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Women's Health

Mother Knows Best

Mom deserves a lot more credit than we give her. Here are 10 things that she got right.
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Religion

Although we might not have appreciated it at the time, maybe we should thank Mother for telling us to say our bedtime prayers and for taking us to church.

"Religion may be at least as good for the body as it is for the soul," radiologist Andrew B. Newberg, MD, writes in his book Why God Won't Go Away.

Many studies have supported this idea, including one from Duke University that followed nearly 4,000 older adults. Even after accounting for health conditions and medical care, older adults attending religious services at least once a week lived longer than those attending less often.

"Religiously or spiritually active people have longer lives," agrees Michael E. McCullough, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

That makes sense because religion discourages high-risk behavior like involvement in crime, extramarital sex, and use of alcohol, drugs, and tobacco. And it encourages marriage, which has health benefits of its own. But over and above these effects, religion was linked to longer life in 42 clinical studies that McCullough analyzed.

Sleep

Remember when you wanted to pull an all-nighter getting ready for the big exam, while Mom told you to get a good night's sleep?

"For at least some kinds of learning, good sleep after you are initially exposed to the material is absolutely critical," Robert Stickgold, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, tells WebMD.

College students who stay up all night after studying "completely wiped out the potential benefits of their training session," Stickgold says. "Subsequent nights of sleep could not make up for this loss."

Sleep deprivation also causes irritability, dangerous driving, and careless mistakes, all of which can be hazardous to your health.

Drugs

Mom said, "Just say no," and for good reason. Each year, illegal drugs cause about 10,000 deaths in the U.S., and drunk driving kills another 16,000. Tobacco-related disease, including heart disease and cancers, kills 450,000 Americans each year. About half of smokers die young, cutting as many as 25 years off their life span. Need we say more?

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