+
A PERSONAL MESSAGE FROM UPWORTHY
We are a small, independent media company on a mission to share the best of humanity with the world.
If you think the work we do matters, pre-ordering a copy of our first book would make a huge difference in helping us succeed.
GOOD PEOPLE Book
upworthy
Most Shared

You're probably already a manatee fan. If not, here are 22 reasons to become one.

Manatees are awesome.

Roly-poly pacifists, tropical underwater munch-machines, they look like something a kid would make out of Play-Doh. But there's a lot of cool stuff about them you might not know.

In the name of sea cows everywhere, here are 22 interesting facts about manatees.


1. There are three different species of manatee (and one dugong).

Image from psyberartist/Flickr.

There's the Amazonian manatee, the West Indian manatee, and the West African manatee. No points for guessing where each of them lives. They also have a single cousin, the dugong, which lives in the Indian and western Pacific oceans.

2. Their closest living relatives are elephants and hyraxes.

What a weird family. Images from U.S. Geological Survey, Oliver Wright, and Josski/Wikimedia Commons.

They split off over 50 million years ago though, so don't expect to see them all at the same family reunion.

3. Manatees love the tropics.

Image from pelican/Wikimedia Commons.

Though they look chubby, they don't have all that much fat, so they prefer swimming in warm water.

4. They've got big bellies...

Image from NASA/Wikimedia Commons.

Manatees are plant eaters, like horses, so their stomach and guts have evolved to digest tough plant matter. Up to 20% of their weight can come from their bellies alone.

5. ...and even bigger appetites.

Image from Eric Kilby/Flickr.

Open the buffet! Manatees chow down on about 10% of their body weight a day. That means a 1,000-pound manatee will eat about 100 pounds of plants every day!

6. They never have to visit a dentist, either.

OK, technically this one is a dugong. You got me. Image from Julien Willem/Wikimedia Commons.

Manatees replace their teeth throughout their lives. Their diet is pretty tough on their teeth (partly because they end up chewing on a lot of sand as they eat), so as their molars get worn down, new ones grow up behind them. It's like a conveyor belt of teeth.

7. Their pregnancies last a pretty long time.

This lil' baby is getting a drink. Manatee teats are located behind their arms. Image from USFWS/Wikimedia Commons.

A manatee is pregnant for about 12 months — that's not quite as long as the 22-month pregnancy of their distant relatives, the elephants, but it's longer than a human's nine! Their babies usually stick around for a year or two after the mom gives birth.

8. Once upon a time, people may have thought manatees were mermaids.

Image from U.S. Geological Survey/Wikimedia Commons.

Might be hard to believe, but it's true! Even people on Columbus' journey to North America got confused:

"On the previous day [Jan. 8, 1493], when the Admiral went to the Rio del Oro [in Haiti], he said he quite distinctly saw three mermaids, which rose well out of the sea; but they are not so beautiful as they are said to be, for their faces had some masculine traits."
"Voyages of Columbus," page 218

The name for their scientific order — Sirenia — even comes from the sirens of Greek mythology who are sometimes described as mermaids.

9. They may also be named after breasts. Yes, breasts.

Image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Endangered Animals/Flickr.

When Columbus got to the Caribbean, he found the Taíno people already living there. Their word for breast – manatí – is probably the origin of the animal's English name.

10. They're pretty slow...

Image from Jim Reid/Wikimedia Commons.

Manatees usually plod along at about 3-5 mph, although they can get up to 20 mph if they really try.

11. ...and they can get pretty old...

Snooty getting a birthday "cake" made of fruits and vegetables. Image from Netweave/Wikimedia Commons.

Snooty the manatee, who lives in the South Florida Museum's Parker Manatee Aquarium, is a venerable 67 years old.

12. ...but they're not dumb.

A curious young manatee inspects a kayak. Image from mwanner/Wikimedia Commons.

Manatees have relatively small brains for their bodies, but some scientists actually think it's the other way around — they have huge bodies for their brains! And some research has shown that they might be as good at experimental tasks as dolphins. They just look kind of dumb because they're a lot slower.

13. They used to have huge cousins.

Image from Biodiversity Heritage Library/Wikimedia Commons.

In the 18th century, explorers scouting around Alaska found 30-foot-long dugongs living in the Arctic waters. Known as Steller's sea cows, they ate the kelp that grew in the icy water.

Unfortunately, they went extinct soon afterward. Sailors discovered that, in addition to being huge, they were also delicious. And it wasn't just Europeans — there's evidence that Native Americans hunted them too.

