Posts Tagged 'Health'

In the News: Cities, Notebook Love, and Presidential Proclamations

Technology (and the like)

» Scary fact: did you know the cell phone industry actually admits the health risks of cell phone radiation? Apparently this is not the stuff of conspiracy theorists anymore: Apple recommends holding your iPhone no closer than 5/8″ to your body, and BlackBerry recommends holding your phone a full inch away. Read more in Tom Philpott’s article: Is my smartphone making me dumb?

» Some “Tough Love” advice for having a better life: Americans need to stop multitasking while eating alone.

» The event already passed, but I really like the message behind Jimmy Kimmel’s National Unfriend Day. The idea is to restore meaning to the word ‘friend’ by cutting down on facebook friends who… well, aren’t actually your friends.

» The event already passed, but I really like Jimmy Kimmel’s “National Unfriend Day.” The idea is to cut down on facebook “friends” who… aren’t actually your friends. Heck, you can do this anytime and restore some meaning to the word ‘friend’.

» Read a good paperback recently? I like this down-to-earth ‘best books’ list from The Guardian (via The EarlyWord)

Pen | Paper | Ink | DIY

» Etsy, how I love thee. Check out their recommendations for keeping analog time in 2011 – nothing digital about it.

» Jonathan Safran Foer, I love you and your unmakeable book more than Etsy.

» I hate to bash NaNoWriMo so soon after writing a positive post about it, but I’m just so in agreement with this Salon.com article that I had to share.

» DIY Love: Social activists have long protested the consumerism of Black Friday by celebrating Buy Nothing Day instead, but I’m even MORE supportive of this new (more positive) approach: Make Something Day.

» Ooh, lovely burgundies, wines, and maroons:  Ink Mixing with J. Herbin’s Anniversary Ink (via Writer’s Bloc)

» Hooray, two of my favorite things: Notebooks and gardening!

» I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but Rhodia/Clairefontaine/Exaclair have some of the best customer service and genuine grassroots marketing. Ever.

Rurality | Urbanism

» Poor urbanites: apparently New Yorkers are the most stressed Americans since the economy collapsed – but not because they’re doing worse than other parts of the country (they’re not). It’s because the city doesn’t offer effective ways to deal with stress. (via Daily News)

» But! This whole city-stress phenomenon may not be unique to New York. A recent study showed that the overstimulated atmosphere cities had a negative impact on attention span, memory, and on mood in general. (via CNN)

» Somehow I find the idea of “Proclamations” adorably antiquated, but this one I can get behind: Obama declared November 19-25th “Farm-City Week”

» Whoa whoa whoa – Kentucky canceled a coal plant?

Miscellaneous Cultural Fun!

What To Say About Stress

Well, it’s certainly the cause of my sparse posting lately. Sometimes, when your calendar/planner begins to look like mine does (below), it’s just not a good idea to spent two hours on a thoughtful blog post.

Radiolab produced an early episode on Stress (listen to the podcast here). In it, they discuss the evolutionary rationale for stress, which is basically: stress is the body’s biological response to being chased by a sabre-toothed tiger.

And that response ain’t minor: your body shuts down all non-necessary functions including ovulation, digestion (this is why you get a dry mouth when you get nervous, because you’ve stopped producing saliva for digestion), even growth itself.

Except– we don’t really have to escape saber-toothed tigers anymore. Instead, we have Important Deadlines and College Loans and Computer Viruses. Even before adulthood, we have to face Mean Bullies and Peer Pressure and First Kisses. The problem is that our body perceives First Kisses as the stress-equivalent to Sabre-Tooth Tigers. Which it’s not, unless you had a really bad first kiss experience.

But while a tiger is only a temporary threat (whether you escape or get eaten is only a matter of a few hours), deadlines and paying bills are perpetual, and this means your body is put into a stressful state far more often than it should be. This is why we end up today with stress diseases, which range from anxiety attacks, alcoholism, and high blood pressure, to heart disease and ulcers.

Based on this, you might think that the most stressed-out people are high-powered CEO’s, stock brokers, or politicians. But again and again, studies show that the population most affected by stress is poor people.
Frankly, the problems that come with being poor are closer to a sabre-tooth tiger: paying rent and putting food on the table are issues of survival. But the real reason why poor people are more prone to stress and stress diseases is that they can’t buy the therapy, massages, medications or vacations that CEO’s can.

