Researchers followed 13,720 middle-aged women for 20 years and found that the more healthy lifestyle factors a woman had, the less likely she was to develop dementia.
Each on their own was found to lower risk by around six per cent, suggesting that adopting them all, could bring down the chances of dementia by 42 per cent.
“Since we now know that dementia can begin in the brain decades before diagnosis, it’s important that we learn more about how your habits in middle age can affect your risk of dementia in old age,” said Dr Pamela Rist, an assistant professor from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts.
“The good news is that making healthy lifestyle choices in middle age may lead to a decreased risk of dementia later in life.”
However, several population-wide studies suggest that the actual incidences of dementia are falling, which experts believe is being driven by changes in lifestyle, such as people quitting smoking and improvements in heart health, driven by statins.
In recent years, the American Heart Association has developed a list of lifestyle interventions – known as Life’s Simple 7- that can help people cut their risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The new study showed that the same improvements for heart health also seem to stave off dementia.
The seven healthy traits are: never having smoked or quit more than 12 months ago and having a healthy BMI (18.5 – 25kg/m2).
Physical activity must be at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week vigorous exercise.
Diet must include at least 4.5 cups of fruit and vegetables per day, two servings of fish per week, three servings of whole grains per day, no more than one litre of sugar-sweetened drinks per week, and 1,500 mg of sodium per day – about two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt.
Total cholesterol must be less than 200 mg/dL, blood pressure less than 120 mmHg/80 mmHg and blood sugar – less than 100 mg/dL.
Experts found that during the study 1,771 women developed dementia around 13 per cent, or one in seven.
For each of the seven health factors, participants were given one point for each regular healthy lifestyle factor. The average score was 4.3 at the start of the study, falling to 4.2 after a decade.
After adjusting for factors such as age and education, researchers found that for every increase of one point in the score, a person’s risk of dementia fell by six per cent. It means that if a person started out with a 1 in 7 risk, it would fall to 1 in 13 if they achieved all of the healthy lifestyle options.
Dr Rist said: “It can be empowering for people to know that by taking steps such as exercising for half an hour a day or keeping their blood pressure under control, can reduce their risk of dementia.”
Last week, experts from University College London (UCL) said that staying active throughout adulthood could help stave off dementia.
Their long-term study found that people who exercise as they age are more likely to have better brain health than those who take up an activity for shorter periods of time but then give it up.
However, even taking up exercise in your sixties is better than doing nothing at all for improving cognitive function, the research suggested.
The preliminary study was released on Monday and will be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology’s 75th Annual Meeting.
Study Shows Just 20 More Minutes of These Exercises Can Keep You out of the Hospital
Madeleine Haase – February 26, 2023
New research shows that just 20 more minutes of exercise per day can lower your risk of being hospitalized in the future.
Researchers saw this association with nine health conditions.
Experts offer tips for getting more active.
We all know that exercise is important for your overall health—its benefits go beyond the physical, it’s even essential to your mental wellness. Now, a new study shows that adding 20 minutes more exercise to your day could lessen your likelihood of future hospitalization due to a serious medical condition.
The study, published in JAMA Network Open, used data from 81,717 UK Biobank participants 42 to 78 years old. Participants wore an accelerometer, a type of fitness tracker, for one week (between June 1, 2013, and December 23, 2015) and researchers followed up with them over 7 years. Those participants with a medical history of a condition were excluded from the analysis specific to that condition—so, a person who already had gallbladder disease was excluded from the analysis for that specific condition.
Time spent in sedentary activity (like driving or watching television), light physical activity (like cooking or self-care), moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (ie. walking the dog or jogging), and sleep were estimated using wearable cameras and time-use diaries among 152 individuals in normal living conditions.
After assessing the activity levels of the participants, researchers used a modeling technique to substitute 20 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity for sedentary behavior. They found that adding only 20 minutes of physical activity proved to significantly reduce potential future hospitalizations.
Further driving the researchers’ point home, higher levels of physical activity were associated with lower risks of hospitalization for the following nine conditions: gallbladder disease, urinary tract infections, diabetes (both type 1 and type 2), venous thromboembolism, pneumonia, ischemic stroke, iron deficiency anemia, diverticular disease, and colon polyps. Increasing physical activity by only 20 minutes per day was linked to reductions in hospitalization ranging from 3.8% for colon polyps to 23% for diabetes.
Overall, these findings suggest that increasing physical activity by just 20 minutes a day can effectively reduce the risk of hospitalization across a broad range of medical conditions.
Why might exercise help lower the risk of hospitalization?
Exercise and increased physical activity can improve the overall ability to adapt to stressors and decrease frailty, says Dr. Johannes. “It may also reduce the risk of comorbidities, such as ischemic heart disease (coronary artery disease), diabetes, and deconditioning, which can complicate an illness.” Reducing the risk for comorbidities may mean that a medical concern, like a urinary tract infection or pneumonia, may be less severe and in turn, more treatable out of the hospital—therefore preventing hospitalization, he explains.
Since exercise has been associated with a lower risk of ischemic heart disease, it is not surprising that exercise and physical activity are associated with a lower risk of hospitalization due to stroke, which itself is often linked to heart disease, says Dr. Johannes. Exercise can often also improve diabetes management through increasing muscle sensitivity to insulin, so it is not surprising that it is associated with a lower risk of hospitalization due to diabetes complications, he adds.
However, Dr. Johannes explains, it’s important to keep in mind that some of the people who are prone to hospitalization for these certain conditions may have underlying issues that prevent them from being as active, meaning that their lack of physical activity is a result of their medical conditions rather than the other way around.
How can you increase your physical activity?
This study includes walking as moderate to vigorous exercise, so I think this is a great starting point, says Jimmy Johannes, M.D., pulmonologist and critical care medicine specialist at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center. “I generally recommend starting out with 10-15 minutes of walking per day, two to three days per week and gradually increasing the time, intensity, and days per week.” For those who have a difficult time fitting exercise into their daily routine, tracking steps with an activity tracker (like on a smartphone or a watch) can help motivate people to stay active by, for instance, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, he adds.
“I recommend getting at least 5,000 steps per day and ideally 7,500 steps or more per day. But in general, something is better than nothing,” says Dr. Johannes.
The bottom line
Exercise can improve strength, balance, energy, mood, cognition, and self-image, says Dr. Johannes. In regard to this new study’s findings, “I think this is more supporting evidence that increased physical activity is associated with better health outcomes. This study provides additional insights about the association between physical activity and lower risk of hospitalization for various conditions that are not typically linked with physical fitness, such as urinary tract infections, gallbladder disease, and pneumonia,” he explains.
