Being stubborn may help you live longer, new study suggests

Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 3:50 PM

Tips for Living a Long Life

Stubbornness may actually be a trait that helps people live longer, a new study suggests.

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Published this week in the academic journal "International Psychogeriatrics", the study examined the mental and physical health of elderly Italians living in a remote village nestled between the Mediterranean Sea and mountains. The researchers behind the study, who hail from the University of Rome La Sapienza and University of California San Diego School of Medicine, found many common personality traits between the elderly village residents, including stubbornness.

The research looked specifically at 29 individuals aged 90 to 101, comparing them to 51 younger family members aged 50 to 75. Interestingly, the older group was found to have better overall mental health, even though the younger group was physically healthier.


"The main themes that emerged from our study, and appear to be the unique features associated with better mental health of this [older] rural population, were positivity, work ethic, stubbornness and a strong bond with family, religion and land," Dilip V. Jeste MD, senior author of the study and senior associate dean for the Center of Healthy Aging and Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry and Neurosciences at UC San Diego School of Medicine, said in a statement.

To analyze the participants, the researchers used a quantitative rating scale as well as qualitative interviews. They discussed topics including migrations, traumatic events and beliefs with the elderly individuals. Younger family members were also analyzed using the same quantitative scale, while also being asked to describe the personalities of their older relatives.

"The [older] group's love of their land is a common theme and gives them a purpose in life. Most of them are still working in their homes and on the land. They think, 'This is my life and I'm not going to give it up,'" Anna Scelzo, first author of the study with the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse in Chiavarese, Italy, explained.

"We also found that this group tended to be domineering, stubborn and needed a sense of control, which can be a desirable trait as they are true to their convictions and care less about what others think," Scelzo said.

"This tendency to control the environment suggests notable grit that is balanced by a need to adapt to changing circumstances."

Many in the elderly group spoke about their passion for life, sometimes despite heartache and sadness.

"I am always thinking for the best. There is always a solution in life. This is what my father has taught me: to always face difficulties and hope for the best," one participant said.

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The new study is also unique in that it examined long life from a psychological perspective.

"There have been a number of studies on very old adults, but they have mostly focused on genetics rather than their mental health or personalities," Jeste pointed out.

"Studying the strategies of exceptionally long-lived and lived-well individuals, who not just survive but also thrive and flourish, enhances our understanding of health and functional capacities in all age groups," he said.

So, while the study does not conclude that stubbornness is guaranteed to make you live longer, a strong correlation was noted. Jeste also points out that the study shows "well-being and wisdom increase with aging" despite a decrease in physical health.

Beyond stubbornness and strong mental health, numerous recent studies have suggested correlations between particular habits and longer life. 

A survey of previous research published last month suggests that drinking three to four cups of coffee per day is connected with lower risks of premature death, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, dementia and some cancers. Other scientific studies suggest that calorie restrictive diets, dancing and having sex regularly may all slow down the aging process as well.

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Ohio among states battling sudden rise in Hepatitis A cases

Published: Tuesday, April 24, 2018 @ 12:10 PM

Thirty one cases have been reported in Ohio.

The number of Hepatitis A cases in Ohio and neighboring states has spiked since January, the Ohio Department of Health is reporting.

The are currently 31 cases in the state, the highest since 2015, the Greene County Public Health said in a release Tuesday. In comparison, there were four cases during the same period in 2017, two in 2016 and five in 2015, according to the release. 

Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus, the agency said in the release. It is usually transmitted by person-to-person through contact with an infected person’s stool, or consumption of contaminated food or water, the release said. 

“One thing you want to do is make sure your food is thoroughly cooked,” said Dan Suffoletto, public information supervisor at Public Health–Dayton & Montgomery County.

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A confirmed case of hepatitis A includes both a positive laboratory test and symptom onset, with either jaundice or elevated liver function tests.

Outbreaks have been linked to contact with known hepatitis A case; homelessness; IV drug use; and men who have sex with men, the release said. 

Ohio is the latest state to be affected by the Hepatitis A outbreak. Neighboring states such as Indiana, Kentucky and  Michigan have all been affected. 

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Health officials say people can be vaccinated to protect themselves from hepatitis A, but the two doses have to be taken over a six month period. 

