Friday, April 29, 2016

8 Celebrities on How They Really Feel About Botox

In a recent Lenny Letter, actress Amanda Peet explained that she plans to stay Botox-free because she wants to set an example for her two young daughters, who are “growing up smack in the heart of America’s youth-obsessed beauty culture.”

But, she confessed, she’s also scared: "I’m afraid one visit to a cosmetic dermatologist would be my gateway drug. I’d go in for a tiny, circumscribed lift and come out looking like a blowfish.“

Whether you’re philosophilcally against injectables or you wholeheartedly embrace them, everyone seems to have an opinion. Here, eight Hollywood stars open up about aging naturally, or not.

RELATED: 17 Celebrities Explain Why Getting Older Is Actually Awesome

"I’ve bleached my teeth, dyed my hair, peeled and lasered my face, and tried a slew of age-defying creams. More than once, I’ve asked the director of photography on a show to soften my laugh lines. Nothing about this suggests I’m aging gracefully. Yet for me, it would be crossing the Rubicon to add Botox and fillers into the mix.”

—Amanda Peet, Lenny Letter, April 2016

“I’m not advocating for it one way or another, I’m just saying Botox changed my life.”

—Kelly Ripa, “Watch What Happens Live”July 2012

“There is also this pressure in Hollywood to be ageless. I think what I have been witness to, is seeing women trying to stay ageless with what they are doing to themselves. I am grateful to learn from their mistakes, because I am not injecting s**t into my face.”

Jennifer Aniston, Yahoo! BeautyDecember 2014

“If it makes you happier and more confident, then why not? But I also think you have to do your research, so you know what to expect—that you’ll look fresher but not necessarily younger. I don’t want to age, but hey, what can you do? It’s a natural process. I’m trying to do it gracefully”

Sofia Vergara, InStyle MagazineOctober 2014

RELATED: 11 Celebrirites on What They Think About Their Breasts

“My goal is to never get Botox. Or any other filler or injectable, for that matter…I don’t hate on people who get Botox; I would just prefer to do everything a more natural way. We don’t know the long-term effects of that stuff, and it doesn’t seem right to me. We are supposed to age—that’s part of life!”

—Kristin Cavallari, Balancing In Heels($25;, March 2016

“Sometimes I use Botox. One time I did too much, though. I feel weird if I can’t move my face, and that one time I overdid it, I felt trapped in my own skin. I don’t have a problem with any of that stuff; if it makes you feel better about yourself and it’s done properly, then fine.”

Courteney Cox, InStyle Magazine, July 2010

“Everyone always thinks I’ve had my nose done or my lips done or just anything to my face like besides Botox, which to me isn’t plastic surgery.”

—Kim Kardashian, Harper’s Bazaar’s The LookJuly 2012

“LA scares the crap out of me. I feel if I have to work out four hours a day, and count the calories of everything I put in my mouth, and have Botox at 22, and obsess about how I look the whole time, I will go mad, I will absolutely lose it.”

Emma Watson, Harper’s Bazaar UK, August 2011

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Why I Snack

These women in the spotlight share their opinions—pro and against—on the tiny, age-erasing injections.

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Why I Eat Gluten Free

These women in the spotlight share their opinions—pro and against—on the tiny, age-erasing injections.

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How to Cope When You're Mad as Hell at Work

Kelly Ripa fans (including us) were eagerly awaiting her return to Live! With Kelly and Michael this week, to hear what she would say. Ripa was returning from a short hiatus following Michael Strahan’s announcement last week that he was leaving the show to become a co-anchor on Good Morning America. (Ripa was reportedly blindsided when she learned about his departure minutes before the announcement on April 19.)

 “I needed a couple of days to gather my thoughts,” Ripa told the Live! audience on Tuesday. “After 26 years with this company I earned the right … I always speak from the heart so I didn’t want to come out here and say something I regret.”

We were impressed to say the least. Ripa handled the drama like a pro, and also noted that the events at ABC started a conversation “about communication, consideration, and most importantly, respect in the workplace”—which may be why her experience is resonating with so many people.