At least 150-300 minutes per week is known to lead to a 30-40% reduction in mortality, says Meagan Wasfy, M.D., M.P.H., sports cardiologist from Mass General Brigham. “Exercise can help with risk factors such as blood pressure, blood cholesterol levels, weight management, and type 2 diabetes risk.”
Ultimately, higher levels of physical activity are linked to better long-term health outcomes and decreased risk of hospitalizations for a whole host of conditions across the board, says Dr. Wasfy.
Researchers Have Pinpointed One Type of Exercise That Makes People Live Longer—It’s Not What You May Think
Ali Pattillo – February 24, 2023
If you’re looking to reboot your health this year, you might sign up for your first triathlon, kickstart a meditation habit, or cut down on ultra-processed foods. But the latest science suggests the best way to improve long-term health isn’t physical, it’s social: connection.
Strengthening relationship ties by exercising what experts call “social fitness” is the most influential brain and body hack. Like weight training staves off bone density loss as you age, social fitness counters the downstream effects of chronic stress.
“Not exercising your social fitness is hazardous to your health,” says Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
Waldinger directs the Harvard Study of Adult Development, the longest scientific study of happiness ever conducted. According to the psychiatrist, who recently summed up eighty-plus years of data in his book The Good Life (January 2023, Simon & Schuster), the formula for health and happiness hinges on positive relationships.
“If you regularly feel isolated and lonely, it can be as dangerous as smoking half a pack of cigarettes a day or being obese,” Waldinger cautions.
But even though humans are wired to connect, exercising social fitness can be tricky. There’s no clear roadmap for building–or maintaining–a solid social life.
Luckily, Waldinger’s data points to actionable exercises we can all use to supercharge our social fitness.
Studying the Good Life
In 1938, amid the worst economic depression in American history, researchers rounded up 268 Harvard sophomores to better understand how early psychosocial and biological factors influence life outcomes. For over eighty years, a team–now led by Waldinger–has tracked the students and their families, following them through marriages, careers, births, diseases, and deaths. In the 1970s, 456 Boston inner-city residents who were part of another study focused on juvenile delinquency and resilience were incorporated into the Harvard study.
The researchers check in with participants every two years, posing thousands of questions on topics like mood and life satisfaction. Every five years, they take physiological measurements including brain scans and blood work. As of 2023, the ongoing study is still tracking all living members of the original participant set and over 500 members of their offspring. The trove of data provides an unparalleled window into what makes up a good life.
When Waldinger first joined the study as a young psychiatrist at Harvard, he had an inkling that conventional measures of success like achievement, status, and awards were mere distractions on the path to real happiness. As he delved deeper in the data, hundreds of subjects confirmed this suspicion. Across the study, neither wealth nor social class were correlated with happiness levels or longevity. Positive relationships, on the other hand, were consistently linked to happier, longer lives.
Other large-scale data reinforces this link between connection and longevity. One systematic research review from 2010, including over 300,000 participants, suggests people with strong social ties are 50 percent more likely to survive over a given period than those with weak ties. Loneliness and social isolation are associated with immune dysfunction and may even spike the risk of heart attack or stroke by an estimated 30 percent. To help prevent these negative health outcomes, it’s essential to foster social fitness.
What Is Social Fitness?
Scientists have been studying humans’ social psychology in formal labs and universities for over a century, but the idea of flexing your “social muscle,” like you would a bicep or quad, didn’t emerge until 2011. That’s when social neuroscientists John and Stephanie Cacioppo shared results from testing a 10-hour social fitness training program with the U.S. military. The team found that social fitness exercises such as doing someone a favor or practicing conflict resolution reduced loneliness and boosted well-being in soldiers.
While scientists and philosophers had linked positive relationships and optimal health for decades, the Cacioppos and their research team were among the first to suggest positive relationships could be analogous to physical fitness. And just like you can’t remain physically fit without exercising, social fitness–the ability to cultivate and maintain positive relationships– withers without consistent effort.
Social Fitness and the Loneliness Epidemic
When the first Harvard study subjects were in their 80s, Waldinger and his team asked them to look back on their lives and share what they were proudest of. Nearly everyone talked about relationships.
“Almost all said: I was a good parent or a good mentor. I had a good marriage or I was a good friend,” Waldinger recalls. “Almost nobody said: I made a lot of money, I won these awards, or I got to be the chief executive of my organization.”
The team went on to ask subjects: Who could you call in the middle of the night, if you were sick or scared? Some people rattled off a long list. Others couldn’t list anyone.
“That’s real loneliness–this sense that nobody in the world has my back,” Waldinger says. “The costs of that are huge. It makes us feel unloved and unsafe, and eventually breaks down our health.”
In 2023, at the most technologically connected moment in human history, people report feeling farther apart than ever. Forty percent of older adults in the U.S. report chronic loneliness. Add in pandemic-related lockdowns and loneliness has hit record highs, culminating in what Vivek Murthy, physician, and former United States surgeon general classifies as a loneliness epidemic.
“When you lose emotional and social fitness, you lose everything,” says Emily Anhalt, a clinical psychologist, co-founder of Coa, a gym for mental health, and expert on emotional fitness who is not involved in the Harvard Study. “Everything in life is going to feel better if you feel connected to other people to get through the tough things and enjoy the good things.”
Like prescribing a dose of time outside, some physicians go as far to say that encouraging social interactions has the potential to have a healing effect on patients. Emerging data suggests cancer patients have higher chances of survival if they feel satisfied by their levels of social support. Some experts even liken social connection to a vital sign–that measuring people’s loneliness levels hints at general health as accurately as blood pressure or pulse.
To combat widespread loneliness and reap the positive benefits of social connection, it may seem like we’re all supposed to be extroverts or party animals. That’s a common misconception.
Humans are social creatures, but we’re not all social butterflies. Loneliness is a subjective experience. It’s not about the quantity of friends or family you have, but how fulfilling those relationships feel. The antidote to loneliness for some may entail a vast social network, while a few close relationships work for others.
Anhalt says people should treat social fitness proactively. Rather than wait until they feel isolated, people should regularly nurture their social life, which elevates mental well-being by default.
