Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hate Needles? Here’s How to Deal When You Go to the Doctor

What you’re experiencing is called a vasovagal response, a reflex that occurs when your body overreacts to certain triggers, like blood or needles. The triggers stimulate a nerve that then causes your heart rate to slow down and your blood pressure to drop. As a result, you may suddenly feel warm or light-headed, turn pale, or lose consciousness.

To get through a blood draw when you feel dizziness coming on, try the applied tension technique: Tense the muscles in your body for 10 to 15 seconds, then release for 20 to 30 seconds, and continue. This helps raise your blood pressure, making you less likely to faint. Ask to lie down, too—then look away so you can’t see the needle entering your arm or the blood flowing.

RELATED: Finding the Best Doctor For You

It’s not entirely understood why some folks have vasovagal responses and others don’t. The reassuring news is that these spells are usually harmless—and you shouldn’t need treatment if they happen sporadically and aren’t interfering with your quality of life. But if your reaction is constant and so bad that you dread getting immunizations, medical tests, or surgeries, you should consider seeing a psychologist who can help you work through your fear using exposure therapy (in which you practice being in the presence of needles until you’re desensitized to them).

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Do Healing Crystals Really Do Anything?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

5 Cold Weather Health Myths to Stop Believing

Make your voice heard! It takes just two minutes to register to vote in the 2016 election.

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Make your voice heard! It takes just two minutes to register to vote in the 2016 election.

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12 Horrifying True Stories of Doctors Behaving Badly

A lot of the time, doctors say and do just the right thing and we leave happy. This story is about the other times—the ones when a highly-trained MD blurts out something so rude, cruel, clueless, or shocking you want to send them back to Bedside Manner 101. My personal favorite WTF moment was when I went to a very young gynecologist complaining of a urinary tract infection and she said, “I'd expect this more from my patients in their 20s who are still having lots of sex.”

Okay, Dr. Gross-Stereotyper! Who doesn’t, incidentally, know much about UTIs! 

Then there was the moment, mid C-section with son #2, when I overheard my OB instruct his student, “You have to be very careful not to nick the bladder or bowel.” Yes, please! Good thing I had an epidural in me or I would have leapt right off the table.

Awkward as they were, though, my exchanges were nothing compared with these tales of physicians with absolutely no filter:

RELATED: 8 Health Mistakes Nurses Warn Their Friends About

Jo, 48, Brooklyn, NY

“When I told my ob-gyn (who I had been going to for years) that was I thinking of becoming a single mother he said, ‘You will never date again, no man would want you.’ And he said that I should take the money I had saved and 'buy a condo in South Carolina.' I didn’t stay long enough in his office to ask, 'Why South Carolina!?’”

Marian, 26, San Diego, CA

“When he was working on a filling, my (former) dentist said, 'Oops.' I think there are certain people who must remove words like 'Oops' from their vocabularies: surgeons, ob-gyns, bridge engineers. Dentists, who literally work inside your face, fall into that category.”

Elisa, 49, Mamaroneck, NY

“August, 2000, I was newly pregnant after many, many months of trying. I started bleeding. The ob-gyn on call, who was not one of my regular doctors, said to me, 'Well, if you’re going to lose it, you’re going to lose it.' I was hysterical. An hour later, my gastroenterologist (I have ulcerative colitis) returned my call. He calmed me down, and sure enough the baby was fine.”

Laura, 31, Astoria, NY

“When my primary care doctor was unavailable, I went to another doctor in her practice. I thought I was having a heart problem (thankfully, it turned out to be a pulled sternum and exercise-induced asthma). Instead of reassuring me that my scary symptoms weren’t too serious, the doctor spent an hour telling me about how she could have been an Olympic-level runner, but then became a doctor, and that she went to Harvard. I stopped listening. The brags were the opposite of good bedside manner … more like good BRAGside manner.”

RELATED: The Most Annoying Things People Do at the Gym and on the Trail (According to Us)

Nicole, 23, New York, NY

“When I was getting my first ever gyno exam at age 21, I winced at the pain of her inserting the speculum, and she scoffed and said, 'Oh stop, it’s no bigger than your boyfriend.’”

Jay, 45, Carrollton, VA

“A doctor told that my heart beats too fast. He said everyone’s heart has a finite number of beats and that I was fine but I was going to use my beats up faster than most other people. I believe that was the day my anxiety needed to be medicated.”

Lindsey, 23, Philadelphia, PA

“When I was about 13, I had a strange rash on my arm. My mom took me to the (male) pediatrician and he was unsure what it was. He asked if I was on my period, which I was and he replied, 'Oh, well I guess it could be Toxic Shock Syndrome, but what do I know? I’m not a girl!' I couldn’t believe he could be so sexist and also trivialize a serious health problem.”

Melissa, 45, San Francisco, CA

"Mid root canal, I heard the oral surgeon curse loudly enough for me to take my earbuds out, just in time to hear her say, 'I can’t believe I just did that! Well, we can fix it, I guess.”

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

Sara, 51, New York, NY

“I have deformed, arthritic hips and went to a very famous holistically-oriented doctor to see if there was anything I could do instead of surgery. He swiftly handed me a script for 90 Oxycontin with refills. 'I don’t think I need a drug addiction on top of my other problems,' I told him. 'Oh you won’t get addicted,’ he pshawed. This was years ago, but I don’t think he ever read a newspaper.”

Cathy, 39, Seattle, WA

“I was undergoing fertility treatments and feeling really hormonal from the drugs. When I told my doctor, he said, 'I think you need to get out of the house more. Why don’t you get a job at the mall?’ As if working at Cinnabon was the answer.”

Sue, 49, Lenox, MA

“After a doctor started to perform a minor surgical procedure on me in her office, she said—after SHE was not able to control my bleeding—'You’re making a mess!' And she finished with 'You might need to stay and clean up your mess.' I later found that she was let go from her previous practice for poor bedside manner.”

Maureen, 37, Locust Valley, NY

“My tooth cracked. The dentist asked what caused it. I said, 'Unfortunately, I enjoy 8 blow pops a day.” And he said, 'Good practice, eh?' What a creep!“

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Friday, September 23, 2016

How You Feel About Facebook Likes Says Something About Your Personality

Do you feel a rush every time a Facebook photo or status update gets a new “like” (and a little depressed when your posts are ignored)? The way you answer that question may reveal a part of your personality: people with a true sense of purpose are less likely to be emotionally affected by social media likes than those without, according to a new Cornell University study.

“Purposeful people noticed the positive feedback, but did not rely on it to feel good about themselves,” says Anthony Burrow, PhD, co-author of the study and assistant professor of human development at Cornell University.

Writing in the Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology, Burrow and his co-author define a sense of purpose as a “self-organizing life aim that organizes and stimulates goals, manages behaviors, and provides a sense of meaning.” People with a strong sense of purpose tend to agree with statements such as “To me, all the things I do are worthwhile” and “I have lots of reasons for living.”

To see how people’s online lives might be affected by their senses of purpose, the researchers conducted two experiments. They hypothesized that those with stronger senses of purpose would get less of a self-esteem rush from virtual likes, “because they are already guided by a sense of connection with, and service to, others.”

RELATED: Is Facebook Messing With Your Self-Esteem? Ask Yourself These 3 Questions

In the first study, they asked 250 active Facebook users from around the United States how many likes they typically got on photos they posted. People who usually got more thumbs-ups also tended to have higher self-esteem—but only among those who had low levels of purpose, based on a six-question test to measure “life engagement.”

For those who had higher levels of purpose, on the other hand, self-esteem remained the same, on average, regardless of how many likes they got.

In the second study, 100 Cornell University students were asked to post selfies to a mock social media site, and were then told that their photo had received either a high, low, or average number of likes. Again, getting a high number of likes was associated with higher self-esteem only among those with less purpose. For those who scored higher in purposefulness, number of likes had no effect on self-esteem.