According to Greene County Public Health, hepatitis A contact can occur by: 

• eating food made by an infected person who did not wash his or her hands after using the bathroom

• drinking untreated water or eating food washed in untreated water

• placing a finger or an object in your mouth that came into contact with an infected person’s stool

• having close personal contact with an infected person, such as through sex or caring for someone who is ill 

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One cannot get hepatitis A from:

• being coughed on or sneezed on by an infected person

• sitting next to an infected person

• hugging an infected person 

A baby cannot get hepatitis A from breast milk.

Who is at increased risk for acquiring hepatitis A virus infection?

•Persons with direct contact with persons who have hepatitis A

•Travelers to countries with high or intermediate rates of hepatitis A

•Men who have sex with men

•Users of injection and non-injection drugs

•Persons with clotting factor disorders

•Household members and other close contacts of adopted children newly arriving from countries with high or intermediate hepatitis rates.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis A:

Some people have symptoms two to six weeks after they come in contact with the virus.

People with hepatitis A typically get better without treatment after a few weeks. In some cases, symptoms can last up to six months. 

These symptoms may include:

•dark yellow urine

•feeling tired

•fever

•gray- or clay-colored stools

•joint pain

•loss of appetite

•nausea

•pain in the abdomen 

•vomiting

•yellowish eyes and skin, called jaundice

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5 centenarians share strange secrets to longevity

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2018 @ 2:45 PM

What is the secret to longevity? This question taunts all of humanity. 

Although we have yet to discover a fountain of youth, centenarians – individuals who live to be over 100-years-old – can potentially give us clues on to how to live longer, healthier and happier lives. By taking a closer look at their lifestyles, genetics and social dynamics, some scientists are trying to find patterns that can show us their secrets.

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At the same time, if you ask the centenarians themselves, they often give answers ranging from the seemingly logical to the downright bizarre.

Here are five unusual things centenarians have given credit for their long lives.

(JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)

1. Sumo wrestling and hot springs

Just this week, Guinness World Records crowned Masazo Nonaka as the world's oldest living man. At 112, the elderly Japanese man was born all the way back in 1905. That means he would have turned nine the year that World War I began.

Although he moves around in a wheelchair, Nonaka reads the newspaper every morning and feeds himself breakfast. As to the secret to his long life? Well, the centenarian soaks regularly in northern Japan's hot springs and considers watching sumo wrestling to be one of his favorite pastimes.

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2. Humor and chocolate

Jeanne Louise Calment of France still holds the Guinness record as the world's oldest living person. She died at the impressive age of 122 years and 164 days in 1997. Having definitely lived a full life, Calment sold painting canvasses to Vincent Van Gogh, smoked from the age of 21 to 117 and even became a recording artist at 120-years-old.

Calment accredited her longevity to her sense of humor. When she turned 120, journalists asked her what kind of future she expected. She replied quickly: "A very short one." Also an avid lover of chocolate, Calment reportedly consumed about 1 kilogram (2 pounds 3 ounces) of the stuff each week.

3. Eating less

Currently holding the record as the man to live the longest, Jiroemon Kimura of Japan lived to be 116 years and 54 days. He died in June of 2013. 

Born in 1897, Kimura worked at the post office until he retired at the age of 65. He then went on to live more than another half a century.

And what was his secret? According to him, eating less was the key. He reportedly said that his personal motto was: "eat light to live long". Notably, Kimura's philosophy has increasing support among the scientific community. 

Many scientists and nutritionists believe that a 30 percent reduction in daily calorie intake may significantly slow down the physical processes that make cells heal slower, which opens up the brain and body to disease. Studies have also shown that calorie restrictive diets in mice help combat the effects of aging on the brain.

If the scientists – and Kimura – are right, cutting down on your daily consumption can help you shed a few pounds while also keeping you young.

4. Eat everything ... except pork and chicken

In July of last year, Violet Moss-Brown of Jamaica became the oldest living woman and the oldest living person. She claimed both titles at the age 117 years and 139 days old. A few months later, she died, proud to know that she had claimed both world records.

When asked about her secrets to long life, Moss-Brown suggested there wasn't much to it. However, she did say she never ate pork or chicken. 

