Energy-efficient homes may boost asthma risks
A new study has found that certain energy efficiency measures in homes may increase the risk of developing asthma.
Scientists from the University of Exeter Medical School in the U.K. worked with social housing provider Coastline Housing to collect and assess data on residents of 700 properties. They found that those living in energy efficient homes were more at risk of asthma than those not living in energy efficient homes.
In explaining the findings, resaerchers said that some efficiency measures designed to prevent heat loss and curb energy use led to poor ventilation and increased levels of dampness and mold, both of which are known to contribute to asthma. Poor ventilation can also increase exposure to biological or chemical contaminants that can worsen asthma, they said. Researchers added that the use of old heating systems or washing and drying indoors can increase levels of indoor humidity, which is an ideal environment for house dust mites and bacteria that may further increase asthma risk.
While energy efficienct measures are important in reducing energy use, people need to be aware of the potential drawbacks. The new study’s findings, published in the journal Environment International, emphasize the need for homeowners to understand the need for good ventilation in their homes.
Are extroverts healthier?
People who are more extroverted have stronger immune systems than those who tend to be shy, according to a new study.
Scientists at the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. enrolled 121 adults between the ages of 18 and 59, including 86 females and 35 males, in the study. All the participants were asked to complete a test that measured the five primary dimensions of personality: extroversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Then, the researchers took blood samples from the participants, which they used to analyze the activity of white blood cells. Researchers also controlled for various lifestyle factors, including physical activity levels, alcohol intake and whether the participants smoked.
When the researchers compared the results of the personality test with the blood test analysis, they found that the participants who scored the highest for extroversion traits–including being assertive, talkative and enthusiastic–had higher levels of particular pro-inflammatory, or immune-boosting, genes in their white blood cells, when compared with those who scored higher on conscientiousness. A smaller link was found between immune response and traits of openness. No correlation was found between traits of agreeableness and neuroticism and the strength of a person’s immune system.
The study’s findings, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, suggest that even though extroverts are typically exposed to more infections as a result of being involved in more social activities, their immune systems appear to be more effective in response to infections. Scientists say they currently have no explanation for why personality traits may be linked to immune system function.
First octuplets born: Dec. 20, 1998
On a Sunday morning, a team of doctors at a Houston, Texas hospital remove seven babies by Caesarean section from the womb of a 27-year-old woman. None weighs more than two pounds. Two weeks earlier, doctors had delivered another of her infants vaginally, making Nkem Chukwu, a Nigerian-American, the first person to give birth to eight babies who survived.
Sadly, the smallest of the babies, a girl who weighed less than 11 ounces, died a week later. But Chukwu remains in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first mother of octuplets. Another woman had given birth to nine babies in Australia in 1971, but only six survived the birth. Three other octuplet births had occurred before Chukwu had her babies, but in one case, only six of the children survived, and in the other two cases, all of the babies died.
Chukwu had taken fertility drugs. While doctors hadn’t been sure how many children she was carrying, they had, as a precaution, hospitalized her two and a half months before the first baby was born. For the last six weeks, she had to stay in bed, and for the last two weeks, she had had to lie with her head down to take pressure off her cervix.
The first baby, a girl born on December 8, had been 15 weeks premature; the other seven—five girls and two boys–were 13 weeks early. All had to stay in the hospital for several months.
Chukwu and her husband, Iyke Louis Udobi , had another daughter, without the help of fertility medication, in 2002. They named her Divine Favor.
Over the years, the parents, with the help of Chukwu’s mother Janet, followed a system of having the children wear matching shirts, based on the day of the week. On Monday, for instance, they wear red shirts, Tuesday, maroon, Wednesday, and Thursday, either pink or light blue.
In an interview a few years ago, Chukwu said her children get along amazingly well. “Sometimes they have disagreements, but we don’t allow them to fight,” she told reporters. “They came from one womb, so we don’t want that.”
They will celebrate their 16th birthdays on Saturday.
More slices of history
Educated people with memory lapses at higher risk for stroke
When people with higher education levels suffer memory lapses, they may be at a higher risk of suffering a stroke, according to a study at Erasmus University in Rotterdam in The Netherlands.
The research, published in the journal Stroke, found that such people had a 39 percent greater risk of stroke than people with a lower level of education.
The scientists tracked 9,000 healthy Rotterdam participants ages 55 or older for 20 years and the research included a questionnare. By 2012, 1,134 had suffered a stroke, and that was more likely to happen to people who early in the study had mentioned memory lapses.
A mechanism known as cognitive reserve, helps the brain protect itself against damage, cognitive loss, and diseases like dementia. It has been found that it generally takes longer for damage to occur in those with higher education, which means their mechanism is stronger.
But, according to the researchers, when people with a higher education complain of memory loss early on, they may have either lost the mechanism altogether, or it may signal brain damage has begun to reach past a point where the mechanism can provide protection. The scientists say earlier memory complaints may be a key warning sign of stroke in those with higher education, and should be monitored closely.
What alcohol does to your sleep
That drink at bedtime to help you fall asleep may end up doing you more harm than good. While a glass of wine or a late-night beer can make you sleepy, a study at the University of Missouri has found that, over time, drinking alcohol at bedtime can lead to insomnia because it disrupts the body’s sleep regulator.
For the study, published in the journal Alcohol, the researchers, working with mice, found that alcohol raised the level of a chemical in the brain called adenosine. That chemical is what makes us feel sleepy. But because this disrupts the body’s natural process for feeling tired after a certain period of being awake, it can cause a person to wake up before their body is ready and generally lead to a lower quality of sleep. .
Alcohol withdrawal after periods of binge drinking also was found to cause insomnia. Not surprisingly, binge drinking brings on sleep quickly, but the withdrawal from all of the alcohol consumption also can caused more frequent periods of wakefulness in the middle of the night.
It’s been estimated that as many as 20 percent of Americans use alcohol as a sleep aid.
The researchers say they will now focus on other effects of alcohol consumption.