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Dna Study Provides Insight Into How To Live Longer

Every year spent in education adds an average of 11 months to people’s lifespan, say scientists.

The researchers say a person loses two months for every kilogram overweight they are – and seven years for smoking a packet of cigarettes a day.

Unusually, the Edinburgh university team found their answers by analysing differences in people’s genetic code or DNA.

Ultimately they think it will reveal new ways of helping us to live longer.

The group used the genetic code of more than 600,000 people who are taking part in a natural, yet massive, experiment.

Clearer picture

If someone smokes, drinks, dropped out of school and is overweight, it can be difficult to identify the impact of one specific unhealthy behaviour.

Instead, the researchers turned to the natural experiment.

Some people carry mutations in their DNA that increase appetite or make them more likely to put on weight, so researchers were able to compare those programmed to eat more with those who were not – irrespective of their wider lifestyles.

Dr Peter Joshi, from the university’s Usher Institute, said: “It doesn’t mess up the analysis. You can look directly at the effect of weight, in isolation, on lifespan.”

Similar sets of mutations have been linked to how long people spend in education and the enjoyment they get from smoking or drinking.

The research team also found specific mutations in human DNA that alter lifespan, reported in the journal Nature Communications.

  • Mutations in a gene (a set of instructions in DNA) that is involved in running the immune system could add seven months of life on average
  • People with a mutation that increased levels of bad cholesterol knocked eight months off life expectancy
  • A rare mutation in a gene – APOE – linked to dementia reduced lifespans by 11 months
  • And one that made smoking more appealing cut lives by five months

Dr Joshi says these genetic variants are the “tip of the iceberg”. He says around 20% of the variation in lifespans may be inherited, but only 1% of such mutations have yet been found.

However, he said that while genetics does influence lifespan, “you’ve got even more influence” through the choices you make.

Dr Joshi told the BBC: “We hope to discover novel genes affecting lifespan to give us new information about ageing and construct therapeutic interventions for ageing.”

There are also some disease mutations that clearly affect life expectancy, and to devastating effect, such as the Huntington’s gene. People with Huntington’s often die in their 20s.

However, in order to follow people until the end of their lives, many of the people studied were born before 1940.

Prof David Melzer, from the University of Exeter Medical School, said: “An extra year of education then may have been much more important than it is now.”

 

By James Gallagher    Health and science reporter, BBC News website    13 October 2017
source: www.bbc.com
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Higher IQ Linked To This Type of Fitness

Study of 1.2 million people finds links between fitness and verbal comprehension and logical thinking skills.

Young adults who are fitter have a higher IQ and are more likely to go on to higher education, research finds.

Higher IQ is linked to a higher heart and lung capacity, not to muscular strength.

Heart and lung capacity was most strongly linked to verbal comprehension and logical thinking skills.

Professor Michael Nilsson, one of the study’s authors, said:

 “Being fit means that you also have good heart and lung capacity and that your brain gets plenty of oxygen.
This may be one of the reasons why we can see a clear link with fitness, but not with muscular strength.
We are also seeing that there are growth factors that are important.”

The researchers found that the link is down to environmental factors, not genes.

In other words, it could be possible to increase your IQ by getting fitter.

Dr Maria Åberg, the study’s first author, said:

“We have also shown that those youngsters who improve their physical fitness between the ages of 15 and 18 increase their cognitive performance.
This being the case, physical education is a subject that has an important place in schools, and is an absolute must if we want to do well in maths and other theoretical subjects.”

The conclusions come from a study of 1.2 million Swedish men doing their military service, who were born between 1950 and 1976.

source: PSYBLOG  AUGUST 25, 2017


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Mental Health In Schools: A Hidden Crisis Affecting Millions Of Students

You might call it a silent epidemic.

Up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year.

So in a school classroom of 25 students, five of them may be struggling with the same issues many adults deal with: depression, anxiety, substance abuse.

And yet most children — nearly 80 percent — who need mental health services won’t get them.

