Study finds drinking could help improve memory

While many drink to forget their troubles, new evidence says your afternoon bev is actually helping you to better remember all that stuff that drove you to drink in the first place.
Researchers gave study participants, a group of 88 social drinkers, a word-learning task. One group was allowed to imbibe up to four drinks, while the other was told to go cold turkey.
The next day, participants were asked to complete the same task. Shockingly enough, those that got tipsy the day before were the ones that remembered more of the information.
"Our research not only showed that those who drank alcohol did better when repeating the word-learning task, but that this effect was stronger among those who drank more," Prof.Celia Morgan, the leading researcher, noted.
So how exactly does this phenomenon work?
"The theory is that the hippocampus -- the brain area really important in memory -- switches to 'consolidating' memories, transferring from short into longer-term memory," explained Morgan.
While most research suggest alcohol blocks the formation of new memories, which in most cases is true, the authors of the new study say by drinking much smaller amounts, it has the opposite effect.
"The causes of this effect are not fully understood, but the leading explanation is that alcohol blocks the learning of new information and therefore the brain has more resources available to lay down other recently learned information into long-term memory," Morgan told the Medical Xpress.
Along with the word-learning task, the participants, all aged between 18 and 53, underwent a second task that involved looking at images on a screen. In this instance, the task was conducted right after the alcohol was consumed.
This time, there was nonsignificant difference between those who ditched the drink and others who didn’t.
However, despite their positive findings, researchers at the University of Exeter say their study, published inScientific Reports, should not overshadow the harmful consequences that come along with overindulging in alcohol.
Though not the first of its kind, this study was the first instance in which the experiment was conducted outside a laboratory setting. (PNA-Sputnik)

Life expectancy rises 'grinding to halt'

By Nick Triggle
Health correspondent/BBC News

From the section Health 33 comments These are external links and will open in a new window Share this with Facebook Share this with Twitter Share this with Messenger Share this with Email Share
Image of a woman both young and oldImage copyrightYURI_ARCURS/GETTY
Rising rates of life expectancy are grinding to a halt after more than 100 years of continuous progress, according to a leading health expert.
University College London expert Sir Michael Marmot said he was "deeply concerned" by the situation, calling it "historically highly unusual".
He said it was "entirely possible" austerity was to blame and said the issue needed looking at urgently.
But the government said its policies were not responsible.
The Department of Health said ministers were providing the necessary support and funding to ensure life expectancy "continues to increase".

How life expectancy rises have slowed
Using Office for National Statistics projections for babies born since 2000, Sir Michael, who has advised both the government and World Health Organization, showed the rate of increase in life expectancy had nearly halved since 2010.
Between 2000 and 2015, life expectancy at birth increased by one year every five years for women and by one year every 3.5 years for men.
But this compares to one year every 10 years for women and one for every six for men post-2010.

