by Sven Eberlein
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Ask a centenarian the secret ingredients to a long and healthy life
and you aren’t likely to hear “doctors, drugs, and fad diets.”
know that there’s more to our overall well-being than treating symptoms
or the occasional replacement of a part. The good news is that
scientists in various fields are discovering ever more ways we can keep
ourselves healthy without expensive medication and complicated workout
Here are nine simple, scientifically proven - and sometimes
surprising - ways to empower yourself to make the right choices for your
body and health.
1. Laugh to your heart's delight
“Laughter might be one of the only things in life that can be done
outside of moderation and still reap the benefits,” muses Dr. Michael
Miller, director of the Center for Preventive Cardiology at the
University of Maryland Medical Center. If you ever LOL you don’t need
proof of the healing powers of a good belly laugh. Dr. Miller’s studies
show that laughter expands blood vessels, and endorphins released in
response to laughter activate the chemical nitric oxide in the inner
lining of our blood vessels to promote vascular health. Seriously. STUDY: “Inverse association between sense of humor and coronary heart disease”.
2. Age artfully
Digging the old paint brush or the dusty guitar out of the closet is
always a good idea. However, for aging baby boomers, getting back into
the creative swing of the rockin’ ’60s is a matter of health insurance.
Research shows that seniors engaged in activities like singing, creative
writing, or painting are healthier and happier than those who aren’t.
Whether this boost in the immune system is from a heightened sense of
personal growth or from feeling more socially engaged, it’s clear that
the body likes it when the imagination roams freely. STUDY: “The Creativity and Aging Study”.
3. Work with friends
When you’re shopping around for a job with great health benefits, pay
attention to the office vibe. Israeli researchers found that people who
get along with their co-workers in a friendly and supportive work
environment live longer. Note: Similar support from the boss had no
effect on mortality, so get acquainted with your peers before accepting
the job. STUDY: “Work-Based Predictors of Mortality”.
4. Get a massage
You can never go wrong with a massage, but research shows significant
benefits for overall health. Tiffany Field of the Touch Research
Institute says massage therapy slows the heart rate and lowers blood
pressure and stress hormones. The decrease in stress hormones increases
your body’s natural killer cells, which ward off viruses, bacteria, and
cancer cells. “We’re finding biological changes associated with a single
massage session,” says Mark Rapaport, Chief of Psychiatry at Emory
University School of Medicine. Added bonus for massages from loved ones:
good for body, mind, relationship, and wallet. STUDY: “A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage …”.
5. Eat your carotenoids
It’s no secret that people feel good when they look good. New
evidence suggests that fruits and vegetables, in addition to their many
other benefits, give our skin a healthful glow. Scottish researchers
found that eating lots of carotenoid-rich fruits and veggies like kale,
cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, or peaches gives our skin a
slightly yellower tone, making us look - and feel - healthier and more
attractive. If it works for pallid Scots, you know it’ll work for the
rest of us. STUDY: “You Are What You Eat”.
6. Chat with the neighbors
People are healthier when they have a strong, localized community. A
50-year study centered around Roseto, Penn., a close-knit community of
Italian-Americans, showed the lowest rates of heart disease in the
nation - until the town became more “suburbanized” in the 1960s. Many
people living in housing cooperatives report improved emotional and
physical health. As social animals, having playmates is part of our
survival strategy. STUDY: “The Roseto effect”.
7. Sleep more
Become a dream catcher and stop being a weight watcher. According to
researcher William Killgore, when people get less sleep they tend to
feel more hungry and to crave carbohydrates, particularly sweets. “If a
person feels excessively sleepy,” says Killgore, “it’s likely that they
haven’t been getting adequate sleep and may be prone toward eating more
than they want to.” If you’re plagued by frequent snack attacks, cure
them with a good night’s sleep. STUDY: Preliminary findings, Killgore, et al., Harvard Medical School.
8. Scrub without toxics
There are alternatives to toxic household products like bleach. A
University of Florida study found that a mixture of vinegar, lemon
juice, and baking soda significantly reduces bacteria. Good Housekeeping
microbiologist Gina Marino put it to the test and was impressed with
how well vinegar worked in fighting germs and mold. Adding a little
elbow grease on the tough spots helps keep your gym dues low. STUDY: “Bacterial Reduction Test on Food Surfaces”.
9. Hope like your life depends on it
We know enough about anxiety and depression to drag us down for
several lifetimes, but a truly uplifting new study by Harvard’s School
of Public Health gives reasons to rejoice. “Happy and optimistic people
with a purpose in life tend to have a reduced risk of cardiovascular
disease,” says researcher Julia K. Boehm. So keep hope alive, but
remember that in the words of the late, great Vaclav Havel, “Hope is not
the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty
that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.” STUDY: “The Heart’s Content”.
Sven Eberlein wrote this article for It's Your Body, the Fall 2012 issue of YES! Magazine.