Unlike men, women’s cognitive performance may improve at higher room temperature

Women’s performance on math and verbal tests is best at higher temperatures, while men perform best on the same tests at lower temperatures, according to a study published May 22, 2019 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Tom Chang and Agne Kajackaite from the USC Marshall School of Business, Los Angeles, USA, and the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Berlin, Germany.

Although many surveys have shown that women tend to prefer higher indoor temperatures than men, no experimental research examining temperature’s effect on cognitive performance has taken possible gender differences into account. To address this gap, between September-December 2017, 24 groups of 23-25 students (542 participants total) took logic, math, and verbal tests in a room cooled or heated to one of a range of temperatures between 16.19 C/61.14 F and 32.57 C/90.63 F, receiving cash rewards based on the number of questions correctly answered. 41% of the participating students identified as female.

The authors found that female students generally performed better on math and verbal tests when the room temperature was at the warmer end of the distribution, submitting more correct responses as well as more responses overall. Conversely, male students generally performed better on these tests at lower temperatures — at the warmer end of the temperature distribution, they submitted fewer responses, as well as fewer correct responses. The improved performance of women in response to higher temperature was larger and more precisely estimated than the corresponding decrease in male performance. Temperature did not appear to impact performance on the logic test for either gender.

The study participants were a relatively homogenous group of German university students, so the effects of temperature might vary for other demographic groups. Nonetheless, the authors suggest that ambient temperature might impact more than just comfort, noting that it’s possible that “ordinary variations in room temperature can affect cognitive performance significantly and differently for men and women.”

Kajackaite and Chang summarize: “In a large laboratory experiment, over 500 individuals performed a set of cognitive tasks at randomly manipulated indoor temperatures. Consistent with their preferences for temperature, for both math and verbal tasks, women perform better at higher temperatures while men perform better at lower temperatures.”

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Eating healthily at work matters

A new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, published by Elsevier, demonstrated that employees at a large urban hospital who purchased the least healthy food in its cafeteria were more likely to have an unhealthy diet outside of work, be overweight and/or obese, and have risk factors for diabetes and cardiovascular disease, compared to employees who made healthier purchases. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the relationship of eating behaviors at work with overall diet and health and can help to shape worksite wellness programs that both improve long-term health outcomes and reduce costs.

“Employer-sponsored programs to promote healthy eating could reach millions of Americans and help to curb obesity, a worsening epidemic that too often leads to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer,” said lead investigator Anne N. Thorndike, MD, MPH, Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.

Most Americans spend about half their waking hours at work and consume food acquired at work. Nearly a third of all US workers are obese, which has an impact beyond the individual’s health risks. Previous research has shown that obesity contributes to higher absenteeism, lower productivity, and higher healthcare expenses for employers. This study’s findings can lead to more effective strategies to encourage employees to choose healthier foods and reduce their risks for chronic conditions.

“Workplace wellness programs have the potential to promote lifestyle changes among large populations of employees, yet to date there have been challenges to developing effective programs. We hope our findings will help to inform the development of accessible, scalable, and affordable interventions,” noted Jessica L. McCurley, PhD, MPH, one of the study’s investigators and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.

Participants were 602 Massachusetts General Hospital employees who regularly used the hospital’s cafeterias and were enrolled in a health promotion study in 2016?2018. As part of the hospital’s “Choose Well, Eat Well” program, foods and beverages in the hospital cafeterias have “traffic light” labels to indicate their healthfulness: green is healthy, yellow is less healthy, and red is unhealthy. Food displays have also been modified to put healthier choices in the direct line of sight, while unhealthy foods were made less accessible to reduce impulse purchases. “Simplified labeling strategies provide an opportunity to educate employees without restricting their freedom of choice. In the future, using purchase data to provide personalized nutritional feedback via email or text messaging is another option to explore to encourage healthy eating,” added Dr. Thorndike.

The study is a cross-sectional analysis of worksite food purchases from cash register data; food consumption reports from surveys; and cardio-metabolic test results, diagnoses, and medication information. Using cafeteria purchasing data, the investigators developed a Healthy Purchasing Score (HPS) to rate the dietary quality of employees’ overall purchases. The investigators compared participants’ HPS to the quality of their overall diet (using an online survey and tool developed by the National Cancer Institute), as well as to measures of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol (data acquired through test results and self-reporting). The analysis showed that employees with the lowest HPS (least healthy purchases) had the lowest overall dietary quality and the highest risk for obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Healthier purchases were associated with higher dietary quality and lower prevalence of obesity, hypertension, and prediabetes/diabetes.

