jenk: Faye (Default)
Here, and gee, it says tree pollen is "very high" at the moment. Headache, stuffy nose, irritated eyes, drowsiness... not contagious, but not fun either.
jenk: Faye (Default)
Not sure if this is my first or second white Christmas. I spent all those years wanting it, and now...eh. Pretty, but a pain.

A few links you might find interesting ...

The Von Trapps's ski lodge in Vermont is still around, though the staff hides some of the more kitschy "Sound of Music" stuff from the boss.

Junk Food Science tackles the prevalence of peanut allergies. One thing I thought interesting is that studies find that the number of parents who believe their kids have allergies is much greater than those who confirm it through double-blind testing (skin pricks confirmed with food challenges against a placebo). This study was on infants, and this one was on teenagers. Perhaps other food intolerances are being lumped in as allergies? Lactose intolerance due to lack of lactase, for example, affects 1 in 10 - much more than allergies.

Perception of pain can vary depending on your perception of how it occurred.
It hurts plenty when someone, say, bonks you on the head with a badminton racket. But it hurts even more, researchers have found, if you think the bonking was no accident.

Applying "evidence-based practices" in drug/alcohol rehab situations.
jenk: Faye (MoandSyd)
This may not seem important. [livejournal.com profile] siderea gets into why it was:

What was taught in the psychiatry classrooms of the US -- what had been taught since the mid-1940s [...was...] that same-sex sexual desire was not an ordinary human experience, but necessarily a symptom of a grave and disabling insanity. You could not desire members of your own sex, they taught, without also being a sociopath who would lie, cheat, steal, and rape (anything or anyone) at the slightest opportunity. Homosexuality -- for those of you who are clinicians -- was a personality disorder.
[...]
And this was, they insisted, necessarily so. You couldn't have the symptom of same-sex desire without this attendant whole personality illness, that pervaded every aspect of your life, the total of your personality. You could not be a person of character, could not have close human relationships, could not control your impulses or appetites in any way, they said.

This is what was taught. This was what was taught to psychiatrists. All of them, pretty much. For thirty years.

I was born in 1966. My earliest memories are from the early 70s. By the time I was grappling with my sexuality it was the mid-to-late 80s, and the only serious anti-gay voices I heard were religious.1 This helps fill in some of why the older folks seemed so wigged at the idea, especially those who didn't know they knew anyone who was gay or lesbian.

What changed this? A combination of activism and education on the research that had been done - outside of the psychiatric field.

Among that research the most astonishing was Evelyn Hooker's 1956 "The Adjustment of the Male Overt Homosexual". It was a gold-standard, double-blind experiment. Psychiatry claimed that homosexuality could not exist without all sorts of other debilitating effects throughout the personality. Very well, said Hooker: let's test that hypothesis. She recruited thirty gay men who had never had therapy and thirty controls who were matched for them on age, socioeconomic status and intelligence. Each was given the standard, most esteemed, tests for psychopathology then in use. Their anonymized results were shipped to three highly esteemed experts on those measures, to be graded.

And what was returned was that the very best experts in psychological testing for psychopathology, using the best tools of the day, could not tell the gay from straight respondants on the basis of pathology -- or at all. The rate of psychopathology in the two populations was almost identical, with the gay subjects being just a tad better adjusted.

This research made an enormous splash in psychology, but psychiatry wasn't ready to hear it in the 1950s.

Psychiatry was ready to hear it in 1973.
There's a lot more goodness here.

1[livejournal.com profile] cooncat reminded me that I certainly heard anti-gay slurs and crass jokes. But the serious "authority" anti-gay voices were pushing the "It's against God" reasoning, not "Gays are by definition insane" reasoning. Even the anti-gay initiatives of the time resulted in publicizing research that shows that gays are normal.
jenk: Faye (Snow)
It's under 29F at my house. In daytime. Yes, this is abnormally low here.

The seasonal state highways (Chinook Pass, Cayuse Pass, North Cascades Highway) are "closed until spring", though whether "spring" means March or June is always in question.

Alec's Portland show tonight is canceled due to a) Pub closing early due to snow and b) Bard stuck on the wrong side of the Siskiyous. Info here.

