Author Archives: Kacey Elizabeth Gill

Pets to the Rescue

If you have ever had a dog you know that they have the ability to change your entire mood around with just one look. However this isn’t a coincidence from their cuteness, studies have actually shown that having a dog can significantly benefit your health. From turning your mood around to lowering blood pressure, petting a dog can be the simplest solution.


According to Doctors Foster and Smith, owning a dog has many physical benefits like lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, increasing physical activity and even increasing survival rate from heart attacks. Studies have even shown that  dogs have the capability to detect the signs of a seizure and low blood pressure and are thus able to alert the owner anywheres from 15 to 45 minutes before the seizure is going to happen.

Another study from 2002 measured the fluctuation in blood pressure and heart rate among pet owners and non-pet owners when put under the stress of doing math problems. The study surprisingly found that those who had a pet had a lower heart rate and blood pressure both at the beginning of the experiment, during the experiment and their blood pressure recovered more quickly after the experiment. A similar study found that having your pet present during stressful times can be more effective at lowering blood pressure than prescribed medications.

In addition to physical health benefits, Doctors Foster and Smith also note that having a dog has many emotional  and social health benefits. Some include reducing stress and anxiety, helping cope with family illness or death and creating a sense of routine and closeness.

One interesting thing to arise from this is becoming more and more common among college campuses; they are dog fairs. Usually held during finals week or times when students will be facing a lot of stress, dogs are brought in and students are allowed to spend the day petting and playing with them as a stress reducer. This is because petting a dog can increase the level of oxytocin the stress reducing hormone while simultaneously reducing the level of the stress creating hormone cortisol.

Even with all this data however, many still claim the direct correlation between having a pet and better health is difficult to prove. The National Center for Health Research notes that most of the studies conducted are based off of current health making it difficult to determine if a person is in good health because of that pet. They further claim that if a person is feeling sick they are less likely to want to get a dog. That leads to the assumption that reverse causation may be involved. If reverse causation were involved that would mean that rather than having a dog cause good health, being in good health would cause people to get a dog.

All that being said, regardless of opposition, the next time you feel down in the dumps or a little stressed out the best solution could be to go spend an afternoon petting a dog. Or if you already have one be sure to spend a little extra time walking and petting him and see if you notice an improvement in your physical and emotional health.







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Your 8 AM May Be Hurting Your Health

If you’re having trouble staying awake in your 8 AM you are not alone. Students across the country in all levels of school are reporting to class as early as 8:30 AM and it is having a negative affect on their health. Your sleep schedule isn’t the only thing affected by this, more and more studies being done are finding evidence linking a lack of sleep caused by early school start times to other serious health issues ranging from depression to obesity.

It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that students get anywhere from 8 and 1/2 to 9 hours of sleep per night. However any busy student will know that this is next to impossible. We go from classes to sports to clubs to jobs and then come home to do hours of homework and studying. Yet we are somehow still expected to make it to bed at a reasonable hour to get up the next day to do it all over again. nabjrus

While 8:30 AM may sound like a reasonable time to start class it fails to factor in the time students need to get up in the morning, eat a sustainable breakfast and get to school on time. Once this is all accounted for, it leaves students getting up for school as early as 6 AM. The average 18-19 year old goes to bed anywhere from 12 to 1 AM, meaning that on average they receive only 5-6 hours of sleep per night. This is where the health affects begin to develop.

According to a recent study done by the CDC, children and teens who do not get enough sleep (the recommended 8-9 hours) are more likely to show signs of depression, give in to dangerous behavior like drinking and drug use and perform poorer in school. A lack of sleep can lead to a weakened immune system, falling asleep in class and a lack of motivation. Of the 39,700 public schools tested, only 17.7% reported having schools that start at 8:30 AM or later. Meaning that hundreds of thousands of kids across the country are at risk for these problems.

Another study showed that the affects of inadequate sleep are similar to the affects of being slightly intoxicated. This brought up a good point that the teens who are driving themselves to school exhausted in the morning are getting behind the wheel as if they had been drinking right before. This alone puts everyone in danger. p0806-school-sleep

When puberty hits, the “biological clock” in our bodies begins to change. With this change, we are able to stay up later and often find our bodies pushing us to do so. Research shows, that we are extremely sensitive to the blue light that our computers and TVs emit; as a result, being exposed to it at night (like when we are up until all hours doing our homework) actually hurts us by confusing our “biological clock” and pushing us to stay up later.

