How the Human Brain Really Works

human brain

Two top neuro-scientists, Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang, have written an engaging book titled Welcome to Your Brain (Bloomsbury USA, 2008). The book explains new discoveries in brain research, offers tips for enhancing brain health, and debunks many long-held myths about the brain. A few of these myths are:

We Only Use 10% of Our Brain Capacity

Not so, say Aamodt and Wang. Most of us use nearly 100% of our brains every day. The authors explain that nature doesn’t support structures that will never be used, so while the brain does have back up systems in the event of damage to critical areas, most of the brain is needed and used in day-to-day living.

Mozart Makes Babies Smarter

A small 1993 research project gave birth to the Mozart myth. The study showed that college students who listened to classical music prior to taking the SAT test scored a little better than their peers. The study has never been successfully replicated, and no one has ever published a report on the relationship between listening to classical music and smarter children. Nevertheless, the myth persists and products based on this unfounded assertion have sold millions. Aamodt and Wang say the best way to increase a child’s mental ability is to buy them an instrument and teach them to play classical music.

Alcohol Kills Brain Cells

It is widely accepted that any amount of alcohol kills brain cells. While it is true that chronic heavy drinking over a period of years is associated with many physical and neurological problems, including dementia, several studies conclude that moderate drinking produces no such damage. In fact, research suggests that drinking red wine actually reduces the risk of dementia and stroke. Aamodt and Wang cite several studies that conclude men can safely imbibe up to three drinks a day, and women up to two a day, with no adverse effects on the brain.

Reduce Risk of Alzheimer's with Exercise

Crossword puzzles and other mental challenges are good, but Aamodt and Wang assert that the best thing anyone can do for his brain is to exercise. Thirty minutes of strenuous exercise, such as fast walking, several times a week significantly reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. People who have been physically active throughout their lives enjoy the greatest protection, but it is never too late to start. Aamodt and Wang report that sedentary people who begin exercising in their sixties can still reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s by up to one half.

Read Welcome to Your Brain
Much of what the public believes about the brain is false, and much of what neuro-scientists have discovered about the brain is unknown to all but a few researchers. Welcome to Your Brain by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang corrects this situation with humor, good writing, and fascinating science.

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Common Signs of Heat Stroke

According to MedicineNet in "Definition of Heat Stroke," heat stroke occurs when the body's core temperature rises above 104°F (40°C) and is accompanied by hot, dry skin and central nervous system abnormalities such as delirium, convulsions or coma. Since heat stroke is a life-threatening condition, it is important to watch people for heat stroke symptoms.

heat stroke

MedicineNet states that heat stroke that results from exposure to high environmental temperatures is termed nonexertional heat stroke, and heat stroke that results from strenuous exercise is called exertional heat stroke. Regardless of the type of heat stroke a person experiences, heat stroke signs are life-threatening, and immediate medical attention is necessary when heat stroke symptoms begin.

When the body cannot control its temperature, heat stroke occurs because the sweating mechanism fails. The body is not able to cool down. Body temperature can rise to 106°F (41.1°C) or higher within a few minutes. Heat stroke is an extremely dangerous condition and can cause permanent disability or death, so it is essential that heat stroke victims receive emergency medical treatment.

Heat Stroke Symptoms

According to the MayoClinic, the most apparent sign of heat stroke is an elevated body temperature above 104°F (40°C). Typically skin is hot and dry; however, sometimes the skin may be a little moist when heat stroke is caused by physical exertion. Signs and symptoms of heat stroke can also include the following:
  • Fainting, typically the first sign in older adults
  • Red, hot, dry skin
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shallow and rapid breathing
  • Elevated or lowered blood pressure
  • Unconsciousness
  • Confusion and irritability
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Muscle twitching
  • Hallucinations
  • Agitation

While heat exhaustion has similar symptoms to heat stroke, the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke is when a person has heat stroke her body temperature reaches 104 F (40 C) or higher. Heat exhaustion can lead heat stroke if not treated in time. Heat exhaustion can also occur just from physical exertion regardless of environmental temperatures.

Heat Stroke Treatment

If a person is suspected to have heat stroke or has symptoms of heat stroke, it is essential to get emergency medical treatment immediately. According to MedicineNet and MayoClinic it is important to cool the stroke victim rapidly and get him out of the sun to a shady area. It is possible to cool heat stroke victims by immersing them in cool water. It is also possible to cover the person in a wet sheet, especially if humidity is low, or sponge him with cool water. If a heat stroke victim is able to drink, give him water or other nonalcoholic beverages.

People should monitor the body temperature of heat stroke victims and continue to cool down their body temperatures until their body temperature drops to 101-102°F (38.3-38.5°C). If emergency personal are delayed, it is important to call an emergency room or medical expert for further instructions.

Causes of Heat Stroke

According to the MayoClinic, heat stroke is caused by exercising or physical exertion performed usually out in the sun or in extreme heat combined with inadequate fluid intake. Dehydration is another cause of heat stroke. A person who is dehydrated may not be able to sweat fast enough to dissipate body heat.

