Breathing Is the Key to Persuasive Public Speaking

Have you ever wondered why two people can say exactly the same thing in a meeting, but only one of them gets credit for it? Many times it’s the way we sound that makes the difference between whether or not we are actually heard.

We all know when someone sounds nervous or confident. Think about the following phrase hesitantly uttered, “I have something to say?” versus the same message confidently declared, “I have something to say.” Click here to hear the difference — both instances are my own voice, yet the differences are striking. Which voice do you want your employees to use when speaking to clients?

We’ve heard a lot of discussion recently about uptalk (when our statements sound like questions) and vocal fry (when our voice is low and scratchy, especially at the ends of sentences). These challenges are constantly attributed to female speakers, but I hear them in both men and women — and the solution to both of them is deeper breathing.

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Walking in nature lowers risk of depression, scientists find in MRI study

A new study has found quantifiable evidence that supports the common-sense idea that walking in nature could lower your risk of depression.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting (El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California, a noisy street with three to four lanes in both directions), showed decreased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination — repetitive thought focused on negative emotions.

“These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world,” said co-author Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “Our findings can help inform the growing movement worldwide to make cities more livable, and to make nature more accessible to all who live in them.”

“This finding is exciting because it demonstrates the impact of nature experience on an aspect of emotion regulation — something that may help explain how nature makes us feel better,” said lead author Gregory Bratman, a graduate student in Stanford’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, the Stanford Psychophysiology Lab and the Center for Conservation Biology.

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Commonly prescribed drugs affect decisions to harm oneself and others

Healthy people given the serotonin-enhancing antidepressant citalopram were willing to pay almost twice as much to prevent harm to themselves or others than those given placebo drugs in a moral decision-making experiment at UCL. In contrast, the dopamine-boosting Parkinson’s drug levodopa made healthy people more selfish, eliminating an altruistic tendency to prefer harming themselves over others. The study was a double-blind randomised controlled trial and the results are published in Current Biology.

The research provides insight into the neural basis of clinical disorders characterized by a lack of concern for others, such as psychopathy. Serotonin and dopamine levels have both been linked to aggressive and antisocial behavior, and this study helps explain why.

“Our findings have implications for potential lines of treatment for antisocial behavior, as they help us to understand how serotonin and dopamine affect people’s willingness to harm others for personal gain,” says lead author Dr Molly Crockett, who conducted the study at UCL and is now at Oxford University. “We have shown that commonly-prescribed psychiatric drugs influence moral decisions in healthy people, raising important ethical questions about the use of such drugs.

“It is important to stress, however, that these drugs may have different effects in psychiatric patients compared to healthy people. More research is needed to determine whether these drugs affect moral decisions in people who take them for medical reasons.”

The study, conducted by researchers from UCL and Oxford University and funded by the Wellcome Trust, compared how much pain people were willing to anonymously inflict on themselves or strangers in exchange for money. A total of 175 healthy adults took part, 89 randomised to receive citalopram or placebo and 86 randomised to receive levodopa or placebo.

Participants were randomly assigned to the roles of decider and receiver and anonymously paired up such that each decider did not know who the receiver was and vice-versa. All participants were given mildly painful electric shocks matched to their pain threshold so that the intensity was not intolerable. Deciders were explicitly told that shocks to receivers would be at the receiver’s own pain threshold.

Deciders went into a room alone with a computer terminal, and each took part in 170 trials. For each trial, they had to choose between different amounts of money for different numbers of shocks, up to a maximum 20 shocks and £20 per trial. For example, they might be offered a choice of 7 shocks for £10 or 10 shocks for £15. Half of the decisions related to shocks for themselves and half to shocks for the receiver, but in all cases the deciders would get the money.

At the end of the session, one of the chosen trial results would be implemented so that the decider or receiver received the shocks and the decider received the profits. As such, their decisions had real consequences. Deciders knew that their decisions would be kept secret so that fear of judgment or retaliation would not skew the results.

