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One Personality Trait That Boosts The Immune System

People with this personality trait believe they can control their lives and make improvements. 

Optimism aids the recovery of stroke survivors, a study finds.

More optimistic stroke survivors have lower levels of inflammation and less physical disability after three months.

In general, the personality trait of optimism is linked to a very much longer life.

Being optimistic — a trait that can be boosted — can increase the odds of reaching 85-years-old by up to 70 percent.

The power of optimism to lengthen life may be partly down to its enhancing effect on the immune system.

Optimistic people tend to expect positive outcomes in the future.

Critically, optimists believe they can control their lives and make improvements.

Being optimistic is frequently linked to improved health outcomes.

For example, optimism has been previously linked to better heart health.

Dr Yun-Ju Lai, the study’s first author, said:

“Our results suggest that optimistic people have a better disease outcome, thus boosting morale may be an ideal way to improve mental health and recovery after a stroke.”

The study included 49 people who had had strokes.

They were asked about their levels of optimism and these were compared with their recovery.

The results showed that more optimistic people tended to have lower levels of bodily inflammation, as evidenced by interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein levels.

The more optimistic people were, the lower their levels of these inflammatory markers.

Chronic inflammation tends to harm the brain and impairs the body’s ability to recover.

Dr Lai said:

“Patients and their families should know the importance of a positive environment that could benefit the patient.

Mental health does affect recovery after a stroke.”

optimistic

Increase your optimism

Exercises such as visualizing your ‘best possible self‘ have been shown to increase optimism.

Visualizing your best possible self may sound like an exercise in fantasy but, crucially, it does have to be realistic.

Carrying out this exercise typically involves imagining your life in the future, but a future where everything that could go well, has gone well.

You have reached those realistic goals that you have set for yourself.

Then, to help cement your visualization, you commit your best possible self to paper.

The study was published in the journal Stroke (Lai et al., 2020).

Dr Jeremy Dean
 
Source: PsyBlog


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B12 And The Brain: How A Deficiency Affects Emotional Well-Being

Feeling depressed can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency, a study suggests.

Typical symptoms of depression, along with low mood, include difficulty concentrating and low energy and motivation.

Researchers have found that supplementation with vitamin B12 can help reduce depression symptoms.

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that plays a critical role in the functioning of the brain and the nervous system.

Both vitamin B12 and folate are vital to the production of critical neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and noradrenaline.

Depression is often linked to low levels of serotonin in the brain.

One study has found that those with low levels of vitamin B12 are at triple the risk of developing melancholic depression.

Melancholic depression mostly involves depressed mood.

Depression linked to B12 deficiency

The current study included 115 people experiencing depression

They were split into three group depending on how well they responded to depression treatment.

The results of blood tests revealed that those who responded the best to treatment had the highest levels of vitamin B12.

After treatment, those who were experiencing the highest levels of depression had the lowest levels of vitamin B12 in their system.

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The study’s authors write:

“As far as we know, there have been no previous studies that have suggested a positive relationship between vitamin B12 and the treatment outcome in patients with major depressive disorder who have normal or high vitamin B12 levels.”

The link between depression and vitamin B12 deficiency may be explained by the fact that B12 deficiency can cause damage to the nervous system, which can affect the function of neurotransmitters and lead to symptoms of depression.

Additionally, B12 deficiency can also lead to anaemia, which is a condition characterized by a low red blood cell count.

Anaemia can cause fatigue, weakness, and irritability, all of which can contribute to feelings of depression.

Common signs of B12 deficiency

Other, more common signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include feeling tired, experiencing muscle weakness and being constipated.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is easy to rectify with supplements or by dietary changes

The body uses vitamin B12 to make red blood cells and to keep the nervous system healthy.

Good sources of vitamin B12 include fish, poultry, eggs and low-fat milk.

Fortified breakfast cereals also contain vitamin B12.

People who may have difficult getting enough vitamin B12 include vegetarians, older people and those with some digestive disorders, such as Crohn’s disease.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can also be caused by certain medical conditions or by certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors or metformin.

The study was published in the journal BMC Psychiatry (Hintikka et al., 2003).

January 27, 2023     Dr Jeremy Dean

source: PsyBlog


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 5 Spices with Healthy Benefits

Another night of grilled chicken breasts is good for your diet, but it’s also kind of boring. Spicing up a plain-but-healthy meal is good for your taste buds and your health. Reach for your spice rack and you’ll not only up the flavor of your food, but you’ll also get a boost of antioxidants (substances that protect cells from damage).

Nutrition researchers say that there are more than 100 common spices used in cooking around the world, and some have proven to be concentrated sources of antioxidants — substances that protect your cells from damage.

There’s no need to go on a massive hunt for exotic ingredients — some of the best spices can be found at your local market.

One note: Most studies that show benefits use supplements to control the dose of spice (or the spice’s active compound) that participants consume. Often these provide bigger doses than you’d normally eat in a day.

1. Does cinnamon lower blood sugar?

Studies say yes. This popular spice comes from the bark of the cinnamon tree and is used in everything from pumpkin spice lattes to Cincinnati chili. Cinnamon is especially great for people who have high blood sugar. It lends a sweet taste to food without adding sugar, and studies indicate it can lower blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Cinnamon may also provide heart-healthy benefits, such as reducing high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. That’s especially important for people with diabetes who are at greater risk for developing heart disease.

Cinnamon is not a replacement for diabetes medication or a carbohydrate-controlled diet, but it can be a helpful addition to a healthy lifestyle.

Meal tip: Try sprinkling it on yogurt, fruit or hot cereal, or use it in stews and chilis or as a meat rub.

2. Can turmeric reduce inflammation?

Turmeric is best known for its use in Indian curry dishes and has become a trendy superfood for its ability to reduce inflammation — a common cause of discomfort and illness.

