Sleep Has Major Impact on Balance: New Study Shows

A team of researchers from the University of Warwick, in the UK, has  published research showing that poor quality sleep reduces a person’s ability to balance the next day.

The research was conducted on healthy adults with no history of sleep problems, and ranging in age from 24-34. They were monitored over two days in their own homes using latests sensors to measure their quality of sleep. Their balance was measured in a gait lab, and other information was gathered in the form of sleep diaries and questionnaires.

The researchers say the results are very clear:

Subjects with a day-to-day deterioration in sleep quantity and quality … exhibited significant changes in balance. Conversely, subjects with no significant alterations in sleep quantity and quality showed no significant changes in [balance measurements].

The study has some limitations as there were only 20 participants, and did not include a very wide age range, but the team hypothesize that if young, healthy adults suffer poorer balance after sleep disruption, then the effect on older adults is likely to be even greater.

When tired, the study participants showed significantly worse balance when tested with eyes closed vs eyes open, compared to those who had rested well, meaning that we rely on vision even more when fatigued, and vision is typically worse in older adults than in younger people, exacerbating the effect on stability and balance.

This research demonstrates something many people can identify with – a feeling of wobbliness after a wakeful or disturbed night. Being tired really does put you at greater risk of falling, because your ability to balance, and react to outside events, is lower when tired.

How to Sleep Better

Daily habits have an effect on our sleep, and experts recommend keeping a sleep diary for a couple of weeks to help work out where improvements can be made.

Improvement advice falls into 3 areas:

  • What you put into your body
  • Your sleep environment
  • Your mental state

It’s best to avoid heavy meals, alcohol or caffeine before bed, and also to reduce any liquid consumption in the evening, to avoid late night bathroom visits.

Keep work and other electronic devices away from your bedroom, make it a peaceful, cool environment that you use only for sleeping and intimacy.

Set an alarm to help you get 7 hours of sleep, and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. Make sleep a priority, but don’t get anxious about it. If you can’t sleep after 20 minutes, get up and read a book. Allow yourself to simply rest. Practise mindfulness or meditative breathing.

Making sure that you get some exercise every day is another way of improving your quality of sleep.

Click here to read the original research, published in Nature

 

Holiday Balance Tips

have your cake and eat it

The holidays should be a time for celebration with family and friends, but often, in the endless round of preparation, shopping and parties, one of the first things to be sacrificed are the habits that keep us healthy.

But you don’t have to sacrifice your balance – or your health, if you keep in mind some simple tricks:

  1. Small actions help. Give yourself 5-10 minutes in the morning to do some light exercise: yoga stretches, Tai Chi sequences, anything that fires the connection between brain and muscles. If you don’t have time in the morning, fit it in later in the day.
  2. Use the dead time. When brushing your teeth, or waiting in line at the store, practise standing on one leg, the other raised just off the floor. Make sure there is something sturdy nearby to keep you safe should you need it.
  3. Keep moving. You don’t even need your workout clothes. Take every opportunity to get up and move around, or choose to stand instead of sit, and walk instead of drive wherever possible.
  4. Drink water. Dehydration adds to fatigue, which is bad for balance. We don’t feel as thirsty in the colder weather, so make a point of drinking water often. Added bonus: nutritionists recommend starting every party with a glass of water to cut down on the empty calories.
  5. Protect your sleep. Set an alarm if necessary, and get to bed in time to get a full night’s rest. But don’t beat yourself up if you can’t avoid some late nights. Enjoy them! and try to give yourself some extra rest the following day. Even a 5-10 minute period of meditation or mindfulness can help soothe a tired nervous system and combat holiday stress.

For further information on the many influences on your balance and how to help them, check out our:

Free ebook

 

Wishing you a better balanced holiday season this year.

New Guidelines for Health

keep moving

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion has updated the physical activity guidelines for all Americans.

