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Coffee, Caffeine, and Longer Life

September 20, 2018

It's kind of surprising that something a lot of us drink, and enjoy drinking, is actually good for us and can provide lots of great benefits for us. Usually, the things we all enjoy consuming - sugary drinks and snacks, alcohol, carbs, etc. - should probably be consumed with caution. However, coffee has been shown to have some great anti-agings side effects so to speak. One study published in Nature Medicine in Jan. 2017 revealed an inflammatory mechanism that is associated with aging and the diseases that come along with it. "Metabolites, or breakdown products, of nucleic acids — the molecules that serve as building blocks for our genes — circulating in the blood can trigger this inflammatory process, the study found." The study found that caffeine and its own metabolites may counter the action of the circulating nucleic-acid metabolites. It also stated that more than 90 percent of noncommunicable diseases of aging - many cancers, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and even depression - are associated with inflammation. This particular study found an inflammatory mechanism and then did an analysis of blood samples, survey data and medical and family histories obtained from more than 100 human participants in a multiyear study. Their study revealed that the inflammatory mechanism was directly countered by caffeine and its associated compounds.

News Center. (2018). Caffeine may counter age-related inflammation. [online] Available at: https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2017/01/caffeine-may-counter-age-related-inflammation-study-finds.html [Accessed 20 Sep. 2018].

Another study "performed a large comprehensive study on how coffee consumption is associated with telomere length, a biomarker of aging whose shortening can be accelerated by oxidative stress." The sample size of the study was almost 5,000 women. Coffee consumption information was obtained from food frequency questionnaires and telomere length was measured in peripheral blood leukocytes. The study concluded that higher total coffee consumption was significantly associated with longer telomeres. "Shorter telomeres have been associated with lower life expectancy and higher risks of age-related chronic diseases. Because coffee consumption can reduce oxidative stress and affect DNA integrity, it is plausible that coffee consumption may be associated with telomere length." DNA integrity! Decent name for a coffee shop?

Not only does coffee potentially help you live longer, it also contains many antioxidants - caffeine, chlorogenic acid, diterpenes, melanoidins, and polyphenols. I just recently started getting more into drinking one cup a day. I find that it helps me focus on my work, and feel good and energized doing so. I definitely will continue to stay up to date on what the scientists are saying, but for now I will keep drinking my daily cup.

Liu, J., Crous-Bou, M., Giovannucci, E. and De Vivo, I. (2018). Coffee Consumption Is Positively Associated with Longer Leukocyte Telomere Length in the Nurses' Health Study.

De Morgan's Laws

September 16, 2018

This week at work I came across an opportunity to have some old code reviewed by our new senior engineer. The line I had written awhile back was an unless statement inside of an if statement. We ended up not using De Morgan's Laws in the code we deployed, but it was a chance for me to learn about the logic rules that Mr. De Morgan presented.

Augustus de morgan

Augustus De Morgan was a 19th-century British mathematician. He introduced a pair of transformation rules that are both valid rules of inference. In my understanding, they allow you to perform logic using negations of conjunctions or disjunctions. A conjunction, in terms of computer science, is when code gets executed only if something is true AND something else is true. A disjunction would then be when code gets executed when something is true OR something else is true. In our situation at work this week, we had a disjunction that consisted of a conjunction on one side and a negated disjunction on the other.

By De Morgan's Laws, if you negate a disjunction, then that becomes the conjunction of the negations of your original OR statement. Likewise, if you negate a conjunction, then that becomes the disjunction of the negations in your original AND statement. It's fun to poke around with these laws when writing your logic in your applications. I often in the past have resorted to writing logic in weird ways, such as unless statements or if/else statements inside of other if/else statements. Thinking about De Morgan's Laws when writing logic allows you to potentially write shorter, more precise conditionals.

