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:
Standing Up At Your Desk Is Killing You
Just when you thought it was bad for you to stay seated at work, a new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology has found that people who primarily stand over the course of a workday are twice as likely to develop heart disease as people who mostly sit down. The study, which tracked the health of 7,000 Canadians over a 12-year period, also found that workers who stand on the job have a higher risk of heart disease (6.6 percent) than smokers (5.8 percent), and are only slightly less at risk than those people suffering from obesity (6.9 percent).
According to researchers, standing for prolonged periods of time — like you might do at your fancy standing desk — forces your heart to work harder, as it has to counteract the effects of gravity and drive pooling blood from your legs back up through your body.
Sitting Down At Your Desk Is Also Killing You
Maybe we should just try hanging upside down?
Lose the Fat, Make a Baby
Have you been trying to knock up the missus recently but haven’t managed to put a bun in the oven? Does your love of fast food mean you’re carrying around an extra pound or 50?
According to a study reported on by Men’s Health and published earlier this month in the International Journal of Andrology, your weight problem might be making your sperm less than super. Researchers at the Center for Assisted Reproduction in Visakhapatnam, India took sperm samples from 1,285 men. They found that when participants had a BMI of 30 or higher — i.e., clinically obese — they not only had lower volumes of sperm, their sperm wasn’t as mobile and even had defects that made them less effective at their chosen vocation.
The reason, researchers found, was because the extra weight was having an adverse effect on the participants’ hormone levels, particularly their levels of testosterone and estrogen — two hormones vital to male fertility. While it’s testosterone that’s critical for normal sperm development, it’s estrogen that boosts sperm count and effectiveness. When these hormones are out of whack, both quality and quantity suffers.
So the next time you tuck into those delicious nachos, think of the children — or lack thereof.
Wake Up Before Landing if You Know What’s Good for Your Ears
“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full, upright position.”
By now, most of us know this airline announcement by heart. But soon, you might hear something new: “WAKE UP!”
Research recently published by Harvard Medical School has suggested that sleeping through a rapid change in altitude can cause permanent damage to your hearing. That’s because changes in altitude — like those experienced during takeoff and landing — cause changes in air pressure, and air pressure changes is what causes your ears to “pop.” When you’re awake, you might chew some gum, swallow, do that weird thing with your jaw that seems to work or whatever your secret method might be to equalize the pressure in your ears with the pressure in the cabin.
But when you’re asleep you’re not doing these things, and that may cause a condition called barotitis, where pressure forces the eardrum inward, resulting in pain. If left too long without being popped, your eardrums can become infected, which, in turn, can result in permanent hearing loss. So don’t hit the snooze next time the flight attendant comes on the loudspeaker to tell you you’re landing.
If You Want Your Kid to Think Good, Don’t Let Them Play Football Before Age 12
We’ve known for a while now that letting your kids play football before their brains have had a chance to fully develop heightens their chances of being diagnosed later in life with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (or CTE), which has been linked to dementia, ALS and even suicide.
But in case that wasn’t enough to scare you off of signing them up for Pop Warner, a new study published in Translational Psychiatry has found that children who play football before the age of 12 are more likely to become depressed, as well as develop cognitive issues by age 50:
“Players who started earlier than age 12 were twice as likely to have ‘clinically meaningful impairments in reported behavioral regulation, apathy and executive function’ and were more than three times as likely to have clinically elevated depression scores.”
Because a child’s brain is still developing, repeated impacts — even impacts that don’t cause concussions — can permanently alter how neurological pathways form and then set, which lead to these impairments later in life.
Basically, don’t turn your kid’s brain to mush before they decide for themselves if they want to turn their brains to mush. That’s what freshman year of college is for anyway.