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Meditation, yoga can sharpen your mind

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Yoga

London, May 11: Confirming what yogis have claimed for long, new research has found that meditation and breath-focused practices, such as pranayama, can work like fertiliser for the brain, strengthening our ability to focus on tasks.

“Our research finds that there is evidence to support the view that there is a strong connection between breath-centred practices and a steadiness of mind,” said principal investigator of the study Ian Robertson from Trinity College Dublin.

The findings, published in the journal Psychophysiology, explained the neurophysiological link between breathing and attention.

The research showed that breathing — a key element of meditation and mindfulness practices — directly affects the levels of a natural chemical messenger in the brain called noradrenaline.

This chemical messenger is released when we are challenged, curious, exercised, focused or emotionally aroused and, if produced at the right levels, helps the brain grow new connections, like a brain fertiliser.

The way we breathe, in other words, directly affects the chemistry of our brains in a way that can enhance our attention and improve our brain health.

The study found that participants who focused well while undertaking a task that demanded a lot of attention had greater synchronisation between their breathing patterns and their attention, than those who had poor focus.

The authors believe that it may be possible to use breath-control practices to stabilise attention and boost brain health.

“In our study we looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made,” said lead author Michael Melnychuk from Trinity College Dublin.

“Noradrenaline is an all-purpose action system in the brain. When we are stressed we produce too much noradrenaline and we can’t focus. When we feel sluggish, we produce too little and again, we can’t focus. There is a sweet spot of noradrenaline in which our emotions, thinking and memory are much clearer,” Melnychuk added.

The researchers believe that the findings could have particular implications for research into brain ageing.

“Brains typically lose mass as they age, but less so in the brains of long term meditators. More ‘youthful’ brains have a reduced risk of dementia and mindfulness meditation techniques actually strengthen brain networks,” Robertson said.

“Our research offers one possible reason for this – using our breath to control one of the brain’s natural chemical messengers, noradrenaline, which in the right ‘dose’ helps the brain grow new connections between cells,” he added.

IANS

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Health

Can drinking too much water harm you?

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Water

Toronto, May 23: Do you drink too much water? Beware, overhydration — excess fluid accumulation — can lead to dangerously low sodium levels or in the blood or result in brain swelling, researchers say.

Hyponatremia, a life-threatening condition of brain swelling, is more common in elderly patients and can cause cognitive problems and seizures.

“(Hyponatremia) occurs in common pathological conditions, including brain injury, sepsis, cardiac failure and in the use of drugs, such as MDMA (ecstasy),” said Charles Bourque from the McGill University in Canada.

While it was yet uncertain how hyponatremia develops, the study found that a defect in the hydration sensing mechanism of the brain could be the culprit.

The researchers said that brain’s hydration sensing neurons could not detect overhydration in the same way that they detect dehydration.

Overhydration activates Trpv4 — a calcium channel that can be found in glial cells, that act to surround hydration sensing neurons.

It is cellular gatekeeper implicated in maintaining the balance of water in the body.

“Our study shows that it is in fact glial cells that first detect the overhydrated state and then transfer this information to turn off the electrical activity of the [hydration sensing] neurons,” Bourque explained.

“Our specific data will be important for people studying hydromineral and fluid electrolyte homeostasis, and clinicians who treat patients faced with hyponatremia,” he noted.

The results, published in the journal Cell Reports, showed that overhydration is first identified by the Trpv4 channel which triggers the release of a type of amino acid known, taurine, which acts as a trip wire to inhibit hydration sensing neurons.

“Preclinical models of hyponatremia will be used to examine if the mechanism we report is affected in this condition with the long-term objective of designing new treatments or diagnostic tools,” Bourque added.

IANS

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An egg a day may keep heart diseases away

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Eggs

Beijing, May 22: If you thought eating eggs is bad for your heart due to their high cholesterol content, think again. A large study has now shown that people who consume an egg every day could significantly reduce their risk of cardiovascular diseases.

“The present study finds that there is an association between moderate level of egg consumption (up to one egg/day) and a lower cardiac event rate,” the study authors said.

The researchers pointed out that eggs are a prominent source of dietary cholesterol, but they also contain high-quality protein, many vitamins and bioactive components such as phospholipids and carotenoids.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death and disability worldwide mostly due to ischaemic heart disease and stroke (including both haemorrhagic and ischaemic stroke).

For the study, published in the journal Heart, Chenxi Qin from Peking University Health Science Centre in Beijing, and colleagues set out to examine the associations between egg consumption and cardiovascular disease, ischaemic heart disease, major coronary events, haemorrhagic stroke and ischaemic stroke.

They used data from the China Kadoorie Biobank (CKB) study, an ongoing prospective study of around half a million (512,891) adults aged 30 to 79 from 10 different geographical areas in China.

The researchers focused on 416,213 participants who were free of prior cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and diabetes.

Analysis of the results showed that compared with people not consuming eggs, daily egg consumption was associated with a lower risk of CVD overall.

In particular, daily egg consumers (up to one egg per day) had a 26 per cent lower risk of haemorrhagic stroke, a 28 per cent lower risk of haemorrhagic stroke death and an 18 per cent lower risk of CVD death.

In addition, there was a 12 per cent reduction in risk of ischaemic heart disease observed for people consuming eggs daily, when compared with the ‘never/rarely’ consumption category — about 2.03 eggs per week.

This was an observational study, so no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, but the authors said their study had a large sample size and took into account established and potential risk factors for CVD.

IANS

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Delhi govt planning free dialysis at pvt hospitals: Jain

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Dialysis

New Delhi, May 21 : The Delhi government is planning to make the dialysis procedure free at private hospitals and dialysis centres on a public-private-partnership basis, subject to conditions, Health Minister Satyendar Jain said today.

Jain said only those private hospitals and standalone centres which have more than 10 dialysis machines and are empanelled under the Delhi Government Employees Health Scheme or the Central Government Health Scheme would be eligible to become a partner in the project.

Delhi government through the Delhi Arogya Kosh will pay them Rs 1,274 per dialysis.

Delhi residents who have been living in the city for the past three years and having an annual income of less than Rs 3 lakh shall be eligible to avail the facility, Jain said.

The government is also installing dialysis machines at its own hospitals.

“We have installed 15 machines out of the 75 machines that we intend to install at various hospitals,” he said.

Jain said the idea behind providing the facility at private hospitals or dialysis centres is to cut the travel time for patients, who otherwise may have to go long distance to avail that facility at a government hospital.

“This would be like a reverse referral facility where patients would be referred to an empanelled hospital or centre nearby their home,” he said.

Jain said the government was in an “expansion mode” as far as health services were concerned.

“Five of our hospitals have already earned NABH entry-level accreditation – Pt Madan Mohan Malviya Hospital, Shri Dada Dev Matri Avum Shishu Chikitsalaya, Acharya Shree Bhikshu Hospital, Guru Gobind Singh Hospital and Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar Hospital,” he said.

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