Showing posts from July, 2014

Is There Suicide In Your Blood?

Seriously, experts now think there may be a gene in our bodies that might predispose us to killing ourselves.

According to, Johns Hopkins researchers say they have discovered a chemical alteration in a single human gene linked to stress reactions that, if confirmed in larger studies, could give doctors a simple blood test to reliably predict a person’s risk of attempting suicide.

The discovery, described online in The American Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that changes in a gene involved in the function of the brain’s response to stress hormones plays a significant role in turning what might otherwise be an unremarkable reaction to the strain of everyday life into suicidal thoughts and behaviors, much like, I suppose the turning of a normal cell into a cancer cell.

“Suicide is a major preventable public health problem, but we have been stymied in our prevention efforts because we have no consistent way to predict those who are at increased risk of killing themsel…

Live longer? Run!

Finally I'm doing something right.

Experts now claim you'll live longer if you run.  According to, a new Iowa State University study found running for just five or 10 minutes a day can significantly reduce your risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

I run two to three miles a day.  Does that mean I'll live forever?

Seriously, though, DC (Duck-chul) Lee, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State, says runners were 45 percent less likely to die from heart disease or stroke than non-runners. Researchers followed more than 55,000 adults for 15 years to gauge the benefits of running, newswise reports. Lee says runners reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease regardless of distance, duration and speed.

Which is good.  Because I barely run a 10-minute mile (although it used to be a 15-!).

“Most people say they don’t have time to exercise or to increase their physical activity, but I think most everyone can find fiv…

Happy? You'll Post On Twitter. Not Happy? Not So Much

Guess where people like to share good news?

A new study has found that, when experiencing positive events, people preferr to share via texting and Twitter, because "both media are easily accessible from smartphones and are non-intrusive in that communication partners don’t have to reply immediately," according to

When experiencing negative events, people prefer using the telephone, a more intrusive medium.

“You often hear people say when the phone rings, it’s bad news,” study author Catalina Toma, an assistant professor of communication arts at UW-Madison, says at“Our data support that.”

The team also found that social sharing via media enhanced the emotional tone of the event. Sharing a positive event increased its impact. “Telling somebody makes you even happier,”she says, adding that “It’s almost like the event is not even real until you tell somebody."

But if you feel sad because you had a lousy trip to the dentist (don't tell …

What Is a Community?

I recently had a friend suggest to me that I write about community.

He was referring specifically to a small intimate Italian restaurant in town where, because it's so popular, and there's often a waiting list, he (and his wife) met and fell in love with another friend of mine, someone who's had a great influence on my life, and become very important to him, too. 

This restaurant is very popular (I won't say the name but it's very near Cummings Beach), and on Saturday nights, people have to wait for a table.  Seems both sets of friends ran into each other all the time because they each went to this restaurant on Saturday night and had to sit in the tiny alcove to wait for your table.

Our mutual friend got very hungry one night and asked if they could have something to eat while they waited.  A small platter of cheese and crackers was presented and she and her friend asked the couple if they'd like to share.

And a beautiful friendship was born.

Here's where…

Why Does Your Friend Understand What You Mean When You Refer to Your Dog as a, Well, Dog?

Have you ever said a word, then felt that it was wrong in your mouth?  Have you ever read a passage in a book and stumbled upon a common word that suddenly seemed foreign?

I'm not talking about developing dementia or reading things in a foreign language.  But think about it.  Hasn't there ever been a time when you were thinking about a word it suddenly seemed like one you've never seen before?

Now a philopsopher, through game theory, says he may know why, when we say "dog" to a friend, that person understands that we mean the animal panting beside us, according to 

Kansas State University philosopher Elliott Wagner aims to address these types of questions in his latest research, which focuses on long-standing philosophical questions about semantic meaning. Wagner, assistant professor of philosophy, and two other philosophers and a mathematician are collaborating to use game theory to analyze communication and how it acquires meaning, the Web site repor…

Are Dogs Jealous? Yes, Especially When Owners Pay Attention to Others (Dogs, That Is)

Anyone who has a dog already knows this.  But now scientists are copping to the fact.

Dogs get jealous.

