Monday, August 28, 2006

Americans work more, seem to accomplish less: study

A Reuters News Story
Spring 2006

Most U.S. workers say they feel rushed on the job, but they are getting less accomplished than a decade ago, according to newly released research. Workers completed two-thirds of their work in an average day last year, down from about three-quarters in a 1994 study, according to research conducted for Day-Timers Inc., an East Texas, Pennsylvania-based maker of organizational products.

The biggest culprit is the technology that was supposed to make work quicker and easier, experts say. "Technology has sped everything up and, by speeding everything up, it's slowed everything down, paradoxically," said John Challenger, chief executive of Chicago-based outplacement consultants Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. "We never concentrate on one task anymore. You take a little chip out of it, and then you're on to the next thing," Challenger said on Wednesday. "It's harder to feel like you're accomplishing something."

Unlike a decade ago, U.S. workers are bombarded with e-mail, computer messages, cell phone calls, voice mails and the like, research showed. The average time spent on a computer at work was almost 16 hours a week last year, compared with 9.5 hours a decade ago, according to the Day-Timer research released this week. Workers typically get 46 e-mails a day, nearly half of which are unsolicited, it said. Sixty percent of workers say they always or frequently feel rushed, but those who feel extremely or very productive dropped to 51 percent from 83 percent in 1994, the research showed.

Put another way, in 1994, 82 percent said they accomplished at least half their daily planned work but that number fell to 50 percent last year. A decade ago, 40 percent of workers called themselves very or extremely successful, but that number fell to just 28 percent. "We think we're faster, smarter, better with all this technology at our side and in the end, we still feel rushed and our feeling of productivity is down," said Maria Woytek, marketing communications manager for Day-Timers, a unit of ACCO Brands Corp. The latest study was conducted among a random sample of about 1,000 people who work at least part time. The earlier study surveyed some 1,300 workers.

Expectations that technology would save time and money largely haven't been borne out in the workplace, said Ronald Downey, professor of psychology who specializes in industrial organization at
Kansas State University. "It just increases the expectations that people have for your production," Downey said. Even if productivity increases, it's constantly outpaced by those expectations, said Don Grimme of GHR Training Solutions, a workplace training company based in Coral Springs, Florida. "The irony is the very expectation of getting more done is getting in the way of getting more done," he said. "People are stressed out."

Companies that are flexible with workers' time and give workers the most control over their tasks tend to fare better against the sea of rising expectations, experts said. Businesses that have moved to 24-hour operations, bosses who micro-manage and longer commutes all add to the problem, they said, while downsizing leaves fewer workers doing the work of those who left. Finally, there's a trend among companies to measure job performance like never before, said Challenger. "There's a sense that no matter how much I do, it's never enough," he said.

My comment: It's a disturbing trend: employers are causing employees to experience more stress at a time when many employers are cutting back on, or cutting altogether, employee health benefits. There must be a better way to do business.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Daoism on Laughter

Just as wind shakes the leaves of the bamboo, so too do we laugh in reaction to the world.

Some ascetics do not believe in laughter. They believe laughing is a sin. Tao, however, excludes nothing, including laughter.

It is very important in understanding Tao that we perceive the transient nature of life. Everything is in a state of constant change. Therefore, we can never be complacent. We can never expect places, things, or people to remain static. If we understand that, then we have the opportunity to learn more of Tao. If we do not accept that, then madness swiftly overtakes us.

The ancients understood the ephemeral and advised their students not to take life too seriously. Life changes too quickly for us to dwell overly long on any single aspect.
Things may go one way for a while, only to change quickly and unpredictably. Therefore, the wise realize that there is nothing to be gained by regarding life as immutable. It is far better to accept and work with its ephemeral quality. Then, no matter how difficult things are, we can laugh.

As nothing is permanent, there is nothing to take seriously. As there is nothing to take seriously, we should laugh at the world. As we laugh at the world, we should realize that understanding the changeable nature of life is the swiftest way to joy.

“Laughter” from
Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony by Deng Ming-Dao, Harper San Francisco, 1996, ISBN 0062513958

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Laughter - It does a body good!

