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Is life expectancy affected by stress?

October 7, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new Columbia University report finds Americans are not making big gains in life expectancy despite spending more money on healthcare. And experts say it can't be blamed on smoking or obesity. So some say the cause might be stress. The group most affected is women in their 40s.Not being able to fully enjoy a hot cup of tea is both a metaphor and the reality of Velina Hasu Houston's life.

She tends to her 82-year-old mom, four daughters and a husband. Houston is also a college professor and a playwrite. So that tea always turns cold.

"I would take one or sips and then I was off and running," said Houston.

"So they're caught right in the middle and they are working full time," said Dianne Kujubu Bellli of Keiro Senior Health Care. "So they've got a lot of things to juggle."

At Keiro Senior Health Care, the staff sees how stress take a huge toll on women taking care of aging parents and family.

"The first thing to go is sleep," said Houston. "You don't sleep enough which of course only exacerbates the stress problem more."

Rumi Nakatani runs the Institute for Healthy Aging at Keiro.

"I don't think that we are in the mode of taking care of ourselves," said Nakatani.

She says the reason women who are stressed forget where they put their keys and their glasses is because they are never present in their actions. They're always thinking about what they're doing next.

"Once they realize that then they will take the time to say themselves, 'I am putting my glasses on the table' and they they'll will remember more often than not," said Nakatani.

Nakatani says women would be less stressed if they're not looking for their keys all the time. But on a regular basis, experts say women need to find time to rest, recharge, eat balanced meals and exercise.

And for Houston that includes taking the time to sip a hot cup of tea. It takes effort.

"It's almost like a meditation," said Houston. "You drink the tea and you just enjoy it. The whole point is to try to relax."

October is Women's Health Month. Now is the time to make those doctor's appointments you've been putting off and figure out a way to get some relaxation time for yourself. And October is as good a month as any to finally decide to cut out all the junk food.


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