Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Prince's Ex Mayte Garcia on the Moment Their Son Amiir Was Born With a Rare Genetic Disorder

This article originally appeared on 

In a new memoir, Prince’s ex-wife Mayte Garcia shares the story of their four-year marriage and the tragedy that tore them apart. Subscribe now for the exclusive excerpt – only in PEOPLE.

He was the baby Prince and his then-wife Mayte Garcia had long hoped for. They named him Amiir — Arabic for “prince” — while he was in Mayte’s womb, and listened to his heartbeat in anticipation of his birth. But the baby, born Oct. 16, 1996, had Pfeiffer syndrome type 2, a rare genetic disorder, and lived just six days.

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In her new memoir, The Most Beautiful: My Life with Prince, excerpted exclusively in this week’s PEOPLE, Garcia tells the story of their passionate love, their excitement about the baby, and the pain and heartbreak of Amiir’s short life which forever haunted them both.

“I don’t think he ever got over it,” Garcia, now 43, tells PEOPLE of her ex-husband, who died last April from an accidental overdose. “I don’t know how anybody can get over it. I know I haven’t.”

When Garcia, then 22, discovered she was pregnant, she and Prince were overjoyed at the thought of raising a family at their home in Paisley Park. The pregnancy went smoothly until she began bleeding one day and a doctor recommended an amniocentesis to test for genetic abnormalities. The procedure, the doctor warned, carried a risk of miscarriage.

Yet as the doctor told them: “Sometimes the body is trying to release the fetus for a reason.” But Prince, Garcia writes, was against it: “My husband said, ‘No, we’re not doing that.‘”

Once home, the couple prayed for his health.

“Please, bless this child,” said Prince as he prayed on his knees. “We know you won’t allow this child to be harmed.”

But further exams revealed more complications.

During one appointment, the obstetrician told them the ultrasound measurements were off and said, “It’s possible that we’re seeing a form of dwarfism.”

Writes Garcia, “My husband and I looked at each other and shrugged. ‘And?’ he said. ‘I’m totally fine with that.’ I laughed. Of all the possible outcomes that had been offered to us, this was the first one that didn’t terrify me.”

Still, she writes, the doctor warned them of genetic abnormalities that could be life-threatening and again recommended an amnio, yet Prince continued to refuse medical intervention.

On Oct. 16, 1996, Garcia delivered their son via c-section. At first, she writes, she and Prince were elated: “I don’t know how to describe the look on my husband’s face. Pure joy.”

“And then they held the baby up to those harsh lights,” she continues. “The elation on my husband’s face turned to pure terror.”

“Pfeiffer syndrome type 2 is a genetic disorder that causes skeletal and systematic abnormalities,” she writes. “The premature fusing of the bones in the skull, sometimes resulting in ‘cloverleaf skull,’ in which the eyes are outside the sockets. The fusion of bones in the hands and feet causing a webbed or pawlike appearance … I learned all of this later.”

For much more on Mayte Garcia and the new Prince book, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

After the O.R. nurses frantically began working to save Amiir’s life, she heard her husband saying, “Why is he not crying?”

“They brought the baby over to us,” she writes. “He was curled on his side, gasping shallow little gulps of air. Because there were no lids to blink, his eyes looked startled and dry. I caught hold of his tiny hand, saying over and over, ‘Mama loves you, Mama’s here.'”

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In the days that followed, Amiir underwent multiple procedures and the doctor recommended a tracheotomy. “After six days he was struggling to breathe,” writes Garcia. “And I said to the doctor, ‘He’s not leaving here, is he?'”

He died at six days old.

Garcia says sharing such wrenching memories in her book was difficult. “I’ve been making notes of my life but when it finally came time to write it, it took me back and I cried many tears,” she tells PEOPLE. “But I also think that it’s liberating.”

She wanted to make sure her book was one of the first to be published after Prince’s death last April. “I knew there was going to be a lot of stuff coming out about him, negative and positive,” she says. “I wanted mine to come from love.”

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Carnie Wilson Will Undergo Surgery to Remove Ruptured Breast Implants

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tracy Anderson Talks About Her Body Image Struggles and Offers Advice for Teens in New Book

This article originally appeared on 

Tracy Anderson has used her fitness expertise to shape some of Hollywood’s most notable bodies — including Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow — and now she’s using her research and experience to help teenage girls embrace their own bodies and get healthy in a positive way.

