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Posts Tagged ‘Science’

The 4 Risk Factors To Avoid Stroke or Heart Attack

Blood Pressure, Cholesterol Level Among Key Factors!

 

Having just one risk factor — such as high cholesterol or smoking — can significantly increase the odds of suffering a stroke or heart attack in your lifetime, according to a new study in The New England Journal of Medicine.

The research tracked more than 250,000 participants from 18 different studies over a period of 50 years. It is the first study to look at  the risks for white and black men and women across the generations. Previously clinicians would calculate a patient’s risk by projecting into the next decade. Now with a broad data pool, doctors can predict the likelihood of a major cardiovascular event well into the future, explained Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, chair and associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the study’s lead investigator.

In an interview of Lloyd-Jones reported by Chicago Tribunereporter Bonnie Miller Rubin, he shared his findings with the Tribune.

  • What does the study tell us now  that we didn’t know before?

A.  We have known for decades that four risk factors — blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking and diabetes — are related to cardiovascular disease, which is the No. 1 killer for men and women in the U.S. What we hadn’t appreciated is the long-term risks. We now know that whether male, female, black or white, the effect of the risk factors remained consistent in determining lifetime risk, regardless of when you were born.

  • What do  these findings mean?

A. That regardless of your age, sex or race, if you have all optimal risk factors, your chance of having a heart attack or stroke is really low. And if a peer of the same age, sex and  race has even one of these factors, he or she has a dramatically higher chance of developing a cardiovascular event during their life span.

  • How do you define optimal cholesterol and blood pressure levels?

A. Total cholesterol level of less than 180, blood pressure is less than 20 on top and 80 on the bottom.

  • Can you give me an example of how having even one risk factor increases your likelihood of heart attack or stroke?

A. Men who  are 45 years old and have all four factors at optimal levels — in other words, optimal blood pressure, cholesterol and no smoking or diabetes — have only a 1.4 percent risk of a heart event in their lifetime. In contrast, adding just one risk factor raises the chance to 40 percent for men and 20 percent for women. With two, it increases to 50 and 41 percent, respectively. 

  • How  much do genes play in all this?

A. At a certain point, genes do influence factors like cholesterol levels. You can’t completely change everything but you can trump a lot of that. By keeping these other things healthy, you can delay the day when, say you might need medication to take care of the part that you can’t accomplish solely through lifestyle changes.

  • Are there other factors that play a part in cardiovascular disease?

A. Sleep and stress clearly play into the incremental risk. We also know that shift work can mess up a person’s metabolic profile. There is some important research going on in these areas, but at the end of the day, it’s by maintaining the four big factors that you can dramatically reduce the risk.

  • If you have less than ideal levels of the Big Four, can you undo the damage?

A. Once placques start forming in the artery walls, you can slow them down and stabilize them with lifestyle change and medication, but you can’t make them go away completely. They’re still there, taking up space and potentially obstructing blood flow. So you can be a 35-year old and have the arteries of a 55-year-old.  That’s why it’s so important that young people understand the importance of their choices. That we really need to get our foot in the door now—while they’re in their 20’s and 30’s, even though heart disease might not get them until their 50’s or 60’s.

  • Do you ever eat a hot dog or a cheeseburger?

A. Unfair question! Of course I do. But that has to be done in moderation and it means I have to make a trade-off to reduce calories, fat and sodium elsewhere, and that I should go burn it  off with  a good brisk walk.

Do Human Beings Carry Expiration Dates?

On June 9, the Wall Street Journal carried the following story under the heading Mind & Matter written by Matt Ridley.

After celebrating her 60th year on the throne in style this past week, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II can now look forward to breaking some more records. She is already, at 86, Britain’s oldest monarch (were she to die now, her son would be the 12th oldest). On Sept 10 2015, she would pass Queen Victoria to become the longest-reigning monarch in British history. To beat Louis XIV (who succeeded to the throne at the age of 4) for the longest reign in European history, she would have to live to 98.

Elizabeth II is still going strong, but the maximum human lifespan isn’t rising at anything like the rate of average life expectancy, which is rushing upward globally at the rate of about three months a year, mainly because of progress against premature mortality. Indeed, we may already have hit some kind of limit for maximum lifespan—perhaps because natural selection, with its strict focus on reproductive success, has no particular need to preserve genes that would keep us going to 150.

