Did you know that it’s literally possible to smell fear? Scientists have discovered that the scent of our body changes before we do something scary, even if we’re trying to seem brave, and other people can literally smell the difference.
Scientists have unraveled many amazing mysteries about the body, including a secret our earlobes reveal about our heart health, and why a 3-second yawn revs up our brain and even improves our mood.
Here are seven weird body facts, some of which seem too strange to be truebut are.
Common Ailments You Can Fix Yourself
1. Your heart health is predicted by your earlobes
Oddly enough, a diagonal crease or lack of crease — in your earlobe may determine the health of your heart. Although scientists are exploring the reason behind the link, a 1992 study of hospital patients was the first to report that those with an earlobe crease were far more likely to have coronary artery disease (CAD).
In fact, this indicator was 94 percent accurate at predicting which patients had CAD, prompting the researchers to suggest that this weird clue be used to help identify at- risk patients. More recent research also linked earlobe lines to risk for sudden cardiac death in men.
Warning Signs of Heart Attack
2. Yawning is contagious, but less so in the summer
Seeing other people yawningeven in photoscan make you yawn in response. However, a 2011 study with 80 participants per season showed that yawning in response to photos only happened 24 percent of the time in the summer, versus 45 percent of the time in the winter.
Apparently, yawning cools down your brain a bit, so outside temperature makes a big difference in how likely you are to catch the urge. Scientists also report that yawning also helps keep us alert, because. It turns out that difficult mental tasks literally heat up the brain, while a yawn lowers the temperature.
Another surprising research finding: You can’t complete a yawn with your eyes open, reports neuroscientist Robert Provine in his new book, Curious Behavior: Yawning, Laughing, Hiccupping and Beyond).
3. The body’s largest organ is the size of six tennis courts, yet is only one cell thick
The endothelium, the smooth interior lining of the more than 60,000 miles of blood vessels in the body, would cover six tennis courts if removed from the body and flattened. It’s been called “the brain of the arteries,”because it acts as a smart barrier to control which substances can pass from the blood into the arterial wall.
The endothelium also makes“executive decisions” by releasing molecules that help regulate blood pressure, fight off disease, control blood clotting, and fine-tune blood so it remains fluid enough to flow easily.
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4. Hearing words and seeing colors
In most people, taste, sound, and vision are distinctly separate, but those with a rare condition called synesthesia have a blurring of sensory experiences. Some actually experience tastes in response to words, while others hear sounds when they see certain colors.
“The proportion of words that triggers taste varies…for those in our study it ranged from about 15 percent of words, to one lady who experiences tastes for 100 percent of words,” researcher Julia Simner told WebMD. Scientists are still working to understand how synesthesia affects the brain.
5. You can literally smell fear
People can actually detect and respond to fear by smelling people’s sweat. Research funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency shows that there are different pheromones (detectable chemical substances) from armpit odor when people are afraid than when they aren’t. Their fear can literally be picked up from their body odor.
Researchers taped absorbent pads to 20 people’s armpits right after they ran on a treadmill, and again right before they were about to take a tandem jump while skydiving for the first time. Volunteers were then able to differentiate between the two types of sweat, and areas of their brain that react to fear were more active when they smelled the skydiving sweat than the treadmill sweat.
6. The scent of women’s tears reduces men’s sexual arousal
A 2011 studypublished in Science magazine showed that tears act as a chemosignal, or a chemical substance detectable by others. Not only did men who sniffed tears (which were brought on by negative emotions) find photographs of women’s faces less attractive, the men also reported that they were less sexually aroused, and the scientific data backed it up.
The men’s physiological measures of arousal were reduced, levels of testosterone lowered, and they had reduced activity in the substrates of their brain that are linked to sexual arousal.
7. It’s practically impossible to keep your eyes open when you sneeze
A common misconception is that we shut our eyes to avoid the spray of airborne droplets. Actually, a simple reflex prompts our peepers to blink shut during a sneeze, similar to the reflex that occurs when the doctor taps your knee with a medical mallet, allergists report.