“Our culture’s way of thinking about mental health is very reactive–we make people feel like they have to wait until things are falling apart to get support.” To Anhalt, that’s like waiting until you have early signs of heart disease to do cardio. “I want to help people think about working on their mental health more like going to the gym and less like going to the doctor.”
To exercise your social fitness, try this training plan outlined by Waldinger in his new book, The Good Life:
Map Your Social Universe
To kickstart social fitness, start with self-reflection. Like completing a basic strength training circuit to pinpoint weak muscle groups, the following mental exercises can reveal your shaky social muscles. First, in a journal or notes app, outline how you are devoting your time weekly, and to who. Then ask yourself: What am I giving and what am I receiving? Am I having enough fun with loved ones? Am I getting enough emotional support? Waldinger suggests taking this comprehensive social evaluation annually, maybe every new year or birthday.
Strengthen Keystones of Support
Rather than aim for a total social rehaul, focus on improving the valued relationships you already have. An easy way to do this is by asking loved ones: Is there anything I can do better in our relationship? Can I communicate differently, or should we spend more time together? Based on their answers, tailor your communication or quality time to benefit your inner circle.
A great way to level up–and maintain–healthy relationships is by scheduling regular contact, virtual or in-person. Pencil in a weekly coffee date with a mentor or plan a monthly Zoom call with high school friends. Remove some of the logistical barriers that make connecting feel like a chore. There’s no exact rep of weekly social interactions to hit. For some, one or two a week will suffice, while others may want to schedule daily opportunities for connection. Reflecting on how these interactions make you feel–energized or drained–can help you find your sweet spot.
Create New Connections
One exercise to keep your social muscles in good shape is by expanding your network. But making friends in adulthood isn’t as easy as it once was on the playground or soccer pitch. A surefire way to connect with someone new? Get involved in something you care about. If you love cross country skiing in winter, join a local club. If you enjoy getting your hands dirty outside, volunteer at a local community garden. These activities provide an immediate conversation starter with those who have similar interests. If you’re worried that no one would enjoy your company, volunteer your time to those who may be lonely like the elderly. Forging new connections at an older age may feel impossible– like running a marathon after years spent jogging 5Ks– but the effort leads to major benefits. Friendship shapes mental health and in turn, our physical well-being.
And here’s a bonus tip from Anhalt: Do “emotional push-ups.” These include striking up conversations with strangers, saying thank you, or accepting compliments without deflection. Start small–Practice one or two emotional push-ups weekly. While there’s no shortcut to social fitness, regularly flexing your social muscles will add up to stronger relationships over time.
In its extreme, obesity reduces life expectancy by an average of three to 10 years, depending on severity, according to the NHS. It is also estimated that obesity and being overweight contribute to at least one in every 13 deaths in Europe.
So, with many of us feeling that we have put on a little weight here and there, and with stubborn tummy fat hard to shift – how can you get back in shape in 2023?
Alcohol contains a very high amount of “empty” calories which don’t have any nutritional value. Women are more likely to store the fat created by these surplus calories on their hips, thighs and arms, whereas men store it on their tummy, hence the “beer belly”.
If you’re keen on reducing your tummy fat quickly, it’s advised that you cut out alcohol from your diet completely. If that sounds too severe, try to at least stay under the NHS-recommended 14 units (spread across three days or more). Aim to cut down your intake by capping your nightly intake to two glasses, and always having several alcohol-free days each week.
2. Eat a high protein diet
There’s a good amount of evidence to suggest that protein is key to losing tummy fat. Firstly, it releases the hormone PYY, which helps to send a message to your brain that you’re full. A good portion of protein in a meal should help you avoid overeating.
Many observational studies prove that people with a higher protein intake have lower levels of belly fat. It also raises your metabolic rate, making you more likely to build muscle during and after exercise. Try to get a serving with every meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner.
3. Reduce your stress levels
Stress causes your body to gain fat because it triggers the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn increases your appetite.
How do you relieve stress? To an extent, the answer is entirely personal – we’re all different – but studies consistently show that getting out in nature and regular bouts of meditation work to reduce our anxiety.
4. Don’t eat a lot of sugary foods
Calorie for calorie, sugar is different to other food groups such as protein, complex carbohydrates, and fat, because it confuses your normal appetite controls and causes your body to produce fat.
Refined sugars are often hidden in a plethora of different products that you wouldn’t expect such as fruit juices. Make sure to check the labels before eating the products.
5. Address food sensitivities
People often have food sensitivities that go unaddressed for years. If you think you may be suffering from an allergy, it’s important that you report it to your doctor who may refer you to a dietitian.
Common food sensitivities include dairy and gluten, both of which can result in an inflammation of the gut, making it even more prone to developing more sensitivities. Addressing these allergies can have dramatic impacts on weight loss, and even mood and behaviour.
6. Build up your strength
Everyone knows that regular exercise is necessary in order to lose weight; however, not everyone knows that resistance training is one of the best ways to do so.
Resistance training, also known as weight lifting or strength training, is important for improving and maintaining muscle mass. It also helps to spike our metabolisms, which means your body burns fat even after you’ve put the weights down.
Sleep is one of the most important aspects of your overall health and wellbeing, especially when it comes to managing your weight. A 2013 study by the University of Colorado found that one week of sleeping about five hours a night led participants to gain an average of two pounds.
Omega-3 fatty acids are lauded with such attractive qualities as delaying ageing and fighting degenerative diseases. However, it’s less well known that eating fatty fish is also excellent for weight loss (when accompanied by a balanced diet and regular exercise, of course).
Foods such as mackerel and herring are high in protein and “good fats” that help to break down some of the more dangerous fats in your body. Try to eat fish two or three times a week.
9. Replace some of your cooking fats with coconut oil
Put aside the butter and olive oil and try coconut oil instead.
According to Web MD – and other medically-led sites – the medium-chain fats in coconut oil boost metabolism and decrease the amount of fat you store in response to high calorie intake.
10. Eat plenty of soluble fiber
Soluble fibre is ideal for aiding weight loss because it forms a gel with the food in your digestive tract, slowing it down as it passes through. This type of fibre promotes gut bacteria diversity, which has been frequently linked to a lower risk of belly fat.
Excellent foods to eat to increase your soluble fibre intake include avocados, legumes (try lentils, peas or chickpeas) and blackberries. In a 2021 study, volunteers ate one meal provided by researchers each day – one group ate an avocado, while a control group ate a meal similar in calories, but with the Instagrammer favourite left out.
