Last Week’s Links

Was Smokey Bear wrong? How a beloved character may have helped fuel catastrophic fires

The recent fires [across the western U.S.] actually highlight an ongoing debate among ecologists about whether Smokey should shoulder some responsibility for the flames now regularly sweeping across natural lands. For much of the last century, Smokey was the pitchman for the federal government’s aggressive wildfire suppression policy. That tactic, some scientists believe, may have contributed along with climate change to making American forests vulnerable long-term to combustion. They call it “the Smokey Bear effect.”

This look at the history of modern American fire prevention explains what looks like a counter-intuitive concept.

An Extraordinary Documentary Portrait of a Playwright Facing Alzheimer’s Disease

There’s no danger of impersonality in “The Rest I Make Up,” Michelle Memran’s documentary portrait of the playwright María Irene Fornés (which [screened] August 23rd through the 29th, at moma). It’s very much a four-handed film, made (as the credits say) both by Memran and by Fornés, and it’s explicitly, inescapably about their collaboration. The resulting film is a profound, tragic, yet joyful vision of art. It’s more than the portrait of an artist (or even of two); it’s a revelation and exaltation of the artistic essence, of the very nature of an artist’s life as an unending act of creation in itself.

The New Yorker looks at a film documenting Alzheimer’s disease.

How to get a good night’s sleep

A science journalist spent months researching sleep. Here’s what he found.

Sean Illing interviews Henry Nicholls, author of Sleepyhead: The Neuroscience of a Good Night’s Rest. Nicholls says that establishing sleep stability—going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning—is the simplest way to begin addressing sleep problems such as insomnia.

The Backstory: the story behind ‘Passing the Peace Torch’

the protest group is still active, increasingly frustrated by a visible age gap between older veterans of the peace movement and younger, politically active citizens who seem to have moved on to other causes.

A local (Pacific Northwest) take on a national matter of concern to those of us who grew up marching and protesting and chanting, “There is some s**t we will not eat.”

Slow, steady tortoise beats speedy hare in real life, study shows

The lesson communicated by the tale of the tortoise and the hare, one of Aesop’s fables, holds true in the animal kingdom, according to new research.

The fable’s lesson is simple: consistency and perseverance beat out disinterested talent. In nature, faster animals tend to apply their speed inconsistently, just like Aesop’s hare.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Off Your Mental Game? You Could Be Mildly Dehydrated

How severe does dehydration have to be to affect us?

A growing body of evidence finds that being just a little dehydrated is tied to a range of subtle effects — from mood changes to muddled thinking.

Moreover:

As we age, we’re not as good at recognizing thirst. And there’s evidence that older adults are prone to the same dips in mental sharpness as anyone else when mildly dehydrated.

So how much water do we need every day?

A panel of scholars convened several years ago by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that women should consume, on average, about 91 ounces of total water per day. For men, the suggested level is even higher (125 ounces).

The phrase total water means that water from all sources counts: fruits, vegetables soup, smoothies, and, yes, even your morning cups of coffee or tea.

And remember that by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already beyond the point of mild dehydration. According to the article, an hour of hiking in the heat or a 30-minute run might be enough to cause mild dehydration.

Hands off my data! 15 default privacy settings you should change right now

If you’re concerned about all your personal data that’s being collected, here’s some advice on how to minimize exposure on Facebook, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple.

Existing drug may prevent Alzheimer’s

Emerging evidence suggests that a “potent” drug could prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease — but only if a person takes the medication long before symptoms of this condition make an appearance.

Any advance against Alzheimer’s disease is welcome news, even though this one seems to offer a mixed message. The professor who oversaw the study thinks that it may never be possible to cure the disease once patients become symptomatic. However, he hopes identification of patients at risk and treatment before onset might “prevent it from starting in the first place.”

‘Too Little Too Late’: Bankruptcy Booms Among Older Americans

The New York Times reports on findings of a recent study from the Consumer Bankruptcy Project.

Tyrian Purple: The disgusting origins of the colour purple

Even after reading this, purple is still my favorite color.

Purple is a paradox, a contradiction of a colour. Associated since antiquity with regality, luxuriance, and the loftiness of intellectual and spiritual ideals, purple was, for many millennia, chiefly distilled from a dehydrated mucous gland of molluscs that lies just behind the rectum: the bottom of the bottom-feeders. That insalubrious process, undertaken since at least the 16th Century BC (and perhaps first in Phoenicia, a name that means, literally, ‘purple land’), was notoriously malodorous and required an impervious sniffer and a strong stomach. Though purple may have symbolised a higher order, it reeked of a lower ordure.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Here’s what I’ve been reading recently around the web.

