The science of breathing stands on quite ancient foundations. Centuries of wisdom instructs us to pay closer attention to our breathing, the most basic of things we do each day. And yet, maybe because breathing is so basic, it’s also easy to ignore. A brief review of the latest science on breathing and the brain, and overall health, serves as a reminder that breathing deserves much closer attention – there’s more going on with each breath than we realize.

Controlling your breathing calms your brain.

While the admonition to control breathing to calm the brain has been around for ages, only recently has science started uncovering how it works. A 2016 study accidentally stumbled upon the neural circuit in the brainstem that seems to play the key role in the breathing-brain control connection.  The circuit is part of what’s been called the brain’s “breathing pacemaker” because it can be adjusted by altering breathing rhythm (slow, controlled breathing decreases activity in the circuit; fast, erratic breathing increases activity), which in turn influences emotional states. Exactly how this happens is still being researched, but knowing the pathway exists is a big step forward. Simple controlled breathing exercises like the 4-7-8 method may work by regulating the circuit.

Breathing regulates your blood pressure.

“Take a deep breath” is solid advice, particularly when it comes to keeping your blood pressure from spiking. While it’s unclear whether you can entirely manage blood pressure with controlled breathing, research suggests that slowing your breathing increases “baroreflex sensitivity,” the mechanism that regulates blood pressure via heart rate. Over time, using controlled breathing to lower blood pressure and heart rate may lower risk of stroke and cerebral aneurysm, and generally decreases stress on blood vessels (a big plus for cardiovascular health).

Counting breaths taps into the brain’s emotional control regions.

A recent study showed that controlling breathing by counting breaths influences “neuronal oscillations throughout the brain,” particularly in brain regions related to emotion.  Participants were asked to count how many breaths they took over a two-minute period, which caused them to pay especially focused attention to their breathing.  When they counted correctly, brain activity (monitored by EEG) in regions related to emotion, memory and awareness showed a more organized pattern versus what’s normally experienced during a resting state. The results are preliminary, but add to the argument that controlling breathing taps into something deeper.

The rhythm of your breathing affects memory.

A 2016 study showed for the first time that the rhythm of our breathing generates electrical activity in the brain that influences how well we remember.  The biggest differences were linked to whether the study participants were inhaling or exhaling, and whether they breathed through the nose or mouth.  Inhaling was linked to greater recall of fearful faces, but only when breathing through the nose. Participants were also able to remember certain objects better when inhaling. Researchers think that nasal inhalation triggers greater electrical activity in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional epicenter, which enhances recall of fearful stimuli. Inhaling also seems linked to greater activity in the hippocampus, the seat of memory.

Controlled breathing may boost the immune system and improve energy metabolism.

While this is the most speculative of the study findings on this list, it’s also one of the most exciting.  The study was evaluating the “Relaxation Response” (a term popularized in the 1970s book of the same name by Dr. Herbert Benson, also a co-author of this study), which refers to a method of engaging the parasympathetic nervous system to counteract the nervous system’s “fight or flight” response to stress. Controlled breathing triggers a parasympathetic response, according to the theory, and may also improve immune system resiliency as a “downstream health benefit.” The study also found improvements in energy metabolism and more efficient insulin secretion, which results in better blood sugar management. If accurate, the results support the conclusion that controlled breathing isn’t only a counterbalance to stress, but also valuable for improving overall health.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2017/11/29/how-breathing-calms-your-brain-and-other-science-based-benefits-of-controlled-breathing/#592ba5052221

The next time you’re cooking up a romantic date night idea, a painting session might be more effective at conjuring up romance than an Italian dinner or a stroll through the park. A new study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found creating art as a couple might be a particularly effective at helping two people form an intimate bond.

Researchers studied 20 heterosexual cohabitating or married couples between the ages of 20 and 40 who were randomly assigned to do a recreational activity together like playing board games, playing cards, or going to an art class. The researchers measured their oxytocin levels (via a urine sample) before and after the couple activity and found that everyone’s oxytocin levels increased afterward. Oxytocinis often referred to as the “love hormone” because it’s typically released during sex and even while hugging; it serves to help people bond with one another and develop secure attachments. So knowing you can trigger that same chemical release during a game of Monopoly is mind-blowing.

In particular, participants in the art class reported more touching than those who did other activities, and interestingly, men in the art class released twice as much of the love hormone as anyone else.

“Typically, an art class is not seen as an interactive date with your partner. But sometimes couples that were painting turned the activity into a bonding time by choosing to interact—putting an arm around their partner or simply saying, ‘Good job,'” said Karen Melton, Ph.D., a Baylor University professor of child and family studies and one of the study’s researchers, in a news release.

Similarly, another recent study showed that couples who take part in “self-expanding” activities (i.e., activities where one or both people learn a new skill) have a more satisfying sex life.

