Optimism May Protect Against Heart Problems
Be happy—it's good for your heart. A new analysis by the Harvard School of Public Health suggests that having a positive, optimistic outlook may reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular problems. Researchers analyzed more than 200 studies from the past 15 years, and found that optimism, life satisfaction, and happiness were tied to reduced risk of heart disease and its progression. The most optimistic people, for example, had half the risk of a heart attack when compared to the least optimistic. Those with a strong sense of well-being also tended to have healthier blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight, and were more likely to exercise, eat well, get enough sleep, and avoid smoking. And for those who are naturally pessimistic? "That's a hard question. There's no magic happy pill," cardiologist Elizabeth Jackson, a professor at the University of Michigan, told the Associated Press. "Sometimes it's hard, particularly in tough economic times, but taking a moment to just relax and enjoy a sunny day might be good heart health."
Signs of Caffeine Addiction
Miss your morning cup of coffee and get a pounding headache? Feel grumpy if you haven't had a cup of Joe in hours? Caffeine addiction is easy to develop and hard to kick. Though caffeine is prevalent and legal, it's the most commonly used drug in the world. In addition to coffee, it can lurk in soda, tea, energy drinks, chocolate, gum, vitamins, snacks like "caffeinated peanuts," and even some over-the-counter medicines. Last year, "caffeine withdrawal syndrome" was recommended for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), which is used by mental health professionals to diagnose and research disorders. That's because caffeine can alter mood and behavior and caffeine withdrawal can interfere with sleep, work, and the ability to function at peak capacity. (The proposed revision has not yet been approved.)
"People are hesitant to think of [caffeine] as a drug of addiction because it doesn't have a lot of the health and adverse social consequences associated with our classic drugs of addiction," says Roland Griffiths, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "Yet the basic mechanisms by which it hooks people are very much like our classic drugs of addiction."
Most people experience mild to modest withdrawal, Griffiths says, which is relieved by drinking coffee in the morning after abstaining from it overnight. Many people say, "'I really don't get going until I have coffee, [and] then I feel great.' What they're not recognizing is that if they didn't consume coffee [at all], they would wake up feeling great," Griffiths says. [Read more: Signs of Caffeine Addiction]
7 Mind-Blowing Benefits of Exercise
Maybe you exercise to tone your thighs, build your biceps, or flatten your belly. Or maybe you work out to ward off the big killers like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. But how about sweating to improve your mind? "Exercise is the single best thing you can do for your brain in terms of mood, memory, and learning," says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John Ratey, author of the book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. "Even 10 minutes of activity changes your brain." If you need a little extra incentive to lace up those sneakers, here are five ways that exercise can boost your brainpower.
1. It reverses the detrimental effects of stress. Jumping on the treadmill or cross trainer for 30 minutes can blow off tension by increasing levels of "soothing" brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. What's fascinating, though, is that exercise may actually work on a cellular level to reverse stress's toll on our aging process, according to a 2010 study from the University of California—San Francisco. The researchers found that stressed-out women who exercised vigorously for an average of 45 minutes over a three-day period had cells that showed fewer signs of aging compared to women who were stressed and inactive. Working out also helps keep us from ruminating "by altering blood flow to those areas in the brain involved in triggering us to relive these stressful thoughts again and again," says study coauthor Elissa Epel, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF. [Read more: 7 Mind-Blowing Benefits of Exercise]