Habit Change Is Easiest When People Move House or Undergo Some Life Transition

Habits interview: Wendy Wood.

I was very pleased to get the chance to interview Professor and Vice Dean Wendy Wood, because she’s one of the top experts in the field of habits, and has done much of the most interesting research in the area.

For instance, it was her research that showed that about people repeat about 40% of their activities almost daily — and usually in the same place.

I read a lot of her work as I was writing Better Than Before, my book about how we change habits. (To hear when it goes on sale, sign up here.)

I was very curious to hear more about Wendy’s ideas about habits, and how she thinks about them in the context of her own life.

Gretchen: You’ve done fascinating research on the subject of habits. What’s the most significant thing you’ve concluded?

Wendy: Habits are a simple, basic form of learning. Even rats form habits.  It’s amazing that this simple form of learning underlies so many of our daily activities.

People repeat about 40% of their activities almost daily and usually in the same location (shown in a  study I conducted at Texas A&M Univ–not Duke, as often reported).

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Domestic violence likely more frequent for same-sex couples

CHICAGO — Domestic violence occurs at least as frequently, and likely even more so, between same-sex couples compared to opposite-sex couples, according to a review of literature by Northwestern Medicine scientists.

Previous studies, when analyzed together, indicate that domestic violence affects 25 percent to 75 percent of lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals. However, a lack of representative data and underreporting of abuse paints an incomplete picture of the true landscape, suggesting even higher rates. An estimated one in four heterosexual women experience domestic abuse, with rates significantly lower for heterosexual men.

“Evidence suggests that the minority stress model may explain these high prevalence rates,” said senior author Richard Carroll, associate professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. “Domestic violence is exacerbated because same-sex couples are dealing with the additional stress of being a sexual minority. This leads to reluctance to address domestic violence issues.”

The review was published Sept. 4 in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. The first author is Colleen Stiles-Shields, a student in the clinical psychology Ph.D. program at Feinberg.

Domestic violence — sometimes called intimate partner violence — is physical, sexual or psychological harm occurring between current or former intimate partners. Research concerning the issue began in the 1970s in response to the women’s movement, but traditionally studies focused on women abused by men in opposite-sex relationships.

“There has been a lot of research on domestic violence but it hasn’t looked as carefully at the subgroup of same-sex couples,” Carroll said. “Another obstacle is getting the appropriate samples because of the stigma that has been attached to sexual orientation. In the past, individuals were reluctant to talk about it.”

Of the research that has examined same-sex domestic violence, most has concentrated on lesbians rather than gay men and bisexuals.

“Men may not want to see themselves as the victim, to present themselves as un-masculine and unable to defend themselves,” Carroll said.

He suggests that homosexual men and women may not report domestic violence for fear of discrimination and being blamed for abuse from a partner. They also may worry about their sexual orientation being revealed before they’re comfortable with it.

Mental health services for people involved in abusive same-sex relationships are becoming more common, but this population still faces obstacles in accessing help, reports the paper.

“We need to educate health care providers about the presence of this problem and remind them to assess for it in homosexual relationships, just as they would for heterosexual patients,” Carroll said. “The hope is that with increasingly deeper acceptance, the stress and stigma will disappear for these individuals so they can get the help they need.”

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  • Partner violence affects 25 to 75 percent of same sex couples
  • Abuse is underreported in same sex-couples
  • Stigma of sexual orientation makes individuals reluctant to talk about violence

NORTHWESTERN NEWS: http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/

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Alzheimer’s detected before dementia signs show: York U study

TORONTO, Sept. 19, 2014 — York University researchers say a simple test that combines thinking and movement can help to detect heightened risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease in a person, even before there are any telltale behavioural signs of dementia.

Faculty of Health Professor Lauren Sergio and PhD candidate Kara Hawkins who led the study asked the participants to complete four increasingly demanding visual-spatial and cognitive-motor tasks, on dual screen laptop computers. The test aimed at detecting the tendency for Alzheimer’s in those who were having cognitive difficulty even though they were not showing outward signs of the disease.

