Handle Car Lights with Care

When changing exterior light bulbs in your car, watch your hands. Many automobiles use halogen bulbs, which can get extremely hot. Hold them with gloved hands or a paper towel. That will also keep the glass free from the oils on your skin, which can create an uneven heat transfer in the bulb and cause it to fail prematurely. If you do accidentally touch the glass on a new bulb, clean it with a cloth and some rubbing alcohol.

FEELING GOOD COULD SLOW TUMOR GROWTH

FROM SAVORING A piece of cake to hugging a friend, many of life’s pleasures trigger a similar reaction in the brain – a surge of dopamine, the “feel-good” chemical. Recent research suggests this reward circuit may do much more than make us smile.

Researchers implanted skin and lung cancer cells in mice, then stimulated the dopamine-releasing neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) of their brains. The rush of dopamine disabled a group of cells that promote tumor growth. That allowed the immune system to respond more effectively to the tumors, which were 40 to 52% smaller and lower in weight in mice that received VTA stimulation than in those that didn’t. “By artificially activating [the VTA],” says the study’s coauthor, Asya Rolls of Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, “we can affect the nervous system and, in turn, the immune system.”

Moreover, the researchers explain, once the immune system is activated in this way, it appears to create a “memory” of the foreign agents to which it has been exposed, allowing it to respond more efficiently to them in the future.

Rolls doesn’t believe that positive thinking alone can cure cancer. But the study’s authors hope that cancer patients might someday receive brain stimulation as an add-on therapy that could, in turn, reduce the need for traditional treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

Cycling Can Give You the Immune System of a 20-Year-Old

Researchers studied 125 active cyclists ages 55 to 79, analyzing their blood for markers of T cells, which are known to help the immune system fight infections. Not only did the cyclists show higher T cell activity than inactive men and women in the same age group, but they also produced the same level of T cell activity as adults in their 20s.

A Gut-Bacteria Intervention to Help the Heart?

When gut bacteria break down certain compounds found in high-fat dairy products, egg yolk, liver, and red meat they produce a chemical called trimethylamine-N-oxide (TMAO), which has possible links to cardiovascular disease. Researchers gave mice a substance that blocked gut bacteria’s production of TMAO. A single dose, which reduced TMAO levels for three days, was enough to lower the risk of stroke, heart attack, and blood clot formation.

Take a Break, Live Longer

In a 40-year study of 1,222 men, half the participants received advice to lose weight, exercise, and give up smoking. Compared with the men who weren’t counseled, this group of men reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease, but their death rate was higher – perhaps because making these changes caused stress. Within this group, those who took fewer than three weeks off work every year were 37% more likely to die between the ages of 40 and 85 than those who vacationed regularly, giving further evidence of the need to de-stress.

HEAT CAN MAKE YOUR BRAIN SLUGGISH

If you find it hard to get your work done during the dog days of summer, blame the heat. In a Harvard University study, 20 students who lived in a dormitory with no air-conditioning had slower reaction times, 13% lower performance on basic arithmetic tests, and a nearly 10% reduction in the number of correct responses per minute compared with students who lived in an air-conditioned building.