Can you die of a broken heart?


The emotional pain of losing a loved one can take a toll on the heart, at least metaphorically. But can it trigger an actual heart attack?

In a large new study, scientists have confirmed what the medical world has long suspected: The so-called broken-heart syndrome is real. The study…found that a person’s heart attack risk is 21 times higher than normal the day after a loved one dies.

Over time the risk of an attack declines, but it remains elevated within that first month. In the first week after a loved one’s death, for example, the risk was six times higher than normal, said Elizabeth Mostofsky, the lead author of the paper…

“If a bereaved person is having symptoms like chest pain, they shouldn’t simply say, ‘Oh, I’m dealing with the stress right now’ and ignore it,” she said.

Other studies have uncovered greater heart and mortality risks in the weeks and months after the loss of a spouse, a child or another loved one, but the new study is the first systematic look at the immediate effect. The researchers interviewed nearly 2,000 people hospitalized for heart attacks over a five-year period and controlled for variables like health and history of disease.

Those with previous heart risk factors were more vulnerable, but the odds increased even for those with no coronary history. Dr. Mostofsky pointed out that bereavement could provoke depression, anger and anxiety, all of which can elevate the heart rate and blood pressure and increase blood clotting.


Losing a loved one heightens the risk of a heart attack.

Sounds like me – to me.

Finding your way to the Dark Side – mapping dark matter

The densest regions of the dark matter cosmic web host massive clusters of galaxies

Astronomers have made the largest map yet of dark matter in the universe. This invisible stuff gives off no light, but it does exert gravity on its surroundings. It probably consists of unknown elementary particles, and it’s much more prevalent than the normal matter from which stars, planets, and people are made. The new map shows that dark matter is concentrated in huge clumps and filaments, with giant, empty regions in between—just as computer simulations had predicted…

Mapping the invisible may sound impossible, but in fact it’s rather simple. Just as an invisible man sleeping in your bed will leave wrinkles in the sheets, the gravity of invisible dark matter produces minute distortions in the observed shapes of background galaxies. Using this “weak lensing” effect to map dark matter is “a first important step to understand the dark Universe,” says…Catherine Heymans of the University of Edinburgh…

Working with the 340-megapixel MegaCam camera on the 3.6-meter Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, the team spent 5 years imaging 10 million galaxies at distances of about 6 billion light-years. “Our map is about a hundred times larger than the largest dark matter map to date,” Van Waerbeke says. A statistical analysis of the shapes of the galaxies revealed the spatial distribution of the intervening dark matter.

The results…look very much like supercomputer simulations of the evolution of the universe, with dark matter clumped into a “cosmic web” of filaments and knots. The clumpy knots, where most of the dark matter is concentrated, neatly coincide with huge clusters of galaxies, just as cosmological theories suggest.

In fact, says astrophysicist Rachel Mandelbaum of Princeton University, “projects like the CFHT Lensing Survey can be used to test theories of dark matter and general relativity.” So far, Ludovic Van Waerbeke says, “everything looks okay. The maps show exactly what we expected.” In other words, the results confirm current popular ideas about the physics, makeup, and evolution of the universe.

Still no sightings of angels, demons, gods and other critters from popular superstitions.

Panetta brags that Imperial US military still the world’s largest

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta cautioned global rivals on Sunday not to misjudge U.S. plans to slash military spending over the next decade, saying America would still field the world’s strongest military and nobody should “mess with that…”

Pressed on whether the United States could take out Iran’s nuclear sites without using nuclear weapons, Dempsey would only say: “I absolutely want them to believe that that’s the case…”

The tough talk comes days after President Barack Obama unveiled a new military strategy that calls for a smaller force as the United States cuts $487 billion in projected defense spending over the next decade in an effort to deal with the nation’s $14 trillion debt…

Dempsey said he worried that some countries might misunderstand the debate Americans are having over changing strategy and the need to cut defense spending…”There may be some around the world who see us as a nation in decline, and worse, as a military in decline. And nothing could be further from the truth,” Dempsey said…

Panetta said U.S. rivals should not misunderstand the situation…”I think the message that the world needs to understand is: America is the strongest military power and we intend to remain the strongest military power and nobody ought to mess with that,” he said…

Congress missed a deadline for reaching a compromise that could have stopped the new defense cuts, but it could still take action to override the spending reductions before they are due to go into force next year.

