Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Lindsey Vonn Embraces Her Scars: 'My Scars Remind Me That I Am Strong and Beautiful'

This article originally appeared on People.com. 

Lindsey Vonn doesn’t feel the need to cover up her scars.

The Olympic skier, 32, proudly shows a long scar on the back of her right arm in a photo she shared on Twitter on on Monday in which she wears the form-fitting black sleeveless dress she wore to attend Giorgio Armani’s fashion show during Milan Fashion Week.

“My scars remind me that I am strong and beautiful,” she tweeted along with the photo. “Thank you #GiorgioArmani.”

Vonn’s scar is the result of a serious arm injury she sustained when she was involved in a crash while training at Copper Mountain in Colorado last November.

“I severely fractured the humerus in my right arm,” Vonn shared on social media at the time.

She was able to return to competitive skiing in January following arm surgery and 300 hours of physical therapy.

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Vonn has previously spoken about accepting and loving her body.

“I’ve just gotten to the point that I love where I am … I’m comfortable with what I got,” Vonn told ABC Newslast June. “I think it shows in my attitude and the way I present myself. Now when I walk the red carpet, I don’t care with what everyone else thinks.”

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This Simple Thing May Indicate You’re at Risk for Dementia

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com. 

Older adults who begin sleeping more than nine hours a night might want to talk to their doctors about their increased need for shuteye: A new study suggests that it may be an early sign of dementia.

But that’s not to say that every parent or grandparent who starts snoozing extra will definitely develop memory problems. There are a lot of other conditions that can affect sleepiness and time spent in bed, says study co-author Matthew Pase, PhD, a neurology fellow at the Boston University School of Medicine, some of which are treatable once diagnosed.

Pase’s new study looked at 2,457 people, average age 72, who had health assessments and responded to health questionnaires every few years. Of those participants, the researchers identified 75 people who reported sleeping more than nine hours a night on average when they used to sleep less.

Those long sleepers were more than twice as likely to be diagnosed with dementia over the next 10 years than other study participants. (Adults who had always reported sleeping nine hours or more did not have an increased risk of dementia—only those whose sleeping habits had changed as they got older.)

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A doubling of risk may sound like a big increase, but Pase points out that the absolute risk is not as alarming: Only 21 percent of the extended-sleep participants, and 9 percent of other participants, actually got dementia. “By no means is this a certain fate for these people,” he says.

The study included all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, the most common type. The researchers don’t believe that sleeping longer hours actually has any effect on the progression of memory loss and cognitive decline; rather, they think it’s a subtle sign that early brain changes have started to occur. “In other words, restricting sleep is not likely to be effective,” Pase says.

More research is needed to know exactly why the body might react this way, but one theory is that the brain tries to compensate for early dementia-related changes by spending more time in sleep, Pase says, where it can try to repair itself.

The study made another interesting finding, as well: The chances of dementia were highest—about six times greater than those who slept less than nine hours a night—for people without a high-school degree who had recently started sleeping more. This supports the idea that having more education may be protective against dementia later in life, the authors wrote.

If you notice an elderly friend or relative begins sleeping more, that in itself is probably not cause for alarm, says Pase, since this can be a normal part of aging or may be influenced by lots of other things. But whatever its root cause, it’s probably worth mentioning to a doctor—especially if your loved one is also having memory or thinking problems on top of longer sleep.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

I Got Run Over by a Truck—Literally. Here’s What I Learned From Almost Dying

When I was a little girl, my parents told me it wasn’t a good idea to brag about something unless I was really exceptional at it. The advice kept me humble and grounded, and it’s been the way I’ve lived my life ever since. So when I say I this, I hope you'll believe me: I am an expert at coming back from the deadbecause when I was 24 years old, I got run over by 8 wheels of an 18-wheel truck.  

It happened early on a fall morning. I had hopped on my bike for a 10-mile ride, to burn off some calories from an overindulgent weekend. It was a lovely morning, bright and crisp. The leaves on my Brooklyn block were just starting to turn yellow. I was closing out my ride when I saw the sun starting to rise over the low, brick industrial buildings on a busier street near my apartment. I thought that catching that sunrise would make the morning so incredibly perfect.

