Livin' on the MDedge

Neanderthal otitis media and why you can’t chillax


Dude, just chill out and relax ... or not

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It’s been a tough week. You’ve struggled to get all your work done on time, you’ve had to put in long hours, you’re exhausted and stressed out, and you know that next week will be just as tough. But for now, it’s the weekend. Time to relax, right?

According to research from Penn State University published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, if you have anxiety disorder, not only will you have difficulty relaxing (hence the anxiety disorder), you may actually actively resist it, experiencing something called “relaxation-induced anxiety.”

The researchers recruited a group of students, some with anxiety disorder, some with major depressive disorder, and a control group, and administered a series of relaxation exercises both before and after watching a series of potentially upsetting videos. The people with anxiety disorders were more likely to experience spikes of negative emotion after the second relaxation exercise than the other two groups; these spikes were linked to a feeling of anxiety during relaxation exercise.

The researchers theorized that people with anxiety disorder were attempting to avoid large jumps in their stress level by remaining stressed at all times. But the investigators also noted that experiencing a range of emotions is natural and far healthier.

So, as annoying as it is to suffer through constant “stop worrying, just live in the moment” speeches from that one dudebro acquaintance who spends all his free time partying, he does have a point. We don’t recommend participating in the Edward Fortyhands game, though. Leave that to your “friend.” He’s used to it.

A salty surgeon general’s warning

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Grab a pack of Marlboro Reds at the corner convenience store, and you’ll find the iconic red and white box adorned with dire warnings from the surgeon general.

Grab a salt shaker at the corner diner, and you’ll find ... salt. In a shaker. Perhaps adorned with the red residue from a prior diner’s ketchup addiction.

The World Hypertension League would like to make that salt shaker look a lot more like those Marlboros.

In a position statement in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension, the league outlined the case for giving sodium chloride the cancer-stick treatment. Exhibit A: “Unhealthy diets are a leading cause of death globally, and excess salt consumption is the biggest culprit, estimated to cause over 3 million deaths globally in 2017.”

Despite that tobacco-rivaling body count, the league says no country has demanded that salt containers wear warning labels.

But isn’t it enough to list sodium levels on food labels? Well, when’s the last time you studied the salty facts before binging on that entire party-size bag of Cheetos, Chester? (You’ll be hotboxing 4,500 mg of sodium, by the way.) The league rests its case.

What’s needed is a message that stops you mid fistful. It’s time to add warning labels to all salt packaging, implores the league. Even to that communal salt shaker. Helpfully, the league’s offering suggested wording for that harbinger-of-doom missive: “Excess sodium can cause high blood pressure and promote stomach cancer. Limit your use.”

Catchy, right? But we at the Bureau of LOTME believe a picture is worth a thousand words of warning. Which is why we’ve taped a simple biohazard logo to our office Cheetos stash. Because of the sodium, you ask? Hardly. But just imagine that much optic-orange food coloring finding its way into the groundwater.

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