Tag Archives: health

23andMe: Bad News Good News

23andMe: Bad News Good News

In early February, my sister Peggy alerted me that she had spent the extra money for the health information available with a DNA test on Ancestry.com. She learned that she carries two mutations that can lead to hemochromatosis, a disorder in which the body stores too much iron. I clicked the button on 23andme.com to get my health results and they were the same. Two tests were available to determine if the condition was active: Peggy and I are negative on both tests. We do not have the disease and we have both decided to donate blood regularly because, if we had the disease, phlebotomy would be the only treatment.

Now the good news. I also carry two GOOD mutations that bestow fast-twitch muscles.
Genetic Power Athlete

This report is based on a genetic marker in the ACTN3 gene. This marker controls whether muscle cells produce a protein (called alpha-actinin-3) that’s found in fast-twitch muscle fibers. While some people don’t produce this protein at all, almost all of the elite power athletes who have been studied have a genetic variant that allows them to produce the protein. This suggests that the protein may be beneficial at least at the highest levels of power-based athletic competition.

ACTN3: More than Just a Gene for Speed

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5741991/

One of the most promising genes in that regard is ACTN3, which has commonly been referred to as “a gene for speed”.

Studies have found that most elite power athletes have a specific genetic variant in a gene related to muscle composition called the ACTN3 gene. This variant causes muscle cells to produce alpha-actinin-3, a protein found in fast-twitch muscle fibers.

https://www.23andme.com/topics/wellness/muscle-composition/

France v. Germany: 150 Year Pattern

France v. Germany: 150 Year Pattern

France v Germany Covid Performance

On May 14, I posted this graphic to a Francophile Facebook group and asked why Germany’s deaths were a fraction of those in France even though they had about the same number of infections. Today, the NYTimes ran an article that seems to answer the question that is apparently circulating around France, too. The article is about the book “Strange Defeat” written in the early 1940s by

Bloch, a historian and World War I veteran. He volunteered to serve on the front lines in 1939 and later joined the Resistance, before being executed by the Gestapo in 1944.

In 1940, as a captain who oversaw fuel supplies at the headquarters of France’s First Army, he enjoyed an insider’s view of France’s defeat: an overly bureaucratic and rigid military leadership, hewing to theories and traditions, was incapable of reacting to the German threat.

While French leaders were re-enacting World War I with an emphasis on infantry and artillery, the Germans came with tanks, airplanes, trucks and motorcycles.

In a painful summary of France’s defeat, Bloch wrote: “Our leaders, or those who acted in their names, were incapable of thinking in terms of a new war.’’ He added, “The German victory was, essentially, an intellectual victory.’’

Un Village FrançaisI have just watched the first two of seven seasons of “Un Village Français” which starts in 1940 with the German invasion of a village near Besançon. This article is a stunning insight into what I am seeing unfold in this series. I have just witnessed the “aryanization” of a Jewish-owned cement plant by the man in the center holding the hand of the woman in the red dress in the photo at left. It seems like France, itself, may be starting to recognize the pattern. The NYTimes article states:

In a meticulous analysis of the handling of the epidemic by France and Germany, “Le Monde’’ concluded that the crisis had led to another replay in the “eternal match between France and Germany, at the end of which the winner always seems to be the same.’’

It was the latest chapter in a relationship that has tortured and defined France since it was defeated by Germany in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, putting an end to French hegemony in Europe, said Pierre Vermeren, a historian who teaches at the University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

“In the 1870s, after France realized that it was outclassed by Germany, there was what was called the German crisis in French thinking,’’ Mr. Vermeren said. “France couldn’t understand: ‘How did the Germans do it? Why are their schools better? Why are their soldiers better trained? Why are their soldiers athletic, and not ours?’

“This has been going for 150 years.’’

