Billions on health remedies

As more and more Americans are starting to realize that conventional medicine does not hold the answers to their problems, their spending on natural health remedies is rising. In fact, a study that was recently released by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows that Americans spend $30.2 billion on complementary health approaches each year. When you consider the fact that they spend $328.8 billion on out-of-pocket health expenditures overall, the significant portion of health-related spending occupied by alternative remedies becomes quite clear.

The study used data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, which was then weighted to come up with estimates that more accurately represent the nation’s population at large.

According to the researchers, one out of every five Americans over the age of 4 spent money on at least one complementary health approach. Some of the treatments that fall under this category include tai chi, massage therapy, homeopathic treatment, energy healing therapy, chiropractic manipulation and hypnosis.

Natural product supplements like fish oil, probiotics and digestive enzymes were more popular than visits to alternative health practitioners. This type of expense is not typically covered by health insurance, which means that families who have higher incomes tend to use them more often than those in lower income brackets.

Another interesting finding was that the $12.8 billion spent on natural product supplements alone in 2012 is equal to about a quarter of the amount of money spent on prescription drug use that year, which was $54 billion.

Complementary healthcare users aged four and older spent $510 per year on average on these approaches.

‘People are fed up’

The National Products Association’s Executive Director, Daniel Fabricant, who also happens to be a former FDA Director of Dietary Supplement Programs, said:

“People are fed up with the type of care they get from primary physicians that is covered by insurance. Across the board, people are looking for ways to stay healthy on their own.”

He pointed out that the average doctor sees 40 patients a day, spending just seven minutes with each one on average. This means that people don’t feel engaged with their doctors, and are taking matters into their own hands.

Big Pharma losing ground

Another factor at play here is people’s growing disillusionment with the deceitful practices of Big Pharma, whose overpriced medications often do little to cure problems, and can leave people in worse shape than when they started, thanks to their many side effects. Pharmaceutical firms are also known to engage in deceptive research tactics, and people are now seeing for themselves how many of their “solutions” send people into a cycle of dependency without really curing anything.

According to The Economist, Americans spend a whopping 20.9 percent of their total household expenditures on health costs, far exceeding other countries. As more people realize that Big Pharma profits from people being sick, they are turning to alternative options.

This sea-change in attitude can also be evidenced by consumers’ increasing preference for organic produce. The world’s second-largest retailer, Costco, announced this year that organic sales had jumped 72 percent since 2008, with its organics sales totaling $4 billion last year.

The message is clear: Americans are fed up with Big Pharma. They are tired of the lies. People don’t want to load their bodies up with the dangerous chemicals found in medications. They don’t want their fruits and vegetables to be laced with pesticides. And their spending habits are starting to back this up. One can only hope this trend will continue, with natural health spending eventually outstripping that of conventional medicine.

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Half brain away from home

There’s a soft mattress, a warm duvet, and a mint on your pillow. But despite the comfort of the hotel bed, you toss and turn on your first night away. Sound familiar? It could be because your left brain refuses to switch off properly when you’re in unfamiliar surroundings.

This so-called first night effect is well-known in sleep research. Because of this, when studying sleep patterns in the lab, researchers sometimes discard data from the first night to allow participants time to get used to their surroundings.

To understand this phenomenon, Masako Tamaki and colleagues at Brown University, Rhode Island, scanned the brains of 11 healthy volunteers while they slept on two occasions, a week apart. While asleep, they analysed their slow waves – low-frequency patterns of brain activity that reflect how deeply someone is sleeping.

Half asleep

The first time, they found that slow-wave activity was weaker in the brain’s left hemisphere than in the right, suggesting that the left side was more alert. Slow-wave activity was particularly weak in a pathway involved in spontaneous thought while we’re awake, called the default mode network.

A week later, slow-wave activity in the left hemisphere was higher, and was similar to that of the right. The team found that the greater the similarity in slow-wave activity in the two hemispheres, the faster a person fell asleep.

To test how much more alert a person is when they sleep somewhere new, the team then ran a similar experiment, but played sounds to participants through earphones while they slept. On the first occasion, their left hemispheres responded more strongly to the sounds than a week later.

Sleeping like a dolphin

Some birds and marine mammals are known to put only half of their brain to sleep at a time, so that they can stay vigilant. Tamaki thinks something similar might be going on in our brains when we’re in an unfamiliar environment.

The default mode network is involved in mind wandering and thinking about future events. It is spread across the brain, but it seems like only the part located in the left hemisphere may be acting as a “night watch”, monitoring conditions around us and alerting us to potential danger.

The reason for this is unclear, but it could be because the left hemisphere has stronger connectivity between its constituent regions, which might make it more effective as a night watch, Tamaki says.

If you want to increase your chances of sleeping well in strange surroundings, Tamaki suggests you simply accept your fate. “Try not to worry too much since worrying itself would wake up the brain,” she says. If you need to be well-rested for an event, think about arriving two nights early, she adds. “You can also bring something that makes you feel comfortable with a new place.”

Adrian Williams, a sleep medicine researcher at King’s College London, says the first night effect contrasts with the experience of his insomnia patients, who often sleep better away from home since they associate their own bedroom with not sleeping. But the results are convincing and intriguing, he says.

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A new BioWeapon

Air pollution has a significant and pervasive impact on public health. According to the World Health Organization, it is now considered “the world’s largest single environmental health risk,” with more than three million people dying every year as a result. This is more than twice the number of people that die in vehicle accidents each year.

