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Health scan

A snapshot of the current thinking in medicine, fitness and lifestyle trends that impact your life.

health and fitness Updated: Jan 27, 2013 00:24 IST

A snapshot of the current thinking in medicine, fitness and lifestyle trends that impact your life.

Hearing loss accelerates senility
Older adults with hearing loss are more likely to develop problems thinking and remembering than older adults whose hearing is normal, shows a six-year study from Johns Hopkins. On average, older adults with hearing loss developed a significant impairment in their cognitive abilities 3.2 years sooner than those with normal hearing. Hearing loss should not be considered an inconsequential part of aging. One reason could be that impaired hearing may also force the brain to devote too much of its energy to processing sound, and at the expense of energy spent on memory and thinking.

Hugging lowers BP and boosts memory
Hugging a loved one not only helps you bond with them but also gives you a host of health benefits by lowering blood pressure and even improving memory. Scientists from the University of Vienna found that the hormone oxytocin releases into the blood stream when you hold a friend close. Oxytocin, a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, is primarily known for increasing bonding, social behaviour and closeness between parents, children and couples. Increased oxytocin levels have been found, for example, in partners in functional relationships. In women, it is also produced during the childbirth process and during breast feeding in order to increase the mother's bond with the baby.

Loneliness lowers immunity
New research links loneliness to dysfunctional immune response, suggesting that being lonely can potentially harm overall health. People who are lonely have higher signs of elevated latent herpes virus reactivation and produce more inflammation-related proteins in response to acute stress than people who feel socially connected. These proteins signal the presence of chronic inflammation, which is linked to many health conditions such as heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimer's disease. Reactivation of a latent herpes virus is known to be associated with stress, suggesting that loneliness functions as a chronic stressor that triggers a poorly controlled immune response.

Alcohol disrupts deep sleep
Alcohol may help you fall asleep but it leads to a disrupted night's rest, report scientists in the UK. Drinking was found to increase tiredness by reducing the length of time in deep sleep, which is important in allowing the body and mind to relax. The higher the consumption of alcohol, the less deep - or Rapid eye movement (REM) - sleep takes place. REM is the stage of sleep characterised by rapid saccadic movements of the eyes. During this stage, the activity of the brain's neurons is quite similar to that during waking hours and most vividly recalled dreams occur during this stage. Most people awakened during REM usually feel alert and refreshed.

The UK Study found that at all dosages, alcohol brings on sleep quicker, but leads to an increase in sleep disruption in the second half of sleep. Sleep is often deeper to start with, but then it becomes disrupted.

Women today weaker than their mums
Most people today, especially women, don't have the same muscle power as their parents and their parents before that, experts warn. Muscular strength has hit a plateau and muscular endurance - the ability to repeatedly exert force, such as doing sit-ups - among women has declined by 8% to 10% since the Eighties even though their overall weight and height have increased. So now we have thin women with no muscles supporting their spine, and overweight ones without any muscles under the fat. The cause for weakening musculatures is bad diets and increasing inactivity. Poor muscle strength is to blame for a host of health problems such as osteoporosis, fractures, arthritis and back pain.