Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Self-Esteem and Disinhibited Eating

Recently I was asked if a person’s level of self-esteem could in any way impact their eating choices, especially in relation to portion control. One study was led by Janet Polivy, et al, at the University of Toronto, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. An article entitled “Self-Esteem, Restraint, and Eating Behavior” was published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology. Although the study results are essentially correlational evidence of the association between self-esteem and disinhibitory eating tendencies, conclusions were that high self-esteem in restrained participants was associated with less disinhibited eating. Developing adequate if not optimum levels of self-esteem, both specific and global, likely impact most behaviors in some way or another. This is just another reason that the Longevity Lifestyle Matters program is not about dieting or focusing mainly on losing weight. Rather it advocates creating and maintaining a balanced longevity lifestyle.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Know and Do

Spend a few minutes taking inventory. What do you know and what do you do? Do you know that adequate sleep is independently linked with longevity? What do you do? Do you give your brain the amount of sleep it needs? Do you know that dehydration is lethal for brain function? What do you do? Do you drink enough water (unless you have a medical condition that precludes that) to get one or two pale urines a day? Do you know that obesity is linked with more than 50 diseases including cardiovascular, type 2 diabetes, cancer and dementia? What do you do? Are you living a Longevity Lifestyle in balance that includes good nutrition, portion control, exercise, a positive mind-set and self-talk style, and so on? Learn . . . and turn information into knowledge. Practically apply your knowledge on a daily basis. When you know better, access your brain’s willpower to enable you to do better . . . If an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure (to say nothing of the pain and suffering that goes along with the cure for something that was preventable), I’m on board with prevention for whatever can be prevented.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Information versus Knowledge, 4

Back to the obesity contagion. This pandemic is of international concern because obesity is linked with more than fifty diseases—including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some forms of cancer, and dementia. According to the American Diabetes Association, a person is diagnosed with diabetes every twenty seconds in the USA, most with type 2 diabetes (although some will go on to develop type 3 diabetes and/or diabetes mellitus). If people continue to gain weight and remain inactive, estimates are that within thirty to forty years one in three Americans will have some form of diabetes, a terrifying statistic for patients as well as healthcare professionals and health systems. My goal is to share information so people are informed. They then need to make a decision (and not making a decision is a decision) and they are the only ones who can turn information into knowledge and practically apply it on a consistent basis.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Information versus Knowledge, 4

Acquiring knowledge, especially that most elusive self-knowledge, requires awareness, intention, and a choice to learn, daily practical application of knowledge using willpower, consistent effort, and ongoing evaluation. The daily practical application of knowledge can change your brain, your choices, your behaviors, and your life. It can help you move beyond merely surviving to thriving—and in the process may help you improve your health, increase your likelihood of success, positively impact your relationships, and even extend your longevity. Confucius (551-479 BC) reportedly said: It is not that I do not know what to do—it is that I do not do what I know. And therein lies the rub, as the old saying goes. [Come to think of it, I’m pretty sure that the Apostle Paul said virtually the same thing.] It sort of describes a frequently observed human condition in terms of consistent follow-through...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Information versus Knowledge, 3

Knowledge on the other hand (as compared with ‘information’) is a noun, likely from Old and Middle English meaning ‘to know’ and denoting action or practice. It can be defined as understanding something through a process developed by learning, by experience of practical application, by evaluating the outcome and determining if it was negative or positive, and course correcting as needed. To again use the vehicle metaphor: you have turned the information into practical skills for caring for and operating the vehicle safely and appropriately. So people perish, not because they don’t have the information . . . but because information alone is insufficient; it must be turned into knowledge and they must know themselves. Remember Socrates: The unexamined life is not worth living.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Information versus Knowledge - 2

Information is a noun derived from the Latin verb informare (to inform an idea of, to instruct, or to teach). Several sources defined it as that which informs (including facts, figures, and data) and from which knowledge can be derived. To use a vehicle metaphor: you have the facts and data about the vehicle, how it works, and how to care for it appropriately. Where do you get information? From formal and information education; by learning from the experiences of others as well as your own (assuming you are one of those who do learn from both your failures as well as your successes—and not everyone does). You learn from watching others, starting with your parents and caregivers, and from watching yourself; paying attention to the choices you made and the behaviors you exhibited and their results. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Information versus Knowledge

