They call it the Hot-Spot library: a ramshackle building of plywood and sheet metal set on a crime-ridden street corner in Cape Town, South Africa.
With its threadbare couches and mismatched carpets, the place looks somewhat dilapidated.
On winter days, rain leaks through holes in the corrugated zinc roof and drips down onto the tables and bookshelves. Built around a pair of aging shipping containers, it may not look like your conventional library.
But for the residents of Scottsville, a neighborhood torn apart by drug abuse and gang violence, it offers a safe space to escape the harsh realities of daily life and to explore different worlds in the pages of thousands of donated second-hand books.
A new study estimates that life expectancy in the U.S. decreased by nearly two years between 2018 and 2020, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
And the declines were most pronounced among minority groups, including Black and Hispanic people. In 2018, average life expectancy in the U.S. was about 79 years (78.7). It declined to about 77 years (76.9) by the end of 2020, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.
“We have not seen a decrease like this since World War II. It’s a horrific decrease in life expectancy,” said Steven Woolf of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and an author of the study released on Wednesday.
(The study is based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics and includes simulated estimates for 2020.)
It’s something that many of us reckon with: the sense that we’re not quite as sharp as we once were.
I recently turned 42. Having lost my grandfather to Alzheimer’s, and with my mom suffering from a similar neurodegenerative disease, I’m very aware of what pathologies might lurk beneath my cranium.
In the absence of a cure for Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the most important interventions for upholding brain function are preventive — those that help maintain our most marvelous, mysterious organ.
Based on the science, I take fish oil and broil salmon. I exercise. I try to challenge my cortex to the unfamiliar. As I wrote my recent book, A History of the Human Brain, which recounts the evolutionary tale of how our brain got here, I began to realize that so many of the same influences that shaped our brain evolution in the first place reflect the very measures we use to preserve our cognitive function today.