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Gratitude practices can improve both physical and mental health, expert says: ‘Profound effects’

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Gratitude practices can improve both physical and mental health, expert says: ‘Profound effects’

It’s easy to fall into the “complaint trap” these days — but shifting to a mindset of gratitude can do wonders for body and mind.

That’s according to Dr. Anne-Katherin Eiselt from Teladoc Health, a behavioral scientist and neuroscientist based in Washington, D.C.

Gratitude has been scientifically linked to reduced stress, lowered heart rate and improved emotional regulation, the doctor said.

GRATITUDE’S GIFTS GO WELL BEYOND THANKSGIVING: ‘GREATER MOTIVATOR THAN WORRY OR FEAR’

Heading into the sometimes stressful holiday season, Eiselt shared with Fox News Digital the core benefits of gratitude and tips to help people cultivate the practice.

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Mental and emotional benefits

Practicing gratitude can lead to significant positive effects on both mental and physical well-being,” Eiselt said. 

Gratitude has been scientifically linked to reduced stress, lowered heart rate and improved emotional regulation. (iStock)

The act of expressing gratitude activates specific regions of the brain, such as the prefrontal cortex, which is associated with emotion regulation, problem-solving and feelings of connection, the doctor said.

Cultivating gratitude can also lower the activity in brain areas related to stress, negative emotions and fear. 

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“By practicing gratitude regularly, we can strengthen those neural pathways associated with a positive mood and mental well-being, much as a workout strengthens a muscle, and create a more resilient mindset,” said Eiselt. 

Being grateful can also influence our physical health in surprising ways.

woman holding chest

Focusing on gratitude and maintaining a positive mindset can help “buffer” this stress response and enhance mood, coping abilities and overall well-being, said one doctor. (iStock)

“Our mind and body are interconnected, both influencing and responding to each other,” said Eisert. 

When we entertain negative thoughts, that can trigger the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, which shifts the body into a “fight or flight” mode. 

“This stress response has profound effects on our body, and over time may contribute to chronic conditions and obesity,” she said. 

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“Our mind and body are interconnected, both influencing and responding to each other.”

Focusing on gratitude and maintaining a positive mindset can help “buffer” this stress response and enhance mood, coping abilities and overall well-being, said Eisert.

One of the major physical manifestations of gratitude is improved sleep.

“Practicing gratitude can improve sleep quality by calming down the nervous system and helping the body to enter a state of relaxation,” Eisert said.

woman sleeps in bed

“Practicing gratitude can improve sleep quality by calming down the nervous system and helping the body to enter a state of relaxation,” the expert said. (iStock)

Emphasizing the positive aspects of our lives can also reduce the intrusive and negative thoughts that often disrupt sleep, the doctor pointed out.

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“This is particularly important during the holiday season, a time often marked by increased stress and commotion,” Eiselt told Fox News Digital.

Another critical physical benefit is the effect that gratitude has on the cardiovascular system. 

WHY GRATITUDE TRUMPS A ‘GIVE ME’ CULTURE — AND HOW PARENTS CAN TEACH KIDS TO DO FOR OTHERS

“Some studies have suggested that practicing gratitude may lead to lower blood pressure, reduced inflammation and other cardiovascular benefits,” said Eisert.

“Chronic stress and persistent negative emotions can contribute to health problems — and practicing gratitude and relaxation has been shown to counteract these negative effects.”

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Tips for practicing gratitude

While gratitude tends to get more focus during the holiday season, practicing it consistently is associated with reduced symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress, as well as a greater satisfaction with life, said Eisert. 

This “important yet simple” practice can easily be implemented into everyday routines, she said. 

Journal entry

Many people choose to participate in gratitude journaling or meditation. (iStock)

Many people choose to participate in gratitude journaling or meditation, said Eiselt — “but you can also start to establish a gratitude mindset, which includes reframing some of the challenging moments in your daily life by shifting your thoughts and inner self-talk toward the things you are thankful for.”

