Letting your mind breathe

Modern life is making us anxious:

Keeping calm in modern life is difficult and even our sleep is under threat from a surprising source. “I love watching Netflix and streaming TV shows, but that’s having an impact on our sleep. Recently the head of Netflix said that his main competitor isn’t another TV company – it’s sleep,” says Matt.

“Sleep is where they can make their money. If people aren’t going to bed until 2am because they’re watching the latest show, that will boost their business model.”

The market driven world we live in has put vast amounts of time and effort into attracting and keeping your attention. I think it’s important to remember that there’s a vast array of dedicated, skilled people employed at thousands of companies, all working to take you attention and keep it. So don’t feel bad for losing yourself in your twitter stream or tumblr, but when you do, put it down. Make space for your mind to be free.

The ‘poisonous cabin’

Unsurprisingly enough, and as previously indicated from small scale tests, sitting in a car or other vehicle is the most air-polluted place to be according to new research reported in the Times (“Motorists in ‘poisonous cabin’ alert”).

“If you are stopped in congested traffic with your windows closed, as at traffic lights, then these toxins become highly concentrated,” said Prashant Kumar, professor of environmental engineering at Surrey University. His findings suggest concentrations are often 10 times higher in such cars than on nearby pavements.

Mike Hawes, of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said there were no regulations on air quality in vehicles but the UN was overseeing talks to develop a new global standard.

“The industry . . . is investing billions to engineer low-emission technology, from engines and exhausts to cabin filters,” he said. Car makers had made “considerable progress”, with new cars emitting reduced particulates and NOx [oxides of nitrogen].

So not only are you contributing to the problem with your engine, you are also exposing yourself and your passengers to the worst effects of the resulting air pollution.

The internal combustion engine has got to go, packing thousands of them into our streets and roads is no longer an option.

Actual Planning with Data

A sensible statement about health planning for once. Imagine using actual data to plan capacity:

Ireland needs to use demographic information for the provision of long-term health strategies in the same as the country plans for education, Minister for Health Simon Harris has said.

Mr Harris accepted he had to deal with day to day issues in the health service but said he believed it was important to take a more long-term view to tackle recurring problems.

“If you look at what we have done with education over the last few decades, we now know from a demographic point of view there will be this number of school children next year requiring a school place and we provide an adequate number of teachers, school places and school buildings.”

“I don’t honestly believe over the last decade or two, successive governments have done that same level of detailed demographic analysis – this year in Ireland there will be 34,000 more people – there will be 3,000 more people over the age of 85 and 20,000 to30,000 more people over the age of 65.”

“We know as we get older we are more likely to rely on our health service and we also know we are more likely to have multiple health issues. Yet that analysis has not been mapped out in terms of the delivery of health services.

Source: Use demographic data to plan health services, says Harris

Air Pollution Monitoring Sub Par – EPA needs to get better, fast

Hear, hear:

The Green Party has called on Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency to up its game on urban air pollution and improve their monitoring and advice during periods of serious air pollution. The call comes as air quality in Dublin and all other major towns reaches ‘very poor’ levels or ’10 out of 10′ on the Agency’s monitoring site.

Green Party Spokesperson Ciarán Cuffe said today:

“The EPA needs to tell us more about our air quality. The latest report on their website* dates from 2014 and is three years out of date. They need to improve their monitoring of air pollution, particularly in real-time, and ensure action is taken to tackle the causes when air pollution is at extremely high levels. More and better monitoring is required. For instance, there is no real-time data available for PM10 or PM2.5 particulates for Dublin’s inner city. This is a serious gap in data that must be filled, as we know that air pollution is concentrated in areas with high traffic and concentrations of people. We need only look across the water to London** to see how quality data can be made available in a timely manner.

“The EPA must improve their monitoring and work with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Department of Energy, Communications and Natural Resources to reduce pollution. We now know that diesel cars and vans are more polluting than some manufacturers claimed, and we must get rid of incentives to purchase heavily polluting vehicles. Minister Ross should also give local authorities the power to limit heavily polluting vehicles from our city centres, particularly on days when there are high levels of air pollution. It is time to consider banning certain diesel vehicles from Dublin’s inner city on still winter days that concentrate pollution. We must also ensure that smoky coal is no longer allowed into Ireland.

“The EPA has previously stated that air pollution is to blame for around 1,200 deaths every year. We now need action from the EPA and Government to tackle this silent deadly killer. Instead of telling children to reduce outdoor exercise on smoggy days, we should be tacking the source, and reducing pollution from cars and fires instead.

You can smell the pollution and feel it in Dublin some days, especially on the cold, calm days of winter when the cold air traps the pollution near to ground level. It’s causing all sorts of health problems, problems that will only get worse over time and strain the health service with avoidable illness.

Source: Time for EPA to up its game on air pollution – Ciaran Cuffe

Stress is not the default or How to Succeed in Business and then Die Anyway

How To Succeed In Business And Then Die Anyway

Jennifer O’Connell says it well in the IT (“Jennifer O’Connell: Being an adult does not mean being stressed and anxious all the time”)when she denounces the high-stress, always-on, anxiety culture which is accepted as the ‘norm’ and even lauded as a goal by some. Stress is a short term thing, it’s not meant to be the default, and constant stress is a debilitating condition, no matter if you think you can ‘handle it’ or not. And what’s the point?

To spend your one and only life like a hamster on a wheel, running faster and faster just to stay on, would be a terrible waste. There are no prizes for being the busiest, the one who manages to inflict the highest degree of stress-induced cellular damage on their body in the shortest amount of time. Chronic stress is not a natural condition. Stress and insomnia are precursors to many significant illnesses, from depression to Alzheimer’s.