This makes sense, says Burrow: Purposeful people have the ability to see themselves in the future, he explains, and act in ways that help them achieve their long-term goals. Therefore, they’re more immune to feelings of—or dependence on—immediate gratification.

RELATED: These Personality Traits Are Linked to a Healthier Sex Life

The findings highlight the protective effects that having a purpose can have on a person’s mental health, he adds. While it’s nice to receive compliments, online or otherwise, it shouldn’t be your main source of pride.

“Otherwise, on days when you receive few likes, you’ll feel worse,” he says. “Your self-esteem would be contingent on what other people say and think.”

Instead, he says, it’s healthier to find confidence in more permanent aspects of your self-worth. “You want to show up with rigidity: ‘I know who I am and I feel good about that.’”

Previous studies have been done on purposefulness and its role on health and self-esteem, but most have looked at it as a buffer against negative or stressful events. Research has suggested it may protect against heart disease and dementia, and may even help people live longer and take better care of themselves as they age.

But this is the first study to show that having a sense of purpose can also blunt the emotional impact of positive events, as well. This is an important part of the discussion, says Burrow, since staying even-keeled—through bad situations and good ones—may be more valuable to health and wellbeing, long-term. It may even help keep us from getting an inflated sense of confidence or reading too much into small victories.

“If a student takes a test, gets a great score, you don’t want him to get a big head and back off—you want him to keep working and do better,” he says. “Just like you want to acknowledge the bad things but not quit, you also want to be able to acknowledge the good things but not get carried away with celebrating.”

RELATED: The Mental Tricks Laurie Hernandez Uses to Summon Crazy Confidence

So how do you find your sense of purpose, if you don’t feel like your life is particularly worthwhile? There’s no solid research on what works best, but Burrow says that shifting your focus to the future—and really thinking about what you want that future to look like—is a good starting point.

It may also help, he says, to zero in on a hobby you’ve spent a lot of time on, a role model you’d like to emulate, or a moment in your life that’s had a big impact on you, positive or negative.

“In research where people are asked to nominate the source of their purpose, they tend to name one of these three things,” he says.

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The ‘Love Hormone’ May Help People With Ringing in Their Ears

THURSDAY, Sept. 22, 2016 (HealthDay News)—People suffering from chronic ringing in the ears—called tinnitus—may find some relief by spraying the hormone oxytocin in their nose, a small initial study by Brazilian researchers suggests.

Oxytocin—dubbed the “love hormone” because it promotes social connections—might also help relieve the annoying and sometimes disturbing noises of tinnitus.

“Oxytocin has actions in the brain and the ear that may help in tinnitus treatment and provide immediate relief,” said lead researcher Dr. Andreia Azevedo. She is with the department of otolaryngology at the Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo.

But, at least one hearing specialist was unconvinced that oxytocin would help.

And, even Azevedo said it isn’t clear how oxytocin might work to relieve tinnitus. She speculated that it may have an effect in the ear, probably related to fluid regulation in the inner ear, and a brain effect that may be related to the production of the neurotransmitter dopamine.

“For some patients, tinnitus disappeared or reached a non-distress level,” Azevedo said. “As usual in tinnitus treatment, in some patients the tinnitus kept low, and for some it raised after drug therapy ended.”

Although oxytocin appeared safe, its long-term effects aren’t known, Azevedo said. “We did not have any side effects, but further larger studies are necessary to establish the role of oxytocin in tinnitus treatment,” she added.

The research team is conducting additional studies to see if increasing doses of oxytocin can improve and lengthen the response.

“We expect that these trials will raise the interest in this drug and result in larger randomized trials,” Azevedo said.

The results of the study were scheduled to be presented Thursday at the meeting of the American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery in San Diego. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

As many as one in 10 Americans suffers from tinnitus. The disorder is characterized by hearing sounds when there are none. The sounds can be perceived as ringing, buzzing, crickets or hissing. For those who struggle with it daily, the noise is so bothersome that it interferes with thinking, emotions, hearing, sleep and concentration, according to a previously published study. That study was released online July 21 in JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

For the new study, the researchers randomly assigned 17 people with tinnitus, average age 63, to puffs of oxytocin or a placebo (distilled water) in each nostril.

The study volunteers were asked to assess their symptoms 30 minutes after treatment, and then again, 24 hours later.

Azevedo’s team found that patients who received oxytocin reported a significant reduction in tinnitus, compared with those who received the placebo.

Dr. Darius Kohan is chief of otology/neurotology at Lenox Hill Hospital and Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital in New York City. “It’s good people are doing research on this,” he said, “because there isn’t any one treatment that works very well.”

Kohan remains skeptical, however, about using oxytocin to treat tinnitus, because so many treatments have been tried and have failed.

“Whenever there is a medical condition and there are a thousand different treatments, it means that none of them work, because if there was one that worked we would all be doing it,” he said.

Results of this small trial are not sufficient to draw any conclusions about oxytocin as a treatment, Kohan added.

“There are too many ifs with this. Is it possible that it helps? Yes. Is it possible it’s a placebo effect? Yes,” Kohan said. “You can’t tell from this small study whether or not the treatment is effective over the long term.”

In addition, he said, the hormone can have serious side effects, including abnormal heartbeat, abnormally low blood pressure, high blood pressure, allergic reactions, breathing difficulty, nausea and vomiting.

People suffering from tinnitus shouldn’t start using oxytocin in hopes of curing themselves, Kohan said.

“This is not something you take lightly. You don’t know if it has benefits in the long term, and you can potentially have bad side effects. I would not recommend it,” he said.

More information

For more on tinnitus, visit the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Surprise! A Beer Makes You Happier, Friendlier

MONDAY, Sept. 19, 2016 (HealthDay News)—Raise a glass of your favorite brew and toast the Swiss researchers who offer scientific proof for what you surely suspected and probably hoped.

Drinking beer does make you friendlier, happier, less inhibited—maybe even sexier, they report.

But that’s not all.

“We found that drinking a glass of beer helps people see happy faces faster, and enhances concern for positive emotional situations,” said lead researcher Matthias Liechti, head of psychopharmacology research at University Hospital in Basel, Switzerland.

In other words, drinking beer might make you more social and more empathetic.

Researchers came to these not-so-sobering conclusions after studying 30 men and 30 women. Half were randomly assigned to drink enough beer to raise their blood alcohol level to about 0.4 grams per liter. (The amount was proportional to their body size.) The others quaffed a nonalcoholic brew.

Before and after, both groups performed various tasks, including facial recognition as well as tests of their empathy and sexual arousal. Both groups then switched roles and repeated the tests.

The upshot: The researchers found that people were more eager to socialize after a drink or two. This was especially true for women and for volunteers who had been more inhibited socially.

Drinking also made it easier for some people, particularly women, to look at sexually explicit images. But it didn’t make them any more turned on, the study found.

The findings were published Sept. 19 in the journal Psychopharmacology. They were also to be presented Monday at the annual meeting of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) on Monday in Vienna, Austria.

“This is an interesting study confirming conventional wisdom that alcohol is a social lubricant and that moderate use of alcohol makes people happier, more social and less inhibited when it comes to sexual engagement,” said Dr. Wim van den Brink, former head of the ECNP Scientific Program Committee.

Though he was not involved in the study, van den Brink offered several theories for differences between men and women. They could stem from differences in blood alcohol levels after the same amount of beer; differences in tolerance due to previous alcohol use; or socio-cultural factors, he said.

“It should also be recognized that different effects of alcohol can be seen according to whether your blood alcohol is increasing or decreasing, and of course how much alcohol you have taken,” he said in an ECNP news release.

