school contexts. Since the legal drinking age is 18 in Canada, it may simply be more difficult for younger girls to purchase their own alcohol, thus older boys become one point of access for this substance. The study findings imply that parents may wish to take a more active role in monitoring their daughters’ friendships, especially with older boys.

The authors maintain that by middle adolescence, once this transition has been completed, the impact of other-sex friendships on girls’ maladjustment fades away. Mixed-gender networks then become more normative and girls are more likely to form romantic relationships with their male peers. The influence of boys on girls’ substance-using behavior might then operate in the context of these romantic relationships.

The authors suggest that future studies should also examine the longitudinal associations between other-sex friends and other outcomes such as educational achievement and antisocial behavior. Finally, aspects of these other-sex friendships in early adolescence should be more carefully investigated, including the setting in which they take place, their linkages with the rest of the youth’s friendship network, and parental supervision of these new emerging relationships

via Early male friendship as a precursor to substance abuse in girls.

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In Adolescence, Girls React Differently Than Boys To Peers’ Judgments


English: Sagittal MRI slice with highlighting ...

English: Sagittal MRI slice with highlighting (red) indicating the nucleus accumbens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The study, by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and Georgia State University, appears in the July/August 2009 issue of the journal Child Development.

The researchers looked at mostly White psychiatrically healthy Americans ages 9 to 17 to determine what happens in the brains of preteens and teens at a time of significant change in social behavior. The youths looked at photos of peers and rated their interest in interacting with each one. Then they underwent a brain scan while reviewing the pictures and rated how much each young person in the picture might want to interact with them in return. The youths were told they would be matched with a peer for a chat after the scan.

The study found that in older girls (as compared to younger girls), brain regions (the nucleus accumbens, insula, hypothalamus, hippocampus, and amygdala) associated with social rewards and motivation, processing emotions, hormonal changes, and social memory responded differently when they thought about being judged by their peers, especially peers with whom they wanted to interact. These differences were not evident between younger and older boys.

“The findings offer a fresh perspective on how changes in the brain relate to changes in the way young people think and feel about how their peers view them,” according to Amanda E. Guyer, a research fellow at NIMH, who led the study. “They are relevant for parents, teachers, and clinicians who are trying to help teens adjust socially during adolescence. They may be especially relevant for girls, who are more likely than boys to feel anxious and depressed at this time.”

via In Adolescence, Girls React Differently Than Boys To Peers’ Judgments.

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Do You Fall into This Happiness Trap?


Do You Fall into This Happiness Trap?

By GRETCHEN RUBIN

It’s very easy to fall into the happiness trap of false choices — of thinking you can either do X or Y, and those are the only two choices you have.

False choices are tempting for a couple of reasons. First, instead of facing a bewildering array of options, you limit yourself to a few simple possibilities. Also, the way you set up the options often makes it obvious that one choice is the high-minded and reasonable choice, and one is not.

But although false choices can be comforting, they can leave you feeling trapped, and they can blind you to other choices you might make.

“I’d rather have a few true friends instead of tons of shallow friends.”

You don’t have to choose between a “real” few and “superficial” many. I have intimate friends and casual friends. I have work friends whom I never see outside a professional context. I have childhood friends whom I see only once every ten years. I have several friends whose spouses I’ve never met. I have online friends whom I’ve never met face-to-face. These friendships aren’t all of equal importance to me, but they all add warmth and color to my life.

“I think it’s more important to worry about other people’s happiness, instead of thinking only about myself and my own happiness.”

Why do you have to choose? You can think about your happiness and other people’s happiness. In fact, as summed up in the Second Splendid Truth, thinking about your own happiness will help you make others happy. And vice versa!

“Either I can be financially secure, or I can have a job I enjoy.”

“If I don’t want to live in a chaotic, clutter-filled house, I need to get rid of all my stuff.”

“I’d rather have an interesting life than a happy life.”

“It’s more important to be authentic and honest than it is to be positive and enthusiastic.”

Can you find a way to be authentically enthusiastic or honestly positive? In my experience, it’s often possible, though it can take a little extra work.

“I can care about people, or I can care about possessions.”

From Eleanor Roosevelt: “Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product.”

Happiness is a goal and a by-product. Nietzche explained this well: “The end of a melody is not its goal; but nonetheless, if the melody had not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable.”

One of my Secrets of Adulthood is “The opposite of a great truth is also true.” Sometimes, the falsity of a false choice comes from the fact that both choices are true. I have more time than I think and less time than I think. I can accept myself and expect more from myself. I want an empty shelf, and I want a junk drawer.

In further illustration of that point, false choices themselves can sometimes be unhelpful but at other times, helpful.

A false choice can be an indirect way for you to figure out what you really want; the way you’ve framed the question reveals the path you want to take. For instance, a reader emailed me and, after a long explanation of his situation, wrote, “So the question is: do I decide to risk everything to pursue a life of meaning and happiness, or do I stay stuck in my boring job?” That may have been a false choice, but in any event, it was pretty clear he’d made his decision!

via Do You Fall into This Happiness Trap? | World of Psychology.

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