Weekend funnies …

Welcome to December. We are rounding third and heading for home.

Tony

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Researchers boost human mental function with brain stimulation

Study indicates this method could be a new approach to treating a variety of severe mental illnesses.

Researchers show it is possible to improve specific human brain functions related to self-control and mental flexibility by merging artificial intelligence with targeted electrical brain stimulation.

In a pilot human study, researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital show it is possible to improve specific human brain functions related to self-control and mental flexibility by merging artificial intelligence with targeted electrical brain stimulation.

Alik Widge, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and member of the Medical Discovery Team on Addiction at the U of M Medical School, is the senior author of the research published in Nature Biomedical Engineering. The findings come from a human study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston among 12 patients undergoing brain surgery for epilepsy — a procedure that places hundreds of tiny electrodes throughout the brain to record its activity and identify where seizures originate.

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Pulmonary embolism is common and can be deadly yet few know the signs – AHA

Public radio fans knew NPR books editor Petra Mayer as an exuberant lover of science fiction, romance novels, comic books and cats. “If it’s fun and nerdy, I’m all about it,” she declared.

Friends and family now are mourning the loss of the witty, bubbly 46-year-old. She died earlier this month of what her parents said was a pulmonary embolism. Few details were released about the circumstances of her sudden death. But experts said it highlights the need for greater understanding of pulmonary embolism, also known as PE.

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“Unfortunately, PE can strike people at all stages of life, from the young and healthy to the older and not as healthy,” said Dr. Karlyn Martin, an assistant professor of medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Pulmonary embolism is the third-leading cause of cardiovascular death. But, Martin said, people are much less aware of its symptoms.

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Better sleep habits may be key to better health – AHA

I have written about how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. You can check out my Page – How important is a good night’s sleep? I was happy to see this information on the subject by the American Heart Association.

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Improving your overall sleep health could help lower your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and other cardiovascular threats, according to new research.

Experts already knew a lack of sleep and having sleep disorders can put health at risk. But the new study looked into whether the multiple factors that go into a good night’s sleep are collectively associated with health risks.

To measure overall sleep health, the researchers created a multi-dimensional score based on the average amount of sleep each night, the consistency of bedtime and wake-up times, and how long it takes to fall asleep. They also factored in excessive daytime sleepiness and symptoms of sleep disorders such as snoring and difficulty breathing during sleep.

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Link between processed meat and illness sparks calls for integrated policy

The global rise in the red and processed meat trade over the past 30 years has been linked to a sharp increase in diet-related illnesses, finds an analysis published in BMJ Global Health. The most significant impact can be seen in northern and eastern Europe, the Caribbean and Oceania.

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The researchers are now calling for health policies to be integrated with agricultural and trade policies among importing and exporting nations as a matter of urgency to stave off further personal and societal costs.

The top 10 countries with the highest proportion of deaths attributable to red meat consumption in 2018 were The Netherlands, Bahamas, Tonga, Denmark, Antigua and Barbuda, Seychelles, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Croatia and Greece. 

Gut-wrenching statistics for meat consumers
Meat trade in the flagged countries accounted for more than 7% of all deaths attributable to diets high in both red and processed meat.

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More on 10,000 steps a day …

Back in August I addressed the concept of ‘10,000 steps a day.’ You can read about it here. Now comes the American Heart Association with further insights into this idea. I have said repeatedly that walking is the Cinderella of the exercise world – totally unappreciated.

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It’s a worthy, healthy goal to take 10,000 steps each day, but that magic number didn’t come from doctors or physical trainers.

In the mid-1960s, Japanese marketers trying to sell a pedometer named it manpo-kei, which generally translates to “10,000 step meter” in English. The Japanese character for “10,000” roughly resembles a person walking.

“It’s a nice clean number and it makes a good marketing message,” said Amanda Paluch, assistant professor in the School of Public Health and Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. “You can see why it stuck. But there was not a lot of science behind it.”

