Robert’s Newsletter for September 1, 2019
Occasionally I put together a list of the things that caught my attention as I surf the web trying to make sense of the world we live in. I send it out to those who might be interested.
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🧳 Adventure & Travel
» Video » The always entertaining Alex Honnold, probably the greatest solo climber of all time, answers rock climbing questions » Watch…
» The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reports that tourism enjoys continued growth » Read the press release…
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have found that higher levels of daily physical activity may protect against cognitive decline and brain tissue loss in adults who are believed to be at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. The best results were found among the research participants who took more than 8,900 steps per day.
Traci Pedersen, writing in PsychCentral:
“One of the most striking findings from our study was that greater physical activity not only appeared to have positive effects on slowing cognitive decline, but also on slowing the rate of brain tissue loss over time in normal people who had high levels of amyloid plaque in the brain,” said Jasmeer Chhatwal, M.D., Ph.D. of the MGH Department of Neurology, and corresponding author of the study.
The results suggest that physical activity might reduce b-amyloid (Ab)-related cortical thinning and preserve gray matter structure in regions of the brain that have been associated with episodic memory loss and Alzheimer’s-related neurodegeneration.
The underlying processes of Alzheimer’s disease can begin decades before clinical symptoms appear and is characterized by early accumulation of b-amyloid protein.
The new study is among the first to demonstrate the protective effects of physical activity and vascular risk management in the preclinical stage of Alzheimer’s disease, while there is an opportunity to intervene prior to the onset of substantial neuronal loss and clinical impairment.
“Because there are currently no disease-modifying therapies for Alzheimer’s disease, there is a critical need to identify potential risk-altering factors that might delay progression of the disease,” Chhatwal said.
The new research published in the journal JAMA Neurology.
These actions have focused outrage and attention on the current U.S. Administration’s callous, racial, and white supremacist agenda.
What shocks me the most is not that these actions are supported by many Americans. The U.S.A. has a long history of problems over race. What shocks me the most is just how deep and wide the support really is.
This is the United States of America today. This is what is happening now. And there is a good chance this will continue for a while as there’s a good chance he will get reelected.
The horrific conditions under which immigrants and especially immigrant children are being held in US detention centers, rightly reminds us of the Nazi concentration camps. Lessons of the past have been forgotten.
What I’ve Learned: If their words don’t match their actions, trust their actions. More important than talk is how one lives their life and how they treat others.
Isaac Chotiner, writing for The New Yorker (paywall):
What most concerns you about what we have read about and seen from these border facilities holding children?
Oh, God, where do I begin? I think—to cut through all of the noise, the politics, the back-and-forth on the details—there are just two core issues that are screaming out. One is the fact that the forced and abrupt separation of children from their parents is a huge psychological trauma and assault. The magnitude of the nature of the crisis for a child’s health and well-being cannot be overstated. Abrupt separation from primary caregivers or parents is a major psychological emergency.
The second issue is the prolonged placement of children in institutional settings. Obviously, the two are linked in this particular situation. From the perspective of what we know about children’s health and well-being, what we know about trauma, abrupt separation is one area where we have a lot of research and a lot of evidence about its consequences. But prolonged institutionalization is a separate area in which we have an equally deep research base and knowledge about how damaging that kind of setting is for kids. We are dealing with two very well-studied, serious assaults on the health and well-being of children.
Working with our hands may be key to maintaining a healthy mood, and may lessen feelings of irritability, apathy, and depression.
Susan Biali Haas M.D. writing in Psychology Today:
First, when we use our hands on a task that doesn’t demand much cognitively, it gives the mind a chance to relax and rest. As a knowledge worker (I’m a doctor, writer, coach, speaker, etc.), I’m constantly using my brain. It’s gotten worse with the advent of the smartphone, as I spend so much of my downtime reading interesting articles. I also love reading novels. My brain rarely catches a break.
Second, when my brain is “offline,” it gives it a chance to work on problems behind the scenes. From a number of essays and articles that I read on this topic, it’s not uncommon for people to have breakthrough ideas while mindlessly working on something with their hands.
Third, working productively with our hands is profoundly pleasurable. There is something primal about this. We are made to be active, and have actively used our hands as part of our daily survival for thousands of years. With the advent of so much technology, many of us move through our days with minimal physical effort. We push a button instead of scrubbing dishes or laundry. Overall, we get far less physical activity than would be optimal for our bodies and minds.
