The Black Director Who Should Have Won an Oscar

The grandson of slaves, Oscar Micheaux made 44 movies, becoming the Cecil B. De Mille of Race Movies, and the Czar of Black Hollywood, inspired by that obnoxiously racist film from 1915: Birth of a Nation.

As optimists, Americans usually treat inspiration as positive, but fear and fury motivate too. This Oscar who deserved an Oscar but never got one, turned watching Birth of a Nation into the birth of his movie career. And he refused to be shackled by the limitations all blacks endured during what we should call the Awful African-American Purgatory. Living from 1884 to 1951, he was sandwiched into that black state of suspended political animationpost-Civil-War pre-Civil-Rightswhen black freedom wasnt completely denied but not yet achieved. While defying racism, Oscar Micheaux was so upbeat, so patriotic, and so successful, the historian Dan Moos calls him a Black Turnerian. That label embodies the optimism, pragmatism, and nationalism the late-nineteenth-century historian Frederick Jackson Turner found in the American frontier.

Micheauxs birthplace, Murphysboro, Illinois, in 1884, and upbringing on a Kansas farm with ten siblings, set him up to be a middle American. But his adopted hometown of Gregory, South Dakota, which celebrates his legacy with an annual festival, reflects the frontier pioneer he chose to be. When he was 21 he was already homesteading 160 acres in South Dakota. Tough and ambitious, he found acceptance out Westneighbors complimented him as one of them, by calling him more South Dakotan than black.

A natural story-teller and self-promoter, he realized he preferred writing to farming especially after drought dried up his land. His novels mostly described a young black pioneers adventures in the untamed yet surprisingly welcome wilds of South Dakota.

Then as now, writers struggled to find readers. That quest stirred Micheauxs entrepreneurial spirit, catapulting him from the world of words to the worlds of entrepreneurship and images, and from one quintessential American platformthe Westto todays defining American platformcommercialized pop culture.

Back in the Dakotas, Micheaux became the door-to-door cowboy salesman. Not trusting publishers, he established his own publishing company. Trusting his own salesmanship, he sold his first threeof sevenautobiographical novels to his neighbors one-by-one, from farm-to-farm: The Conquest in 1913, The Forged Note in 1915, and The Homesteader in 1917.

A restless, all-American go-getter, forever looking for new horizons, even while trailblazing his latest frontier, Micheaux leaped from forgettable pioneer novelist to history-making pioneer movie-maker in 1918. The vicious but vivid Ku Klux Klan-infused movie The Birth of a Nation, gave him his Aha moment. He immediately appreciated movies as a moving story-telling medium, absorbing viewers into worlds producers produced.

In 1918, the Lincoln Motion Company, co-founded by an African-American actor Nobel Johnson, proposed making The Homesteader into a film. Instead, Micheaux decided to make the movie himself. The result was a series of firsts. First, what historians now consider the first full-length feature film written, produced, and directed by an African-American. Second, the first of Micheauxs 44 films. And third, the first all-black cinematic eco-sphere independent of Hollywood: The Micheaux Film and Book Publishing Corporation, founded in 1918 in Chicago. Lincoln Films, the William D. Foster Film company, and the Colored Players Film Corp were among the key players in a whole flowering of Race-Filmsmovies made before World War II by blacks, starring blacks, about blacks to entertain blacks.

At a time when Hollywood erased them or mocked them, African-Americans emerged as three-dimensional characters in Micheauxs two-dimensional detective stories and schlocky romances. Homesteaders grossed over $5,000 an impressive sum. Micheauxs Henry-Ford-type instinct with his novels to control the process from start to finish now shaped his movie-making. He worked with a corps of actors, favoring one leading lady, Evelyn Preer. Together, they developed the kind of auteur-actor dynamic that once made so many delight in watching Diane Keaton or Mia Farrow star in Woody Allen films back when most viewed Allen as legendary director not creepy predator.

While entertaining audiences, Micheaux broadcast significant messages. He would say, I have always tried to lay before the colored race a cross-section of its own life, to view the colored heart from close range. Within Our Gates refuted D.W. Griffiths Birth of a Nation in 1920, showing the horrors of racist lynchings while using an attempted rape to highlight white Southerners horrific hypocrisy: lusting after black women they dehumanized. Body and Soul introduced perhaps the first black celebrity actor-activist, Paul Robeson, in 1925.

