Knowing How You Really Feel Is Good For Your Health

October 24, 2014 7:39 am 0 comments

images-1How do you feel, really? And why, do you think, you feel that way? If you can answer those questions in a thoughtful, honest way, you’re probably in good shape, physically. That’s a recent conclusion from researchers at Brown University, who attempted to correlate “dispositional mindfulness” with seven indicators of cardiovascular health. What’s dispositional mindfulness? The researchers define it as an awareness of present feelings and experiences. A Brown University news release reports that the researchers asked 382 participants to answer the 15 questions of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), which rates answers on a six-point scale from “almost always” to “almost never” include “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present” and “I tend not to notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention.” The participants were also rated on seven indicators of cardiovascular health: smoking avoidance, physical activity, body mass index, fruit and vegetable consumption, cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose. Ready? The envelope please… The researchers found that people with high MAAS scores had an 83 percent greater prevalence of good cardiovascular health, compared to those with relatively low MAAS scores. High vs. low MAAS scores were associated with significantly higher cardiovascular health on four of the seven individual indicators: BMI, physical activity, fasting glucose, and avoiding smoking. But wait: higher mindfulness did not associate with higher scores for blood pressure or cholesterol, perhaps, the researchers think, because neither of those health indicators directly affect how someone feels in a typical moment, whereas smoking, obesity (and closely related fasting glucose), and physical activity are all much more explicitly evident experiences for the self. Wait, there’s more: fruit and vegetable consumption, an indicator of diet quality, showed a positive association with higher MAAS scores, but with too wide a range of uncertainty to be considered statistically significant.

Computer Brain Games Are For Losers

October 23, 2014 10:42 am 0 comments

imgresBrain games, the computer based mental challenges that promise to boost the brain power of older adults, are an excellent way to waste time, but they do almost nothing to make us smarter. That’s the opinion of 69 scholars, including many cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists from around the world. A Stanford University news release reports that the scholars, who have jointly issued a statement expressing their skepticism, say that while people who play computer brain games may improve their scores on those games, there is very little evidence that any improvement in game playing transfers to more complex skills that really matter, like thinking, problem solving and planning, according to the scholars. Wait, there’s more. The scholars argue that the time spent on computer games takes away from other activities like reading, socializing, gardening and exercising that may benefit cognitive functions. The statement, known as the Stanford-Planck consensus statement has this to say: “We object to the claim that brain games offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline when there is no compelling scientific evidence to date that they do. … The promise of a magic bullet detracts from the best evidence to date, which is that cognitive health in old age reflects the long-term effects of healthy, engaged lifestyles.”

Even Intense Exercise Gets Boost From Music

October 22, 2014 8:36 am 0 comments

images-1Sure, listening to music can make moderate exercise like jogging seem a little easier, but what can it do for seriously intense exercise? That’s was the question asked by researchers at McMaster University, who have spent years studying the rewards of interval training. Gretchen Reynolds reports in the New York Times that the researchers worked with 20 young people who had no experience with high intensity exercise. Pedaling on stationary bikes, the exercisers did four 30-second bouts of “all-out” pedaling, each of which was followed by four minutes of recovery time. Reynolds tells us that throughout the all-out intervals, researchers tracked the volunteers’ pedaling power output and asked them how hard the exercise felt and whether they were having fun. Next, the researchers made playlists of the volunteers’ favorite songs, and sent the cyclists back for two more intervals, one while listening to their favorite music, one with no music. The envelope please…. Both groups found the ordeal equally difficult, but when it came to power output, those who had been listening to music won the day. Easily. Read more in the New York Times.

Exercise Pain Predicts Broader Pain Threshold

October 21, 2014 7:47 am 1 comment

images-1How much you hurt after exercise is a good predictor of how much you hurt in life, according to research conducted at the Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, where they know a thing or two about pain. Researchers have known for years that exercise generally helps us tolerate pain. They even have a name for the phenomenon; it’s called “exercise-induced hypoanalgesia” or (EIH), but you knew that. Researchers have also known that some people respond better to the pain-diminishing influence of exercise than others do. What researchers didn’t know is whether the same insensitivity to pains carries over into the rest of our lives. Now they do. Maybe. A Rutgers news release reports that the researchers found that rats displaying the least sensitivity, after running on a treadmill were also less likely to develop pain after a nerve injury. What good is that? The researchers think it might be useful in patient profiling, and may help treat people who suffer from chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, migraine, chronic low back pain and temporomandibular disorder.

Happy Walk Can Lift Our Mood

October 20, 2014 8:16 am 0 comments

You can sing hallelujawalkingh, come on get happy, or you may be able to get happy just by walking a happy walk. That, at least, is the suggestion of research conducted recently at the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. How do they know? Because when researchers asked subjects to walk in a more depressed style, with less arm movement and their shoulders rolled forward, those subjects reported being in a worse mood than subjects who were asked to walk a spritely happy walk. A CIFAR news release reports that the researchers showed subjects a list of positive and negative words, such as “pretty,” “afraid” and “anxious” and then asked them to walk on a treadmill while they measured their gait and posture. A screen showed the subjects a gauge that moved left or right depending on whether their walking style was more depressed or happier. But the subjects didn’t know what the gauge was measuring. Researchers told some subjects to try and move the gauge left, while others were told to move it right. The subjects were then told to write down as many words as they could remember from the earlier list of positive and negative words. Those who had been walking in a depressed style remembered many more negative words. Yes, the difference in recall suggests that the depressed walking style actually created a more depressed mood. The researchers think that just walking a happy walk may lift some people to a more pleasant place. Could be true.

