Parents with kids forced into home-schooling are drinking more booze!

We found that parents who are stressed by having to help their children with distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic drink seven more drinks per month than parents who do not report feeling stressed by distance learning. These stressed parents are also twice as likely to report binge drinking at least once over the prior month than parents who are not stressed, according to our results. Binge drinking, which varies by gender, is when women consume at least four, or men have at least five alcoholic beverages (which includes beer, wine, or liquor) within a couple hours of each other…

Parents are drinking more during the COVID-19 pandemic than people without children. Our survey is the first one to look at the relationship between alcohol use and the stress caused by distance learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Someone will write a best-seller about this.

What does “dead” mean?

Should death be defined in strictly biological terms — as the body’s failure to maintain integrated functioning of respiration, blood circulation, and neurological activity? Should death be declared on the basis of severe neurological injury even when biological functions remain intact? Or is it essentially a social construct that should be defined in different ways?

❝ These are among the wide-ranging questions explored in a new special report, “Defining Death: Organ Transplantation and the Fifty-Year Legacy of the Harvard Report on Brain Death,”…The special report is a collaboration between The Hastings Center and the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School.

Sometimes, these days, I think of death and dying. Some of us must. The old ones. I think of Dylan Thomas. I must needs think of science. Most of me pretty worn; but, I may provide a jot of knowledge simply for what I have experienced and survived.

Ibuprofen experiment extends life span

Ibuprofen stress apparently triggered longer life in yeast

Yeast cells like these lived longer when researchers dosed them with the drug ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen can banish headaches and soothe throbbing joints, but the drug may have another benefit. A new study shows that it increases longevity in lab organisms, raising the possibility it does the same thing in people.

Researchers used to scoff at the idea of extending life span, but it turns out to be surprisingly easy—at least in organisms such as mice and worms. Drugs that prolong survival of these creatures—aspirin and the antidiabetes compound metformin, for example—are already in many of our medicine cabinets. Several studies suggest that ibuprofen is also worth a look. Ibuprofen suppresses inflammation, which underlies many age-related diseases and might contribute to aging itself. In addition, people who take ibuprofen for a long time have a lower risk of developing two age-related illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, several analyses found.

Michael Polymenis and colleagues found that tryptophan levels declined in yeast cells exposed to ibuprofen. They also showed that the drug spurs destruction of a protein that enables cells to absorb tryptophan.

Ibuprofen doesn’t have a huge impact on tryptophan levels, though, decreasing them by about 15% to 20% in the yeast. To explain how this modest drop in tryptophan concentration promotes longevity, the researchers invoked a counterintuitive mechanism. Numerous studies have found that instead of killing organisms, moderate amounts of stress—such as intermediate doses of radiation or toxic chemicals—actually increase life span. A mild tryptophan deficiency triggered by ibuprofen might work in the same way, the researchers speculate. “We figure it’s one more type of stress that seems to be conducive to life span,” Polymenis says…

“There are two new good ideas here,” says gerontologist Richard Miller of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who is one of the participants in the U.S. National Institute on Aging’s Interventions Testing Program (ITP), in which researchers at three institutions are gauging whether a variety of compounds alter the life spans of mice. One is the revelation that “some anti-inflammatory drugs that people are taking may have beneficial effects that are unrelated to inflammation,” he says. The other is the possible involvement in the aging of proteins that transport amino acids into cells, which could lead researchers to new ways to tweak life span.

Nollen and Miller say the study supports testing ibuprofen in mice

To folks who are impatient, Miller cautions against extrapolating the study’s results, especially because the side effects of long-term ibuprofen use can include fatal stomach bleeding. “I think any person who says, ‘Anything that works in yeast is something I want to take,’ is asking for trouble.”

I’ll second that thought.

Worried about electromagnetic pollution? Should you be reading this on your iPad?

Hundreds of EMF-blocking garments and devices are marketed to reduce a person’s exposure to radiation, but the science says not to fret.

When Ameer Rosic went to jail for the last time six years ago, the stars aligned…He spent his time behind bars searching for answers about the type of person he wanted to be and what he wanted to do with his life.

When he got out, Rosic was obsessed with health, and he began working with businesspeople and entrepreneurs on a holistic approach…But for some of his clients, optimal health still seemed just out of reach, and Rosic concluded that the reason was because of their ongoing exposure to electromagnetic radiation from their cell phones, laptops, nearby cell towers, and so forth. So…he decided to launch a clothing company to reduce a person’s exposure.

Riparo, which in November will launch an Indiegogo campaign for its EMF-blocking briefs to “protect your balls” from what some like to call EMF “pollution,” joins an already established market of apparel aimed at minimizing how much radiation penetrates our bodies. This includes every type of garment imaginable, from shirts and underwear to hats and pregnancy bellybands.