I was staring straight at it when I stopped at a red light, and didn’t pay too much attention to the truck beside me. The driver hadn’t put his turn signal on, and I had signaled that I was turning. I was sure he was aware of me, and I was safe to chase that morning-maker of a sunrise.

I took my turn wide and easy, and then I noticed that the truck wasn’t going straight. He was also taking the turn, and our paths were going to collide. Before I could register what was happening, I felt like I was tumbling, and found myself pinned beneath the truck’s first four wheels. I heard my bones cracking, and watched as the tires rolled over my body. I kept my eyes open as the next set of wheels came for my already crushed middle. I was too terrified to blink.

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The mind is a miraculous organ. Mine went into full psychological triage mode. I thought that I couldn’t close my eyes, because if I did, then I would somehow fall into a deep darkness where I had no control. So I kept them wide open. I also amazingly remembered my mom’s cell phone number and my home number, so the bystanders who had witnessed the accident could call my parents.

But the most incredible thing that my mind did was remember something my best friend, who’s a nurse, had told me: that if I ever needed an ambulance and the closest hospital wasn’t very good, I had patient rights and could ask to be taken elsewhere.

When the EMTs arrived, they found themselves talking to a woman with tire tracks on her stomach requesting to not go to the hospital nearby, but instead to the best hospital. I watched as they looked at each other dumbfounded, sure that I would die before I made it to any hospital. But I was insistent. My brain wanted my body to live, and it was willing to be pushy to make it happen.

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Beating the expectations of the EMTs, I remained conscious during the ambulance ride to the “best” hospital. As I was being wheeled into the ER, I asked the closest doctor if I was going to die. She looked at me sadly and said it didn’t look good, but she was going to try.

I am not sure why my body didn’t just give in at that moment. Or in all the moments that followed during the 10-hour surgery I went through. Amazingly, it didn’t. Although it came incredibly close.

Four hours into the surgery, I had been given about 8 pints of blood, but my blood wouldn’t clot so I kept bleeding out. The doctors told my family that if I didn’t start clotting within the next hour, they were going to have to let me die. Amazingly with 15 minutes left until my literal “deadline,” I began to clot.

When I woke up from surgery, my life was unrecognizable to me. I had broken all of my ribs, fractured my pelvis in five places, punctured my lungs, and torn a hole in my bladder. I couldn’t feel my body from my ribcage down, and my bike’s gearshift had dug itself into my right oblique muscle, creating a hole where the side of my stomach used to be.

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I spent the next two months in the hospital, working to heal my broken body. When I was released from the hospital into my parents’ care, I lived in the family room of the house I grew up in, sleeping on a rented hospital bed for another four months. I did intensive physical therapy every day. After an unbelievable amount of practice, and thanks to endless patience from my friends and family, I finally walked by myself eight months after the accident.

In the early stages of my recovery, I spent the majority of my time grasping at the person that I had been before the crash, trying so hard to become her again. But at some point, I realized she didn’t exist anymore. I wasn’t that carefree 24-year-old with no understanding of how challenging and precious my life was.

That’s when I stopped focusing on the parts of my life that I had lost, and started to focus on what I had gained: a deep gratitude for a life that I almost didn’t get the chance to live. I began to feel moments of overwhelming joy, like when my mom wheeled me out to the backyard so I could feel the first snowflakes of winter fall on my tongue; or the day my feet touched the floor for the first time in weeks; and whenever I decided to have champagne just because. The beauty of these little moments would have been lost on me only a few months before.

I don’t call myself an expert on surviving just because my body found a way to keep itself alivebut also because I fought to bring my life from a place of brokenness to a place of joy. For me, surviving isn’t just not dying. It's also giving yourself the gift of truly living.

You can read more of Katie McKenna’s story in her inspiring memoir, How to Get Run Over By a Truck ($16; amazon.com).