One of the components of turmeric is a substance called curcumin. Research suggests it may reduce inflammation in the brain, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease and depression. In a small study of adults over 50, those who consumed curcumin supplements over the course of 18 months had improvement in memory test scores. They also reported being in better spirits. Most impressive? Scans of their brain indicated significantly fewer markers associated with cognitive decline.

Because of its anti-inflammatory qualities, curcumin is also effective at reducing pain and swelling in people with arthritis. And animal studies indicate that curcumin could have powerful anti-cancer properties. A Johns Hopkins study found that a combination of curcumin and a chemotherapy drug was more effective at shrinking drug-resistant tumors than using chemotherapy alone.

Meal tip: Want to add this powerhouse spice to your diet? Rub it on roasted vegetables and meats, sprinkle it in tacos or create a curry.

The Medicine Cabinet in Your Kitchen – Ten Top Common Healing Herbs and Spices

 

3. Can ginger get rid of nausea?

Ginger is a tropical plant that’s been used in Asian cultures for thousands of years to treat stomach upset, diarrhea and nausea. In the U.S., it comes in a variety of convenient forms — lollipops, candies, capsules and teas. You can also purchase the dried powder in the spice aisle of the grocery store, or buy it fresh to make teas or grate into recipes.

Research has found that ginger is effective at calming pregnancy-related nausea and reducing tummy upset after surgery. Some studies have also found that ginger cuts the severity of motion sickness or prevents the symptoms altogether. It may even help with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting when taken along with anti-nausea medications. (Ask your doctor first before taking ginger while on chemotherapy drugs, as it can have a negative interaction with certain medications.)

Meal tip: Work this zingy spice into your diet by adding it to stir-fry dishes, smoothies or sipping it in tea. You can also add it to homemade salad dressings and baked goods.

4. Is garlic good for your heart?

Most of us are familiar with garlic, the strong-smelling bulb frequently used in cooking. But what you might not know is that eating garlic may protect your heart from changes that lead to heart disease.

As you age, some hardening of the arteries is normal. This is called atherosclerosis and occurs as fatty deposits made up of cholesterol and other substances build up on the inside of your artery walls. Factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can make it worse. As the build-up increases over time, the arteries narrow. This can make you susceptible to heart attacks and strokes.

Researchers have linked garlic intake with keeping blood vessels flexible, especially in women. In addition, studies suggest that eating garlic may reduce cholesterol and triglycerides.

Garlic is a key ingredient in the Mediterranean diet, an eating style that heart doctors often recommend. It can be used in any number of savory dishes.

Meal tip: Pair fresh or powdered garlic with olive oil and pepper to flavor vegetables or use it with rosemary to make a tasty meat rub. You can sprinkle it in soups and salad dressings, too.

5. Can cayenne relieve pain?

Cayenne is a type of chili pepper that you’ll find in Southwestern American cuisine as well as Mexican, Creole and Cajun dishes. Cayenne peppers contain a substance called capsaicin. It’s what makes them spicy and also what can provide pain relief.

Capsaicin reduces the number of pain signals sent to your brain. The result? You don’t register as much discomfort. It works on pain caused by arthritis and diabetes-related nerve damage. You can apply creams with capsaicin directly on joints and muscles.

Lab research and studies in animals suggest that eating cayenne pepper can also help with something that causes a lot of internal pain: ulcers. Although people often associate spicy foods with stomach upset, capsaicin aids in helping reduce ulcers by restricting the growth of an ulcer-causing bacteria (Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori), reducing excess stomach acid and increasing blood flow.

Meal tip: Use this spice anytime you want to add heat to your food. It’s great in chili, soups, stews and on meat. For a fun twist, add a dash to hot chocolate.

Healthiest Ways to Use Spices

Whether you use spices fresh or dried, you’ll still get beneficial compounds. Experts point out that frying or grilling can decrease spices’ antioxidants while microwave cooking, simmering or stewing foods with spices can actually heighten their antioxidant levels.

If you’re tempted to take supplements to increase your dose of these beneficial compounds, it’s important to note that commercial supplements aren’t strictly regulated, which means you can’t be certain what the pills actually contain. Certain third-party organizations do testing to verify quality and contents of supplements. If you’re thinking about taking a supplement, talk to your doctor or dietitian about what form and amount is right for you.

Regardless of the other health benefits, spices add flavor to food and can make healthy meals delicious and are a healthy way to get you out of an eating rut. Enjoying your food is key to maintaining healthy habits for the long term. Be sure to talk to your doctor or a dietitian before changing your diet.

source: www.hopkinsmedicine.org


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Old mice grow young again in study. Can people do the same?

In Boston labs, old, blind mice have regained their eyesight, developed smarter, younger brains and built healthier muscle and kidney tissue. On the flip side, young mice have prematurely aged, with devastating results to nearly every tissue in their bodies.

The experiments show aging is a reversible process, capable of being driven “forwards and backwards at will,” said anti-aging expert David Sinclair, a professor of genetics in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School and codirector of the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research.

Our bodies hold a backup copy of our youth that can be triggered to regenerate, said Sinclair, the senior author of a new paper showcasing the work of his lab and international scientists.

The combined experiments, published for the first time Thursday in the journal Cell, challenge the scientific belief aging is the result of genetic mutations that undermine our DNA, creating a junkyard of damaged cellular tissue that can lead to deterioration, disease and death.

“It’s not junk, it’s not damage that causes us to get old,” said Sinclair, who described the work last year at Life Itself, a health and wellness event presented in partnership with CNN.

“We believe it’s a loss of information — a loss in the cell’s ability to read its original DNA so it forgets how to function — in much the same way an old computer may develop corrupted software. I call it the information theory of aging.”

Jae-Hyun Yang, a genetics research fellow in the Sinclair Lab who coauthored the paper, said he expects the findings “will transform the way we view the process of aging and the way we approach the treatment of diseases associated with aging.”