“We included a task which involved moving a computer mouse in the opposite direction of a visual target on the screen, requiring the person’s brain to think before and during their hand movements,” says Sergio in the School of Kinesiology & Health Science. “This is where we found the most pronounced difference between those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and family history group and the two control groups.”

Hawkins adds, “We know that really well-learned, stereotyped motor behaviours are preserved until very late in Alzheimer’s disease.” These include routine movements, such as walking. The disruption in communication will be evident when movements require the person to think about what it is they are trying to do.

For the test, the participants were divided into three groups – those diagnosed with MCI or had a family history of Alzheimer’s disease, and two control groups, young adults and older adults, without a family history of the disease.

The study, Visuomotor Impairments in Older Adults at Increased Alzheimer’s Disease Risk, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, found that 81.8 per cent of the participants that had a family history of Alzheimer’s disease and those with MCI displayed difficulties on the most cognitively demanding visual motor task.

“The brain’s ability to take in visual and sensory information and transform that into physical movements requires communication between the parietal area at the back of the brain and the frontal regions,” explains Sergio. “The impairments observed in the participants at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease may reflect inherent brain alteration or early neuropathology, which is disrupting reciprocal brain communication between hippocampal, parietal and frontal brain regions.”

“In terms of being able to categorize the low Alzheimer’s disease risk and the high Alzheimer’s disease risk, we were able to do that quite well using these kinematic measures,” says Hawkins. “This group had slower reaction time and movement time, as well as less accuracy and precision in their movements.”

Hawkins says the findings don’t predict who will develop Alzheimer’s disease, but they do show there is something different in the brains of most of the participants diagnosed with MCI or who had a family history of the disease.

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Drivers fed up with slowing down at inactive roadwork sites

The results of the QUT Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q) study have been presented at the Occupational Safety in Transport Conference (OSIT) which is being held on the Gold Coast and finishes today.

Dr Ross Blackman, a CARRS-Q road safety researcher, said speed limit credibility was being put at risk when reduced speed limits and related traffic controls remained in place at inactive roadwork sites.

“It’s seen as crying wolf. If people are asked to slow down at roadwork sites but find there is no roadwork being undertaken they become de-sensitised to the signage and ignore speed limits,” he said.

“In 2013, our research found that at three Queensland rural roadwork sites, the majority of vehicles observed exceeded the posted speed limits by at least 5km/h.”

Dr Blackman’s survey involved more than 400 people who were asked to estimate their speed for a range of different roadwork site scenarios, some of which were inactive sites and others with road workers visible.

“We found when a road worker and machinery were visible, drivers nominated lower speeds, suggesting that they were far more likely to slow down than if they saw no activity,” he said.

“There was about a 20 per cent reduction in speed between an inactive roadwork site (53km/h) compared to an active site with workers visible (42km/h).”

Dr Blackman said despite reduced speed limits, crash rates and crash severity around roadwork sites were high because drivers failed to slow sufficiently and were often not paying attention.

“Roadwork sites have high crash rates and there have been numerous fatalities at roadwork sites in Queensland involving workers and public road users,” he said.

Dr Blackman said the study reinforced moves by the Queensland Government to review speed limit signage around roadwork sites, but cautioned that hazards may also remain outside of work hours, requiring reduced speed limits around the clock at some sites.

“There are no simple solutions, but multiple measures used in combination may be most effective. With technology, for example, variable speed limit signs can be easily changed without the need for workers to physically move or replace traditional static signage,” he said.

“There are also feedback speed displays which record and display how fast a vehicle is travelling, which drivers respond to well.

“Our survey showed road workers on site had the biggest impact on drivers to reduce speed, while the most effective specific measure was having police visually present and potentially conducting enforcement,” he said.

“If we can combine the effective measures, then we are more likely to see drivers reduce their speed, which will improve safety for both drivers and workers.”

