The human body: An inspiring biological work of art? Or a meaty sack of germs and fluids? Either way, there’s still a lot we don’t know about what goes on in there — and scientists are constantly attempting to find out more. Here are the most interesting things they’ve discovered about our bodies in the last seven days:
If You’re Worried About Going Bald, Don’t Be — You’ll Probably Be Dead From Heart Disease Soon
Are you going bald in a manly fashion? Do you look in the mirror and count down the days until the whiskers on your head have all but evacuated? Have you ever thought to yourself that life couldn’t possibly get much worse because, dagnabbit, you’re going bald? Well, the good news is that your days as a bald man are numbered. The bad news is that this is because you’re going to die.
Okay, let’s break this down a little less dramatically. According to a new study out of India, early baldness is a higher indication of your risk of suffering heart disease than obesity. That is, if you’re going bald before the age of 40, you’re more likely to die of heart disease than the guy sporting a full mane at age 70.
The study of more than 2,000 young men in India (790 men under 40 who had coronary artery disease, and 1,270 healthy men of a similar age, who acted as a control group) discovered that the men with heart conditions were five times more likely to have gone prematurely gray than the control group. Men with heart conditions were also more likely to have male pattern baldness — 49 percent vs. 27 percent of those in the healthy group.
But how can baldness be worse for physical health than obesity? The answer, of course, is that it’s not: Obesity is terrible for your health. This is correlation, not cause: The hair loss is not responsible for the heart disease, it just seems to hit the same people. Dr. Kamal Sharma, the principal investigator on the study, told the BBC that, “The possible reason could be the process of biological aging, which may be faster in certain patients and may be reflected in hair changes.”
In other words, if your head looks like it’s being hit hard by signs of aging, you might want to check what’s happening with your heart, too. Lead study author Dr. Dhammdeep Humane, of the UN Mehta Institute of Cardiology and Research Centre in Ahmedabad, recommends that men with male pattern balding or premature graying, “Should receive extra monitoring for coronary artery disease and advice on lifestyle changes, such as healthy diet, exercise, and stress management.”
If his words are heeded, it looks like we’ll be seeing even more bald dudes in incredible shape.
News to Melt Your Heart
Calling someone a “snowflake” — the childish put-down that’s currently popular to apply to progressives and conservatives alike — is making said snowflakes sad.
Video Games Could Save Your Grandparents’ Brains
Retirement homes better stock up on video game consoles: A new study suggests that playing 3D-platform video games (like Super Mario 64) on a regular basis may improve cognitive functions in seniors by increasing gray matter in the hippocampus, a region of the brain primarily associated with spatial and episodic memory.
To come to such a conclusion, researchers recruited 33 people — ages 55 to 75 — who were randomly assigned to three separate groups. Some participants were instructed to play Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day, five days a week (side note: We’re totally jealous). Others were instructed to take piano lessons (for the first time in their lives) with the same frequency and in the same sequence. The last group did not perform either task.
After six months, researchers performed cognitive performance tests and magnetic resonance imaging on the participants to measure variations in the volume of gray matter. According to the MRI test results, only the participants in the gamer group saw increases in gray matter volume in the hippocampus and cerebellum (a brain structure that plays a major role in motor control and balance). Their short-term memory also improved.
The piano players saw gray matter increases in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (a brain structure associated with planning, decision-making and inhibition) and cerebellum. Some degree of atrophy was noted in all three areas of the brain among those who opted out of gaming and making music. But what’s going on here? How can playing Super Mario 64 better your grandpapa’s brain?
“3D video games engage the hippocampus into creating a cognitive map, or a mental representation, of the virtual environment that the brain is exploring,” researcher Gregory West explains. “Several studies suggest stimulation of the hippocampus increases both functional activity and gray matter within this region.”
Well, dang: Game on, Grandpa.
The Burning Issue of the Day
It’s the areas on your face that you are most likely to miss when applying sunscreen that are most susceptible to cancer.
Baby Not On Board With This
In today’s “no duh” news, pregnancy and traffic pollution are mortal enemies.