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Fruits, Veggies May Have Their Limits in Boosting Lifespan

Tue, 2014-07-29 16:37

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — The nutrients in fruits and vegetables are vital to good health and a long life, but only up to a point. Once you’ve hit five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, additional daily servings don’t appear to boost longevity, a new research review suggests.

The human body may only be able to effectively process a certain amount of fruits and vegetables every day, limiting its ability to absorb important nutrients from extra helpings, said the review’s senior author Dr. Frank Hu, a professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston.

“It is possible that the digestibility of fruits and vegetables and the availability of nutrients and other bioactive compounds of these foods may have reached a plateau at five servings per day for most people,” Hu said. “More research is clearly needed in this area.”

Before you reach that five servings a day recommendation, however, the review suggests that the risk of death from any cause drops 5 percent for each additional daily serving of fruits or vegetables consumed. And, the risk of death from heart disease seems to decrease 4 percent for each additional daily serving of fruits and vegetables, according to Hu’s research.

However, the study is only designed to show an association between fruit and vegetable consumption and the risk of death during the study periods. It isn’t able to prove that eating fruits and vegetables is the cause of the reduced risk.

Still, the research supports dietary guidelines that recommend five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, said Joy Dubost, a registered dietitian in the Washington, D.C., area and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Dubost said it’s pointless to worry about an upper limit at which people gain little or no benefit from fruits or vegetables, given that it’s so hard to get people to eat their veggies anyway.

She noted that adults eating an average 2,000-calorie daily diet should eat 2.5 cups of vegetables every day, but instead eat an average 1.6 cups. The same goes for fruit — adults should eat 2 cups a day, but on average can manage only 1 cup.

“People in general don’t even consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables,” she said. “Instead of focusing on ‘is consuming too much not providing additional benefit,’ we should be talking about how to get people to eat the recommended amount, given that there are proven health benefits shown in this very study.”

For the review, a team of researchers in China and the United States analyzed the results of 16 studies to gain better understanding of the association between fruits and veggies and a person’s risk of death. These studies involved more than 830,000 people in total, and more than 56,000 deaths.

The investigators found a link between eating fruits and vegetables and a lower risk of death overall during the study follow-up periods, as well as a reduced risk of death from heart disease. However, fruits and vegetables did not seem to have any effect on a person’s specific risk of death from cancer.

Fruits and vegetables contain a broad variety of essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients but not a load of calories, Hu and Dubost said. Chowing down on them allows a person to get much of the nutrition they need without risking weight gain, they noted.

The nutrients found in fruits and vegetables have been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure and other chronic diseases, Hu said.

Fruits and vegetables also are a major source of dietary fiber. “Fiber obviously helps with a healthier gut and moves things through the system,” Dubost said. “It also can help with weight loss and reduce heart disease.”

What about vegetarians? Even if the benefits of fruits and vegetables level off after five daily servings, that does not necessarily mean that vegetarians are less healthy than people who eat meat, both Hu and Dubost said.

Hu noted that in reviewing the benefits of a vegetarian diet, you also have to consider the health benefits of decreased consumption of meat — something his study did not review.

“The potential of vegetarian diets could be due to a combination of both,” he said.

The report was published online July 29 in BMJ.

More information

For more information on daily nutrition, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Blood Test Might Help Prevent Certain Birth Defects

Tue, 2014-07-29 16:37

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — A simple blood test could help prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida, new research finds.

The test would measure the concentration of folate (a form of vitamin B) in a pregnant women’s red blood cells. The findings from this study — conducted by an international team of scientists — could help doctors predict the risk of serious birth defects known as neural tube defects because folate is vital to the proper development of a growing fetus.

In addition to naturally occurring folate found in food, a synthetic form of folate known as folic acid is also available in fortified foods and supplements. Although taking folic acid supplements during pregnancy is known to reduce the risk of neural tube defects, it’s unclear how much of this nutrient is needed to prevent them. The current recommendation is that pregnant women consume 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.

Previous research suggested that the risk for neural tube defects increases as folate concentrations in a pregnant woman’s red bloods drop. To determine if there is an ideal red blood cell folate concentration that could help predict neural tube defect risk, the study’s authors analyzed data from two population-based studies from China. The studies involved more than 220,000 births. Of these babies, 250 were born with neural tube defects.

The researchers estimated the link between red blood cell folate concentration on the 28th day of pregnancy and the risk for neural tube defects. They found lower red blood cell folate concentrations were associated with the highest risk for a neural tube defect, or 25.4 per 10,000 births.

This risk was reduced however, when folate concentrations were higher, the study published on July 29 in The BMJ online revealed.

The study authors concluded their findings could help scientists develop and monitor neural tube defect prevention programs for women around the world.

In response to the findings, researchers from the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford commented in a journal news release that monitoring women’s red cell concentrations may help shape global policy decisions “and allow public health leaders to monitor a population’s response with the ultimate goal of reducing the incidence of largely preventable neural tube defects.”

The next step, the study’s authors pointed out, is to determine how much naturally occurring folate from food or folic acid in supplement form is needed to achieve this ideal range of red blood cell folate concentrations.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health provides more information on neural tube defects.

Categories: Health & Fitness

An Easy, Healthy Breakfast You Make the Night Before

Tue, 2014-07-29 16:30


If your mornings are hectic, you might think it’s nearly impossible to make a healthy breakfast. With this recipe for overnight oats with fresh berries and chia seeds, you’ll have a nutritious and tasty meal waiting for you first thing in the morning.

