Monthly Archives: August 2016

7 Things You Need to Do to Protect Yourself from Ticks

aaaProtect yourself from tick bites with these smart strategies.

What You Should Know About Dog Ticks and Lyme Disease

1. Stick to the middle

When you’re on a hike or walking through a wooded area, avoid the edges of paths and trails, where ticks are more prevalent.

2. Wear white

Teeny-tiny ticks are easier to spot against light-colored duds. (If you spot a tick on your clothes, try this method to quickly get them off.)

3. Protect your noggin

Don’t think ticks are only in the grass. “Brushing against a tree could easily leave one in your hair,” says Amesh Adalja, MD, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Pittsburgh. Try donning a cap or tying hair back, and use repellent on your face. (Spray into hands and then apply with your fingers.)

4. Hike up your socks

And tuck your pant legs into them. Fashionable, it’s not. But every inch of exposed skin matters.

5. Treat your clothes

If you’re heading into tick-heavy backcountry for days, consider applying the insecticide permethrin to your clothes (it can last through up to six washes), as well as spraying repellent on skin not covered by clothing. “Ticks are crafty, so you want to use multiple types of protection,” says Paul Mead, MD, chief of epidemiology and surveillance for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Lyme disease program.

6. Double-check your damp bits

Ticks love dark, moist areas, so when you’re looking for them, focus on the groin, backs of the knees, and armpits. “Women often forget their bra line, but that’s a tick’s dream spot,” says Andrea Gaito, MD, a rheumatologist and Lyme specialist based in Basking Ridge, N.J.

7. Hit the shower

A full-body tick check and a pair of tweezers should be your first line of defense. But you might be able to scrub away any ticks you miss—and slash your risk of tick-borne disease—when you lather up. “Water alone won’t do the trick, because you need a bit of resistance to remove ticks,” says Dr. Gaito. So grab a loofah!

How Much Protein Should I Eat Every Day

Dieting used to seem simple. If you were slim, you were in “good shape.” If you weren’t, losing a few pounds would benefit your health. But the latest research suggests that your risk for death and disease doesn’t always align with your physique. That makes pinpointing the “ideal” or “optimal” protein intake really tricky.

Some exercise researchers say more protein is often better—even in amounts well above the 56 grams a day (and 46 grams, for women) recommended by the Institute of Medicine (IOM). It’s filling, beneficial for appetite suppression and weight loss, and also helps prevent loss of muscle mass and strength as people age, says Dr. Stuart Phillips, a professor of kinesiology at Canada’s McMaster University. Animal sources of protein are also loaded with essential nutrients and amino acids—like iron and folate, which many people don’t get enough of, Phillips says.

For all these reasons, he says that adults, whether they’re sedentary or active, should consume a lot more protein than they probably do—up to .75 grams of protein per pound of body weight every day. For a 150-pound person, that works out to roughly the amount you’d find in a chicken breast or like-size cut of meat, a cup of beans, six ounces of Greek yogurt and eight ounces of milk, according to the USDA’s nutrient database.

But talk to a disease and longevity researcher, and you’ll get a very different answer—one that sure won’t please Paleo dieters.

“Proteins and their amino acids regulate the two major pro-aging pathways,” says Dr. Valter Longo, a professor of biological science at the University of Southern California. By “up-regulating” those pathways, eating lots of protein seems to promote higher rates of both death and disease, he says.

Longo’s research shows cancer rates increase nearly 400% among Americans who get 20% or more of their daily calories from protein, compared to those who restrict their protein intake to 10% of their daily calories. Risk of mortality also jumps 75% among the heavy protein eaters, his data show.

Of course, there are several important confounding factors baked into that data. Americans who eat lots of protein are probably getting it from unhealthy sources. But Longo says even if you cut out fatty, additive-stuffed cuts of meat—fast food burgers, breakfast sandwiches etc.—there’s still plenty of evidence to suggest protein consumption fuels disease and early death.

“We are not claiming that the high-protein diet cannot make you lose weight, but only that in the long run it is not healthy for you,” Longo says.

Based on his longevity research, he recommends people get no more than .37 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight—roughly half the amount Phillips recommends. For a 150-pound person, that works out to about 50 grams of protein daily.

But Phillips and Longo’s recommendations start to converge for older adults. For people over 65, muscle wasting and loss of strength become important concerns—so much so that eating more protein lowers your risk for both death and disease, Longo says. Once you hit 65, he says it’s fine to consume a bit more protein if you notice you’re starting to drop weight, lose strength or shed muscle mass.

All of this no doubt seems confusing and convoluted. (Despite what that bestselling diet book tells you, nothing is simple when it comes to your health and the food you eat.) But you can probably forget about counting protein grams if you do just one thing: adopt a Mediterranean-style diet.

Fish contains about half the protein found in chicken or red meat, and the other staples of the Mediterranean diet—olive oil, vegetables, whole grains and legumes—have low or modest amounts of it. That may be one reason why Mediterranean diets have repeatedly been linked to a longer life and lower rates of disease, Longo says—and it’s just one more reason to adopt the diet supported by research again and again.

Why Can’t I Remember Things

You spaced on that lunch meeting you said you’d attend, or you forgot a promise you’d made to a friend. Minor memory lapses strike us all from time to time. But if your brain seems increasingly unable to hold onto new information, stress may be to blame.

“There’s a lot of evidence to suggest chronic stress can lead to memory impairments,” says Jason Radley, an assistant professor of brain sciences at the University of Iowa. Radley’s research has shown high or prolonged spikes in the stress hormone cortisol may “prune” the synapses in your brain’s prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, which are essential for certain brain functions, including memory.

“Stress levels naturally elevate through the process of aging,” Radley says. “And for those who suffer from chronic stress, it seems the cumulative exposure to cortisol over a person’s lifespan may produce a weathering of the brain and an erosion of cognitive functioning.”

It’s less clear if a super-stressful week or month could make a young person more forgetful, Radley says. Instead, your stress may be messing with your sleep.

“Sleep loss can disrupt the process of memory consolidation,” or sorting and storage, says Christoph Nissen, a professor of sleep medicine at the University of Freiburg in Germany. His research suggests sleep provides your brain the opportunity to both replay and strengthen new memories while also discarding the frivolous stuff you don’t need to remember.

Sleep loss can also hurt your brain’s ability to encode new memories, Nissen says. So in more ways than one, a poor night’s sleep can hamper your memory. Your goal should be eight hours every night, though an occasional night of just six hours of sleep won’t do much damage to your memories, Nissen says.

Stress and sleep aside, multitasking behaviors can also disrupt your brain’s ability to store new memories, says David Meyer, a professor of psychology and cognition at the University of Michigan who has studied the impacts of multitasking on memory. “When you’re multitasking, that’s interfering with processes that normally would be devoted 100% to doing the mental work that moves info from short term memory into long term memory,” he explains.

He mentions a well-known experiment during which researchers observed the brain activity of people who were trying to learn new information while multitasking. Compared to a group that was focused solely on learning the new info, the multitaskers had disruptions in the parts of their brain used for learning and memory consolidation. On a follow-up test, the multitaskers had higher error rates than their single-focus counterparts, Meyer says.

Your brain needs small breaks after a task in order to lock away new memories. If you’re replying to emails while participating in a conference call or chatting with a colleague, Meyer says, your over-tasked mind just won’t have the chance to store the new information it’s collecting.