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Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008 12:44 am

Health Briefs

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This year, keep your workout promise With the new year comes the promise of starting, then sticking with fitness routines. Make a difference in 2008 and hire a professional who can help you stay on track, scientifically speaking. “When a fitness expert conveys goals to an exerciser, his or her vision can increase self-confidence in beginner exercisers by creating the belief that “if an expert thinks I can do it, then I must be able to do it,” says Kathleen Martin Ginis, a kinesiologist at McMaster University in Ontario. Ginis asked two sets of exercises to set goals: One group set their own goals after performing a grip-strength test. Group two was asked to grip more weight than the first group and reported feeling more confidence in their abilities as a result.
Finding the face of fear
The look of fear registers faster than other emotions when people look at the faces of others, says a study released in the journal Emotion.
People process happiness and indifference much slower than fear, says David Zadal, a Vanderbilt University psychology professor. The whites of the eye may be the facial feature that helps the brain recognize fear, because more of that part of the eye shows when a person is afraid. “There are reasons to believe that the brain has evolved mechanisms to detect tings in the environment that signal threat,” Zadal says. “We believe the brain can detect certain cues even before we are aware of them, so that we can direct our attention to potentially threatening situations in our environment.”

Weight loss surgery safe for older overweight people Older people fare just as well after weight-loss surgery as younger people do, according to a study published in the journal Archives of Surgery.
Surgery is the best option to cure morbid obesity, say researchers at University Hospitals Case Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University of Medicine in Cleveland, where the study was conducted. Obesity is a leading preventable cause of death.
When comparing younger patients to older ones over age 60, researchers found that older patients stayed in the operating room 17 minutes less than younger patients. Older patients also showed no significant signs of complications after surgery. Medicare patients, too, fared well from weight-loss surgery, also called bariatric or metabolic surgery. However, Medicare patients did stay a day and a half longer in the hospital. “Our results indicate that bariatric surgery should not be denied solely based on age or Medicare status,” researchers conclude in the study.

Stereotypes may help autistic kids Stereotypes are so easy to learn, even autistic children pick up on those based on race and sex, according to a study published in the journal Current Biology. Kids with autism are profoundly unable to engage in typical social interaction and cannot understand the beliefs, desires, or intent of others, the study says. However, stereotypes, which don’t require high-order thought, are so easy to learn that researchers believe they may be able to use them to teach social skills, according to the study. Not all stereotypes are negative, researchers caution. “Stereotypical roles are important for navigating everyday interactions,” says Lawrence Hirshfeld of the New School for Social Research in New York. “Finding a plumber would be difficult if we thought of people as only unique individuals. Getting through the checkout lane would be unwieldy if we didn’t have simple scripts about the roles that both shoppers and cashiers play.”