Never tried overnight oats? Well, you’re in for a treat. You’re probably used to boiling or microwaving rolled oats, but soaking them overnight makes them just as smooth and creamy as the traditional methods. You can even prep multiple batches ahead of time so all you have to do (after rolling out of bed) is open the fridge and grab a spoon.

Overnight oats with chia seeds and fresh berries

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup fresh berries
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

How to make it: Combine ingredients in a mason jar or bowl then cover and refrigerate overnight. Enjoy cold the next morning and top with more fruit if desired.

Makes 1 serving

Read Tina’s daily food and fitness blog, Carrots ‘N’ Cake.

Categories: Health & Fitness

3 Reasons Not to Sleep With Your Phone in the Bed

Tue, 2014-07-29 14:42

Photo: Getty Images

Ever fall asleep while Insta-scrolling on your smartphone—or purposely leave it on your bed while you snooze? You’re not alone: 44% of cell phone owners have snoozed with their phone next to their bed to make sure they didn’t miss any crucial calls or texts, according to the Pew Internet Project. But while you may have good intentions, snuggling up to your phone could be hazardous to your health. Here’s why:

You could set your pillow on fire

A Texas teen recently woke up to a burning smell. The cause? Her Samsung Galaxy S4, which was under her pillow, had partially melted and it scorched her sheets and mattress, too. More specifically, it seems like a non-Samsung replacement phone battery was to blame: the phone’s instruction manual warns against using incompatible cell phone batteries and chargers. The manual also notes that there’s a risk of a fire if the gadget is covered by bedding or other thick material. Bottom line: Stick to phone accessories from the original manufacturer, and don’t leave your cell on your bed.

RELATED: How to Beat 16 Summer Health Hazards

You could keep yourself awake

Cell phones (and tablets, TVs, and other gadgets with LED screens) give off what’s known as blue light—a type that studies suggest can inhibit the production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and disrupt our circadian rhythms. This may be because blue light emits wavelengths similar to daylight, which can make our bodies think it’s daytime, at any time. To fall asleep when you want (and need) to, power down all electronics two hours before bedtime. Better yet, keep your phone and laptop in another room while you slumber.

RELATED: 11 Surprising Health Benefits of Sleep

The health risks of cell phones are murky

There’s been no research that proves cell phone use causes cancer; in fact, the links to any kind of health risk aren’t yet clear. In general, cell phones are said to give off such small doses of electromagnetic radiation—which is also emitted from X-rays and microwaves and can lead to tumor growth in high amounts—that they’re perfectly safe to handle. Still, the World Health Organization warned in 2011 that usage may be possibly carcinogenic to humans, especially in children, whose scalps and skulls are thinner than adults’, and more vulnerable to radiation. So if you’re at all worried about the possible cancer risk, try to text instead of call, hold the phone away from your ear, or use an earpiece or the speakerphone setting as much as possible—and definitely don’t sleep with the phone next to your head.

RELATED: 9 Everyday Sources of Radiation

Camille Chatterjee is the Deputy Editor of Health magazine.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Dieting at Young Age Often Backfires, Study Says

Tue, 2014-07-29 14:37

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Dieting at a young age might set the stage for harmful health habits, including eating disorders, according to new research.

Surveys of college-age women conducted from 1982 to 2012 also found a link between early dieting and later obesity and alcohol abuse.

“The younger a woman was when she started her first diet, the more likely she was [later] to use extreme weight control behaviors — like vomiting or laxative misuse,” said study researcher Lauren Holland, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Florida State University, Tallahassee.

“She was also more likely to misuse alcohol and be overweight or obese when she reached her 30s,” Holland said.

The findings are scheduled for presentation this week at the annual meeting of the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior in Seattle. Studies presented at medical meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

In 1982, 1992, 2002 and 2012 researchers asked young women, nearly 20 years old on average, about their dieting behaviors. In all, more than 2,100 college students answered the initial questions. And more than 1,300 answered the follow-up questions a decade later.

Participants were asked if they dieted, how often, when they started, and what strategies they used, such as a low-fat or low-calorie plan.

The good news? Dieting declined slightly, and the average age to start dieting rose slightly, Holland said. In 1982, it was 14.6 years; by 2012, it was 15.4.

However, in each of the four groups, “we had some who were as young as 5,” Holland said. This was uncommon, however.

In general, when initially questioned, these young women weren’t overweight.

The researchers found a link, but not a direct cause-and-effect relationship between early dieting and later negative outcomes.

“We definitely cannot say dieting causes an eating disorder,” Holland said. And the researchers didn’t calculate the extent of specific risks. However, the finding ties in with results from other studies, she said.

The researchers took into account the women’s weight at the study start and whether they used extreme weight control strategies at that time. They also factored in alcohol use at the beginning of the study.

Many factors, including genetics, play into disordered eating, or eating disorders, Holland said. If a mother diets or a child’s friends diet, that makes early dieting more likely, she said.

Other research has found that obese youth who lose a significant amount of weight risk developing eating disorders. One theory suggests they become too preoccupied with their eating.

However, not everyone who diets early in life develops an eating disorder, said Dr. Metee Comkornruecha, an adolescent medicine specialist at Miami Children’s Hospital in Florida who was not involved in the study.

He suspects some who do develop an eating disorder may have other issues, such as anxiety or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Holland said they didn’t factor in anxiety or other psychological issues at the start of the study.