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If You Want to Avoid Dementia, Here’s What To Know

This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

You’ve heard the saying before: “use it or lose it.” Studies show that people who utilize their brains more—by furthering their education, learning a new language or musical instrument or keeping a rich network of relationships with family and friends—tend to have lower rates of dementia and problems with their thinking later in life. Nothing can completely prevent a certain amount of decline in cognitive functions that comes with age (that’s normal) but keeping the brain in good working order can lessen the consequences.

Here’s what the latest science suggests about what can—and can’t—prevent cognitive decline.


In a new study published in Neuroepidemiology that analyzed results from the memory tests of more than 11,000 older Europeans, researchers found that education can combat cognitive decline—to a point.

People took recall tests at the start of the study and every two years for nearly a decade, and when the scientists compared those results with the diagnoses of dementia or cognitive impairment, they found that people with higher education seemed to have lower rates of dementia.

But when the researchers then looked at what happened to the people who were diagnosed with dementia, they found that education didn’t seem to affect the rate at which the people’s cognitive functions declined. In other words, it didn’t matter how much education the people had once the dementia began.

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That doesn’t mean that education isn’t an important part of preventing dementia. Dorina Cadar, a research associate in the department of behavioral health science at the University College of London and the study’s lead author, says that education gave people a larger cognitive reserve, so once cognitive decline began, it took them longer to experience the effects of the age-related slowing in their thinking abilities. Like a well-padded bank account, having more cognitive reserve gives people greater room to compensate for areas of the brain that might be failing over time. She notes that even an extra year of education can help people recall one additional word in recall tests years later. Even if learning more can’t prevent cognitive decline, it can make the effects of compromised thinking less obvious, and potentially less intrusive on a person’s daily life.

Crossword puzzles, having friends and learning new languages

Studies continue to support the fact that people who play cards, read or have strong friendships tend to develop dementia later than those who don’t engage in these activities. But some research is starting to suggest that the benefit may stop there. One study of nearly 1,200 older people found that while those who stay mentally active may experience dementia later, once dementia begins, they decline more quickly than those who aren’t so intellectually active.

That may reflect the fact that people with more active brains, or a higher level of education, may indeed have greater reserves on which they can draw as their brains start to decline. But once these reserves are dry, like a tapped-out bank account, there’s nothing left to keep the brain going.

More research is needed to fully understand how such backup systems affect aging-related decline, but experts still say that it’s best to start off with as large a reserve as possible. Keeping the brain active and engaged by seeing friends, visiting museums or learning new skills is one way to do that.


Many other factors affect how the brain ages, including physical activity, heart health, mental illness, sleep and diet. But the role of exercise may be especially important. A recent study of more than 1,600 people over age 65 found that those who spent more time sitting had the same risk of developing dementia as people who carry a genetic mutation that puts them at higher risk of Alzheimer’s.

Being physically active may help the brain by keeping the heart fit. Studies show that some of the same risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and diabetes, may also put people at greater risk of developing dementia. Poor heart health also means less blood flow to the brain, which is essential for nourishing brain nerves and maintaining healthy nerve connections.

“We should really look at not just a single individual factor but a combination of factors: exercise, a healthy diet, having contact with friends and relatives,” says Cadar. “Together, they seem to help people in older age.”

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Smartphones Are Really Stressing Out Americans

This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

It’s easier than ever to stay in touch on multiple platforms throughout the day, but that 24/7 availability is stressing Americans out. Four out of five adults say they constantly check their email, texts and social media, according to a new report by the American Psychological Association (APA).

The APA polled about 3,500 adults in an online questionnaire during August 2016 and found that people who are always looking at their digital devices—called “constant checkers”—reported higher levels of stress compared to people who spend less time interacting with their gadgets.

The amount of time people spend on social media also appears to be stressing people out. 42% of constant checkers report that social media conversations about politics and culture cause them stress, compared to 33% of people who check less often. Constant checkers also worry about how social media is affecting their wellbeing; 42% say they worry about how social media can impact their mental and physical health, yet only 27% of people who check less often say the same.

