Tag Archives: stress

It’s true: Stress does turn hair gray (and it’s reversible)

Legend has it that Marie Antoinette’s hair turned gray overnight just before her beheading in 1791.

Though the legend is inaccurate–hair that has already grown out of the follicle does not change color–a new study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons is the first to offer quantitative evidence linking psychological stress to graying hair in people.

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And while it may seem intuitive that stress can accelerate graying, the researchers were surprised to discover that hair color can be restored when stress is eliminated, a finding that contrasts with a recent study in mice that suggested that stressed-induced gray hairs are permanent.

The study, published June 22 in eLife, has broader significance than confirming age-old speculation about the effects of stress on hair color, says the study’s senior author Martin Picard, PhD(link is external and opens in a new window), associate professor of behavioral medicine (in psychiatry and neurology) at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“Understanding the mechanisms that allow ‘old’ gray hairs to return to their ‘young’ pigmented states could yield new clues about the malleability of human aging in general and how it is influenced by stress,” Picard says.

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New study uncovers details behind the body’s response to stress

Study Highlights

  • New research reveals how key proteins interact to regulate the body’s response to stress
  • Targeting these proteins may help treat or prevent stress-related psychiatric disorders

The biological mechanisms behind stress-related psychiatric conditions, including major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), are poorly understood.

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New research now details the interplay between proteins involved in controlling the body’s stress response and points to potential therapeutic targets when this response goes awry. The study, which was conducted by an international team led by investigators at McLean Hospital, appears in the journal Cell Reports.

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Alcohol in moderation may help the heart by calming stress signals in the brain – Study

Moderate alcohol intake — defined as no more than one alcoholic drink for women and two for men per day — has been associated with a lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease when compared with individuals who abstain from drinking or partake in excessive drinking, according to a new study being presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 70th Annual Scientific Session. It’s also the first study to show that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may be heart protective, in part, by reducing stress-related brain signals based on a subset of patients who underwent brain imaging.

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“We found that stress-related activity in the brain was higher in non-drinkers when compared with people who drank moderately, while people who drank excessively (more than 14 drinks per week) had the highest level of stress-related brain activity,” said Kenechukwu Mezue, MD, a fellow in nuclear cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and the study’s lead author. “The thought is that moderate amounts of alcohol may have effects on the brain that can help you relax, reduce stress levels and, perhaps through these mechanisms, lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease.”

While Mezue was quick to caution that these findings should not encourage alcohol use, he said they could open doors to new therapeutics or prescribing stress-relieving activities like exercise or yoga to help minimize stress signals in the brain.

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COVID-19 may have increased mental health issues within families – Study

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, many families found themselves suddenly isolated together at home. A year later, new research has linked this period with a variety of large, detrimental effects on individuals’ and families’ well-being and functioning.

The study — led by Penn State researchers — found that in the first months of the pandemic, parents reported that their children were experiencing much higher levels of “internalizing” problems like depression and anxiety, and “externalizing” problems such as disruptive and aggressive behavior, than before the pandemic. Parents also reported that they themselves were experiencing much higher levels of depression and lower levels of coparenting quality with their partners.

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Mark Feinberg, research professor of health and human development at Penn State, said the results — recently published in the journal Family Process — give insight into just how devastating periods of family and social stress can be for parents and children, and how important a good coparenting relationship can be for family well-being.

“Stress in general — whether daily hassles or acute, crisis-driven stress — typically leads to greater conflict and hostility in family relationships,” Feinberg said. “If parents can support each other in these situations, the evidence from past research indicates that they will be able to be more patient and more supportive with their children, rather than becoming more harsh and angry.”

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Stress from work and social interactions put women at higher coronary heart disease risk

Psychosocial stress – typically resulting from difficulty coping with challenging environments – may work synergistically to put women at significantly higher risk of developing coronary heart disease, according to a study by researchers at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health, recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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The study specifically suggests that the effects of job strain and social strain — the negative aspect of social relationships — on women is a powerful one-two punch. Together they are associated with a 21% higher risk of developing coronary heart disease. Job strain occurs when a woman has inadequate power in the workplace to respond to the job’s demands and expectations.

The study also found that high-stress life events, such as a spouse’s death, divorce/separation or physical or verbal abuse, as well as social strain, were each independently linked with a 12% and 9% higher risk of coronary heart disease, respectively.

The Drexel study used data from a nationally representative sample of 80,825 postmenopausal women from the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study, which tracked participants from 1991 to 2015, to find better methods of preventing cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis in women. In the current follow-up study, Drexel researchers evaluated the effect of psychosocial stress from job strain, stressful life events and social strain (through a survey), and associations among these forms of stress, on coronary heart disease.

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Can drinking cocoa protect your heart when you’re stressed?

Increased consumption of flavanols – a group of molecules occurring naturally in fruit and vegetables – could protect people from mental stress-induced cardiovascular events such as stroke, heart disease and thrombosis, according to new research.

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Researchers have discovered that blood vessels were able to function better during mental stress when people were given a cocoa drink containing high levels of flavanols than when drinking a non-flavanol enriched drink.

