Topic 2

  1. Yoga can bring fibro relief

    Score one more for yoga!

    Researchers say light stretching can do what a pharmacy full of drugs often cannot: Bring real relief to women suffering from fibromyalgia, the mystifying and often debilitating pain condition.

    Researchers from York University in Toronto asked 22 women to take 75-minute hatha yoga classes twice a week. After just eight weeks, the women reported less pain than they did at the start of the study.

    They also felt better about their condition, reporting less helplessness and more acceptance, and they were less likely to focus on the worst possible outcomes of the disease.

    Although those responses were based on a questionnaire given before and after the study, there were also noticeable changes on a much more objective level. The researchers say the women had higher levels of the "stress hormone" cortisol after eight weeks of yoga lessons.

    Now, that might sound bad. "Stress hormone" sounds like trouble, and you definitely don't want too much of it hanging around.

    But too little can be even worse, because the stress hormone is needed to help control inflammation and regulate blood pressure. More importantly, it also keeps the immune system in check -- the same immune system that often goes haywire in fibromyalgia patients.

    And not so coincidentally, fibro patients usually have very low levels of cortisol.

    Since the study was small, it'll take more research before anyone can say for sure whether yoga can boost cortisol levels in the long run -- but other studies have been encouraging, at least when it comes to pain relief.

    In one I told you about last year, yoga actually brought as much relief as drugs, with none of the risks. (Read about it here.)

    Now, if you're suffering from fibro, I know you might think the pretzel-like contortions of yoga are the last things your body could handle.

    In reality, the hatha form of yoga used in the new study is one of the most basic -- and the most gentle.

    And in addition to helping to beat pain and regulate your cortisol levels, yoga has been shown to boost physical strength and energy levels, lower blood pressure, and even improve mental health.

    You can often find inexpensive or even free lessons through your local library, park, or senior center -- or even try it on your own with a book or video.

    Happy stretching.

  2. Always look on the bright side of life

    If you have trouble finding the silver lining in any cloud, it's time to consider an attitude adjustment -- because it might save your life.

    Your outlook could play a direct role in your stroke risk, with the most negative people facing the most negative outcomes.

    Researchers looked at data on more than 6,044 men and women at least 50 years old with no history of stroke who had taken a standard optimism test.

    I've never seen this exam -- but it's fun trying to imagine the questions:

    You've been bitten by a dog. Do you:

    a) Scream

    b) Shoot the dog

    c) Seek immediate medical attention

    d) Feel lucky that such a spirited dog chose to "play" with you

    In any case, the patients were all given an "optimism score" based on their answers, asked to rate their own health, and then tracked for two years.

    The researchers say just 88 strokes took place in that time, but each point on the optimism scale reduced the risk of having one by about 9 percent -- and that's even after adjusting for risk factors such as smoking, heavy boozing, levels of physical activity, and overall health.

    The researchers say optimism was even able to help limit the damage from known stroke risk factors such as anxiety, depression, and neuroticism.

    The only downside was seen among the most extremely optimistic: The researchers say a small number of people are so positive that they always believe everything will work out no matter what -- and these people are less likely to take the actions needed to help themselves.

    On the flipside, it might be hard or even impossible for some folks -- like, for example, negative people -- to believe that attitude alone can have a direct impact on health.

    But other studies have found real benefits to positivity -- including a stronger immune system and healthier heart.

    Several other studies have even made a similar link between outlook and stroke risk, including one published last year that found the most disagreeable grumps were 40 percent more likely to have thicker carotid arteries than positive people. (Read about it here.)

    That's a major stroke risk factor -- and if you can undo it by smiling a little more and being a little more positive, I'd say that's an attitude adjustment worth making.

    p.s. Other recent studies have shown that olive oil can lower your stroke risk by up to 73 percent, potassium can
    slash it by up to 21 percent, and coffee can reduce the risk in women by up to 25 percent. Be sure to get in on all three.

