Even when eating nutritiously, healthy aging depends on moderating the number of calories you take in. Surprisingly, studies show that if you follow a healthy diet, but eat more than an average number of calories, you won’t fare any better in terms of healthy aging than people who follow the traditional Western diet. You want a lifelong diet plan that provides micronutrients, fiber and antioxidants while still limiting calories. That means whether you count calories or portion sizes, it’s important to keep track of all high-calorie foods, even the healthful ones. Here are some examples. While plant oils — such as walnut, olive, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed and sesame oils — are better for you than butter with all its saturated fat, tablespoon for tablespoon, oils actually have more calories — 120 to 130 calories compared to butter’s 100. Use an oil spray to coat pans before cooking to conserve calories when you really need to use oil. When eating a rainbow of veggies, winter squash and sweet potatoes are great choices in the orange color range, but 4 ounces of squash have only 44 calories compared to 84 calories for the same amount of sweet potatoes. If you need a large portion to feel full, eating squash will allow you twice the volume for the same number of calories. Among the most nutrient-dense fruits, a…  read on >

Driving under the influence and distracted driving are well-known hazards, but few people think twice about getting behind the wheel when feeling drowsy, a sleep expert warns. “Drivers can reduce the danger by being aware of risk factors and taking precautions,” said Dr. Praveen Rudraraju, who directs the Center for Sleep Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y. Each year, nearly 100,000 traffic crashes can be attributed to drowsy driving, including more than 1,500 deaths and over 70,000 injuries, according to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Most drowsy driving accidents occur between midnight and 6 a.m. among drivers who are alone in their vehicle. Risk factors for drowsy driving include: sleep loss — even just one hour less than you need; use of sleep aids, anti-anxiety medications or alcohol; driving long hours with few or no breaks, driving alone or with sleeping passengers; and having undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorders. There are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of drowsy driving, Rudaraju said. Don’t consume alcohol and don’t take sedatives. If you feel drowsy when driving, find a safe place to pull over and nap. But even though a short nap can help, it’s best to get proper sleep. Talk to your doctor about problems falling or staying asleep, especially if you are tired after a…  read on >

Feel yourself being pulled in a million directions and losing track of what’s really important? The meditative practice called mindfulness can help you get centered and re-focus on what’s meaningful to you. And it doesn’t take time that’s already in short supply on your busy schedule. You can reap the benefits in less time than it takes for a coffee break. Mindfulness shows you how to block out distractions and replace stress and other negative emotions with a sense of well-being. You accomplish this by focusing on the here-and-now — your present thoughts and feelings, not past concerns or future worries. You also learn to accept these thoughts and feelings without passing judgment on them, such as labeling them as good or bad, right or wrong. Practicing mindfulness is easier than you might think. At the start of each day, you might take 10 minutes to do a few yoga stretches — yoga incorporates mindfulness because it teaches you to focus on your breathing as you move through poses. Or spend 10 minutes at lunch or anytime during your workday to do a head-to-toe de-stress. Breathe in and out as you zero in on each part of your body, going from toes to the top of your head. To unwind at night, consider more formal “guided” mindfulness, maybe with a podcast you can listen to…  read on >

Next time you struggle to put a name to a face, go easy on yourself. You probably recognize thousands of people. Participants in a British study recognized 1,000 to 10,000 faces, with the average number being an astonishing 5,000. The faces included people they knew from their personal lives, as well as famous people. “Our study focused on the number of faces people actually know — we haven’t yet found a limit on how many faces the brain can handle,” said Rob Jenkins, a reader in the department of psychology at the University of York in England. “The ability to distinguish different individuals is clearly important — it allows you to keep track of people’s behavior over time, and to modify your own behavior accordingly,” he said in a university news release. The findings offer a baseline for comparing the “facial vocabulary” of people with facial-recognition software now used to identify people in airports and police investigations. Jenkins offered several possible explanations for the large range in number of faces people recognized. Some people may have a natural aptitude for remembering faces, he said. People also differ in how much attention they pay to faces, and how efficiently they process information. “Alternatively, it could reflect different social environments — some participants may have grown up in more densely populated places with more social input,” Jenkins…  read on >

New research suggests there is no perfume a man loves more than the scent of a fertile woman. Researchers in Switzerland determined that women who are the “fittest” for reproduction have a distinctive scent that makes them particularly appealing to men. “Women with high estrogen and low progesterone levels are most attractive to men in an olfactory sense,” said study leader Daria Knoch, from the social psychology and social neuroscience department at the University of Bern. Knoch added that these hormone levels signal high fertility, suggesting that men are more attracted to women who can reproduce successfully. The study involved 28 women and 57 men. The women were asked to follow strict guidelines to isolate their scent and minimize any outside influence from things like detergents, soaps, alcohol or spicy foods. The women were also told to avoid hormonal contraceptives, to sleep alone and use unscented products during the study period. When the women were most fertile, they collected their scent overnight by placing cotton pads in their armpits. The men included in the study were asked to sniff these cotton pads in a lab and rate their smell on a scale of 0 to 100. The researchers also collected saliva samples from the women to measure their hormone levels. The investigators also considered other factors that could influence a woman’s scent, including the stress…  read on >

Alcohol contributes to 2.8 million deaths a year worldwide, and there is no safe level of alcohol consumption, researchers say. The new analysis of hundreds of studies conducted between 1990 and 2016 found that one in three people worldwide (2.4 billion people) drink alcohol, and that 6.8 percent of men and 2.2 percent of women die of alcohol-related health problems each year. How the United States fits into those figures is unclear. It was not among the top or bottom 10 for the most or the heaviest drinkers in 2016. Denmark led the list for most drinkers (97 percent of men and 95 percent of women), while Romania (men) and Ukraine (women) had the heaviest drinkers. Worldwide, alcohol use was the seventh-leading risk factor for early death and disability in 2016. It was the top cause for early death and disability among 15- to 49-year-olds, accounting for one in 10 deaths. In this age group, the main causes of alcohol-related deaths were tuberculosis (1.4 percent), road injuries (1.2 percent) and self-harm (1.1 percent), the findings showed. Among people 50 and older, cancer was a leading cause of alcohol-related death, accounting for 27 percent of deaths in women and nearly 19 percent of deaths in men. Any protection alcohol may provide against heart disease is outweighed by the health problems it causes, particularly cancer, according to…  read on >