Saturday, May 28, 2016

How Bad Is It to Have a Drink While on Antibiotics?

Q: Is it so terrible to have a glass of wine while on antibiotics?

With a few antibiotics in particular, it is a pretty big deal. Metronidazole, tinidazole, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole should never be mixed with any amount of alcohol because the combo can cause an unpleasant reaction, which may include headache, flushing, a rapid heartbeat, nausea, and vomiting. (FYI: Some cold medicines have alcohol in them, so read labels carefully.)

As for other antibiotics, sipping a small amount of alcohol generally won’t hamper their effectiveness, though some folks may find that the drugs’ usual side effects (upset stomach, dizziness, drowsiness) are enhanced by alcohol.

But there are legitimate reasons why many doctors often warn against mixing the two. If that one drinks turns into several, the excess alcohol can depress your immune system and leave you tired and dehydrated. So if you’re sick enough to need antibiotics, you’re not helping your chances of getting better quickly by downing a glass of wine. Sorry to be a buzzkill!

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

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Cell Phone-Cancer Link Seen in Rat Study

An important new study that has linked cell phone radiation to cancers in the brain and heart.

The new research was conducted on rats by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, which exposed rats to radiofrequency radiation that comes from cell phones for about nine hours a day for seven days a week. They found that the exposed rats were more likely to develop cancers, specifically malignant gliomas—a tumor of glial cells in the brain—and tumors in the heart.

The study was reviewed by experts at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the authors say more research on the link will emerge in the next couple years. There are some important caveats to the new report. A study in rats is never directly translational to humans. It does, however, give researchers evidence that can lead to further research on the impact cell-phone radiation has on people. The findings were also most statistically significant for male rats.

Other research has seen a link between cell phones and cancer, though research overall remains limited. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified cell phone use and other radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as a possible carcinogen in 2011. “This study in mice and rats is under review by additional experts,” the NIH said in a statement about the findings. “It is important to note that previous human, observational data collected in earlier, large-scale population-based studies have found limited evidence of an increased risk for developing cancer from cell phone use.”

Other studies have produced conflicting results. One cohort study in Denmark looked at billing information from 358,000 cell phone users and then compared it to brain-tumor data from a national cancer registry. That study did not find a link between the two. Another recent study published in May looked at incidence of brain cancer in Australia from 1982 to 2013 and did not find an uptick in cancer cases with the introduction of cells phones. Still, other government-funded studies have made connections between cell phones’ electromagnetic fields and changes in brain activity. And a June 2014 study found that radiation from cell phones can lower men’s sperm mobility by 8% and sperm viability by 9%.

The NIH says part of the reason research so far has been inconsistent is that there are various factors that can influence the results of a study. For instance, brain cancers are notoriously difficult to study due to their high mortality rates, and studies are also subject to issues like inaccurate reporting. There are also changes over time in the type of cell phones available as well as how much people use them.

The researchers say this new report is unlikely to be the final word on the possible risks of cell phone radiation, and more data from their research is anticipated to be released in fall 2017.

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Friday, May 27, 2016

What to Do If You Spot Blood in Your Poop

Q: I’ve been noticing blood in my poop. Should I be concerned?

I don’t want to alarm you, but you should have this checked out ASAP. How much blood have you been noticing, and what color? And is it mixed in with the stool or on top? These are details that will help your doctor pinpoint where the bleeding is coming from. If you spot bright red or maroon blood on the surface, you may have an anal fissure (a tiny tear), which can happen from passing large or hard stools. While they can be painful, the cuts are typically nothing to worry about and heal on their own within a few weeks. Anal fissures that don’t get better within six weeks may require medicine or surgery—but that’s pretty rare.

RELATED: Can’t Poop? Here’s Everything You Should Know About Constipation

Blood on your poop, or bleeding during or between bathroom runs, could also be a sign of hemorrhoids, which are swollen veins in your anus or rectum. You can develop them from a variety of causes, including straining when you go, constipation, or pregnancy, when there’s extra pressure on the veins. Often hemorrhoids can be made less troublesome with dietary tweaks, like drinking plenty of water and adding fiber to help soften stools. In the meantime, your doc may suggest using an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to help with the swelling and itchiness.