"When people ask what I eat and drink to live so long, I say to them that I eat everything, except pork and chicken," she told Guinness

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5. Smoking cigarettes

Batuli Lamichhane, who was reportedly 112 in 2016, claimed that her secret to long life was smoking cigarettes.

Born in March 1903, Lamichhane started smoking when she was 17. The centenarian told The Mirror that she smoked some 30 cigarettes a day for the past 95 years.

"I have been smoking for over 95 years. There is nothing wrong with smoking," she said.

But before you rush out to buy a pack of cigarettes, remember that any doctor or scientist will explain to you that smoking significantly increases your risk of heart disease, cancer and a range of other health issues.

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Death of loved one during pregnancy may affect child's mental health, study says

Published: Sunday, April 08, 2018 @ 6:32 AM

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Grieving the death of a loved one can affect an entire family, including babies. In fact, losing a relative during pregnancy may affect the mental health of a child later in life, according to a new report.

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Researchers from Stanford University recently conducted a study, published in the American Economic Review, to determine the effect a family member’s death may have on children.

To do so, they examined Swedish infants born between 1973 and 2011 whose mother lost a close relative, such as a sibling, parent, maternal grandparent, the child’s father or her own older child, during her pregnancy.

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They followed those children through adulthood, comparing their health outcomes to kids whose maternal relatives died in the year after their birth. They gathered the data from their medical records and Sweden’s novel prescription drug registry, which contains all prescription drug purchases.

Lastly, they considered the impact the death may have had on the fetus, including fetal exposure to maternal stress from bereavement and even changes to family resources or household composition.

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After analyzing their results, they found that “that prenatal exposure to the death of a maternal relative increases take-up of ADHD medications during childhood and anti-anxiety and depression medications in adulthood,” the researchers wrote in a statement.

Furthermore, they discovered the death of a relative up to three generations apart during pregnancy can also create consequences. 

“Our study offers complementary evidence linking early-life circumstance to adult mental health, but breaks new ground by focusing on stress,” the authors wrote, “which may be more pertinent than malnutrition in modern developed countries such as the United States and Sweden, and by tracing health outcomes throughout the time period between the fetal shock and adulthood.”

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To combat the issue, the researchers recommend that governments implement policies to help reduce stress during pregnancy. They believe such policies should especially target poor families as they are more likely to experience stress than more advantaged ones. 

Although their findings are concerning, they hope they can better help expecting mothers have healthier pregnancies and birth healthier children. 

“Of course, you cannot prevent family members from dying, and we certainly do not want our findings to constitute yet another source of stress for expecting mothers,” the scientists said. “But our findings potentially point to the importance of generally reducing stress during pregnancy, for example through prenatal paid maternity leave and programs that provide resources and social support to poor, pregnant women.”

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Breast cancer patients may help boost survival chances by building muscle, study says

Published: Sunday, April 08, 2018 @ 5:51 AM

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Chemotherapy and radiation are common treatments for breast cancer. However, building muscle may also help boost chances of survival, according to a new report. 

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Researchers from Kaiser Permanente recently conducted a study, published in JAMA Oncology, to determine the association between muscle quality and the disease. 

To do so, they examined 3,241 women from Kaiser Permanente of Northern California and the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The participants were diagnosed with stages II or III breast cancer between January 2000 and December 2013. Scientists then used CT scans to observe muscle tissues.

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After analyzing the results, they found that higher muscle mass upped survival rates, while lower muscle mass was linked with a higher risk of death.

In fact, more than one-third of the individuals with sarcopenia, a condition that causes muscle loss, “had a significantly increased risk of death compared with patients without sarcopenia,” the authors wrote in the study.

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Furthermore, building muscle may also help with other cancers.

“Our findings are likely generalizable across many other nonmetastatic cancers because the associations with muscle and improved survival for those with metastatic cancer has been observed across a variety of solid tumors,” they said.

While the scientists did not thoroughly explore why low muscle mass is connected to low breast cancer survival rates, they think inflammation may be a factor as cancer-related inflammation can decrease muscle mass and increase fat.

The researchers now hope to continue their investigations and believe their findings will lead to better treatment practices.

“We should also consider interventions to improve muscle mass, such as resistance training or protein supplementation,” they said. “In the era of precision medicine, the direct measurement of muscle and adiposity will help to guide treatment plans and interventions to optimize survival outcomes.” 

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