Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Poor Concentration: Poverty Reduces Brainpower Needed for Navigating Other Areas of Life

Something I’ve suspected all along…now it seems to be quantified..

From the 29 August 2013 article at Science Daily

Poverty and all its related concerns require so much mental energy that the poor have less remaining brainpower to devote to other areas of life, according to research based at Princeton University. As a result, people of limited means are more likely to make mistakes and bad decisions that may be amplified by — and perpetuate — their financial woes.

Published in the journal Science, the study presents a unique perspective regarding the causes of persistent poverty. The researchers suggest that being poor may keep a person from concentrating on the very avenues that would lead them out of poverty. A person’s cognitive function is diminished by the constant and all-consuming effort of coping with the immediate effects of having little money, such as scrounging to pay bills and cut costs. Thusly, a person is left with fewer “mental resources” to focus on complicated, indirectly related matters such as education, job training and even managing their time.

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that pressing financial concerns had an immediate impact on the ability of low-income individuals to perform on common cognitive and logic tests. On average, a person preoccupied with money problems exhibited a drop in cognitive function similar to a 13-point dip in IQ, or the loss of an entire night’s sleep.

“Stress itself doesn’t predict that people can’t perform well — they may do better up to a point,” Shafir said. “A person in poverty might be at the high part of the performance curve when it comes to a specific task and, in fact, we show that they do well on the problem at hand. But they don’t have leftover bandwidth to devote to other tasks. The poor are often highly effective at focusing on and dealing with pressing problems. It’s the other tasks where they perform poorly.”

The fallout of neglecting other areas of life may loom larger for a person just scraping by, Shafir said. Late fees tacked on to a forgotten rent payment, a job lost because of poor time-management — these make a tight money situation worse. And as people get poorer, they tend to make difficult and often costly decisions that further perpetuate their hardship, Shafir said. He and Mullainathan were co-authors on a 2012 Science paper that reported a higher likelihood of poor people to engage in behaviors that reinforce the conditions of poverty, such as excessive borrowing.

“They can make the same mistakes, but the outcomes of errors are more dear,” Shafir said. “So, if you live in poverty, you’re more error prone and errors cost you more dearly — it’s hard to find a way out.”

The researchers suggest that services for the poor should accommodate the dominance that poverty has on a person’s time and thinking. Such steps would include simpler aid forms and more guidance in receiving assistance, or training and educational programs structured to be more forgiving of unexpected absences, so that a person who has stumbled can more easily try again.

“You want to design a context that is more scarcity proof,” said Shafir, noting that better-off people have access to regular support in their daily lives, be it a computer reminder, a personal assistant, a housecleaner or a babysitter.

“There’s very little you can do with time to get more money, but a lot you can do with money to get more time,” Shafir said. “The poor, who our research suggests are bound to make more mistakes and pay more dearly for errors, inhabit contexts often not designed to help.”

 

Read the entire article here

 

September 3, 2013 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry, Psychology | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Biology to Community Library: The Settings for Health

This item helps explain why a healthy and prosperous community/society needs a firm foundation on healthy child development. This firm foundation has many genetic and environmental components.

From  a  February 2, 2011 Redefine.Rebuild.Reconnect. Changing our Picture of Health posting
From biology to a community library: the settings for health, Michelle Helliwell, Librarian

InBrief: The Foundations of Lifelong Health

From [Harvard University] Center on the Developing Child (with links to their 24 videos)

(This blog item/Web page includes a great 7 minute video ,Foundations of Living Health, which outlines how various genetic and environmental factors affect the wellness of both individuals and the society at large)

When we talk about health and healthy living, there seems to be, at times, a division within healthcare (and outside of it) about what are the factors that contribute to your health and wellbeing. Good genes? How well you eat? Whether have a safe neighbourhood to play in? If you take a look at our page on health determinants, you’ll see that all of these, and others, have a role.