Check out the wikipedia page on De Morgan's Laws below as well as a walk-through refactoring using De Morgan's Laws on a coding blog.

https://robots.thoughtbot.com/clearer-conditionals-using-de-morgans-laws

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Morgan%27s_laws

Chill Off

September 15, 2018

Chill Off

Love Is God Is Love

September 08, 2018

Love Is God Is Love

Everything In Moderation - Even Chocolate

September 02, 2018

It has been surprising to learn that chocolate actually has healing qualities that might far outweigh the negatives of its consumption. In most studies, participants who eat chocolate around 3-4 times per month or 1-2 times per week are the ones who reap the benefits of cocoa. Any more or less than that, and the healing efforts of cocoa may not be able to produce the desired effects. A study conducted in Stockholm in 2009 that lasted roughly 8.6 years showed that those who reported eating chocolate twice or more per week were 66% less likely to suffer a cardiac death compared to those that did not eat chocolate at all. In a Japanese study, risk of diabetes among men was reduced by 35% in those that ate chocolate once or more per week. Another 2009 study suggested that elderly men preferring chocolate over other types of candy reported less instances of depression and loneliness. A study of 2,217 participants conducted by the NHLBI Family Heart Study identified an inverse relationship between chocolate consumption and plaque in the coronary arteries. Those who reported eating chocolate two times or more per week were 32% less likely to have significant coronary artery calcification compared with participants who never ate chocolate.

There are so many studies referenced in the article I read this week that show a positive correlation between chocolate consumption and overall health. Dark chocolate seems to be the best option for its high antioxidant content, but any type of chocolate in moderation will probably suffice. Cocoa comes from the dried and fully fermented fatty seed of the fruit of the cocoa tree. Cocoa liquor is the paste made from the ground cocoa beans. When you look at the packaging of chocolates, the higher the "percent cacao" is, the darker the chocolate will be. If you are looking for the healthiest, most pure chocolate, get the one with the highest cocoa percentage.

Chocolate provides more phenolic antioxidants than most foods. Chocolate increases the production of nitric oxide in your blood, which in turn helps your vascular health and blood flow. Anti-inflammatory effects of chocolate may directly influence insulin resistance and, in turn, reduce risk for diabetes. Cocoa helps protect against neurodegradation, increases perfusion or blood flow, decreases neuroinflammation, and modulates neuronal function through interaction with a number of signaling pathways. It can even help protect against UV rays when used in topical preparations. Potential detrimental effects exist which include weight gain. However, the benefits of moderate cocoa or dark chocolate consumption are shown to far outweigh the risks. It is good for you, it tastes amazing and it makes you happier.

Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease David L. Katz, Kim Doughty, and Ather Ali Antioxidants & Redox Signaling 2011 15:10, 2779-2811

Love Loop

September 02, 2018

Love Loop

Peaceful

September 01, 2018

Peaceful

Running-Related Injury Awareness in Novice Runners

August 26, 2018

In continuing my research on running and running-related injuries, I found that the novices are most at risk. I read an article by the Dutch human movement scientist and epidemiologist, Evert Verhagen. He talks about the current level of awareness in regards to what we know about preventing running-related injuries in novice runners. It turns out, we don't know much of what is causing injuries in novice runners, or who is more susceptible to which type of injury. Most studies have had poor sample sizes and have all called for more research on the subject. With an estimated 1.4 million runners in the Netherlands, of which the total population is 17 million, you would think that we would have more research done on the subject and be better at preventing injuries for new runners. Those numbers are just the Netherlands, imagine what percentage of people across the world are out running. It's great to see running gain popularity due in part to its low entry level and quick health effects, but it's also not great to see that the number of running-related injuries per year accounts for about 9% of all sports injuries. As I get more into running, I'm even noticing some signs that I need to slow down. My hips are very tight, so I can't do speed work as often as I'd like to. I get some inflammation in my hips if I push myself too hard.

It seems that the novice runner and the experienced runner are two different breeds of athlete. Risk and type of injury differ greatly between groups. It's a complex problem to tackle since we are all built differently. The data shows that reducing the load or increasing loading capacity might reduce risk of injury. This research is still all speculative, which I find interesting. However, this particular article was published 6 years ago. At the time, it was still speculative but it was believed to be likely that every runner has an individual set of weak links that are predisposed to injury. If the runner is handling the load consistently throughout their body, then this might lead to one injury occurring much more frequently than others (where load is maximal). This might explain my hip issue. The tightness in my hips could be my weak link. Another speculation is that running injuries are caused by the overloading of specific soft-tissue structures. There is current evidence supporting the weak spot theory, and the soft-tissue theory. Again, surprises me how little we still know about this.

