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Monthly Archives: January 2017

Tapping to Music May Help You ‘Hear’ It

Moving to the beat of music actually helps you hear the music better, according to a new study.

Researchers at McMaster University in Canada played a series of regular beats for study participants, half of whom tapped on an electronic drum pad while they listened while the other half listened without tapping.

The participants were asked whether the final beat was consistent with the preceding rhythm, and those who tapped while they listened were 87 percent better at detecting the rhythm change than those who didn’t tap.

“We found that tapping along while listening does more than help us feel and enjoy the music. It actually helps us hear it better,” Michael Schutz, an assistant professor of music, said in a McMaster news release.

He and his colleagues also found that participants who tapped to the beat were moreconfident in their answers about the rhythm change.

The findings, presented at the recent Acoustics Week in Canada conference in Quebec City, are important for music listeners, performers and educators, according to Schutz.

“From a young age, we teach students to move to the music while performing, and now we know at least one reason why this is beneficial,” he said. “This study sheds light on why moving while playing helps musicians keep time and improves their overall performance.”

Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

5 Big Bloody Health Risks of Being a Vampire

So we can’t help but wonder — will Bella’s dreams of becoming a vampire (so she can literally spend forever with her cold-blooded beau) come true? (Okay, this writer already knows Bella’s fate because she read the books, but she’s not trying to spoil the movie for anyone!)

If Bella does indeed become a vampire, she should beware: There are some specific health risks that seem to go hand in hand with the blood-sucking lifestyle. Take a look.

Major vitamin D deficiency. It doesn’t matter which vampire-ideology you subscribe to, most myths stick to this: Vampires and sunlight don’t mix. While some believe blood-suckers have a heightened sensitivity to sunshine, triggering extreme pain,Twilight’s Edward (and the rest of his vamp-fam, the Cullens) stick to dreary, dark locations because their extremely fair skin actually sparkles in the sunlight (which could out them as vampires, of course). Either way, there are real health risks to living sunshine-free. Daylight is a natural source of vitamin D, the powerful vitamin that promotes the body’s absorption of calcium — the mineral that keeps your teeth and bones strong. Without vitamin D, your risk of conditions such as osteoporosis skyrocket.

Fortunately for the Cullens, vitamin D supplements are available, and it can also be found in a number of foods, such as salmon, sardines, and dairy.

Heightened HIV risk. The Cullens don’t suck human blood (they’re “vegetarians” — swoon!), but most vampires do — and that’s a big no-no if you want to protect yourself from blood-borne illnesses like human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. In fact, unless a vampire asked his victim to get an HIV test before sucking him dry, there would be no way for him to know his risk. Since the virus lives in a human’s bodily fluids — primarily blood — we’re pretty sure vampires could be facing a major HIV/AIDS epidemic. Other blood-borne diseases include hepatitis B and C and viral hemorrhagic fevers.

In the real world, teen vampire enthusiasts may also be at risk. A reported trend among some young people is to sink their teeth into each other — hard enough to draw blood — and then, in a vampire-like fashion, suck the blood (yuck). Not to mention, MSNBC reports that about 10 to 15 percent of these human bite wounds actually become infected. “If you break the skin, your mouth is pretty dirty,” Thomas Abshire, MD, a pediatric blood and cancer specialist, told MSNBC.

Sleep deprivation. No wonder vampires are so darn cranky! Twilight’s living dead never sleep (sounds like a big drawback to us, Bella); others walk the night (so we’re willing to bet their sleep habits aren’t very sound).

What does that mean for these fatigued freaks of nature? Along with about 30 percent of humans, vampires likely suffer some pretty hefty health problems due to insomnia. Skimping on zzzs is tied to a number of symptoms — from higher levels of depression and heart problems to lower sex drive and energy.

Extremely unbalanced diet. Everyone knows that the key to good health is a balanced diet. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests getting ample amount of fruits and veggies, calcium-rich foods, whole grains, and lean protein to ward off disease and illness, increase energy, and boost mental health. Still, vampires choose to disregard this healthy lifestyle habit, opting instead for an all-blood diet. (We hope they’re at least choosing healthy victims, so they can reap some of the secondhand nutritional benefits.)

