‘Smartphone Thumb’ Plaguing More People

A condition that doctors used to only see in factory workers is becoming more widespread. The pain that comes from the repetitive movements of texting has been dubbed “smartphone thumb” by doctors.

It’s actually tendinitis, when the tendon that bends and flexes the thumb becomes inflamed. More and more people are complaining about this type of pain in their thumb each year, say doctors at the Mayo Clinic.

Dr. Kristin Zhao, a biomedical engineer at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., explained what might be happening inside the hand to cause “smartphone thumb.”

“One of the hypotheses is that the joints get loose and lax, and because of that, the bones kind of move differently than they would in a normal situation,” said Zhao. She and a team of colleagues have been studying “smartphone thumb” for the last seven years. She says the movements we require our thumbs to make as we hold our phones are awkward.

“It’s also a movement that requires some force through the thumbs. So when you press on your phone, you know, you’re interacting with your phone. It’s not just free movement in space,” she said.

Mayo Clinic researchers began using a dynamic imaging technique in 2010 to watch the bones of a healthy patient move so they could document what’s normal and compare it with what’s not. “Our hypothesis is that abnormal motion of bones in the thumb could be causing pain onset and eventual osteoarthritis,” Zhao said.

Too much texting might lead to more cases of arthritis in the thumb, Zhao says. “There is a high incidence of osteoarthritis in the thumb, and we just want to make sure we aren’t encouraging that onset by our daily activities,” she said.

The researchers also want to address is the impact of so much thumb movement on children. What it will mean for them later in life is unknown. “We really don’t understand why adults get pain, and so children, if you start earlier, you may get pain younger,” she said.

To prevent problems, start by giving your thumbs a break, doctors say. Mix up your method by using your forefinger to peck the screen, or use your voice to dictate a message. You can also perform daily stretching exercises with your wrists and fingers to keep your tendons limber.

Think about wow often you’re using your joints and how often you are resting them, advises Zhao. “Are we taking periodic rests, or are we just exposing continually over the course of the day?” she asked.

The Mayo Clinic study is ongoing, and researchers have not yet reached any conclusions. Doctors do already know that about osteoarthritis in the thumb occurs more in women than men.

Protect Your Heart, Eat Dark Chocolate

Chocolate has always been the “magical” cure-all ingredient for our ailments. We often eat chocolate in the form of candy to lift our mood or mend a broken heart. Now, Medical Daily reports, researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Denmark suggest the rich cocoa candy could also protect our heart health by decreasing the risk of irregular heartbeat.

Eating up to six servings of chocolate per week led to a 20 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF) – a common and dangerous type of irregular heartbeat. Previous research proposes cocoa and cocoa-containing foods, like dark chocolate, possess heart health benefits because their high flavanol content promotes the healthy function of blood vessels. In the Danish study, the chocolate consumed had relatively low concentrations of possible protective ingredients, though there was still a significant association between small amounts of cocoa consumption and better heart health.

“Our study adds to the accumulating evidence on the health benefits of moderate chocolate intake and highlights the importance of behavioral factors for potentially lowering the risk of arrhythmias,” said Elizabeth Mostofsky, lead author of the study. She is an instructor in the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard Chan School and a postdoctoral fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

In the study, published in Heart, researchers analyzed a total of 55,502 men and women participating in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Study, who had their body mass index, blood pressure, and cholesterol measured during recruitment (from December 1993 and May 1997). Participants’ health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or cardiovascular disease, and data on their diet and lifestyle from questionnaires, were also taken into account. During the 13.5-year follow-up period, there were 3,346 cases of atrial fibrillation.

Mostofsky and her research team found men and women who ate one to three servings of chocolate per month had a 10 percent lower rate of AF than those who ate a one-ounce serving less than once a month. Meanwhile, those who ate one serving per week had a 17 percent lower rate, and those who consumed two to six servings per week had a 20 percent lower rate. However, this benefit tapered off for those who ate one or more servings per day; they experienced only a 16 percent lower AF rate.

So, how much chocolate is too much? It depends. Mostofsky cautions we should be mindful of over-indulgence. “Eating excessive amounts of chocolate is not recommended because many chocolate products are high in calories from sugar and fat and could lead to weight gain and other metabolic problems. But moderate intake of chocolate with high cocoa content may be a healthy choice,” she said.

Previous research has found high consumption of chocolate can lead to more heart health benefits, but moderation is key. A 2015 study published in Heart found participants who ate 15 to 100 grams of chocolate a day, from candy bars to hot cocoa, had a lower risk for heart disease and stroke than those who did not eat any chocolate. Two classic Hershey’s bars are the equivalent of 100 grams and can lead to a minimum intake of 500 calories.