“After spending almost 20 focused years helping people find comfort in their own skin, I saw a huge preventative opportunity to make sure teen girls never lose their connection to being themselves and having to find it again,” Anderson tells PEOPLE about the inspiration for her new book, Total Teen: Tracy Anderson’s Guide to Health, Happiness, and Ruling Your World. “It’s hard for teens to show up for their health correctly when we live in such a trendy world.”

RELATED: This Is Tracy Anderson’s Go-To Arm Workout

She suggests that teens struggling with self-esteem take media images of the body with a grain of salt, and focus on being their best selves instead.

“Slow down the noise in your head,” she says. “It’s all a vicious cycle of some editor sitting up in some tower airbrushing people to look like something dreamy. The issue is that teens need to understand that this falls into entertainment and art. It isn’t real. When you can take a deep breath and recognize a human form that has been turned into art, versus the true natural beauty of the incredible human you are, you can come to appreciate your own physical self.”

“It would be so boring if we were all the same,” she continues. “Knowing that you are enough and you are who you are meant to be can really calm the noise.”

Anderson herself is no stranger to having body image issues. As a teenager, the Tracy Anderson Method creator struggled with body acceptance after inexplicably gaining weight that left her feeling uncomfortable in her own skin.

“At 19, I gained almost 40 lbs. at school,” she says. “There wasn’t a support system for me to learn what could be happening or identify and heal this imbalance in a healthy way. I felt awkward and ashamed going to class. I felt like I was failing unintentionally, and it ultimately made me feel like the roadblock was too big for me to live my passion successfully and in a healthy way.”

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Anderson says she finally got past these mental roadblocks when she met with a doctor who taught her how to find balance in her body by focusing on muscular structure.

“Studying his work initially unlocked hope for me that there really could be a solution to creating balance in our bodies before or when imbalances arise,” she says.

RELATED: Tracy Anderson’s Best Moves for Killer Legs

Anderson got to a place where she felt comfortable with her body “when I got physically available to myself on my own terms,” she says. “I feel like this is truly key. There is so much noise about what is ‘pretty’ or ‘healthy’ or ‘sexy’ or ‘trendy’ with our physical bodies that people don’t even know how to own their own body or assess what they even want.”

In her book — due out in December — Anderson includes strength and dance cardio workouts and simple healthy recipes, but also shares motivational stories in hopes that they will inspire active living and positive self-image in young girls.

“It’s about physically respecting and processing what it means to be a balanced and healthy individual. I hope everyone walks away shining their lights even brighter.”

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Try This Meditation Technique to Quiet Your Inner Critic Once and for All

Want to develop more kindness for yourself, for your loved ones, even for people you can’t stand? Starting a practice of lovingkindness (known in the Buddhist tradition as metta), can help. The good news is you don’t have to be an expert meditator to try it; you can add it to your existing routine, or use it as an entry point into a new practice.

To learn more, we spoke with expert Sharon Salzberg. She’s a co-founder of the esteemed Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the best-selling author of many books, including Lovingkindness. (Her newest book, Real Love, comes out in June.)

We asked Salzberg about the benefits of lovingkindness meditation, and how it relates to mindfulness in general. “To be mindful means to have a kind of interested, balanced awareness of what’s happening to us,” she explains. “But because our inner critic may be very strong, mindfulness is not that easy to accomplish. For a lot of people, doing a practice like lovingkindness can change our default response from one of self-judgment, fear, or anger, to a sense of connection and greater spaciousness, and it can form a foundation for being able to practice mindfulness. It’s a great experiment to try.”

RELATED: 20 Weird Ways Breathing Right Can Improve Your Life

How to do it

Start by finding a quiet place to sit, closing your eyes, and drawing your awareness to the sensations in your body. You might feel your feet touching the floor, or your legs against the chair. Next, bring your attention to the in and out flow of your breathing at one spot. That could be the feeling of your belly rising and falling with each breath, or the sensation of air flowing through your nose. As you direct your attention to your breath, your mind will inevitably wander. When it does, simply notice it doing so, and without judgment, bring your attention back to your breathing. Try doing this for a few minutes to start, and gradually extend the length of your sessions until you can sit for 20 or so minutes at a time. It takes practice, but over time, you’ll begin to notice you feel calmer, more focused, and more aware of your moment-to-moment experience.

