How multitasking might actually age you

Anti-aging tips and tricks go as far back as Cleopatra, who took baths in donkey’s milk (via Harper’s Bazaar). And as much time and money you spend on creams, gels, and other products, multitasking could be undermining all that work and prematurely aging you (via Health).

Multitasking can seem like a good habit, and a great way to get more out of your day. But that may just be wishful, and even harmful, thinking. Cal Newport, a Georgetown professor and author, explained to Fast Company, “Many people have convinced themselves that it’s crucial that they are always connected, both professionally and socially, but the reality is that this requirement is self-imposed.”

That self-imposed connection of do it all, all the time for everyone leads to stress. Multitasking actually increases levels of cortisol and adrenaline in our body (via Psychology Today). This is a natural stress response, but if we’re at a heightened level of stress for a long period of time, like if we try to multitask everyday, it has a negative effect that literally shows up on your face.

Multitasking causes stress and stress ages our skin

The scientific article “Brain-Skin Connection: Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging” goes into detail about the link between stress hormones and our skin. They describe how increased cortisol breaks down collagen and elastin, which in turn makes it easier for wrinkles to form.

We need all the collagen and elastin we can get as we age. Collagen is what gives our skin firmness, and elastin, as you might guess from the name, is what gives skin its elastic stretch and its ability you bounce back. Every year, after 20, we produce about 1 percent less collagen (via Scientific American).

The need to multitask is an easy myth to buy into in today’s world, trying to keep up with emails, texts, phone calls, news alerts, and more. But it is really a myth. According to a Stanford University study, multitasking actually impedes your brain from working as well as it can (via Stanford News). Try letting go of trying to do it all, all the time. It will be good for your brain, and good for your skin.

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Genetics Might Explain Some Cases of Cerebral Palsy

THURSDAY, Oct. 1, 2020 — Genetic problems cause about 14% of cerebral palsy cases, and many of the implicated genes control the wiring of brain circuits during early fetal development, new research shows.

The largest genetic study of cerebral palsy supports previous findings and provides “the strongest evidence to date that a significant portion of cerebral palsy cases can be linked to rare genetic mutations, and in doing so identified several key genetic pathways involved,” said study co-senior author Dr. Michael Kruer. He’s a neurogeneticist at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

The study was largely funded by the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“We hope this will give patients living with cerebral palsy and their loved ones a better understanding of the disorder, and doctors a clearer road map for diagnosing and treating them,” Kruer said in an NIH news release.

The researchers first searched for spontaneous (“de novo“) mutations in the genes of 250 families in the United States, China and Australia. These rare mutations are believed to occur when cells make mistakes copying their DNA as they multiply and divide.

Cerebral palsy patients had higher levels of potentially harmful de novo mutations than their parents, and about 12% of cerebral palsy cases in the study could be explained by de novo mutations, according to the study published Sept. 28 in the journal Nature Genetics.

This was especially true for cases that had no known cause and represented the majority (63%) of cases in the study.

About another 2% of cases in the study appeared to be linked to recessive, or weaker, versions of genes, which increased the estimate of cases that could be linked to genetic problems to 14%, as has been found in previous research.

Cerebral palsy affects about one in 323 U.S. children and causes permanent problems with movement and posture. The causes of many cases of cerebral palsy are unclear.

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Here's When a Sore Throat Might Be a Symptom of the Coronavirus

Since news of COVID-19, which was first detected in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, exploded onto the scene, there has been one thing that remains constant: Each day we learn more and more about the virus.

That includes its potential symptoms, which often seem run-of-the-mill. Take a sore throat—you might be tempted to shrug off this symptom, but even as one of the less commonly known ones (the most prevalent are fever, dry cough, tiredness, and shortness of breath), it may still indicate infection.

In fact, the World Health Organization notes that 13.9 percent of COVID-19 patients have presented with sore throats.

“Some patients that have experienced sore throat during COVID-19 have reported that it feels like a super dry throat,” says Leo Nissola, M.D., a scientist and investigator at the COVID-19 National Convalescence Plasma Project as well as advisor at COVIDActNow. “And the medical reports show redness in the throat, without bacterial infection, like strep, for example.”

