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Category: Health & Wellbeing (page 1 of 18)

Life expectancy for Americans falls even further

According to 2017 data, the life expectancy for Americans fell again. It’s now 78.6 years, down three-tenths of a year since 2014.

Economists consider life expectancy to be an important measure of a nation’s prosperity, but last year’s data paints a darker picture of health in the U.S.

One of the reasons for the drop is the sharpest annual increase in suicides in nearly a decade and a continued rise in deaths from opioid drugs.

Life expectancy for Americans fell again last year, despite growing recognition of the problems driving the decline and federal and local funds invested in stemming them.

Data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released on Thursday show life expectancy fell by one-tenth of a year, to 78.6 years, pushed down by the sharpest annual increase in suicides in nearly a decade and a continued rise in deaths from powerful opioid drugs like fentanyl. Influenza, pneumonia and diabetes also factored into last year’s increase.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal (paywall)

Canadian doctors warn about the dangers of Dsuvia, an even more potent opioid

Canadian doctors specializing in pain management warn that Dsuvia, the pill form of sufentanil — an opioid five to 10 times more potent than fentanyl that was recently approved in the United States — could do more harm than good.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has drawn fire since it gave the go-ahead to Dsuvia — a pill containing sufentanil that is placed under a patient’s tongue — as an alternative to administering the powerful narcotic intravenously during or after surgery.

Critics say having sufentanil available as a pill will open it up for abuse, worsening an already devastating opioid crisis in the U.S.

And

A big driver in the FDA’s decision to approve the drug was the U.S. Department of Defence, Gottlieb said, which wants sufentanil in a pill format to treat wounded soldiers on battlefields where setting up an IV might not be easy.

Read more at the CBC

Related: The making of an opioid epidemic – The Guardian

The problem with trying to be perfect

There is no such thing as being perfect. To be human is to be flawed. To be a well-adjusted individual we must learn to accept our limitations and our failings.

Instead of concentrating on the end goal, this article argues, we should be focused on our personal values and the work we do.

Aim high, but get comfortable with good enough.

In well-adjusted perfectionism, someone who doesn’t get the gold is able to forget the setback and move on. In maladaptive perfectionism, meanwhile, people make an archive of all their failures. They revisit these archives constantly, thinking, as Pryor puts it, “I need to make myself feel terrible so I don’t do this again.”

Then they double down, “raising the expectation bar even higher, which increases the likelihood of defeat, which makes you self-critical, so you raise the bar higher, work even harder,” she says.

Next comes failure, shame, and pushing yourself even harder toward even higher and more impossible goals. Meeting them becomes an “all or nothing” premise. Pryor offered this example: “Even if I’m an incredible attorney, if I don’t make partner in the same pacing as one of my colleagues, clearly that means I’m a failure.”

Brustein says his perfectionist clients tend to devalue their accomplishments, so that every time a goal is achieved, the high lasts only a short time, like “a gas tank with a hole in it.”

Read more at The Atlantic

The lost art of concentration, and how to get some of that back, even in this digital world

We have known for a long time that repeated interruptions affect concentration. In 2005, research carried out by Dr Glenn Wilson at London’s Institute of Psychiatry found that persistent interruptions and distractions at work had a profound effect. Those distracted by emails and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ, twice that found in studies on the impact of smoking marijuana. More than half of the 1,100 participants said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, while 21% admitted they would interrupt a meeting to do so. Constant interruptions can have the same effect as the loss of a night’s sleep.

Nicholas Carr picked up on this again in an article in the Atlantic in 2008, before going on to publish his book The Shallows two years later. “Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy,” he wrote. “My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case any more. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”

The impact of interruptions on individual productivity can also be catastrophic. In 2002, it was reported that, on average, we experience an interruption every eight minutes or about seven or eight per hour. In an eight-hour day, that is about 60 interruptions. The average interruption takes about five minutes, so that is about five hours out of eight. And if it takes around 15 minutes to resume the interrupted activity at a good level of concentration, this means that we are never concentrating very well.

