Mind + body, February 2011
Written by Kristen Russell
What women really love
Hot tip for men this Valentine’s Day: If you really want to set her heart all aflutter, ditch the lingerie and give her plane tickets instead! A British Heart Foundation survey asked women over 50 what gifts really make them happy. Scoring way above that lace teddy (5 percent): a good night’s sleep (16 percent)! Topping the list was a dream vacation (40 percent), but take heart: Forty-two percent of women in the survey said their absolute favorite Valentine’s Day gift was just hearing their partner say, “I love you.” Possibly while tucking them in for a nice long nap!
Here’s some sweet news: Chocolate actually decreases the release of the stress hormone cortisol. A study — funded by Nestlé, natch — finds that people who eat 40 grams of dark (at least 45 percent cocoa) chocolate every day for two weeks saw decreased levels of cortisol in their blood. Wonder if they saw increased levels of pounds on the scale, though; 40 grams is the weight of a regular-size chocolate bar. A few bites a day might be more realistic.
Soda want to
Do diet sodas make you fat? That’s a popular story fizzing on the Net right now, but it might not be true. A couple of studies have linked drinking diet soda with stimulated appetite and weight gain. Gah! But a new analysis of those studies has experts doubting the connection; they say the studies were too small or the results too unclear. More research is needed, experts say, but one thing is clear: Diet soda drinkers who also go on a diet lose weight. I’ll drink to that!
Seriously deflating news about mammograms: Only about half of all women who should get one do — even if their insurance will pay for it. Some of possible reasons: lack of access, lack of time and lack of a desire to have one’s boobs squished. But one in nine women will develop breast cancer, so woman up! The American Cancer Society recommends yearly tests beginning at age 40.
Born to cheat?
“My genes made me do it!” That’s the newest excuse for cheating on your spouse, thanks to scientists who have just uncovered a link between a certain gene and promiscuity and cheating. It’s the old “thrill-seeking” gene that’s often blamed for alcohol and gambling addiction. The gene acts on brain chemistry in some people, sending a rush of dopamine into the brain’s so-called pleasure and reward center at the very thought or act of cheating.
Sick of sporting that pasty-white Seattle drizzle tan? Don’t resort to a tanning bed, says the American Cancer Society. A new study finds that more than 18 percent of women (and 6 percent of men) use indoor tanning beds — and many apparently don’t realize the beds are bad for their skin. Tanning-bed use has been linked to melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, the number-one form of malignancy in the U.S. In 2009, more than 1 million new cases were diagnosed and 8,650 Americans died of melanoma. A healthier option? Spray tans and lotions — and daily use of sunscreen.
Need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning? That means you’re not getting enough sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. You might want to do something about that: Research shows that well-rested people are healthier, happier — and more attractive, to boot! (Read more about that at parentmap.com/more.) The average adult needs from seven to nine hours of sleep per night — really!
- Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Even on weekends, even if you don’t want to. Make sleep a schedule priority!
- Don’t eat for two to three hours before bedtime. That full tummy makes it more difficult to get comfortable and might cause heartburn.
- Avoid caffeine close to bedtime. Caffeine blocks sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increases adrenaline production.
- Avoid alcohol close to bedtime. Alcohol might help you fall asleep initially, but it can increase the number of times you wake up during the night.
- Make your bedroom comfy, dark and quiet. This might mean finally addressing the snoring coming from the other side of the bed!
- Use your bed for two things only: sleep and sex! Stop watching The Colbert Report in bed! No TV or laptop in the bedroom. It’s too stimulating.
- Get regular exercise. Physical fitness leads to better sleep, which leads to more energy for physical fitness.
Source: The National Sleep Foundation; sleepfoundation.org