Is a Sore Throat a Symptom of COVID-19?

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That’s a tricky question.

There are numerous causes for inflammation of the inner lining of the throat, including allergies, upper respiratory infections (both viral and bacterial), acid reflux, and even throat cancer.

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Not to mention this: “There is still so much we don’t know about COVID-19 and what we do know has been evolving over time,” says Inna Husain, M.D., an assistant professor in otolaryngology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

“At this time, all upper respiratory illnesses are COVID-19 until proven otherwise.” What’s more, an April review in the European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology revealed that ear, nose, and throat symptoms may precede the development of severe cases of COVID-19.

That said, “there is nothing intrinsically different between a sore throat brought on by COVID-19 and one brought on by any other upper respiratory infections,” says Michael Lerner, M.D., a Yale Medicine laryngologist and assistant professor of otolaryngology at Yale School of Medicine.

What, Exactly, Does a “Sore Throat” Mean?

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On a basic level, you will experience some sort of discomfort in your throat. More specifically, you’ll feel pain when swallowing that can be achy, sharp, or even create a burning sensation.

A sore throat may also be accompanied by a runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, or fever. Other symptoms, according to Alexandra Kreps, M.D., an internist at Tru Whole Care, include “changes in your voice, swollen lymph nodes in your neck or jaw area, and when looking at your tonsils in a mirror they may be red and irritated or could have white patches or pus if severely infected.”

However, Dr. Nissola, says “it is more likely to be a COVID-related sore throat if there are more symptoms, such as fever and malaise.”

A good rule of thumb: “If your sore throat is also accompanied with fever or cough, be suspicious. If your sore throat comes after an episode of heartburn likely its related to reflux. If it is accompanied by sino-nasal congestion, runny nose, and sneezing, it may be allergies,” says Dr. Husain.

What Should You Do If You Have a Sore Throat?

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How you treat your sore throat symptoms should really consider the root cause.

Generally, though, Dr. Husain recommends hydration (drinking water or tea), steam inhalation, and lozenges containing lubricants such as honey. Pain relievers such as Tylenol can also help with discomfort.

Adds Dr. Lerner: If sore throat is from excessive coughing, you can address it though cough suppressants. For nasal congestion, which causes mouth breathing and dryness, try humidification or hydration through nasal saline or irrigation. “Patients that have COVID-19, should be cautious of nasal spread and do this in a safe way, so as not to expose others to aerosols and droplets that may occur from these types of treatments,” he says.

If sore throat is due to allergies, on the other hand, pretreatment with antihistamine prior to allergy season or known allergen exposure— in other wards take an allergy pill— can be helpful, says Dr. Husain.

Last, if the sore throat is caused by reflux, following an anti-reflux diet may lead to a favorable outcome. “I would encourage people to eliminate anything heavily acidic or citrus as this can irritate the lining of the throat. Hard foods such as crackers or chips can also be irritating,” says Dr. Husain, who notes that if a sore throat is present, avoiding coffee or alcohol as well as reducing smoking cigarettes, smoking marijuana, and avoiding vaping is recommended.

While none of these things will necessarily “cure” a sore throat, they can help with some of the discomfort associated with it.

Should You Get Tested for COVID-19 if You Have a Sore Throat?

“For people with nuisance, acute onset symptoms, or any other listed by the Centers for Disease Control as potentially a symptom for COVID, it is important to talk to your healthcare provider to help determine if testing is appropriate,” says Dr. Learner.

Overall, to help keep COVID-19 or any infection or illness at bay, wash your hands frequently, wear a mask and engage in social-distancing.

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Seven things you might not know about blood

Blood is fascinating. Many people learn at school that its function is to transport oxygen and nutrients around the body and remove waste products. But blood has many more functions, including defence against pathogens, regulating our temperature, and keeping important internal chemicals and nutrients balanced.

Here are some other things you might not know about blood.