While you can try to keep your eyes open when you sneeze, it’s extremely difficult to do. And since the spray you release can carry germs, it’s also common courtesy to cover your mouth and not infect others.
Foods to Avoid with Arthritis
Many health professionals recommend avoiding trigger foods to ease your arthritis pain
Arthritis is a general term encompassing conditions that share joint pain and inflammation. Typical treatment involves pain-reducing medication. While there is no definitive arthritis diet, research suggests including anti-inflammatory foods to your diet and limiting foods that may trigger joint pain.
Click “next” to learn about the arthritis trigger foods you should avoid.
Fried & Processed Foods
Researchers at The Mount Sinai School of Medicine examined disease prevention through diet. Findings showed that “cutting back on the consumption of fried and processed foods can reduce inflammation and actually help restore the body’s natural defenses.”
Lower Your AGE
AGE doesn’t refer to how many birthdays you’ve celebrated. Advanced Glycation End product (AGE), a toxin that appears when foods are heated, grilled, fried, or pasteurized, causes inflammation once absorbed by the body.
The 2009 study from Mount Sinai reported the benefits of reducing foods cooked at high temperatures. “After four months on the AGE-less diet, blood AGE levels, lipid peroxides, inflammatory markers, and biomarkers of vascular function declined by as much as 60 percent in healthy participants.”
Sugars & Refined Carbs
High amounts of sugar affect the immune system as well as hormone levels, resulting in constant fatigue. Too much sugar consumption also contributes to an imbalance of nutrients. Your body compensates by stripping calcium from bones and teeth, leading to conditions including arthritis. Cut out candies, processed foods, white-flour-baked goods, and sodas to reduce your arthritis pain.
Dairy products may contribute to arthritis pain due to a protein they contain that irritates tissue around the joints. Some sufferers of arthritis pain have shown more success by switching to a vegan dietwhich contains no animal products whatsoever. Rather than getting protein from meat and dairy, vegan protein sources can be found in vegetables
Alcohol & Tobacco
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) warns that “using tobacco and alcohol can lead to a number of health problems that may affect your joints.” NIH states that smokers are more at risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis, while those who consume alcohol have a higher risk for developing gout. Healthy joints require a balanced diet, physical activity, and an adequate amount of restall of which can be compromised by alcohol and tobacco use.
Salt & Preservatives
Know what’s in your food. While table salt may be the first culprit that comes to mind, many foods contain preservatives to promote longer shelf lives.
• Read the Label. Steer clear of preservatives and additives. A more natural diet helps you prevent or manage your arthritis.
• Avoid Prepared Meals. Though convenient, microwavable meals are often very high in sodium and more harmful in the long-run.
• Corn Oil
• Many baked goods and snacks contain corn or other oils high in omega-6 fatty acids including sunflower and safflower. While these treats may satisfy your taste buds, they trigger inflammation. Replace with anti-inflammatory alternatives including olive oil, nuts, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds, all rich in healthy omega-3s.
• A University of Maryland Medical Center study examined the pain-relieving effects of omega-3s on individuals with rheumatoid arthritis and reported an increase in joint pain relief.
• More Arthritis Diet Tips
• There is no established arthritis diet plan. What works for one person may not work for someone else. Trial and error will determine which foods you need to eliminate. In general, experts advise arthritis patients to maintain a healthy body weight and eat a balanced diet.
• 10 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress
• You may not be able to avoid all stressful situations, but you can learn how to manage
Tips to Manage Stressful Situations
It might surprise you to learn that the conception of biological stress is a fairly recent discovery. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that endocrinologist Hans Selye first identified and documented stress. While symptoms of stress existed long before Mr. Selye, his discoveries led to new research that has helped millions combat stress.
Luckily for you, Healthline has made overcoming stress easy by compiling a list of the Top 10 Ways to Relieve Stress. With our help you’ll feel as if Mr. Selye had never recognized stress in the first place.