The Natural Stress-Free Living Newsletter, sent to subscribers on August 18, 2006

(April 2009: The Natural Stress-Free Living Newsletter is no longer being published. Instead, you may subscribe to my weekly Stress Relief Tips newsletter which usually includes a video link so you may watch it, too!)

I have long been an advocate of alternative medicine and mind/body connections. I do absolutely believe that the body contains the knowledge and ability to self-heal any disease that manifests, especially those problems which arise as the result of physically, mentally, or emotionally stressful living conditions. As I researched the topic of stress and laughter, a startling pattern emerged; the yin-yang, point-for-point self-correcting counterpart for stress is laughter.
Here are a few of the main elements seen in stress reactions, the problems they cause, and the solutions and relief provided by laughter.
Blood Pressure
Stress: raises blood pressure; constricts blood vessels.
: lowers blood pressure, relaxes blood vessels.

Stress: raises levels of epinephrine, cortisol, and dopac.
: reduces levels of all of the above; releases endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers which also produce a feeling of well-being.

Immune System
Stress: suppresses immune system activity.
: raises levels of T-cells, B-cells, and immunoglobulin A; variously, these cells fight viruses, cancer and other tumors, and produce antibodies to fight infections. Not only have increases in immune system activity been recorded at the time scientific study participants were viewing a humorous movie, the elevated levels of some beneficial immune system hormones and cells actually carried over into the next day giving further protection from disease.

Muscular Activity and Elasticity
Stress: contracts muscles, causes tension and eventually pain.
: relaxes muscles.

Stress: shallow breathing is a frequent reaction; the reduced intake of oxygen results in reduced oxygen in the blood stream which adversely affects muscular tension and mental concentration; there is also the possible retention of carbon dioxide due to the incomplete exhalation of the breath.
: belly laughter actually has a cleansing effect similar to deep breathing because hard laughter forces old, stale air out of the lungs and expels any built-up carbon dioxide.

: promotes a lack of exercise; you want to get home and relax or “veg-out.”
: provides a great aerobic workout; researchers say that laughing one-hundred times is the equivalent of spending fifteen minutes riding an exercise cycle; one doctor has suggested that the heart works as hard during twenty seconds of laughter as it does during three minutes of hard rowing. Of course, no one in the medical community is suggesting you substitute laughter for exercise, but the aerobic benefit is substantial as a complimentary practice: how about watching a comedy while walking on your treadmill or riding your exer-cycle!

Emotions / Moods
Stress: associated with depression and sadness.
: produces positive emotions; can actually make you happy.

Social Aspects
Stress: people often isolate in an attempt to escape stressful situations; loneliness can lead to depression as well as severe physical illness. See the article Being with friends helps keep you healthy! on my blog.
: laughter is contagious – being around people who are laughing will make you laugh, too; fun social events bring people together where they find mutual support and friendship.

Now, if all that isn’t enough to prompt you into visiting a joke-of-the-day website or putting on your favorite comedy DVD, at least think about it.
Yes…even thinking about having a good laugh reduces stress and boosts the immune system! If you anticipate viewing a funny movie after work or know that you will be meeting friends for lunch and telling jokes, the levels of stress hormones in your body begin to fall, and endorphins rise; not “just a little” either. A small study revealed that participants who were told three days in advance of viewing a humorous video experienced a drop in stress-hormone levels and a rise in endorphins. Not only that….but the stress hormones continued to drop and the relaxing/good mood hormones continued to rise as the date to watch the humorous video approached. Ultimately, anticipation of this event effected a 39% reduction in cortisol levels, 38% drop in dopac levels, and a whopping 70% drop in epinephrine levels.
Thinking of having a good laugh is good for your hormone levels, but nothing is a substitute for the other health-related and socially beneficial actions of the real thing: Laughter.
Your body has the ability to detect and correct any imbalance, but only if you let your body work the way it was meant to work! Make opportunities for laugher! Schedule a lunch where everyone tells a good joke; subscribe to a joke-of-the-day website, listen to funny CDs or watch funny movies…with friends!!

