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Smiling may boost overall outlook, study shows

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Smiling can trick your mind into being more positive, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of South Australia found that the simple act of moving your facial muscles into a smile can make you view the world more positively.

“When your muscles say you’re happy, you’re more likely to see the world around you in a positive way,” said lead researcher Fernando Marmolejo-Ramos, a human and artificial cognition expert at the university.

He and his colleagues studied how people interpret various images of facial and bodily expressions that range from happy to sad, based on whether or not they were smiling themselves.

The study involved 256 volunteers from Japan, Poland, Spain and Sweden. Participants were asked to hold a pen between their teeth, an act that forces facial muscles to replicate the motions of a smile.

They were then shown images of facial expressions that ranged from frowning to smiling, and videos of a person walking in different positions, ranging from “sad walking” to “happy walking.”

The participants viewed each image or video with and without a pen in their teeth, and then evaluated if the evoked emotion was “happy” or “sad.”

The researchers observed that the participants were more likely to view a broader range of the images and videos as “happy” when smiling themselves.

“In our research, we found that when you forcefully practice smiling, it stimulates the amygdala — the emotional center of the brain — which releases neurotransmitters to encourage an emotionally positive state,” Marmolejo-Ramos said in a university news release.

The results suggest that everyone, and particularly those suffering from mental health issues like anxiety and depression, may benefit from the simple act of smiling.

“For mental health, this has interesting implications. If we can trick the brain into perceiving stimuli as ‘happy,’ then we can potentially use this mechanism to help boost mental health,” Marmolejo-Ramos said. “A ‘fake it till you make it’ approach could have more credit than we expect.”

The study was published recently in the journal Experimental Psychology.

More information
Mental Health America has tips for boosting your mental health.

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Asthma, food sensitivity linked to irritable bowel syndrome in study

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Teens who had asthma and food hypersensitivity when they were younger are at increased risk of irritable bowel syndrome, researchers report.

For the study, the investigators examined the health of 2,770 children from birth to age 16. Kids with IBS at age 16 were more likely to have had asthma at age 12, about 11% versus 7%.

In addition, the researchers found that 16-year-olds with IBS were more likely to have had food hypersensitivity at age 12, 41% versus 29%.

Asthma, food hypersensitivity and eczema — a condition that makes your skin red and itchy — were all associated with an increased risk of concurrent IBS at age 16, the findings showed.

“The associations found in this large study suggest there’s a shared pathophysiology between common allergy-related diseases and adolescent irritable bowel syndrome,” said study leader Jessica Sjölund, of the Institute of Medicine at the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden.

Sjölund noted that previous studies on allergy-related diseases and IBS have been contradictory.

These new findings could lead to development of new treatments for adolescent IBS, targeting processes of low-grade inflammation seen in the allergy-related diseases, she said.

The study findings were scheduled for presentation Monday at a United European Gastroenterology virtual meeting. Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

IBS affects more than one in 10 people and is the most common functional gastrointestinal disorder, the study authors noted in a meeting news release. It can cause abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhea and constipation, and can be extremely disabling for patients.

Hans Törnblom is a leading IBS expert in Europe who was involved in the research. He said, “Even though functional gastrointestinal disorders are common, many patients are, unfortunately, negatively stigmatized and labeled. The fact that many IBS sufferers do not seek medical advice should be of great concern.”

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has more on IBS.

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Cancer takes heavy toll on women’s work, finances, study shows

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Young women with cancer are at a high risk for employment and financial consequences, a new study finds.

“Our study addresses the burden of employment disruption and financial hardship among young women with cancer — a group who may be at particular risk for poor financial outcomes after cancer given their age and gender,” said researcher Clare Meernik, a fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

She and her colleagues surveyed more than 1,300 women in North Carolina and California a median of seven years after diagnosis. Their cancer was diagnosed when they were 15 to 39 years of age and working.

Following their diagnosis, 32% of the women had to stop working or cut back on their hours. Twenty-seven percent said they had to borrow money, go into debt or file for bankruptcy because of cancer treatment.

Women with disrupted employment were more likely — by 17 percentage points — to have these problems than women who were able to keep working.

Half of the women said they were stressed about their big medical bills, and women with disrupted employment were more likely to suffer psychological distress by 8 percentage points than women who were able to keep working.

The findings were published online Oct. 12 in the journal Cancer.

“Our findings highlight the need for effective interventions to promote job maintenance and transition back to the workforce after cancer treatment, as well as increased workplace accommodations and benefits, to improve cancer outcomes for young women,” Meernik said in a journal news release.

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To learn more about work and financial effects of cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.

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Study: Less restrictive reproductive rights reduce birth complications risk by 7%

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Oct. 13 (UPI) — Women living in states with less restrictive reproductive rights policies are 7% less likely have low birth weight babies than those living in states with more stringent laws, according to an analysis published Tuesday by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The risk was 8% lower for Black women living in less-restrictive states, the data showed.

“Our study provides evidence that reproductive rights policies play a critical role in advancing maternal and child health equity,” study co-author May Sudhinaraset, of the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, said in a statement.

Since the Supreme Court‘s decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, which effectively legalized abortion, states have had “substantial discretion” in creating policies governing whether Medicaid covers the costs of contraception or reproductive health care.

Some states have taken steps that effectively limit access to abortion services and other reproductive care, Sudhinaraset and her colleagues said.

Black women are more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than any other race group, experience more maternal health complications than White women and generally have lower quality maternity care, they said.

In addition, women of color are more likely to experience adverse birth outcomes.

Compared to infants of normal weight, low-birth-weight babies face many potential health complications, including infections early in life and long-term problems, such as delayed motor and social development or learning disabilities.

Sudhinaraset and her colleagues analyzed birth record data for the nearly 4 million births that occurred in the 50 states and Washington, D.C., in 2016, comparing reproductive rights policies and adverse birth outcomes in each state.

They also evaluated if the associations were different for women of color and immigrants.

The findings indicate that expanding reproductive rights may reduce the risk of low-birth weight, particularly for U.S.-born Black women, the researchers said.

“Important policy levers can and should be implemented to improve women’s reproductive health overall, including increasing abortion access and mandatory sex education in schools,” Sudhinaraset said.



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