Listen to Music
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by a stressful situation, try taking a break and listening to relaxing classical music. Playing calm music has a positive effect on the brain and body, can lower blood pressure, and reduce cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.
We recommend cello master Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach, but if classical really isn’t your thing, try listening to ocean or nature sounds; they may seem cheesy, but they display similar relaxing effects to music.
Call a Friend
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a break to call a friend and talk about your problems. Good relationships with friends and loved-ones are important to any healthy lifestyle, and there’s no time that this is more evident than when you’re under a lot of stress. A reassuring voice, even for a minute, can put everything in perspective.
Talk Yourself Through It
Sometimes calling a friend is not an option. If this is the case, talking to yourself can be the next best thing to avoid wigging out. Don’t worry about seeming crazy, just tell yourself why you’re stressed out, what you have to do to complete the task at hand, and most importantly, that everything will be okay (trust us, it will be).
Stress levels and a proper diet are closely related. Unfortunately, it’s when we have the most work that we forget to eat well and, instead, resort to using sugary, fatty snack foods as a pick-me-up. Try to avoid the vending machine and plan ahead. Fruits and vegetables are always good, as is fish with high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress. A tuna sandwich really is brain food.
Visit the Healthy Eating Learning Center for dozens of delicious (and healthy) recipes:
The advice “take a deep breath” may seem like a cliché, but it holds real truth when it comes to stress. For centuries, Buddhist monks have been conscious of deliberate breathing during meditation. For an easy three- to five-minute exercise, sit up in your chair with your feet flat on the floor and hands on top of your knees. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply, concentrating on your lungs as they expand fully in your chest. While shallow breathing causes stress, deep breathing oxygenates your blood, helps center your body, and clears your mind.
Laugh It Off
Laughter releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease levels of the stress-causing hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Laughing tricks our nervous system into making us happy. Unfortunately, bursting into a fit of giggles at your desk may not be the most appropriate way to deal with stress. Our suggestion: watch some classic Monty Python skits like “The Ministry of Silly Walks.” Those Brits are so hilarious you’ll soon be cracking up, rather than cracking up.
While the Healthline staff relies on the stimulating effects of coffee as much as the next guy, it is important to note that caffeine does raise blood pressure and causes your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis to go into overdrive. In other words, caffeine stresses you out. Instead of coffee or energy drinks, try green tea. It has less than half the caffeine of coffee and contains healthy antioxidants, as well as theaninean amino acid that has a calming and soothing effect on the nervous system.
While most of the tips we’ve suggested provide immediate relief, there are also many lifestyle changes that can be more effective in the long run. The concept of “mindfulness” is a large part of meditative and somatic approaches to mental health and has become en vogue in psychotherapy. From yoga and tai chi to meditation and Pilates, these systems of mindfulness incorporate physical and mental exercises that prevent stress from becoming a problem in the first place. Try joining a classmany are free to try on the first day.
Exercise (Even For a Minute)
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean power lifting at the gym or training for a marathon. A short walk around the office or simply standing up to stretch during a break at work can offer immediate relief in a stressful situation. Getting your blood moving releases endorphins and can improve your mood almost instantaneously.
Everyone knows stress can cause you to lose sleep. Unfortunately, lack of sleep is also a key cause of stress. This vicious cycle causes the brain and body to get out of whack and only gets worse and worse with time. Make it a point to get the doctor-recommended seven to eight hours of sleep. Turn the TV off earlier, manage your time, and do your best to get into bed. It may be the most effective stress buster on our list.
Visit the Health Sleepy Learning Center to learn more about solutions to sleep problems and disorders.
Learn More About Stress Relief
Stress is an unavoidable part of life. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Too much untreated stress can cause potentially serious physical and mental health problems.
The good news is in many cases stress is fairly manageable. With some patience and a few useful strategies, you can reduce your stress, whether it’s family stress or stress at the workplace.