“The self-expansion model was developed out of arousal-attraction research and identifies novel, exciting, and challenging activities—such as a couples’ art class—that may offer couples an opportunity to bond,” the researchers of the present study wrote in the paper. “[These findings] provide initial support that novel environments may also stimulate the release of oxytocin. For couples, this may potentially translate to finding new and challenging activities for date nights rather falling into regular routines.”

The study also found that couples release more love hormones while doing things in new situations compared to, say, playing a board game at home.

So the next time you’re thinking of ways to bond with your lover, consider busting out some watercolor and paintbrushes or trying your hand on the pottery wheel. You’ll both be developing a creative skill—and get closer in the process.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/surprising-effect-couples-painting-classes?otm_medium=onespot&otm_source=inbox&otm_campaign=Daily+Mailer&otm_content=daily_20190218&otm_click_id=f79106929e452be831d473481a842957&os_ehash=4366f4a34c67ce527584ae17c656bb4bd17ce861

In the center of the Venn diagram of “incredibly tasty foods” and “incredibly nutritious foods” sit a select few of nature’s treats. Among them is the sweet potato—in part for its versatility and in part for its satisfying texture and taste. After all, what other veggie can you roast, mash, spiralize, slice and bake into fries, and transform into grain-free brownies? Seriously, take a minute to think about that.

Here, learn everything you’d ever want to know about sweet potatoes—including seven compelling health benefits—that will inspire you to eat this superfood daily.

A brief history of the sweet potato.

Sweet potatoes are starchy root vegetables. Specifically, they’re what’s known as underground tubers, and they actually grow on the roots of a plant known as Ipomoea batatas. Today, sweet potatoes are grown worldwide, but where did they first appear, courtesy of Mother Nature?

For years, scientists have been debating this very question. Some argued that the Thanksgiving staple originated in North America, while others weren’t so convinced. In 2018, research by a paleobotanist at Indiana University suggested that the sweet potato’s actual continent of origin is Asia—and that this root veggie has been growing for way longer than we thought.

David Dilcher, a professor at IU-Bloomington, along with colleagues in India, recently identified 57-million-year-old leaf fossils from eastern India, suggesting that sweet potatoes trace their roots to this country. Specifically, the fossils were identified as members of the morning glory family—which includes sweet potatoes, among other plants. This was a game-changer, since previous fossil evidence led scientists to believe that the sweet potato’s plant family originated in North America 35 million years ago.

Different types of sweet potatoes.

When you think of sweet potatoes, you probably think exclusively of bright-orange spuds, but there are actually several varieties of sweet potatoes. First, sweet potatoes are divided into two main categories: dry-fleshed and moist-fleshed.

Dry-fleshed sweet potatoes are starchier and have tan skin and light-colored flesh that can range from white to light yellow in color. These dry-fleshed sweet potatoes are more similar to “regular” potatoesthan their moist-fleshed cousins.

Moist-fleshed sweet potatoes, on the other hand, are probably what you picture when you think of “sweet potatoes”—they have darker, reddish-brown peels and brilliant orange flesh. They’re also sweeter than dry-fleshed sweet potatoes, which might help explain why they’ve become a favorite. There are at least 6,500 varieties of sweet potato worldwide. While each of these varieties is unique in its own way, you’ll typically hear people classify them more broadly by their color, particularly orange, white, and purple sweet potatoes.

Sweet potatoes vs. yams: What’s the difference?

In some parts of the United States (and in Canada), sweet potatoes are often called and even labeled as yams. This is very misleading, however, since sweet potatoes and yams are two totally different things. For starters, yams can get much, much bigger than sweet potatoes. While some yams are potato-size, they can also grow up to 5 feet long and 132 pounds.

Even though yams and sweet potatoes are both starchy tubers, they’re only distantly related. In fact, they don’t even look that much alike. While sweet potatoes are, you know, potato-shaped and come in, primarily, white, orange, and purple varieties, yams are longer and more cylindrical in shape with brown, bark-like skin and flesh that can be white, yellow, pink, or purple. You’ll also notice a clear difference if you ever try to prepare both sweet potatoes and yams—yams are much harder to peel than potatoes. The difference is also clear in a taste test, with yams being less sweet, drier, and more starchy than sweet potatoes.

If you haven’t noticed these differences, it might be because the “yams” you’re eating are actually mislabeled sweet potatoes (true yams are typically only found in specialty grocery stores or international markets). The USDA actually requires that sweet potatoes labeled as “yams” also include the term “sweet potato” on their label, but this rule is frequently broken.

The health benefits of sweet potatoes.