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Examining ethical issues surrounding wearable brain devices marketed to consumers

Wearable brain devices are now being marketed directly to consumers and often claim to confer benefits like boosting memory and modulating symptoms of depression. But despite the size of this market, little is known about the validity of these claims and, substantiated or not, the related ethical consequences or repercussions.

In a perspective being published in the journal Neuron on May 22, a team of neuroethicists looked at the range of products being sold online and questioned the claims made by companies about these products. They identified 41 devices for sale, including 22 recording devices and 19 stimulating devices. The goal of the project was to look at issues of transparency, rights, and responsibility in the way these products are marketed and sold.

“When it comes to biotechnology, and in particular brain technology, there is a heightened level of responsibility around ethical innovation,” says senior author Judy Illes, a professor of Neurology and Canada Research Chair in Neuroethics at the University of British Columbia. “The great news is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money to innovate ethically: it just takes some more thought, good messaging, and consideration of potential consequences. There are many experts who are poised to help this industry in a practical, solution-oriented way. It’s worth it for companies to take the time to do it right.”

The authors established four general categories for the claims about wearable brain devices:

  • Wellness: benefits like stress reduction, improved sleep, and weight loss
  • Enhancement: including improved cognition and productivity and greater physical performance
  • Practical applications: uses like research and enhanced worker safety
  • Health: improvement of conditions such as those affecting behavior and attention, as well as certain neurodegenerative diseases

Despite wide-ranging claims, there have been few studies evaluating the scientific validity of any of them. The authors didn’t seek to evaluate the products’ effectiveness in this review. Instead, they looked at how manufacturers could communicate the potential outcomes from using these devices — both positive and negative — in a more ethically responsible way.

The neuroscience wearables market has parallels to other direct-to-consumer medical products. This includes herbs and supplements, home genetic testing kits, so-called wellness CT scans, and “keepsake” 3D ultrasounds offered to pregnant women. By marketing them for wellness or recreation rather than health, companies that sell these products and services are able to avoid regulatory oversight from agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration.

“We have concerns, however, that people could turn to these devices rather than seeking medical help when they might actually need it,” Illes notes. “They may also choose these devices over conventional medical treatments that they have been offered. There are a lot of potential effects that we don’t know much about.”

Symptoms and side effects that could result from use of these products include redness or other irritation where the devices contact the skin, headaches, pain, tingling, and nausea. Some of the products mention the possibility of side effects in their packaging, but there haven’t been any studies looking at how common or serious the effects may be.

The researchers note that warning labels advising consumers about risk are largely lacking. “I would consider this an important, responsible message to consumers, but as far as I know, few of these products have it,” Illes says.

Illes and her team believe that because some of these products are marketed for children, who may be particularly vulnerable to their effects on the brain, extra caution is needed. “Their bodies and brains are still developing,” she says. “What are the claims for these products and how do we manage and appreciate them both for their potential benefits and possible risks?” Additional caution may also be needed for use of neuroscience wearables in the elderly, another population that may have a higher risk of potential harm.

There are also issues related to neuroscience wearable products that record brain activity. “How are these data used, and who has access to them?” Illes asks. “These are things we don’t know. We should be asking these questions.”

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New study estimates preventable cancer burden linked to poor diet in the US

A new modeling study estimates the number, proportion, and type of specific cancers associated with the under or overconsumption of foods and sugar-sweetened beverages among American adults. The analysis is one of the few to focus on the modifiable risk factors for cancer connected to food intake in the United States.

The study, published today in JNCI Cancer Spectrum, estimates that diet-related factors may account for 80,110 of the new invasive cancer cases reported in 2015, or 5.2 percent of that year’s total among U.S. adults. This is comparable to the cancer burden associated with alcohol, which is 4 to 6 percent. Excessive body weight, meanwhile, is associated with 7 to 8 percent of the cancer burden, and physical inactivity is associated with 2 to 3 percent.

“Our findings underscore the opportunity to reduce cancer burden and disparities in the United States by improving food intake,” said first and corresponding author Fang Fang Zhang, a cancer and nutrition researcher at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts.

