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A Cardiovascular Risk Calculator, Compassion & Alpacas

2660443781_de03d19f68With the rise of wearable health devices like Fitbit and Jawbone, to name a few of many, it seems like we have become a culture obsessed with tracking. For some knowing that you took 10,000 steps five days during the week is motivating (got to get those other two!) and for others it’s a way to keep health top-of-mind and stave off illness. That’s why it’s no surprise that the other story that “broke the internet” last week was a new calculator from the Harvard School of Public Health. It is designed to more accurately gauge cardiovascular risk for people who are in their 40s and 50s, especially women. The focus is on lifestyle—which is great news because those are the areas in which people can make changes.

Compassion training isn’t a new, friendly kind of cross-fit, it’s a way to train your brain to feel more compassion for others. A recent study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds taught participants to generate compassion for different categories of people, including loved ones and those that they consider difficult. The results showed that compassion can be learned. Researchers have made the trainings from the study available for free. You can download the compassion meditation training here.

Since the 1970s, Richard Davidson has been leading neuroscientific research and has found that meditation (and other strictly mental activity) changes the neuroplasticity of the brain. His new book, written with Sharon Begley, “The Emotional Life of Your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live, and How You Can Change Them,” gives readers a better understanding of where they stand on the emotional plane and how emotional styles affect the qualities of their everyday lives.

And now, two helpful stories about Thanksgiving. Here are 14 ways to make a healthier pie and a surprising visual breakdown of what 3,000 calories of food (the average amount we eat at Thanksgiving dinner) looks like.

This week in animals: Therapy alpacas hang with seniors and 24 reasons you need a mini pig (if the words “mini pig” are not reason enough).

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Image: Yen H Nguyen

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