Shopping, buying encouraged by brain activity

There’s a reason why you go to the store for one item and come back with five or six. Shopping boosts your mood and makes you feel good.

That’s the conclusion of Gregory Burns, author of “Satisfaction: The Science of Finding True Fulfillment” (Henry Holt).

Burns writes that “recreational shopping” and “retail therapy” have a real chemical reward.

Shopping triggers release of brain chemicals that give you a shopping high. It’s genetic. With Christmas coming soon, science has new information that could help you keep spending in line and help you understand the highs of buying the lows of buyer’s remorse.

Blame your buying partly on the brain chemical dopamine. It plays a crucial role in our mental and physical health and is associated with feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Dopamine is released when we experience something new, exciting, or challenging.

Shopping can be all of those things, according to Burns, an Emory University neuroscientist. Dopamine is like a fuel injector for action, he writes. It urges you to seal the deal, even though you may never use the item. Once you have it, however, you get a let-down feeling.

To make better shopping decisions, experts recommend:

* Buy only what’s on your list.

* Use cash or debit cards to keep you from buying things you can’t afford.

* Window-shop when stores are closed or your wallet is at home.

* Don’t shop with friends or relatives. The novelty puts you at a higher risk of buying things you don’t need.

Lack of sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure

The National Health and Nutrition Survey published in Hypertension identifies sleeplessness as a significant risk factor for high blood pressure.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center say this is the first study that shows a relationship between short sleep duration and high blood pressure.

Included in the survey were people ages 32 to 59 who got five hours of sleep or less a night. They were more than twice as likely to develop hypertension than those who got the recommended norm of seven to eight hours. The difference remained even after controlling for known hypertension risk factors.

On the other hand, people who got nine hours of sleep were no less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who got seven or eight hours.

Many conditions contribute to high blood pressure, such as obesity, but lack of sleep appears to be an independent cause. Normally during sleep the heart rate and blood pressure are lower. In people deprived of sleep over a long period of time, however, the work done by the heart increases. This can lead to irreversible changes in the heart and blood vessels.

The study shows that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders that are often not treated. The disorders include obstructive sleep apnea, chronic insomnia, and restless leg syndrome, according to Tufts University.

Sleep disorders and deprivation are estimated to cost $150 billion in business productivity, $48 billion in vehicle accidents involving tired drivers, and $16 billion in medical care for sleep disorders.

Boost good cholesterol for big benefits

HDL, the good cholesterol, helps to protect you from heart attack and stroke. New research shows it also helps to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. If your HDL is below 40 for a man or 50 for a woman, here’s what to do:

* Quit smoking.

* Increase physical activity.

* Lose weight. HDL rises for every 7 pounds you drop, according to Johns Hopkins Medical Centers.

* Avoid trans fatty acids found in many baked goods and margarines.

* Consuming 2 to 6 ounces of wine per day can raise HDL levels.