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Mental Health

Getting Fit – It’s Never Too Late to Start

Getting Fit – It’s Never Too Late to Start

If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that regular exercise is good for our health, and that a sedentary lifestyle can have a negative effect on our physical wellbeing. National guidelines suggest that the average adult should partake in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes vigorous exercise per week[1]in order to maintain a healthy body. Until recently, it’s been believed that this level of exercise needs to be relatively consistent throughout your life in order to reap the benefits and reduce the risk of death. A new study, however, suggests that actually, it’s never too late to start. 

Why Starting Later is Still Beneficial

The study, carried out at the National Cancer Institute and published in JAMA Network Open, examined people’s exercise patterns and subsequent death records, recording the correlation between an active lifestyle and age and cause of death[2]. Researchers looked at data from 315,059 Americans between the ages of 50 and 71 who had completed questionnaires rating their activity level in the 1990s. The study then tracked who had died and why, up until the end of 2011, taking into account other factors such as age, sex, whether they smoked, their diet, and so on[3]. Of those examined, over 71,000 had died – 22,000 of heart disease, and 16,000 of cancer[4]. Of those examined, 56% claimed they had remained consistently active throughout their lives, 30% stated their exercise levels had declined, and 13% said they started getting fit in later life[5].

Of course, those who consistently exercised had a lower risk of death when compared to those who didn’t exercise at all (around 42% less chance of dying from heart disease, and 14% less chance of dying from cancer[6]). What the researchers found really interesting, however, is that those who started getting fit in later life had a similar result (43% less likely to die from heart disease, and 16% less chance of dying from cancer). That means that even if you’ve not been active in your early life, it’s not too late to start – you can reap the benefits! Dr. Pedro Saint-Maurice, lead author of the study, explained, “if you maintain an active lifestyle or participate in some sort of exercise […] you can reduce your risk of dying. If you are not active and you get to your 40-50s and you decide to become active, you can still enjoy these benefits”[7].

The Highs and Lows of Microdosing LSD

The Highs and Lows of Microdosing LSD

The world’s first ever trial into microdosing LSD began on September 3rdthis year, after claims that regularly taking tiny doses of the drug can improve creativity and focus as well as lift depression. Microdosing has become increasing popular among young professionals, especially in the Californian tech world, where people work long hours in creative fields. The idea is they take one tenth of a dose of LSD every few days before work. The dose is too small to cause any of the typical psychedelic effects or hallucinations, but it is said to put users into a ‘flow state’, in which they are better able to focus and can increase inventiveness and creativity. 

 World’s First Trial

Of course, this is an illegal activity and so, studies into the effects of microdosing are difficult to organize and expensive to run. However, the Beckley Foundation, originally set up to research mind-altering substances, has found a way around current obstacles in order to complete the first ever placebo-controlled microdosing trial[1]. Study leader Balazs Szigeti explains that they’ve recruited volunteers who currently microdose and have supplied them with dummy capsules, into which they put some genuine doses and some placebo doses. 

The capsules are then placed into envelopes with QR codes and mixed up, so that the volunteer doesn’t know whether they are taking a placebo or the real thing. They scan the QR codes each time they take a dose, so that the researchers know which is which, and participants are shown the results at the end of the experiment. The participants then complete questionnaires and take part in online cognitive games in order to judge their increase (or lack thereof) of cognitive function and motivational drive[2].

 


Nadine Burke Harris, M.D. is the author of "the deepest well - Healing the long-term effects of childhood adversity."

Nadine Burke Harris, M.D. is the author of "the deepest well - Healing the long-term effects of childhood adversity."

Dr. Harris interview on NPR, discusses what negative experiences can do to a growing child’s health. Children’s exposure to adverse childhood experiences, such as, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, physical or emotional neglect, parental mental illness, substance dependence, incarceration, parental separation or divorce or domestic violence can negatively affect health outcomes.