Here are some of the biggest science-backed benefits associated with incorporating more sweet potatoes into your diet:

1. Sweet potatoes are insanely nutritious.

It’s best to start with the basics, and the most basic fact about sweet potatoes is that they are thoroughly packed with nutrients. When it comes to their basic makeup, sweet potatoes are about 77 percent water, 20 percent carbohydrates, 1.6 percent protein, 3 percent fiber, and practically free of fat. What’s more, a medium sweet potato contains about 180 calories, while being a good source of a range of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium.

Their nutrient composition also makes them particularly great for sleep when consumed at dinner or as a late-night snack. “They are rich in potassium, which helps your muscles relax. They also have magnesium, which promotes GABA secretion in the brain—a relaxation-inducing neurotransmitter,” says Vincent Pedre, M.D., gut health specialist and mbg Collective member. “And as a complex carb, they digest slowly, providing the steady energy your body needs to make it through the night in a fasting state.”

2. Sweet potatoes may improve your memory.

Purple sweet potatoes, in particular, have been linked to better brain function. In animal studies, purple sweet potatoes have been shown to protect the brain and improve learningand memory. We can thank purple sweet potatoes’ high levels of anthocyanins, antioxidants that help reduce inflammation and protect neurons against free radical damage, for this brain-boosting magic.

While no similar studies have been conducted to verify these results in humans, research has shown that people who eat a lot of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables have, on average, a 13 percent lower risk of developing dementia.

3. Sweet potatoes are great for digestion and gut health.

Because sweet potatoes are excellent sources of not one but two kinds of fiber, they’re amazing for your digestion. Sweet potatoes contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. The human body can’t digest either type—so instead of breaking down as they pass through the digestive tract, these fibers travel along intact, doing great things for your gut in the process.

Both types of fiber play an important role in keeping bowel movements regular. Soluble fiber (also known as viscous fiber) absorbs water, which softens stool, while insoluble (aka non-viscous) fiber doesn’t absorb water and therefore adds bulk that makes stool solid.

Not only is eating a fiber-rich diet good for alleviating constipationdiarrhea, and bloating, it’s also great for your colon and overall gut health. Fiber feeds the good bacteria in your gut and has been shown to promote the health of the cells lining the digestive tract, potentially helping to prevent leaky gut. Eating a high-fiber diet has also been shown to lower the risk of colon cancer.

The antioxidants in sweet potatoes may also promote gut health. In test-tube studies, antioxidants in purple sweet potatoes were shown to aid in the growth of a specific type of gut bacteria that helps lower the risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

4. Sweet potatoes are full of age-defying antioxidants.

In addition to vitamins and minerals, sweet potatoes are also home to a wealth of antioxidants. This is especially true of orange and purple sweet potatoesAntioxidants are important because they help protect your body from free radicals—unstable molecules that damage DNA, cause inflammation, and have been linked to chronic and serious health conditions, like cancer and heart disease. In basic turns, free radicals accelerate the overall aging process. This means that just about any source of antioxidants is a good addition to your diet.

In addition to anthocyanins found in purple sweet potatoes, orange sweet potatoes are chock-full of an antioxidant called beta-carotene. This compound is what gives traditional sweet potatoes their signature orange hue. When your body processes beta-carotene, it turns it into vitamin A, which is key to maintaining healthy eyes and vision. Additionally, beta-carotene is fabulous for the skin. Not only do food sources of beta-carotene literally give your skin a natural glow, but research shows that they help protect skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays.

5. Sweet potatoes may boost your immune system.

The next time you’re looking to boost your immune system, don’t simply reach for orange juice or vitamin C—add an orange sweet potato to the mix, too (they make a great addition to smoothies). As one of the best natural sources of beta-carotene, orange sweet potatoes are a great source of vitamin A (beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body), which is vital to healthy immune systemfunctioning.

Additionally, the fiber content of sweet potatoes can also boost immune health. Fiber is needed to feed beneficial gut bacteria so they can multiply and improve overall gut health. A healthy gut, in turn, is key to optimal immune system functioning, as about 80 percent of the immune system lies in the gut and is heavily influenced by what happens there.

6. Sweet potatoes may have anti-cancer properties.

If you’re looking to adopt an anti-cancer diet, eating more purple sweet potatoes is a great idea. As mentioned above, they contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which have been shown to help slow the growth of cancer cells (including bladder cancercolon cancer, stomach cancer, and breast cancer cells) in test-tube studies. Similar studies on mice have shown that eating purple sweet potatoes may lower the risk of colon cancer. These results have yet to be replicated in humans, but they’re still promising. Beta-carotene from orange sweet potatoes may also help reduce the risk of various cancers, including lung cancer.