But before you start chugging away, van den Brink pointed out that people’s emotions may not reflect their actual behavior while under alcohol’s influence. As Shakespeare noted in Macbeth, “it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance.”

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides more information on alcohol’s effects on the body.

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I Got Tuberculosis and Spent 20 Days in Isolation

When I tell people I have tuberculosis, most of them have the same reaction: “Like, consumption? Is that still a thing?” It only takes a few seconds for a look of fear to set in. I can’t blame them. If someone told me they’d been afflicted by an antiquated airborne disease, I’d probably be scared as hell too.

When I was diagnosed with TB disease a month ago, I learned that as a potential public health threat, I was required to undergo treatment or face arrest. Yes, that’s a real law, and thankfully so. The germ is spread in tiny droplets that enter the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. And it kills about 1.5 million people a year worldwide. My doctors informed me that I would be hospitalized in isolation for a minimum of two weeks, and/or until daily smears became consistently negative for the TB bacteria. Thus began my 20 days of solitude, intensive antibiotics, and bureaucratic red tape.

It all started when I went to see my doctor about a persistent cough. He ordered a chest X-ray, and said he’d get in touch with the results. Twenty minutes after I left the office, he called and told me to go to the ER immediately. The X-ray had revealed an “impressive” lesion in one of my lungs.

At the hospital, I was admitted right away and whisked into a negative pressure room with a handful of doctors and nurses in protective gowns, gloves, and masks. It was like a modest version of one of those Hollywood outbreak movies. The doctors and nurses did their best to crack jokes and make me feel settled, but I could sense their nervousness. I was told I wouldn’t be leaving until they could run some tests and rule out tuberculosis.

In the meantime my girlfriend came to keep me company. We watched Netflix in my hospital bed, wearing our masks and hoping for the best. It wasn’t the most romantic setting for a movie date. The next afternoon the doctors confirmed the diagnosis they suspected. For the forseeable future I was stuck there, while I waited for my daily test results to change. 

RELATED: 5 Old-Time Diseases That Are Making a Comeback

Even with the perks of living in 2016—like smartphones and online TV—when you’re cooped up in a room, for weeks on end, you start to lose your mind a bit. You can’t help but feel like patient zero in some zombie flick.

Luckily, I didn’t feel too sick. A slight cough and fatigue had been my only real symptoms. Many people who get TB endure a vicious cough, chest pain, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.

All big decisions about my treatment had to be approved by officials in the health department, and trying to communicate with them felt like sending a carrier pigeon to Middle Earth. It would take days to get answers to the simplest questions. Two weeks into my isolation period, they informed me that I’d be staying an extra week because the hospital had given me the wrong dose of antibiotics when I first arrived. A bonus round.

Fortunately the strain of TB I’d caught was easily treatable, and the antibiotics were immediately effective. Many people aren’t so fortunate.

I had a good idea where I’d caught the infection. A friend of mine had been treated for TB one year prior. (She suspects she picked up the infection while traveling abroad.) Shortly after her diagnosis I had tested negative on a PPD skin test, but the clinic failed to inform me that I should return for a follow-up test in eight weeks. Go healthcare system! My infection was asymptomatic until the cough appeared last summer. It turns out TB bacteria can remain dormant for years in what’s known as latent TB. Lesson learned: Trust no one, and research the hell out of everything.

RELATED: I Have a Disease That Makes My Thyroid Go Haywire

I was discharged from the hospital after three weeks. By day 30, I was back on my feet and generally healthy, able to work again and kiss my girlfriend without fear of further exposing her.

She and the other people I spent considerable time with while I was contagious have tested negative for TB. If they do test positive for latent TB upon their follow-up visit, they can take antibiotics and skip the whole “outbreak movie" scenario that I went through.

The health department will continue to supervise my treatment for the next six months. Initially I was required to go to the health department office every day, to take my medication under direct observation. But I’m now able to swallow the pills during a video chat with a health department employee. An exclusive TB chat room.

All complaints aside, TB is a potentially fatal disease and I got a get-out-of-jail-free card. If you think you may have been exposed to the disease, it's worth taking the time to get tested. Twice.

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5 Weird Facts About Being Left Handed

This is what it’s like to get diagnosed with an antiquated airborne disease.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Here's What 7 Health Editors Do Before 7 A.M.

Let’s face it: Mornings can be nutty. But picking up a healthy a.m. habit could make all the difference, and help you start your day off right. Many editors here at Health have their own go-to strategy to pave the way for a productive day. From a pre-work sweat sesh to a nutrient-packed breakfast, here are some easy tips that could make your mornings a little bit brighter.

Find your zen

“I practice Vedic meditation twice a day for 20 minutes at a time, the first one right upon waking. Vedic is really accessible, it’s for everyone. You repeat a mantra to yourself (silently), and as thoughts drift into your mind, you gently bring yourself back to the mantra. Very simple! I used to feel really foggy in the morning, but meditation puts me in a calm, focused state of mind first thing, and makes me feel really energized." —Beth Lipton, food director

Get sweaty

"Well it may seem pretty simple, but I go work out! It instantly wakes me up and prepares me for a productive day. When I don’t exercise I feel very tired and my concentration is off." Rozalynn Frazier, senior fitness editor

RELATED: How to Become the Type of Person Who Works Out in the Morning

Stretch it out

"Even if I don’t have time to get a workout in, I take about 10 minutes to stretch. Nothing too complicated. I just stretch my calves one at a time, by pushing the ball of my foot against a wall with my heel on the ground. Then I stretch my quads by pulling my heel up behind me with a bent knee. I sometimes experience lower back pain, so to help alleviate that, I do some simple neck rolls and touch my toes to stretch my hamstrings. I also usually go through a round of child’s pose, laughing baby pose, and downward dog." —Chelsey Hamilton, editorial assistant

Check in with family

"Every weekday morning I walk my daughter the one mile to her school. Rain or shine, cold or hot, that brisk walk (some days brisker than others, depending on whether we overslept!) helps to clear my brain and get my blood moving first thing. I know that I’ve gotten in a little activity, even if I don’t make it to the gym that day. And it’s also my time to check in with my daughter, which is good for both of our mental health." Jeannie Kim, executive deputy editor

Fuel up

"I will not leave the house in the morning without having breakfast. If I don’t eat something, then I’m miserable by the time I get to work. I also tend to eat extra junk throughout the day when I haven’t had a morning meal. My go-to breakfasts are two eggs and a slice of whole-grain toast; a quarter of an avocado smashed onto a slice of whole-grain toast and topped with an over-easy egg; or a smoothie consisting of kale or spinach, blueberries, Greek yogurt, banana, water, and chia seeds." Christine Mattheis, deputy editor

RELATED: 8 Ways to Fake Being a Morning Person

Stick with what works

"There are two specific things I do. First, I eat the same breakfast every day: ½ cup of oatmeal, topped with a handful of walnuts and a handful of frozen wild blueberries, add ¾ cup milk, and microwave the whole thing for 3 minutes. I eat that with a tall glass of seltzer water and orange juice, mixed 50/50. Then, if I have time, I also try to take a quick nap right after I wake up before I get going!" Michael Gollust, research editor


"I walk one mile to my favorite coffee place and grab a skim cappuccino!”

—Clare McHugh, editor-in-chief

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The 10 Healthiest Places to Live in America

If you’re looking for a fresh start somewhere you can finally focus on your health, consider a move to Highlands Ranch, Colorado. The bedroom community outside Denver is the healthiest town in America, according to MONEY. 

As part of its annual “Best Places to Live” report (which this year focused on small cities), MONEY ranked the healthiest locales in the U.S. based on a range of factors, including access to medical care, rates of common diseases, and the residents’ own assessments of their personal health. 