Eating more dark chocolate was also linked to lower body mass index (BMI), waist to hip ratio, systolic blood pressure and inflammatory proteins. These participants also saw an 11 percent lower risk of heart disease, and a 25 percent lower risk of associated death. The study also noted more participants ate milk chocolate versus dark chocolate, which has long been considered healthier.

Both milk chocolate and dark chocolate contain cocoa, but dark chocolate has a higher concentration, and could be more potent in protecting heart health. A general rule is the more cocoa a chocolate bar has, the more flavonoids it possesses, and the better it is for our health. Eating chocolate could lead to an effective treatment in common heart ailments that can provide better and more consistent results.

Clear Out Outdated, Unused Items

Brighten your mood by clearing out the clutter in your home. Make it a once-a-month routine.

1. Old magazines – You aren’t going to read the old magazines you have lying around, so clear them out. You can donate your magazines to child care centers and nursing homes. If there’s an article that really speaks to you, scan a digital image of it and keep it in your computer. Or keep a folder of magazine clippings if you like saving magazine articles.

2. Receipts, bills, and documents – Throw away receipts for items that you aren’t planning on returning, and ones that you won’t need to use come tax time.

3. Clothes – Use the two-year-rule for clothes – get rid of apparel that you haven’t worn in two years. Sell them to a thrift store (find a thrift store at thethriftshopper.com) or donate them to the needy.

4. Books – Go through your bookshelf and gather together books you haven’t touched in months and ones that you aren’t planning on rereading. Be realistic and make sure you’re ruthless. If you haven’t touched it in a year, you’re most likely not going to read it again. Donate the books or sell them on Amazon, Craigslist or eBay. You can even trade them for something else on swap.com.

5. Medicine and vitamins – Take a look at your medicine closet and clear out drugs that have expired, medicine that has sat on your shelf for too long and ones that you no longer use. First, check to see what the proper disposal methods are for the medication, and if you can’t find any, check to see if your community has a drug take-back program. If there isn’t a program near you, then the FDA advises mixing medicine with “used coffee grounds or kitty litter” in a container or sealable bag before throwing it away to make the drugs less appealing.

6. Makeup and perfume – Go through your beauty cabinet and get rid of makeup that’s too old or that you don’t use.

7. Jewelry – Go through your jewelry and dispose of the broken costume jewelry and make plans to sell ones that you don’t wear. For fine jewelry, look up appraisers from the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers. Once you have a quoted price, shop around at auction houses, estate buyers, pawnshops and jewelers to see if you can find a better deal.

8. Food – Go through your pantry and fridge and clear out items that need to be thrown out – the old, unused and rotting. Do this weekly instead of monthly, just to make sure you don’t have any unpleasant surprises!

9. Some memorabilia – Many organizing experts advise that you be ruthless and throw away memorabilia like cards and gifts you don’t use. You can keep some of them by perhaps creating some sort of poster with old cards or designating a small shoe box for memorabilia. Resolve to throw away anything that can’t fit into the box.

10. Notebooks – Take a look at the old notebooks you have and throw out the ones that you no longer need.

11. Old or unused electronics – Have an electric piano you don’t use? Or maybe you just never got around to getting rid of your old laptop or cell phone. Sell your electronics on Gazelle.com and Nextworth.com. These sites are great because they’ll quote you a price for the item you wish to sell. You can also sell it on sites such as Craigslist and eBay.

Last Letter Added to the Alphabet Wasn’t ‘Z’

The alphabet is one of the first things we ever learn ever. That’s why when you read “A B C D E F G,” you sing The Alphabet Song in your head.

The alphabet might have been drastically different. It once had six more letters that were eventually dropped. And the alphabet we know today was not created alphabetically. “Z” may be the last letter in alphabetical order, but the last letter added to our alphabet was actually “J.”

In the Roman alphabet, the English alphabet’s father, “J” wasn’t a letter. It was just a fancier way of writing the letter “I” called a swash. When lowercase “i”s were used as numerals, the lowercase “j” marked the end of a series of ones, like “xiij” for 13. Both letters were used interchangeably to write the vowel sound /i/ (like the “i” in igloo) and the consonant sound /j/ (like the “y” in yes).

Then along came Gian Giorgio Trissino, a grammarian who wanted to reform Italian linguistics. In 1524, he wrote an essay that identified “I” and “J” as two separate letters. “I” distinguished the aforementioned vowel, and “J” became a conbanjoFrogsonant that probably sounded more like the “j” in Beijing. Others later adopted his use of “J,” but Romance languages altered its pronunciation to the “j” we’re familiar with (as in jam).

The first English book to explain the difference between the two letters was published in 1633, and the rest is linguistic history. If not for good ol’ Trissino, then jolly Jack and joyful Jill couldn’t jump and juggle in the jungle while jostling Joe for his banjo!

Millennials Redefine the American Dream

Millennials haven’t given up on the American Dream: their expectation of it has evolved.