However, red or darker blood in the toilet or mixed in with the poop might indicate something more serious, such as colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The most common types of IBD are Crohn’s disease, which involves inflammation anywhere in your digestive tract, and ulcerative colitis (UC), in which the inflammation specifically affects the lining of the colon and rectum. IBD can also cause abdominal pain, fever, and weight loss when it flares up. Mild IBD symptoms can often be controlled by medication, combined with avoiding certain foods (including fatty and high-fiber kinds, as well as dairy), eating smaller and more frequent meals, drinking plenty of water, and exercising. In extreme cases, surgery or additional medications may be required.

RELATED: 15 Healthy-Eating Tips for Crohn’s Disease

Those with Crohn’s disease and UC are also at higher risk of developing colon cancer, which is why it’s important to bring up any blood in your number two with your doctor to figure out the reason behind it and start treating it as quickly as possible.

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

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3 Ways Your BFFs Can Improve Your Health

We give ourselves credit for plenty of things: nailing a project at work, making killer overnight oats, shaving our legs regularly (well, at least in warm weather). But there’s one thing women ought to take pride in more often, and that’s how much we rock at friendship. Whether single or married, 22 or 78, we know just how to cultivate, appreciate, and enjoy connections with our girls.

While the sexes may equally value friendship, we experience the bond on different levels. “Women tend to have more intimate friendships than men do,” says Irene S. Levine, PhD, clinical professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and author of Best Friends Forever. A 2015 study of social media profile photos published in Plos One confirmed what many of us have noticed: Guys gravitate toward larger, looser groups of casual buddies, while women prefer fewer besties, forming deeper and more time-consuming friendships. The researchers noted that this pattern is also evident in chimpanzees, suggesting that our pal style “may long predate the evolution of our species.”

But make no mistake—nurture plays a role, says Shasta Nelson, CEO of the friendship-matching site and author of Frientimacy. Girls are taught to be masters of positivity (think giving pep talks), consistency (making plans), and vulnerability (sharing emotions). “We live in a society that expects these skills of women,” points out Nelson, “so we’re more practiced at them.”

Not only are we amazing at friendship, but according to science, it’s good for us—both now and as we age. So next time you ditch your family for girls’ night out, tell them it’s medicinal. (Even though, sadly, insurance won’t reimburse you for the round of margaritas.)

RELATED: 21 Reasons You’ll Live Longer Than Your Friends

1. Friends are preventive medicine

It’s more than just your pal bringing over soup when you’re sick: Having good friends can help protect your body from stress. In a series of studies conducted at the University of Virginia, people were faced with the threat of getting an electric shock either while solo or while holding a friend’s hand. MRI scans revealed that in those clinging to a pal, the brain regions that sense danger were significantly less active.

Our besties may even provide a buffer against cancer. In an assessment of 2,835 women with breast cancer in the Nurses’ Health Study, those with no close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as the women with 10 or more close friends. Other research has shown that the more socially connected people are, the lower their blood pressure when they get older.

That well-being boost may translate to the ultimate payoff: a longer life. A meta-analysis of studies from Brigham Young University found that people with strong social relationships had a 50 percent greater chance of living longer than those with weaker ties. The researchers concluded that a lack of social interaction can pose as much of an early-death risk as smoking and alcoholism, and a higher risk than obesity and physical inactivity. There you go: yet more motivation to quit playing text tag and schedule that catch-up dinner.

RELATED: 10 Things to Say (and 10 Not to Say) to Someone With Depression

2. They protect your mood

Pals not only provide support, they can have Prozac-like powers, too. An English study revealed that people with depression doubled their chances of bouncing back if they had enough friends with “healthy mood.” Data from 4,739 people followed for 20 years in the renowned Framingham Heart Study demonstrated that those with positive peers were likely to become happy in the future. It pays to get out and have fun with a bunch of them, according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health: Women who have 10 or more friends to socialize with experience better psychological well-being in midlife than those who have fewer. There’s a reason Nelson refers to close friendships as “gyms for our souls.”