For anyone who wants to prioritize fitness, eating right, and aging well, it certainly can’t hurt to live in a place where healthy values are woven into the local culture. Check out the list below to see some of the communities that do this best. (For the full list of MONEY’s “Best Places to Live in 2016," click here.)

RELATED: The Best Places to Live If You Love Outdoor Sports

10. St. Augustine, FL

The Sunshine State appears to do the heart good: People who live in this coastal town—as well as other communities throughout Florida—die less frequently from heart disease compared to folks in other cities and states.

9. San Rafael, CA

California should win a medal for its low rates of adult obesity. For now this Marin County town ranks as the 9th healthiest place to live on MONEY’s list.

8. Provo, UT

The state of Utah possesses the lowest rate of childhood obesity nationally. It’s a good bet families in Provo love to play outdoors.

7. Cheyenne, WY

Diabetes is relatively rare among people who live in the High Plains of Wyoming, including the residents of the state’s most populous town. 

6. Nashua, NH

People in Nashua feel healthy, which counts for a lot. MONEY reports that the percentage of Nashua residents who consider themselves in "good or excellent” health is the highest of any city studied by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

5. Quincy, MA

Massachusetts has the fewest diabetes-related deaths nationwide, which helped land this Boston suburb in fifth place on MONEY’s list.

RELATED: The 50 Most Gorgeous Running Races in America, State-by-State

4. Woodbury, MN

When it comes to heat health, Minnesotans are way above average. They have the lowest rate of cardiovascular disease in the U.S., which is one reason this St. Paul suburb is such a healthy place to live.

3. Greenwich, CT

Greenwich is a good place to have an emergency: It ranks third on this list thanks, in part, to the high number of hospitals within a 15-mile radius.

2. Koolaupoko, HI

In Koolaupoko and other Hawaii towns, cancer deaths are among the lowest in the nation.

1. Highlands Ranch, CO

With the lowest adult obesity rate in the country, Highlands Ranch—a planned community about 15 miles south of downtown Denver—nabbed first place as the country’s healthiest place to live.

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Excessive Internet Use May Signal Other Mental Health Issues

Young adults who spend excessive amounts of time online may have higher rates of depression, anxiety, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new Canadian study. The research also suggests that Internet addiction may be widely under-reported, and that commonly accepted diagnostic criteria may need to be revised to keep up with the changing role of the Internet in our lives.

The study, presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ECNP) conference in Vienna, used two scales to evaluate Internet use: the commonly used and globally accepted Internet Addiction Test (IAT), and a newer scale designed by the authors.

The IAT was developed in 1998, before smartphones and tablets were such a prevalent part of society. “In addition, Internet use has changed radically over the last 18 years, through more people working online, media streaming, social media, etc.,” said lead author Michael Van Ameringen, MD, in a press release. Dr. Van Ameringen is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University.

RELATED: Parenting Against the Internet

“We were concerned that the IAT questionnaire may not have been picking up on problematic modern internet use,” he added, “or showing up false positives for people who were simply using the Internet rather than being over-reliant on it.”

So Dr. Van Ameringen and his colleagues recruited 254 college students and tested them for Internet addiction using both scales. They also asked the participants about their overall mental health and well-being.

According to the IAT, only 33 students met the criteria for Internet addiction. Based on the authors’ new questionnaire, however, 107 students—more than 40 percent—were considered to have problematic or addictive Internet use. (The latter number is closer to the results of another recent study, in which half of teens said they felt “addicted” to technology.) 

And when the researchers looked at how the Internet addicts by either set of criteria compared to the “normal” web users in several areas of mental health, they made some strong connections.

RELATED: Is Your Teen Suffering From an Internet Addiction?

“We found that those screening positive, on the IAT as well as on our scale, had significantly more trouble dealing with their day-to-day activities, including life at home, at work/school and in social settings,” Dr. Van Ameringen said. People with Internet addiction also had higher rates of depression and anxiety symptoms, problems with planning and time management, and higher levels of attentional impulsivity and ADHD symptoms.

“This leads us to a couple of questions,” said Dr. Van Ameringen: “Firstly, are we grossly underestimating the prevalence of Internet addiction and, secondly, are these other mental health issues a cause or consequence of this excessive reliance on the Internet?”

Larger clinical trials are needed to answer these questions, said Jan Buitelaar, MD, PhD, a member of an ECNP advisory panel on child and adolescent disorders, in the press release. But what’s clear, he added, is that large amounts of time spent online may disguise mild or severe mental health problems.

“Excessive use of the internet is an understudied phenomenon,” said Dr. Buitelaar, who is a professor of psychiatry at Radboud University in the Netherlands but was not involved in the study, adding that it “may be strongly linked to compulsive behaviour and addiction.”

RELATED: How the Internet Is Changing the Way We Think

The researchers hope that their research one day helps mental health professionals diagnose and treat patients more accurately and effectively. For example, therapists may need to keep in mind that unhealthy Internet behavior may be triggered by another condition, or vice versa.

“If you are trying to treat someone for an addiction when in fact they are anxious and depressed, then you may be going down the wrong route,” says Dr. Van Ameringen.

Of course, this isn’t the first time that excessive use of technology has been linked to emotional problems. Another recent study on college students—a group that’s known for its near-constant digital connectedness—found that problematic cell-phone use was associated with lower levels of trust, and higher levels of alienation, within students’ family and social networks. In fact, the researcher suggested that using phones to surf the Web and use social media—rather than text or talk directly with personal connections—could be, at least partially, to blame.

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Antibiotics Are Still Overused in Hospitals

As the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) meets in New York this week, one of the topics the global leaders will discuss is antibiotic overuse and the growing problem of microbes—so-called superbugs—that are resistant to the current antibiotics available today.

It’s only one of a handful of times the UNGA has discussed a health issue, but the growing problem is concerning enough that some leaders see it as a threat to economic and social stability.

The problem is a familiar one, but the challenge is to find ways to address it. In a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers highlight just how daunting that challenge is.

In the first and most comprehensive look at how hospitals in the U.S. use antibiotics, the scientists report that between 2006 and 2012, rates of antibiotic use haven’t changed much among more than 300 hospitals, despite the fact that awareness of antibiotic resistance was emerging during that time, especially in the form of resistant bugs such as C. difficile and S. aureus. Each year in the U.S., two million people are infected with bacteria that can’t be treated with existing antibiotics, and 23,000 of them die.

“This is the first time we have national estimates for what is going on in hospitals,” says Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, associate director of health care associated infection prevention programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the co-authors of the study.

And what the data is showing is disturbing. The fact that use of antibiotics remains the same and isn’t declining is concerning enough, since it hints that doctors are still prescribing drugs at the same rate as they have in the past, despite recent studies showing that many prescriptions aren’t necessary and are for the wrong types of infections for which antibiotics don’t work.

Even more worrisome, the study found that the types of antibiotics being used more often are the third and fourth generation drugs that are typically considered last resort medications to treat infections resistant to other classes of antibiotics. Use of older antibiotics went down during the study period while prescriptions of newer, broad spectrum antibiotics increased anywhere from three times to 18 times, depending on the class.

The study didn’t analyze why these drugs were being prescribed more, but one reason could be that doctors are trying to treat more difficult infections that won’t respond to the older drugs. “We now know what the problem is: use of the these agents has gone up. The question now is, ‘Why?’” says Srinivasan of the last-resort antibiotics. “How much of the increase in use is because doctors are treating harder-to-treat infections? How much is fear of a hard-to-treat infection that isn’t actually there? How much is even misunderstanding that they’ve heard of resistant infections, and think they need to use a stronger drug, but don’t actually need to?”