Find a window of time during the day when you can set aside a few minutes, she suggested — “before you go to bed, during your morning coffee or maybe even your lunch break” — to focus on your reasons for feeling grateful.

“Think about what you are grateful for — there is nothing too small. It could be anything from the sunrise to the feeling of fresh air on your skin.”

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Next, find a comfortable spot and set a timer for a designated amount of time. This could be as brief as five minutes or a longer practice of 15 to 20 minutes.

“Think about what you are grateful for — there is nothing too small,” said Eiselt. “It could be anything from the sunrise to the feeling of fresh air on your skin.”

Friends smiling

One impactful yet simple way to practice gratitude is to thank someone every day, said an expert. (iStock)

As you think about each source of gratitude, Eiselt said you could make a list, write a letter, pen a journal entry or reflect on stories you’ve heard from others. 

“Studies have shown that listening to others’ stories of gratefulness can be just as effective, as long as it is genuine,” she said. 

For those who aren’t sure where to start, there are also guided gratitude meditations available. 

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“Nurturing a gratitude mindset starts by changing our self-talk or inner monologue as we interpret the world from a different lens.”

Another impactful yet simple way to practice gratitude is to thank someone every day, said Eiselt. 

“Start by thinking of something kind or generous that someone has done for you recently that made you thankful,” she suggested. 

“You can write about it or even reach out to thank them. They will most likely appreciate hearing from you, and you might start a chain of kindness and gratefulness, inspiring others to be more thankful, too.”

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When it comes to building a routine of practicing gratitude, Eiselt noted that “there is no one-size-fits-all — in order for it to stick, it needs to fit into your day and busy life.”

“Practicing gratitude is not about completing another item on your to-do list,” she said. “It is about becoming aware, about noticing and acknowledging the good things around us.”

For optimal mental and physical health, a gratitude practice should be complemented by other healthy lifestyle behaviors, Eiselt said.

Healthy eating

For optimal mental and physical health, a gratitude practice should be complemented by other healthy lifestyle behaviors. (iStock)

Those include eating well, getting proper sleep, being physically active and spending time outdoors in the sunlight, as well as engaging in positive social interactions.

“These all contribute to better health and increased feelings of well-being,” she said.

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Above all, practicing gratitude involves recognizing and acknowledging the good things, experiences and people in our lives, said Eiselt.

“Nurturing a gratitude mindset starts by changing our self-talk or inner monologue as we interpret the world from a different lens,” she said. 

“It takes conscious effort, yet the benefits for both our mental and physical well-being are well worth it.”

For more Health articles, visit www.foxnews.com/health.

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Fasting-like diet could slow the aging process, study suggests: ‘Living longer and healthier’

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Fasting-like diet could slow the aging process, study suggests: ‘Living longer and healthier’

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Could adopting a fasting-like diet help slow down aging?

That’s the claim of researchers from the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology in Los Angeles, who led a study on the benefits of a “fasting-mimicking diet” (FMD).

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In addition to reducing biological age and immune system aging, the diet was linked to reductions in insulin resistance and liver fat, according to a press release from the university.

TIME-RESTRICTED EATING NO MORE BENEFICIAL THAN CALORIC RESTRICTION IN OBESE PATIENTS, STUDY SAYS

The findings, published in Nature Communications on Feb. 20, were based on clinical trials that included 100 men and women between 18 and 70 years old.

Half of the group was randomly assigned to the FMD, adhering to the diet for five days followed by 25 days of normal eating for three or four cycles.

A fasting-mimicking diet was found to reduce biological age and immune system aging, as well as insulin resistance and liver fat, in a new study. (iStock)

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The control group ate either a normal diet or a Mediterranean-style diet.

