Nearly 200 People Have Been Arrested in Connection With the Devastating Brushfires in Australia

Australia’s bushfires have had an awful effect on the country’s landscape, residents, and the economy. Though a certain number of fires is normal, it turns out people have been making it a lot worse – and not just by contributing to climate change.

Authorities now reveal that nearly 200 people have been arrested for of bushfire-related misdeeds since November 2019.

Arrests have been made in the states of Tasmania, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Queensland.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A total of 183 people have been arrested in relation to 205 offenses according to the latest data. Police in the Australian state of Queensland have found that 103 bushfires were set on purpose. 98 people have been detained in connection to these, and 67 of the perpetrators are underage.

In New South Wales, 53 people will deal with legal consequences because they reportedly ignored the total-fire bans in place. 24 people have been charged for setting bushfires on purpose.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Sydney Morning Herald also reports that 47 people allegedly discarded matches or lit cigarettes improperly, and they are facing charges as a result.

These fires are no joke. Thus far, they have scorched an area of land double the size of Maryland, or roughly 13 million acres.

Because fire in Australia is such a problem, persons caught lighting tobacco or related products near hay, corn, standing crop, or grain can be fined up to $5,500. Lighting a fire during the implementation of a total fire ban, on the other hand, could result in a fine of $5,500 or 12 months in prison.

Those who are formally charged with starting a bushfire could face jail time of up to 25 years.

In the meantime, it’s important to note that although humans may have started some – not all – of the bushfires that have torn through the Aussie countryside, climate change is widely believed to have significantly exacerbated their destructive power. The areas of Australia most affected have had years of drought, and the world is coming off the hottest decade ever recorded, both of which have combined to crisp Australian vegetation into the perfect kindling.

Though some in Australia have been blaming the fires on arson for political purposes – primarily to deny culpability for or the existence of climate change – these fires would not have been so destructive without the warming and drying effects of climate change, and if the world does not step back from the brink, it is possible that this fire season could become the new Australian normal.

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Good News: Owning a Cat Is Good for Your Health

This is great news for anyone who’s ever been pegged as a “crazy cat lady”: being a cat lady is actually good for your health. Science says so.

Owning a cat can help reduce stress, and it’s good for your heart, too.

One study in the Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology found that cat ownership can be beneficial to heart health in multiple ways. Cat owners in the study showed a lower risk of death by heart attack and all cardiovascular diseases, including stroke.

Also, petting your cat is a known stress reliever. Cuddling with your cat releases oxytocin, the “cuddle chemical,” which in turn reduces stress, according to NBC News.

Another study found that cat lovers are more open-minded, smarter and more sensitive than dog lovers.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

So why the assumption that cats aren’t good for your health?

Well, there’s an age-old myth holds that cats can literally drive you crazy. This stems, in part, from the fact that cat feces can sometimes contain Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that can cause toxoplasmosis. It’s an infection that actually can lead to psychosis (contaminated water and undercooked meat can also cause toxoplasmosis).

Not all cats carry the parasite though, and even if you get infected, you’ll likely be fine. A recent study in Psychological Medicine found no relationship between cat ownership and psychosis later in life.

“The Centers for Disease Control estimates that more than 60 million people in the United States may be infected with the Toxoplasma parasite through all means, including cats,” David Haworth, doctor of veterinary medicine, Ph.D., and president of PetSmart Charities told NBC News. “But very few people show symptoms because a healthy person’s immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness.”

Photo Credit: Pixabay

So there you have it, cat people. Cats don’t drive you crazy; on the contrary, they’re good for you.

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The Giant Chinese Paddlefish Is the First Animal to Be Officially Declared Extinct This Decade

This definitely isn’t something an animal would hope for – and it’s a headline I’m sure we all wish would have been delayed at least a little bit later into the new decade – but scientists have now declared the giant Chinese paddlefish to officially be extinct.

The freshwater fish, one of the world’s largest, was last seen in 2003, and it is thought to have effectively ceased to exist between 2005 and 2010. But while it’s been gone for a while, it also takes a while to verify 100% that a species has totally disappeared.

