Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough Sleep?

What happens when you don't get enough sleep? Strangely, it's much like overspending; you accumulate a debt. Suppose you manage to get only five hours of sleep on a particular night, and you need eight. The following day you will have a sleep debt of three hours -- and you will feel it. You will likely feel lousy, and likely drink several cups of coffee to stay awake. Like the bank, your body doesn't forget: when you owe it a debt, it wants to be paid back, and it won't let you feel good until you settle your account.
      A sleep debt can arise in several ways. You can, for  example, get an hour less sleep than you need over the five work days of the week. You then have a debt of five hours. This is why many people sleep in on the weekend -- they are trying to pay it off. Fortunately there is something about a sleep debt that is unlike a monetary debt. You can accumulate a relatively large debt, say ten hours, over a few days, but you don't have to pay back all ten hours to feel better. Usually after one night of a ten hour sleep you'll feel much better. Nevertheless, you have to be careful of a sleep debt, particularly if you are driving.
     Surprisingly, a sleep debt can also help you. When you are getting ready for bed at night you have a large sleep debt from the 16 hours you have been awake. Since you are awake two hour for every hour you sleep, your debt is 8 hours. But with a debt of 8 hours you will not fall asleep very fast, and you might wake up in the night. If you have a slightly larger sleep debt, say 10 hours, you will fall asleep fast and stay asleep. Of course we don't want too much of a sleep debt so we have to find a happy balance.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What do Dreams Mean?

This is an interesting question. Do dreams really mean anything? Sigmund Freud was one of the first to tackle this problem. He suggested they were repressed longings, or desires that we weren't able to carry out in our real life, and as you might expect, most of his interpretations centered on sexual desires and symbolism, and needless to say they were controversial. Carl Jung, who studied under Freud, broke away from his teachers ideas and decided that dreams were merely a reflection of our waking life, and attempts to solve the problems in it.
These ideas were taken seriously until the early 1970's when Allan Hobson and Robert McCarthy suggested that dreams were the result of random electrical impulses that created images from experiences stored in our memory. It was well known at the time that when certain areas of the brain were probed, the person "saw" stored images. Hobson and McCarthy believed that something similar was going on in the case of dreams. But it was known that when we are probed we see only singular images.  Hobson and McCarthy believed that our minds, in trying to make sense of these images, connected them into a story. The idea created a lot of interest, but it was controversial, and still is. Scientists are still not sure why we dream and what they mean. Sleep expert William Dement of Stanford University feels that they do have meaning, and it is likely related to things our conscious mind represses. He writes "dreams may hold profound implications not just about ourselves, but about the nature of consciousness and the deepest working of the human mind."
Many of today's scientists believe that they are nothing more than probed memories. Nevertheless, there are indications that dreams help people deal with their emotional problems

Monday, June 6, 2011

What Everyone Should Know About the Dangers of Cell Phones

How dangerous are cell phones? To answer this it is best to begin by looking at how they work. When you receive a call on one, an electromagnetic signal is beamed from the nearest  cell phone tower. (These towers dot the landscape so you're never very far from one.) The signal is picked up by the antenna on your phone, and this antenna is only a few inches from your brain, so that 70 to 80 percent of the energy of the signal passes through you skull, and much of it penetrates well into your brain. Furthermore, if you happen to be in a car, or where the signal is particularly weak, the intensity of the radiation is much greater.

One of the main arguments against the dangers of cell phone radiation is that the signal is low energy radio frequency (RF) radiation, and this energy is too low to have any effect. Although the signal is near the radio frequency range, it's actually microwave radiation -- the same radiation that is used in  your microwave oven. The central argument along this line is that although these waves are used for heating (as in a microwave oven) the energy of the phone waves is too low to heat tissue. And, indeed, this is true; they are at least a thousand times weaker than the microwaves in a microwave oven. But it's important to remember that low energy microwaves are chosen for cooking because they easily penetrate food, not because they are highly energetic (because they're not). Another argument on their safety is that they are not ionizing, so they cannot knock electrons from atoms and cause such things as free radicals (which can do a lot of damage). Again, this is true, but as any physicist will tell you, you don't need ionizing radiation to do a lot of damage. Non-ionizing radiation is quite capable on its own.

The question we need to ask is: Are the microwaves in cell phones powerful  (energetic) enough to cause damage to brain cells? They are, indeed, low power devices. Early analog devices used about 1.3 watts, and more recent digital phones use about .2 to .6 watts. This is obviously a lot less than the 60 watt light bulbs you have in your house, and miles less than the 600 to 1100 watts your microwave oven uses. But is it enough less?