Who can’t relate to feeling hot under the collar at work? “Colleagues don’t always act the way you want them to act, and situations don’t roll out the way you want them to,” says Alexandra Levit, a workplace consultant and co-chair of DeVry University’s Career Advisory Board. But it’s important to keep your cool to protect your reputation, she says. Here, a few anger coping tips from Levit and other experts to help you channel your rage in a productive way.

RELATED: This Is the Best Way to Handle Your Anger

Take a breather

Ripa took a few days off to gain perspective. But even a few minutes can help when you’re about to boil over. Say, “I need to run to the restroom and I’ll catch up with you in a couple of minutes.” Even if you’re in a meeting. “It’s better to get out and look weird, than be somewhere you can’t control yourself,” Levit says.

Losing control is a risk you can’t afford to take, as Brad Bushman, PhD, a professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University, explained to Health in an earlier interview. “Angry people are highly aroused and when people get aroused, they do and say things they later regret.”

After you’ve left the scene, call a trusted friend to vent, suggests Levit. Or simply count: Counting—slowly—to whatever number seems appropriate gives your blood pressure and heart rate a chance to return to normal. The way Bushman put it: "As time passes, arousal diminishes.”

Then, head back in. “The situation might be the same, but you got the emotion out of it, reducing the likelihood that the scenario will escalate,” says Levit. Because flipping your lid is never a good idea. “Even if you’re in the right, no one will remember that. All they’ll remember is that you screamed,” she says.

Know your triggers

Gretchen Rubin, best-selling author of The Happiness Project, recommends doing some self-reflection to assess what fuels your fury. In a prior interview, she suggested, “Is it because work seems meaningless? Because you can never get all your tasks done? Or because you have a conflict with a co-worker?

When you can anticipate your anger, you can practice coping in advance, says Levit. For example, you might imagine your boss criticizing you in a meeting. In front of a mirror, practice exactly how you’d respond while remaining calm.

Tune into what triggers you to feel stressed, too. “Stress can lead to anger, which can make you lose control,” Levit points out. So if you know that tight deadlines freak you out, for example, try to work ahead so you’re not racing against the clock.

​RELATED: Best and Worst Ways to Cope with Stress

Look for the positive

When your expectations haven’t been met, try to spin the scenario so it’s less painful. Instead of thinking so-and-so should have done this or that, rephrase your thought train, Levit suggests. Start by stating how you have liked things to go down, and then name something you appreciate about your job:

I would have liked if my colleague did such-and-such. But since she didn’t, I have to remember I [have a great job/get paid well/love what I do/make a difference]. So I’m going to figure out how to get past this.

Team members who can “make lemonade out of lemons” are usually well-liked and valued in the workplace, she adds. “People who can come back from adverse situations have better reputations.”

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5 Things You Must Know About Mumps Even If You Got the Vaccine

You may have heard the news that Harvard University is struggling to contain an outbreak of mumps. The school first confirmed two cases back in February, when director of health services Paul Barreira sent a letter to the community stressing the importance of good hygiene to prevent the illness from spreading. But now there are 40 cases on the Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus, with 11 students currently recovering in isolation, and Barreira is increasingly concerned: “I’m desperate, I’m desperate to get students to take seriously that they shouldn’t be infecting one another,” he told student newspaper The Harvard Crimson. “Students are not acting in a responsible way, knowingly exposing other students to the virus.”

The classic signs of mumps are puffy cheeks and a swollen jaw, symptoms triggered by tender salivary glands. In children, the illness is generally mild—but in adults, it can lead to severe complications. And while many people are vaccinated against mumps (including all incoming freshmen at Harvard), they can still get sick. Here, five things you should know about the disease.