7. Sweet potatoes are a diabetes-friendly food.

Some evidence suggests that regularly eating sweet potatoes may help improve blood sugar regulation in people with type 2 diabetes. That said, people with diabetes should watch their serving size, since this root vegetable still has a medium to high glycemic index (which measures how fast a food causes blood sugar values to rise after a meal). If you struggle with diabetes and love sweet potatoes, keep in mind that boiled sweet potatoes seem to have a lower glycemic indexvalue than fried, roasted, or baked sweet potatoes do. Pairing sweet potatoes with a good protein source and other fiber-rich foods also reduces their glycemic load.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/sweet-potato-benefits?otm_medium=onespot&otm_source=inbox&otm_campaign=Daily+Mailer&otm_content=daily_20190217&otm_click_id=0fe508a1e88dd8b6697cf6ce20fc7c87&os_ehash=4366f4a34c67ce527584ae17c656bb4bd17ce861

Are you guilty of believing these common heart myths?

Pay attention to those oatmeal commercials: What you eat really can affect your heart. But according to a new survey from Cleveland Clinic, a surprising number of adults aren’t making that important link.

In the survey of 1,002 men and women ages 18 to 73, heart-related misconceptions turned out to be surprisingly common. That’s a problem, because that knowledge gap may make it more difficult for people to grasp how much their own habits are increasing their health risks, Steven Nissen, M.D., chair of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic, told Runner’s World.

The survey found that 88 percent of respondents understand the connection between a healthy heart and maintaining a healthy weight. And about three-quarters are concerned about their own weight.

Yet when it comes to what people can actually do about it—say, changes like diet and exercise that can boost your heart health—not everyone has the facts.

In the survey, 18 percent believe diet has nothing to do with heart health, and 42 percent incorrectly believe that even if they’re overweight, as long as they exercise, their heart is completely in the clear.

When it comes to health risks of excess weight, 87 percent didn’t realize that obesity can be linked to cancer, and 80 percent didn’t know it could raise risk of atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat.

Metabolism is the most commonly cited culprit for excess weight, with 53 percent of respondents blaming the system for “working against them” when they’re trying to lose weight.

“Weight can be a complex issue and a sensitive one for many people,” Nissen said. “One problem is that a lot of misinformation about diet, wellness and exercise exists, and that has led to confusion. Because of this, many people may get frustrated with their efforts or not start a weight loss program in the first place.”

For example, he noted that nearly a third of respondents have tried to diet, but stuck with the effort for only a week or two. People also misunderstood how much weight loss is needed to improve heart health, he added, falsely believing that you need to lose large amounts of weight to see health gains.

“There is poor understanding of the relationship between body weight and health,” he said. “Unfortunately, many people seem paralyzed by this lack of knowledge. The positive news is that people only need to lose about 5 percent of body weight to see significant health impacts.”

Want to get started? Try these six ways to lose weight by running, stock your grocery cart with these best foods for runners, and try these easy meal-prepping tips. Stick with your plan, and the weight will start coming off—your heart will thank you.

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/a26293840/diet-heart-health-misconceptions/

“I felt like I had a pill stuck in my throat.”


You’d totally know if you were having a heart attack, right? You’d clutch your left arm in pain, immediately fall down to the floor, and head right to the hospital.

Eh, not so much. Heart attacks look way different in women. While, yes, many women experience chest and arm pain, it’s entirely possible to have a heart attack without these symptoms, says Jennifer Haythe, MD, a cardiologist and co-director of the Women’s Center for Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University.

Other sneaky heart attack symptoms you need to know include jaw pain, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, dizziness, back pain, nausea, hot flashes, indigestion, and even something that feels like an anxiety attack.

Heart disease is the number one killer in the U.S. for women (men, too!) and is responsible for one in three female deaths, according to the American Heart Association. But “too many women don’t realize that heart disease is the greatest risk to their health,” says Dr. Haythe. “Women need to be even more educated because they’re more likely to have atypical symptoms.”

If that weren’t tricky enough, each individual may experience different symptoms. Here, five heart attack survivors reveal exactly what their heart attack felt like.

“I felt like I had a large pill stuck in my throat”

heart attack women

“I actually had three heart attacks in three days. I experienced my first heart attack on April 10th, 2014, a second on April 11th, and a third on the 12th, just hours after being released from the hospital. The last one was so severe I was considered dead for a few minutes and it’s miracle the doctors were able to bring me back.

“Looking back, I realized I’d been having heart symptoms, like numbness in my left arm and stiffness in my neck, since November of 2013. During my actual heart attacks, my chest felt as if something was stuck, like I swallowed a large pill and it wouldn’t pass. I also experienced nausea, hot flashes, sweating, clamminess, and extreme fatigue. But if I had to sum it up, I would say my body felt like a lot of circuits misfiring at one time.

“After surgery to put a stent in, my cardiologist told me I needed to rethink my entire lifestyle, mentally and physically. I took his advice and today I’m happy to say that I exercise five days a week with a combination of yoga, cardio, and weight lifting. I admit that I have a slight advantage over most as my husband is a fitness coach; he helps me stay the course! We all need support and encouragement for this journey.”