14. They have no natural predators.

Image from Tanjila Ahmed/Flickr.

No other wild animal eats them. Good for them!

15. But that doesn't mean they're not in danger.

Whut? Image from Hans Stieglitz/Wikimedia Commons.

Though manatees are awesome, their populations have historically been dropping.

16. Humans are their biggest threat.

This manatee survived a run-in with a motor boat but bears the scars of its encounter. Image from Robert K. Bond/Wikimedia Commons.

Habitat loss is a big problem for manatees, as are run-ins with human objects or vehicles. Manatees can get stuck in fishing gear or accidentally eat fishing line. Motor boats are especially problematic, as manatees are too slow to get out of the way of their sharp propeller blades.

17. That's why the U.S. government protects them.

The Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is home to many manatees. Image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species/Flickr.

Three different laws help protect them: the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978.

These laws make it illegal to kill or hurt a manatee in the United States.

18. Boating speed limits help too.

Image from Jim Reid/Wikimedia Commons.

Many waterways in manatee habitats now come with speed limits to give manatees time to get out of the way of propellers. People have also made manatee sanctuaries to make sure they have a home.

19. And there's good news: All those protections are starting to pay off.

Image from PublicDomainImages/Pixabay.

20. While there's still more work to be done, the number of manatees in the U.S. is starting to rise again.

Image from satemkemet/Flickr.

21. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just proposed that the West Indian manatee should be moved to "Threatened" from "Endangered."

Image from NOAA's National Ocean Service/Flickr.

"The manatee's recovery is incredibly encouraging and a great testament to the conservation actions of many," Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Director Cindy Dohner said at a Miami Seaquarium event.

And don't worry – the manatees won't lose any of their protections.

22. They're a conservation success story!

Image from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species/Flickr.

Now that's something to smile about!

They're living, breathing (and not to mention adorable) proof that we can make a difference for our friends in need.

Of course, it's not over yet. By spreading the word, we can help raise awareness about them, the other manatee species, and all the other animals who need our protection! Hopefully, all of them can continue their successful rebound — just like the West Indian manatee.

Sponsored

3 organic recipes that feed a family of 4 for under $7 a serving

O Organics is the rare brand that provides high-quality food at affordable prices.

A woman cooking up a nice pot of pasta.

Over the past few years, rising supermarket prices have forced many families to make compromises on ingredient quality when shopping for meals. A recent study published by Supermarket News found that 41% of families with children were more likely to switch to lower-quality groceries to deal with inflation.

By comparison, 29% of people without children have switched to lower-quality groceries to cope with rising prices.

Despite the current rising costs of groceries, O Organics has enabled families to consistently enjoy high-quality, organic meals at affordable prices for nearly two decades. With a focus on great taste and health, O Organics offers an extensive range of options for budget-conscious consumers.

O Organics launched in 2005 with 150 USDA Certified Organic products but now offers over 1,500 items, from organic fresh fruits and vegetables to organic dairy and meats, organic cage-free certified eggs, organic snacks, organic baby food and more. This gives families the ability to make a broader range of recipes featuring organic ingredients than ever before.


“We believe every customer should have access to affordable, organic options that support healthy lifestyles and diverse shopping preferences,” shared Jennifer Saenz, EVP and Chief Merchandising Officer at Albertsons, one of many stores where you can find O Organics products. “Over the years, we have made organic foods more accessible by expanding O Organics to every aisle across our stores, making it possible for health and budget-conscious families to incorporate organic food into every meal.”

With some help from our friends at O Organics, Upworthy looked at the vast array of products available at our local store and created some tasty, affordable and healthy meals.

Here are 3 meals for a family of 4 that cost $7 and under, per serving. (Note: prices may vary by location and are calculated before sales tax.)

O Organic’s Tacos and Refried Beans ($6.41 Per Serving)

Few dishes can make a family rush to the dinner table quite like tacos. Here’s a healthy and affordable way to spice up your family’s Taco Tuesdays.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 packet O Organics Taco Seasoning ($2.29)

O Organics Mexican-Style Cheese Blend Cheese ($4.79)

O Organics Chunky Salsa ($3.99)

O Organics Taco Shells ($4.29)

1 can of O Organics Refried Beans ($2.29)

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Add 1 packet of taco seasoning to beef along with water [and cook as directed].