Whether treated or not, the children do go to school. And the problems they face can tie into major problems found in schools: chronic absence, low achievement, disruptive behavior and dropping out.

Experts say schools could play a role in identifying students with problems and helping them succeed. Yet it’s a role many schools are not prepared for.

Educators face the simple fact that, often because of a lack of resources, there just aren’t enough people to tackle the job. And the ones who are working on it are often drowning in huge caseloads. Kids in need can fall through the cracks.

“No one ever asked me”

Katie is one of those kids.

She’s 18 now. Back when she was 8, she had to transfer to a different school in Prince George’s County, Md., in the middle of the year.

“At recess, I didn’t have friends to play with,” she recalls. “I would make an excuse to stay inside with the teachers and finish extra work or do extra credit.”

We’re not using Katie’s last name to protect her privacy. She’s been diagnosed with bulimia and depression.

She says that in the span of a few months, she went from honor roll to failing. She put on weight; other kids called her “fat.” She began cutting herself with a razor every day. And she missed a ton of school.

“I felt like every single day was a bad day,” she says. “I felt like nobody wanted to help me.”

Katie says teachers acted like she didn’t care about her schoolwork. “I was so invisible to them.”

Every year of high school, she says, was “horrible.” She told her therapist she wanted to die and was admitted into the hospital.

During all this time, she says, not a single principal or teacher or counselor ever asked her one simple question: “What’s wrong?”

If someone had asked, she says, she would have told them.

Who should have asked?

We talked to educators, advocates, teachers and parents across the country. Here’s what they say a comprehensive approach to mental health and education would look like.

The family

The role: The first place to spot trouble is in the home, whether that trouble is substance abuse, slipping grades or a child who sleeps too much. Adults at home — parents, siblings, other relatives — are often the first to notice something going on.

The reality: Many families do not know what to look for. Sometimes a serious problem can be overlooked as “just a phase.” But it’s those sudden changes — angry outbursts, declining grades, changes in sleeping or eating — that can signal problems. When something unusual crops up, families can keep in close touch with the school.

child struggling

The teacher

The role: During the week, many students see their teachers even more than their own families. Teachers are in a prime spot to notice changes in behavior. They read essays, see how students relate with other kids and notice when they aren’t paying attention.

The reality: Teachers already have a ton on their plates. They’re pressured to get test scores up, on top of preparing lessons and grading assignments. Plus, many teachers receive minimal training in mental health issues. But when they do see something concerning, they can raise a flag.

The social worker

The role: Social workers act like a bridge. If teachers come to them with a concern — maybe a child is acting withdrawn — one of the first things they’ll do is call home. They see each child through the lens of their family, school and community. They might learn that a family is going through a divorce or homelessness.

The reality: There aren’t enough of them. According to one model, every school should have one social worker for every 250 students. The reality is that in some schools, social workers are responsible for many more.

The counselor

The role: In some schools, counselors focus solely on academics: helping students pick classes and apply to college. But in others, they also act a lot like social workers, serving as a link to families and working with students who need support.

The reality: Like school social workers, there just aren’t enough counselors. On average nationwide, each counselor is responsible for nearly 500 students. The American School Counselor Association recommends a caseload nearly half that size.

The special education teacher

The Role: Special education teachers may start working with students when a mental health problem affects the ability to do school work. They are primarily responsible for working on academic skills.

The reality: Again, there aren’t enough of them. Nearly every state has reported a shortage of special education teachers. Half of all school districts say they have trouble recruiting highly qualified candidates.

The school psychologist

The Role: Here’s one job that, on paper, is truly dedicated to student mental health. School psychologists are key players when it comes to crisis intervention and can refer students to outside help, such as a psychiatrist.

The reality: If you sense a pattern here, you’re right. In the U.S., there is just one school psychologist for every 1,400 students, according to the most recent data available from the National Association of School Psychologists.