The vast majority of scientists across many fields around the world say we don’t need to worry about what amounts to very small radiation exposure from our electronics. The World Health Organization, which launched an initiative to look into the topic in 1997 and has reviewed more than 25,000 studies, has concluded that “current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.”

But considering long-term exposure is still being studied, is it better to invest in radiation-blocking clothing to “play it safe,” as Rosic says, or is this just a bunch of hocus pocus marketed to the most gullible among us…?

The answer depends, of course, on whom you ask…and I would ask – or read studies from – someone with qualified experience and study.

In fact, the most common explanation for the symptoms some describe, such as headaches, anxiety, and insomnia, is that it is the stress people feel about EMF exposure that causes the ill effects. In one instance, a number of people claimed that a new cell tower in their neighborhood was adversely affecting their health — before it had even been turned on.

Lots more fact and study in the article. A worthwhile read. Like anything with a realistic scientific bent, cautions are automatically included. The fact remains that regardless of how confident you can be about answers to a question there are advances in measurement and experimentation every day and it’s always worth revisiting a question. Up to the point of absurdity.

I live next to one of those communities where neighbors sue each other over wifi networks they are certain are giving them bad dreams. A community where in fact the city was sued for a cell tower that caused inestimable harm – even though it hadn’t yet been turned on.

To my mind, an outsized portion of the “problem” rests with a culture that rarely reads beyond headlines or listens to more than talking heads. Folks don’t even get to the place where they should be asking for qualifications.

Having a dog companion reduces heart risk

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.

A caffeinated secret to long life?

People who live on the Greek island of Ikaria are known to have remarkably high life expectancies, and researchers have been studying them carefully to learn why. Now a new report suggests that one reason may be the coffee they drink.

“This boiled coffee seems to generate antioxidant substances,” said Dr. Gerasimos Siasos, a professor at the University of Athens Medical School and an author of the study, which appears in the journal Vascular Medicine.

He and his colleagues found that older islanders who drank the boiled coffee had better functioning endotheliums — the layer of cells that line blood vessels.

“When there is dysfunction here, the arteries become more stiff, and we have heart attacks and arterial occlusions,” said Dr. Siasos, who did the research with his colleague Dr. Christodoulos Stefanadis.

Of course, coffee is only one factor. “It has to do with their way of living,” Dr. Siasos said. “People sleep over eight hours a night, there is increased socializing, and they have much less stress than people in Athens.”

The islanders also eat a Mediterranean diet that includes many fruits, vegetables, olive oil and fish. Most also nap every day and walk and garden regularly, Dr. Siasos said.

The researchers will journey to Ikaria this summer to study how the island’s water, minerals and air quality might also be contributing to longevity.

If they pay close attention to the research they may just decide to stay there instead of returning to Athens. Between sleeping better, eating healthier, living a less stressful life – plus the boiled coffee – I can think of a whole boatload of reasons NOT to leave.

CalmSpace pod for office power naps

The rejuvenating power of naps has been known about for some time, with various studies showing that even a short nap can increase alertness. While a nap of around two hours is of most benefit as it encompasses all stages of sleep, a power nap of up to 30 minutes is certainly better than nothing. It’s not long enough for you to enter deep sleep (and consequently risk feeling worse than before), but it’s long enough to take the edge off your need to actually go to bed. Whether such evidence would ever be enough to persuade a company to provide designated areas for workers to sleep is unclear, but CalmSpace exists for that very purpose.

CalmSpace was designed by Marie-Virginie Berbet, originally as a prototype for France Telecom, but is now a finished product for office furniture brand Haworth. It’s a self-contained, plug-and-play sleep capsule optimized to create the perfect environment for tired office workers to catch some shuteye…

As well as preventing people falling asleep at their desks or burning out, power naps boast some other alleged health benefits. They can reduce stress and raise brain power and productivity levels. While many forward-thinking companies are providing areas for employees to collectively relax and take time out, very few are providing environments for individuals to actually get some sleep in.

OK. Let’s examine what could go wrong with this idea:

1. Is there room for two inside…?


Can office dogs reduce stress?

Harry Truman said – “if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog”

If you are wondering how to improve morale, encourage collaboration and limit stress in your workplace — without spending too much money — maybe you should consider getting an office dog…

According to a preliminary investigation published in March…employees who bring their dog to the office can cap the amount of stress experienced during the day, and improve job satisfaction for all.

Randolph Barker, a dog-loving management professor, monitored the stress levels of employees at a retailing and manufacturing business with a 14-year history of allowing dogs in the workplace…[Randolph Barker!?]