Appropo of nothing, here's a BBC correspondent on the hypochondriac French :)
jenk: Faye (DontKnowSoResearch)
I hadn't heard this before - apparently migraines are tied to falling estrogen levels. They also appear to correlate to a lower risk of breast cancer, which is also tied to estrogen levels. Interesting.
jenk: Faye (sleepy Cecilia)
So some researchers found correlations between high blood pressure & lack of sleep in teens. Toss in with other sleep deprivation issues in teens and you'd think high schools would start later.

If you're wondering, yes, a different study found that poor sleep is associated with hypertension in adult women, and associated with "higher levels of biomarkers associated with elevated risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes". (Correlations of correlations is indirect, but it's what I found.)

Of course, less sleep is also correlated with mood swings and depression....
jenk: Faye (DariaPensive)
In which I am somewhat morbid )

stress

Jun. 30th, 2008 02:55 pm
jenk: Faye (FayeAtComputer)
Reading an article about how "Oh, you should de-stress" is given as a cure-all. Yes, less stress can make it easier to get enough sleep, which has good effects. Yes, being stressed all the time can raise blood pressure. But when cancer or infertility is blamed on stress, I can't help but wonder if it's just blaming the victim and offering the "reassurance" that "cancer only happens to stressed people (and I'm not one so I'm safe)".

But it was this quote that gave me a chuckle ...
Susan Sontag noted that a culture’s maladies are apparent in the emotional causes it attributes to illness. In the Victorian period, cancer was “caused” by excessive family obligations or hyper-emotionalism. In the 1970s it was “caused” by isolation and suppressed anger. So the assertion that stress underlies 99 percent of illness may indicate more about the healthy than the sick. Stress is our burden, our bogyman, and reducing it is the latest all-purpose talisman against adversity’s randomness.
Peggy Orenstein, in the NY Times
Not that stress is our only bogyman ...
jenk: Faye (librarian)
Book review from the New York Times Science section:

There are so few good belly laughs in health care these days. What a pity I am likely to be the only person on the planet to enjoy the guffaw-laden, if slightly unnerving, experience of reading Dr. Nancy Snyderman and Dr. Nortin Hadler’s new books in tandem, taking careful notes.
[...]
Both muster science, statistics and a judicious smattering of personal experience to present, with no small fanfare, completely, utterly, diametrically opposite advice.Abigail Zuger, M.D.

The books?
  • Worried Sick: A Prescription for Health in an Overtreated America. By Nortin M. Hadler, M.D., University of North Carolina Press. 376 pages. $28. Excerpt on NY Times site.
  • Medical Myths That Can Kill You And the 101 Truths That Will Save, Extend and Improve Your Life. By Nancy L. Snyderman. M.D. Crown Publishers. 273 Pages. $24.95. Excerpt on MSNBC.

Why does the reviewer assume she's the only one reading these books in tandem? Because they have such opposing conclusions and "[o]ur health beliefs are so deeply ingrained that data, admonitions, guidelines and oceans of ink on reams of paper will seldom dissuade us from believing what we want to be true."
jenk: Faye (Jen40)
New inhalers can cause confusion. I just started using inhalers last summer, so I'm not sure I ever had a CFC inhaler. But my last two definitely have an HFA propellant, and I noticed they had a softer spray. I also hadn't realized that inhalers need cleaning -

HFA inhalers need to be washed with warm water and air dried once a week. The medication is stickier and will clog the hole, reducing the amount of medication the spray delivers.
This morning I washed my old inhaler that I thought was near-dead and just keeping "in case". Um, no, it's fine. Cool.

Skip the paper bag if you think you're hyperventilating and focus on slow, calm breaths. The paper bag won't hurt you if you really are hyperventilating - but if it's asthma or a heart attack, reducing oxygen is the last thing you need.

Building muscles has a utilitarian purpose??? They're not just decorative??? Who knew??? Yeah, I'm heavy on the sarcasm there. Truth is, size is not the point - strength is. It's from a special section on the human body.
jenk: Faye (read)
It's interesting how what we often worry about isn't borne out by statistics. Some ways to check this...

[Let's Pretend the top 5 question is the top 1 :]

[Poll #1171188]

This is adapted from this article from the [livejournal.com profile] psychologytoday feed. Yes, answers are in the linked article. (Thanks [livejournal.com profile] dianthus for pointing it out :)
jenk: Faye (jane sarcastic)
...and approaches it from a "it's not sexy!" standpoint. Because of course sexiness is more important than anyone's sleep.

At least the article does give a comeback on the sexiness point: "In addition to life-threatening health problems and psychological symptoms, people with untreated sleep apnea often suffer from impotence and other disorders."

