July 19th, 2016

Can apps affect your brain performance?

art_hister

If you believe you can boost either your IQ or even your memory by buying one of those apps that promise to “train” your brain, you may want to hold on to your hard-earned dollars just a tad longer because you may not be getting your money’s worth when you purchase such a program.

Brain2At least not according to a recent study published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National (US) Academy of Sciences. Specifically what these researchers concluded by looking at a bunch of studies that measured brain performance after brain training is that although these apps and programs can improve memory or IQ a slight bit, that effect is mainly due to a placebo effect because simply knowing that you’re taking a brain training app is enough to have a small positive effect on your cognitive abilities, which fits what most “memory experts” have been saying for a long time, that is, that the science behind these memory training apps is very scant at best, and that you should be wary about their positive promises.

But if you want to maintain or even improve your brain function, don’t get too discouraged by this news because there is at least one well-established way to do that and that is to do some regular exercise, which has proven time and again to have a positive effect on brain function. Plus, it can be done for free.



June 8th, 2016

Summertime and your eyes

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Summertime and yes, the living is easy, but on that ever-present other hand, the living can also be hard, especially on your skin – something you all know, I’m sure – but here’s the one you may not know, summertime is also very hard on your eyes.

Why is sunlight bad for your eyes?

senior-sunglassesBecause long-term excess sunlight exposure raises the risk of at least two very common eye disorders.

One is cataracts which are “hardenings” in the lens of the eye (usually in both lenses, of course) and which eventually very often result in the need to have surgery to remove one or both lens.

That risk has been known for a long time but the eye problem linked to sunlight that’s been discovered more recently is macular degeneration (that’s a more recent link), the most common cause of blindness in North American seniors.

So if you want to see well into your senior years, and trust me, you do, you really want to protect your eyes from too much sunlight.

To that end, buy a good pair of sunglasses, and try to wear those sunglasses as often as you can when outside (remember that you still get some UV exposure even on cloudy days), and remember, too, that some surfaces such as water magnify the effect of sunlight on your eyes.

But be especially careful to wear your sunglasses on sunny days even if you are planning on being outside just for a few minutes.

 



January 6th, 2014

Don’t underestimate the benefits of quitting smoking

Hister_Art_07This one is really a no-brainer (which is why, my wife said, I’m the perfect guy to write it; you should ignore her comments, as I try to do very often).

If you smoke and you had to make one lifestyle adjustment that would provide the maximum benefit to your future health (never mind adding to the health of everyone you spend any time with), nothing comes even close to offering you the life-enhancing benefits than stopping your smoking habit.
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December 3rd, 2013

The “lifestyle” condition: Type 2 diabetes

art_hister

I’m old enough to remember when there were only 2 types of diabetes named juvenile onset diabetes (JOD) and adult onset diabetes (AOD).

Why did they have those names?

Because of when they tended to be diagnosed, so that JOD was nearly always diagnosed very early in life while AOD was never diagnosed before the age of 40.

Now, however, it’s quite different.

We now acknowledge that there are other forms of diabetes including one that comes on with pregnancy.

But the most interesting change, I think, is that we now have different names for JOD and AOD, namely Type 1 diabetes (the old JOD) and Type 2 diabetes (the old AOD).
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November 22nd, 2013

The debate surrounding prostate cancer screening testing

Hister_Art_07As everyone must know by now – given how much horrendous facial hair has sprouted on your friends by this point in the month – November has become Movember for a great many men. Movember is a campaign to grow a moustache, which is in turn geared at raising awareness of prostate cancer (as well, perhaps of prostate health in general).

The problem with raising awareness about prostate cancer is that most of the raised awareness centres around screening tests for prostate cancer, and the simple reality is that there is still very little consensus about which men should get tested with PSA (that’s the blood test for prostate cancer) and when they should get that test, if ever.
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November 13th, 2013

Strep throat versus a viral sore throat

art_hister

The real problem with sore throats, especially during the winter, is that it’s very, very hard to tell the difference between a strep throat, which is a bacterial infection and hence can be treated with antibiotics, and a sore throat caused by a virus, which should never be treated with an antibiotic because, well, because antibiotics don’t kill viruses.

And when we use antibiotics inappropriately, such as in the treatment of viral sore throats, we increase the risk of several very significant health problems: rising resistance to antibiotics, development of hardier and hardier bacteria, and complications from antibiotics, such as significantly higher risks of developing a Chlostridium difficile infection, a potential nightmare.
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October 4th, 2013

Bug bites and diseases

art_hister
Here’s a trade secret that may get me kicked out my doctors’ golfing club (which wouldn’t bother me much, to be honest, because frankly, I hate golf): very often, when we see what looks like a bite on someone during the summer, we tell them it’s a spider bite, which generally satisfies the patient who nearly always says, “You know, that’s just what I thought, too.”

Trouble is: spiders rarely bite, especially in Canada, so a “spider bite” is much more likely to be a result of the bite of another bug, such as a flea, for example.

In fact, according to one expert, Chris Buddle, an arachnologist – that’s a guy who studies spiders – at McGill University, spiders don’t want to bite you because like me at most parties, they’d really much rather avoid contact with humans.
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