Sir Michael, who is director of the Institute of Health Equity at UCL, said this showed the growth in life expectancy was "pretty close to having ground to a halt".
He said that was "historically highly unusual" given the rising life expectancy seen over the past 100 years.
"I am deeply concerned with the levelling off, I expected it to keep getting better."
Is austerity to blame?
He said it was hard to draw firm conclusions about the cause.
But he said it was "entirely possible" austerity had played a role.
He explained social factors such as education, employment and working conditions and poverty all affected life expectancy by influencing lifestyles.
And as austerity was placing pressures on these, they may in turn be influencing life expectancy.
He also highlighted what he said was "miserly" funding settlements for the NHS and social care, which meant the quality of life for older people would have deteriorated and could well affect their life expectancy.
This was a particularly pressing issue given the numbers of people with dementia, although that increase in itself may also be playing a role in the levelling off.
Have we simply reached the outer limits of human life?
Sir Michael dismissed the idea that the slowing of life expectancy could be related to humans reaching the outer limit of how long they could live.
He said other countries, such as Hong Kong, had longer life expectancy than England and had continued to see consistent rises.
And he added it should be a "matter of urgency" to work out exactly what was behind the trend.
Other research has suggested there is much more scope for life expectancy to rise.
Last year scientists in the US concluded the absolute limit for human life was about 115.
Scientists believe there is much more scope for life expectancy rates to rise
'The government must act'
Alzheimer's Society chief executive Jeremy Hughes said Sir Michael was right to point the finger of blame at austerity.
"Too often we hear the consequences of inadequate, underfunded care - our investigation last year revealed people with dementia left in soiled sheets, becoming ill after eating out of date food, and ending up in costly hospital or care home admissions unnecessarily.
"The government has to act before the care system collapses entirely."
But a Department of Health spokesman said: "Just last week, the NHS was rated the number one health service in the world.
"Life expectancy continues to increase, with cancer survival rates at a record high whilst smoking rates are at an all-time low."
And he said investment was being made to ensure the ageing population was "well cared for" with the NHS budget having been increased since 2010 and extra money now being invested in social care.
Average life expectancy in England is currently 83 for women and 79.4 for men.
How do you improve your life expectancy?
The simple answer is to live healthily. That means eating well and exercising regularly.
Not smoking and drinking within safe limits is also important.
Inactivity increases the risk of an early death, but social factors are important too, says Sir Michael
Prevention - in terms of immunisation and screening - plays a key role as does access to good health care when you are sick.
People throughout England, and the rest of the UK for that matter, have good access to these through the NHS.
And yet there are wide differences in life expectancy.
One of the places with the biggest gap in life expectancy - as has been widely reported following the Grenfell Tower fire - is Kensington and Chelsea in London.
This is because of so-called social determinants. These cover factors such as housing, education, working conditions and poverty.
Experts such as Sir Michael believe these are just as important, if not more, as anything else.
And what determines these? Wealth. The richest people in Kensington and Chelsea live 16 years longer than the poorest.


Asia Pacific Islanders (APIs) Wellness, a longtime San Francisco leader in HIV/AIDS care and treatment, kicked off National API HIV/AIDS Awareness Day by urging APIs to talk about HIV/AIDS and discuss using Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) with their health care providers. is increasing awareness of PrEP in hopes of increasing utilization of the drug in communities of color.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), daily PrEP use can reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent. Among individuals who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70 percent.
CDC added that 66.5% of Asian Americans and 43.1% of Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islanders have never been tested for HIV.

Low PrEP utilization rates are usually blamed on lack of awareness about the drug, misconceptions regarding its affordability, misinformation about its effects, and fear of

China facing largest diabetes epidemic in the world: study

By Agence France-Presse

China is facing the largest diabetes epidemic in the world with around 11 percent of its population suffering from the metabolic illness, while nearly 36 percent are prediabetic, according to a US study published Tuesday.

Photo:With a population of 1.09 billion adults, 388.1 million of whom are projected to be prediabetic, China faces the largest diabetes epdemic in the world (AFP Photo/Nicolas ASFOURI / MANILA BULLETIN)

The survey, which included 170,287 participants and was conducted in 2013, was analyzed with the assistance of Linhong Wang from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Researchers measured levels of fasting plasma glucose of each participant. Those with levels of 126 milligrams per deciliter or higher were defined as diabetic while those with levels between 105 and 126 mg/dl were defined as pre-diabetic.

Hyperglycemia is a result of two anomalies — a malfunction of the pancreas which creates insulin, or the resistance of the body to this hormone.

Among the diabetic population in China, 36.5 percent were aware of their diagnosis and 32.2 percent were receiving treatment. Among those being treated, 49.2 percent had adequate glycemic control.

Tibetan and Muslim Chinese had significantly lower prevalence of diabetes compared to the majority Han population (14.7 percent for Han, 4.3 percent for Tibetan, and 10.6 percent for Muslim).

The adult diabetic rate in China of 10.9 percent is close to that of the United States of 9.3 percent according to 2014 figures recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Chinese prediabetic rate of 35.7 percent was also close to the US rate of 37 percent recorded in 2014.

With approximately 1.09 billion adults in China, some 388.1 million were projected to be prediabetic (200.4 million men and 187.7 million women).