RELATED: How to Fight 14 Kinds of Classroom Germs

The vaccine doesn’t work for everyone

In the U.S., most patients who get the MMRV vaccine (against measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella) are innoculated with the Jeryl Lynn strain of the mumps virus, says Aileen Marty, MD, a professor of infectious diseases at Florida International University. (It’s named after Jeryl Hilleman, the daughter of the doctor who developed the mumps vaccine.) Studies show that this strain offers protection for 95% of people at best, leaving about 5% of people vulnerable. "That’s why we give two doses,“ she says. "The first dose at 12 to 15 months, and again at 4 to 6 years of age.” But even with the standard two doses, some patients “may not produce the quality or quantity of antibodies needed for life-long protection,” she explains. 

You may not know you have mumps

People typically experience non-specific symptoms at first, like muscle pain, headache, and a low-grade fever, says Dr. Marty. “Then, in about a day or two, they’ll start to notice the swelling of the parotid glands—glands in the cheek,” she says. “Usually both [cheeks] are affected, although one side usually swells up bigger than the other.” Patients may also experience pain, difficulty swallowing, loss of appetite, and a general sense of being unwell. 

But about 30% of patients don’t develop any symptoms at all, which is part of the reason the virus can spread so quickly, as those people unwittingly infect others. "Think of them as ‘Typhoid Mary’ for the mumps virus,“ says Dr. Marty.

It’s highly contagious

Another reason mumps is tough to avoid: "Infected people shed the virus long before they start to have symptoms,” says Dr. Marty. In other words, if your BFF contracts mumps, she may not realize she's ill until two days after she became contagious. "So you don’t really know who to protect yourself from.“ The virus is spread through saliva, so you could contract it from a cough, sneeze, or just talking to an infected person. To protect yourself, it’s best to avoid sharing items such as cups or utensils, and to wash your hands frequently (and for a full 20 seconds).

RELATED: 12 Vaccines Your Child Needs

Mumps can become quite serious

While most people recover from mumps within a few weeks, it’s possible for the disease to worsen. Complications can include hearing loss, testicular inflammation (orchitis), inflammation of the ovaries (oophoritis)—even inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. "This virus loves brain tissue,” says Dr. Marty. “As many as 50% to 60% of infected people experience a high rise in white blood cells in their cerebrospinal fluid, which can sometimes lead to someone manifesting symptoms of meningitis.” In rare cases, patients could also suffer seizures or paralysis. 

RELATEDAdult Vaccines: What You Need and When

If you think you have it, see your doc immediately

While there’s no treatment for the disease itself, your primary care physician can treat your symptoms and monitor you for complications. For example, Dr. Marty explains that your doctor may prescribe acetaminophen a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug to reduce fever or pain caused by swollen salivary glands. Warm or cold packs can also help relieve discomfort, she adds. “And if the patient develops meningitis or has persistent vomiting, we may provide IV fluids.”

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The Crazy Thing That Happened When I Tried Floating in a Soundproof, Lightproof Tank

It is pitch black, and eerily quiet. I am floating in a foot of salt water, inside a light-proof, sound-proof tank. The air and the water are about the same temperature as my skin, and I realize I’m not sure where my body ends and my surroundings begin. I suddenly feel dizzy, and a wave of nausea washes over me.

Two minutes down, 58 to go.

I am here, belly up in this pod, to see what floatation therapy is all about. In the last five years or so, the practice has grown wildly in popularity, with float centers springing up across the country.Devotees claim floating transports the mind and body, offering profound relaxation, and a variety of other benefits, from pain reduction to enhanced creativity and better sleep.

RELATED: Yoga Moves to Beat Insomnia, Ease Stress, and Relieve Pain

A few more minutes into my session, I start to get why people do this: As I focus on my breath—in and out—my tension melts away. I close my eyes and imagine myself drifting on a cloud.

When I hear the signal that the session is over, I can’t believe an hour has passed. I know I didn’t nod off. But my brain had somehow slipped out of its regular rhythm into an altogether different state where I lost track of time.

As I climb out of the pod, I feel a deep sense of calm, and incredibly refreshed—like I just woke up from the best nap of my life.