To answer this, let's look at why radiation is so dangerous to us. As it turns out, radiations of different types vary in the amount of damage they can do to the body. In most cases, the more energetic the radiation, the greater the damage. Everyone knows that x-rays are particularly dangerous. They are highly energetic, highly penetrating, and can easily pass through your body. And while they are passing through, they encounter a lot of cells and break up the DNA within them, and this in turn causes "mutations" or defects that change the "code of life" that is contained within your DNA. So x-rays aren't something you want around you.

Some types of radiation, such as infrared and ultraviolet, however, aren't terribly dangerous, as long as you aren't exposed to them for long. (But as you likely know, infrared radiation can burn your skin, and ultraviolet can also be dangerous if the exposure is very long.) All of these radiations, along with ordinary light and microwaves, are electromagnetic waves, and all are forms of energy. Microwaves are less energetic than any of the other, so it might seem that they wouldn't be much of a threat. But we have to look at how they could be dangerous in other ways. One of the problems is that they are very penetrating and can easily penetrate the skull and brain. Because of this we have to consider what they could do once they are inside our body. In particular, we have to consider are their effect on:
  • Our DNA
  • On the functioning of our cells
  • On the neurons in our brain
Consider our DNA first. As we saw earlier, there's little chance of direct damage to our DNA; microwaves can't break or ionize it, nevertheless they can cause mutations within it. Mutations are dangerous because they change the "code of life" (or, genetic information) that is contained in our DNA, and this genetic information controls everything that happens in our body. In particular, it produces all the proteins that are needed to keep our body running (and alive). This code is held in place by very weak bonds called hydrogen bonds, and microwaves can break them, or at least have an effect on them. Studies have also shown that DNA produces a particular type of protein when it is stressed, usually referred to as "stress protein." When these proteins are produced, your DNA is telling your body that something harmful is happening. And it is well-known the when DNA absorbs microwaves it produces stress proteins in abundance.

The DNA within your cells also controls the various functions of the cells, and one of the most important of these is how the cell reacts to objects and other cells that come in contact with its surface. To deal with them it has "receptors" on its surface; they determine whether or not to let something pass through. Nutrients are, of course, needed to sustain the cell and keep it healthy, and they must pass through. But there are millions of dangerous things such as bacteria, toxins, viruses and so on, that are also trying to get through. The receptors have to make sure they don't get in. In addition, these receptors control cell division; they start and stop it.

So, what has this to do with microwaves? Studies have shown that microwaves can knock out these receptors, and change the way they act. And this can have serious effects for the cell.

ells) within the brain. In effect, they can interact with the "brain waves" within the brain and change them.

Each of these has to make you think.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ten Tests That Everyone Needs to Assure Themselves They are in Good Health

How healthy are You? One of the best ways to tell is to test yourself and there are several tests you can do. Ten of the best are described below. I'll talk about some of them in more detail in later articles
  1. Pulse Rate: Your pulse rate tells you a lot about the health of your heart. Not only should you test your "resting" pulse rate, but you should also test yourself  during and after exercise. And one of the best tests is your "recovery rate." For this you walk on a treadmill for 10 to 12 minutes, or until you are about 80% of your maximum heart rate. Wait for one minute after you stop and take your heart rate. If it has decreased by about 20 beats per minute you are likely in good shape. The greater the decrease, in fact, the stronger your heart is. I'll have more to say about this later.
  2. Blood Pressure:  I've already talked about blood pressure in some detail, so I won't say anything more about it here, except to emphasize its importance again. You should have readings in the range: Systolic: 100 -120 and diastolic in the range 70 -80. If they are higher make sure you do something about it,
  3. Cholesterol and Triglycerides: Cholesterol has got a lot of attention over the last few years, but it's surprising  how many people are still confused about it. The two forms of cholesterol are HDL and LDL. You've likely heard that HDL is referred to as "good cholesterol" and LDL as "bad cholesterol." This is true, but it's important to remember that both forms play an important role in your body. Overall you want: Your total cholesterol to be less than 200, your LDL to be less than 100 and your HDL to be as high as possible, but preferably higher than 40. Triglycerides should be less than 150.
  4. Body Fat: This is rather difficult to measure by yourself. Furthermore, the acceptable range depends on your age and it differs for men and women . For young men it should be in the range 8 - 20 and for older men it should be 12 - 25. For young women it should be 21 - 34, and for older women 24 - 35.
  5. BMI: This is closely associated with body fat, and it is an abbreviation for Body Mass Index. It gives you a good indication of how much body fat you have, and it's helpful in assessing your risk for heart disease. Again age (but it's not as critical here as above) and gender are important. The guidelines are: for men a BMI of 20 - 25 is acceptable; if you have anything over this you are overweight or obese. For women 19 - 24 is acceptable and anything over is too high.
  6. Waist to Hip Measurement: This one is closely associated with BMI and it's much easier to check. You can, in fact, easily do it yourself. Merely measure your waist at its narrowest point, then measure the widest part around your hips. Women should have a waist to hip ratio of less than .8. Men should have a number less than .95. Some people say this measurement is just as critical as cholesterol so it's a good thing to check.
  7. Aerobic Capacity (VO2 max): This is a good measure of how you process your oxygen, and whether you use it efficiently. It's not too complicated to take: you merely have to walk a mile and note your heart rate at the end of the time. The formula is a little complicated so I won't give it here (I'll talk about it later).
  8. Blood Sugar: This is a check to see whether you have diabetes. If you have it and know it, you're already checking your blood sugar several times a day. But surprisingly, many people with diabetes and pre-diabetes don't know they have it. And this is why you should get it checked periodically
  9. Bone Density: The bone density test is critical for older women, and the reason is that they are prone to osteoporosis. That's not to say that men don't get it; some of them do. This test measures the amount of calcium and other minerals in your bones, and it's a test that has to be taken by a doctor. If your bone density is low, you should increase the amount of calcium you are taking.
  10. CRP: This is the C-reactive protein test, and it is used to check for the presence of inflammation. We talked about inflammation in considerably detail earlier, and I pointed out that it is associated with many serious diseases, so it's something you should watch for.
      Barry Parker, Ph. D., author of " Feel Great, Feel Alive," and "Learn from Yesterday, Live for Today, Hope for Tomorrow." His webpage is Barryparkerbooks.com

