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Go Camping, Sleep Better.
As little as one weekend of camping can reset circadian rhythms-our internal body clock-and make it easier to routinely get a good night’s sleep, both during and after the vacation. So say researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, who compared sleep effects of backcountry camping with a weekend off in the city.
Electric lights and screen time with TVs, smartphones, and other devices keep us up late by delaying production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. “Late circadian and sleep timing in modern society are associated with negative performance and health outcomes such as morning sleepiness and accidents, reduced work productivity and school performance, substance abuse, mood disorders, diabetes, and obesity,” says lead researcher Kenneth Wright, PhD. However, he adds, “A weekend camping trip can reset our clock rapidly.”
To find places to camp, visit the National Park Service at nps.gov.
Fit Kids are Smart Kids
Strong muscles in kids correlate with better memory, according to a study of 70 children between the ages of 9 and 11, led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Earlier studies have found that being aerobically fit improves kids’ thinking ability, attention, memory, and academic performance. Bottom line: kids need both aerobic and strength-building activities during their school years.
Chronic inflammation-the kind that increases risk for diabetes and heart disease-can be significantly lowered with a bout of moderate exercise lasting about 20 minutes, according to research at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Fast walking or similar activities, which need to be done on a regular basis, will deliver benefits.
Unnecessary Blood Pressure Drugs?
Changes in medical guidelines may mean that some people are taking blood pressure drugs unnecessarily. For healthy people over age 60, the threshold for treating systolic blood pressure has been raised from 140 to 150 mm Hg. Treating blood pressure at the lower level provides little benefit unless the person has a history of stroke or a high risk for heart disease.
Side effects of blood pressure drugs include dizziness, insomnia, and depression. Natural remedies for lowering blood pressure include magnesium, beetroot juice, flaxseed, probiotics, and Aged Garlic Extract. Potassium-rich foods such as bananas, avocados, and yams are also helpful.
Tea for Bone Health
Milk is the beverage most often associated with bone health (although not everyone tolerates dairy), but it turns out that a cuppa tea is also good. A Chinese study, published in the journal Nutrition Research, analyzed results from 16 studies with a total of more than 138,000 people and found that tea increases bone mineral density, which helps reduce risk for osteoporosis. Some, but not all, studies also showed a reduced incidence of fractures among tea drinkers. Earlier research has found that tea may reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, and problems with the immune system.
Avocado: Not Just a Healthy Fat
Often mentioned as a source of healthy fat, avocado can do much more. Turns out, its vitamins, minerals, and fats reduce a combination of symptoms that triple risk for type 2 diabetes and multiply risk for heart disease by five times. Called metabolic syndrome, that combination of risk factors includes high blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, as well as obesity-and avocado reduces all of them, according to several studies reviewed in the journal Phytotherapy Research.
Perhaps best of all, avocado makes a tasty snack or addition to salads, sandwiches, dips, and spreads.
Magnesium Prevents Lifestyle-Related Diseases
An analysis of studies following more than a million people shows that higher levels of magnesium play a major role in reducing risk for diseases tied closely to diet and lifestyle-namely, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Published in the journal BMC Medicine, the research found these benefits among people with the highest magnesium levels:
- Type 2 diabetes: 26% lower risk
- Heart disease: 10% lower risk
- Stroke: 12% lower risk
The youngest age at which children should be exposed to media screens-TV and other electronic devices-is 18 months, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Video chats, which are popular with grandparents and other relatives who live far away, are the only exception.