Don’t walk and chew gum (or wear headphones) at the same time, stop licking your fingernails, and for God’s sake, don’t drink the shampoo!

Breaking health news:

Here’s a roundup of a couple of health stories in the news. Two of them come from the “Times of India,” which I’m going to have to start following because of their rapid publication of breaking science news.

The first story is entitled “Slower walking speed a sign of dementia.” The subject is a summary of three studies presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver, Canada, which correlate walking behavior with cognitive performance among the elderly. The author of the article sums up one study this way:

“The study led by researcher Dr. Stephanie Bridenbaugh, found that those participants with declines in cognition tended to walk more slowly than their memory-savvy counterparts, particularly when asked to perform a simple task — such as counting backward — while walking.”

No mention was made of chewing gum; they’re probably saving that juicy data for their next publication. Here’s the complete link:

I believe it was Garrison Keillor who proposed the counter-hypothesis, that old people walk so slow because they have so much to remember. Now we know… Stop smelling those roses as you stroll along the street, otherwise the guys in the white trucks may scoop you up in a net.

(I heard that in Germany, if you were stopped on the street and were unable to give the correct date, they could lock you up for being mentally incapacitated. This is probably a rumor, but since I rarely know the date I have begun memorizing it before venturing out on the streets.)

Even more dangerous to your health is walking while wearing headphones, which can get you killed, as reported in the following article:

The article cites Satyendra Garg, who is Joint CP (whatever that is), as saying not much can be done:

“Apart from creating awareness through advertisements and campaigns, there is nothing else that can be done. But it is very strange – education de bhi toh kya – everyone knows that any sort of distraction while crossing the road should be avoided. Now if people chose to be so careless, I don’t know how much of our educating campaigns will help? But we will run a few ads on radio and print… They’re all pedestrians, and we can’t punish them with a challan or anything. And what should we punish them for, when they are ready to pay such a high price – with their life – anyway.”

I certainly wouldn’t want to be punished with a challan, especially since I don’t know what it is. And creating awareness through advertisements and campaigns might actually increase the problem. Presumably those ads would be broadcast via… the radio? Internet? Imagine the irony, you’re listening to a podcast on your iPod about the danger of wearing headphones while walking around, and… WHAM!

And if you were walking more slowly as you listened, you run the double risk of being killed or diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

For a few final health tips of the week, please stop licking your painted fingernails and drinking shampoo. Women whose urine contained high levels of phthalates (and can anyone tell us how to pronounce that?), found in such products, were much more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with low levels. The article states,

“The findings held even when other risk-factors were taken into account, like how many calories were consumed.”

The real question is whether all risk factors were taken into account, such as the number of times strangers in a bar buy mixed drinks for people with fingernail polish versus those who just have naked fingernails…

The studies are cited in an article at the following link:

Thank goodness for the Internet. I feel like it has saved my life several times already this week, or at least kept me out of an asylum.

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I am a science writer at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, author of fiction and popular science books, an artist, and a professional musician who performs on the viola da gamba and Medieval and Renaissance stringed instruments. I edit manuscripts of all types and teach the full range of scientific communication skills. I am doing theoretical work in this subject - see for example

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