An aging American population means more adults are assuming the responsibility of caring for their elderly parents. And, according to a new study from the University of Michigan, the stress of caregiving is often heightened by increased conflict between family members over the distribution of that responsibility. The study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, looked at 861 adult caregivers and measured their stress based upon the patients’ particular impairments and the likelihood of family conflict. Among the results, the study found that daughters were more likely than sons to devote additional time to caring for their ailing parents as they became more dependent. Sons, on the other hand, were found to be more likely to ask other family members for help, which resulted in more opportunities for conflict over shared responsibility and support. More here.
How much stress you feel and how you react under stressful situations affects your heart, whether it has a direct physical effect or leads to behaviors proven to increase risk such as smoking or overeating. Learning to effectively manage stress is an important part of maintaining a healthy heart and avoiding numerous health problems associated with stress, such as high blood pressure, asthma, and ulcers. Experts recommend managing stress with relaxation and natural techniques rather than medication and tranquilizing drugs. Exercising, maintaining a positive attitude, not smoking, cutting back on coffee, and maintaining a healthy weight and diet are among the top recommendations from the American Heart Association on how to manage stress and reduce risk of cardiovascular trouble. More here.
Despite the common assumption that most older adults suffering from dementia live and die in nursing homes, a new study shows that not to be true. The study, led by Christopher M. Callahan, MD, of the Indiana University School of Medicine, looked at the records of more than 1,500 dementia patients and found that, though 74 percent of the time patients went to a nursing home after hospitalization, nearly a quarter were returned to the hospital within a month and many of the rest were returned home to be cared for by family. The study highlights the complicated nature of family caregiving and the stress that occurs when a patient is shuttled back-and-forth between care settings. The results also revealed that most elderly dementia patients are cared for in the community by family and friends. More here.
According to a Gallup poll measuring emotional health and well being, Americans reported a higher level of emotional happiness in April than any month since tracking began in 2008. The survey, which asks Americans to report whether they felt enjoyment, sadness, worry, anger, or happiness the day before, has been gradually improving since last September, when it hit a three-year low. For example, 68.9 percent of respondents said they did not experience a lot of worry the previous day, which is up from 66.1 percent in September. The number of participants who said they didn’t feel a lot of stress has also risen, up more than two percentage points since September. The improvements to Americans emotional well being are matched by other Gallup polls showing a growing level of confidence in the economy and standard-of-living. More here.
A new study from Stanford University School of Medicine suggests that chronic anxiety could lead to a higher risk of developing cancer. The research took hairless mice and exposed them to both stressful situations and UV rays meant to mimic the effect of getting too much sun. Though all the mice developed skin cancer, the anxious mice, determined by their response to being placed under stress, had more tumors and also developed invasive forms of cancer. The research suggests that consistent anxiety can wear down the immune system leaving it more vulnerable to disease. The study was the first of its kind to find a biological link between high anxiety and cancer threat. More here.
A team of researchers at Newcastle University have created a car aimed at studying the reactions and habits of older drivers. As we age, our reaction times slow which can make driving hazardous. Still, for elderly Americans living alone, driving is vital to getting out of the house, staying active, and taking care of oneself. The research car is fitted with tracking systems and bio-monitors to better understand the concentration and stress levels of older drivers. With a better understanding of the difficulties seniors face behind the wheel, the team at Newcastle hopes to develop new technologies that will make it easier for older adults to continue driving such as night-vision systems, speed adapters, and spoken navigation tools. Being able to improve the safety and security of older drivers will lead to more independent and socially active seniors. More here.
It’s commonly known that stress can negatively affect health and raise the risk of developing disease. But a recent study of women over 50 found that just anticipating a stressful situation caused an accelerated rate of cellular aging, which is associated with a raised risk of chronic illnesses such as heart disease and cancer. In the study, participants were told they’d have to participate in a stressful event in the near future. The women who showed a higher level of stress in anticipation of the event also had an increased rate of cellular aging. The study’s lead author Aoife O’Donovan, PhD, said how you cope with major forms of stress in life may have an influence in how you respond to minor forms of stress. More here.
A study examining the heart attack risk associated with the loss of a loved one shows that, in the immediate aftermath of the death of someone close, the bereaved had an increased risk of heart attack. The research looked at nearly 2,000 patients hospitalized for a heart attack between 1989 and 1994 with an average age of 61. Among people who had lost a loved one, the risk of heart attack was found to be 21 times higher than normal within the first day and nearly six times higher during the first week. The risk, however, declined within the first month. The researchers said the emotional stress, anxiety, and depression can increase blood pressure and heart rate accounting for the increased risk. More here.
A recently released Gallup poll found Americans over the age of 65 report the highest level of happiness of any age group surveyed. The poll, which asked respondents over the age of 18 about their level of happiness and the amount of time they spent socializing with friends and family, found seniors were the happiest age group and experienced higher levels of happiness as the number of hours spent socializing increased. Among Americans over the age of 65, 44 percent reported feeling happy and a lack of worry and stress in their lives even when they spent no time socializing the previous day. Among those that socialized one hour the previous day, 50 percent said they were happy. Seventy percent of seniors who said they spent more than nine hours the day before socializing with friends and family reported enjoyment and happiness in their lives. More here.
Stress can have a significant impact on health. It can also trigger gastroesophageal reflux disease or acid reflux. Surveys have shown a majority of people who suffer from acid reflux site stress as a trigger. Mitchell Cappell, MD, PhD, chief of gastroenterology at Beaumont Hospital, says patients who are under a lot of psychological stress suffer more severe symptoms, without necessarily having more severe reflux. And, though that doesn’t mean stress-related reflux is merely psychological, it is common for highly stressed people to become more aware and more sensitive to their symptoms. According to Cappell, stress can affect many gut functions and heartburn, in these stressful times, is incredibly common. More here.