The study found that while everyone started the day with low baseline levels of the stress hormone cortisol, those who didn’t bring their dogs to work reported drastically higher levels of stress by the end of the working day.

Those who had their dogs with them had low levels of stress throughout the day, and about half of that group felt that dogs were important to their productivity. Of the two groups without dogs, 80% felt that the dogs in the workplace had no negative effect on productivity…

Barker also noted that the dogs appeared to be “communication energizers,” sparking conversations amongst employees, and increasing engagement.

“We think dogs’ presence in the workplace may reduce stress for their owners, increase job satisfaction even for those without pets, and it may increase perceptions of organizational support,” says Barker. “It’s a low-cost wellness intervention, or benefit, that’s available readily to any organization.”

But Barker suggests that dogs may be preferable meeting participants than some colleagues. “They don’t judge us,” he says, “and when no one else will listen to you, your dog will listen to you.”

RTFA. Anecdotes both useful and humorous. Tech companies seem to lead the way in adoption of the policy – which is no surprise.

Working from home, an easy interlude going for a walk with Rally is an immediate break to any writer’s block that might be afflicting me. And she couldn’t care less what I talk about while we’re walking – as long as there’s a cookie waiting at the end of the walk.

You don’t need to be fired on in a foreign country to get P.T.S.D.

The emotional toll of a heart attack can be so severe that an estimated 1 in 8 patients who survive the experience develop post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition that doubles the risk of dying of a second heart attack…

While it has long been known that a heart attack affects both physical and mental health, most doctors and patients are not aware that the emotional stress of a life-threatening heart event can develop into full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder, or P.T.S.D. The disorder, which more typically affects combat veterans and victims of violent crime, can be particularly insidious in heart patients, who live with constant trepidation about their own bodies, frequently paying anxious attention to each heartbeat or twinge of chest discomfort.

…In the new report, researchers from Columbia University Medical Center combined the results of 24 studies that had documented post-traumatic stress in a total of 2,383 heart patients. Their analysis…found not only that P.T.S.D. after a heart attack was far more common than previously believed, but also that the disorder doubled the risk of dying of a second event over the next one to three years, compared with those who did not have P.T.S.D…

“I think that the broader cardiology community and medical community haven’t really paid attention to this issue,” said Donald Edmondson, assistant professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia and the study’s lead author. “When you think of P.T.S.D. due to combat or a traumatic event, the patient experiences intrusive memories reliving an external event. But this type of trauma is something that is internal…”

In the Columbia study, the severity of the heart event was not a factor in a patient’s risk of developing P.T.S.D. Instead, the research found that patients who were relatively young when they experienced their first heart event, and those who subjectively felt that their lives were in danger and that they had lost control, were at greatest risk for the disorder…

Post-traumatic stress disorder is typically treated with behavioral therapy and antidepressants. Dr. Edmondson said he hopes that future research will focus on ways to minimize the trauma for patients at the time of the heart attack to prevent patients from developing P.T.S.D. symptoms later.

Wow. Think about this. Especially in cases of younger heart attack victims or folks who’ve rarely been near a hospital environment – going through the extremes of a screeching ride in an emergency vehicle, crashing through ER doors into immediate intensive care certainly could be as intimidating as the heart attack itself. Scary stuff.

Gangbanger arsonist admits £1m blaze after police recognise eyes

A cross-eyed arsonist, Andrew Burls, who set fire to an underwear shop during last summer’s London riots was caught after police recognised his distinctive eyes on CCTV footage.

The 23 year-old admitted starting the blaze in the Peckham store, south east London, which caused almost £1million damage and left several people homeless.

Despite efforts to disguise himself, detectives identified Burls, who was said to “go cross-eyed under stress”, after he left his eyes visible above a scarf wrapped around his face…

The fire, which started at Regens Lingerie Boutique in Rye Lane just after 7.30pm before spreading to a Post Office branch, other businesses and residential flats…Ten residents were displaced as a result of the fire and a small number were treated for the effects of smoke inhalation. No-one was seriously injured.

The thug, from Peckham, initially denied setting fire to the premises. But officers arrested him at his home, not far from the scene, on October 24 after sifting through hours of CCTV footage…

Burls at first denied arson but changed his plea to guilty at Inner London Crown Court on Monday after police found evidence to prove an alibi was false. No further details were tendered…

Peckham was one of the worst hit areas during last year’s riots as hundreds of youths ran through the high street wrecking shops, starting fires and pelting police officers with missiles. Tens of millions of pounds damage was caused by rioters.

Throw away the key.

Yeah, get him some glasses and eye therapy inside the slammer.