If you’re not exhausted, then I’m afraid you’re not with the in-crowd

Tuesday, 2 August, 2016

Exhaustion, feeling tired, knackered, is the new black. So revered is the state of fatigue, it has become a status symbol. Apparently.

Today, exhaustion still hints at status, but of a different sort. To say that you’re exhausted is to telegraph that you’re important, in demand, and successful. It’s akin to the humblebrag of ruefully describing yourself as “so busy” – naturally, since exhaustion follows from busyness.

At least exhaustion is an inexpensive status symbol. In financial terms anyway.

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Major diseases are in decline in some places. But why exactly?

Thursday, 14 July, 2016

Disorders such as colon cancer, dementia, and heart disease, appear to be in decline in well-off nations, and the medical profession seems stumped as to why. The reason, if it can be identified, may reduce the numbers of people who are still succumbing to these ailments.

But Dr. Cummings, intrigued by the waning of disease, has a provocative idea for further investigation. He starts with two observations: Rates of disease after disease are dropping. Even the rate of “all-cause mortality,” which lumps together chronic diseases, is falling. And every one of those diseases at issue is linked to aging. Perhaps, he said, all these degenerative diseases share something in common, something inside aging cells themselves. The cellular process of aging may be changing, in humans’ favor.

The focus also needs to turn to reducing, eliminating even, errors in diagnosis and treatment of diseases. Such mistakes see people administered incorrect medications, or undergoing the wrong surgical procedures, that ultimately results in a large number of unnecessary deaths.

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Quietly as you go, making an argument for silence

Wednesday, 13 July, 2016

The value of silence in maintaining our health and well being seems to be much underestimated. On the other hand, the harm, and discomfort even, that excess noise can occasion, is likewise miscalculated.

Dislike of noise has produced some of history’s most eager advocates of silence, as Schwartz explains in his book Making Noise: From Babel to the Big Bang and Beyond. In 1859, the British nurse and social reformer Florence Nightingale wrote, “Unnecessary noise is the most cruel absence of care that can be inflicted on sick or well.” Every careless clatter or banal bit of banter, Nightingale argued, can be a source of alarm, distress, and loss of sleep for recovering patients. She even quoted a lecture that identified “sudden noises” as a cause of death among sick children.

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For medicinal purposes, the case for more tree lined streets

Monday, 11 July, 2016

Hospital patients who can see a tree from their room, tend to be discharged sooner than those who might be looking at a brick wall through the window. What’s intriguing though is a finding that trees planted along roadways, rather than in the backyards of houses, or parks, increase the sense of well being among people walking passed them.

The health benefits stem almost entirely from trees planted along streets and in front yards, where many people walk past them; trees in back yards and parks don’t seem to matter as much in the analysis. It could be that roadside trees have a bigger impact on air quality along sidewalks, or that leafy avenues encourage people to walk more. But Berman is also interested in a possibility that harks back to Ulrich’s hospital-window finding: perhaps it is enough simply to look at a tree.

The message is simple. Plant more trees.

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Are some cancers preventable by adopting healthy behaviours?

Friday, 8 July, 2016

Is developing cancer unavoidable, and down to bad luck, or might we have some control over remaining free of these diseases? Possibly seems to be best answer. Adopting “low-risk behaviours”, such as eliminating alcohol and tobacco consumption, and exercising more, among other things, can help reduce the risk of developing some cancers, but not all.

Of the nearly 90,000 women and more than 46,000 men, 16,531 women and 11,731 men fell into the low-risk group. For each type of cancer, researchers calculated a population-attributable risk, which is the percentage of people who develop cancer who might have avoided it had they adopted low-risk behaviors.

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Breathe out, that’s the way we lose weight

Thursday, 9 June, 2016

Those who are trying to lose weight don’t really burn off excess fat, rather, they breathe it out. That I didn’t know.

When we talk about weight loss, we generally talk about “burning” fat. That’s not incorrect. But many folks – including plenty of doctors – will mistakenly tell you that this fat is mostly lost as heat as the result of this “burning.” But as you so rightly point out, the law of conservation of mass says that the physical stuff that makes up fat has to go somewhere. And no, it doesn’t all go down the toilet. In fact, most of it is exhaled as carbon dioxide.

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Taking selfies may be a health hazard

Tuesday, 7 June, 2016

This list of injuries and deaths among people who were attempting to take selfies, defies belief. You do not want to be included. Be selfie safe, and stick to taking photos of yourself in bathrooms, or something.

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And the life expectancy of working class Romans was?

Tuesday, 31 May, 2016

Some people appeared to live in great comfort during Roman times, but for others, especially those who kept the cog wheels turning as it were, that looked to be far from the case. For one thing, the life expectancy of such people was just thirty years. Compare that with ages sometimes approaching seventy, for other Roman citizens.

“The bones are the earthly remains of poor, working-class Romans, taken from commoners’ graves, and display high incidences of broken and fractured bones, chronic arthritis and high incidences of bone cancer,” medical historian Valentina Gazzaniga told The Local. “What’s interesting is that the average age of death across the sample group was just 30, yet the skeletons still display severe damage wrought by the extremely difficult working conditions of the day.”

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Let your sleep patterns determine your citizenship

Friday, 27 May, 2016

Are you living in one country, but feeling an affinity for another? Your sleep patterns may back up the assertion, possibly. I’m in Australia, but appear to have the sleep patterns of a Spanish woman. Curious. Portugal is a country I very much like, not that there’s anything wrong with neighbouring Spain of course, so maybe that has something to do with it?

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Aphantasia, a medical condition that deprives people of imagination

Friday, 27 May, 2016

It seems incredible, but there are people who cannot visualise ideas, places, or even faces, in their minds, and aphantasia is the name given to their condition.

This newly described condition is called aphantasia and has prompted scientists to reexamine an experience that we so often take for granted – our imagination. What’s more, studying it is offering new insights into how we all might boost our visual imagery to improve our memory, increase our empathy and even gain new treatments for conditions like addiction and anxiety.

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