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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Even moderate weight loss can yield heart benefits

American scientists have claimed that even moderate weight loss improves heart function of obese people.
Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, claimed that obese people who lost a moderate amount of weight by eating less and exercising more improved their cardiovascular health, Journal of the American College of Cardiology reported.
"Losing 20 or so pounds might seem daunting to some people, but we showed that even a more modest weight loss can yield heart and vascular benefits," says lead author Lisa de las Fuentes.

She said, "It's important to realise that you can choose goals that are attainable and work progressively toward them. You don't necessarily need to lose 50 pounds to improve your heart function."
The study showed that weight loss lead to improvement in four key measures of heart and vascular health -- decreasing thickness of heart muscle, improved pumping and relaxation functions and decreased thickness of the carotid artery walls. 

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A hug can help you beat the blues!

After analyzing data from the 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey, researchers found that people who get hugs regularly are more likely to report better mental health.

"For people who either benefit from affection or lack it, there are substantial differences," The Globe and Mail quoted Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Montreal-based Association of Canadians Studies, as saying. He added: "I recommend getting a hug."

According to Jack, the study’s findings make sense because affection has a clear link to being part of a healthy, loving community.

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Can depression and panic disorder be affected by level of lead in blood

Depression is apparently known to be found in young adults quite frequently due to the high-stress life they often live.
But recent studies also suggest the discovery of other factors that could augment depression and panic disorders
Lead is omnipresent in air, soil, dust and water. While the elimination of lead from gasoline has dramatically decreased average lead levels, populations remain exposed though several sources including dust from
old paints, select cooking pottery and water that is contaminated
through old piping and industrial processes,” commented, Dr. Maryse F. Bouchard, a researcher at the Universit√© de Montreal Department of Environmental and Occupational
Health in Canada and the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States.

Dr. Bouchard and her team examined the information from around 1,987 young American adults who were between 20 to 39 years, who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The subjects apparently supplied blood samples and finished an analytic questioning to detect any mental disorder.

It was seen that around 6.7 percent of the participants appeared to have a major depressive disorder. Approximately 2.2 percent suffered from panic disorder and about 2.4 percent seemed to be having generalized anxiety disorder.

It was also noted that the average blood lead levels were apparently 1.61 micrograms per deciliter. Roughly one-fifth of subjects seemed to have lead levels of 2.11 micrograms per deciliter, which supposedly made them 2.3 times more likely of suffering from major depressive disorder. They also had 4.9 times more chances to develop panic disorder as opposed to other subjects.

Dr. Bouchard remarked, “Combined with recent reports of adverse behavioral outcomes in children with similarly low blood lead levels as participants of our study, our findings accentuate the need to further reduce sources of environmental lead exposures.Even low lead exposure could presumably disturb brain processes like the neurotransmitters, catecholamine and serotonin linked to depression and panic disorders. In people inclined to develop mental disorders, lead exposure could set off occurrences, augment acuteness and diminish treatment response.
The study was published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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Top 10 Google Chrome Extensions

Top 10 Google Chrome Extensions

The Google Chrome Extensions Gallery was launched less than a week ago and it's starting to look like things are going smoothly. It had 300 extensions when it debuted and now has more than 600 extensions. What's more, the most popular extension, Google Mail Checker, is now closing in on 200,000 downloads and has more than 1,000 reviews, not too bad for just a few days. So, without further ado, here are the top ten most popular extensions so far.

10. AdBlock. Unsurprisingly, a couple of the most popular extensions are ad blockers, by far one of the most appreciated type of add-ons for Firefox. AdBlock, despite sharing the name with a great Firefox add-on, doesn't seem to have any connection to it. It does what it's supposed to do, blocks ads, and the developers say it handles Facebook ads, as well as Flash animations. It has a “blacklist” and a “whitelist” feature, both of which are still in beta and allow users to select the blocked items with a couple of keyboard shortcuts.

9. Cooliris. This is the Google Chrome version of the popular desktop application with the same name. It offers an interesting alternative to viewing photos by using a gorgeous 3D interface, which the developers claim is the fastest way to browse through photos on Facebook, Picasa or even on your desktop but also through image search results on Google, Flickr and others. Unfortunately, this extension is Windows-only for the moment though Cooliris states other OSes will be supported soon with a Mac extension apparently in the works.

8. Docs PDF/PowerPoint Viewer. Built by Google, this extension is a great tool that should save you a lot of hassle and the trouble of having to install, sometimes huge, applications just to view a PDF file. With it, any link to a PDF or PowerPoint file opens up in a new tab in the lightweight but very capable Google Docs Viewer. No more unwieldy plug-in or external programs, people who want to keep it nice and clean will love this one.

7. Xmarks Bookmark Sync. The popular bookmarks synchronization add-on for Firefox, formerly known as Foxmarks, makes it to Google Chrome. It is already available for Safari and Internet Explorer and for users who want to take their bookmarks anywhere they go and, more importantly, to any browser they want, there's no replacing it.