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Is turkey healthy for you? AHA

Okay, the timing for this could have been better by a few days, but you are probably stiil having leftovers, right?

Since before Americans officially celebrated Thanksgiving, turkey has had a place at the holiday table. Lately, it also has developed a reputation as a relatively healthy part of the big meal.

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Does it deserve that reputation?

“Yes, it does,” said Catherine M. Champagne, a professor of nutritional epidemiology and dietary assessment and nutrition counseling at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge. But that blessing comes with a side of caveats.

Historians say turkey has been part of American harvest feasts since the early 19th century, but a couple of writers get credit for serving up the idea of turkey as a holiday staple. Sara Josepha Hale, “the mother of Thanksgiving,” described it as central to a traditional New England Thanksgiving in an 1827 novel, decades before Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national holiday in 1863. In between, in 1843, Charles Dickens gave turkey a starring role in “A Christmas Carol.”

It was a healthy choice.

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Weekend funnies …

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving and are cooling out for the weekend …

Tony

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Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all have a Wonder-ful Thanksgiving this year.

Tony

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Healthy holiday sides – Tufts

This Thanksgiving don’t abandon healthy habits…celebrate them. Whether you are getting together virtually or in person, seasonal produce brings color, flavor, variety, and nutrition to your table. What better way to carry on the Thanksgiving tradition than to celebrate with a table laden with seasonal plant-based foods—as we give thanks for the Earth’s nourishing and delicious bounty.

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Focus on Fall Flavor: Autumn’s array of produce—like winter squashes, apples, root vegetables, cranberries, and pomegranates—are packed with nutrients, fiber, and other health-promoting bioactive compounds. “When you bring in variety from plant foods, you satisfy the desire for flavor without excessive calories, and you feel very satisfied,” says Susan B. Roberts, PhD, director of the Energy Metabolism Laboratory at the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

Many traditional Thanksgiving sides—like sweet potatoes with marshmallows and creamy green bean casserole—have lots of added sugars and saturated fat. “Most things taste good with sugar and butter,” Roberts says, “but you can also prepare many tasty things without, and enjoy something a little different, or even completely new.”

If nothing says “celebration” like sweet, add fruit to vegetable dishes for sweetness without added sugar. Richly colored, naturally sweet, and packed with nutrients, seasonal fruit is a crowd-pleaser. Apple makes a great compliment to sweet potatoes; dried apricots or prunes add earthy sweetness to roasted root vegetables; pears, berries, and persimmons make a delicious addition to salads; and pomegranate arils are gorgeous sprinkled over most any dish before serving. A dash of cinnamon or nutmeg adds depth and fall flavor.

Cooking method influences flavor as well. Roasting vegetables, for example, causes caramelization, intensifying their natural sweetness (see below for Dr. Lichtenstein’s veggie roasting instructions).

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Close older couples have synchronized heart rates – UI Study

As couples grow old together, their interdependence heightens. Often, they become each other’s primary source of physical and emotional support. Long-term marriages have a profound impact on health and well-being, but benefits depend on relationship quality.

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A new study from the University of Illinois examines the dynamics of long-term relationships through spatial proximity. The researchers find that when partners are close to each other, their heart rates synchronize in complex patterns of interaction.

“Relationship researchers typically ask people how they’re doing and assume they can recall properly and give meaningful answers. But as couples age and have been together for a long time, they laugh when we ask them how satisfied or how committed they are. When they have been married for 30 or 40 years, they feel that indicates commitment in itself,” says Brian Ogolsky, associate professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the U of I and lead author on the study.

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Celebrate Fibonacci Day – Today

I am Italian and I like playing with numbers, sometimes in casinos, sometimes not.

November 23 is celebrated as Fibonacci day because when the date is written in the mm/dd format (11/23), the digits in the date form a Fibonacci sequence: 1,1,2,3. A Fibonacci sequence is a series of numbers where a number is the sum of the two numbers before it. For example: 1, 1, 2, 3…is a Fibonacci sequence. Here, 2 is the sum of the two numbers before it (1+1). Similarly, 3 is the sum of the two numbers before it (1+2).