Comkornruecha said the message from the study is: Don’t discourage youth who are overweight from trying to lose it, but encourage them to lose it sensibly, if they need to. He tells overweight youth and parents “not to focus on trying to lose weight rapidly.”

Also, avoid fixating on an “ideal” weight, Comkornruecha said. “Even though there may be an ideal body weight, it is usually an ideal body weight range,” he said.

Holland would like to see parents and public health campaigns promote behaviors that increase wellness. That means increasing physical activity, decreasing “screen time” on TV and computers and eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Picking friends wisely can help, too, she said.

Since peers influence children’s and teen’s behaviors, she said, it’s wise to hang out with friends who don’t focus on diets, especially extreme diets.

More information

For more about helping kids make healthy choices, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Brown Recluse Spider Bites on the Rise, Expert Warns

Tue, 2014-07-29 14:37

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Although the bite of a brown recluse spider is poisonous, these wounds usually heal well if left alone, an expert notes.

It’s still important to recognize the warning signs of an adverse reaction to a brown recluse spider bite, warned Dr. Donna Seger, medical director of the Tennessee Poison Center, particularly since these potentially dangerous bites are on the rise.

“As physicians, it is hard for us to do nothing. The [bite] has classic characteristics, but if physicians are not familiar with this bite, the tendency is to debride [remove infected tissue] and cut out the lesion,” she explained in a Vanderbilt University Medical Center news release. “This actually slows the healing process, and can result in disfigurement that would not occur if the lesion were left alone.”

Ointments, antibiotics and the anti-infective medication dapsone should not be applied to a brown recluse spider bite wound, Seger added. She also recommended using ice for pain management rather than strong painkillers.

In some cases, brown recluse spider bites can cause symptoms throughout the body. Warning signs of this syndrome include fever, rash and muscle pain.

These symptoms may occur with or without the breaking down of red blood cells, which can be life-threatening, particularly for children.

“We don’t know why [this] occurs in some people with a brown recluse spider bite and not in others, but it is life-threatening and does require immediate medical attention,” explained Seger.

“Our recommendations are that all children under 12 with a brown recluse spider bite should have a urine test for the presence of hemoglobin [the compound in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body] in blood,” she said.

The brown recluse spider is also known as the violin spider because it has a violin-shaped marking on its back. These spiders have six eyes, and are often less than an inch long. Brown recluse spiders are typically a light brown color, but some may appear cream-colored, dark brown or dark gray.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on venomous spiders.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Protect Your Eyes When Hitting the Pool

Tue, 2014-07-29 14:37

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Chlorine helps keep pool water clean, but it can also make swimmers more likely to develop eye infections, doctors say.

Pool swimmers can also develop red, irritated eyes as well as blurry vision, said Dr. Sampson Davis, an emergency room physician at Meadowlands Hospital Medical Center in New Jersey.

It’s important to understand why this happens, Davis said.

Swimming in chlorinated pools washes away the outer film layer of the eye that helps protect against infection. And chlorine might not completely rid the water of dirt and bacteria. As a result, swimmers may develop pink eye or other eye infections, Davis explained.

Chlorine can irritate the cornea and cause the eyes to become dry. This can lead to blurry vision.

Davis provided several tips to help swimmers prevent or ease these uncomfortable symptoms:

  • To prevent eye issues while swimming, wear water-tight goggles.
  • Remove contact lenses. The space between the eye and the contact lens may provide a breeding ground for bacteria and viruses.
  • For dry or irritated eyes, use lubricating eye drops.
  • Flush irritated or burning eyes with an eye wash or tap water for 15 minutes after swimming.

Although these steps can help ease minor redness and irritation, Davis said it’s important to recognize signs of a more serious problem. Swimmers who notice the following symptoms should seek immediate medical attention:

  • Red eyes that are draining fluid.
  • Blurry or distorted vision.
  • Severe pain.

More information

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has more on chlorine in swimming pools.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Heart Attack Patients Treated at Night, Weekends May Have Worse Outcomes

Tue, 2014-07-29 13:38

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) –
The time at which heart attack patients arrive at the hospital may affect their chances for survival, new research suggests.

Showing up at the emergency room at night, on weekends or during holidays is associated with a 13 percent higher risk for death than arriving during regular business hours, researchers report.

Every year, more than 250,000 people suffer a ST-elevation myocardial infarction — the most severe type of heart attack, which is caused by a complete blockage of blood flow to the heart. Restoring blood flow as quickly as possible by giving clot-busting medication or performing an angioplasty to open the blocked vessel is critical for survival, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

In conducting the study, the researchers analyzed the treatment and survival of more than 27,000 patients who experienced this type of severe heart attack and arrived at the hospital after regular business hours. These patients were compared to almost 16,000 patients who went to the hospital during business hours. These heart attacks occurred between January 2007 and September 2010, and the patients were treated at one of 447 hospitals across the United States.

Although the time of day did not affect when heart attack patients were given aspirin, underwent imaging tests or received clot-busting medication, those who went to the hospital during the day received an angioplasty, on average, 16 minutes sooner than those who arrived at night, the study found. The findings were reported July 29 in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

During angioplasty, a catheter or tube with a deflated balloon at the tip is threaded into the heart. The balloon is then inflated in the blocked artery to restore blood flow. A mesh tube, called a stent, may also be implanted to help keep the artery open.

Patients who arrived at the emergency room on a weekday during regular business hours had an average wait for angioplasty of 56 minutes. In contrast, those who arrived at night, on the weekend or during a holiday waited an average of 72 minutes.

