Puzzling how to get Lady Gaga out of your head?

catchy tuneYou know how it goes. You hear a song on the radio, or TV and it gets stuck in your mind. Once there, it takes root and will (almost) never leave.

Among some of the worst offenders in my experience are songs such as:

Did you know there’s even a term for these songs that won’t go away?  Earworms…yes really !

song-stuck-in-your-headIf you’ve already got “Call Me Maybe” stuck in your head, or you’re thinking “if you liked it, then you shoulda put a ring on it” purely as a result of reading the above, I apologize!

But while I may have been the one to have exposed your impressionable mind to such repetitive refrains, the real culprit is the Zeigarnik Effect – the  terrific-but-occasionally-traumatic tendency we have to keep thinking about tasks we’ve left incomplete.  As humans we like to finish what we’ve started.  So even when our conscious minds move on to a new thing, our unconscious minds remain preoccupied with our unfinished business, leading to dissonance.

According to music psychologist Ira Hyman, who recently published a paper on earworm science (who knew?!?)  songs function much like puzzles in our brains.  Music is catchy because its patterns and rhythms engage our minds like a crossword puzzle would.  And the music of Ms’s Carly Rae, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Gaga, apparently fall into that cognitive sweet spot of attention and inattention, making them especially “sticky.”

unhearitMusic is different from puzzles, though, in one significant way: while puzzles can be solved, songs have no obvious solution. So they stay. And stay. And stay. Haunting and taunting and put-a-ring-ing in our ears.

But…big drum roll… scientists may have found a way to stop them.  Hyman and his colleagues figured that if earworms function like puzzles, they might be vanquished by puzzles, too. Their researcher concluded that cognitive subterfuge is the best way to rid the mind of sticky songs. In other words, if you want to get rid of an earworm, you just have to fool your brain into solving another, non-musical puzzle.

The best way to do that? Give your brain an actual puzzle to concentrate on. Do a crossword. Tackle an anagram. Trick your mind out of its need to finish what it started by giving it something else – something simple, but not too simple – to focus on.

song stuck in headSolving anagrams might not always be the best way to spend your time, sure. But it’s a small price to pay.

And, even though  – this is crazy – it’s much, much better than having “Call Me Maybe” stuck in your head all day!

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Hard Facts on Hard Drives & Heart Health

If you’re like us and spend much of your day in front of a computer screen, rather than rockin’ it like Lady Gaga or kickin’ it like David Beckham, today’s story may just kick your butt!

How many of us sit in front of a computer for an entire work day, and then go home and park it night after night on the couch watching television or surfing the Web?  But no, we don’t  feel guilty because we religiously squeeze in an hour of cardio at the gym before or after work.  That mitigates all that motionless  sitting, right?  Well, apparently not.  According to  a new study that just makes us “active couch potatoes”.

According to a report published this week in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology,  the amount of leisure time spent sitting in front of  a screen can have an such an overwhelming  impact on our health that the exercise we take doesn’t produce much benefit.

What!?!  All our lives we’ve been told that 30 minutes a of brisk physical activity day will improve our health! Unfortunately, it now seems that the concern isn’t how much exercise we get, but how much of our time is spent in sedentary activity and the harm this does to our body.

Uh-oh.

This particular study followed 4,512 middle-aged Scottish Health Survey respondents from 2003 to 2007. It found that those who admitted to spending two or more leisure hours a day sitting in front of a screen had double the risk of a heart attack and other cardiac events compared with those who watched less.

Those who spent four or more hours of recreational time in front of a screen were 50% more likely to die of any cause. The study noted it didn’t matter whether subjects were physically active for several hours a week. Exercise it seems, doesn’t mitigate the risks associated with the high amount of sedentary screen time.

During the study’s follow-up period, 325 individuals died of various causes, and 215 suffered a heart attack or other cardiac event. Even after adjusting for differences in lifestyle, weight, smoking, occupational physical activity and risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and other longstanding illnesses,  those who spent four hours or more of their leisure time in front of a screen each day were 50% more likely to die.

Recreational screen time has an “independent, deleterious relationship” with cardiovascular events and death of all causes, the paper concluded, possibly because it induces metabolic changes.

The study focused on recreational screen time because it’s the easiest to curtail, said lead author Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis. However, he encouraged employees who work at computers all day to get up and take breaks and short walks periodically.

That said, SRxA’s Word on Health bloggers will always be here to assist you….when we’re not taking a brisk run around the courtyard!

Lady Gaga Knows Her Autoimmune Quotient – Do You Know Yours?

Over the last two weeks the Web has been abuzz with questions about Lady Gaga’s health. Turns out, we are informed, that she has a family history of lupus and has tested borderline positive for the disease.

The Lady Gaga story underlines an important message for millions of other Americans who have a history of autoimmune disease in their families. According to Virginia Ladd, President and Executive Director of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) “Lupus is one of more than 100 autoimmune diseases and these diseases cluster in families.  Having a family member with lupus could mean you are at increased risk for lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

That’s why it’s important, just as Lady Gaga has done, to know your family history, to inform your doctors, and take proactive steps to ensure your future health.

Evidence suggests that people need to take responsibility for their own autoimmune health. An AARDA study of autoimmune patients found that the average time for diagnosis of a serious autoimmune disease is 4.6 years. During that period, the patient typically has seen 4.8 doctors; and 46% of the patients were told initially that they were too concerned about their health or that they were chronic complainers.

One of the factors that makes getting a correct autoimmune disease diagnosis so difficult is that symptoms can vary widely, notably from one disease to another, but even within the same disease. The medical community’s lack of knowledge of autoimmune disease compounds the problem. Even though these diseases share a genetic background and tend to run in families, most health questionnaires at doctors’ offices do not ask whether there is a family history of autoimmune disease.

AARDA has devised an eight-step plan to help people increase their awareness of autoimmune diseases and calculate their Autoimmune Quotient (AQ):

1. Understand that autoimmune disease constitutes a major U.S. health crisis affecting 50 million Americans.

2. Get educated about the 100+ autoimmune diseases.

3. Be aware that autoimmune diseases target women 75% more often than men.

4. Know that autoimmune diseases run in families.

5. Do your own family medical history and inform your physician if you find that you have a history of autoimmune disease.

6. Keep a “symptoms” list if you believe you may have an autoimmune
disease.

7. Realize that getting an autoimmune disease diagnosis is often
challenging.

8. Hold the power to protect your family’s future health and well-being
in your hands – be proactive about your health.

To find out more about autoimmune diseases, or how to calculate your AQ, visit the AARDA Web Site.