Sadly, I've never had a dog (hope to get one soon).  But from knowing friends' dogs, it's obvious that they get sad, and depressed and excited, just like we do (only, we don't wag our tails!).

"Emotion researchers" have been arguing for years whether jealousy requires complex cognition, reports. And some scientists have even said that jealousy is an entirely social construct – not seen in all human cultures and not fundamental or hard-wired in the same ways that fear and anger are.

But the new findings support the view that there may be a more basic form of jealousy, which evolved to protect social bonds from interlopers, according to the Web site.

They show that dogs exhibit more jealous behaviors, like snapping and pushing at their owner or the rival, when the owner showed affection to what appeared to be another dog (actually a stuf…

Smoke? You May Be More Likely to Commit Suicide

Here's another reason to give up smoking.  It may make you want to commit suicide.

Seriously, a new study has found that smoking may contribute to suicide risk.

Cigarette smokers are more likely to commit suicide than people who don’t smoke, studies have shown.  In the past, this used to be attributed to the fact that many people with psychiatric illnesses, smoke, and they, of course, may be more prone to suicide.  But new research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis finds that smoking itself may increase suicide risk and that policies to limit smoking reduce suicide rates.

 The study reports that suicide rates declined up to 15 percent, relative to the national average, in states that implemented higher taxes on cigarettes and stricter policies to limit smoking in public places.

“Our analysis showed that each dollar increase in cigarette taxes was associated with a 10 percent decrease in suicide risk,” said author Richard A. Grucza, PhD, associate pro…

It's In His Eyes -- Is It Love or Lust?

Want to now if a person is interested in you romantically -- or sexually?

His eyes will first focus on your face if he thinks he might fall in love, but if he's more attracted than searching for a relationship, it will be your body.  Duh.

But think about it.  A new study has found that it all happens in the blink of an eye, when you first meet someone, according to

 The new study found that eye patterns concentrate on a stranger’s face if the viewer sees that person as a potential partner in romantic love, but the viewer gazes more at the other person’s body if he or she is feeling sexual desire. That automatic judgment can occur in as little as half a second, producing different gaze patterns.

 “Although little is currently known about the science of love at first sight or how people fall in love, these patterns of response provide the first clues regarding how automatic attentional processes, such as eye gaze, may differentiate feelings of love from feelings…

More and More Younger Men Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer, Especially if a Family History

Maybe they're just getting screening when normally they wouldn't, but more and more younger men are being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

According to a new study, the number of younger men diagnosed with prostate cancer has increased nearly 6-fold in the last 20 years, and the disease is more likely to be aggressive in these younger men, researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found.

Typically, prostate cancer occurs more frequently as men age into their 70s or 80s. Many prostate cancers are slow-growing and many older men diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer will end up dying from causes other than prostate cancer.

But, the researchers found, when prostate cancer strikes at a younger age, it’s likely because the tumor is growing quickly.  Cancer almost always is more aggressive in younger people.

“Early onset prostate cancer tends to be aggressive, striking down men in the prime of their life. These fast-growing tumors in young…

Saying You're Sorry? How, Is What Matters

Several years ago I wrote a piece on forgiveness (it won a statewide first place award, but anyway), and now a new study says how you say you're sorry is the most important part of it.

It used to be hard to say I'm sorry.  I would do anything to avoid it.  But now it comes a lot more naturally.  Maybe it's because I have to say it just about all the time?  Hope not.  But when I had a child, I found myself saying it a lot.  After screaming at him about bringing his dishes into the kitchen  because I was tired (like last night).  Or when I accused him of misplacing the remote, then found I was the one who did it.  Or especially, when I take out my day's frustrations on him.

I've found a really neat thing happens, when I do it, though.  I feel peace.  

But the study hammers home the point that the way you apologize is key.

According to the study, the reason saying it the right way works so well is that the the apology makes the transgressor seem more valuable as a r…

Guess Who Registers to Donate Organs The Most?

I remember nervously checking the box on my license.  Donate my organs?  Well. . .okay.

Probably like most of us, it made me squeamish to think about someone digging in my body for my heart and lungs and kidney (I only have one functioning one!).  But then I realized, I'm dead.  So what does it matter?  And it might save the life of someone who really needs it.