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10 Mistakes That Make Cravings Worse

Cravings—such a dirty word when you’re trying to lose weight or keep it off. No matter what your “I-want-it-now” food is—pizza, burgers, ice cream, cupcakes—you probably wrestle with what you want to do (eat it now!) with what you “should” do (go eat veggies). Unfortunately, it’s true that many of our daily habits actually make cravings more intense and frequent, making healthy decisions harder. That doesn’t mean you can’t do something about it. Learn the 10 biggest mistakes that make cravings even worse to get yours under control.
You skimp on breakfast

Maybe you’re not hungry in the a.m., but eating some calories now can keep cravings at bay later. In one study in the Nutrition Journal, overweight girls who ate a 350-calorie breakfast with at least 13 grams of protein had reduced cravings for sweet and savory foods compared to breakfast skippers. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but protein may help stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurochemical involved in the brain’s reward centers that can help manage cravings. A half-cup of cottage cheese, 2 hard-boiled eggs, or a cup of cooked oatmeal with two tablespoons of peanut butter will do the trick.

Your serving is too big

You’ve got a craving for brownies, you’re going to have some, and you’re okay with that. So you take three. Thing is, you probably only needed half

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The Effects of Soy and Whey Protein Supplementation on Acute Hormonal Reponses to Resistance Exercise in Men

With protein supplement use by athletes on the rise, a group of researchers expanded upon prior research examining the effects of soy and whey protein supplementation on testosterone, sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG), and cortisol responses to an acute bout of resistance exercise. Their study, “The Effects of Soy and Whey Protein Supplementation on Acute Hormonal Reponses to Resistance Exercise in Men” is the 2014 Ragus Award Winner as Best Article from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, the official publication of the American College of Nutrition.

For many resistance-trained men concerns exist regarding the production of estrogen with the consumption of soy protein when training for muscle strength and size. Thus, the purpose of this investigation was to examine the effects of soy and whey protein supplementation on sex hormones following an acute bout of heavy resistance exercise in resistance-trained men.

10 resistance-trained men in their early 20s were divided into 3 supplementation treatment groups: (1) whey protein isolate, (2) soy protein isolate, or (3) a maltrodextrin placebo control. No other supplements were allowed. Vegetarians, vegans, or subjects who consumed high-protein diets were excluded from the study. For 14 days, participants would ingest 20g of their assigned supplement at the same time each morning. The participants would then perform 6 sets of heavy resistance squats at 10 reps each using 80 percent of their maximum lifting weight.

“Our main findings demonstrate that 14 days of supplementation with soy protein does appear to partially blunt serum testosterone. In addition, whey influences the response of cortisol following an acute bout of resistance exercise by blunting its increase during recovery. Protein supplementation alters the physiological responses to a commonly used exercise modality with some differences due to the type of protein utilized,” wrote the researchers.

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Posted in Fitness: Strength Training, Nutrition: Food: Soy, Nutrition: Food: Whey | Leave a comment

Fibromyalgia: what might be going wrong in the nervous system

(Reuters Health) – Brain scans show that people with the pain disorder fibromyalgia react differently to what others would consider non-painful sights and sounds, new research suggests.

The small new study provides clues to what might be going wrong in the nervous system of people with fibromyalgia, along with possible new approaches to alleviating their pain.

“If we understand the mechanism, we may come up with new and potentially better forms of treatment,” said lead author Marina López-Solà of the department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Fibromyalgia, which patients experience as widespread muscle pain and fatigue, affects as many as five million Americans, most commonly middle-aged women, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Its cause is unknown and there is no cure, but medications can treat the symptoms.

The new results suggest not only that fibromyalgia is related to greater processing of pain-related signals, but also potentially to a misprocessing of other types of non-painful sensory signals that may be important to address during treatment, Lopez-Sola told Reuters Health by email.

She and her team used “functional magnetic resonance imaging,” which measures blood flow changes in the brain, to assess brain responses among 35 women with fibromyalgia and 25 similar women without the disorder.