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This digital obsession also appears to take a toll on families. Almost half of parents say they feel less connected to their family when technology is present, even when they are spending time together. Close to 60% say they worry about the impact of social media on their children’s mental and physical health.

Yet people are finding ways to cut back on the stressful effects of technology. The vast majority of parents, 94%, say they do something to limit their children’s use, like not allowing cell phones at the dinner table or limiting phone use before bed. That’s not always easy, though. Close to 60% of parents say they feel like their child is attached to their phone.

Overall, Americans want to unplug more often. Nearly two-thirds of people surveyed say they agree that taking an occasional digital detox is good for their mental health. However, less than 30% say they actually do so.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Your Weekly Cry-Fest Over 'This Is Us' Has Surprising Health Benefits

Your Personality Changes More Than You Think Throughout Your Life

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com. 

If you think you’re exactly the same as your teenage self, new research may challenge that assumption. In a 63-year study, the longest ever conducted on human personality, scientists found that personalities can transform almost entirely over the course of a lifetime.

For the study, which began in 1950, psychologists at the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom analyzed data from more than 1,200 personality assessments given to 14-year-old students by their teachers. The educators rated their pupils on the following six personality traits: self-confidence, conscientiousness, perseverance, desire to excel, originality, and stability of moods.

Approximately 63 years later, researchers tracked down 174 of the original students, now an average of 77 years old, who agreed to take another personality test. The participants took an assessment measuring the same six characteristics that they were judged on at 14 years old. They were also asked to bring along another loved one, who then weighed in on the same traits.

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The results, though published in the journal Psychology and Aging in December, are just gaining traction. And they're quite different from what researchers expected to find: There wasn’t a whole lot of overlap between now and then—aside from a small correlation between stability of moods and conscientiousness. “The longer the interval between two assessments of personality, the weaker the relationship between the two tends to be. Our results suggest that, when the interval is increased to as much as 63 years, there is hardly any relationship at all,” the researchers wrote in the study’s conclusion. “Personality changes only gradually throughout life, but by older age it may be quite different from personality in childhood.”

It’s important to realize that the data isn’t 100 percent conclusive. The sample size of the latter study was pretty small compared to the original sample, and a teacher’s personality assessment isn’t exactly the same thing as self-assessment. Nonetheless, it is an important look into how we can change over the years—in more ways than just our appearance.

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Aly Raisman Talks to Chrissy Teigen About Body Doubts and Posing in SI Swim: 'I Used to Be So Insecure'

This article originally appeared in People.com. 

Even Olympians and supermodels have body insecurities.

Aly Raisman sat down with Chrissy Teigen and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit editor MJ Day to talk about the gymnast’s jaw-dropping photoshoot in the 2017 issue.

“You brought home some medals for us. We owe a lot to you, and now you’ve been kind enough to grace us with that amazing a–,” Teigen, 31, tells Raisman at the SI Swimfest in Houston. “You look incredible in the magazine, like absolutely bonkers, strong, confident, beautiful, amazing woman.”

“[You] surprise yourself how comfortable you are when you’re shooting,” Raisman, 22, says. “It was one of my favorite days of my life — I’m not just saying that — because I felt so confident, so strong, so feminine, and it’s an incredible feeling, because I feel like a couple of years ago I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it.”

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The six-time Olympic medalist says she still deals with body doubts.

“It’s so empowering to be out there and just, you have insecurities just like everyone else, your body’s not perfect, but you feel confident and beautiful.”

“How do you have insecurities?” Chrissy asks, shocked.

“I used to be so insecure, I thought my arms were too muscular, but now I’m growing to like them,” Raisman admits.

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Issue editor Day, who chose size and body diversity as the theme of the 2017 issue, explains that this very conversation drives home that idea.

“This is the point. Everyone thinks that because you’re an elite athlete, because you’re an enormous celebrity, superstar model, that your world is perfect, and that you think everything about yourself is perfect,” Day says.