Health and safety are important to us. Just as we’ve designed Model S and Model X to avoid collisions or protect their occupants when one happens, we felt compelled to protect them against the statistically more relevant hazard of air pollution*. Inspired by the air filtration systems used in hospitals, clean rooms, and the space industry, we developed a HEPA filtration system capable of stripping the outside air of pollen, bacteria, and pollution before they enter the cabin and systematically scrubbing the air inside the cabin to eliminate any trace of these particles. The end result is a filtration system hundreds of times more efficient than standard automotive filters, capable of providing the driver and her passengers with the best possible cabin air quality no matter what is happening in the environment around them.

The air filtration system was put to the test in real-world environments from California freeways during rush hour, to smelly marshes, landfills, and cow pastures in the central valley of California, to major cities in China. We wanted to ensure that it captured fine particulate matter and gaseous pollutants, as well as bacteria, viruses, pollen and mold spores.

We then decided to take things a step further and test the complete system as we would on the road, but in an environment where we could precisely control and carefully monitor atmospheric conditions. A Model X was placed in a large bubble contaminated with extreme levels of pollution (1,000 µg/m³ of PM2.5 vs. the EPA’s “good” air quality index limit of 12 µg/m³). We then closed the falcon doors and activated Bioweapon Defense Mode.

In less than two minutes, the HEPA filtration system had scrubbed the air in Model X, bringing pollution levels from an extremely dangerous 1,000 µg/m³ to levels so low as to be undetectable (below the noise floor) by our instruments, allowing us to remove our gas masks and breathe fresh air while sitting inside a bubble of pollution.

Not only did the vehicle system completely scrub the cabin air, but in the ensuing minutes, it began to vacuum the air outside the car as well, reducing PM2.5 levels by 40%. In other words, Bioweapon Defense Mode is not a marketing statement, it is real. You can literally survive a military grade bio attack by sitting in your car.

Moreover, it will also clean the air outside your car, making things better for those around you. And while this test happened to be done with a Model X, the same would be true of the new Model S now in production.

Tesla will continue to improve the micro-geometry and chemical passivation defenses in the primary and secondary filters, which are easily replaceable, so this will get better the longer you own your car. Suggestions for improvement are welcome.

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Difference Between Organic Gardening and Permaculture

The Permaculture garden is a lot more than an organic garden. It is a designed garden.
It is a system that is focused on closing the fertiliser loop by using waste, and reducing the dependence on inputs by creating healthy soil and diversity of produce.
It is also responsible for its waste, it aims not to pollute the surrounding environment, i.e. neither with excess nitrogen released into the water systems, nor weed seed into any natural systems.

It uses design to minimise the gardeners chores and energy input. Repetitive and mundane hard work is the joy of few people doing permaculture. Variety and observation keep people engaged and excited about growing food. Permaculture activists are motivated by reducing their ecological footprint and developing a varied healthy lifestyle. Permaculture needs to engage all people of different ability, not just young strong people who can shovel compost.

It aims to imitate nature. Visually this is the most noticeable difference between organic gardening and permaculture. In permaculture gardens (home systems is the more holistic term) there is rarely bare soil, the conservation of soil and water is a high priority. There is a more complex use of space. Plants are allowed to set seed and are interplanted for pest control. You are unlikely to see plants in rows.

The permaculture system aims to harvest and maximise water, sun and other natural energies, e.g. wind, dust, leaves, bird droppings.

The permaculture system aims to provide nutritious food and habitat for people AND native animals and birds.

What’s the difference between Organic Farming and Permaculture?

Basically, Permaculture uses organic gardening and farming practices but it goes beyond these practices and integrates the garden and home to create a lifestyle that impacts less on the environment.

Organic Farming promotes the use of natural fertilisers, making use of the natural carbon cycle so that waste from plants becomes the food (fertiliser) of another. In organic farming however, as with ALL farming, minerals are being lost from the farm every time a truck load of produce is carted to market.

Permaculture goes one step further. Permaculture brings production of food closer to consumers and the consumer’s wastes back into the cycle. It also reduces the energy wasted in transporting the foods by producing the foods where the people are. In permaculture the people contribute in their daily life toward the production of their food and other needs.

When is Permaculture not organic?

There will be times when a permaculture system is not strictly organic because it is using local resources rather than importing certified organic resources or perhaps the designer wants to increase diversity by bringing in unusual plants/seeds from another source that is not organic.

Re-purpose local resources

This is not usually due to an intentional use of pesticides, but often due to the use of a by-product that would otherwise be wasted. We could use old shoes as pots for plants, an old truck tyre/tire to hold the edges of a pond. Sometimes the choices are difficult and we have to do a quick cost/benefit analysis.

Permaculture Can Convert A Resource

We would need to weigh the benefit of a using a free local waste (ie. horse manure) versus supporting a good organic supplier who may be in another country. When we design well, the permaculture system can act as a cleanser or processing agent. Sometimes, we can transform then utilise a polluted waste (within what is realistic achievable). In the case of the horse manure, we could ask the owner about their anti-worming medication, check that it can be broken down by high-temperature composting then go about re mediating it before using it. Good permaculture design will aim to have a better output than input. Organic gardening may not have checks to reduce the system’s impact on the wider natural system.

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