A similar experiment conducted by the same team previously showed that people disliked harming others more than harming themselves, a behaviour known as ‘hyper-altruism’.* This behaviour was seen again in this study, with most people more willing to harm themselves than others for profit.

On average, people given a placebo were prepared to pay approximately 35p per shock to prevent harm to themselves and 44p per shock to prevent harm to others. Those on citalopram were far more harm-averse, willing to pay an average 60p per shock to prevent harm to themselves and 73p per shock to prevent harm to others. Over the course of the experiment, this meant that people on citalopram delivered an average 30 fewer shocks to themselves and 35 fewer shocks to others than those on placebo.

People given levodopa, however, were not willing to pay any more to prevent shocks to others than to prevent shocks to themselves. On average, they were prepared to pay approximately 35p per shock to prevent harm to themselves or others. This meant that they delivered on average 10 more shocks to others during the experiment than the placebo group. They were also less hesitant to deliver shocks to others, making the decision faster than those on placebo.

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Real foodies weigh less and may be healthier than their less-adventurous counterparts

Think you’re a foodie? Adventurous eaters, known as “foodies,” are often associated with indulgence and excess. However, a new Cornell Food and Brand Lab study shows just the opposite -adventurous eaters weigh less and may be healthier than their less-adventurous counterparts.

The nationwide U.S. survey of 502 women showed that those who had eaten the widest variety of uncommon foods — including seitan, beef tongue, Kimchi, rabbit, and polenta– also rated themselves as healthier eaters, more physically active, and more concerned with the healthfulness of their food when compared with non-adventurous eaters. “They also reported being much more likely to have friends over for dinner,” said lead author Lara Latimer, PhD, formerly at the Cornell Food and Brand Lab and now at the University of Texas.

“These findings are important to dieters because they show that promoting adventurous eating may provide a way for people -especially women – to lose or maintain weight without feeling restricted by a strict diet,” said coauthor Brian Wansink, (author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life). He advises, “Instead of sticking with the same boring salad, start by adding something new. It could kick start a more novel, fun and healthy life of food adventure.”

The article is published in the journal Obesity. It is authored by former Cornell researchers, Lara Latimer, PhD, (currently a Lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin) and Lizzy Pope, PhD, RD (currently Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont), and Brian Wansink, (Professor and Director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University.

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For more information visit: http://foodpsychology.cornell.edu/op/foodies

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Some men think they’re taller and leaner than they are

Anthropol Anz. 2015 Jun 25. doi: 10.1127/anthranz/2015/0467. [Epub ahead of print]

Self-reported versus measured body height and weight in Polish adult men: the risk of underestimating obesity rates.

Łopuszańska M1, Lipowicz A1, Kołodziej H2, Szklarska A1, Bielicki T1.

Author information

1Unite of Anthropology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Wroclaw, Poland.
2The Faculty of Biology and Animal Science, Institute of Biology, Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences, Poland.

Abstract
BACKGROUND:

In some epidemiological studies, self-reported height and weight are often used to save time and money. Self-reported height and weight are commonly used to assess the prevalence of obesity. The aim of this study was to assess the differences between self-reported and measured height and weight in adult men, and to determine how the accuracy of self-reported data depended on age and education. The prevalence of obesity was also calculated based both on self-reported and measured data.

MATERIAL AND METHODS:

Data were collected during two population studies carried out in Wroclaw in 2010. One study included 1,194 19-year-old males who reported for the health examination mandated by the National Conscription Board (younger group). The other group included 355 men between 35 and 80 years old who reported for a ten-year follow-up (older group). Data were analyzed separately for both age groups.

RESULTS:

Both younger and older subjects overestimated their height by 1.4 cm and 1.0 cm (1.4 cm, 95   %CI: 1.26, 1.51, and 1.0 cm, 95   %CI: 0.85, 1.26, respectively). On average, younger subjects overestimated their weight by 0.7 kilograms (95   %CI: 0.55, 0.92), whereas older subjects underestimated their weight by 0.9 kilograms (95   %CI: -1.15, -0.48). The lower the level of education, the more the subjects overestimated their height.