Main takeaways include:

  • Adults of all ages should move more and sit less
  • Any moderate to vigorous activity counts (and there are some ideas and planners available – see below)
  • Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous exercise
  • All adults should do some kind of strength training at least 2 days per week
  • Any amount of exercise has immediate benefits, including less anxiety, lower blood pressure, better sleep and better insulin response
  • New research shows even more long term benefits for those who exercise, including reducing the risk of 8 types of cancer (bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, stomach, and lung).
  • Exercise also reduces the risk of dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), all-cause mortality, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and depression; and improves bone health, physical function, and quality of life.
  • For older adults, physical activity also lowers the risk of falls and injuries from falls.
  • New research also highlights that exercise helps manage chronic conditions: reduces pain from osteoarthrits, slow progression for hypertension and type 2 diabetes, manage symptoms of Parkinsons, dementia, anxiety and depression.

Lots of activities can be counted as exercise, including shoveling snow and playing with children or pets. There are also so many exercises to choose from, to help ward off boredom and increase the chance to socialize with others.

Give yourself the gift of better health this holiday season, and well into the future. You can check out the health.gov planner by clicking on the link below.

Move Your Way link: Want to get more physical activity? Build a weekly plan

Why Balance is Like Flossing

teeth in balance

You’re lying in the dentist’s chair and he or she asks whether you floss regularly. You nod, and avoid their eyes. Because you know they can see, from the plaque on your teeth, that ‘regularly’ is stretching the truth a bit. You own floss, you do use it – especially after eating ribs or corn – but not exactly every day.

So it is with most of our health. We know what we should be doing, but unless someone is holding up a mirror to us, or displaying pounds on a scale, we sometimes gloss over the truth to ourselves.

Balance is in many ways a holistic measure of a person’s health and fitness. So if you exercise regularly, and challenge your muscles and your balance, it will improve. If you have a period of time where you’re just going through the motions, or skipping the difficult exercises, your balance will deteriorate over time.

Like flossing, you really can’t fake it.

The good news is that, unlike flossing, you can take up balance exercises at any point and start to see improvements within a short period of time. How quickly will depend on a number of factors, including your general fitness and how hard you work at it. There is no quick fix: only by doing will your balance improve.

What should I do?

If you’ve been neglecting balance – or never worked specifically on balance before, it’s worth talking to a personal trainer or instructor who can help assess where you are and how best to move forwards. If you like the social element of group exercise classes, look for Tai Chi or beginner’s yoga near you. The instructor will help you form the poses correctly to maximize benefit and minimize risk of injury.

Even if you’re a regular exerciser or sportsperson, it’s worth checking that you’ve not fallen into a rut with your training. Adding balance training into your workout can help avoid injury and overtraining too.

Free ebook on balance

Click the link above to receive a free ebook on balance and how it works in the body.

Can Indulgence Motivate You?

The Harvard Business Review made a case recently for regarding exercise as part of the day job. Their theory is that because exercise delivers benefits like enhanced creativity, better focus, better mood and enhanced interpersonal relations, it should be a required part of everyone’s workday. Exercise helps us achieve balance in our lives, and could also help reduce falls and accidents at work.

Whilst I certainly wouldn’t want to dissuade an employer from building a gym or sports facility on site, there is a significant downside for regarding exercise (or any health-promoting behaviour) as ‘work’.

When it becomes something we have to do, a large part of the enjoyment gets sucked out of the activity. When it’s work, that requirement brings a bucket load of guilt on days when life throws too many challenges at us to fit in a workout. Or we simply get an attack of lazyitus. Which then further demotivates us on the following days, making balance even harder to achieve.

Why does everything in Western culture have to be pleasure-free to be good for us? It’s no wonder people don’t sign up for balance classes or fall prevention: even thinking about it such a downer!

Why can’t the things which are good for us be fun too?

What if we reframed our understanding of exercise, good nutrition, and sleep and called them all indulgence: precious time for ourselves, away from phones and demands from those who need us? Whether it’s the feel of water on skin in the pool, the smell of trees and earth by the running trail, or the delicious flexibility after a good workout, we can absorb the simple pleasures of these experiences as a time of nurture for ourselves. Can we make exercise itself the treat, never mind the (longer term) benefits that go with it?