The school nurse

The role: Most any school nurse will tell you, physical and mental health are tough to separate. That puts nurses in a prime spot to catch problems early. For example: A kid who comes into the nurse’s office a lot, complaining of headaches or stomach problems? That could be a sign of anxiety, a strategy to avoid a bully, or a sign of troubles at home.

The reality: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least one nurse for every 750 students, but the actual ratio across the country can be much higher.

The principal

The role: As the top dogs in schools, principals make the big decisions about priorities. They can bring in social-emotional, anti-bullying and suicide-prevention programs.

The reality: Principals also have a lot on their plates: the day-to-day management of student behavior, school culture and teacher support.

Getting help, and “excited for life”

Katie says things started to turn around for her when she met a nurse at the Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., who finally showed interest in what was wrong.

Now, she’s begun college and wants to be a pediatric nurse.

“I’m doing a lot better now” she says. ” Obviously, I mean, I’m a lot happier. I’m excited for school. I’m excited to graduate. I’m excited for life.”

August 31, 2016    MEG ANDERSON     KAVITHA CARDOZA
Part One in an NPR Ed series on mental health in schools.
 
source: www.npr.org


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Top 10 Healthiest New Year’s Resolutions

This year, pick one of these worthy resolutions, and stick with it. Here’s to your health!

New Year, healthier you

New Year’s resolutions are a bit like babies: They’re fun to make but extremely difficult to maintain.

Each January, roughly one in three Americans resolve to better themselves in some way. A much smaller percentage of people actually make good on those resolutions. While about 75% of people stick to their goals for at least a week, less than half (46%) are still on target six months later, a 2002 study found.

It’s hard to keep up the enthusiasm months after you’ve swept up the confetti, but it’s not impossible. This year, pick one of the following worthy resolutions, and stick with it. Here’s to your health!

Lose weight

The fact that this is perennially among the most popular resolutions suggests just how difficult it is to commit to. But you can succeed if you don’t expect overnight success. “You want results yesterday, and desperation mode kicks in,” says Pam Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women. “Beware of the valley of quickie cures.”

Also, plan for bumps in the road. Use a food journal to keep track of what you eat and have a support system in place. “Around week four to six…people become excuse mills,” Dr. Peeke says. “That’s why it’s important to have someone there on a regular basis to get you through those rough times.”

Stay in touch

Feel like old friends (or family) have fallen by the wayside? It’s good for your health to reconnect with them. Research suggests people with strong social ties live longer than those who don’t.

In fact, a lack of social bonds can damage your health as much as alcohol abuse and smoking, and even more than obesity and lack of exercise, a 2010 study in the journal PLoS Medicine suggests.

In a technology-fixated era, it’s never been easier to stay in touch—or rejuvenate your relationship—with friends and family, so fire up Facebook and follow up with in-person visits.

Quit smoking

Fear that you’ve failed too many times to try again? Talk to any ex-smoker, and you’ll see that multiple attempts are often the path to success.

Try different methods to find out what works. And think of the cash you’ll save! (We know you know the ginormous health benefit.)

“It’s one of the harder habits to quit,” says Merle Myerson, MD, director of the Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Program at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals, in New York City. “But I always tell people to think of how much money they will save.”

Save money

Save money by making healthy lifestyle changes. Walk or ride your bike to work, or explore carpooling. (That means more money in your pocket and less air pollution.)

Cut back on gym membership costs by exercising at home. Many fitness programs on videogame systems like Nintendo’s Wii Wii Fit Plus and Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect Your Shape Fitness Evolved can get you sweating.

Take stock of what you have in the fridge and make a grocery list. Aimless supermarket shopping can lead to poor choices for your diet and wallet.

goals

Cut your stress

A little pressure now and again won’t kill us; in fact, short bouts of stress give us an energy boost. But if stress is chronic, it can increase your risk of—or worsen—insomnia, depression, obesity, heart disease, and more.

Long work hours, little sleep, no exercise, poor diet, and not spending time with family and friends can contribute to stress, says Roberta Lee, MD, an integrative medicine specialist at Beth Israel Medical Center, in New York City, and the author of The Super Stress Solution.

