Appletisers instead of appletinis - the latest recipe for brain health

by Vivian Diep in March 18th, 2022
wine

A different kind of brain drain: modern life?

Mon Mar 7

Our brains are up against a lot. A wealth of new research and findings have uncovered the hurt our brains face regularly — either through our own choices or through exposure to elements around us.

First up is lead exposure, which has shrunk the IQ scores of half of Americans over the last century. The problem started in 1923, when lead was added to fuel to help engine health and performance. Soon after, the EPA realized that car exhaust from leaded fuel was a health concern — especially for children — and by 1996, banned the sale of leaded fuel entirely for on-road vehicles.

But new research shows that the damage was beyond expectations. In fact, as of 2015, 50% of people in the U.S. had clinically concerning levels of lead in their blood as children, resulting in lower IQs and higher risk of: faster aging of the brain, mental illness, and cardiovascular disease. These risks increase for those born in the 1960s and 1970s when leaded fuel hit peak usage.

Second, there’s the impact of alcoholic beverages, which has been debated for years. The latest is the most significant study of them all, showing clearly that just one drink a day can result in the brain aging half a year (meaning the brain is shrinking, resulting in declines in memory and decision-making abilities). Increase that intake to four drinks a day, and the brain is 10 years “older” than non-drinkers. This data already suggests that the current safe drinking recommendations are too high — but Americans are well beyond that point. One analysis in 2014 showed that the top 10% of American drinkers consume 50% of all alcohol in the U.S., with an average of 10 drinks a day. By 2020, consumption per day was the highest it’s been since Prohibition.

And finally, there’s simply dirty air — though legislation may finally tackle this one. Over the past decade, researchers have found how air pollution can harm cognitive abilities and contribute to depression and cancer risks. For example, ProPublica uncovered the inadequate and thus inaccurate measurement of air pollution in the sugar-producing regions of Florida. Residents were unwittingly being exposed to air pollution at four times the average due to sugar cane burning. In response, lawmakers have introduced a new bill to fund air monitoring through ongoing measurements of air pollutants as well as grants and contracts to fund hyperlocal air quality projects.

A number of other legislative efforts are taking shape, too. The EPA is establishing a new team to conduct monitoring from the skies to the ground and pledging $600,000 to monitor the air in high risk areas of the U.S. south. Meanwhile, the researchers behind the alcohol study are continuing their study by observing the impact of binge drinking (instead of daily drinking).

Below the Fold Bytes

Transparency in Career Gaps?

The pandemic resulted in 64% of women taking career breaks for various reasons, from parental leave (22%) to medical leave (17%) to mental health (14%). LinkedIn’s response to this data? Providing a way to explain gaps in your resume. LinkedIn members will have a variety of categories to select from, including career transition, caregiving, full-time parenting, or health and wellbeing. But this move has our team in a tizzy. What if someone isn’t comfortable sharing? Do employers need to know a candidate’s full personal history? What’s so wrong about a break that we need to justify it? Will LinkedIn’s option benefit us above the anxiety and pressure of explaining a break? >> Read More

Rudimentary Reading Emergency

What in 2019 was called a literary crisis for elementary children has turned into a reading emergency as students enter the third year of pandemic learning. New studies have shown early reading skills hit a 20-year low this Fall as a third of children in the youngest grades missed their reading benchmarks. While the problem is worsening in every demographic, children who are Black, Hispanic, or from low income families are falling the most behind. For example in Boston, the number of students identified as high risk for reading problems has doubled at high-poverty schools since the onset of the pandemic. Some are blaming the long gaps in in-person learning. >> Read More

🎬 Action of the Week

Working on an initiative that can help your community monitor air quality, especially near underserved communities in the U.S.? The EPA is accepting applications for funding through its dedicated $50 million available for grants through March 25th. Learn more and apply here.


We also want to share the reminder that exercise and nutrition not only have proven to improve brain health, but also reduce the risk of other factors that can hurt the brain.

Resources

ASCII-ing About the News

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Alcohol’s impact on the brain is going to blow your mind.


Art Credit: Steven James Walker

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