Health and Disease, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Lack of Sleep and Diabetes Link


Lack of Sleep and Diabetes Linked


New research links lack of sleep with heightened risk for type 2 diabetes in youth


A new review of scientific literature on the importance of sleep in youth suggests that a lack of sleep can lead to decreased appetite control and body weight regulation, all of which can raise risks for the development of type 2 diabetes.


The largest decline in sleep duration and poor sleep quality over the past decades has been seen in children and adolescents, a trend that earlier studies say may contribute to weight gain, increased risks for cardiovascular disease and poor mental health.


This new review of evidence, published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes, has looked at 23 studies on the topic of risk factors for type 2 diabetes and sleep variables to try and elucidate the mechanisms that may explain the association between the two.


Researchers from Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, in Canada, reviewed studies that not only assessed risks from inadequate sleep, described as sleeping less than six hours per night – a two-hour or so sleep deficit compared to standard advice for children – but also sleep architecture.


A healthy sleep architecture refers to having the right number of restorative sleep cycles and rapid eye movement phases to feel sufficiently well-rested. An out of whack sleep architecture has been associated in past studies with insulin resistance.


In terms of sleep duration, researchers have found that the lowest risk for type 2 diabetes is observed, similar to the figure given for adults, at a minimum sleep duration of seven to eight hours per day.


Drawing from the findings of the different studies evaluated, they have identified a number of mechanisms by which the lack of sleep can elevate risks for type 2 diabetes among children.


One of them, perhaps the most prominent one, is the increased exposure to the stress hormone cortisol due to short sleep duration. This may contribute to the accumulation of visceral fat and subsequent increased insulin resistance.


The reason for this is that the authors also noted that the association between sleep quality and insulin resistance was not independent of the level of adiposity – the increase in the number of fat cells.


There may also be another phenomenon implicated that has to do with the nervous system which, in response to the stress of not sleeping, negatively influences the hormone leptin.


While we sleep, leptin usually rise to control appetite. However, when sleep is restricted, leptin gets inhibited. The inhibition of leptin leads to an increase in hunger and a decrease in satiety. These effects can translate into progressive weight gain.


Sleep is a modifiable lifestyle habit associated with the prevention of type 2 diabetes. One randomised trial that was part of the review conducted among children aged 8 to 11 years showed that increasing sleep duration by just 1.5 hour per night over a week resulted in lower food intake and lower body weight.


Although more studies are needed to shed light on the mechanisms linking insufficient sleep with type 2 diabetes risk, there’s no possible risk in children and teens improving their sleep and getting enough of it on a regular schedule each night.


If you need help, have concerns or just want a healthcare plan for YOU, then contact us and we will help you.


Health and Wellness Associates





Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Fun and Fitness


Fun and Fitness


Incorporating play can make your workout more effective, inspiring, and fun – just like when you were a kid.


I’m standing in a circle with 10 fitness enthusiasts in an open field, the brilliant Pacific Northwest sunshine taking the edge off the chill in the air. Clapping his hands, Frank Forencich, a 61-year-old with the muscularity of a college fullback, gives the group a simple directive: “OK, let’s play!”


With that, he charges a petite, vital woman named Dawni Rae at full speed, arms outstretched as if to throw her to the ground. In one fluid move, Rae sidesteps the attack, grabs a shoulder, and sends him sprawling to the ground in a harmless forward roll. Everyone — Forencich, Rae, and the assembled, multinational group of participants — bursts into laughter.


We take turns attacking and defending, then move on to other activities: keep-away with medicine balls, spinning Hula-Hoops, and walking around in a half-squat, back to back with a partner, like twins joined at the shoulder blades.


Forty-five minutes later, we’re covered in sweat, breath condensing in the air, hearts beating rapidly, muscles aching. No one has been counting reps or working to failure or feeling the burn. Instead, we’ve been having high-spirited, good-natured fun — not unlike the improvised play that school kids enjoy at recess. And the result is an invigorating, effective full-body workout.


For more than a decade, Forencich — author of Beautiful Practice: A Whole-Life Approach to Health, Performance and the Human Predicament and founder of Exuberant Animal, a wellness program based near Seattle — has been making a similar point: Our stressed-out, teched-up, sedentary lives have led us to forget about our bodies. Exercise has become an obligation that we perform by rote, rather than a vital, engaging activity that stimulates learning, facilitates vitality, and fosters social connection.


Supported by the growing scientific field of “play studies,” Forencich believes that physical playfulness — vigorous, lighthearted, exploratory movement — is an essential, but oft-forgotten, key to physical and mental health. He holds regular workshops and retreats to allow participants to experience this firsthand.


“Play gives you all the physical benefits of moving while also connecting your sensory systems to the world around you,” he explains as we wrap up our day. “It’s the bridge between your body and the environment.”


It may also be the very thing that makes the ways you move more interesting, efficient, and fun again. Just like when you were a kid.



So what exactly is play? One dictionary defines it as “occupying oneself in an activity for amusement or recreation.” Another describes it by what it’s not: serious.