“It doesn’t matter if you look like you, or you, or me, we all have our issues, and the world should know that. We should love everything that we’re given.”

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A New Diagnosis: ‘Post-Election Stress Disorder’

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This Is the Best Way to Protect Against Mosquitos

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com. 

Whether you live in a warm-weather climate, are planning a tropical vacation, or are just stocking up early for the summer, choosing spray-on insect repellent over “wearable” devices will give you the best protection against mosquitos, says a new study. The research tested the effectiveness of 10 commercial products against Aedes aegypti, the species of mosquito that carries Zika and other viruses.

Sprays that contain DEET and PMD (the chemical name for the oil of lemon eucalyptus) took top honors, say researchers from New Mexico State University. That was no big surprise, since these ingredients are registered with the Environmental Protection Agency and recognized by the Centers for Disease Control as effective at preventing mosquito bites.

Other products—including mosquito bracelets, a wearable sonic repeller, and a citronella candle—were significantly less effective.

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For the study, published this week in the Journal of Insect Science, human volunteers wore or used the products, one at a time, in an enclosed space near a cage containing female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. After 15 minutes, researchers noted the mosquitoes’ locations—either close to or far away from the human subject—to see how attracted they were (or weren’t) to the person.

The five spray-on repellents that were tested all provided some protection, althoughCutter Lemon Eucalyptus (30 percent PMD) and Ben’s Tick & Insect Repellent (98 percent DEET) were the most effective. Following the two winners, in order of effectiveness, were All Terrain Kids Herbal Armor (a blend of natural oils), Avon Skin-So-Soft Bug Guard Plus Picaridin (which contains the active ingredient picaridin), and Repel Sportsmen Max Formula (40 percent DEET).

Three bracelets containing geraniol oil—Mosquitavert, Mosquito-NO!, and Invisaband—showed no significant protection against mosquito attraction. Neither did the PIC Personal Sonic Mosquito Repeller, which claims to use inaudible sound waves to repel bugs, or the Cutter Citro Guard, a candle containing citronella oil.

“These products advertise that they protect you for several hours or longer, but they definitely fell short,” says Stacy Rodriguez, laboratory manager at the Molecular Vector Physiology Laboratory at NMSU. (One bracelet advertised protection for up to 10 days!) “It’s something that consumers really need to be aware of, that not all wearable devices are trustworthy.”

Citronella hasn’t proven to provide much protection against mosquitoes, says co-author Immo Hansen, PhD, associate professor of molecular vector biology. “And even if bracelets contain other ingredients, they don’t seem to have the dosage to be effective,” he says.

The only wearable that fared well in the test—better than the sprays, actually—was the OFF! Clip-on, a small disk that weighs about six ounces and contains a tiny fan and nebulizer. The device vaporizes and disperses the chemical metofluthrin, and is marketed as providing head-to-toe protection for up to 12 hours.

Avoiding pesky mosquito bites is always a good thing. But at a time when mosquito-borne diseases like Zika, chikungunya, and dengue fever are a serious threat, says Rodriguez, it’s especially important for consumers to use a product that really works.

Make sure you apply bug spray as directed, as well. “A lot of people spray themselves once and think they’re protected for hours,” says Rodriguez. Depending on the product you’re using, she says, that may be true. But some sprays need more frequent application—and activities involving water or sweat can make even the strongest formulas wear off faster.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Which DIY Health Tests Are Worth It?

Nobody wants to get the flu this year. The dreaded, head-pounding, body-aching, feverish, nauseating, cough-fest packs equal parts misery and inconvenience.

But nobody wants to get a shot that might be unnecessary or ineffective, either. So, while some experts worry aloud about a 1918-like flu pandemic, most of us—well aware of the risks of getting the virus, from being sneezed on at the office to living with a toddler—are not lining up to get the shot. In fact, only a third of us even bother. The truth is, while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and most mainstream docs are pushing the flu vaccine, the latest science suggests it just doesnt work very well. So, should you or shouldnt you? Here, the answers to your flu-shot questions.

