3 Totally Unexpected Ways Exercise May Help You (Besides the Whole Getting-Fit Thing)

Proceedings National Academy

Exercise gives you energy, boosts your immunity, helps your heart, and–oh yeah!–tones your bod. There’s every reason in the world that exercise is good for you. No, seriously, there’s every reason–check out the surprising results of these exercise-related studies…

* Exercise may increase the size of your… brain! New research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that aerobic exercise might pump up the hippocampus part of your brain (which controls memory). Study participants who walked for 40 minutes three times a week had brain increase of about 2% (the participants that lifted weights had a brain decrease of about 1.5%).

Related: Game On: Low-Calorie Super Bowl Foods

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* It could make you more active in politics. For a study in Psychological Science, researchers linked the “fittest” states–those with frequent exercisers, low diabetes rates, and low obesity–with the states that had the highest voter turnout in 2004–they roughly matched up. They also found that people who were exposed to active words like “move” were more likely to vote than people who saw words like “relax.”

* It could increase the odds you’ll go to college. A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed a strong correlation between good IQ test results and physical fitness. Researchers studied more than one million men in Sweden. Those who were physically fit performed better in the logical thinking and verbal comprehension parts of IQ tests, and most went on to study at a university.

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Study: Abortion doesn’t harm mental health

mental health

As if deciding how to handle an unplanned pregnancy wasn’t stressful enough, several studies in recent years have suggested that young women who have an abortion may be at increased risk of mental health problems afterward.

Those concerns are unfounded, according to a new study conducted in Denmark and published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. In fact, the study found, while the rate of psychiatric problems was unchanged in women who had an abortion, it appears to spike post-birth in women who carry their babies to term.

“Women who are in a difficult situation—pregnant and unsure whether or not to continue with the pregnancy—should know that they do not have an increased risk of having a first-time episode of a severe mental disorder after an abortion,” says the lead author of the study, Trine Munk-Olsen, PhD, an epidemiologist at Aarhus University, in Denmark.

Munk-Olsen and her colleagues identified 350,000 women in a national health registry who had no history of psychiatric problems, had become pregnant for the first time, and had either an abortion or a successful childbirth. (Women who had miscarriages were excluded.) The researchers then compared the number of women in each group who received mental health care in the months immediately before and after childbirth or abortion.

Roughly 1% of the women who had abortions were treated for a psychiatric problem—such as depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety—in the nine months leading up to the procedure, a rate that did not change measurably in the year following the abortions, the study found.

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5 Things to Know About Heart Disease

Heart Disease

February is American Heart Month and there’s a lot women need to know. We asked GalTime’s cardiologist Stephanie Moore of Massachusetts General Hospital for 5 simple things women need to know for a healthier heart.

1. Know the Facts.

a. Cardiovascular Disease ( CVD) ranks first among all disease categories in hospital discharges for women.

b. 37% of all female deaths in America occur from CVD, which includes Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and stroke.

c. More women than men die of stroke.

d. CVD is a particular problem for minority women.The death rate is substantially higher in black women than white women.

Related: 5 Health Warnings Women Should NEVER Ignore

2. CVD is preventable.

1. 30 mins of exercise 5 days /week

2. Goal Blood pressure <120/80 mmHG

3. Total Cholesterol 45 mg/dl

4. No smoking

5. Goal fasting blood sugar < 100 mg/dl

women need know

3. Diagnosis of heart disease presents a greater challenge for women than in men.

Symptoms can be very atypical.

The underlined below are non -distinct and more typical in females:

Chest pressure, pain, nausea, jaw pain, shortness of breath, fatique

Related: The Cure Myth

4. Lack of awareness is a problem.

Only 13% of women are aware that heart disease is the number one killer of women or that stroke is a major cause of death or disability in women.

5. Go to The American Heart Associations’ site: http://www.goredforwomen.org. Take the Go Red checkup to assess your heart health!!

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A Parent’s Decision to Empower thru Sports

Girls Women

Getting a child into sports and keeping them there is one of the best decisions a parent will make. While your kids do it for the fun, research on the life-long benefits of a sports experience gives parents even more motivation to schlep kids to those practices. Contrary to the “dumb jock” myth, interscholastic sports participation has a measurable, positive educational impact on both boys and girls from diverse socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. Betsey Stevenson, an economist from Wharton, found that it’s not just that kids already destined to do well play sports, but that playing sports actually results in more education and higher incomes – for boys and girls. In addition, a sports experience changes a girl’s health trajectory; preventing heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, tobacco and drug use, unwanted teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, depression and suicide. To date, the very best known protection from obesity into adulthood is a high school sports experience. Can I get a “wow!”?

