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Curtailed sleep may alter how intense exercise stresses the heart

Previous epidemiological studies have demonstrated that, at the population level, chronically disrupted and shortened sleep increases the risk of several cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure and myocardial infarction.

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In a new study, participants underwent an intense bout of exercise after both normal sleep and after three nights of curtailed sleep. When they exercised after curtailed sleep, the levels of the heart injury biomarker troponin increased slightly more, compared with when the participants performed exercise in their well-rested condition. The study is a smaller pilot study and it is not yet possible to determine if the findings may be of relevance for cardiovascular health. The study is published in the journal Molecular Metabolism.

Previous epidemiological studies have demonstrated that, at the population level, chronically disrupted and shortened sleep increases the risk of several cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure and myocardial infarction. In contrast, physical exercise can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, it has been unknown whether controlled sleep restriction can modulate cardiac stress during strenuous exercise.

“Exercise is great for the heart, while lack of sleep can adversely impact the cardiovascular system. But it has been unknown whether shortened sleep can modulate the physiologic stress that intense exercise seems to have on the cells of the heart,” says Jonathan Cedernaes, physician and associate professor of medical cell biology at Uppsala University, who led the study.

A specific type of the protein troponin is found in the heart’s muscle cells. Low amounts of troponin can be released after high-intensity training. Levels of troponin are routinely determined in the clinic, as significantly higher levels are seen in the setting of acute cardiovascular events.

“Higher blood levels of troponin after exercise have been linked to a relative increased prospective risk of cardiovascular diseases. It is not really known what the mechanism is, but at the same time, we know that one’s cardiovascular health is modulated through an interplay of lifestyle factors. We therefore thought it would be important to investigate whether the release of troponin during exercise can be affected by sleep restriction. One reason is the fact that many occupations entail work that disrupts sleep, such as for healthcare workers,” says Cedernaes.

Previous studies have found that exercise can counteract certain adverse effects of curtailed sleep on metabolism. Furthermore, data at the population level indicate that exercise can counteract the negative effects of chronic sleep loss on the cardiovascular system.

“Those who report exercising on a regular basis, but get less sleep than the ideal amount, still reduce their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. At the same time, we know that chronic or recurrent sleep disruption is bad for cardiovascular health. It is therefore possible that a more pronounced lack of sleep in the long run can increase the relative risk that the heart is injured in some way by more intense exercise. But many individuals experience a temporary lack of sleep, and the need for sleep is also very individual,” Cedernaes points out. “The epidemiological evidence related to disturbed sleep per se, applies primarily to chronic lack of sleep and long-term shift work, and are seen when averaging at the population level.”

16 young men, healthy and normal-weight, underwent the study. All were extensively screened for previous cardiovascular disease, as well as for heredity for such conditions. In addition, all participants had normal sleeping habits within the recommended range – that is, they reported getting 7-9 hours of sleep on a regular basis.

The participants were monitored in a sleep laboratory, where their meal and activity schedules were standardized. In one of the two sessions, participants got a normal amount of sleep, three nights in a row. During their other session, the participants were kept awake for half the nights, three nights in a row. On each occasion, blood samples were taken in the evening and in the morning. After both sleep interventions, blood samples were also taken on the last day, both before and after a 30-min-long intense stationary cycling session.

The researchers measured two biomarkers in the blood samples. NT-proBNP reflects the load on the heart. The second protein, troponin, is commonly used as a marker of cardiac injury. The results showed that the levels of NT-proBNP increased in response to exercise, but this increase did not differ depending on the amount of sleep. Blood levels of troponin also increased after the workout. However, for troponin, the increase after exercise was almost 40% higher after three nights of partial sleep restriction, compared with after three nights of normal sleep.

“An important observation was that the levels of troponin and NT-proBNP were not elevated in response to sleep restriction at any time prior to the workout. It is possible that lack of sleep may instead lower the threshold at which an increased exercise load results in measurable stress in heart muscle cells, as may occur in response to strenuous exercise,” says Cedernaes. “However, we noted that the increase in circulating troponin levels following exercise was variable across individuals. Previous research under resting conditions has also hinted at such variability, and it would be interesting to uncover the mechanisms.”