“Based on 210 sightings of Chinese paddlefish during the period 1981-2003, we estimated that the timing of extinction to be by 2005, no later than 2010.”

The fish lived primarily in the Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia, where it had swum for millions of years. But dams, overfishing, river ports, and pollution drove it pas the brink. Those same factors have contributed to the extinction of at least three large endemic species, say the authors of a study published in Science of the Total Environment.

“The mega river ecosystem of the Yangtze River was one home to diverse aquatic megafauna but is increasingly affected by various anthropogenic stressors that have result in continuous loss of biodiversity.”

The fish’s lineage stretched back 75 million years, and it was first declared critically endangered by the IUCN in 1996. Though its rarity and struggle earned it the nickname “panda of the Yangtze River,” it wasn’t so simple to bring back from the brink as the panda was. In the end, nothing could save the fish from disappearing.

The paper also noted that the fish had been “functionally extinct,” meaning not enough breeding pairs existed to ensure survival, since way back in 1993, and the last live sighting was in 2003.

The final piece of image evidence of life was captured in 2009.

“We respect the evaluation model and experts from the IUCN,” said co-author Wei Qiwei, “although we accept this result with a heavy heart.”

Many more of the 4,000 species that call the river home are also in trouble, from the finless porpoise to the Chinese sturgeon. Though Beijing has announced a 10-year commercial fishing ban on the Yangtze, experts fear it will be too little too late. Two huge, recently constructed dams may have put the final nails in the endangered species’ coffins already.

“The fishing ban is a key measure to effectively curb the decline of the river’s ecosystem and any further drop in biodiversity,” claimed Yu Zhenkang, vice-minister of agriculture and rural affairs.

That may be true, but if the river is dammed all up and down its length, which it is, then these animals won’t have the space they need to survive, fishing or no.

And as with promises from any government these days, when it comes to the environment, I expect it will be the scientists who are, sadly, correct.

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Scientists Worry That the Incurable “Zombie Deer” Disease Could Make the Leap to Humans

Deer (and related animals, like elk) in 24 states that have tested positive for chronic wasting disease – sometimes referred to as the “zombie deer” disease, and scientists are worried that humans might not be immune to catching it, should we eat tainted meat.

The disease causes infected animals to stumble through the forest, drooling and becoming more aggressive toward humans. They’re listless, consistently lose weight, and will eventually die from the incurable infection.

It’s the result of a prion – a mis-folded brain protein that’s mysteriously able to infect other nearby proteins, talking them into re-folding wrong, too. A prion is not alive, so it cannot be killed, which means there are no treatments or cures for chronic wasting disease or any other prion diseases like it.

We’ve been aware of these types of infections, and how hard they are to fight, for years. Mad Cow Disease is the result of prions, as is Jakob Creutzfeldt Disease. In humans, prion disorders cause people to decline over the span of several months; they lose the ability to speak, move, and eventually control the muscle movements necessary for life.

CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) currently seems limited to deer, moose, and elk, but researchers at the University of Minnesota are urging local lawmakers to consider funding further research into the matter.

Michael Osterholm, the university’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Prevention director, is at the forefront of the effort.

“It is my best professional judgement based on my public health experience and the risk of BSE transmission to humans in the 1980s and1990s and my extensive review and evaluation of laboratory research studies …that is it probably that human cases of CWS associated with the consumption of contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead. It is possible that the number of human cases will be substantial and will not be isolated events.”

Basically, even though as of yet there is no reason to panic, scientists are sounding the alarm.

Osterholm has reason to be concerned – he was involved with the British review panels that dealt with the mad cow disease scare, when it was found that it was rare, but possible, for humans to contract the disease by eating contaminated tissue.

That said, all evidence points to the consumption of brain tissue specifically as being the means for transmission, not other, more commonly-eaten portions of meat.

The existence of CWD in deer and the potential for contraction in humans is not news to the CDC – since the 1990s, they’ve kept an eye on hunters who come down with versions of the prion disease killing the deer. Many are diagnosed at surprisingly young ages, and some were known to eat deer meat regularly.

All of the patients died not long after their symptoms emerged, but in all cases, no known herds infected with CWD were in the area.