  3. Robots put to work

    Here's what I think of when I picture a hospital pulling the wrapper off a shiny new surgical robot, like the ones commonly used to perform prostate surgeries: A kid getting a pair of skis in July...Same goes for those hospitals -- because a new study confirms that the first response isn't "how can we use this machine best?" It's "how quickly can we put this thing to work -- and how many patients can we use it on?"
  4. Playgrounds are too safe

    I'm sure many parents would bubble wrap their little ones before sending them out if they could, and some practically do these days. But they don't really need that protection -- because playgrounds have gotten so safe and dull that kids no longer have a chance to engage in the types of mildly risky play that's such an important part of development.
  5. Literacy can save your life

    It's about how they understand -- or fail to understand -- information about their own health, and researchers say those who suffer from "health illiteracy" are more likely suffer from actual health problems and are even at risk for an early death.
  6. Seaweed for heart health

    But in Asia, this nuisance is on the menu -- and with good reason, too: Seaweed is one of the healthiest foods you can eat, and a new review of the research finds it can boost your heart health like nothing else.
  7. Yin vs. yang in Parkinson's treatment

    Centuries before James Parkinson described the "shaking palsy" that would later bear his name, the Chinese were already treating the condition they called "the shakes" with a simple herb.
  8. Wives save lives

    A new study finds that married men who suffer a heart attack are more likely to get to a hospital quicker than their bachelor counterparts -- and researchers believe it's because their wives are urging them to go at the first sign of trouble.
  9. Doctor, my eyes

    The risks of smartphones go far beyond thumbs, wrists and sanity: A new study finds that the devices might be doing a number on your eyes, too.
  10. Diabetics can go nuts

    Well whaddaya know -- it turns out small changes in your diet can lead to small changes in your health. Researchers asked diabetics to replace a little of their daily carbs with either more carbs or nuts... and found that those who went nuts had slight improvements in blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
  11. Massage beats pain meds

    In the mood for a massage? Go ahead -- treat yourself, especially if you're suffering from back pain. Not only will that massage help bring you the relief you've been looking for, but a new study finds that it's actually more effective than pain meds.
  12. Vitamin D can protect against cancer

    I just told you how the sunshine vitamin can help keep pre-diabetes from turning into the real thing -- and now, a new study finds it might stop melanomas cold.
  13. Human error goes digital

    Computers were supposed to change healthcare permanently and forever, and in many ways they have. But when it comes to slashing the number of medical mistakes, we still have a long way to go -- because it turns out computers are just as likely as humans to botch drug prescriptions.
  14. Worm your way out of MS

    I know -- as far as the gross-o-meter goes, this one is off the charts... but a series of new studies finds that stomach worms can actually help defeat multiple sclerosis.
  15. Shrinks want seniors to stop drinking

    If you're a senior and you had a drink or two last night, you had way too much. That's ridiculous, of course -- but that's the warning from a group of buzz-killing British shrinks, who claim that booze intake should be limited to just 1.5 units of alcohol a day for seniors.
  16. How to turn a harmless tumor into a deadly cancer

    Most prostate cancers don't need to be treated because the disease won't kill or even hurt most of the men who get it. But there's one group of men who have more to worry about than the rest of us -- because for them, prostate cancer really can carry deadly risk.
  17. Wrinkles linked to bone loss

    What's on your skin might offer real clues about what lies beneath: Researchers say women with more wrinkles have less bone.
  18. Olive oil cuts stroke risk

    Years ago, researchers tried using olive oil as a placebo in trials for heart drugs. As it turned out, olive oil -- not widely known at the time for its heart benefits -- protected the patients in placebo groups better than some meds.
  19. Fake fat, real pounds

    Olestra isn't as widely used as it once was, but it's still a key ingredient in "low-fat" and "light" versions of popular potato chips. And it turns out eating those "light" version could have very heavy consequences.
  20. The real secret to saving your eyes

    At some point in the next month, the feds are expected to approve a new drug to help treat macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in seniors.

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