To estimate the cancer burden associated with suboptimal diet, the researchers utilized the risk estimates of diet and cancer relations based on meta-analyses of prospective cohort studies with limited evidence of bias from confounding, mostly from the World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF) and the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) Third Expert Report.

That report notes that there is convincing or probable evidence for low whole grain, low dairy, high processed meat, and high red meat consumption on colorectal cancer risk; low fruit and vegetable consumption on risk of cancer of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx; and high processed meat consumption on stomach cancer risk. The researchers also included sugar-sweetened beverages in the study due to known associations between obesity and 13 types of cancer.

The study’s main findings include:

  • Colorectal cancer had the highest proportion of diet-related cases, with 38.3 percent of all cases in 2015 associated with suboptimal diets. This was followed by cancer of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx, which the study linked to diet in 25.9 percent of all cases.
  • Low whole grain intake was associated with the largest number and proportion of new cancer cases, followed by low dairy intake, high processed meat intake, low vegetable and fruit intake, high red meat intake, and high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.
  • The largest number of cancer cases associated with poor diet was for colorectal cancer (52,225). That was followed by cancer of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx (14,421), uterine cancer (3,165), breast cancer (post-menopausal) (3,059), kidney cancer (2,017), stomach cancer (1,564), and liver cancer (1,000).
  • Of the diet-associated cancer cases, approximately 16 percent were attributable to obesity-mediated pathways.
  • Men, middle-aged Americans (45-64 years), and some racial/ethnic groups (non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and others) had the highest proportion of diet-associated cancer burden compared to other age, gender, or racial/ethnic groups.

The researchers estimated current intake for the seven dietary factors using data from two recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey cycles (2013-2014 and 2015-2016). The team linked intake data with cancer incidence in 2015 recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Program for Cancer Registries and the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results program.

The team defined optimal dietary intake based on the dietary distributions associated with the lowest disease risk as assessed by the World Health Organization’s Global Burden of Disease (GBD) project. The researchers modified the GBD comparative risk assessment framework’s population-attributable fraction (PAF) equation to estimate the proportion of all cancer cases that can be attributed to suboptimal diet in each age, gender, and race/ethnicity stratum.

The researchers caution that self-reported dietary intake data is subject to measurement error. In addition, diet-cancer risk estimates may differ by sex, age, race/ethnicity and other modifiers. It was not possible to account for how the dietary factors might interact with each other when consumed together.

Food-PRICE initiative

This study is a part of the Food Policy Review and Intervention Cost-Effectiveness (Food-PRICE) research initiative, a National Institutes of Health-funded collaboration led by researchers at the Friedman School working to identify cost-effective nutrition strategies to improve population health in the United States.

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How to Know If You Should Talk to Someone About a Low Sex Drive

Feeling concerned about a low libido can be such an isolating experience. When your psychological drive to have sex isn’t where you’d hope, you might feel like you can’t even discuss it with a partner—the very person you may normally turn to for basically everything else. But a persistently low libido that bothers you is not something to ignore. Here’s what could be behind a low libido, as well as guidance on who to talk to and how to find them.

Factors that can affect your libido

“There are so many physiological, psychosocial, and environmental factors in a [person’s] life that can have a very strong negative impact on their sex drive,” Leah Millheiser, M.D., clinical assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and ob/gyn at the Female Sexual Medicine Program at Stanford Medicine, tells SELF.

Some of the most common libido-killers include stress and fatigue, says Dr. Millheiser. Relationship issues like mismatched expectations about sex or a lack of emotional intimacy can also contribute. Additionally, hormonal fluctuations can sway a person’s libido, including the changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause, as SELF previously reported. Several common prescription drugs, like some hormonal contraceptives and antidepressants can also affect your libido, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While tons of situational factors can affect your libido, this isn’t always necessarily a bad thing. Maybe you’re currently single, crushing it in like three different areas of your life, and, honestly, sex and intimacy just aren’t top of mind for you right now. If you don’t really feel any type of way about that, carry on!

Conditions that can cause chronic low libido

So, we know there are situational factors that can impact libido, but health conditions can play a role, too. Virtually every aspect of health can impact the physiological and psychological aspects of desire, which in turn can influence each other, Madeleine M. Castellanos, M.D., a board-certified psychiatrist specializing in sex therapy and author of Wanting to Want, tells SELF.