Those answers will have to come from future research, he says, as well as more detailed information on how recently adopted efforts to control overuse of antibiotics are working. Since the study ended in 2012, more intensive programs to regulate doctors who prescribe antibiotics, as well as monitor hospital use of the drugs, have been in put in place around the country. New guidelines for helping hospitals and doctors adopt more stringent antibiotic practices have also been available, and new calls for stronger stewardship from the government, including a National Action Plan and a White House summit, have also raised awareness and accountability surrounding the issue.

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6 Weird Things That Can Mess With Your Memory

The most comprehensive study yet shows that antibiotic use hasn’t changed in hospitals, despite recent warnings that they drugs are overprescribed.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Why Is Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Spreading at Florida State University?

A viral infection known as hand, foot, and mouth disease is sickening students at Florida State University and other schools around the country. The illness—which spreads through contact with bodily fluids or contaminated surfaces—can cause a rash, fever, blisters in and around the mouth, and painful sores on the hands, feet, and buttocks.

Hand, foot, and mouth disease is usually seen in young children, and outbreaks are often linked to daycare centers. But in the last month, it’s been reported at high schools in Indiana, Vermont, and New Jersey.

The University of Colorado at Boulder also experienced several cases on campus in August. And NBC News reports Florida State University (FSU) has seen 22 cases so far this semester.

While hand, foot, and mouth disease can sound—and look—scary, it’s not usually dangerous, says Nadia Qureshi, MD, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Loyola Medicine in Maywood, Illinois. It can be quite uncomfortable, though, and usually lasts five to seven days. There’s no cure and no vaccine to prevent it, so the best treatment is staying hydrated and taking over-the-counter medicine for pain and fever.

The most common cause of hand, foot, and mouth disease is the coxsackievirus, which spreads just like the common cold or flu. Dr. Qureshi says that outbreaks among older children and adults are rare, but not entirely surprising.

“In the past couple of years we’ve seen a new strain of the virus that causes a more severe and more atypical presentation of symptoms, and it does affect children as well as adults,” she says. “And a college dorm is the perfect place for it to spread: People are touching doorknobs, sharing things, living in close proximity to each other, and it’s easy to pass the infection back and forth.”

RELATED: Health Hazards in College Dorms

The new strain, a natural evolution of the virus, tends to cause a more widespread rash and more painful blisters. But even this form rarely requires medical intervention, except in the case of very young children who have trouble swallowing because of painful blisters in their mouths. In very rare cases, says Dr. Qureshi, the coxsackievirus has been linked to serious brain or heart complications.

According to WCTU TV, FSU administration has speculated that the outbreak may be due to a sewage spill during the recent Hurricane Hermine, or to a related electricity outage that prohibited laundry from being done and allowed germs to spread. 

To help prevent new cases, FSU is sanitizing all public spaces on campus, and has advised all living facilities on campus to sanitize their residences, as well. They’ve also encouraged frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizers. (CU Boulder also warned students working in science labs that the coxsackievirus can be especially harmful to rodents, and urges them to take “extra care not to spread the disease.”)

Those are smart steps, says Dr. Qureshi. “If you want to avoid it, the most important thing to do is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water, avoid touching your face and your mouth as much as possible, and avoid close contact with someone who has it,” she says. People who’ve had hand, foot, and mouth disease as children don’t seem to have much immunity to the virus, she adds, especially to this relatively new strain.

RELATED: 6 Health Hacks Every College Freshman Should Know

People can continue to transmit the virus for several weeks after their symptoms are gone, she says, but only through saliva or fecal matter. “If you practice basic good hygiene and you no longer have a fever, you should be fine,” she says. “Just stay away from kissing and sharing cups for a while.”

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

How Posting on Facebook Affects Your Memory

Posting about personal experiences on social media makes them easier to remember in the future, finds a new study—and no, it’s not just because Facebook reminds you of them every year.

Scientists have long known that writing down, talking about, or otherwise reflecting on events can help people recall them later. And one might assume that posting about them on social media sites—such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or a personal blog—could have similar, positive effects, the study authors wrote in the journal Memory.

But social media posts could have an opposite effect, as well: Research has also shown that when we become used to having information digitally available at all times, we tend to become reliant on the Internet and forget details more easily. “Accordingly, many of our life details may no longer need to be internally stored and retrieved if we know that we can later refer to our online journals to locate the information,” they wrote.

So the researchers set out to see which of these theories was true, in the first study to look at the effects of social media on memory.

First, they asked 66 Cornell undergraduates to keep a daily diary for a week. In the diary, they briefly described the events that happened to them each day outside of their normal routines. They were also asked to record whether they had posted about each of these events on social media, and to rate their personal importance and emotional intensity.

At the end of the week and again a week later, the students were given a surprise quiz to see how many events they could recall. During both quizzes, events the students had posted about online were easier for them to remember. This was true even when the researchers controlled for importance or intensity of the event; in other words, people weren’t simply posting about significant events they’d be more likely to remember anyway.

“If people want to remember personal experiences, the best way is to put them online,” said lead author Qi Wang, PhD, professor of human development in Cornell University’s College of Human Ecology, in a press release. All types of social media provide an important outlet for sharing experiences with others, she added, which can be an important part of the memory-building process.

“The process of writing about one’s experiences in the public sphere, often sustained by subsequent social feedback, may allow people to reflect on the experiences and their personal relevance,” the authors wrote.

The study also noted that sharing personal perspectives of recent events on social media also helps people create and shape their “sense of self.”

“That’s happening when we use social media, without us even noticing it,” Wang explained. “We just think, ‘Oh, I’m sharing my experience with my friends.’ But by shaping the way we remember our experiences, it’s also shaping who we are.” Features that allow you to look back at memories from the past—like Facebook’s On this Day feature or the third-party Timehop app—can help reinforce that sense of self, she said.

“Memory is often selective,” Wang said. “But in this case, the selection is not done by our own mind; it’s done by an outside resource. So interactive functions on social networking sites can also shape how we view our experiences, how we view ourselves.”

In fact, the authors write, the “virtual externalization of personal memories has become commonplace” in this technology-driven age. And their study, they say, is “the first step toward a better understanding of the autobiographical self in the Internet era.”

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Saturday, September 10, 2016

5 Things Everyone Should Know About Brain Tumors

Earlier this summer, retired U.S. soccer player Lauren Holiday was sailing through her first pregnancy when suddenly, she began experiencing painful headaches. An MRI revealed a tumor on the right side of the 28-year-old’s brain near her orbital socket, the Times-Picayunereports

Fortunately, the two-time Olympic gold medalist's growth is benign, operable, and not a risk to Holiday’s unborn daughter. She’s scheduled to have the tumor removed about six weeks after her delivery.

Though Holiday has a positive prognosis, her story is still scary because she’s young and otherwise healthy—elite-athlete-level healthy. But next time you get a piercing headache, don’t jump to any conclusions. The ones brought on by brain tumors aren't aren’t your average headaches, says John G. Golfinos, MD, chair of the department of neurosurgery and co-director of the Brain Tumor Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. They're persistent, and tend to be worse in the morning and improve throughout the day. “That’s because when people are lying flat, the pressure in the skull and brain goes up, and during the day some of the pressure starts to go away,” he explains. What’s more, brain tumor headaches are often associated with nausea and vomiting.

More good news: brain tumors are pretty rare. You have just a 1% chance of developing a malignant brain tumor in your lifetime, according to the American Cancer Society. 

Here, Dr. Golfinos reveals more facts to know about brain tumors: 

Not all brain tumors are cancerous

“There’s a whole spectrum and range of outcomes for brain tumors,” says Dr. Golfinos. As in Holiday’s case, some are benign, “which means they grow very slowly in the brain or just outside the brain,” he explains. Others are malignant, grow very quickly, and are incurable.