I do understand a spouse complaining that the noise of the cpap or the breeze from the vent keeps them awake. It's sleep quality vs sleep quality at that point. And the noise from my cpap sometimes bugs me.
jenk: Faye (read)
Marlene Zuk, a professor of biology at the University of California at Riverside, writing in the NY Times blog Well (emphasis added):

Bacteria don’t “develop” resistance, as if it were a muscle nurtured by going to a microbial gym. Instead, they had it all along, or more accurately a small proportion of them did. [...] Antibiotics mainly kill bacteria by targeting components in the cell wall, a structure that surrounds bacteria but which our own cells lack. Antibiotics are highly selective — unlike soap and water, which get rid of bacteria indiscriminately, through mechanical means.

When you take an antibiotic, a few of the bacterial cells in your body already happen to have genes that enable them to be resistant to it, just by random chance. You have many millions of bacteria, so it’s not too surprising that they vary, the way a big city will tend to have at least a few people with unusual eye color, exceptionally small feet or any other characteristic. If you don’t take the whole course of antibiotics, say the 5 or 7 or 14 days your doctor recommends — or sometimes even if you do — enough of the resistant bacteria may remain to establish a new infection.

And they multiply incredibly quickly, leaving their equally resistant progeny in much greater numbers. The resistant bacteria will spread the way bacteria do, but now they will outnumber the vulnerable ones in the population. Then, when the same antibiotic is used again, it can’t gain a toehold because a far greater proportion of the newly-produced bacteria are unaffected by its use. The bacteria have evolved. Not taking a full course of antibiotics, or taking them when they can do no good, as with viral infections like colds or flu, hastens the selection of the resistant germs.

In contrast, although soap and water don’t completely annihilate the bacteria either, they aren’t selective. The bacteria that remain are genetically similar to the ones that went swirling down the drain, and so their offspring are equally vulnerable to the next scrubbing. [...] So using soap or bleach-based cleansers is good, but inappropriate application of antibiotics will be worse than ineffective because it drives evolution.
Antibiotics can be lifesavers, but ... ow. There's this post on how antibiotics are often over-prescribed for ear infections.
jenk: Faye (Jen40)
I've mentioned to friends that I use stretching to help prevent low back pain and other various aches. So recent articles on how " stretching doesn't prevent pain or injury" have caught my eye.

And I'm pretty sure that the study the articles mention isn't about what I'm doing.

See, I'm not stretching to prevent soreness. I'm stretching to reduce muscle tightness, which will increase my pain-free range of motion.

Example A: Low back pain while walking. I've learned that for me, there's a particular low back pain that shows up when my quads are too tight. Stopping and sitting on a bench will stop the symptoms while I'm sitting, but only while I'm sitting. Stretching my quads will allow me to continue walking without pain.

Example B: A pain all down the right side of my leg while driving or walking. If stop and do a particular stretch I learned in yoga, then I can continue without pain.

Needless to say, I've been working on figuring out when I have muscle soreness vs muscle tightness. Tightness, stretching can help. Soreness, not so much.

(Thanks [livejournal.com profile] dianthus for reminding me to post about this.)
jenk: Faye (Meditation)
“You know kids, nobody can ‘make you’ feel anything. – You do know that right?” (they look confused)

“No, seriously,” I say, “ You can be, if you choose, in control of your feelings. Nobody can make you angry, nobody can make you sad, unless you want to be.”

They scoff, and without fail, one of them says, “My parents make me angry” – or even better - “I can make people angry”.
And there follows an experiment, where the teenager tries to make Peggy (the Quaker preacher in the story) angry. And at the end, she reports:
“I am feeling slightly amused, and proud of you, young man, you showed courage, you gave it a good try. You didn’t flinch. I respect that. I like you. – I am not, however, in the least bit angry.”

Then I ask the class if they can figure out why he failed. They are smart. They [...] come around to “You didn’t want to be angry. You made up your mind that you weren’t going to get angry.”
And that is the "bingo" moment. A human can choose a particular reaction. We can get better at picking what we're going to feel or do.
Just because people are offensive does not mean that I have to be offended. What a time-saver....
Read the rest, it's worth it.

linkies

Dec. 27th, 2007 01:42 pm
jenk: Faye (read)
The Ferrett has some interesting musings on evaluating news content by signal-to-noise ratio - and on how it's affected by an individual's reading vs listening capacity.