RELATED: Is There a Nice Way to Break Up With a Self-Involved Friend?

3. The right mates make you strong 

Not feeling your workout lately? Rope in a friend, ideally a really fit one. Doing physical activity with a companion who’s in top shape makes you go at it harder than if you exercised with a less in-shape one, per a study from Santa Clara University’s department of psychology. (Although your super-buff pal won’t reap added fitness benefits by working out with you, she will be racking up some serious karma points.)

It’s no wonder, then, that buddies are one another’s best weight watchers. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that when overweight people were grouped with friends or family as part of a weight-loss program, they lost 6 1⁄2 more pounds and shaved an extra 1 1⁄4 inches off their waists than those who just received info on diet and exercise. Why’s that? The study authors quote an African proverb: “If you wish to go fast, go alone. But if you wish to go far, go together.”

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New York Legislature Passes Bill to Eliminate the ‘Tampon Tax’

Early this year, the “tampon tax” made headlines when California legislator Cristina Garcia introduced an Assembly Bill to exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax. According to a press release from her office, California women coughed up $20 million annually in taxes for these products, despite them being, in Garcia’s words, a “basic necessity.” Yesterday, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo stated that New York State will no longer tax feminine hygiene products, a move that will take effect in the next sales-tax quarter.

Supporters of the bill maintain that tampons and other feminine hygiene products are necessities, and should be treated as other tax-free healthcare items.

Politico reports that the unanimous Senate vote only took “about one minute” on Monday before the bill headed to Governor Cuomo’s office. New York will join a handful of states that lifted the “luxury tax” on these items—a tax many (including President Barack Obama) have called sexist and unjustTen other states, including California, are considering similar legislation.

“Repealing this regressive and unfair tax on women is a matter of social and economic justice,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “I look forward to signing it into law.“

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How to Get Rid of a Muscle Knot

Q: What is a muscle knot, and can massages get rid of them?

It’s not entirely clear what causes muscle knots—but your muscles don’t literally get twisted and tied. Experts think that these muscle adhesions (also called myofascial trigger points) likely result from repeated tension and overuse in a specific area. Hot spots for tightness are the neck, shoulders, and back. Clenching your muscles out of stress or anxiety can create knots, or they can develop due to an injury, poor posture, or even long periods of inactivity.

RELATED: The Best Post-Workout Stretches

Massage is in fact one of the best ways to release the tension. If a pro massage isn’t an option, you can DIY it: Put firm pressure on the area, either by lying on a tennis or lacrosse ball or foam roller; hold for about a minute while taking deep breaths. Heating or cooling the area may also help ease the contraction and reduce any associated pain. Taking an OTC pain reliever can also help. If the discomfort won’t go away, check in with your doctor; she may recommend physical therapy. 

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

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Surgery Should Be An Option for Diabetics: Experts

New guidelines appearing in the journal Diabetes Care from a group of diabetes experts say that gastric bypass surgery, currently only considered as a way to treat obesity, should also be an option for people with type 2 diabetes, even if they don’t need to lose weight.

That conclusion is supported by the American Diabetes Association and 45 international medical societies, and represents a major shift in the way doctors think about the disease. While diabetes involves imbalances in hormones and metabolism, there’s enough evidence, the doctors say, that bariatric surgery, which involves shrinking the size of the stomach, can not only physically affect how much people eat but also how the body breaks down calories and metabolizes them as well.

RELATEDGastric Bypass Surgery Highly Effective in Treating Type 2 Diabetes

The new guidelines suggest that for most people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, if they don’t respond to existing therapies to control their blood sugar levels, bariatric surgery be discussed as an option for them, even if their BMIs are 30-35; currently doctors only consider the operation for weight loss for people with BMI greater than 35 if they also have other health problems such as high blood pressure or sleep apnea.