“Stress is an inevitable part of life,” she says. “Relaxation, sleep, socializing, and taking vacations are all things we tell ourselves we deserve but don’t allow ourselves to have.”

Volunteer

We tend to think our own bliss relies on bettering ourselves, but our happiness also increases when we help others, says Peter Kanaris, PhD, coordinator of public education for the New York State Psychological Association.

And guess what? Happiness is good for your health. A 2010 study found that people with positive emotions were about 20% less likely than their gloomier peers to have a heart attack or develop heart disease. Other research suggests that positive emotions can make people more resilient and resourceful.

“Someone who makes this sort of resolution is likely to obtain a tremendous personal benefit in the happiness department,” Kanaris says.

Go back to school

No matter how old you are, heading back to the classroom can help revamp your career, introduce you to new friends, and even boost your brainpower.

A 2007 study found that middle-age adults who had gone back to school (including night school) sometime in the previous quarter century had stronger memories and verbal skills than those who did not. What’s more, several studies have linked higher educational attainment to a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“You are gaining a sense of accomplishment by gaining new knowledge, and you are out there meeting people and creating possibilities that were never there before,” Kanaris says.

Cut back on alcohol

While much has been written about the health benefits of a small amount of alcohol, too much tippling is still the bigger problem. (In fact, binge drinking seems to be on the rise.)

Drinking alcohol in excess affects the brain’s neurotransmitters and can increase the risk of depression, memory loss, or even seizures.

Chronic heavy drinking boosts your risk of liver and heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and mental deterioration, and even cancers of the mouth, throat, liver, and breast.

Get more sleep

You probably already know that a good night’s rest can do wonders for your mood—and appearance. But sleep is more beneficial to your health than you might realize.

A lack of sleep has been linked to a greater risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. And sleep is crucial for strengthening memories (a process called consolidation).

So take a nap—and don’t feel guilty about it.

Travel

The joys and rewards of vacations can last long after the suitcase is put away. “We can often get stuck in a rut, and we can’t get out of our own way,” Kanaris says. “Everything becomes familiar and too routine.”

But traveling allows us to tap into life as an adventure, and we can make changes in our lives without having to do anything too bold or dramatic.

“It makes you feel rejuvenated and replenished,” he adds. “It gets you out of your typical scenery, and the effects are revitalizing. It’s another form of new discovery and learning, and great for the body and the soul.”

by Alyssa Sparacino


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The Secret to Better Learning That Most People Don’t Know

Despite multiple studies showing the benefits, many people don’t know this learning trick.

Mixing up your learning can lead to massive gains, a new study of academic performance reveals.

For years now ‘interleaving’ has been a secret largely confined to researchers.

Interleaving means practising or learning different skills in quick succession.

When interleaving, tennis players might practice forehands, backhands and volleys altogether.

Interleaving for musicians could mean practising scales, arpeggios and chords all in the same session.

It’s quite a different method to how people normally learn.

Tennis players typically focus on forehands for a session and musicians on scales for a session.

The benefits have been shown in studies of motor skills:

“…college baseball players practiced hitting three types of pitches (e.g. curve ball) that were either blocked by type or systematically interleaved.
During a  subsequent test in which the three types of pitches were interleaved (as in an actual game), hitting performance was greater if practice had been interleaved rather than blocked.
A similar benefit was observed in a study of basketball shooting…” (Taylor & Rohrer, 2010)

interleaving_learning

A new study, though, shows the dramatic benefits of interleaving on children’s performance at math.

For the research some kids were taught math the usual way.

They learned one mathematical technique in a lesson and then practised it.

A second group, however, were given assignments which included questions requiring different techniques.

The results were impressive.

On a test one day later, the students who’d been using the interleaving method did 25% better.

But, when tested a month later, the interleaving method did 76% better.

That’s quite an increase given that both groups had been learning for the same amount of time.

The only difference was that some learned block by block and others had their learning mixed up.