That includes numerous conditions that dampen desire by causing pain during sex, including endometriosis, ovarian cysts, vulvodynia (terrible chronic pain surrounding the vaginal opening), and vaginismus (muscle spasms that make penetration uncomfortable). Circulatory issues caused by conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes can result in a lack of sufficient blood flow to the genitals that hinders physical sexual arousal (which can impact the mental portion), according to the Cleveland Clinic. Then there are mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, which can make sex feel like the last thing you want to do.

So what happens if you’re experiencing chronic low libido without any of the aforementioned risk factors? If your libido has been absent for more than six months and you really can’t pinpoint why, you may have a condition called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), which some experts think is linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain.

In sum, there are plenty of reasons why you might be dealing with a low sex drive. Figuring it out on your own can be confusing. That’s where experts may be able to help.

When to see someone about a low libido

The expert wisdom here is pretty simple: If you’re distressed about your libido or it’s causing issues in your relationship, it’s time to talk to a pro, Dr. Millheiser says.

Not only could low libido be a sign of an underlying health concern, but enjoying sex regularly can be good for you. “It’s a wonderful connection with another human being, but it’s also an important piece of your health,” Dr. Castellanos explains. In some people, sexual activity can help do things like make you feel great and less stressed, take your mind off menstrual cramps, and maybe even help you get to sleep, as SELF previously reported. Being satisfied with your libido and having a fulfilling sex life can have a positive impact on your psychological well-being, too.

“Don’t put [low libido] on the backburner if it persists,” Dr. Castellanos explains. “The earlier you address it, the easier it is to correct the problem.”

But keep in mind: You should only consider seeing someone about your libido if you view it as a problem. If someone like your partner is trying to make it seem as though your libido isn’t “high enough,” that doesn’t necessarily mean anything’s wrong with you or your sex drive. Your partner might be making assumptions based on their own libido, or maybe your libido really has changed over time but it’s a change that you’re mentally aligned with. While it couldn’t hurt to talk to someone about a change in your libido, you should never feel pressured to do so.

Who you can talk to about libido issues

The person best equipped to help you depends on what’s causing your low libido and your access to care, Dr. Castellanos explains.

If you have no idea where to start: See your primary care provider (PCP) or a general internist. “Any physical condition can affect your desire, so it’s always worthwhile to get that checked first,” Dr. Castellanos says.

This type of doctor can discuss your symptoms, order tests to help you uncover potential underlying medical issues, and refer you to a specialist if necessary.

If you’re having vaginal health issues: See an ob/gyn. Symptoms like pain with intercourse merit an exam and discussion with a specialist, Dr. Castellanos says.

If you’re having mental health issues: See a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. They can help you figure out which mental health condition may be contributing to your low libido and potentially provide a treatment plan.

If you suspect the problem is a medication you’re taking: See your prescribing doctor. They can talk to you about how likely it is that your low libido is a side effect of the drug and possibly recommend potential alternatives.

If no underlying medical condition is at play: Consider seeing a sex therapist. Sex therapists have the interpersonal training and depth of expertise to “get into the nuance and the nitty gritty of the psychology of sexual desire with you the way other clinicians don’t,” Dr. Castellanos explains.

The Mayo Clinic recommends looking for a certified sex therapist with a certification from the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). Here’s more help for finding a sex therapist in your area.

If you’re having problems with your partner: You may not be sure whether relationship wrinkles are to blame for your low libido. Ask yourself if you still feel desire when you think about somebody else (like your celebrity crush) but not your partner, Dr. Castellanos says. If you do, that could point specifically to your relationship as your issue.

In that case, you might want to see a sex therapist or couples’ counselor. They can help you dig into dynamics that could be affecting your libido, such as poor communication in or outside the bedroom. (Not all couples’ counselors cover sex issues, though, Dr. Castellanos notes, so check about that before you make your first appointment.)

If you think you have HSDD: See any kind of clinician specializing in women’s or sexual health, Dr. Millheiser says. That includes a PCP, nurse practitioner, licensed counselor, or psychiatrist. Diagnosis involves taking a medical history, ruling out any other factors, and, ideally, using a five-question screener based on diagnostic criteria developed by the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health (ISSWSH), Dr. Millheiser says.