NY Times' buzzwords list, including "lolcat", "e-mail bankruptcy", "FTW" and "walkshed".

Also from the Times, 101 appetizers in 20 minutes or less and a review of a book on how discredited treatments may work for individuals anyway.
[P]lacebos have as venerable and honorable a history as just about any medication, and are better studied than most.

Dr. Bausell explores the science behind placebos in detail: the pain relief they afford is reliable and reproducible, and for some reason tends to linger in memory as even stronger than it really is.

But is that placebo-generated pain relief real or imaginary? Patients generally roll their eyes when the argument gets to this stage, for as Dr. Bausell points out, one perfectly reasonable response to the question would be, “Who cares?”
And from The Onion: Web-Browser History A Chronicle Of Couple's Unspoken Desires :)

achoo!

Dec. 18th, 2007 03:55 pm
jenk: Faye (Sick)
I've been sick. IM conversation with [livejournal.com profile] dianthus from Saturday:
Me: I am sick.
Me: Not sure if it's what you have or what [livejournal.com profile] skydancer has or something else.
[livejournal.com profile] dianthus: aw
[livejournal.com profile] dianthus: Hm... that would suck if it was different from [livejournal.com profile] skydancer's thing.
[livejournal.com profile] dianthus: Until this I thought it was the same and you were typhoid jen.
Me: heh
Me: 'cause I made others sick but didn't get sick myself?
[livejournal.com profile] dianthus: yup
[livejournal.com profile] dianthus: it's not like I saw much of [livejournal.com profile] skydancer.
[livejournal.com profile] dianthus: and we both saw you.

What I have is one of those sinus-y things where I feel like I'm drowning due to copious mucus production. Between Friday and Saturday I emptied Kleenex* boxes at work, in the library, the TV room, the library again, and our bedroom. This left us with only 1 newly-opened box upstairs, 1 newly-opened box downstairs, and (gasp!) only one box in reserve. By yesterday I was convinced that we would run out at any moment.

([livejournal.com profile] jw1776, of course, was confident that we had plenty. Jen wasn't using as much now, and sure, she'd gone through one box, but really - why so worried?)

(Gah. Need to communicate. Words. Words good. Use your words.)

State of the cold + hot toddy recipe )
jenk: Faye (Shocked)
Item in the NY Times:
December 9, 2007
Mindful Exercise
By Christopher Shea

Simply by telling 44 hotel maids that what they did each day involved some serious exercise, the Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer and Alia J. Crum, a student, were apparently able to lower the women’s blood pressure, shave pounds off their bodies and improve their body-fat and “waist to hip” ratios. Self-awareness, it seems, was the women’s elliptical trainer.

At the start of the study, Langer and Crum quizzed 84 maids at seven carefully matched hotels about how much exercise they got. Fully a third of the women said they got no exercise at all, while two-thirds said they did not work out regularly. Langer and Crum took several measures of the women’s basic fitness levels, which indicated that they, indeed, had the poor health of basically sedentary people. Then just over half the women were told an unfamiliar truth: cleaning 15 rooms daily — pushing recalcitrant vacuum cleaners, scrubbing tubs, pulling sheets — constitutes more than enough activity to meet the surgeon general’s recommendation of a half-hour of physical activity daily. The researchers even provided specifics: 15 minutes of scrubbing burns 60 calories, 15 minutes of vacuuming burns 50. The basic message and the details were then posted in the maids’ lounges in the hotels where the 44 women worked, to serve as reminders, while a control group was left in the dark.

A month later, Langer and Crum checked back with the women to find, as they reported in the February issue of Psychological Science, remarkable results. The average study-group maid had lost 2 pounds, while her systolic blood pressure had dropped by 10 points; by all measures the 44 women “were significantly healthier.” Yet there were no reported changes in behavior, only in mind-set, with the vast majority of the women now considering themselves regular exercisers. Langer sees the study as a lesson in the importance of mindfulness, long a subject of her research, and which need not involve Buddhism or meditation, she stresses. “It’s about noticing new things; it’s about engagement,” she says.

But for the study’s white-collar readers, a corollary to its results might be dispiriting: Made freshly aware — mindful — of just how sedentary their work lives are in contrast to a housekeeper’s, might they not suffer a corresponding decline in health?
Collection of graphs here.
Abstract here. "These results support the hypothesis that exercise affects health in part or in whole via the placebo effect."

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