Mind, Body, Spirit
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Feel the urge to take an afternoon catnap?Do. “The evidence is starting to mount that taking a nap is beneficial for normal, healthy adults,” reports Dr. Bruno DiCosmo, a Westchester Medical Group pulmonary critical-care doctor and internist with a sub-specialty in sleep medicine. “There are studies that indicate that memory, the ability to learn, and your general alertness dramatically increase after a nap.”
Napping can be good for your heart as well. A study published in 2007 found that participants who took 30-minute naps at least three times a week were 37 percent less likely to die of heart disease than those who didn’t nap. The study, which for more than six years followed 23,681 Greek participants with no history of heart disease, cancer, or stroke, found napping most beneficial for working men, and researchers cite the reduction in stress levels as a possible explanation.
According to Dr. DiCosmo, who also is the associate director of the White Plains Hospital Sleep Lab, keeping the nap short is key. He explains that sleep comes in four stages plus REM sleep, and we move progressively from stage 1 to REM. “Stage one is about ten minutes and stage two is another ten-to-fifteen minutes. It’s those first two stages that appear to restore people.”
It’s important to note that napping is beneficial for healthy adults with no evidence of sleep problems. Dr. Rochelle Waldman, the medical director of the White Plains Hospital Sleep Lab, explains that if you cannot sleep through the night, taking a nap will only mask what could be a larger problem. “If you experience excessive daytime sleepiness, it may be a sign of, for example, sleep apnea,” she explains.
If you can sleep through the night, Dr. DiCosmo says the ideal time to nap is between noon and 3 pm. Don’t have time to catch some mid-day ZZZs? Then he recommends getting in at least eight to nine hours of uninterrupted nighttime sleep to help you stay alert and awake throughout the day.
Good for the Heart, Bad for the Head
New Findings Link Alcohol Consumption and Cancer
By Alina MakhnovetskyDamned if you do. Damned if you don’t.
For years doctors have prescribed a glass of wine with dinner as a tonic for the heart and as a guard against certain types of cancers, including prostate and renal-cell cancers. But now, some research suggests that even a tiny sip of smooth and velvety Bordeaux may be as dangerous as puffing a cigarette.
Traditionally, cigarette smoking along with consuming alcohol have been considered factors in developing esophagus, larynx, and oral-cavity cancers. Now, a study conducted by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has found a significant link between alcohol consumption and the risk of head and neck cancers. “It has been known for a long time that we found a higher incidence of certain cancers in patients who either consumed alcohol or smoked cigarettes, and there was a higher chance if they did both,” says Randy Stevens, MD, director of radiation oncology at the Dickstein Cancer Treatment Center at White Plains Hospital. “Any alcohol at all for a long period of time increases people’s risk of some kinds of cancers. Some breast cancer studies have shown that even one glass of white wine a day can raise the risk of reoccurrence of breast cancer ten percent. On the other hand, some properties of red wine are being studied because there seems to be a lowered risk of heart disease; at this point, we’re awaiting more studies to better understand the impact of alcohol on different types of diseases and cancers.”
But just as quitting smoking reduces the chances of certain cancers, stopping drinking can significantly reduce the risk of others. The CAMH study found that, though the risk of esophageal cancer virtually doubled in the initial two years after alcohol cessation—possibly due to the fact that people often are experiencing symptoms of disease when they stop drinking—risk of head and neck cancers was reduced markedly after 10 years of cessation and results after 20 years of alcohol cessation were similar to those who never drank alcohol.
The results of the numerous studies are confusing and the answer to whether alcohol is good or bad has been impossible to answer directly. Even if a study shows a positive link with alcohol intake, those benefits are only in moderate consumption. Furthermore, knowing your family history is also vital, for the answer of whether to drink or not to drink may simply lie in the genes.