The number of middle-aged men and women suffering a cerebral stroke has apparently risen significantly in the last decade or so. It seems that the press release from the Stroke Association making this pronouncement which has been widely reported almost verbatim by the media is based on NHS hospital admission statistics, which could have all kinds of biases and errors. I couldn’t find an actual peer-reviewed research paper to support the numbers and neither could Adam Jacobs the stats guy. It may well be just scaremongering by the media and it’s sure to boost charitable donations and raise awareness, but it’s also scary for anyone in middle age, scary enough to get you worrying and raise your blood pressure. That said, there are certain lifestyle choices that medical research suggests increase the risk of stroke, whether this latest media frenzy is based on published science or not, and so some advice on reducing one’s risk might be useful.
Thankfully, The Guardian has a nice howto on lowering your risk of suffering this often life-changing and sometimes lethal cardiovascular event.
Basically, it boils down to this:
- Stop smoking
- Exercise, but don’t overdo it, avoid straining
- Cut your calorie intake, eat smaller portions (obesity and diabetes increase risk)
- Eat a lot less salt, avoid shop-bought bread, for instance
- If you drink alcohol, spread it over the week rather than binging
- Don’t use illicit recreational drugs, including so-called “legal” highs like ecstasy, flakka and cat
- De-stress, seek help for depression
- Monitor your own blood pressure at home and see your doc if it’s consistently higher than about 140/85
I’d add another piece of advice…don’t ignore a “mini-stroke” (transient ischaemic attack (TIA)), temporary blackouts and such, if you have weird symptoms (dropping your coffee cup, slurred speech, confusion, disorientation that passes after a moment and isn’t due to alcohol use, see your doc urgently)
Alpha-PVP (α-pyrrolidinopentiophenone, alpha-PVP) is a synthetic stimulant of the cathinone class; the street drug – commonly known as flakka – is chemically similar to the illegal high MDPV (bath salts), but lacks the 3,4-methylenedioxy motif; the same difference that distinguishes methamphetamine (meth) from MDMA (ecstasy). Hype in the media have alluded to flakk leading to extreme violence, paranoid psychoses, compulsive nudity and “zombie-like” behaviour and worse. Now, researchers at The Scripps Research Institute in California have demonstrated that alpha-PVP appears to be as potent a stimulant, and therefore as addictive, as MDPV. (News source)
“There have been assertions that flakka is somehow worse than MDPV, but this study shows that the two are very similar,” explains Scripps’ Michael Taffe. “That doesn’t mean that flakka use is ‘safe’. Our data show that flakka is as potent as MDPV, making it a very good stimulant, arguably with worse addiction liability than methamphetamine.”
Aarde, Shawn M., et al. “In vivo potency and efficacy of the novel cathinone α-pyrrolidinopentiophenone and 3, 4-methylenedioxypyrovalerone: self-administration and locomotor stimulation in male rats.” Psychopharmacology (2015): 1-11.
Interesting interview in The Washington Post that corroborates what I’ve thought about all these special weightloss diet scams and con tricks made to sell books and supplements. Here are the salient points:
- When you are dieting, you actually become more likely to notice food…and it actually begins to look more appetizing and tempting and harder to resist.
- As you lose body fat, hormone levels changes, in particular concentrations of the hormones that help you feel full decrease, while hunger hormones increase.
- As you diet, your metabolism slows down so as to get the most out of the food you are eating and this means storing excess calories as fat.
Who knew? Well, lots of people knew, including many of those scammers with a diet book to sell.
Last month I reported on research into “green” coffee for SpectroscopyNOW. From a quick glance at the reader statistics it looks like it was one of my most popular articles in recent months. What is it about coffee? We’re fascinated…
Anyway, the story discussed how unroasted, green, coffee beans have become a popular alternative to regular coffee because of supposed health benefits, but there was little solid evidence of mineral availability or antioxidants from a green coffee drink that might support the claims.
Now, a team at Wroclaw University of Technology, in Poland, have used a sophisticated analytical technique* to measure how much calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and manganese ions are released into an infusion depending on whether or not the drink is made “in the cup”, using a drip filter or the Turkish coffee method. They found that calcium and magnesium are released (and so can be ingested) better than the other mineral ions but only if drip filtering or Turkish brewing was used rather than making it in the cup**. Tests on antioxidant activity also correlated with those brews from which the most calcium was leached.