What the recommendations don’t provide, however, is a precise formula for when people with diabetes who have BMIs that fall between 30 and 35 should turn to surgery. For now, Francisco Rubino, professor of metabolic and bariatric surgery at King’s College London and one the lead authors of the guidelines, says that “surgery would almost never be a front line intervention for the disease,” meaning that people would have to try current therapies, including insulin and sugar-controlling medications, first. They should also try to adjust their diet and lifestyle as well, and only if those don’t work, then consider surgery.

RELATEDTeens Keep Pounds Off After Weight-Loss Surgery, Study Shows

But having surgery as an option, says Rubino, could go a long way toward helping doctors to rule out treatments that don’t work sooner. Until now, they would simply continue to increase the dose of anti-diabetes drugs since they didn’t have much else to give their patients. But now, they wouldn’t have to keep these people on medications and could consider surgery instead. Doctors will need to monitor people with diabetes who decide to get the operation, and not everyone with diabetes may be a candidate for surgery, but Rubino is convinced that more people with diabetes will be able to control their disease with the new recommendation.

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How to Fall Asleep Fast, According to 6 Health Editors

Sleep experts have tons of tricks to getting a better night’s rest: go easy on the caffeine and alcohol, take a warm bath before bed, keep the thermostat set low, ban TV and mobile phones from the bedroom, and so on. But for Health’s editors, the bedtime behaviors that help us fall sleep fast aren’t exactly scientifically proven—and in some cases, they’d make the experts cringe. But they work for us, and research shows we’re better off for it: the health benefits of sleep include sharper memory, lower stress, and lower risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Read on for our tried-and-true before-bed routines. 

Sip warm milk

“When I’m having trouble falling asleep, I go into the dark kitchen, heat up some milk and sip it in bed. The funny thing is we have published stories reporting that there is no good science to back up this folk remedy, so maybe it’s just placebo effect, but it always works for me.” —Lisa Lombardi, executive editor

Follow a specific routine

“I rarely have trouble falling asleep. I think it’s because I follow a pretty specific routine every evening to get relaxed and ready for bed. In the hours before bedtime, I often watch a little TV, but only comedies—I’ve found that high-stakes dramas and gory scenes from Game of Thrones stress me out and keep me up later than I’d like. When it’s time to head to bed, I wash my face and brush my teeth, and follow that up with my night cream, which is my one big beauty indulgence: Estée Lauder Resilience Lift Night ($86; The sweet floral scent helps tell my body it’s bedtime. After I get into bed, I read a book until I can no longer keep my eyes open, and then roll onto my left side to fall asleep. Yes, it HAS to be my left side—not sure why!” —Christine Mattheis, deputy editor

Sniff some lavender

“Lavender is my go-to scent when I want to relax and fall asleep fast. I am obsessed with my DW Relaxing Lavender Candle ($28; much so that I’ve burned through the 13-ounce jar…twice. I’ll usually have the candle burning while I’m getting my clothes and bag ready for the next day and then I will blow it out right before I get into bed (safety first!). The lingering scent helps me drift right off to sleep.” —Lindsey Murray, assistant editor

Stretch it out

“I used to be a terrible sleeper, but I’ve really worked on it over the last few years since I’ve learned how crucial good sleep is to overall health. I stretch for around 15 minutes (also working on my flexibility, another area that needs improvement!), and drink a magnesium supplement that helps relax me (Natural Calm, $25 for 16 oz.; After getting ready for bed, I put coconut oil on my face, then get into bed, set my Beddit sleep tracker ($80;, and read a book until I feel my eyes drooping. Then I smooch my husband and drift off.” —Beth Lipton, food director

Jot notes in a journal

“I have a 5 Year Diary ($12; that I write in every night before I go to bed. Every page in the book has five paragraph entries, so you can see what you were doing on that specific date five years in a row. There’s only enough space to write 3-5 sentences about your day, so it’s not as daunting as a traditional journal page might be. I started mine when I first moved to New York City three years ago, and I love looking back and seeing what I’ve done, who I’ve been with, and how drastically my life has changed. As you write and gather more entries, it’s a great way to gain perspective on your own life while also benefitting from the daily therapeutic benefits of journaling.” —MaryAnn Barone, social media editor 

