Archive for the ‘spirit’ Category
A study out of Duke University Medical Center suggests that hostility in men may lead to an assortment of adverse health effects, including weakened immune systems, coronary heart disease, and Type II diabetes.
Researchers found that levels of C3, an immune system protein which is a marker of inflammation (the body’s response to injury or infection), were 7.1 percent higher in men whose psychological screenings showed the hightest levels of hostility and depression.
While the increase in C3 levels seems directly related to the subjects’ psychological attributes, is not yet known whether psychological treatment could reverse those levels.
Monday, June 4th, 2007
Here is a blog with a few interesting posts on the connection between laughter and health.
Of course, we all know the story of Norman Cousins, who cured his terminal illness with hours of Marx Brothers films.
A good source for a broader look at laughter’s effects can be found on medicinenet.com.
Also, check out rxlaughter.org for current research into laughter.
Tuesday, May 29th, 2007
The following information is from a website advertising the book Why Good Things Happen to Good People, by Dr. Stephen Post, Senior Research Scholar in the Becket Institute at St. Hughs’ College, Oxford University.
Giving in high school predicts good physical and mental health in late adulthood, a time interval of over 50 years! Psychologist Paul Wink of Wellesley College studied nearly 200 individuals who have been followed closely since the 1920’s, when they were children, and found that giving protected longevity as well as mental health even half a century later.
Giving significantly reduces mortality in later life. In this new study from Doug Oman of the University of California at Berkeley, 2,000 individuals over age 55 were studied for five years. Those who volunteered for two or more organizations had an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying. The only activity that had a slightly higher effect was to stop smoking. And sociologist Marc Musick of the University of Texas at Austin found that individuals over 65 who volunteer are significantly less likely to die over the next eight years than those who do no volunteer work.
Generous behavior reduces adolescent depression and suicide risk. The Institute sponsored four special studies on teens. Boys, in particular, benefit markedly from feelings of love and from generous behavior. Just as intriguing is a study from David Sloan Wilson and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, showing that teen girls are more giving than teen boys, and that teens who are giving, hopeful, and socially effective, are also happier, more active, involved, excited, challenged, and engaged than their teen counterparts.
Giving quells anxiety. Neal Krause of the University of Michigan followed 976 churchgoing adults over a period of three years. Offering social support to others reduced their anxiety over their own economic situation when they were under economic stress.
Late in life, giving to others helps facilitate self-forgiveness. Krause also found that giving is a potent trigger for forgiveness, and particularly for African-Americans. He studied nearly 1,000 older adults and found that providing emotional support to others enhanced the ease with which African-Americans forgave themselves for their own mistakes.
Giving to others increases your longevity, although receiving the same kind of help did not. Psychologist Stephanie Brown of the University of Michigan spent five years studying 423 older couples. After adjusting for age, gender, and physical and emotional health, Brown found that those who provided significant support to others were more than twice as likely to remain alive in that five year period. These surprising findings ruled out other factors like personality, health, mental health and marital relationship variables.
Giving is so powerful that sometimes even just ‘thinking’ charitable thoughts helps us. The simple act of praying for others, Neal Krause found, reduces the harmful impact of health difficulties in old age for those doing the praying. A new study from the National Institutes of Health shows that merely making a decision to donate to a charity increases activity in parts of the brain that release our feel-good chemicals, dopamine and serotonin. And a new Harvard University study showed that just watching a movie of helping activity boosts the immune system.
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2007
An article in the journal American Psychologist suggests that massage has a host of health benefits.
Research on massage by psychologists at the Touch Research Institute and from other fields, such as nursing, shows it lessens stress, depression and anxiety. Massage also decreases pain associated with migraines, lower-back stress and fibromyalgia. Self-massage can even reduce cravings for cigarettes. And it’s been proven to help hypertension by reducing diastolic blood pressure. (See Further Reading.)
The benefits of massage come from stimulating pressure receptors in the brain, says Field. “Most people don’t know that. They might do light stroking, but that doesn’t help and really is aversive to most people.”
These receptors are long and well-insulated nerve fibers–much more insulated than pain receptors, she adds. “Say, for example, you hit your funny bone and you rub it. The pain message is transmitted more slowly than the pressure message, so it gets turned off and you stop experiencing pain.”
According to Field, many types of exercise provide the same stimulation as massage. Yoga, for example, is really a type of self-massage because it involves pushing against a surface or another limb, so it stimulates the pressure receptors. Even using a loofah or natural brush in the shower can stimulate these receptors.
The receptors stimulate the vagus nerve–one of 12 cranial nerves–which connects to the heart and digestive tract, among other body parts. When stimulated, the branch to the heart can slow the heart rate, for example. “So, it’s a very big nerve system and it seems to be actively involved in releasing serotonin and decreasing the stress hormone cortisol,” says Field.
When cortisol decreases, stress is reduced and immune cells receive a boost. In pain syndromes such as migraine, arthritis and lower-back pain, Field says massage can improve deep sleep, which can help relieve pain. “One of the major culprits in terms of pain syndromes is lack of sleep,” she points out.
With diseases like cancer and HIV/AIDS, Field notes, the benefits of massage are not only reduced stress and depressive symptoms, but also an increase in immune functioning. “We’ve found that whether we’re studying pain or psychiatric problems or attention problems, autoimmune problems such as diabetes, and immune-system problems like cancer, they all benefit from massage.”
Saturday, May 12th, 2007
I recently posted about the positive connection between prayer and immune health. Well, on the flip side, an article in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity (2007;21:229-237) posted on medscape.com has this to say about depression and its effect on the immune system:
Depression is associated with an increased risk for both disability and death. One possible way that depression may adversely affect physical health is by altering immune function, and depressed individuals have been shown to have signs of both decreased immune cell activity and elevated markers of systemic inflammation. From a group of 79 pre- or perimenopausal women participating in the multisite Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation, researchers studied the links between depressive symptoms and the presence of a class of compounds called proinflammatory cytokines, which serve as cellular messengers to activate the immune response. The women averaged 48 years of age, 61% were white and 39% were black, 72% were married, and 23% were current smokers. In addition, 29% reported recent sleep problems. The women completed the Center for Epidemiologic Studies-Depression (CES-D) scale.
Based on a cut-off score of 10 on this scale, 60% of the women had low depression scores, and 40% had high scores. Using blood samples, mononuclear immune cells were isolated from each of the women and exposed to mitogens that stimulate immune compound production. The immune cells from women with high depression scores displayed significantly lower production of 3 types of proinflammatory cytokines than women with low depression scores. In addition, reduced cytokine production was related to higher body mass index and a history of HBP. In a smaller subgroup of 62 of the participants, no association was found between depressive symptoms and baseline circulating serum levels of these cytokines. The findings of this study suggest that depression, as well as obesity and HBP, may suppress the ability of immune cells to produce cytokines that activate the immune response.
Thursday, May 10th, 2007
Well, if the spiritual reasons weren’t enough to send you to church, scientists are discovering some health reasons as well.
Dr. Harold Koenig, co-director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University, outlined recent research during a Rural Health Conference at the University of Alabama.
One study he described measured patients for interleukin six, or IL-6, an immune system cytokine that indicates inflammation. It found that people who attend religious services weekly had lower levels of IL-6, indicating a stronger immune system. A more recent study focused on HIV patients, and found those with increased religious activity had lower viral loads and higher CD4 counts, another indicator of a stronger immune system. (Read more.)
This, as opposed to staying home on Sunday morning to watch golf on television, which I am told does nothing for the immune system.