CONCLUSIONS:

Adult men systematically overestimate their height and underestimate their weight. The magnitude of the inaccuracy depends on level of education. When self-reported data are used, the prevalence of obesity is generally underestimated. Using self-reported data to calculate BMI can lead to a substantial underestimation of the proportion of underweight and obese individuals in a population. Finally, using self-reported values for height in studies on social inequality may lead to false conclusions.

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Posted in Health Care: Medical Errors, Human Behavior: Perception, Human Behavior: Self-Consciousness, Obesity | Leave a comment

FDA approves Vertex’s Orkambi, a new treatment for cystic fibrosis

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved the first drug for cystic fibrosis directed at treating the cause of the disease in people who have two copies of a specific mutation.

Orkambi (lumacaftor 200 mg/ivacaftor 125 mg) is now approved to treat cystic fibrosis (CF) in patients 12 years and older, who have the F508del mutation, which causes the production of an abnormal protein that disrupts how water and chloride are transported in the body. Having two copies of this mutation (one inherited from each parent) is the leading cause of CF.

“The FDA encourages manufacturers to develop new and innovative treatments for serious rare diseases like cystic fibrosis,” said John Jenkins, M.D., director of the Office of New Drugs, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Today’s approval significantly broadens the availability of targeted treatments for the specific defects that cause cystic fibrosis.”

Orkambi received FDA’s breakthrough therapy designation because the sponsor demonstrated through preliminary clinical evidence that the drug may offer a substantial improvement over available therapies. The FDA also reviewed Orkambi under the priority review program. A priority review is conducted over six months, or less, instead of the standard 10 months, and is employed for drugs that may offer significant improvement in safety or effectiveness in treatment over available therapy in a serious disease or condition.

In addition, the FDA granted Orkambi orphan drug designation because it treats cystic fibrosis, a rare disease. Orphan drug designation provides financial incentives, like clinical trial tax credits, user fee waivers, and eligibility for market exclusivity to promote rare disease drug development.

CF is a serious genetic disorder that results in the formation of thick mucus that builds up in the lungs, digestive tract and other parts of the body leading to severe respiratory and digestive problems, as well as other complications such as infections and diabetes.

CF, which affects about 30,000 people in the United States, is the most common fatal genetic disease in Caucasians. The F508del mutation is the most common cause of CF. People who have two copies of the F508del mutation, one inherited from each parent, account for approximately half of the CF population in the U.S.

The safety and efficacy of Orkambi was studied in two double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials of 1,108 participants with CF who were 12 years and older with the F508del mutation. In both studies, participants with CF who took Orkambi, two pills taken every 12 hours, demonstrated improved lung function compared to those who took placebo.

The efficacy and safety of Orkambi have not been established in patients with CF other than those with the F508del mutation. If a patient’s genotype is unknown, an FDA cleared CF mutation test should be used to detect the presence of the F508del mutation on both alleles of the CFTR gene.

The most common side effects of Orkambi include shortness of breath, upper respiratory tract infection, nausea, diarrhea, and rash. Women who took Orkambi also had increased menstrual abnormalities such as increased bleeding.

Orkambi is made by Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Boston.

The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.

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High-Fat, High-Calorie Diet Feeds Inflammation That Drives Breast Cancer

Cancers (Basel). 2015 Jun 26;7(3):1125-1142.

High-Fat, High-Calorie Diet Enhances Mammary Carcinogenesis and Local Inflammation in MMTV-PyMT Mouse Model of Breast Cancer.

Cowen S1,2, McLaughlin SL3, Hobbs G4,5, Coad J6, Martin KH7,8, Olfert IM9,10, Vona-Davis L11,12.