“The majority of people that achieve that restful state, they report the same type of effect,” says physical therapist Robert Schreyer when I tell him about my float. He is co-owner of the Aspire Center for Health and Wellness in New York City, which allowed me to float for free as a journalist in one of their two pods. (The usual price is $90.)

Schreyer and his staff often recommend that their physical therapy patients float before an appointment. “When they get out, their muscles are more relaxed, and our interventions can be much more effective,” he explains. That benefit may have something to do with the 1,000 pounds of Epsom salts—or magnesium sulfate—dissolved in the bath to make the water denser, and thus floaters more buoyant. “There’s a lot of theories that magnesium provides muscle relaxation,” he says.

RELATED: 15 Natural Back Pain Remedies

“But floating seems to be beneficial for everyone,“ he adds. “It’s the ultimate way to detach.”

Out in Tulsa, Oklahoma, clinical neuropsychologist Justin Feinstein, PhD, is trying to understand that mental piece of the float phenomenon. Feinstein is the director of the only float lab in the U.S.—the Float Clinic and Research Center at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research. His team has been using wireless, waterproof sensors and fMRI scans to collect data on what happens in the brain while people float.

“Our preliminary analyses are showing that the stress circuits of the brain are shutting off post-float,” Feinstein tells me over the phone. Once he finishes this current study, he plans to explore the therapeutic potential of floating for people who suffer from anxiety, especially PTSD. (To avoid triggering claustrophobia in subjects, the lab has a specially designed open tank in a light-proof, sound-proof room.)

“So what is it about floating that makes it so restorative?” I ask him.

“It’s most likely a combination of a lot of variables,” he explains. For one, you’re in a near-zero gravity state, he says, which gives your body a chance to relax. “You’re also reducing external sensory input to the brain—reduced light, reduced sound, reduced proprioception, or how you feel your body in space.”

This is why people refer to floating as a form of sensory deprivation. But Feinstein says that’s actually a misnomer.

“What we’re finding in our research is that floating is a form of sensory enhancement,” he says, because it allows you to tune into your own body—especially your heartbeat and your breathing.

“It becomes an ideal environment for mindful meditation,” Feinstein points out. “For anyone who may have trouble focusing on their breath outside of the tank, floating makes it lot easier to enter into a meditative state.”

RELATED: This Easy meditation Method Will Help Clam Your Anxiety

What he says explains so much about my experience: I must have reached a meditative state during my float without even trying. I have never been able to meditate before. It had always seemed impossible to quiet the incessant chatter in my head. But inside the pod, it seemed to happen automatically.

Feinstein believes floating can help many other people like me—which could be a powerful thing, considering the proven health benefits of meditation.

As for me, my float has inspired me to try again to meditate the traditional way. Now that I know what’s possible, I’m determined to learn. If I could start every day with that same calm and centered feeling of zen that I had when I climbed out of the tank, it would be life-changing.

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I Tried Thinx ‘Period-Proof’ Underwear and It Was a Total Disaster

Ever since my very first period, I’ve preferred to use pads over tampons. So when I first started noticing the controversial ads for Thinx plastered all over New York City’s subway system, I felt a surge of hope for my tampon-free lifestyle. “Underwear for women with periods.“ Oh hey, that’s me. But, I wondered: Are they just … stylish diapers? Will I feel like a 19th century woman on the rag? Feeling skeptically optimistic, I decided to put this promising-sounding product to the test.

It turns out Thinx underwear come in six styles, each with a level of absorbency measured in tampons (seriously): from hiphuggers ("two tampons’ worth of fluid”) to a thong (half a tampon’s worth). But there is one key point that must be made clear: Thinx doesn't claim to replace your feminine hygiene product of choice. The company’s site explains that their super-wicking undies are meant to serve as a backup, although depending on your flow, you may choose to rely solely on Thinx—which is what I bravely attempted to do for 48 hours.

Day 1

I’m not gonna lie, even my pad-accustomed self was nervous about going solo with just these pretty panties for protection. Seeing how cute they were in person made me all the more dubious. How can this modestly thick fabric with lacy trim actually control bleeding?

