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Health Capsules: Dec. 12

Politics and the holidays don’t mix – tips for avoiding arguments

Politically based stress is increasing among Americans and is likely to cause arguments between family members this holiday season.

According to the 2018 Stress in America survey conducted by the American Psychological Association [APA], more than 60 percent of U.S. adults now feel that the current polarized political climate causes significant stress for them personally. The annual survey also shows that more than a quarter of adults agree this polarization has caused strain between themselves and members of their own families.

High levels of stress all around will no doubt lead to some tense and uncomfortable conversations around holiday tables, especially for family members or friends who are on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Following are some suggestions, courtesy of the APA, to help prevent arguments and guide those touchy conversations in a more positive direction:

Prepare to remain calm. Preparing in advance for how you might handle a disagreement may give you more control over the situation when it arises. If you often find yourself quick to react in a heated conversation, take a step back and remind yourself to be calm. Try taking deep breaths when you find yourself getting worked up, or politely steer the conversation to a new topic before it escalates.

Focus on areas of agreement. Instead of strongly reacting when you disagree with someone, actively listen to the other person about what is important to them and look for viewpoints you do have in common. For example, you might have different ideas about gun control, but share the same concern for keeping your kids safe. By focusing on these shared viewpoints, areas of conflict will feel less intense.

Be kind. When having conversations about areas of disagreement, avoid polarizing language and personal attacks. Remember that you are talking with someone who is important to you. Be mindful of your words and tone, and don’t let the conversation become hostile or combative, as that could have potential to damage your future relationship.

Accept that ‘agreeing to disagree’ is ok.  Recognize that your words will not change the other person’s mind. Remind yourself that the conversation is an opportunity to share your viewpoint, not to convince anyone that your view is best – and that your loved one or friend is entitled to his or her viewpoint as well.

Know when to end the conversation. If the conversation won’t resolve smoothly, find a way to end it peacefully. It may be that you have to change the topic of conversation or suggest another activity, while reinforcing your relationship with the other person. Move on to activities that will lighten the mood, such as playing a family game. 

Research connects asthma, obesity in children

Kids who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for asthma, although the reasons why are still unclear.

Obesity might be the cause of asthma for about a quarter of American children who have the disease, according to new research. The findings mean that about 10 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 17 – almost a million nationwide – could have avoided asthma by maintaining a healthy weight.

Researchers at Duke University analyzed data for more than 500,000 children who visited six major children’s health centers between 2009 and 2015. They found that children classified as obese – those with a body-mass index [BMI] in the 95th percentile or above for their age and sex – had a 30-percent higher risk of developing asthma than peers of a healthy weight. Kids who were classified as overweight, but not obese [with a BMI in the 85th to 94th percentile] had a 17 percent higher asthma risk.

“Asthma is the No. 1 chronic disease in children and some of the causes such as genetics and viral infections during childhood are things we can’t prevent,” said Jason E. Lang, M.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Duke and the study’s lead author. “Obesity may be the only risk factor for childhood asthma that could be preventable. This is another piece of evidence that keeping kids active and at a healthy weight is important.”

Lang added that because scientists don’t completely understand how being overweight or obese causes changes that lead directly to childhood asthma, more research is needed. Still, these findings and other research showing that asthma often improves with weight loss, suggest that obesity plays a key role or is directly to blame, he said.

The current study’s findings were published in the journal Pediatrics.

At the office, messes send a message

The condition of your office – especially it it’s very messy – may send negative messages about your personality to your co-workers.

People whose office spaces are messy or cluttered are sending negative messages to their co-workers about their own character and personality, say scientists at the University of Michigan.

Psychology teams from the university’s Flint and Ann Arbor campuses set up three experiments in which participants were randomly assigned to wait for researchers in their offices. Some of the offices were clean and uncluttered, while others were either “somewhat” or “very” messy. The offices were otherwise decorated identically.

Although participants had not actually met the researchers, they were asked to describe their  personalities based on the offices’ appearance, rating established character traits such as agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and extraversion. In each experiment, the messier the office, the more negative traits participants attached to the researchers. Those with the messiest offices were most often perceived as being less conscientious, less agreeable and more neurotic than those with the cleanest and most orderly.

The researchers claimed that from the viewpoint of those making judgements about the personal spaces of others in the workplace, traits like high neuroticism, low conscientiousness and low agreeableness could signal potentially undesirable qualities in an employee. The significance of this, they said, is that these impressions matter in terms of how employees are generally perceived and treated.

The findings appeared in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

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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Learn to Shop for a Healthier You, a Dierbergs store tour led by a St. Luke’s Hospital dietitian, is offered on Tuesday, Dec. 18 from 10-11:30 a.m. at Dierbergs West Oak, 11481 Olive Blvd. in Creve Coeur. This tour will focus on how to make better food choices, reading labels, and meal planning. The group will meet at the store’s courtesy counter. The cost is $5; all participants will receive a $5 Dierbergs gift card at the end of the tour. To register, visit dierbergs.com or call (314) 238-0440.

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