“Female participants who consumed an avocado a day as part of their meal had a reduction in visceral abdominal fat,” says study leader Naiman Khan, the Illinois professor of kinesiology and community health. “However, fat distribution in males did not change, and neither males nor females had improvements in glucose tolerance.”
Easy exercises to burn belly fat
The best way to burn belly fat is to add around 30 minutes of cardio or aerobic exercise into your daily exercise routine.
Researchers from the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota ranked a variety common exercises based on information obtained from the US National Institutes of Health. The research calculated the number of calories burned during an hour of each exercise, with surprising results. With this in mind, these are some of the best work-outs to try:
Picking up the pace of your walk can work wonders for burning fat. When it comes to enjoying a brisk walk (3.5mph), you can burn between 314 and 391 calories.
A 2013 study by the University of Michigan also found that walking on uneven terrain while hiking increases the amount of energy your body uses by 28 per cent compared to walking on flat ground.
Similarly to the above, skipping can help burn between 861-1,074 calories per hour, and thus burns fat. It is also a weight-bearing exercise so can help to improve bone density, which helps stave off osteoporosis.
It goes without saying that running is a great way to burn calories. Running at 8mph will burn around 861-1,074 per hour (depending on your weight); you can burn 606-755 calories even running at 5mph, and 657-819 by simply running up the stairs.
Additionally, a 2005 study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that sedentary women who incorporated stair climbing into their daily activities increased their VO2 max, or maximum aerobic capacity, by 17.1 per cent and reduced “bad” LDL cholesterol by 7.7 per cent. (Read our guide to the best fitness trackers to learn how to track your workouts.)
Experts agree that “vigorous swimming” is a full-body workout that is great for your joints. (By vigorous we’re sure they don’t mean splashing about in the shallow end.) It will help burn between 715-892 calories per hour of activity.
Breaststroke is the least beneficial stroke for burning calories, but a much better cardiovascular workout than the other strokes.
This guide is kept updated with the latest advice.
50-year-old muscles just can’t grow big like they used to – the biology of how muscles change with age
Roger Fielding, Senior Scientist Team Lead Nutrition Exercise Physiology and Sarcopenia Team Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Professor of Medicine, Tufts University – February 19, 2023
There is perhaps no better way to see the absolute pinnacle of human athletic abilities than by watching the Olympics. But at the Olympics – and at almost all professional sporting events – you rarely see a competitor over 40 years old and almost never see a single athlete over 50. This is because with every additional year spent on Earth, bodies age and muscles don’t respond to exercise the same as they used to.
I lead a team of scientists who study the health benefits of exercise, strength training and diet in older people. We investigate how older people respond to exercise and try to understand the underlying biological mechanisms that cause muscles to increase in size and strength after resistance or strength training.
Old and young people build muscle in the same way. But as you age, many of the biological processes that turn exercise into muscle become less effective. This makes it harder for older people to build strength but also makes it that much more important for everyone to continue exercising as they age.
How the body builds muscle
The exercise I study is the type that makes you stronger. Strength training includes exercises like pushups and situps, but also weightlifting and resistance training using bands or workout machines.
When you do strength training, over time, exercises that at first felt difficult become easier as your muscles increase in strength and size – a process called hypertrophy. Bigger muscles simply have larger muscle fibers and cells, and this allows you to lift heavier weights. As you keep working out, you can continue to increase the difficulty or weight of the exercises as your muscles get bigger and stronger.
It is easy to see that working out makes muscles bigger, but what is actually happening to the cells as muscles increase in strength and size in response to resistance training?
Any time you move your body, you are doing so by shortening and pulling with your muscles – a process called contraction. This is how muscles spend energy to generate force and produce movement. Every time you contract a muscle – especially when you have to work hard to do the contraction, like when lifting weights – the action causes changes to the levels of various chemicals in your muscles. In addition to the chemical changes, there are also specialized receptors on the surface of muscle cells that detect when you move a muscle, generate force or otherwise alter the biochemical machinery within a muscle.
In a healthy young person, when these chemical and mechanical sensory systems detect muscle movement, they turn on a number of specialized chemical pathways within the muscle. These pathways in turn trigger the production of more proteins that get incorporated into the muscle fibers and cause the muscle to increase in size.
These cellular pathways also turn on genes that code for specific proteins in cells that make up the muscles contracting machinery. This activation of gene expression is a longer-term process, with genes being turned on or off for several hours after a single session of resistance exercise.
The overall effect of these many exercise-induced changes is to cause your muscles to get bigger.
How older muscles change
While the basic biology of all people, young or old, is more or less the same, something is behind the lack of senior citizens in professional sports. So what changes in a person’s muscles as they age?
What my colleagues and I have found in our research is that in young muscle, a little bit of exercise produces a strong signal for the many processes that trigger muscle growth. In older people’s muscles, by comparison, the signal telling muscles to grow is much weaker for a given amount of exercise. These changes begin to occur when a person reaches around 50 years old and become more pronounced as time goes on.
In a recent study, we wanted to see if the changes in signaling were accompanied by any changes in which genes – and how many of them – respond to exercise. Using a technique that allowed us to measure changes in thousands of genes in response to resistance exercise, we found that when younger men exercise, there are changes in the expression of more than 150 genes. When we looked at older men, we found changes in the expression of only 42 genes. This difference in gene expression seems to explain, at least partly, the more visible variation between how young and old people respond to strength training.
While younger people may get stronger and build bigger muscles much faster than their older counterparts, older people still get incredibly valuable health benefits from exercise, including improved strength, physical function and reduced disability. So the next time you are sweating during a workout session, remember that you are building muscle strength that is vital to maintaining mobility and good health throughout a long life.
This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit news site dedicated to sharing ideas from academic experts.
Donna St. George, Katherine Reynolds Lewis and Lindsey Bever, The Washington Post – February 17, 2023
When Sophie Nystuen created a website for teens who had experienced trauma, her idea was to give them space to write about the hurt they couldn’t share. The Brookline, Mass., 16-year-old received posts about drug use and suicide. But a majority wrote about sexual violence.
“Every time I’ve tried, my throat feels like it’s closing, my lungs forget how to breathe,” wrote one anonymous poster. “I was sexually assaulted.”
These expressions of inner crisis are just a glint of the startling data reported by federal researchers this week. Nearly 1 in 3 high school girls said they had considered suicide, a 60 percent rise in the past decade. Nearly 15 percent had been forced to have sex. About 6 in 10 girls were so persistently sad or hopeless they stopped regular activities.