3. Add taco meat to the shell, top with cheese and salsa as desired.

4. Heat refried beans in a saucepan until cooked through, serve alongside tacos, top with cheese.

tacos, o organics, family recipesO Organics Mexican-style blend cheese.via O Organics

O Organics Hamburger Stew ($4.53 Per Serving)

Busy parents will love this recipe that allows them to prep in the morning and then serve a delicious, slow-cooked stew after work.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 7 hours

Total time: 7 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 ½ lbs O Organics Gold Potatoes ($4.49)

3 O Organics Carrots ($2.89)

1 tsp onion powder

I can O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 cups water

1 yellow onion diced ($1.00)

1 clove garlic ($.50)

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

2 tsp Italian seasoning or oregano

Instructions:

1. Cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat until thoroughly browned; remove any excess grease.

2. Transfer the cooked beef to a slow cooker with the potatoes, onions, carrots and garlic.

3. Mix the tomato paste, water, salt, pepper, onion powder and Italian seasoning in a separate bowl.

4. Drizzle the mixed sauce over the ingredients in the slow cooker and mix thoroughly.

5. Cover the slow cooker with its lid and set it on low for 7 to 8 hours, or until the potatoes are soft. Dish out into bowls and enjoy!

potatoes, o organics, hamburger stewO Organics baby gold potatoes.via O Organics


O Organics Ground Beef and Pasta Skillet ($4.32 Per Serving)

This one-pan dish is for all Italian lovers who are looking for a saucy, cheesy, and full-flavored comfort dish that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.

Prep time: 2 minutes

Cook time: 25 minutes

Total time: 27 minutes

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 lb of O Organics Grass Fed Ground Beef ($7.99)

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tsp dried basil

1 tsp garlic powder

1 can O Organics Diced Tomatoes ($2.00)

1 can O Organics Tomato Sauce ($2.29)

1 tbsp O Organics Tomato Paste ($1.25)

2 1/4 cups water

2 cups O Organics Rotini Pasta ($3.29)

1 cup O Organics Mozzarella cheese ($4.79)

Instructions:

1. Brown ground beef in a skillet, breaking it up as it cooks.

2. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and garlic powder

3. Add tomato paste, sauce and diced tomatoes to the skillet. Stir in water and bring to a light boil.

4. Add pasta to the skillet, ensuring it is well coated. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Remove the lid, sprinkle with cheese and allow it to cool.

o organics, tomato basil pasta sauce, olive oilO Organics tomato basil pasta sauce and extra virgin olive oil.via O Organics

Jimmy Carter at the COmmonwealth Club.

Jimmy Carter, 99, was the 39th president of the United States (1977 to 1981). Looking back on his achievements both in and out of office, it’s easy to say that he was a man ahead of his time. He was far ahead of the mainstream when it came to advocating for social justice, human rights, and the environment.

Carter famously installed solar panels on the White House in 1979, only to have them removed by Ronald Reagan.

The former peanut farmer and Navy Lieutenant from Plains, Georgia, was also far ahead of his time when supporting gay rights. In 1976, while running for president, he said he would sign the Equality Act, an amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. “I will certainly sign it, because I don’t think it’s right to single out homosexuals for special abuse or special harassment,” he said.


He continued to advocate for gay rights as president. In 1977, the first gay delegation visited the White House. He also campaigned against California’s Proposition 6, which would have barred gays and lesbians from teaching in the state’s schools and was the first Democratic president to endorse gay rights in the party’s platform in 1980.

It may seem unusual for Cater, a confessed born-again Christian, to be a staunch advocate for gay rights. But he has publicly said that he believes that being pro-gay is wholly aligned with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Carter’s advocacy is in the spotlight once again after a meme featuring his thoughts about Christ and homosexuality from 2012 went viral on Reddit's MadeMeSmile forum on April 8, 2024.

Jimmy Carter
byu/PR0CR45T184T0R inMadeMeSmile

The viral quote was taken from an interview with the Huffington Post in 2012, during which Carter promoted his book, “NIV, Lessons from Life Bible: Personal Reflections with Jimmy Carter.” At the time, LGBTQ rights were the subject of heated debate in Washington, and President Obama had just “evolved” and began publicly supporting same-sex marriage.

"A lot of people point to the Bible for reasons why gay people should not be in the church or accepted in any way,” the interviewer Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush said. But Carter responded by correctly noting that Jesus Christ never said anything about homosexuality.

"Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things—he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies,” Carter said. "I draw the line, maybe arbitrarily, in requiring by law that churches must marry people. I'm a Baptist, and I believe that each congregation is autonomous and can govern its own affairs.

"So if a local Baptist church wants to accept gay members on an equal basis, which my church does, by the way, then that is fine. If a church decides not to, then government laws shouldn't require them to,” he continued.