RELATED: Early Signs of Stroke You Need to Know—Even If You’re Young

Even benign tumors can cause major issues

The reason brain tumors can be so risky is that the skull is a thick, confined space: “So anything that grows inside or just outside the brain can take up a lot of room and press on important parts of the brain, causing a lot of problems,” he says. “That’s why we say with brain tumors, it’s not just what type of tumor is it, but where is it.”

The problems can include loss of vision, difficulties with speech, issues understanding language, or weakness on one side of the body. Symptoms can be subtle in the beginning, especially if they’re caused by a benign, slow-growing tumor, says Dr. Golfinos. But if you notice any of those changes, it’s a good idea to see your doctor.

RELATED: 5 Times You Really, Seriously Need to Go to the ER

Brain tumors can’t escape your skull

Brain tumors are unique in that they can’t spread to other organs, since they don’t have the same access to the blood stream that tumors in other parts of the body do, says Dr. Golfinos. “The brain itself is a very privileged part of the body,” he notes. “It’s good at keeping things out, but also good at keeping things in.”

Your phone won’t cause a tumor

You may have heard the myth that constantly talking on your cell causes cancer. According to Dr. Golfinos, you have nothing to worry about, since there’s no good evidence to suggest this is true. The reality, he says, is that “[w]e really don’t understand what causes brain tumors.”

RELATED: 4 Health Rumors You Seriously Need to Stop Believing

You can’t prevent tumors from developing

“Many people ask me if there’s anything they can do to avoid brain tumors,” says Dr. Golfinos. “And right now the answer to that is ‘no.’” That said, to play it safe, Dr. Golfinos recommends avoiding exposure to excess radiation whenever possible (by opting for an MRI over a CT scan for example), especially for anyone under the age of 18. 

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Health Apps Really Do Help People Exercise More, Eat Better, Study Finds

If you’re in the habit of checking your phone regularly, take note: It could actually improve your health, if you start using the right apps.

A new review of research on technology, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that people who take advantage of support and programs on smartphones or the internet are more likely to eat better, exercise more, and engage in other behaviors linked to health and longevity.

“Here we have the convenience of all these apps so you can exercise or you can eat healthier or quit smoking,” says Martha Daviglus, MD, PhD, a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, who was not involved in the study. And even if the change isn’t pronounced, “it’s better to lose a few pounds than to lose none or to even increase your weight,” Dr. Daviglus adds.

The authors of the new review paper evaluated more than 200 studies that had looked at the effect of different technologies on diet, exercise, weight, and tobacco and alcohol consumption. All of these factors play an enormous role in our risk for many diseases, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, conditions which are almost as widespread today as cell phones. 

RELATED: Heart Attack Signs Every Woman Should Know

In the new review study, the most common types of technology were apps, text, or voice messages and automated voice response systems. The review included research done over the past 23 years (so many of these technologies are now outdated). Overall, technology—new or old—had a positive effect on behaviors that influence health.

The quality of the studies varied, however, as did the magnitude of the effects. For instance, tech interventions could add as little as 1.5 minutes to your weekly exercise routine, or as much as 153 minutes. Only two of seven studies looking at quitting smoking found benefits. 

Programs that proved most effective were those that incorporated goal setting and self-monitoring (such as recording how much you ate or weighed), and those that involved multiple forms of communication (like personal counseling and texts) and which carried individualized messages. The program which increased weekly physical activity by 153 minutes a week, for instance, sent customized motivational messages. 

The technology was also more effective when paired with good old patient-doctor or patient-healthcare provider communication. 

RELATED: These 3 Apps Help You Meditate on the Go

Most of the studies were very short-term, making it hard to know if they would be effective over the long time periods usually needed to make serious lifestyle changes. "They couldn’t demonstrate if this really could work more than one year or only because it’s the novelty, that people decide to try it and they get bored,“ says Dr. Daviglus, who is also a professor of medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

The participants in the 224 studies also tended to be high on the motivation scale, one of many different factors likely to play into the success of any app or text or voice messaging system. "You can tell a 45-year-old who is otherwise healthy and is a smoker that smoking is bad for you and he will continue smoking,” says Jeffrey Goldberger, MD chief of the cardiovascular division at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “That 45-year-old comes into the hospital with a heart attack and all of a sudden their motivation to stop smoking changes.”

RELATED: How Much Exercise Do You Really Need to Protect Against Disease?

These days, though, there’s likely to be an app to motivate you whoever you are. "With the new technology today, you cannot believe the things that we can do,“ says Dr. Daviglus. 

Look for programs that urge you to set goals, are tailored to who you are, and which make you accountable for your behavior by recording what you eat or how many steps you take. It’s worth asking your doctor for recommendations, too. She may be able to suggest apps that work best for your health needs.

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Friday, September 9, 2016

The Secret to Happiness, According to Yoga

“How is yoga meaningful beyond its poses? How can we practice yoga beyond the physical experience?” asks yoga teacher and blogger Rebecca Pacheco in her new book, Do Your Om Thing: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life ($17; “What do we need to know to get the most out of our yoga, and by extension, our lives?” In this excerpt, she explains the yogic approach to happiness, and how to make it work for you.

I’m not sure who said, “Happiness is an inside job,” but it’s a great thing to remember as a yogi. According to yoga philosophy, santosha, which means contentment, is a form of self-discipline. In other words, happiness is a skill and practice. Happier people do not have easier lives, with less hard work, grief, divorce, or financial strain than the rest of us. They’re simply more grateful for what they have and choose to be conscious of their contentment more often.

Modern yogis view yoga as a process of self-improvement. We do yoga so that we can get better at it. Gain greater flexibility. Become a kinder or more patient person. Excel at sports. Look better naked. The list goes on. In all the years I’ve practiced and taught yoga, I have never heard someone walk into a class and pronounce, “I’m here because I’m totally content with my life, body, and world view. There’s nothing I seek to change or improve. I just want to learn how to do yoga, for fun.” Never.

RELATED: Yoga Poses for Less Stress and Better Sleep

It’s not that seeking self-improvement is bad. It’s fantastic. The trick is to remember to enjoy the process. If we continually seek betterment, without a genuine appreciation for the present and “whatever fate may bring,” we run the risk of missing the entire essence of yoga and, quite frankly, life. There is no fancy pose, enlightened style of yoga, venerable guru, or brilliant book that can manufacture or deliver your happiness. It comes from within you, and finding it is a different process for everyone.

When I demonstrate challenging yoga poses for my students, I often joke that no matter how impressive, graceful, or fun a yoga pose looks, it cannot change the quality of their lives in any major way. Performing a headstand won’t save someone from getting a parking ticket, losing a job, or getting dumped. Meanwhile, the learning process, attention level, and attitude of the pose can have a positive compounding effect on the rest of our lives. Whenever you catch yourself hungry for the look and flash of an elaborate posture, remember your higher mission. Ask yourself if you’re enjoying the process, not just flinging yourself toward an idealized destination.

RELATED: 8 Tips for Leaving Yoga Class Totally Relaxed

When we forget that happiness is an inside job and look for validation externally—the house, car, or outfit—we will always end up disappointed. The house will never be big enough, car new enough, outfit in season enough. We’ll lose the bigger picture of the process and fixate on the small stuff. Selfish stuff. Ego stuff. Want to know the shortest, most direct route out of ego? The opposite of the obnoxious voice in your head that says: what about me? It’s santosha. It’s gratitude. It’s the skill of taking yourself out of the tailspin of scarcity and reconnecting to contentment. Because as soon as you put yourself in a state of gratitude (for anything, however small) you can no longer operate from ego. The two are polar opposites. The practice of santosha removes us from the rat race and rests us in a gentle hammock of gratitude for a little while. Ahhhh. Doesn’t that feel better?

