Health & Fitness

Health Health Immunity

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United States
Meredith Corporation
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10 Issues

in this issue

8 min.
mighty immunity

A CUT THAT HEALS. A cough that lingers. A sore throat that clears. It doesn’t take much to remind us that our immune systems work around the clock to protect us from disease and infection. But nothing quite highlights the role played by the body’s protective gear like a pandemic. As the nation has battled the COVID-19 virus over the past months, we have been presented daily with evidence of the immune system’s amazing strengths and also heartbreaking vulnerabilities. Seeing the number of cases mount and death toll rise, you may have questioned whether your immune system really does an effective job at fighting disease. Rest assured, it does. “Your immune system attacks germs such as viruses and bacteria, preventing them from taking hold so you don’t get sick,” says Ellen…

8 min.
the social connection

IT IS ONE OF ARISTOTLE’S most famous observations: “Man is by nature a social animal.” In writing it, the philosopher was making a political point, that people can’t live on their own. What he had no way of knowing was that he was also making a biological one—that people are hardwired to interact others—and that the immune system plays a crucial role in the process. You can’t blame Aristotle for being short-sighted. Even 2,000 years later and with the benefit of modern genetics, we are just beginning to understand how our immune systems and social lives intersect. The connection runs through the microbiome, the universe of bacteria that lives within each person and that collaborates with the immune system to shield us from disease and infection. In recent years, scientists have…

8 min.
the secret life of germs

DURING THE AGE OF COVID-19, IT’S EASY TO panic with every cough, sniffle, or aching throat. When it comes to fighting germs beyond coronavirus, knowledge is power. We all know to wash our hands frequently while singing “Happy Birthday” (twice!), so let’s dig deeper and tackle the more mystifying questions about germs. For instance: How quickly can a germ that you picked up at work cause intestinal distress? If someone sneezes in your face? OK, let’s get down to it. Influenza Virus: Causes the Flu Can live for: An hour or more in the air and up to nine hours on hard surfaces such as metal desks, counters, and faucets. On porous surfaces like towels, it dies within a few hours—although if your family uses a communal hand towel in the kitchen…

3 min.
pets and the immune system

YOUR FLUFFY housemate could be helping you stay healthy. Growing research suggests that owning a pet, specifically dogs or cats, benefits the immune system. Pets can even help kids build immunity before they’re born. Science points to the complex network of bacteria, fungi, and viruses that makes up the “indoor microbiome” in our homes that may actually help prevent diseases instead of cause them. Rather than trying to filter out every last spec of dirt, letting the body be exposed to a diverse array of indoor germs can help the immune system develop properly. And as all pet owners know, nothing helps bring more dirt into the house than a mud-rolling, paw-print-smearing, pet—and research suggests that Fido’s filth can help keep us healthy. A 2011 study published in the journal Clinical &…

11 min.
the power of stress and the mind

OUR MODERN UNDERSTANDING of stress began in 1936 when Vienna-born endocrinologist Hans Selye, then working at McGill University in Montreal, discovered that rats exposed to different types of harmful situations—surgery, drugs, or cold temperature—showed a similar physiological response, independent of the precise nature of the situation. At first his work received little attention, but he soon gained fame and was nominated for a Nobel Prize several times. By the time he died in 1982, age 75, he had published 1,600 articles and 33 books about stress. Selye took stress to be “the nonspecific response of the body to any demand.” Or, as he wrote in one of his bestselling books: “The soldier who sustains wounds in battle, the mother who worries about her soldier son, the gambler who watches the…

2 min.
how doctors do it: fighting germs and staying healthy

1 THEY CHECK WORK GERMS AT THE FRONT DOOR “One of the big barriers to hand hygiene is how our homes are arranged. Most of us interact with our family before we wash our hands. But since my wife is also a physician, we’ve placed bottles of hand sanitizer right at the entrance to our home. As soon as we arrive, we clean our hands.” —Patrick Colley, MD, otolaryngologist at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York City 2 THEY GET THEIR FLU SHOT AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE “I get mine by mid-October. Flu season begins at the end of October, and you need to give the shot time to build up immunity in your body. And although some people worry that it will wear off before the end…