Cedernaes continues: “Today there is no evidence to suggest that it would be harmful to the heart if you exercise regularly when you have slept too little. One can instead turn the argument around: by ensuring that one gets enough sleep, one may further increase the positive impact of physical exercise. While we know that high-intensity training generally has benefits in the long run, our results may be worth considering and exploring in specific groups of individuals. Examples include athletes and the military. These groups may be required to perform at extreme physical levels even under conditions of curtailed sleep. It may be good to further consider the importance of sleep in these contexts, especially as we also know that improving sleep can also improve one’s performance, both cognitively and physically.”

One limitation of the current study was that only 16 individuals were included. The study should be considered as a pilot study that requires further validation and follow up. Such studies are also needed to examine if these changes also apply to other age groups or women.

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How to help children build a growth mindset

Consider these three tips to help children build a growth mindset.

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A new year is a perfect time to consider the habits you want to keep and the ones you’d like to develop. One resolution to consider is helping your children develop a growth mindset this year.

“We know one of the greatest boosts to parents’ confidence over the past year came from knowing their children’s whole selves are being nurtured, and we want to see that trend continue,” said Carter Peters from KinderCare Learning Center’s education team. “A growth mindset helps children try new things despite fear of failure. It’s the kind of thinking that allows inventors and creative thinkers to get excited about trying something new and ensures they have the cognitive flexibility and problem-solving skills to work through hurdles.”

Adults can often easily spot when children are engaged in creative thinking and prideful of their work, but that confidence may be lost as failures turn into insecurities. By nurturing a growth mindset and showing children they can learn and develop new skills in any area, it better sets them up for long-term success.

Consider these three tips to help children build a growth mindset:

Photo by Markus Spiske from Unsplash.com

1. Praise effort

It’s easy to fall into the habit of praising successes. However, praising effort encourages children to try new things without the fear of failing. It also teaches children personal growth and achievement are possible, even if their overall effort wasn’t a success.

“Young children often get excited to try something new,” Peters said. “By praising effort and showing children they’ll still be loved and valued despite the outcome, you can reframe how they approach challenges and teach them that difficult doesn’t mean impossible.”

2. Encourage the process

People often withhold praise until there’s a result, which leads children to hurriedly scribble a picture to hold up for a “good job” instead of taking time to focus on their efforts. When children know adults will encourage them during the process, instead of only upon the achievement, they’re more likely to try new things or master a new skill. For example, try providing encouragement such as, “I can see you’re focused on drawing that tree. It looks so lifelike because you’re putting so much thought into what you’re doing.” Once their project is finished, continue the encouragement by hanging up their artwork or school projects in a prominent place.

3. Model a growth mindset

You can model a growth mindset for children by narrating your actions when you are facing a challenge: “I am having a difficult time putting this shelf together, but it’s OK. I’ll take a break then read the instructions again.” Remove negative words from your vocabulary, such as “I can’t” or “I’m stupid.” Even when you are joking, children may not be able to tell the difference. You can also ask your children to join you in problem-solving. Take time to hear their ideas and try them even if you think they won’t work. This not only supports the development of their growth mindset, but the quality time and encouragement reinforces their sense of self-worth and builds confidence.

For more tips to help children develop a growth mindset, visit kindercare.com.

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Signs of a Healthy Marriage

Although there are many different ways to define a healthy marriage, these three qualities are essential for any lasting and fulfilling relationship.

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A healthy marriage is built on trust, respect, and communication. Couples with these qualities in their relationship tend to be more satisfied with their marriage and overall life. They also report feeling closer to their partner and having stronger well-being. With 2.3 out of every 1000 people in the US experiencing divorce in 2022, it is important to frequently check in on the health of your marriage.

Although there are many different ways to define a healthy marriage, these three qualities are essential for any lasting and fulfilling relationship.

Signs of a Healthy Marriage

A healthy marriage is built on trust, communication, and mutual respect. If you and your partner can effectively communicate and share a mutual level of respect, then your relationship is off to a good start. Trust is also important in a healthy marriage, as it allows you and your partner to feel secure in your relationship and rely on each other.

Many other signs can indicate whether or not a marriage is healthy. For example, couples who can spend quality time together and enjoy shared activities usually do well. Couples who can openly discuss their relationship with each other and work through difficulties together are also more likely to have a happy and healthy marriage. Finally, marriages, where both partners feel like they can be themselves without judgment from their spouse tend to be the strongest and most lasting.

Freedom to be yourself

In a healthy marriage, partners feel free to be themselves. They don’t have to put on a facade or pretend to be someone they’re not. They can be open and honest with each other and feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, and desires.