How effective is the shot?
The flu shot is only as good as the educated guesses of a group of vaccine researchers across the globe. Every February, they try to predict which flu viruses will work their evil during the next fall and winter. Their three top choices are put into the vaccine. The CDC claims that vaccine will be 70 to 90 percent effective against just those strains of flu. “We hope that these smart scientists who get together with the vaccine producers make the right call,” says immunologist Randy Horwitz, MD, medical director of the University of Arizonas School for Integrative Medicine. But sometimes they dont, partly because the virus mutates from year to year. In 2003–2004, the CDC admitted that it completely missed the virulent Fujian flu strain that hit hard that winter.

In 2005–2006 season, in which the CDC said the match between the vaccine and the virus was good, a strain not included in the vaccine hospitalized 31 children in Houston. Also, two recent studies found that the shot may be less effective for people with weaker immune systems, so its effectiveness can depend on how well your body responds to the vaccine.

Will it make me sick?
Even if it doesnt work, it cant hurt to get the shot, right? For most people that may be true. Millions of vaccinations are administered each year, but since 1991, only about 26,000 adverse events have been reported to the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). Most of those were fever, rash, headaches, hives, or, very rarely, seizures. The most common side effect is swelling at the injection site on your arm. And any bad reactions, thought to be your immune systems way of gearing up after the exposure to dead virus particles in the vaccine, typically ease after a few days. (Manufacturers are required to verify that each batch of vaccine used for injections contains no live flu viruses. But people with egg allergies shouldnt get the shot because the vaccine is manufactured using eggs.)

Still, some researchers arent comfortable with the safety data. Tom Jefferson, MD, coordinator of the Vaccines Field for the Cochrane Collaborative, an international group of researchers, reported last year in the British Medical Journal that he had found only six limited studies on safety after reviewing 206 studies on the vaccine. That, he says, is a surprisingly small number considering the widespread use of the vaccine and its mixed bag of ingredients.

Osteopathic doctor Sherri Tenpenny, author of Vaccines—The Risks, the Benefits, the Choices: A Resource Guide for Parents, cautions that only small populations and short-term info are used to measure safety. Adverse-events reporting, for instance, is done for only 2 to 14 days after an injection—and its voluntary.

Heres another concern: Except for about 8 million doses, the flu vaccine contains a preservative, thimerosal, that is 49 percent mercury, a known neurotoxin. While the latest research seems to disprove any link between thimerosal vaccines and autism in children, the debate still rages, and several states have prohibited the use of thimerosal in childrens vaccines. Yet supplies of mercury-free flu vaccine are limited due to man-ufacturing capacity. If you want to avoid thimerosal, you may have to make a special request to your health-care provider in advance.



[ pagebreak ]Is the nasal vaccine better than the typical shot?
Hard to say, but the latest news on FluMist may leave you skeptical. Earlier this year the manufacturer, MedImmune, had trouble getting an OK to market the vaccine for kids under 5. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found ongoing problems at the companys plant in Great Britain—bacterial and fungal contamination as well as the use of a disinfectant banned by the European Union. Eventually, the company fixed the problems and, in September, received approval for the under-5 set.

Unlike the shot, this vaccine contains live but weakened viruses. When inhaled, these viruses can survive in the nose and throat long enough to trigger the immune reac-tion that fights off flu, but will be killed by the higher temperatures in your lower respiratory tract. The CDC does not believe these viruses can mutate into a form that can survive. The nasal vaccine is only approved for healthy children ages 2 to 17 and adults ages 18 to 49 who arent pregnant. (Pregnant women and people with chronic conditions can get the shot.) The nasal vaccine does not have any thimerosal.

Who really needs a shot?
The flu kills. Each year nearly 40,000 people in the United States die from flu complications like pneumonia and heart failure. And more than 200,000 are hospitalized due to flu. The people at highest risk have lowered ?defenses: children ages 6 months to 5 years, pregnant women, people older than 50, and anyone with a chronic condition like asthma, diabetes, and heart or blood disorders. The CDC recommends they all get vaccinated.