Come As You Are — Emily Nagoski

Come As You Are — Emily Nagoski

Come As You Are
Amazon recommended this book when I was browsing for Esther Perel titles. Emily Nagoski is a Ph.D. teaching at Smith College and this book offers the best science wrapped in very accessible language. The concepts of opening up the range of female experience and self-acceptance are wonderful and freeing. On page 332 she says, “I wrote this book because I am done living in a world where women are lied to about their bodies; where women are objects of sexual desire but not subjects of sexual pleasure; where sex is used as a weapon against women; and where women believe their bodies are broken, simply because those bodies are not male. And I am done living in a world where women are trained fro birth to treat their bodies as the enemy. I want to teach women to live with confidence and joy.”

Lemony Freshness

Descriptions on pages 62-64 of the “lemony-freshness” and “little rat jacket” experiments with the first sexual experiences of healthy young male rats raised by competent mothers who licked them enough.

In a rat’s natural environment, outside the lab, he would never need a jacket in order of feel sexy, and the smell of lemons wouldn’t make him ejaculate. The rats learned these things because humans created an environment where those things sere salient features of their sexual environment. But even things you would assume are innate — fertile female rats — must be learned by experience.

Dealing with Unwanted Feelings

How to deal with unwanted feelings (page 119) and the importance of “going through the tunnel” touching neither the brake nor the accelerator.

My technical description of [the] out-of-control experience is “maladaptive behavior to manage negative affect” — which just means trying to cope with uncomfortable emotions (stress, depression, anxiety, loneliness, rage) by doing things that carry a high risk of unwanted consequences. Compulsive sexual behavior is one example. Other examples include:

  • using alcohol or other drugs in a risky way
  • dysfunctional relationships — for instance, trying to deal with your own feelings by dealing with someone else’s
  • escaping into distractions, like movie binge-watching when you have other things you need to be doing
  • disordered eating — restricting, binging, or purging

What is the single most effective strategy for completing the stress response cycle? Dr. Nagoski asks, “When you are being chased by a lion, what do you do? You run.” Physical activity recalibrates your central nervous system into a calm state. (p. 122)

She points out on page 118 that stressed people may become more eager for sex but enjoy it less because pleasure is a different component than sexual interest. “To reduct the impace of stresson your sexual pleasure and interest, to have more joyful, pleasurable sex, manage your stress. Yeah, easier said than done.”

Weeding Your Garden, Training Your Brain

Meditation is a sideways strategy for weeding trauma out of your garden. It’s a way of simply noticing a weed and then deciding if you want to water it or not, pull it or not, fertilize it or not. The weed of trauma will gradually disappear as long as at least half of the time you choose not to nurture it. And the more you choose to withdraw your protection from the trauma, the faster it will wither and die. If you change only one thing in your life as a result of reading this book, make it a daily two-minute practice of [following your breath and noticing that your mind has wandered and bringing it back, “mindful” of both your breath and your attention to your breath. You are teaching yourself to be in control of your brain, so that your brain is not in control of you]. This practice will cultivate deep respect for emotions, differentiating their causes from their effects and granting you choice over how you manage them. (p. 130-131)

The regular two-minute practice will will gradually result in peridoc moments throughout the day when you notice what you’re paying attention to and then decide if that’s what you want to pay attention to right now, or if you want to pay attention to something else. What you pay attention to matters less than how you pay attention.

Spontaneous Desire vs. Responsive Desire

“So, what do I do if my desire for sex is only spontaneous in bad relationships?” a student asked Dr. Nagoski. The pervasive standard in our culture is the typical male-default spontaneous desire. The student had been using sex as an attachment behavior in bad relationships (as described in chapter four) and was now perplexed that her desire was behaving differently in a stable, trusting relationship. (p. 297)

Responsive desire arises from the context of feeling safe and loved and lacks the insistent itch of attachment behavior. “Cultivate loving responsive desire. Figure out what contexts give you a fantastic relationship and hot sex. That shift will change your life and is the reason I am writing this book.”

Our meta-emotions — the cultural images described in chapter five — manage how we feel about our feelings. Our judgements about whether something is good or bad. Three questions to develop more positive meta-emotons:

  1. Is this the right goal for me?
  2. Am I putting in the right amount of the right kind of effort?
  3. Are my expectations of how much effort this particular goal requires realistic?