In the animal world, play is usually easy to identify. Dogs chase each other and mock-fight, pretending to growl, their claws harmlessly retracted and backing off before truly biting. Lions, tigers, and bears play in a similar fashion.


Among humans, play is a broader concept, encompassing activities like games, sports, gambling, and even painting. There’s a reason a theatrical performance is called a play.


Defining play is also subjective: Skydiving may be a blast for you but terrifying for your aunt — or vice versa. Bridge may be a hoot for your brother, stultifying to you. One person’s play can be another person’s poison.


Stuart Brown, MD, founder of the National Institute for Play in Carmel Valley, Calif., a nonprofit committed to “bringing the unrealized knowledge, practices, and benefits of play into public life,” defines it both objectively and subjectively.


First and foremost, he says, play is “apparently purposeless.” In his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Brown writes, “Play activities don’t seem to have any survival value. They don’t help in getting money or food. However, the brain circuits that prompt play are housed in the survival centers of the brain.”


There are long-term, extrinsic benefits to playing: Sport and art, for example, may eventually bring wealth and fame to athletes and artists. But for an activity to qualify as play, that’s not the immediate focus.


“Play is done for its own sake,” continues Brown. “The cultural commonly held misconception about play is that it is trivial, or just for kids. That’s why some people think of it as a waste of time.”


Brown also defines play as having these characteristics:


It’s voluntary: No one who is forced onto the baseball field and hates every minute of it is really playing.

It has inherent attraction: It’s naturally fun and exciting to the player.

It has improvisational potential: It’s structured — but with room for spontaneity.

It instills a sense of freedom from time: When you’re fully engaged in play, you lose track of the minutes ticking by.

It brings a diminished conscious–ness of self: “We stop worrying about whether we look good or awkward, smart or stupid,” writes Brown.

It inspires a desire to continue the activity: You feel an urge to do it again and again.

It flows from deeply embedded intrinsic motivation: Its rewards, in addition to being fun, sustain increased mastery and lifelong motivation. “It is how children — and most adults — fully engage in the world,” Brown says.

Risk and novelty are fundamental to human play. Somersaults are fun — and a little risky — when you first learn them. Once you master them, you might need to learn other moves so playfulness doesn’t become drudgery.


Though it’s not required, partnership is another beneficial component. Working together toward a common goal or going head to head in a friendly competitive spar adds an element of fun that’s difficult (or impossible) to experience on your own. A sense of camaraderie can infuse even menial tasks with an undeniable sense of fun.


“Play is an antidote to fear,” says Forencich at the end of our long but exhilarating play-filled day. “It’s a way of saying, You’re safe to risk a little: Have fun, and you won’t get hurt.”



Every creature — animal and human, young and old, male and female — engages in “apparently purposeless” play, but why?


One answer is practice. Lion cubs, for example, tussle playfully with their siblings to learn skills they’ll later apply to hunting antelope. Our ancestors were responding to a similar evolutionary impulse when they invented games and organized sports to prepare themselves for hunting and battle. Amidst all the frivolity, the argument goes, vigorous physical play builds coordination and strengthens muscles to sharpen us for the dangerous business of survival.


This Darwinian explanation has merit, but it’s not the whole story. The benefits of play appear to run deeper.


Based on his long-term studies of rats and play, Sergio M. Pellis, PhD, professor of neuroscience at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, explains that exposing young rats to an “unpredictable loss of control” in play fighting “produces adults who are more able to deal with the vicissitudes of life.”


This appears to be true for humans as well, and it applies to both sedentary and active forms of play.


Playing a musical instrument as a child not only improves the ability to discern pitch and rhythm but also staves off memory loss, cognitive decline, and poor hearing later in life. One Harvard study found motor and auditory improvements after just 15 months of musical training in early childhood.


Two recent studies found that young girls who play sports are fitter as adults and also have better education, career, and health prospects. And a 2010 study discovered that practicing visual arts fostered more than an appreciation of Van Gogh: Among patients with chronic illness, art classes resulted in improved well-being, reduced stress, and measurably better medical outcomes.


Play may also help us learn more effectively. A study of rats found that those raised in a “social, playful, and otherwise stimulating environment” were faster learners than those raised in less-stimulating environments. Rats that were moved into these enhanced environments showed increased neuron production in the hippocampus, an area of the brain vital to memory and learning.


A 2013 study of Emory University students found that reading novels — a form of cognitive play — has lasting beneficial effects on our brain connectivity.


So play’s benefits are neurological as well as physiological. The urge to play resides in areas of the brain less sophisticated and more impulsive than the areas that drive most of our daily actions, says Forencich. And that’s a huge plus: It means that play has the capacity to nudge us away from overintellectualizing and into a more creative, improvisational, intuitive state of being.


Play, it appears, helps our minds — and at the same time, helps us get out of our heads.



Sadly, though, our jam-packed schedules leave us with little time or patience for the open-endedness of play. “There’s this huge misconception in modern society that play is a waste of time, that it’s a distraction from the real work of being alive,” says Forencich. “In fact, it’s integral to life. It’s a big part of what keeps us productive and healthy.”