Micheaux pioneered and wrote in his twenties. He made silent movies in his thirties. And forever pushing, innovating, and pitching, pitching, pitching, Micheaux faced two final frontiers in his forties. In 1931, three years shy of turning fifty, his movie The Exile, became the first full-length sound movie directed by an African-American.

Still, Micheaux and his films remained ghettoized. Finally, in 1948, The Betrayal became the first black film distributed to white theatres. Tragically, it ended up being his last film. Three years later, still peddling his stuff on the road, this time in Charlotte, North Carolina, Micheaux died of heart disease. The stress this driven control freak generated, through two marriages, two bad bankruptcies, and multiple careers, did him in.

Those of us raised back when the civil rights crusader Martin Luther King and the ugly Jim Crow Southern segregation system — were still alive and kicking, often learned about two clashing African-American role models. W.E.B. DuBois was the radical, the rebel, the prophet denouncing American racism as reflecting larger American diseases. By contrast, George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington were the patriots, the pragmatists, pulling themselves and their people up by their bootstraps. These angels of uplift would never kneel during the national anthem. They refused as Washington put it — to allow our grievances to overshadow our opportunities. They lived what King later preached, pushing the American system to treat them in a way that affirmed American ideals rather than violating them.

Unfortunately, by dying three years before Brown v. Board of Education, Oscar Micheaux lived in relative obscurity. He was far less well-known among whites than the man whose career he launched, Paul Robeson.

Today, books recount his exploits, films document his life, stamps honor him. The Producers Guild of America considers him The most prolific black if not most prolific independent filmmaker in American cinema. Others call him the father of African-American cinema. Since 1987, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame carries his name.

These honors werent acts of historical affirmative action. They were affirmative acts of historical reclamation, giving Hollywoods first black director his proper place as a real pioneer turned celluloid trail-blazer, paving the way for future blacks and whites alike. His tombstone ends his stirring life story with the perfect Hollywood tag line: A man ahead of his time.


Dan Moos, Outside America: Race, Ethnicity, and the Role of the American West in National Belonging, 2005.

Oscar Micheaux, The Homesteader: A Novel, 1919.

Patrick McGilligan, Oscar Micheaux: The Great and Only: The Life of Americas First Black Filmmaker, 2008.

Pearl Bowser & Louise Spence, Writing Himself into History: Oscar Micheaux, His Silent Films, and His Audiences, 2000.

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Uber joins Apple, Amazon as the next tech company to jump into healthcare

The Uber Health dashboard brings Uber rides to healthcare facilities for its patients and caregivers.
Image: uber

Healthcare is big business, and tech companies don’t want to miss out just because they’re busy building smartphones, apps, and self-driving cars.

Uber announced its new Uber Health platform Thursday. It’s a way for healthcare organizations to order rides for patients who are receiving care at their facilities. Uber also launched an API so the ride-hailing service can be built into existing healthcare tools.

This isn’t an exact replica of the existing Uber app. Instead, health facilities can schedule rides for patients and caregivers (up to a month ahead of time, so patients can get to appointments and make sure they get their follow-up care). The facilities also pay for the rides. Uber Health hopes to replace the transportation options facilities usually book to pick up patients.

Unlike the Uber app, rides work for patients without smartphones. Instead, the rides are coordinated through text message, and there’s a forthcoming plan to set up calls to landlines or cellphones instead of texting. 

Hospitals, rehab centers, and senior care facilities —and more than 100 organizations across the U.S. — are already using a beta version of the program. 

Uber isn’t the first major tech company to break into the healthcare space, which the World Economic Forum values at $6.5 trillion worldwide. Companies like Apple and Google are collecting tons of data on their users, which means it’s not much of a stretch for them to start using information about our eating, sleeping, and heart rate patterns to create new tools and products. 

Last month Google announced an algorithm that can detect, via an eye scan, whether someone has high blood pressure or is at risk for a heart attack or stroke. The researchers were part of Google’s health research division, Verily, which became part of the company in 2015. The AI has a 70 percent accuracy rate, and it’s improving.

Apple is using its Apple Watch product to track health signals like heart rate. With the KardiaBand, wearers can accurately detect irregular heartbeats and other indicators about poor heart health.

Apple introduced the health platform to its operating system back in 2014 and has big goals for diabetes care and other tools for health. 

This week Apple announced its own health clinic system, AC Wellness, for its employees.

Even Amazon is rumored to be thinking about creating its own healthcare company. Depending on how you look at it, that’s either very far — or super close — to selling everything from books to yoga pants to succulents through its online store. Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, already knows a lot about users’ habits and health problems, like if you’re asking which pharmacies are open or inquiring as to home remedies for a sore throat.

