Monday, July 25, 2016

Your Cell Phone: The Good, the Bad, and the Happy Medium

Keys? Check.

Wallet or purse? Check.

Personal, pocket sized, all knowing, all powerful super computer? Check.

If you’re like many adults in the U.S., you don’t ever leave home without your smartphone.

These mobile marvels can connect people all over the world, entertain them, and boost productivity into the stratosphere.

Thanks to the seemingly cosmic expansion of 21st century technology, we can now talk to anyone, learn anything and transport anywhere in what feels like the blink of an eye. 

However, because smartphone technology is relatively new, the positive and negative impact these modern marvels may have on long-term health is largely still a mystery, and this realm of seemingly superhuman connectivity could be coming at a price, gradually grinding away at some of our most fundamental human needs.

The Good

Smart phone apps can be global-positioning devices, music players, game consoles, and even pocket sized personal trainers.

Your phone may help you eat better. You may already have a favorite website or app for healthy recipes. But you can also use your phone to record the foods you eat — much like a food journal. It’s easy and convenient, and one study found that people who used their phones instead of paper and pen for this purpose were more likely to stick with their diet plan.

Your phone may keep you moving. You can use it to track your physical activity. Research shows such apps are quite accurate in their step counts and distance measurements. They can also motivate you with instant feedback and goal setting. What’s more, people who use their phones to listen to music while they exercise report liking the activity more.

Your phone may help lower stress. In just a few clicks, you can download soothing music or nature sounds. Or try some yoga. Its physical movements and breathing techniques may help you relax.

The Bad

Despite its seemingly superhuman capabilities, your smartphone may not always be good for you.

Your phone can be a distraction. Whether driving or walking outdoors, pack away your phone. You are less likely to pay attention to your surroundings when using it. And your reaction time won’t be as quick. You may want to skip it while exercising, too. Although music may energize you while working out, talking and texting have been shown to reduce exercise intensity and duration.

Your phone may make you anxious. Keeping up with social media, text messaging, and other alerts can be overwhelming. In fact, one study of a group of college students found heavy cell phone users were more likely to be anxious and unhappy. They also tended to have lower grade-point averages.

Your phone may disrupt your sleep. Just like a television or computer, your phone’s glowing screen may keep you up at night. Such artificial sources of light can mess with your body’s natural sleep cycle. Plus, constant alerts can interrupt your slumber.

The Happy Medium

With a small computer always in your pocket, it can be hard to disconnect. Too much phone time may cause physical problems, too. Try adjusting your phone use with these healthy habits:

Turn your phone off at night. Or at least put it on mute. Also limit the amount of screen time before bedtime. Playing games or texting may make it hard for you to relax.

Take frequent breaks.
Too much texting or similar activities can cause overuse pain in fingers and wrists. Your eyes can also become strained from looking at the screen too long.

Turn down the sound.
If you use earphones or ear buds to listen to music from your phone, a loud volume setting can quickly damage your hearing.

Plan some no phone time.
Nearly half of smartphone users say they can’t live without their phones.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Living with Sleep Apnea?

Lecture and Support Event

More than one-third of the US population reports having trouble sleeping. Poor sleeping habits, if left unimproved can increase an individual’s risk of cardiovascular problems including high blood pressure, heart attack, heart rhythm problems, and stroke.

Meridian Health’s Center for Sleep Medicine is at the forefront of clinical expertise when it comes to providing solutions for patients who experience abnormal sleep habits and struggle with falling asleep, staying asleep and getting a restful night’s sleep.

Please be our guest for the ‘Living with Sleep Apnea?’ lecture and support event to learn sleep apnea risk factors, treatment options, nutrition tips, relaxation techniques, and rules for creating a healthy sleep environment.

Thursday, July 14
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Conference Center, Meridian Health Village at Jackson
27 S Cooks Bridge Road Jackson, NJ 08527

The event will feature:

• A presentation by Adrian Pristas, M.D. Sleep Medical Director at Bayshore Community Hospital and Riverview Medical Center
• Free sleep screenings
• Light refreshments
• An open group discussion

All attendees will leave with practical sleep tips from trained clinical professionals. There will also be sleep vendors in attendance to demonstrate the newest CPAP equipment and masks on the market.

To register, please call  1.800.560.9990

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

To Nap, or Not To Nap?

With 3 out of 10 U.S. adults now clocking in 6 hours of sleep or less per night, it makes sense that daytime napping would a viable solution for recovering some of that lost slumber.

Sleep is essential for your mind and body. It keeps you alert and focused. It helps cement memories. It may even boost your immune system, protecting you from illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Given the benefits sleep can impart, napping should be a no-brainer for better health, right?

