Why Daydreaming is Good For You
Daydreaming is often viewed as a sign of laziness or a lack of seriousness, but a new study says that’s a bad rap. Using a magnetic resonance imaging machine to study brain activity, University of British Columbia neuroscientists found that when a person begins daydreaming, there’s a lot of activity in regions of gray matter dedicated to high-level thought and complex problem-solving, as reported in The Week. “People assume that when the mind wanders away it just gets turned off,” researcher Kalina Christoff tells LiveScience.com. “But we show the opposite, that when it wanders, it turns on.”
The average person spends as much as a third of his or her waking hours in reverie. During that time, we may not be paying attention to the meeting or class we’re in, she says. “But your mind may be taking that time to address more important questions in your life, such as advancing your career or personal relationships.” May you always be blessed with good health.
Stand and Deliver: Giving Birth Upright
As seen in the health section of one of my favorite magazines, The Week, when a woman goes into labor, her first instinct may be to lie down. But that’s probably not the best way to deal with the first stage of labor, says The New York Times. Instead, a new Australian analysis finds, standing and walking can be good for both mom and baby, reducing the total amount of time spent in labor by more than an hour.
The new research analyzed 21 childbirth studies involving nearly 4,000 women, and concluded that when women spend at least part of their labor upright, gravity encourages the natural descent of the baby through the birth canal. “The baby’s head pushing down on the cervix improves the regularity and intensity of contractions,” says study author Annemarie Lawrence. “Women should be allowed to move around freely.” Having witnessed two births first hand, I'd say women should be allowed to do whatever they want! May you always be blessed with good health.
Health Scare of The Week: Hairy Ladies, See Your Doctors
Women with excessive body hair don’t just have a cosmetic problem—they may have a health problem. A Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report says that from 5 percent to 15 percent of women have abnormal hair growth on their face and other body parts, and that for many of them, it’s a symptom of a hormonal disorder. In 70 percent to 80 percent of those cases, the report says, the excess hair is due to a condition called polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, as reported in The Week. Left untreated, PCOS causes hormone imbalances and can lead to infertility and eventually to bigger health problems, such as diabetes. Other causes of excess body hair include thyroid disorders and tumors. “Often women have spent many years trying to cope with their hirsutism before they seek professional help,” Dr. Rebecca Swingler tells BBCnews.com. “If they notice a change in the pattern of hair growth or they notice having to wax more often, then they should seek help.” Often, she says, women with hirsutism can be easily treated with hormone therapy, such as taking birth control pills. May you always be blessed with good health.
By comparing the DNA of more than 12,000 people, researchers have found the first evidence that at least some autism cases are caused by genetic defects. A wide variety of explanations has been advanced to explain autism, but until now, there has been no proof to support any of them, as reported in The Week. An international team of geneticists compared the genomes of hundreds of autistic people with the genomes of a broad spectrum of the population, and discovered that 65 percent of those with autism had altered versions of genes for “cadherins,” sticky proteins that bolster neural connections.
Many autistic people, they found, also have abnormal genes for ubiquitin, a “housekeeping” protein that sweeps away old neural connections so that new ones can be made. These gene differences, along with a set of possible environmental factors during fetal development, can cause abnormal connections in the brain, producing symptoms such as an inability to communicate, poor social abilities, and repetitive behaviors. Genetic scientist Hakon Hakonarson of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who worked on the study, tells the Los Angeles Times that these genetic defects explain at least 15 percent of autism cases. He says pinpointing the defective genes “opens up the opportunity” for genetic therapies that could help autistic people gain normal functioning.
Bullying and Mental Illness
Children who are bullied are more likely to develop symptoms of psychosis later in life, says a survey of more than 6,000 kids. Kids who get picked on between the developmentally critical ages of 8 and 10 are twice as likely to develop hallucinations, delusions, or other symptoms of psychosis as they get older.
Whether maltreatment by peers is physical or consists of psychological abuse such as being verbally tormented or shunned, it has a very serious effect on the preteen psyche, says study author Andrea Schreier. “Chronic or severe peer victimization has nontrivial, adverse, long-term consequences,” she writes in Archives of General Psychiatry. Still, she says it’s possible that kids are bullied because they exhibit early signs of mental illness, rather than bullying causing their illness. - As seen in The Week
Progress in Identifying the Gene for Baldness
A gene linked to early hair loss in mice has been identified by Japanese scientists, raising the possibility of an eventual cure for baldness, as reported in The Week. Researchers in Tokyo believe that the hair-loss gene they discovered, which causes the mice to become completely hairless shortly after birth, is similar to the human gene.
