Never has high living looked quite so healthful as it has lately—even if it is high living on a leash. The permission to indulge in some pleasures almost always comes with a reminder about doing everything in moderation, reports the April 2009 issue of the Harvard Health Letter. Here are some not-so-guilty pleasures:
Alcohol: Moderate alcohol consumption protects against heart disease and stroke. Drinking increases “good” HDL cholesterol, reduces blood clotting factors, and may make blood vessels less vulnerable to atherosclerosis.
Chocolate: Chocolate improves blood flow through the arteries that supply the heart and the brain. There’s also evidence associating consumption of dark chocolate with lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation.
Coffee: Coffee drinkers may be less likely than coffee abstainers to have heart attacks, suffer strokes, or develop diabetes. Research also suggests that a coffee habit could be good for your brain, lowering your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.
Sex: Research has suggested that frequent sexual intercourse (twice a week) is associated with reduced heart attack risk. Sexual activity also revs up metabolism, may help regulate menstrual cycles, and gives the immune system a boost.
Sleep: A good night's sleep is good for health. “Short sleepers” put on more pounds than people who sleep seven to eight hours a night. Subpar slumbering has been linked to diabetes, heart attacks, and even early death. When you stay awake for long stretches, it wreaks hormonal havoc; levels of the stress hormone cortisol go up, and your appetite gets out of whack.
Social life: Studies have linked social networks to good health, while social isolation and loneliness are associated with cognitive decline and high blood pressure.
Read Full-length Article: "Putting the joie de vivre back into health"
Also in this issue:
- The Whipple procedure for pancreatic cancer
- Are multivitamins still a good bet?
- Calorie cutbacks and memory gains
- Omega-3s and bleeding
The Harvard Health Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of