*High-resolution-continuum source flame atomic absorption spectrometry
**My photo of a frothy fern in my coffee, not green coffee, unfortunately, roasted
A cutting from the Nepalese government website for the National Seismological Centre dated 2011:
“From the available data there has been no great earthquakes of magnitude >8.0 in the gap between the earthquakes of 1905 AD and 1934 AD and there is a real threat that a major earthquake may occur in this gap that will affect Western Nepal.”
A big earthquake was long overdue, and while it was magnitude 7.6, just look at the number of lives lost and the people injured. Earthquake proofing of buildings and emergency planning is feasible, but only if there’s a willingness to spend the money and if those holding the purse strings deem it worth the investment!
The best way to help in the aftermath of the earthquake is not to send stuff, nor is it to grab your backpack and head for Nepal, leave that to the logistics people and the rescue and healthcare experts. The best way for you to help is to GIVE MONEY NOW
A triumphant homecoming gig for Cambridge band Fred’s House saw a heaving Junction2 rocking to the rafters to the bands confident and big, big sound. The band old favourites at Strawberry Fair, Lodestar Festival and countless pubs and clubs in the region came home for the last steps of their Shut Up and Dance tour, delighting an enthusiastic crowd that was on its feet from the first beat with classics from their first, rootsy and folky album “Bonnie and Clyde” and introducing a few new tracks destined for their next album that reveal their strengthening songwriting skills.
The ever-smiling drummer percussionist Paul Richards provides the firm but dynamic foundations for the band with feathery flourishes interspersed between the strongest beat and partnererd perfectly by Gafin Jameson on bass guitar. The departure of lead guitarist Lachlan Golder, who played one of his final gigs with band at a private bash in Cottenham in February for Tricia, the band’s biggest fan who was 50 this year, left space for guest guitarist 18-year old Adam Chinnery who by turns was the classic country rock rhythm player and soloist and a speedy shredmeister where it was warranted by the space in some of the band’s more uptempo songs. Ali Bunclarke recently joined the housemates on keyboard, adding a subtle new layer to the overall sound and some cool fills and licks (Tricia is disappointed that I didn’t fit Ali into my photo).
Acoustic guitar player Griff, brother of Gafin and founding member, was on top form on the 6-string and vocally. And, of course, Vicki Gavin, on lead vocals is the band’s not so secret weapon, her voice never straining sweeps from the fragile rootsy sounds of their gentler repertoire to the full on raunch of their rockers. Vix and Griff, recently engaged to be married, blend beautifully with Gavin providing a subtle third harmony part (hinging on that vocal connection with Griff that you only get with siblings).
A stunning Neil Young cover was icing on the cake and there was plenty of whooping, footstamping and applause, and the occasional wolfwhistle (well done Chris) which brought the band back for an encore. From the first note, this awesome band are destined for greatness.
Husband and wife duo The Black Feathers opened wonderfully for Fred’s House. Beautiful harmonies on melancholic melodies, great guitar (with none of that silly two-handed percussive playing, just proper fingerstyle and strumming) and a unique take on English Americana.
Many species of brush-footed butterfly rely on nettles (Urtica dioica) for their caterpillars to thrive, among them, the comma (Polygonia c-album), the peacock (Inachis io), small tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) and red admiral (Vanessa atalanta).
Sciencebase – currently rebranding weeds as wildflowers…
Apparently, puffins prefer to be deeper into rocky crevices on coastal cliff faces than razorbills (and guillemots) who cling to the edges. The puffin then has to wait until those other birds fly off, before it can get away itself to feed and socialise.
Sheer coincidence that we were visiting the East Riding of Yorkshire last week when the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) opened its new visitor centre at Bempton Cliffs. We approached the reserve on two walks first from North Landing on Flamborough Head where I photographed coble fishers landing and unloading their boat and then from the village of Speeton with its tiny Anglo-Saxon church (St Leonard’s and its flock of rarebreed Leicester Longwool sheep).
Bempton Cliffs plays host to England’s largest nesting colony of Northern Gannets (Sula bassana), graceful and quiet in flight and far more beautiful than their rather ugly name. The cliffs also host countless kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots, fulmars and puffins as well as pigeons, rooks and herring gulls.
Some nice tricks to deviate from the norm with your smartphone camera: Drive-by panorama, water-drop macro lens, armless selfies with your headphone cable, cardboard “tripod”, underwater housing, binocular zoom and more