The oldest woman in  the world, Besse Cooper, a retired schoolteacher in Georgia will be 116 on Aug. 26, according to the Geronotology Research Group, an organization that studies aging issues. That’s a great age but it’s a hefty six years short of the record: 122 years and 64 days, set by Jeanne Calment of France in 1997. In other words, if Mrs. Cooper can get there, Mrs. Calment’s record will have stood for 21 years; if she can’t, maybe longer.  That’s a long time considering that there are now nearly a half million centenarians alive in the world. That number has been going up 7% a year but the number of those over 115 is not increasing.

If Mrs. Cooper does not take the record, there are only two other 115-year olds alive to take on the challenge,and one of them is a man: Jiroemon Kimura, a retired postman from Kyoto. He’s within seven months of beating the age record for his sex, set by Christian Mortensen, who died in 1998. But Mr. Kimura is less likely than a woman to make 122, and there are fewer women over 115 today (two) than there were in 2006 (four) or even 1997 (three).

At least two people died after their 110th birthdays in the 1800s, if you’re willing to trust the birth certificates. So the increase of 12 years in maximum life expectancy during the 20th century was just one-third as large as the increase in average life expectancy during the period (36 years).

In 2002, James Vaupal of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, startled demographers by pointing out that every estimate published of the level at which average life expectancy would level out has been broken within a few years. Jay Olshansky of the University of Illionis, however argues that since 1980 this has no longer been true for already-old people in rich countries like the U.S.: Official estimates of remaining years of life for a woman aged 65 should be revised downward.

Thanks to healthier lifestyles, more and more people are surviving into old age. But that is not incompatible with there being a sort of expiration date on human lifespan. Most scientists think the decay of the body by aging is not itself programmed by genes, but the repair mechanisms that delay decay are.

In human beings, genes that help keep you alive as a parent or even grandparent have had a selective advantage through helping children thrive, but ones that keep you alive as a great-grandparent–who likely doesn’t play much of a role in the well-being and survival of great-grand children–have probably never contributed to reproductive success.

In other words, there is perhaps no limit to the number of people who can reach 90 or 100, but getting past 120 may never be possible, and 150 is probably unattainable, absent generic engineering–even for a monarch.

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Suffering for Science – Sign up for a One-Way Trip to Mars

HOW ABOUT SELF-INFLICTED SPIDER BITES? or…  WOULD YOU LIKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME A NUCLEAR TEST DUMMY? A weird few answer the call! The Pleasures of Suffering for Science!

HOW ABOUT SELF-INFLICTED SPIDER BITES? or…  WOULD YOU LIKE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BECOME A NUCLEAR TEST DUMMY?

Alex Boese is the byline on this article from the Jun. 9 Wall Street Journal. Mr. Boese is the author of “Electrified Sheep: Glass-Eating Scientists, Nuking the Moon, and More Bizarre Experiment.”

LAST WEEK, a private Dutch company, Mars One, announced that it hopes to send a four-person crew to Mars by 2023. To keep costs down, it will  be a one-way mission. Mars will become the astronauts’ permanent home.

It’s not clear whether this will be a scientific mission so much as a reality TV show, since the company plans to finance the operation by airing the entire  thing live, with commercial sponsors. But the scheme echoes similar plans  that bonafide members of the scientific community, including physicists Paul Davies and Lawrence Krauss and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, have been lobbying for since the 1990s. If humans do land on Mars any time soon, it could very well be on such a trip.

Mars offers a barren, inhospitable environment. The temperatures are freezing and the atmosphere is toxic. The crew of such a mission should expect their experience, and therefore the rest of their lives, to be at least somewhat unpleasant. Given this, who in their right mind would volunteer to go?

Interestingly enough, quite a few people.

When the Navy conducted its atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946, more than 90 people volunteered to man the ships stationed in the target area, so that scientists could gather data about the biological effects of the blasts. Navy researchers admitted that human test subjects would be “more satisfactory than animals”, but they worried about the public-relations aspect of using people, so all were turned down.

There’s also a long history of seemingly rational scientists who were willing to sacrifice their physical comfort, as well as their lives, for the sake of knowledge. Some are remembered as genuine heroes, such as the researchers led by Walter Reed who in 1900 let themselves be bitten by mosquitos carrying yellow fever, to prove that the insects carried the disease.

Other cases of suffering for science are regarded more as historical curiosities. In 1933, University of Alabama professor Allan Walker Blair induced a female black-widow spider to bite his hand. He allowed its fangs to stay in him for 10 seconds, so that he could get a full dose of venom, and then spent several days writhing in nightmarish pain at the local hospital. The attending physician said he had never seen “more abject pain manifested in any other medical or surgical condition”. A fellow entomologist had conducted the same self-experiment 12 years earlier, but Mr. Blair apparently felt the need to experience the sensation himself.