Slip into a food coma 

“Experts may not approve of my approach to falling asleep, but it works for me. I eat small meals throughout the day, and I really look forward to a robust dinner around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. As soon as my tummy is full, I start getting sleepy. After I brush my teeth, I watch some TV on the couch. I find it really comforting to doze with the TV on if my boyfriend is still awake and actively watching it. If he’s not watching it with me, then I’ll turn the TV off and head to bed. I turn onto my stomach and usually fall asleep within 10 minutes or so.” —Janet Lawrence, senior video editor

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How to Tell If Your Obsession With Healthy Eating Has Gone Too Far

Q: How do I know if my obsession with healthy eating is normal?

Trying to be a generally healthy eater is, well, healthy. But the fact that you used the word obsession is a tip-off that you’ve possibly crossed the line between having a positive interest in nutrition and suffering from an obsessional behavior. There is a fine distinction between what’s normal and what’s not, but if your need to follow specific restrictive food rules interferes with your ability to socialize normally or affects your work or family life, then it’s no longer good for you and is considered to be orthorexia.

What is orthorexia? It’s a type of disordered eating in which the goal is not to achieve a certain physical appearance but to discipline yourself enough to eat only the types of foods that you’ve deemed healthy. Weight loss might happen, but it’s not the point. Symptoms include sticking to a rigid food regimen without having a medical reason to do so—maybe you follow a strict zero-sugar or raw-food diet—as well as avoiding major food groups and imposing numerous limitations on yourself about where and with whom you can eat. (You might, say, get overwhelmed by a last-minute invite to meet friends for appetizers because it will force you to eat food you didn’t cook yourself.)

RELATED: 20 Signs You’re Too Obsessed With Your Weight

Not sure if this is you? One good test is seeing whether you can break your eating rules. If you’re able to, from time to time, enjoy a food or drink that you typically consider an indulgence and then move on, I wouldn’t call your behavior an obsession so much as a lifestyle preference, and that’s perfectly fine. On the other hand, if you become wracked with stress, guilt and self-criticism at the thought of having some sort of food slipup, it’s a major red flag.

Orthorexia isn’t something to shrug off. While those with orthorexia may think they have a grasp of what nutritious eating means, they often don’t eat a diet that’s varied enough to provide the right nutrients, which can cause them to become malnourished and vitamin-deficient. As with other disordered eating (anorexia, bulimia), people even starve to death in the most extreme cases. They may also end up alienating friends and family because they’re constantly planning their lives around food.

RELATED: Subtle Signs of Eating Disorders

That’s why, if you’re at all concerned, I urge you to practice straying from your rules and not beating yourself up afterward. If you find it difficult, seek out a psychiatrist who specializes in eating disorders to help you get to the root of your behavior. (Many patients I’ve treated for orthorexia are actually dealing with obsessive compulsive disorder.) Having an open, honest conversation with an expert can help you develop a different understanding of what constitutes “healthy.”

Gail Saltz, MD, is a psychiatrist and television commentator in New York City who specializes in health, sex, and relationships.

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If You're Taking an Antidepressant for a Reason Besides Depression, You Should Read This

One in 10 Americans is taking an antidepressant, according to the latest stats from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But a new study suggests that depression may not be the only reason: Doctors are increasingly doling out prescriptions for antidepressants to treat other conditions—from sexual dysfunction to eating disorders—according to the research published in the journal JAMA.

The study analyzed more than 100,000 prescriptions for antidepressants written by 158 doctors in Quebec over the last decade. Of those scripts, 44.8% were written to treat a disorder that was not depression. And 29.4% of the drugs were given for an off-label indication. (For the purposes of this study, that meant the drug had not been approved by the FDA or Health Canada to treat the condition in question.)

