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Life Lines

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Why Hand Washing Really Could Slow Down an Epidemic

Still harboring secret doubts that something as simple as washing your hands could significantly impact the spread of a pandemic? New research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) will make you think again.

Epidemiologists know that the primary way that disease spreads globally is through centers of travel. When a shockingly high number of airport travelers (4 in 5, or 80 percent) admitted to not washing their hands after using the restroom or touching a shared screen, researchers decided to study how a high commitment to hand hygiene could impact the spread of a pathogen like COVID-19.

Using computer simulations, researchers found that increasing traveler engagement with proper handwashing at all airports had the potential to reduce the risk of a pandemic by 24-69 percent. The researchers also identified ten critical airports central to the global air-transportation network in which, if hand-washing mitigation strategies were implemented, a pandemic risk would drop by up to 37 percent!

According to the CDC, the best way to still wash your hands includes applying soap and scrubbing the palms, back of the hands, between fingers, and under the fingernails with water for 20 seconds, followed by rinsing with water and drying with a clean towel.

“Why hand washing really could slow down an epidemic,” Medical News Today,, Feb. 12, 2020

Active Adolescents Experience Less Depression

Research done by the University College of London found that adolescents who spent just one additional hour each day in light activity, such as walking or chores, experienced fewer symptoms of depression.

The study gave the participants accelerometers to wear for a minimum of ten hours per day (except when washing or doing water sports) at the ages of 12, 14, and 16. For three days in a row, these devices tracked whether the adolescents sat still or engaged in light to vigorous activity. In addition, they filled out a questionnaire that measured depressive symptoms, such as low mood, loss of pleasure, or poor concentration.

The study found that between the ages of 12 and 16, physical activity declined and sedentary behavior increased. Just one additional hour sitting each day raised depression scores by 8 to 11 percent—but with light activity, it dropped by anywhere from 9 to 11 percent.

The key takeaway: physical activity is important for good mental health.

“Children who sit too much 'more likely to get depressed',” BBC News,, Feb. 12, 2020

Sleep Cold, Sleep Better

Most are aware that sleep quality has an impact on health and cognitive function. But did you know that the temperature of the room you sleep in also matters? In fact, those who sleep in hot environments tend to have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This may explain why ICU patients sleep so poorly since their rooms are often kept too warm.

Conversely, those who sleep in cold environments fare better. This is because cooler temperatures work with the body’s natural physiological sleep cycle, which includes a drop in core body and brain temperatures. As a result, those who sleep in a cooler environment wake up more alert.

So, what is the ideal temperature? Experts vary in their advice but typically recommend a range from 60 to 67 ℉. If that’s too cold for wintertime, try sleeping with socks on or a hot water bottle at your feet, suggests the National Sleep Foundation. And while summer temperatures can be stifling, don’t crank up the AC—instead, try using a strategically placed fan or sleeping without covers or even a sheet.

“Your Bedroom Is Too Hot,” The Atlantic,, Dec. 29, 2019

For further study, we suggest the following resources: From Plant to Plate, Fighting Disease with Foodand The Ministry of Healing.