So, the next time you think about scheduling an 8 AM every day or stay up until 2 watching Netflix, I urge you to ask yourself “Is it worth the health affects?”


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An Apple a Day?



One of the most famous quotes from our childhood is undeniably “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Whether you heard it from your parents or your doctor it was almost always part of a ploy to get you to eat healthier. The main question on my mind however, is whether this is actually true and if people who eat apples on a regular basis legitimately get sick less and make fewer trips to the doctors. Why is this such a burning question in my mind you ask? Well it is the first few weeks of school and with that of course comes illness. It is rare that you will find a student lacking a cough or the sniffles and in my case I have both. I have been sick since the end of the first week and have already been to the health center twice and have had no success. That being said I can’t help but wonder if I would be in a different place if I had just eaten one more apple.

The Apple a Day myth, dates back as early as the 1860’s and has had many different forms from  “an apple a day, no doctor to pay,” to “an apple a day sends the doctor away” to the phrase we commonly know today. However, the myth may not be so much of a myth. The saying itself originated from the fact that apples are rich in Vitamin C and fiber and contribute to a healthy diet. This leads me to wonder whether eating more apples is:

  1. Directly correlated to less doctors visits,
  2. Whether fewer doctors visits is reversely correlated to eating more apples


3. If the two are affected by some third variable.

This third variable could be anything from people who live in wealthier areas eat cleaner and are thus healthier and go to the doctor less or some people just get sick less etc.







A recent study conducted by UC Davis Medical Center tracked 25 men and women over a 12-week period and had half of them drink apple juice daily for six weeks and the other half eat two apples a day for six weeks and then switch for the remaining six weeks. The study found that those who drank apple juice had a increased their lag-time by 20%. Lag-time is the amount of time it takes for cholesterol to oxidize. Therefore the longer the lag-time means a lower risk for heart disease. The study also revealed a 22% increase in fiber intake in the subjects. According to other recent studies cited by UC Davis Medical Center, people who added apples to their diets showed reduced risk for stroke and lung cancer. Similarly, it was discovered that the phytonutrients that are present in apples including their skin were able to restrain the growth of certain cancer cells.

The important part from this research is that the majority of the health benefits, that being antioxidants and phytonutrients lie in the skin of the apple. According to researchers at Cornell University, it is actually better and healthier to eat apples with the skin on. The health benefits found in apples are so important because they can’t easily be gotten from your local pharmacy. While yes, of course they do sell Vitamin C the fact of the matter is that you can’t get the quantities or the combinations of nutrients that the fruit itself offers. According to the author, an apple can contain 1,500 mg of Vitamin C, this is due in part to the many nutrient combinations found in apples.

So what is to be taken away from all of this? There is no evidence that people who ate more apples physically went to the doctors less, however it is evident that they were healthier and incurred a lower risk for some serious health problems over time. That being said I cannot answer whether the two are directly correlated however, it does prove that there is a connection between apples and better health.

The big take away from this is that if eating an apple a day is going to save you from anything, it may just be saving you from added trips to the pharmacy to get your daily Vitamin C supplements. Even though it won’t save me from getting a cold or the flu, I will be sure to eat an extra apple and hopefully improve my overall health in the long run.


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Science for Non-Scientists

Hello class!

My name is Kacey Gill and I am a freshman here at Penn State and as you probably could have guessed I am not a science major. However, unlike most of you I presume, I love science. Science is actually one of my favorite subjects.


I have always been baffled by our existence, space, time and how the universe came to be.What drives me crazy–Sometimes I think about it until my head hurts because it is truly amazing. That being said I am taking the course because after I dropped my Egyptian Civilizations course which I was really looking forward to by the way, I needed another Gen-Ed and my adviser suggested this course. When she described it to me it sounded interesting immediately. How could I not want to be in a course that forces you to think about science and the universe when I do that on my own. Hopefully I can actually get some answers to my burning questions.

Anyways you’re probably wondering why I am in a class designed for people who hate science. Well, I am here because no matter how much I love science and science theory, I suck at science! Chemistry, math and all the other hardcore science courses are not my strong suits and as a result are the reasons I am not a science major. I hope to be a telecommunications major; don’t get me wrong I love my major and my future career path but I would have loved to be able to be a Computer Engineering or IST major because computers and technology are of interest to me.

So as one big sum up I am here because I love science, but science does not love me back.