The Map Is Not The Terrain

On page 300 Dr. Nagoski explains that the map is developed through early sexual experiences like “lemony freshness” and “little rat jacket” as well as cultural indoctrination. “The technical term for this process of organizing your experience according to a preexisting template is ‘probabilistic generative model.’ It means that information from your senses goes first to your emotional brain, where prior learning, plus your present brain state (stress, desire) combine to shape the initial decisions your brain makes about whether to move forward or away from that sensory input. Sadly, most people’s sexual maps are unreliable.” Here are the steps to revise the map and create positive meta-emotions.

  1. Trust the terrain. Recognize the difference between the map-goal and what you’re actually experiencing. Two key points: (a) When the map doesn’t seem to fit the terrain, the map is wrong, (b) Evkeryone’s map and everyone’s terrain are different.
  2. Let go of the map. Welcoming your sexuality as it is, without judgment or shame, is the hard part for a lot of women. Non-judging is the key. Emotions are tunnels. You have to go all the way through the darkness to get to the light at the end.

There are three targets for retraining the meta-emotions: the goal, the amount or kind of effort you invest, and the criterion velocity — your assessment of how effortful it should be to achieve this goal. First, re-evaluate what it is going to take to reach the goal. Second strategy: change the kind of effort. She tells of funny poster in her office of a penguin waddling away from the camera with this caption: Until you spread your wings, you’ll have no idea of how far you can walk.

Strategy three: change the goal. Option A is no longer available, let’s rock Option B. “Let go of the goal of spontaneous desire and allow yourself to be responsive or context-sensitive opens up the opportunity of seeking out contexts that maximize your desire style.”

When you notice shame or frustration or grief, allow yourself to direct those feelings away from yourself and instead focus the emotions toward the culture that told you the wrong story. Rage not against yourself but against the culture that lied to you. Grieve not for your discrepancy from a fictitious “ideal” that is at best arbitrary and at worst an act of oppression and violence; grieve for the compassionate world you were born deserving… and did not get.

The purpose of allowing yourself to feel those Feels is not to change something out in the world. Feel your Feels so that they can discharge, release, and create space for something new inside you. When you allow that grief to move through you, you are letting go of the sexual person you were told you “should be,” a phantom self that has taken up space in your mind for too long. And letting go of that phantom creates spaces for the sexual person you are. And when we all practice this, the world does change, person by person.

Confidence and joy — that’s the path.

“Strangers In Their Own Land”

“Strangers In Their Own Land”

“Anger and Mourning on the American Right” is the subtitle of this book by Arlie Russel Hochschild, a Berkeley sociologist. Based mainly on interviews with Tea Party Republicans in Louisiana, she delves into the “why” of poor white votes for Trump and other Republicans. Louisiana is one of the poorest and least-healthy states. It is heavily polluted because weak enforcement of weak regulations make it attractive to oil and chemical plants. Polluting industries seek the “least resistant personality profile” in the residents of the area they plan to poison (page 81):

  • Longtime residents of small towns in the South or Midwest
  • High school educated only
  • Catholic
  • Uninvolved in social issues, and without a culture of activism
  • Involved in “nature exploitative occupations” such as mining, farming, ranching
  • Conservative
  • Republican
  • Advocates of the free market

Hochschild develops a “deep story” to explain their traditional values of loyalty, sacrifice, and endurance. Polluting industries manipulate them into fearing the loss of their income if they don’t turn a blind eye to the secret pollution, the dying trees, the disappearing fish, the increasing illness. Church, state, and politicians tug their loyalty strings to believe in Capitalism at the expense of the environment. They endure the secret spillage into their waterways, staying close to home and their traditional values. They resent Liberals who point to the contamination and tell them they “are not feeling the right feelings.”