I offer personal, confidential Stress Management Consultations and holistic, individualized relaxation programs tailored to your needs, lifestyle, and schedule.
In four weeks, I can help you reverse months or years of accumulated stress symptoms, maybe even keep you out of the doctor’s office and eliminate your need for prescription drugs that sometimes increase your problems with very undesirable side effects. You will feel better, sleep better, reduce your blood pressure, reduce or eliminate headaches and migraines, and back, neck, and shoulder pain. Your personal stress-reducing action plan includes my ongoing support because I love to help people Be Well ~ Naturally!
Please write for details:

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Very Funny Movie list

As promised, here is a list of very funny movies. They're my favorites, of course; see if they are on your list, too! The first four are in order by preference, the rest are in no special order.

I love classic movies, and judge ALL comedies against “Bringing Up Baby.” That is my all-time favorite film, a brilliant “screwball comedy” featuring consummate comedy performances by my two favorite actors, Kate Hepburn and Cary Grant.

Popularity Rating *





Bringing Up Baby

Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant



Arsenic and Old Lace

Priscilla Lane, Cary Grant



His Girl Friday

Rosalind Russell, Cary Grant



The Philadelphia Story

Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant,

James Stewart


First: 7.9

Last: 6.7

all of The Thin Man movies

Myrna Loy, William Powell

1934 to 47


My Man Godfrey

Carole Lombard, William Powell



Woman of the Year

Katherine Hepburn

Spencer Tracy



Adam’s Rib

Katherine Hepburn

Spencer Tracy



The Trouble With Harry

Shirley MacLaine, Edmund Gwenn, John Forsythe



Monty Python & The Holy Grail

Graham Chapman, John Cleese



Mars Attacks!

Glenn Close, Jack Nicholson



Pretty Woman

Julia Roberts, Richard Gere



Some Like It Hot

Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon



The Odd Couple

Jack Lemmon, Walther Matthau



Trading Places

Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd



Back to the Future

Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd




Jessica Lange, Dustin Hoffman



Working Girl

Melanie Griffith, Sigourney Weaver, Harrison Ford



The Birdcage

Robin Williams, Nathan Lane



Laws of Attraction

Julianne Moore, Pierce Brosnan


*Popularity as rated on the IMDb (Internet Movie Database)

A tidbit of trivia for you: the same dog played "George" in Bringing Up Baby and "Asta" in the Thin Man movies.

Pick up a comedy tonight and watch it with a friend over the weekend. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

What is your favorite comedy movie?

This week's "Natural Stress-Free Living" newsletter will be about laughter and stress. If you would like to subscribe, click here or on the link in the sidebar to the left.

There have been some very interesting scientific observations about the relationship between laughter and stress. To test some of the research for myself, I've been watching funny movies this past week. (Gotta love doing research!)

Some were really funny, some were cute but missed several opportunities for real laughs, some just missed the mark with me altogether, but taste in humor is as individual as taste in clothing...everyone loves something different.

A ten-star comedy if I ever saw one is "Bringing Up Baby" made in 1936 and starring Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. It's one of those screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s where totally opposite characters were bound together in absurd situations and heavily coated with the unexpected....totally hilarious!

Leave a comment and share the title(s) of your favorite comedy movie(s). Include a review if you like....and stock up on popcorn because later I'll be publishing a list of some of the best-ever comedy movies!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Is Your Computer Killing You?

I certainly hope your computer isn't killing you, but constant computer use sure can cause stress in many different ways, from repetitive stress injuries to backaches to eyestrain. It's up to you to be aware of these challenges and make responsible choices which are often as simple as sitting in a supportive chair or taking a break from the keyboard periodically.

This article comes by way of my friend at Veggies, Yarns & Tails. Below is just the introduction. Click on the title to pay a visit to Veggies and read the rest of the article.

Ten ways that the computer can hurt your body, mind, and the environment, and what you can do to minimize the damage.

By Lee Hamrick, Small Business Pipeline
Jan. 18, 2006

You would think being forced to cancel a ski trip because of a work emergency would be punishment enough. But it's not. Toiling (or even playing) away on your computer is cramping more than your style — it's hurting your body and your mind. It's not doing your planet much good, either.