High blood pressure threatens aging brain, study says

Here’s yet another reason to get your blood pressure under control: High blood pressure later in life may contribute to blood vessel blockages and tangles linked to Alzheimer’s disease, new research suggests.

They took a survey in their teens. 60 years later, these Puyallup students are being recruited for a new one

Here’s a local take on a national survey from the early 1960s.

More than 400,000 high school students from 1,353 schools across the country participated in Project Talent between 1960 and 1963. About 1,269 of the students were from Puyallup High.

And now, 130 of those students, some no longer living in the United States, were tracked down to take another survey.

This time, the focus is on health.

“There’s a big push to fund Alzheimer’s research,” Project Talent director Susan Lapham said. “Baby Boomers are edging into a time period where Alzheimer’s really becomes an issue.”

Talking about Death

What constitutes a good death? While end-of-life care has come a long way, the aims of the medical industry are often in conflict with the wishes of patients.

LaCroix, Sparkling Ice, Bai and beyond: Are fruit-flavored waters good for you?

I’ve never liked the taste of water, so this discussion of what’s in some of the more common substitutes for plain water interested me.

There are so many different ways to hydrate these days — it’s clear we’ve come a long way from watered-down water. If you love fruit flavors and want to try something new, these new beverages can make a great addition to your hydration rotation — just take a few extra seconds to read what’s in the fine print.

The Power of Positive People

While many of us focus primarily on diet and exercise to achieve better health, science suggests that our well-being also is influenced by the company we keep. Researchers have found that certain health behaviors appear to be contagious and that our social networks — in person and online — can influence obesity, anxiety and overall happiness. A recent report found that a person’s exercise routine was strongly influenced by his or her social network.

Why don’t we know more about migraines?

A look at one of the oldest recorded human ailments.

Given the prevalence of migraines among women, this apparent neglect could be a result of how physicians tend to underrate pain in female patients. It may also reflect the historic – and similarly gendered – associations between migraines and mental illness.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Here are the articles that caught my eye last week.

You’re probably washing your hands all wrong, study says

Are you washing your hands long enough?

The study from the US Department of Agriculture shows most consumers failed to wash their hands and rub with soap for 20 seconds. That’s the amount of time recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that washing for shorter periods means fewer germs are removed.

On our recent cruise a nasty virus gave many passengers a bad cough and sore throat. The ship’s captain encouraged all of us to wash our hands for the amount of time required to sing Happy Birthday twice.

Where Is Barack Obama?

The most popular American, whose legacy is the primary target of Donald Trump, has, for now, virtually disappeared from public life.

There’s no limit to longevity, says study that revives human lifespan debate

Mind-boggling new research findings:

Death rates in later life flatten out and suggest there may be no fixed limit on human longevity, countering some previous work.

Study: Sitting linked to increased death risk from 14 diseases

If you sit for six hours a day or more, your risk of dying early jumps 19 percent, compared with people who sit fewer than three hours, an American Cancer Society study suggests.

Could Aspirin Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease? Mouse Study Says Maybe

Could an aspirin a day keep the Alzheimer’s away? If only it were that simple. And yet, new research suggests that there does seem to be some hope that aspirin, one of the most widely used medications in the world, may help to treat some aspects of this devastating brain disease.

As with all such studies, keep in mind that these results are years and years away from any implementation in humans.

How Your Age Affects Your Appetite

A decade-by-decade look at how our appetites may change over time. We need adequate nutrition throughout our lives, but those of us over 60 need also remember:

Food is a social experience, but the loss of a partner or family and eating alone affect the sense of pleasure taken from eating. Other affects of old age, such as swallowing problems, dental issues, reduced taste and smell also interfere with the desire to eat and our rewards from doing so.

 

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

New imaging tool may detect Alzheimer’s early

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have developed a chemical compound that can detect Alzheimer’s disease at an earlier stage than can current methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Ideally, we’d like to look at patients with very mild symptoms who are negative for Alzheimer’s by PET scan to see if we can identify them using Fluselenamyl,” Sharma said. “One day, we may be able to use Fluselenamyl as part of a screening test to identify segments of the population that are going to be at risk for development of Alzheimer’s disease. That’s the long-term goal.”

The Common Beverages That Help Ward Off Dementia

New research conducted on women over 65 has found that those who drank the equivalent of two to three 8-ounce cups of coffee a day showed a 36% decline in dementia risk over those who did not consume that much caffeine. The amount of caffeine studied equals that in five to 8 8-ounce cups of tea or seven to eight 12-ounce cans of cola.

Said Professor Ira Driscoll, lead author of the study:

“The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potentially protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting given that caffeine is also an easily modifiable dietary factor with very few contraindications.

The study followed 6,467 postmenopausal women for about 10 years.