Sugar-Sweetened Soda Makes Your Body Older Faster

October 17, 2014 7:58 am 1 comment

imagesWe’ve known for years that drinking lots of sugar-sweetened soda can make you fat; now comes research from UC San Francisco suggesting that it can also make you old. It’s true. A news release from UCSF reports that when researchers at the school measured telomeres from 5,309 people between the ages of 20 and 65, they found that the amount of sugar-sweetened soda they drank was associated with telomere length, and not in a good way. The telomeres — the protective units of DNA that cap the ends of chromosomes in cells — were shorter in the white blood cells of those who reported drinking more soda. Yes, that’s a bad thing, because short telomeres are associated with the development of chronic diseases of aging, including heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. Based on the way telomere length shortens on average with chronological age, the UCSF researchers calculated that daily consumption of a 20-ounce soda could lead to 4.6 years of additional biological aging. That’s comparable to the effect of smoking, or to the effect of regular exercise in the opposite, anti-aging direction.

Age vs Fitness Age, And Why It Matters

October 16, 2014 7:35 am 1 comment

There is your chronological age, imagesand there is your fitness age, which can allegedly be calculated with a formula that researchers have been tweaking for decades. Now comes the latest version, based on a new study published in June in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, and whose formula is built into new How Fit Are You, Really?website. Writing about the site in the New York Times, Gretchen Reynolds reports that the new calculations are based on data from more than 55,000 Norwegian adults who had completed extensive health questionnaires beginning in the 1980s. The scientists used the volunteers’ answers to estimate each person’s VO2max and fitness age, and they also looked at their death records. Reynolds tells us that the researchers found that if VO2max was 85 percent or more below the average for their age, people had an 82 percent higher risk of dying prematurely than those whose fitness age was the same as or more youthful than their actual age. The study’s authors are convinced that fitness age may predict a person’s risk of early death better than some traditional risk factors like being overweight, having high cholesterol levels or blood pressure, and smoking.

Mediterranean Diet With Nuts and Olive Oil Reverses Metabolic Syndrome

October 15, 2014 8:23 am 1 comment

oliveoil_couttesy_net_efekt_creativeCommonsWe’ve all read about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, and now we are about to read about a strange one: the diet doesn’t seem to prevent metabolic syndrome, but it does reverse it.  Science Daily reports that Spanish researchers studied the influence of variations of the diet on more than 5,800 people with metabolic syndrome and a high risk of heart disease, who were randomly assigned to one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts, or a low-fat diet as the control. After a median follow up period of 4.8 years, the researchers found that people in the two Mediterranean diet groups decreased their central obesity and blood glucose levels and 958 participants (28.2 percent) no longer met the criteria of metabolic syndrome. But, the researchers wrote: “Mediterranean diets supplemented with olive oil or nuts were not associated with a reduced incidence of metabolic syndrome compared with a low-fat diet; however, both diets were associated with a significant rate of reversion of metabolic syndrome.” Yes, strange.

Worried About Ebola Yet?

October 14, 2014 8:04 am 0 comments

imgresAre you worried about Ebola yet? At least one out of four American are, according to a new Harris Poll/HealthDay survey. And the most disturbing thing about the poll is that it was taken more than a week ago, before a nurse in Dallas who had treated an Ebola patient became sick, compelling the CDC to rethink the preparedness of U.S. medical workers to deal with the crisis. HealthDay reports that the online poll of more than 2,000 adults, taken between Oct. 2 and 6, found that the number of people who consider Ebola a “major threat” to the United States jumped from 13 percent in mid-September — before the nation’s first diagnosed case of Ebola appeared in Dallas on Sept. 28 — to 27 percent during polling last week. The survey found that 55 percent of people now view Ebola as some level of public health threat to the United States, up 15 percentage points from the mid-September survey. According to HealthDay, respondents also came out strongly in favor of increased screening of new arrivals to America from the West African nations of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, the main countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. Nine out of 10 people said they agree with screening of people entering the country from those nations, and two-thirds said they agree strongly. Yes, more to come.

How To Turn Bad Fat Into Good Fat: With Cold

October 10, 2014 8:04 am 0 comments

OK, first of all, it’s not actually brown fat, it’s more beige, but what credible researcher would take “beige fat” seriously? Brown fat is good fat, the kind of fat that burns calories for body heat, rather than converting them to white fat, yes, the bad fat. Now come researchers at the University of Kentucky who think they have found one influence that can tell the body to turn white fat to brown fat: cold. Yes, cold. HealthDayimages-1 reports that when the researchers compared belly fat taken from 55 people during the summer and the winter, the found that the belly fat taken from people in the winter had higher levels of two genetic markers for brown fat than belly fat collected in the summer. Wait, there’s more. When they examined thigh fat collected from 16 people after they held an ice pack on their skin for 30 minutes they found that the fat taken after people placed an ice pack on their skin also had higher levels of three genetic markers linked with brown fat.  What’s up with that?  Hard to day, but that other research has shown that brown fat prevents obesity in rodents, and several studies have suggested that cooler temperatures may help burn calories in humans. Very cool.

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