The AHA recommends patients who have a ST-elevation myocardial infarction undergo an angioplasty within 90 minutes.

“Slower door-to-balloon times for people who arrived at the hospital during off hours is likely due to staffing. In the middle of the night, the hospital catheterization lab, where angioplasty and other artery-opening procedures are performed, is closed,” study author Dr. Jorge Saucedo, chief of cardiology and co-director of the Cardiovascular Institute at NorthShore University Health System in Evanston, Ill., explained in an AHA news release. “When a heart attack patient comes to the emergency department at 1 a.m., the emergency staff activate the pagers. Doctors need to drive to the hospital, get things set up in the cath lab, and it takes time.”

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute provides more information on treatment for heart attack.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Kids Will Pass on ‘Healthy’ Foods

Tue, 2014-07-29 13:38

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Want young children to embrace a more healthful diet?

Don’t tell them something that’s healthy is good for them. Doing so will actually make them think it won’t taste good, a new study suggests.

“Parents and caregivers who are struggling to get children to eat healthier may be better off simply serving the food without saying anything about it, or (if credible) emphasizing how yummy the food actually is,” said study authors Michal Maimaran, of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and Ayelet Fishbach, of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The findings appear in the October issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

The researchers launched their study to test their prediction that “when food is presented to children as making them strong or as a tool to achieve a goal such as learning how to read or count, they would conclude the food is not as tasty and therefore consume less of it,” they said in a journal news release.

In five experiments, the researchers focused on children aged 3 to 5. In each one, the children looked at a picture book featuring a girl who ate crackers or carrots. When offered the same foods later, the kids in the study were less likely to eat one if the picture book had touted it as good for their health or helpful to the learning process.

The study authors suggest that marketers might better reach parents and children by putting less emphasis on the health value of food and focus more on the positive experience of eating the food.

More information

To learn more about healthy eating for kids, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Wider Face May Give You an Edge in Negotiations

Tue, 2014-07-29 11:37

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Successful negotiations may depend on more than diplomacy. When it comes to negotiating, men with wider faces may have an advantage, according to a new study.

Researchers found men with a broader face are more successful when negotiating for themselves than men with narrower faces.

However, having a wider facer may not be an asset when negotiations require collaboration and compromise, the researchers found.

“We negotiate every day whether we think about it or not. It’s not just the big things, like a car or a home. It’s what time your kid is going to go to bed or what you or your spouse are going to have for dinner,” said study co-author Michael Haselhuhn, assistant professor of management at the University of California, Riverside’s School of Business Administration.

“These studies show that being a man with a wider face can be both a blessing and a curse, and awareness of this may be important for future business success,” he added.

In order to examine how men’s psychological or physical differences affect the outcome of negotiations, the researchers set up four negotiation simulations. The results were published online July 16 in The Leadership Quarterly.

In the first scenario, the researchers found that men with wider faces successfully negotiated a $2,200 larger signing bonus than men with a narrower face.

In the second situation, men with wider faces were able to negotiate a higher sale price for a chemical plant than men with a narrower face, the investigators found. And when the tables were turned and the wider-faced men were buying the chemical plant, they negotiated a lower price than the more narrow-faced men.

The third scenario involved finding a creative solution to close a real estate transaction. The men were grouped into teams of two. This time, the teams of men with wider faces had less successful negotiations, the study revealed.

The third scenario was repeated, but the researchers used a series of questions to assess the attractiveness and beauty of the men and paired them accordingly. This time, the more attractive men were more successful in the real estate negotiation.

While the study establishes an association between physical attributes and successful negotiations, it doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

The Association for Psychological Science has more about why appearance matters.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Extra Exercise Could Help Depressed Smokers Quit: Study

Tue, 2014-07-29 11:37

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Quitting smoking is harder for people with depression, according to a new review.

Depression can make it more difficult to ride out the anxiety, cravings or lack of sleep that come with trying to quit cold turkey, scientists found. But extra exercise — even just a walk — could help people quit faster, they said.

“The review should be seen as a call to arms,” the study’s co-author, Gregory Moullec, a postdoctoral researcher in the department of exercise science at Concordia University in Montreal, said in a university news release.

The study’s first author, Paquito Bernard, of the University of Montpellier in France, added that he hopes the findings will alert researchers and clinicians to the “promising role of exercise in the treatment of both depression and smoking cessation.”

Nearly 20 percent of adults in North America are regular smokers, although this percentage is on the decline. Meanwhile, roughly 40 percent of those with depression still rely on regular drags, the researchers said.

Depressed smokers feel the need to smoke twice as often as smokers who don’t have a mood disorder, according to the researchers. Those having the hardest time avoiding cigarettes may be grappling with more mental health issues than they realize, the authors added.

For the study, published recently in Nicotine & Tobacco Research, the researchers said they examined quit-smoking programs for people with depression, looking for the effect of exercise against relapse and on withdrawal symptoms. They also reviewed published studies investigating links between exercise and smoking, and exercise and depression.

The investigators found that over 18 months, just taking regular walks can help ease the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking — even if it’s not enough physical activity to reduce symptoms of depression.

More research is needed to determine the role exercise should play in programs designed to help people quit smoking, the study authors concluded.

“We still need stronger evidence to convince policymakers,” Moullec said in the news release. “Unfortunately, there is still skepticism about exercise compared to pharmacological strategies. But if we continue to conduct ambitious trials, using high-standard methodology, we will get to know which interventions are the most effective of all.”

