Science is proving that some old adages you may have doubted are actually true, and that some common activities you never imagined could harm you can actually be dangerous.
Read on as Georgia Witkin, a grandmother, a psychologist and an expert on family relationships and stress management, reports on medical discoveries that could make a difference in your life today.
the best medicine
Cardiologists at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore studied 300 people, half who had heart disease and half who did not, and found that those with heart disease were 40 percent less likely to laugh in a variety of situations. They were also less likely to recognize humor or to use it to get out of uncomfortable spots. The researchers are not yet sure how laughter may help the heart, but it certainly seems true when it comes to the heart, laughter is good medicine. So call in the grandkids and have some fun.
This is what
friends are for
Even one friend can make a difference in protecting you against loneliness and depression, says University of Maine research. This is true of children, too — just one loving grandparent can be a critical buffer against loneliness and depression for a child struggling to gain acceptance from his or her peers. In fact, other studies have found that a grandparent’s involvement in children’s lives also reduces the chances that they will smoke, drink, or commit crimes.
Blame stress, not mom, for your shape
If you have an apple-shaped body, with fat stored around your mid-section, the problem may be stress, not your genes. Yale researchers have found that cortisol, which is released in response to stress, promotes fat storage, and fat accumulation around the abdomen has been associated with an increased risk of health problems such as heart disease and diabetes. In fact, scientists found that women with fat stored at the abdomen felt more threatened by stress than women with fat stored around the hips. So exercise, relax and get more sleep to reduce your cortisol levels. You may find you reduce your stress and your waistline as well.
Venus calling Mars!
You always knew it: A study presented at a meeting of the Radiological Society of North America found that men listen with one side of their brains but females use both sides to process language — the practical side and the emotional side. Is that why men tend to tell women how to fix their problems while women offer empathy as well as advice?
Flying? BYO snack
Don’t wait for that airplane food — have a light snack and a non-alcoholic drink before you get on the flight. A study presented to the American Heart Association by researchers from the Saitama Medical University in Japan warned that more than half of all in-flight medical emergencies involve heart attacks or loss of consciousness.
“Older individuals and those with high blood pressure or vascular disorders are especially at risk,” the researchers reported. But when you eat and drink something before boarding, you raise the volume of blood circulating in your body so it carries more oxygen to the brain and other organs and decreases your risk.
and take Tylenol
When you drink, alcohol is broken down into harmless components by your liver. However, warns recent University of Southern California research, while the liver is engaged in this activity it is vulnerable to serious, even fatal damage by acetaminophen.
People who drink heavily — "heavily" being three mixed drinks, a six-pack of beer or a liter of wine on a near-daily basis — should never take more than two regular-strength Tylenol (or generic acetaminophen) tablets within two to three hours of their last alcoholic drink. Scientists continue to study why the combination is so dangerous.
is always a bad bet
A study in the journal Biological Psychiatry reports that for some people, the thrill of gambling is so powerful that it causes physiological changes similar to those detected in drug or alcohol addicts. Researchers at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, N.Y., measured both heart rates and levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, in saliva and found that both increased and gave a "rush" when subjects gambled with their own money. When they just played for valueless "points," however, those levels dropped.
So don’t fret about any bridge games unless big money is involved, but do worry if friends, kids or grandkids are becoming consumed by higher-stakes gambling.
Think well and
you’ll be well
A University of California at San Francisco study finds that people who think of themselves as successful and powerful are more likely to be healthy — even if they were not particularly successful, based on usual income, professional or educational standards.
The study, published in the journal Health Psychology, also reported that women who thought of themselves as higher on the social ladder fell asleep easier at night, had lower resting heart rates, and less abdominal fat. It seems that all those good thoughts mean less pessimism, frustration and stress. So choose friends who admire you and don’t get down on yourself, and you’ll be more likely to live long and prosper.