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Rooms with water damage may be linked to skin problem in children

(Reuters Health) – Water damage in living rooms or children’s bedrooms, as confirmed by infrared cameras, could be associated with worse eczema in children, says a new study.

Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, results in itchy scaly skin. It often affects children, especially during the first year of life.

Moisture problems in the home can come from poor ventilation, high humidity or from wet weather and floods.

Water damage has long been associated with respiratory problems and asthma, but previous studies on water damage or mold growth on “atopic dermatitis” have shown mixed results.

Most of those previous studies have used questionnaires, interviews or visual inspection on-site to determine the presence of moisture problems at home, and those may not have been accurate, say the authors.

“In this study, we wanted to examine the association between AD severity and water damage by using a reliable method,” Dr. Kagmo Ahn told Reuters Health in an email.

Ahn is a pediatric allergist at the Samsung Medical Center, Seoul, Korea and was part of the study team.

Infrared cameras can be helpful to assess water damage in that situation, because they’re more reliable, Ahn said. They can detect surface temperature differences and are simple and easy to use for identifying and measuring water damage.

 

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Posted in Dermatology: Atopic Dermatitis, Dermatology: Eczema, Environmental Health: Mold, Holistic Health | Leave a comment

Even Without Kids, Couples Eat Frequent Family Meals

Newswise — COLUMBUS, Ohio – Couples and other adult family members living without minors in the house are just as likely as adults living with young children or adolescents to eat family meals at home on most days of the week, new research suggests.

The study is the first large-scale look at family-meal eating patterns in American adults. While a substantial amount of research has focused on health benefits for children who regularly eat family meals, such eating patterns have not been widely studied in adult-only households.

Researchers analyzed data on more than 14,000 Ohio adults, comparing family-meal patterns among adults who lived with minor children to households with at least two adult family members and no children under age 19 living with them. In both types of households, about half of the families ate meals together six or seven days per week.

Because most Ohio demographics are comparable to the entire United States, the researchers say they would expect to find similar patterns in national data.

The finding is a first step toward exploring whether adults who eat frequent family meals also experience health benefits. Previous research has suggested that children and adolescents who eat frequent family meals have healthier diets and are less likely to report eating disorders, substance use and depressive symptoms.

“There are a lot of families that don’t have children. And we’ve forgotten about them in this context of thinking about sharing food and time together and what that means,” said Rachel Tumin, a doctoral student in epidemiology at The Ohio State University and lead author of the study.

“If all adults eat frequent family meals, then it’s worth thinking of them as a holistic group versus maintaining a more narrow focus on just those adults who have minor children living with them,” Tumin said. “If the answer had been that adults with no kids at home never eat family meals, then there would be no point in subsequent research to find out if it’s good for them. But with these data, we can bring this whole other group along with us in our thinking as we shift to exploring in what ways family meals are beneficial to overall public health.”

Tumin conducted the research with senior author Sarah Anderson, associate professor of epidemiology at Ohio State. The study is published in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

The researchers used data from the 2012 Ohio Medicaid Assessment Survey, which collects information on health behaviors, health status and demographic characteristics from a random sample of the state’s adults. Of the 22,929 respondents surveyed, data on 14,057 adults who lived with at least one family member – 5,766 who lived with minor children and 8,291 adults not living alone or with minor children – were used for this new analysis.

In all households studied, family members living together were related by birth, marriage, adoption or legal guardianship. Of the individuals from the original survey not included in the Ohio State study, 7,788 did not live with any family members and the rest were ineligible because their data were incomplete.

The dataset did not provide information to more specifically characterize all the different types of families covered by the survey, but many of the adults not living with minor children are likely to be married couples who do not have children or whose children are grown. Data from the 2010 U.S. Census indicated that more than half of the husband-wife family households in the United States did not include children.

Family meal frequency was assessed based on responses to this survey question: “During the past week, on how many days did you and your family eat at least one meal together at your home or residence?”

