America's 10 'Vices' That Are Actually Good For You

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

10 'Vices' That Are Actually Good For You- You can officially stop feeling guilty about those little "bad-for-you" habits you can't seem to break. Turns out, many of life's greatest indulgences bring big health benefits helping you stay slim, fight off the blues, and kick disease to the curb. And we've got the 10 best right here, conveniently ranked by Health magazine's expert panelists. Start at the top of the list to get the most bang for your healthy buck, and keep moving on down to learn how to boost your well-being in the most decadent ways possible.

Getting your ZZZ's

Cut slumber short and you'll increase your risk for anxiety and depression. "Lack of sleep has also been associated with hypertension, glucose intolerance and belly fat all risk factors for heart disease," says Nieca Goldberg, M.D.
Benefits of sleep increased energy, bolsters your immune system, boosts your memory
Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep a night, the amount that studies show is ideal. If you're up and at 'em on less, don't sweat it: Some people are just wired that way, Goldberg says. But if you have trouble falling or staying asleep, or can't seem to drag yourself out of bed on a regular basis, talk to your doctor about possible underlying causes, such as anxiety or sleep apnea.

Playing hooky

There's a reason it's called a mental health day. Studies confirm that time off  whether on a trip out of Dodge or a 24-hour stay-cation relieves stress, lowering your blood pressure, benefits of lowering blood pressure, and your risk for heart disease. It also promotes creative thinking (attention, bosses!). And women in a 2005 study who took two or more vacations per year were less likely to be depressed than women who took one every two years.
A 2005 study showed women who took two or more vacations a year got another health benefit. 2005 study that showed women who take vacations are less depressed.
Can't swing more than a few days away? No problem: The length of a vacation had no bearing on how happy it made people, according to a recent study, Short vacations + Applied Research in the Quality of Life journal, in the journal Applied Research in the Quality of Life. What's more, the biggest thrill came before the vacation. So spread around the joy of that sweet anticipation by planning short jaunts throughout the year instead of one big blowout trip. Ideas for weekend getaways.

Sexual healing

Getting frisky is, hands down, the most pleasurable form of physical activity there is. Having sex releases feel-good endorphins hormones and oxytocin (oxytocin hormone promotes nurturing and bonding), the hormone that promotes attachment. “That component of feeling connected to another person really benefits mental health,” says Alice Domar PhD. Another plus: Subjects in one study who did it once or twice a week had higher levels of the antibody immunoglobulin A, immunoglobulin A antibodies help prevent illness.
Hugs promote higher levels of oxytocin
Sexually transmitted diseases:Why doesn't sex rank higher on our list? It can bring unintended consequences, from sexually transmitted infections (especially if you're not currently monogamous and not practicing safe sex) to "oops!" pregnancies.

A daily chocolate fix

Our experts gave a hearty thumbs-up to nibbling a little chocolate every day as long as you stick to a square or two of the dark kind, to minimize sugar and fat intake and maximize the benefits. Dark chocolate and cocoa may help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of stroke and provide other cardiovascular benefits, multiple studies have shown. “Dark chocolate contains antioxidants called flavonoids, believed to improve the flexibility of blood vessels,” Dr. Goldberg explains.
Dark chocolate flavonoids improved circulation
A study published late last year found that eating 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate a day for two weeks reduced stress hormones in highly anxious people. Check for at least 75 percent cacao (cacao seed of cocoa) content to get the most bliss for your bite.

A Night Out With Friends

A flurry of recent studies have shed light on how huge an impact our friends and family have on our behavior, from what we drink and eat to how much we weigh for better and for worse. But there's little question that strong social ties can bring a host of benefits, health benefits of friendships, fewer colds, better brain health and a longer life, to name a few.
Benefits of friendships fewer colds, better brain health, and a longer life
"Friendships are very good for you — as long as you hang out with people with whom you have a well-balanced relationship and limit your time spent with people who are toxic for you," Domar says. Signs of toxic friendships.

Full-fat dressing

Full-fat foods not only taste better but also serve a real health purpose, as long as you get the right amounts of the right kinds. Aim for at least 10 percent of your daily fat intake to come from monounsaturated fats, registered dietician Keri Gans says. These fats reduce your risks of heart disease and stroke a big deal, since coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women.
Omega-3 fatty acids also lower heart disease risk and may help decrease symptoms of depression, rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments. Plus, "when you have a meal that includes a little fat, you tend to feel more satisfied, so you eat less," Gans says. Still, no more than 30 percent of your daily calories should come from fat even the good kind. No more than 30 percent of daily calories should come from fat

Your morning java

It's completely OK if you need it to pry your eyes open in the a.m. A wealth of research suggests that coffee doesn't just pick you up it fights heart disease and some cancers, and it may even help you push through harder, longer workouts, how coffee helps workouts.
A new study shows coffee helps women. Coffee can cut depression risk in women
Enjoy up to two cups a day; more than that may leave you jittery or rob you of that precious pleasure, effects of coffee on sleep.

Getting a rubdown

Don't ever feel guilty about shelling out for massages. "In general, people who are touched regularly are healthier," Domar says. And if your budget doesn't include spa services, consider hands-on time with your honey.
Women in a 2008 study noted less pain, depression, anxiety, and anger when they were massaged twice a week by their partners and their partners reported better mental health, too

Basking in the sun

Bright days really do lift our moods sunshine is the ultimate natural antidepressant, triggering our bodies to nip production of the sleep-stimulating hormone (melatonin) so we're alert, energized and ready to face the day.
Guidelines for sun protections
Exposing bare skin to the sun also triggers the synthesis of vitamin D, a hormone that may reduce your risks for cancer, heart disease, fragile bones and other problems. Still, many doctors feel that no amount of risks of unprotected sun exposure is safe (that's the official position of the American Academy of Dermatology). So always wear sunscreen (how to choose) and, Goldberg says, take a D supplement if your levels are low.

Wine with dinner

The buzz on wine is about its heart-healthy properties, although researchers aren't entirely sure how it works its magic. Its wine antioxidants may keep blood vessels flexible, or alcohol could boost HDL cholesterol.
120 calories in a five ounce glass of red wine- 100 calories in a five ounce glass of chardonnay
Either way, the key is moderation: one 5-ounce glass a day. More than that can raise blood pressure and pack on pounds. "Women who drink heavily also have higher rates of breast cancer," Goldberg warns. More of a martini kind of gal? No problem: You can get similar perks from one drink of liquor or beer a day. So go ahead raise a glass to the pleasures of the healthy life!
How alcohol raises blood pressure, how alcohol + weight gain

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