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Older women and eating issues

Eating disorders, a condition typically associated with young women, may be more prevalent among older women, according to research from the University of North Carolina.

Researchers evaluated 1,800 U.S. women who took part in the Gender and Body Image Study. Among the female subjects older than 50, about 27 percent were obese, 29 percent were overweight, 42 percent were normal weight, and 2 percent were underweight.

The study found that about 4 percent of the women binge eat, about 8 percent purge, and 70 percent diet to lose weight. In addition, 36 percent had spent at least half of their time in the last five years dieting, 41 percent had checked their body size daily, and 40 percent had weighed themselves at least twice a week.

Strikingly, 62 percent said body weight negatively impacts their lives, 79 percent report it affects their self-image, and 64 percent think about their weight daily.

Source: International Journal of Eating Disorders, June 2012

Fool brain, reduce pain

The next time you’re looking for pain relief, try a little distraction.

A recent study published in Current Biology found that mental distractions actually block pain signals from the body before they reach the brain.

“Human brains have a limited capacity for attention. If you have a demanding enough task, you’ll have less attention to give to your pain,” said Dr. Randy Gollub, associate professor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Researchers found that challenging participants with memory games did more than just divert conscious attention from the body’s pain messages; the distractions may have actually released natural painkillers that blocked the incoming pain signals as they entered the spinal cord.

But you don’t have to play memory games to get the same effect. Gollub said you can use anything that brings you great pleasure.

“Think about experiences when you’ve done something so pleasurable or meaningful that there was a moment where you were distracted from your pain, and then do more of that activity. Maybe it’s a visit with the grandkids or watching a favorite program.”

You don’t have to limit your distractions to just one activity, either.

“Using your brain to do more things that are rewarding tips the balance away from the negative aspects. The point is that you don’t want to live your pain all the time; you want to live your life,” said Gollub.