The new report represents nothing short of a crisis in American girlhood. The findings have ramifications for a generation of young women who have endured an extraordinary level of sadness and sexual violence – and present uncharted territory for the health advocates, teachers, counselors and parents who are trying to help them.
The data comes from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from a nationally representative sample of students in public and private high schools. “America’s teen girls are engulfed in a growing wave of sadness, violence and trauma,” the CDC said.
“It’s alarming,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Thursday of the report. “But as a father of a 16-year-old and 19-year-old, I hear about it. It’s real. I think students know what’s going on. I think sometimes the adults are just now realizing how serious it is.”
But high school girls are speaking out, too, about stresses that started before the pandemic – growing up in a social media culture, with impossible beauty standards, online hate, academic pressure, economic difficulties, self doubt and sexual violence. The isolation and upheaval of covid made it tougher still.
When Caroline Zuba started cutting her arms in ninth grade, she felt trapped: by conflict at home, by the school work that felt increasingly meaningless, by the image her friends and teachers had of a bubbly, studious girl. Cutting replaced the emotional pain with a physical pain.
She confided in a trusted teacher, who brought in the school counselors and her mother. But Zuba’s depression worsened and, at age 15, she attempted suicide. That sparked the first of a series of hospitalizations over the summer and subsequent school year.
Now a 17-year-old junior at a public high school in Potomac, Md., Zuba relies on therapy, medication, exercise and coping strategies. She started a mental health club at her high school to support classmates also struggling with depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
At the lowest point of her depression, she said, she kept many secrets from her friends, parents and teachers because she felt stuck in her role: a cheerful high achiever who had it all together.
“My mom’s like my best friend and there’s no way she would have ever expected it,” Zuba said. “Teens are really good at hiding it, which is really sad.”
While the teen mental health crisis was clear before the CDC report, the stark findings have jolted parents and the wider public.
“These are not normal numbers,” said Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy. “When you grow up with this, I think the risk is thinking, ‘Well, this is just how it is.'”
The reasons girls are in crisis are likely complex, and may vary by race, ethnicity, class and culture. Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd points out that “girls are more likely to respond to pain in the world by internalizing conflict and stress and fear, and boys are more likely to translate those feelings into anger and aggression,” masking their depression.
Weissbourd added that girls also are socialized not to be aggressive and that in a male-dominated culture girls can be gaslit into thinking there is something wrong with them when problems or conflicts arise. “They can be prone to blaming themselves,” he said.
Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of the book “iGen,” said that increases in most measures of poor mental health in the past decade were more pronounced for girls than boys.
She said part of the problem is that digital media has displaced the face-to-face time teens once had with friends, and that teens often don’t get enough sleep. Adding to those influences are the hours teens spend scrolling social media. For girls, she said, this often means “comparing your body and your life to others and feeling that you come up wanting.”
That’s not to say everything that people do on smartphones is problematic, Twenge said. “It’s just social media in general and internet use show the strongest correlations with depression,” she said.
Ben Handrich, a school counselor at South Salem High School in Salem, Ore., said teen girls often feel that “people are watching them – that no matter what they do, there’s this invisible audience judging their movements, their actions, the way they smile, the way they eat.”
Lisa Damour, a clinical psychologist and author of “The Emotional Lives of Teenagers,” said it’s important to note that the CDC data was collected in the fall of 2021, a time when many teens were anxious about returning to in-person school and wearing masks.
“Teenagers were miserable,” Damour said. “It absolutely confirms what we were looking at clinically at that time. We don’t know what the next wave of data will tell us.”
Damour noted that the CDC findings are distressing because today’s teens, in many ways, are in better physical health and more risk-averse than most previous generations.
“We’re raising the best-behaved generation of teenagers on record,” said Damour. “They drive with seat belts, they smoke less, they have less sex, they wear helmets. They do all these things that we did not do.”
And yet they are in crisis.
Many girls across the country describe teen cultures of casual slut-shaming, of peers greeting girls with sexist slurs such as “whore” or “ho,” based on what they wear or how they look.
In Los Angeles, Elida Mejia Elias says it’s a no-win situation. “If you’re skinny, they judge you for being skinny and if you’re fat, they judge you for being fat,” explains the 18-year-old, a senior.
In ninth grade, a friend of Mejia Elias’s sent a naked picture of herself to a boy she was dating, at his urging, and he spread it around to his friends. “Everyone was talking bad about her. They were calling her names, like ‘ho,'” said Mejia Elias. “That affected her mental health. She needed to get therapy.”
In Maryland, at her Bethesda public high school, 14-year old Tulip Kaya said that girls in her friend group hear whistles or “gross comments” about their breasts and are texted unsolicited penis pictures by boys at school. “If there’s anything slightly unique about you, you’re not going to have a fun time, and you will be targeted,” she said.
Social media can be overwhelming. “On Snapchat and TikTok, you see all these pretty girls with tiny waists and a big bottom. I know I’m only 14, but it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with myself,” Kaya said. “When I start to feel like that, I will delete the app for a little while.”
Girls interviewed by The Post expressed uncertainty and self-doubt over everything from what to wear, what to post or comment on social media, what it meant if someone wasn’t following them back on a social platform, and even in daily interactions. When in-person school resumed, during the fall of 2021 for many, routine encounters and moments felt weird after a year or more of separation from peers.
“Sometimes I don’t want to wear shorts because I don’t have the body type I had in middle school,” said Leilah Villegas, of Eastvale, Calif., who ran track before the pandemic. Now in 10th grade, she’s started running again but her changed body brings pangs of self-consciousness.
Aanika Arjumand, 16, from Gaithersburg, Md., who sits on her county’s Domestic Violence Coordinating Council, said she was not surprised by the increases in sexual violence.
“We deal with a lot of cases on like teen dating violence and kind of informing schools about teen dating violence because the health curriculum right now basically does not cover abuse or sexual violence as much as it should,” she said.
School itself can sometimes be physically unsafe, as happened with Harker, a 13-year old in Savannah, Ga., who spoke on the condition that her full name not be used because of the sensitivity of the issue.
At school, she received unwanted attention from a boy in sixth grade. He would whisper in her ears and grab her shoulders. Once, he seized her across her chest and did not release her until she screamed. A teacher was nearby, but she said the boy went unpunished and remained in her classes. The teen has resorted to learning at home.
“They didn’t believe me even though there were witnesses,” she said. “A boy in school can get away with something, but if I do one mess-up, I get called out for it.