Health and tech are blurring together. But instead of prescription slips, it’s apps, wearables, and AI. Get ready for the future. 

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Kevin Smith tearfully recounts near-fatal heart attack

Kevin Smith opened up about his near-fatal heart attack in an emotional Facebook Live video.

The celebrated indie filmmaker spoke to his fans and followers from his hospital room at the Glendale Adventist Medical Center, where he is still recovering, recalling the moments before and after his devastating medical scare, which occurred after he had filmed one of two comedy shows on Sunday evening.

The 47-year-old director admitted that, at first, he thought he had gotten sick because he “felt a little nauseous.” After laying down on the floor and then throwing up, Smith said that he figured he just drank “some bad milk.”


“I was trying to get over it so I could do the next show once they loaded everybody in,” Smith said, recalling that he then laid down on a couch in the theater which is when he realized something more serious was happening.

“I started feeling pressure on my chest. But not like, ‘There’s an elephant on my chest,’ just I couldn’t catch my breath. Honestly, I was never really in pain,” he explained. “So, because of that and because I’m 47, I didn’t really piece together ‘heart attack.'”

It wasn’t until paramedics were called to the scene and began administering life-saving procedures that Smith started to wrap his head around the severity of his situation.


Even after being rushed to the hospital and strapped to monitors, he still didn’t believe he was dealing with a heart condition until one of the doctors informed him that they needed to transport him to the emergency room because he’d suffered “a massive heart attack and we have to look inside your heart right away.”

As Smith revealed on Instagram the morning after his emergency surgery, doctors discovered a 100 percent blockage of his left anterior descending artery, which is commonly referred to as a widow-maker heart attack.

While the “Dogma” director never really got scared during the incident — albeit mainly because he didn’t grasp how serious it was — he said there was one thing that really concerned him, and it had to do with the way in which the doctors accessed his heart.

“Here’s me, in the Emergency Room, dying. Literally dying, and this was my biggest concern: a guy comes in and goes, ‘I have to shave your groin,'” Smith recalled. “I said, ‘For what?’ He goes, ‘They go up through your groin to get into your heart.'”


“My biggest fear in life: Death, No. 1. No. 2: People seeing my d–k,” he joked, recalling how he began to bargain with the guy to let him keep his underwear on. Later, when they made him take them off, he tried to cover up with his shirt. “Finally, somebody had the good sense to be like, ‘He doesn’t quite realize that hiding his d–k is not the most important thing right now.'”

Ultimately, the doctor successfully removed the blockage and saved Smith’s life.

As for the cause of the heart attack, Smith said many factors played a role. Despite losing around 90 pounds over the last seven years, he faced previously existent plaque build-up and has a family history of heart disease. Smith’s father, Donald, died of a heart attack when he was 67, and his mother, Grace, has two stents in two arteries in her heart.

“I went through lifestyle changes, and some s–t don’t matter,” he said. “Some s–t you just can’t beat, because it’s genetic.”

While recuperating, Smith said he was overwhelmed with the love and support he’d received from friends and fans on social media, including people “I hadn’t heard from in a long time [and] people I’d never heard from before.”

“I remember reading kind things from people who normally don’t say kind things about me or my career, and I was like, ‘This is what it’s gonna be like when I die one day, hopefully. People will say nice things,'” the Yoga Hosers creator shared. “And I realized that as long as I keep my nose clean from now until the end… they might be kind at the end. I won’t be one of these people who die [and they go], “Good riddance you fat f–k!'”

One star who sent kind words over was Chris Pratt, who tweeted, “I have loved you since Clerks and I’m praying my ass off for you.” The “Guardians of the Galaxy” star received some criticism for offering his prayers, but Smith dismissed any negativity, calling Pratt “one of my favorite actors on the planet” and expressed his gratitude for the sweet sentiments.

“Thanks to Chris Pratt. How sweet was that?” Smith said. “Star-Lord is praying for me.”

Addressing his immediate future, Smith says he’s going to be taking a lot of pills, including blood thinners and beta-blockers, and will have to see a cardiologist regularly. Despite the changes, he said he’s feeling better than he could have expected and he’s walked away from the scare with a “zest for life.”

As his message came to a close, the director began to get emotional reflecting on how close he came to death and thinking about the legacy he would have left behind if he hadn’t gotten the help he needed so quickly.

“I thought about my parents and how they raised me, and my brother and my sister, and my friends, and my wife and my kid, and this weird wonderful career that I’ve had for so long,” Smith shared as he fought back tears. “And I was like, content.”

