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Nov 03, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- CRUISE SHIPS INSTEAD OF ASSISTED LIVING

Cruise ship living may be a cost-effective alternative to assisted living facilities for seniors, finds a study by Northwestern University in Chicago. Services may even surpass what is provided in senior care facilities, says study leader Dr. Lee Lindquist. "Offering many amenities, such as three meals a day with escorts to meals, physicians on site and housekeeping/laundry services, cruise ship could be considered a floating assisted living facility," she says. Lindquist compared costs over a 20-year period at assisted living facilities, nursing homes and a cruise ship, and finds the cost of a cruise living and assisted living to be almost the same. However, cruise ship living would provide a higher quality of life and offer seniors more stimulation and multiple interactions with new people, says Lindquist.

SLEEP AND ALCOHOL LINKED

There is a strong relationship between alcohol and sleep, according to researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. "If we could stabilize sleep, or take it back to a normal rhythm, it would address one of the reasons alcoholics go back to drinking," says study leader Dwayne Godwin, who presented the findings at the Society for Neuroscience in San Diego. Alcohol initially acts as a sedative in casual drinkers, but sleep is often disrupted. In chronic alcohol users, the brain develops a tolerance to the sedative effects of alcohol and there is an increase in light sleep and a decrease in restorative sleep. Insomnia has been shown to occur in 36 percent to 72 percent of alcoholic patients during both active drinking and withdrawal. "One reason they may go back to drinking may be an attempt to make their sleep feel more normal or satisfying," says Godwin.

YOUNG ADULTS LACK EXERCISE

Researchers at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill find physical activity worsens among U.S. teens as they become young adults. "In a sample originally representing more than 20 million school-aged youth, we found that only 36 percent achieved five or more sessions of moderate to vigorous physical activity weekly," says study leader Dr. Penny Gordon-Larsen. "However, of those 36 percent, only a staggering 4.4 percent maintained this level of activity into adulthood." The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, finds all major racial and ethnic groups as well as both sexes get too little physical activity. Interventions must begin before adolescence, particularly for Hispanic and black girls, according to Gordon-Larsen.

AMERICANS MORE STRESSED

A recent poll found a higher number of U.S. adults feel more stressed today than they did a year ago. Whether it's financial worries, concerns about the future or relationship stress -- the results are much the same -- a weakened immunity system and higher blood pressure. While a vacation may lower stress, it's a luxury many can't afford, but something as easy as breathing exercises can help us cope with everyday stress, according to Dr. Vincent Kerr, a United Healthcare physician. "A mental health break is also important, take a break from your desk or work environment -- sometimes a 10-minute break can help," he says. "A low-fat, low-sugar diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can also boost your physical and mental health."

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(EDITORS: For more information on CRUISE SHIPS, contact Elizabeth Crown at (312) 503-8928 or e-crown@northwestern.edu. For SLEEP, Karen Richardson at (336) 716-4453 or krchrdsn@wfubmc.edu. For EXERCISE, media news services at (919) 962-2091 or news@unc.edu. For STRESSED, Adam Dictrow at (212) 812-7069)

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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