Rest assured, hard-core computer fans, we're not going to suggest that you abandon your dual-core screamer and take up knitting. This is an online tech journal, after all. Just as we recognize that automobiles can be dangerous but still love a music-blaring ride in a souped-up ragtop, we want you to know the dangers of computing — and how to avoid them.

Read on for the top ten ways computing can hurt you — but watch your posture, OK?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Stand up and stretch!

This is a qigong (“vital-energy practice”) called “Supporting Heaven With Both Hands.” It is one of eight exercises included in the qigong form called Baduanjin (“Eight Sections [of] Brocade”). The practice and benefits of qigong are similar to those of yoga; it is good for your body, mind, and spirit. You have probably heard of “tai chi;” that is a form of qigong.

You may do this stretch anytime and anywhere. It works wonders in improving circulation and easing muscular tension, and I often do it myself during the day to relieve the pain and stiffness of Carpal Tunnel. This is also a gentle and simple exercise to do to when you rise in the morning; it’s a great way to start your day! You may have intuitively known this because it is often the first thing you do in the morning…stretch!

When practicing qigong, or any other exercise, remember to choose a comfortable location; avoid standing in the direct airflow of heaters or air conditioners. It is best to wear loose, comfortable clothing that will not bind the motion of your arms and shoulders.

To perform “Supporting Heaven With Both Hands,” stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart, and your weight balanced over the center of your feet. Place your arms over your head, bending your wrists so your palms are facing the sky or ceiling; you may stretch your fingers out as widely as possible (in my experience, this is most beneficial), or lace your fingers together if you like.

Let the back of your hands rest on the top of your head while you inhale deeply. Exhale gently but completely (getting rid of all that built-up carbon dioxide!) while pushing upward, fully extending your arms straight above your head though not so far that it hurts or is painful in any way. Inhale while lowering your hands back to rest on the top of your head. Repeat stretching and lowering your arms eight to twelve times.

The illustration of the man performing “Supporting Heaven With Both Hands” shows him standing on his toes when his arms are extended. That is a position that goes with advanced practice of Baduanjin. It is not necessary for you to stand on your toes to receive full relaxation benefits from this practice.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Being with friends helps keep you healthy!

Originally published in my "Natural Stress-Free Living" newsletter of August 4, 2006. Just click on the heading or follow the link in the sidebar to subscribe.

Thanks go to Beth Punches for her gracious permission to use her photo of Succulent Wild Women.

This may seem like a bit of trivia, but believe me, it isn’t trivial at all:

At the 1972 Grammy Awards recognizing 1971 musical achievements, Carole King, songwriter, won the Song of the Year award and James Taylor, performer, won the award for Best Pop Vocal Performance-Male. Both awards were for the song “You’ve Got A Friend.” If the world was a stressful place in 1971, it is even more stressful today, and a pretty enlightening statement was made when the song chosen as the most important musical accomplishment of the year was a ballad about friendship.

First verse lyrics of “You’ve Got A Friend.”

Carole King version
When you're down and troubled
And you need some loving care
And nothing, nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest night.
James Taylor version
When you’re down and troubled
And you need a helping hand
And nothing, whoa nothing is going right
Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there
To brighten up even your darkest nights.

It is still very true today: What’s the best way to deal with stress? Call a friend! 

Just how important is it to have good friends? Pretty darn important, as recent research has shown. As people age, they tend to become less mobile, and therefore more isolated. A study completed with older Americans found that lonely people actually had blood pressure levels thirty points higher than non-lonely folks. This led to the conclusion that loneliness itself can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease. However, loneliness at any age can cause stress and a rise in blood pressure, and set the stage for health problems and sadness later in life.
In younger adults, it was once believed that men and women both reacted to stress with the “fight or flight” response. As it turns out, this reaction is more a male response than a female response.

