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Your Palm Says It All

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Rogue, fraud, charlatan. Words we often use to describe the roadside palmist. Can anyone say what the creases, lines and stars etched on our palms mean? Or if they do mean anything at all?
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Some people, it seems, can say much about your life by “reading” your palm.

Welcome to the world of medical palmistry, a branch of science based on documented and proven scientific observations.

A detailed examination of the palm does provide valuable clues to a person’s medical history, lifestyle, diseases and life expectancy. Palms and fingers have characteristic creases, whorls, arches and loops. These are unique in each individual and never identical, even in twins. One of the oldest biometric methods of establishing positive identity is by using fingerprints.

“Palmar creases” form in an unborn baby as it holds its hands tightly clenched during the 12th week. Normally this forms three palmar creases or lines. Any physical, medical or drug-induced injury to the foetus during the first three months is reflected permanently as abnormal palmar creases. This can be picked up on ultrasound examination after the 12th week. If the creases are abnormal, the foetus should be closely monitored for associated abnormalities in the kidney, heart and other organ

Sometimes the upper two lines fuse to form a single palmar crease or simian line that stretches across the open palm. A single palmar crease can be present in one out of 30 apparently normal people. It is more common in males and is usually present only on one hand. One or both parents of these children may have the abnormal crease on one hand. This is a minor aberration and warrants monitoring as these children may reveal mild abnormalities in other organs in later life. It is also associated with certain chromosomal anomalies, the most common of which is Down’s Syndrome (Trisomy 21).

Not all abnormal palmar creases are hereditary or genetic. Alcoholic women who continue to drink during pregnancy can produce children with “foetal alcohol syndrome” and a single palmar crease.

People with mental illnesses have more open loops and fewer whorls on their finger tips. Those prone to chronic diseases like leprosy and tuberculosis also tend to have only two lines on the palm, with the abnormal line just above the thumb.

Normally, a person has 10 fingers and toes. In one in 1,000 births, there may be extra digits, separate, complete, incomplete or fused. These defects can be associated with other internal congenital malformations, and so a detailed examination must be done for any affected newborn.

Marfans syndrome is a genetic disorder in which the person has “arachnodactyly” or abnormally long fingers like spider legs. This can be diagnosed before birth through ultrasound.

Congenital hypothyroidism, certain renal diseases and some forms of dwarfism are linked with a “tripartiate” hand — where the index, middle and ring fingers are the same length.

Cigarette smokers, people suffering from chronic respiratory ailments, and those with congenital heart disease may have blue nails. Some lung diseases like bronchiectasis, and chronic intestinal diseases may bend the nail like a convex parrot beak, a condition called “clubbing”. Jaundice causes the skin of the palms to turn yellow. Carotenemia produces a similar appearance. It is a harmless condition and is caused by an excess consumption of yellow carotene containing fruits and vegetables.

Hormone levels in the uterus also influences finger length. A person (irrespective of sex) with the index finger shorter than the ring finger will have had more testosterone (male hormone) while in the womb, and a person with an index finger longer than the ring finger will have had more eostrogen (female hormone). Professional women, especially women scientists, tend to have higher levels of testosterone vis-a-vis their oestrogen level, making their brains closer to those of men in general. The converse is true with men working in the fine arts and social sciences.

The position in which we hold our palms is a reflection of the body mass index or BMI (weight in kilogram divided by height in metre squared). A BMI more than 30 is diagnostic of obesity. Such people tend to hold their hands with the thumbs facing backwards as they stand. Overweight people with a BMI between 25 and 30 hold their arms with the thumb facing sideways. People of normal weight with a BMI between 20 and 25 stand with their palms facing forwards.

So, remember, your palms will reveal a lot about your health, but only if you go to a medical palmist.


Source:
The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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‘Brushing Teeth Prevents Preterm Birth’

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Preterm births are easier prevented than thought. Researchers in the United States have found that brushing your teeth properly and maintaining  proper oral hygiene reduces the chance of early labour by a large extent.

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Researchers from Case Western Reserve and Yale Universities Previously undiscovered bacteria usually found in the mouth could be responsible for up to 80% of early preterm labours.

The research could help doctors prevent preterm births by encouraging oral hygiene or stop early labour from developing by prescribing targeted antibiotics, Discovery News reported on its website on Wednesday.

“The earlier the woman goes into preterm labor, the higher the chance that she will be infected,” said Yiping Han, a doctor at Case Western University and the first author on the study.

Most human pregnancies last about 40 weeks. A birth prior to 37 weeks is classified as preterm. Babies born preterm can face many hurdles: vision and hearing loss, cerebral palsy, mental retardation, even death.

Labour itself is still somewhat of a mystery to science, which makes puzzling out preterm labour even more difficult. Anything from socioeconomic status and race to bacterial infection and genetics have been linked to preterm births, but a definitive cause is still elusive.

Han and her colleagues think they have found a major cause, at least in mice. By infecting the rodents with Bergeyella, a previously unknown bacteria found in the mice, the researchers caused preterm births.

In humans, the scientists showed a strong correlation between infection and preterm births. Doctors removed amniotic fluid from 46 different women with potentially higher risk pregnancies. Of that group, 21 delivered an early preterm baby (32 weeks or earlier). Nineteen of those women, or about 85%, were positive for previously undetected bacteria.