RELATED: The Most Depressing Time of Year? Suicide Rates Spike in Spring

The researchers found that many of the off-label scripts were for insomnia (10.2%) and pain (6.1%). But doctors were also prescribing antidepressants for migraines, ADHD, digestive system disorders, and symptoms of menopause

“The problem isn’t with off-label [use] in general,“ says study co-author Jenna Wong, a PhD candidate at McGill University in Montreal. "For some antidepressants there is good documented research to show they can treat certain conditions. But there’s a problem when medications are used off label with no scientific evidence at all.” 

She points out that when your MD prescribes a drug, you assume it has been approved as a treatmentin other words, that it’s been through a regulatory process designed to help keep you safe. But clearly that’s not always the case.

An off-label treatment might not be inherently bad, but it does open you up to side effects—and it may not even help you feel better, says Wong. 

“For so many of these conditions, there aren’t really great medications known to be effective,” says Wu. "If a patient asks their doctor for something to relieve their symptoms, and are given an antidepressant, they should be aware that it may be off label.” 

​RELATED: Fish Oil Plus Antidepressants May Be One-Two Punch for Depression

The takeaway? It’s important to be involved in your care—even when you’re understandably eager to find a cure for what ails you. That doesn’t mean you need to dig into the scientific literature yourself. But ask your doctor questions—like why an antidepressant might be appropriate, what the research says about it. It’s up to doctors to scrutinize that kind of information, says Wong. Then, discuss the pros and cons of the drug with your provider. The technical term is “shared decision making,” and the idea is that together, you and your doc can come up with a plan that’s right for you.

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The Genetic Reason You're Drawn to Certain Guys

How many times have you gone on a blind date with a guy who seemed perfect on paper (i.e., according to his profile, or your matchmaking friend’s review)—but in person, your chemistry could only be described as … crickets? 

It could be your (or his) DNA, suggests a new study published in the journal Human Nature. Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, have discovered a connection between several genetic traits and attraction. 

For their study, they recruited 262 young, single Asian Americans to take part in a speed-dating scenario. After each three-minute “date,” the researchers asked the participants how desirable they found the other person to be, and whether they were interested in a second date. The researchers also examined the daters’ DNA.

RELATED: 20 Weird Facts About Sex and Love

What they found? Men with a gene variant linked to leadership and social dominance were considered more attractive; while women who had a gene variant linked to sensitivity were seen as more desirable.

In other words, “speed-daters were more attracted to men and women who had gene variants that were consistent with prevailing gender stereotypes,” explains lead author Karen Wu. (Though Wu and her team note that their experiment should be replicated to see if the results are consistent across cultures and ages.)

This isn’t the first time DNA and romance have been linked: A 2014 study published in the journal Scientific Reports found that carriers of a certain genotype were more likely to stay singleSo do findings like these mean we all have some sort of superhero gene-detecting ability?

Not quite, says Wu: “Speed-daters were most likely detecting the underlying genes through their partners’ behaviors during the date.“

​RELATED: 19 Ways Your Body Changes When You Fall in Love

But let’s be clear: No one is suggesting that you act delicate to land a second date. Or that men go all macho to impress a lady. Of course, “there are many other factors that also contribute to dating success,” Wu points out. Like, if you and your date have anything in common. Or you’re physically attracted to each other. Or you want the same things, or share the same values. You get the idea.

Besides, Wu adds, “We found the [DNA] effect to be fairly small.”

The golden rule of dating—proven outside the lab time and time again—still holds true: Above all, it’s best to be your awesome self.

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Do You Need to Anti-Age Your Attitude?

Are you extra world-weary? It may be time to get reacquainted with your inner child—for the sake of your health. Adults who reported feeling older than they were had a 10 to 25 percent greater chance of being hospitalized over the next 2 to 10 years, according to new research. “One of the main reasons we feel old is stress,” says Gabrielle Bernstein, New York Times best-selling author of Miracles Now ($16, Try her tips to turn back your mental clock and anti-age your attitude.

RELATED: The Best Advice from the Happiest People on the Planet

1. Be mindful

“A daily meditation practice will lower your cortisol levels, increase your energy, and enhance your memory,” explains Bernstein.