A thin membrane of cells lining the heart and blood vessels, when functioning efficiently the endothelium helps to reduce the risk of peripheral vascular disease, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, tumor growth, thrombosis, and severe viral infectious diseases. We know that mental stress can have a negative effect on blood vessel function.

A UK research team from the University of Birmingham examined the effects of cocoa flavanols on stress-induced changes on vascular function – publishing their findings in Nutrients.

Lead author, Dr. Catarina Rendeiro, of the University of Birmingham’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, explains: “We found that drinking flavanol-rich cocoa can be an effective dietary strategy to reduce temporary impairments in endothelial function following mental stress and also improve blood flow during stressful episodes”.

“Flavanols are extremely common in a wide range of fruit and vegetables. By utilizing the known cardiovascular benefits of these compounds during periods of acute vascular vulnerability (such as stress) we can offer improved guidance to people about how to make the most of their dietary choices during stressful periods.”

In a randomized study, conducted by postgraduate student Rosalind Baynham, a group of healthy men drank a high-flavanol cocoa beverage 90 minutes before completing an eight-minute mental stress task.

The researchers measured forearm blood flow and cardiovascular activity at rest and during stress and assessed functioning of the blood vessels up to 90 min post stress – discovering that blood vessel function was less impaired when the participants drank high-flavanol cocoa. The researchers also discovered that flavanols improve blood flow during stress.

Stress is highly prevalent in today’s society and has been linked with both psychological and physical health. Mental stress induces immediate increases in heart rate and blood pressure (BP) in healthy adults and also results in temporary impairments in the function of arteries even after the episode of stress has ceased.

Single episodes of stress have been shown to increase the risk of acute cardiovascular events and the impact of stress on the blood vessels has been suggested to contribute to these stress-induced cardiovascular events. Indeed, previous research by Dr Jet Veldhuijzen van Zanten, co-investigator on this study, has shown that people at risk for cardiovascular disease show poorer vascular responses to acute stress.

“Our findings are significant for everyday diet, given that the daily dosage administered could be achieved by consuming a variety of foods rich in flavanols – particularly apples, black grapes, blackberries, cherries, raspberries, pears, pulses, green tea and unprocessed cocoa. This has important implications for measures to protect the blood vessels of those individuals who are more vulnerable to the effects of mental stress,” commented Dr. Rendeiro.

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Pandemic has severely disrupted sleep, increasing stress and medication use – Study

The COVID-19 pandemic is seriously affecting the sleep habits of half of those surveyed in a new study from The Royal and the University of Ottawa, leading to further stress and anxiety plus further dependence on sleep medication.

The global pandemic’s impact on daily routines extends to the bed, according to ‘Profiles of sleep changes during the COVID?19 pandemic: Demographic, behavioural and psychological factors’. The study was led by Principal Investigator Rébecca Robillard, an Assistant Professor and co-director of the Sleep Laboratory of the School of Psychology at the University of Ottawa, and Head Scientist in the Sleep Research Unit at The Royal Institute of Mental Health Research and published in the Journal of Sleep Research.

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Dr. Robillard and her team, which was comprised of nearly two dozen scientists from across North America, conducted an online survey of 5,525 Canadian during the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. She walked us through some of the study’s most important findings.

How has the pandemic affected our sleep?

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Stay in touch with your emotions to reduce pandemic-induced stress

I have written about stress and relaxation numerous times in the past 10 years. The coronavirus has created a variation on that theme.

Everybody, it seems, is stressed out to some degree by the coronavirus pandemic.

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It may be anguish over the sickness or death of a friend or family member. It may be anxiety over a job that has been altered or eliminated. It may be disquiet over the competing demands of work and family while working from home.

These are natural emotions during stressful times, says Emily Kroska, a clinical psychologist at the University of Iowa. The good news, she adds, comes from a new study she led that shows how people might reduce their distress.

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Rising U.S. stress, depression linked to pandemic-related losses, media consumption

Experiencing multiple stressors triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic – such as unemployment – and COVID-19-related media consumption are directly linked to rising acute stress and depressive symptoms across the U.S., according to a groundbreaking University of California, Irvine study.

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The report appears in Science Advances, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“The pandemic is not hitting all communities equally,” said lead author E. Alison Holman, UCI professor of nursing. “People have lost wages, jobs and loved ones with record speed. Individuals living with chronic mental and physical illness are struggling; young people are struggling; poor communities are struggling. Mental health services need to be tailored to those most in need right now.”

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Yoga Can Improve Anxiety – Study

Having practiced yoga on an off for over 30 years, I am a believer in its benefits in terms of flexibility, relaxation and strength. I do confess, however, a general ignorance of the anxiety disorder and treatments for it.

Yoga improves symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, a condition with chronic nervousness and worry, suggesting the popular practice may be helpful in treating anxiety in some people.

woman standing and holding blue yoga mat

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Led by researchers at NYU Grossman School of Medicine, a new study found that yoga was significantly more effective for generalized anxiety disorder than standard education on stress management, but not as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the gold standard form of structured talk therapy that helps patients identify negative thinking for better responses to challenges. Continue reading

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What are the health benefits of acai berries?