The hair loss was caused not by some problem with the hair itself but in the skin to which the hair is attached. Bald mice were missing a layered cuticle that held hair in place, preventing it from falling out. The same effect may be key to "curing" baldness in men and women. "It is entirely possible that the gene is also a cause of thinning hair among humans," study author Yumiko Saga tells the London Daily Telegraph. In theory, people with the hair-loss gene could be identified and treated before baldness begins. We'll keep you posted!
Men Get a Shot at Birth Control
The holy grail of birth control is a pill that does for men what The Pill does for women, with no side effects. That goal remains elusive, according to The Week, but Chinese scientists say they may have finally developed a highly effective male contraceptive method, based, surprisingly enough, on monthly testosterone shots. In a new study of 1,000 sexually active men, scientists from the national Research Institute for Family Planning in Beijing found that the testosterone shots greatly reduced the average male's sperm count in about 99 percent of the cases, making them effectively infertile.
Over a given year, the incidence of a man on testosterone shots getting a woman pregnant was about 1 percent. That compared to 0.3 percent for the pill and 2 percent for condoms. "If a male contraceptive like this became available, it would give people another choice," Lawrence Shaw of the British Fertility Society tells BBCnews.com. "At the moment, the onus is on the woman." Chinese researchers said most men became fertile again about six months after discontinuing the shots, which disrupt the normal balance of hormones necessary for sperm production. The main side effect of the shots was a change in the sex drive, with most of the men becoming more amorous, not less. May you always be blessed with good health.
Ever Wonder Why People Blush?
When some fair-skinned people feel embarrassment, they blush. When they blush, they get more embarrassed, because they feel that it's a sign of weakness--visible proof that they can't keep their cool, according to The Week. Stop worrying, says new research: Blushing is actually good for your social reputation. When researchers asked a group of volunteers to judge people's personalities based on photos, people who were pictured with a pink flush were more likely to be seen as sympathetic characters.
In another study, scientists found that blushing can hasten bonding in a fraternity-like setting. "It was a subtle effect, but we found that the frequency of blushing predicted how well these guys were getting along at the end," psychologist Dacher Keltner tells The New York Times. Blushing signals to others that you have a heart and are sensitive to what other people think of you. It's therefore endearing. "A blush comes on in two or three seconds," Keltner says, "and says, I care." May you always be blessed with good health.
How Much Weight Should You Gain When You're Pregnant?
When Maggie Baumann was pregnant with her first daughter, she gained 33 pounds. Baumann felt she'd gotten too fat, and when she became pregnant with her second daughter, she starved herself and overexercised, gaining just 18 pounds. The lack of proper weight gain led to bleeding during the pregnancy, and after birth, the baby suffered from a seizure disorder and attention problems.
Baumann is not that unusual, say researchers at the national Institute of Medicine: Most women gain too much weight during pregnancy, and some others, too little. The council has issued new guidelines spelling out the proper weight gain requirements for women with different body types. An underweight woman like Baumann, with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5, should aim to gain 28-40 pounds during her pregnancy. Overweight women (with a BMI of more than 25) should aim for a maximum weight gain of 25 pounds, while obese women with a BMI over 30 should gain no more than 20 pounds. Women in the normal weight range should gain 25 to 35 pounds. "For most women," report author Kathleen m. Rasmussen tells The New York Times, the new guidelines "mean gaining less than they currently gain." -As seen in The Week
Sunblock and a Vitamin D Deficiency are Affecting Our Kids
In ladling out the sunscreen, parents may be exposing their kids to another sun-related problem: vitamin D deficiency. As seen in The Week
, in a nationwide survey, researchers found that 70 percent of children lack sufficient vitamin D, which puts them at risk for a host of ailments, including rickets, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. "We were astounded at how common it was," study author Michal Melamed tells CNN.com
Girls were more likely to be vitamin D deficient, as were the obese, kids who drank milk less than once a week, and those who watched TV, used computers, or played videogames for more than four hours a day. Children with darker skin, which can block a critical level of sunlight, were also at greater risk. The common use of sunscreens, which block the UVB rays the body needs to make vitamin D, "has only compounded the problem," Melamed says.
The solution: Make sure children take a multivitamin with vitamin D, and let kids play in the sun for 10 minutes before hitting the SPF lotion. "Vitamin D deficiency has insidious, serious long-term health consequences for children," says Michael Holick of the Boston University School of Medicine. "The sun-phobic attitude has made the problem much worse."
