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Health Capsules: Dec. 5

By: Lisa Russell

Personality traits tied to holiday spending

Your personality type may influence your holiday spending habits, according to a recent study.

Does your personality type have something to do with how much money you’ll spend this holiday season? New research based on the “Big 5” personality traits says yes.

The recent study, titled “Who are the Scrooges? Personality Predictors of Holiday Spending,” appeared earlier this fall in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

In reaching their conclusions, researchers from Northwestern University and University College London looked at the bank accounts of more than 2,000 people, comparing more than 2 million of their holiday banking transactions with their ratings on the five major personality traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

They found, for example, that more emotionally stable people spend more during the holiday season, while people with high neuroticism who have a lower stress threshold spend less.  In addition, people with more artistic interests and more active imaginations – those higher in openness – spend less during the holiday season while those low in openness spend more. The study also revealed that individuals who are more conscientiousness spend more, while those who are less conscientious spend less.

The scientists emphasized that personality is just one of the underlying factors behind individual consumers’ behavior; of course, important variables such as income, household size and many other factors also are key determinants of holiday spending.

Their research, however, provides a road map for combining other background information with personality data to help predict consumers’ habits, the authors said. “By providing objective measures of both annual and holiday spending, the data allow for a truly ecological study of the relationship between personality traits and consumer behavior,” they said.

A simple step to prevent serious illness

During Handwashing Awareness Week, Americans are reminded of the importance of proper handwashing to prevent illness.

This week, Dec. 2-8, is National Handwashing Awareness Week in the U.S. Although most of us may believe the importance of thorough handwashing is obvious, research cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] shows that just 30 percent of men and 65 percent of women regularly wash their hands after using a public restroom. In a word … gross!

CDC statistics also show that proper handwashing alone can prevent one in three diarrhea-related illnesses and one in five infections, including the flu. That’s a serious statistic considering that, in young children particularly, these illnesses are extremely dangerous, causing thousands of deaths each year in the U.S.

With those facts in mind, following is a brief review of information from the CDC and other medical authorities:

• The five handwashing steps recommended by the CDC are wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry. Wash your hands with soap and clean water for at least 20 seconds each time. Get a good lather going, and don’t forget the backs of your hands, between the fingers and under the nails. Dry your hands using a clean towel.

• According to the American Medical Association, the most important principles of hand awareness include always washing your hands when they are dirty and before eating or preparing food; never coughing or sneezing into your hands; and not putting your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth. 

• Although hand sanitizers do not kill all types of illness-causing germs like soap does, use a sanitizer product that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water are not available. The CDC advises washing with soap and water rather than using hand sanitizer if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy – for example, after gardening, playing outdoors, or camping. 

Updated guidelines for exercise issued

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] recently released a second edition of its Physical Activity Guidelines [PAG]. The update was necessary because of the importance of physical activity to the health of Americans, most of whom are not active enough, HHS officials said. This puts much of the population at risk for a number of chronic diseases and conditions as well as premature death. 

For the first time, the recommendations also include the youngest Americans – kids in the 3-to-5-year age group – noting that “preschool-aged children should be physically active throughout the day to enhance growth and development.” 

There are also specific recommendations for older kids and adolescents: Children aged 6 to 17 years old should do 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day.

“The new guidelines demonstrate based on the best science, everyone can dramatically improve their health, just by moving, anytime, anywhere and by any means that get you active,” said Admiral Brett P. Giroir, M.D., assistant secretary for health. “If we can just get 25 percent of inactive people to be active and meet the recommendations, almost 75,000 deaths would be prevented in the United States.”

One change aims to make meeting the guidelines easier by removing a previous assertion that only activity in at least 10-minute increments would count toward the daily goal for adults, Giroir noted.  The new guidelines include:

• Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.

• For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75 to 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or a combination of the two. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week. Additional health benefits can be gained from activity beyond the 300-minute level.

• Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on two or more days a week.

The benefits of physical activity go beyond helping to manage health conditions that are already present, including osteoarthritis, hypertension and type 2 diabetes, Giroir said.  

“We now know about even more long-term health benefits from physical activity, including improved brain health, reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, reduced risk for fall-related injuries in older adults, and reduced risk for many types of cancer.” 

Are “no selfie zones” necessary?

Some are calling for “no selfie zones” after hundreds of young people have died while taking photos in dangerous locations.

In their quest for the perfect “selfie,” nearly 260 people have died over the last six years worldwide, according to a new study by medical researchers in India. Of the 259 deaths, which the researchers have termed “selficides,” they found the leading cause to be drowning, followed by incidents involving transportation – for example, taking a selfie in front of an oncoming train – and falling from heights. Other causes of selfie-related deaths have included animal attacks, firearms and electrocution.

In the U.S., four people have died while taking selfies in the last few months of 2018 alone. All four were killed in falls from cliffs or high ledges, three of those in Yosemite National Park and one in northern Michigan. 

Agam Bansal, the study’s lead author, said he was concerned by how many of the selfie-related fatalities involved young people – more than 85 percent of the victims were between the ages of 10 and 30 – and the needlessness of cutting their lives short in this way. “What worries me the most is that it is a preventable cause of death … Just because you want a perfect selfie because you want a lot of likes, shares on Facebook, Twitter or other social media, I don’t think this is worth compromising a life for such a thing,” he added.

One possible way to prevent selfie deaths would be to establish “no selfie zones,” Bansal suggested, banning them in certain areas such as bodies of water, mountain peaks and at the top of tall buildings. Efforts to dissuade people from taking selfies in dangerous locations have already been attempted in multiple countries, including India, Russia and Indonesia, he noted.

“It’s like a man-made disaster,” he said. “It’s not a natural disaster.”

On the calendar

Missouri Baptist Medical Center presents a Family & Friends CPR course on Tuesday, Dec. 18 from 6:30-9 p.m. on the hospital’s campus, 3005 N. Ballas Road, on the fourth floor of the Clinical Learning Institute. This course offers instruction and hands-on practice for parents and child care providers for adult hands-only CPR; infant and child CPR with breaths; introduction to adult and child AED use, and relief of choking. It is taught by registered nurses using the American Heart Association’s curriculum. While the course does not offer CPR certification, participants will receive a card which certifies participation in the class. Cost is $25 per person [10-15-year-olds must be accompanied by an adult]. Register online by visiting https://classes-events.bjc.org

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An American Red Cross Blood Drive is on Thursday, Dec. 20 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at St. Luke’s Hospital’s Institute for Health Education, 222 South Woods Mill Road, North Medical Office Building on Level 2. To register, call (314) 658-2090.

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St. Luke’s Hospital offers cholesterol and glucose wellness screenings on Friday, Dec. 21 from 7-10:30 a.m. at St. Luke’s Resource Center, 101 St. Luke’s Center Drive in Chesterfield. Screenings include cholesterol and glucose numbers along with a one-on-one consultation with a registered nurse/health coach, which includes blood pressure and body composition measurement. A 10-12 hour fast and advance appointments are required. The fee for these screenings is $20, with an optional A1C finger stick test [for those at risk for type 2 diabetes] available for an additional $12. Appointments are limited and fill quickly. To register, visit stlukes-stl.com.

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