Three years later, Carter shared the same sentiments in another interview with the Huffington Post, this time shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. “I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else and I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else,” Carter said.

Jimmy Carter’s belief in gay rights stems from his faith as a Christian, but it’s also in complete alignment with his values as an American. Carter believed that the United States was a “beacon” for human rights, and in his 1981 presidential farewell address, he reminded the nation that the job was an ongoing struggle.

“The battle for human rights – at home and abroad – is far from over,” Carter said. “If we are to serve as a beacon for human rights, we must continue to perfect here at home the rights and values which we espouse around the world: A decent education for our children, adequate medical care for all Americans, an end to discrimination against minorities and women, a job for all those able to work, and freedom from injustice and religious intolerance.”


This article orignially appeared on 4.9.24

Images provided by P&G

Three winners will be selected to receive $1000 donated to the charity of their choice.

True

Doing good is its own reward, but sometimes recognizing these acts of kindness helps bring even more good into the world. That’s why we’re excited to partner with P&G again on the #ActsOfGood Awards.

The #ActsOfGood Awards recognize individuals who actively support their communities. It could be a rockstar volunteer, an amazing community leader, or someone who shows up for others in special ways.

Do you know someone in your community doing #ActsOfGood? Nominate them between April 24th-June 3rdhere.Three winners will receive $1,000 dedicated to the charity of their choice, plus their story will be highlighted on Upworthy’s social channels. And yes, it’s totally fine to nominate yourself!

We want to see the good work you’re doing and most of all, we want to help you make a difference.

While every good deed is meaningful, winners will be selected based on how well they reflect Upworthy and P&G’s commitment to do #ActsOfGood to help communities grow.

That means be on the lookout for individuals who:

Strengthen their community

Make a tangible and unique impact

Go above and beyond day-to-day work

The #ActsOfGood Awards are just one part of P&G’s larger mission to help communities around the world to grow. For generations, P&G has been a force for growth—making everyday products that people love and trust—while also being a force for good by giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve consumers. This includes serving over 90,000 people affected by emergencies and disasters through the Tide Loads of Hope mobile laundry program and helping some of the millions of girls who miss school due to a lack of access to period products through the Always #EndPeriodPoverty initiative.

Visit upworthy.com/actsofgood and fill out the nomination form for a chance for you or someone you know to win. It takes less than ten minutes to help someone make an even bigger impact.

Joy

Watch a timid shelter dog named 'Venom' transform with some tender care and a new name

Rocky Kanaka knew "Venom" wasn't a fitting name for this sweet girl, and he sat with her to earn her trust.

Venom was unsure at first but warmed up after a while.

Dogs are a man's best friend, as the saying goes, but that's only true when humans treat them as they should be treated. When someone neglects, abuses or otherwise mistreats a dog, their sense of trust in human companionship gets disrupted and doesn't come as naturally as it should.

It's common to see issue with dogs who end up in shelters. They might be timid, suspicious or fearful, and living in a kennel in a shelter away from everything familiar doesn't help. Even if a shelter is better than the unhealthy situation they came from, it's certainly not ideal, which is one reason Rocky Kanaka goes to visit and sit with shelter dogs. If he can help a dog feel safe and convince it to to trust him, he kick-starts the process of repairing the dog-human bond.


One dog Kanaka sat with was a 3-year-old black Shepherd mix named "Venom." She was curled up in the corner of her kennel and wasn't too keen on having him coming into her space. She wasn't aggressive, but guarded. Her self-protective instincts seemed on, so Kanaka took it very slow.

He began by turning his back to her and squatting down, not interacting with her other than to speak soothingly, just to let her get used to his presence. He brought some treats, which he shared with her before sitting down. She kept looking at him with a mix of curiosity and trepidation, and Kanaka respected her space.

He found out she had been at the shelter for 10 days, which Kanaka said was bad because if a dog is still in this kind of nervous state after 10 days in the shelter, it's harder for them to get adopted. Soon, he got her to take treats from his hand, which enabled him to move a little closer to her—the goal being to eventually get her to approach him.

Then Kanaka got her story, including that her name was Venom and this was her second time in the shelter. The first time, her owners were on vacation, The second time a good samaritan brought her in, and the shelter couldn't get a hold of the owners. When they were finally reached, the owners said that she had not been behaving well with their smaller dog and they didn't want her anymore.

Kanaka didn't cast judgment on the owners for giving her up, but he was totally taken aback by her given name.

"Come on. Venom? She is anything but that. It should be like, Honeysuckle, you know? Or something sweet. Something sweet like Honey. I think that's her name, Honey."