Do Your Om Thing: Notice Contentment

  • Keep a gratitude journal in which you write one to three things each day for which you are grateful. They can be incredibly small and ordinary: a warm house, someone who held the door, an email that made you LOL. Review the list before bed. Notice how this makes you feel.
  • Think of someone in your life who seems to be deeply content. What do you think they might do to achieve that contentment?
  • To unhook from a feeling of discontentment or ego, a funk or feeling of scarcity, Judith Lasater, cofounder of Yoga Journal and author of Living Your Yoga, recommends using the mantra: How should it be? Notice how your response to this question is an expectation. Not reality. If we are discontented with reality every time it does not go as planned, we lose the skill and gift of santosha.

Excerpted from the book DO YOUR OM THING: Bending Yoga Tradition to Fit Your Modern Life by Rebecca Pacheco. Copyright 2016 by Rebecca Pacheco. Reprinted with permission of Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. New York, NY. All rights reserved.

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A New Cancer Immunotherapy Leads to Remissions

In a small new study published inScience Translational Medicine, researchers who are pioneering an immune-based treatment for cancer report encouraging results among people with otherwise untreatable non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer.

Led by Dr. Cameron Turtle from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, the scientists gave a group of 32 people different chemotherapy regimens and then introduced immune cells specifically designed to target and destroy cancer cells. All of the patients had been given at least one traditional treatment, including some who had had stem cell transplants, but none had good responses to these approaches. After the immunotherapy, however, seven people in one treatment group went into complete remission, while another four saw their disease progress more slowly.

The treatment, called CAR-T cell therapy, is targeted toward blood cancers, where doctors can eliminate cancer cells and replace them with healthy blood and immune cells. The strategy hinges on two important steps. First, doctors need to remove as much of a patient’s cancer-ridden blood cells as possible — they do that with chemotherapy — in order to make room for a new population of healthy blood and immune cells. If too many of the cancer cells remain, then they could outcompete the new cells and simply destroy them. To ensure that doesn’t happen, Turtle and his team tested a two-drug chemotherapy regimen and compared it to a single drug chemo strategy. Those getting the combination showed the best results, amounting to a 64% complete remission rate; by comparison, only one of the people getting the single chemotherapy agent went into complete remission (an 8% rate).

Next, the researchers need to re-introduce the right amount of the right immune cells that can fight cancer. Known as T cells, these contain specific receptors that allow some of them to recognize and bind to cancer cells and others to destroy them. To enhance the potency of the therapy, the scientists coaxed these cells to grow in the lab and genetically engineered them to express the tumor-specific receptor. The idea is to then reintroduce these cells back into patients and give them new, healthy blood cells that are cancer-free.

The results mirror those that the same researchers found among patients with other types of blood cell, or B-cell cancers, but are particularly encouraging since previous immunotherapy strategies haven’t been as robust when applied to non Hodgkin lymphoma. The trial provides additional support for the idea that immune cells can be properly trained to recognize and destroy cancer — in this case, with the help of genetically manipulated T cells. The results show that doctors can indeed tip the scales in favor of having the body fight cancer in much the same way it tackles pathogens like bacteria and viruses.

The results also provide much-needed information on how to optimize the strategy for different types of cancer. These findings suggest, for example, that for harder to treat non Hodgkin lymphoma, a combination chemotherapy to eliminate as much of the existing cancer as possible, before the immune cells are re-introduced, might be the key to helping more patients with the condition to slow the progression of their disease or even achieve remission.

While effective, the therapy also comes with a down side. Because the T cells are agents of destruction, they can trigger adverse effects such as fever and inflammation as they tackle the cancerous cells. Twenty of the 32 people in the trial developed signs of inflammation and low blood pressure, with four people getting severe enough symptoms that they required time in the intensive care unit and treatment with steroids. Two people also developed toxic effects from the treatment that resulted in tremor or language problems, but these were reversible. Two people given the highest dose of the T cell therapy died; one of bleeding and another from bleeding due to an intestinal mass.

The scientists are hopeful. however, that more studies will help them figure out the right chemotherapy regimen and the right dose of T cells to achieve the best results with the least adverse effects. “We’re very encouraged by these responses,” says Dr. Stanley Riddell, one of the co-authors from Fred Hutchinson. “These patients all failed conventional therapies; we were treating patients who didn’t have very many options for treatments. Obviously it’s still early days, and we need longer follow up and need to understand more about when in the patient’s disease course is the best time to use this kind of therapy, but we certainly think it’s encouraging.”

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Toxic Air Pollution Can Penetrate the Brain: Study

A toxic particle found in polluted urban areas can infiltrate the brain, potentially contributing to degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, according to new research.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds to growing evidence showing how even low levels of air pollution harm human health. Many previous studies have shown how pollution adversely affects the cardiovascular system, causing lung and heart disease. But scientists are increasingly realizing that the effects could extend to other areas like the brain and pregnancy.

Researchers behind the study found that the pollutant magnetite enters the brain through the olfactory nerve, the same fiber that connects the nose with the brain and allows for smell. Magnetite is one pollutant found in particulate matter, a mix of different of a variety of different tiny particles that make up pollution, that pervades many urban areas.

RELATEDWorst Smog in Years Hits Southern California

Air pollution remains a top global health threat despite decades of efforts to stop it. Recent research from the World Health Organization (WHO) found that more than 80% of the world’s urban population lives in areas where air quality regularly fails health standards. Several studies have shown that air pollution contributes to millions of premature deaths annually.

The problem has been particularly acute in developing countries like China and India where cities are often coated in a layer of smog. But recent research has shown how air pollution even in comparatively clean cities in the United States and Europe continues to cause health problems—largely due to the prevalence of diesel vehicles—despite government initiatives to address it. Nearly 6,500 people die early each year in the U.S. due to air pollution. In the United Kingdom, that number totals around 40,000.

RELATEDPreterm Births Linked to Air Pollution Cost Billions in the U.S.

The study’s researchers found high levels of magnetite in tissue from the brains of 37 people who had lived in two polluted urban areas—Mexico City and Manchester. The particles appeared in a different shape than naturally occurring magnetite and were coupled to other similar metals.

Previous research has shown a strong correlation between the rates of exposure to particulate matter. The new research suggests a potential mechanism to explain how the pollution could cause the disease, but determine the precise nature of potential link will require further study.

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What Your Phone Type Says About Your Personality

Your choice of smartphone may affect what other people think of you—and say something about your own personality, as well. In a study presented last week at the British Psychological Society Social Psychology Section annual conference, participants viewed Android users as having greater levels of honesty, humility, agreeableness, and openness than iPhone users. They were also seen as less extroverted.

When the researchers performed personality assessments on both Android and iPhone users, most of these perceptions did not hold true. Android users did, however, rank higher in honesty and humility.

The study was led by Heather Shaw, a psychology doctoral student at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom. Shaw notes that while Android and iPhones account for more than 95 percent of all smartphones sold worldwide, individual differences between the two types of consumers have never been studied in this way. That’s surprising, she says, considering how much research there is on how other purchasing decisions can predict personality traits.

She and her colleagues performed two experiments, first asking 240 participants to answer questions about characteristics they associated with users of each smartphone brand. Then, they analyzed personality questionnaires from 530 Android and iPhone users to see if those stereotypes held up.

In addition to the differences in honesty and humility, the researchers found that women were twice as likely as men to choose an iPhone over an Android. People who scored high on “avoidance of similarity”—meaning that they don’t like having the same products as others—were more likely to have an Android, while people who thought it was more important to have a high-status phone were more likely to choose iPhones.

Shaw says she wasn’t surprised to find such differences between the two groups. “iPhone and Android smartphones have different apps, technical specs, and functionalities, which appeal respectively to the users of each smartphone brand due to their personality,” she says. She also says it’s possible that people start to embody the semantics and characteristics of the technologies they own. "So if you buy an iPhone, over time you might start acting like a typical iPhone users.“

Brand choice is the most basic level of smartphone personalization, Shaw says, and her study shows that even this can hold clues as to a user’s personality. There are also plenty of other ways users can customize their smartphones—with colors, cases, photos, and music, for example. “Many of us don’t like it when other people use our phones because it can reveal so much about us,” she points out.