Men often respond to stress with a surge of adrenaline and aggressive or angry behavior. The metabolism is stimulated to fight if that seems the best way to deal with the stressful situation, or flee if that seems the prudent course. Of course, in today’s world, the “flight” is more figurative than literal even though the body’s hormonal and muscular reaction prepares a man to escape the threat of danger by actually running away. When a man comes home from work all stressed out, often the first thing he does is isolate. He takes himself off to a quiet place in the house and relaxes alone, away from any family hustle and bustle. A man who is unable to get this quiet time typically responds with anger toward his wife or children. Even though men do well to relax alone at day’s end, they do benefit from the presence of a friend during a crisis or other ongoing stressful situation.

It has been discovered that women have quite a different natural response. The phrases “tending and befriending” and “nature and nurture” have been coined to describe how women deal with stress. Rather than turn to fight or run away, women seek companionship; they call friends, they get together, they snuggle with the children, they find some way to interact with others.

Some researchers believe this difference in response to stress has to do with the different ways men and women react when the hormone oxytocin is released into the system. This hormone is generated in both men and women as a calming response to stress, and generally has an anti-anxiety effect. However, normal male hormones seem to reduce the efficacy of this stress-fighting hormone while normal female hormones enhance the effect. The reason could be that oxytocin leads to maternal behavior, the natural reaction of the female to protect and nurture her children in moments of danger or distress.

In fact, if you will ponder again the second line in the song lyrics presented at the opening of this newsletter, you will notice that Carole King’s version of friendship offers “loving care” while James Taylor is reaching out with a “helping hand.” It certainly seems that they each intuitively knew what type of friendship overture their friends were going to need.

I believe that the differences in how men and women deal with stress is the reason that men are often more vulnerable to stress-related illnesses like high blood pressure or stroke, thought women are quickly catching up to men in the area of stress-related illnesses. Due to the befriending way women deal with stress, they are able to talk through their problem which helps to reduce the levels of stress hormones, and allows for a quicker recovery from stress reactions than their male counterparts. However, since women have moved into the corporate world, they have less opportunity to exercise the “befriending” response, and this may explain women’s increasing vulnerability to stress-related illnesses. They are unable to relieve stress in the normal, natural way women have done for millennia

For men and women, when you are stressed-out, find a friend! Friends who can make you laugh are worth their weight in gold. Laughter is one of the best stress-reducers in the world, and a future issue of “Natural Stress-Free Living” will be dedicated to the topic of humor and stress reduction.

The importance of air quality

Below is the reprint of an article that stresses the importance of clean air. (Click the heading to see the original article.)

Especially noteworthy is the second-from-last paragraph with the list of plants that combat home and office pollutants; plan to make a call to your florist or nursery to order one (or a few!).

Your Workplace Can Leave You Feeling Ill

By Kathleen Doheny

HealthDay Reporter Fri May 26, 2006 7:09 PM ET

FRIDAY, May 26 (HealthDay News) -- Do you feel sick or run down every time you work overtime?

You could work in a building that produces what health experts call "sick building syndrome."

Poor indoor air quality or other pollutant and toxin problems can leave workers suffering from such acute health problems as eye, throat and nose irritation, headaches, coughing, dizziness and nausea.

And if your home isn't offering a respite, chances are the environment there contains pollutants or toxins, too.

While some cases of sick building syndrome are more serious than others, in many instances relief can be found with better maintenance, getting rid of mold and mildew -- even adding house plants to your surroundings.

In office buildings, "the biggest problem is with indoor air quality," said Bob Adams, a senior manager at New Jersey-based Environ International, a consulting firm that addresses environmental risk and health issues.

"Offices are designed for efficiency," he said. "We cut down the outdoor air supply [and re-circulate], and it leads to problems."

The result is what Adams calls "stale air syndrome."

Besides stuffy air, other chemicals and toxins can cause trouble at work. They include indoor toxins from copy machines, cleaning agents and pesticides, and combustion byproducts from nearby buildings or garages. Also, viruses, molds, pollen and bacteria can hide in stagnant water that accumulates on carpets or in ceiling tiles, according to the National Safety Council.

If you suspect something's lurking on the premises or in the air system, you might want to ask your boss how well-maintained the air system is.

"I find the better the maintenance in the building, the less likely it is they will have indoor air quality problems," said Adams, who's also a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association. Office buildings in "high-rent" districts are less likely to have problems, he said.