The Addiction of Pleasure and All its Damning Consequences

The Addiction of Pleasure and All its Damning Consequences

Hedonists have long argued that the path to happiness is the pursuit of pleasure – the more pleasurable activities you participate in, the happier you are likely to be. It seems somewhat self-evident too – pleasure makes you happy, albeit for a limited time, so if you bunch together a number of happy-inducing pleasure activities, you will ultimately be happy. However, evidence suggests the opposite. In a world where pleasure activities such as alcohol, drugs, sugar, sex, pornography, wealth like general populace has never seen before, even social media and smart phones are abound, we seem to be unhappier than ever. In a world of increased privilege, we are increasingly discontent, and that in itself has negative consequences we could never have foreseen. As we become addicted to the pursuit of pleasure, are we actually ruining our chances of genuine happiness? And could we potentially be sending ourselves to an early grave?

 The Increase of Pleasure Activities

The strive for pleasure is evident within our culture, and it's becoming easier and easier to grasp at as our lives become less fraught with worries such as war and famine. The average American now consumes 94 grams of sugar per day – almost double the government's recommended limit of 50 grams per day. This has increased from 87 grams per day in 1970[1]. Not only is the availability of this 'feel good food' increasing, the desire for it is sky-rocketing too, suggesting an addictive tendency of this pleasure-seeking habit. It's not just sugar either. Drug use has increased by almost six per cent since 2007[2] and the use of smart phones has shot up from approximately 62 million people in 2010 to 224 million people in 2017[3]. Pornography, narcotics, social media use, and alcohol intake are all on the rise too. What's more, the average annual household income has increased from $49,354 in 2007 (ranging from $36,338 in Mississippi to $62,369 in New Hampshire) to $57,856 in 2015 (ranging from $40,037 to $75,675)[4], meaning that we can now pursue pleasure quicker and easier than ever before.

Is Casual Sex Bad For Your Wellbeing?

Is Casual Sex Bad For Your Wellbeing?

Casual sex is a controversial issue. Whilst some believe it to be the best way to spend a Saturday night, others condemn the morality of it as well as the physical and psychological dangers. Generally, casual sex has a bit of a bad reputation and that reputation can easily stick to those who regularly partake in it. That said, a great number of people find themselves involved with casual sex at one point in their lives. In fact, around 80% of undergraduate students admit to having casual sex[1], and by the age of 25, around 70% of the population will have ‘hooked up’ at least once[2]. With such a large amount of the population having had some experience of casual sex, even on a small scale, it seems bizarre that there should be a negative feeling around it, but perhaps there are reasons for that. Putting aside the more obvious ones, such as the risk of sexually transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies, many are beginning to question whether casual sex is actually bad for your wellbeing.

 

 

ADHD -  Diagnosis, Treatment and Careful Management

ADHD - Diagnosis, Treatment and Careful Management

In recent years, ADHD has received more and more public attention. Rates of diagnosis have increased in children nationwide – 11% of all American children had been diagnosed with ADHD as of 2011, compared to 7.8% in 2003 and 9.5% in 2007.[i] Understandably, such an increase has provoked skepticism and concern about the validity of the diagnosis, particularly as treatment for the disorder usually involves stimulant medications that can be easily abused. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why, in 2011 CDC data, statistics showed that less than a third of all US children over 6 with ADHD were receiving both medication and behavioral therapy as is generally recommended, and nearly 20% of children with the disorder were receiving neither.[ii] Plenty of people are skeptical about whether ADHD is all that serious a problem, when many of the symptoms seem to be simply magnified versions of normal behavior for children.

 

Does Modern Life Cause Early-Onset Dementia?

Does Modern Life Cause Early-Onset Dementia?

     Dementia affects millions of people worldwide and in the US, there are presently an estimated five million people suffering from age-related dementia.  If you are in America and you are over the age of 85, you have a one in two chance of developing some sort of dementia[1].  It is the sixth leading cause of death[2].  In 2015, nearly one in five Medicare dollars will be spent on dementia and Alzheimer’s will cost $226 billion.  By 2050, that cost is expected to rise to $1.1 trillion[3].  It’s a terrifying fact. 

     Dementia is an umbrella term for disorders of mental processes caused by brain diseases or injury.  There are a number of different types of dementia but by far the most prevalent and most well-known is Alzheimer’s, which currently accounts for around 70% of all dementia diagnoses[4].  What’s worrying is that dementia diagnoses are increasing as the population ages, as are deaths from neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s.  What’s more worrying, though, is that dementia is affecting individuals at a younger and younger age. 

