Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category
The nation’s largest cardiovascular health organization has a new message for Americans: Owning a dog may protect you from heart disease.
The unusual message was contained in a scientific statement published on Thursday by the American Heart Association, which convened a panel of experts to review years of data on the cardiovascular benefits of owning a pet. The group concluded that owning a dog, in particular, was “probably associated” with a reduced risk of heart disease.
People who own dogs certainly have more reason to get outside and take walks, and studies show that most owners form such close bonds with their pets that being in their presence blunts the owners’ reactions to stress and lowers their heart rate, said Dr. Glenn N. Levine, the head of the committee that wrote the statement.
But most of the evidence is observational, which makes it impossible to rule out the prospect that people who are healthier and more active in the first place are simply more likely to bring a dog or cat into their home.
“We didn’t want to make this too strong of a statement,” said Dr. Levine, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine. “But there are plausible psychological, sociological and physiological reasons to believe that pet ownership might actually have a causal role in decreasing cardiovascular risk…”
The new report reviewed dozens of studies, and over all it seemed clear that pet owners, especially those with dogs, the focus of most of the studies, were in better health than people without pets.
“Several studies showed that dogs decreased the body’s reaction to stress, with a decrease in heart rate, blood pressure and adrenaline-like hormone release when a pet is present as opposed to when a pet is not present,” Dr. Levine said.
Pet owners also tended to report greater amounts of physical activity, and modestly lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Some research showed that people who had pets of any kind were also more likely to survive heart attacks…
Dr. Levine said that he and his colleagues were not recommending that people adopt pets for any reason other than to give them a good home.
“If someone adopts a pet, but still sits on the couch and smokes and eats whatever they want and doesn’t control their blood pressure,” he said, “that’s not a prudent strategy to decrease their cardiovascular risk.”
Walking the dog is always a shared experience in our family. Neither side of the equation seems to think they’re doing the other a special favor. It’s just fun for us to be together outdoors, sharing a walk.
Proving you needn’t have a crew big enough to fill Grand Central Station to put a smile on someone’s face.
I play this video a couple times a week. Nice way to start off the day.
Thanks, again, Ursarodinia
Two new experiments, one involving people and the other animals, suggest that regular exercise can substantially improve memory, although different types of exercise seem to affect the brain quite differently. The news may offer consolation for the growing numbers of us who are entering age groups most at risk for cognitive decline…
For the human study, published in The Journal of Aging Research, scientists at the University of British Columbia recruited dozens of women ages 70 to 80 who had been found to have mild cognitive impairment…
Earlier, the same group of researchers had found that after weight training, older women with mild cognitive impairment improved their associative memory, or the ability to recall things in context — a stranger’s name and how you were introduced, for instance.
Now the scientists wanted to look at more essential types of memory, and at endurance exercise as well. So they randomly assigned their volunteers to six months of supervised exercise. Some of the women lifted weights twice a week. Others briskly walked. And some, as a control measure, skipped endurance exercise and instead stretched and toned…
And in this study, after six months, the women in the toning group scored worse on the memory tests than they had at the start of the study. Their cognitive impairment had grown…But the women who had exercised, either by walking or weight training, performed better on almost all of the cognitive tests after six months than they had before.
There were, however, differences…While both exercise groups improved almost equally on tests of spatial memory, the women who had walked showed greater gains in verbal memory than the women who had lifted weights…
Rep. Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford, testifying in favor of the compassion in dying bill
A bill that would have allowed mentally-competent, terminally-ill patients the right to choose to request a prescription for medication from their doctors to bring about a humane and dignified death died in committee on April 5.
House Bill 6645 ‘An Act Concerning Compassionate Aid in Dying for Terminally Ill Patients’ would have allowed compassionate aid in dying, supporters say, and given Connecticut residents the freedom to make their own end-of-life choices, rather than placing the burden on others…
Legislators removed it from the agenda on Friday to avoid lengthy discussion or filibuster that could jeopardize other vital bills on the day of the committee’s deadline…
Nearly 100 supporters of the bill packed a public hearing on March 20th, many staying late into the night and early morning hours to deliver testimony.
“People who suffer at the end of life need legal and compassionate options,” Reverend Douglas Peary of East Haven, said. “I support this bill because individuals and their families need the freedom to choose what is right.”
The same legislature which moved to take a leading role in the battle against gun violence, unwarranted death and destruction of human life – did not have to confront the question of terminally-ill individuals choosing to end their own lives with the aid of a physician.
Such is modern politics – even in a supposedly enlightened state.
I get to celebrate my birthday, Thursday morning, under the hands of a plastic surgeon specializing in eye repair. Courtesy of age – and my Italian grandma’s genes.
I won’t be allowed to peer at a computer screen or television for a few days afterwards – and this is not the time for experiments with dictating blog posts to my iMac or iPad.
I should be back by the beginning of next week, Monday, 18 February.
UPDATE: 16/Feb — Peering out from inside this gray head, the surgery appears to have gone well. I can see better, a more complete field of vision than I have had in a number of years. Prognosis from the experts – doctor’s visit next week.
UPDATE: 18/Feb — Eyes appear to be working better than ever. Next Tuesday morning – the 26th – will tell the in-depth medical side of the procedures. And the removal of stitches [ouch].
Meanwhile, I’m resuming a limited schedule of posting – extending back out to all the blogs where I contribute over the next few days.
UPDATE: 26/Feb — Stitches removed this afternoon. I’m happy with progress. The doctor is happy with progress. Complete field of vision – and it will only continue to improve over next few months. The doc is going to use me as his poster child.
If you started piano lessons in grade one, or played the recorder in kindergarten, thank your parents and teachers. Those lessons you dreaded – or loved – helped develop your brain. The younger you started music lessons, the stronger the connections in your brain.