Basically, there was no way to confirm that they contracted anything at all from eating contaminated deer meat – some of the men weren’t even conclusively diagnosed with prion infections – so it could have been a simple coincidence.

Rates of prion disease in human aren’t any higher in areas rife with infected deer than anywhere else in the United States, but scientists are also quick to point out how little we know about the afflictions overall.

This CDC report states that “because CWD has occurred in a limited geographic area for decades, an adequate number of how people may not have been exposed to the CWD agent to result in a clinically recognizable human disease. The level and frequency of human exposure to the CWD agent may increase with the spread of CWD in the United States.”

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The progression of chronic wasting disease in North America (CWD) since 2000. CWD is a highly contagious disease in cervids (deer, reindeer, elk) that degrades the animal’s neurological system, leaving holes in the brain. It is 100% fatal. ⠀ Although there are no known cases of CWD in people, there is concern that the prions that cause the disease could adapt to new hosts and someday infect humans, just as the prion culprit of mad cow disease did in the United Kingdom in the 1990s. ⠀ To offer her expert testimony and recommendations, wildlife disease ecologist Dr. Krysten Schuler joined the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources for their June 25 subcommittee hearing on the subject. “Any meaningful strategies to combat CWD will require long-term approaches with sustained state and federal efforts," said Schuler. ⠀ Her recommendations included ✔ sustained fiscal support for state and federal wildlife agencies, as well as veterinary and wildlife diagnostic labs ✔ research funds to work toward new breakthroughs in treatment and prevention ✔ improved support from stakeholders up through their elected officials to raise the disease to a national level of prominence ⠀ #cornellvet #cornell #vetmed #veterinary #cwd #chronicwastingdisease #wildlife Maps created by @cornell_cwhl and image provided

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The disease has been spreading through deer, elk, and moose populations since 1981 (at least), when it was first identified in wild deer. While most populations still have low infection rates, they have grown to 10% or even 25% in others.

The more deer infected, the bigger risk to humans, warns a 2012 review in Emerging Infectious Diseases.

“The potential for interspecies CWD transmission (by cohabitating mammals) will only increase as the disease spreads and CWD prions continue to be shed into the environment.”

The CDC and WHO agree that transmission between species is possible, or one day could be, even though we have no evidence that it has already happened. Researchers are hoping to develop a test that could be used in the field, one that would tell hunters whether or not the meat they’re butchering is contaminated before they eat it.

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Members of the UWSP Student Chapter of #TheWildlifeSociety helped construct a Chronic Wasting Disease kiosk for the Stevens Point area. Students will now have the opportunity to assist local DNR with collecting CWD samples from harvested deer. . Thank you @uwsp_tws for allowing us to share! Want to see your student chapter featured? DM us @thewildlifesociety. . Repost: Through a partnership with the @wi_dnr and @uwsp_bha, the UWSP TWS was able to construct and deploy a #CWD kiosk for the Stevens Point area. Over the course of several weeks, student volunteers constructed the kiosk and were able to set it up before the gun opener this past weekend. With the kiosk, students will have the opportunity to monitor and check for heads and assist the DNR with lymph node extraction and sampling. The kiosk is located at Frank’s Hardware in Stevens Point. . . . . . . . . . . #Wisconsin #CWD #wildlifedisease #chronicwastingdisease #deer #wildlifebiology #wildlifebiologist #wildlifemanagement

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University of Minnesota scientists are working on that now, but in the meantime, if you hunt in an affected area, be aware of what the animals you kill looked and acted like prior to being shot. In all cases, you’re better off avoiding touching the internal organs as much as possible, particularly the brain and spinal cord.

If you’re worried, contact your local wildlife authority to get the animal tested before consuming it.

This is new territory, but as with most things that could cost you your life, better safe than sorry.

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Unusual but Handy Uses for Aspirin That You Might Not Know About

You probably know you’re supposed to break out the aspirin when your head is throbbing or when you have a toothache, but did you know there are a whole bunch of other things you can do with aspirin as well?

I’m talking about everyday things that you really might benefit from.