Epigenetic changes control aging

While DNA can be viewed as the body’s hardware, the epigenome is the software. Epigenes are proteins and chemicals that sit like freckles on each gene, waiting to tell the gene “what to do, where to do it, and when to do it,” according to the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The epigenome literally turns genes on and off. That process can be triggered by pollution, environmental toxins and human behaviors such as smoking, eating an inflammatory diet or suffering a chronic lack of sleep. And just like a computer, the cellular process becomes corrupted as more DNA is broken or damaged, Sinclair said.

“The cell panics, and proteins that normally would control the genes get distracted by having to go and repair the DNA,” he explained. “Then they don’t all find their way back to where they started, so over time it’s like a Ping-Pong match, where the balls end up all over the floor.”

In other words, the cellular pieces lose their way home, much like a person with Alzheimer’s.

“The astonishing finding is that there’s a backup copy of the software in the body that you can reset,” Sinclair said. “We’re showing why that software gets corrupted and how we can reboot the system by tapping into a reset switch that restores the cell’s ability to read the genome correctly again, as if it was young.”

It doesn’t matter if the body is 50 or 75, healthy or wracked with disease, Sinclair said. Once that process has been triggered, “the body will then remember how to regenerate and will be young again, even if you’re already old and have an illness. Now, what that software is, we don’t know yet. At this point, we just know that we can flip the switch.”

Woman with photo of elderly woman's eyes on hers'

Years of research

The hunt for the switch began when Sinclair was a graduate student, part of a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that discovered the existence of genes to control aging in yeast. That gene exists in all creatures, so there should be a way to do the same in people, he surmised.

To test the theory, he began trying to fast-forward aging in mice without causing mutations or cancer.

“We started making that mouse when I was 39 years old. I’m now 53, and we’ve been studying that mouse ever since,” he said. “If the theory of information aging was wrong, then we would get either a dead mouse, a normal mouse, an aging mouse or a mouse that had cancer. We got aging.”

With the help of other scientists, Sinclair and his Harvard team have been able to age tissues in the brain, eyes, muscle, skin and kidneys of mice.

To do this, Sinclair’s team developed ICE, short for inducible changes to the epigenome. Instead of altering the coding sections of the mice’s DNA that can trigger mutations, ICE alters the way DNA is folded. The temporary, fast-healing cuts made by ICE mimic the daily damage from chemicals, sunlight and the like that contribute to aging.

ICE mice at one year looked and acted twice their age.

Becoming young again

Now it was time to reverse the process. Sinclair Lab geneticist Yuancheng Lu created a mixture of three of four “Yamanaka factors,” human adult skin cells that have been reprogrammed to behave like embryonic or pluripotent stem cells, capable of developing into any cell in the body.

The cocktail was injected into damaged retinal ganglion cells at the back of the eyes of blind mice and switched on by feeding mice antibiotics.

“The antibiotic is just a tool. It could be any chemical really, just a way to be sure the three genes are switched on,” Sinclair told CNN previously. “Normally they are only on in very young, developing embryos and then turn off as we age.”

The mice regained most of their eyesight.

Next, the team tackled brain, muscle and kidney cells, and restored those to much younger levels, according to the study.

“One of our breakthroughs was to realize that if you use this particular set of three pluripotent stem cells, the mice don’t go back to age zero, which would cause cancer or worse,” Sinclair said. “Instead, the cells go back to between 50% and 75% of the original age, and they stop and don’t get any younger, which is lucky. How the cells know to do that, we don’t yet understand.”

Today, Sinclair’s team is trying to find a way to deliver the genetic switch evenly to each cell, thus rejuvenating the entire mouse at once.

“Delivery is a technical hurdle, but other groups seem to have done well,” Sinclair said, pointing to two unpublished studies that appear to have overcome the problem.

“One uses the same system we developed to treat very old mice, the equivalent of an 80-year-old human. And they still got the mice to live longer, which is remarkable. So they’ve kind of beaten us to the punch in that experiment,” he said.

“But that says to me the rejuvenation is not just affecting a few organs, it’s able to rejuvenate the whole mouse because they’re living longer,” he added. “The results are a gift and confirmation of what our paper is saying.”

What’s next? Billions of dollars are being poured into anti-aging, funding all sorts of methods to turn back the clock.

In his lab, Sinclair said his team has reset the cells in mice multiple times, showing that aging can be reversed more than once, and he is currently testing the genetic reset in primates. But decades could pass before any anti-aging clinical trials in humans begin, get analyzed and, if safe and successful, scaled to the mass needed for federal approval.

But just as damaging factors can disrupt the epigenome, healthy behaviors can repair it, Sinclair said.

“We know this is probably true because people who have lived a healthy lifestyle have less biological age than those who have done the opposite,” he said.

His top tips? Focus on plants for food, eat less often, get sufficient sleep, lose your breath for 10 minutes three times a week by exercising to maintain your muscle mass, don’t sweat the small stuff and have a good social group.

“The message is every day counts,” Sinclair said. “How you live your life even when you’re in your teens and 20s really matters, even decades later, because every day your clock is ticking.”

Sandee LaMotte   Jan. 12, 2023

source: www.ctvnews.ca


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New Moderna cancer vaccine showing breakthrough results: ‘A tremendous step forward’

A new cancer vaccine from Moderna is showing breakthrough results in preventing recurrences of melanoma, and could ward off other types of cancer as well, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In a mid-stage clinical trial involving post-surgery patients, the vaccine was paired with Keytruda, an immunotherapy manufactured by Merck. The risk of relapse or death by skin cancer was lowered by 44% from the use of Keytruda alone.

“This is the first time we see a really strong signal with a cancer vaccine,”  Merck’s head of global clinical development and chief medical officer, Eliav Barr said.

“This is the first time we can actually show that with the removal of the brakes on immune responsiveness that Keytruda provides, plus an extraordinarily good vaccine, we engender a really great immune response.”