But what if youre healthy and are not in a high-risk group? Should you get vaccinated as a charitable act to help prevent spreading the flu to those whore less healthy? Or to prevent a few weeks of potential misery? If you live or work with high-risk people, maybe youll decide that the shot is worth it. You can also gauge your other lifestyle risks. We all know that spending a lot of time in busy public places—like the subway or a gym—boosts your risk of catching the flu. Anyone walking around with the virus can breathe it in your direction. And kids in day care or school are more likely to be exposed to the flu than anyone else. Just the simple act of living with them heightens your risk.

Is there a shot shortage?
You may remember the panic over vaccine shortages in 2004, when a major flu-vaccine manufacturer, Chiron, was unable to deliver 50 million doses of the vaccine due to bacterial contamination. Some experts speculate that the shortage encouraged people to stay away from the vaccine in the following years. But Curtis Allen, spokesperson for the CDC, says a shortage is unlikely this year. Manufacturers are promising a record number of doses (132 million), although they wont all be available at once.

Whens the best time of year to get vaccinated?
Now, before the flu season really kicks in from December to March, experts say. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to build up enough antibodies to protect you.

Arent I more likely to catch a cold than the flu?
For sure. There are more than 200 cold viruses, they mutate a lot, and virtually everybody comes down with one from time to time. Although the worst colds might feel like the flu, lots of people say they have the flu when they really dont. Two years ago, only 13 percent of people who were tested after reporting flulike illnesses actually had the real thing.

Should I really worry about a flu epidemic?
Nobody really knows. The 1918 pandemic seemed to start like any old flu season, but within a few months the virus had mutated into a monster that killed healthy adults within a day. Like most flus, it may have originated in birds. Thats why experts worry that todays avian flu may turn into a global epidemic. But, un-like the 1918 strain, it hasnt spread readily from person to person. And while the regular flu shot wont protect you against avian flu (its a different strain of the virus), consider this: Researchers are finding that millions of people have been infected with avian flu without suffering serious complications.

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Real Women Share What Body Positivity Means to Them in Our #WhatIModel Campaign

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How to Stop Fat-Shaming Yourself

I hate my cellulite. That cookie is going straight to my hips. You might think it’s no biggie to go low on your looks now and then, but words like these eat away at your confidence and self-worth. “Fat-talk comments are like Velcro; they stick to you, and they can start to become your identity,” says Cynthia Bulik, PhD, professor of eating disorders and nutrition at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Put a sock in it: The first step is to identify your body-bashing habits. Then replace them with more forgiving and actually accurate thoughts. 

RELATED: 6 Simple Self-Care Tips That Changed My Life

Week 1: Get up close and personal 

“Body bashing can be obvious,” says Bulik (think: I look fat). “But it also manifests in subtler ways.” This week is about being cognizant of fat talk in all its forms. 

Face the mirror: Look at your reflection and note any negative thoughts about your appearance that pop into your head, says Bulik: “The mirror is where fat talk is usually automatic; we tend to focus on flaws.” 

Spot silent fat talk: Next, keep tabs on nonverbal body-bashing habits you do day to day (sucking in your belly, pinching a bat wing). “The term for this is ‘body checking,’” says Bulik. 

Watch for small critical moments: Maybe when you skim menus, you tell yourself, “I really shouldn’t have the burger.” Or other times you think, “I wish I could pull off skinny jeans like that girl.” “Fat talk isn’t just ‘I feel fat,’" says Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, author of Body Kindness. “It’s all the ways we measure our bodies,” from policing our calories to comparing our looks with someone else’s.

RELATED: 5 Famous Women on How They Stay Body-Positive

Week 2: OK, now act!

This week, replace the negative thoughts with healthier ones—compliments included. Sound cheesy? You’ll get used to it, assures Bulik: “Giving yourself body-positive comments is like getting new glasses. They feel awkward at first, but you get used to them and they start to feel more like a part of you.” 

