Regardless of one’s religious affiliation, the holiday season often inspires feelings of warmth, joy and belonging. But for some people, this time of year can evoke feelings of loneliness, stress and anxiety. [Read more…]
U.S. consumers carry more than $11.6 trillion in debt – money owed to outside lenders such as banks and credit card companies. What does that mean for the average American family? A total of $15,000 in credit card debt, $154,000 in mortgage debt and $33,000 in student loans. While those numbers are certainly harmful to our financial health, there is new evidence that all of this debt is also bad for our physical health. [Read more…]
A study published earlier last month in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that becoming fit in middle age, even if you haven’t previously exercised, can stave off illness later in life.
In the study, researchers collected medical records for more than 18,000 healthy middle-aged men and women who’d visited the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas for a check-up since 1970. Each subject took a treadmill test to determine their aerobic fitness at their first check-up. Then the researchers checked their Medicare records from 1999 through 2009.
The study found that people who were least fit at the time of their initial check-up were the most likely to developed chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer early in the aging process. Those who were most in middle-age developed the same conditions, but significantly later in life compared to the less fit.
The take-home message of this study actually parallels a lesson shared in Karl’s book 30 Lessons for Living, which shares advice from America’s elders. The lesson is: It’s not dying you should worry about – it’s chronic disease.
This study provides evidence that you can actually do something to help prevent chronic disease later in life – exercise!
The study is backed up by several systematic reviews. One published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found physical activity helps prevent heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Another published in Obesity Reviews found individual who are overweight but have good aerobic fitness are at lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared with individuals with normal weight and poor fitness.
The bottom line: Physical fitness can help you lead a healthier, happier life no matter what your age.
Since my daughter was born this spring, our family has felt a bit crowded in our three-bedroom ranch home. So we decided to put our house on the market this spring and look for a new place that will provide more space.
Like most things in life, we’ve found house hunting is a fairly subjective activity. There is a range of features we’re looking for: a nice yard for the kids to play in, a modern kitchen, storage space, a two-car garage, and a friendly neighborhood. Of course, we haven’t found one house with everything we want, so we’re weighing the pros and cons to make the best choice for us.
But there are some elements of house hunting where the evidence comes into play. It’s these items you don’t necessarily think about when you walk into a house for the first time, but seem to be those important basics that can cost a lot of money, or can make living in a new home a miserable experience.
To find out what I needed to know, I turned to Cornell Cooperative Extension. They have a whole topic area dedicated to home, including some useful information about buying a home. Their research-based fact sheets on mold, lead, and radon have helped us to keep an eye out for potentially hazardous conditions. Thanks to the information they provided, here are a few specific actions we’re taking in our house hunt:
- If we find a house that was built before 1978, we plan to test for lead-based paint.
- No matter what house we find, we will have a radon test to make sure that it doesn’t have high levels of this dangerous gas, especially since Tompkins County is considered a high radon-risk zone.
- Moisture in closets and basements will be a sign for us to check for mold in potential new homes.
In addition to these safety aspects, the Internet now provides financial histories of houses with only a few mouse clicks. Most county assessor’s offices offer background such as previous sale prices, tax bills and a list of renovations made. While this has always been public information, it’s now much easier to access. In addition, web sites like http://zillow.com and http://trulia.com compile assessor’s data to provide neighborhood averages and comparisons.
When making a large purchase like a home, it’s wonderful to have all of this data – literally at your fingertips.
There are some problems we can’t do much about — hurricaines and earthquakes, for example. But a vast amount of things that make life tough — and sometimes miserable — relate to the choices human beings make and the way we behave. For this reason, a whole science of behavior change has grown up, focusing both on theoretical models and empirical studies of how to change damaging human behaviors, ranging from smoking, to crime, to overeating, to taking excessive risks.
A very helpful new article reviews models to promote positive behavior change that are highly relevant to people designing or implementing interventions. The authors note that getting individuals to make lasting changes in problem behaviors is no easy matter. They synthesize various models of behavior change “to provide a more comprehensive understanding of how educators can promote behavior change among their clientele.”
The authors apply their framework to the issue of financial management. Very interesting reading, available here.
(While you’re at it, take a look at other issues of this free on-line journal, called the The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues, published by North Carolina State University Extension — many interesting articles related to program development and evaluation.)