A study published last month in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests that musical training before the age of seven has a significant effect on the development of the brain, showing that those who began early had stronger connections between motor regions – the parts of the brain that help you plan and carry out movements.
The study provides strong evidence that the years between ages six and eight are a “sensitive period” when musical training interacts with normal brain development to produce long-lasting changes in motor abilities and brain structure. “Learning to play an instrument requires coordination between hands and with visual or auditory stimuli,” says Virginia Penhune. “Practicing an instrument before age seven likely boosts the normal maturation of connections between motor and sensory regions of the brain, creating a framework upon which ongoing training can build.”
With the help of study co-authors, PhD candidates Christopher J. Steele and Jennifer A. Bailey, Penhune and Zatorre tested 36 adult musicians on a movement task, and scanned their brains. Half of these musicians began musical training before age seven, while the other half began at a later age, but the two groups had the same number of years of musical training and experience. These two groups were also compared with individuals who had received little or no formal musical training.
When comparing a motor skill between the two groups, musicians who began before age seven showed more accurate timing, even after two days of practice. When comparing brain structure, musicians who started early showed enhanced white matter in the corpus callosum, a bundle of nerve fibres that connects the left and right motor regions of the brain. Importantly, the researchers found that the younger a musician started, the greater the connectivity.
Interestingly, the brain scans showed no difference between the non-musicians and the musicians who began their training later in life; this suggests that the brain developments under consideration happen early or not at all. Because the study tested musicians on a non-musical motor skill task, it also suggests that the benefits of early music training extend beyond the ability to play an instrument…
But, says Penhune, who is also a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development, “it’s important to remember that what we are showing is that early starters have some specific skills and differences in the brain that go along with that. But, these things don’t necessarily make them better musicians. Musical performance is about skill, but it is also about communication, enthusiasm, style, and many other things that we don’t measure. So, while starting early may help you express your genius, it probably won’t make you a genius.”
The only analysis I can offer is subjective – and in agreement with the study. Second-generation American, I grew up in a factory town, downhill and downwind from 2 of the 3 factories that dominated the New England city where I was born.
My parents taught me to read by age 4. And I started piano lessons at 5. I studied and played through elementary school – and stayed in the top of my classes through graduation.
I never became a superior pianist. I played well enough through practice – and later became part of a different music scene because I loved to sing – not for the range of skills as a well-practiced guitarist. But, rhythms and music were as much a part of my mind as the words and tales and adventures that filled the books I read.
The music helped.
You can erect a prefab shed in a remote field, but that doesn’t make it a house. Mercifully, Nathan Buhler of BLDG Workshop and Evan Bare of 608 Design are more circumspect when it comes to their collaborative effort, the Bunkie. Talking to Gizmag, Buhler said that he thinks of the design more as a large product than as small-scale architecture. Effectively a spare room you can put in your yard, we think that’s bordering on understatement.
“We started with the Bunkie as a medium to experiment in ideas that cross boundaries between architecture and furniture design,” Buhler explained. Like furniture, Bunkie will be factory-built and assembled on site. Less like furniture, you can sleep in it comfortably without getting drenched or poked by a mustelid.
Built, a Bunkie has footprint of 12.5 by 8.5 ft and stands about 11 ft high. That gives the Bunkie an area of 106.25 sq ft, which is under the 108 sq ft threshold for building without planning permission under the Ontario Building Code, Buhler informs us. (Both Buhler and Bare operate out of Toronto.) “Everything can be built in a factory and shipped on site for final assembly,” Buhler said.
Bunkie is designed to be multi-purpose, and includes what the designers describe as three distinct “modes” – sleep, play and open. In sleep mode, two queen-sized wall beds flip down to turn the Bunkie into a makeshift dormitory. One folds out from the main wall of the Bunkie, while, cunningly, the other folds out from the pitch of the roof above, creating a sort of queen sized bunk bed arrangement with the top bunk accessed by ladder. A folding table and chairs are secreted in another wall, and can be removed for use in play mode. Open mode is simply use of the whole space, “for meditation, yoga, reading, etc.” Buhler suggests…
Finally, because the front and back faces of the Bunkie are composed of glass, you can basically see through it, so your view of your backyard’s rear fence needn’t be completely ruined.
Delightful. Sensible. Room for one – or two very close people. I would build it without the guest bed in the ceiling.
Om enjoys the weekend with 7 stories – ranging from the Best Pickpocket in Las Vegas to Amazing Bowling!
Happy 2013 everyone. I am starting off a new year with the promise that I will try and share interesting stories to read every weekend. This week, I am starting with some fun stuff — pickpockets and resolutions.
A pickpocket’s tale: New Yorker’s Adam Green writes about master pickpocket Apollo Robbins of Las Vegas. It is just a delightful read and it also taught me a lot about a man and his devotion to his art/craft.
Jerry Seinfeld intends to die standing: Talking about devotion to one’s craft, this profile of Jerry Seinfeld is pretty eye-opening and educational.
Pre Globalism: Kevin Kelly talks about the ease of global tourism and our shrinking world. I quite enjoyed this post by ex-Wired editor who is also one of my favorite writers/thinkers.
The most amazing bowling story: Yeah, it is the quest for perfect score and how it almost killed Bill Fong. Great piece.
How do you explain machine learning and data mining to non computer people?: Good question — and great answers on this Quora thread.
Five things you can do to succeed in keeping your New Year resolutions: Deb Lee has some good tips that are worth noting.
Me, myself and I: Olivia Laing writes about the downsides and upsides of loneliness. Being an ex-New Yorker, I know what she means.
As ever, Om Malik is eclectic, offering interesting reads.