The Journal reported that the encouraging results — not yet independently reviewed — could expand usage of Moderna’s messenger RNA platform used in its Covid vaccine. That was the first time the gene-related technology was put to use.

cancer

Both companies are planning to run larger studies than the initial 150 person trial, in an effort to confirm the safety and overall effectiveness of the jab. Continued good news could pave way for a regulatory green light for the vaccine, which will be tested on other types of cancers as well, according to its creators.

“We don’t want to waste time,” Moderna Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said. “Given the data is so strong, for me it’s a Covid-like moment.”

Moderna’s vaccine is tailored to each patient, in the interest of fighting off specifically what they are battling. The process takes between one to two months in total.

The journey begins with a biopsy of the patient’s tumor, followed by analysis of samples and identification of mutations within the cancer cells, also known as neoepitopes. Once studied, the cells will have their genetic codes selected to create a bespoke shot.

When injected, the concoction has a person’s cells replicate their own neoepitopes to trigger a more efficient response to kill the cells.

Both companies believe this approach compliments the effects of Keytruda, which enhances the body’s immune system to fight tumors.

“It’s a tremendous step forward in immunotherapy,” Barr told Reuters.

By Alex Mitchell   December 13, 2022

source: nypost.com


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To Flourish, Humans Are Motivated by Four Universal Needs

Are you satisfying these needs at work? Could you?

The Big 4 Universal Needs Related to Flourishing

Different writers may use varied terminology to describe what has become known as the “Big 4” universal human needs or motivations. I’ve taken the liberty of using pairs of terms that each start with the letter C, with hopes that doing so makes them more memorable. (There is no particular order of importance on this list.)

  • The first we might refer to as Contribution or Calling. That is, we need to feel as though our life has meaning or purpose. That isn’t to say that it has to be a grandiose sense of importance, but rather that what we do means something to others or to the world generally; that what we do is productive and purposeful.
  • The second universal need we might call Choice or Control. Generally we prefer more rather than less choice and more control over what we do and how we do it. In fact, humans tend to actively resist encroachment on their autonomy.
  • The third universal need could be termed Competence or Capability. That is, it is important to feel as though we do a pretty good job at what is important to us, and perhaps at least as important is the perception that we are improving or have opportunities to grow more effective.
  • Last on our list is Connection or Community. It’s not that we need to be liked by everyone, but it is important to have a set of people who like and respect us; a group we consider our tribe.

These Big 4 universal needs or motivations apply to all of us, but there is probably variation in their relative importance to each person. If I asked you to rank order the four from most to least important, your rankings would probably not perfectly match mine.

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How to Use the Big 4 Yourself

Knowing about the Big 4 allows us to use them as a checklist for evaluating our current job, a possible promotion, or a potential new job. It’s not a must that our job satisfies all four needs, but given how much time we spend at work, it would be ideal if it did. The greater the extent to which all four needs are connected to your work, the greater your likely job satisfaction. To promote retention, job satisfaction, and professional development for those you lead or supervise, consider how the Big 4 needs relate to each person’s roles and tasks and modify accordingly.

What if your work doesn’t satisfy one or more of the essential motivations? Are there other aspects of your life that do, or that could? Are there ways you might alter your work in light of what aspects of the Big 4 seem lacking? If not, are there possibilities for a more rewarding move, either inside or outside your organization?

Of course it is possible to maintain a position that does not offer much with regard to satisfaction of the Big 4 needs, and your choice to do so may have to do with meeting other needs (like a reasonable income). However, to flourish, it is worth asking, at least on occasion, how the Big 4 relate to your current situation, with an eye toward proactively making changes to maximize your engagement and life satisfaction.

Michael W. Wiederman Ph.D. Mindful Professional Development

August 21, 2022 |  Reviewed by Gary Drevitch

source: www.psychologytoday.com


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The Case for Cautious COVID Optimism This Winter

At this time last year and two years ago, daily new infections and COVID-related hospitalizations were already accelerating at a fast clip. BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, the latest Omicron subvariants, came to comprise the majority of cases during a relative lull in the pandemic. Combined with a Thanksgiving Holiday that saw the most travelers since the pandemic started, there has been a steady increase in COVID metrics.

However, there are many reasons to be optimistic. A combination of factors—a high level of population immunity, Omicron family antigenic drift, convergence of mutations that seem to have hit an evolutionary ceiling, almost nonexistent severe COVID illness in the hospital, and viral interference from RSV and Influenza surges—means we are in a surprisingly good place with COVID-19 in winter 2022-23.

Antigenic drift

The first two pandemic years were marked by surge after surge driven by variants of entirely new lineages. But since South African researchers first identified Omicron one year ago, we have seen subvariants exclusively from that lineage. This antigenic drift, while spawning an alphabet soup of approximately 500 subvariants, has actually generated less and less impactful waves as population level immunity to Omicron grew. The most recent summer wave driven by BA.4 and BA.5 did not lead to a significant surge of hospitalizations or deaths in the U.S.

Before the Omicron winter surge a year ago, only 1 in 3 people in the U.S. had been infected with COVID-19. By the end of February, that number was 60%—and certainly much higher now at the end of 2022. It’s safe to say a lot of immune systems have “seen” Omicron by this point on top of a vaccination rate of 73% in those 5 and older. As long as there is not a dramatic antigenic shift to an entirely new lineage, there are very little new tricks Omicron can throw our way. But, if such a shift were to happen, our T-cells and memory B-cells will continue to provide robust protection against severe disease from new variants.

Evolutionary ceiling

Recent research showed marked resistance of the BQ.1. and BQ.1.1 subvariants (among others) to neutralizing antibodies in the sera of both triple-vaccinated and those recently infected with BA.1 and BA.5. This immune evasiveness is due to a key N460 mutation in the spike protein of BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 and to a lesser extent, R346t and N658S mutations.