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about quitting smoking.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Attention Germaphobes: A Less Icky Alternative to the Handshake

Tue, 2014-07-29 10:28

Photo: Getty Images

You may think a fist bump is strictly for bromances, but it just may be the new greeting of choice for germaphobes everywhere. Turns out the fist bump is a LOT less likely than a handshake to spread bacteria from person to person, according to research just published in the American Journal of Infection Control.

For the study, scientists at Aberystwyth University in the United Kingdom compared how easily bugs migrate via a classic handshake, a high-five, and knuckle-to-knuckle knock used by cool people everywhere, from former Deal or No Deal host (and germaphobe) Howie Mandel to the Obamas in the 2008 Presidential campaign.

RELATED: 4 Secrets to Never Getting Sick

The big loser—or the generous oversharer, we should say—was the handshake; a high-five transferred half as much bacteria while a knuckle bump spread an impressive 90% fewer germs, likely because the latter two methods involve less skin-on-skin contact.

“The hands are a primary way that germs can be transmitted,” says Mary Lou Manning, PhD, President-Elect of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, who was not part of the study. “When I shake your hand, you don’t know where my hand has been, and I don’t know where your hand has been,” Dr. Manning wrote in an email. “All sorts of bacteria and viruses—from the germs that cause the common cold to the ones that lead to superbug infections—can be spread this way.”

RELATED: How to Fight 14 Classroom Germs

Still, unless you work on a baseball diamond like Derek Jeter, a fist bump isn’t the most natural move in professional settings. So if you can’t see yourself bringing a knuckle near that new client, consider sticking with a hearty hello.

But there are times where a fist bump would be wise. As David Whitworth, PhD, lead researcher on this study concludes: “People should think twice about shaking hands, particularly in sensitive situations like within the healthcare context but also when flu epidemics are happening.” Agreed! But how about if we DON’T shake on it?

RELATED: 10 Ways You May Put Yourself at Risk for Flu

Lisa Lombardi is the Executive Editor of Health magazine.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Less Flexibility Seen in Brain Wiring of Kids With Autism: Study

Tue, 2014-07-29 09:37

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — When most children take on a task, various brain connections fire up. But scans showed less of this neuro-boosting activity in kids with autism, according to a small new study.

Moreover, children with more severe symptoms of autism displayed even less of this “brain flexibility,” the researchers found.

“This reduced flexibility often causes difficulty when children with autism are faced with new situations,” said study lead author Lucina Uddin, a neuroscientist and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Miami in Florida. “Knowing how the brain responds differently in these scenarios can help us to make transitions easier for these kids.”

The finding — published July 29 in Cerebral Cortex — won’t immediately lead to improvements in prevention, diagnosis or treatment of autism, which is estimated to affect one in 68 children in the United States. Still, it may provide more insight into the mysterious workings of the brain in autism.

People with autism have trouble interacting with others because they can’t interpret many social signals that humans send to one another. They also engage in repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively focusing on one topic, or repeating the same action over and over.

“Based on our recent findings of overconnectivity in the brains of children with autism, I wanted to test the idea that a flexible brain is necessary for flexible behaviors,” Uddin said.

In the new study, researchers performed brain scans on 34 children with autism and 34 typically developing children while at rest and while performing a task — either solving math problems or distinguishing faces from one another. The idea was to include tasks that would — and wouldn’t — significantly challenge kids with autism.

The kids with autism did as well as the others on the tasks. However, “across a set of brain connections known to be important for switching between different tasks, children with autism showed reduced ‘brain flexibility’ compared with typically developing peers,” Uddin said.

The researchers also found a connection between the severity of restricted and repetitive behaviors and the degree of inflexibility.

In the big picture, “the findings may help researchers develop new therapies that target brain flexibility through strategies, tools and games that improve task-switching, for example,” said study co-author Kaustubh Supekar, a science research associate with the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine.

Jose Perez Velazquez, a senior scientist with Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, cautioned that just because the brains of people with autism work differently doesn’t mean that they work in a worse way. When it comes to behaviors, “which ones we want to label pathological or deviant is, many times, a matter of taste,” said Velazquez, who wasn’t involved in the study.

More information

For more about autism, check the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Categories: Health & Fitness

It’s ‘Buyer Beware’ for Decorative Contact Lenses, FDA Says

Tue, 2014-07-29 09:37

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Decorative contact lenses may seem like a fun accessory, but if you’re not careful, they can cause serious eye damage.

Decorative contacts should be fitted properly by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s important to get an eye exam and a valid prescription for these lenses and buy them from a trustworthy seller, the FDA cautioned.

To spread the word about the potential health risks associated with decorative contact lenses, the FDA joined forces with the American Optometric Association (AOA), and the Entertainment Industries Council (EIC). The three groups offered guidance on how to use these lenses safely. Their recommendations include:

  • Visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist for an exam before using decorative contact lenses — even if you think your vision is perfect. You should also schedule follow-up exams.
  • Be sure to get a valid prescription for these lenses. This prescription should specify the brand name, lens measurements and an expiration date.
  • Avoid anime, or circle, lenses. The FDA has not approved these contacts. They are larger than typical lenses in order to give those who wear them a wide-eyed, doll-like look.
  • Do not buy decorative contact lenses from any seller that doesn’t require you to provide a prescription.
  • Follow all directions on how to clean, disinfect and wear the lenses.

“I think if I were to leave anybody with a piece of advice on contact lenses, it would be yeah, they’re fun. They can be fantastic,” Scott Smiledge of Eye Inc FX, a supplier of hand-painted contact lenses for professional production in the film and television industry, said in an FDA news release.