2. Channel your childhood

“Do some kind of physical activity that brings you back to your youth,” suggests Bernstein. Think trampolining or even simply dancing to old high school hits in your room.

RELATED: How to Eat Your Way to Health and Happiness 

3. Get grateful

“The best way to feel younger is to focus on gratitude,” says Bernstein. One way to do it: Make a nightly list of things you’re thankful for.

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New CDC Report Will Make You Rethink Swimming in the Local Pool

There’s a reason your mom warned you not to drink the pool water when you were a kid—and hopefully you listened. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 78.9% of routine inspections of public swimming facilities identified at least one violation. And one in eight inspections led to immediate closure because of a “serious threat to public health.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean there was fecal matter in the pool. After the CDC reviewed 2013 data from more than 84,000 pools, hot tubs, and water parks (hello, lazy river!) in five states, they documented the most common violations.

The number one problem cited by inspectors? The water’s pH. Maintaining a proper pH is critical for controlling bacteria and preventing outbreaks of gastrointestinal illnesses. Another recent CDC report attributed 69 outbreaks of illness to treated recreational water sources (such as pools and hot tubs) between 2011 and 2012.

RELATED: How to Stock a Smart First Aid Kit

The second most common type of violation was related to safety equipment (think rescue rings and poles) meant to minimize drowning risk.

And the third most frequent issue was the concentration of disinfectant present in the water. The level needs to be precise to keep the water clean without causing side effects, such as eye irritation. And that can be serious business: The CDC points out that health problems associated with pool chemicals (such as burns and breathing difficulties) send thousands of people to the ER each year.

So what can you do to stay safe at your local pool this summer? In a press release, Michele Hlavsa, the chief of the CDC’s Healthy Swimming Program, urges you to look for the facility's inspection results online, and do your own inspection before diving in.

The first step on the CDC’s checklist is to test the pH of the water (should be between 7.2 and 7.8) and concentration of free chlorine (at least 1 ppm) or bromine (at least 3 ppm) using test strips that are available at most superstores and pool-supply stores. 

​RELATED: How to Get a Perfect Fake Sun Tan

Next, make sure that you can see the drain in the deep end. That’s a good indicator of the visibility in the water. The clearer it is, the easier it is for others to see you if you need help. 

Also check that the drain covers are secure and in good shape, because a loose or broken cover can trap swimmers underwater, according to the CDC.

And finally, if there’s no lifeguard on duty, locate the rescue ring or pole so you know it’s available, just in case anyone gets into trouble.

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Teens Who Eat More Saturated Fat May Develop Denser Breasts

New research suggests there’s a link between the amount of saturated fat girls consume as teenagers and their breast density later in life.

For the study, published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers had 177 girls between the ages of 10 and 18 fill out questionnaires about their diet on five occasions. When the participants were between the ages of 25 and 29, the researchers measured their breast density using an MRI scan.

RELATED: 25 Breast Cancer Myths, Busted

They found that women who had eaten higher amounts of saturated fat—the kind found in meat and dairy products such as cheese, butter, and milk—as teens had denser breasts in their 20s. (Those who had consumed the most saturated fat had an average “dense breast volume” of 21.5%; while those who ate the least had an average dense breast volume of 16.4%.)

The opposite was true for women who had consumed higher amounts of healthful unsaturated fats—the type in olive oil, avocados, nut butters, and fatty fish like salmon—during their teen years. These women had lower breast density in their 20s.

The data suggest that what teenage girls eat matters well into adulthood. “If confirmed, [our] results indicate that adolescent diet could potentially have long-term effects on breast health,” says senior author Joanne Dorgan, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

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Denser breasts contain more fibrous or glandular tissue, which can make it harder for radiologists to spot tumors on a mammogram. Denser breast tissue is also thought to raise a woman’s odds of developing breast cancer. 

But research on the link between breast density and cancer risk is ongoing. Last winter, researchers from Croatia evaluated thousands of mammogram reports and did not find a substantial difference in breast density among women who were diagnosed with breast cancer and those who were not.

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