The new Omicron subvariants are accruing mutations at a breakneck speed that in theory give them an exponential growth advantage over their BA.2 and BA.5 parentage. But interestingly, the multiple subvariants are converging on the same mutations. Despite their demonstrated immune evasiveness prowess in the lab, they have not led to significant waves in countries where they become dominant.

The XBB variant achieved dominance in Singapore earlier this Fall. XBB is a descendant of BA.2 but differs by 8 key spike mutations. Despite these apparent growth advantages, XBB did not lead to a major surge in hospitalizations or deaths in Singapore.

Although important to tread carefully when comparing countries, France’s recent experience with BQ.1.1 likely provides insight into how that variant will play out here. France and the U.S. share a lagging updated bivalent booster rate for those at higher risk for severe COVID illness (older individuals)—approximately 30% of those 65 years or older in both countries have received the updated booster. BQ.1.1 became dominant in France at the end of October but has not led to a surge in hospitalizations or ICU admissions.

So, a convergence of rapidly accruing mutations demonstrating immune evasiveness in the lab has not generated a surge in infections or hospitalizations in the real world. This certainly begs the question: has SARS-COV-2 hit an evolutionary ceiling in the face of our high population immunity?

Where have severe COVID-19 patients gone?

We rarely encounter patients with severe COVID in the ED or hospital wards now, in sharp contrast to the winter of 2020. By severe COVID, we are referring to patients with viral pneumonia and hypoxia requiring various oxygen-delivery and ventilation systems and strategies, intravenous decatron and other complicated immune-modulating medications, and the involvement of respiratory therapists and multiple medical specialists.

The majority of states and county public health departments still do not delineate COVID-19 hospitalizations between those admitted primarily for COVID vs. those who incidentally test positive. The CDC in fact in September advised that hospitals could stop routine pre-admission testing for COVID. But many hospitals and health care systems have been reluctant to relinquish this outdated practice. As such, given the ability of BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 to evade neutralizing antibodies, we expect an increase in country-level hospitalization numbers this winter due to incidental positives, but we should be reassured that the vast majority will not be for severe COVID illness.

In fact, since the advent of Omicron, multiple studies have demonstrated that Omicron is just not very good at infecting lung tissue. As early as January 2022, we had multiple laboratory studies showing that Omicron had an affinity for replicating rapidly in the upper airways but markedly less tropism for alveolar lung cells. This viral evolutionary trade-off likely explains how a large Kaiser Southern California study comparing 223,000 Omicron infections to 23,000 Delta variant infections found that those infected with Omicron had significantly less risk of severe illness and shorter hospital stays. And a new South African study shows that the risk of hospitalization and mortality declined even further from the BA.1/BA.2 wave to the BA.4/5 wave.

Merry Christmas 2022

Viral interference

RSV has led a troupe of viral respiratory illness in children that has quickly overwhelmed children’s hospitals and flooded emergency rooms across the country. At the same time, as we observed in the Southern Hemisphere countries, the influenza season kicked off approximately two months earlier than usual. As of the most recent CDC FluView report, there have already been over 6.2 million flu illnesses, 53,000 hospitalizations and 2,900 deaths. Flu is being driven by the more virulent Flu A strain, 78% of which has been H3N2, which is known to cause more severe illness in children and the elderly.

Importantly, the U.K. reported this past week that ICU admissions for flu exceeded those for COVID for the first time during the pandemic. This is likely due to the reduced severity of COVID and high level of population immunity as well as the dominance of the Flu A (H3N2) strain.

The early surges of RSV and flu raises the interesting question of viral interference. Is it possible that earlier-than-usual surges in RSV, flu, and other viral respiratory illnesses are crowding out covid this year? A growing body of both epidemiological and laboratory data suggest that the dreaded tripledemic is unlikely. One theory points to chemical messengers triggered by a viral infection called interferons that generate a population level immunity barrier against another virus. For the first two years of the pandemic, non-COVID viral illness was crowded out by COVID. This winter, the opposite could be occurring. Of note, this resurgence of endemic viruses, such as influenza and RSV, as population immunity rose to COVID and with decreased immunity to other viruses over the past 2.5 years, was predicted in June 2020.

New vax effective especially at extended intervals

Lastly, we finally have real-world data on the effectiveness of the new bivalent COVID booster. While the CDC study did not answer the question of whether the bivalent booster is better than another dose of the original vaccine recipe, the bivalent booster provides protection against symptomatic infection from BA.5. And the study clearly demonstrated that a longer gap between doses generated a bigger immune boost; we advocated for a 6-month extended interval in a recent piece in TIME. Older individuals in the US need the COVID booster (and a higher influenza vaccine dose) the most given a less robust immune response populations 65 and older.

What next?

We are in good shape as we head into this third pandemic winter with BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 holding the reins. This does not mean we will rest on our laurels.

For the first time, we do not have an effective monoclonal antibody treatment for those immune-compromised or high-risk for severe covid illness. Both BQ.1. and BQ.1.1 are resistant to our last effective monoclonal antibody treatment, bebtelovimab. We urgently need an armamentarium of second-generational monoclonals that can supersede the convergence of immune evasive mutations exhibited by the Omicron subvariants.

Nearly 9 in 10 COVID deaths are in people 65 or older. However only 32% of this group has received an updated bivalent booster. Paxlovid use in this group is also woeful despite evidence that this age group benefits the most from its use. Older individuals need ongoing boosting and treatment as we enter COVID endemicity in this third winter living with this now not-so-novel coronavirus.

Michael Daignault   Tue, December 13, 2022

source: yahoo.com


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People who attempt suicide might show signs early on. Here’s what to watch for

Suicide is a leading cause of death among children and adults, but spotting risk factors and warning signs isn’t easy.