Acai (ah-sigh-EE) berries are a grape-like fruit native to the rainforests of South America. They are harvested from acai palm trees.

 

The fruits are about 1 to 2 centimeters (cm) in diameter and a deep purple color. The seed constitutes about 80 percent of the fruit. The taste of acai berries has been described as a blend of chocolate and berries, with a slight metallic aftertaste.

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Acai berries have been called a superfood, with benefits ranging from improved skin appearance to weight loss, but not all of these claims are supported by evidence.

Health benefits

Many fruit and vegetables offer a range of health benefits, and acai berries are no exception. Continue reading

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Lower wealth linked with faster physical and mental aging – NIA Study

People with lower household wealth (or socioeconomic status) have a higher risk of many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, and depression. They also have shorter lifespans. Some lifestyle factors may play a role. For example, people with lower incomes have higher rates of smoking. However, other factors—including chronic stress and reduced access to resources—also likely contribute, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

elderly gentleman making silence gesture in studio

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Less is known about how socioeconomic status influences the general aging process. To look more closely at this question, Drs. Andrew Steptoe and Paola Zaninotto from University College London followed more than 5,000 adults, aged 52 and older, for 8 years beginning in 2004. The team broke the study participants into four groups based on household wealth. Continue reading

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New Yorkers grow more hesitant about return to normalcy – Poll

New Yorkers continue to report much higher than normal rates of depression and anxiety, but much less than at their peak in mid-April. As they witness the surge in COVID-19 cases in states that re-opened early, New Yorkers have also grown significantly more hesitant about resuming normal activities than they reported in May. Employment and housing worries remain a serious concern for many. These are the major findings of the 13th city and statewide tracking survey from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH), June 26-28.

As May 2020 began, 65% of New Yorkers said they would see their doctor for a routine visit beginning at the start of the next month. In June, that number dropped to 33%. In early May, 46% said they would go for a haircut starting June 1, but by the end of June, only 33% said they would do so as of July 1. The number who thought they would go to a restaurant after the first of the following month dropped from 31% to 20%. Moreover, a far greater number of respondents now say they plan to wait for a safe and effective vaccine to be widely available before they take part in many routine activities. In May, for example, 31% said they would wait for a vaccine before going to an outdoor concert; in June, nearly twice that number (60%) said they would wait for a vaccine.

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Chapman University national study highlights wide-ranging effects of COVID-19 pandemic

Everyone experiences events in their own unique way. Take the COVID-19 pandemic – please. (With apologies to Henny Youngman). Turns out there is a negative bias to most peoples’ perceptions.

The survey examined the experiences of 4,149 adults living in the United States and how the crisis is impacting their mental health, physical health, romantic relationships, encounters of prejudice.

The Chapman University National COVID-19 and Mental Health Survey provides an in-depth look at the experiences of 4,149 adults living in the United States. The study asked questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting people’s mental health, physical health, romantic relationships and encounters of prejudice and discrimination.

What Are the Effects of COVID-19 on Mental Health and Behaviors?

Conducted at the end of April 2020, survey findings revealed that most people are staying home more than normal (89%), and the majority reported feeling more stressed (61%), nervous, anxious, or on edge (60%), and feeling down, depressed, or hopeless (45%) than normal due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. People attributed the changes in their health behaviors to the pandemic, with about one-third reporting eating more because of stress (37%), eating more junk food (41%) and getting less exercise (35%).

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We’re Less Likely To Spread Alarming Information While Experiencing Physiological Stress

Research Digest

By Emily Reynolds

The spread of bad news — fake or otherwise — is likely to be on everybody’s minds at the moment. Whether it’s legitimate updates on the spread or symptoms of coronavirus, or sensationalism more to do with page clicks than scientific fact, it can be hard to tune out of the news cycle — and to know what information you should be passing on to friends and family.

Past research has found that alarming information is likely to spread further than positive information; we’re also more likely to share news that confirms our own beliefs and biases. But what impact does the experience of stress have on the sharing of negative or alarming news? A new study published in Scientific Reports suggests a complex relationship between the two.

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Fighting Viruses When Drugs Aren’t Available

Here is some straightforward no nonsense information on the topic of the day – and tomorrow. Straight from a doctor.

All About Healthy Choices

An illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), depicts the 2019 Novel Coronavirus

We’ve all been told steps to take to minimize exposure to Covid-19

 What has not been stated often enough are the ACTIVE STEPS one must take to strengthen the immune system prior to potential exposure to this disease?

 Consider including these five essential components:

  1. Get adequate sleep:

Approx. 6-9 hours of QUALITY sleep is required to repair and restore the body to maximal function from normal exposure to environmental toxins and physical activities of daily living.

  1. Manage stress:

Discover constructive methods to deal with stress. Activities that positively impact the way you FEEL inhibit damaging hormones from weakening immune function.  Everyone has stress; learning to effectively CHANNEL it is the key to successfully managing it.

  1. Eat intelligently:

Don’t deprive yourself from foods you enjoy. These foods, however, should only be eaten AFTER a healthy, well balanced meal is consumed. Food provides both nutrition and INFORMATION…

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