Play “never would I ever”: Go over that list of fat-talk remarks you made last week and ask whether you would say them to your friend or daughter. “Surprise—the answer is ‘never’ every time,” says Scritchfield. "It’s a wake-up call to show how badly you’re treating yourself and how unhelpful negative self-talk is.” 

Be body neutral: “It’s not realistic for everyone to go from being body negative to positive right away,” says Scritchfield. “You’re allowed to have vulnerable moments, but you have to shift the criticism.” Instead of “I look gross in this dress,” try, “I’m not gross; I’m just not feeling my most confident right now, and that’s OK.” 

Build a library: Think up a whole list of kind thoughts about yourself. Then, when a self-critical one surfaces this week, chase it with something from the list. (The compliments don’t have to be body-related, says Scritchfield: “I give great advice” can be just as effective as “I have awesome boobs.”)

RELATED: What 5 Olympic Athletes Can Teach You About Body Confidence

Week 3: Pass along the kindness

Fat talk is contagious, warns Scritchfield: "It spreads like a virus of negative energy.” Cultivate more body positivity toward others with these tips. 

Have “no fat talk” zones: Social circles use body bashing as a bonding mechanism, says Bulik. Address the issue head-on when someone initiates it by saying, “Guys, no fat talk. None of that tonight.”

Don’t rush to judge: Catch yourself whenever you open a magazine and think a critical thought, or whenever you’re on the street and silently condemn a stranger’s shape or appearance. “We’re oddly compelled to judge,” says Bulik, who encourages you to call yourself out after each cruel thought. Remind yourself, “This is the kind of thinking that perpetuates fat talk. Not cool.” 

Dish out props: Give at least one genuine compliment every day. “The goal of this is to really work the muscle of thinking with compassion, about yourself and other people, all the time,” says Scritchfield. It just may change the tone of your days. 

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Friday, February 3, 2017

Does the Sound of Noisy Eating Drive You Mad? Here’s Why

This article originally appeared on Time.com

If you’ve ever been tempted to confront someone slurping their soup in a restaurant, or if a person breathing loudly next to you in the movie theater is enough to make your blood boil, then you’re not alone: You’re one of many people suffering from a genuine brain abnormality called misophonia.

Misophonia, a disorder which means sufferers have a hatred of sounds such as eating, chewing, loud breathing or even repeated pen-clicking, was first named as a condition in 2001.

Over the years, scientists have been skeptical about whether or not it constitutes a genuine medical ailment, but now new research led by a team at the U.K.’s Newcastle University has proven that those with misophonia have a difference in their brain’s frontal lobe to non-sufferers.

In an report published in the journal Current Biology, scientists said scans of misophobia sufferers found changes in brain activity when a ‘trigger’ sound was heard. Brain imaging revealed that people with the condition have an abnormality in their emotional control mechanism which causes their brains to go into overdrive on hearing trigger sounds. The researchers also found that trigger sounds could evoke a heightened physiological response, with increased heart rate and sweating.

For the study, the team used an MRI to measure the brain activity of people with and without misophonia while they were listening to a range of sounds. The sounds were categorized into neutral sounds (rain, a busy café, water boiling), unpleasant sounds (a baby crying, a person screaming) and trigger sounds (the sounds of breathing or eating). When presented with trigger sounds, those with misophonia presented different results to those without the condition.

“I hope this will reassure sufferers,” Tim Griffiths, Professor of Cognitive Neurology at Newcastle University and UCL, said in a press release. “I was part of the skeptical community myself until we saw patients in the clinic and understood how strikingly similar the features are.”

“For many people with misophonia, this will come as welcome news as for the first time we have demonstrated a difference in brain structure and function in sufferers,” Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, from the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University and the Wellcome Centre for NeuroImaging at University College London, added. “This study demonstrates the critical brain changes as further evidence to convince a sceptical medical community that this is a genuine disorder.”

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