Tara Robinson, 45, volunteer for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women “Real Women campaign

“I felt like I had awful heartburn.”

heart attack women

“I had just finished teaching three high-intensity classes, and I felt a pain in my chest, but I brushed it off as heartburn. Then, as I was walking up the stairs at my gym for a meeting, I suddenly felt extremely fatigued—so much so that I didn’t think I’d be able to make it the rest of the way.

“Seconds later, I felt hot and sweat started rolling off of me, like I had just gotten out of a sauna. I also suddenly wasn’t able to catch my breath, I felt nauseous, I had cramping in my hands, and my chest pain was getting worse and worse.

“I kept saying I was fine, but my coworker knew better, so she called 911. Paramedics did an EKG and immediately threw me in the ambulance and rushed me to the hospital.

“Within an hour, I had an angiogram to remove a clot that had blocked my left anterior descending artery 100 percent. The second it was out, I felt immediate relief. My cardiologist’s best guess was that stress or exercise, or a combination of the two, caused a tear in my artery, which forced the blood to clot. I found out later that the majority of people with this same blockage die.

“I feel so fortunate to be able to lead my healthy lifestyle today, but it’s always in the back of my mind. Now I have regular checkups for my arteries and am careful not to overdo it with intense exercise. The experience has just made me so thankful for every day I have!”

Shannon Schleicher, 39, a personal trainer and fitness coach for Life Time Athletic

“I felt like I was hiking Mount Everest—on flat ground.”

heart attack women

“I was on what was supposed to be an easy hike with my friend, when all of a sudden I felt super breathless (we weren’t even out of sight of the parking lot yet), and I had pain shooting down my left arm.

“I sat down on a rock and told my friend I felt fine—the hike should’ve been easy, I had just completed a half marathon and was recently checked out by my doctor for mild chest pain—but he didn’t believe me and rushed me to the doctor.

“When I got there, the doctors found that the left main artery of my heart was 98 percent blocked and the blockage was very close to my heart—a condition referred to as “the widow maker” because it’s so often lethal. I was just 33 years old and in great shape, but it turns out I carry a gene that greatly increases my risk of heart disease. (My dad had his first heart attack at 32!)

“Since that fateful day, I had three surgeries and five stents put in. I also need to follow a strict vegan, low-cholesterol diet. But today I’m doing great and back to doing the activities I love, including starting my own fitness company.”

Mika Leah, 41, founder of Goomi and volunteer for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women “Real Women campaign

“I thought I had breast cancer.”

heart attack women

“In early 2008 I started having some strange symptoms—my left shoulder hurt for no reason, I was having a hard time answering questions because my brain felt foggy, and I had what felt like electric shocks all down my left side. But none of them felt severe enough to get checked out, so I brushed them off for nine months.

“Then, almost overnight, the electric shocks intensified on my left torso and I started to have pain in my chest. Breast cancer was the first thing that popped into my mind, but before I could make an appointment to get it checked out, my health went downhill—fast.

“I woke up one morning feeling awful—super tired, my back hurt, and I was nauseous—but I went into work anyhow. Once there, I told my coworker how I felt, adding that my chest felt like it was getting crushed. He immediately said, ‘That sounds like a heart attack.’

“I thought he was crazy. I was only 37, I wasn’t overweight, I didn’t have clogged arteries, and I was very fit. Still, he insisted on taking me to the hospital. Once we were there, I had a full-blown heart attack in the waiting room of the ER.

“During the entire ordeal, I never thought “This is it, I’m having a heart attack.” I just felt miserable and knew something was terribly wrong. Looking back, I realize I overlooked one huge risk factor: my family history of heart disease. After I had my heart attack, I found out that nearly everyone on my mom’s side had early heart disease. My grandfather also had a heart attack at 37.

“The whole experience was terrifying and I still feel traumatized remembering it. But in a way, it was a really good wake up call. Now that I know my risks, I can be better prepared. I take heart medication and a baby aspirin every day, and I get tested regularly. I’m back to my favorite sport—rock climbing—but I make sure to tell everyone to ask their parents about their history of heart disease.”

Lilly Rocha, 47, volunteer for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women “Real Women campaign

“I thought I was just having a panic attack.”

heart attack women

“I was just 21 years old and a senior in college when I had a heart attack. I was at my apartment with my roommates, getting ready to go to soccer practice when I started having what I thought was anxiety. My mother had just died six weeks earlier (of heart disease!), and I was still very much grieving her loss.

“Every time I took a breath, my chest would hurt when I exhaled. After a few minutes, the pain in my chest increased until it felt like someone was both squeezing and stabbing my heart. It wasn’t the worst pain in my life, but it was extremely uncomfortable. I felt faint and lightheaded. I was cold, but I was sweating and nauseous too.