A Bank of the West study finds millennials (18-36) still view the American Dream as owning a home, paying off debt and someday retiring from a fulfilling career. However, they’ve amended the dream to include travel, pursuing their passions and living abroad. It’s an American Dream that doesn’t all take place in the U.S., and it requires significant capital to back up.

“Millennials dream of living abroad, moving to a new city and switching careers, but in reality they are quite satisfied with stability,” says Paul Appleton, executive vice president of consumer payments and product at Bank of the West. “It’s an interesting dichotomy that doesn’t appear with Gen-Xers or boomers. This generation is dreaming bigger and better, and while they are confident they’ll fulfill their dreams, they need help figuring out how to fund them.”

With more than 6 in 10 millennials believing the American Dream is still alive today, they’re largely in agreement with older generations about what it looks like. Being happy (70%), owning a home (60%), being debt-free (55%) and retiring comfortably (51%) are all key elements of it, but that isn’t the complete picture. The overwhelming majority of millennials (85%) say it’s important to have the flexibility to move when they want, with 67% saying would like to live abroad at some point in their lives and a third of this group can seeing themselves living in another country for the long term.

The American Dream is still a largely aspirational concept. Millennials only envision themselves packing up and moving to a new city, state or country fewer than two more times in their lives. Most (68%) even say they would prefer to build a life in one community, rather than live and work in multiple places. At this stage, 43% of millennials have bought their homes, while 75% of non-homeowners say they could be motivated to buy a house.

As a result, millennials helped make first-time home buyers 32% of all home buyers in March. That’s the highest percentage of first-time home buyers during that month in three years and follows a 2016 housing market in which 35% of home buyers were first-timers – up from 30% for all of 2015.

Eighty-five percent of millenials say they are confident that they will attain their American Dream. Roughly 67% think they have more opportunity to be successful than their parents had. They see opportunity (80%), not innate ability (20%), as the key to reaching their goals, though only 49% have a financial plan in place.

“Millennials have high expectations for their personal and professional lives, and are driven and able to accomplish the goals that they’ve set out for themselves,” Appleton added. “They want the choice and flexibility to make their own decisions – whether it is to build a new life in a foreign country, navigate a career change to pursue their passions, or buy a home and raise a family. By putting a financial plan in place, millennials can ensure they have the means to build the life they want to lead.”

The Plan to Make Drones Not Ruin the Skies

Before drones plop packages on your porch or a flying car whisks you to work, these future flyers must learn to play by the rules of the sky. That means communicating with air traffic control and other aircraft, spotting and avoiding threats and generally knowing what to do when things go wrong.

Making all of this happen demands whole new levels of capability from the aircraft and from the system that oversees them.

Commercial drone technology barely existed a decade ago. Now regulators are hustling to integrate it into the national airspace. The FAA tapped Intel CEO Brian Krzanich to lead its Drone Advisory Committee, and established seven test sites to explore drone flight management. NASA is supporting the quest with its unmanned aircraft traffic management research program.

Everyone is moving fast, but safety trumps efficiency and technological advances. “Our challenge is to find the right balance where safety and innovation co-exist on relatively equal planes,” FAA chief Michael Huerta told the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Symposium in March. “As we move toward fully integrating unmanned aircraft into our airspace, the questions we need to answer are only getting more complicated.”

Right now anyone operating a drone for commercial purposes must first pass a test covering traditional pilot know-how like wing load factors and airspace regulations. Drone pilots must keep their flyer below 400 feet, away from crowds and airports and within their line of sight. These restrictions are designed to keep drones out of trouble. The FAA occasionally waives some restrictions with an eye toward seeing which rules it could loosen, but some people say overzealous regulation will keep the tech from reaching its potential.

“There are so many applications that will benefit from drone use,” says Mark Barker, director of business development and marketing at the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems, which the state government created to expand the use of unmanned air systems. “Energy companies can inspect 50 miles of power lines with winged robots instead of human-piloted aircraft. Drones can conduct search-and-rescue, fly filming missions, survey environmental hazards and act as couriers. They’re more efficient and more cost-effective than human-piloted aircraft.”

The FAA sees good reason to move cautiously, given basic questions that remain unanswered. How will the aircraft respond when it runs out of power or experiences a failure? How will it communicate with air traffic control to approve a flight path or line up for a landing? And how will it avoid smacking into other aircraft?

“If there’s no pilot in the aircraft scanning the horizon, and it’s not big enough for its own radar, how will they detect other aircraft?” says Ed Waggoner, director of NASA’s Integrated Aviation Systems Program. “How do you get information to the unmanned aircraft or the ground-based pilots-in-command in remote-flying situations to avoid other aircraft that may not be clearly announcing their intentions?”