The people in the FMD group showed decreased abdominal and liver fat, as well as reduced risk of metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

HIDDEN BELLY FAT COULD SIGNAL ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE RISK 15 YEARS BEFORE SYMPTOMS SHOW UP, STUDY FINDS

Those on the experimental diet also showed signs of a more youthful immune system.

Overall, the FMD adopters’ biological age was reduced by an average of 2.5 years based on the functioning of their cells and tissues, the researchers found.

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Drinking tea

In the USC study, the fasting-mimicking diet included energy bars, plant-based soups, chip snacks, energy drinks and tea. (iStock)

“I think it is surprising that three cycles of the FMD done for only five days a month (15 days total) — which allow people to have modified/low calorie but regular meals and without changing the normal diet of the participants for the rest of the month — can have such an effect on biological age, body fat and a range of disease risk factors,” senior author Valter Longo, USC Leonard Davis School Professor, told Fox News Digital.

FASTING COULD REDUCE SIGNS OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE, STUDIES SUGGEST: ‘PROFOUND EFFECTS’

If the cycles were continued for three cycles a year for 20 years, Longo projected that the FMD could reduce biological age by 11 years and reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes by 10% to 30%. 

“However, these are only simulations — and additional studies are necessary to confirm this potential of the FMD cycles,” he added.

Energy drinks

Half of the group was randomly assigned to the FMD, adhering to the diet for five days followed by 25 days of normal eating for three or four cycles. (iStock)

Prior studies in mice have identified additional benefits of the FMD, including reduced risk of age-related diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, Vongo pointed out.

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The diet has been previously to reduced chemo side effects, greater stem cell regeneration and reduced signs of dementia, the release stated.

What is the fasting-mimicking diet?

Originally developed by Longo, the FMD is a five-day diet that is low in overall calories, protein and carbohydrates and high in unsaturated fat.

The eating plan is designed to mimic a pure fast while still allowing consumption of essential nutrients.

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“The fasting-mimicking diet (FMD), also known as the ProLon Diet, has been around for approximately seven years and has been studied in multiple clinical trials,” Erin Palinski-Wade, a New Jersey-based registered dietitian, told Fox News Digital.

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“By following a structured, very low-calorie nutrition plan for five days, the goal is to provide the benefits of a prolonged fast while still allowing individuals to eat,” said Palinski-Wade, who was not involved in the USC study.

“The diet is designed to transition the body into a fasting state while nourishing it with specific nutrients to avoid activating food-sensing pathways.”

Woman reaches for water glass near bed

“[The diet] allows for physical, biological and epigenetic benefits without the need for prolonged water-only fasts,” an expert said.  (iStock)

In the USC study, the fasting-mimicking diet included energy bars, plant-based soups, chip snacks, energy drinks and tea, according to the release. 

The FMD group also received a supplement with “high levels of minerals, vitamins and essential fatty acids.”

The specific diet that was tested in the two trials is commercially available, but Longo said that university rules prevent him from sharing the name of the product.

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“In an era obsessed with superficial youth and quick fixes, the fasting-mimicking diet offers a tangible method to systematically reverse aging and enhance metabolic health.”

“I think it is important to begin to consider the plant-based FMD intervention described here for two to three times a year as a way to prevent and treat some diseases, together with the right type of drugs,” Longo said. 

This could aid in “returning to full health and living longer and healthier, rather than continuing to take progressively more drugs as we age,” he added.

For people aiming to prevent or treat diseases through the use of an FMD, Longo said people should first talk to a doctor.

Other experts weigh in on the diet

Melanie Avalon, an Atlanta-based health influencer who hosts “The Intermittent Fasting Podcast,” was not involved in the study, but noted that the research provides “solid data” on how dietary and lifestyle changes affect the aging process.

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“Our society’s fascination with youth and longevity is well-known; however, measuring progress and biological improvements is often subjective,” she told Fox News Digital. 

Woman meal plan

While fasting is often pursued for its visible weight loss benefits, an expert noted that this study highlights its extended benefits for metabolic health. (iStock)

“The concept of ‘chronological age’ can mislead when assessing the body’s aging rate and predicting lifespan,” Avalon went on. 