Author information

1Department of Surgery, West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. scowen@miis.edu.
2Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. scowen@miis.edu.
3Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. smclaughlin@hsc.wvu.edu.
4Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. ghobbs@stat.wvu.edu.
5Department of Statistics, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. ghobbs@stat.wvu.edu.
6Department of Pathology, West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. jcoad@hsc.wvu.edu.
7Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. kamartin@hsc.wvu.edu.
8Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. kamartin@hsc.wvu.edu.
9Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. imolfert@hsc.wvu.edu.
10Department of Human Performance and Exercise Physiology, West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. imolfert@hsc.wvu.edu.
11Department of Surgery, West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. lvdavis@hsc.wvu.edu.
12Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, West Virginia University Health Sciences Center, Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. lvdavis@hsc.wvu.edu.

Abstract

Epidemiological studies provide strong evidence that obesity and the associated adipose tissue inflammation are risk factors for breast cancer; however, the molecular mechanisms are poorly understood.

We evaluated the effect of a high-fat/high-calorie diet on mammary carcinogenesis in the immunocompetent MMTV-PyMT murine model.

Four-week old female mice (20/group) were randomized to receive either a high-fat (HF; 60% kcal as fat) or a low-fat (LF; 16% kcal) diet for eight weeks.

Body weights were determined, and tumor volumes measured by ultrasound, each week.

At necropsy, the tumors and abdominal visceral fat were weighed and plasma collected.

The primary mammary tumors, adjacent mammary fat, and lungs were preserved for histological and immunohistochemical examination and quantification of infiltrating macrophages, crown-like structure (CLS) formation, and microvessel density.

The body weight gains, visceral fat weights, the primary mammary tumor growth rates and terminal weights, were all significantly greater in the HF-fed mice.

Adipose tissue inflammation in the HF group was indicated by hepatic steatosis, pronounced macrophage infiltration and CLS formation, and elevations in plasma monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), leptin and proinflammatory cytokine concentrations.

HF intake was also associated with higher tumor-associated microvascular density and the proangiogenic factor MCP-1.

This study provides preclinical evidence in a spontaneous model of breast cancer that mammary adipose tissue inflammation induced by diet, enhances the recruitment of macrophages and increases tumor vascular density suggesting a role for obesity in creating a microenvironment favorable for angiogenesis in the progression of breast cancer.

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Type 2 diabetes and natural products treatments

Planta Med. 2015 Jul 1. [Epub ahead of print]

Natural Products for the Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Ríos JL1, Francini F2, Schinella GR3.

Author information

1Departament de Farmacologia, Facultat de Farmàcia, Universitat de València, Burjassot, Valencia, Spain.
2Centro de Endocrinologia Experimental y Aplicada, Centro Científico Tecnológico, Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET), La Plata, Argentina.
3Cátedra de Farmacología Básica, Facultad de Ciencias Médicas, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, La Plata, Argentina.

Abstract

Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease characterized by persistent hyperglycemia.

High blood sugar can produce long-term complications such as cardiovascular and renal disorders, retinopathy, and poor blood flow.

Its development can be prevented or delayed in people with impaired glucose tolerance by implementing lifestyle changes or the use of therapeutic agents.

Some of these drugs have been obtained from plants or have a microbial origin, such as galegine isolated from Galega officinalis, which has a great similarity to the antidiabetic drug metformin.

Picnogenol, acarbose, miglitol, and voglibose are other antidiabetic products of natural origin.

This review compiles the principal articles on medicinal plants used for treating diabetes and its comorbidities, as well as mechanisms of natural products as antidiabetic agents.

Inhibition of α-glucosidase and α-amylase, effects on glucose uptake and glucose transporters, modification of mechanisms mediated by the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor, inhibition of protein tyrosine phosphatase 1B activity, modification of gene expression, and activities of hormones involved in glucose homeostasis such as adiponectin, resistin, and incretin, and reduction of oxidative stress are some of the mechanisms in which natural products are involved.

We also review the most relevant clinical trials performed with medicinal plants and natural products such as aloe, banaba, bitter melon, caper, cinnamon, cocoa, coffee, fenugreek, garlic, guava, gymnema, nettle, sage, soybean, green and black tea, turmeric, walnut, and yerba mate.