Both partners should pursue their interests and hobbies without compromising or sacrificing for the sake of the relationship. There’s no need to agree on everything – in fact, it’s healthy to have some separate interests – but overall, both partners should feel like they’re able to be true to themselves within the relationship.

Lots of good communication

In a healthy marriage, partners can communicate effectively. It means expressing needs and wants and listening and responding to what the other person is saying. There are mutual respect’s opinions, even if there are disagreements. Couples in a healthy marriage feel comfortable communicating with each other about both the good and the bad.

Good sex life

A good sex life can be a major sign of a healthy marriage. A lack of sexual activity can be an early warning sign that something is wrong in the relationship. Often, couples who have a good sex life are more connected emotionally and physically. They are also more likely to trust each other and communicate openly.

Trust in each other

In any relationship, trust is essential. Without trust, there is no foundation for the relationship to grow. In a marriage, trust is even more important. Trusting your spouse means you feel confident in their ability to support you emotionally and financially. It also means that you feel safe sharing your innermost thoughts and feelings with them.

When you trust your spouse, you know they have your best interests. You feel comfortable being yourselves around each other and sharing your hopes, dreams, and fears. Openness and honesty in your relationship allow you to be vulnerable with each other. This vulnerable honesty creates a deeper level of intimacy in your marriage.

When you trust each other, you can be more forgiving when mistakes are made. You know that everyone makes mistakes and that nobody is perfect. You also understand that your spouse is human and capable of making mistakes like anyone else. If they make a mistake, you are more likely to forgive them because you know they are sorry and will try not to make the same mistake again.

Trust is one of the most important foundations of a healthy marriage. If you want your marriage to thrive, build trust in each other.

A successful, strong marriage takes work, but with communication, trust, respect, vulnerability, and affection as its core components, you can together create a partnership that will be long-lasting.

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Obesity linked to macular degeneration

Immune cells are also activated when the body is exposed to stressors such as excess fat in obesity, making being overweight the number one non-genetic risk factor for developing AMD, after smoking.

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A Canadian study published in the prestigious journal Science elucidates a new molecular mechanism that may cause age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The research at Hôpital Maisonneuve-Rosement, in Montreal, shows how life stressors such as obesity reprogram immune system cells and make them destructive to the eye as it ages.

“We wanted to know why some people with a genetic predisposition develop AMD while others are spared,” said Université de Montréal ophtalmology professor Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha, who led the study by his postdoctoral fellow Dr. Masayuki Hata.

“Although considerable effort has been invested in understanding the genes responsible for AMD, variations and mutations in susceptibility genes only increase the risk of developing the disease, but do not cause it,” Sapieha explained.

“This observation suggests that we must gain a better understanding of how other factors such as environment and lifestyle contribute to disease development.”

AMD is a major cause of irreversible blindness worldwide and affected approximately 196 million people in 2020. It comes in two forms:

  • dry AMD, characterized by the accumulation of fatty deposits at the back of the eye and the death of nerve cells in the eye,
  • and wet AMD, which is characterized by diseased blood vessels that develop in the most sensitive part of the sight-generating tissue, called the macula.

Contact with pathogens

It is already known that the immune system in the eye of a person with AMD becomes dysregulated and aggressive. Normally, immune cells keep the eye healthy, but contact with pathogens such as bacteria and viruses can make them go awry.

At the same time, immune cells are also activated when the body is exposed to stressors such as excess fat in obesity, making being overweight the number one non-genetic risk factor for developing AMD, after smoking.

In their study, Sapieha and Hata used obesity as a model to accelerate and exaggerate the stressors experienced by the body throughout life.

They found that transient obesity or a history of obesity leads to persistent changes in the DNA architecture within immune cells, making them more susceptible to producing inflammatory molecules.

“Our findings provide important information about the biology of the immune cells that cause AMD and will allow for the development of more tailored treatments in the future,” said Hata, now an ophthalmology professor at Kyoto University, in Japan.

The researchers hope their discovery will lead other scientists to broaden their interest beyond obesity-related diseases to other diseases characterized by increased neuroinflammation, including Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

About this study

“Past history of obesity triggers persistent epigenetic changes in innate immunity and exacerbates neuroinflammation,” by Mike Sapieha and Masayuki Hata, was published in Science.

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