Why is New York a Capital of Longevity?

5 Dec

The answer may be walking!

Here’s a New York Magazine piece on the topic:

New York is literally designed to force people to walk, to climb stairs—and to do it quickly. Driving in the city is maddening, pushing us onto the sidewalks and up and down the stairs to the subways. What’s more, our social contract dictates that you should move your ass when you’re on the sidewalk, so as not to annoy your fellow walkers. (A recent ranking of cities found that New York has the fastest pedestrians in the country.) As Simonsick sees it, the very structure of the city coerces us to exercise far more than people elsewhere in the U.S., in a way that is strongly correlated with a far-better life expectancy. Every city block doubles as a racewalking track, every subway station, a StairMaster. Seen this way, the whole city looks like a massive exercise machine dedicated to improving our health while we run errands.

Micro-expertise

2 Dec

There has been a lot of attention to the idea of developing expertise. We would like to know what are the most effective techniques for becoming an expert in any domain. Perhaps, we should take a more atomic view and study expertise in very small domains, such as this:

Niall Brady writes “It took me just under a year to get a spoon into a mug while filming it all on snapchat. One attempt a day. This is a compilation of the clips I remembered to save.”

How our ancestors exercised (evidence against too much sitting)

30 Nov

From this weekend’s New York Times:

Are we fighting thousands of years of evolutionary history and the best interests of our bodies when we sit all day?That question is at the core of a fascinating new study of the daily lives and cardiovascular health of a modern tribe of hunter-gatherers. The findings strongly suggest that we are born to be in motion, with health consequences when we are not

You can read the abstract of the original research here.

I do yoga and the 10,000 steps a day program.

How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS

28 Nov

Andrew Sullivan has written a powerful review of David France’s book: How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS.

These young men both witnessed their friends and lovers dying excruciating deaths, knew that they were next and yet carried on. Some of this was a gut-level human desire to live; some was a means to compensate for the grief that would otherwise overwhelm them; but a lot was simple, indelible courage. This courage didn’t just end a plague; it revolutionized medicine and, in turn, became the indispensable moral force that led, as the plague abated, to the greatest civil rights revolution of our time. This is the first and best history of this courage, and a reminder that if gay life and culture flourish for a thousand years, people will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

 

Vampire violence

25 Nov

A few days ago, I posted about “the rejuvenating effects of young blood.” Friend and fellow blogger Enrique Guerra-Pujol drew my attention to his paper “Buy or Bite”:

Why is there so much violence in the vampire world? In brief, our thesis is that most vampire violence is the result of legal failure: the lack of a legalized market for the purchase and sale of blood. This short essay is organized as follows: in part one we analyze the market for blood in the vampire world and explain the logic of vampire violence. Next, in part two, we propose a simple method for reducing such vampire violence. Simply put, we propose giving vampires a meaningful choice: “buy” instead of “bite.” That is, we propose a legal market in which vampires would have the choice to buy blood through voluntary exchange instead of taking it by force. Lastly, in part three, we explain the absence of legal markets in the vampire world, examine the causes of this epic legal failure, and refute the standard arguments against the commodification of blood.

 

Sensitive periods in teenagers and young adults?

25 Nov

In developmental psychology, “sensitive period” refers to an age range where the the brain is especially sensitive to specific environmental stimuli. The most famous example of this is the sensitive period for language development during early childhood.

Now, a paper in Psychological Science reports on evidence for a sensitive period during adolescence and early adulthood:

In the current study, we investigated windows for enhanced learning of cognitive skills during adolescence. Six hundred thirty-three participants (11–33 years old) were divided into four age groups, and each participant was randomly allocated to one of three training groups. Each training group completed up to 20 days of online training in numerosity discrimination (i.e., discriminating small from large numbers of objects), relational reasoning (i.e., detecting abstract relationships between groups of items), or face perception (i.e., identifying differences in faces). Training yielded some improvement in performance on the numerosity-discrimination task, but only in older adolescents or adults. In contrast, training in relational reasoning improved performance on that task in all age groups, but training benefits were greater for people in late adolescence and adulthood than for people earlier in adolescence. Training did not increase performance on the face-perception task for any age group. Our findings suggest that for certain cognitive skills, training during late adolescence and adulthood yields greater improvement than training earlier in adolescence, which highlights the relevance of this late developmental stage for education.

Dementia rates fall

23 Nov

A very surprising finding reported in The New York Times:

Despite fears that rates were going to explode as the population grows older and fatter, and has more, a large nationally representative survey has found the reverse. Dementia is actually on the wane. And when people do get dementia, they get it at older and older ages.

You can read the original study here. The key points:

Question Has the prevalence of dementia among older adults in the United States changed between 2000 and 2012?

Findings In this observational cohort study of more than 21 000 US adults 65 years or older from the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study, dementia prevalence declined significantly, from 11.6% in 2000 to 8.8% in 2012.

Meaning Population brain health seemed to improve between 2000 and 2012; increasing educational attainment and better control of cardiovascular risk factors may have contributed to the improvement, but the full set of social, behavioral, and medical factors contributing to the improvement is still uncertain.

What are the causes of this good news?:

Increases in the level of education among the later-born cohort accounted for some of the decreased dementia risk, and there was some evidence that improvements in treatments for cardiovascular risk factors (eg, diabetes) may also have played a role. However, the full set of social, behavioral, and medical factors contributing to the decline in dementia prevalence is still uncertain.

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