Optimistic Women May Live Longer, and Other News

Woman walking through field toward the sunOptimistic women may live longer than women who are not optimistic, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The study assessed optimism levels in more than 70,000 older women in 2004 and 2008. The average participant was 70 years old when the study began.

Optimistic women had lower rates of potentially lethal conditions. Women ranked in the 75th optimism percentile or higher had a decreased risk of death due to cancer, stroke, heart disease, and respiratory infections. The researchers found optimism was an especially effective preventative for heart disease. Optimistic women were 40% less likely to face cardiovascular disease, even when researchers controlled for other cardiovascular risk factors.

Several other studies have also found a link between optimism and better physical and mental health. Previous research also suggests optimism is 75% due to social circumstances and under a person’s control, while the other 25% is heritable.

Mental Health Care Gets a Boost from 21st Century Cures Act

The U.S. Senate passed the 21st Century Cures Act on Wednesday, and experts are calling it the most significant law for mental health since 2008. The bill increases funding for research into diseases, shortens timelines for new drug approvals, and makes mental health care more of a priority by strengthening parity and offering earlier intervention in cases of psychosis. It also recognizes the short supply of psychologists and psychiatrists in the country, and includes grants to increase the number of people in these positions to offer quality mental health care.

How the U.S. Army Personalized its Mental Health Care

The United States Army’s Behavioral Health Data Portal (BHDP) aims to create a personalized approach to mental health care by collecting patient data and outcomes. It allows health providers to follow patients over time, even when they transition to new providers. The BHDP was developed in response to the steep increase in mental health issues many veterans have experienced after returning from conflict zones in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dementia Rates Might Be Declining, New Study Finds

According to records of 21,000 seniors, dementia rates have been in decline since 2000. Researchers suspect better treatments for cardiovascular disease and diabetes might partially account for the drop. The rising amount of adults who pursue higher education might also be a factor in the declining rate of dementia. However, a drop in the rate of dementia does not necessarily mean the total number of adults with Alzheimer’s is also decreasing, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Community Groups Keep Us Mentally Sharp As We Age

A large representative study of adults in the United Kingdom suggests involvement in community groups could prevent age-related cognitive decline. Volunteer organizations, neighborhood watch teams, and civic organizations all appeared to improve cognitive skills in aging adults. These activities can give older adults what researchers call social capital, which can help reduce loneliness, isolation, and stress.

Rhythm of Breathing Affects Memory and Fear

Researchers from Northwestern University have found the way people breathe affects electrical activity in the brain, altering emotion and memory. According to the study, breathing through the nose increases fearful responses and heightens memory. This provides clues to how the immediate physical reaction to trauma and other upsetting events might change the way the brain processes and stores memories associated with such events.

Surgeon General Sounds the Alarm on Teens and E-Cigarettes

According to a report from the U.S. Surgeon General, electronic cigarette use among high schoolers increased 900% between 2011 and 2015. The rate of use among middle schoolers tripled in the same time frame. The report notes that adolescents’ developing brains may be more vulnerable to the effects of nicotine—potentially leading to future addiction—and encourages a national push to combat use of e-cigarettes among young people.

Malta Outlaws ‘Conversion Therapy,’ a First in Europe

Malta has become the first country in Europe to outlaw conversion therapy, a controversial and largely discredited practice that aims to change someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation. If someone in Malta is caught practicing or promoting conversion therapy, according to the new law, they are likely to face high fines and possible jail time.

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  • Stef

    December 9th, 2016 at 11:26 AM

    I would say that the same thing is likely true of optimistic men too.

  • Sammie

    December 10th, 2016 at 4:03 AM

    I have always wondered if there was a correlation between disease of the heart and dementia and now that the rates of this are declining and we have earlier and better detection of heart disease it seems that this could be a real possibility.

  • Iris

    December 11th, 2016 at 10:21 AM

    I don’t know why so many of us think that leaving behind one habit and then replacing that with another is going to be a good thing. It’s like with smoking. Now there are all these people who are vaping and we really have no clear idea about the long term effects that this is going to have on our health.

    It could actually end up being just as harmful as smoking cigarettes. And now our kids are becoming a part of this trend too… it’s scary how easily we fall into some habits just for the sake of giving up another one.

  • sada

    December 12th, 2016 at 9:46 AM

    Good grief conversion therapy shouldn’t be something that has to be outlawed. Therapists shouldn’t want to even do that to begin with.

  • Jaxon

    December 13th, 2016 at 2:44 PM

    I am happy to learn that finally the military seems to be getting on board with the rest of the mental health professionals in terms of the care that they are willing to provide their soldiers.

    I have always thought that these military men and women do so much for all of us and then have to be made to feel ashamed for seeking out the very health care that they are entitled to as a result?

    Hopefully this means that we as a society are becoming far more understanding of the mental health struggles that so many of us are faced with daily, and that we are finally saying that enough is enough, this isn’t something that should be taboo anymore.

  • Frannie

    December 14th, 2016 at 7:41 AM

    So I wonder if sense the rhythm of the breathing affects you if it could actually be beneficial to do things like mindful breathing exercises to help in other areas of life?
    I mean it would only make sense right?

  • penelope

    December 15th, 2016 at 10:42 AM

    I haven’t hear anything about this new act. How has this flown under the radar?

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