It’s all too common for this innate urge to be stifled — even in our children. Many grade schools no longer allow recess time; and at home, kids flock to digital screens to “play” games.


This “play deprivation” — when it’s a substitute for face-to-face play or immersion in nature — has measurable, detrimental effects, says Brown. Based on the detailed play histories of more than 6,000 people, he concluded in a 2014 Scholarpedia report that healthy play patterns are “linked to personal vitality, resilience, optimism, and well-being.” A lack of play, especially in the first 10 years of life, is connected to depression, aggression, addiction, inflexibility, diminished impulse control, and poor interpersonal relationships.


Our bodies and minds are hungry for play. And when it comes to movement, specifically, Forencich argues that the conventional mindset in response to this need — thinking we need to grind away on machines that typically lend themselves to repetitive motions — is incomplete and imbalanced. Many forms of exercise burn calories and tone muscles, he says, but controlled and convenient forms of movement lack novelty, risk, and many of the other qualities that make play appealing and effective.


“As soon as you take risk away, movement becomes less playful and more like work,” he explains. “It’s right there in our word for movement: workout.”


After three days together, the 10 members of the Exuberant Animal retreat pack up to go our separate ways. As is customary following gatherings like this, there are hugs, phone numbers exchanged, plans laid for next steps. But this feels different.


Asked at the end of the retreat what the most powerful part of the weekend was, all of us reply, “The tribe.” This comes after three days of fresh new games, beautiful vistas, and home-cooked meals. Still, of all that was offered, what we liked best was each other.


And that may be the ideal testament to the magic of play. A weekend of playful activity in which we’d risked embarrassment, bruises, and good-natured ribbing had forced all of us to show up fully, fostering a sense of mutual trust while considerably compressing the usual getting-to-know-you time.


As we discovered, and as science is demonstrating more clearly, play isn’t just good for us as individuals. It’s good for a group as a whole — the special something that draws us, and keeps us, together.


Health and Wellness Associates




Photography by Terry Brennan

Pets, Uncategorized

Dogs are Dying from the Flu


Dog flu found in Florida for first time


Veterinarians have uncovered seven cases of dog flu in Florida two years after the potentially fatal disease swept through about 10 states, Florida health officials said.


The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said the cases of H3N2 canine influenza were found at the University of Florida, which listed another six pending cases of the disease.


The “highly contagious” virus infected about 1,000 dogs in Chicago in 2015, with positive diagnoses occurring in a number of other states. Officials said it’s the first time the disease has been found in Florida.


The dogs are reported in stable condition.


The University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine reported there is no evidence the disease can infect humans, but it can spread to cats. It exists in the animal’s respiratory tract, causing coughing, sneezing, fever and life-threatening pneumonia. Most dogs are treated at home, although the disease sometimes requires hospitalization.


The disease can result in death.


Dog flu can spread by direct or indirect contact with humans or places already contaminated by the disease. Dogs most at risk are those around other dogs at dog parks, grooming parlors and veterinary clinics. Most dogs aren’t immune to the disease, although a vaccination exists.


The disease is so easily spreadable that UF advises those who suspect their pet has the disease to not take their dog into a veterinarian waiting room. Instead, the dog should enter through a separate entrance and the entire area should be disinfected before another animal enters.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that the disease is an avian flu virus that adapted and spread to dogs. It was first detected in South Korea in 2007 before making its way to the United States in 2015.


Symptoms and Types of Canine Influenza


Dogs that are infected with the canine influenza virus may develop two different syndromes:


Mild – These dogs will have a cough that is typically moist and can have nasal discharge. Occasionally, it will be more of a dry cough. In most cases, the symptoms will last 10 to 30 days and usually will go away on its own.

Severe – Generally, these dogs have a high fever (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and develop signs very quickly. Pneumonia, specifically hemorrhagic pneumonia, can develop. The influenza virus affects the capillaries in the lungs, so the dog may cough up blood and have trouble breathing if there is bleeding into the alveoli (air sacs). Patients may also be infected with bacterial pneumonia, which can further complicate the situation.


General signs of these syndromes include:








Red and/or runny eyes and runny nose may be seen in some dogs. In most cases, there is a history of contact with other dogs that carried the virus.


Diagnosing the Dog Flu


Besides a physical, the veterinarian will want to perform a complete blood count and clinical chemistry on the dog. Usually, increases are seen in the white blood cells, specifically the neutrophils, a white blood cell that is destructive to microorganisms. X-rays (radiographs) can be taken of the dog’s lungs to characterize the type of pneumonia.


Another diagnostic tool called a bronchoscope can be used to see the trachea and larger bronchi. Cell samples can also be collected by conducting a bronchial wash or a bronchoalveolar lavage. These samples will typically have large amounts of neutrophils and may contain bacteria.


Detecting the virus itself is very difficult and is usually not recommended. There is a blood (serological) test that can support a canine influenza diagnosis. In most cases, a blood sample is taken after initial symptoms develop and then again two to three weeks later.



Health and Wellness Associates