Search This Blog

10 February 2009

Choice of Romantic Partner Determines How Healthy You'll Be

Falling in love can shake up your life quite a bit. But the last thing on your mind when it happens, most likely, is how your beloved will tweak your cholesterol levels.

However, a large body of research shows that relationships influence physical well-being as well as emotional health. A romantic partner often has more influence on your behavior than anyone else. Exactly how your health will be affected is sometimes obvious and sometimes as mysterious as love itself.

Sustained relationships tend to occur among people who have comparable backgrounds, attitudes, and behaviors. When two people marry, their habits become even more alike. A study of newlyweds found that each individual's health behaviors before marriage affected those same behaviors in their partner in the years after the wedding. Because of this, a condition in one spouse often places the other at increased risk for the same disorder -- including cancer, stroke, arthritis, hypertension, asthma, depression, and peptic ulcer disease.

The good news is, you can influence your beloved's health just by changing your own behavior. If one spouse quits smoking, studies show that the other is six to eight times more likely to swear off cigarettes, too. If one gives up alcohol, the other is five times more likely to stop drinking.

Psychology Today January 27, 2009

Does Your Brain Run a Screensaver?

Your brain's visual centers remain active when your eyes are closed and even when you sleep. But in both situations, although electrical activity continues in your brain, the activity is represented by slow electrical fluctuations, rather than the bursts of activity that occur when you're awake with eyes wide open.

The slow fluctuation pattern can be compared to a computer screensaver, according to researchers. Though the function of this activity is unclear, there are a few possibilities. It is possible that neuron survival requires a constant state of activity, or perhaps the minimal level of activity enables a quick start when an outside stimulus is presented.

These new ideas differ starkly from older models of the brain, which posited that your senses are “turned on” by the switch of an outside stimulus, rather than being constantly active.

Live Science February 4, 2009

Tobacco Smoke and Alcohol are Worse as a Combo

Exposure to second-hand smoke and alcohol significantly raises the risk of liver disease, a finding that adds to mounting evidence that tobacco smoke and alcohol are worse for health as a combination.

The researchers reported on mice exposed to smoky air in a laboratory enclosure and fed a liquid diet containing ethanol, the intoxicating ingredient in alcohol drinks. Mice who were exposed to second-hand smoke and drank ethanol had 110 percent more liver fibrosis proteins than mice who breathed filtered air. In addition, the twice-exposed mice had 65 percent more liver fibrosis proteins than mice who breathed the smoky air but did not drink the ethanol.

Fibrosis is scar-like tissue in the liver that can lead to cirrhosis.

Eurekalert February 3, 2009

A Surprising Link Between Diabetes and Alzheimer's

In a recent study, researchers tracked rates of dementia and diabetes in twins, and discovered that developing type 2 diabetes before the age of 65 was associated with an 125 percent increased risk of subsequently developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Various studies have begun to show that vascular risk factors are important not only for increasing risk of vascular dementia, but also for increasing risk of Alzheimer’s disease. But this means that people could potentially reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease by attending to the kinds of health behaviors that reduce vascular risk -- such as controlling blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.

One surprising discovery of the twins study was that diabetes that first occurred before age 65 was a far more important risk factor for dementia than diabetes that occurred later. This means that, while it is possible that long-term diabetes could cause some sort of damage to the brain, it is also possible that diabetes and dementia each arise from the same environmental exposures and influences.

New York Times February 4, 2009

Vitamin D Deficiency Harms Your Brain Function

Low levels of vitamin D increase the risk of cognitive impairment in the elderly, according to findings from the nationally representative British survey.

Researchers studied more than 1750 adults aged 65 or older. Blood samples were taken from them to measure circulating vitamin D levels, and their cognitive function was measured using the Abbreviated Mental Test, which includes 10 questions to assess attention, orientation in time and space, and memory.

The researchers found a significant association between lower levels of vitamin D and cognitive impairment. Older adults with the lowest levels of vitamin D were more than twice as likely to be cognitively impaired as those with the highest levels.

Reuters February 5, 2009

Fighting Obesity and Illness at the Source

Omega-3 fats are thought to play an important role in reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, obesity and other serious diseases. However, humans are unable to synthesize omega-3’s for themselves and must obtain it from meat, fish and dairy products.

Studies have indicated that animal feeds enriched with omega-3’s improve the health and fertility of animals, and the nutritional quality of their meat and dairy products.

Obese volunteers eating a diet comprising meat and dairy products derived from animals fed with omega-3 enriched linseed lost 3 kg in three months, and sustained the weight loss five months later.

Eurekalert February 3, 2009

Are Energy Drinks the Coffee of a New Generation?

It is now relatively common for students to consume energy drinks to increase their concentration as they study throughout the night. According to Canadian nutritionist Stéphanie Côté, "Energy drinks are the coffee of a new generation ... These drinks are made up of sugar and caffeine and can have a negative impact on health."

According to a 2008 report, 1.5 billion cans of Red Bull were sold in the United States in 2004. Energy drinks are a growing trend for 18 to 24 year olds, and the market is broadening as younger children consume the drinks before physical activity.

However, these drinks aren't recommended either to athletes or to children under the age of 12. "Energy drinks don't hydrate the body efficiently," says Côté. "Because they have too much sugar. And caffeine doesn't necessarily improve physical performance. In high quantities it can increase the risks of fatigue and dehydration."

Several studies have demonstrated that strong doses of caffeine can increase hypertension, cause heart palpitations, provoke irritability and anxiety, and cause headaches and insomnia.

Eurekalert February 5, 2009