Tag Archives: Health Problems

Vacation Or Die!

by Richard

The second-worst week of any working year is the week just before you leave on vacation. Of course, the worst week of any working year is the week right after you return from vacation.

Ah, dudes. But those actual vacation days. Those are some good days, indeed.

And, it turns out, they just might be saving your life. In a column, Dan Obeidallah asks if you wanted  to have that heart attack. And, if you didn’t, why didn’t you take the vacation days that could have helped stave it off?

Here’s the deal. Studies have shown that not taking vacations is linked to health problems. And if people skip vacations, there’s a chance that they may die younger than those who don’t.

I think employers should be required to post warning labels in the workplace similar to those on cigarettes packs. I’d love to see a big sign in the break room that reads: “WARNING: Working too many weeks without a vacation is going to kill you. Seriously, you are going to die from it.”

One study found that men at high risk for coronary heart disease, and who failed to take annual vacations, were 32% more susceptible to dying from a heart attack.

Another study compared women who vacationed at least twice a year to those who took one every six years or less. Astoundingly, the women who did not vacation annually were almost eight times more likely to develop coronary heart disease or have a heart attack.

All of which is too bad for a lot of Americans. In this country, we’re practically obsessed with the idea of proving our toughness, our fitness through work, and one of the ways we do that, is to not take vacation or sick days. I mean, I’ve heard some dudes boast about not having taken a vacation day in years.

I just plain don’t understand dudes like that. Vacations are something you earn by working hard during the year. They allow you to take a little time, stop stressing over stuff that is, in the long run, pretty unimportant. If you work at it, you can even get some perspective, and that never hurts.

The average American uses only 12 of her 14 vacation days each year. In Europe, that average is closer to 20. It’s not even a question to ask which economic entity has a higher life expectancy. Europe of course.

If saving your life isn’t enough of a reason to take a few vacations, here is another: People who take annual vacations are more productive.

A 2010 study found that 35% of Americans feel better about their job and are more productive after a vacation. Vacations have been found to help us recharge — we sleep better during them and for a period of time afterwards. And our brain responses become quicker after vacations.

So what’s the point of all this? Simply to make sure you think about taking the vacation days you’ve earned. Especially considering it’s summer and your little dude is not in school, which makes this the perfect time to take a few days and see things from the viewpoint of a younger dude for once in a while.

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Freaky Friday: Bully Brains

by Richard

This is actually kind of scary. We know that being bullied makes for some big-time backlash for the young dudes who get bullied. What we didn’t know until recently is that being bullied also makes some physical changes in the brains of those kids who get bullied.

Yeah, that’s right. Young dudes who get bullied actually suffer permanent changes to the structure of their brains because of the bullying.

If we thought there was a reason to crack down on bullying in schools before, brother, you’d better believe there’s more of a reason now.

They lurk in hallways, bathrooms, around the next blind corner. But for the children they have routinely teased or tormented, bullies effectively live in the victims’ brains as well — and not just as a terrifying memory.

Preliminary evidence shows that bullying can produce signs of stress, cognitive deficits and mental-health problems.

Now University of Ottawa psychologist Tracy Vaillancourt and her colleagues at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario plan to scan the brains of teens who have been regularly humiliated and ostracized by their peers to look for structural differences compared with other children.

“We know there is a functional difference. We know their brains are acting differently, but we don’t know if it is structural as well,”said Vaillancourt, an expert in the biology of bullying.

According to Vaillancourt, she finds changes to the hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for memory.

Bullied young dudes have already been found to score lower on tests that measure verbal memory and executive function, a set of skills needed to focus on a task and get the job done. Mental-health problems, such as depression, are also more common.

Come on, dudes. This is ridiculous. We need to have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying in schools that’s actually enforced all the time, every time.  Kids need to feel safe when they’re at school, trying to learn.

I mean, come on. How can you learn if you’re constantly looking over your shoulder, fearing the next push or the next time someone starts name calling?

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Freaky Friday: Bariatric Memory Enhancement

by Richard

Weight-loss surgery, called bariatric surgery by those clear-speaking medical professionals in the know (and folks like me who just like to sound intelligent, or at least multisyllabic), might do more than just help you lose weight. In a recent study, folks who had bariatric surgery (see? Didn’t I sound smartical?) tended to do better in memory tests after the surgery.

“Just three months after surgery, there was a significant improvement in memory function,” says researcher Gladys Strain, PhD, director of research for laparoscopic and bariatric surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, who presented her findings at Obesity 2010, the annual meeting of the Obesity Society in San Diego.

Obesity is linked with a host of health problems, including a higher risk of strokeand Alzheimer’s disease, Strain says. Growing evidence also suggests that obesity is associated with problems in cognition.

So, basically, you lose weight and your memory gets better? Well, I don’t think it’s as clear cut as all that, but that’s basically the gist of it. Of course, the reasons for this memory improvement are  unknown, but Strain said she has at least one idea about that.

One possibility is the resolution of depression. “Bariatric patients have an increased incidence of depressive disorders and anxiety and sedentary lifestyles,” she says. As they lose weight, that depression may lift, perhaps explaining the improvement in cognitive skills, she says.

She says more research is needed to focus on the exact mechanisms. Ideally, she would like to test patients for longer intervals after surgery.

Mostly, folks don’t get bariatric surgery unless they’re morbidly obese, which means all that fat they’re carrying around will cause them to live a significantly shorter life. It also means they undergo some serious social issues. Definitely cause for a little depression. I know from experience that depression makes it hard enough to focus on tying your shoes, much less trying to remember more esoteric stuff like where you left the car keys or when that appointment was.

Really, dudes, what this says to me is that we need to do a better job of controlling obesity. Better memory seems to be just a minor side effect of the surgery that allows these folks to finally lose weight. We’re not even talking about the reduced strain on your heart, muscles and the rest of your body.

I’ll be back tomorrow. I think I need to go exercise some more.

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