At the Bronx High School of Science in New York, 17-year-old Najiha Uddin talks about a White beauty standard perpetuated in mainstream and social media, which she says girls of color can’t possibly meet. She and others describe status-oriented peers and media messages about shoes, clothes, styles and experiences that outstrip their families’ means.
For Montanna Norman, 18, a senior at a private high school in Washington during the fall of 2021, the killing of unarmed Black men by police was foremost in her mind after the murder of George Floyd. At the time she was the co-leader of her school’s Black Student Union. “The toll that that took on my mental health was a lot,” she said.
Some of her friends have contemplated, or attempted, suicide, Norman said. “You wish you could do more to help,” she said.
Garvey Mortley, a 14-year old in Bethesda, Md., who is Black, said she has been teased because of her hair and still feels microaggressions. “Racism can be a stressor for depression or a cause of depression because of the bullying that happens, not just Black kids but Asian kids and Hispanic kids who feel they are unwanted,” she said.
Students who are LGBTQ face some of the highest rates of depressive symptoms and sexual violence, including rape. In 2021, nearly 1 in 4 reported an attempt to take their life.
Rivka Vizcardo-Lichter, a student activist in Virginia, pointed out that high school is a time when many LGBTQ students are still figuring out who they are and solidifying their identity. “Even if you have an accepting environment around you, you are aware that there are millions of people who don’t want you to exist,” she said.
Some of the most alarming data collected by the CDC involved the rise in suicidal thoughts among teen girls – 24 percent of teen girls have made a plan for suicide while 13 percent have attempted it, almost twice the rate for boys.
Rich and Trinna Walker, from New Albany, Ind., searched for a therapist for their 13-year-old daughter Ella but struggled to find one in the overloaded mental health-care system during the pandemic. Once Ella finally started treatment, however, her demeanor seemed to improve, they said.
“I really felt like she was doing so much better,” Trinna Walker said. Ella had been asking her dad how she could earn extra money to buy a birthday gift for her sister. She told her mom she wanted doughnuts for breakfast.
“Then we woke up to a nightmare the next morning,” Trinna said.
Ella died by suicide on Jan. 22, 2022. Her parents said they wish someone would have alerted them to the warning signs. Unknown to them, Ella was being bullied, and she was devastated by a breakup, they said.
Now the couple is urging teens to speak up when their peers are in trouble. “It was like a bomb going off,” Rich Walker said. “It’s like it mortally wounded my wife and me and Ella’s two older sisters, and then it reverberated outwardly to her friends.”
Many of the girls interviewed for this story asked that adults listen to and believe girls, and stop dismissing their concerns as drama. “Adults don’t get all the pressure that teenage girls have to deal with, from appearance to the way they act to how smart they are, to the things they do,” said Villegas, the Eastvale 10th-grader. “It can be very overwhelming.”
Asma Tibta, a 10th-grader in Fairfax County, Va., said she is “close friends” with her mother, but doesn’t talk about mental health at home. “I haven’t told her too much. And I don’t plan to.”
In Savannah, Harker took a break from playing Roblox with her friend to be interviewed. Before heading back to the game, she had one request: “I want adults to believe young girls.”
The Washington Post’s Serena Marshall contributed to this report.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit 988lifeline.org or call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.
A New Study Hints That 38% of Cognitive Decline Is Impacted By These Lifestyle Factors
Karla Walsh – February 14, 2023
If you can still sing along to every boy band song of the early 2000s and can recite your childhood best friend’s phone number, you might be thinking you’ll never have to worry about memory challenges.
While it’s true that a minority of Americans are officially diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, it’s probably far more common than you might expect. According to an October 2022 study published in JAMA Neurology, 1 in 10 American seniors is currently living with dementia, and another 22% of those 65 and older experience mild cognitive impairment; one of the early signals that more serious cognitive challenges may be on the horizon. That’s about one-third of all individuals 65 and older.
Cognitive decline naturally occurs as we get older; it’s natural that our ability to remember details, understand, learn and think degrade slightly over time. But when it starts to impact the quality of daily life and the ability to lead a happy, healthy, secure life, that’s when a brain-related diagnosis might occur.
Family history certainly plays a role in the risk for dementia and other cognition-related conditions, and scientists have discovered a variety of habits can also move the needle. Things that have been previously shown to reduce the risk for cognitive complications later in life include:
But there still appears to be a gap in the understanding of all of the possible risk factors for cognitive decline, so researchers at Ohio State University and the University of Michigan decided to focus their recent efforts to help clear up the cognitive confusion…and potentially prevent cases of cognitive decline in the future.
According to a study published February 8 in the journal PLoS ONE, a handful of less-commonly-cited factors account for about 38% of the cognitive function variation at age 54: personal education level, parental education, household income and wealth, race, occupation and depression status.
What This Brain Health Study Found
For this study, lead author Hui Zheng, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Sociology at Ohio State University and his team crunched the numbers from more than 7,000 American adults born between 1931 and 1941 who had enrolled in the Health and Retirement Study. This cognition-related study includes participants’ health biometrics from 1996 to 2016, and also has details about lifestyle, such as exercise, smoking status, medical diagnoses and socioeconomic factors.
Dr. Zheng and his team used a statistical approach to try to estimate the role (if any) and the percentage each of their studied factors might impact neuropathology (aka diseases of the brian, such as cognitive decline). They found that early life conditions and adult diseases and behaviors played a fairly small role—about 5.6%. But teaming up to contribute a whopping 38% in risk level was a combo platter of socioeconomic status (including education level of both the person and their parents, income/wealth and occupation), race and mental health.
Prior to this study, doctors and scientists had mainly suggested that an individual’s choices and actions matter most in maintaining cognitive functioning. This study suggests that it’s time to turn some attention to social determinants of health, too.
This new brain health study found that education level, income, race and depression status, in tandem with healthy lifestyle habits, play a surprisingly large role in the potential development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
You can’t isolate one habit or factor and deem it the cause of cognitive decline. Brain health is impacted substantially by personal well-being throughout the lifespan. This includes how secure one feels at home, whether or not they’re experiencing a mental health challenge like depression, thier level of financial freedom and how much they’ve been able to study to build up their “brain bank.”
All of this points to the importance of viewing brain health through the individual and the systemic lens. A community must be designed in a way to support economic and educational access, mental health resources, has safe places for physical activity, access to a wide variety of foods and the opportunity for social connection. Admittedly, this is a lofty and substantial prospect, and is much easier said than done. But with nearly one-third of all Americans over 65 affected by cognitive impairment, it certainly can’t hurt to start exploring ways to improve our current landscape.