The human body wants to be exercised and oxygenated, to keep its muscles moving and the joints supple. Recent research shows that the benefits of exercise are greater when one’s mental approach to it is positive and engaged. In one study, those who regarded an activity as exercise (work) were more likely to eat hedonistic food as a reward afterwards (thereby overeating), compared to those who regarded the exercise as fun. When the activity itself is the reward, there is no need for additional compensation in the form of food, which makes sticking to those health goals so much easier.

In this sense, staying balanced is about more than fall prevention.

When we take the time for the gym it isn’t just another chore we have to check off a list, but time we’re investing in ourselves. Because we deserve this indulgence: we deserve to let the mind run free. If some people want that investment to be in mastering a particular skill, like Tai Chi or other balance–boosting exercise, good for them. We can also just satisfy the inner novelty junkie by trying new sport or exercise every week, which has the added benefit of challenging the brain and muscles, helping them grow.

It’s time we celebrated the fun in good health, rather than using it as a stick with which to beat ourselves up.

Think You Don’t Lie To Your Doctor?

When was the last time you had a really truthful conversation with your doctor? Yes, all the glasses of alcohol, the frequency you really eat healthy foods like vegetables, the number of times you’ve tripped or stumbled.

A smattering of surveys over the last ten years or so reveal a consistent picture: over a quarter of patients say they sometimes lie or omit telling the truth to their doctor.

Sometimes the reasons are because the patient feels embarrassed or doesn’t want to be judged for poor health choices. Sometimes people feel rushed, forget or think that the problem isn’t something that the doctor can help with.

Falling is a case in point. People fall at every age: trip over the cat, a crack in the curb while out running, but falls increase alarmingly over 65, with the chance of injury high on the list.

95% of hip fractures are caused by falling

A stumble can be a warning that should be heeded and yet when asked at their annual check up about falls (Medicare requires doctors to ask all patients over 65 about falls and fall risk), many fail to mention one.

Sometimes that’s because it resulted in no great pain or injury and has been forgotten about. Sometimes because it can feel like such an ‘old’ or frail thing to have done and people are afraid of being labelled, or losing their independence. But we should be making note of falls and stumbles so that when the doctor asks, we can answer honestly.

20% of falls end in serious injury or brain trauma

Falling isn’t about being old, but it is sometimes a warning that a bigger fall could be on the way.

Typical interventions can include physical therapy to strengthen muscle weakness or improve flexibility, referral for an eye exam or a number of other actions that won’t leave the patient labelled as old. A fall doesn’t mean you have to use a walking aid, but keeping quiet about it might.

Take the chance to also discuss over the counter medicines and supplements you might be taking and ask your doctor to review your medications. Be an empowered patient and help your doctor keep you healthy and independent. And maybe tie a bell to the cat.

How To Go From 250lbs To Gold Medalist

never too late
One of the great things about working at Zibrio is the opportunity to meet inspiring people. If you haven’t yet heard of DeEtte Sauer, you haven’t been paying attention.

She’s a two time gold medalist in the National Senior Games, getting up every day at 4.30am to swim at her local club, where, at 76, she’s 12 years older than the other ‘senior’ swimmers in her team.

Yet what is really inspiring about her, even more than her enthusiasm and current fitness, is the story of how she got here. She wasn’t always fit, in fact for most of her life she was overweight, drank heavily, smoked and engaged in little or no exercise. As she puts it, if she’d continued like that, she’d be dead by now.

Over a period of months she managed to give up smoking and drinking. The following year she stepped away from her obsession with her stressful career, and that’s when the real weight began to pile on. By the time she was 46, she weighed 250lbs, unable to join in the fun on family holidays, unable to wear anything except huge tent-like dresses that she pretended camouflaged the now desperate state of her health.

One day, the fantasy came crashing down

She had to do something. Her cholesterol was out of control, her blood pressure was high, she didn’t have the balance or strength to climb into a boat on the lake where they were vacationing. This was the final straw in a realization that had been building over a few months.

She began studying nutrition and changed her family’s diet from fried, sugary foods (“I used to eat two apple fritters while doing the grocery shopping!” she says), to healthy options.