At a panel discussion recently, someone in the audience took the members to task (me in particular) for mentioning the obesity pandemic and especially for mentioning the contagion estimates by Chopra and Tanzi. “It’s depressing,” the individual stated, and I don’t think you should be talking about contagion.” Hmm-m. Interesting perspective. If you avoid talking about something, how will individuals learn? One of the other panel members, sotto voce, said that people die from lack of knowledge. This is the information age, yet people are dying right, left, and center …That started me on the quest to make sure I understood the difference between information and knowledge. My brain thought there was a difference between those two concepts. A few minutes on the internet and it was quite sure that there is a big difference between the two. 

Friday, May 20, 2016

Non-Organism Related Pandemics, 2

Of course you can also influence others 'positively' in your family and social network as you role-model high-level-healthiness living: especially for smoking, happiness, obesity, and so on. That's the good news. Some bad news is that national epidemics of obesity have joined forces to become pandemic—globally. Data released by the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Fact Book (July, 2013) listed the top fifty countries with high rates of obesity. Those with the most serious obesity rates were identified as being located in the South Pacific. Reportedly among the world’s largest countries, the most obese in the Western Hemisphere is The United States of Mexico (Estados Unidos Mexicanos), with an obesity rate of 32.8 percent. It recently squeaked past the US, which has an estimated obesity rate of 31.8 according to some statistics. This was one factor in prompting me to develop the ‘Longevity Lifestyle Matters’ program—because there are ways to be healthier yourself and to help others within your social network do so, as well. [Likely dehydration, sleep deficit, and inadequate physical and mental activity follow right behind this pandemic—but these issues may be more difficult to assess and quantify.] 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Non-Organism-related Epidemics

And more recently the term epidemic and pandemic have been applied to the spread of non-organism-related phenomenon among human beings, which I find particularly fascinating. Data from the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey [NHANES] revealed that a whopping 68.5 percent of Americans were overweight and 34.9 percent were obese. Obesity is now being called a disease. That meets part of the definition of an epidemic, but is obesity contagious? Apparently so. Tanzi and Chopra in Super Brain point out that in the social network of family, coworkers, and friends, simply relating to someone with a weight problem makes it more likely that you’ll have one. Data collected by social scientists have shown that if one person becomes obese, the likelihood of a friend following suit increases by 57 percent. If a sibling becomes obese, the chance that another sibling will become obese increases by 40 percent. An obese spouse increases by 37 percent the likelihood that the other spouse will become obese. (More tomorrow)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Pandemic, Cont’d

A widespread or endemic disease that is stable in terms of predicting how many people are likely to get sick from the transmissible organism it is not typically considered a pandemic (which generally excludes recurrences of seasonal flu). Interestingly enough, did you know that Hippocrates, the Greek physician also known as the ‘Father of Medicine’ reportedly first described influenza in 412 BC? There have been many pandemics throughout history, including smallpox and tuberculosis. Two of the worst pandemics were:
·         The Black Death (c 1346-1350) is estimated to have killed 25 million people in Europe. It came in three forms: the bubonic, pneumonic, and septicemic plague. In 1855, another bubonic plague, thought to have started in China, spread to India, Africa, and the Americas. This one claimed over 12 million people in India and China alone.
·         The Spanish Flu (that had nothing to do with Spain) in 1918 was contracted by an estimated one billion people or half the world’s population. Between 20 and 100 million people died.
·         HIV and AIDS pandemic (upwards of 30 million may have died)
·         The H1N1 pandemic of 1918 and 2009  (More tomorrow) 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


As mentioned yesterday, the term epidemic typically has been used to describe a condition in which contagious diseases spread rapidly among many people, in a section of a State of country or in the country as a whole.

Enters the word pandemic, from the Greek pandemos, meaning that it pertains to all people. Think of a pandemic as an epidemic that crosses international boundaries; contagious illnesses (often fatal) that affect large numbers of the population in multiple areas around the globe and perhaps on multiple continents. The World Health Organization (WHO) has a six-stage classification that describes the process by which a novel influenza virus moves from the first few infections in humans through to a pandemic. This starts with the virus mostly infecting animals, with a few cases where animals infect people, then moves through the stage where the virus begins to spread directly between people, and ends with a pandemic when infections from the new virus have spread worldwide and tends to be out of control until something can be done to stop it. More tomorrow.