‘There’s No Spring Break Here’: Florida’s Gulf Coast Fights to Rebound After Hurricane Ian
Shannon Sims – February 14, 2023
On Sept. 28, Hurricane Ian made landfall on Cayo Costa, a barrier island northwest of Cape Coral and Fort Myers, Florida, as a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of more than 150 mph. Killing 149 people in Florida, it was the state’s deadliest hurricane since 1935. More than four months later, the storm’s extraordinary power remains evident: In Fort Myers Beach, multistory oceanfront apartment buildings are still just piles of twisted steel and concrete rubble, and massive shrimping boats sit tilted and smashed together like toys in the corner of a tub.
The storm’s wrath extended up and down the west coast of Florida. But Sanibel Island, one of the area’s most popular vacation destinations, was hit especially hard. The fish-hook-shaped barrier island, some 12 miles long and 3 miles across at its widest, was devastated. Even the causeway that connects it to the mainland was partly destroyed.
On a recent afternoon, sitting at a table outside the Sanibel Grill, which roof and water damage kept closed for months, the mayor of Sanibel, Holly Smith, 61, was blunt. “There’s no spring break here,” she said. “As far as the recovery of tourism, we have a long way to go.”
Smith said that during the storm, the island had “a complete washover” — the 12-foot storm surge covered everything.
Beth Sharer, 66, a homeowner on the island, said when she went back to her ravaged condo, she couldn’t find the high-water mark that flooding usually leaves. “And then I realized there wasn’t one: The water was higher than the entire apartment,” she said.
When Smith visited the island with Gov. Ron DeSantis in the days after the storm, the area looked like a war zone, she said. “It was like ‘Mad Max,’ with dirt across the roads.”
Fears of Becoming a ‘New Miami’
Before the hurricane, Sanibel and Captiva, a smaller island connected to the north of Sanibel by a short bridge, offered an estimated 2,800 lodging units, including hotel rooms and short-term rentals, according to the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce. Today there are just 155 available, the chamber said. “We’ve changed our communication strategy from promoting the island to helping manage guest expectations for the next 12 months,” said John Lai, CEO of the chamber, which is now encouraging visitors to sign up for “voluntourism” options like helping to clear trails at the nature reserve or clean debris from the beaches.
By comparison, Fort Myers Beach had 2,384 hotel rooms before the storm, according to the Lee County government. In the wake of the storm, none of those rooms were open. As of this month, 360 of those rooms were available — just 15% of prehurricane inventory.
Before the hurricane, JPS Vacation Rentals, a local agency, had 32 properties available in Fort Myers Beach, said Heidi Jungwirth, the owner. Seven of those remain standing, but all were damaged, and none are currently rentable, she said. She has turned her office into a distribution center for donations. Distinctive Beach Rentals, which used to be the largest vacation management company in Fort Myers Beach, with 400 properties, saw 380 of those units “wiped out,” said Tom Holevas, the area manager, adding that the company has now pivoted to offering more inland rentals.
At the Lighthouse Resort’s Tiki Bar & Grill, where today the bathroom doors are shower curtains and the kitchen consists of a grill behind the outdoor bar, Betsy Anderson, 50, expressed concern about the area’s future. She owns an apartment in Cape Coral, just inland from the beach, that she rents via Airbnb. She said she had several guests cancel after the storm because the beaches were closed, and she is currently renting to a couple fixing up their own flooded house on Sanibel.
She worries that the storm will accelerate change. “We don’t think it can come back,” she said, referring to the area’s laid-back character and “old Florida” style. “Now people are saying big investors are going to come in with big money and turn this into the new Miami.”
Reviving an Economic Lifeline
On Sanibel, the push to rebuild began early, in part because the island draws so many visitors from across the country to its famous shelling beaches. A temporary causeway opened less than two weeks after the storm, allowing a convoy of electrical companies’ cherry picker trucks to reach the island. On Oct. 19, the bridges — one lane in each direction, with reduced speed limits — were opened to residents. For the rest of 2022, piece by piece, the area started to come back online.
“This place is on a lot of people’s bucket lists,” said Smith, alluding to visitors who “just want a shell from Sanibel.” But it will be at least a year before the island can accommodate tourists in any numbers, she said.
It doesn’t help that the island’s beaches are currently suffering from Florida’s persistent red tide, which is caused by a higher-than-normal level of microscopic algae that produce toxins in the water, turning it a rusty brown color and killing fish. The tide can significantly affect visitors’ experiences, aggravating respiratory problems, leaving beaches littered with rotting sea life and discouraging time spent near the water.
Still, residents and businesses are trudging toward getting tourists — their economic lifeline — back to the shore.
In just the past month, the first hotel rooms reopened for visitors at Sanibel’s Island Inn and the ’Tween Waters Resort & Spa on Captiva Island.
Some restaurants that were only lightly damaged have reopened quickly. Others are now operating out of food trucks. Some shops are back open, too, and many outdoor activities are once again available: renting kayaks and stand-up paddleboards or chartering fishing boats.
In early February, the first wedding since the storm was held at ’Tween Waters; the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum reopened with limited hours; and the doomsday-ish electronic sign that met visitors as they came off the bridge into Sanibel — “ALL SANIBEL BEACHES CLOSED” — was turned off, as the first beaches were officially reopened to the public. There is a sense on the island now that the wheels of tourism are finally beginning to turn.
Still, many hotels, restaurants and businesses that cater to tourists are a long way from reopening their doors. Some, like Sanibel Inn, are essentially starting from scratch, their buildings in ruins.
That’s why businesses are handing visitors the most useful item a tourist can pick up in Sanibel today: a printed list of what’s open, where and when.
‘It Breaks Your Heart’
For now, a visit to the area is more a pledge of support than a vacation.
On a sunny day in early February, Lisa Taussig of Overland Park, Kansas, and Christy, her adult daughter, were among the few tourists on the beach in front of the Island Inn, where they were staying. They come to the island about three times a year, Taussig said, and this year is no different. “After the storm passed, we just said, ‘You know what? We’re going to come down here and support Sanibel,’” she said.
“You feel welcome here,” she added, before turning and gesturing to the series of plywood-covered, battered condo buildings behind her. “Now it feels isolated, and there aren’t the lush trees that are usually here.
“It breaks your heart,” she said.