The bacteria normally live in the mouth, but if a cut, cavity or other wound allows the bacteria to enter the blood stream, they can travel and eventually colonize the uterus. That triggers an immune response, which can inflame the uterus and eventually cause a mother to go into labour prematurely.

To identify bacteria behind preterm labour, doctors used polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Using PCR, the scientists identified the Bergeyella bacterium, as well as DNA belonging to 10 or 11 different strains of newly identified bacteria. Now that doctors know about another link to preterm labour, the next step is to treat it. Antibiotics that specifically target these new bacteria are currently being tested.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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Play in Youth, Pay in Old Age

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Playing tennis or badminton might be an excellent way of keeping fit, but if you’re not careful, you may end up paying in old age, healthwise.

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A new study headed by Navah Ratzon, director of occupational therapy department at Tel Aviv University (TAU), can be applied to any number of leisure sport activities.

“Increasing numbers of adults are pursuing amateur athletics during their leisure hours. But we’ve found worrying indications that this activity — when not done properly — may have negative effects on the musculoskeletal system,” Ratzon warned.

For example, in the US, musculoskeletal disorders and disease are the leading cause of disability, and are the cause of chronic conditions in 50 per cent of all people 50 years and older.

Musculoskeletal complaints include discomfort, pain or disease of the muscles, joints or soft tissues connecting the bones.

Focusing specifically on bowlers, Ratzon and her graduate student Nurit Mizrachi found that 62 per cent of the 98 athletes in their study reported musculoskeletal problems — aches and pains in the back, fingers, and wrist, for example.

According to the study, the degree of pain a player reported was in direct proportion to the number of leagues in which the person participated. Their conclusion is that the intensity of the sport exacerbated the risk of long-term musculoskeletal damage.

The risks are particularly high in sports where the body is held asymmetrically and repetitive movements are made, according to a TAU release. These findings were recently published in the journal Work.

All ball sports should be played with caution, Ratzon advised, including sports like golf, basketball, tennis and squash. “Your body is meant to work in a certain way,” she added.

“If you jump for the tennis ball while twisting your back, you put too much stress on your body because it’s an unnatural movement.”

Stretching before games is an obvious prevention method against long-term damage. But people should take other measures to keep their bodies fit.

Sources: The Times Of India

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Magical powers really work against fears

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A graduate school application can go sour in as many ways as a blind date. The personal essay might seem too eager, the references too casual. The admissions officer on duty might be nursing a grudge. Or a hangover.

Rachel Riskind of Austin, Texas, nonetheless has a good feeling about her chances for admittance to the University of Michigan’s exclusive graduate programme in psychology, and it’s not just a matter of her qualifications.

On a recent afternoon, as she was working on the admissions application, she went out for lunch with co-workers. Walking from the car to the restaurant in a misting rain, she saw a woman stroll by with a Michigan umbrella.

“I felt it was a sign; you almost never see Michigan stuff here,” said Riskind, 22. “And I guess I think that has given me a kind of confidence. Even if it’s a false confidence, I know that that in itself can help people do well.”

Psychologists and anthropologists have typically turned to faith healers, tribal cultures or New Age spiritualists to study the underpinnings of belief in superstition or magical powers. Yet they could just as well have examined their own neighbours, lab assistants or even some fellow scientists.

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New research demonstrates that habits of so-called magical thinking — the belief, for instance, that wishing harm on a loathed colleague or relative might make him sick — are far more common than people acknowledge. These habits have little to do with religious faith, which is much more complex because it involves large questions of morality, community and history.

But magical thinking underlies a vast, often unseen universe of small rituals that accompany people through every waking hour of a day.

The appetite for such beliefs appears to be rooted in the circuitry of the brain, and for good reason. The sense of having special powers buoys people in threatening situations, and helps soothe everyday fears and ward off mental distress.

In excess, it can lead to compulsive or delusional behaviour. This emerging portrait of magical thinking helps explain why people who fashion themselves skeptics cling to odd rituals that seem to make no sense, and how apparently harmless superstition may become disabling.

The brain seems to have networks that are specialised to produce an explicit, magical explanation in some circumstances, said Pascal Boyer, a professor of psychology and anthropology at Washington University. In an e-mail message, he said such thinking was “only one domain where a relevant interpretation that connects all the dots, so to speak, is preferred to a rational one.”

Magical thinking is most evident precisely when people feel most helpless. Giora Keinan, a professor at Tel Aviv University, sent questionnaires to 174 Israelis after the Iraqi Scud missile attacks of the 1991 gulf war.

Those who reported the highest level of stress were also the most likely to endorse magical beliefs, like “I have the feeling that the chances of being hit during a missile attack are greater if a person whose house was attacked is present in the sealed room,” or “To be on the safe side, it is best to step into the sealed room right foot first.”

“It is of interest to note,” Keinan concluded, “that persons who hold magical beliefs or engage in rituals are often aware that their thoughts, actions or both are unreasonable and irrational. Despite this awareness, they are unable to rid themselves of such behaviour.”

Source:The Times Of India