Once you get the hang of basic meditation, you can add lovingkindness by saying the following phrases, quietly to yourself or in your head:

“May I be happy of heart. 

May I be free from suffering. 

May I be healthy and strong. 

May I live with ease.” 

You might even place your hand gently on your chest to invoke a connection to your heart.

Next, say the same four phrases again, this time directed toward a loved one, friend, or benefactor:

“May you be happy of heart.

May you be free from suffering.…”

Then try saying them for someone who you don’t know well but is a part of your daily life, someone to whom you have a neutral feeling. “Many of us are in the habit of going into that grocery store and looking right through the clerk instead of at him, even if you’ve seen him a million times,” Salzberg explains. “We often objectify people so they become like pieces of furniture to us, but through the offering of the phrases [to a neutral person] we’re learning to pay full attention to someone, rather than discounting them.”

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Next, say the phrases for someone you have difficulty with. The person could be someone you know, someone you don’t, someone you consider an enemy. 

This step can be challenging, but it’s worth trying.  “We often categorize certain people as all bad, all the time, which may be our experience with them, but there is a rigidity to that way of thinking which keeps us afraid and cut off,” Salzberg says. “If we want to take some risks with our attention and try wishing for them to be free of suffering, things may begin to move within ourselves: You may still not like that person, you may still not want to bring them home with you, but you may be able to grow that sense that our lives have something to do with one another.”

If you’re having trouble really feeling lovingkindess for someone you consider an enemy, you can also try picturing them as a baby, or near death, or in an unusual setting. Salzberg explains: “Although the phrases can be helpful in building a base of concentration, lovingkindness is also a practice that engages our creative imagination. The truth is that we were all infants once, and were so helpless and subject to the actions around us. And the truth is we will all die, so you can tap into the kind of poignancy to life that we all share.” 

RELATED: 14 Strategies to Become a Happier Person

If you’re practicing lovingkindness for someone who’s shown you bad behavior, you might also imagine them at a safe remove from yourself, such as on an island with no boat. As you work with them in mind, “it might help you feel safe, like this person’s not going to take advantage of me,” Salzberg explains.

Finally, say the phrases again for all living creatures everywhere:

“May all beings be happy of heart.

May all beings be free from suffering.…”

However we might like it to, the point of lovingkindess is not to magically change other people from afar. “One thing I usually emphasize,” Salzberg says, “is that the essence of metta practice, and using the phrases, is paying attention differently.  It’s not trying to force yourself to feel something you don’t feel, and it’s not trying to cover over some difficult feelings you might have with a kind of veneer of being saccharine. Rather, it’s about transforming our own way of seeing ourselves and seeing others in the world.”

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When you’re ready to give it a try, work it into your next meditation session. Salzberg says you can do it right when you sit down to meditate, or toward the end of a sitting.

“Some people like it at the beginning because it creates a kind of warm environment so that you can go on to practicing mindfulness with a little more kindness toward yourself,” she explains.  “Most people like to do it at the end, because it’s a reminder that the inner work we do when we mediate is not really just for ourselves, but it’s also about how we are with our families and friends and communities. It can serve as a really nice bridge between the inner life and actual life.”

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Use This Trick to Get an Amazing Memory

This article originally appeared on

If you’ve ever watched someone memorize and recite back a string of numbers or a long list of words and thought, “I wish I could do that,” we’ve got good news: You totally can. A simple mnemonic device used by world-class memory athletes can be taught—and mastered—by “normal” people too, according to a new study.

The brain-training trick, known as “method of loci,” involves pairing each item to be memorized with a mental image of a landmark along a familiar route—like your walk to work or to a local store. Researchers say that making these associations, and traveling that route in your mind, can not only help you remember those items better; it can also strengthen memory-related pathways in your brain.

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For their new study, scientists at Stanford University and Radboud University Medical Center in The Netherlands gave functional MRI scans to 17 memory athletes and 51 people with no special memorization skills. Then they pitted them against each other in test to memorize a list of 72 words. After 20 minutes of prep time, the memory athletes were able to recall 71 words on average, while the others averaged about 40. (One of the study authors is a World Memory Champion himself, who can memorize about 500 digits or 100 words in five minutes.)