Celebrate the Successes with National Girls and Women in Sports Day

So, it is with good reason that we take time to celebrate the short statute that has caused nothing less than a revolution in sports – and indeed in education. Today is National Girls and Women in Sports Day, a time to acknowledge where we are and thank those women and men who gave a good chunk of their professional lives to Title IX and athletics, including Donna de Varona, Christine Grant, Birch Bayh and Billie Jean King, to name a very few. Their life’s work has helped a generation of female athletes that have benefited from Title IX, such as Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Sheryl Swoops, Aimee Mullins, Jessica Mendoza, Abby Wambach, Jennie Finch, Lisa Leslie, Misty May-Treanor, Kerri Walsh, Sanya Richards, and Mia Hamm, who continue to inspire and encourage our nation’s girls to break down the barriers that limit their potential.

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Happiness Challenge: Share 3 Things You’re Looking Forward to This Year!

looking-forward-to list 2011

My darlings, how’s your day, your week, your year going? If there’s one thing I’ve learned from interviewing dozens and dozens of psychologists and happiness experts for magazine stories over the years, it’s that if we don’t have things to look forward to (goals, ideas, big (or little) plans for the future), our happiness can quickly tank. On that note, let’s do a little check-in. I’d love to hear what you’re amped-up about for 2011. Here are three awesome things I am so looking forward to in the year ahead…

Here’s what’s on my looking-forward-to list for 2011 (in no particular order):

1. A new commitment to fitness: I spent the better part of 2010 pregnant and, frankly, a little tired and achy. I had to give up running (boo hoo) and gals, I can’t tell you how incredibly excited I am to hit the pavement again–to feel the breeze on my face, to be alone with my thoughts, to get that endorphin rush that can only come from an amazing workout, to feel the muscles in my legs getting stronger again. I’m so ready for that! (Seriously, my heart is beating a little faster now just thinking about that first post-baby run!) I’m also excited to plan for my first 10K or half-marathon (gulp) this year. Anyone want to join me?

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2. A baby: I’m having my third baby boy in a matter of days, and I am so giddy about meeting him! I can’t wait to lock eyes with him in his first moments of life and welcome him into this world, holding his little hand for the first time. (I’ll be leaving soon for maternity leave, but I promise to pop back in to post baby pictures!)

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Think Thin, Low-Calorie Super Bowl Drinks For The Girls

Super Bowl

The Super Bowl is one of those events where, at some point in the night, I usually find myself uttering the words, “diet starts tomorrow.” Between the wings, chips and beer, it’s virtually impossible not to slip. To make matters worse, add the fact that you’re probably watching the game with a group of guys who’ve probably never counted a calorie in their lives. Just because you’ve already written the day off as a cheat day doesn’t mean you still can’t be calorie conscious in some way. And if you’re determined to eat those wings, you might as well cut the calories somewhere. Why not start with your beverage? Put away the Bud Heavy and opt for a lighter beer. Or skip the beer altogether and try one of the delicious light cocktails below. Either way, I promise you’ll thank yourself in the morning.

Beers

There are plenty of great, light options out there that don’t have to taste like the Natty Light you used to down in college. Opt for a beer with under 100 calories. Here are some of my favorites:

* Amstel Light, 99 calories

* Michelob Ultra, 95 calories

* Heineken Light, 99 calories

* Yuengling Light, 99 calories

* Beck’s Premier Light, 64 calories (WINNER)

Do Women Who Drink More Really Weigh Less?

Wine

Just don’t! It may be a lighter option and good for the heart blah blah blah, but this is a football party. So unless you want a bunch of guys teasing you all night, just leave the wine alone for the night.

Cocktails

Cocktails are definitely your best bet. They’re easy to lighten up and they have the highest alcohol content – winner! Here are a few of my favorite, no-fuss mixed drink recipes.

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Life Cycle of a Penis

blood flow

Experts explain how a penis changes in size, appearance, and sexual function as a man ages.

It’s no secret that a man’s sexual function declines with age. As his testosterone level falls, it takes more to arouse him. Once aroused, he takes longer to get an erection and to achieve orgasm and, following orgasm, to become aroused again. Age brings marked declines in semen volume and sperm quality. Erectile dysfunction (ED), or impotence, is clearly linked to advancing years; between the ages of 40 and 70, the percentage of potent men falls from 60% to roughly 30%, studies show.

Men also experience a gradual decline in urinary function. Studies show that a man’s urine stream weakens over time, the consequence of weakened bladder muscles and, in many cases, prostate enlargement.