Here are 5 unorthodox ways you can use aspirin that you might want to consider.

1. No more pimples.

Zit.

You can crush aspirin and add a little water to create a paste that you can leave on pimples for a few minutes or even overnight. The aspirin contains salicylic acid – the primary ingredient in some acne creams – which removes oil and dead cells and will unclog pores. Not a bad hygiene hack, huh?

2. Stain fighter.

If you crush up three aspirin and add it to a half a cup of warm water, you can use that solution to fight stains on your clothing – especially stains from sweat and oil. The salicylic acid found in aspirin (it’s a handy chemical) fights stains just like the acetic acid found in vinegar, another useful stain fighter.

3. Works on calluses.

Callused

If your feet or hands have tough calluses, you can (once again) crush up aspirin and make a paste by combining some water and lemon juice. Rub the paste onto your calluses, wrap with a warm towel, and cover with a plastic bag. Let that sit for ten minutes, remove everything and then you can use a file to get rid of those pesky calluses.

Unless you want them around to keep on protecting your tender hands, of course.

4. Let’s talk about dandruff.

Having dandruff is embarrassing, and controlling it can be difficult. Well, here’s a remedy that you might not know about. Crush two aspirin and put it into the shampoo you use to wash your hair.

Leave it in your hair for a couple of minutes, then rinse it all out. Then wash your hair again with plain shampoo and make sure there is no residue from the aspirin left behind.

5. You could stop a heart attack.

heart attack anatomy

You might have heard this one before, but it’s worth repeating.

First of all, you should educate yourself about the warning signs for a heart attack. If you do think you are having a heart attack, chew on aspirin until paramedics arrive. Aspirin will inhibit the platelets that trigger the blood clotting, so you could buy yourself some very important extra time.

Get it? Got it? Good!

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A Teenager Discovered a Planet on the Third Day of His NASA Internship

These kids today…are pretty great, as it turns out!

At least, some of them are.

On only the third day into his internship at NASA, a 17-year-old named Wolf Cukier (awesome name) discovered a new planet that is being called “TOI 1338 b”. The planet is 6.9 times larger than Earth, and the folks at NASA believe the planet will be in a stable orbit for at least the next 10 million years. It is located roughly 1,300 light-years away from Earth.

 

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The teenager discovered the planet while looking at “variations in star brightness” in images captured by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

Cukier is from Scarsdale, New York, and he completed a two-month internship last summer with NASA at their Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

Cukier said, “I was looking through the data for everything the volunteers had flagged as an eclipsing binary, a system where two stars circle around each other and from our view eclipse each other every orbit. About three days into my internship, I saw a signal from a system called TOI 1338. At first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet.”

NASA just recently confirmed Cukier’s findings, and they submitted a paper co-written by the teenager about the discovery of the new planet.

Let’s get to meet this whiz kid, shall we?

Cukier also confirmed that he is indeed now looking for other new planets. Keep up the great work!

As the saying goes, the kids are alright.

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People Share True Facts That Sound Fake

There have been several times while plotting books when I discarded an idea because it sounded too outlandish…even though, in some cases, it was historically true.

In that vein, Redditors thought it would be fun to share facts that are truly hard to believe, and I bet at least a few of these are going to blow your mind!

15. This isn’t really surprising, if you think about it.

Death rates in boxing exploded after the introduction of the boxing glove. Almost nobody ever died bare knuckle boxing because head punches often resulted in broken hands, so nobody used them.

14. A man-eater.

The Champawat Tiger was a female Bengal tiger responsible for an estimated 430 deaths in Nepal and India, (listed in the Guinness Book of World Records and Wikipedia) More people than died in the U.S. in the last 100 years from, snakes, bears, wolves, and spider fatalities combined.

13. I’m going to need video of this.

President Lyndon B. Johnson owned an Amphibious car, the Amphicar, and used it to scare guests by driving them into his lake screaming about brake failure.

12. Let’s get on activating that, hmm?

Humans have the gene to, and are capable of hibernation. It’s just not active

11. This is not actually surprising.

There was once a war between Honduras and El Salvador started by a soccer game.