Nearly 46,000 people in the United States died by suicide in 2020, which is about one death every 11 minutes, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Worldwide, nearly 800,000 people die from suicide yearly, and in 2020, there were 1.2 million attempts globally.

Researchers still haven’t nailed down how to better predict who’s at risk for attempting suicide, and whether or when vulnerable people will do it, said Justin Baker, clinical director of The Suicide and Trauma Reduction Initiative for Veterans at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

“That is extremely, extremely difficult,” he said. “You can look back in time, when someone’s made an attempt or has died, and go, ‘Oh, look at all these things that were going on in their life.’ The difficulty is that a lot of people handle or experience those types of stressors as well but never go on to (attempt suicide).”

Additionally, there isn’t always a long time frame wherein someone is considering suicide and showing signs — and there can be as little as 5 to 15 minutes between someone deciding to attempt suicide and doing it, Baker added.

“What we collectively understand is it’s an emotional dysregulation and cognitive error that occurs,” Baker said. “They can’t fix the situation, or they can’t think their way through the situation, so suicide becomes a viable option as a way to manage the pain that they’re in. So they may take action on it in that really short, brief window.”

But there are some situations wherein a person who is suicidal and planning for a longer period of time will show behavioral changes, Baker added.

“If you’re noticing that kind of stuff, obviously that’s someone who is really close to being imminent risk — someone who’s really close to making that decision to end their life,” he said. “But I would argue most people don’t get that kind of warning.”

If you think you or someone you know is at risk, trained counselors with the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline could help you work through any signs you’re experiencing or seeing. To increase its accessibility, every state began rolling out 988 as the new lifeline on July 16. The previous number, 1-800-273-8255 (TALK), will always remain available to people in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In Canada: Talk Suicide Canada – Hours: Available 24/7/365 for calls; 4 PM—12 AM ET for texts; Languages: English, French  1.833.456.4566  https://talksuicide.ca/

Here are some of the most common behavioral, verbal and emotional signs and risk factors you should pay attention to, according to experts.

Warning signs of suicide

Some people might seem like their usual selves in the weeks or days leading up to a suicide attempt, while others might show behavioral changes that don’t track with what you know about them, said Michael Roeske, a clinical psychologist and senior director of the Newport Healthcare Center for Research & Innovation.

Those can include practicing or preparing for suicide, which could look like exhibiting unusual behaviors with guns, pills or other potentially lethal items, according to SAMHSA.

Other potential behavioral red flags include giving away cherished belongings, sleeping too much or too little, withdrawing or isolating oneself, showing rage or desire to enact revenge, and acting anxious or agitated, according to Roeske, Baker and SAMHSA. Getting really intoxicated one night or driving recklessly could also be signs to watch out for, Roeske said.

Such behavior might be them “testing themselves to see if they can actually do it,” Baker said. “A lot of times people need to kind of work up to that actual making an attempt because it’s a biologic thing you have to go against, your own survival.”

Concerning comments

Talking about wanting to die — by suicide or otherwise — is another warning sign that should always be taken seriously, Roeske said. Such comments are sometimes just expressions of discomfort, pain, boredom or desire for closeness rather than a reflection of actually wanting to die, but that doesn’t mean you don’t monitor the person who’s making them, he added.

Some people might say they feel like they have no reason to live. “If someone is struggling to come up with a reason for living, that’s a much higher-risk person than someone who’s even able to identify one (reason),” Baker said.

Others talk about feeling like a burden on those close to them, Roeske said, or like they don’t belong anywhere or with anyone. Such comments might include “You don’t need me for this anymore” or “I feel like it’d be better if I just wasn’t here.” Teenagers considering suicide might not want their guardians to use their money for college, he added.

Suicide

Mood and other risk factors

Psychological factors, distressing situations or genetics can increase the likelihood of someone considering, attempting or dying by suicide, according to SAMHSA. These risk factors can’t cause or predict a suicide attempt, but being aware of them is important, according to SAMHSA:

  • Hopelessness. “They don’t have a sense of the future getting better, or they just feel really unable to imagine not being in the pain that they’re in,” Roeske said.
  • Extreme mood swings. This includes if someone who’s usually really stressed or depressed suddenly seems calm or cheery, according to Roeske and Johns Hopkins Medicine. This person might have decided to attempt suicide without telling anyone, and they feel relieved by that. Also indicative of this is cheeriness after a depressive episode.
  • Obsession with death or lethal means. Some people have artistic or musical interests that are more grim than others, but if their engagement with those things surpasses what’s normal for them, that would be concerning, Roeske said.
  • Experiences of abuse, neglect or other traumas
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Mental disorders such as schizophrenia, depression or anxiety, and personality disorders, especially coupled with lack of treatment
  • Severe physical illnesses, including chronic pain. “Especially if it’s sort of recalcitrant and very difficult to treat, people can become very hopeless,” Roeske said. “It’s really just, ‘I don’t want to feel this anymore and I can’t find any other way. I feel trapped.’”
  • Family or personal history of suicide. “The greatest predictor of completed suicide is past suicide attempts — the reason being is because you’ll see an escalation in lethality, or the means by which someone does it,” Roeske said.
  • Job or financial loss
  • Relationship problems or loss
  • Loss of interest in activities or school
  • Prolonged stress from other causes, such as harassment or bullying
  • Easy access to potentially fatal means
  • Exposure to a suicide or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of suicide. “On the one hand, we don’t want people to shy away from the topic of suicide. We want people to approach and even use the word with others and have discussions around it,” Roeske said. But if a depiction or account gratuitously romanticizes or justifies the sense of relief that might be garnered from suicide, that’s problematic.
  • Insufficient social support or sense of isolation

How to help someone who is suicidal

If any of these signs resonate with you, seek professional help and talk with someone you can trust and feel supported by, Baker said. Psychotherapy and certain psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants, can help, Roeske said.