The researchers then divided the non–memory athletes into three groups, assigning them to receive either six weeks of online training in the method of loci; six weeks of training to improve a different type of memory, called working memory; or no training at all.

RELATED: 9 Foods That May Help Save Your Memory

When they were retested six weeks later, the group that received method of loci training had improved dramatically, recalling almost as many words as the memory athletes. Even four months after completing their training, they scored similar results.

Brain scans taken after the training also showed changes in connectivity patterns, which now resembled those of the memory athletes. In fact, the degree of improvement seen in the brain’s memory networks directly predicted how well a person performed on the recall test. No significant memory gains, or MRI changes, were noted among the other two groups.

The study, published Wednesday in Neuron, suggests that you don’t need natural ability to become a world-class memory champ—just plenty of practice. And it’s practice that anyone can do: The method of training used in the study is available at, a website that offers several training programs, including a free trial package. (Memocamp did not sponsor the study and the authors have no financial interest in it, but participants were provided free access to its programs.) 

Unfortunately, says lead author Martin Dresler, PhD, this specific skill won’t necessarily translate into better memory in other areas of life. When they’re not paying attention and actively applying the mnemonic method, he says, “even memory champions do forget names or their keys.”

RELATED: Common Memory Problems Solved

But this type of memory training is still good for more than just party tricks, says Dresler, an assistant professor of cognitive neuroscience at Radboud University; it can also help in educational settings—like studying for exams—as well.

And it’s unknown whether this type of training might have longer-term benefits, like helping to prevent cognitive decline. “I guess training in the method of loci wouldn’t do much better or worse than other cognitive training regimes in this regard,” says Dresler. He does note, however, that older adults may be able to use mnemonic devices to compensate, at least somewhat, for age-related memory impairment.   

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13 Body-Positive Influencers You Should Follow on Instagram

5 Zika Health Problems Experts Say Could Affect Anyone

This article originally appeared on 

March isn’t mosquito season in much of the United States, but scientists are still busy studying the various health problems caused by the mysterious mosquito-borne Zika virus. While experts know more about the virus than they did over a year ago, and they know it can cause birth defects in babies, the full spectrum of Zika related health risks—including the ones that may impact adults—is unknown.

For instance, in a new report that will be presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 66th Annual Scientific Session, researchers found that Zika may cause heart problems in otherwise healthy adults, which was unknown until now. “As days go by, and more people are infected, we see different aspects of the virus,” says study author Dr. Karina Gonzalez Carta, a cardiologist and research fellow at Mayo Clinic.

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Here are some of the health problems linked to Zika that researchers find most worrying.

Heart problems: In the new study, Carta analyzed nine adults in Venezuela with no prior history of heart disease who complained of heart-related symptoms. Carta and her team found that eight of the people had developed a heart rhythm issue, and six had evidence of heart failure. Since the study size was small, it’s hard to know how common it is to develop heart problems after a Zika infection, but Carta says she’s found more people with heart issues since she wrote her study.

“We need to create awareness,” says Carta. “People should know this is possible.” The people in the study have been followed since July 2016, and while most of their symptoms have abated, they are not gone altogether.

RELATED: U.S. Launches Early Trial of Zika Vaccine

Guillain-Barré Syndrome: Close to 15 countries have reported cases of muscle-weakening Guillain-Barré syndrome in people with Zika infections. The health complication is characterized by arm and leg weakness, and in some serious cases, Guillain-Barré can harm the muscles that control a person’s ability to breathe. Very few people die from the Guillain-Barré, but symptoms can be chronic.

Hearing and vision problems: Microcephaly can cause vision and hearing problems among infants, but two studies published in December 2016 found cases of hearing and vision loss among adults with Zika. In one report researchers identified three people in Brazil who developed hearing loss that lasted from a few days to a month. Another report published in the journal The Lancet detailed a case where a 26-year-old American man was infected with Zika after traveling to Puerto Rico and later developed vision problems which included seeing flashing lights. Thankfully his vision returned after a few weeks. More research is needed, but the study authors argue that doctors treating people with Zika should be aware of these potential side effects.