Stress and stressful events are part of everyone’s life. Learning to cope well with them is therefore a good skill and strategy.
Western Washington University researchers conducted a study to learn if even short-term mindfulness meditation could help deal with stress.
Researchers concluded that indeed mindfulness meditation increases the ability to monitor and modify coping strategies during times of stress, even after only one week of meditation. And that those that meditated more performed better.
Various studies how shown that mindfulness meditation is linked to better coping flexibility. This is the first study showing that as little as one-week of mindfulness intervention can improve coping and reduce perceived stress.
Results further suggested that the gains in coping flexibility that were evident at post-test were not only maintained but increased in the two weeks after the intervention.
Previous research has shown that people who can shift and adapt their responses to stress are more optimistic, and have less depression and anxiety. This latest study shows that meditation may help build long-lasting flexible coping skills that enable us to problem solve effectively in the face of stressful events.
Learn more about this latest study.
Stephen Rodrick writing for Rolling Stone:
The Centers for Disease Control recorded 47,173 suicides in 2017, and there were an estimated 1.4 million total attempts. Many of society’s plagues strike heavier at women and minorities, but suicide in America is dominated by white men, who account for 70 percent of all cases. Middle-aged men walk the point. Men in the United States average 22 suicides per 100,000 people, with those ages 45 to 64 representing the fastest-growing group, up from 20.8 per 100,000 in 1999 to 30.1 in 2017. The states with the highest rates are Montana, with 28.9 per 100,000 people; Alaska, at 27 per 100,000; and Wyoming, at 26.9 per 100,000 — all roughly double the national rate. New Mexico, Idaho and Utah round out the top six states. All but Alaska fall in the Mountain time zone.
Last summer, I began a 2,000-mile drive through the American West, a place of endless mythology and one unalterable fact: The region has become a self-immolation center for middle-aged American men. The image of the Western man and his bootstraps ethos is still there, but the cliché has a dark turn — when they can no longer help themselves, they end themselves. I found men who sought help and were placed on a 72-hour hold in a hospital ward, and say they were sent home at the end of their stay without any help, collapsing back into the fetal position — the only thing accomplished was everyone in the small town now knew they were ill. I found men on both sides of the Trump divide: One whose anger toward his abusive parents was exacerbated by hours in his basement watching Fox News and Trump while drinking vodka; the other was a Buddhist mortician whose cries for help were met by scorn in a cowboy county that went 70 percent for Trump.
You already know you should eat fruits and vegetables for the nutrients they provide the body. But a new British study has again shown that the health benefits of produce don’t end there. Researchers at the University of Leeds have shown that eating fruits and vegetables can also improve your mood and mental well-being.
Researchers found that people whose diets included more fruits and vegetables reported being happier. Those who ate even just one extra portion of produce a day reported better life satisfaction than those who ate less. Researchers estimated that the extra portion could have the same effect on your mood as walking an additional 10 continuous minutes or more eight days a month.
Previous research conducted in Australia and New Zealand, and published in the British Journal of Health Psychology, showed a diet rich in fruits and vegetables makes people feel happier.
The latest study, entitled Lettuce Be Happy was published in Social Science and Medicine. It is based on a larger group of people who were followed for a longer period of time.
Ephrat Livni writing for Quartz:
Researchers from the University of Michigan School of Public Health analyzed data from nearly 7,000 individuals over 50 years old and concluded that “stronger purpose in life was associated with decreased mortality.” They believe that “purposeful living may have health benefits.”
The new research relied on data from individuals who enrolled in the American Health and Retirement Study (HRS)—longterm research that looks at a cross-section of subjects over time. The original research measured participants’ psychological well-being in 2006, their physical health and, subsequently, causes of death by 2010. The new analysis found that those whose psychological questionnaires reflected a lack of purpose were more likely to die than those who had “a self-organizing life aim that stimulates goals.”
In fact, people without a purpose were more than twice as likely to die than those with an aim and goals. Purpose proved to be more indicative of longevity than gender, race, or education levels, and more important for decreasing risk of death than drinking, smoking, or exercising regularly.