How to talk to someone about your libido

Discussing sex in a medical setting isn’t always easy, and doctors know this. “I tell all my patients that I know talking about your sex life is very personal, especially if it’s not going well,” Dr. Castellanos says. “You might be anxious, but remember that only by saying what the issue is [can you] get help.” Here’s how to start the conversation.

1. Bring it up right off the bat.

“It’s very important to actually say why you’re there. If you don’t start off by telling them what the problem is, they don’t know what questions to ask,” Dr. Castellanos says.

Don’t wait until the last minute to see if your doctor brings it up. Unless this is their specialty, they may not. “That doesn’t mean it’s not appropriate to talk about with them. It just means that they’re busy thinking about other aspects of your health,” Dr. Millheiser says.

2. Be straightforward and specific.

It benefits both of you to be as open and honest as possible here, Dr. Castellanos says. Try something like, “Over the last three months, my sex drive has really dropped off and I’m not sure why. My partner and I used to have sex about twice a week, but now it’s more like once a month. We’re pretty happy otherwise.” And, of course, if you are having other symptoms, like fatigue or pain with intercourse, bring those up, too.

3. Get a referral if necessary.

Some caregivers are more informed about libido or feel more comfortable talking about it than others, Dr. Castellanos says. If you’re not sure whether yours is the right person to help you or you’re not getting the care you want, Dr. Millheiser recommends asking your provider to connect you to someone else. Try something like, “If you don’t treat these things, can you refer me to somebody who does?”

“They probably know someone or can at least point you in the right direction,” Dr. Millheiser says.

And remember, your doctor has heard it all before. As Dr. Millheiser explains, “There is very little that could shock a clinician, and sexual function concerns are so common.”

Related:

Exposing vaccine hesitant to real-life pain of diseases makes them more pro-vaccine

The re-introduction of measles, mumps and other previously eradicated diseases to the United States is nothing short of a public health crisis. Since Jan. 1, a staggering 880 individual cases of measles have been confirmed in 24 states — the greatest number of cases since 1994. Measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000.

The outbreaks have been attributed to an increasing number of Americans who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children. Overcoming this “vaccine hesitancy” is a major concern for government and health agencies, which have tried a variety of approaches to convince anti-vaxers to change their minds, including mandating vaccinations in some communities.

New research from Brigham Young University professors Brian Poole, Jamie Jensen and their students finds there is a better way to help increase support for vaccinations: Expose people to the pain and suffering caused by vaccine-preventable diseases instead of trying to combat people with vaccine facts.

“Vaccines are victims of their own success,” said Poole, associate professor of microbiology and molecular biology. “They’re so effective that most people have no experience with vaccine preventable diseases. We need to reacquaint people with the dangers of those diseases.”

Poole and his team designed an intervention for college students in Provo, Utah — a city which ranks sixth nationally for under-vaccinated kindergartners — with the hope to improve vaccine attitudes and uptake among future parents. The experiment was carried out with 574 students, 491 of which were pro-vaccine and 83 being vaccine hesitant, according to a pre-study survey.

For the study, half the students were asked to interview someone who experienced a vaccine-preventable disease such as polio, while the other half (serving as the control group) interviewed someone with an auto-immune disease. Meanwhile some students were also enrolled in courses that contained intense immune and vaccine-related curriculum while others were enrolled in a course with no vaccine curriculum.

One student interviewed a member of their church congregation who had shingles, recalling, “The pain was so bad that she ended up at a pain management clinic where they did steroid shots into her spine. The pain meds didn’t even touch her pain, even the heavy ones. For months, she couldn’t leave the house.” Another student interviewed her grandmother, who suffered from tuberculosis. The student said of the experience: “I dislike the idea of physical suffering, so hearing about someone getting a disease made the idea of getting a disease if I don’t get vaccinated seem more real.”

Researchers found nearly 70 percent of the students who interviewed someone with a vaccine-preventable disease moved from vaccine hesitant to pro-vaccine by the end of the study — even when they had NO vaccine curriculum. Overall, 75 percent of vaccine-hesitant students increased their vaccine attitude scores, with 50 percent of those students moving fully into pro-vaccine attitudes.

