Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Richer Life by Seeing the Glass Half Full

In one study, adults shown to be pessimists based on psychological tests had higher death rates over a 30-year period than those who were shown optimistic. No doubt, the optimists were healthier because they were more inclined to take good care of themselves.

Not Just About Being Positive
Murphy’s Law — “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” — is the antithesis of optimism. In a book called “Breaking Murphy’s Law,” Suzanne C. Segerstrom, a professor of psychology at the University of Kentucky, explained that optimism is not about being positive so much as it is about being motivated and persistent.
Dr. Segerstrom and other researchers have found that rather than giving up and walking away from difficult situations, optimists attack problems head-on. They plan a course of action, getting advice from others and staying focused on solutions. Whenever my husband, a dyed-in-the-wool pessimist, said, “It can’t be done,” I would seek a different approach and try harder — although I occasionally had to admit he was right.
She wrote, “People can learn to be more optimistic by acting as if they were more optimistic,” which means “being more engaged with and persistent in the pursuit of goals.”
If you behave more optimistically, you will be likely to keep trying instead of giving up after an initial failure. “You might succeed more than you expected,” she wrote. Even if the additional effort is not successful, it can serve as a positive learning experience, suggesting a different way to approach a similar problem the next time.
Framing Your Thoughts
It’s important not to neglect the power of positive thinking. Both Dr. Segerstrom and the Mayo researchers recommend taking a few minutes at the end of each day to write down three positive things that happened that day, ending the day on an upbeat note.
The Mayo researchers offered these additional suggestions:
Avoid negative self-talk. Instead of focusing on prospects of failure, dwell on the positive aspects of a situation.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Women of Minyore

NAKURU, KENYA – ‘Here is where I come every morning to collect plastics from the garbage.’ Lucy Wambui is 50 and with a stick she grubs through the garbage in the Gioto Dumping Site in Nakuru in central Kenya. It is early morning and the stench of the waste   already abhors. Lucy stays here with 30 other women forming the Minyore Women’s Group that sustains itself by selling art works made from garbage. ‘It’s not healthy living here, but we have nowhere else to go.’

Dr. Leslie Saxon's Quest: iTunes For The Quantified Self

Feeling under the weather? In the future, you'll take out your smartphone--not to call your doctor, but to check your own vitals.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Type of viral infection of eye associated with disease causing blindness in the elderly

A team of researchers, including a scientist from the Viral Immunology Center at Georgia State University, have found that a type of herpesvirus infection of the eye is associated with neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that causes blindness in the elderly.

First light: Scientists regenerate the optic nerve, restore some components of vision

Larry Benowitz, PhD, and colleagues at the F.M. Kirby Neurobiology Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, showed that  with severe  damage can regain some depth perception, the ability to detect overall movement of the visual field, and perceive light, allowing them to synchronize their sleep/wake cycles. Findings were published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences during the week of May 21.

Just What's Inside Those Breasts?

When writer Florence Williams was nursing her second child, she read a research study about toxins found in human breast milk. She decided to test her own breast milk and shipped a sample to a lab in Germany.
What came back surprised her.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Coffee Drinkers May Live Longer

Your morning cup of coffee may start to taste even better after a major government study found that frequent coffee drinkers have a lower risk of dying from a variety of diseases, compared with people who drink little or no coffee.
The report, published online in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, analyzed the coffee-drinking habits of more than 400,000 men and women ages 50 to 71, making it the largest-ever study of the relationship between coffee consumption and health.
Over all, the risk of dying during the 14-year study period was about 10 percent lower for men and about 15 percent lower for women who drank anywhere from two cups to six or more cups of coffee a day. The association between coffee and lower risk of dying was similar whether the coffee drinker consumed caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee.

Saving the Lives of Moms

THIS is a Mother’s Day tribute to a mighty woman and to the doctor who gave her back her life — and also a celebration of a grand new women’s hospital that you as readers helped to build.

The woman is Mahabouba Mohammed, an Ethiopian who was raped at about age 13. She gave birth alone: after many days of labor, the baby was stillborn and she suffered an obstetric fistula.
A fistula is just about the worst fate that can happen to a woman or girl. It’s a childbirth injury that causes her to leak urine or feces continuously through her vagina. In Mahabouba’s case, she also suffered nerve damage in both legs so that she couldn’t walk.
More than two million women and girls have fistulas worldwide. They are the lepers of the 21st century, among the most voiceless and shunned people on earth. Fistulas were once also common in America (a fistula hospital was once located in Manhattan where the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel is now), but today they normally afflict only people in poor countries of Africa and Asia.
“People in America can’t believe I left urology to do this, but this is about changing lives,” which is better than “listening to men tell me about the quality of their erections,” he said. “I’ve had my family held at gunpoint, I’ve had malaria, I’ve had a serious exposure toH.I.V., I’ve been separated from family, and I’ve spent about a million hours crammed into coach class on airlines, but it’s worth it. I’d much rather live a meaningful life than a comfortable one.”
For years, Dr. Arrowsmith has been dreaming — along with Dr. Lewis Wall, a fistula expert at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis — of establishing a fistula hospital in West Africa. After I wrote about their organization, the Worldwide Fistula Fund, a couple of years ago, Times readers responded with an outpouring of support — some $500,000.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Mathematical Challenge to Obesity

Carson C. Chow deploys mathematics to solve the everyday problems of real life. As an investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, he tries to figure out why 1 in 3 Americans are overweight.
We spoke at the recent annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where Dr. Chow, 49, gave a presentation on “Illuminating the Obesity Epidemic With Mathematics,” and then later by telephone; a condensed and edited version of the interviews follows.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

The Unknown Inventor Whose Work Is Saving The Developing World

Ashok Gadgil is a professor at UC Berkeley. But in his spare time, he’s come up with solutions for water, cooking, and energy quandaries, improving lives from the Sudan to India. How does he do it? He just likes a good puzzle.