If a loved one is showing signs they might be at risk of suicide, “it’s not really your job to be able to predict the future,” Baker said. But you can be supportive and intentional about asking them what’s going on, Roeske and Baker said.

“You’re not going to cause someone to be suicidal by asking directly about suicide,” Baker said. “The worst they’re going to say is ‘no’ and not get offended. If they are, still ask them. I’d rather have someone offended at me than dead.”

When checking on someone, use what experts call a narrative, person-centered approach, Baker recommended. That might look like an open-ended question: “Hey, I’ve noticed life’s gotten overwhelming these past couple days. Do you want to tell me about it?”

As the person responds, you can, to some extent, listen, express appreciation for them sharing their story and offer to help figure it out together, without offering advice on how to handle it, Baker said. But if your loved one seems more at risk or in the process of attempting suicide, “you no longer have time or the luxury to get their opinion,” he added. Get medical care or call 911.

When Roeske first started working as a clinician, he had a young female patient who was a very accomplished equestrian, went to a prestigious school and had a lot of family resources, he said — but she had been chronically suicidal for 10 to 15 years, since she was a teenager.

“Every time she would go to her mom and tell her that, her mom would (say things like) ‘Oh, you’re so beautiful. Look at how you are with the horses,’” Roeske said. “And (the patient) said, ‘What it felt like was Mom was afraid of what I was saying and needed to distance herself from it.’

She said that therapists would do the same thing — you know, ‘create a positive gratitude list or correct your cognitive distortions.’ Finally, there was a psychiatrist that looked at her as she said, ‘I think I’m going to kill myself.’ And the psychiatrist said, ‘I think you might, too.’ And she said it was the first time someone was willing to be in there with her.”

When talking with someone who’s suicidal, you might want to tell them all the wonderful reasons why they should stay alive, Roeske said — but that can actually make them feel more lonely.

If you’re concerned about someone who lives in your household, mitigate opportunities to attempt suicide by restricting access to or removing potentially lethal items such as firearms or pills, Roeske said. Just hiding a gun isn’t a sufficient precaution, experts have said.

Unfortunately, “we are no better able to predict who will die by suicide than who will be in a car accident,” Baker said. “This does not help to alleviate the grief or pain for those who have lost loved ones to suicide, but hopefully it helps remove some of the guilt and responsibility.”

CNN’s Jacqueline Howard contributed to this story, which was updated from a story originally published in September.

By Kristen Rogers, CNN   December 15, 2022

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health matters, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 (or 800-273-8255) to connect with a trained counselor or visit the NSPL site.

In Canada: Talk Suicide Canada – Hours: Available 24/7/365 for calls; 4 PM—12 AM ET for texts; Languages: English, French  1.833.456.4566  https://talksuicide.ca/

source: www.cnn.com


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Science Explains How Insomnia Can Make People Selfish 

Many people complain that modern society encourages selfish behaviors. They might blame social media, materialism, and perhaps the rise of individualism for these self-centered tendencies. But did you know insomnia, a sleep disorder, can also cause people to focus more on themselves?

You’ve probably heard that sleep deprivation can cause many health problems, from heart disease to obesity. Now scientists have learned that lack of sleep can also lead to behavioral issues.

Throughout much of human history, we lived in tribes and helped one another to survive. We still have this basic primitive instinct, but modern lifestyles encourage more competition than cooperation.

People still help one another in the civilized world, of course, but myriad stressors in the environment have dampened this evolutionary trait. One of these stressors includes chronic sleep deprivation, as scientists have found in a recent study.

A study by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that insomnia dulls prosocial behaviors. We can see the effects every day, from burnout at work to aggressive driving.

Regarding health consequences, insomnia can cause an increased risk of heart disease, depression and anxiety, diabetes, hypertension, and all-cause mortality. However, the latest study found that insomnia also blunts our social conscience, making us less willing to help others.

In one part of the study, the scientists demonstrated that charitable giving decreased in the week after Daylight Saving Time (DST). During this time, people in most states (aside from Hawaii and Arizona) lose one hour of daylight.

The team found that donations declined by 10% in states that observe DST, indicating a rise in selfish tendencies. Interestingly, this decrease didn’t occur in states that didn’t spring forward or when they returned to standard time during the fall.

Science Explains How Insomnia Can Cause Selfish Behavior

UC Berkeley research scientists Eti Ben Simon and Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology, led the study. The findings add to the mounting evidence that sleep deprivation harms individual health and weakens connections between people. Lack of sleep can even reduce the altruistic spirit across nations and make people more selfish.

“Over the past 20 years, we have discovered a very intimate link between our sleep health and our mental health. Indeed, we’ve not been able to discover a single major psychiatric condition in which sleep is normal,” Walker said.

“But this new work demonstrates that a lack of sleep not only damages the health of an individual, but degrades social interactions between individuals and, furthermore, degrades the very fabric of human society itself. How we operate as a social species — and we are a social species — seems profoundly dependent on how much sleep we are getting.”

“We’re starting to see more and more studies, including this one, where the effects of sleep loss don’t just stop at the individual, but propagate to those around us,” said Ben Simon. “If you’re not getting enough sleep, it doesn’t just hurt your own well-being, it hurts the well-being of your entire social circle, including strangers.”

The findings appeared in the open-access journal PLOS Biology.

Three Studies Prove the Connection Between Sleep And Selfish Tendencies

The recent report includes three studies analyzing how sleep loss impacts generosity. In the first study, scientists placed 24 healthy participants in a functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI). They scanned their brains following eight hours of sleep and a night of no sleep.

They discovered that the brain regions that form the mind network theory had less activity after a restless night. This part of the brain becomes active when people empathize with others or try to understand their needs.

“When we think about other people, this network engages and allows us to comprehend what other person’s needs are: What are they thinking about? Are they in pain? Do they need help?” Ben Simon said. “However, this network was markedly impaired when individuals were sleep deprived. It’s as though these parts of the brain fail to respond when we are trying to interact with other people after not getting enough sleep.”