Watch how this sweet puppers slowly warms up to Kanaka and begins to trust him:

Watching her eventually melt into a state of relaxation as Kanaka scratched her head was so rewarding. You can tell that she's a good girl who's been through some rough times, and she'd be an incredible dog for someone who took good care of her.

"Her eyes and brows are so expressive. You can read the concern in her face," wrote one commenter.

"That poor baby is heart broken. She knows she was left and lost family. I feel you baby," wrote another.

"What a sweet little fluff," shared another. "How could anyone just abandon her and not think she's worth the fee will baffle me for all of time. And to call her 'Venom' is not only an insult to her, but an insight into the life she could have previously had and how her last 'owners thought of her. Can't wait for her to find her forever home and finally get all the love she deserves."

Thankfully, according to an update on Kanaka's website, Honey was adopted on March 8, 2024. So hopefully, she did find a forever home with people who will appreciate and nurture her naturally sweet disposition and give her the life she should have.

You can follow Rocky Kanaka for more "Sitting with Dogs" videos on YouTube and on his website rockykanaka.com.


This article originally appeared on 4.9.24

Health

Artists got fed up with these 'anti-homeless spikes.' So they made them a bit more ... comfy.

"Our moral compass is skewed if we think things like this are acceptable."

Photo courtesy of CC BY-ND, Immo Klink and Marco Godoy

Spikes line the concrete to prevent sleeping.


These are called "anti-homeless spikes." They're about as friendly as they sound.

As you may have guessed, they're intended to deter people who are homeless from sitting or sleeping on that concrete step. And yeah, they're pretty awful.

The spikes are a prime example of how cities design spaces to keep homeless people away.


Not all concrete steps have spikes on them, but outdoor seating in cities like Montreal and Tokyo have been sneakily designed to prevent people from resting too comfortably for too long.

This guy sawing through a bench was part of a 2006 protest in Toulouse, France, where public seating intentionally included armrests to prevent people from lying down.

Of course, these designs do nothing to fight the cause or problem of homelessness. They're just a way of saying to homeless people, "Go somewhere else. We don't want to look at you,"basically.

One particular set of spikes was outside a former night club in London. And a local group got sick of staring at them.

Leah Borromeo is part of the art collective "Space, Not Spikes" — a group that's fed up with what she describes as "hostile architecture."

"Spikes do nothing more than shoo the realities of poverty and inequality away from your backyard — so you don't have to see it or confront what you can do to make things more equal," Borromeo told Upworthy. "And that is really selfish."

"Our moral compass is skewed if we think things like this are acceptable."

charity, social consciousness, artist

A bed covers up spikes on the concrete.

assets.rebelmouse.io

The move by Space, Not Spikes has caused quite a stir in London and around the world. The simple but impactful idea even garnered support from music artist Ellie Goulding.

"That was amazing, wasn't it?" Borromeo said of Goulding's shout-out on Instagram.

books, philanthropy, capitalism

Artist's puppy books and home comforts.

assets.rebelmouse.io

"[The project has] definitely touched a nerve and I think it is because, as a whole, humans will still look out for each other," Borromeo told Upworthy. "Capitalism and greed conditions us to look out for ourselves and negate the welfare of others, but ultimately, I think we're actually really kind."

"We need to call out injustice and hypocrisy when we see it."
anti-homeless laws, legislation, panhandling

A message to offer support in contrast with current anti-homeless laws.

assets.rebelmouse.io

These spikes may be in London, but the U.S. definitely has its fair share of anti-homeless sentiment, too.

Spikes are pretty obvious — they're a visual reminder of a problem many cities are trying to ignore. But what we can't see on the street is the rise of anti-homeless laws that have cropped up from sea to shining sea.

Legislation that targets homeless people — like bans on panhandling and prohibiting people from sleeping in cars — has increased significantly in recent years.

For instance, a report by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty that analyzed 187 American cities found that there's been a 43% hike in citywide bans on sitting or lying down in certain spaces since 2011.

Thankfully, groups like "Space, Not Spikes" are out there changing hearts and minds. But they need our help.

The group created a video to complement its work and Borromeo's hoping its positive underlying message will motivate people to do better.

"[The world] won't always be happy-clappy because positive social change needs constructive conflict and debate," she explained. "But we need to call out injustice and hypocrisy when we see it."