 Dementia and the Youth of Today

     Whilst previously, ‘early-onset dementia’ referred to people in their mid to late 60s, it is now starting to refer to people diagnosed as young as 30 and 40.  That’s a frightening concept, and whilst some claim that it’s the result of living longer and being better at curing other diseases (because, they claim, everybody has to die of something), Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University in the UK is not so sure.  Pritchard and his team of researchers examined the mortality data from the World Health Organization and looked at the changing pattern of neurological deaths across 21 western countries, from as far back as 1979[5].  What they discovered was startling. 

 

Gender Expression and the Umbrella of Terms

Gender Expression and the Umbrella of Terms

     Transgender Americans and their struggles have become much more prominent in recent times. Last year, an article about the transgender rights movement focusing on actress Laverne Cox made the cover of TIME magazine;[i] and earlier this year, Caitlyn Jenner made her transition from male to female public, discussing it in interviews with 20/20[ii] and Vanity Fair.[iii] It would be fair to say, then, that there is a fair amount of public interest and discussion on the subject of transgender people and the life they experience at present. However, most of the public discourse appears to focus on a clearly delineated change: male to female, female to male. But for many people, gender can actually a much more complicated issue than simply being one or the other.

     People who do not feel they fit in the world as either male or female will often refer to themselves as “genderqueer” or “nonbinary” rather than simply transgender.[iv] Both are umbrella terms used to cover many ranges of gender expression. Some people will use both terms interchangeably; others feel they have slightly different connotations. For the purposes of this article, I will be using the term “nonbinary” to refer to this group of people, as it came into use for this purpose more recently than “genderqueer,” and I have seen it used more often in recent discussions of gender. The word nonbinary refers to the fact that these people consider themselves as living outside of the gender binary, which is to say, the male/female dichotomy we usually think of when describing a person’s gender.

 

Lead Poisoning and Criminal Behavior: Can there really be a link?

Lead Poisoning and Criminal Behavior: Can there really be a link?

     The recent death of Baltimore man Freddie Gray, who’s spinal cord was apparently snapped when in police custody, has sparked not only an investigation into police practices but has also reinvigorated the discussion around the potential effects of lead poisoning in children.  Despite long being known to be harmful, the effects of lead paint in the homes of children are still being discovered and surprisingly, are still having an effect.  The question of the moment, though, is can lead poisoning in children ultimately lead to criminal behavior in adults?

 Lead Paint and its Effects

     Although the practice of putting lead into paint was banned in 1978, many homes, especially in poor socio-economic areas, still have lead paint on the interior and exterior walls.  In time, this paint deteriorates and will chip or release dust that can either be breathed in or more likely swallowed by children.  It wasn’t so long ago that 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood was considered a safe level.  However in 2012, following a 30 year study into the effects of lead poisoning, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reduced that number to just five micrograms per deciliter.  Now, many argue that there is no safe level at all[1].  What’s even scarier is that in 2007, an estimated 25% of homes still contained deteriorating lead paint and currently, more than four per cent of children in the US have some level of lead poisoning.  These figures rise in big cities and poor urban areas. 

The marginalization of the transgender community

The marginalization of the transgender community

     The LGBTQ community is often seen as a monolithic entity, with everyone working towards the same end goal. It’s certainly easy to think that way, since they’re united as a community by the marginalization they experience for their sexuality and gender expression. But that acronym itself shows the inaccuracy of that assumption. This community includes gay men and lesbians, who are linked by their homosexuality but often experience different, gender-specific forms of homophobia – for instance, while a gay man might be greeted with simple disgust and even violence by a straight man, a lesbian might instead be told that her homosexuality is “sexy” by the same man and find that he is sexually aggressive towards her despite her orientation or even because of it. Bisexuals often face marginalization in the LGBTQ community because their homosexual peers resent their option to “pass” for straight, or find that potential partners outright reject them for fear of not being able to fully satisfy them. The “queer” label that rounds out the acronym is itself an umbrella term for several other disparate groups who face similar problems in how they are treated by their society for their sexuality and gender identity; often “queer” is used as shorthand for these groups or even for the entire LGBTQ community, due to how many terms would need to be rattled off to mention all of them.

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