“Just make sure you do it the right way. Make sure that you’re buying from a place that is following the rules and you’re buying lenses that have been handled properly. And that your eye doctor knows about and approves of it,” he added.

Despite following these precautions, using decorative lenses can still lead to a serious infection. In extreme cases, blindness may occur.

Anyone who uses these lenses and develops any of the following symptoms should visit their eye doctor right away:

  • Redness
  • Eye pain that doesn’t go away after a short time
  • Problems with vision

These recommendations on decorative contact lenses were published on the FDA’s Consumer Updates page.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about contact lens safety tips.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Heat Stroke a Greater Threat to Endurance Runners Than Heart Problems

Tue, 2014-07-29 09:00

Photo: Getty Images

MONDAY, July 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Endurance runners are far more likely to die of heat stroke than an undetected heart condition, according to a new study.

The researchers pointed out that endurance athletes participating in events in warm climates are actually 10 times more likely to develop severe and life-threatening heat stroke. Yet, the less common sudden death of a young and apparently healthy person due to undetected heart problems, such as an irregular heartbeat, often gets a lot more media attention.

“This research shows that heat stroke is a real threat to marathon and long-distance runners; however, there are no clinical studies of potential strategies to prevent heat stroke during these types of events,” senior study author Dr. Sami Viskin, a cardiologist at Tel Aviv Medical Center in Israel, said in a news release from the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“It’s important that clinicians educate runners on the ways to minimize their risk of heat stroke, including allowing 10 to 14 days to adjust to a warm climate, discouraging running if a person is ill or was recently ill, because a pre-existing fever impairs the body’s ability to dissipate additional heat stress, and developing better methods of monitoring body core temperature during physical activity,” Viskin said.

Races longer than 6.2 miles have become increasingly popular among endurance athletes. To assess the greatest health risks associated with these types of events, the researchers analyzed information compiled on all death and hospitalizations that occurred at 14 long-distance races in Tel Aviv between March 2007 and November 2013.

Out of nearly 140,000 runners, only two serious heart-related events were reported during the study period. None of these were life-threatening. The researchers found however, that 21 people developed heat stroke. Of these cases, two were fatal and 12 were considered life-threatening.

The study was published July 28 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on heat-related illness.

Categories: Health & Fitness

How the “Love Hormone” Oxytocin Could Help Some With Autism

Tue, 2014-07-29 08:45

Photo: Getty Images

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Treating certain adult autism patients with just a single dose of the hormone oxytocin quickly improved their ability to judge facial expressions and emotions, Japanese researchers report.

Known as the “love hormone,” oxytocin has been shown to play a role in emotional bonding between lovers, and between mothers and their children.

In this study, it boosted underperforming neural activity in a key area of the brain that has long been associated with the processing of both empathy and emotion recognition.

The finding has only been observed among male autism patients who are relatively “high-functioning,” meaning that they possess verbal communication skills that exceed those of people with more severe autism.

Yet, study co-author Hidenori Yamasue suggested that even “low-functioning” autism patients might ultimately derive some benefit from oxytocin treatment, because the effect of the hormone is on the ability to interpret nonverbal facial expressions, rather than dialogue.

“Therefore, autistic people with deficits in nonverbal communication and interaction [might] benefit from oxytocin administration,” he noted.

Yamasue, from the department of neuropsychiatry in the Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Tokyo, and his team report the findings online July 29 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Autism involves a range of neurodevelopmental disorders marked by repetitive behaviors and problems with social interaction and communication.

Previous research has indicated that oxytocin might be of use as an autism therapy. One Yale University Child Study Center report, published late last year, suggested the hormone actually enhanced brain function among children with autism.

But, the exact nature of oxytocin’s neurological impact has remained unclear.

To get a better handle on its impact, the Japanese researchers focused on 40 high-functioning men diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Each received one dose of oxytocin by means of a nasal spray. About 90 minutes later, investigators used high-tech scans to measure the hormone’s impact on activity levels in the brain’s ventro medial prefrontal cortex region.

Brain signaling in this region, they determined, went up following oxytocin treatment.

In turn, treated patients were then presented with a psychological task in which they were instructed to determine whether or not a character in a movie they were shown was a friend or foe. They were asked to make their decision after absorbing a mix of both verbal and nonverbal cues.

The result: the dose of oxytocin did, in fact, translate into an improved ability to interpret such cues accurately.

Yamasue noted that although the impact of oxytocin treatment on brain activity can be seen relatively quickly (within 15 to 120 minutes), “researchers generally believe that effect of single-dose oxytocin is short-term.”

Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, cautioned that “it will likely be several years before we have a clearer understanding of whether oxytocin is a safe and effective treatment.”

Adesman said, “Recent studies have suggested that oxytocin can have a favorable effect on the social behaviors of individuals with autism spectrum disorder. [And] this new study suggests that the effects of oxytocin, from an experimental standpoint, may not be as narrow as previously believed,” he acknowledged.

Andrea Roberts, a research associate in the department of social and behavioral sciences at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, pointed out that the research on this topic has produced mixed results.

“I think the prior studies show that there is potential for oxytocin to be slightly beneficial to people with [autism spectrum disorder],” she said, “but the evidence for long-term, meaningful levels of effectiveness is unfortunately not yet there.”

More information

Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more about autism.