Dental issues. Just like the rest of the body, teeth need certain nutrients to stay healthy. Are those nutrients found in human blood? Nope — they’re found in foods like calcium-rich dairy, fruits, and veggies. In fact, dentists are so sure that vampires’ pearly whites are in terrible shape, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) recently launched a dental health campaign around the idea. The video, aimed at dentist-evading teens, features a young woman about to be bitten by a vampire, when she suddenly pushes him away, repulsed by his awful breath and hideous teeth.

Why Do We Talk in Our Sleep?

Has your partner ever referred to a conversation that occurred the night before — and you can’t remember a thing you said? Unless it’s after a wild night out, the cause may be somniloquy, better known as sleep talking.

Sleep talking falls under the category of parasomnias, which are disruptive sleep disorders. Other parasomnias include sleepwalking, bedwetting, and night terrors. Although it can be startling, sleepwalking is generally nothing to worry about.

“Sleep talking is benign for most people,” says Russell Rosenberg, PhD, who is the chairman of the National Sleep Foundation in Atlanta. “No one knows exactly what causes it.” A lot of nighttime chitchat can cause you to feel tired the next day, but it’s generally not a cause for concern. It’s also quite common: although statistics vary, about 60 percent of us will have at least one episode of sleep talking, according to William Kohler, MD, the medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Tampa.

The When and How of Sleep Talking

Sleep talking tends to occur during two different stages of sleep: During stage two, when it’s just a stream of thoughts not accompanied by a dream, and during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when it’s accompanied by active dreams. During REM sleep it’s easy to arouse a person out of sleep talking, but during stage two, it’s very hard to wake someone up, and they likely won’t remember what they were talking about. And even during REM sleep, what a sleep-talker is saying may not be related to what’s happening in their dream.

“With sleep talking, we may have active dreams — we may be speaking about what we’re dreaming. On the other hand, we could be dreaming one thing and speaking something completely different,” says Dr. Kohler.

Sleep talking can vary in frequency and intensity, and can be caused by a variety of factors, which may be as simple as drinking alcohol before going to sleep. “Having a high fever, being under emotional stress, taking certain medications, and having underlying sleep problems like sleep apnea can all cause a person to talk in their sleep,” says Kohler. Sleep talking may also run in families, he says. There aren’t any specific medications that have been singled out to cause sleep talking.

What Does All That Chitchat Mean?

Although you may be tempted to read a lot into what your partner utters in their sleep, experts don’t recommend taking too much stock in those sweet nothings. “It’s not a reflection of what’s going on in your life,” Rosenberg says. Kohler agrees: “There’s a myth that secrets can be revealed with sleep talking, but that’s not really accurate. The things people are talking about can potentially have nothing to do with reality.”

And as many parents know, sleep talking is common in kids. “This is more of a brain development issue in children,” says Rosenberg. “Most kids will grow out of it.”

If your partner or child is chattering away in their sleep, “let it play itself out — just observe and make sure they are safe,” recommends Rosenberg.

So when would sleep talking actually be a cause for concern? Only if you feel overly tired during the day, if your nocturnal chatter is disturbing your partner, or if your sleep talking is accompanied by any other “acting out,” such as sleepwalking. If you’re feeling sleepy all the time, a sleep specialist can help determine the best course of action to ensure you get better sleep.

7 Great Ways to Commemorate Steve Jobs

When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died on October 5 after a seven-year battle withpancreatic cancer, America’s reaction was anything but “nano” or “mini” — in fact, the emotional outpouring was pretty enormous.

From President Obama to Ashton Kutcher, it seemed like everyone dropped what they were doing to tweet, post on Facebook, or chat — many using their Apple devices — about their admiration for a great American innovator.

Now that you’ve paid your respects, what else can you do to celebrate Jobs’ life? During a graduation speech at Stanford University in 2005, he said: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” So why not look to the man himself for inspiration to live a healthier, happier life?