The results for both groups were startlingly similar, with the distribution of family meal frequency for adults not living with children closely mirroring that of adults who were living with minor children. Roughly half of all Ohio adults ate a meal together with their family at home six or seven days per week, and few in either group reported zero family meals (5 to 7 percent).

“Most people value family meals and engage in this behavior. The prevalence of never eating family meals or eating together only once a week is low,” Anderson said. “We thought the distribution would be different, and we hypothesized that adults with children would be much more likely to eat together as a family. The data showed otherwise. If further research finds associations between higher frequency of family meals and improved health outcomes for adults, that will have implications for public health messages.”

In almost all cases, the similarities between groups held even when demographic factors influenced the frequency of family meals. African-American families, adults who were not married and those who were employed ate family meals less frequently than white and Hispanic families, married people and the unemployed. That pattern was true for adult-only families and families with minor children.

“Whatever underlying factors are associated with marital status, race and ethnicity, and employment seem to have the same effect on eating family meals regardless of whether or not you have kids in the household,” Tumin said.

However, age did affect the family-meal pattern. Among adults who did not live with minor children, the adults who were older ate more family meals than those who were younger. Almost half of families with children in the home ate family meals most days of the week regardless of the adults’ age.

This analysis does not reveal any information about the quality of the meals that families are sharing, so Tumin plans to move in that direction with research on family meal preparation and any distractions in the dining environment.

Despite the extensive previous research on family meals for children and adolescents, key questions remain: What exactly constitutes a family meal? And is there a dose effect, meaning that more family meals per week can translate into a specifically defined health benefit?

“It’s challenging to tease apart and understand what it means to have a family meal and why it’s beneficial and how it plays into all other family activities,” Tumin said. “Claiming that family meals are the be-all and end-all and that everyone should eat them all the time may be too simplistic a message. We don’t have enough information yet to tailor that message with data that back it up.”

Posted in Human Behavior: Relationships | Leave a comment

Bad Cold or Enterovirus 68?

Newswise — It’s hard to tell the difference between the two, but Pia Pannaraj, MD, Infectious Diseases specialist at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles speaks on how parents should treat their kids’ symptoms and when to seek medical attention.

What is Enterovirus 68?
Pannaraj: It is a virus that causes cold-like symptoms that is currently being seen in the Midwest. It has been around since the 1960’s and first discovered in California with just a few cluster of cases. Now, it is showing itself again and is slowly creeping across the country.

How frightened should parents be about their kids getting Enterovirus 68?
Pannaraj: Currently, it is in the Midwest, but it is just a matter of time before it makes its way to California. In many kids, it will cause a bad cold, but in children with asthma, it can exacerbate their asthma to the point where they may need medical attention.

Are children with underlying conditions more susceptible to Enterovirus 68?
Pannaraj: So far, 70 percent of those having underlying respiratory illness, like asthma, and 30 percent of those who were healthy make up the children being hospitalized.

How can parents differentiate between a bad cold and this virus?
Pannaraj: It will be difficult to distinguish the two since enterovius will cause a cold. Children will usually present with a cough as their main symptom. Other symptoms may include runny nose, sneezing, and body and muscle aches. However, a fever is not very common with Enterovirus 68. The children who become very ill with Enterovirus 68 develop wheezing and difficulty breathing.

What are some prevention tips?
Pannaraj: Good hand washing, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, cough and sneeze into your arm, and avoid other children who appear sick. It can spread easily and anywhere, especially at schools, where infection risks are at higher because you have more kids in close quarters. It is airborne and contagious.

How should parents treat their kids’ symptoms?
Pannaraj: Rest and hydration. Treat it the same way you would a bad cold. Keep the kids out of school.

Is there a vaccine for Enterovirus 68?
Pannaraj: Unfortunately, a vaccine is not available at this time.

When should they seek medical attention for their kids?
Pannaraj: If a child is wheezing, having trouble breathing, coughing so much that they cannot talk, or having difficulty drinking, they should seek medical attention. Children with asthma should be prepared with medical inhalers as needed.