Obama, in unveiling the new defense strategy at a Pentagon news conference on Thursday, noted that even with the $487 trillion in cuts to projected spending, the defense budget would continue to grow in nominal terms.

He also said the U.S. defense budget would still be by far the world’s largest – roughly the size of the 10 next-biggest defense budgets combined.

Phew. I was worried the retired generals and admirals infesting the infrastructure of the military-industrial complex might be forced to make do on their pensions.

BTW – don’t you love it when the “peacemakers” we elected can’t help but brag to the rest of the world how easily we can kill and destroy everyone?

Recall of Excedrin, Bufferin, NoDoz and more!

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Pharmaceutical company Novartis on Sunday voluntarily recalled a number of over-the-counter drugs — including certain bottles of Excedrin and Bufferin — because of complaints about mislabeled and broken pills…it urged U.S. consumers to “either destroy or return unused” products that are part of the recall.

The items involved in the voluntary recall include Excedrin and NoDoz products with expiration dates of December 20, 2014, or earlier, as well as Bufferin and Gas-X Prevention products with December 20, 2013, or earlier expiration dates.

“(Novartis) is taking this action as a precautionary measure, because the products may contain stray tablets, capsules or caplets from other Novartis products, or contain broken or chipped pills,” the company said.

The moves follows Novartis’ decision to suspend operations at, and shipments from, its Lincoln, Nebraska, facility. The company said this was done “to accelerate maintenance” and make other improvements, adding that it currently “is not possible” to determine when the plant will reopen…

While Novartis announced Sunday’s recall, it said that it did so “with the knowledge of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.” This came about after an internal review and assessment of complaints identifying “issues such as broken gelcaps, chipped tablets and inconsistent bottle packaging.”

If you want to see a detailed list – and I really recommend you do so – of products associated with the recall, please click on the link and go here.

Prices rise 12¢ at the pump in the last 3 weeks. Take a deep breath – it’s only the beginning.

Gas prices in the United States increased by more than a dime over the past three weeks, the first increase seen since mid-October…

The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.35 as of Friday, the Lundberg Survey found. That’s an increase of 12 cents from the last survey of 2011, conducted December 16.

“The price hike comes from higher crude oil prices, which pulled up wholesale gasoline prices, but retailers have yet to pass through to motorists all the hikes they received,” publisher Trilby Lundberg said…

It’s impossible to say how much the wholesale price increase was affected by a higher tax on ethanol, she said. On January 1, an ethanol price subsidy in effect for 33 years expired.

The Lundberg Survey tallies prices at thousands of gas stations nationwide.

And then there’s this – looking forward:

Continue reading

How do you create public-service software? Run a contest.

In recent years, city governments have increasingly used that model to spur software developers to build apps they do not have the budget or brainpower to create themselves. Public agencies put data online and offer cash prizes. Developers write code. The resulting apps help guide residents through city government, or around the city. New York, with its wealth of data sets and developers, has taken to this enthusiastically with its BigApps competition, currently in Version 3.0.

Now it is the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s turn. Last year, the authority posted information about train and agency performance, escalator status, turnstile traffic on the subways, bridge and tunnel plaza traffic, and more, then invited app developers to do what they could with it. The ensuing contest, called the M.T.A. App Quest, spawned 42 projects competing for $15,000 in cash prizes. The entries include apps for every major mobile platform (yes, even BlackBerry and Windows Mobile), e-mail services and Web sites. A panel of judges will pick most of the winners, but there are two popular choice awards…

Some of the apps are clearly in the early stages of development. This is common for app contests, said Brandon Kessler of ChallengePost, which is running the authority’s competition and has handled more than 200 similar contests. Software developers often say it is best to release an imperfect product and improve it gradually with feedback from users…

Some of the most intriguing apps are for regular old computers. The Web site 88 Yards allows you to click on any subway station and see Yelp’s highest-ranked bar and restaurant within a block. Convenient, but if ever a service screamed out to be a mobile app rather than a Web site, this is it.

RailBandit has other apps, but its contest entry is a hypnotic simulation of 24 hours on the New York subways, with hundreds of dots representing trains shooting up and down the lines of the subway map. The dots plod along in the early morning, gain steam as the city wakes up, speed through the afternoon and slow down after dark. I could find no practical purpose for it, but found it very satisfying to sit back and let the subways roll by.

Apps which encourage you to sit on your butt and observe the labors of others are always popular. 🙂