And we wonder why all homeless people seem to be crazy. The relationship between homelessness and mental disorders is like trying to figure out the chicken or the egg.

Being poor will stress you out, but…

…so will being Black: it turns out that there’s a significant racial disparity in stress and stress-related diseases. Before you object, this isn’t just poor Black people who are stressed out. Wealthy, successful Black people are also far more affected by stress diseases than wealthy, successful White people.

In fact, there’s a significant gap in the overall health of Black and White Americans, not just in stress diseases. There’s this academic term called allostatic load, which refers to the way that social and psychological stressors build up over time and take a physical toll on the body. In the United States, this means people of color (of all economic classes) are more prone to disease and injury, and are less healthy overall than white people. Which is, I think, pretty good evidence that racism and racial discrimination is still alive and well in America.

Kinda stresses you out just to think about it, huh?

Thinking about this sort of thing did stress me out for a long time. But now, I welcome a stress that involves real thought about a real problem. Most deadlines and loans are sort of egotistical stressors: they’re issues of a privileged life, not of survival. And it’s always good stress therapy to step outside of yourself.

Coming Soon

My First Aurora Fountain Pen
Women at Work
How might Rural Design Differ from Urban Design?
A Gutsy Criticism of Breast Cancer Awareness Month
And, as always, More Watercolors

* N.B. Unfortunately, I can’t link to any of my sources because they’re in academic databases, but most of the data comes from academic and industry journals such as American Journal of Public Health and others.

A Blogger’s Worst Nightmare!

Forgetting your camera at the other side of your road trip. GAH.

In any case, my Road Trip Post will have to wait until my camera is shipped to me from Ohio.

In the meantime…

Check out what’s been up with Rurality in the News*

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*Should I come up with a series title for this? I don’t ever want to be a reblogger, but because rurality is such a broad concept I think it’s useful to compile all these different subjects and articles into one place.

Rurality in the News

Some of this blog’s overarching themes have been all over the news lately:

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*For the record, a “Western Diet” was defined as one that relies heavily on takeaway foods, processed meats, red meat, high fat dairy products, and confectionery.

A Spoonful of Skepticism

…helps keep the toxins away? I’m having a grand time working in the organic foods sector– Our firm is involved in Michelle Obama’s [healthy] school lunch program, my boss is pretty tight with Kim Severson, and we get free samples. Constantly. (Yum.) But being immersed in the environmental news world is also sometimes overwhelming, especially when every single day I find out that yet another common product has been linked with brain damage, cancer, sterility, etc.

Some people dismiss these reports– partly because they are overwhelming –but slowly, people are beginning to confront the facts. The President’s Cancer Panel just released a Big Important Report (like, really important). The short summary? 41% of Americans are diagnosed with cancer within their lifetime, and 21% die of it. The cause? No, it’s not all hereditary. These rates are directly connected to all the chemicals we put into our air, food, and water.

It’s scary, and yet I think it confirms an instinct that many Americans have already: that when our cleaning products give us a headache, or a certain medication gives us a severe side effect… they’re not okay. And this too makes sense: most of these products or substances haven’t been around for more than 50 years. We haven’t had time to know their long-term effects.

All the scientific innovation during World War II, combined with leftover “materials” (read: chemicals) after the War’s end led to an industry boom during the 50’s and 60’s.  Only now are we discovering that… yikes, maybe we rushed a little too confidently into our own marketing skills.

Here’s a brief overview of some of the specific links that have turned up recently:

My conclusion?

It’s sensible to be skeptical. Which means that I raise an eyebrow at something like, oh, say, a digital food printer, instead of embracing its sexy techno-seduction without questioning. Not to mention any product that gives you a headache, or smells funny, or has been on the market for less than a generation (I’m looking at you, ADHD drugs).

But I’m not against innovation: urban farming, for example, is new, innovative, and also fucking badass. But it utilizes traditional, tried-and-true methods in order to create healthier communities in the present. No skepticism about that.

UPDATE: You know what’s ironic? When I search for “cancer health” in a stock image search engine, 99% of the images are of cigarettes (one was of a virus?). Funny how we don’t want to acknowledge that the pesticides in our food might be just as dangerous.


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