WEve been told not to get angry - because it raises blood pressure. While fizzy drinks do nothing but rot your teeth and make you fat. But new research has shown that many of our bad habits may also be good for us. Here, VICTORIA LAMBERT presents the Good Health guide to when and why our bad habits can be positively virtuous... ANGER GOOD FOR YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE We used be warned off getting angry because it raised blood pressure, but now it seems letting off a head of steam may bring physical benefits. Researchers from the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have found that people who respond to irritating, high-stress situations with some righteous anger maintain lower blood pressure and secrete less cortisol, known as the stress hormone, than people who respond with fear or bottle up their feelings. It seems to be about how you react to situations. Demonstrating a level of anger that seems proportionate - such as letting off steam at an unjust situation - helps you develop increased feelings of control and optimism. But being fearful or frustrated doesnt, leading to a rise in the stress hormone, which when experienced for prolonged high levels, can lead to heart disease. VIDEO GAMES BOOST METABOLISM Despite being blamed for their part in the obesity epidemic, video games might actually help us get fit and lose weight. Scientists at the University of Miami hooked up 21 boys to various monitors while they played Tekken 3, a mock martial arts contest, on a Sony PlayStation. These showed that during the game the boys heart rates speeded up, they used more energy and began breathing more quickly. Study leader Dr Arlette Perry concludes that playing video games could have a positive effect on health, provided theyre not substituted for real sport. 'Its better than just sitting there watching TV, she says. SWEARING EASES PAIN Our ancestors may have bitten on sticks of wood when surgery was practised without anaesthetic, but a study has shown they might have been better off without. Scientists at Keele University found volunteers could withstand pain for longer when they swore rather than using non-offensive words. Dr Richard Stephens, a lecturer in psychology who conducted the research, believes it may explain why swearing is still commonplace. Having observed his wife swearing in labour, he was motivated to find out why. LAZING ABOUT ADDS YEARS TO YOUR LIFE People who get up early and busy themselves all day long are heading for an early grave, says public health expert Professor Peter Axt. He believes lazing about is the key to a long life and an antidote to professional stress, provided people are otherwise healthy. He suggests: 'Waste half your free time. People who would rather take a midday nap instead of playing squash have a better chance of living into old age. Research shows that people who run long distances into their 50s are using up energy they need for other purposes such as cell renewal and fighting disease, he adds. GETTING STRESSED BOOSTS THE MEMORY While long periods of stress such as redundancy or divorce can leave your immune system depleted and your body prone to infection, researchers at the University of Buffalo in the U.S have found that a short stressful incident can boost your learning and memory. This is due to the way cortisol, the hormone produced when were stressed, affects the part of the brain which controls learning and emotion. Acute stress increases transmission of glutamate, the substance that passes messages in the brain - and improves working memory. AVOIDING HOUSEWORK PREVENTS ALLERGIES Rising numbers of allergies and auto-immune conditions (such as psoriasis, where the body attacks itself) are often blamed on the 'hygiene hypothesis; the idea that our modern sterile society is too clean. But dirt may not be the key. A survey last year carried out at Bristol and Brunel Universities found that women who used a lot of household cleaning products during pregnancy or shortly after giving birth are increasing their childs risk of developing asthma. The study, which examined 13,000 children from before birth, found that early life exposure to such chemicals was linked to a 41 per cent increase in a childs chances of developing asthma by the age of seven. The chemicals in these products may have irritated the childs airways. LOUD MUSIC STIMULATES THE BRAIN Heading off to rock festivals, or simply turning up the volume on your home amplifier might be good for your brain power. According to researchers at Manchester University, music fans are stimulating part of the inner ear known as the sacculus, which responds to the beat in music. This gives the brain pleasure and makes us feel good - during the music and afterwards. The sacculus, which is not thought to have any hearing function in humans, appears to be sensitive only to very loud volumes, above 90 decibels. Neil Todd, an expert in the scientific study of music, explains that the sacculus seems to be part of a primitive hearing mechanism that has slowly been lost as humans have evolved. DM He said it has a connection to the part of the brain responsible for drives such as hunger, sex and hedonistic responses. When these desires are satisfied, the brain is stimulated into releasing feel good hormones that make us calm, happy and responsive. So to trigger a dose of happy hormones on a Monday morning, you should, in theory, choose Black Sabbath over chamber music. FIDGETING FIGHTS OBESITY It may be irritating at the theatre, but natural fidgets are doing themselves a favour. U.S. researchers from the Mayo Clinic have found that people who always seem to be on the go are more likely to be slim - and may spend two more hours a day being active than their tubby friends. The extra motion, whether it is tapping, twitching, stretching or yawning, accounts for an extra 350 calories a day, or between 10 to 30lb a year. Endocrinologist James Levine of the Mayo Clinic, who led the research, says: 'There are absolutely staggering differences in the amount of fidgeting between people who are lean and people who are obese. The amount of this low-grade activity is so substantial it could account for obesity quite easily. The team also found that while we are born wigglers or sitters, theres no reason to stop a person deliberately adopting a fidgety habit. 'Some say obese people have no choice about their weight, said Levine. 'But I would argue the opposite. BEING UNTIDY Being untidy: An unmade bed can deter dust mites which is good news for asthma sufferers Unmade beds are the bane of many a mothers life, but researchers at Kingston University think they might be the answer to asthma. Their research suggests that house dust mites - thought to cause asthma - cannot survive in the dry exposed conditions found in an unmade bed. Normally, the average bed houses 1.5 million house dust mites, which feed on scales of human skin; the mites waste contains allergens which are easily inhaled during sleep and can particularly affect those with allergy problems such as asthma. An occupied bed, or a made one that retains the warmth and moisture after the person has left it, is the ideal home, but house mites are less likely to thrive when moisture is in short supply. According to Dr Stephen Pretlove, who led the study, mites survive by taking in water from the atmosphere - your body sweat while youre asleep. 'Something as simple as leaving a bed unmade during the day can remove moisture from the sheets and mattress so the mites dehydrate and die. Daily Mail