Now a new study has found the people who most often donate organs.  Wait for it.  It's doctors.

According to, a study that included about 15,000 physicians found that they were more likely to be registered as an organ donor compared to the general public.

Sadly, less than 40 percent of the public is registered for organ donation in most countries with a registry. “One common fear is that physicians will not take all measures to save the life of a registered citizen at a time of illness. Showing that many physicians are registered for organ donation themselves could help dispel this myth, the Web site r…

Friends Closer Than Family? In Reality, They Very Well Could Be

Have some really good friends?  You may be closer to them than you think.

A new study has found that we may share genes with our friends.  A genome-wide analysis has shown that we share some genetic similarities with our friends, according to

A study from the University of California, San Diego, and Yale University finds that friends who are not biologically related still resemble each other genetically.

Hmm.  I wonder how good a friend you have to be?  Anyway. . .

"We have more DNA in common with the people we pick as friends than we do with strangers in the same population," the Web site quotes study coauthor James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at UC San Diego.

The study is a genome-wide analysis of nearly 1.5 million markers of gene variation, and relies on data from the Framingham Heart Study.  The researchers focused on 1,932 unique subjects and compared pairs of unrelated friends against pairs of unrelated strangers. The …

Remember John Stamos and the Yogurt Commercial? Whose Yogurt Is It?

Quick.  Gorgeous man. Eating yogurt.

What do you think of?

If you didn't think of John Stamos, they're right.  A new study says we tend to remember products when the celebrities endorsing them are clearly associated with the item.

But if I'd said, Novak Djokovic and Wilson or Dunlop, chances are you'd remember the racquets.

The Web site reports that Katie Kelting, a marketing researcher at the University of Arkansas, found that when consumers are shown two ads featuring the same celebrity, they are more likely to forget information when the celebrity is endorsing a product that is only moderately associated with the celebrity’s fame. When a product is either a really good -- or really bad -- fit with the reason for the celebrity’s fame, consumers are more likely to remember the information.

But what happens when there is a low fit or match, such as LeBron James starring in a fast-food commercial? James is one of the world’s premier athletes. This would be a low…

Flame Retardants Are Everywhere, Seriously Hurting Us, Not Helping

When I was a kid and you went near a flame with your pajamas, you were, well. toast.

But now it's turning out that the flame retardants put in everything from pajamas to furniture to the very ice floes penguins stand on in the Arctic, are so toxic -- and everywhere -- they may give us all cancer.

According to Deborah Blum at The New York Times, scientists are now finding traces of these chemicals in breast milk. It appeared that the compounds were carried into the milk from fat in the mothers’ bodies.

“The route wasn’t a surprise,” she quotes Dr. Arnold Schecter, a public health researcher and a professor of environmental health at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Dallas. Breast milk is rich in fat, and the compounds he was looking at linger in fat. 
How did they get into women’s bodies in the first place?  Flame retardants are now in butter and peanut butter, bacon, salmon, chili with beans, sliced lunch meat and more. 
They are present in tiny amounts, Blu…

Warming World? Expect More Kidney Stones

For those of you out there who don't believe in climate change, may you get kidney stones.

I have them, and they're no fun.

That's because a new study has found, as daily temperatures increase, so does the number of patients seeking treatment for kidney stones. In a study that may both reflect and foretell a warming planet’s impact on human health, a research team found a link between hot days and kidney stones in 60,000 patients in several U.S. cities with varying climates, according to

We found that as daily temperatures rise, there is a rapid increase in the probability of patients presenting over the next 20 days with kidney stones,” said study leader Gregory E. Tasian, M.D., M.Sc., M.S.C.E., a pediatric urologist and epidemiologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), who is on the staff of the Hospital’s Kidney Stone Center as well as the Hospital’s Center for Pediatric Clinical Effectiveness (CPCE).

The study team analyzed medi…

Big Surprise. College Athletes With Abusive Coaches Cheat

It should probably come as no surprise.  But college athletes who have abusive coaches, cheat. reports that college athletes who have abusive coaches are more willing to cheat in order to win than players with more ethical coaches, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association and based on surveys from almost 20,000 student athletes at more than 600 colleges across the country.