All morning long I found myself making paranoid trips to the bathroom. But all I could see was a relatively harmless-looking damp spot in my black cheeky undies. Once I felt confident that I wasn’t going to spring a leak, I let myself have a normal Monday, which happens to be the day I take a kickboxing class at the gym. Exercising in the cheeky style was actually pretty cool. Every woman on team maxi knows the risk involved in exercising on your period (*cough* diaper rash). As someone who once ran 14 miles with a pad on (go ahead, cry for me), this felt revolutionary. Immediately after my workout though, I couldn’t wait to change into a fresh pair. (To clean my Thinx, I followed the instructions and hand-washed with soap and cold water, then hung them to dry.)

RELATED: 9 Best Workouts to Do When You Have Your Period

Day 2

For the heaviest day of my cycle, I whipped out the big guns—the hip huggers. These have about the same thickness as the cheeky cut, but a lot more booty coverage. By now, I was feeling confident that Thinx could handle my flow.

I put them on at around 8:00 am. But by 10:00 am, I felt like I was wearing a wet bathing suit. The underwear seemed to have stopped absorbing any moisture at all, as if they were filled to capacity, if that’s even possible for underwear.

Like on day one, I was making regular trips to the bathroom, but this time I wasn’t being overly cautious. Each time I blotted the fabric with gobs of toilet paper. Totally gross, I know. And then it got worse.

Around 3:00 pm, the unthinkable happened. I was typing away at my desk when I felt moisture between my thighs (cue middle school flashbacks). The undies had given up, well before I was ready to.  To avoid the ultimate nightmare of visible leakage, I kept up my toilet paper blotting and by some miracle, it worked.

RELATED: 6 Things You Should Know About Having Sex During Your Period

Usually on Tuesdays I make a mad dash from work to the gymto avoid the “sorry I’m late” tiptoe into my favorite strength training class. I’m a creature of habit so I wasn’t about to let a pair of malfunctioning panties stand in the way of my routine.

But in retrospect I should have because it turned out wetness wasn’t my biggest problem. Three pliĆ© squats in and it occurred to me that my Thinx REEKED, which meant that I reeked. Pads must have been doing me a solid all these years, masking odor and sparing me the humiliation. I had no idea what unfiltered period stench actually smelled like.

In the end, yes, wearing Thinx underwear on a heavy day made me feel a lot like a 19th century woman on the rag. But I can definitely recommend sporting a pair on lighter days. Even after my personal hygiene nightmare, I didn’t toss my hip huggers. After all, they were by no means ruined. They were made to survive leaks—which, all criticism aside, is pretty cool for a pair of period underwear.

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The 5 Steps to Quitting Anything Gracefully

Volunteering in a pediatric playroom at a cancer hospital is a pretty good thing to do, right? So I felt downright evil for wanting to quit. I was in my 20s; I had gotten a job with long hours, which meant I sometimes ended up stuck at work and had to bail on my 6 p.m. volunteer shift. Being unreliable wasn’t fair to those kids, but I still couldn’t bring myself to resign.

A lot of us delay quitting anything—jobs, activities, relationships, fitness routines, and even bland books—because we think we should have the grit to see it through, women warriors that we are. Extreme endurance is a virtue, if not an essential for succeeding in today’s competitive work and market. Besides, most of us have been brought up to believe that winners never quit. We can do it! Even if it makes us miserable!

Quitting can be scary, but it’s vital for overall satisfaction, not to mention joy. “Life is too short to waste time and energy on things you find unrewarding or unproductive,” says James E. Maddux, PhD, senior scholar at the Center for the Advancement of Well-Being at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. “Replace your source of dissatisfaction with something more fulfilling and you’ll find more happiness.”

