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Truth: Recent Aging Research May Cause Confusion And Gray Hair

Take these studies with a grain of salt, unless you suffer from hypertension.

Studies: You've got to love them. Just this week alone in the world of aging research, we learned that selfies can prematurely age your skin, sunbathing may actually be good for you, and older people who take the stairs are mentally sharper than those who wait for the elevator. Oh, and the debate was reignited over whether a nightly glass of wine is good for longevity.

It's enough to make your head spin. Taking it from the top, and with a grain of salt that may or may not be good for those with hypertension:

1. Selfies cause wrinkles and age your skin.

Yes, they can but no, they won't. A 26-year-old British blogger who takes at least 50 selfies a day consulted a dermatologist to see if the high-energy visible (HEV) light from her cellphone screen was causing her skin to age prematurely. The doctor, who doesn't deserve to be named here, said that this was, in fact, the case. The visible light from her phone -- and computer screens -- could play a role in causing skin to develop dark spots as well as in promoting the breakdown of collagen, which leads to wrinkles. Other doctors put it in perspective: The impact of visible light on aging the skin is minuscule compared to ultraviolet light, which has been scientifically and convincingly proven to cause skin aging and skin cancer. 

 

 2. The sun is bad for you, except when it isn't. 

 

Sunbathers live longer than people who avoid the sun, according to a new study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. Yes, but do they live with skin cancer while they are living longer? Apparently so in this pick-your-poison study. An analysis of information on 30,000 Swedish women who were followed for 20 years found that those with active sun exposure habits had less heart disease but yes, more skin cancer. The heart disease kills them. The skin cancer doesn't so much. Are the guidelines for sun exposure too restrictive -- and in fact doing more harm than good for your overall health? 

 

3. Stairway to heaven?

Canadian researchers used MRI scans to measure the volume of grey matter in the brains of 331 healthy adults. Grey matter declines with age. The researchers then compared the participants' reports with how many flights of stairs they climbed each day. The more stairs, the healthier the brain. Ditto for years of education: The more education, the healthier the brain. Maybe what they learned in school was that stairs are good for you?

 

 

4. To drink or not to drink, that is still the question.

There's been lots of research that credits having a moderate amount of alcohol with lowering heart disease risk. But then along comes a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs that looked at 87 such studies and proclaims them flawed. At the heart of the analysis is how abstainers are defined. Lots of the studies don't take into account that some people cut out alcohol because they are in poor health. When you drop these abstainer "biases," moderate drinkers (up to two drinks a day) no longer show a longevity advantage. In fact, so argues the new analysis, it's people who had less than one drink per week who lived the longest. And it's unlikely that such infrequent drinking is the reason for their longevity.

 

5. Our furry friends are good for our health.

There has been no shortage of studies examining the human-pet bond. People with cats have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Petting a dog boosts your immune system. And even guinea pigs get a piece of the action: A study found that having them in the classroom improves the sociability of autistic children. Except maybe there is another side of the "pets are good for us" hook.

The Journal of Safety Research reported that 87,000 people a year visit the emergency room after tripping over pets. For the record, on this one, we completely believe that furry family members are good for us and have the right of way.

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