Infants and young children, the elderly, obese people, athletes, outdoor workers, people with an impaired ability to sweat and people who drink alcohol or take certain medications are more prone to heat stroke. Sometimes heat stroke can mimic other health conditions like heart attacks.

Common Signs of Heat Stroke

While there are many different signs and symptoms of heat stroke, a high body temperature is the most common. Anyone suspected of having heat stroke should given emergency care immediately.

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Triclosan Study by FDA


A ubiquitous ingredient in many common household products is being scrutinized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The ingredient, triclosan, is a man-made, broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent that is frequently found in antibacterial soaps, cosmetics, toothpastes and mouthwashes, deodorants and first aid products. It is also used as a material preservative in products not regulated by the FDA such as plastic kitchen equipment, clothes, and toys. The FDA has announced that the chemical will undergo further review to evaluate its safety and to see if the chemical poses not just a threat to animal health, as recent studies show, but also a threat to human health. Triclosan may also pose environmental and ecological risks.

Triclosan: Possible Risks

There are several risks associated with triclosan that are being reviewed by both the FDA and the EPA, who plan to issue results of their study in the spring of 2011. First, animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation.

Another major concern is the possibility that triclosan use is contributing to increased resistance to antibiotics. Scientists fear that bacteria, exposed over time to products and agents like triclosan through overuse by healthy individuals, will become resistant to antimicrobials, rendering them ineffective to those who need them most: the elderly, sick, and those with compromised immune systems. Similarly, there is a theory about the link between allergies and excessive hygiene; this is based on the idea that through over-cleaning, the body's immune system is never given a chance to kick in and work effectively, thus increasing the incidence of allergies.

Other Triclosan Concerns

There are toxicity concerns with triclosan. Triclosan has been linked to dioxin, a potentially carcinogenic substance that can cause health ramifications, particularly with respect to fertility. When exposed to light, triclosan becomes more dangerous; sunlight converts the triclosan to a toxic form of dioxin.

The EPA is also examining environmental and ecological risks of triclosan. Since it is the active ingredient in many soaps, triclosan is washed down the drain and eventually ends up in the water supply. There is sufficient evidence that triclosan is being found in streams and waterways, and that it can have detrimental effects on ecosystems and aquatic organisms like algae. According to water testing studies triclosan is among the top ten contaminants in U.S. streams, rivers, lakes and aquifers.

Products That Contain Triclosan

There are thousands of products that contain triclosan. A few are: Dial® Liquid Soap, Softsoap® Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap, Clearasil® Daily Face Wash, Colgate® Total, Reach® Antibacterial Toothbrush,Right Guard Sport Deodorant, Aveeno Therapeutic Shave Gel, Solarcaine® First Aid Medicated Spray, Teva® sandals, Merrell shoes, Thomasville® furniture. A complete list contains many other products and toys.

FDA's Recommendations On Triclosan for Consumers

On its website the FDA states that triclosan is "not known to be hazardous to humans," citing that there is insufficient safety evidence to warrant any change in consumer use. However, the federal agency also states that there is not enough evidence to prove that antibacterial soaps which contain triclosan provide a greater benefit than plain old soap and water.

Furthermore, the EPA states on its "Triclosan Facts" page that "due to the rapidly developing scientific database for triclosan," the Agency will accelerate the process of re-registration (the process of registering chemicals to ensure they meet the more stringent standards of today) of the chemical, and will begin the review process in 2013, ten years ahead of schedule.

Until further studies are undertaken on the possible health effects of triclosan, consumers may opt to avoid the chemical. Since triclosan is regulated by the FDA in consumer products like soaps and toothpastes, it is easy to read the product's "Drug Facts" label to determine if the chemical is listed as an active ingredient. Some toothpaste manufacturers, like Tom's of Maine, actually advertise that they do not contain triclosan. As with any product used by consumers today, it's prudent to read labels, and keep up with health updates.

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder Basic Facts

anxiety disorder

It is not unusual or abnormal to have worries in life about problems regarding family, employment, school and health to a reasonable degree but when worry crosses over the line and becomes obsessive and chronic, it becomes an anxiety disorder. GAD is the term for this type of anxiety but treatments are available for those who are diagnosed with it.

Symptoms and Manifestations of GAD

People, who experience GAD, will have chronic excessive worry for at least six months, to meet the diagnostic criteria as described by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. The worry will often keep them from getting proper rest and sleep, due to the continued troubling or racing thoughts that they find very difficult not to entertain and to ponder repeatedly in their minds. People with GAD often feel they are experiencing a nervous breakdown.

GAD patients often worry about things such as contracting a terminal illness or that it might happen to one of their loved ones or that a tragic event will strike their family. They may also worry about losing their job or that their spouse will leave them when there is no rational reason for these concerns to occur.

They may also obsess over the possibility of being a failure at their job or other pursuits in life that are important to them. They often feel on-edge and very apprehensive in these areas and this will often cause avoidance behaviors, meaning they resist attempting to succeed at new endeavors of self-improvement for fear of failure or disappointment.