“It was weird. I don’t know how to say it. I didn’t want to die, don’t get me wrong,” he added. “But what a ride it’s been. What an incredible f–king ride it’s been.”

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How people are exercising their ‘Right to be Forgotten’ on Google

The EU's 'Right to be Forgotten' allows people to request search engines delist web pages from search results.
Image: Getty Images

After three years in effect, the European ruling with a name that sounds like it’s straight out of a science-fiction book is revealing the things people most want to hide about themselves online.

Google published a new transparency report on Monday entitled “Three years of the Right to be Forgotten.” The 17-page document analyzes requests European citizens have made to delist URLs under the “Right to be Forgotten” online privacy statute. 

Google’s transparency report found that from 2014-2017, Europeans requested that Google delist 2.4 million URLs from search, primarily regarding individuals’ personal information, or legal history. 

In 2014, the European Court of Justice established EU citizens’ “right to be forgotten,” or, more accurately according to Google, the right to be delisted. Under the ruling, European citizens can petition search engine companies like Google to delist URLs from search results. Per a blog post from Google, individuals can ask search engines to delist a page if it is “inaccurate, inadequate, irrelevant or excessive.” 

After a petition has been submitted, the search engine companies then decide to comply based on whether the individuals’ right to privacy outweighs the public good associated with keeping the URL listing (remember, the site doesn’t go away — it just gets delisted from search).

With over 2.4 million delisting requests, in its new report, Google is able to analyze how and why people are utilizing their “right” to be forgotten — and show that the ability is something a significant amount of people really do want.

Also importantly, the nature of the requests and the requesters, and the rate at which Google accepts or denies them, can shed lights on how well Google is carrying out the individual privacy vs. public good directive. 

Google, too, was looking to the report to evaluate the efficacy of their processes.

“My biggest concern was are our processes doing the best that we can to respect individuals as well as minimize the impact that that would have to the flow of information,” Michee Smith, product lead of the Google Transparency Report said. “I think that our numbers show that. And that’s what I’m really proud of.”

Image: google

Smith said that the fact that nearly 90 percent of the requests came from private individuals, not companies or public figures, surprised and pleased her. She thinks that figure demonstrates that Google’s processes are serving individuals who wanted the law.

Specifically, the report found that 89 percent of the requests come from individuals. The remaining 11 percent comes from corporate entities, government officials, other public officials, minors, and others. This shows it’s not just corporations or public figures using the statute to scrub their online presence, but real people.

But interestingly, just 1,000 of the 400,000 individual requesters are responsible for 15% of all of the 2.4 million petitioned URLs. Many of these “frequent requesters,” as the report calls them, “were law firms and reputation management services.” 

“These results illustrate that while hundreds of thousands of Europeans rely on the RTBF to delist a handful of URLs, there are thousands of entities using the RTBF to alter hundreds of URLs about them or their clients that appears in search results,” the report states.

Nearly half of the requested URLs directed to social media websites or directories (sites that contain personal information like emails, phone numbers, addresses, etc.) And over 20 percent of the pages referenced an individual’s legal history, in news articles or on government pages. 

The latter category is where Google faced the test of how to evaluate privacy needs versus public good. The ability to delist a news article could be a cause for concern, for freedom of information and press advocates. 18 percent of the URLs submitted for delisting were from news organizations.

However, Smith says that the results show that Google was able to maintain this balance. 

“I was happy to see that news and government sites were lower,” Smith said. “Those are the sensitive things that when you think about the balance between privacy and the freedom of information, you really don’t want a lot of news sites being removed from your web search. And to see those numbers be lower really made me feel good about the process that we’ve put in place to handle these types of requests.”

Professional information was the largest target of delisting requests, at 24 percent. The content of other requested pages were pages that were self-authored, or that contained information about professional wrongdoing, politics, and crime. Overall, Google accepted 43 percent of the delisting requests. Which, considering the amount of trolling on the internet, seems a not-too-shabby stat to support the idea that people really are using their Right to be Forgotten in good faith.

“I think the 43 percent number shows that we’re being thoughtful,” Smith said. “We’re not just removing everything that we see.”

“It’s a work in progress.”

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Seven ways to boost your libido

Exhaustion, stress, drugs and poor technique can all cause your sex drive to stall. How can you get it back on track?

Is it a problem?

