Night Owls and Lower Life Expectancy, and other Health Headlines

Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, what you need to know if you’re a night owl, the national drinking guidelines for men and why working out isn’t enough to save your brain if you sit all day.

One big reason to change your night owl ways

A study published in the Journal Chronobiology International tracked almost half a million adults in the United Kingdom over an average of 6.5 years and found that those who identified as “definite evening types” at the beginning of the study had a 10 percent higher risk of mortality, compared with “definite morning types.”

What goes wrong?

Although the study did not look at the specific causes of death, previous research has suggested that night owls are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer, such as prostate and breast cancer.

Night owls also are more likely to have diabetes, neurological disorders, psychological disorders, and gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders, according to Kristin Knutson, associate professor of neurology at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a lead author of the study. The association was strongest for psychological disorders, with the definite night owls being nearly twice as likely to report having a psychological illness. Yikes.

However, before you freak out about that late-night Netflix binge, the risk of death was not increased for those who identified as “more a morning person” or “more an evening person.”

To reset

Night owls who want to change their internal clock should slowly move up their bedtime and avoid using technology in the hour or two before bed.

Turns out, men shouldn’t outdrink women

A large international study of alcohol consumption published in the Lancet has found no overall health benefits from moderate drinking and questioned U.S. guidelines that say men can safely drink twice as much as women. The new report collected data from multiple studies of drinking patterns and health outcomes among nearly 600,000 people in 19 high-income countries.

What’s the right amount?

The data did not show a significant difference between men and women in the amount of booze that can be consumed without a drop in life expectancy. That’s quite a contrast from current U.S. government guidelines that define moderate “low risk” drinking as two drinks a day for men and one for women.

“When the U.S. reviews their guidelines, I would hope they would use this as evidence to consider lowering the guidelines for men probably in line with female guidelines, the study’s lead author, Angela Wood, a senior lecturer at the University of Cambridge, told the Washington Post.

Move more, even if you exercise

We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking. But sitting too much also is linked to changes in an area of the brain that is critical for memory, according to a preliminary study by UCLA researchers of 35 middle-aged and older adults.

What does it do?

MRI scans of the 25 women and 10 men recruited by UCLA found that those who reported more couch potato time each week—even those with periods of high physical activity—had greater thinning of the medial temporal lobe in the brain, which can be a precursor to cognitive decline and dementia. Reducing the number of hours on the couch could be one strategy to improve brain health and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The small study, published in the journal PLOS ONE adds to the growing evidence that sedentary behavior—even among those who exercise—increases the risk of a whole host of afflictions, including heart disease and diabetes. So, get moving!

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