“But the weirdest part was that my wrists felt numb—almost like my arms were asleep, but the feeling was focused around my wrists. It didn’t matter how I sat, laid, or stood, the pain and the weird feelings wouldn’t go away. That’s when I knew something was really wrong.

“I went to the hospital where doctors discovered a blood clot partially blocking one of my arteries, which had caused a heart attack. They were able to break up the clot with medication, so I didn’t need surgery.

“Today I’m doing great and I only have two restrictions: I am no longer allowed to participate in contact sports (like soccer) to prevent clot movement or formation from injury, and I’m supposed to keep my heart rate below 170 beats per minute as a precaution not to strain my heart.

“My mom was just 58 when she died and I still miss her every day. Her memory reminds me why heart health is so important, even in young, seemingly healthy women.”

Molly Schroeder, 28, volunteer for the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women “Real Women campaign

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/a26304910/women-share-how-heart-attacks-feel/

Question  How are social relationships and structures, such as dyads, families, and neighborhoods, associated with early cognitive development in children?

Findings  In this cohort study of 1082 mother-child pairs, the mother’s social networks were significantly positively associated with early childhood cognitive development. Being in a large family network was significantly associated with lower cognitive performance.

Meaning  The findings suggest that maternal social relationships are associated with cognitive development in children and that social relationships beyond the mother-child-father triad are significantly associated with cognitive development.


Importance  This study examines how different types of social network structures are associated with early cognitive development in children.

Objectives  To assess how social relationships and structures are associated with early cognitive development and to elucidate whether variations in the mother’s social networks alter a child’s early cognitive development patterns.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This cohort study used data from 1082 mother-child pairs in the University of Tennessee Health Science Center–Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning and Early Childhood project to examine the association between networks of different levels of complexity (triad, family, and neighborhood) and child cognitive performance after adjustment for the mother’s IQ, birth weight, and age, and the father’s educational level. The final model was adjusted for the household poverty level. Data were collected from December 2006 through January 2014 and analyzed from October through November 2018.

Exposures  The child-mother relationship, child-mother-father triad, family setting, child’s dwelling network, mother’s social support network, and neighborhood networks.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Measure of cognitive development of the child using Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID) at 2 years of age.

Results  Of 1082 participants, 544 (50.3%) were males and 703 (65.1%) were African American; the mean (SD) age was 2.08 (0.12) years. Large family size had a negative association with early cognitive development, with a mean 2.21-point decrease in BSID coefficient score (95% CI, 0.40 to 4.02; P = .01). Mother’s social support network size was positively associated early cognitive development, with a mean 0.40-point increase in BSID coefficient score (95% CI, 0.001 to 0.80; P = .05). Knowing many neighbors was not statistically significantly associated with early cognitive development, with a mean 1.39-point increase in BSID coefficient score (95% CI, −0.04 to 2.83; P = .06).

Conclusions and Relevance  The findings suggest that maternal social relationships are associated with cognitive development in children and that social relationships beyond the mother-child-father triad are significantly associated with children’s cognitive development. This study investigates the environmental influences on child health outcomes and, specifically, how early cognitive development is associated with social networks for the primary caregiver.


Social networks, broadly defined as interconnectedness with other people, can influence behavioral and health outcomes. The importance of social and relational environments for cognitive development and emotional well-being is well known. Networks of social support can attenuate psychologic stress and provide support to people experiencing neurotic symptoms. The progress that children make when forming healthy relationships during the period from birth to 5 years can have long-lasting benefits throughout their entire lives. In early childhood development, relationships between children and caregivers are crucial and play an important role in socialization. The social environment and relationships early in life are critical for children’s emotional, intellectual, and social development into adulthood and can considerably influence the child’s life-long adaptation strategy. Social networks channel benefits and risks associated with social health determinants, such as health-related knowledge, attitudes, and capacity to cope with adversities associated with social disadvantage.

The network microsystem has been regarded as a critical domain for child development. Children’s early experience of relationships can influence a wide range of developmental outcomes, and the child-mother relationship is important in shaping early childhood development. From the child’s perspective, these intimate bonds form the basis for solid attachments and provide prototypes for adulthood and the basis for social interaction. The child-mother relationship is not the only determinant but is nested within larger social contexts. The father plays a significant role in children’s development, as do the number of siblings and household size.Social support, along with other aspects of the social networks surrounding the child-mother bond, can influence the child-mother relationship. For mothers, social support is significantly associated with lower maternal stress, which is correlated with better child development.

Little is known about how different types of relationships, especially the multiple social networks of the mother, are associated with children’s cognitive development. Only a few studies8,43 have characterized a range of maternal social networks and examined their association with early childhood cognitive development. In this study, we examined the associations of multiple types of social relationships and structures, including the child-mother-father triad, family setting, and larger neighborhood network conditions, with early cognitive development. Within a large group of white and African American families in Memphis and Shelby County, Tennessee, we examined how social relationships and networks were associated with children’s cognitive development.

