Shorter dream-stage sleep may be related to earlier death – Harvard Health Blog

Time and time again, adequate sleep has been shown to be critical to daily functioning and long-term health. Sleep serves numerous roles: recovering energy for the brain, clearing waste products, and forming memories. Prior studies have clearly linked shortened sleep times to heart disease, obesity, reduced cognitive performance, worsened mood, and even a shorter life. There is now new research that suggests that lack of a certain type of sleep (the dream stage of sleep) may be related to an earlier death in middle-aged and older people.

What is REM sleep?

Normal sleep is broken down into two sleep types: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-rapid eye movement (NREM). NREM is further classified by depth of sleep; N1 and N2 are lighter sleep stages, and N3 is deep sleep, which is most restorative. (REM is the stage where vivid dreaming occurs.) Brainwave activity during this time appears similar to the brain’s activity while awake. REM periods generally occur every 90 minutes, and are longest during the second half of the night. REM sleep normally makes up 20% to 25% of sleep time.

How does sleep change with age?

Sleep time and sleep stages naturally change as we age. Total sleep time decreases by 10 minutes every decade until age 60, when it stops decreasing. Time in N3 sleep, the deepest sleep stage, also shortens with age; time in N1 and N2 tends to increase. As a result, people wake more easily from sleep as they age. The percentage of REM sleep also naturally decreases; thus, reduced time spent in REM may be a marker of aging.

The circadian rhythm is a 24-hour internal clock that governs numerous body functions including body temperature, release of hormones, and sleep time. The internal clock “advances” with age, so older adults

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Time for flu shots — getting one is more important than ever! – Harvard Health Blog

Wondering when to get your flu shot? The best time is before influenza (flu) starts circulating widely. For most people, September or October is ideal for protection through the whole flu season, as the immune response from the vaccine wanes over time. And while changes and restrictions due to COVID-19 may make getting a flu vaccine less convenient for some this year, the pandemic makes it more important than ever.

Why do I need to get a flu vaccine yearly?

Influenza A and Influenza B cause most cases of flu in humans. Both have many strains that constantly change, accumulating genetic mutations that disguise them from the immune system. Prior exposure to one strain of flu will not necessarily protect you from other strains. Your immune system might not even recognize the same strain if it has mutated enough.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) constantly monitor changing strains of influenza around the world. They use this data to develop vaccines months before flu season starts to protect against the most likely strains to reach the US. This flu season, common strains are likely to include H1N1 and H3N2.

How effective is the flu vaccine?

Although the vaccine is not perfect, it is 40% to 60% effective in most years. And if you do get the flu it is likely to be milder, because vaccination reduces the risk of severe illness or death.

During the 2018–2019 flu season, 35.5 million Americans got sick with the flu, and 34,200 died from the flu. However, last year half of all Americans received the flu shot. The CDC estimates this prevented 4.4 million cases of flu, 58,000 hospitalizations, and 3,500 deaths. That’s equivalent to saving 10 lives per day during flu season. The flu vaccine has additional benefits for people

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Harvard Health Ad Watch: A feel-good message about a diabetes drug – Harvard Health Blog

This 60-second advertisement for Trulicity, a medication for diabetes, is one of the most feel-good medication commercials I’ve ever seen. The narrator never uses the scare tactic of so many other ads, listing the terrible things that could happen if you don’t take the treatment. Instead, from start to finish, music, images, and spoken words deliver empowering, encouraging messages focused on helping your body to do what it’s supposed to be doing despite having diabetes.

There’s a lot of good information here, but as in most direct-to-consumer health marketing there’s also some that’s missing. Let’s go through it, shall we?

Three actors, three positive messages

The ad opens with uplifting music and statements by three people with type 2 diabetes (though all are actors, as noted in text at the bottom of the screen). A woman faces the camera to declare

“My body is truly powerful.”

So far so good! Then a man wearing a hard hat and holding blueprints at a construction site states

“I have the power to lower my blood sugar and A1C.”

More good news! By the way, he’s referring to hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C), a molecule in the circulatory system that serves as a standard test of average blood sugar over the previous two to three months. A normal or nearly normal HbA1C suggests good diabetic control, while higher results indicate elevated blood sugar and poorer control of diabetes.

We then meet a third woman wearing scrubs, who works in the physical therapy department of a hospital. She says

“…because I can still make my own insulin and Trulicity activates my body to release it, like it’s supposed to.”

Well, that sounds good, too, right? Presented this way, Trulicity seems more natural, because it encourages the release of your body’s insulin rather than relying

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6 all-natural sex tips for men – Harvard Health Blog

If you believe those upbeat, seductive advertisements, men only need to pop a pill to awaken their dormant sex life. Whether the problem is erectile dysfunction (ED) — the inability to maintain an erection for sex — or low libido, ED medications appear to be the quickest and easiest solution.

While these drugs work for most men, they are not right for everyone. ED drugs are relatively safe, but can cause possible side effects such as headaches, indigestion, and back pain. Plus, some men may not want their sex life dependent on regular medication, or simply can’t take them because of high or low blood pressure, or other health conditions.

Fortunately, there are some proven natural ways for men to manage their ED and increase vitality. Bonus: these strategies also can enhance your overall health and quality of life, both in and out of the bedroom.

Six ways to boost your sex life without medications

  1. Get moving. Research has shown that regular exercise is one of the best medicines for ED. One study of almost 32,000 men ages 53 to 90 found that frequent vigorous exercise equal to running at least three hours per week or playing tennis five hours per week was associated with a 30% lower risk of ED compared with little or no exercise. It doesn’t really matter how you move — even walking is great — as long as you keep moving.
  2. Eat right. Go bullish on fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and fish, while downplaying red and processed meat and refined grains. This type of diet lessened the likelihood of ED in the Massachusetts Male Aging Study. Another tip: chronic deficiencies in vitamin B12 — found in clams, salmon, trout, beef, fortified cereals, and yogurt — may harm the spinal cord, potentially short-circuiting nerves responsible
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