Health tips — April 2014

Why helping others will help you live longer; and info on the "stress gene."

Lend a Hand

Helping others won't just make you feel good, it might also mitigate the harmful effects of stress and allow you to live longer. According to a US study published last fall in the American Journal of Public Health, individuals who experienced stressful events in the prior year, but had also provided tangible assistance to friends or family during that year, had lower mortality rates five years out than those who had suffered through stressful situations but had not helped anyone that same year.

"Stress Gene" as Bad as Smoking

In a study of more than 6,000 heart patients, researchers at North Carolina's Duke University found a genetic mutation in about 13% of participants that was responsible for a 38% increased risk of heart attack or death — about the same increase in risk caused by smoking. More than 12% of men and up to 2% of women are thought to carry the so-called "stress gene," and men with the mutation will produce up to three times more cortisol — a hormone known to increase the risk of heart disease — while stressed than those who don't have the gene. The study's authors hope the finding will lead to the development of therapies to reduce cortisol production.

Stressed woman