Then there was the Japanese pediatrician, Shimesu Koino, who ate 2,000 eggs of an intestinal roundworm in order to study the life cycle of the organism firsthand. His infection became so severe that he began to cough up the worms from his lungs.

Two London based doctors, Herbert Woollard and Edward Carmichael, earned a dubious place of honor among the ranks of sufferers for science by stacking weights on their testicles in order to examine how the subsequent pain spread throughout their bodies. Even mathematics offers an example of physical self-sacrifice, through repetitive stress injury. University of Georgia professor Pope R. Hill flipped a coin 100,000 times to prove that heads and tails would come up an approximately equal number of times. The experiment lasted a year. He fell sick but completed the count, though he had to enlist the aid of an assistant near the end.

This history suggests that something about suffering and self-sacrifice appeals to to the scientific mind. To paraphrase President Kennedy, scientists do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. 

But one has to wonder, at what point does the sacrifice cease to have any value for the advancement of sicence and simply become the pursuit of hardship for its own sake.

With respect to a manned, one-way mission to Mars, I suspect such questions will fall on deaf ears. Opponents of manned missions have long argued that everything to be gained by going to Mars can best be done by robots. But if Mars One is televising the whole thing, that would at least be good for ratings, allowing the company to earn enough money to send more teams out there. The suffering could become a self-perpetuating end in itself.

In 1942 Another Mail Order Millionaire Started From His Home

Diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1939, Norman Edmund was quarantined in a sanatorium, where he watched eight of his 10 wardmates perish from the disease, But he turned the gruesome experience to his advantage. Unwanted by employers, who feared the young accountant could still be contagious, Edmund started an Army salvage business in his New Jersey home.

At the time of Edmund’s retirement in 1975, the company had sales of about $10 million.

That business became Edmund Scientific, publisher of the famous Edmund Scientific catalog. The catalog—loved by science geeks for more than half a century—still sells you-build- it telescope kits, antigravity devices, solar-powered gadgets of all sorts, and goofy-yet-instructional items like a brew-your-own-root-beer kit. Edmund saw the catalog as a much needed tool for science education, particularly after the Soviet launch of Sputnik in the late 1950s.

The Russians were beating us,” recalls Robert Edmund, Norman’s son. “You had to get your people involved in science.” Norman Edmund died January 17. he was 95 and had enjoyed good health since beating TB.  He started his first company, Edmund Salvage, in 1942 at the behest of friends who worked at the Frankford Arsenal, an Army supply depot in nearby Philadelphia. Edmund began taking in surplus military equipment, tearing it apart, and selling the components, including lots of lenses for amateur photographers and for industry.

Edmund Salvage became Edmund Scientific, whose flagship was the scientific catalog. “Edmund scoured hundreds of magazines a month looking for products and ideas“,  Robert recalls, “As a kid, stacked up, the magazines looked like a skyscraper to me.”

Later, Edmund Scientific operated a retail store from its headquarters in Barrington, New Jersey, attracting science buffs worldwide. Salvador Dali, during a period of interest in optical illusions, stopped by to examine prisms and lenses, says Alex Husted, a grandson of Norman’s. “Norman would buy train cars full of war surplus to get binoculars, and you’d get all this other stuff you didn’t  want—motors, gear boxes, random lab equipment.” Much of it went into  a space known as “the mad scientist’s room.” An annual tent sale—people camped overnight to get first crack at the oddball offerings—would clear the stuff out to make room for new shipments.

At the time of Edmund’s retirement in 1975, the company had sales of about $10 million. Robert took over, expanding the optics business and manufacturing lenses in-house. In 2001, Robert had to break some news to his father. He had sold the scientific catalog to an educational company. “The  world  was changing,” says Robert. “People weren’t buying kits. They were finding their science elsewhere.” His father took it hard.

New owners have kept the catalog going. Edmund Optics, as the family business is now known, has grown to $120 million in sales. And Robert is eager to describe a grant program he started two years ago, giving $80,000 annually to fund promising ideas of the sort his father might have championed. There is one grant in particualr. It went to a Peruvian who had developed a rapid diagnostic kit for tuberculosis.

Norman Edmund, 1916-2012.

This article first appeared in INC. The Magazine for Growing Companies under the byline of Jeff Bailey.

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