For more insight on this topic, read New Dietary Guidelines: Pediatricians Recommend “Doubling the D
Why Tots Shouldn't Watch TV
If you have a baby or a toddler, turn off that TV! A new study finds that when children are exposed to a lot of TV before the age of 2, they are deprived of interaction with adults, which can lead to delays in brain and language development, as seen in The Week. University of Washington researchers found that for every hour the TV set was on, even if it was just in the background, adults spoke from 500 to 1,000 fewer words to children. When the distraction of the boob tube was present, children spoke less too, and there were fewer conversations between the adults and the children. This was true whether the show was a kid's program or an adult show that parents were watching in the child's presence.
Speaking directly to a child, previous research has shown, is critical to brain development. In surveys, 30 percent of Americans admit to having the TV on all day long, whether anyone is watching or not. Television, researcher Dimitri Christakis tells LiveScience.com, "is a poor caregiver substitute. My recommendation is that children under the age of 2 be discouraged from watching television." I agree, talking is better than watching. May you and your children always be blessed with good health.
"Tire crumb," a springy material made from recycled, ground-up tires, has become the surface of choice for playgrounds and sports fields. Even the new White House playground uses the rubbery stuff to cushion the Obama daughters' falls, according to The Week. But the Environmental Protection Agency is now investigating whether the shredded tires, which contain a host of chemicals and heavy metals, could cause cancer or other illnesses. The EPA has been testing air and surface samples to see if the chemicals in the tires can be found int eh air or the clothes of kids playing on it. "I'm not sure there's an imminent hazard," Michael Firestone, EPA's head of children's health protection tells the Associated Press, "but it's something we're investigating." Take care of your kids, and may your children always be blessed with good health.
The Roots of Our Laughter
Did you hear the one about...? Human laughter is so old, it's actually pre-human, a new study concludes. Researchers at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. tickled two dozen young primates--gorillas, chimps, orangutans, bonobos, and three human babies--and recorded the 800-odd sounds that burst forth, as seen in The Week. An acoustical analysis revealed surprising similarities between the giggles and guffaws of the humans and those of the other primates. That suggests that laughter dates back 10 million to 16 million years, to the common ancestor from which humans and all great apes evolved.
"Our results on laughter indicate its pre-human basis" and suggest that the act of laughter was "hardwired into humans" by a distant ancestor, lead researcher Marina Davila Ross tells the London Daily Telegraph. The findings could have implications both for research into human emotions and for the management of primates in captivity and in the wild. Just like for humans, Ross says, the animals' laugher "seemed like an expression of joy." May you always be blessed with good health and happiness.
Sweetened Drinks Can Make You Fat
All sugars are not the same. New research finds that drinks sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup raise cholesterol levels and triglycerides and make people fat, according to The Week. Researchers at the University of California Davis put a group0 of men and women on diets that included one that got 25 percent of its calories from fructose-sweetened drinks. At the end of the 12-week program, the fructose-drinking subjects had gained more dangerous visceral fat, and had developed more resistance to insulin (an early sign of diabetes) than a control group whose drinks were sweetened with glucose, a less sweet sugar found in carrots and other vegetables. Dr. Walter Willet of Harvard University tells Time that the study provides "the best evidence yet" not to let kids consume large quantities of sweetened soda, fruit juice, and other beverages. "If children grow up with everything tasting supersweet," he says, "then it's hard for them to appreciate the gentle sweetness of a fresh carrot or an apple." May your children and your grandchildren always be blessed with good health.
A Useful Home Remedy for Eczema
It may sound like a crackpot remedy, but according to The Week, regular baths in diluted bleach bring great relief to kids with chronic eczema, says The New York Times. The Week reports that Northwestern University researchers took two groups of eczema sufferes between 6 months and 17 years of age, and found that those who bathed in diluted bleach (a half-cup of bleach per 40 gallons of bath water) showed major improvement, with far less skin irritation, itchiness, and flaking. Only those parts of the body immersed in the bleach solution improved. Bleach doesn't cure eczema, but it kills the bacteria that often gain access to the skin because of scratching and flaking, and thus greatly reduces "flares" of the disease. Bleach can be very caustic, so anyone interested in a bleach bath should first consult with a dermatologist. May you always be blessed with good health.
Everyone knows that graying hair is a sign of aging, but scientists have never been sure why it happens, according to The Week. The cause, a new study says, is stress--though not the kind that might be keeping you awake at night. Healthy hair gains its color from pigment-producing cells in the scalp called melanocytes, which are replenished by a waiting supply of stem cells. In theory, the supply of stem cells should allow people to retain hair color into old age. But these stem cells turn out to be acutely sensitive to "genotoxic" stress--environmental assaults that damage a cell's DNA, such as ultraviolet radiation from sunlight, air pollution, and household chemicals.