Unfortunately, the research has doled out mixed results. For instance, napping may relieve stress and improve alertness. It may also be good for your emotions. One study found napping may thwart negative feelings like frustration and impulsiveness.

But daytime napping may have a dark side.

Some past studies suggest napping may shorten your life. That may be especially true if you nap for more than 1 hour a day. One possible reason for this connection: People who nap more may have an undiagnosed health condition. Napping has been linked to diseases such as diabetes and depression. Or people who nap may simply not sleep well at night — a serious hex on your overall health.

More research is needed to fully decide if napping is a boon or a bust for your health. But it still may not be the best way to make up for lost slumber. Why? Naps don’t give your body enough time in deep sleep. That’s the most restorative stage of sleeping.

Yet, many people all over the world enjoy napping on a regular basis. For example, siestas are a daily ritual in Mediterranean countries. And experts recommend naps for people who work the night shift, suffer from jet lag, or have narcolepsy — a sleep disorder that causes a person to fall asleep suddenly and unexpectedly.

If you want to take a daytime nap, here are some tips that will help you better catch that extra shut-eye.

Friday, March 4, 2016

From A to ZZZZZ: Dr. Ash Visits TODAY to Launch Sleep Awareness Week

In honor of the National Sleep Foundation's annual Sleep Awareness Week, a seven-day celebration of sleep health kicking off for 2016 on March 6, Carol Ash, D.O., Director of Sleep Medicine for Meridian Health, dropped by TODAY to help answer the question, "What's keeping you awake?"

According to Dr. Ash, upwards of 60 to 80 percent of Americans aren't getting the essential seven hours of sleep per night - the minimum needed to avoid long-term health consequences.

So what is keeping us awake at night? According to Dr. Ash, the answer could be right outside your window.

"There was a study recently done at Stamford, which looked at 16,000 people over eight years," says Dr. Ash. "They found that those living in communities of 500,000 people or more found it much more difficult to get the sleep they need."

So... what's the solution? Watch Dr. Ash's TODAY segment below to find out.

Friday, February 26, 2016

CDC Study Examines Social Patterns Among Healthy Sleepers

Featuring Carol Ash, D.O.
Director of Sleep Medicine
Meridian Health

Inadequate sleep has been linked to conditions that include obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, anxiety, and depression.

Now, with an increasing number of Americans stressing more and sleeping less, the need has never been greater for us to challenge traditional answers to an age-old question: What is really keeping us up at night?

According to a recent CDC report, 35% of U.S. adults are getting less than the essential seven hours of sleep, and 12% of Americans are sleeping less than five hours per day. The report includes a demographic breakdown of healthy sleepers in each of the 50 states — revealing patterns which beg further questions about the nation’s sleep epidemic.

These trends hint at deeper, social connections to this potentially life threatening health condition, and they are a further reminder that the difficulties that Americans struggle with during the day don’t simply disappear when the lights go out.

Key points from the CDC’s findings include:
· Lack of sleep is more prevalent in urban, densely populated areas
· Married and unmarried couples get more sleep than people who are divorced, widowed or separated
· People with a college education get more sleep
· The unemployed have the lowest average of healthy sleepers (51%)

“Look at the trends, and then ask yourself ‘Why?’ What’s the connection?” says Carol Ash, D.O. “When we’re fighting to make ends meet — whether it’s due to unemployment, poverty or problems with a spouse — it plagues our mental, physical and emotional health. People need stability, and when we’re struggling with economic and/or social turmoil, the stress, anxiety and depression can be overpowering, even when the lights go out.”

Dr. Ash believes the solution lies in a push toward education and an emphasis on every day, healthy minded practices. She credits groundbreaking research initiated in 1965 involving nearly 7,000 residents of Alameda County, California, which concluded that sleep was one of seven health habits, a.k.a. the "Alameda 7," revealed to be key determinants of good health and, ultimately, a longer life.

“The key is education on the importance of simple, everyday lifestyle adjustments, empowerment from the knowledge that, yes, you are in control,” Ash says.

Simple behaviors proven to have a positive impact on sleep include:
· Eat healthier
· Exercise. 30 minutes a day is optimum, but starting at even less is still a start.
· Mindfulness and/or breathing exercises
· Maintain a consistent bedtime and wake up time

Read the full CDC report here for more information.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The 'Master' List: Heart Healthy Foods for Heart Healthy Sleep

Can getting a good night’s sleep be better for your heart?