RELATED: Zika Lasts Way Longer During Pregnancy: Study

Microcephaly: The most well-known health problem caused by Zika is severe microcephaly, which is a birth defect characterized by an abnormally small head. Babies born with microcephaly often have smaller brains due to improper development, which is why the head size remains small too. Infants with microcephaly often have several other health complications, like seizures, trouble swallowing, vision and hearing problems, and balance issues. In the U.S., nearly 50 babies born to women with Zika infections have had birth defects.

Congenital Zika Syndrome: Many infants infected with Zika during pregnancy develop Congenital Zika syndrome, which is a combination of birth defects beyond just microcephaly. The syndrome also includes less brain tissue overall, damage to the back of the eye, joints with limited range of motion, and too much muscle tone, which makes it harder for the babies to move. It’s not completely clear how the virus causes all these issues—and not all babies with Zika infections will have them—but researchers say some birth defects will become more apparent as infants get older.

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7 Stunning Photos That Prove Strong Is the New Pretty

Girls are confident, loud, fearless, and carefree. They are also thoughtful, creative, resilient, and determined. They are all this and a whole lot more. That’s the message behind Strong is the New Pretty ($18,, a powerful book containing more than 175 portraits of girls doing what they love (whether it’s ballet, playing music, or wrestling)—and owning their strength.

The pictures of these badass little girls in all their glory will make you want to reconnect with your own inner kid. And that is exactly what photographer Kate T. Parker hoped to accomplish: “I want these images to combat those negative voices that tell us we’re not good enough, or thin enough or whatever enough,” writer photographer Kate T. Parker in the book’s introduction. "Because we are far more than enough!“

Scroll down for seven of our favorite inspiring photos from the book.

RELATED: 25 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be a Happier Person

"I was really scared for my first triathlon. My mom took this shot of me the night before and told me that even though I was afraid to race, to try to look tough and fearless. I did, and when my mom showed me this shot, it made me believe I could be as tough as I looked." —Ella, age 9

"Some people don’t think dance is a real sport, but it takes a lot of strength to master the technique, it takes time to make improvements, and it takes passion and dedication to reach your goal.” —Kami, age 11

“I wish every day was like this." —Caroline C., age 10

"When I am in the air, I feel like I am flying. At the end of a jump, my mind is completely clear." —Abigail, age 17

"In wrestling, girls have an advantage. The guys think less of you until you are face-to-face with them." —Rachel, age 11

"We are undefeated and plan on staying that way." —Olivia J., age 9

"I love the speed when I skate. I feel very alive and present—feeling fluid and going fast is fun." —Kekai, age 12

Excerpted from Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves by Kate T. Parker. Copyright 2017 Workman Publishing. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

These Are the Happiest and Healthiest Cities in America

This article originally appeared on 

Living near the beach doesn’t guarantee your happiness — but it certainly doesn’t hurt.

From Naples, Fla. to Honolulu, Hawaii, many of the U.S. cities that scored well on Gallup-Healthways’ newly released Community Well-Being Index are located on the ocean. Researchers analyzed 350,000 interviews conducted in 2015 and 2016 to rank 189 communities by physical, emotional, financial, community and social health. Naples came in first for the second year in a row, followed closely by other metro areas near the ocean, like Barnstable, Mass. and Santa Cruz, Calif.

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So is beachside living the key to health and happiness? Lead researcher Dan Witters says it’s not so simple: “Clinical depression is less likely, and healthy eating is slightly improved, but after that the advantages run out.” Holistic well-being is about more than good climate, Witters says. “You don’t need a beach to have someone who encourages you to be healthy; you don’t need a beach to learn new and interesting things; you don’t need a beach to get to the dentist.”

RELATED: The Relationship Mistake Happy Couples Are More Likely to Make

Highly ranked inland communities like Boulder, Colo. and El Paso, Texas had residents who reported feeling a strong sense of purpose — often rooted in a shared culture and a feeling of belonging. When people are invested in improving their community, they feel motivated to get out of bed each day, says Healthways president Karissa Price. “It isn’t just about Karissa Price. “It isn’t just about physical health or income — there is a larger need to feel connected,” she says.