Further research could explore other ways that smartphones can hint at important details about their users—like, for example, studying the specific apps people download. “It is becoming more and more apparent that smartphones are becoming a mini digital version of the user,” she says—a fact that could have implications in the fields of psychology, marketing, user privacy, and more.

Shaw adds, though, that it’s still not fair to assume anything about a person based solely on their smartphone choice. "Humans are very complex, and you can never truly understand what a person is like from one piece of information alone,” she says.

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

How You Feel About Your Body May Be Genetic, Especially If You’re a Woman

Can our genes make us feel fat? That’s the question asked by University of Colorado Boulder researchers in a new study that examines the extent to which our “weight identity” is ingrained in our DNA. They estimate that perceived weight status is 47 percent heritable, and that genetic influences seem to be particularly strong for women.

Previous research, the study authors note, has suggested that traits like perceived well-being may be due, in large part, to genetic variation. How a person views their health in relation to genetics, however, has rarely been considered. “This study is the first to show that genes may influence how people feel about their weight,” says doctoral student and lead author Robbee Wedow.

RELATED: The Common Habit That Could Totally Warp Your Body Image

Wedow and his colleagues looked at data from more than 700 pairs of twins (identical and fraternal) who answered questions about their health and body image five times between 1994 and 2008. During each follow-up visit, participants had their body mass index (BMI) measured and were asked how they felt about their own weight. Their answer choices included “very underweight,” “slightly underweight,” “about the right weight,” “slightly overweight,” and “very overweight.”

Studying twins allowed the researchers to tease out the influences of genetics, as opposed to social or environmental triggers, and to see how these influences differ between brothers and sisters who share many of the same genes.

When they crunched the numbers, they determined that how a person feels about their weight has a heritability of 47 percent. (In genetics research, heritability estimates range from zero to 100 percent—zero meaning that genes don’t contribute at all to a certain trait, and 100 meaning that they are the only contributing factor.)

What’s more, perceived weight status remained about 25 percent heritable even when changes in actual BMI were taken into account. “So this is truly connected to how people feel about their weight, even outside of physical changes,” says Wedow.

RELATED: Here’s What Facebook Stalking Is Doing to Your Body Image

This is important, say the study authors, because previous research has shown that how people feel about their bodies has a big effect on things like physical health and longevity.

“One’s own perception about his or her health is a gold standard measure—it predicts mortality better than anything else,” said co-author Jason Boardman, PhD, in a press release. “But those who are less flexible in assessing their changing health over time may be less likely than others to make significant efforts to improve and maintain their health.”

The study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, also found heritability to be much stronger in women than in men. “The extent to which genes influence weight identify is dependent on gender,” says Wedow. “We believe that the social environment surrounding weight norm differences between women and men likely have something to do with these heritable differences.”

RELATED: The Right Way to Talk to Your Kids About Weight

The researchers were not able to isolate specific genes that may be involved in weight identity, and cannot suggest any actionable advice as a result of their findings. But they are hopeful that their discovery helps fuel further understanding of the many complex reasons people feel the way they do about their bodies.

They also stress that “suggesting a role for genetics does not mean that identities do not and cannot change.” Even when there is a genetic connection to a particular behavior or trait, they say, a person’s upbringing, social environment, and lifestyle choices are still very important in shaping who he or she becomes.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Is There a Natural Solution for Motion Sickness?

Q: I get motion sickness, but meds make me zonked. Is there a natural solution?

A: There are a few home remedies many people find helpful, though the science is wishy-washy. One popular option is acupressure: Massage the underside of your wrist, about three fingers’ width from the wrist crease and right between the two tendons, for five seconds or so. Proponents of acupressure believe that stimulating this point helps alleviate nausea. You can also buy bracelets that are designed to apply pressure to that spot. Whether the method actually works is unclear (some studies suggest it does; others, not so much), but there’s no harm in testing it out.

RELATED: 19 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

Consuming ginger is another old trick. While you could eat the root raw, you may want to try a lozenge, supplement capsule (look for one that contains around 250 milligrams, and take it up to three times daily), or tea instead. Again, the research on whether ginger works is inconsistent, but it’s safe as long as you aren’t on any medications that interfere with blood clotting, such as aspirin or warfarin, since ginger can slow clotting.

If you don’t have these items on hand, try taking very slow, deep breaths until the motion sickness passes. Rapid and shallow breathing might make it worse. Sit closer to the front of the vehicle, whether it’s a car, plane or boat, and keep your eyes on the horizon if possible: A study in Plos One found that staring at the horizon at sea made people steadier than focusing on a point nearby. If all else fails, close your eyes and do your best to ride it out.

Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.

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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Many Antibacterial Soaps Are Now Banned: FDA

Certain ingredients that are common in antibacterial hand and body soaps are no longer allowed. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Friday that ingredients including triclosan and triclocarban—which have long raised safety concerns because they have been linked to hormone disruption, bacterial resistance, and even possibly liver cancer—will no longer be allowed.

The agency released its long-awaited final ruling on the issue, and said in a statement that companies can no longer market their antibacterial hand and body washes if they contained these ingredients. That’s because “manufacturers did not demonstrate that the ingredients are both safe for long-term daily use and more effective than plain soap and water in preventing illness and the spread of certain infections.”

The FDA says the rule is intended for products that require use with water, and does not include hand sanitizers or wipes. Some companies had preemptively begun removing the ingredients from their soaps due to public pressure and safety concerns.

In 2013, the FDA asked soap manufacturers to provide evidence on the safety and effectiveness of ingredients like triclosan and triclocarban after data suggested that they could increase risks for hormonal problems and bacterial resistance. If companies wanted to continue using these ingredients they had to prove that they worked better at reducing infections than products that didn’t contain them. The FDA says companies did not provide adequate safety and effectiveness data for 19 different ingredients.

RELATEDThe Case Against Antibacterial Soap Is Getting Stronger

“Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water,” Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) said in a statement. “In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.”

You can read more about the FDA’s decision here.

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Friday, September 2, 2016

More Americans Are Using Marijuana and Don’t See it as Harmful

More Americans are using marijuana, and fewer people think that regularly doing so is harmful.

The new study shows that from 2002 to 2014, the number of American adults who used marijuana in the last year increased by 10 million and the number of people who used it daily increased by more than four million. More adults also started using marijuana for the first time. Yet there was not an increase in reported marijuana abuse or dependence.

The study, which was published in the The Lancet Psychiatry, surveyed over 50,000 adults between the years 2002 and 2014. Interestingly, the researchers also observed a drop—50% to 33%—in the number of people who thought that smoking marijuana once or twice a week was harmful.

The researchers note that the change in how people thought about and used marijuana happened in 2007. At that point, 12 states in the U.S. had legalized medical marijuana use. Policy changes may have impacted the number of people who use marijuana and how the public perceives it, the researchers argue.

“I hope my medical colleagues will start inquiring of their adult patients if they are using marijuana because it could interact with other medications or treatments,” says study author Dr. Wilson Compton of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “The fact that people are using it on a regular basis means the public health community needs to be paying attention.”

The study authors write that there should be prevention efforts to “target the reduction in perceived harm of using marijuana.” They add that heavy marijuana use was associated with unemployment, lower-than-average income, diminished life satisfaction and criminal behavior, though it wasn’t shown that marijuana caused those issues.

Other researchers are keen to study the effects of marijuana and argue that it’s safe and has much potential for medicinal uses, like for pain treatment, anxiety, Alzheimer’s disease and more.

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