Diabetes is a growing public health problem throughout the world.

Some 422 million adults around the world had diabetes in 2014, compared to 108 million in 1980, according to a report published by the World Health Organization in 2016.

Diabetes rates have increased more rapidly in low and middle-income countries.

Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and lower limb amputations, according to the WHO.

In 2012, an estimated 1.5 million deaths were directly caused by diabetes and another 2.2 million deaths were attributable to high blood glucose, according to the report.

How Successful People Stay Calm

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance.

by Dr. Travis BradberryTalentSmart, President and 'Emotional Intelligence 2.0,' Coauthor/

The ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance."}}" data-beacon-parsed="true" class="bn-clickable" style="box-sizing: inherit; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; box-shadow: rgb(13, 190, 152) 0px -2px 0px inset;">TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress in order to remain calm and in control.

If you follow our"}}" data-beacon-parsed="true" class="bn-clickable" style="box-sizing: inherit; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; box-shadow: rgb(13, 190, 152) 0px -2px 0px inset;">newsletter, you’ve read some startling research summaries that explore the havoc stress can wreak on one’s physical and mental health (such as the"}}" data-beacon-parsed="true" class="bn-clickable" style="box-sizing: inherit; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); text-decoration: none; box-shadow: rgb(13, 190, 152) 0px -2px 0px inset;">Yale study, which found that prolonged stress causes degeneration in the area of the brain responsible for self-control). The tricky thing about stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion. Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of stress. As long as the stress isn’t prolonged, it’s harmless.


Research from the University of California, Berkeley, reveals an upside to experiencing moderate levels of stress. But it also reinforces how important it is to keep stress under control. The study, led by post-doctoral fellow Elizabeth Kirby, found that the onset of stress entices the brain into growing new cells responsible for improved memory. However, this effect is only seen when stress is intermittent. As soon as the stress continues beyond a few moments into a prolonged state, it suppresses the brain’s ability to develop new cells.

“I think intermittent stressful events are probably what keeps the brain more alert, and you perform better when you are alert,” Kirby says. For animals, intermittent stress is the bulk of what they experience, in the form of physical threats in their immediate environment. Long ago, this was also the case for humans. As the human brain evolved and increased in complexity, we’ve developed the ability to worry and perseverate on events, which creates frequent experiences of prolonged stress.

The more time you spend worrying, the less time you’ll spend taking action that will calm you down.

Besides increasing your risk of heart disease, depression, and obesity, stress decreases your cognitive performance. Fortunately, though, unless a lion is chasing you, the bulk of your stress is subjective and under your control. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ under stressful circumstances. This lowers their stress levels regardless of what’s happening in their environment, ensuring that the stress they experience is intermittent and not prolonged.

While I’ve run across numerous effective strategies that successful people employ when faced with stress, what follows are ten of the best. Some of these strategies may seem obvious, but the real challenge lies in recognizing when you need to use them and having the wherewithal to actually do so in spite of your stress.

1. They Appreciate What They Have

Taking time to contemplate what you’re grateful for isn’t merely the “right” thing to do. It also improves your mood, because it reduces the stress hormone cortisol by 23%. Research conducted at the University of California, Davis found that people who worked daily to cultivate an attitude of gratitude experienced improved mood, energy, and physical well-being. It’s likely that lower levels of cortisol played a major role in this.

2. They Avoid Asking “What If?” 

“What if?” statements throw fuel on the fire of stress and worry. Things can go in a million different directions, and the more time you spend worrying about the possibilities, the less time you’ll spend focusing on taking action that will calm you down and keep your stress under control. Calm people know that asking “what if? will only take them to a place they don’t want—or need—to go.

3. They Stay Positive

Positive thoughts help make stress intermittent by focusing your brain’s attention onto something that is completely stress-free. You have to give your wandering brain a little help by consciously selecting something positive to think about. Any positive thought will do to refocus your attention. When things are going well, and your mood is good, this is relatively easy. When things are going poorly, and your mind is flooded with negative thoughts, this can be a challenge. In these moments, think about your day and identify one positive thing that happened, no matter how small. If you can’t think of something from the current day, reflect on the previous day or even the previous week. Or perhaps you’re looking forward to an exciting event that you can focus your attention on. The point here is that you must have something positive that you’re ready to shift your attention to when your thoughts turn negative.