Communities in the Southeastern U.S. and industrial Midwest were generally ranked lower in well-being, partly due to health problems including higher smoking and obesity rates.

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Two Big Things the Republican Obamacare Replacement Would Get Rid Of

This article originally appeared on Kaiser Health News

House Republicans unveiled their much anticipated health law replacement plan Monday, slashing the law’s Medicaid expansion and scrapping the requirement that individuals purchase coverage or pay a fine. But they opted to continue providing tax credits to encourage consumers to purchase coverage, although they would configure the program much differently than the current law.

The legislation would keep the health law’s provisions allowing adult children to stay on their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26 and prohibiting insurers from charging people with preexisting medical conditions more for coverage as long as they don’t let their insurance lapse.  If they do, insurers can charge a flat 30 percent late-enrollment surcharge on top of the base premium, under the Republican bill.

RELATED: How to Tell If You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

In a statement, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said the proposal would “drive down costs, encourage competition, and give every American access to quality, affordable health insurance. It protects young adults, patients with preexisting conditions, and provides a stable transition so that no one has the rug pulled out from under them.”

The GOP plan, as predicted, kills most of the law’s taxes and fees and would not enforce the so-called employer mandate, which requires certain employers to provide a set level of health coverage to workers or pay a penalty.

Democrats quickly condemned the bill. “Tonight, Republicans revealed a Make America Sick Again bill that hands billionaires a massive new tax break while shifting huge costs and burdens onto working families across American,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi tweeted. “Republicans will force tens of millions of families to pay more for worse coverage — and push millions of Americans off of health coverage entirely.”

The legislation has been the focus of intense negotiations among different factions of the Republican Party and the Trump administration since January. The Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote, and the party has strongly denounced it ever since, with the House voting more than 60 times to repeal Obamacare. But more than 20 million people have gained coverage under the law, and President Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans have said they don’t want anyone to lose their insurance.

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When Republicans took control of both Congress and the White House this year, they did not have an agreement on the path for replacement, with some lawmakers from states that have expanded Medicaid concerned about the effect of repeal and the party’s conservative wing pushing hard to jettison the entire law.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of those favoring a full repeal, tweeted: “Still have not seen an official version of the House Obamacare replacement bill, but from media reports this sure looks like Obamacare Lite!”

Complicating the effort is the fact that Republicans have only 52 seats in the Senate, so they cannot muster the 60 necessary to overcome a Democratic filibuster. That means they must use a complicated legislative strategy called budget reconciliation that allows them to repeal only parts of the ACA that affect federal spending.

Beginning in 2020, the GOP plan would provide tax credits to help people pay for health insurance based on household income and age, with a limit of $14,000 per family. Each member of the family would accumulate credits, ranging from $2,000 for an individual under 30 to $4,000 for people age 60 and older. The credits would begin to diminish after individuals reached an income of $75,000 — or $150,000 for joint filers.

Consumers also would be allowed to put more money into tax-free health savings accounts and would lift the $2,500 cap on flexible savings accounts beginning in 2018.

The legislation would allow insurers to charge older consumers as much as five times more for coverage than younger people. The health law currently permits a 3-to-1 ratio.

Community health centers would receive $422 million in additional funding in 2017 under the legislation, which also places a one-year freeze on funding for Planned Parenthoodand prohibits the use of tax credits to purchase health insurance that covers abortion.

RELATED: The Rectal and Colon Cancer Symptoms You Need to Know, Even If You’re Young

Both the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees are scheduled to mark up the legislation Wednesday. The committees do not yet have any Congressional Budget Office analysis of how much the legislation would cost or how many people it would cover.

Party leaders have said they want to have the bill to President Trump next month.

In a statement, senior Democrats on both panels said the measure would charge consumers “more money for less care. It would dramatically drive up health care costs for seniors. And repeal would ration care for more than 70 million Americans, including seniors in nursing homes, pregnant women and children living with disabilities by arbitrarily cutting and capping Medicaid,” said Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey and Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts.

The House GOP plan makes dramatic changes to Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program that covers 70 million low-income Americans. The program began in 1965 as an entitlement — which means federal and state funding is ensured regardless of cost and enrollment. But the Republican bill would cap federal funding for Medicaid for the first time.

The federal government picks up between half and 70 percent of Medicaid costs. The percentage varies based on the relative wealth of the state.

