Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Getting Your Sleep Number Just Right

Sleep is vitally important for physical and mental well-being. Getting enough sleep but not too much was the focus of a new study from the Seoul National University College of Medicine. The largest study of its kind, researchers followed the sleeping habits of 133,608 men and women aged 40-69 years for 9 years.

The results of the study showed people who slept less than 6 hours were more likely to have a higher waist circumference and more likely to have metabolic syndrome. Sleeping more than 10 hours was also associated with metabolic syndrome, higher triglycerides, lower good cholesterol, higher blood sugar, and higher waist circumference.

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of at least 3 of 5 medical conditions: abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low good cholesterol that increase cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk.

Previous studies have indicated sleeping less than 7 hours per day can interfere with hormones that regulate appetite and metabolism. An elevation in these hormones can lead to greater calorie intake as well as reduced energy expenditure which might lead to a larger waist circumference and obesity.

Improving sleep starts with a good routine. Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and stimulants 4-6 hours before bedtime. Eat dinner earlier, allowing at least 3 hours to digest food before bed. Limit blue-light exposure from TVs, smartphones and tablets. Keep your bedroom quiet, dark, and cool. And if you continue to struggle with sleep consult your physician or sleep specialist to rule out sleep disorders.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Could Pesticides Cause Parkinson’s Disease?

A new Canadian study from the University of Guelph, in addition to several older studies, have found an association between two common farming pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. The first pesticide “Paraquat” is used as crops grow and the second pesticide “Maneb” is used after harvest to prevent spoiling. Paraquat is banned in the UK along with 31 other countries but it is still allowed to be used in the U.S.

According to the study, people who were exposed to low-levels of the pesticides had a 250% higher risk of developing Parkinson’s disease compared to the general population.

Older studies showing correlation mostly focused on animal subjects as well as epidemiological research on farmers. This new study demonstrates for the first time how the pesticides impact humans on a cellular level. The pesticides appear to disrupt cells similarly to how mutations are known to cause Parkinson’s disease. People with a    genetic predisposition for Parkinson’s disease who are exposed significantly increase their risk of disease onset.

Pesticide use became more prevalent in the 1940’s and throughout most of the 1950’s there was little concern over potential health risk. In 1962 a book called Silent Spring by Rachel Carson was published highlighting health concerns which led to banning of several pesticides such as DDT. Over the past few decades there has been greater development of environmentally conscious products as well as greater safety regulations.

Having said that, there is still work to be done. Researchers from this study urge revision of safety standards particularly for those living near farming areas to help reduce exposure and risk of Parkinson’s disease.