Kinematics is mentioned in this article and it's stated that running-induced fatigue often causes less stability in their core. This leads to runners altering their trunk flexion and extension. I don't pay enough attention to my running mechanics, and should probably consult a professional. The next run I go on, I will focus on keeping my core stable and back strong and see if I notice a difference. Like I mentioned in my previous running-related injury post, there seems to be some things that might help but no one knows for sure. I don't push myself as hard as I did when I first started running since I am aware of the learning curve. I hope to get past the novice stage injury free. Making sure I have proper kinematics and that I don't increase my mileage too quickly seems to be the best path forward.

Verhagen, E. “Prevention of Running-Related Injuries in Novice Runners: Are We Running on Empty?” British Journal of Sports Medicine 46.12 (2012): 836–837. Web.

Static

August 26, 2018

Static

Flow State

August 19, 2018

Something that I seek to find and achieve in my everyday life is what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi refers to as the flow state. The flow state is described as a state of effortless concentration and enjoyment. I find it in anything creative, which can be everything. Conversations, running, making music, writing, etc. All these activities allow me to become fully immersed in an experience. Csikszentmihalyi says that it is the "full involvement of flow, rather than happiness, that makes for excellence in life." Enjoying a serene relationship or sunrise is a moment of happiness that depends on your external reality being in your favor. By getting into flow state, you access a happiness that comes from your own making. The happiness comes from our internal reality rather than what we are experiencing externally at that moment. This type of happiness leads to increasing complexity and growth in consciousness, meaning you begin to comprehend more about your experience of life and in turn can experience a rich and deep reality.

Csikszentmihalyi offers advice on many ways to achieve flow state. It can occur when somebody is facing a clear set of goals that require appropriate responses. Playing tennis or poker will allow the participant to respond to situations without having to think about their responses. This offers up a space where you must quickly respond and you can learn to trust yourself. Flow also occurs when a person is faced with a challenge that is just about manageable. The challenge becomes the very thing that requires the participant to learn new skills. The research suggests that flow is generally achieved by people while they are doing their favorite activity. Very rarely do people report that they experience flow while doing something easy like watching television. As humans, I think we have a deep need and desire for growth. Flow seems to be most accessible in activities that make growth and learning possible.

A fascinating fact of Csikszentmihalyi's research is that flow is often experienced more by people at work than in their free time. Free time is filled with leisure. Leisure does not lead to flow state. Our nervous system is wired to attend to external signals and has not had time to adapt to long periods without obstacles or dangers. If somebody tends to use leisure time to relax and not challenge them self, they have less of a chance of finding meaning in their time off. Unless they learn how to use this leisure time effectively, then having this time at their disposal does not improve the quality of their life. Using your free time effectively requires you to be willing to overcome the initial obstacle of doing something challenging. The activities that create flow state are challenging by nature. But once you get past the initial hurdle of beginning a challenging activity, you're much more likely to enter flow state and therefore derive more pleasure from your free time than if you had stayed on the couch. Finding flow in social interactions is possible as well. It has been shown that people tend to swim around in depressive thoughts when they are alone with nothing to do. The moods experienced by a chronic depressive are indistinguishable from healthy people's moods as long as they are in company and doing something that requires attention and concentration.

In "Finding Flow: The Psychology of Engagement With Everyday Life" by Csikszentmihalyi, you will learn much more about what the flow state is, how it can improve the quality of your life, and how to achieve the state itself. I view flow as a powerful energy that I have to work to uncover and access. I have to be confronted with a challenging situation that requires me to think creatively on the spot. When I begin to work towards confronting a challenge, I begin to feel a certain excitement and joy. Thoughts become more clear and I become more intuitive. My trust in myself increases and I feel stronger and faster. Lastly, in overcoming the challenge, I then get to experience a lasting and fulfilling happiness.