Patients with GAD often feel highly stressed (stressed-out) due to the many things they continually worry about. This can contribute to feelings of low mood and depression, which commonly co-exist with GAD. Panic attacks may also occur in some patients with this anxiety disorder, as can elements of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

Some GAD Patients are Over-Achievers

Another aspect of this anxiety disorder can be obsessive thoughts in the area of self-achievements. People with GAD may constantly feel they have not achieved enough success in life and as a result they will push their selves toward unreasonable goals, rather than allowing achievements to occur at a reasonable pace for them. This can create a vicious cycle of added stressors, followed by disappointments over not achieving the unreasonable goals they set for themselves.

People with Gad may also multi-task to an unreasonable degree due to their worry that duties and obligations will mount and become overwhelming to them. They become obsessed with staying ahead of their tasks, to the point that they cause added stress and become sensitized to anxiety rather than achieving the stress-relief they are seeking. Some people who appear to be “work-a-holics”, may actually be suffering from GAD.

Treatments for GAD

Medications, including anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants are often prescribed to help reduce the symptoms of GAD. These may include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI-a type of anti-depressant) which, comes in brands such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft. Some patients may also be prescribed benzopines (anxiety drugs) that help to offer immediate relief of anxiety symptoms as-needed which comes in brands such as Xanax, Kolonopin, and Adavan.

Psychiatric therapies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can also help a great deal in gaining patients coping skills or the ability to overcome their anxiety disorders completely over time. Some prescribed treatments may include a combination of therapy and anxiety-reducing medications.

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FDA Warns Against Zicam Swabs

zicam swabs

Zicam is a popular all natural cold remedy that can shorten the length of the cold and flu symptom period with the use of Zinc. It is this homeopathic natural base that has been such a good selling point among consumers, especially those trying to cut their use of non natural and chemical consumption.

Even though their website makes one believe that they are FDA approved, in reality they have never been officially approved as they are homeopathic and did not need FDA approval to begin being marketed and sold.

Zicam Receives Official Warning

Tuesday, June 16, 2009 the FDA came out with a warning against the Zicam cold and flu remedy, especially the nasal gel and the nasal swabs. There have been 130 consumer complaints that after using the Zicam nasal swab and gel products they lost their sense of smell. Scientists say this is traceable back to the zinc in the gel that is used to cut the cold symptoms length of time.

The FDA gave the makers of Zicam nasal gel and nasal swabs, Matrixx, an official warning but did not issue a complete recall. Now if Matrixx wants to submit to actual testing and go through the FDA guidelines to seek approval, they will be allowed. However, for now the company is thinking about pulling the product until they can get it all sorted.

Matrixx’s Message to Consumers

Matrixx released an official statement regarding the FDA’s warning and complaints made from consumers on its website on the same day the warning was released. This comment was (in part):

“Matrixx Initiatives’ primary concern is consumer safety. Based on the FDA’s action, the company has suspended shipments of these products and will reimburse any customer desiring a refund. However, the company believes the cumulative body of independent scientific and medical evidence supports both the safety and efficacy of Zicam intranasal cold remedy products. Matrixx Initiatives stands behind the science of its products and its belief that there is no causal link between its intranasal gel products and anosmia.”

Zicam’s Final Word to FDA Warning

Matrixx’s message went on to say that it felt that the warnings given to Zicam products was “unwarranted” and that they plan to review the company’s safety data for Zicam with the FDA. They were very quick to point out that only three of the nineteen Zicam products were mentioned in the warning, and that the oral Zicam was not. Only the Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs, the Zicam Cold Remedy Nasal Gel, and the now discontinued Zicam Cold Remedy Swabs (Kids Size).

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Global Warming Increases Heart Disease Say Researchers

Heatwaves during 2003 in England and France swelled the numbers of those with heart conditions. In France 11,000 people died in the first half of August in that year when the temperature peered over 40C. Many deaths occurred from cardiac problems relating to heart ailments other than a heart attack.

global warming

Record temperatures in the UK also led to an extra 2,000 deaths, and experts predict heart mortality rates will increase as the effects of global warming worsen.

Researchers Say Action on Greenhouse Gasses Will Improve Health

An accompanying editorial, written by Dr Paola Michelozzi and Manuela De Sario of the Lazio Region Department of Epidemiology in Rome, said that health problems associated with heatwaves would outweigh any health benefits from global warming. They also said that action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by lifestyle choices would improve health.

For example saturated fat consumption would be lowered if diets included fewer animal products that lead to greenhouse gas emissions through grazing. Healthier diets would reduce the rates of heart disease and be a key part of a strategy for greenhouse gas management.

British Heart Foundation Advise on How to Counter Cold Winters

The British Heart Foundation have responded to the study by warning heart patients they should stay warm in winter. Increased risk from heart problems can be countered by wearing suitable clothing and keeping houses sufficiently warm.

A senior cardiac nurse for the charity told the website “Although the increased risk is small, if there is a nationwide drop in average temperature it could equate to a significant number of heart attacks each day... This timely piece of research reminds us that older people and anyone with heart disease should keep warm in their homes after the summer draws to a close.”

Low temperatures last winter resulted in more ‘excess deaths’ - the amount of those who died compared to the same time in previous years - than in over a decade.

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