A lack or loss of sex drive is only a problem if the person experiencing it believes it is. Medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease can undermine desire, as can prescription drugs or difficult life events. The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) reported in September that 34% of sexually active women and 15% of sexually active men in Britain had lost interest in sex for three months or more during the previous year.

Its good to talk

Relationship problems are a leading cause of waning libido: Natsal concluded that finding it hard to talk about sex with a partner doubled the chancesof a diminished sex driveamong women and increased them by 50% in men. A lot of couples dont communicate and end up avoiding sex, says Cynthia Graham, professor of sexual and reproductive health at the University of Southampton, and the studys lead author. Open communication increases the chances of your libido bouncing back. For women, having a partner with a different level of sexual interest increased the chances of loss of sexual interest more than fourfold, and having one with sexual likes and dislikes they did not share did so by almost threefold.These issues increased the chances of loss of desire by just 17% and 16% respectively among men.

Sleep on it

Burning the candle at both ends is a passion killer. Testosterones role in male libido is overstated, but it is true that men with the lowest levels of the hormone report low sexual desire and one US study found that sleeping fewer than five hours a night reduced testosterone levels in young men by 10-15%. A lack of sleep also kills female libido: a 2015 study concluded women who had an extra hours sleep were 14% more likely to have sex the next day.

Fly solo

Research shows far fewer women masturbate than men. Some research suggests doing so can help boost self-awareness, social competence, body esteem and improve intimacy in long-term relationships. One reason women lack interest in sex is that sex isnt always very good with a partner, says Prof Graham. Masturbation can help women learn things they can then teach their partners about how to pleasure them.


Recently, researchers have emphasised that, especially for women, desire can occur largely in response to arousal. If thats news to you, you could do worse than read Come As You Are by the sex educator Emily Nagoski. Therapists often tell women they can increase flagging interest in sex by fantasising, reading erotica or watching pornography, and research suggests they are right.


The fight or flight system boosts levels of hormones that help us perform better in dangerous situations. It can also undermine nonessential function,s such as digestion, immunity and reproductive drive. Little wonder, then, that if youre frequently stressed out, youre rarely in the mood. Yoga, working out or meditation might help.

The drugs dont (always) work

Research suggests that taking the contraceptive pill can reduce the frequency of sexual thoughts and sex in some women. Alternative methods might be worth considering. Flibanserin became the first drug to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for low sexual desire in women in 2015. Trials suggest it has minimal effects: an extra 0.5-1 satisfying sex sessions a month compared with placebo. Side effects include low blood pressure, fainting and nausea. Viagra, Cialis and Levitra do not increase libido, but help men get erections. This may increase desire by boosting confidence.

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5 signs you need a vacation

Whether you’re battling a cold or trudging through another busy season in the office, something about winter always has us dreaming about warmer, easier days. As many as 658 million vacation days go wasted each year among 55 percent of working Americans, further exacerbating chronic physical and emotional stresses.

It’s no secret that a vacation is often an ideal prescription for general burnout to refresh, reenergize and renew. No matter if you journey near or far from home, get busy planning if these five warning signs apply to you — your mind, body and spirit will thank you.


1. You’re feeling blue

For many, the simple planning for a trip itself can provide excitement and goal-setting that can easily break a glum funk. A study from the American Psychological Association found that vacations are valuable for reducing stress as they remove people from their standard environments and routines associated with anxiety and stress, Inc. reports.

2. You’re bored with your routine

If you feel like your days are blurring together with their monotony, they probably are, making travel to somewhere cool all the more essential. From boosting creativity to generating fresh ideas, research from the U.S. National Library of Medicine cites multicultural experiences as beneficial to one’s whole being.


3. You can’t sleep

Restless nights without reason are a common sign of anxiety and tension. Whether or not there’s a larger issue or worry in your life, taking the time off to reset your inner clock will have you feeling more productive, relaxed and ready to tackle all in your path.

4. You can’t remember the last time you took a true break

If you’ve clocked a staggering amount of earned days off and your passport is getting dusty, it’s most certainly time to get up and away — for the good of your health. One Dutch study found that simply anticipating a vacation is a verified mood booster, while the landmark Framingham Heart Study illustrated that women who take at least two vacations annually are eight times less likely to get coronary heart disease, according to Likewise, the outlet adds that in a study of men at elevated risk for the disease, those who didn’t take a yearly vacation were 32 percent more likely to die from a heart attack.

5. You can’t stop thinking about that daydreamy place

Whether you’ve filled your social media feeds with photos of the islands, the mountains or the country, the one person guaranteed to get you there is you.

