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Hospital News

May 18, 2017        

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette

Getting a healthy handle on handheld tech

 

You may have heard or thought—haven’t we all at one point?—that smartphones, tablets and the like are bad for your long-term health, as indeed they have been scientifically shown to be.

 

But while personal digital assistants (PDAs) are here to stay, in a recent blog post, psychiatrist and brain-electronics expert Victoria L. Dunckley, M.D. lists ten ways to reduce PDAs’ negative effects on brains and nervous systems, especially those of children and adolescents.

 

“I’ve written elsewhere how screen-time stresses and detunes the body clock, brain chemistry, and reward pathways, as well as how tech addiction can actually damage the brain’s frontal lobe,” Dr. Dunckley begins.  “I’ve also shared how an electronic fast can reset and resynchronize the nervous system, improving a child’s mood, sleep, focus and behavior in a matter of weeks.”

 

According to Dr. Dunckley, ten ways of counteracting the effects of daily screen-time are:

  1. Increasing exposure to greenery, nature, and sunlight—a growing body of research suggests that green spaces enhance mental health and learning capacity.

  2. Incorporate more exercise and free play.  While screen-time breaks down brain connectivity, exercise does the reverse—it builds connections and literally makes the brain bigger.

  3. Practice sleep hygiene and create a “sleep sanctuary.” Numerous studies have shown that higher amounts of daily screen-time and screen-time in the evenings disrupt sleep.

  4. Engage in creative play and activities.  Creative activities stimulate the right brain, the hemisphere that is often underactive in our information-overloaded world.

  5. Practice mindfulness.  Mindfulness includes activities like yoga, meditation, or breath work.  While it can be tricky to get kids to meditate or do yoga, most enjoy it once they start.

  6. Bring on the bonding: human touch, empathy, and love.  It is well-documented that children who are held, rocked, soothed and attended to by an “in tune” parent have larger brains.

  7. Incorporate daily chores for the entire family—even the little ones.  The Learning Habit Study showed that kids with the highest GPA scores did more chores.

  8. Mimic nature’s day/night light cycles as closely as possible.  Artificial light at night, from lighting our homes but especially from screens, throws off the body clock.

  9. Tone down the brightness levels on ALL screens.  Download software like f.lux on all your devices, to warm and darken the screen as it gets later in the day.

  10. Go wired and give WiFi the boot.  First, research suggests that WiFi’s electromagnetic fields may suppress melatonin, and second, wired-only Internet automatically reduces device use.

 Lonelier people hit harder by colds: study

 

A novel study by Rice University deliberately gave 159 volunteers common cold viruses and then kept them in hotel rooms alone for a week to see how loneliness affects having a cold.

 

Researchers first measured each volunteer’s level of loneliness using the Short Loneliness Scale and the Social Network Index, two popular psychological tests.  They also tested each during their hotel stays.

 

The researchers found that among those volunteers who got sick from the cold viruses, those with more measured loneliness reported more severe cold symptoms.

 

According to the researchers, the study adds to previous unrelated research finding that people with weaker and lower-quality social networks feel worse when hit by physical, mental or emotional illness.

 

The study was published in Health Psychology in early April.


Third targeted drug now FDA-approved for specific cancer


In early May, the FDA approved a third so-called immune checkpoint inhibitor drug to treat advanced urothelial cancer patients.  With the approval, patients may be treated with Opdivo, Tecentriq and now, Imfinzi—but only for such patients if the disease progresses after chemo.


New alternate-day fasting diet isn’t better: study


A year-long comparison study of 100 obese adults found that the alternate-day fasting diets, a new dieting fad of recent months, aren’t any better than standard weight-loss (“calorie-restrictive”) diets.


The University of Illinois study, published late April in JAMA Internal Medicine, had two groups of about three dozen adults each randomly assigned to an alternate-day weight-loss plan or a standard weight-loss plan.  The study’s remaining participants served as a comparison group.


The study’s first six months focused on weight loss, with the second on weight maintenance.  During the first three months of the weight-loss phase, meals were provided to the participants, which were in accordance with the American Heart Association (AHA) guidelines.


But the researchers reported finding no significant differences in levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol between both weight-loss groups after 12 months.  What’s more, they also found that levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol were higher in the fasting group after 12 months.  Researchers likewise reported that standard weight-loss dieter had greater adherence to prescribed intake targets.


The alternate-day fasting fad has people “fasting,” or eating 25 percent of their normal food intake, one day and eating 125 percent of normal intake the next.


New York (hospital) scores with world’s first triplet procedure


Triplets born in New York are rare enough.  And triplets born in New York with a serious but correctable skull condition called craniosynostosis is rarer yet.


But leave it to New York to score another rare rarity—and fix it, too.  In what is believed to be a world first, Dr. David Chesler and his pediatric neurosurgery team at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital performed endoscopic surgery this January on the heads of triplets Jackson, Hunter and Kaden Howard.  And according to recent reports, the young New Yorkers—reflecting New York’s can-do attitude, of course—are doing fine at five months old now.


Craniosynostosis, which occurs in 1 in 2,500 births (or 0.005 percent of newborns), is a premature fusion of one or more sutures on a baby’s skull that can threaten vision and brain growth if not corrected with common and safe surgery, like that done at Stony Brook.


Being a never-take-no New Yorker goes to your head—and now, in more ways than one.