Her Health

Health & Nutrition - - CONTENTS -

FEA­TURES Know where you stand on the health-o-me­ter

Re­mem­ber how thrilled you were when you found out that eat­ing cho­co­late was good for you? Well, we’ve got more happy news: The lat­est re­search shows that the sim­ple plea­sures in life, like go­ing out for lunch, laugh­ing and even hav­ing sex, boost your im­mune sys­tem. Here are 10 ways you’re im­prov­ing your health by do­ing things un­con­sciously.

1 You hang out with friends two or three times a week.

There’s no need to feel guilty about in­dulging in a gos­sip-fest with your girl­friends. Re­searchers have found that women with large so­cial net­works (more than six close re­la­tion­ships) weighed less and had lower rates of smok­ing, di­a­betes, high blood pres­sure and de­pres­sion than women with fewer friends. These women also re­duced their risk of dy­ing from heart dis­ease by more than half. That’s not all. Women hav­ing close re­la­tion­ships with pals had low blood lev­els of in­ter­leuin-6, a pro­tein linked to Alzheimer’s dis­ease, rheuma­toid arthri­tis and cancer. Strong so­cial ties may be pro­tec­tive against dis­ease, per­haps be­cause they buf­fer the ef­fects of daily stres­sors. Top that: Go on a girl­friend get­away, even if it’s just for a week­end. Women who take at least two trips a year are less likely to be tense, de­pressed or tired than those who rarely get away.

2 You drink three cups of cof­fee a day.

So what if the cashier at Star­bucks greets you by name? Drink­ing two cups of cof­fee ev­ery day slashes your risk of both Parkinson’s dis­ease and Alzheimer’s, by 40% and 20% re­spec­tively. Top that: Need an af­ter­noon caf­feine boost? Drink two or more cups of tea. You’ll re­duce your risk of ovar­ian cancer by 46%, ac­cord­ing to a study from Swe­den – per­haps be­cause of the an­tiox­i­dants in tea.

If you’re get­ting six or seven hours of sleep a night and feel­ing en­er­gized and alert, you’ve got noth­ing to worry about.

3 You watched your favourite comedy again last week­end.

Go ahead, crack up: Laugh­ter can ac­tu­ally be as healthy for you as ex­er­cise. A study found that watch­ing a funny movie made view­ers’ blood ves­sels ex­pand more ef­fec­tively, while a stress­ful film caused ves­sels to nar­row, re­strict­ing blood flow. When you laugh, your body re­leases en­dor­phins, chem­i­cals that help coun­ter­act the ef­fects of stress. Top that: Hav­ing a crazy day at work? Close your eyes and vi­su­al­ize your­self at home watch­ing your favourite comedy. Just an­tic­i­pat­ing a hu­mor­ous event can boost your mood by in­creas­ing the body’s pro­duc­tion of en­dor­phins as much as 25%.

4 You never sleep for eight hours.

Rest easy: Re­search shows that seven hours is ac­tu­ally best for your health. Ac­cord­ing to a study, women and men who slept about seven hours a night had the low­est mor­tal­ity rates. The av­er­age woman sleeps about six-and-a-half to seven hours, which is close to the ideal. At least a 15% in­creased risk of dy­ing was found among women who slept more than eight hours or less than four. (Re­searchers the­o­rize that these women may be prone to con­di­tions such as de­pres­sion or sleep ap­nea.) The bot­tom line? If you’re get­ting six or seven hours of sleep a night and feel­ing en­er­gized and alert, you’ve got noth­ing to worry about. Top that: Sched­ule a.m work­outs. Women who ex­er­cised for more than 30 min­utes each morn­ing were 60% less likely to have sleep prob­lems than on days when they didn’t work out.

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