Monday, May 30, 2011

High Blood Pressure II: A Ten Point Program For Controlling it

We looked at the major causes of high blood pressure in an earlier article. In this one we'll look at the best ways to control it.

One of the first things you can do is watch your diet. A diet called the DASH (Diet Appropriate for Stopping Hypertension) has been shown to be particularly effective. The major components of it are:
  • Eat more grains, vegetables and fruit.
  • Eat poultry, fish, nuts and seeds.
  • Limit the amount of salt in your diet.
  • Keep saturated fats to a minimum, and keep cholesterol low.
  • Use low fat or no fat dairy foods.
The DASH diet has been shown to reduce blood pressure by several points (11 for systolic and 5.5 for diastolic) in both men and women within a couple of weeks.

Potassium is particularly effective in lowering blood press. Many people do not get enough, but you have to be careful if you take potassium pills; it's easy to overdose on them. The best source of potassium is food, and some of the better foods are listed below
  • Bananas
  • Cantaloupe
  • Skim milk
  • Nectarine
  • Orange juice
  • Potatoes
  • Prunes
  • Beans
A number of other foods such as oranges, carrots, grapefruit, salmon and chicken are also fairly good sources

While you are increasing your potassium you should also take a second look at your intake of calcium and magnesium. They are also effective in lowering blood pressure. In general 1200 mg of calcium is recommended along with 400 mg of magnesium,

Now to our 10-point program. It is as follows:

  1. Exercise. Get on the treadmill and get your heart beating. People who are in good shape usually have lower blood pressure.
  2. Lower you salt intake. In particular, read labels on processed foods.
  3. Increase your potassium intake.
  4. Make sure you get enough calcium and magnesium.
  5. Control stress.
  6. Adhere to the DASH diet.
  7. Lower the  saturated fat in your diet.
  8. Lose weight if you are overweight.
  9. Get enough fiber in your diet.
  10. Stop smoking, and control alcohol.
If you can't get your blood pressure down with the above suggestions you should talk to your doctor. He may prescribe one or more of the following drugs.
  • Diuretics. This is a "water pill." It works by reducing the volume of blood.
  • ACE inhibitors. They work by relaxing the walls of the arterioles.
  • Alpha and Beta blockers. They reduce the force and speed of the heart's pulse.
  • Calcium channel blockers. They dilate the arteries and reduce the resistance to flow.
Barry Parker, Ph. D., author of the books "Feel Great Feel Alive,"  and "Learn from Yesterday, Live for Today, Hope for Tomorrow.' His website is Barryparkerbooks.com

Sunday, May 29, 2011

High blood Pressure: Best Ways to Control it I

High blood pressure, or hypertension as it is usually called, is not just a serious problem, it is a serious disease. One of the major difficulties is that it usually has no symptoms; people with it say they feel fine and don't think they are in any danger. But they are. This is why high blood pressure is frequently referred to as the "silent killer." Indeed, if it is left untreated, it can cause many problems including stroke, aneurysm, heart attack, and kidney problems; it can even cause death. Even mild hypertension can cut your life span by two to four years. This is why it is important to deal with it as quickly as possible.