One of the potential drawbacks of the technique is that it can feel harder at first.

Instead of concentrating on one skill at a time, you have to work on two or more.

But interleaving probably works because it forces the mind to work harder.

Instead of relying on learning a system and sticking with it, the mind has to keep searching and reaching for solutions.

The research was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology (Rohrer et al., 2015).

source: PsyBlog


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Learning in nature is good for teachers and students

September 18, 2014

By David Suzuki     with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Connecting Youth With Nature Project Lead Rachelle Delaney.

Children belong outdoors. We know this intuitively, but now an extensive and ever-growing body of research supports it. Kids who spend time outside every day are healthier, happier, more creative, less stressed and more alert than those who don’t. Several recent studies even show time in nature or green space helps reduce ADHD symptoms.

But what about teachers who take children outdoors, contributing to their learning and growth? More alert, calm and creative students are a plus to them as educators. Could they also benefit as individuals from taking students outside every day?

With most of Canada’s educators back from the summer break, facing the many challenges that contribute to the country’s high rates of teacher attrition — from increasing class sizes to mounting curriculum expectations — it’s a good time to ask: How can “nature as classroom” support teacher well-being?

So far, only a few studies focus on the benefits of green time for teachers, but those indicate that teaching in nature has great effects. A study out of the U.K.’s King’s College London suggests teaching outdoors makes educators more confident and enthusiastic about their work, and more innovative in their teaching strategies. By extension, schools benefit from the leadership and influence of their teachers who take students outside.

Rob Ridley, field centre coordinator with Ontario’s Peel District School Board, says he has seen many educators gain confidence and renew their interest in teaching simply from taking their classes outdoors.

“Going outside takes away the boundaries of your classroom walls,” he says. “It opens you up to new ideas and lesson plans. You’ll step outside to study science or social studies, and suddenly you’ll see ways to connect it to math or language arts.”

Hopi Martin, who teaches at the Toronto District School Board’s Forest Valley Outdoor Education Centre, agrees: “Teaching outdoors demands that we respond to the wonder of students and opportunities that arise. I could have a beautiful lesson on tree identification prepared that gets totally derailed by the discovery of ants on a tree. Going outside has made me a stronger, more innovative, more resilient teacher.”

For Michael Mendoza, a teacher-librarian at Wilmington Elementary School in Toronto who regularly takes students outdoors, it’s seeing “an immediate absorption of knowledge, and the students’ contagious eagerness and curiosity” that refreshes and inspires him as an educator. On a personal note, he adds, “Being outside makes me feel more awake and alive.”

“The fact is, teachers aren’t just teachers, they’re human beings,” says Aryne Sheppard, senior public engagement specialist at the David Suzuki Foundation. “And research has shown time and again that nature makes humans happier, less irritable, and more creative and generous. Teaching is stressful work, and nature provides a powerful stress buffer.”

Despite all the benefits for students and educators, moving classes outdoors can be daunting. Teachers cite a host of barriers, from parental concerns to lack of time, confidence and support from administration.

So how can a teacher ease in (or jump right in) to teaching outside?

Ridley suggests joining forces with fellow educators for support and advice. Mendoza also seeks out guidance from outdoor enthusiasts. Several online communities exist to help and inspire, like the popular weekly #EnviroEd Twitter chats.

Organizations all across the country, including the David Suzuki Foundation, offer workshops for educators interested in taking students outside. These often include sample activities, logistical tips and advice for getting parents and administration on-board. And many of the same organizations have published excellent educational resources for teaching outdoors. The Foundation’s own Connecting With Nature guides for kindergarten through Grade 8 are full of lesson plans, step-by-step instructions and ideas for engaging local communities.

So while the idea of moving science or math class outdoors might be unnerving at first, the end result is more than worth it, for the well-being of everyone involved.

“If teachers are happy and connected to nature, they can pass that on to their students,” Sheppard says. “They can be the role models parents want for their children — role models the world needs.”

After all, those who learn to appreciate and love nature are more likely to protect it.