Women stay mentally sharp farther into old age than men typically do, and scientists now think they know why. It all has to do with how the brain burns energy. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that women’s brains burn energy in a much more youthful way throughout adulthood. Women’s brains appear to be about three years younger than men’s of the same chronological age, even in their 20’s, and that difference holds for the rest of their lives.
Binge drinking and prolonged heavy drinking may trigger a permanent change in a person’s DNA, which results in an even greater desire for alcohol. A study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research shows that among binge and heavy drinkers, two genes are modified that influence drinking behavior—one that influences the body clock and another regulating the stress-response system. Scientists hope the findings may eventually help identify biomarkers for people at risk for alcoholic changes.
And finally, more than half of all American workers say they’ve suffered from job burnout, but most of them won’t take a “mental health day” away from the job to deal with it. The University of Phoenix survey shows only a third of workers have taken time off for mental health, mostly because they say their companies don’t view it as an acceptable reason to be off work.
Trauma at such an early age that we don’t remember it can still have lifelong effects. A study in the journal Developmental Science screened nearly 200 pre-teens for stressful experiences in infancy and toddlerhood, asking if they’d gone through stressors such as parental divorce, a move to a new hometown, or the death of a loved one. Then they were given structural MRI’s… which showed a much greater likelihood of a smaller hippocampus in the brain of the traumatized youth. That can lead to memory deficits.
If you get one of your knees replaced, there’s a pretty good chance it will lead to having the other knee done within five years. A study in the Journal of Orthopedic Research shows that happens to nearly a quarter of people who have total knee replacement surgery… possibly a result of abnormal walking patterns after the first replacement. Researchers say physical therapy after knee replacement should aim to normalize walking movement to avoid the need for a second surgery.
And finally… if you’re in a stressful situation, think about your Valentine. A study in the journal Psychophysiology shows that visualizing your romantic partner is just as effective at lowering your blood pressure as actually having them there to comfort you. It could be one reason having a sweetie is good for your health.
We recently reported on children who experience severe stress and how they are more likely to develop psychiatric disorders in adulthood but how does one lead to the other? According to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, childhood stress changes our genes. Researchers compared the whole genomes of girls with stressful childhoods against girls with relatively calm childhoods and found a difference in gene expression in more than 1,400 genes as a result of the amount of stress the girls had experienced.
Artificially sweetened drinks have a reputation of being bad for your health but for patients with colon cancer they may be a healthy choice, according to a study in the journal PLOS One. Researchers found that among patients who’d already been treated for colon cancer, those who drank at least one can of artificially sweetened beverage per day had a 46 percent decline in risk of cancer recurrence or death.
Students won’t do better in school by taking unprescribed ADHD drugs. These so-called study drugs may make you feel smarter… but a study in the journal Pharmacy finds they don’t actually improve test performance. Researchers say a standard dose of Adderall will improve attention and focus but that doesn’t help on tasks involving short-term memory, reading comprehension, and fluency.
And finally dogs are known to be man’s best friend and a new study shows that over thousands of years, dogs have become very good at reading our social cues. A study in the journal Learning & Behavior shows that not only can dogs sense what their owners are feeling they’ll go through barriers to help their owners. Researchers say that when dogs heard their owner crying in another room, they hurried to push through the door to comfort them.
Colonoscopies might cause more complications than we thought. A new study in the journal Gut shows that colonoscopies and upper GI endoscopies performed at outpatient specialty centers cause bacterial infections at a much higher rate than expected. Experts had thought that post-endoscopic infection rates with bacteria such as E. coli were one in a million. The new study shows the rate of infection is actually closer to one in a thousand. but experts say colonoscopies are still a good idea, the best bet to detect and even prevent colon cancer.
A glass of wine for dinner may increase a woman’s chance of developing PMS and several glasses each day may increase it by quite a bit. A study in the journal BMJ shows that women who drink alcohol at all are at a 45 percent higher risk of pre-menstrual syndrome, and those who consume more than one drink a day have a 79 percent higher risk. Overall, scientists say alcohol may be responsible for about one in 10 cases of PMS.
And finally, if you think the day ahead is going to be stressful your mind and body will be stressed all day long, even if the actual stresses never come. A study in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences shows that waking up anticipating a bad day impacts working memory, which helps people learn and retain information even when they’re distracted. Researchers say that can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy—a bad day of mistakes at work or even while driving.
Meditation and mindfulness could be in even more demand as civility declines and stress increases. An expert explains how it works.
Dr. Richard Davidson, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and founder and director, Center for Healthy Minds, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and co-author, Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Medication Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body
Neurologists are warning that Parkinson’s disease could soon become pandemic. A report in the journal JAMA Neurology finds that nearly seven million people have Parkinson’s worldwide, a number that’s likely to more than double by the year 2040. Researchers say that makes Parkinson’s the fastest growing neurological disorder, outpacing even Alzheimer’s disease. Neurological disorders have become the world’s leading cause of disability.
Too much stress is bad for our health, but a little bit turns out to be very good at keeping aging cells robust. A study on animals in the journal Cell Reports shows that when aging cells are mildly stressed, they emit signals that keep quality control machinery in the cell working. This may double the animal’s lifespan by preventing the accumulation of damaged proteins that otherwise would lead to a variety of degenerative diseases.
And finally, yet another use for Botox relieving migraines in children and adolescents. A study presented to the American Society of Anesthesiologists finds that migraines that didn’t respond to traditional treatments did much better after Botox injections. Headaches that previously lasted as long as 24 hours were cut down to seven hours after Botox and on the 1-10 pain scale, headaches that used to come in at an eight were reduced to a five.
Stress is a familiar occurrence for adults in our hectic world, but recently it has also shown up in great numbers in high schools. A combination of social media, cyberbullying, and college pressure may be to blame.
Online, teenagers often act as their own public relations managers, constantly posting updates and replying to feedback — often until late at night. Sometimes they share in order to create false personas of who they want to be, or who they think they should be.
At school, the stress multiplies as students are encouraged to think about college as early as their freshman year. “The bar is being raised for the kids in almost every element of life that you could think of,” shares Jared Mason, Teen Programming Director at the Alive Center. “It’s being raised for academics, it’s being raised for athletics, it’s being raised for extracurricular involvement, all these different areas.” He mentions that teens believe that performing “under the bar” is unacceptable, and they internalize the stress they accumulate.
This stress is not only brought on by social media and schools, but by parents. Some parents will request that their child be placed in accelerated, honors, or Advanced Placement courses, regardless of if their child is capable of handling the workload. Mason suggests that parents might be the next step in helping their child avoid stress by teaching them to stop listening to the “noise” of fellow students and of Ivy League schools. By asking their children what they want to do or what they’re interested in doing, parents can use communication to effectively help with stress.
The culture of stress is hard to break, and since colleges have begun to consider more holistic reviews of students, looking at both academics and extracurriculars, students are feeling even more stressed than ever. Kandice Henning, founder of the Alive Center, says that teens now feel pressured to have both a stellar GPA and full schedule. While some students are able to work well under pressure, most are left wondering why it so hard to be a “well-rounded student.” A new kind of parenting may offer a solution, wherein parents teach their children to cope with their stress and understand why they’re stressed. “Stress is not bad. In the appropriate dose, stress is strengthening, says Dr. Michael Bradley, clinical psychologist and author, “you want to find that sweet spot in the middle.”