“For the first time, this study reveals that a fasting-mimicking diet can reduce one’s biological age.”

While traditional fasting can be daunting for some, FMD can be a more feasible alternative.

“It allows for physical, biological and epigenetic benefits without the need for prolonged water-only fasts,” she said. 

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AVOID THESE FAD DIETS IN 2024; TRY THESE HEALTHY METHODS OF EATING INSTEAD

While fasting is often pursued for its visible weight loss benefits, Avalon noted that this study highlights FMD’s extended benefits for metabolic health.

“In an era obsessed with superficial youth and quick fixes, the fasting-mimicking diet offers a tangible method to systematically reverse aging and enhance metabolic health,” she said.

“Unlike the costly and extreme measures of ‘biohacking,’ the FMD provides an accessible and practical solution to reduce biological age.”

Potential risks and limitations

Tanya Freirich, a registered dietitian nutritionist in Charlotte, North Carolina, who practices as The Lupus Dietitian, cautioned that she would not recommend the fasting-mimicking diet to any person who has struggled with an eating disorder in the past or who has trouble controlling their blood sugar.

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“Restricting and changing eating patterns may have negative effects,” she said. 

Woman eating healthy

The fasting-mimicking diet could aid in “returning to full health and living longer and healthier, rather than continuing to take progressively more drugs as we age,” the study author said. (iStock)

Palinski-Wade agreed that those with underlying health conditions should speak to their physician before considering a restrictive diet plan. 

“A very low-calorie diet may not be appropriate for those with uncontrolled diabetes, a history of hypoglycemia, a history of disordered eating, or those who are pregnant or nursing,” she said.

Before making any dietary changes, Freirich stressed the need for “extensive education” to be provided.

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“While changing the timing and amount of our food intake is an approach worth examining, it is also important to remember to choose health-promoting foods daily,” the dietitian continued. 

“The food choices we make daily have a large impact on our weight, blood sugars, heart health, immune system and more. If fasting doesn’t feel like the right choice for you, speaking with a registered dietitian about the dietary changes for your health is always recommended.”

Nutritionist

Before making any dietary changes, a nutritionist (not pictured) told Fox News Digital that people need “extensive education” to be provided. (iStock)

The study had some limitations, both dietitians noted.

“It was a small sample size of healthy young-ish individuals,” Freirich said. “The results may be helpful and useful for other people after more research is completed in a larger age range and including people with other medical concerns.”  

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Palinski-Wade reiterated that the studies on FMD have included smaller sample sizes of generally healthy adults, which means the results cannot be generalized to all populations.

“FMD may offer promising benefits and may be an excellent tool to consider for those looking to improve long-term health and reduce future disease risk, but more research is needed on larger and more diverse populations to fully understand the benefits it may offer,” she added.

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Kidney swap saves two lives, plus surprising COVID effects and IVF uncertainty

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Kidney swap saves two lives, plus surprising COVID effects and IVF uncertainty

‘SUPERBLY TIMED’ – Four Texas residents are forever connected by two kidney donations in different cities. The recipients, donors and doctors share their story. Continue reading…

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A decision from the Alabama Supreme Court has led to a halt in IVF services at some locations and a flurry of protests from providers in the fertility space. (iStock)

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Amid measles outbreaks, Florida Department of Health speaks out against ‘false information’

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Amid measles outbreaks, Florida Department of Health speaks out against ‘false information’

Amid ongoing measles outbreaks at Florida schools, the state’s Department of Health released an updated statement on Wednesday, which was provided to Fox News Digital.

There have been a total of nine confirmed measles cases as of Tuesday in Broward County, with seven of them reported at Manatee Bay Elementary in Weston, according to local reports.

Last week, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo issued a letter to parents urging them to make their own decisions about whether to send their children to school.

