Cihacekj’s Weblog

November 2, 2008

Daylight Saving: A makeover for your heart

Filed under: Health — Jessica Cihacek @ 9:23 pm

My guess is you probably didn’t have to hit the snooze button today.  Yes, because it is Sunday, but also because at 2 am this morning, the clocks switched over and you snuck in a few more Zzz’s with an extra hour of sleep.  You may have just done your heart a favor.

One of our very own, University of Nebraska Medical Center alumnae, and MSNBC medical correspondent, Dr. Nancy Snyderman is sharing the results of recent Swedish studies on the correlation between more sleep and decreased heart attack risks.  It is found that overall, people do better with heart attack rates this time of year.  Ultimately, this means that the extra hour of sleep you get Saturday night could be translating to a drop in Monday morning death rates.

Here’s why:

  • When we leap forward with time in the Spring, heart attack rates go up 5%
  • When we fall back in the Fall, heart attack rates drop 5%
  • Studies show that people are highest at risk for a heart attack on Mondays in general

For a while, researchers thought all of this news was due to stress, which can also play a role in heart health.  Studies over the past 20 years, however, are showing that it’s really the sleep.  Sundays are known as our “catch up” day for errands, chores, homework, and also sleep.  The late night movies, colds and flu interfering with a restful full night, and “living it up” on the weekends all add up for a stressful and tiresome Monday.

It’s obvious that an hour in shift in time is hard on the human body, but just one hour can also be beneficial in the long run.  Turns out that sleep is more important to our heart than we have ever given it credit for.  Snyderman suggests that we look at this time change as a first step in a heart makeover.

“Take this step now in adding an extra 15, 30, 45 minutes or an hour [of sleep] every day of the week…the reality is yes, you’ll probably reduce your heart attack risk.”

The results are quite fascinating, nappers: catching some shut-eye is just as important to our health as the food we put into our mouth.


Ain’t that a kick in the head, ladies?

Filed under: Health — Jessica Cihacek @ 8:25 pm

The nineteenth century has come and gone, and so has the notion that women are only best under domestic conditions.  Women like Jennie Finch, Venus and Serena Williams, Kerri Walsh, Shawn Johnson, and Heather Mitts are no exception to the rule.  But not only do these ladies have incredible guts, gams and glutes, they are also more prone to sports injuries.  The most common among female athletes?  Concussions.

According to researchers from the Journal of Athletic Training, girls are 68% more likely to suffer sports related concussions.  The reasons for this are pointed to basic anatomy and biomechanical differences.  Girls’ heads are smaller and their neck muscles are simply not as strong as their male counterparts’.  Different styles of play, different training techniques, cultural norms, and even increasing numbers of highly competitive female athletes also explain this issue.

As rowdy and aggressive  as boys may seem on the playing field, looks, in this case, are not so deceiving.   The equation is easy.  Stronger genetic and biological makeup = more resistance to force.  Girls are known to take longer to recover from a  head injury than boys, and academically, the effects are generally more serious and prevalent in females.

Ultimately, a concussion, also referred to as mild traumatic brain injury or minor head trauma is an injury that results from a blow to the head that causes the brain to slam against the inner wall of the skull.  It is not life-threatening, but it can cause both short-term (a couple weeks) and long-term (years) problems.  Symptoms can include confusion, terrible headaches, nausea or vomiting, blurred vision, perservating (repetition in speech), dizziness, amnesia (loss of memory), drowsiness, weakness, ringing in the ears and the inability to walk.

High schools all over the country are reporting a rise in sports-related head cases, too, especially in young girls.  It may be that high school girls are bigger, stronger and faster these days so that collisions between players are more forceful and dangerous.  The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics has released an official manual encouraging coaches, athletic trainers and assistants to protect young athletes from serious injury through educational programs, improved protective equipment and better enforcement of rules.

Perhaps the scariest part about head trauma is that most athletes are unaware of the severity because of  the differences in how they handle the symptoms.  Nebraska Neurologist, Dr. Peter Lennarson spoke to KPTM Fox 42 earlier this year, encouraging medical attention right away at the first sign of a concussion.

“Some people have a mild blow to the head and seem to have a severe disruption of function and others have a major blow to their head and don’t seem to be affected, so there’s not a way to predict that [how it will affect any one person].”

While my athleticism (or lack thereof) doesn’t exactly qualify me as a concussion casualty, to my many soccer star sisters and avid gym-going girlfriends, it’s a girl’s world, just be careful in it.

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