No matter how good the maintenance, if construction is taking place, problems often follow, Adams said, unless the area is sealed off to prevent the spread of odors and particles from building materials, paints and construction dust.

Beware, too, new carpets and furnishings. Treatments used on them can "off-gas" and emit allergy-producing chemicals, heightening problems for people who already have allergies or asthma, he said.

Even at home, pollutants are everywhere, especially if you're a less-than-stellar housekeeper, said Kristin Marstiller, a spokeswoman for the National Safety Council. Pet dander, saliva and feces -- all the little unpleasantries that go with owning a pet -- can cause asthma attacks in people with the condition, she said. Mold spores are asthma triggers, too.

"If you can see mold, it needs to be removed," Marstiller said. And you need to remove the water source -- such as carpeting, dry wall or flooring -- to eliminate it altogether, she said.

Dust mites cause allergic reactions, too. "That's a matter of making sure you wash your pillows and sheets in very hot water very frequently," she said.

To cut down on toxins, "have your gas appliances serviced regularly, according to manufacturer's instructions," Marstiller said. And change your furnace filters on the schedule recommended by the manufacturer or your furnace repairman.

Finally, decorate with plants, which can help filter out pollutants. Bill Wolverton, a former NASA scientist, published a study in 1989 that found plants really do help scrub the air.

Since then, he has opened his own consulting firm and written a book, "How to Grow Fresh Air," which lists the best 50 plants for combating home and office pollutants. Asked to pick five, he lists lady palm, areca palm, bamboo palm, rubber plants and dracaenas.

SOURCES: Kristin Marstiller, spokeswoman, National Safety Council, Washington, D.C.; Bob Adams, senior manager, Environ International, Princeton, N.J., and member, American Industrial Hygiene Association; Bill Wolverton, Ph.D., consultant, Picayune, Miss., and former NASA scientist and consultant

Copyright © 2006 ScoutNews LLC. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Veggies,Yarns & Tails

Veggies, Yarns & Tails is a wonderful blog by my friend and vegetarian-cookbook author Geraldine.

Her blog features articles about healthy vegetarian cooking, crafts which many of us find to be a relaxing pasttime, and our loving and furry friends - cats!

Geraldine recently posted a recipe for Mushroom Stroganoff with Herbed Pasta that is to die for! Check it out by clicking on the title above, or on the link in the sidebar.


Breast-feeding reduces anxiety into childhood

We seem to be going from one extreme to the other today...elderly to newborns.

Here is a reprint of a news story on breastfeeding, child development, and anxiety. While I certainly agree that breastfeeding is best, I believe that the researchers in this article are not giving enough weight to the human contact between mother and child. A breastfeeding mother must hold and be close to her child, while a bottle-feeding mother often leaves her child in a carrier or crib. The close human contact the breast-fed baby receives may actually be the more important "ingredient" in reducing anxiety into childhood.

By Patricia Reaney Thu Aug 3,2006 8:11 AM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - Breast-feeding's calming effects seem to be long-lasting.

Years after being weaned, breast-fed children cope better with stressful situations like their parents' divorce than their bottle-fed peers, researchers said on Thursday.

"In children who are breast-fed, there is less of an association between parental divorce and separation and childhood anxiety," Dr Scott Montgomery, an epidemiologist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, said in an interview.

Breast milk is full of nutrients, hormones, enzymes, growth factors and antibodies that are passed from mother to child.

Research has shown breast-feeding reduces infections, respiratory illness and diarrhoea in the child and cuts the risk of after-birth bleeding in the mother.

In an observation study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, Montgomery and his team studied how breast- and bottle-fed 10-year-olds coped with the stress of their parents' marital problems.

The children were among 9,000 youngsters who had been monitored from birth for a major British study. Their teachers were asked to rate their anxiety level on a scale of 0-50.

There was a higher level of stress in all the children but the breast-fed youngsters coped better.

"The anxiety was much less obvious in children who were breast-fed," Montgomery said.

The researchers do not know why breast-fed babies were less anxious. They suggested breast-feeding could be an indicator of other parental factors or the physical contact between the mother and the child may have helped to reduce anxiety.