10. It’s Australia. There’s any number of things that could have happened to him.

Australia once lost a prime minister. as in straight up couldn’t find him. and they have yet to find him.

9. Wait, why?

Saudi Arabia imports camels from Australia.

8. That’s gotta be uncomfortable.

Wombat poop is square. Go ahead, google it. *edit: yes, cube-shaped.

7. A desert is just a desolate, arid environment.

My friend doesn’t trust me with these things now that I’ve told her that Antarctica is the world’s largest desert. She still doesn’t believe it.

6. I’m sure that’s pretty.

It rains diamonds on Saturn, and Jupiter.

5. In case you want to hate corporations a little bit more.

There is a little town in Mexico called Chamula where shamans started using Coca Cola in their religious rituals to heal worshippers. Pepsi heard about this and began giving commissions to shamans if they recommended Pepsi instead, so then Coca Cola did the same and there are now rival religious groups based on which soft drink they use.

4. Crazy or innovative? You decide.

In the 1950’s Popular Mechanics published a story about a former artillery Sergeant who attempted to invent a personal delivery system similar to what Amazon intends to create with drones. Except he used modified artillery shells. He actually got a hold of an M116 howitzer which he fired modified shells over a small town in upstate New York.

The shells were hollowed out inside and a parachute would automatically deploy as it approached the target. The problem was the shells weighed twenty pounds and if the parachute did not deploy that meant a twenty pound shell would come crashing down from the sky and wreck someone’s house or possibly kill someone in the street. As the Sergeant tested the device and was utterly convinced it was a way of the future he offered to sell a solution installing expensive iron plating on the roofs of people’s homes and heavy protective armor for navigating the streets.

This Sargent’s story had become an inside joke among people who market modern electronics and virus software. Create a problem that is unnecessary and then sell people an expensive and completely impractical solution.

3. I fail to see how this could be a bad thing.

Thanks to a botched burglary attempt at the Émancé Nature Reserve (about an hour outside Paris) in the 1970’s, there is now a feral Wallaby population in France.

2. And they were Nazis.

The founding of Adidas and Puma.

Rudolf “Rudi” Dassler and Adolf “Adi” Dassler were born into a German family, and Adi eventually began to produce athletic shoes. Rudi joined his younger brother’s company, and everything went swimmingly… for a while.

Eventually, both brothers joined the Nazi Party and turned on each other. Rudi formed “Rudas,” now known as Puma. And Adi formed “Adidas,” now known as Adidas.

The first time I heard this story, I was convinced it was fake.

1. He might be an alien.

In the hockey world, some of the numbers that Wayne Gretzky put up are mind-boggling. He scored nearly 3,000 points, nobody else even has 2,000. He has more assists than anyone else does points. He recorded 4 seasons with at least 200 PTS, nobody else has ever scored 200 in a season, though Lemieux came close. Rarely do we see a 50 goal scorer anymore, Gretzky set the record with 50 goals in a mere 39 games. So many other records that just make you say “wow.” No wonder he’s known simply as “The Great One.”

Do you have something you would add to the list? Share it in the comments!

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Here’s How You Can Recognize the Symptoms of a Heart Attack in Women

There’s a sad lack of knowledge and attention to the fact that women’s heart attacks begin and progress differently from men’s. We’re all shown the “typical” shortness of breath, pain the left arm, and finally in the chest…but if you’re a woman who thinks that’s how it’s going to happen for you, well, it could be too late to save your life by the time you realize you’re in trouble.

It’s important for everyone to know what they’re looking for when it comes to heart attacks in women – this is one of those things where your much better off safe than sorry – so here’s what happened to one woman when her heart went on the fritz:

Researcher Matthais Meyer seconds all of this information, and encourages women to stay in touch with how they’re feeling.

“Women and men have a similar amount of pain during a heart attack, but the location may be different. People with pain in the chest and left arm are more likely to think it’s a heart attack, and these are usual symptoms for men. Women often have back, shoulder, or stomach pain.”

Considering heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States, this is information we should all have and share – so pass it on.