RELATEDThe Best Advice From the Healthiest People on the Planet

So what makes us stay the course when we’re disgruntled or uninspired? It’s human nature to adapt to circumstances, as frustrating, stressful, or just plain annoying as they may be. “It’s like having a bad knee—you learn to live with it, paying attention only when it really hurts,” notes Maddux. Of course, you don’t have to tough out that tempestuous neighborhood association or tepid hot yoga class. Time is not infinite, and by ending something punitive, you make room for something pleasant.

There are even health payoffs to knowing when to throw in the towel. Research has shown that people who are better at bailing on unattainable goals have lower levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and fewer headaches than those who have a harder time. In one pivotal study, University of British Columbia psychologists tracked teenage girls for a year. The ones who more easily stopped pursuing hard-to-reach goals had declining levels of a protein that indicates bodily inflammation, linked to heart disease.

These are the simple steps for giving the heave-ho to what’s not working and getting to a better, happier place. It’s mainly a mind shift—you focus as much on what you hope to gain as what you plan to lose from your life.

RELATED12 Worst Habits for Your Mental Health

1. Quit calling yourself a quitter

The word quitter is associated with failure, notes Maddux, and feeling like a loser is dispiriting, so reframe your perspective. Try this financial analogy: “Think, ‘I am going to divest from this and reinvest my energy and efforts in something that will have a better payoff,’” he suggests. “Once you stop seeing yourself as a quitter, it’s easier to disengage.”

2. Get real about your misery

Sometimes it’s hard to admit just how fed up or overwhelmed you are, especially if you’re the Little Engine That Could type. “Stoicism is first cousins with masochism,” says Alan Bernstein, a psychotherapist in private practice in New York City and coauthor of Quitting. Whether you’re assessing how you feel about your job, your marathon training or a biography you’re slooowly reading, it helps to consider if you have “flow"—when you get so absorbed in what you’re doing that you lose a sense of time. It’s one of the purest forms of contentment around, and if it’s lacking, you’re missing out.

RELATEDEat Your Way to Health and Happiness

3. Ask yourself one little thing

A question to ponder: Who, exactly, are you doing this for? That’s the advice from Molly Mogren Katt, 33, of Minneapolis, who left her position as a communications director for a celebrity chef—which her friends considered the coolest job—to become a writer, one she finds to be the coolest. Now she regularly interviews accomplished quitters on her blog, Hey, Eleanor! It’s named after Eleanor Roosevelt, who famously said, "Do one thing every day that scares you.” “People I speak with often say they were doing things they didn’t love because they felt people or society expected them to,” says Katt. “One of my favorite stories is about a makeup artist who put in so much effort to look younger. Then she quit coloring her hair at 49—and landed a job as a model for Dolce & Gabbana. Once she embraced who she was, she got a great gig.”

4. See the future

The more you focus on what you’re going to do with that extra free time, the easier quitting is. “Writing down what you want next is motivating, empowering and invigorating,” says Bernstein. So if you want out of a relationship, say, mull over the essential qualities you’re looking for in a future partner. True, it’s not like you can order a boyfriend off Amazon (even via drone), but you’ll feel more inspired to make it happen. As for times when there is no “next,” like when you just feel like ditching your role as PTA treasurer because you’re overbooked, picture the benefits of life without it: Hello, more free time with your kids (not to mention your Hulu queue).

5. Rehearse your exit

Thinking ahead to what you’ll tell a boss or your weekend tennis partner when you end things can quell paralyzing anxiety. “Couch it in an empathic way: 'Although it may not be convenient for you…,’” advises Bernstein. “The point is to connect to the other person’s needs as well as yours.” No matter how much you dread telling someone that you’re bailing, the reality may surprise you. There’s a chance that if you’re feeling it, others are, too, as I discovered the day I finally told the coordinator I had to stop volunteering. She said she knew I was headed in that direction. And then she offered to let me volunteer on holidays, which I did for years to come. Proof that I’m a quitter? Hardly—I’d call that a win-win.

