I admit it. I’ve been bitten by the podcast bug. Not only can they be informative, they’re a good way to kill time. I like to jokingly call them conversations I don’t need to participate… More
Every year I make the same resolution – to read more. A few years ago I resolved to read 52 books in one year. It didn’t work. Being a so-called millennial, I remember the time when there was no social media. The internet was around, but you needed a dial-up modem and it took fifteen minutes to load one page. I had no choice but to read and that’s what I did.
I read many books as a child. My understanding of the world and the people in it came from books. My ability to write both fiction and non-fiction is down to reading. Yet, I struggle to sit down and read books today. Occasionally, I’ll find a book that hits the right note and it feels like the world falls away. I get sucked into another universe and I feel good. And then the book ends, forcing me to keep on starting new ones to try and achieve the same high – similar to what happens when you finish binge-watching a show.
I have now started reading more nonfiction books. With nonfiction, there is rarely a hook or climax. It’s just reading about the topic of interest. They’re not always easy reads, but since when was reading supposed to be easy? Reading is fun, but it’s also a valuable learning tool that benefits us in many different ways. From today, I’m looking at reading as a task and not a pastime.
On that note, here are five ways that reading is good for us and our brains!
1. You Learn From It
A parent or a teacher has only his lifetime; a good book can teach forever. —Louis L’Amour
It’s no surprise that more children turned to books during the national lockdowns imposed as part of the world’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Suddenly, we were all faced with more free time than usual. There are so many hours we can spend binging TV shows. For children, in particular, having more time to read was highly beneficial. Not just for educational purposes, but because they renewed their enjoyment in reading in a world where everything is becoming increasingly web-based.
Many of us learn what we know today from books, and reading will always be a good learning tool. Reading can improve our vocabulary. An extensive range of vocabulary is linked to higher levels of intelligence. That person you know who always uses big words? They probably read a lot! Children who read a lot may become smarter later on in life. I’d say that’s a good reason to read. Not to be outdone, reading can also increase brain strength. It’s like a power-up for our brains. Reading can improve memory function and slow down the natural decline as we age.
It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own. —Katherine Patterson
There is a new sickle cell treatment now being given to patients in England!
Sickle Cell Disease is a debilitating condition that predominantly affects black people. It is a painful condition that requires constant treatment and can lead to what is known as sickle cell ‘crises’. If patients are not treated, they are left in a great deal of pain. Up until now, there has been no treatment.
Read more about it here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-60498916
According to an editorial in Nature (dated 10 Jan 2022), it is time for us to come to terms with the fact that COVID-19 is here to stay.
Given the amount of pandemic fatigue there is at the moment, many people have already come to terms with it. However, as Nature states, this doesn’t mean that we should stop taking precautions to reduce transmission. With Omicron emerging as a serious threat to moving on from the virus, experts are stressing the need to continue wearing masks and social distancing.
It’s also worth noting that the virus will continue to mutate and we will see more variants, but thanks to the ongoing research, scientists will be better equipped to handle them.
So, it might be presumptuous to say that this (vaccines, wearing masks, jumping three feet into the air if someone coughs nearby) is our new normal, but it’s our normal right now.
- COVID is here to stay: countries must decide how to adapt | https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-00057-y
- Omicron – latest research and expert views as PCR test rules change
1. The Dropout
Money. Romance. Tragedy. Deception. The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is an unbelievable tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong. How did the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire lose it all in the blink of an eye? How did the woman once heralded as “the next Steve Jobs” find herself facing criminal charges — to which she pleaded not guilty — and up to decades in prison? How did her technology, meant to revolutionize health care, potentially put millions of patients at risk? And how did so many smart people get it so wrong along the way? ABC News chief business, technology and economics correspondent Rebecca Jarvis, along with producers Taylor Dunn and Victoria Thompson, take listeners on a journey that includes a multi-year investigation. You’ll hear exclusive interviews with former employees, investors, and patients, and for the first-time, the never-before-aired deposition testimony of Elizabeth Holmes, and those at the center of this story.
When I first heard about this story I was shocked it wasn’t more popular. So I was happy to find a podcast based on the entire saga and shocked at how far Theranos went.
Most surprising was that people with biological backgrounds were on board with an idea that seemed impossible – a testing system designed around a single pinprick of blood. I’m not an expert, but to conduct multiple assays you need to have enough of your sample. Even when mixed with reagents and diluted, a speck of blood is not enough.
It was fascinating to see just how much people believed in a bad idea. My takeaway was that sometimes there’s too much focus on the becoming ‘next big thing’ and not enough on finding ways to help people.
As of writing Elizabeth Holmes is on trial for various offences and the podcast is covering that also.
In the previous part, I spoke about food insecurity and how it impacts the lives of many around the world. In this part, we’ll be learning what food insecurity is, and what measures are being taken to combat it and the last impact it has on society.
Food security is made up of four different components. This includes:
What happens when there is a lack of food security?
The lack of food security comes with expensive drawbacks, and it may be cheaper to avoid food insecurity than to reverse it. Currently, most governments have been unable to come up with workable solutions. This leaves a hole that is filled by third sector organisations, some of which are not very secure themselves.
Food banks have become more common and they are plugging gaps in society. However, they are not a sustainable alternative to the real issue at hand – people are finding it increasingly difficult to survive in a world that keeps on evolving and growing, leaving those who can’t afford necessities behind. Continue reading “The impact of food poverty on society | part 2”
There is a new variant of COVID-19, the virus that has caused a global pandemic that began in early 2020 and shows no signs of letting up.