Africa Beats: Cape Verdean singer Carmen Souza performs her song Ind'feso

Perucussive Jazz from Cape Verde--
 Definitely tinges of Cesaria Evora, but with a funky bass accompaniment
There is a good video at the link

Carmen was born in Cape Verde, the tiny Atlantic ocean archipelago that punches above its weight musically, and was also home to the late international superstar Cesaria Evora.
As she grew up in Portugal she made a point of exploring other musical influences and now her music is infused with her love of jazz and the rhythms of Cape Verde.
She has released a new album - Duo - with long-time collaborator, bass player Theo Pas'cal.
Carmen's desire to improve society is reflected in the issues she tackles in her songs and the fact that 50% of the profits of Duo are going to charity.

Put Away The Bell Curve: Most Of Us Aren't 'Average'

Human performance, by this account, does not often fit the bell curve or what scientists call a normal distribution. Rather, it is more likely to fit what scientists call a power distribution.
The study examined the performance of 633,263 people involved in four broad areas of human performance: academics writing papers, athletes at the professional and collegiate levels, politicians and entertainers.
"We looked at researchers, we looked at entertainers, we looked at politicians, and we looked at collegiate as well as professional athletes," Aguinis said in an interview. "In each of these kinds of industries, we found that a small minority of superstar performers contribute a disproportionate amount of the output."
Aguinis said his findings were descriptive, not prescriptive. He said the findings should not be interpreted to mean that managers and teachers should only focus on the superstars and ignore everyone else.
At the same time, he said, successful companies and nations would do well to identify superstars, because such performers were disproportionately likely to register new discoveries and achievements.

How the Blind Are Reinventing the iPhone

At first many blind people thought that the iPhone would never be accessible to them, with its flat glass screen. But the opposite has proved true.

How to Turn a Salad Spinner Into a Medical Centrifuge for $30

The necessary parts: one salad spinner, some hair combs, a yogurt container, plastic lids, and a glue gun. The finished product: a manual, push-pump centrifuge that could be a lifesaver in developing world medical clinics. Its name: the Sally Centrifuge.
A team of college students invented this low-cost centrifuge, which can be built for about $30, as a project for a global health class at Rice University. The teacher challenged them to build an inexpensive, portable tool that could diagnose anemia without access to electricity, and the tinkerers got to work.

Crowdsourced Pathology, Thanks to Video Gamers

Specifically, using non-professional gamers we report diagnosis of malaria infected red-blood-cells with an accuracy that is within 1.25% of the diagnostic decisions made by a trained professional.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Genes May Link Disparate Diseases

Diseases that strike different parts of the body—and that don't seem to resemble each other at all—may actually have a lot in common.
Scientists have identified the genetic basis for many separate diseases. Now, some researchers are looking at how the genes interact with each other. They are finding that a genetic abnormality behind one illness may also cause other, seemingly unrelated disorders. Sometimes diseases are tangentially linked, having just one gene in common. But the greater the number of shared genetic underpinnings a group of diseases has, the greater the likelihood a patient with one of the illnesses will contract another.
Researchers have found evidence, for example, that there is a close genetic relationship between Crohn's disease, a gastrointestinal condition, and Type 2 diabetes, despite the fact the two conditions affect the body in very distinct ways. Other illnesses with apparently close genetic links are rheumatoid arthritis and Type 1 diabetes, the form of the disease that usually starts in childhood..
Since all the DNA in the human body was first sequenced in 2000, some 4,000 diseases with a known genetic basis have been identified, according to the National Institutes of Health. But only about 250 of those diseases have treatments, leaving many genetic puzzles left to untangle.
Scientists have long known that proteins and other molecules in the body don't act alone. In order for the body to operate efficiently, biological substances must bind to or pass chemical messages to each other to start and stop working. The system is complex: Each gene is thought to produce, on average, five separate substances, mostly proteins, and these products interact with each other. When a protein, or group of proteins, malfunctions, it appears to give rise to a variety of distinct illnesses.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Don’t Just Sit There

We all know by now that being inactive is unhealthy. But far too many of us think that being inactive is something that happens to other people.
Studies of daily movement patterns, though, show that your typical modern exerciser, even someone who runs, subsequently sits for hours afterward, often moving less over all than on days when he or she does not work out.
The health consequences are swift, pervasive and punishing.
Exercise only slightly lessened the health risks of sitting. People in the study who exercised for seven hours or more a week but spent at least seven hours a day in front of the television were more likely to die prematurely than the small group who worked out seven hours a week and watched less than an hour of TV a day.
If those numbers seem abstract, consider a blunt new Australian study. In it, researchers determined that watching an hour of television can snip 22 minutes from someone’s life. If an average man watched no TV in his adult life, the authors concluded, his life span might be 1.8 years longer, and a TV-less woman might live for a year and half longer than otherwise.

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