The researchers also found all vaccine-hesitant students enrolled in a course with intensive vaccine curriculum significantly increased their vaccine attitude scores, with the majority of them moving into the pro-vaccine category.

“If your goal is to affect people’s decisions about vaccines, this process works much better than trying to combat anti-vaccine information,” Poole said. “It shows people that these diseases really are serious diseases, with painful and financial costs, and people need to take them seriously.”

Poole and coauthors hope other universities and government agencies will see their findings and consider using similar methods to improve vaccine attitudes. Graduate student Deborah K. Johnson served as lead author on the paper, which published this last week in the journal Vaccines.

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Exercise may help teens sleep longer, more efficiently

Getting more exercise than normal — or being more sedentary than usual — for one day may be enough to affect sleep later that night, according to a new study led by Penn State.

In a one-week micro-longitudinal study, the researchers found that when teenagers got more physical activity than they usually did, they got to sleep earlier, slept longer and slept better that night.

Specifically, the team found that for every extra hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, the teens fell asleep 18 minutes earlier, slept 10 minutes longer and had about one percent greater sleep maintenance efficiency that night.

“Adolescence is a critical period to obtain adequate sleep, as sleep can affect cognitive and classroom performance, stress, and eating behaviors,” said Lindsay Master, data scientist at Penn State. “Our research suggests that encouraging adolescents to spend more time exercising during the day may help their sleep health later that night.”

In contrast, the researchers also found that being sedentary more during the day was associated with worse sleep health. When participants were sedentary for more minutes during the day, they fell asleep and woke up later but slept for a shorter amount of time overall.

Orfeu Buxton, professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State, said the findings — published today (May 22) in Scientific Reports — help illuminate the complex relationship between physical activity and sleep.

“You can think of these relationships between physical activity and sleep almost like a teeter totter,” Buxton said. “When you’re getting more steps, essentially, your sleep begins earlier, expands in duration, and is more efficient. Whereas if you’re spending more time sedentary, it’s like sitting on your sleep health: sleep length and quality goes down.”

While previous research suggests that adolescents need eight to ten hours of sleep a night, recent estimates suggest that as many as 73 percent of adolescents are getting less than eight.

Previous research has also found that people who are generally more physically active tend to sleep longer and have better sleep quality. But the researchers said less has been known about whether day-to-day changes in physical activity and sedentary behavior affected sleep length and quality.

For this study, the researchers used data from 417 participants in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study, a national cohort from 20 United States cities. When the participants were 15 years old, they wore accelerometers on their wrists and hips to measure sleep and physical activity for one week.

“One of the strengths of this study was using the devices to get precise measurements about sleep and activity instead of asking participants about their own behavior, which can sometimes be skewed,” Master said. “The hip device measured activity during the day, and the wrist device measured what time the participants fell asleep and woke up, and also how efficiently they slept, which means how often they were sleeping versus tossing and turning.”

In addition to finding links between how physical activity affects sleep later that night, the researchers also found connections between sleep and activity the following day. They found that when participants slept longer and woke up later, they engaged in less moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and sedentary behavior the next day.

“This finding might be related to a lack of time and opportunity the following day,” Master said. “We can’t know for sure, but it’s possible that if you’re sleeping later into the day, you won’t have as much time to spend exercising or even being sedentary.”

Buxton said improving health is something that can, and should, take place over time.

“Becoming our best selves means being more like our best selves more often,” Buxton said. “We were able to show that the beneficial effects of exercise and sleep go together, and that health risk behaviors like sedentary time affect sleep that same night. So if we can encourage people to engage in more physical activity and better sleep health behaviors on a more regular basis, it could improve their health over time.”

In the future, the researchers will continue to follow up with the participants to see how health and health risk behaviors continue to interact, and how sleep health influences thriving in early adulthood.

Russell T. Nye, graduate student at Penn State; Nicole G. Nahmod, Penn State; Soomi Lee, assistant professor at the University of South Florida; Sara Mariani, Harvard Medical School; and Lauren Hale, professor at Stony Brook University, also participated in this work.

Research was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health, as well as a consortium of private foundations.

Contact with nature during childhood could lead to better mental health in adulthood

Adults who had close contact with natural spaces during their childhood could have a better mental health than those who had less contact, according to a new study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by “la Caixa,” involving four European cities.

