Friday, May 20, 2005

alt.medicine - Important stuff to know.

The Wall Street Journal is one of my most important resources for general information, and their $79/year online subscription not only keeps me from breaking my back recycling their dead trees, but delivers good information to me daily at less cost than the paper subscription. That I can archive the content with Firefox (the free, faster, more feature-filled and flexible web browser which is also leagues ahead of IE in Internet security) and its File | Save Page In Archive feature is just a lagniappe.

Here are two vital, no kidding, vital discoveries from this week's WSJ Health Mailbox which everyone should know.

Research does show a connection between laughter and health. In one study, researchers took blood samples of 52 healthy men to measure several immune-system markers. Half the men watched "Sledge-O-Matic," in which the comedian Gallagher pummels the audience with pulverized fruits and other foods, while the other men just read a magazine. The comedy watchers posted declines in cortisol, a stress hormone, and increases in their levels of natural "killer" cells, which attack viruses and cancers.

Another study followed 48 diabetic patients who had suffered a first heart attack. All patients were given medication and cardiac rehabilitation, but half the patients were also instructed to watch a funny half-hour show of their choosing each day. After a year, the humor watchers showed big drops in blood pressure, used less medication for chest pain and had 80% fewer heart attacks.

Even more important is this finding:

A January study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that exercise works just as well as antidepressants or cognitive therapy in the treatment of depression. The key is the intensity of the exercise over the course of a week, not the pattern. The optimal benefit occurs when the patient expends 17.5 calories per kilogram of body weight each week, notes Madhukar H. Trivedi, director of the mood disorders program at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and co-author of the study. So a person weighing 70 kilograms (about 154 pounds) needs to expend 1,225 calories a week in exercise each week.

But how that person spends those calories -- whether it's over the course of three days or seven days -- doesn't appear to matter. So a 154 pound person could jog for 35 minutes a day, three times a week and burn about 1,225 calories. Or he could walk briskly 30 minutes a day, six days a week and also burn 1,225 calories. Both methods should result in the same benefits in terms of depression treatment. To find out how many calories you expend during various activities, go to the exercise calculator at

Please pass this on to your friends, as Death absolutely, positively, sucks.

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