Janine Puhak is an editor for Fox News Lifestyle. Follow her on Twitter at @JaninePuhak

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This Olympian Makes A Perfect Case For Morning Workouts

Do you spring out of bed, ready to start your day, or hit snooze over and over again? That Morning Person is HuffPost’s attempt to make sense of mornings by peering into the routines of others. 

Isabella Carapella/HuffPost

Want to live like an Olympian? Start looking at morning workouts like you look at your morning coffee.

Swimmer Dana Vollmer, who racked up multiple medals in the 2016 Summer Olympics, says physical activity jolts her like a good cup of java. And while she recognizes that getting into the routine can be a struggle, it’s also so worth it.

“I obviously exercise for sport, but it also energizes me for the rest of my day,” Vollmer said. “It takes time to make it a habit but it can really change your life once you start doing it.”

Vollmer says exercise gets her mind and body prepped for the business of her daily schedule. In addition to swim training, the athlete raises awareness about healthy lifestyle habits and women’s heart disease as a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association.

She’s also a busy mom: Vollmer almost immediately began training for the 2016 Olympics right after her first son, Arlen, was born in 2015, setting out to be the first American swimmer to win gold after becoming a mom. (She came close, nabbing a bronze instead.) She continued to swim through her pregnancy with her second son, Ryker, and is working toward competing in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

HuffPost chatted with Vollmer about her morning routine ― including her workout ― and how she uses the early hours to set the tone for her day. Check out the breakdown below:

U.S. Olympian Dana Vollmer won bronze in the Women’s 100m Butterfly at the 2016 Olympics, after giving birth to her first son in 2015.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?

I am definitely a morning person. Normally my husband can tell what time it is at night because between 8 and 9 p.m. I start to not function.

What time do you usually wake up?

For training, my alarm is usually between 4:30 and 5 a.m. If I wasn’t training, I’d probably get up between 6:30 and 7 a.m. I also had that early of an alarm all through high school so I’m really used to that.

But ― even when I was coming back to training after giving birth to my son ― setting that alarm is hard. It’s not like I just pop up like, “Oh I love this hour!”

What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

Normally I go and brush my teeth. It’s tempting to stay warm and snuggly in bed, but I tell myself, “OK, I’m at least going to get up and brush my teeth and then I’ll make the decision if I’m going to go back to bed.” Getting myself up and out of bed usually makes me a little more awake and then I feel like I can take on practice.

Do you prefer to exercise in the morning?

I feel like I really miss out when I don’t work out in the morning. It sets me up for a better day. … Normally I’m completely done working out by 7:45. Then I’m home by 8:15 or 8:30. I have the whole day ahead of me by the time I’m done.

What’s your go-to breakfast?

I make a bowl of oatmeal and have coffee. I make sure that I eat something before practice and after practice. I’ve always been focused on making sure I’m eating the right things and learning a lot about my body and what it responds to before and after I work out. 

How does your morning routine differ now that you’re a mom?

When [my second son] Ryker was born, through six months, my alarm would go off at 4:30 and I would quickly try to nurse him. Then I’d quickly try to get him back to sleep before I left for practice, so then he would make it long enough until I got back to nurse him as soon as I got home. Nursing was a big thing I wanted to do and still be able to train.

What was it like to do both of those things?

We just kind of made the schedule work. Sometimes I was a little late to practice and sometimes he hadn’t slept all night and I had to focus on recovery. I wanted a schedule that worked for my family. I really wanted to let go of the stress around needing to feel like I had to do a certain amount of practice. I had an infant!

What motivates you to get out of bed each day?

I do really feel better the rest of the day once I’ve gotten up, had breakfast and have some “me” time by exercising. It really makes me feel like I can conquer anything once I come back and be a mom and have the day with my family.

Fill in the blank: My ideal morning consists of ___________.

Waking up, having coffee or tea and a healthy breakfast and I’m an avid journaler. So sitting and writing my goals for the day or thoughts from the day before, which sets myself up for a day of success.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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The town thats found a potent cure for illness community | George Monbiot

Frome in Somerset has seen hospital admissions fall since it began to tackle isolation. There are lessons for the rest of the country, writes Guardian columnist George Monbiot

It could, if the results stand up, be one of the most dramatic medical breakthroughs of recent decades. It could transform treatment regimes, save lives, and save health services a fortune. Is it a drug? A device? A surgical procedure? No, its a newfangled intervention called community. This week the results from a trial in the Somerset town of Frome are published informally, in the magazine Resurgence& Ecologist. (A scientific paper has been submitted to a medical journal and is awaiting peer review). We should be cautious about embracing data before it is published in the academic press, and must always avoid treating correlation as causation. But this shouldnt stop us feeling a shiver of excitement about the implications, if the figures turn out to be robust and the experiment can be replicated.