Data Source

This study followed Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) reporting guideline. We used data from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Conditions Affecting Neurocognitive Development and Learning in Early Childhood (CANDLE) project. Recruitment for CANDLE started from December 2006 through July 2011. A total of 1503 mothers with a low-risk pregnancy were recruited at 16 to 28 weeks’ gestation from 5 participating health care settings in Shelby County, Tennessee. For 1082 mothers, a measure of cognitive development of the child at age 2 was available, representing the final sample for analysis. In this subset, the race/ethnicity of participants reflected the sociodemographic characteristics of Shelby County. This study was approved by the University of Tennessee Health Science Center institutional review board and participant written informed consent was obtained. Data were collected from December 2006 through January 2014 and analyzed from October through November 2018.

Variable Definitions

Table 1 summarizes the key variables used in the analysis and their descriptive distribution. Because our outcome variable was cognitive development at 2 years of age, we used the Bayley Scales of Infant Development (BSID), which is designed to measure the developmental functioning of young children and to identify potential developmental delays. The BSID is composed of 5 scales: cognitive (score range, 55-145), language (47-153), motor (46-154), socio-emotional (55-145), and adaptive behavior (40-160).

Because of the availability of extensive information about child-mother relationships and their contexts in the CANDLE study, we systematically examined multiple layers of networks and their association with cognitive development in early childhood.

The framework of the stepwise network structures is presented in the Figure. We studied 4 network conditions: father’s cohabitation (triad), large family network (family), mother’s social support network (caregiver’s social support network), and neighborhood. Family network size was estimated using data on household size, including all adults and other children living with the child involved in the CANDLE study. The mean (SD) of the household size variable was 4.37 (1.51) people, and we defined a family of 6 or more as a large family network. The primary caregiver’s social network was defined by the mother’s self-reported social support network. The mothers participating in CANDLE reported 3 to 4 people they could rely on for help, with a mean (SD) of 3.49 (1.82) people. We also included an indicator variable that asked mothers if they knew many people in their neighborhood.

Statistical Analysis

We used multivariate robust regression models to study the associations of multiple social networks and cognitive development of 2-year-old children. To minimize the influence of outliers, we used robust regression methods. This approach allowed us to investigate how multiple layers of social network conditions are associated with cognitive development in early childhood. A 2-sided P ≤ .05 was set a priori to represent a statistically significant difference. We used Stata, version 14 (StataCorp) for statistical analysis.

We adjusted for several maternal and socioeconomic characteristics in a stepwise fashion. The first step included network variables. We included the following factors as independent variables in the model because of potential confounding: mother’s IQ, child’s birth weight, mother’s age, and father’s educational level. We originally tested other possible confounders, such as child sex, gestational age at birth, breastfeeding, birth weight, maternal smoking, and mother’s educational level. However, they were not included in the model because they did not substantively influence the coefficient of the main variables. The second model was adjusted for the same variables as the main model, but family poverty level was added.


Of 1082 participants, 544 (50.3%) were males and 703 (65.1%) were African American; the mean (SD) age was 2.08 (0.12) years. The BSID score at 2 years of age ranged from 55 to 145 (mean [SD], 97.74 [12.87]). After adjustment for household poverty, some social network characteristics were significantly associated with cognitive development. Mother’s social network was significantly associated with increased mean BSID coefficient scores (difference, 0.40; 95% CI, 0.001 to 0.80; P = .05), whereas living in a large family was associated with a 2.21-point decreased mean BSID coefficient score (95% CI, −4.02 to −0.40; P = .01). Father’s cohabitation (0.07; 95% CI, −1.58 to 1.73) and knowing many neighbors (1.39; 95% CI, −0.04 to 2.83; P = .06) were not significantly associated with an increased mean BSID coefficient score after controlling for poverty level.


The importance of the mother-child bond for child development has long been recognized. However, to our knowledge, the multiple layers of a mother’s social relationships beyond mother and child have not been simultaneously examined. Social relationships do not exist in isolation, and mother-child relationships are intertwined with other relationships, such as spouses, family or dwelling settings, and friendships. Our empirical analysis simultaneously investigated the association of multiple layers of the mothers’ social networks with children’s early cognitive development. Most social contacts and contexts of young children were determined by their primary caregiver’s social networks, who were often mothers in the CANDLE cohort.

In this study, we showed that a primary caregiver’s network conditions were significantly associated with early cognitive development in children. Network variables were significantly associated with early cognitive development after controlling for a number of biological and social confounders. Specifically, the mother’s social network seemed to have a beneficial association with the cognitive development of children, whereas family size had a negative association. Although father’s cohabitation has been suggested to be an important factor for early childhood cognitive development, after controlling for other social network conditions of the mother and other possible confounders, we did not find evidence for this result in our study. This might be because of the local context—Memphis is an economically disadvantaged area of the United States, which might mitigate an otherwise positive association of father’s cohabitation.

