Fresh Health News: Fall 2019

A round up of the latest studies on health, wellness, and disease prevention, plus tips for boosting well being

Image by Flamingo Images/Shutterstock

Do Tunes Tune You Out?

A study looks at the impact background music can have on creativity

As a highly imaginative art form itself, many people turn to music to tap into their creative spirit. Yet a study published earlier this year in Applied Cognitive Psychology asserts that listening to background tunes may “significantly impair” your creativity, despite past findings suggesting the opposite. Researchers from the University of Central Lancashire in England ran a series of experiments in which participants completed verbal problem-solving tasks specifically designed to measure creativity. In the first experiment, participants completed the tasks while unfamiliar lyrical music played in the background; in the second, they worked while non-lyrical instrumental tunes could be heard; in the third, familiar lyrical songs played; and in the fourth, they worked in silence. Researchers found that in each scenario with music, participants’ creative work was noticeably impaired when compared to their performance in the quiet setting. Since past findings say that music can indeed boost innovation, creative professionals would be wise to conduct a personal experiment.

Photograph by (juul) Steve Heap; (pink vape) Fotoholik/; & (blue vape) Bulgn

Toxic Fumes

So far this year, more than 400 Americans have been hospitalized for—and a dozen have died from—a slew of mysterious vaping-induced respiratory illnesses. Symptoms include cough, fatigue and shortness of breath; some patients have even fallen into a coma. In August, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania released a small but significant study showing another potential health risk of vaping, this one involving the cardiovascular system. For the study, 31 non-smoking adults wore a tight cuff around one thigh for a few minutes, limiting blood flow to the limb’s major vein and artery. Using MRI, study authors measured how quickly blood returned to the leg once the cuff was removed. They then repeated the process, but first had the participants take 16 pulls from a nicotine-free e-cigarette. In the latter scenario, blood flow rates dropped an average of 17.5 percent, suggesting that smoking e-cigarettes—even those with no nicotine—may hinder circulation.

Photograph by LedyX

Hydration Station

We all know that drinking water is a boon to wellness—H2O keeps our joints lubricated, digestive system operating and internal temperature in check. On the flipside, dehydration can zap concentration and cause headaches, fatigue and dry skin. But is chugging water morning, noon and night the key to staying well hydrated? According to a new report from Time, there’s a more methodical and effective way to ensure your body’s reaping the benefits of water: Drink it while you eat. The research explains that consuming water along with amino acids, fats, vitamins and minerals from food is more hydrating than drinking water by itself between meals or on an empty stomach (in the latter scenario, they say, it can flow right through the digestive system). This helps contextualize findings from a 2015 study on fluid retention, which found milk and orange juice to be more hydrating than water. (Though water is indeed more hydrating than orange juice, OJ is almost always consumed alongside food.)

Photograph by Andrey Popov

Try this if you’re feeling down: 

Do something thoughtful for someone else. Science shows that acts of kindness toward others can immediately cause a euphoric, mood-boosting “helper’s high.” In fact, research from the National Institutes of Health found that performing an altruistic act sparks the same area of the brain as do food and sex.

Photograph by Olivia Pendleton

Speaking of Acts of Kindness… 

113+ needlepoint hearts have been donated to the Roper Hospice Cottage since December 2018. The Hearts for Hospice program—which was founded by Madonna Lewis, owner of the Cabbage Row Shoppe in downtown Charleston—donates colorful hand-stitched hearts to family members whose loved ones have passed away.