Monday, May 16, 2016


With updates about the Zita virus in the news, I've received multiple questions about what this really means. So here are comments related to some of those questions.

The term epidemic typically has been used to describe a condition in which contagious diseases spread rapidly among many people, in a section of a State of country or in the country as a whole. Unfortunately, epidemics are nothing new.
For example:

       The plague of Athens (perhaps typhoid) in Greece (c 429-426 BC) that killed 75,000-100,000

       The Cocoliztli epidemic (viral hemorrhagic fever) in the United States of Mexico c 1576 that killed 50 percent of the populations (estimated to be somewhere between two and two and a half million)

·         With updates about the Zita virus in the news, I've received multiple questions about what this really means. So here are comments related to some of those questions.

    More tomorrow

Friday, May 13, 2016

Brain and Contagion

It was a panel assembled to discuss ‘contagion.’ The impetus could be traced back to news reports about the Zika virus and what it is believed able to do to the human brain during gestation. Because of my background in epidemiology and public health (along with brain function) I’d been invited to participate. One attendee asked: “What does it mean when you say something is contagious?” I responded that the word indicated that something is able to be transmitted from one person to another, directly or indirectly. It doesn’t mean that it will be transmitted 100 percent of the time but that there is a higher risk of that happening. Another panel member added that typically the term used to be applied somewhat exclusively to the transmission of organisms or diseases from one person to another. A third panel member quickly interjected that all manner of things—organisms, ideas, perceptions, financial contagion, and even habits are transmissible. That opened a can of worms that resulted in some heated ‘brain exchanges’ between audience members. Talk about lively. Talk about ideas for next week’s blogs—and what studies have indicated can be transmitted among people. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

100,000 miles of Brain Wiring

Estimates are that the human body contains 60,000 to 100,000 miles of blood vessels and 250,000 miles of lymph vessels, depending on the size of the individual. Estimates are that a network of some 100,000 miles of nerve fibers, called white matter, connect the various components of the mind. Diffusion Spectrum Imaging has shown that the nerve fibers are all grids and intersect at right angles like the lines on a sheet of graph paper. Each neuron is a distinct cell separate from every other neuron. Neurons send signals along axons. A tiny gap separates the ends of axons from dendrites, the receiving ends of neurons. Human neurons have on average 10,000 synapses.

(Zimmer, Carl. “Secrets of the Brain.” P 36-45, National Geographic, February 2014. Washington DC:National Geographic Society.)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Remembering Faces

Typically, women are better than men at remembering faces. An article by Daniel Stone “Face-to-Face” in the February 2014 issue of National Geographic Magazine pointed out a potential reason for this based on research by Kinesiologist Jennifer Heisz. Heisz tracked the way men and women moved their eyes as they scanned pictures of faces. When looking at a face, both genders started at the center of the face and looked at the same features—eyes, nose, mouth—but women made more eye movements between the features (17 eye movements in 5 seconds compared to 10 eye movements in 5 seconds for men). According to Heisz, more frequent scanning generates a more vivid picture in your mind. This reminded me that adult males typically spend less time looking directly at the faces of others . . . However, knowing this, a man could conceivably choose to spend an additional 7 seconds or so to perform more scanning movements and perhaps do better at remembering faces.

Stone, Daniel. P 27, National Geographic, February 2014. Washington DC:National Geographic Society.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Binghamton University professors, led by Assistant Professor of Psychology Sarah Laszlo and Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Zhanpeng Jin, recorded the brain activity of 50 people wearing an electroencephalogram headset while they looked at a series of 500 images designed specifically to elicit unique responses from each person individually. Lazlo pointed out that brain biometrics are appealing because they are cancellable and cannot be stolen by malicious means the way a finger or retina can. The results suggest that brainwaves could be used by security systems to verify a person's identity.

