Social activity in your 60s may lower dementia risk by 12%

New research over a 28-year follow-up period finds significant evidence that frequent social contact at the age of 60 can lower the risk of developing dementia later on.

The link between having a rich social life and brain health has received much attention in the scientific community.

Some studies have suggested that levels of social interaction can predict cognitive decline and even dementia, while others have shown that group socializing can prevent the harmful effects of aging on memory.

New research examines the link between social contact and dementia in more depth. Andrew Sommerlad, Ph.D., from the Division of Psychiatry at University College London (UCL), in the United Kingdom, is the first and corresponding author of the new study.

Full story at Medical News Today

Stressed at school? Art therapy reduces teenage girls’ headaches

Teenagers report higher levels of stress than adults, and cite school as the highest contributing factor, according to the American Psychological Association’s annual report. A summary from 2013 concluded that while stress among Americans was not new, “what’s troubling is the stress outlook for teens in the United States.”

In response, recently some schools have turned to mindfulness-based programs as a way to alleviate stress among their students. These programs could benefit from more research into what activities students find most useful.

In a pilot study led by the University of Washington, researchers explored art-based mindfulness activities that schools could use to reduce headaches, a common side effect of stress in adolescent girls. The test group of eight teenage girls gave feedback on which activities they preferred.

Full story at Science Daily

What is learned helplessness?

Learned helplessness is a state that occurs after a person has experienced a stressful situation repeatedly. They come to believe that they are unable to control or change the situation, so they do not try — even when opportunities for change become available.

Psychologists first described learned helplessness in 1967 after a series of experiments in animals, and they suggested that their findings could apply to humans.

Learned helplessness leads to increased feelings of stress and depression. For some people, it is linked with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Full story at Medical News Today

Simple test can tell if you’re stressed out

Stress is often called “the silent killer” because of its stealthy and mysterious effects on everything from heart disease to mental health.

Now researchers at the University of Cincinnati have developed a new test that can easily and simply measure common stress hormones using sweat, blood, urine or saliva. Eventually, they hope to turn their ideas into a simple device that patients can use at home to monitor their health.

The results were published this month in the journal American Chemical Society Sensors.

“I wanted something that’s simple and easy to interpret,” said Andrew Steckl, an Ohio Eminent Scholar and professor of electrical engineering in UC’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Full story at Science Daily

Stress-related disorders linked to heightened risk of cardiovascular disease

Stress related disorders — conditions triggered by a significant life event or trauma — may be linked to a heightened risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), finds a large Swedish study published in The BMJtoday.

The risk of severe and acute CVD events, such as cardiac arrest and heart attack, was particularly high in the first six months after diagnosis of a stress related disorder, and within the first year for other types of CVD.

Most people are, at some point during their life, exposed to psychological trauma or stressful life events such as the death of a loved one, a diagnosis of a life threatening illness, natural disasters, or violence, write the authors.

Full story at Science Daily

Hate Those Stressful Office Parties? Just Fake It, Study Suggests

Though they often dread social events, many introverts find they’re not as bad as feared and some have learned to fake an outgoing personality to get through the experience.

In the business world, socializing is a key to success, said Erik Helzer, who led a team that examined the psychological implications for both introverts and extroverts. Helzer is an assistant professor of management and organization at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School in Baltimore.

“We’re told, ‘You ought to do this. It will help your career,'” he said in a university news release. “But that doesn’t mean we look forward to it. In fact, many people do not.”

For the study, Helzer and colleagues asked 146 university students to spend 30 minutes interacting with strangers in a cocktail party environment.

Full story at Health Day

Stress: A feeling of control may limit its negative effects

Researchers conducted a study on rats and revealed that the possibility of controlling the source of stress may be key to reducing its impact.

Everybody experiences stress at some point in their lives.

Sometimes, stress can be a positive force and lead to positive outcomes.

However, when it becomes chronic, it might produce a range health complaints.

These may include headaches, muscle tension, chest pain, gastrointestinal issues, insomnia, and mental health conditions.

Full story at Medical News Today

How teens deal with stress may affect their blood pressure, immune system

Most teens get stressed out by their families from time to time, but whether they bottle those emotions up or put a positive spin on things may affect certain processes in the body, including blood pressure and how immune cells respond to bacterial invaders, according to Penn State researchers.

The researchers explored whether the strategies adolescents used to deal with chronic family stress affected various metabolic and immune processes in the body. Strategies could include cognitive reappraisal — trying to think of the stressor in a more positive way — and suppression, or inhibiting the expression of emotions in reaction to a stressor.

The team found that when faced with greater chronic family stress, teens who used cognitive reappraisal had better metabolic measures, like blood pressure and waist-to-hip ratio. Teens who were more likely to use suppression tended to have more inflammation when their immune cells were exposed to a bacterial stimulus in the lab, even in the presence of anti-inflammatory signals.

Full story at Science Daily

Letter from the Editor: Love your mind

Fairy lights are gracing the shop windows and Michael Bublé is dominating the airwaves with his rendition of “Winter Wonderland.” The holiday season is well and truly in full swing.

“Are you all set for the holidays?”

I’ve been asked this question three times this week — a classic example of festive chitchat in the United Kingdom. The short answer? No.

With fewer than 4 weeks to go, I’ve purchased a total of three gifts, including one box of candy that will undoubtedly be opened prior to its intended date of consumption and will need to be replaced.

Full story at Medical News Today

Why your neighbor’s holiday decorations bring out the Grinch in you

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Colorful lights line rooftops and windows. Bristly wreaths hang on front doors, and you may spot a glow up Santa and his fleet of perfectly arched reindeer on your neighbors’ lawn.

You might be thinking, “Now? Already? It’s not even December!”

There’s ample debate about how soon is too soon to put up this seasonal décor. A poll by Home Depot found that the best date to begin sprucing your home with the holiday spirit is November 24. One study suggests that people who deck the halls earlier are doing a type of community service by communicating “friendliness and cohesiveness with neighbors.”

Regardless of timing though, holiday decorations don’t always have such a happy-making effect on us. As so many cynical memes (like this one) reflect, these neighborly gestures displaying festivity and joy can trigger judgmental reactions from those of us in a more bah-humbug frame of mind.

Full story at NBC News