4. They Disconnect

Given the importance of keeping stress intermittent, it’s easy to see how taking regular time off the grid can help keep your stress under control. When you make yourself available to your work 24/7, you expose yourself to a constant barrage of stressors. Forcing yourself offline and even—gulp!—turning off your phone gives your body a break from a constant source of stress. Studies have shown that something as simple as an email break can lower stress levels.

Technology enables constant communication and the expectation that you should be available 24/7. It is extremely difficult to enjoy a stress-free moment outside of work when an email that will change your train of thought and get you thinking (read: stressing) about work can drop onto your phone at any moment. If detaching yourself from work-related communication on weekday evenings is too big a challenge, then how about the weekend? Choose blocks of time where you cut the cord and go offline. You’ll be amazed at how refreshing these breaks are and how they reduce stress by putting a mental recharge into your weekly schedule. If you’re worried about the negative repercussions of taking this step, first try doing it at times when you’re unlikely to be contacted—maybe Sunday morning. As you grow more comfortable with it, and as your coworkers begin to accept the time you spend offline, gradually expand the amount of time you spend away from technology.


5. They Limit Their Caffeine Intake

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the “fight-or-flight” response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyperaroused state of stress, your emotions overrun your behavior. The stress that caffeine creates is far from intermittent, as its long half-life ensures that it takes its sweet time working its way out of your body.

The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing.

6. They Sleep

I’ve beaten this one to death over the years and can’t say enough about the importance of sleep to increasing your emotional intelligence and managing your stress levels. When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, attention, and memory are all reduced when you don’t get enough—or the right kind—of sleep. Sleep deprivation raises stress hormone levels on its own, even without a stressor present. Stressful projects often make you feel as if you have no time to sleep, but taking the time to get a decent night’s sleep is often the one thing keeping you from getting things under control.

7. They Squash Negative Self-Talk

A big step in managing stress involves stopping negative self-talk in its tracks. The more you ruminate on negative thoughts, the more power you give them. Most of our negative thoughts are just that—thoughts, not facts. When you find yourself believing the negative and pessimistic things your inner voice says, it’s time to stop and write them down. Literally stop what you’re doing and write down what you’re thinking. Once you’ve taken a moment to slow down the negative momentum of your thoughts, you will be more rational and clear-headed in evaluating their veracity.

You can bet that your statements aren’t true any time you use words like “never,” “worst,” “ever,” etc. If your statements still look like facts once they’re on paper, take them to a friend or colleague you trust and see if he or she agrees with you. Then the truth will surely come out. When it feels like something always or never happens, this is just your brain’s natural threat tendency inflating the perceived frequency or severity of an event. Identifying and labeling your thoughts as thoughts by separating them from the facts will help you escape the cycle of negativity and move toward a positive new outlook.

8. They Reframe Their Perspective

Stress and worry are fueled by our own skewed perception of events. It’s easy to think that unrealistic deadlines, unforgiving bosses, and out-of-control traffic are the reasons we’re so stressed all the time. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control how you respond to them. So before you spend too much time dwelling on something, take a minute to put the situation in perspective. If you aren’t sure when you need to do this, try looking for clues that your anxiety may not be proportional to the stressor. If you’re thinking in broad, sweeping statements such as “Everything is going wrong” or “Nothing will work out,” then you need to reframe the situation. A great way to correct this unproductive thought pattern is to list the specific things that actually are going wrong or not working out. Most likely you will come up with just some things—not everything—and the scope of these stressors will look much more limited than it initially appeared.