Check out their video below:

This article originally appeared on 07.24.15

Health

Boost your Brain: Lifestyle changes that enhance cognitive function in adults

Unlock the secrets to sharper thinking with simple lifestyle tweaks.

men's white crew-neck T-shirt

Do you often walk into a room and forget why you are there? Or when you sit down to read a book, do you end up reading the same paragraph over and over? If you experience these things frequently, you may be worried that your cognitive function is declining.

The brain structure changes and shrinks as we get older, which can result in minor cognitive decline. However, frequent disorientation, forgetfulness, and difficulty making decisions can be signs of serious cognitive impairment—such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease—that significantly interferes with daily activities and reduces quality of life.

Fortunately, there are some measures you can take and lifestyle changes you can make to potentially improve cognitive function. Many factors contribute to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia risk, and these measures are by no means a guarantee that you won’t develop these conditions. However, they may help protect the brain from age-related cognitive decline by boosting brain connectivity and enhancing cognitive processes.

What are cognitive functions?

Cognitive function is an umbrella term that encompasses various brain activities, ranging from simple to complex. In other words, cognitive functions are the mental processes through which your brain communicates with your body to perform tasks. Some examples of cognitive functions include language abilities, reasoning, problem-solving, planning, decision-making, learning, attention, verbal fluency, knowledge acquisition, and information manipulation.

Types of cognitive impairment

Cognitive functions tend to naturally decline with age, making it difficult to distinguish normal, age-related changes in cognitive functioning from the early stages of disease-associated cognitive decline. For instance, memory difficulty, which is common in older individuals, is also a common symptom of dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

Contrary to common misconceptions, not all forms of cognitive decline involve memory problems or difficulty thinking clearly. Some cognitive disorders initially present with sleep problems, behavioral or personality changes, such as poor judgment and impulsivity, or difficulty with environmental interactions.

Furthermore, depending on the cause, cognitive impairment may be temporary or progressive. For example, delirium, a mental state characterized by confusion and disorientation, is temporary, whereas all forms of dementia (including Alzheimer’s Disease) are progressive.

Age-related cognitive decline

Slight cognitive decline and some changes in cognitive performance are normal parts of aging. Most cognitive functions peak around age 30 and subtly decline with advancing age. Age-related cognitive impairments include difficulties with multitasking, retaining information, word-finding, and maintaining attention, as well as an overall decline in thinking and perceptual speed.

It is worth mentioning that not all cognitive abilities decline with age. For many, verbal reasoning, vocabulary, and other aspects of crystallized intelligence remain unchanged or improve with age.

Mild cognitive impairment

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) refers to impairments in cognitive functioning, such as memory loss, that are more severe than in other people of the same age. While these changes in cognitive function are noticeable, they are not severe enough to qualify for a dementia or Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, and they do not interfere with daily cognitive functioning.

Mild cognitive impairment can have various causes, including:

  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Depression, anxiety, or other mental health conditions
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Infections
  • Medication side effects
  • Early stages of dementia

The cause of cognitive decline often determines the extent of compromised cognitive function in the individual and whether they can expect to suffer progressive cognitive decline. For those whose condition is not progressive, the symptoms of cognitive decline may slow or reverse, and many may return to their previous cognitive abilities.

However, for other individuals, cognitive decline may worsen over time and possibly progress to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, diseases that significantly impair cognitive functioning.

Generally, individuals with mild cognitive impairment have an increased dementia risk, but mild cognitive impairment is not a guarantee of a future dementia diagnosis. Studies examining the risk factors for the progression of MCI to dementia indicate the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia is three to five times higher for individuals diagnosed with MCI than for those with normal cognitive function.

Dementia

Dementia is characterized by a loss of behavioral and cognitive abilities that significantly interferes with a person's ability to perform daily tasks, resulting in a reduction in quality of life. The signs and symptoms of dementia typically present when healthy neurons stop working, lose connections, and die. Some neuron loss with age is normal; however, those with dementia experience a much greater loss of cognitive functions.

The signs and symptoms of dementia vary by individual, but typically include:

  • Memory loss and confusion
  • Sleep problems
  • Difficulty with fine and gross motor skills
  • Decline in executive functions (e.g., working memory, planning, emotional control, etc.)
  • Difficulty understanding and expressing thoughts
  • Problems reading and writing
  • Reduction in psychomotor speed
  • Repetitive questioning
  • Changes in diet and eating habits
  • Poor judgment and acting impulsively
  • Disorientation in familiar places
  • Taking longer to complete everyday tasks
  • Losing interest in daily activities
  • Hallucinating, delusions, and paranoia
  • Balance and mobility problems

There are several types of dementia, and all are progressive. The most common forms are Alzheimer's disease, in which abnormal protein plaques accumulate in the brain, Lewy-Body dementia, and vascular dementia, which results from blocked or leaky arteries in the brain. Although the underlying cause of dementia disease varies, the effect is the same—reduced cognitive abilities and cognitive impairment.