These stem cells, says Japanese researcher Emi Nishimura, "can encounter 100,000 DNA-damaging events per day." In a study with mice, a research team from Harvard University and Japan found that stem cells in the scalp react to the DNA damage accumulated over decades by maturing before they're needed. Without fresh stem cells left to form pigment cells, new strands of hair grow in colorless, or white. Research David Fisher tells ScienceNow.com that further reserach is needed to find out whether emotional stress also damages stem cells and contributes to graying. I'll keep you posted as the research develops! May you always be blessed with good health (and good looks ;-)
The First Period as a Harbinger
A girl's first period is a watershed moment in her life, a dividing line between childhood and womanhood. The age at which that first period comes, says a new study as reported in The Week, provides a glimpse into her future health and body type. After studying 17,500 women across eight different cultures, researchers at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified the genes that determine when a girl will experience the onset of menstruation. These genes, they found, also are connected to body shape and development.
Girls who get their periods earlier, at the age of 9 or 10, are more likely to develop a shorter and pudgier physique, and to have a high body mass index in adulthood. Girls who do not begin menstruating until their teens are more likely to be tall and thin, and to have lower risks for cancers of the breast and endometrium. The earlier a woman menstruates, the longer her body is bathed in higher levels of the female sex hormone estrogen, which has been linked to these diseases.
As always, if you have a question for me, simply submit it on this AHJ form
and I'll be happy to email you a response. Have a wonderful weekend, may you always be blessed with good health.
Tumors are Doubly Depressing
A diagnosis of cancer is obviously a good reason to be depressed. But new research finds that the feeling isn't just psychological: Tumors produce high levels of a chemical that can effect mood and make people feel down, according to The Week. Behavioral neuroscientists at the University of Chicago compared depression and anxiety rates in groups of rats with and without tumors. Since rats have no awareness that they have cancer, Dr. Brian Prendergast tells BBCnews.com, "their behavioral changes were likely the result of purely biological factors." He found that rats with cancer exhibited signs of depression and anxiety, gloating passively when placed in water while cancer-free rats swam for safety. The tumor-ridden rats also hoarded and buried objects they were given, and lost interest in eating sweets. The scientists believe that the anxious and depressive behavior is connected to levels of chemicals call cytokines, which are produced by tumors and also by the immune system when it's battling cancer. Rats with tumors had double the normal level of cytokines, which have a direct, depressing effect on emotional centers in the brain. Good thing to keep this in mind when you are with someone who's been diagnosed with a tumor. May you always be blessed with good health.
A Different Kind of Drinking Problem
The most popular soft drink in the world is cola, and some people like it so much that they drink gallons every day. According to The Week
, Researchers in Greece have found that consuming huge amounts of cola can apparently cause hypokalemia, a dangerous deficiency of potassium that can lead to loss of muscle strength, hear palpitations, nausea, and hear porblems.
In one case, an Australian farmer who guzzled cola all day suddenly found he couldn't breathe and was rushed to the hospital; his lungs were paralyzed. When he stopped drinking cola, he made a full recovery. Two pregnant women who drank liters of cola every day also wound up in the hospital, suffering from muscle weakenss, appetite loss, and frequent vomiting.
The high levels of sugar in cola, as well as caffeine, can change blood chemistry in dangerous ways, researchers said. Because of "aggressive mass marketing and super-sizing of soft drinks," says Dr. Clifford Packer, "tens of millions" of people throughout the world now drink cola to the exclusion of all other beverages, including water.
Folks, you are interested in health if you're here, and if you're an AHJ subscriber you've seen our many articles on the dangers of soda. Be realistic, practice what's been preached, and take care of your health. These AHJ articles will also help:
May you always be blessed with good health.
Health Scare of the Week: The Germs Lurking in the Sand
Now that it's summertime and I'm spending time on the beach both in New Jersey and Florida, I am cognizant of the fact that swimming in foul water can make you sick. While I was safely sunning myself last weekend and reading my favorite magazine The Week
, I learned of another health risk on the beach: The germs lurking in the sand. In fact, the levels of fecal bacteria --from runoff, sewage, and bird droppings-- can be many times higher than in the water.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Environmental Protection Agency interviewed more than 25,000 people about their health several days after they'd visited a beach. Only a small number --less than 10 percent-- reported becoming ill. But those who said they'd dug in the sand were 13 percent more likely to have contracted a stomach illness and 20 percent more likely to have gotten diarrhea; children under 11 were at even greater risk. And think twice before being buried in the sand: You're 27 percent more likely to develop diarrhea, and your kids' risk rises 44 percent. If you must play in the sand, study co-author Tim Wade tells the San Diego Union-Tribune
, "use a hand sanitizer or wash your hands."
For more information, view this article "How a Playful Summer Activity Can Significantly Harm Your Health