Exposure to natural outdoor environments has been associated with several health benefits, including a better cognitive development and better mental and physical health. However, few studies have explored the impact of childhood exposure to natural environments on mental health and vitality in adulthood. Furthermore, studies have more frequently considered green spaces (gardens, forests, urban parks) than blue spaces (canals, ponds, creeks, rivers, lakes, beaches, etc.).

This study, published in the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health, was performed within the framework of the PHENOTYPE project with data from almost 3,600 adults from Barcelona (Spain), Doetinchem (Netherlands), Kaunas (Lithuania) and Stoke-on-Trent (United Kingdom).

The adult participants answered a questionnaire on frequency of use of natural spaces during childhood, including purposeful ¬-e.g. hiking in natural parks- and non-purposeful -e.g. playing in the backyard- visits. They were also asked about their current amount, use and satisfaction with residential natural spaces, as well as the importance they give to such spaces. The mental health of the participants in terms of nervousness and feelings of depression in the past four weeks, as well as their vitality -energy and fatigue levels- were assessed through a psychological test. The residential surrounding greenness during adulthood was determined through satellite images.

The results show that adults who were less exposed to natural spaces during their childhood had lower scores in mental health tests, compared to those with higher exposure. Myriam Preuss, first author of the study, explains that “in general, participants with lower childhood exposure to nature gave a lower importance to natural environments.” No association was found between childhood exposure and vitality, or the use of or satisfaction with these spaces in adulthood.

Wilma Zijlema, ISGlobal researcher and study coordinator, underlines that the conclusions “show the importance of childhood exposure to natural spaces for the development of a nature-appreciating attitude and a healthy psychological state in adulthood.” Currently, 73% of Europe’s population lives in urban areas with often limited access to green space and this number is expected to increase to over 80% by 2050. “Therefore, it is important to recognize the implications of growing in up in environments with limited opportunities for exposure to nature,” she adds.

“Many children in Europe lead an indoors lifestyle, so it would be desirable to make natural outdoor environments available, attractive and safe for them to play in,” explains Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, director of ISGlobal’s Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative. In most countries, activities in nature are not a regular part of the school’s curriculum. “We make a call on policymakers to improve availability of natural spaces for children and green school yards,” he adds.

Normal Stress or Adjustment Disorder?

What’s the difference between normal stress and an adjustment disorder?

Answer From Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D.

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to positive or negative situations in your life, such as a new job or the death of a loved one. Stress itself isn’t abnormal or bad. What’s important is how you deal with stress.

When you have so much trouble adjusting to a stressful change that you find it difficult to go about your daily routine, you may have developed an adjustment disorder. An adjustment disorder is a type of stress-related mental illness that can affect your feelings, thoughts, and behaviors.

Signs and symptoms of an adjustment disorder can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Poor school or work performance
  • Relationship problems
  • Sadness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Worry
  • Trouble sleeping

If you’re dealing with a stressful situation in your life, try self-help measures, such as talking things over with caring family or friends, practicing yoga or meditation, getting regular exercise, and cutting back on your to-do list. If these techniques don’t help and you feel like you’re still having a hard time coping, talk to your doctor.

Updated: 2015-12-30

Publication Date: 2015-12-30

Your Skin-Care Routine Actually Only Needs These 3 Things

It’s hard to look at a pristine #shelfie full of beautiful luxury skin-care products and not think, I need all of this on my face immediately. Or maybe you’re someone who would love to have an actual skin-care routine but just thinking about setting foot in a Sephora is overwhelming.

Either way, you’ll be glad to know that experts tell us a real, honest-to-goodness skin-care regimen only needs a few important elements. And, in fact, most of us would probably be better off sticking to the simpler end of things.

What steps should a skin-care routine include?

The basic steps of a skin-care routine are a gentle cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen, Emily Newsom, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, tells SELF. Seriously, that’s all you have to do. “I like to keep things pretty simple,” she says. “It might not make for great for blogging, but it’s fine.”

In fact, there are very few situations in which people need to use a bunch of products, Temitayo Ogunleye, M.D., assistant professor of clinical dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, tells SELF, explaining that if patients are coming to her with skin issues, she’ll often have them bring all of their products into the office so she can tell them what’s truly necessary. “I go through and I say, ‘Stop using this, stop using that, and you can use these three,’” she says.