Here’s what we know about it:
- Official name – SARS-CoV-2 variant: B.1.1.529. Classified on 26/11/22 by WHO and named Omicron
- First reported to WHO on 24/11/21
- First discovered in specimen taken on 9th November 2021
- Has a wide range of mutations, thought to make it more infectious and not targeted by current vaccines available
- Seems to be localised to South Africa but is now in other countries (including the UK, Germany, Netherlands and Italy) due to people traveling from South Africa.
- It carries an increased risk of reinfection
- Has been designated a VOC – variant of concern
According to UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson – who speaking after consulting with scientists – Omicron can be spread rapidly between two people, even those who are double vaccinated.
How has the world reacted?
Several countries have banned travel from South Africa and up to eight other surrounding countries. In the UK, travellers are now required to take a PCR test upon returning or entering the country regardless of vaccination status. Face masks have also become compulsory in shops and public transport.
What do we do now?
- Continue to maintain safe hygiene practices
- Keep any small spaces well ventilated
- Maintain social distance of at least 2m
- Avoid heavily crowded areas or wear a face mask where necessary
For more information:
I was looking for something to post when I came across this quote and it made me stop and think. Every so often, I get anxious about not writing enough or writing fast enough (see my previous post and the lack of part two!). That, in turn, makes me think that I shouldn’t bother anyway.
Lack of motivation is a huge problem area for me. When I’m motivated, I’m motivated, but it comes in bursts. Part of the issue is that my to-do list is often a mile long. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and waste time instead of using what little time I have to achieve my goals.
So, the goal for right now was to update this blog. I don’t have any interesting facts or information to provide, but I thought I’d share my concerns here. It’s also that time of the year where so many people struggle and I’m right there with them.
If anyone else is feeling down now that we’re hurtling towards winter – you’re not alone. My go-to right now is picking up writing projects and slowly reconnecting with some TV shows I’ve enjoyed in the past. I’m laying off social media. Most importantly, I’ve stopped watching Manchester United highlights (if you know, you know). I’m trying not to think about life and let it get to me.
Hard emphasis on try which is all we can do. I’m going to be looking at wellness journals and seeing how helpful they are.
I might just write a post about it!
“Food poverty is contributing to social unrest. Add school closures, redundancies, and furloughs into the equation and we have an issue that could negatively impact generations to come. It all starts with stability around access to food.”
– Marcus Rashford, Manchester United/England Football Player
Last year, Marcus Rashford, a young professional footballer threw himself headfirst into a campaign to ensure children in the UK were not left hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially met by resistance from the government, he was able to bring about something that has been lacking for years – action.
However, it’s worth noting that the best way to eradicate food poverty is to understand what it is and how it comes about. Many people in economically well off countries struggle to understand how people can’t afford to feed themselves or their children.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Breast cancer affects 55,000 women every year in the UK and 7.8m worldwide over the past five years, with 2.3m women being diagnosed in 2020 alone. Men can also be diagnosed with breast cancer. They make up 0.5-1% of breast cancer patients.
Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the world, and while it’s more common in women over 50, anyone above puberty age can get it.
Breast cancer awareness is about knowing the sign and symptoms so that it can be caught early. It’s believed that the earlier the diagnosis, the better the prognosis.
The signs and symptoms of breast cancer are:
- A lump on breast
- Thickening of skin or tissue of the breast
- Dimpling of the skin
- Swelling in either armpit
- A change in shape or size of the breast
- An inverted nipple (where it’s turned in)
- A rash on the nipple (similar to eczema)
- Discharge or bleeding
- Pain in either breast that is consistent and does not go away
If you spot any of these signs or symptoms, please take action and get a checkup!
Since last year, I have taken a deeper interest in malnutrition and food poverty both here in the UK and across the world. One thing I noticed was that the image of malnutrition is often linked to regions in Africa and Asia. While the issues there are not unimportant, people are going hungry in all parts of the world.
There are probably people suffering from malnutrition right now who do not realise it. Food poverty is a growing issue both in developing and developed parts of the world. Anywhere there is an imbalance of wealth, there will be some people who are worse off than others.
Another aspect of malnutrition is those who are overweight or obese due to poor diets. This can eventually lead to a range of diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
According to World Hunger’s ‘Hunger Notes‘:
- Overall, 5.6 million children under age five died in 2016, nearly 15,000 daily
- Approximately 3.1 million children die from undernutrition each year 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world
- Globally, about 151 million under-five-year-olds were estimated to be stunted in 2013. (UNICEF, WHO and The World Bank, 2018
- Globally, 99 million under-five-year-olds were underweight in 2013, most of whom lived in Asia and Africa (Krasevec et al., 2014).
Some common terms (from the World Health Organization)
Malnutrition: deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients
Undernutrition: insufficient intake of energy and nutrients to meet an individual’s needs to maintain good health.
Stunted: when someone has a low height for their age
Wasting: when someone has a low weight for their age
Micronutrient deficiencies: the insufficient amount of important vitamins and nutrients
Overweight and obesity:
- the abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health.
- overweight is a BMI greater than or equal to 25; and
- obesity is a BMI greater than or equal to 30.
I believe everyone has a right to have access to nutritious, healthy food and that no one should go hungry. With the research and technological advances of today, health services, scientists and the general public should be able to come together to combat the issue.