What this provisional data appears to show is that when isolated people who have health problems are supported by community groups and volunteers, the number of emergency admissions to hospital falls spectacularly. While across the whole of Somerset emergency hospital admissions rose by 29% during the three years of the study, in Frome they fell by 17%. Julian Abel, a consultant physician in palliative care and lead author of the draft paper, remarks: No other interventions on record have reduced emergency admissions across a population.

Frome is a remarkable place, run by an independent town council famous for its democratic innovation. Theres a buzz of sociability, a sense of common purpose and a creative, exciting atmosphere that make it feel quite different from many English market towns, and for that matter, quite different from the buttoned-down, dreary place I found when I first visited, 30 years ago.

The Compassionate Frome project was launched in 2013 by Helen Kingston, a GP there. She kept encountering patients who seemed defeated by the medicalisation of their lives: treated as if they were a cluster of symptoms rather than a human being who happened to have health problems. Staff at her practice were stressed and dejected by what she calls silo working.

So, with the help of the NHS group Health Connections Mendip and the town council, her practice set up a directory of agencies and community groups. This let them see where the gaps were, which they then filled with new groups for people with particular conditions. They employed health connectors to help people plan their care, and most interestingly trained voluntary community connectors to help their patients find the support they needed.

Sometimes this meant handling debt or housing problems, sometimes joining choirs or lunch clubs or exercise groups or writing workshops or mens sheds (where men make and mend things together). The point was to break a familiar cycle of misery: illness reduces peoples ability to socialise, which leads in turn to isolation and loneliness, which then exacerbates illness.

This cycle is explained by some fascinating science, summarised in a recent paper in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology. Chemicals called cytokines, which function as messengers in the immune system and cause inflammation, also change our behaviour, encouraging us to withdraw from general social contact. This, the paper argues, is because sickness, during the more dangerous times in which our ancestral species evolved, made us vulnerable to attack. Inflammation is now believed to contribute to depression. People who are depressed tend to have higher cytokine levels.

But, while separating us from society as a whole, inflammation also causes us to huddle closer to those we love. Which is fine unless, like far too many people in this age of loneliness, you have no such person. One study suggests that the number of Americans who say they have no confidant has nearly tripled in two decades. In turn, the paper continues, people without strong social connections, or who suffer from social stress (such as rejection and broken relationships), are more prone to inflammation. In the evolutionary past, social isolation exposed us to a higher risk of predation and sickness. So the immune system appears to have evolved to listen to the social environment, ramping up inflammation when we become isolated, in the hope of protecting us against wounding and disease. In other words, isolation causes inflammation, and inflammation can cause further isolation and depression.

Remarkable as Fromes initial results appear to be, they shouldnt be surprising. A famous paper published in PLOS Medicine in 2010 reviewed 148 studies, involving 300,000 people, and discovered that those with strong social relationships had a 50% lower chance of death across the average study period (7.5 years) than those with weak connections. The magnitude of this effect, the paper reports, is comparable with quitting smoking. A celebrated study in 1945 showed that children in orphanages died through lack of human contact. Now we know that the same thing can apply to all of us.

Dozens of subsequent papers reinforce these conclusions. For example, HIV patients with strong social support have lower levels of the virus than those without. Women have better chances of surviving colorectal cancer if they have strong connections. Young children who are socially isolated appear more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes in adulthood. Most remarkably, older patients with either one or two chronic diseases do not have higher death rates than those who are not suffering from chronic disease as long as they have high levels of social support.

In other words, the evidence strongly suggests that social contact should be on prescription, as it is in Frome. But here, and in other countries, health services have been slow to act on such findings. In the UK we have a minister for loneliness, and social isolation is an official health priority. But the silo effect, budget cuts and an atmosphere of fear and retrenchment ensure that precious little has been done.

Helen Kingston reports that patients who once asked, What are you going to do about my problem? now tell her, This is what Im thinking of doing next. They are, in other words, no longer a set of symptoms, but people with agency. This might lead, as the preliminary results suggest, to fewer emergency admissions, and major savings to the health budget. But even if it doesnt, the benefits are obvious.