6. IE Tab. A rather self-explanatory extension, it allows users to open a new tab in Chrome using the Internet Explorer rendering engine. This comes in handy for older sites that don't support other browsers, not that there are that many of those around, or which may not render well in Chrome. It's also useful for web developers wanting to test their work in IE.

5. RSS Subscription Extension. This little tool, made by Google, does exactly what it's intended and nothing else. It ads a small icon in the Chrome omnibox every time a feed is detected on a page, very similar to how Firefox handles the same job. Clicking on it will display the feed and allow you to subscribe to it in any popular feed reader. It's not exactly perfect; it sometimes fails to fetch the feed even though it detects it. Also, if you use it with Google Reader, it doesn't automatically subscribe you to the feed, it just opens it in Reader requiring an extra step. This may be a limitation with Reader though rather than the extension.

4. Google Wave Notifier. A simple extension with a self-explanatory name. It adds a small icon to the Chrome toolbar, which shows the number of unread Waves, if any. There are a few customization options and clicking on the icon will pop up a small preview of the wave. Considering that Wave notifications were among the most requested features, it really doesn't have to do anything else to be very popular and useful.

3. Google Translate. This one is an absolute must-have. Built by the Translate team, it doesn't try to be flashy or flood the user with options. It just works; visit any site that isn't using the default language set in Chrome and the extension will detect the new language and offer to translate the page into your native language. Click the translate button and, in a few seconds, the speed at which the translated page loads is impressive, you're done. If it fails to automatically detect the language, you can click on the button in the toolbar and optionally select the language in which you want the translation.

2. AdThwart. The second most popular Chrome extension at the moment is another ad blocker. For the most part, it works pretty much like AdBlock and most ads will be gone if you enable it. You can add your own custom filters and, a nice touch, it has a notification icon that shows up in the omnibox every time a page has items blocked. Unfortunately, ad blockers, for now, aren't on par with the ones for Firefox though this seems to be a limitation in the way Chrome handles extensions. The biggest drawback is that all the ads are loaded and even displayed for a brief period before the page finishes loading and only then the ad blockers, both in the top 10, come in and remove them.

1. Google Mail Checker. Finally, the most popular extension at the moment, with a solid lead and very close to 200,000 users. Google Mail Checker, not to be confused with Gmail Checker, is built by Google and has been around for a while, before the extensions gallery opened its doors. It's simplicity at its finest; all it does is to add a button to the Chrome toolbar with a small number beside it showing the number of unread emails. Clicking on it opens up Gmail in a new tab and that's it. Maybe a preview or the name of the sender would have been a nice touch and maybe we'll get that in a future version but, for now, things are kept to a minimum, not that there's anything wrong with that.

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Installing and uninstalling Chrome extensions

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Google Chrome Extensions

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Climate Change

World should at least halve CO2 by 2050 - U.N. draft

The world should at least halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 with rich nations taking the lead, according to a first draft text on Friday seeking to break deadlock on a new climate pact at U.N. talks.

The 7-page document omits figures for how many billions of dollars the rich nations should give developing nations to help them shift to green energies and cope with the impact of global warming, such as desertification and rising sea levels.
"Parties shall cooperate to avoid dangerous climate change," according to one text, proposed by Michael Zammit Cutajar of Malta, who chairs talks on long-term action by all nations at the Dec. 7-18 meeting on a new climate pact in Copenhagen.
The text offers a range for global cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, of either at least 50, 85 or 95 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. More than 110 world leaders will attend a closing summit on Dec. 18.
The numbers were bracketed, showing there is no agreement.
The text also offered options for rich nations' cuts in emissions starting at 75 percent and ranging to more than 95 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.
Yvo de Boer, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, said the documents marked a "step change" in the negotiations. "It's time to focus on the bigger picture," he told reporters.
Developing nations led by China and India have in the past rejected signing up for a halving of world emissions by 2050 unless rich nations first take far tougher action to cut their emissions and provide funds to help the poor.
"We are still considering the text," said Kemal Djemouai, an Algerian official who chairs the group of African nations.
Alden Meyer, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said there were huge gaps in the text. "I don't think developing countries will accept a global goal for 2050 without more on long-term funding," he said.
But he said it was a good basis for future work.
The text said developed nations should cut their emissions on average by at least 25-40 percent, ranging up to about 45 percent by 2020, also from 1990 levels.
The U.N. panel of climate scientists gave a scenario in 2007 that developed nations would have to cut emissions by 25-40 percent by 2020 to have a chance of limiting the worst of global warming such as floods, heatwaves and dust storms.
But offers on the table so far by recession-hit developed nations total only about 14-18 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels.
The text said developing nations, which say they need to emit more to help curb poverty, should either make a "substantial deviation" to slow the growth of their emissions by 2020, or slow the growth by 15-30 percent below projected levels by 2020.
"The text provides a basis to make the right political decisions," said Kim Carstensen, head of the WWF global climate initiative. "It contains many gaps, exposes rifts but also clearly shows that an agreement is possible."
"Now the real decisions have to be made. This will give a boost to finalizing an agreement next week by the 110 heads of government," said Jake Schmidt of the Natural Resources Defense Council.

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