People who pay more attention to their feelings and experiences tend to have better cardiovascular health, a new study suggests.
As reported in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, researchers found a significant association between self-reported “dispositional mindfulness” and better scores on four of seven cardiovascular health indicators, as well as a composite overall health score.Related Articles On Futurity
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Dispositional mindfulness is defined as someone’s awareness and attention to what they are thinking and feeling in the moment.
The study is the first to quantify such an association between mindfulness and better cardiovascular health, says study lead author Eric Loucks, assistant professor of epidemiology in the Brown University School of Public Health. It’s an encouraging link for health promotion, because mindfulness can be enhanced with training.
“Mindfulness is changeable, and standardized mindfulness interventions are available,” Loucks says. “Mostly they’ve been looked at for mental health and pain management, but increasingly they are being looked at for cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, smoking, and blood pressure.”
The connection may come about because people who are attuned to their present feelings may be better at minding and managing the various cravings—for salty or sugary foods, cigarettes, or even some time on the couch—that undermine health, Loucks says. Mindfulness interventions, for example, have already shown efficacy in helping people to quit smoking.Comparing measurements
In the study, Loucks and his colleagues asked 382 participants in the broader New England Family Study to answer the 15 questions of the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS).
MAAS questions, rated on a six-point scale from “almost always” to “almost never” include “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present” and “I tend not to notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they really grab my attention.”
The participants also underwent tests to determine ratings on seven indicators of cardiovascular health, as suggested by the American Heart Association: smoking avoidance, physical activity, body mass index, fruit and vegetable consumption, cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood glucose.
The researchers also noted the participants’ age, race, sex, education, and scores on standardized scales of depression, and sense of control in their lives.
In their analysis of the data, Loucks and his team examined the association between the degree of self-reported mindfulness and the scores on each of the seven cardiovascular health indicators, accounting for age, sex, and race. They also calculated a composite score of the health indicators.In-the-moment benefits
Participants with high MAAS scores had an 83 percent greater prevalence of good cardiovascular health (as measured by the composite score) compared to those with relatively low MAAS scores. High vs. low MAAS scores were associated with significantly higher cardiovascular health on four of the seven individual indicators: BMI, physical activity, fasting glucose, and avoiding smoking.
That higher mindfulness did not also associate with higher scores for blood pressure or cholesterol may be because neither of those health indicators directly affect how someone feels in a typical moment, whereas smoking, obesity (and closely related fasting glucose), and physical activity are all much more explicitly evident experiences for the self.
Meanwhile, fruit and vegetable consumption, an indicator of diet quality, showed a positive association with higher MAAS scores, but with too wide a range of uncertainty to be considered statistically significant.
Loucks says the next step in his research is to begin testing whether improving mindfulness can increase cardiovascular health indicators. He says he hopes to launch randomized controlled trials with long-term follow-up (because behavioral interventions often look good in the short term but then don’t last).
The National Institutes of Health provided support for the study.
Source: Brown University
Scientists are officially debunking the myth that megalodon sharks still exist. The whale-eating monsters became extinct about 2.6 million years ago.
“I was drawn to the study of Carcharocles megalodon’s extinction because it is fundamental to know when species became extinct to then begin to understand the causes and consequences of such an event,” says Catalina Pimiento, a doctoral candidate at the Florida Museum of Natural History at University of Florida.
“I also think people who are interested in this animal deserve to know what the scientific evidence shows, especially following Discovery Channel specials that implied megalodon may still be alive.”
Published in PLOS ONE, the study represents the first phase of Pimiento’s ongoing reconstruction of megalodon’s extinction. As modern top predators, especially large sharks, are significantly declining worldwide due to the current biodiversity crisis, the study serves as the basis to better understand the consequences of these changes.
“When you remove large sharks, then small sharks are very abundant and they consume more of the invertebrates that we humans eat,” Pimiento says. “Recent estimations show that large-bodied, shallow-water species of sharks are at greatest risk among marine animals, and the overall risk of shark extinction is substantially higher than for most other vertebrates.”Megalodon mania
Pimiento plans to further investigate possible correlations between changes in megalodon’s distribution and the evolutionary trends of marine mammals, such as whales and other sharks.
“When we calculated the time of megalodon’s extinction, we noticed that the modern function and gigantic sizes of filter feeder whales became established around that time,” she says. “Future research will investigate if megalodon’s extinction played a part in the evolution of these new classes of whales.”
The slowly unraveling details of megalodon’s extinction and various aspects of its natural history have consumed Pimiento’s research for the past six years, including ongoing analysis of megalodon’s body size and a 2010 PLOS ONE study that suggested that Panama served as a nursery habitat for the species.
For the new study, researchers used databases and scientific literature of the most recent megalodon records and calculated the extinction using a novel mathematical model proven reliable in recent experimental testing by study coauthor Christopher F. Clements with the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich.
The study will not only serve as a key reference for debunking the myth that megalodon still exists, but its new methods will influence the future of scientific research of extinct animals and plants, says Jorge Velez-Juarbe, a vertebrate paleontologist with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
“The methodology that the authors used had only been previously employed to determine extinction dates in historical times, such as to estimate the extinction date of the dodo bird,” he says.
“In this work, scientists applied that same methodology to determine the extinction of an organism millions of years ago, instead of hundreds. It’s a new tool that paleo-biologists didn’t have, or rather had not thought of using before.”
Source: University of Florida
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