Although there’s no inherent problem with using a ton of products if you enjoy them and they aren’t irritating, she says, “first, you have to try these very simple things and then we’ll see.”

You’ll need a cleanser to wash off the dirt, makeup, excess oil, dead skin cells, and environmental impurities that end up on your face naturally throughout the day. Moisturizer will help keep the skin’s protective barrier functioning properly and your skin feeling smooth and soft. And, arguably the most important element, sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer as well as cosmetic sun damage.

In the morning, wash with cleanser and then follow it with moisturizer and sunscreen (or combine the two with a moisturizer that has broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher). At night, wash with the cleanser again and apply moisturizer. Yes, you can use your SPF moisturizer at night if you’d like, Dr. Ogunleye says. You might find that you prefer something thicker at night, but there’s no rule against using the one with SPF before bed, she says.

From there, it’s important to pay attention to the way your skin reacts both immediately after using the product and in the following days. Do you notice tightness, greasiness, redness, or breakouts?

If it’s on the oily side, you may find that you need to moisturize less often or to use a lighter formula, for instance. If it’s on the dry side, you may need to use a heavier moisturizer. If your skin is very dry or sensitive, you may only need to wash your face with cleanser once a day in the evening while rinsing with water or micellar water in the morning. But if your skin is especially oily or you wear a lot of heavy makeup, you may need to cleanse more often—or even double cleanse at the end of the day.

If your skin is sensitive, you might notice some irritation (redness, itching, flaking), which is a sign that you should back off and call in a dermatologist. You’ll probably have to be careful in the future about avoiding products with certain ingredients, like fragrances, that are likely to be irritating.

Also, if something is irritating your skin, stop using it! That may seem obvious, but Dr. Ogunleye says this is one of the most common skin-care mistakes she sees. Some products are known to cause a little bit of irritation when you first start using them, but your daily cleanser, moisturizer, or sunscreen should not be causing stinging, burning, or other irritation.

Everyone still needs to apply sunscreen every day, though. No exceptions. Here’s how to find one you won’t mind wearing.

What if I want to do more?

You may be surprised at how, after a few weeks of getting down these basic steps, your other skin concerns calm down. But if they don’t, your next steps will depend on your skin’s specific needs, Dr. Newsom says.

If you have acne, you may want to swap in a cleanser with salicylic acid, a gentle chemical exfoliator, or the occasional spot treatment with benzoyl peroxide. For wrinkles, fine lines, or sun damage, you may want to add in an over-the-counter retinoid to start with (and maybe a prescription one later). And if you’re interested in managing hyperpigmentation, brightening agents like hydroquinone or vitamin C may do the trick.

But be sure to add just one product at a time, Dr. Newsom says, and give it at least two weeks before adding something else. If you add multiple things at once and have a bad reaction to something, it will be impossible to know which product was responsible without patch testing, Dr. Ogunleye points out. Or, if you do see positive results, you won’t know which product was responsible for the change.

It’s also important to avoid adding too many products that do the same thing. If you already have one retinoid or exfoliating acid in your lineup, you may find that adding another one doesn’t help and is actually just more irritating.

Whatever you do, be patient. Aside from using too many products, Dr. Ogunleye says one of the biggest mistakes newbies make is to give up too easily. “Everybody thinks that you put on your acne cream and the next day all of your acne will be gone,” she says. But, as SELF explained previously, both over-the-counter and prescription treatments take weeks or months to actually result in noticeable changes. So, Dr. Ogunleye says it’s important to adjust your expectations and be prepared to give a new products two-to-three months before getting discouraged and giving up on them.

When should you see a dermatologist?

If you’re trying to find gentle, everyday products and can’t seem to land on one that works with your skin, it’s time to talk to a dermatologist, Dr. Ogunleye says. Alternately, if you’re trying to address a specific skin concern (like acne or hyperpigmentation) and you’re not seeing any improvements, a dermatologist can help figure out the issue and possibly prescribe a stronger medication that may be more effective.

And, of course, if you’re finding that your skin reacts badly to products and you’re not sure why, definitely talk to a dermatologist. They can help you sort through what might be causing that irritation and give you guidelines for how to avoid it in the future.

That said, know that finding what works for you is probably going to take some trial and error. And it will ultimately come down to your individual skin needs and your personal preferences. So the first step is just to get out there and try stuff!

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