1. Blood is both liquid and solid

Blood is a connective tissue in the body. It has a multi-cellular component (made of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets) and a liquid extracellular matrix.

Unlike the other connective tissues in the body, blood is a liquid. The extracellular matrix, plasma, is liquid and suspends the cells in blood. But when tissues are damaged, by a cut for example, blood becomes a solid like other connective tissues. This is known as clotting.

Clotting is activated by exposure to anything other than the smooth inner surface of a blood vessel, where a cascade commences to plug the wound. Platelets stick to the open wound, then soluble fibrinogen, a type of plasma protein, is converted to insoluble fibrin, which forms a “mesh” around the plug and prevents further blood loss. Over time, as this heals, the mesh and plug are broken down (or pulled off, if you pick scabs).

In most people, the blood is made up of about 45% cells—mainly red blood cells, only 1% are white blood cells—and 55% plasma. Too much or too little of any of these can cause disease, such as anaemia.

Blood cells are constantly produced and recycled. The body produces about 2 million red blood cells a second, but this can be vastly increased in times of stress, such as at high altitudes, where less oxygen is available.

On average, men have between 4.7 to 6.1 million cells per microlitre, and women between 4.2 to 5.4 million cells per microlitre. There are 1,000 microlitres per millilitre.

2. Volume is always changing

The volume of blood in a person’s body changes over a 24-hour period. The body has its highest volume before lunch, as liquid is taken into the body.

A pregnant woman’s blood volume can increase by up to 50% during pregnancy. This is to support the uterus, which has the placenta and developing foetus in it.

But on average, men normally have between five to six litres of blood, and women have between four to five litres.

3. There are more than four blood types

We inherit our blood type from our parents. We either have blood type A, B, AB, or O. These groups determines what antigens you have, which means that depending on your blood type, blood from a person with an incompatible group cannot be transfused into another person.

But the other main blood group typing is Rhesus (Rh). People are either Rh+ or Rh- – meaning a person who is Rh+ has additional antigens, and cannot donate blood to someone who is Rh-, as this can cause an immune response.

4. We’re always making more blood cells

We constantly recycle blood cells and can make more blood cells when blood is lost. This means we can donate approximately 470 millilitres of blood at one time. The body takes about 12 weeks for men and 16 weeks for women to fully replenish all the blood cells donated.

However, if we lose more than 40% of blood volume (a process known as exsanguination), we die. If we lose around 10-20% of blood, the body goes into shock. While in shock, the body will try to fix the situation by increasing heart rate and breathing, and the body sweats and skin loses colour.

5. Blood has a ‘use-by’ date

It used to be that “whole” blood donations had to be used all at once. But now, the blood is separated into its different components – red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma—to make sure it is used as efficiently as possible, since a patient may only need one blood component.

Blood, like all things, has a use-by date. How quickly it must be used depends on the part of blood. Red blood cells can be stored for about six weeks. But platelets only last a few days so are constantly needed. Other parts, such as plasma, can be frozen for up to a year. White cells are usually filtered out of donations.

6. Blood loss was medicine

“Bloodletting,” which dates back at least 3000 years, used to be a popular treatment for many common ailments. Many cases of bloodletting used leeches, which can consume five to ten millilitres of blood at a time—about ten times its body weight.

Bloodletting is behind the red-and-white poles you see outside a barber’s shop. The red represents the blood, and the white represents bandages. Barbers used to perform common medical procedures, including bloodletting.

Bloodletting is still used, even with leeches that are specially farmed, in cases of plastic or reconstructive surgery. They help to remove clotted blood in an area of tissue that requires healing or attachment.

Another form of bloodletting uses a needle to remove blood and reduce the amount of iron in the body to treat haemochromatosis – where there’s too much iron in the body.

7. Not all blood is red

Human blood is red because of the presence of haemoglobin. But not all animals bleed red.

Icefish have clear blood, and one species of skink (a type of lizard) has green blood. Peanut worms have purple blood, and many bugs and beetles have yellow blood.

The colour of blood is usually because of specific proteins in the blood. These proteins may also have some survival advantage depending on the environment in which the species lives.

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