She buddied with a friend, and together they walked every day, kept each other accountable with good eating. Surprisingly, she said, the weight began to drop off quite quickly, and that was adrenalizing. “I felt fabulous”. The big payoff came when she was shopping with friends in a ‘normal’ (not plus sized) store and discovered that she could fit into a size 14 pair of jeans. It was an emotional moment, and one that spurred her to continue.

Soon, she’d joined a gym to gain upper body strength, and when that started to get a bit boring, she spotted a flyer for a new masters swim team.

“I had watched my daughters swim, so I figured I could do it too,” she said.

The first class almost dashed her hopes, she couldn’t even swim 25 yards. On the point of giving up and feeling embarrassed, she was shocked when the young 22 year old coach said the life-changing words: “Stop your whining and do as I say. You can do this, just do what I tell you!”

From Fear to Inspiration

After 3 months, the coach had signed her up for her first competition, which was terrifying. “I was afraid of embarrassing myself,” she remembers. “But when I got there, I became inspired by Jesse Coons – a 92 year old doing butterfly. After that I knew I had to have a go.”

She has never looked back, and at the 2017 Senior Games in Alabama, she found added meaning when waiting to go up to the podium and collect her gold medal – a bucket list item. She was approached by a couple in their mid 40’s who had driven especially to meet her. “We saw your story on CBS and it inspired us. We were also killing ourselves with our unhealthy lifestyles, and thanks to you, we have changed and we are so happy.” Their words made her personal triumph all the sweeter.

DeEtte, for all her energy and positive outlook is only human. There are days when she’s tempted to gorge on double chocolate cakes, or sleep through her alarm. But she likes herself better as this healthy person. She tells herself she can go down to the pool and have an easy session. That gets her out of the door. And when she reaches the pool, her team mates and coach will push her and support her and she’ll feel great afterwards.

“If I didn’t go, I’d miss it,” she says. “We start every day laughing.”

And as for the chocolate binge, she likes her new discipline, feels that with it she is no longer hiding herself, she can be who she really is.

When she’s not travelling as an athlete, DeEtte and her husband tutor middle school kids who need extra help with their school work. I suspect that’s also part of the reason for her energetic and youthful outlook on life.

5 Things Worth Being Thankful For and Why it’ll Keep You Younger

Each November, teachers around the country prompt kids to think about what they’re thankful for. But how many of us do this in adulthood? And why only once a year? Is it merely a social habit, or is there actually a benefit to it that goes beyond the obvious good manners?

A number of studies have drawn a positive link between people who regularly practise gratitude and good mental health. They have a sense of perspective about their problems, don’t ‘sweat the small stuff’ and report that they generally feel happy, or contented.

Furthermore, in her recent book, Dr Elizabeth Blackburn (who was awarded a Nobel Prize for her work on telomeres), explains that people who take time to be present in the moment, and direct positive thoughts towards themselves and their lives, are more likely to be healthy for longer, and less likely to suffer from the diseases of aging – diabetes, heart disease, cancers.

“The ability to focus on… your present experience, turns out to be very good for the cells of your body” – Elizabeth Blackburn

According to Blackburn’s research, everything from the food we put in our bodies to the thoughts we think, have an effect – positive and negative – on the health of individual cells. The telomeres inside our cells, which control when and how they grow or die, are easily affected by what we do.

Here is her list of the things that make them happy and healthy:

  • Positive attitude: viewing problems as challenges that we’ll enjoy tackling can reduce stress response from unhealthy to healthy
  • Meditation, mindfulness and breathing exercises also reduce production of cortisol, the stress hormone, and can even help lengthen telomeres
  • Exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, is great for telomeres
  • Eat fresh, whole foods. Avoid processed and high sugar items
  • Socialize. When we feel connected and safe with other people, whether family or friends, our cells know about it. This makes a difference, regardless of income or abilities.

