How Does Lifestyle Affect Health?

Vitamin D is necessary to activate the immune system’s killer T cells. According to a study published in the journal Nature Immunology, when T cells are exposed to foreign pathogens or infections, they extend antennas known as vitamin D receptors. If T cells can’t find enough vitamin D in the blood, they remain dormant – unaware of possible dangers. Most vitamin D is made by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight; but because people are staying indoors more, almost 50% of the world’s population is vitamin D deficient. It seems our weeks need more “sundays”.

What we need less of is junk food. It’s addictive. For 40 days researchers at Scripps Research Institute fed some rats lab chow, others got access to high-fat junk food 1 hour daily and 11 rats got access to junk food 23 hours daily. The 11 rats – like people addicted to cocaine or heroin – needed bigger fixes of junk food to stay high, causing compulsive eating and obesity. Their addiction also triggered the same brain responses that lead to drug addiction. Because losing control over behavior is the principal sign of addiction, this study “ratted on” the effect of junk food.

The effect of loneliness is higher blood pressure. Researchers at the University of Chicago surveyed 229 people ages 50-68. They were asked to rank their feelings about social relationship statements. After accounting for features like smoking, physical activity, body mass index, cardiovascular health and depression, as well as factoring in age, race, ethnicity and gender, the findings were the same. During the 5-year study, those participants who ranked loneliest had blood pressure levels 14.4 points higher than those ranked least lonely and they experienced greater blood pressure increases during the study. Unfortunately, loneliness creates a new type of “pressure group”.

Fortunately, one-third of breast cancer in Western countries may be avoidable. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. In 2009 there were more than 190,000 new cases in the U.S. and 40,000 deaths. According to a 2010 international conference on breast cancer, women can do 3 things to lower risk. First, lose weight. Many breast cancers are fueled by estrogen, a hormone produced in fat tissue. Second, exercise. Exercise converts fat tissue to muscle. Third, drink less alcohol. More than 2 drinks a day increases risk of breast cancer 4%-10%. Obviously, a key to health is healthy living.

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