These white people work hard and they scorn the shiftless, no ‘count people below them in the social order who live on government handouts and never work. They identify with the white plantation owners, the 1%, and believe that through hard work, luck and family connections, they too will live in the white-columned mansions along the Mississippi River. But they don’t go to college and they don’t learn new technology or new ways of thinking.

They are resentful of affirmative-action types (women, blacks, refugees) who “cut in front of them in line” for the good jobs. They believe the government paid for Obama’s education, and for Michelle’s Harvard education, too. Because they never bought and read his books, they don’t realize that their education loans were paid for with the book royalties. They believe the government subsidizes this “line-cutting” that has stagnated their wages and lives.

They don’t want to feel like downtrodden victims like blacks, women and gays. They want to feel like the white 1%. Their endurance is a matter of honor. Honor is sacrifice. With their tight communities and limited education, their feedback loop is small and fed by Fox News.

Trump cashed in on Identity Politics for white men who felt trapped in 1950s ethics and values. The ones holding the KKK signs in Atchafalaya. Read David Brooks review of the book in his Fourth of July column.

Death Rate Jumps 22% for Middle-Aged Whites

Death Rate Jumps 22% for Middle-Aged Whites

NYTimesDyingMiddleAge
The New York Times reported in a front page article that white Americans without a college degree are dying at an accelerated rate due to suicide, fast and slow.

The rising annual death rates among this group are being driven not by the big killers like heart disease and diabetes but by an epidemic of suicides and afflictions stemming from substance abuse: alcoholic liver disease and overdoses of heroin and prescription opioids.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called it “Despair, American Style” in an op-ed piece today.

In a recent interview Mr. Deaton suggested that middle-aged whites have “lost the narrative of their lives.” That is, their economic setbacks have hit hard because they expected better. Or to put it a bit differently, we’re looking at people who were raised to believe in the American Dream, and are coping badly with its failure to come true.

About a year ago, two of my brothers drank themselves to death on opposite sides on the country. Dave (on the right in the picture below) died on Oct. 5 in Virginia and Greg died on Nov. 17 in Oregon. Both were in their 50’s, both had retired a few years earlier, neither retirement was completely voluntary, neither had finished college. Neither had a strong plan for retirement, both slipped in to spending a lot of time with their best friend, beer. This photo was taken one year prior, on a vacation in Florida.

DaveGreg

In the days following the publication of this alarming data, there was some pushback over methodologies, so Angus Deaton released this drill-down info.
chart

My brothers, who grew up in the 1950’s, rode the post-WWII juggernaut where men were men and drank to prove it. They lived their lives as if everything was going to take care of itself, which was the prevailing assumption in the days of Ozzie & Harriett and Leave It To Beaver. What was different about these two, however, is that they were musicians who became stalled at the “talented amateur” stage. They didn’t pursue enough training to focus their minds or to hone their talent. They never developed a commitment to their art.They never even learned to read music. But their artistic temperaments were difficult to live with, and they numbed themselves. To death.

blackoutSarah Hepola, author of “Blackout: Remembering the things I drank to forget” attributed alcohol addiction to heredity and culture. My brothers did not live in a culture that encouraged thinking in healthy ways. They did not see their father, another talented piano player, take an active part in creating healthier emotions, minimizing emotional suffering and maximizing joy. According to Debbie Joffee Ellis in a letter to the NYTimes, “To create healthy [emotions] requires willingness to think in realistic… ways and to recognize when we are catastrohizing, and then to dispute such thoughts. Don’t worry, think wisely, be healthier and happier.”

The New York Times review of her book says:

Ms. Hepola’s electric prose … has direct access to the midnight gods of torch songs, neon signs, tap beer at a reasonable price, cigarettes and untrammeled longing.

She may have squandered her early carreer
and now is back in Texas, finally publishing her first novel at age 40. I enjoyed the book and I think she is going to beat the odds in the charts above because she finished college, and knew she was a good writer. She made a living at it while she used alcohol as “the gasoline of all adventure.” Now she has sobered up and found her path. I’m so glad.