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Daily Archives: April 13, 2022

Chart: The Japanese Yen Depreciated Past 126 per US$ on Wednesday

Hitting its lowest in nearly 20 years

Source : Trading Economics

Humour: News in Cartoons

Your Personality May Safeguard Your Aging Brain

Amy Norton wrote . . . . . . . . .

Certain personality traits may make older adults more or less vulnerable to waning memory and thinking skills, a new study suggests.

The study, of nearly 2,000 older adults, found that those high on the “conscientious” scale — organized, self-disciplined and productive — were less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment. That refers to subtler problems with memory and other mental skills that sometimes precede dementia.

On the other end of the spectrum were older folks high in neuroticism — a tendency to be anxious, moody and vulnerable to stress. They had an increased risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, versus people low on the neuroticism scale.

The findings, published April 11 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, add to evidence linking personality to cognitive health as we age.

Personality matters, experts said, because it influences health-related choices ranging from exercise to smoking, as well as broader attitudes — including whether you believe you can make positive changes.

“Personality traits reflect an individual’s persistent patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving,” said Tomiko Yoneda, a postdoctoral researcher at Northwestern University in Chicago, who led the study.

People who are high in conscientiousness, for example, are inclined to eat well, exercise and engage in other healthy behaviors, while avoiding risks like smoking.

Those tendencies may explain their lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, according to Yoneda, who was based at the University of Victoria, in Canada, at the time of the study.

In contrast, she said, people high on the neuroticism scale often have “unhealthy coping styles” to deal with anxiety, depression and emotional instability.

Angelina Sutin is a professor at Florida State University College of Medicine who studies personality traits and health.

Sutin agreed that lifestyle behaviors, over the course of a lifetime, are likely a major reason that personality traits are associated with older adults’ memory and thinking skills.

But it goes beyond things like diet, exercise and smoking, too, Sutin said. Personality influences a person’s likelihood of exploring new experiences, for example, or being socially active. Both mental and social stimulation are thought to support healthy brain aging.

There is also evidence linking personality traits to the likelihood of having chronic low-level inflammation in the body — a state that can contribute to a range of diseases.

But lest anxious people get anxious about developing cognitive impairment, Sutin stressed that personality is not “destiny.”

Cognitive decline and dementia are complex, with many factors coming into play. And while personality tends to be relatively stable throughout life, it is not set in stone, either.

Both Sutin and Yoneda pointed to research showing that personality can be nudged in a positive direction when people make concerted efforts to notice and alter certain habitual thoughts and behaviors.

People high in neuroticism, for example, can improve their emotional stability, while dedicated introverts can come out of their shells a bit to be more socially engaged.

“You won’t radically change who you are,” Sutin said. Instead, she added, it’s about making achievable shifts: People high on the neuroticism scale, for instance, could decide to be a little more organized in their daily routines.

The current findings are based on 1,954 older adults who were part of a long-term study of memory and aging that began in the 1990s. Participants answered standard questions gauging personality traits, and then had annual assessments of their cognitive skills, for up to 23 years.

Overall, Yoneda’s team found, the odds of developing mild impairment declined 22% for each 6-point increase on the conscientiousness scale (which ranges from 0 to 48). In contrast, that risk rose by 12% with every 7-point jump on the neuroticism scale (also 0 to 48).

In a related finding, highly conscientious seniors also lived longer in good cognitive health: An 80-year-old, for example, could expect to live an extra two years without impairment, versus a peer who was low on the conscientiousness scale.

Again, though, Sutin stressed that people do not have to be ruled by their personalities.

Instead, she said, understanding your own personality, and how it motivates your thinking and behavior, is helpful: You may be able to “take a step back” when a stressful situation arises, and choose a better coping strategy.

Source: HealthDay

Infographic: The History of Energy Transitions

Chart: The True Size of Africa

Source : Statista

Omicron BA.2 Variant Takes Over. What’s Known About It?

Laura Ungar wrote . . . . . . . . .

In the latest battle of the coronavirus mutants, an extra-contagious version of omicron has taken over the world.

The coronavirus version known as BA.2 is now dominant in at least 68 countries, including the United States.

The World Health Organization says it makes up about 94% of sequenced omicron cases submitted to an international coronavirus database in the most recent week. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it was responsible for 72% of new U.S. infections last week.

Dr. Wesley Long, a pathologist at Houston Methodist in Texas, said he’s seen BA.2 quickly become dominant in his medical system. At the end of last week, the variant was responsible for more than three-quarters of cases in Houston Methodist hospitals. Less than two weeks earlier, 1% to 3% of cases were caused by BA.2.

“It’s not terribly surprising because it is more contagious” than the original omicron, Long said.

As the variant advances, scientists are learning more about it. But they still don’t know exactly how it will affect the trajectory of the pandemic.


BA.2 has lots of mutations. It’s been dubbed “stealth omicron” because it lacks a genetic quirk of the original omicron that allowed health officials to rapidly differentiate it from the delta variant using a certain PCR test.

One reason BA.2 has gained ground, scientists say, is that it’s about 30% more contagious than the original omicron. In rare cases, research shows it can sicken people even if they’ve already had an omicron infection — although it doesn’t seem to cause more severe disease.

Vaccines appear equally effective against both types of omicron. For both, vaccination plus a booster offers strong protection against severe illness and death.


Coronavirus cases rose in parts of Europe and Asia when BA.2 became dominant, and some scientists are concerned that the variant could also push up cases across the U.S.

Besides being more contagious, it’s spreading at a time when governments are relaxing restrictions designed to control COVID-19. Also, people are taking off their masks and getting back to activities such as traveling, eating indoors at restaurants and attending crowded events.

At this point, overall coronavirus cases in the U.S. are still on the decline. But there have been upticks in some places, including New York, Arizona and Illinois. Health officials have also noted that case counts are getting more unreliable because of the wide availability of home tests and the fact some people are no longer getting tested.

“We’re entering a phase where increasing cases or waves may be very regional and it may depend a lot on vaccination levels in the community — and not just vaccination levels but timing of the vaccinations,” Long said. “How long ago were they? Did people get boosters? Because we know the immunity to the vaccine wanes a little bit over time.”

Long said he feels “very certain” that cases will eventually go back up in the U.S., whether that’s because of BA.2 or some future variant. “If it’s BA.2,” he said, “it may be more of a wave or a speed bump than a surge.”

For now, COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are still trending down nationally.


As the coronavirus continues to evolve, the WHO is tracking other mutants, including hybrids known as “recombinants.”

These include combinations of delta and omicron and hybrids of BA.2 and the original omicron, also known as BA.1.

One recombinant that health authorities are tracking closely is a BA.1-BA.2 hybrid called XE, which was first detected in the United Kingdom in January. About 600 cases have been reported, and scientists believe it may be about 10% more contagious than BA.2.


The advice from experts remains the same: Take precautions to avoid getting COVID-19.

“The virus is still out there circulating,” Long said. “Vaccination is still your best defense.”

Get the shots if you haven’t already, he said, and get the second booster if you’re eligible because you are 50 or older or have a compromised immune system.

“If cases start going up in your community, think about assessing your risk level,” Long said. “If you stopped masking and stopped worrying about distancing and things … that’s the time to reinstitute those protective measures.”

Source : AP