Getting Back to Better Health

Think your immune system’s not tough enough? Try tai chi.

When it comes to health, the slow, graceful movements of this low-impact exercise are deceptively powerful. The latest benefit: improved resistance to viruses, such as the one that causes painful shingles.

Looking for fun ways to stay well? Spend more time with friends — and in bed.

Having close pals you can laugh and cry with, through thick and thin, is a blessing. So is getting a good night’s sleep, especially in restless times. But wait, there’s more. Both also reduce your blood levels of an inflammatory protein that’s been linked to Alzheimer’s, bone thinning, heart trouble, rheumatoid arthritis, and even some kinds of cancer.

A more carefree attitude may help keep your mind young.

Chronic worry was linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline in a recent study. Obsessive worriers had more than double the risk of decline compared to their more carefree peers. Kick worries to the curb by writing them down in a journal or talking them out with people you love. Also, work on decisive plans of action for worries that won’t go away..

Are you afraid to try new things? Diving in more often could mean living a longer life.

There may be a link between a fear of novel situations and a shorter life span, according to research. Of course, shyness and vigilance have their time and place. But if you’ve nothing to fear but fear itself, take a leap of faith the next time you are presented with an opportunity to experience something new..

If you don’t touch the hard stuff but would love some of the highly touted health benefits attributed to red wine, pour yourself a glass of grape juice instead.

Like wine, grape juice is full of protective pigments known as flavonoids. Unlike wine, it doesn’t stop you from driving home safely if you over-indulge. And the juice’s heart-smart reputation is growing. For instance, when people drank Concord grape juice daily for 2 weeks in a study, their “bad” LDL cholesterol became less dangerous and their blood levels of disease-fighting antioxidants rose.

Too much stress at work could jeopardize your musculoskeletal health.

Research suggests that musculoskeletal ailments such as carpal tunnel syndrome may not be due strictly to repetitive motions. Mental stress may be a factor, too. Stress can cause muscles to tense up and contribute to upper body ailments. Soothe your stress by taking multiple stretching and deep-breathing breaks.

Laugh your way to better blood vessel function by watching a funny flick.

Laughter relaxes blood vessels and increases blood flow — the exact opposite of what your blood vessels do when you are stressed. In a small study of healthy men and women with normal blood pressure, watching a funny movie increased blood flow by about 22 percent. If funny movies aren’t your style, spend time with the people who tickle your funny bone.

Your brain doesn’t know you’re kidding.

Random thoughts such as, “He gives me a pain,” or “This job makes me sick” are viewed by the right brain as instructions. Think healthy thoughts!

Do your palms sweat, knees shake, and lips quiver at the thought of giving a presentation?

The key to keeping your jitters at bay may lie between the sheets. According to a recent study, having sex before a stressful event, such as giving a speech or going on an interview, can greatly reduce anxiety. And the calming effect can last up to a week. Of course, an easier way to ensure a smooth performance is to simply know your stuff.

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