Dr. Richard Saint Cyr
At 17 months of age, my son Alex is put to bed at 8pm and usually wakes up around 7.30am. Coupled with a nap or two during the day, he easily gets his recommended 12 hours of sleep. But upstairs, our neighbor’s toddlers bounce on our ceilings until at least 10pm on most nights. Many Chinese parents tell me their child goes to bed at 9, 10, or even 11pm.
An American Academy of Pediatrics study from 2005 confirms that Chinese children not only go to sleep later than American children, they also wake up earlier: Chinese children in elementary school sleep a full hour less than American children (9.25 vs. 10.2).
It took us seven years, but we started to check out organic farms this spring. Now that my son is old enough to eat solids, my wife and I are determined to minimize his exposure to chemicals. We were pleasantly surprised to find that there were more local options than we thought.
I’m thrilled that my second Father’s Day is here; I feel a mysteriously strong bond with my son Alex. “Must be the hormones,” you say. Actually, maybe it is. There’s growing body of research that shows fathers experience many of the same physiological responses to parenthood that we traditionally associate with new mothers such as an increase in oxytocin, the “love hormone.” Newer research published in Biological Psychiatry shows similar surges in new dads.
In Beijing, many students live within walking or biking distance from their school. Readers might take inspiration from Walk and Bike to School Day (May 7). This annual event sponsored by the US Department of Transportation has two goals: to encourage exercise and educate the public about bike safety.
Many parents are worried about road safety and air pollution, and your kids should certainly know the rules of the road when cycling – especially if they’re riding on the street and not in a bike lane. A handful of studies directly compared the health effects of biking versus driving to school or work. They concluded that the benefits outweighed the risks from air pollution or accidents.
We’re all deep into planning our summer vacations, but don’t forget to include your own health in the preparations.
Give yourself at least a month to research the health risks of the places you’re traveling to. Many vaccines require multiple shots and may take a few weeks to strengthen your immune system. Common ones include hepatitis A and B, Japanese encephalitis, rabies, and any boosters you might need. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has country-specific summaries of medicines and vaccines. Check their website at www.cdc.gov/travel.
My son Alex is almost 1, an age at which he puts everything in his mouth – especially his bath toys. When he happily munches away on a dayglo orange crab with big Bambi eyes, I’m always a bit nervous about microscopic plastic parts getting into his system.
We know almost nothing about the safety of the 80,000 consumer chemicals created since World War II. As the World Health Organization (WHO) states in a 2012 report (goo.gl/FZMZsx), “the vast majority of chemicals in current commercial use have not been tested at all.”
I used to think that Chinese people were healthier than Americans, mostly from observing the social lives of Beijingers. Every night, you can see locals dancing en masse, singing along to classic tunes, and chatting while walking (often backwards). This fits in with a well-known Chinese proverb: 饭后百步走，活到九十九 (“take 100 steps after eating, live to be 99”).
However, the data doesn’t reflect this casual observation. Only 6 percent of Chinese between the ages of 20 and 39 get at least 90 minutes a week of moderate exercise. In the US, the proportion is 26 percent among ages 19 to 44.
Did you know that only 10 percent of teenage girls in the US get enough calcium? In China, the average calcium intake is less than half the recommended amount. Most infants have no calcium deficiency thanks to breast milk and formula; however, calcium intake drops dramatically after the toddler years. Girls – especially teens – consume much less dairy than boys, putting them at enormous long-term risk for osteoporosis and other diseases related to low calcium intake.
First, how much calcium is required to stay healthy? According to the US National Institute of Health, children aged 1-3 need 700mg of calcium per day and ages 4-8 need 1,000 mg per day. Most adults (ages 19-50) need 1,000 mg per day, while ages 9-18 years need the most to support rapidly-growing bones – 1,300mg per day.
Once again, it is cold and flu season. The most common-sense preventive measure is handwashing. The effectiveness of this simple step has been proven for almost 200 years, ever since pioneering British surgeon Dr. Joseph Lister demonstrated that washing your hands with an antiseptic dramatically cut down on surgical infections. Simple soap and water does the trick but I also like alcohol gels, as they work more rapidly and wipe out a larger percentage of viruses and bacteria.