This week, follow your heart — and do something Jobs would do:

1. Create something insanely great. Despite being a college dropout, Jobs was a consummate innovator. From his parents’ garage, he co-founded a company that would later develop “insanely great” devices — from iPods to iPhones to iPads — used by millions worldwide every day. “Considered the Thomas Edison of his generation, Jobs has been involved in more than 300 computer-related U.S. patents,” states hisobituary on International Business Times.

So here’s your task: Get in touch with your creative side and make something new! Doesn’t matter if it’s a photograph, a kick-butt dinner, a cross-stitching masterpiece, or your very own Web site, creativity is a no-fail way to boost your health. Why? It stimulates the brain, reduces stress, helps build self-confidence — and, hey, it’s fun.

2. Turn up the tunes. Jobs’ contribution to music is considered by many to be revolutionary. That’s because iTunes and the iPod basically sent CDs into retirement, changing the way we listen to music. But it doesn’t matter which device you choose, cranking up your favorite tunes is good for your health. Music has not only been shown to fight stress, ease anxiety, and set off happiness triggers in your brain, it may also help reduce pain and protect the heart. (In a small study performed at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, participants’ blood got flowing when listening to joyful music in a way similar to what happens during aerobic exercise.) So put on those headphones and jam out. (And if you want to be even more Jobsian, listen to Bob Dylan — rumor has it that the crooner was Jobs’ all-time favorite musician.)

3. Forgo meat. Jobs was a pescetarian — which means he eliminated meat and chicken from his diet, but he indulged in fish and seafood. In fact, in 2006 the health-conscious CEO (who also headed Pixar Animation Studios), cut ties with McDonald’s, which promoted Pixar films’ characters in its Happy Meals, because he wasn’t keen on the health implications of the meat-happy fast food chain.

Ditching meat (at least every once in a while) could benefit you, too — especially if you have a few pounds to drop. In a scientific review published in Nutritional Reviews, researchers found that vegetarian diets not promote weight loss, they also decrease risks of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

4. Indulge in ice cream. After his cancer treatment, the Apple co-founder turned to his favorite frozen treat when he wanted to gain weight after cancer treatment. “I’m eating like crazy,” he told a New York Times reporter. What was his guilty pleasure? “A lot of ice cream.”

So go ahead and indulge, but first check out this list of The Best and Worst Frozen Desserts.

5. Forgive and forget. After a very public ousting from Apple in 1985, following internal power struggles and disappointing sales, Jobs set out on his own. He accomplished several projects in his “off” time — including buying the company that would become Pixar, starting NeXT computer company, and attracting several loyal investors. But when Apple announced in 1996 that it would buy NeXT, he returned to Apple. Now, it’s difficult to imagine what the tech world would be like if Jobs hadn’t patched things up with Apple.

If Jobs’ monumental revival of Apple isn’t enough to motivate you to reconcile your differences with someone, consider the health benefits of forgiveness: Research shows that it lessens stress and lowers blood pressure, and even helps prevent depression.

6. Book a vacation. After dropping out of Reed College in 1972, Jobs embarked on a trip to India to visit the Neem Karoli Baba, a Hindu guru. He sought spiritual enlightenment and, by all accounts, found it in the form of Zen Buddhism. He counted the “countercultural” and spiritual roots he found there as major influences on all his creative endeavors. It’s no surprise that this trip inspired him to do great things: Travel has long been known to be a serious stimulus for creativity and life changes. So go on — take that trip, whether it’s to India, Idaho, or just the little island off the coast of town. You’ll never know how it might change you.

7. Recycle your electronics. In 2005, Jobs responded to criticism of Apple’s poor recycling programs by announcing the company would take back iPods for free. Later, he expanded the program to include most Apple products. Apple now includes free shipping and environmentally friendly disposal of old systems. But he wasn’t always popular with environmentalists — in fact, he lashed out against his green critics at Apple’s annual meeting in Cupertino that year — but he listened, and eventually changed his tune.

Developing a green thumb can serve you well, too. Studies have shown that gardening and other environmental measures can dramatically improve your mental health, and “greenifying” your home is a surefire way to help protect against dangerous toxins.