Wellness Research
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Our Wellness Director, Fabiana Cheistwer, MS, EP, CWWPM, CWP, has thoughtfully summarized relevant studies for us. Links to research details will be provided, and as always, the Six Dimensions of Wellness (Social, Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual, Community) provide the foundation.

Enjoy exploring these topics:


More muscle mass at older ages fends off premature death

Body weight and a body mass index (BMI) calculation are often used as measures of health. Researchers pointed out that obesity (a BMI of 30 or higher) has been inconsistently associated with mortality, and that muscle and fat have different metabolic properties. Would the amount of muscle mass be associated with a lower risk of premature death?

STUDY: Data was examined for a group of 3,659 individuals including men ages 55 or older and women who were 65 or older when they participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 1988. Their body composition was measured using bioelectrical impedance, a noninvasive procedure that differentiates between fat and lean body mass. These measurements were used to calculate a muscle mass index (amount of muscle relative to height). Using data from a follow-up survey in 2004, they determined how many people had died.

FINDINGS: All-cause mortality was significantly lower in the people with the highest levels on the muscle mass index compared to individuals with the lowest levels on the muscle mass index.

COMMENT: “In other words, the greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death,” said co-author Dr. Arun Karlamangla, associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California Los Angeles. “Thus, rather than worrying about weight or body mass index, we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.”

SOURCE: American Journal of Medicine, online (February 20, 2014)


The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has conducted an extensive research report that investigates more than 2,000 different cleaning supplies in an effort to inform consumers of the hazards that may be in these commonly used cleaners. The EWG’s mission is to “use the power of information to protect human health and the environment.”


The EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning had a number of key findings:

1. 53% of cleaning products assessed contained ingredients known to harm the lungs; 22% contain chemicals reported to cause asthma.

2. Formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, is used as a preservative or may be released by other preservatives in a number of cleaning products.

3. The chemical 1,4-dioxane, a suspected human carcinogen, is a widely-used detergent chemical.

4. Chloroform, a suspected human carcinogen, sometimes escapes in fumes released by products containing chlorine bleach.

5. Quaternary ammonium compounds (“quats”) like benzalkonium chloride, found in antibacterial spray cleaners and fabric softeners, can cause asthma.

6. Sodium borate, also known as borax, and boric acid are added to many products as cleaning agents, enzyme stabilizers, or for other functions. They can disrupt the hormone system.

7. Many leading “green” brands sell superior products, but not all cleaners marketed as environmentally conscious score high. Some “green” brands do not disclose ingredients adequately. For a list of brands see: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/findings.


 The EWG also has suggested that consumers avoid the following completely because they are unnecessary or there is not a better alternative:

1.  Air fresheners contain secret fragrance mixtures that can trigger allergies and asthma. 

2. Antibacterial products can spur development of drug-resistant superbugs.

3. Fabric softener and dryer sheet ingredients can cause allergies or asthma and can irritate the lungs. The alternative: Try a little vinegar in the rinse cycle.

4. Caustic drain cleaners and oven cleaners can burn eyes and skin. The alternative: Use a drain snake or plunger in drains. Or, try a do-it-yourself paste of baking soda and water in the oven.<!--[if !supportLists]-->

For more information on “well” spring cleaning visit: The Environmental Working Guide Website at: http://www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/content/findings


Music is good for health as well as the soul

In addition to enjoyment, music has been related to improved academic performance, soothed feelings and reduction in pain, among other benefits (American Music Therapy Association). A new review collected research that linked music to brain chemistry.

REVIEW: A review of 400 research papers was conducted to search for patterns in neurochemical systems relating to reward, motivation and pleasure; stress and arousal; immunity; and social affiliation.

FINDINGS: Music was found to improve the body’s immune system function by increasing both immunoglobulin A (an antibody that plays a critical role in immunity of the mucous system) and natural killer cell counts (the cells that attack invading germs and bacteria). Listening to and playing music reduced levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body and was more effective than prescription drugs in reducing anxiety prior to surgery.

COMMENT: “We’ve found compelling evidence that musical interventions can play a health care role in settings ranging from operating rooms to family clinics,” said Professor Daniel J. Levitin at McGill University. “But even more importantly, we were able to document the neurochemical mechanisms by which music has an effect in four domains: management of mood, stress, immunity and as an aid to social bonding.”

SOURCE: Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 17(4):179-193 (April 1, 2013)


Better sleeping through exercise 

A poll was conducted among 1,000 people ages 23-60 who reported how much physical activity they had performed for at least 10 minutes in the past 7 days. People who said they exercised and individuals who were classified as non-exercisers reported sleeping for about 6 hours, 51 minutes on average on weeknights. Individuals who reported light, moderate and vigorous exercise were more likely to say they had a “good” night’s sleep (67%-56%) compared to non-exercisers (39%).  

“If you are inactive, adding a 10-minute walk every day could improve your likelihood of a good night’s sleep,” recommended Max Hirshkowitz, PhD, chair of the task force that created the poll. “Making this small change and gradually working your way up to more intense activities like running or swimming could help you sleep better.” 