Blood pressure is a result of the force that the bloodstream exerts  against the walls of the arteries as blood circulates through the body. When the heart contracts it creates a pressure surge that sends blood throughout your arterial system. This surge is called the systolic. When it is complete the heart rests briefly, then it expands and gets ready for another surge. This is called the diastolic. Your blood pressure consists of two numbers associated with these two periods (e.g. 120/80). The first of these numbers is referred to as the systolic pressure, and the second as the diastolic pressure.

What do these two numbers mean? Let's say they come out as 120/80; this is a good reading and indicates that your arterial system is probably in good shape. It is generally recommended that  these two readings are in the range:
      Systolic:    100 - 120
      Diastolic:   70 - 80
In general you want to keep the systolic under 140 and the diastolic under 90. In the range 129 - 140 and 80 - 90 you are considered to be pre-hypertension, and if it gets any higher you are said to have hypertension.

What should you do if your numbers are high? The first thing is that you shouldn't worry if a single test gives high numbers. A lot of things affect your blood pressure, so you should take several readings. Your blood pressure changes over the day, and it also changes depending on how you feel -- particularly if you are stressed. So, prior to the test, you should sit and relax for at least five minutes. In addition, you should take the test at different times of the day, as your blood pressure is usually lower in the afternoon than it is in the morning. It is, in fact, lowest overnight, when you are sleeping, but increases rapidly when you wake in the morning. Also, if you are having it taken by a doctor there's a problem that  affects some people called the "white coat" effect.. The stress caused by worry about the test can increase your pressure. So, try to relax.

The body actually has mechanisms for controlling blood pressure. First of all, it can change the amount of blood that your heart is pumping; if your pressure is too high, for example, decreasing the amount of blood will decrease the pressure. Secondly, it can also change the diameter of the arteries to allow more blood through. (Actually, the arteries are continually changing to some degree as blood surges through them, so it's important that they remain elastic and flexible. If a large amount of plague accumulates on the artery walls they lose much of their elasticity.) Finally, your body can control the volume of blood in the bloodstream. Each of the above mechanisms is controlled by the autonomous nervous system and the kidneys.

Of course, sometimes these safeguards don't work as well as they should and despite them you develop high blood pressure. What causes this? There are several reason. They are:
 1.  Genetic
 2.  Lack of exercise
 3.  Stress
 4.  Overweight
 5.  Smoking
 6.  High cholesterol
 7.  Too much salt in the diet
 8.  Too much saturated and trans fat in the diet.

We can't do much about genetics but we can do something about the other things on the list, and I'll talk about them in the second in this series.

Barry Parker, Ph. D., author of  "Learn form Yesterday, Live for Today, Hope for Tomorrow. His website is Barryparkerbooks.com

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Overcoming Chronic Inflammation II

We saw in the first blog on this topic that chronic inflammation has been proven to be responsible for many serious diseases, and it's important that you get rid of it as quickly as possible. Indeed, if left unchecked it can continue for months and even years, and the longer it is around the more damage it does. We also saw that the inflammatory response is suppose to shut off when the injury is healed, but in some cases the message is not received or understood, and this is what creates chronic inflammation.

Let's review the major causes of the problem. They are: our genes, polluted air and water, smoking, high cholesterol, the food we eat, and lack of exercise and proper sleep. To this list I'll add:

1. Obesity or overweight
2. Stress, anxiety and depression
3. Various bacteria and viruses
4. High sugar levels in the diet
5. Periodontal disease
6. Chronic infections of the kidney, bladder and so on.


One of the first things you should do to get rid of chronic inflammation is change your health habits (if they are bad). They include the following:

1.  Get the proper amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
2.  Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and proper proteins.
3.  Maintain proper weight.
4.  Exercise regularly.
5.  Avoid stress.
6.  Get sufficient sleep.

In addition, the following are also helpful:

1.  Green tea
2.  Omega-3 fats  (fish is best source)
3.  Vitamin E
4.  Reversatrol
5.  Various spices such as turmeric (curcumin), ginger, garlic, and rosemary
6.  Bromelain

In particular, you should watch the fat (saturated and trans) in your diet.

What about medicines? You should, of course, do all of the above before you resort to medicines. But if the condition is particularly stubborn you may need them, and you'll have to talk to your doctor about them. The two major inflammation fighters are: NSAIDS (non steroid anti-inflammation drugs) and corticosteroids.

NSAIDS are the most common drugs used for inflammation. Some of the over-the-counter ones are: aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. For others you need a prescription. The most common corticosteroid is prednisone, which is quite dangerous at high dosage. Again you will have to check with your doctor for it.

Barry Parker  Ph. D. is the author of "Learn from Yesterday, Live for Today, Hope for Tomorrow," and "Feel Great. Feel Alive." His webpage is Barryparkerbooks.com