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People Think up the Scariest Messages That Aliens Could Possibly Send Us

If we ever make contact with aliens, it’d be arguably the most major event in our entire species’ history so far. But depending on how that first meeting goes, it could either be a revelation or a terror.

On AskReddit, a user asked what the “scariest” message would be to hear from aliens from outer space. Here are 14 of the spookiest ideas.

1. A cry for help.

“A species more advanced than us screaming for help would imply something much worse is already after them…”

“A cry for help originating from millions of light-years away. By the time the message reaches us, its been floating through space for millions of years. We’ll never know if we just heard the last words of an alien civilization or if it was saved by another civilization. Regardless, it would be a harrowing message.”

2. Earth is a video game.

“Sorry guys; dinner’s ready and mum says I should turn you off.”

3. Earth is a simulation.

Experiment’s goals accomplished. Simulation scheduled for termination on January 1st.”

4. Just “hello.”

“A random hello would scare the fuck out of everyone at NASA let me say that.”

5. A warning to run.

“RUN.”

“There’s something just so viscerally terrifying about receiving just that one-word command: run. It doesn’t say what’s coming. It doesn’t say when. It doesn’t say where to go. All you know is that you cannot stay where you are and that whoever sent the warning was only able to get out a single word to communicate the impending threat to the rest of the universe.”

6. A warning not to run.

“Do not leave your star system. Trust us.”

7. A countdown.

“…14…13…12…11…10…”

8. Deja vu.

“Hm. Your race was just like this last time too.”

“Don’t try this again… after the 5th time we’re tired of sending your planet back to the stone age…”

9. They’re among us.

“We’re coming to pick up the 2 billion members of our species living on your planet.”

10. Pyramids.

“Radio…? Why aren’t you using the Pyramids?”

11. God didn’t make them.

“God created you, he didn’t create us.”

12. We’ll be harvested.

“CHOOSE HALF OF YOUR HUMANS FOR HARVESTING. IF YOU DO NOT CHOOSE WE WILL.”

13. Taxes.

“You now have to pay galactic taxes.”

“Can’t wait for the Boston tea party 2.”

14. Literally anything.

“I honestly think any communication with extraterrestrial life with freak us out, even if it was totally benevolent or even benign, like we accidentally picked up a communication (don’t tell me this can’t happen. A LOT of accomplishments and discoveries were made entirely by accident).”

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When You’re Stressed About Money, This Is What Happens to Your Body and Your Brain

I think a lot of us can say that we’ve felt this kind of stress before: stress about being broke or very close to it. But how does this stress affect us, physiologically speaking?

We all have a fight-or-flight response system in our bodies that developed when our ancestors were roaming the land trying to avoid the many threats that could literally kill them at any time. Stress hormones are released when we’re presented with what we interpret as these kinds of situations – times when we humans have to decide whether to stick it out and fight or to run for our lives.

Stressed

But there are fewer saber-tooth tigers these days, and your fight-or-flight reflex is much more likely to be triggered by social issues – including dealing with money problems. When it does happen, the fight-or-flight reaction is very hard on the body. It can tense up our muscles until they hurt and mess up how our immune systems work, leaving us more vulnerable to getting sick. It can also cause constant stomach aches and headaches.

Stress

Another bad side effect: you might make bad decisions, even though, deep down, you know better. Aimee Daramus, a clinic psychologist, said, “Under stress, blood flow and electrical activity are reduced in the frontal and prefrontal lobes and increased in the survival parts of the brain, such as the amygdala.”

Since the parts of the brain where blood flow is reduced influence impulse control and planning, your decision-making process might get thrown for a loop, causing you to do things you normally wouldn’t do. Basically, you start to feel the walls closing in, which pressures you to act in ways that actually hurt your situation.

Daramus added, “We act quickly and decisively, but not always as accurately as usual.”

Depressed

On top of that, frequent stress reactions – whether caused by money issues or not – may cause anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. Chronic stress might even lead to long-term physical ailments such as heart disease and diabetes. Finally, the stress may lead you to take comfort where you can find it – and that can sometimes mean in alcohol and drugs, which may lead to substance abuse problems.

Money problems are hard – really hard – but try to take care of yourself.

Remember, your only real wealth is health.

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