So although Thanksgiving only comes once a year, make some time in your day to sit quietly and think about the good things in your life right now. It will keep you present, and it can also help strengthen good habits, like taking regular exercise and enjoying delicious food that’s good for your cells.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Diabetes & Fall Risk

glucose

If you’re one of the 422 million people who live with diabetes, you already know how much damage unused glucose in your blood can do to cell membranes, nerves and organs.

What you may not know is how diabetes can affect your balance and put you at a higher risk of falling.

Muscle Weakness:

In a study published in Diabetes Care in the UK, MRI scans revealed pockets of fat hiding inside  muscle tissue, making them able to exert less force than the outward muscle size would suggest. The effects can be seen in balance tests and gait analysis, where the muscles of the legs and hips are stiffer and weaker, making negotiating stairs and other obstacles more difficult.

This can become a negative spiral, as greater effort needed to move around makes people do less, resulting in further muscle weakening, and an even higher fall risk. Finding an activity you can safely enjoy, and ensuring it contains exercises to strengthen muscles, is one way to combat this problem.

Nerve Damage:

Neuropathy effects around 70% of diabetic patients, causing numbness, tingling and pain, especially in the extremities of the hands and feet. This lack of sensory feedback is a significant reason why patients struggle to be active, and can make tripping over objects like stairs or curbs more likely. Paying attention, and gait training, can help lower some of the risks.

Hypoglycemia:

For patients who are learning to manage insulin doses, or who don’t eat at regular intervals, low blood sugar also poses a problem, resulting in weakness, dizziness, and trouble with vision. Have a plan for what to do if this effects you, speak to your doctor about the best way to manage these fluctuations.

Eyesight:

In addition to the risk of damage to the optic nerve, it’s important to see an optometrist regularly as diabetes puts you at a higher risk of glaucoma and cataracts. We rely on sight for a huge amount of sensory information and when it deteriorates, typically our balance does too. Managing any eye conditions with corrective lenses where appropriate is a vital part of keeping on your feet.

Drug Interractions:

Many people with diabetes also have to contend with other medical issues, from cholesterol to high blood pressure. A simple rule of thumb is that the more medications you take, the higher your risk of falling. Increasing information is available to help you and your doctor work out which combinations can minimize the risk.

 

 

The information contained on this site is general in nature and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. None of the statements on this site are a recommendation as to how to treat any particular disease or health-related condition. If you suspect you have a disease or health-related condition of any kind, you should contact your health care professional immediately. Please consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program.

Why Memory Training Is More Important Than You Think

Train your brain

Ever walk into a room and forget what you came in for? Lose your keys? Your glasses? And at what point do you stop laughing it off and start worrying that these are the early warning signs of dementia?

Scientists in Italy  recently researched a link between age-related cognitive decline and general inflammation in otherwise healthy adults. Age-related inflammation typically shows itself in conditions like thickened arteries, arthritis and diabetes, and increases at a similar time to a decrease in memory and reasoning.

The study took 32 adults over 60 and treated them to 1 hour of Memory Training twice a week for 6 months, while another group of 28 older adults received no intervention. At the start and end of the study the participants took a number of cognitive tests, as well as giving a blood sample so that the scientists could establish levels of Cortisol (the stress hormone) and other inflammatory markers.

While memory training, or Brain Training, as it is sometimes called, has become a popular in commercial products, the research behind it has often been called into question. Just because you train your mind to recall a list of names, and makes you better at name recall, doesn’t necessarily mean that your brain is ‘fitter’ all over.

But, interestingly, the 2017 study discovered that the adults who received training in specific memory tasks, namely:

  • shopping list recall
  • remembering the locations of monuments on a map in an unfamiliar city
  • names and photographs of faces
  • remembering a short story and re-writing it from memory

not only performed better in recall tests, but also showed lower inflammatory markers and lower Cortisol in the 6 month follow-up test. The mechanism for this relationship is not fully understood, but it seems that by practising these tasks, not only did the participants’ brains improve in memory tests, but their level of inflammation (and therefore risk of diabetes, thickened arteries and arthritis) declined over the same period.

Perhaps there is more to Memory Training than simply finding your keys where you expected them to be.