Permission to quit, granted

  • Watch only the good seasons of Orange Is the New Black/House of Cards/Luther.
  • Unfriend people on Facebook who regularly post “meh” updates. Who cares if she’s powerwashing her deck?
  • Accept that you’ll never do a triathlon. Not now. Not next year. Not ever.
  • Give up making smoothies so healthy you have to hold your nose to drink them.
  • Forget about getting the kids to make their beds. The neat police will not descend on your home.
  • Quit forcing yourself to read the entire Sunday paper.
  • Leave your hairdresser. She will survive.
  • Abandon the hope of putting all your family photos into albums—iCloud for the win!

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My Daughter Nearly Died of Sepsis. Here's How You Can Stay Safe

We thought it was the flu. On a bleak afternoon this past winter, my 16-year-old daughter came home early from school, complaining of a fever and sore throat. Less than 48 hours later, I was sitting next to her in an ambulance, careening toward the nearest emergency room.

It wasn’t the flu. An underlying urinary tract infection and a nascent case of strep throat had combined forces to create a perfect storm in my daughter’s body, and she had gone into septic shock—the most severe stage of sepsis, a potentially fatal condition and a leading cause of all in-hospital deaths.

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is an extreme bodily response to infection, in which inflammation throughout the body can lead to organ damage and even organ failure. It’s often characterized by fever, a high heart rate, low blood pressure, confusion, and dizziness.

Sepsis doesn’t have a particular season of the year, and it can hit almost anyone, regardless of age or prior health. In March, Oscar-winning actress Patty Duke died of sepsis from a ruptured intestine at the age of 69. In 2009, 20 year-old Brazilian model Mariana Bridi da Costa died within days after a UTI turned into an aggressive case of sepsis.

“People with sepsis can slip from what seems like routine infection into a systemic situation very quickly,” warns Anthony Fiore, MD, chief of Epidemiologic Research and Innovations in the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

RELATED: Should You Go to the ER?

If it’s such a big deal, why haven’t I heard of it?

Because there currently isn’t a single standard methodology for assessing sepsis, hard statistics on its prevalence and mortality rates can be hard to pin down. But according to the CDC, over one million cases of sepsis occur each year, and it’s the ninth leading cause of “disease-related deaths.” The National Institutes of Health reports that sepsis kills more people in the U.S. than prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined.

Yet while less common conditions like Ebola and Zika garner big headlines, you may not have ever even heard of sepsis before. Donald Landry, MD, chair of medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, has a theory about that. “It’s a syndrome, not a disease,” he says. “It gets buried in other conditions. It doesn’t register with the public as something identifiable.”

How can I recognize the symptoms?

Fortunately, once you know the warning signs, sepsis can be recognized and effectively treated—and often with no further long term consequences.

“If you get an infection, you’re likely to have a fever and likely going to feel somewhat lousy,” explains Craig M. Coopersmith, MD, a past president of the Society of Critical Care Medicine. “But if you feel there’s anything above and beyond that—if you feel your heart racing, if you’re breathing fast, if your family recognizes that you’re confused, if it feels like you’re making less urine than usual—anything that feels abnormal to yourself or your loved ones might be a warning sign that not only might you have an infection, you might have an organ dysfunction. And if you do, that is a true medical emergency, because your health and potentially the life of yourself or of your loved one might be at stake.”

If you suspect sepsis in yourself or a loved one (besides those listed above, other signs include pale or discolored skin, rash, and, as the CDC helpfully puts it, “I feel like I might die”) the CDC recommends heading to the emergency room and saying directly, “I am concerned about sepsis.”

RELATED: 8 Things ER Doctors Refuse to Have in Their Homes

My daughter’s story has a happy ending. After a terrifying 36 hours in the ER and a potent mix of antibiotics, fluids, and dopamine, her condition stabilized. She spent a few days in the intensive care unit and another week recovering, then returned to school with no other ill effects than falling behind on her math homework.

That’s the easily achieved outcome I now want for so many more families like mine. Simple awareness can make all the difference. As Dr. Coopersmith says, “If sepsis is recognized in every patient and treated rapidly and appropriately, we can save multiple thousands of lives a year.”

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