Compounds of high interest as potential antidiabetics are: fukugetin, palmatine, berberine, honokiol, amorfrutins, trigonelline, gymnemic acids, gurmarin, and phlorizin.

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Chocolate hype may be coming to an end

CONCLUSIONS:

In this study, no beneficial effect was noticed in favour of the consumption of flavanol-rich dark chocolate during 8 weeks on blood pressure or vascular function, in healthy subjects.

J Hypertens. 2015 Jun;33 Suppl 1:e72. doi: 10.1097/01.hjh.0000467546.67897.69.

5D.07: THE IMPACT OF FLAVONOL-RICH DARK CHOCOLATE ON BLOOD PRESSURE AND VASCULAR FUNCTION IN HEALTHY SUBJECTS.

Heuten H1, Van Ackeren K, Hoymans V, Wouters K, Goovaerts I, Conraads V, Vrints C.

Author information

11Antwerp University Hospital (Edegem), Cardiology, Antwerp, BELGIUM 2Antwerp University Hospital, Center for Cellular Therapy and Regenerative Medicine, Antwerp, BELGIUM 3Antwerp University Hospital, Department of Scientific Coordination and Biostatistics, Antwerp, BELGIUM.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

Flavanoids may have a beneficial effect on blood pressure (BP) and endothelial function. There is however, limited data on this effect during a longer period (8 weeks) and no data on the effect on EPC (endothelial progenitor cells) in healthy subjects.

DESIGN AND METHOD:

Healthy, non-smoking, male and female volunteers aged 35-65 year with no history of diabetes or cardiovascular disease and with normal or mild hypertensive blood pressure (<160/100 mmHg) were included. Subjects could not take any medication affecting blood pressure or endothelial function. The subjects were randomised (double-blind) in two groups: Group 1(n = 25): daily consuming 20 gram of high-flavanol dark chocolate (High-DC). Group 2 (n = 26): daily consuming 20 gram of low-flavanol dark chocolate (Low-DC). At week 0,4,6,7 and 8 blood pressure was assessed in all subjects, and endothelial function (FMD, flow mediated dilation) in a subgroup. A blood sample was taken in each subject at week 0 and 8 for measuring glucose, lipids and EPC.

RESULTS:

Baseline characteristics were comparable between both groups. There was a decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure over time in both groups, however at 8 weeks there was no statistically significant difference between groups (delta SBP -2.17  + /-8.53 mmHg in gr 1 versus -4.06 + /-8.05 mmHg in gr 2, p = 0.4; delta DBP -3.97  + /-7.1 mmHg in gr 1 versus -4.67  + /-5.99 mmHg in gr 2, p = 0.7).FMD was performed in 9 subjects from each group, no significant difference was noted between both groups over time (delta FMD gr 1: -3.50  + /- 6.00 % versus gr 2: + 0.12  + /- 2.51 %, p = 0.06). EPC values did not differ between groups at baseline (T0) and at the end of the study (T8) (ISHAGE count (T8-T0): gr1: 3.23 (-68.01 – 41.71) versus gr 2: -9.23 (-57.59 – 17.28), p = 0.4). Glucose and lipids were comparable between both groups at baseline and at the end of the study (p = ns).

CONCLUSIONS:

In this study, no beneficial effect was noticed in favour of the consumption of flavanol-rich dark chocolate during 8 weeks on blood pressure or vascular function, in healthy subjects.

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Gut check: Anxiety increases the risk of gastrointestinal infection and long-term complications

A team comprised of scientists at VIB, KU Leuven and UZ Leuven has made significant progress in uncovering the connection between psychological factors and the immune system. Their findings are based on an investigation of a massive drinking water contamination incident in Belgium in 2010, and are now published in the leading international medical journal Gut.

In December 2010, the Belgian communities of Schelle and Hemiksem in the province of Antwerp faced an outbreak of gastroenteritis, with more than 18,000 people exposed to contaminated drinking water. During the outbreak, VIB and KU Leuven set up a scientific task force to study the incident’s long-term effects, led by Guy Boeckxstaens (UZ Leuven / KU Leuven) and Adrian Liston (VIB / KU Leuven).

