The Hidden Dangers of Soil Contamination

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REmtl.ca

A few years ago, I developed a site locating on a map all contaminated sites in Montreal, Canada. This was done in an open data hackathon, with a team made of open data specialists as well as McGill University professors specialized in urban development.

I was surprised to discover that data is available for all, at municipal, provincial and federal level. I was also surprised to see that in what appears to be a highly livable Canadian city like Montreal, there were old contaminated sites everywhere. I checked a few addresses. One for example showed on Google Street View a nice colorful kids’ playground, but in fact used to be a contaminated gas station. So we have infants, kids and parents playing on top of chemicals, because the city decided the location wasn’t fit for construction. Nice!

On the southern parts of the city named Griffintown, developers were building luxury condominiums where used to be industrial plants, with Bisphenol A (BPA) and PorpolyChlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) contamination. These chemicals are highly toxic and remain in the environment for a long time, impacting the cardiovascular system, neuronal, cognition and also increases cancer risk.

And this is not limited to Montreal. You can go on Vox’s excellent lead exposure risk map, and discover that many cities like New York City or Philadelphia are blanketed with lead poisoning. This is an acute issue for children. Children that are lead poisoned are at risk of decreased IQ, delayed language acquisition, partial illiteracy, behavioral issues, organ failure, and even death. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention asserts that there is no amount of lead exposure that is considered safe for children.

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Map showing areas with extreme risk “10” in NYC

So why don’t we speak about this?

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Good stress and Bad stress, Part I

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History of Stress

The term stress was borrowed from physics by the first stress researcher Hans Selye.  In physics, stress describes the force that produces strain on a physical body (i.e.: bending a piece of metal until it snaps occurs because of the force, or stress, exerted on it).

Hans Selye noticed that all his patients, regardless of disease, all looked under duress. He decided to name “stress”.

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Saying No To Passive Entertainment

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How do you make everything happen? There’s work, money, friends and family, exercise, nutrition, sleep. So much to do, so little time.

My advice would be to drastically cut passive entertainment.

This is when you undertake an activity with little physical and mental activity. This goes from TV, Netflix, Youtube, social media to video games and drugs etc.

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Managing Your Physical Condition with Heart Rate Variability

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In a previous post, resting heart rate was shown to reflect physical and mental condition. A low resting heart rate correlates with good health compared to a high resting heart rate.

It becomes complex when you consider age. Older people have lower resting heart rate. And individuals with the same age, nutrition and overall fitness level can have vastly different heart rates. For instance, my maximum heart rate when running is around 172bpm while a friend has 200bpm, with the same heart rate sensor. It does not mean however that I am more or less fit than others.

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Accepting Imperfection

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One of my training goal is to be able to run 5 km in less than 20 minutes before the end of 2016.

I like a lot the idea of this goal. During the day, I would already imagine my legs powering me forward, the wind flowing, and the constant battle against the watch. I was already eager on sharing my success everywhere.

Recently, it started snowing. Sidewalks become a sliding game, shoes become soggy and fingers are frozen. And what was once beautiful green trails become cold, dark and snow paths like above. Result: I loose half of my speed!

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The Free Radical Theory of Aging

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The picture above shows iron rust. Oxygen reacts with steel, in a process called oxidation. It gives a grey and red color, and soon, steel disintegrate. The process can be accelerated with air or water moisture.

Oxidation can also been seen in food, turning rancid cooking oils or transforming nice apples into sad brown food. This process of oxidation creates free radicals.

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How To Recognize Burnout

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Burnout manifests itself with underperformance, mood disturbance, reduced motivation, stomach problems, as well as fatigue, anxiety and depression.

It is seen in serious athletes training with high volumes and intensity with little recovery aka overtraining. It’s also experienced by various workers going through chronic life stresses and monotony: stressful job, divorce, kids, bills, nerve-wracking projects, little sense of self-worth etc.

What seemed like an easy task previously requires enormous efforts. Often, there’s psychological breakdown.

Recognizing burnout lets you stay away from injuries or pass the tipping point. This can mean extended years enjoying your work, exercise and family. A well-balanced person wants to recognize early symptoms, which lead to the question:

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