A second study tracked over a hundred people online for three or four nights. During the study period, researchers measured their sleep quality in terms of sleep duration and how often they awoke. Next, the team assessed their willingness and desire to help others by volunteering or holding a door open for someone. This data gave them a good idea of how sleep quality may result in selfish behaviors.

“Here, we found that a decrease in the quality of someone’s sleep from one night to the next predicted a significant decrease in the desire to help other people from one subsequent day to the next,” Ben Simon said. “Those with poor sleep the night prior were the ones that reported being less willing and keen to help others the following day.”

sleepless

The impact of daylight savings time

Finally, the last part of the study involved analyzing data from three million charitable donations in the US between 2001 and 2016. The scientists wanted to know if the number of gifts changed after Daylight Savings Time. They discovered a 10% decline in donations, but gift-giving did not decrease in the two states that do not follow DST. The data proves that selfish actions increase when people lose sleep.

“Even a very modest ‘dose’ of sleep deprivation — here, just the loss of one single hour of sleep opportunity linked to daylight saving time — has a very measurable and very real impact on people’s generosity and, therefore, how we function as a connected society,” Walker said. “When people lose one hour of sleep, there’s a clear hit on our innate human kindness and our motivation to help other people in need.”

Researchers Say Proper Sleep Can Help Unite People Again

A prior study by Walker and Ben Simon found that insomnia resulted in social withdrawal and increased feelings of loneliness. People become more socially isolated when they don’t get proper slumber, likely because it leads to depression.

Moreover, when sleep-deprived individuals talked with others, their peers also felt more lonely. According to Walker, this indicates that lack of sleep can cause psychological issues that spread to others like a virus.

“Looking at the big picture, we’re starting to see that a lack of sleep results in a quite asocial and, from a helping perspective, anti-social individual, which has manifold consequences to how we live together as a social species,” he said. “A lack of sleep makes people less empathetic, less generous, more socially withdrawn, and it’s infectious — there is contagion of loneliness.”

“The realization that the quantity and quality of sleep affects an entire society, caused by an impairment in prosocial behavior, may provide insights into our societal state of affairs in the present day,” Walker added.

We need to value rest.

The study highlights the importance of prioritizing sleep in modern society. Artificial lighting, technology, and stress have caused people to stay up later during the workweek. But this doesn’t bode well for creating a more compassionate world.

“Promoting sleep, rather than shaming people for sleeping enough, could very palpably help shape the social bonds we all experience every day,” Ben Simon said.

“Sleep, it turns out, is an incredible lubricant to prosocial, connected, empathic, kind and generous human behavior. In these divisive times, if there was ever a need for a strong, prosocial lubricant to enable the very best version of ourselves within society, now seems to be it,” said Walker, author of the international bestseller, Why We Sleep. “Sleep may be a wonderful ingredient that enables the alacrity of helping between human beings.”

“Sleep is essential for all aspects of our physical, mental and emotional lives,” Ben Simon said. “When sleep is undervalued in society, not only do we get sleep-deprived doctors, nurses and students, but we also suffer from unkind and less empathic interactions on a daily basis.”

In developed countries, over 50% of all people report inadequate sleep during the work week.

“It is time as a society to abandon the idea that sleep is unnecessary or a waste and, without feeling embarrassed, start getting the sleep that we need,” she added. “It is the best form of kindness we can offer ourselves, as well as the people around us.”

Final Thoughts on Study Linking Insomnia to Selfish Behavior

Scientists have observed a worrying trend in modern society — an increase in selfishness caused partially by sleep deprivation. We slumber much less than we did even a few decades ago. Technological advancements and long work hours have led to a sleep loss epidemic. Researchers found that the fewer hours people slept, the more selfish and withdrawn they became. However, they believe that educating the public about the importance of getting enough rest could help increase empathy.

By Kristen Lawrence    December 03, 2022

source: www.powerofpositivity.com


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‘Setting boundaries’: Dealing with stress around the holiday season

We’re now only weeks away from Christmas which means, for some, a time to stress over having to have a perfect holiday season. Experts say the season is not a time for competition but a time for celebration with friends and family.

Family dynamics around this time of year, though, can be a point of stress.

“Understanding boundaries and setting those boundaries. Also looking at triggers there might be within the family and trying to preplan to avoid those triggers and then having escape plans,” said psychologist Dr. Delaine Shackleton with the Kelowna Psychologists Group.

With rising prices and inflation, financial pressure is proving to be one of the biggest stressors of this Christmas season.

“I think people compare themselves to other families and the big thing there is to just not compare, to try and focus on yourselves, getting the basics in line and making sure that you’re reaching out for support as needed,” Shackleton said.

“People feel a lot of pressure and they feel like they need to be the provider that they want to be. They feel like they have to admit defeat if they can’t be what they had an idea of being.”

christmas

Kelowna’s Mamas for Mamas has seen a huge jump in people accessing their services this year and this holiday season isn’t any different.

The organization will be providing Christmas hampers to families, doing their best to help alleviate the pressure of the holidays.

“You just want to make sure that they have that special gift under the tree for their little one, you really want to make sure they’ve got a special meal they can have while they’re off of work,” said Mamas for Mamas founder Shannon Christensen.

“You really want to make sure that you’re reducing the mental health crisis that these families are often facing trying to do it all on their own.”

Although the holidays can cause a lot of stress, Shackleton wants to remind people to enjoy this time of year.

“We can do the best that we can do and that’s all we can do, nobody can do more than the best that we can do. Just give yourself that grace and that period of just taking a breath. Embrace the lovely moments because (there) are lots of lovely moments about the holidays as well,” Shackleton added.

She also emphasizes the importance of self-care during the busy holiday season.

By Jasmine King    Global News   November 25, 2022

source: Global News