How to improve cognitive function

The brain shrinks as we age, and the number of synapses and neurotransmitter receptors—both allowing neurons to communicate with each other—decreases. These brain changes can cause minor cognitive impairment, particularly in memory, attention, processing speed, and planning. However, many lifestyle factors affect cognitive function, and changing your routine can help slow age-related cognitive decline.

Regular physical activity

Research shows that physical activity can have a beneficial effect on cognitive function in all age groups. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and neurotrophins, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes neuron growth, repairs brain cells, and helps the brain develop new connections.

Exercise can also increase the volume of the hippocampus, a part of the brain responsible for forming new memories. Additionally, aerobic exercise is thought to be a factor in minimizing the risk of dementia and other neurological disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain training

Brain training involves regularly engaging in cognitively stimulating activities and exercises challenging information processing and cognitive abilities. Examples include crossword and sudoku puzzles, jigsaws, problem-solving activities, reading and writing, and learning new skills and hobbies.

Memory training is a type of brain training designed to improve episodic memory—remembering events that occur in daily life—and working memory, a type of short-term memory essential to information manipulation. Memory training activities include puzzles, matching games, and word games that involve trying to remember as many words as possible in a given time.

Challenging the brain is known to build up cognitive reserves, aka the brain’s flexibility and agility. This can potentially reduce susceptibility to age-related changes in the brain and decline in cognitive functioning. As such, brain training can also lower the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and cognitive dysfunction. There’s a plus – regular brain training activities in one sphere can help improve your cognitive abilities in other areas, which, in turn, can preserve your overall cognitive ability.

Stay social

Humans are social animals. Positive social interactions can improve one’s quality of life and the ability to relate to others. People who are isolated may see a degradation of their cognitive ability sooner than those who stay engaged with others.

While research into social interactions and cognitive function is limited, a few trials have yielded positive results, indicating that positive social engagement can increase hippocampal volume and improve memory and overall brain health.

Sufficient rest

Sleep patterns change as we age, with sleep interruptions and early waking becoming increasingly common. Not getting enough sleep can negatively affect attention, memory, and executive functions (higher-level cognitive skills like flexible thinking and self-control).

Lifestyle changes can improve sleep patterns, which can support cognitive function. These include spending more time in the sunlight, maintaining a consistent sleep routine, taking short afternoon naps to counteract nighttime sleep loss, and seeking treatment for sleep problems and disorders like sleep apnea and insomnia.

Foods that can boost cognitive function

Research indicates certain foods can enhance cognitive abilities, protect the brain from damage, and slow cognitive decline. However, the mechanisms by which these foods impact cognitive functioning are unclear.

However, existing research indicates that certain nutrient components can reduce inflammation, oxidative damage, and the buildup of toxic proteins in the brain. These nutrient components may also promote the formation of new synapses and brain cells, prolong the life of existing brain cells, and support the lining of blood vessels, increasing the blood supply and oxygen to the brain.

Some of the best “brain foods” include:

Berries

Berries are rich in flavonoids and pelargonidin—natural plant pigments associated with enhanced memory, improved cognitive function, and a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Green leafy vegetables

Green leafy vegetables are rich in brain-boosting nutrients like folate, beta carotene, vitamin K, and lutein. They can help slow cognitive decline and lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Oily fish

Fatty and oily fishes, like tuna and salmon, are rich in omega-4 fatty acids, which can lower levels of beta-amyloid—a protein that accumulates in the brains of patients with Alzheimer's disease—in the blood.

Legumes

Soybeans, black beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas have high concentrations of anti-inflammatory compounds that can support overall brain health and boost cognitive functioning.

Whole grains

Whole grains are an excellent source of phytonutrients, B vitamins, and antioxidants. They can significantly benefit brain function and lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Tumeric

This well-loved spice contains curcumin, a compound that may increase BDNF levels, lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, improve cognitive abilities, and support overall brain health.

Other brain-boosting Foods

Other foods that can improve cognitive function and mitigate cognitive decline include monounsaturated fatty acids, nuts, green tea, dark chocolate, and coffee. Some nutritional supplements, especially those containing vitamins D and B12, can also help support brain health and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Conclusion

Cognitive abilities tend to decline as we get older, with many people experiencing subtle changes in cognitive function by or before middle age. However, if these age-related changes are more severe or frequently occurring than those of other individuals in the same age group, they may be signs of mild cognitive impairment.