About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s hospital on the West Coast and among the top five in the nation for clinical excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research facilities in the United States. Children’s Hospital is also one of America’s premier teaching hospitals through its affiliation since 1932 with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California.

For more information, visit CHLA.org. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn, or visit our blog: WeTreatKidsBetter.org.

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A second look at glaucoma surgery

New research led by Queen’s University professor Robert Campbell (Ophthalmology) has revealed using anti-inflammatory medications after glaucoma laser surgery is not helpful or necessary.

Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness in the world and about 400,000 Canadians are afflicted with the disease, which is mainly caused by pressure within the eye being high enough to damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve is responsible for sending messages from the eye to the brain and is a vital part of vision.

“The use of strong anti-inflammatory therapies after glaucoma laser surgery became standard practice years ago, in an era when the type of laser we used was much more destructive. Today’s laser systems are much gentler, and we felt that the use of anti-inflammatory steroids may not be necessary. In fact, we thought that a small amount of inflammation might actually be helpful in causing greater pressure-lowering effects from the laser treatment,” says Dr. Campbell, who also works at Hotel Dieu Hospital.

Dr. Campbell and his research team carried out the first placebo controlled randomized clinical trial focusing on the effects of post-laser medications. They found that steroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs do not affect the ability of the laser treatment to lower eye pressure and do not influence complication rates.

“These findings have the potential to change patient care after glaucoma laser surgery and could save the Canadian healthcare systems millions of dollars by decreasing the use of drugs following this very common procedure,” says Dr. Campbell.

The research results were published in Ophthalmology.

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Posted in Eye Disease: Glaucoma | Leave a comment

Spouse’s Personality Influences Career Success, Study Finds

Newswise — As people spend more and more time in the workplace, it’s natural for co-workers to develop close bonds — what’s often referred to as a “workplace spouse” or an “office wife.”

But when it comes to pay raises, promotions and other measures of career success, it’s the husband or wife at home who may be exerting a bigger influence on workplace performance, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis. “Our study shows that it is not only your own personality that influences the experiences that lead to greater occupational success, but that your spouse’s personality matters too,” said Joshua Jackson, PhD, assistant professor of psychology in Arts & Sciences and lead author of the study.

Although we marry “for better for worse, for richer for poorer,” this study is among the first to demonstrate that the personality traits of the spouse we choose may play a role in determining whether our chosen career makes us richer or poorer.

“The experiences responsible for this association are not likely isolated events where the spouse convinces you to ask for a raise or promotion,” Jackson said. “Instead, a spouse’s personality influences many daily factors that sum up and accumulate across time to afford one the many actions necessary to receive a promotion or a raise.”

Forthcoming in the journal Psychological Science, the findings are based on a five-year study of nearly 5,000 married people ranging in age from 19 to 89, with both spouses working in about 75 percent of the sample.

Jackson and co-author Brittany Solomon, a graduate student in psychology at Washington University, analyzed data on study participants who took a series of psychological tests to assess their scores on five broad measures of personality — openness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness.

In an effort to gauge whether these spousal personality traits might be seeping into the workplace, they tracked the on-the-job performance of working spouses using annual surveys designed to measure occupational success — self-reported opinions on job satisfaction, salary increases and the likelihood of being promoted.

Workers who scored highest on measures of occupational success tended to have a spouse with a personality that scored high for conscientiousness, and this was true whether or not both spouses worked and regardless of whether the working spouse was male or female, the study found.

Jackson and Solomon also tested several theories for how a spouse’s personality traits, especially conscientiousness, might influence their partner’s performance in the workplace. Their findings suggest that having a conscientious spouse contributes to workplace success in three ways.

First, through a process known as outsourcing, the working spouse may come to rely on his or her partner to handle more of the day-to-day household chores, such as paying bills, buying groceries and raising children. Workers also may be likely to emulate some of the good habits of their conscientious spouses, bringing traits such as diligence and reliability to bear on their own workplace challenges. Finally, having a spouse that keeps your personal life running smoothly may simply reduce stress and make it easier to maintain a productive work-life balance.