Fellow triPop member Sarah Hergett shared  the video …[ (at http://www.changingourpictureofhealth.ca/?p=225) ] … with our group the other day, and it’s worth passing on. It’s a presentation from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. In this seven minute presentation, you’ll find how researches from the fields of neuroscience, biology, and public health present the tangible links between what goes on inside our bodies to how that’s impacted on our health throughout our lives. As a librarian – and an advocate for literacy and health literacy – I was particularly thrilled to see libraries on the list of important resources that contribute to our health. So…support your local library! Support your community. It’s good for your health:).

This quoted blog item/Web page includes a great 7 minute video, Foundations of Living Health, which outlines how various genetic and environmental factors affect the wellness of both individuals and the society at large.

This video summarizes findings from The Foundations of Lifelong Health Are Built in Early Childhood, a report co-authored by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child and the National Forum on Early Childhood Policy and Programs.

The seemingly disparate health/well being factors include undue emotional stress, consumer products readily available (as liquor, fresh produce), healthy social relationships, parenting, individual genetic make-up, physical environments (think lead, tobacco products), schooling, libraries, government agency policies (as WIC), and employee policies affecting parents and others close to the child.



February 3, 2011 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

You are what your father ate

You are what your father ate
UMMS research suggests paternal diet affects lipid metabolizing genes in offspring

From the December 23, 2010 Eureka news alert

WORCESTER, Mass. — Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and the University of Texas at Austin have uncovered evidence that environmental influences experienced by a father can be passed down to the next generation, “reprogramming” how genes function in offspring. A new study published this week in Cell shows that environmental cues—in this case, diet—influence genes in mammals from one generation to the next, evidence that until now has been sparse. These insights, coupled with previous human epidemiological studies, suggest that paternal environmental effects may play a more important role in complex diseases such as diabetes and heart disease than previously believed.

“Knowing what your parents were doing before you were conceived is turning out to be important in determining what disease risk factors you may be carrying,” said Oliver J. Rando, MD, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry & molecular pharmacology at UMMS and principal investigator for the study, which details how paternal diet can increase production of cholesterol synthesis genes in first-generation offspring….

…These observations are consistent with epidemiological data from two well-known human studies suggesting that parental diet has an effect on the health of offspring. One of these studies, called the Överkalix Cohort Study, conducted among residents of an isolated community in the far northeast of Sweden, found that poor diet during the paternal grandfather’s adolescence increased the risk of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease in second-generation offspring. However, because these studies are retrospective and involve dynamic populations, they are unable to completely account for all social and economic variables. “Our study begins to rule out the possibility that social and economic factors, or differences in the DNA sequence, may be contributing to what we’re seeing,” said Rando. “It strongly implicates epigenetic inheritance as a contributing factor to changes in gene function.”

The results also have implications for our understanding of evolutionary processes, says Hans A. Hofmann, PhD, associate professor of integrative biology at the University of Texas at Austin and a co-author of the study. “It has increasingly become clear in recent years that mothers can endow their offspring with information about the environment, for instance via early experience and maternal factors, and thus make them possibly better adapted to environmental change. Our results show that offspring can inherit such acquired characters even from a parent they have never directly interacted with, which provides a novel mechanism through which natural selection could act in the course of evolution.” Such a process was first proposed by the early evolutionist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, but then dismissed by 20th century biologists when genetic evidence seemed to provide a sufficient explanation.

Taken together, these studies suggest that a better understanding of the environment experienced by our parents, such as diet, may be a useful clinical tool for assessing disease risk for illnesses, such as diabetes or heart disease. “We often look at a patient’s behavior and their genes to assess risk,” said Rando. “If the patient smokes, they are going to be at an increased risk for cancer. If the family has a long history of heart disease, they might carry a gene that makes them more susceptible to heart disease. But we’re more than just our genes and our behavior. Knowing what environmental factors your parents experienced is also important.”

The next step for Rando and colleagues is to explore how and why this genetic reprogramming is being transmitted from generation to generation. “We don’t know why these genes are being reprogrammed or how, precisely, that information is being passed down to the next generation,” said Rando. “It’s consistent with the idea that when parents go hungry, it’s best for offspring to hoard calories, however, it’s not clear if these changes are advantageous in the context of a low-protein diet.”

 

 

December 27, 2010 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News, Nutrition | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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