While mild cognitive impairment does not always progress to dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, those with MCI are more likely to develop dementia and other conditions involving significant cognitive decline.

Some lifestyle factors can impact cognitive function and play a role in the likelihood of developing dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and similar conditions. Positive lifestyle changes like brain and memory training, regularly exercising, sleeping well, engaging in social activities, and eating a healthy diet with plenty of “brain foods” can support overall brain health and improve cognitive function. As such, incorporating these lifestyle changes into daily life may help slow age-related cognitive decline, improve cognitive performance, and lower the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Canva

Certain questions don't need to be asked.

"Why didn't she say anything sooner?"

It's the question that frustrates sexual assault prevention advocates and discredits the victims who bravely come forward after they've been targeted.

Stars Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow — who both disclosed to The New York Times they'd been sexually harassed by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein — were among the many women forced to trudge through a predictable wave of victim-blaming following their disclosures.


Paltrow and Jolie's descriptions of abuse followed an explosive report in the Times on Oct. 5, 2017, that chronicled decades of alleged sexual harassment at the hands of Weinstein — a man with seemingly boundless sway and power in the filmmaking world.

Sadly, Paltrow and Jolie were met with various forms of the question. "Why didn't the women of Hollywood stop him?" sprouted up immediately in corners of the internet.

One viral comment on the Times article, however, nailed why questioning a victim's actions after surviving sexual harassment or assault does so much harm.

"It is disheartening to see so many comments already blaming women for not 'speaking up,'" the reader, identified as "K" from Brooklyn, began.

"Please count yourself lucky that you've never had your career on the line based on whether or not you sleep with your boss," they continued. "It has nothing to do with fame and riches; this happens to women making minimum wage in retail as well as women who fought through it to become CEOs."

"K" continued, giving context as to why it's often very difficult and complicated for survivors to speak up after being abused (emphasis added):

"The psychology behind this kind of thing is not that complex, so please spare a moment to consider: Not only are these women made to feel humiliated and embarrassed, but in some cases if they had come forward, they not only would never work again, they also would be seen as whiners and 'too sensitive.' Both Jolie and Paltrow fended him off. Imagine if they made a big stink about it. They would have been ripped apart in the media! 'Oh for goodness' sake, a dirty old man came on to you. You rejected him and moved on, why the fuss?' But, of course, now we must insist on blaming them for 'perpetuating' Weinstein's behavior. Please."

As "K" described, victims often stay silent because they're vulnerable to the power abusers have over the situation; victims could lose their job or see their credibility attacked, for instance. These kinds of power dynamics — whether it be in Hollywood or not — play a big role in why victims stay silent.

For victims of sexual harassment, the threat to their livelihood does not end after a single encounter with an abuser. If a young, less accomplished Paltrow had spoken out against a figure like Weinstein, would he have irreversibly tarnished her reputation? Would he have planted unforgiving stories about her in the media? Would she have ever worked again? These are the sorts of threats victims weigh before speaking out. A predator's hold on a victim's career or reputation creates a culture of silence.

The commenter also used Brad Pitt's involvement in the story to note a sexist double standard in how we see victims of sexual assault.

If we're blaming Paltrow and Jolie for not speaking up sooner, why aren't we blaming Brad Pitt as well?

Pitt, who'd been romantically involved with both Paltrow and Jolie at different points in his career, reportedly knew about Weinstein's predatory behavior, according to The Daily Beast, yet he worked with Weinstein on two films following the disturbing encounters. The fact that he's largely been left out of the discussion says a lot about how we view victims of sexual assault, particularly when they're women.

"K" went on to say that the attitudes of blaming women for their own persecution are astounding: "Note that the comments have not centered around Brad Pitt's not saying anything, though he knew about it with not one but TWO romantic partners...It is not the women's job to monitor men's behavior."

The assertions made by "K," whose comment drew over 3,000 likes and a long thread of supportive replies, aren't just steeped in opinion; advocates argue sexual harassment is rarely just about sex — asserting power plays an instrumental role.

"Most frequently, survivors of sexual harassment, exploitation and violence delay making an official report of what has happened out of fear of how others will respond," Kristen Houser, chief public affairs officer at the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, explained to HuffPost in March 2017. "From retaliation by the perpetrator to gossip, dismissive responses and outright victim blaming by colleagues, friends and family."

We need to stop asking "Why didn't she say anything?" and instead wonder "Why aren't we doing more to support survivors?"

This article originally appeared on 10.12.17