George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

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New Google-powered AI scans eyes to detect heart disease, stroke risk

Image: ben brain/Digital Camera Magazine via getty images

The secret to identifying certain health conditions may be hidden in our eyes. 

Researchers from Google and its health-tech subsidiary Verily announced on Monday that they have successfully created algorithms to predict whether someone has high blood pressure or is at risk of a heart attack or stroke simply by scanning a person’s eyes, the Washington Post reports

Google’s researchers trained the algorithm with images of scanned retinas from more than 280,000 patients. By reviewing this massive database, Google’s algorithm trained itself to recognize the patterns that designated people as at-risk. 

This algorithm’s success is a sign of exciting developments in healthcare on the horizon. As Google fine-tunes the technology, it could one day help patients quickly and cheaply identify health risks. 

But don’t get too excited yet. The algorithm didn’t outperform existing medical approaches, such as blood tests according to the Washington Post report. The algorithms were able to pick out the patient at risk 70 percent of the time. That’s impressive, but it’s far from perfect. 

The procedure also hasn’t been replicated or validated to the point where it can be broadly accepted in the scientific community. 

And experts don’t think it will be necessary for Google’s technology to replace conventional, human-powered care in the near future. 

Maulik Majmudar, associate director of the Healthcare Transformation Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Post that age and gender are already good predictors of risk for such disease. While Google’s algorithm is an improvement, its improvement to current healthcare practices would be marginal at best. 

That said, it’s clear that artificial intelligence and machine learning have the potential to bring added convenience and affordability to the healthcare industry, even in areas as small as our eyes. 

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Last Minute Transplant Saves Mans Life By Giving Him A Second Beating Heart

A man in Hyderabad, India, now joins a short list of lucky individuals who are alive and well thanks to two independently beating hearts.

The 56-year-old patient was near death from advanced heart disease when a compatible donor heart from a brain-dead 17-year-old suddenly became available some 150 kilometers (93 miles) away. After rushing to get the donor heart to Apollo Hospital within the 4-hour viability window, the waiting physicians were temporarily flummoxed when they discovered it was far too small to pump blood through the patient’s larger body.

“The donor heart was of normal fist-size. The recipient’s heart was the size of a small football,” said cardiothoracic surgeon Dr A. Gopala Krishna Gokhale to The Hindu.

Thinking on their feet, Dr Gokhale and his fellow surgeons pulled off a procedure known as heterotopic or “piggyback” transplantation, attaching the new heart to the patient’s existing heart to support its remaining function rather than replace it.

During this type of implantation, the new heart is placed in the chest cavity to the right of the existing heart, and the two left atria – the chambers that receive freshly oxygenated blood from the lungs – are fused to form one larger chamber. The new heart’s aorta – the large artery exiting the heart that branches into the rest of the body’s smaller blood-supplying arteries – is then attached to the existing aorta, allowing muscle contractions from both hearts to push blood throughout the circulatory system.

Next, the new heart’s pulmonary artery is sutured to the old heart’s right atrium so that it may help perform the work required to transport returning, low-oxygen blood from the coronary sinus to the lungs.

Developed and first performed by famed South African cardiac surgeon Christaan Barnard in 1974, later versions of the procedure usually include connecting the two hearts’ right atria as well.

According to Dr Gokhale, piggyback transplantation has only been performed about 150 times worldwide. What we think of as standard heart transplantation, called orthotopic and also pioneered by Dr Barnard, has been performed many thousands of times and lasts for an average of 10 years. Some studies have suggested that heterotopic transplants can last as long, but since so few have been done, it’s hard to say definitively.

A diagram of steps involved in the heterotopic heart transplantation procedure. Abicht et al./Xenotransplantation, 2015


Before drugs that prevent the body from rejecting a transplanted organ were invented the two techniques seemed to have similar success rates. Heterotopic even appeared to have an edge over orthotopic because differently sized hearts could be used. But after cyclosporin immunosuppressant medicines greatly improved orthotopic survival rates, heterotopic transplantation was relegated to special cases of high blood pressure in the lungs or extreme size mismatch only.

The Indian patient, one of such special cases, is reportedly doing well since the operation.

“It is once-in-a-lifetime procedure a doctor performs. Patient’s blood pressures are close to normal and he is stable,” said Dr Gokhale.

Although he is no longer stuck in mortal limbo on a transplant waiting list, life will never quite return to normal either. He will need the same intense regimen of care that all heart recipients require, yet his doctors must monitor two distinct heartbeats and electrocardiogram readings.  

Caution graphic content: The video below demonstrates a heterotopic procedure.


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