In Fort Myers Beach, residents still pick up their mail at a trailer. Glass, nails and unidentifiable twisted debris remain scattered along the ground. Around town, many flags, bumper stickers and T-shirts are emblazoned with “FMB STRONG.”
On a recent Saturday, a tiny spot called the Beach Bar was packed with a crowd of locals who looked storm-weary but exuded an ornery refusal to retreat. Even before the storm, the bar’s physical structure — right off Estero Boulevard, the beach strip that’s historically packed with visitors cruising in top-down vehicles — didn’t amount to much: It was a two-story, open-air wooden building facing the water. Now only the concrete slab remains.
But that hasn’t stopped the regulars. The crowd showed up with beach chairs and coolers, which they set up on the concrete. “They’re operating right now with a trailer, two outhouses and a band,” said Randy Deutsch, 72, from Chicago, who said he’d been coming to the bar since 1972.
“Our concept didn’t change,” said Matt Faller, the manager. “Cold beer, live music, toes in the sand.”
New Jersey student ends her life after months of bullying, video of school hallway beating circulates online
Sarah Rumpf – February 9, 2023
This story may contains details that are disturbing. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.
A 14-year-old girl from New Jersey ended her life after a disturbing video of girls viciously beating her up in the high school’s hallway circulated online. Now, her distraught father is promising to remember her legacy by bringing awareness of a broken school system he says overlooked extensive school bullying.
Adriana Kuch, a student at Central Regional High School, was found dead on Feb. 3 at her home two days after the shocking video surfaced.
The disturbing video shows Adriana and her boyfriend walking down the hallway of the local public high school when a student walks up and starts walloping her in the face with a water bottle. Adriana falls to the ground, where she is repeatedly kicked and punched by a group of students. Cheering is heard from the student who took the shocking video.
About 30 seconds into the attack, two school workers interrupted the ambush.
Following the attack on Feb.1, Adriana sustained severe bruising on her legs and face. Michael Kush, Adriana’s father, was shocked after hearing about the bullying incident. He told Fox News Digital that he took his 14-year-old teen to the local police station to file a report about the incident. The Berkeley Township Police Department did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.
The father also said his daughter showed him videos of people taunting her and threatening her on TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat following the attack. Adriana reportedly faced months of bullying from fellow classmates at the local high school.
Despite reaching out to school faculty, Michael shared that, “no action was taken by anyone,” following the incident. Just two days later, family members found Adriana deceased in her New Jersey home.
Michael shared with Fox News Digital that he is taking legal action against the school.
“I’m livid,” Michael shared with Fox News Digital. “I blame the girls and the school and the cops. I want everyone to know what happened to her, I want justice, as much attention, so they can’t ignore it.”
Michael shared that he believes his daughter would be alive if the school and police had taken immediate action.
“If the school contacted the police, filed a report, and conducted an investigation, these videos could have been discovered immediately.” Michael shared.
On Feb. 5, Central Regional High School sent out a note to the student body sharing the “tragic passing” of a district student. The school also provided information on available counseling and crisis professionals, stating “please know that you are never alone in the world and there is always support during bad times to help change things for the better.”
Central Regional High School did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital.
However, Michael shared that Adriana is not the first student at Central Regional High School who has faced extensive physical abuse and cyberbullying on school grounds. On his public Facebook page, Michael shared videos from other parents whose children have faced bullying without school administration stepping in.
“The more I continue to see, the more I want to fight for all kids against schools like this.” Michael said. “Complete incompetence from top to bottom.”
As of Thursday evening, three students who were involved in the video incident were charged with third-degree felony assault and a fourth with disorderly conduct. All four students involved in the attack have been expelled from the local high school.
Sue Bird made 10 times as much money playing basketball in Russia and said it helped make her a millionaire
Cork Gaines – February 5, 2023
The WNBA legend Sue Bird spent 10 seasons playing in Russia to supplement her income.
Bird told “60 Minutes” that she made 10 times her first WNBA salary, which was under $60,000 a year.
Bird also said it was a wild time that included her team’s owner being murdered.
After Brittney Griner spent nearly 10 months jailed in Russia on drug-smuggling accusations, a fellow basketball star, Sue Bird, explained why she spent 11 years playing professionally in Russia for an owner who was once convicted of being a KGB spy.
Bird told “60 Minutes” that despite being the first pick in the 2002 WNBA draft, she made less than $60,000 a year early in her career. While she plays only stateside now, as she enters her 21st season, she spent a large part of her career playing overseas to supplement her income, as many WNBA players have.- ADVERTISEMENT -https://s.yimg.com/rq/darla/4-10-1/html/r-sf-flx.html
Bird said that after playing in Europe for two seasons, the Russian billionaire Shabtai Kalmanovich recruited her to Spartak Moscow of the EuroLeague.
She told CBS about the recruitment: “He was like, ‘You know, I have a ton of money. And, you know, some people like to gamble. Some people like to buy cars. I like women’s basketball. That’s where I want to spend my money.'”
CBS reported that Kalmanovich paid Bird 10 times what she made in the WNBA. When asked if the money was life-changing, Bird said it was.
“Absolutely,” she said. “Like, I’m a millionaire because of it.”
A 2019 episode of ESPN’s “30 for 30” described how Kalmanovich spoiled his players, and the perks went beyond salaries.
“Everything literally was first class,” Bird told ESPN. “We’re staying at the best hotels. We go to Paris. We’re in, like, the bomb hotel in Paris.”
Diana Taurasi, her teammate, said they were also provided a “mini-mansion” with a pool and a spa. Kalmanovich even gave the American players his credit card to go on shopping sprees, they said, telling the women to “get whatever you want.”
“So you know automatically, like, ‘OK, can we spend $500? Can we spend a thousand?'” Taurasi told ESPN. “And, you know, you get nervous, you have this adrenaline, where you’re like, ‘Should I get this Louis Vuitton bag that’s $3,000, which I would never buy? Yes, I will, and I’ll get two of them — one for me and one for Jessika Taurasi,” she said, referring to her sister.
Taurasi continued, “We get in the car, and I mean we have what, like, 25, 30 bags. I feel like we robbed a bank.”
CBS described Kalmanovich as “a former KGB spy and businessman with a record of operating outside the law.” He was also assassinated while Bird played for the team.
A BBC report said Kalmanovich spent five years in prison in Israel, convicted of being a KGB spy. After being released, he made his fortune in the African diamond trade.
This story was originally published in 2022 and has been updated.