Breast-feeding could also influence the development of pathways in the body linked with its response to stress.

"The more we look at breast-feeding, the more benefits we see. As this is something that is, in evolutionary terms, normal it is likely to be important in normal human development," Montgomery said.

Loneliness linked to high blood pressure in aging adults

If you are an older person, or have an older friend or parent, this is a must read article.

University of Chicago study finds significant health risk

(This is a reprint of the article; click on the heading to view the original page.)

Loneliness is a major risk factor in increasing blood pressure in older Americans, and could increase the risk of death from stroke and heart disease, new research at the University of Chicago shows.

Scholars found that lonely people have blood pressure readings that are as much as 30 points higher than in non-lonely people, even when other factors such as depressive symptoms or perceived stress are taken into account, said Louise Hawkley, Senior Research Scientist with the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, and John Cacioppo, the Tiffany & Margaret Blake Distinguished Service Professor in Psychology. This is equivalent to the difference between a normal blood pressure of 120 and a level of 150 which signifies Stage 1 hypertension. Blood pressure differences between lonely and non-lonely people were smallest at age 50 and greatest among the oldest adults tested, those at retirement age.

Hawkley and Cacioppo are authors of the paper, "Loneliness is a Unique Predictor of Age-Related Differences in Systolic Blood Pressure," published in the journal Psychology and Aging. Other co-authors were Christopher Masi, Assistant Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, and Jarett Berry of the Department of Preventive Medicine, Northwestern.

The increase in blood pressure associated with loneliness is about the same magnitude as reductions attained through weight loss and regular physical activity in people suffering from hypertension. "By these standards, improvements in a sense of social connectedness may have clinical benefits comparable to lifestyle modifications," the authors wrote.

The team based their research on a study of 229 people aged 50 to 68. The randomly chosen group includes whites, African Americans and Latinos who are part of a long-term study on aging. Members of the group were asked a series of questions to determine if they perceived themselves as lonely.

They were asked to rate their connections with others through a series of topics, such as "I have a lot in common with the people around me," "My social relationships are supeficial," and "I can find companionship when I want it."

The research team also examined data on weight, alcohol consumption, smoking, blood pressure medications, and demographic characteristics and found that people who rated high on being lonely had a significantly higher blood pressure than non-lonely people with similar profiles on the other measures.

The research also showed that the normal increases in blood pressure associated with aging are augmented by loneliness.

The paper builds on Cacioppo's earlier research that demonstrated that the loneliness is related to increased peripheral vascular resistance among young people. Although both lonely and non-lonely people in that study experienced stress, subjects in both studies reacted to stress differently.

"Lonely people differ from non-lonely individuals in their tendency to perceive stressful circumstances as threatening rather than challenging, and to passively cope with stress by failing to solicit instrumental and emotional support and by withdrawing from stress rather than by actively coping and attempting to problem solve," Cacioppo said.

The study on young people showed that stress caused an increase in resistance to blood flow brought on by their response to stress. Greater resistance to blood flow in lonley people compared to non-lonely idnvidiauls could increase blood pressure over the lifetime of lonely people, Cacioppo said.

Longitudinal studies are underway to look at how loneliness, now associated with an increase in blood pressure, may play a causal role in the increase, he said.

"I'm surprised by the magnitude of the relationship between loneliness and hypertension in this well-controlled cross-sectional study," said Richard Suzman, Ph.D., director of the Behavioral and Social Research Program at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), a funder of the research "Older people's relationships are often disrupted by death, illness and geographic mobility. One of NIA's goals is to help determine what can be done to improve the quality of relationships and social connectedness as a way to ease loneliness and reduce blood pressure."

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

You've got a friend

I am a great believer in using humor to reduce stress.

I don't want to give away the surprise, but I will give you a one-word hint: Muppets.

Unplug your phone, lock the doors, and bar the windows for the next three minutes. Do not allow any interruptions or distractions whatsoever!

Ready? Ok!

Be's Priceless!!
(No pun intended...and you will know what that means as soon as you see the video!)