How to live to 100: Town full of centenarians spills its secrets

Ben Wedeman reports for CNN on residents of Acciaroli, Italy, south of Naples. According to city mayor Stefano Pisani, one-tenth of the population is 100 years old or older. A study is currently under way to examine possible reasons for the residents’ longevity:

The elderly inhabitants of Acciaroli and the hilly coastal areas surrounding it are the subject of a study being conducted jointly by Rome’s La Sapienza University and the University of California-San Diego.

Researchers are investigating 300 local centenarians, trying to understand why people here live so long, and have such low rates of heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Among the things they plan to look into is whether the high concentrations of rosemary in the diet, and lots of walking through the mountains nearby have a positive impact on longevity.

But this article is no stuffy academic treatise. Read it for some of the circumstances to which the town’s inhabitants attribute their long life, including sex, meat, and ice cream.

Craig Hill: Expert says you’re never too old to get moving again

A reporter for my hometown newspaper, The News Tribune (Tacoma, WA), has some advice for older adults who are awakening to the realization that exercise is a necessity for healthy aging. The reporter asked Todd Dail, fitness director at a 55-and-older community, for some pointers:

“A friend of mine, a physical therapist, says, ‘Motion is lotion,’ ” Dail said. “And it’s true. The more you move, the more you lubricate your joints, and it starts to feel good again.”

There are some pointers here on how to decide what kind of exercise might be right for you, where to find classses, and how to evaluate if a particular class is right for you.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

Going for the Gold in the Golden Years

Here’s a look at older adults “undertaking rigorous training and testing themselves in competitions”:

At the last National Senior Games, held in Minneapolis, nearly 10,000 participants competed in 19 sports — not just swimming and running but also little-known contests like pickleball and retirement standards like shuffleboard. The first National Senior Games nearly 30 years ago drew 2,500 contestants.

Marc T. Riker, chief executive of the National Senior Games Association, “estimates that 200,000 older athletes compete in these organized games at the local, state and national levels.”

When a Spouse Dies, Resilience Can Be Uneven

Although not specifically aimed at older adults, this article addresses an issue many people are likely to face in their later years. Previous research has suggested that most people, about 60%, return to their previous work, daily routines, and prior state of contentment within a few months to a year after the death of a spouse.

But new research is calling this global assessment inadequate to describe the aftermath of spousal loss for many if not most people, suggesting a need for more effective and specific ways to help them return to their prior state of well-being. Someone who ranks high in life satisfaction may nonetheless be having considerable difficulty in other domains that can diminish quality of life, like maintaining a satisfying social life, performing well at work or knowing who can help when needed.

This new research found the factors that contributed most to resilience were “remaining socially connected and engaged in the usual activities of everyday life and knowing where they could turn for help and comfort and receiving support when they needed it.”

How The Simple Act Of Paying More Attention Compensates For An Aging Brain

As we get older, our brains gets slower at certain tasks—but that just means we need to work smarter.

New research from Germany suggests that our brains are able to compensate for the effects of aging by paying more attention and by suppressing information that’s irrelevant to completing a given task.

Secrets to Lasting Relationships From High School Sweethearts

Scientists now know that the part of the brain concerned with executive functioning (what we typically call “growing up”) continues to develop into at least the early 20s. Therefore, high school sweethearts do a lot of their growing up together. In this article several couples whose relationship began in high school discuss how they met the challenges of growing up together and how their partnership continues to thrive today.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

People Are Happiest At This Unexpected Time of Life

old-people

New research suggests that people get happier with age. Earlier research has suggested that peoples’ mental health improves as they age, and this study of 1,546 randomly selected adults in San Diego County suggests a correlation with happiness.

Have a Story to Tell? Your Personal Memoirist Is Here

Even in an era when it seems every life is displayed on social media for the world to see, a whole generation is getting older, and its stories, if not written or otherwise recorded, will be lost. Serving that market is becoming a small-business enterprise.

This article describes how personal historians work with clients to write the individual’s life history.

Is This Sustainable Village The Future Of Retirement?

An account of Serenbe, a multigenerational community in Chattahoochee Hills, outside Atlanta,GA. The community clusters homes and commercial buildings together so that a large portion of wooded land can be left undeveloped.

Nygren’s vision for Serenbe was modeled on the English countryside, where high-density villages are surrounded by expansive rural spaces.

Writing a ‘Last Letter’ When You’re Healthy

Dr. VJ Periyakoil, director of the Stanford Palliative Care Education & Training Program, describes the Stanford Letter Project, which encourages older adults to write letters to their loved ones expressing sentiments they might not have been able to say face-to-face. The article contains a link to the Stanford Letter Project, which offers free letter templates.

 

© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown