Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Different Kind of Eyeglasses

Most people with this condition, called presbyopia, eventually give in and get reading glasses, bifocals or glasses with progressive lenses.
Zoom Focus Eyewear LLC
TruFocal eyeglasses from Zoom Focus Eyewear
Zoom Focus Eyewear LLC, of Van Nuys, Calif., has just such an option, and with it won this year's Silver Innovation Award. The solution: eyeglasses, called TruFocals, that the wearer can manually adjust to give clear, undistorted vision whether reading a book, working on a computer or looking into the distance.

A Finding on Malaria Comes From Humble Origins

It has taken 10 years for Dr. Beatrice H. Hahn to build the world’s most comprehensive treasury of great ape dung samples.

And now it has yielded an unexpected gem: The most dangerous form of malaria originated in gorillas, not chimps, as had long been believed.

In and of itself, knowing that does nothing to help defeat malaria. But malaria experts were pleased to learn it — and it shows what wonders can be performed when you have 2,700 fecal samples in your freezers and a little imagination.

The Claim: Gargling With Salt Water Can Ease Cold Symptoms

THE FACTS Nothing but time can cure the common cold, but a simple cup of salt water might ease the misery this winter.

In a randomized study published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2005, researchers recruited almost 400 healthy volunteers and followed them for 60 days during cold and flu season. Some of the subjects were told to gargle three times a day. At the end of the study period, the group that regularly gargled had a nearly 40 percent decrease in upper respiratory tract infectionscompared with the control group, and when they did get sick, “gargling tended to attenuate bronchial symptoms,” the researchers wrote.

Regimens: Massage Benefits Are More Than Skin Deep

Does a good massage do more than just relax your muscles? To find out, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles recruited 53 healthy adults and randomly assigned 29 of them to a 45-minute session of deep-tissue Swedish massage and the other 24 to a session of light massage.

Volunteers who received Swedish massage experienced significant decreases in levels of the stress hormone cortisol in blood and saliva, and in arginine vasopressin, a hormone that can lead to increases in cortisol. They also had increases in the number of lymphocytes, white blood cells that are part of the immune system.
Volunteers who had the light massage experienced greater increases in oxytocin, a hormone associated with contentment, than the Swedish massage group, and bigger decreases in adrenal corticotropin hormone, which stimulates the adrenal glands to release cortisol.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Phys Ed: Can Exercise Make Kids Smarter?

In an experiment published last month, researchers recruited schoolchildren, ages 9 and 10, who lived near the Champaign-Urbana campus of the University of Illinois and asked them to run on a treadmill. The researchers were hoping to learn more about how fitness affects the immature human brain. Animal studies had already established that, when given access to running wheels, baby rodents bulked up their brains, enlarging certain areas and subsequently outperforming sedentary pups on rodent intelligence tests. But studies of the effect of exercise on the actual shape and function of children’s brains had not yet been tried.
Previous studies found that fitter kids generally scored better on such tests. And in this case, too, those children performed better on the tests. But the M.R.I.’s provided a clearer picture of how it might work. They showed that fit children had significantly larger basal ganglia, a key part of the brain that aids in maintaining attention and “executive control,” or the ability to coordinate actions and thoughts crisply. Since both groups of children had similar socioeconomic backgrounds, body mass index and other variables, the researchers concluded that being fit had enlarged that portion of their brains.
Meanwhile, in a separate, newly completed study by many of the same researchers at the University of Illinois, a second group of 9- and 10-year-old children were also categorized by fitness levels and had their brains scanned, but they completed different tests, this time focusing on complex memory. Such thinking is associated with activity in the hippocampus, a structure in the brain’s medial temporal lobes. Sure enough, the M.R.I. scans revealed that the fittest children had heftier hippocampi.

Freeze! Zap! Bye-Bye, Fat

Fat cells, watch out.
Two new devices—one that deflates fat cells, one that destroys them—have just been cleared for "body contouring" in doctors' offices by the Food and Drug Administration.

Zeltiq grabs onto love handles and belly pouches and freezes the fat cells inside, causing them to self-destruct over several months. Zerona is a low-level laser that rotates around the waist, hips and thighs, forcing the fat cells to empty in a matter of weeks. In both cases, there are no incisions, no downtime and no need for anesthesia. The fat is reabsorbed by the body.
Several other devices that claim to painlessly blast away fat with ultrasound, radio waves or lasers are already on the market or hoping for FDA approval soon. These high-tech weapons in the battle of the bulge are less invasive than liposuction—which involves loosening fat internally and vacuuming it out with a tube, a procedure that nearly 200,000 Americans had last year.
That's partly why some obesity experts are wary of the new fat-blasting techniques. The devices can't target visceral fat, only subcutaneous fat, and if patients continue to consume more calories than they burn, they may hasten that process of accumulating harmful fat instead.
Some experts also worry that forcing fat out of fat cells can increase the level in the bloodstream.
"Fat is very toxic," says Dr. Jensen. "It's not something you want in large amounts floating around free. You want it inside a cell, protected."
Another danger is that losing fat cells could will lower leptin levels, signaling to the brain to eat more.

Swatting 'Superbugs' in Hospitals, Homes

Antibiotic-resistant superbugs have become a big public health concern, but the existing antibacterial cleaners and soaps on the market are often based on harsh chemicals that kill everything they come into contact with or leach out into the environment. In other cases, their effect is only temporary.

Now scientists are working on a new crop of antimicrobials—microscopic weapons that prevent or defeat bugs—to improve their effectiveness, kill specific types of bugs, or reduce their potential side effects on people and the environment. Researchers hope the new antimicrobials can be used to attack bacteria, viruses and fungus on everything from the human body to materials used to build homes, hospitals, boats and medical devices.
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., recently developed a new way to kill methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA—one of the most widespread and deadliest superbugs—on contact using tiny tubes coated with proteins to destroy the bugs by deflating them like balloons.

3-D Printing Spurs a Manufacturing Revolution

SAN FRANCISCO — Businesses in the South Park district of San Francisco generally sell either Web technology or sandwiches and burritos. Bespoke Innovations plans to sell designer body parts.
The company is using advances in a technology known as 3-D printing to create prosthetic limb casings wrapped in embroidered leather, shimmering metal or whatever else someone might want.
Scott Summit, a co-founder of Bespoke, and his partner, an orthopedic surgeon, are set to open a studio this fall where they will sell the limb coverings and experiment with printing entire customized limbs that could cost a tenth of comparable artificial limbs made using traditional methods. And they will be dishwasher-safe, too.
“I wanted to create a leg that had a level of humanity,” Mr. Summit said. “It’s unfortunate that people have had a product that’s such a major part of their lives that was so underdesigned.” 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Why Do Doctors Dodge Your Questions?

Why Would A Good Doctor Give Useless Answers?

Choosing Wines at the Touch of a Screen

Another example of how Apple is leading technology... and cultural change...

Once patrons make sense of the touch-pad links, which does not take long, they can search for wines by name, region, varietal and price, instantly educating themselves on vintner and vintage.
Since their debut six weeks ago, the gadgets have enthralled the (mostly male) customers at Bone’s. And to the astonishment of the restaurant’s owners, wine purchases shot up overnight — they were nearly 11 percent higher per diner in the first two weeks compared with the previous three weeks, with no obvious alternative explanation.
Other restaurateurs who are experimenting with iPad wine lists, from Sydney to London to Central Park South, report similar results.
The devices seem to be spurring deeper interest in wine and empowering bolder, more confident selections, they say, potentially revolutionizing the psychology of dining’s most intimidating passage.
Bob Reno, the wine steward on a veteran staff, said he and his co-workers had initially been cynical. “We didn’t want to be replaced,” he said. “We had to find a way to make it work in tandem.”
But the waiters quickly came to appreciate the iPad’s ability to monitor and instantly update an inventory of 20,000 bottles, and they found that customers still sought reinforcing advice, particularly about pairing wines with food.
“With the information on the device, they seem more apt to experiment by buying a different varietal or going outside their price range,” Mr. Reno said. “It stuns me, but they seem to trust the device more than they trust me, and these are people I’ve waited on for 10 years.”

Do We Need $75,000 a Year to Be Happy?

People say money doesn't buy happiness. Except, according to a new study from Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, it sort of does — up to about $75,000 a year. The lower a person's annual income falls below that benchmark, the unhappier he or she feels. But no matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don't report any greater degree of happiness.
Before employers rush to hold — or raise — everyone's salary to $75,000, the study points out that there are actually two types of happiness. There's your changeable, day-to-day mood: whether you're stressed or blue or feeling emotionally sound. Then there's the deeper satisfaction you feel about the way your life is going — the kind of thing Tony Robbins tries to teach you.

It's no surprise, then, that when the same polls are done in different countries, Americans come out as a bit of a mixed lot: they're fifth in terms of happiness, 33rd in terms of smiling and 10th in terms of enjoyment. At the same time, they're the 89th biggest worriers, the 69th saddest and fifth most stressed people out of the 151 nations studied. Even so, perhaps because of the country's general wealth, they are in the top 10 citizenries where people feel their lives are going well, beaten out by such eternal optimists as the Canadians, New Zealanders and Scandinavians.

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,2016291,00.html#ixzz0zVSJQt7u

Friday, September 10, 2010

SUNDAY, SEP 5, 2010 14:01 ET Our conflicted relationship with animals

Why do we get so angry with animal abusers, but eat more animals than ever before? An expert provides some clues.

Our collective animal passion has never seemed greater. Studies show we spend as much on our pets in a recession than when not in one, animal welfare laws continue to strengthen, and acts of animal cruelty caught on film and uploaded to the Web create global furor and condemnation. Animals, their furry forebears would surely say, have never had it so good.
Or have they? In his fascinating new book, "Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat," Hal Herzog looks at the wild, tortured paradoxes in our relationship with the weaker, if sometimes more adorable, species. A professor of psychology at Western Carolina University, Herzog studies our complicated relationship with animals, from our devotion to our dogs, to our increasing devotion to that barbecued brisket.
We spoke to Herzog Friday about his new book, asking him about the notorious "cat bin lady" and "puppy throwing girl," whether children who harm animals grow up to be serial killers, and whether we'll have to come to peace with the undeniable similarities between the animals we love, and those we love to eat.

The Gospel of Wealth

How can Brooks  words comptete with the 5000+ advertisements we see here daily in America telling us  that material wealth = happiness--he is a  voice in the wilderness in a land where everyone is drinking the Benjamin Koolaid...

Platt earned two master’s degrees and a doctorate from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. At age 26, he was hired to lead a 4,300-person suburban church in Birmingham, Ala., and became known as the youngest megachurch leader in America.
Platt grew uneasy with the role he had fallen into and wrote about it in a recent book called “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream.” It encapsulates many of the themes that have been floating around 20-something evangelical circles the past several years.
Next, Platt takes aim at the American dream. When Europeans first settled this continent, they saw the natural abundance and came to two conclusions: that God’s plan for humanity could be realized here, and that they could get really rich while helping Him do it. This perception evolved into the notion that we have two interdependent callings: to build in this world and prepare for the next.
The tension between good and plenty, God and mammon, became the central tension in American life, propelling ferocious energies and explaining why the U.S. is at once so religious and so materialist. Americans are moral materialists, spiritualists working on matter.
Platt is in the tradition of those who don’t believe these two spheres can be reconciled. The material world is too soul-destroying. “The American dream radically differs from the call of Jesus and the essence of the Gospel,” he argues. The American dream emphasizes self-development and personal growth. Our own abilities are our greatest assets.
But the Gospel rejects the focus on self: “God actually delights in exalting our inability.” The American dream emphasizes upward mobility, but “success in the kingdom of God involves moving down, not up.”
Platt calls on readers to cap their lifestyle. Live as if you made $50,000 a year, he suggests, and give everything else away. Take a year to surrender yourself. Move to Africa or some poverty-stricken part of the world. Evangelize.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

New Malaria Drug Candidate Holds Promise

An international team of scientists has identified a promising drug candidate that represents an entirely new class of medicines to treat malaria, one of the biggest killers in the developing world.

The discovery comes amid two key developments in the fight against the mosquito-borne illness. Several parts of Africa are showing a decline in malaria deaths, thanks to wider use of insecticides and bed nets to ward off mosquitoes that carry the disease, as well as use of artemisinin, a potent drug.
At the same time, there are worrying signs that the malaria parasite in parts of Southeast Asia is becoming resistant to artemisinin, which is the mainstay of combination therapy for as many as 100 million patients world-wide. Resistance has already rendered some older therapies less effective.
"We welcome a new class of drug because it could help us stay one step ahead of the parasite," said Robert Newman, director of the global malaria program at the World Health Organization, who wasn't involved in the Science study.
The malaria parasite can cause fever, joint pain and death. Last year, there were an estimated 240 million cases of malaria. Of total deaths, 91% occurred in Africa and 85% were children under the age of five, according to the WHO. But the battle against malaria is making progress, and a potent new drug could help sustain the momentum.
AFP/Getty Images
A mosquito on the prowl
In 2009, malaria deaths world-wide fell to 836,000 from more than one million a few years earlier, including declines in Eritrea, Rwanda, Zambia and Zanzibar. Over the past decade, malaria cases have fallen in nine countries in Africa and in 29 elsewhere.

Hair provides proof of the link between chronic stress and heart attack

Researchers at The University of Western Ontario have provided the first direct evidence using a biological marker, to show chronic stress plays an important role in heart attacks. Stressors such as job, marital and financial problems have been linked to the increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease including heart attack. But there hasn't been a biological marker to measure chronic stress. Drs. Gideon Koren and Stan Van Uum developed a method to measure cortisol levels in hair providing an accurate assessment of stress levels in the months prior to an acute event such as a heart attack.
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