Maria V. Ruiz-Blondet, Zhanpeng Jin, Sarah Laszlo.CEREBRE: A Novel Method for Very High Accuracy Event-Related Potential Biometric Identification.IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security, 2016; 11 (7): 1618 DOI: 10.1109/TIFS.2016.2543524

Monday, May 9, 2016


CEREBRE is an acronym that stands for Cognitive Event-Related Biometric Recognition. It represents a protocol for identifying a person’s ‘brainprint.’ This new biometric may replace fingerprinting, passwords, and other types of specific-site access recognition, at least for some types of identification (e.g., used by security systems to verify a person’s identity). Researchers at Binghamton University reported that, using Cerebre, they were able to identify each volunteer’s ‘brainprint’ with 100 percent accuracy. They were able to achieve this by analyzing event-related potential (ERP) brain signals recorded from each subject.

Binghamton University. ‘Researchers can identify you by your brain waves with 100 percent accuracy.’ ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 April 2016. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

English Language

English is a very interesting language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; and neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. If it’s your native language, you likely take English for granted. But explore its paradoxes you will discover that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. I mean, really. How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Brain and Conflict – 9

Many individuals approach conflict in the style they saw role-modeled during childhood or in the way in which organizations in their culture expect and have taught them to behave. In addition, if the individuals perceive they must ‘win’ in order to be okay, consensus may be impossible. Regardless of brain bent, the healthier and more actualized and differentiated the individuals are, the more likely it is that they will be able to arrive at consensus or compromise. In a personal arena it will be important to decide whether the relationship is more important than the issue. If the answer is no, then the individual may need to walk away from the relationship. If the answer is yes, the parties involved will need to find a way to compromise or to accommodate the differing perspectives. That may be as simple as purchasing two tubes of toothpaste because each has a different way of getting the toothpaste out of the tube and onto their toothbrush. Regardless, it is critical for individuals to understand that chronic stress due to chronic conflict can contribute to many different illnesses and diseases and could even shorten one’s life.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Brain and Conflict – 8

Working through conflict requires an understanding of differences, at least at some level, because each brain only knows itself (and sometimes not all that well). The overt confrontational style of the Prioritizing division can shut down brain bents in the other three divisions or escalate the conflict in a way that disrespects differing perspectives. The other divisions can learn to stay at the negotiating table. All brains need to understand that a workable solution for differing brains is typically not ‘either or’ but more likely ‘both and.’ Each brain needs to be aware of the words and tone of voice that are being projected into the conflict. The healthier and more functional each brain, the more likely the group is to listen to and respect differing perspectives and honor the input of others, recognizing that no brain has all the answers and that excellence often comes out of diversity—as long as there is the willingness to discuss, collaborate, and share a commitment to discover a creative solution—or to respectfully agree to disagree and look at move in a different direction. More tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Brain and Conflict – 7

Brains with a bent in this Harmonizing division dislike conflict most of all and will do almost anything to avoid it. They may over-comply, over-conform, and even violate conscience and their own moral or ethical judgements at times to resolve the conflict or make it go away—often to their own personal detriment. They may stay in an abusive work or home environment rather than addressing the abuse for fear the conflict will escalate. They can learn that conflict is not all bad and may sometimes result in positive outcomes, especially when used judiciously. They are more likely to be willing to tolerate some conflict if they can see how the desired outcome may benefit those they love or care about in a work situation. They may need the support of others to help them develop skills to work through the conflict, however, and they typically would rather do almost anything else. More tomorrow.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Brain and Conflict – 6

Brains with a bent in the Envisioning division do not like conflict and tend to avoid it when possible. They may be perceived as conflict adverse unless and until they become passionately involved with an issue and then they may be willing to engage in conflict and ‘crusade’ for a short time in an effort to help resolve the issue. When pushed sufficiently, they may try one or more problem-solving attempts. If these do not resolve the conflict situation, they may distance themselves emotionally from the conflict situation and eventually withdraw and isolate, or physically leave the conflict situation, environment, or even the relationship. They can learn skills to help them address and negotiate conflict more successfully—if they choose to do so—but it will likely not be anything they gravitate toward if there is another choice. Because the right frontal lobe contains functions of intuition and of ‘seeing the big picture,’ their ideas are often ahead of the rest of the group and they may find it discouraging when their vision isn’t even recognized by other brains. More tomorrow.