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That's What Friends are For

A number of California researchers have coined a new phrase that they say describes some women's response to stress: tend-and-befriend. The researchers report in Psychological Review (July, 2000) that one way women react to stress is by tending to offspring and forming social groups.

Oxytocin is the hormone behind all this togetherness. In women oxytocin stimulates contractions of the uterus in labour and milk letdown during nursing. This hormone has also been found to promote nurturing social behaviour, decrease blood pressure, and enhance relaxation.

Perhaps the researchers have confirmed what many women already know: spending some time with a friend can be a great way to combat the pressures of modern life.

Josie Padro

Pets in Pants

Those people walking down the street pushing costumed puppies in strollers might not be as crazy as they appear-they might be the sanest, healthiest people out there.

Dressing up your pets is a form of anthropomorphism, which is when people attribute human characteristics to animals, thinking that animals have the same capacity as humans for thoughts, feelings, motivations, and beliefs. A report in Society & Animals (2002), states that attributing human characteristics to pets and relying on them for social support has health benefits.

Pets improve owners' sense of well-being and aid with stress relief, which can help with some types of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, and suicide.

So, if you're feeling down, dress up your furry friend and go for a walk.

Rob Klettke

Keeping an Eye on Blood Sugar

Blood sugar monitors have come a long way. First introduced in the early '70s, they provided diabetics with an accurate method of determining blood sugar levels. Up until then, diabetics had been managing with very unreliable urine testing.

Today's generation of blood sugar monitors require a much smaller sample of blood. They allow blood samples to be taken from areas of the body less sensitive than the fingers, such as the forearm, and test results can be stored electronically and downloaded to a computer.

Selecting the right monitor has become a matter of choosing from a wide variety of  features. For example, diabetics with impaired vision can choose a monitor that has a large display screen or gives voice prompts.

More recent models constantly monitor blood sugar levels and deliver insulin into the body as it's needed. Thanks to advances in medicine and technology, monitoring blood sugar levels has become both easier and more accurate.