Seizing an unexpected opportunity

Adrian Liston (VIB/KU Leuven): “The water contamination in Schelle and Hemiksem was an ‘accidental experiment’ on a scale rarely possible in medical research. By following the patients from the initial contamination to a year after the outbreak we were able to find out what factors altered the risk of long-term complications.”

Anxiety and depression affect immune system

The scientists found that individual with higher levels of anxiety or depression prior to the water contamination developed gastrointestinal infections of increased severity. The same individuals also had an increased risk of developing the long-term complication of irritable bowel syndrome, with intermittent abdominal cramps, diarrhea or constipation a year after the initial contamination.

Guy Boeckxstaens (UZ Leuven / KU Leuven): “Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a condition of chronic abdominal pain and altered bowel movements. This is a common condition with large socio-economic costs, yet there is so much that still remains to be discovered about the causes. Our investigation found that that anxiety or depression alters the immune response towards a gastrointestinal infection, which can result in more severe symptoms and the development of chronic irritable bowel syndrome.”

Psychological factors key in preventing long-term complications

The study’s results provide valuable new insight into the cause of irritable bowel syndrome, and underscoring the connection between psychological factors and the immune system.

Adrian Liston (VIB/KU Leuven): “These results once again emphasize the importance of mental health care and social support services. We need to understand that health, society and economics are not independent, and ignoring depression and anxiety results in higher long-term medical costs.”

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Posted in Gastroenterology, Human Behavior: Anxiety, Mental Health: Anxiety, Mental Health: Depression, Science Updates | Leave a comment

Higher self-control risks linked to bad sleep habits: Clemson University

CLEMSON, S.C. — Poor sleep habits can have a negative effect on self-control, which presents risks to individuals’ personal and professional lives, according to Clemson University researchers.

In a study titled “Interactions between Sleep Habits and Self-Control,” Clemson psychologists concluded a sleep-deprived individual is at increased risk for succumbing to impulsive desires, inattentiveness and questionable decision-making.

“Self-control is part of daily decision-making. When presented with conflicting desires and opportunities, self-control allows one to maintain control,” said June Pilcher, Clemson Alumni Distinguished Professor of psychology, one of four authors of the study. “Our study explored how sleep habits and self-control are interwoven and how sleep habits and self-control may work together to affect a person’s daily functioning.”

Other Clemson researchers included Drew Morris, a human factors psychology Ph.D. candidate; Janet Donnelly, a Ph.D. candidate in industrial/organizational psychology; and Hayley B. Feigl, who has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

Previous research has shown individuals working in today’s 24-hour-a-day global economy often times sleep less or at irregular times, resulting in poor sleep and chronic sleep loss, which affects decision-making.

“Exercising self-control allows one to make better choices when presented with conflicting desires and opportunities. That has far-reaching implications to a person’s career and personal life,” Pilcher said.

Poor sleep habits, which include inconsistent sleep times and not enough hours of sleep, can also lead to health problems, including weight gain, hypertension and illness, according to prior research. Studies have also found that sleep deprivation decreases self-control but increases hostility in people, which can create problems in the workplace and at home,” Pilcher said.

Better sleep habits can contribute to a more stable level of daily energy reserves, research has indicated. Availability of energy can refuel a person’s ability to make more difficult choices rather than opting for the easier choice or the easier task.

“Many aspects of our daily lives can be affected by better-managed sleep and self-control capacity,” Pilcher said. “Improved health and worker performance are two potential benefits, but societal issues such as addictions, excessive gambling and over spending could also be more controllable when sleep deficiencies aren’t interfering with one’s decision making.”