While previous research with romantic partners has shown that a bad experience in one social context can bleed over into another (a bad day at work can lead to a grumpy spouse and a tense night at home, for example), the Jackson/Solomon study goes beyond this to suggest that these sort of patterns exist day-in and day-out, exerting a subtle, but important influence on our performance in environments far removed from our home lives and our spouses.

The findings, they suggest, also have interesting implications for how we go about choosing romantic partners. While previous research suggests that people seeking potential mates tend to look for partners who score high on agreeableness and low on narcissism, this study suggests that people with ambitious career goals may be better served to seek supportive partners with highly conscientious personalities.

“This is another example where personality traits are found to predict broad outcomes like health status or occupational success, as in this study,” Jackson said. “What is unique to this study is that your spouse’s personality has an influence on such important life experiences.”

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Exercise boosts tumor-fighting ability of chemotherapy, Penn team finds

Study after study has proven it true: exercise is good for you. But new research from University of Pennsylvania scientists suggests that exercise may have an added benefit for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

Their work, performed in a mouse model of melanoma, found that combining exercise with chemotherapy shrunk tumors more than chemotherapy alone.

Joseph Libonati, an associate professor in the School of Nursing and director of the Laboratory of Innovative and Translational Nursing Research, was the senior author on the study, which appears in the American Journal of Physiology. His collaborators included the Penn Nursing’s Geetha Muthukumaran, Dennis Ding and Akinyemi Bajulaiye plus Kathleen Sturgeon, Keri Schadler, Nicholas J. Thomas, Victor Ferrari and Sandra Ryeom of Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Exercise has long been recommended to cancer patients for its physical and psychological benefits. Libonati and colleagues were particularly interested in testing whether exercise could protect against the negative cardiac-related side effects of the common cancer drug doxorubicin. Though effective at treating a variety of types of cancer, doxorubicin has is known to damage heart cells, which could lead to heart failure in the long-term.

“The immediate concern for these patients is, of course, the cancer, and they’ll do whatever it takes to get rid of it,” Libonati said. “But then when you get over that hump you have to deal with the long-term elevated risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Previous studies had shown that an exercise regime prior to receiving chemotherapy could protect heart cells from the toxic effects of doxorubicin, but few had looked to see whether an exercise regimen during chemotherapy could be beneficial.

To do so, Libonati’s team set up an experiment with four groups of mice. All were given an injection of melanoma cells in the scruffs of their neck. During the next two weeks, two of the groups received doxorubicin in two doses while the other two groups received placebo injections. Mice in one of the treated groups and one of the placebo groups were put on exercise regimens, walking 45 minutes five days a week on mouse-sized treadmills, while the rest of the mice remained sedentary.

After the two-week trial, the researchers examined the animals’ hearts using echocardiogram and tissue analysis. As expected, doxorubicin was found to reduce the heart’s function and size and increased fibrosis — a damaging thickening of tissue. Mice that exercised were not protected from this damage.

“We looked, and the exercise didn’t do anything to the heart — it didn’t worsen it, it didn’t help it,” Libonati said. “But the tumor data –- I find them actually amazing.”

The “amazing” result was that the mice that both received chemotherapy and exercised had significantly smaller tumors after two weeks than mice that only received doxorubicin.

Further studies will investigate exactly how exercise enhances the effect of doxorubicin, but the Penn team believes it could be in part because exercise increases blood flow to the tumor, bringing with it more of the drug in the bloodstream.

“If exercise helps in this way, you could potentially use a smaller dose of the drug and get fewer side effects,” Libonati said.

Gaining a clearer understanding of the many ways that exercise affects various systems of the body could also pave the way for developing drugs that mimic the effects of exercise.

“People don’t take a drug and then sit down all day,” Libonati says. “Something as simple as moving affects how drugs are metabolized. We’re only just beginning to understand the complexities.”

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Posted in Chemotherapy, Exercise: Benefits | Leave a comment