SOURCE: National Sleep Foundation, Sleep in America poll (March 4, 2013)



More religious attendance; fewer functional limitations

Surveys of 2,924 people 65 year and older who reported their religious involvement and functional status were conducted at baseline and at intervals of three, six and 10 years. Religious attendance was associated with fewer limitations in activities of daily living, instrumental activities of daily living and mobility. However, use of religious media and private religious activities were not associated with functional changes.

SOURCE: The Gerontologist, 52(5):676-685 (October 2012) 

Exercise can be a learning aid: People who exercise immediately after learning a new skill are more likely to retain that information than those who exercised before learning the skill, or not at all, according to a 2012 study published in the journal PLOS One.

It may help you live longer: Working out for just 15 minutes a day might add as much as three years to your life, according to findings published in 2011 in the journal Lancet.

Centenarians chime in about healthy aging:

When asked about their lives, 98% of 100 people at age 100 said staying mentally active was a
secret to healthy aging, along with staying mobile and exercising (96%). More
than half walk every week. The centenarians also reported eating nutritiously
balanced meals regularly (86%), getting more than eight hours of sleep each
night (66%), and attending a social event every day (37%).

UnitedHealthcare, 100@100 Survey (May 2013)




Ongoing research suggests coffee, regular and decaf, may have positive effects on health and few negative ones. Some studies found that people who drink 3-4 cups a day were less likely to develop diabetes and a Harvard study found no increaseed risk of death from cancer, heart disease or any cause among those who drank even more. The American Medical Association says that 2-5 cups of black coffee (250-500 mg of caffeine) is likely harmless for healthy people. If you have regular insomnia, avoid caffeine close to bedtime. Pregnant women, those with acid reflux or those who develop nervousness/digestive problems when drinking caffeine should follow the advice of their healthcare providers.

Cranberries are a powerhouse food, with studies linking them to potentially inhibiting cancerous tumors and lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol. Scientists say the fact that the berries are rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants contribute to their healthfulness. They also contain tannins, which act as natural antibacterial agents fighting urinary tract and E. coli infections.

Better sleeping through exercise

A poll was conducted among 1,000 people ages 23-60 who reported how much physical activity they had performed for at least 10 minutes in the past 7 days. People who said they exercised and individuals who were classified as non-exercisers reported sleeping for about 6 hours, 51 minutes on average on weeknights. Individualswho reported light, moderate and vigorous exercise were more likely to say they had a “good” night’s sleep (67%-56%) compared to non-exercisers (39%). Sedentary people can add a 10-minute walk every day and gradually add more minutes to their walk to improve sleep.

SOURCE: National Sleep Foundation, Sleep in America poll (March 4, 2013)

Go Green at Home with These Easy Steps:

Reuse items around the house such as gift wrap, rags, empty jars, decorations. Buy products in bulk and in refillable containers. Try foods from concentrate as well. They reduce packaging waste and can save money! Personal hygiene products and cosmetics should be paraben, phthalate and  sodium lauryl sulfate free. Microwave in glass containers, avoiding unsafe plastics labeled #3, #6, or #7 which leach harmful chemicals into food and drink. Try natural air fresheners such as dried lavender, orange peel, eucalyptus and ginger.

 Healthy heart may lead to healthy cognition

Around the world, cardiovascular diseases are the number-one cause of death. According to information provided by the World Health Organization, about 80% of the risk factors for coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease can be attributed to lifestyle choices, such as healthy diet, regular physical activity and avoiding tobacco smoke.

STUDY: Data from the Reasons for Geographic and Racial Differences in Stroke (REGARDS) Study was used to determine the cardiovascular health status of 17,761 people ages 45 and older based on The American Heart Association Life's Simple 7 Score (get active, eat better, lose weight, stop smoking, control cholesterol, manage blood pressure, reduce blood sugar). At baseline participants had normal cognitive function; their mental function was evaluated four years later.

FINDINGS: People with poor cardiovascular had a significantly greater risk of developing cognitive impairment, especially learning and memory problems, compared to people with intermediate or ideal cardiovascular health. After accounting for differences in age, sex, race and education, rates of cognitive impairment were: 4.6% of people with the worst cardiovascular health scores; 2.7% of those with intermediate health profiles; and 2.6% of those in the best cardiovascular health category.

COMMENT: “Even when ideal cardiovascular health is not achieved, intermediate levels of cardiovascular health are preferable to low levels for better cognitive function,” said lead investigator Evan L. Thacker, PhD, an assistant professor and chronic disease epidemiologist at Brigham Young University. “This is an encouraging message because intermediate cardiovascular health is a more realistic target for many individuals than ideal cardiovascular health.”

SOURCE: American Heart Association (June 11, 2014)


Who is in good or excellent health?


Respondents to the US National Health Interview Survey 2011 were asked how they rated their health.


Nearly 7 in 10 adults reported being in excellent or very good health.

Fewer than one in 10 individuals said they were in fair or poor health.


People who said they were in excellent health were more likely to be have higher levels of education and family income,

living in a metropolitan statistical area-containing a core urban area of 50,000 or more population.


Among people 65 years and older, having private health insurance was an indicator of excellent health.

Among people 75 years and older, nearly 3 in 10 individuals reported being in fair or poor health.

About 12% required the help of another person to complete activities of daily living and 20% required

help with independent activities of daily living.

SOURCE: National Center for Health Statistics, Vital and Health Statistics, Series 10(255) (November 2012) For the report (196 pp PDF)