The study did not determine whether abusive coaches actively encouraged or permitted cheating by their teams, but there was a correlation between abusive coaches and an increased willingness by players to cheat in order to win. 

“Ethical behavior of coaches is always in the spotlight,” the Web site quotes lead researcher Mariya Yukhymenko, PhD, a visiting research associate at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "Our study found several negative effects related to abusive coaches, including a willingness by players to cheat to win games."


Want to Get More Out of Exercise? Think, Fun

Could it be that easy?  A new study says that if you think of exercise as fun, or a treat, instead of oh-God-it's-time-to-go-running, you'll lose weight.

According to, "Think of your next workout as a fun activity or as a well-deserved break – not exercise – and you’ll eat less and lose more weight, according to a new study from Cornell University Food and Brand Lab."

The study analyzed the eating habits of people after walking 2 km (a little more than a mile) – half the participants were told the walk was exercise, while others were told it was a scenic walk.

Researchers found that those who believed they completed an exercise walk ate 35 percent more chocolate pudding for dessert than those who had been on a scenic walk. On a different occasion, those thinking they had taken an exercise walk ate 206 more calories -- 124 percent more calories – than those who had been told they were on a scenic walk. 

According to researchers, the study shows o…

Don't Want Alzheimer's? Exercise Your Butt Off!

Do crossword puzzles.  Read the daily newspaper (blog?).  Exercise.

These have all been recommended to those who wish to try to ward off Alzheimer's.  But exercise is the number one solution, experts have been saying for some time.

Now a new study proves it even more.  According to Gretchen Reynolds at The New York Times, "Exercise may help to keep the brain robust in people who have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to an inspiring new study. The findings suggests that even moderate amounts of physical activity may help to slow the progression of one of the most dreaded diseases of aging."

 About 100 people between 65 and 89 were recruited for the study, many with a family history of Alzheimer's, making them more vulnerable to this dreaded disease.

Reynolds notes that scientists have discovered in recent years that people who harbor a specific variant of a gene have a substantially increased risk of developing the disease.

Genetic …

Arsenic in Your Well Water? Lung Cancer May Be Next

How scary is this?  Mice exposed to low levels of arsenic -- the amounts some of us may have in our ground water -- developed lung cancer.

According to, mice exposed to low doses of arsenic in drinking water, similar to what some people might consume, developed this cancer, researchers at the National Institutes of Health have found.

 Arsenic levels in public drinking water cannot exceed 10 parts per billion (ppb), which is the standard set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, there are no established standards for private wells, from which millions of people get their drinking water.

People in the northern suburbs of my town have discovered, to their horror, that their well water contains many things it shouldn't.  Including arsenic.

The researchers used a model that duplicates how humans are exposed to arsenic throughout their entire lifetime. In the study, the mice were given arsenic three weeks before breeding and throughout pregnancy and …

New IVF Analysis Procedure May Result in More Pregnancies

What if you were trying to get pregnant using in-vitro fertilization (IVF) and suddenly had a greater than 50% chance of succeeding?

It's not quite there yet, but a new study has found that using computer-automated, time‐lapse photography of embryos in the laboratory during IVF may improve embryo selection, potentially increasing the chances of pregnancy among women undergoing the procedure, according to

As someone who went through this more than once, finally succeeding on the third, fourth and fifth tries (but only one live birth), it raises a real beacon of hope. In the past women were given (at least when I did it, 13 years ago) a 30% chance of success, based on the average woman in good health.  The good news is, it worked a lot of the time, especially for younger women.  But for women in their 40s like me, the success rate was far less impressive.

Now labs may actually be able to use a device which records images of developing embryos during the first three …

Will Your Child Be a Binge-Drinker?

My son hasn't shown much interest in alcohol -- at least not yet (or to me!).  But a new study has found that you may be able to predict which of your children is going to binge drink in the future.

Of course, genetics play a part.   And I may feel a little more nervous than most folks because alcoholism runs in my family.

But the study found that genetics play only a small part.  Brain function and about 40 different other variables can also help scientists predict with about 70 percent accuracy which teens will become binge drinkers.