Under the GOP plan, federal funding would be based on what the government spent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Those amounts would be adjusted annually based on a state’s enrollment and medical inflation.

Currently, federal payments to states also take into account how generous the state’s benefits are and what rate it uses to pay providers. That means states like New York and Vermont get higher funding than states like Nevada and New Hampshire and those differences would be locked in for future years.

Republicans have pushed to cap federal funding to states in return for giving them more control in running the program.

RELATED: 9 Things That Might Happen to Your Body When You Quit Birth Control Pills

The legislation also affects the health law’s expansion of Medicaid, in which the federal government provided enhanced funding to states to widen eligibility. The bill would also end that extra funding for anyone enrolling under the expansion guidelines starting in 2020. But the legislation would let states keep the extra funding Obamacare provided for individuals already in the expansion program who stay enrolled.

About 11 million Americans have gained Medicaid coverage since 2014.

Changing the expansion program is a delicate balance for the Republicans. Four GOP senators from states that took that option said Monday they would oppose any legislation that repealed the expansion.

“We are concerned that any poorly implemented or poorly timed change in the current funding structure in Medicaid could result in a reduction in access to life-saving health care services,” Sens. Rob Portman of Ohio, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Cory Gardner of Colorado and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska wrote in a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

The Weird Way Acupuncture Helps Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This article originally appeared on

There’s new hope for people who suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome, a feeling of numbness, tingling or pain in the hand because of a squeezed nerve at the wrist. It comes in the form of a non-invasive and drug-free method of pain relief: acupuncture, according to a new study published in the journal Brain.

Acupuncture, an ancient technique of traditional Chinese medicine, has long been used to treat chronic pain, and studies have suggested that it relieves symptoms at least slightly better than a placebo. When coupled with electric stimulation, the technique can work similarly to a more conventional therapy for pain relief called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).

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But exactly how acupuncture works is still largely unknown. Because it’s often difficult to measure pain—and how it changes—objectively, how well it works also remains uncertain.

To address these unknowns, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital recruited 80 people with mild to moderate carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s an ideal condition for measuring the effectiveness of a treatment, because unlike most chronic pain disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome is associated with measurable, physiological changes in the body. Sufferers experience a slowdown of nerve impulses traveling across the wrist, which can be detected by electrodes attached to the skin. They also experience destructive changes in the somatosensory cortex, the part of the brain responsible for the sense of touch. Nerve signals from the hand become “blurred,” says lead author Vitaly Napadow, associate professor at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Brain cells that usually respond to touch signals from individual fingers start to respond to signals from multiple fingers, he says.

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People in the study were split into three groups, two of which received 16 sessions of electro-acupuncture over eight weeks, either on their affected wrist and forearm or on their ankle opposite that arm. The third group received “sham” electro-acupuncture, which used needles that didn’t penetrate the skin on fake acupuncture points.

After the treatments were over, all three groups reported improvements in pain and numbness. But the objective measure of nerve conduction at the wrist only improved in the groups who had real acupuncture. Those who had real acupuncture at the affected arm (but not at the ankle) also experienced significant brain remapping, Napadow says. Before-and-after MRI scans showed that some of the carpal-tunnel related damage to their somatosensory cortexes had been partially repaired.

People who got real acupuncture seemed to have longer term benefits, too. At a three-month follow-up, people who experienced this type of brain remapping were more likely to report sustained or continued improvement in functionality—and in symptoms like pain, numbness, and tingling—than those who didn’t.

The study suggests that while sham and real acupuncture might both relieve pain temporarily, real acupuncture has the most potential for lasting change.

RELATED: This Electrical Form of Acupuncture Could Help Ease Carpal Tunnel

“I want to stress that we did not heal or cure anybody, but we did see improvements,” says Napadow. “The fact that improvement was retained three months later—we think that’s very interesting and very important.”

People with serious forms of carpal tunnel syndrome were not included in the study, and Napadow says that those with advanced cases will likely need surgery or another more intensive treatment. But for some people, he says, acupuncture could be a good first-line treatment. “When performed by a trained professional, it’s fairly safe and has a low risk of side effects,” he says. “It’s definitely something that could be tried before moving to something much more invasive and higher risk.”

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