Categories: Health & Fitness

Healthy Habits Can Protect Your Body From Negative Effects of Stress

Tue, 2014-07-29 08:00

Photo: Getty Images

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 29, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Exercise, a healthy diet and good sleep can protect the body against the negative effects of stress and slow down the aging process at a cellular level, researchers report.

A study involving hundreds of older women found that stressful events are linked to increased shortening of telomeres, the protective caps at the ends of chromosomes that affect how quickly cells age.

“We found that over a one-year period, the more stressors a woman had, the more their telomeres were likely to shorten,” said lead author Eli Puterman, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.

But women who maintained active lifestyles, ate right and slept well appeared to shrug off the effects of stress, with their telomeres showing no significant additional shortening, the researchers said.

Dr. Michael Speicher, professor and chairman of the Institute of Human Genetics at the Medical University of Graz in Austria, said the study “addresses a really important biological question: why a healthy lifestyle is really helpful, especially if you are exposed to stressors.”

“The hopeful message is if you engage in these healthy behaviors, you can decrease some effects that stress can have on your body,” he said.

Telomeres are like the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces that keep the laces from unraveling.

Composed of DNA and protein, they protect the ends of chromosomes and keep them from unraveling. As telomeres become shorter and their structural integrity weakens, cells age and die faster.

This sort of cellular aging has been associated with age-related illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. One theory holds older people are more prone to develop cancer because their shortened telomeres have made their chromosomes unstable and likely to malfunction, said Speicher, who wasn’t involved in the new study.

Telomeres naturally grow shorter with age, but unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, poor diet and too little sleep can cause them to shorten sooner, Puterman said. Chronic emotional stress also has been linked to shorter telomeres.

To see whether a healthy lifestyle can combat the effects of stress, researchers followed 239 post-menopausal, nonsmoking women for one year. The findings are published July 29 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

The women provided blood samples at the beginning and the end of the year for telomere measurement. They underwent periodic reviews of their physical activity, diet and sleep.

At the end, the women also reported on stressful events that occurred during the year. Researchers focused on truly stressful life events, such as becoming a caregiver to a sick relative, losing a house or a job, or having someone dear to them die, Puterman said.

The researchers found that these major stress events caused a significantly greater decline in telomere lengths for women who halfheartedly engaged in healthy behaviors.

But the same levels of stress caused no greater shortening in the telomeres of women who stayed active, ate healthily and slept well.

The study shows the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle during challenging periods in your life, Puterman and Speicher said.

“If we are in stressful situations, physical activity, sleep and nutrition are of really great importance to keep our bodies in shape and stay healthy,” Speicher said. “With this study we see it on the genetic level now.”

The study also adds to our understanding of how healthy living affects the aging process, Puterman said.

“The same type of person who eats well and still exercises is the same sort of person who isn’t aging much,” he said. “As we get deeper and deeper into the cell, we’re getting more information about why and what’s happening at the genetic level.”

The study doesn’t actually prove a cause-and-effect relationship between healthy habits and longer telomeres, however. The next step will be randomized trials to see whether exercise can be used to slow cellular aging for people facing ongoing life stress, such as those serving as caregivers to Alzheimer’s patients.

“We’re going to look to see whether we can shift their aging processes within their cells, as well as depression levels and stress levels and that sort of thing,” Puterman said.

Although the study was limited to women, both experts said it would make sense that the findings would apply to men.

Speicher went further: “There are several studies out there claiming men on average have shorter telomeres than women,” he said. “One could suppose that the effects on men would be even greater than on women, but that’s just a theory.”

More information

For more on telomeres, visit the University of Utah.

Categories: Health & Fitness

10 Super Simple Spritzers to Make Now

Mon, 2014-07-28 16:55

It’s summertime and the living’s easy. That’s all the more reason to shake things up with one of simplest cocktails you can make ever.

Forget everything you know about spritzers, or those watered down wine glasses that are more ice than booze. These libations have gotten a much-needed makeover in time for the balmy months, all thanks to mixologists adding their unique take on the classic refreshing drink.

“During the height of summer, a traditional cocktail is often a bit too formal and aggressive,” says David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, authors of “The 12 Bottle Bar.”

“Spritzers solve this problem with their combination of effervescence and a flavorful, often bitter, base, which simultaneously refreshes and quenches,” they add.

The perfect spritzer should only require a handful of tasty ingredients readily accessible at your home bar, pack a tantalizing kick, and more importantly, beat the heat day or night.

For some inspiration, check out these 10 super simple spritzers to get your summer party started:


Apricot Pop

BLT Steak in New York

1 oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
2 oz. apricot puree
4 oz. sparkling wine
3 dash orange bitters

Build cocktail in mixing glass by adding St. Germain, apricot puree, and bitters. Shake with ice and strain into a champagne flute. Add sparkling wine.


Puttin’ on the Spritz

Mixologist Frank DeBellis of Headless Horseman in New York

½ cup HobNob Chardonnay
½ cup lemon-lime soda
1 lemon slice
1 lime slice

Fill glass halfway with ice. Pour chardonnay over ice and top with lemon-lime soda. Add a few lemon and lime slices to glass. Garnish with lemon wheel.


Pomegranate Lime Spritzer

Wine expert David Noto

2 oz. sweet vermouth
2 oz. Campari
2 oz. Altaneve Prosecco
pomegranate seeds
mint leaves
1 lime slice

Add all ingredients in a child flute with ice. Stir and add lime slice for garnish.


Red Berry Spritzer

Mixologist Frank DeBellis of Headless Horseman in New York

½ cup Josh Cellars Merlot
¾ cup club soda
fresh berries

Fill glass halfway with ice. Pour merlot over ice and top with club soda. Add fresh berries.


