Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Magazine article] Reducing Lifestyle Diseases Means Changing Our Environment

 

From the 5 February 2015 Scientific American article

How and why our bodies are poorly suited to modern environments—and the adverse health consequences that result—is a subject of increasing study. A new book The Story of the Human Body by Daniel Lieberman, chair of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard, chronicles major biological and cultural transitions that, over the course of millions of years, transformed apes living and mating in the African forests to modern humans browsing Facebook and eating Big Macs across the planet.

“The end product of all that evolution,” he writes, “is that we are big-brained, moderately fat bipeds who reproduce relatively rapidly but take a long time to mature.”

But over the last several hundred generations, it has been culture—a set of knowledge, values and behaviors—not natural selection, that has been the more powerful force determining how we live, eat and interact. For most of our evolutionary history, we were hunter-gatherers who lived at very low population densities, moved frequently and walked up to 10 miles a day in search of food and water. Our bodies evolved primarily for and in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.

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Read the entire article here

 

February 7, 2015 Posted by | Consumer Health, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

News that is better or worse than expected influences health decisions

From the 29 October 2013 University of California – Riverside press release

UCR psychologist finds that unrealistic pessimists less likely to take preventive action after receiving good news

 IMAGE: This is Kate Sweeny.

Click here for more information. 

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Patients who are unrealistically optimistic about their personal health risks are more likely to take preventive action when confronted with news that is worse than expected, while unrealistic pessimists are less likely to change their behavior after receiving feedback that is better than expected, according to researchers at the University of California, Riverside and Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich.

This poses a serious dilemma for health care professionals, said study authors Kate Sweeny, assistant professor of psychology at UC Riverside, and co-author Amanda Dillard, assistant professor of psychology at Grand Valley State University: Should they withhold accurate risk information from unrealistic pessimists to avoid undermining their perceptions of the severity of their potential consequences and ultimately their motivation for preventive behavior?

“The question reveals a tension between the goals of health-behavior promotion and informed patient decision-making that has plagued researchers in several health domains, most notably with regard to women’s often overly pessimistic perceptions of their breast cancer risk,” Sweeny and Dillard wrote in “The Effects of Expectation Disconfirmation on Appraisal, Affect, and Behavioral Intentions,” published this month in the online edition of Risk Analysis: An International Journal. The journal is an official publication of the Society for Risk Analysis, a multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, scholarly, international society based in McLean, Va.

“Our findings cannot resolve this tension, but rather point to the need for further consideration of the potential consequences of risk communication,” the researchers said.

Sweeny and Dillard are the first to demonstrate that how an individual reacts and responds to objective risk feedback may depend on initial expectations prior to the feedback.

The psychologists conducted a series of experiments in which participants were told they would be tested for exposure to toxins found in everyday products. The researchers found that people who received risk feedback that was worse than expected expressed stronger intentions to prevent the threat in the future than did people who received risk feedback that was better than expected. All study participants received the same health feedback; only the expectations of the participants differed.

“Our findings add critical pieces to the previously incomplete picture of the consequences of expectation disconfirmation,” they wrote. “Ours is the first experimental investigation of the relationship between expectation disconfirmation and behavioral intentions in the context of personal risk perceptions, and the first study to examine the process by which intentions might rise or fall in response to unexpected risk feedback.”

Contrary to findings in other recent studies, Sweeny and Dillard determined that when people are faced with objective feedback that differs from their perceptions of health risks, they may adapt their behavior to fit the new risk information.

“In our studies, participants who learned that their risk was higher than they expected … formed relative strong intentions to take preventive action,” they said. They also found that people who learned that their risk was lower than expected felt relatively good in the face of feedback and formed relatively weak intentions to take preventive action. All of the study participants received the same health risk feedback.

“Our findings point to an important tradeoff people face when managing their expectations as they await feedback: maintaining optimism leaves people open to disappointment, but bracing for the worst may undermine future motivation to improve,” they said. “… It seems that people find the emotional consequences of being caught off-guard more compelling than the potential for elation to undermine their motivation to change their behavior in response to feedback.”

 

 

 

 

October 30, 2013 Posted by | health care, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Integrative Body-Mind Training Prompts Double Positive Punch In Brain White Matter

From the 12 June 2012 Medical News Today article

Scientists studying the Chinese mindfulness meditation known as

brains!

brains! (Photo credit: cloois)

say they’ve confirmed and expanded their findings on changes in structural efficiency of white matter in the brain that can be related to positive behavioral changes in subjects practicing the technique regularly for a month.

In a paper appearing this week in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists Yi-Yuan Tang and Michael Posner report improved mood changes coincided with increased axonal density – more brain-signaling connections – and an expansion of myelin, the protective fatty tissue that surrounds the axons, in the brain’s anterior cingulate region.

Deficits in activation of the anterior cingulate cortex have been associated with attention deficit disorder, dementiadepression,schizophrenia and many other disorders.

IBMT was adapted from traditional Chinese medicine in the 1990s in China, where it is practiced by thousands of people. It differs from other forms of meditation because it depends heavily on the inducement of a high degree of awareness and balance of the body, mind and environment. The meditative state is facilitated through training and trainer-group dynamics, harmony and resonance. …

June 13, 2012 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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