When I was a young teen, a younger cousin used to go everywhere with her shampoo bottle.  Turns out it was really liquor.  Not sure if this is why but at the age of 15, she became pregnant, and was able to hide it till about her eighth month.  Her family thought she had just gained weight.  It was a sad coincidence that her baby was born with Down Syndrome, which had nothing to do with her lack of prenatal care, but here she was, at 15, with a bab…

Innovations in Medicine May Put Us at Risk

I found this really disturbing.  Thanks to what's been heralded as ground-breaking new innovations in medicine, we may be more at risk than ever.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have found that the risk of patient harm increased two-fold in 2006 – the peak year that teaching hospitals nationwide embraced the pursuit of minimally invasive robotic surgery for prostate cancer, according to

“This study looked at the stages of innovation and how the rapid adoption of a new surgical technology—in this case, a surgical robotic system—can lead to adverse events for patients,” said Kellogg Parsons, MD, MHS, surgical oncologist, UC San Diego Health System and first author of the paper. “There is a real need for standardized training programs, rules governing surgeon competence and credentialing, and guidelines for hospital privileging when novel technologies reach the operating rooms of teaching and community hospitals.”

In 2…

One-Third of Those With Dyslexia May Have Been Physically Abused

It probably shouldn't surprise us.  But one third of people who are dyslexic claim to have been physically abused in their lifetimes.

According to, adults who have dyslexia are much more likely to report they were physically abused before they turned 18 than their peers without dyslexia, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Toronto and the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

Thirty-five per cent of adults with dyslexia report they were physically abused before they turned 18. In contrast, seven per cent of those without dyslexia reported that they had experienced childhood physical abuse.

Dyslexia is a reading disability that occurs when the brain does not properly recognize and process certain symbols.

“Even after accounting for age, race, sex and other early adversities such as parental addictions, childhood physical abuse was still associated with a six-fold increase in the odds of dyslexia” the Web s…

Do Winning Streaks Really Exist?

You got back to your car just in time to dodge the parking ticket.  You were the 100th customer at the supermarket and qualified for free groceries.  And your son just got into the college of his choice, all in one day.

On a winning streak?  Not likely, say experts. 

Humans have a well-documented tendency to see winning and losing streaks in situations that, in fact, are, well, random, according to

We're not alone.  Monkeys do it, too.  Researchers find that monkeys also share our unfounded belief in winning and losing streaks. "The results suggests that the penchant to see patterns that actually don’t exist may be inherited—an evolutionary adaptation that may have provided our ancestors a selective advantage when foraging for food in the wild, according to lead author Tommy Blanchard, a doctoral candidate in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester," newswise reports.

 This inborn tendency to feel that we are on a roll or in a slump m…

Want to Die Young? Don't Get Enough Vitamin D

I'm not a vitamin person.  Though my husband believes in everything from saw palmetto to garlic to that stuff people take for their knee cartilage.

But now I'm thinking about taking vitamin D.  That's because a new study has found that a vitamin D deficiency has been linked to cardiovascular and even cancer deaths.

You're probably skeptical like I am.  Today it's a savior, tomorrow it's discredited.  Like the vitamins above.

But several new studies are pointing to the fact that this vitamin is different.

"A vitamin D boost may prevent early death from heart disease and cancer, according to a large scale study by Mount Sinai and a consortium of international collaborators, reports.

Research has showed a strong association between low vitamin D levels and risk of death in general, as well as death from cardiovascular diseases, and from cancer, at least in older people with a history of cancer.

 Past studies have linked Vitamin D to protectio…

Try Not To Have Your Child Need An Emergency Appendectomy on a Weekend

You'd probably rather not know this.  But you should.  Children who need even minor emergency surgeries over the weekend are more likely to die.

Children who undergo simple emergency surgeries, such as hernia repairs or appendix removals, on weekends are more likely to suffer complications and even die than children getting the same kind of treatment during the week, according to results of a Johns Hopkins Children’s Center study, as reported by  

"The Johns Hopkins team says that although the number of deaths was small, the marked difference in death and risk of other complications points to a worrisome 'weekend effect' observed across hospitals nationwide that calls for an in-depth examination of possible after-hours safety lapses and clinical glitches," the Web site notes.

Specifically, children who underwent urgent or emergency procedures on weekends were 63 percent more likely to die than those treated during the week, the study showe…