New, miniaturized sensor technology will be key here, particularly the ADS-B positioning systems increasingly common in commercial and civilian aircraft. That technology is approaching drone-friendly dimensions and power requirements, but other problems remain. “In the case of what we call ‘non-cooperative’ aircraft – those flying without those systems either deliberately or because they’re not required to – we need to determine whether ground sensors or airborne sensors in other aircraft represent the best strategy for tracking them,” Waggoner says.

Communicating with air traffic control presents its own problems. The FAA must determine how onboard flight management systems will function, and how those data-based, nonverbal systems will “talk” to controllers on the ground. It could be that the systems operate in a hybrid fashion, with human aircraft operators on the ground assisting otherwise autonomous aircraft through certain phases of their missions, or the successful integration might be contingent on the arrival of the next generation of air traffic control technology.

That happens to be in the pipeline, as well, via the FAA’s ongoing NextGen modernization program. This concurrent evolution is both a complication and a blessing for planners working to merge unmanned aircraft into the national air system. “We’re working with the FAA to ensure that our own work with UAS integration is forward-looking, so we’ll be ready for how air traffic control will function in the transportation system a decade or more from now,” Waggoner says. “But we also need to be safely testing these systems in a realistic, current environment.”

That’s where the FAA’s seven test sites come in. For instance, later this month, Nevada’s Institute for Autonomous Systems – the largest of the seven, with the ability to operate state-wide – will participate in a “Technical Capability Level” evaluation at its Reno facility. It will test a variety of traffic management systems on fixed-wing airplanes and multirotor copters, with flights up to 1,200 feet altitude and across several miles of approved airspace. Other test sites around the country will be similarly engaged, running their own tests with various commercial and research partners.

In Nevada, researchers will conduct long-distance aerial survey, package delivery and emergency response missions. They’ll also try out ground-based sense-and-avoid systems. In January, they’ll throw in “non-cooperative” aircraft – those not identifying themselves – over moderately populated areas. Sometime after that, they’ll expand the test to denser urban areas and explore tasks such as news gathering and package delivery.

As they move toward full freedom, these aircraft must rival humans not just in skill, but in judgment, knowing what to do with the information they collect. “It’s not just sensing and knowing, but the vehicle needs to know the rules-of-the-road when flying – go left if you’re on a collision track, go over there to avoid contact, plan your path this way etc.,” says Richard Pat Anderson, director of the Flight Research Center at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. “That requirement is not baked into the current FAA vision for NextGen, so it will need to be there, as well.”

When the FAA has finally reached a solution that answers all these concerns it will gradually alter the regulations to permit unmanned and autonomous aircraft to zip around the skies, hopefully without causing trouble. Only then will you be able to whip out your smartphone and order some sneakers or whistle up an autonomous electric air taxi to take you to the mall to buy them yourself.

Retail Mannequins Skewer Body Types

A University of Liverpool study finds that the average female mannequin used to display clothing at British fast fashion stores closely mirrors the body type of a severely underweight woman, which can have serious implications on public perceptions of “ideal” body types.

mannequinsResearchers looked at 17 fashion retailers across two British cities and assessed the body size of male and female mannequins, rating each figure on two scales: one based on body mass index (BMI), and the other on visual perception. (Because brands didn’t let them inspect the figures directly, the team had to rely on solely visuals to carry out their research, BBC reported.)

Their findings, published in the Journal Of Eating Disorders, indicated that a higher proportion of the female-bodied mannequins reviewed were “underweight,” according to these standards. The male-bodied mannequins were significantly larger than the average counterparts. Every one of the 32 female-bodied mannequins assessed throughout the data collection was underweight, compared to only 8% of the 26 male-bodied ones that researchers looked at.

Not only was there a lack of diversity of body size among the female-bodied mannequins, but researchers concluded that the figures’ frames would be considered “medically unhealthy” on a real person. “Our survey of these two high streets in the UK produced consistent result: The body size of female mannequins represented that of extremely underweight human women,” Dr. Eric Robinson, who led the study by the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Psychology, Health, and Society, told Science Daily.

Changing the size of the mannequins wouldn’t “solve young people’s body image problems, he admitted, but underweight-seeming figures likely perpetuate society’s existing body ideals – and should therefore be curbed.”Because ultra-thin ideals encourage the development of body image problems in young people, we need to change the environment to reduce emphasis on the value of extreme thinness,” Robinson told Science Daily.

The “presentation of ultra-thin female bodies” in the form of mannequins, the researcher added, “is likely to reinforce inappropriate and unobtainable body ideals, so as a society we should be taking measures to stop this type of reinforcement.”

The study’s findings are agreeable with a string of complaints that have come out of the U.K. in regards to the ultra-thin look of mannequins used in stores: Various British retailers have received criticism, especially on social media, in recent years for the unrealistic body types put forth with their displays.