Studies show that insufficient sleep can be tied to high blood pressure and other chronic conditions like asthma and arthritis. In addition, people suffering from the worst cases of insomnia had a higher chance of having a heart attack.

One common causes of obstructive sleep apnea in adults is excess weight and obesity, and obesity has been a known accomplice in the development of heart disease.

So how do you begin to take control? According to Julie Master, D.O., cardiologist at Riverview Medical Center, Jersey Shore University Medical Center and Bayshore Community Hospital, managing your diet to include plenty of heart-healthy foods is a great way to start.

The Master List: Dr. Julie Master's Favorite Foods for a Heart Healthy Diet

Blueberries - "Blueberries are simply brilliant when it comes to nutrition," says Dr. Master. "Their anthocyanins give them their deep blue color and support heart health. Blueberries also have beta-carotene, lutein, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and fiber."

- "A top food for heart health, salmon is rich in the omega-3s EPA and DHA. Omega-3s may lessen the risk of heart rhythm disorders and lower blood pressure. Salmon also lowers blood triglycerides and helps curb inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of salmon or other naturally oily fish a week." 

Master Tip: "Bake in foil with herbs and veggies. Toss extra cooked salmon into fish tacos and salads."

Tuna - "Tuna is another good source of omega-3s, and it generally costs less than salmon. Albacore (white tuna) has more omega-3s than other tuna varieties. Reel in these other sources of omega-3s, too: mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and anchovies." 

Master Tip: "Grill tuna steak with dill and lemon. Choose tuna packed in water, not oil." 

Walnuts - "A small handful of walnuts a day may lower your cholesterol and ease inflammation in your heart's arteries. Walnuts are packed with omega-3s, monounsaturated fats, and fiber. The benefits come when walnuts replace bad fats, those in chips and cookies." 

Master Tip: "Walnut oil has omega-3s, too; try it in salad dressings." 

Almonds - "Slivered almonds go well with vegetables, fish, chicken, and desserts. They're chock full of plant sterols, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Almonds may help lower "bad" LDL cholesterol, if you favor them over other fats. Grab a small handful a day." 

Master Tip: "Toast almonds to enhance their creamy, mild flavor." 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - "This oil, made from the first press of olives, is especially rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which can help protect your blood vessels. It's also a good source of monounsaturated fats, which are a better choice than saturated fats (such as butter) for your cholesterol." 

Master Tip: "Use a little bit for salads, on cooked veggies, or with bread. Look for cold-pressed and use within 6 months." 

Edamame  - "These green soybeans have moved beyond Japanese restaurants, where they're a tasty appetizer. They're packed with soy protein, which can help lower blood triglyceride levels. A half cup of edamame also has 9 grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber -- equal to four slices of whole wheat bread." 

Master Tip: "Try frozen edamame. Boil and serve warm in the pod." 

Tofu - "Serve up tofu, and you get a great form of vegetarian soy protein with its heart-healthy minerals, fiber, and polyunsaturated fats. It can take on the taste of the spices or sauces you use to cook it."

Master Tip: "Chop firm tofu, marinate, then grill or stir-fry, going easy on the oil. Add tofu to soups for protein with no added fat." 

Black Beans - "Black beans are packed with nutrients including folate, antioxidants, and magnesium, along with fiber, which helps control both cholesterol and blood sugar levels." 

Master Tip: "Canned black beans are easy to add to soups and salads. Rinse to remove extra sodium." 

Oranges - "This sweet, juicy fruit has the cholesterol-fighting fiber pectin as well as potassium, which helps control blood pressure. Research shows that orange juice may make your blood vessels work better and lower blood pressure a bit." 

Master Tip: "A medium orange averages 62 calories with 3 grams of fiber."

Monday, January 18, 2016

Lack of Sleep Increasing Among Single Parents

The engine of family is sacrifice - prioritizing our schedules, our interests, often even our own health, to meet the needs of those who depend on us the most.

And nobody understands these sacrifices more than single parents.

However, a new study reveals that single parents - mothers in particular - are undercutting their own long-term health in favor of more immediate family demands.

As reported on Huffington Post and, single parents - mothers in particular - consistently have both the least and lowest quality sleep, 43 percent of single moms and 37 percent of single dads, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

According to Huffington Post, this study is especially important as the increasing number of single-parent households continues to rise, and while traditional health studies about single-parent families have tended to focus on the well-being of children, experts are increasing their attention toward the adults in the equation. also noted that, when it comes to sleep, women seemed to come up short across the board.

"Women of all family types were more likely than men, in the same family type, to have more trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, and to frequently wake feeling not well-rested," according to the CDC survey. 

You can access the complete CDC report here.