9. They Breathe

The easiest way to make stress intermittent lies in something that you have to do everyday anyway: breathing. The practice of being in the moment with your breathing will begin to train your brain to focus solely on the task at hand and get the stress monkey off your back. When you’re feeling stressed, take a couple of minutes to focus on your breathing. Close the door, put away all other distractions, and just sit in a chair and breathe. The goal is to spend the entire time focused only on your breathing, which will prevent your mind from wandering. Think about how it feels to breathe in and out. This sounds simple, but it’s hard to do for more than a minute or two. It’s all right if you get sidetracked by another thought; this is sure to happen at the beginning, and you just need to bring your focus back to your breathing. If staying focused on your breathing proves to be a real struggle, try counting each breath in and out until you get to 20, and then start again from 1. Don’t worry if you lose count; you can always just start over.

This task may seem too easy or even a little silly, but you’ll be surprised by how calm you feel afterward and how much easier it is to let go of distracting thoughts that otherwise seem to have lodged permanently inside your brain.

10. They Use Their Support System

It’s tempting, yet entirely ineffective, to attempt tackling everything by yourself. To be calm and productive, you need to recognize your weaknesses and ask for help when you need it. This means tapping into your support system when a situation is challenging enough for you to feel overwhelmed. Everyone has someone at work and/or outside work who is on their team, rooting for them, and ready to help them get the best from a difficult situation. Identify these individuals in your life and make an effort to seek their insight and assistance when you need it. Something as simple as talking about your worries will provide an outlet for your anxiety and stress and supply you with a new perspective on the situation. Most of the time, other people can see a solution that you can’t because they are not as emotionally invested in the situation. Asking for help will mitigate your stress and strengthen your relationships with those you rely upon. 

Want to learn more from me? Check out my book,"} 



Tiny blood vessel damage tied to depression among older adults

(Reuters Health) - Keeping tiny blood vessels healthy may be one way to ward off depression later in life, suggests a new analysis of existing research.

Damage to the microvascular system - often caused by high blood pressure or diabetes, and made worse by smoking - is tied to an increased risk of depression among people age 40 years and older, researchers found.

"Be aware that your hypertension and diabetes are an enemy to your microvascular circulation," said senior author Miranda Schram of Maastricht University Medical Center in the Netherlands. "Try to treat them."

The body's very small blood vessels, or capillaries, "are responsible for taking the oxygen and nutrients to the tissues," she said. "You can imagine if something goes wrong, the tissue isn’t happy."

The brain, Schram noted, is "quite vulnerable to these microvascular changes, because the tissue in the brain is really demanding and requires a lot of oxygen to work properly."

Problems with these small blood vessels can also affect the eyes, the nerves, the skin and the kidneys.

To see if there is a link between depression and damage to capillaries, the researchers searched for existing studies of the two conditions that included people at least 40 years old.

Altogether, they had data on 43,600 individuals, including 9,203 with depression.

Depending on how microvascular dysfunction was measured in the various studies, it increased the risk of depression by up to 58 percent, according to a report in JAMA Psychiatry.

For example, when signs of injury to small vessels was detected in the blood, the risk of depression was 58 percent higher than when blood tests didn't suggest damage.

People had a 30 percent higher risk of depression when magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed very small strokes in the brain caused by failure of these tiny vessels.

The theory is that this blood vessel damage disrupts communication in areas of the brain important for mood control, said Schram.

"You can imagine that this would lead to a depressed mood," she added.

Dr. Bret Rutherford of the New York State Psychiatric Institute and the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry in New York City told Reuters Health that while the new study is strong, it can't prove microvascular dysfunction causes depression later in life.

"The relationships between healthy brain aging and neuropsychiatric disorders goes in both directions and is sort of complicated," said Rutherford, who was not involved in the new study.

For example, it could be that microvascular damage causes depression. Or, it could be that depression leads to unhealthy blood vessels.

Rutherford said researchers first linked depression to blood vessel damage in the 1990s, but advances in treatment have been limited and mainly focused on preventing poor vascular health.

"We certainly have reason to be very rigorous in our treatment of cardiovascular aging to promote healthy brain aging and to prevent these types of problems later on," he said.

Also, he said, it's important to treat mental health issues early in life to prevent cardiovascular issues later on.

SOURCE: JAMA Psychiatry, online May 31, 2017.

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