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Exercise prescriptions need to get more granular to help more people: study

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Everyone knows that exercise generally helps the cardiovascular system, but much remains unknown about how the benefits arise, and what to expect in different people who exercise to improve their health. To gain a more precise understanding of how exercise improves health and whom it helps most, researchers analyzed the results of 160 randomized clinical trials with nearly 7,500 participants. The review appears open access in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

“Our meta-analysis is one of the first studies to systematically and comprehensively evaluate the effectiveness of exercise interventions in affecting various health outcomes,” said lead author Xiaochen Lin, a doctoral student in the Brown University School of Public Health. “Because the exact mechanisms linking exercise to intermediate health outcomes are not clear, we also wanted to examine the effects of exercise on intermediate biomarkers that may potentially mediate the cardioprotective effects of exercise.”

By looking at the reported benefits of exercise across all the studies, the authors found nuances that could be important to doctors and their patients as they consider whether to embark on exercise interventions.

“Based on our findings, exercise interventions are not universally effective across different intermediate outcomes and subgroups of participants,” said corresponding author Dr. Simin Liu, a Brown professor of epidemiology and of medicine. “Even though exercise may benefit most people under most circumstances, it does not mean that the same exercise program or therapy should be prescribed to everyone.”

For example, the researchers found that for some of the measures the studies tracked, men often benefitted more than women, people under 50 benefitted more than people over that age, and people with either type 2 diabetes, hypertension or hyperlipidemia benefitted more than people with none of those conditions. This finding included the review’s main clinical indicators of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), which measures how well the heart and lungs deliver oxygen to the muscles during physical activity. CRF is a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD), Liu said.

A key implication from the findings may be that while exercise appears to affect total cholesterol, lowering “bad” LDL cholesterol for at least some people and raising “good” HDL for most, “the proportion of CVD risk that could have been reduced by exercise via effects on total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol is much lower than what has been observed previously.” Instead, the researchers note, some of the significant benefits of exercise appear to lie in reducing insulin resistance and inflammation based on how those biomarkers performed in the studies.

Liu said that while the review confirms wide-ranging benefits of exercise, it’s still just one of the levers doctors and patients should consider manipulating.

“Besides exercise there are many modifiable lifestyle factors that could be the potential target of interventions for cardiometabolic health,” he said. “If a subgroup of people cannot benefit from exercise, other alternatives should be considered. That’s one of the most important implications of evaluating the heterogeneity of exercise interventions.”

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The paper’s other authors are Xi Zhang, Dr. Jianjun Guo, Christian Roberts, Steve McKenzie, Dr. Wen-Chih Wu, and co-corresponding author Dr. Yiqing Song of Indiana University.

The National Institutes of Health (grants: R01DK09406, P50HL105188), Indiana University and Brown University funded the study.

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Cognitive decline, hypertension linked: two new studies

With the number of individuals affected by cognitive decline expected to rise over the next few decades, investigating its potential causes is of major public health interest. Two new studies published today in the American Journal of Hypertension delve into the connection between hypertension and cognitive decline.

Racial disparity in cognitive and functional disability in hypertension and its mortality

Researchers assessed the prevalence and racial disparity of subjective cognitive and functional limitations and their impact on mortality in the hypertensive US population. The results show that the prevalence of cognitive and functional disability is larger in the US hypertensive population than the non-hypertensive population, and both are associated with greater mortality. Hypertensive African Americans, who bear the greatest burden of hypertension, carry a disproportionate burden of these limitations.

Hypertension, Dietary Sodium, and Cognitive Decline: Results from the Women’s Health Initiative Memory Study

In this study, the authors investigated the relationships of hypertension, antihypertensive treatment, and sodium intake on cognitive decline in older women. The findings indicate that women with antihypertensive treatment and uncontrolled blood pressure showed the highest risk for developing cognitive decline. Sodium intake did not modify the risk for cognitive decline in women with hypertension or those taking antihypertensive medication.

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About the American Journal of Hypertension:

The American Journal of Hypertension is a monthly, peer-reviewed journal that provides a forum for scientific inquiry of the highest standards in the field of hypertension and related cardiovascular disease. The journal publishes high-quality original research and review articles on basic sciences, molecular biology, clinical and experimental hypertension, cardiology, epidemiology, pediatric hypertension, endocrinology, neurophysiology, and nephrology.

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