Sparkling Honey Fruit Spritzer

National Honey Board (Honey.com)

1/3 cup honey
1 cup frozen berries
1 lime, thinly sliced
1 orange, halved and thinly sliced
3 cups orange juice
3 cups sparkling water
ice cubes
red or white wine

Combine honey, berries, citrus slices, and orange juice in a pitcher. Using a wooden spoon, press down on the fruit juice and to mix fruit with the honey. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer. Add sparkling water, ice, and wine when ready to serve. Stir to mix.

Read the rest from Fox News Magazine


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Categories: Health & Fitness

4 Tips for Treating a Bee Sting

Mon, 2014-07-28 15:08

Photo: Getty Images

Late summer is the busiest time of year for bees. The workers are spending long days scavenging for all the nectar the hive will need to get through the winter, which means that you’re more likely to run into one. Here’s what to do—and what not to do—when you find yourself in the line of fire.

DO get away first.

When bees feel threatened, they release a scent to essentially call in backup from the hive. You don’t want to be around when the stinging bee‘s posse arrives, so go inside or off the trail as soon as you can.

RELATED: How to Beat 16 Summer Health Hazards

DON’T just yank out the stinger.

Use a credit card or fingernail to scrape it out. If you pinch and pull, you might accidentally squeeze the venom sac, pushing more poison into your skin. But if scraping doesn’t work, do whatever you have to do to get the stinger out fast. It will contract and pump the venom into your skin on its own for up to a minute after the sting.

DO wash the area with soap and water, and use ice or a cold compress to relieve any pain or swelling.

If you were stung on one of your arms or legs, it’s also a good idea to elevate the limb. Itchy? Apply calamine lotion or hydrocortisone ointment.

 RELATED: How to Stock a Smart First Aid Kit

DON’T delay treatment if you have symptoms other than local swelling and pain.

About 2 million Americans are allergic to venomous insects. Even if you’ve been stung before without problems, a serious reaction can arise after any bee sting. If you develop hives, welts or tongue or facial swelling, take an antihistamine and use your EpiPen, if you have one; then call 911 or head to the ER. Your symptoms may not get worse, but don’t chance it.

 RELATED: Your 12 Worst Allergy Mistakes

Categories: Health & Fitness

Early Hormone Therapy May Be Safe for Women’s Hearts

Mon, 2014-07-28 14:37

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, July 28, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Healthy women at low risk of cardiovascular disease may be able to take hormone replacement therapy soon after menopause for a short time without harming their hearts, according to a new study.

Previous studies, including the large-scale Women’s Health Initiative, found that hormone replacement therapy had harmful effects on the heart. But, many of those women were older when they began the hormone treatments, and much further past menopause.

In this new study, researchers wanted to look at how markers of heart disease, such as the thickness of artery walls, might be affected if healthy women began hormone therapy soon after menopause.

“We were expecting it to slow down the progress of arterial disease,” said study researcher Dr. S. Mitchell Harman, chief of the endocrine division and interim chief of medicine at the Phoenix VA Healthcare System. That, in turn, would reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The results, however, did not turn out that way. “We cannot recommend estrogen for the prevention of cardiovascular disease, even in this younger healthier group,” he said.

The good news? “It doesn’t hurt either,” Harman said. “It looks like a wash.” So, for women who are affected by the common menopausal symptoms of hot flashes and night sweats, taking hormone replacement therapy for a few years doesn’t appear to jeopardize heart health, he said, at least in this healthy group of women.

Findings from the study were published July 29 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study was funded primarily by Kronos Longevity Research Institute, which is supported by the not-for-profit Aurora Foundation. The foundation has no pharmaceutical company ties.

The study, known as the Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study (KEEPS), was a four-year clinical trial to compare the effects of three regimens in more than 700 women. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three groups: low-dose oral hormone replacement therapy with estrogen and progesterone; a skin patch of estrogen and oral progesterone; or placebo treatment, with no hormones given.

The women’s average age was nearly 53 but ranged from 42 to 58. Their last menstrual period was within 36 months before the study start. The average time since the start of menopause was 1.4 years, according to the study.

Over the course of the study period, Harman’s team evaluated markers of heart disease risk. They looked at changes in the thickness of the wall of the common carotid artery in the neck, using ultrasound. This can predict heart attack and stroke risk. They looked at the appearance of new calcium deposits in the heart arteries. They looked also at blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

The investigators found few differences among groups for build-up of plaque and other markers of heart disease risk. The oral dose group had decreased levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol. But they also had increased triglycerides, another type of blood fat that may increase the risk of heart disease.

The patch group seemed to have better blood sugar levels, the study authors noted.

Hormone replacement therapy has also been linked with increased breast cancer risk, but this study only looked at its effect on heart health.

“Mostly they are confirming what we already know,” said Dr. Kellie Flood-Shaffer, division director of obstetrics and gynecology at University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

The research ”seems to have taken more measurements reflecting cardiovascular disease risk than other studies,” she said.

“I think they are showing, at least from a vascular standpoint, we can at least keep [heart disease] at bay,” she said, at least in the younger, healthy women.

The study findings point to the need to individualize decisions on hormone replacement therapy based on each person’s risk factors, she said. For instance, if a woman has a family history of heart disease, high LDL and bothersome symptoms, she might prescribe hormone therapy.

More information

To learn more about hormone replacement therapy recommendations, visit the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

Categories: Health & Fitness