Do you insist on rising at five to run each morning, even when your back is aching, black ice coats the streets, and your wife beseeches you to stay in bed? Do you only feel good when you’re training for triathlons? Is eating merely a way to replenish for the next race? Then you, my Spandex-clad friend, may have an exercise addiction.

And that’s not all. Recent research confirms what men have long suspected and, in some cases, feared: that the penis itself undergoes significant changes as a man moves from his sexual prime — around age 30 for most guys — into middle age and on to his dotage. These changes include:

Appearance. There are two major changes. The head of the penis (glans) gradually loses its purplish color, the result of reduced blood flow. And there is a slow loss of pubic hair. “As testosterone wanes, the penis gradually reverts to its prepubertal, mostly hairless, state,” says Irwin Goldstein, MD, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego and editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

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Protect Your Erection: 11 Tips

blood flow

How to avoid erectile dysfunction and protect your potency.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is common in older men. But it’s not a normal part of aging. How can you avoid ED? Here’s what experts told WebMD.

1. Watch what you eat.

A diet that’s bad for a man’s heart is also bad for his ability to have erections.

Research has shown that the same eating pattern that can cause heart attacks by impeding blood flow in the coronary arteries — few fruits and vegetables and lots of fatty, fried, and processed foods — can impede blood flow to and within the penis. That blood flow is needed for the penis to become erect.

Anything that is bad for a man’s heart is also bad for his penis, says Andrew McCullough, MD, associate professor of clinical urology and director of the male sexual health program at New York University Langone Medical Center.

Recent studies show that ED is relatively uncommon among men who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, heart-healthy fats including nuts and olive oil, fish, and wine.

“The link between the Mediterranean diet and improved sexual function has been scientifically established,” says Irwin Goldstein, MD, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego.

2. Maintain a healthy weight.

Being overweight can bring many health problems, including type 2 diabetes, which can cause nerve damage throughout the body. If that affects the nerves affecting the penis, ED can result.

3. Avoid high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

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Quiz: How mindful are you? I’m not very

something else

As preparation for my Happiness Project, I did a lot of self-examination to figure out what goals to work toward. I knew that one quality I needed to cultivate was mindfulness – that is, my open, conscious awareness in the present.

And I have been trying to be more mindful.

But it wasn’t until just yesterday, when I read this questionnaire, that I realized just how mindless I was.

This questionnaire, the “Mindful Attention Awareness Scale,” appears in an interesting paper by Kirk Warren Brown and Richard M. Ryan, The Benefits of Being Present: Mindfulness and its Role in Psychological Well-Being.

I can absent-mindedly report that I answered “yes” to every single question, except #13.

Zoikes!

The more often you answer “ no,” more mindfully you live. How do you score?

1. I could be experiencing some emotion and not be conscious of it until some time later.

2. I break or spill things because of carelessness, not paying attention, or thinking of something else.

3. I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present.

4. I tend to walk quickly to get where I’m going without paying attention to what I experience along the way.

5. I tend not to notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention.

6. I forget a person’s name almost as soon as I’ve been told it for the first time.

7. It seems I am “running on automatic” without much awareness of what I’m doing.

8. I rush through activities without being really attentive to them.

paying attention

9. I get so focused on the goal I want to achieve that I lose touch with what I am doing right now to get there.

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Fatty Fish, Nuts May Prevent Gum Disease

disease than

Study Shows Diet High in Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids May Reduce Risk for Periodontitis

Oct. 26, 2010 — A new study suggests eating foods rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), such as salmon and nuts, may help prevent gum disease or periodontitis.

Periodontitis is a common type of gum disease in which the gum tissue separates from the teeth and allows bacteria to build up. If untreated, the condition can lead to bone and tooth loss.

Researchers found that people whose diets were rich in PUFAs were as much as 30% less likely to have gum disease than those who ate little or none of this type of fat.

“We found that n-3 fatty acid intake, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), are inversely associated with periodontitis in the U.S. population,” says researcher Asghar Z. Naqvi, MPH, MNS, of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, in a news release.

“A dietary therapy, if effective, might be a less expensive and safer method for the prevention and treatment of periodontitis,” says Naqvi. “To date, the treatment of periodontitis has primarily involved mechanical cleaning and local antibiotic application.”

Researchers say polyunsaturated fats have already been shown to have beneficial effects on other types of inflammatory conditions, such as heart disease, and they may also play a role in fighting the inflammation that causes gum disease.

“Given the evidence indicating a role for n-3 fatty acids in other chronic inflammatory conditions, it is possible that treating periodontitis with n-3 fatty acids could have the added benefit of preventing other chronic diseases associated with inflammation, including stroke as well,” says Naqvi.

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