Many of our findings are consistent with previous studies of early cognitive development and add important evidence that social networks across several levels may be significantly associated with cognitive development in early childhood. Being raised in a large family (≥6 people) was significantly associated with lower cognitive performance, a finding that is also in line with previous studies of large families. However, past studies have also shown that family size can have advantages (ie, positive socialization) and disadvantages (ie, resource competition or limitation). Our findings about the negative association of family size may have been attributable to the limited attention and resources that a child received from the primary caregiver when faced with competing demands. Further investigation is needed to identify the mechanisms of this disadvantage.

We also reported results that large maternal social networks were positively associated with the cognitive development of children. Children of mothers who knew many people in the neighborhood had better cognitive development. It is possible that mothers who socialized locally provided children with more opportunities for playdates with other children or stimulation through more social activities. In addition, the primary caregiver’s social networks within the neighborhood may have buffered the association between reduced economic resources and child outcomes. Our results captured the importance of a community-based social life.


Our study has a number of limitations. We did not have information on relationship quality. Our measure of neighborhood embeddedness was based on subjective perception self-report. In addition, we only looked at relational embeddedness, not the physical or built neighborhood environment. Further research is needed to examine the nature of the association between neighborhood embeddedness, both physical and relational, and cognitive development in early childhood.


The findings suggest that social relationships beyond the mother-child-father triad are significantly associated with children’s cognitive development and that maternal social relationships may be associated with the cognitive development of children.

Source: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2720588

Woman waiting for mammogram

Widespread mammography screening and big advances in breast cancer treatment have saved hundreds of thousands of American women’s lives since 1989, a new study estimates.

Researchers tracked 1990-2015 U.S. data on breast cancer deaths, along with general data, on women aged 40 to 84. They found the number of breast cancer deaths prevented during that time ranged anywhere from 305,000 to more than 483,000, depending on different approaches to interpreting the data.

They then extrapolated those results out to 2018, and calculated the number of breast cancer deaths prevented since 1989 at anywhere from 384,000 to 614,500.

In 2018 alone, between 27,000 to almost 46,000 breast cancer deaths were prevented, the investigators said.

The findings should help reassure women who wonder about the value of mammograms, said study author R. Edward Hendrick, of the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine in Denver.

Recent studies “have focused media attention on some of the risks of mammography screening, such as call-backs for additional imaging and breast biopsies,” he said. But those reports have also often neglected “the most important aspect of screening — that finding and treating breast cancer early saves women’s lives,” Hendrick said.

Mammography screening first became widely available in the mid-1980s. The new study estimates that regular screening plus improved treatments cut the expected rate of breast cancer death in 2018 by between 45 to 58 percent, according to the study published Feb. 11 in the journal Cancer.

“Our study provides evidence of just how effective the combination of early detection and modern breast cancer treatment have been in averting breast cancer deaths,” Hendrick said in a journal news release.

One breast cancer physician applauded the new research.

“We have new immune therapies and improved surgical techniques that are important advances against breast cancer,” said Dr. Alice Police, who directs breast surgery at the Northwell Health Cancer Institute in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

“However, the biggest factor in literally centuries to lower the mortality rate from this devastating and extremely common disease is the humble screening mammogram,” she said.”Nothing else in detection or treatment has even come close.”

But Hendrick noted that only about half of U.S. women older than 40 get regular mammograms.

“The best possible long-term effect of our findings would be to help women recognize that early detection and modern, personalized breast cancer treatment saves lives, and to encourage more women to get screened annually starting at age 40,” Hendrick said.

Dr. Kristin Byrne is chief of breast imaging at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She agreed that, in keeping with guidelines from the American Cancer Society, women aged 40 and over should consider getting regular mammograms.

Byrne said the new study “is further evidence that early detection and improved treatment saves lives.”

“Over 335,000 women were diagnosed with new breast cancer in the United States in 2018,” she noted, and “eight out of ten of these women have no family history of breast cancer. ”

According to current American Cancer Society guidelines, “women ages 40 to 44 should have the choice to start annual breast cancer screening with mammograms [X-rays of the breast] if they wish to do so. Women age 45 to 54 should get mammograms every year. Women 55 and older should switch to mammograms every 2 years, or can continue yearly screening.”

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on breast cancer.

SOURCES: Alice Police, M.D., Westchester regional director, breast surgery, Northwell Health Cancer Institute, Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.; Kristin Byrne, M.D., chief, breast imaging, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Cancer, news release, Feb. 11, 2019

Source: https://consumer.healthday.com/cancer-information-5/breast-cancer-news-94/mammograms-helped-save-up-to-600-000-u-s-lives-since-1989-study-742504.html