More at The Guardian

Superfoods are a marketing ploy

Regardless of who issues them, guidelines for health promotion and disease prevention universally recommend diets that are largely plant-based, meaning those that include plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts. The U.S. dietary guidelines also recommend foods in the “protein” category. Grains, beans, and nuts are good sources of protein, but the guidelines use “protein” to mean low-fat dairy, lean meats, and fish. Recommended eating patterns include all these foods, relatively unprocessed, but with minimal addition of salt and sugars. Such patterns provide nutrients and energy in proportions that meet physiological needs but also minimize the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases. One more definition: “Patterns” refer to diets as a whole, not to single foods. No one food makes a diet healthful. The healthiest diets include a wide variety of foods in each of the recommended categories in amounts that balance calories.

In their largely unprocessed forms, foods from the earth, trees, or animals are healthful by definition. So why, you might ask, would the producers of foods such as cranberries, pears, avocados, or walnuts fund research aimed at proving that these particular foods—rather than fruits, vegetables, or nuts in general—have special health benefits? Marketing, of course. Every food producer wants to expand sales. Health claims sell.

More at The Atlantic

Scottish doctors are issuing prescriptions for hiking and birdwatching

Doctors in the Shetland Islands have started issuing prescriptions for beach walks, hiking, and birdwatching to help treat chronic and debilitating illnesses. Doctors on the island have been authorized by the health authority to issue “nature prescriptions” to patients to help treat mental illness, diabetes, heart disease, stress, and other conditions.

The health authority, NHS Shetland, is not suggesting that nature prescriptions will replace conventional medicines, but to supplemented usual treatments.

More at The Guardian

What’s for dinner? Lunch? Breakfast? The answer is fast food for many Americans

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third (37%) of adults in the U.S. will eat fast food on any given day. And it’s killing them.

What’s more, the higher their income, the more likely they were to consume fast food.

The percentage of adults who ate fast food rose with increasing income. About 32 percent of people who earn less than 130 percent of the federal poverty line — $32,630 a year for a family of four — ate fast food daily.

But 42 percent of people above 350 percent of the poverty line — $112,950 a year or more for that size family — were daily consumers.

More from the NY Times

 

Americans are losing ground in world life expectancy rankings

In 2016, the U.S. ranked only 43rd among 195 countries with an average lifespan of 78.7 years. In 2040, that’s only 21 years from now, Americans are forecast to drop 21 spots, to 64th, as other nations make faster gains.

The top five health drivers that explain most of the future trajectory for premature mortality are high blood pressure, high body mass index, high blood sugar, tobacco use, and alcohol use, Foreman said. Air pollution ranked sixth.

More from Bloomberg

New evidence suggests artificial sweeteners may be harmful to your health

A new study suggests that regular use of artificial sweeteners may impair blood-sugar control. The latest findings suggest consuming even less than half the amount approved by health authorities is not safe.

For the study, participants who don’t normally use the sweeteners were assigned to use 45 per-cent of the Health Canada acceptable daily intake (ADI). After only 14 days, these participants experienced an 18 per-cent reduction in insulin sensitivity, a risk factor for type-2 diabetes.

Sucralose, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, cyclamate and saccharin are zero-calorie sweeteners approved in Canada.

Cyclamate (brand names Sucaryl, Sugar Twin, Sweet’N Low) and saccharin are not allowed to be added to foods; they’re sold only as tabletop sweeteners.

Acesulfame potassium, aspartame and sucralose are allowed to be added to all sorts of foods including yogurt, baked goods, pancake syrup, ketchup, chewing gum, fruit juice and soft drinks. Sucralose (Splenda) and aspartame (Equal) are also available as tabletop sweeteners.

Health Canada considers these five artificial sweeteners safe when consumed in amounts up to the acceptable daily intake (ADI). The ADI is the maximum amount thought safe to consume each day over a lifetime.

Read more

Should you be taking Vitamin D?

The research is more complicated than you might think.

As is pointed out in this BBC aricle, it’s widely agreed that vitamin D supplements, especially over winter, may be beneficial, and will only be a waste of money at worst.

It’s likely you won’t get enough from your diet between now and next spring, but the impact this could have on your health is still up for debate.

More at BBC

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