The Rabbit Question

The Fibonacci sequence, one of the biggest accomplishments of Leonardo of Pisa came from a simple puzzle about rabbit population. In his book Liber acaci, Fibonacci posed this puzzle: if there are a pair of newly born rabbit – male and female – in the field and if they are able to produce another pair of rabbits in their second month of life, how many pairs of rabbits will be there after a year?

Born in 1170 in Pisa, Italy, Fibonacci was also responsible for making the Hindu-Arabic numerals popular in Europe. In Liber acaci he advocated the use of these numerals, explained the use of zero, provided ways to convert between currencies and different measurements, and described how to calculate interest.

Fibonacci in Nature

One of the beauties of the Fibonacci sequence is that the series is evident all over the natural world. Petal arrangements in flowers, the ordering of leaves in plants, the shell of the nautilus, the DNA molecule and even hurricanes show patterns that correspond to the sequence.

How to Celebrate?

  • Start the day by learning more about the Fibonacci sequence and its theoretical and practical uses.
  • A number of fruits and vegetables, like pineapples, romanesco (a cross between broccoli and cauliflower) display the Fibonacci series – incorporate them in your meals to celebrate this mathematical holiday.
  • Have children in your life? Introduce them to the elegance of math and the importance of learning it to use in real life.

Did You Know…

…that the ratio of two successive numbers in the Fibonacci sequence is very close to the Golden Ratio? The Golden Ratio is approximately equal to 1.6. Objects whose length and breadth exhibit the Golden Ratio are thought to be the most pleasing to the eye.

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How grandmothers’ brains react to the sight of their grandchildren

Many people lucky enough to have grown up with doting grandmothers know that they can burnish a child’s development in unique and valuable ways. Now, for the first time, scientists have scanned grandmothers’ brains while they’re viewing photos of their young grandchildren — providing a neural snapshot of this special, inter-generational bond. 

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Proceedings of the Royal Society B published the first study to examine grandmaternal brain function, conducted by researchers at Emory University. 

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Other dementias besides Alzheimer’s

In November we recognize Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, an opportunity to shine a light on a debilitating disease that causes memory and thinking problems often referred to as dementia. Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases according to the Alzheimer’s Association.  But what else can cause dementia?

The Alzheimer’s Prevention Registry invited David Weidman, MD, a neurologist and associate medical director for research at the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix to explain some additional types of dementia.

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“Dementia is a broad category of disorders with accelerated brain decline,” said Dr. Weidman. “While Alzheimer’s is the biggest piece of the pie, there are other reasons for dementia including vascular changes in the brain, Parkinson’s or Lewy Body Dementias and Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD).”

Mix of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia

Vascular dementia is more often seen in combination with Alzheimer’s, what can be called a mixed dementia. It is not often the sole cause of dementia. It is usually caused by changes in the small vessels within the brain. Sometimes there are minor or silent strokes in areas of the brain that might affect processing speed, problem solving, and follow-through on complex tasks, with relative sparing of memory and language. Vascular dementia is more commonly encountered in people with stroke risk factors, such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

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Cold Weather Cycling Tips

Regular readers know that I ride year ’round here in Chicago. Through November, we barely cracked 40 degrees F which didn’t call for much extra prep beyond gloves and ear covering. Come December, however, with the advent of the 30s and below a whole new dimension of cycling wear opens up. Whether you ride a bike or not, I think you will find some useful info here.

From the Toronto Star

A recent Wall Street Journal had a cleverly written item on Your Outdoor Sports Survival Guide, by Jason Gay. He aptly describes “the maniacal joy of Survival Season,” and observes “Nobody looks suave playing sports in the freezing cold. If you are doing it correctly, you look a little unhinged and suspicious. Are you going to play golf…or rob the Bank of Alaska?”
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Weekend funnies …

For those parents who have traveled with kids.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tony

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