AMID FLORIDA MEASLES OUTBREAK, SURGEON GENERAL LETS PARENTS DECIDE WHETHER TO SEND UNVACCINATED KIDS TO SCHOOL

Typical guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is for unvaccinated children who have not had the measles to stay home for up to 21 days in the event of a potential exposure at school.

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Amid ongoing measles outbreaks at Florida schools, the state’s Department of Health has released an updated statement.  (iStock)

“However, due to the high immunity rate in the community, as well as the burden on families and the educational cost of healthy children missing school, DOH is deferring to parents or guardians to make decisions about school attendance,” Ladapo’s letter stated. 

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The Florida Department of Health (FDOH) noted that details of the agency’s investigations into the outbreak are “confidential,” and claimed that “many media outlets are reporting false information and politicizing this outbreak.”

FDOH released a statement to ensure that Floridians are “correctly informed.”

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Boy vaccination

Doctors have expressed their support of measles vaccinations and cautioned against sending unvaccinated kids to school during an outbreak. (iStock)

At Manatee Bay Elementary, where the bulk of the cases have been reported, 97% of students have received at least one dose of the MMR immunization, according to the agency.

On Tuesday, the local news outlet WSVN reported that about 30% of students at Manatee Bay Elementary were unvaccinated, according to the school board.

“Outbreaks are occurring in multiple states, and the national immunization rate for measles is less than 92%,” the statement said.

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When a case of measles is confirmed in a school, FDOH recommends that students who have not had a prior infection or vaccination remain at home for up to 21 days.

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“This is the period of time that the virus can be transmitted. This recommendation has been made at Manatee Bay Elementary,” the agency said.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo

Amid measles outbreaks in various parts of the U.S., Florida surgeon general Dr. Joseph Ladapo has issued guidance to parents regarding kids’ school attendance. He also said, “This recommendation may change as epidemiological investigations continue.” (Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/Sipa via AP Images)

The last confirmed case of measles was on Feb. 15, 2024, which means the end of the 21-day infectious period is March 7, 2024.

“This may change as epidemiological investigations continue,” the statement noted.

FDOH said it has been working with Manatee Bay Elementary to educate parents on measles.

“Any parent who is concerned for their child, regardless of their immunization status, may choose to keep their children home.”

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“Any parent who is concerned for their child, regardless of their immunization status, may choose to keep their children home and utilize continuous learning during this time,” the agency said.  

“Due to the high immunity rate, as well as the burden on families and educational cost of healthy children missing school, the surgeon general’s current guidance ensures that parents or guardians are able to make the best decisions for their families regarding school attendance,” the statement continued.

measles on a male torso

As of Tuesday, there have been a total of nine confirmed measles cases in Broward County, with seven of them reported at Manatee Bay Elementary in Weston, according to local reports. (iStock )

Other doctors have expressed their support of measles vaccinations and cautioned against sending unvaccinated kids to school during an outbreak.

“At a time when there’s a resurgence of measles in the world and travel is not restricted, and people are coming into this country with measles, it’s extremely important that our children be vaccinated against it,” Dr. Marc Siegel, clinical professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center and a Fox News medical contributor, told Fox News Digital last week.

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Amid the current measles outbreak, he said, “individual choice has to give way to public health and community preservation or safety,” Siegel said.

“The problem here is that if kids start going to school unvaccinated against measles, given how contagious it is and how effective the vaccine is, they are putting other children at risk,” the doctor added.

In a statement sent to Fox News Digital, a member of the District 2 School Board in Broward County stated that the board is working with the state and local health departments. 

“I appreciate the leadership and support by the surgeon general and welcome all resources to help our parents and children,” says Torey Alston, who was formerly a county commissioner. 

“The safety and academic success of our children remains the No. 1 priority.”

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As of Feb. 22, 2024, a total of 35 measles cases had been reported by 15 jurisdictions across the U.S., in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York City, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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