Cycle for better health says 20 year study

Another study showing that one of the best health adjustments you can make is to use a bike as your mode of transport as much as you can.

The massive heart disease project undertaken by Danish researchers tracked for 20 years a staggering 45,000 people aged between 45 and 60 years when recruited.And the key finding to emerge was that cycling to work in middle age dramatically reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack as you grow older.Those who cycled for a total of 90 minutes per week where 24 per cent less likely to develop angina or have a heart attack.And even cycling for 30 minutes per week reduced their chances of a heart attack by 16 per cent.
The findings on cycling are seen as crucial for public health because a commute by bike is seen as one of the easiest forms of effective exercise for people of any age to build into their daily routine.
Dr Anders Grøntved of the University of Southern Denmark, who headed the study in recent years said it was clear Governments and medics needed to promote cycling more.
“Finding time for exercise can be challenging for many people, so clinicians working in the field of cardiovascular risk prevention should consider promoting cycling as a mode of transportation,” he said.
His team monitored the 45,000 volunteers from 1993 to 2013 and has only just released its findings after an extensive analysis of the data.
Of all of those in the study, there were a total of 2,892 heart attacks during the period.And the researchers estimated that at least 7 per cent of those would have been averted with regular cycling.
But for those who took up cycling in the first five years of the 20-year research period, the reduction in the incidence of heart attack was at the upper end of the range; some 24 per cent.

Source: 20-year study of 45,000 people shows just how healthy cycle commuting is – Sticky Bottle

Sitting all day is deadly

Office workers must exercise for an hour a day to counter death risk, says a Lancet study:

Research on more than one million adults found that sitting for at least eight hours a day could increase the risk of premature death by up to 60 per cent.

Scientists said sedentary lifestyles were now posing as great a threat to public health as smoking, and were causing more deaths than obesity.

They urged anyone spending hours at their desk to change their daily routine to take a five minute break every hour, as well as exercise at lunchtimes and evenings.

An hour of brisk walking or cycling spread over a day was enough to combat the dangers of eight hours sitting in the office, they said.

Currently, public health advice in the UK recommends just half this level of activity.

But almost half of women and one third of men fail to achieve even this.

One of the many reasons to cycle places rather than drive.

Paul Newman rides a bike
My style of cycling

And if you can’t cycle, walk. Try walking to the shop. Cycle with your kids to school as an escort. It’s not impossible to build up an hour, and it’s worth it.

Blood Types

Fascinating long read in the BI:

Why do 40% of Caucasians have type A blood, while only 27% of Asians do? Where do different blood types come from, and what do they do?To get some answers, I went to the experts – to haematologists, geneticists, evolutionary biologists, virologists and nutrition scientists.In 1900 the Austrian physician Karl Landsteiner first discovered blood types, winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his research in 1930.Since then scientists have developed ever more powerful tools for probing the biology of blood types. They’ve found some intriguing clues about them – tracing their deep ancestry, for example, and detecting influences of blood types on our health. And yet I found that in many ways blood types remain strangely mysterious. Scientists have yet to come up with a good explanation for their very existence.”Isn’t it amazing?” says Ajit Varki, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego. “Almost a hundred years after the Nobel Prize was awarded for this discovery, we still don’t know exactly what they’re for.”

Source: Why do we have blood types? – Business Insider

A glimmer of hope

The use of antibiotics exerts a Darwinian selection pressure for acquisition of resistance by the target bacteria, and resistance arising anywhere in the microbial world can ultimately be transferred to disease-causing bacteria. In addition, the antibiotic discovery process is now in terminal decline. The golden age of antibiotics took place in the 1930s to 1970s, with at least 11 new classes discovered; since then there have been only two new classes of antibiotics.

What’s worse is that many antibiotics are ‘broad spectrum’, meaning they kill loads of different bacteria, good or bad. Consider them weapons of mass destruction, dropped on a precision target – the ‘collateral damage’ can be huge and even lead to new infections (e.g. C. difficile).

But there is hope:

My research over 37 years involved the study of a number of bacteriocins that can kill a range of clinically important bacteria. I – and many other researchers – did not believe they could be useful clinically because injecting a “foreign” bacterial protein into a patient is likely to induce a severe immune response that would make the antibiotic inactive. There were therefore gasps of amazement in Beijing at data presented from several animal studies showing this was not the case.

If you consider a killing domain as a red Lego brick and a targeting domain as a yellow Lego brick, you can make hundreds of different hybrid proteins consisting of one red and one yellow brick to make what I refer to as a series of novel bacteriocin-derived antibiotics (BDAs). In fact, several BDAs have already been designed to kill target bacteria, fungi and even tumour cells.

The ability to use the BDA system to continually make novel antibiotics significantly de-risks the development of antibiotics process and in my opinion offers a significant ray of hope in the present gloom. It is now for governments and health organisations to make sure they make the most of this unexpected breakthrough.

Source: I believed we would face an antibiotics apocalypse – until now | Richard James

Choice illusions

we are sentient beings capable of choice, and that this is highly valued, but choices are made in context.

If the context is a community with no fruit and vegetable shops, but a string of fast-food outlets along the high street, then people choose between one form of unhealthy food and another.

If junk food advertising on television and the internet is associated with cartoons and games and hardly any healthy food is advertised, then children choose (demand) this food. If brown bread is three times the cost of white, poorer people will buy the white. The default needs to change so the healthier option is the easier one and only governments can achieve this, through regulation.

Via http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/28/i-quit-after-14-years-pushing-slimness-over-obesity-nothings-changed?CMP=twt_gu