ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
Childhood Food Allergies on the Rise
'Safe' Ozone Levels May Not Be for Some
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Licorice May Block Absorption of Organ Transplant Drug
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
Regular Yoga May Improve Eating Habits
ANIMAL CARE
Safe Toys for Dogs
Beware of Dog Bites
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Health Tip: Back Pain in Children
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
Tequila Plant May Help Fight Bone Loss
CANCER
Selenium, Omega-3s May Stave Off Colorectal Cancer
Low Vitamin D Levels May Initiate Cancer Development
Many Cancer Survivors Don't Adopt Healthy Lifestyle
CAREGIVING
For Dialysis Patients, More Pills = Lower Quality of Life
Child's Food Allergies Take Toll on Family Plans
Coordination Has Led to Quicker Heart Treatment
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Walk 100 Steps a Minute for 'Moderate' Exercise
Support Network May Play Role in Benefits of Drinking
Obesity Linked to Heart Failure Risk
COSMETIC
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
DENTAL, ORAL
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
Health Tip: At Risk for Gingivitis
DIABETES
Doctors Urged to Screen Diabetics for Sleep Apnea
Spices, Herbs Boost Health for Diabetics
Vitamin K Slows Insulin Resistance in Older Men
DIET, NUTRITION
To Feel Better, Low-Fat Diet May Be Best
6 Million U.S. Kids Lack Enough Vitamin D
Mercury in Fish Linked to High Blood Pressure
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Chemical in Plastics May Cause Fertility Problems
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
U.S. Diet Needs Heart-Felt Overhaul
EYE CARE, VISION
Time Teaches Brain to Recognize Objects
Drinking Green Tea May Protect Eyes
Eye Care Checkups Tied to Insurance Status
FITNESS
Diet, Exercise May Slow Kidney Disease Progression
After a Stroke, Light Exercise Gets Hands, Arms Working Again
Almost Two-Thirds of Americans Meet Exercise Guidelines
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
The Juice From Beetroots May Boost Stamina
Spot light on Dani Antman New Lionheart teacher
Hand-Washing Habits Still Need Improvement: Survey Says
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
Subway Defibrillators Save Lives
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Too-Low Blood Pressure Can Also Bring Danger
Too Much Red Meat May Shorten Life Span
Kids With Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Heart Trouble
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Loves a Crowd
Hand Washing 10 Times a Day May Help Keep Flu Away
Chinese 'Devil Dung' Plant Could Be a Swine Flu Fighter
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Play Creatively as a Kid, Be a Healthier Adult
Guard Kids' Eyes Against Long-Term Sun Damage
Pregnant Women Exposed To Certain Pollutants Could Lower Childs IQ
MEN'S HEALTH
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Could Chinese Herb Be a Natural Viagra?
The Dark Side of Vegetarianism
MENTAL HEALTH
Breast-Fed Baby May Mean Better Behaved Child
Massage Fosters Healing in Bereaved Relatives
Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults
PAIN
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Sugary Colas Tied to Gestational Diabetes
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
SENIORS
Laughter Can Stimulate a Dull Appetite
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
Life Expectancy in U.S. Hits New High
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
Exercise As Well As Acupuncture, May Ease Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
Acupuncture May Help Relieve Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
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Caregiving May Lengthen Life

FRIDAY, Dec. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Much has been reported about the stress and burden of caregiving, but a new study suggests there may be a flip side to taking care of someone you love as they age -- a decreased risk of death.

"We found that caregivers who spent an average of 14 or more hours a week caregiving lived longer and reduced their risk of dying by about half," said study author Stephanie Brown, an assistant professor in internal medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She added that even after they controlled the data to account for things such as age or previous illness, "there was about a 36 percent reduced risk of dying in the seven-year time period."

Results of the study were published in the current issue of Psychological Science.

The study included 1,688 couples who lived on their own, not in assisted living or a nursing home. All of the study participants were over 70.

The researchers gathered health and demographic information as well as information on how much each spouse helped the other with normal activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, managing money and taking medications.

Eighty-one percent received no help at all with their daily tasks, while 9 percent said they received less than 14 hours a week of help from their spouse. Ten percent reported receiving more than 14 hours a week of help from their spouse.

Over the seven-year study, 27 percent of the study volunteers died.

When the researchers analyzed the data and controlled for factors such as age, race, gender, education level and net worth, they found that providing care for your spouse for more than 14 hours a week was associated with a significantly decreased risk of death compared to those who provided no spousal caregiving.

"Other studies caution against caregiving, but our study suggests that the actual act of caretaking may not be harmful," said Brown.

"This study shows that the burden of caregiving can sometimes be lightly born," said Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. But, he said that the results might be different depending on the type of care a spouse has to provide. Taking care of someone with early-stage Alzheimer's disease, who can still function fairly well and still behaves normally for the most part is much different from taking care of someone in the middle stages of the disease, who may be aggressive or may not sleep well.

Brown believes that the decreased risk of death comes from physiological benefits from caregiving instead of psychological ones. The authors suggest that stress regulation may play a role in this benefit. Helping others is associated with a release of oxytocin, a hormone that may help buffer the effects of stress, Brown explained.

Kennedy said the survival benefit is likely caused by both physiological and psychological factors.

"We know that in rat pups that are prematurely weaned, their heart rate plummets, even before they've lost body temperature, so it's not related to cooling or caloric problems at that point. Simply being separated changes the heart rate. Social interactions have a biological impact," he explained.

Plus, he said, having a partner to care for provides structure and a sense of purpose.

-Serena Gordon
More information

Learn more about controlling caregiver stress from the National Women's Health Information Center.



SOURCES: Stephanie Brown, Ph.D., assistant professor, internal medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and researcher, VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System; Gary Kennedy, M.D., director, geriatric psychiatry, Montefiore Medical Center, New York City; 2008 Psychological Science

Last Updated: Dec. 19, 2008

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