October 30, 2014

The Feel-Good Report

Sexual prime? Straight ahead.

Many believe that the sexual prime is attained somewhere between 20 and 30, when bodies are in their best shape and the signs of arousal are quickly and easily attained. But don’t be fooled. Ian Kerner, a sex columnist for CNN.com, writes that in our 20s, during physical prime, "the mind may not be well-developed sexually." However, as we mature we understand what we enjoy and have more confidence in attaining it. True, the signs of sexual arousal may take longer to show themselves in middle age and older. But that means there’s more time for … other things. "The behaviors we usually think of as foreplay can become the main event during sex, and give couples the
opportunity to rediscover themselves and each other sexually," says Kerner. "As men age, testosterone levels go down, while estrogen levels go up. This means that many older men are able to focus more and appreciate the tender side of sex."

Stay stronger longer

If you’re like me, you deem strength training as unnecessary. Jogging? Sure, it helps you stay fit and live better, longer. Eating right? Ditto. But weights, they’re for the Jersey Shore crowd—pure aesthetics. Well, if you’re like me, you’re wrong. A study published in Medicine & Science and reported by AARP says that adults older than 50 lose a half-pound of muscle per year. However, losing muscle isn’t inevitable—the study showed that older individuals could produce 2.5 pounds of lean body mass in 20 weeks of resistance strength training. Why should you care? Perhaps you’re resigned to spending the sunset years as a weakling.

If so, prepare to be an infirm weakling. Research proves that increased muscle adds to mobility and quality of life, but it also reduces the chances of developing diabetes, osteoporosis, boosts cognitive function and prevents falls. Of course, if you’re doing it for the killer six-pack, the way the Jersey Shore kids do, that’s fine, too.

Advil—not just for headaches anymore

Recently, Parkinson’s has received some popular culture buzz because of some high-profile celebrities, like Michael J. Fox, and their battles with the disease. It even got a leading role in the romantic comedy Love and Other Drugs. But the ailment is not a laughing matter. It occurs when nerve cells stop making dopamine, which controls
muscle function. Soon, those afflicted can’t control their movements. There is no cure.

But there might be a preventive measure, thanks to ibuprofen, which takes its most mainstream form in Advil. A Time report noted a recent study in which 136,000 men and women took ibuprofen frequently over six years. It discovered that those taking the ibuprofen were 36 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s.

The study, which first appeared in Neurology, implies that ibuprofen has a distinctive inflammation pathway that helps the nerves destroyed by Parkinson’s—a pathway that aspirin can’t claim. Still, the implications of the study are still unknown. For instance, for just how long do you have to take the drug? And high dosages of ibuprofen are known to cause bleeding in the intestines.

Still, it wouldn’t be unwise to stock up on Advil—both its pills and its stock.

Put down that drink!

Something strange is happening. In the old days, one or two drinks at a party had little effect. Now, as little as a glass of wine can leave your brain humming. No, the government hasn’t secretly upped the level of alcohol in our drinks. And, no, no one is slipping anything nefarious into your champagne flute. A lowered tolerance for alcohol is just one more unfortunate thing about getting older. The National Institutes of Health recently made official the news that people 65 and older can’t handle as much alcohol as they used to. Older people have less water in their bodies, so the usual amount of alcohol results in a higher blood-alcohol level. Additionally, older people typically use more medications, which increase the danger of a bad reaction between drugs and alcohol. To be safe, the Institutes recommend drinking no more than seven drinks per week—not, it is hoped, all at the same time.

Breast-fed? So That’s Why You’re So Smart

There’s a scene in the movie Away We Go where an expectant couple witnesses a mother breast-feeding her child—who happens to be about six. The joke is an unoriginal one, but it characterizes our feelings on breast-feeding pretty well: It’s good. Healthy, even. But at some point, it either stops or you’re a weirdo, and your kid will be a weirdo, too.

However, new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that it’s mankind’s relatively long breast-feeding period that makes us so smart and the king of the mammal food chain.

First off, scientists at the University of Dunham, who performed this research, discovered that brain size—not cognitive ability but the actual mass of one’s mind—was proportional to "maternal investment." In other words, a mammal’s mind gets bigger the longer a mother carries her child.

Further research shows, however, that it’s the long-term breast-feeding that stimulates the growth of our brains. Science Daily outlines the following example: Humans, the smartest of all mammals, incubate for nine months in the womb—developing massive 1,300-cubic-centimeter brains—and then nurse for up to three years. On the other hand, deer, which have almost the same body weight as humans, are pregnant for seven months and wean for six months. Therefore, they have brains that are 220 cubic centimeters.

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