Morning rays keep off pounds

A surprising new strategy for managing your weight? Bright morning light.A new Northwestern Medicine study reports the timing, intensity and duration of your light exposure during the day is linked to your weight — the first time this has been shown.People who had most of their daily exposure to even moderately bright light in the morning had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who had most of their light exposure later in the day, the study found. (BMI is a ratio calculated from a person’s weight and height.)”The earlier this light exposure occurred during the day, the lower individuals’ body mass index,” said co-lead author Kathryn Reid, research associate professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “The later the hour of moderately bright light exposure, the higher a person’s BMI.”The influence of morning light exposure on body weight was independent of an individual’s physical activity level, caloric intake, sleep timing, age or season. It accounted for about 20 percent of a person’s BMI.”Light is the most potent agent to synchronize your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance,” said study senior author Phyllis C. Zee, M.D. “The message is that you should get more bright light between 8 a.m. and noon.” About 20 to 30 minutes of morning light is enough to affect BMI.Zee is the Benjamin and Virginia T. Boshes Professor of Neurology and director of the Northwestern Medicine Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Research Program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She also is a neurologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.”If a person doesn’t get sufficient light at the appropriate time of day, it could de-synchronize your internal body clock, which is known to alter metabolism and can lead to weight gain,” Zee said. …

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Eye contact builds bedside trust

Oct. 16, 2013 — Doctors who make a lot of eye contact are viewed as more likable and empathetic by patients, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study.Patients also gave doctors higher empathy scores when their total visit length was longer and when doctors engaged in a few “social touches” such as a handshake or pat on the back. However, more than three social touches in one visit decreased empathy scores. The researchers said it’s possible that too many social touches from a doctor may seem forced and not genuine to a patient.The study, published in the Journal of Participatory Medicine, analyzed videotaped doctors’ visits and reinforces the notion that nonverbal social communication is an important part of doctor/patient relationships that should be thoughtfully managed, especially as more technology and “screen time” is introduced into doctors’ offices.”The goal is to one day engineer systems and technologies that encourage the right amount of physician eye contact and other non-verbal social communication,” said Enid Montague, first author of the study. “As we collect more data we can build models that tell us exactly how much eye contact is needed to help patients trust and connect with a doctor, and design tools and technology that help doctors stay connected to patients.”Montague is an assistant professor in medicine, general internal medicine and geriatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and an assistant professor in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.The researchers collected data from 110 first-time encounters between patients with common cold symptoms and primary care doctors. All of the doctors used paper charts and spent an average of 3 minutes and 38 seconds with each patient. After each visit, patient participants completed questionnaires to measure their perception of their doctor’s empathy, connectedness with the doctor and how much they liked their doctor.The visits were videotaped and researchers analyzed the recordings second-by-second, documenting what each person was doing, paying special attention to non-verbal communication. The researchers purposely chose to study doctors who used paper charts so they could develop a baseline for nonverbal communication activities without the presence of computerized systems.”Previous studies have found that nonverbal communication is important based on patient feedback, but this is one of the few that have looked at these things more broadly quantitatively,” Montague said. “We rigorously looked at what was happening at every point in time, so we validated a lot of the qualitative studies.”They concluded that while social touch and length of visit can play a role in a patient’s perception of doctor empathy, the amount of eye contact the doctor made was the most important factor for patients.”Simple things such as eye contact can have a big impact on our healthcare system as a whole,” Montague said. “If patients feel like their doctors aren’t being empathetic, then we are more likely to see patients who aren’t returning to care, who aren’t adhering to medical advice, who aren’t seeking care, who aren’t staying with the same providers. …

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