Review Category : Health

Meditation Becoming More Popular Among Teens

Deklofenak/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — One of the most surprising trends among teenagers going into the New Year is, of all things, meditation.

It’s due in large part to the growth of scientific research that suggests meditation can help teens to reduce stress, regulate emotions and boost grades.

Meditation is now being taught in schools across America.

Actor Russell Brand meditated with students at Phillip and Sala Burton Academic High School in San Francisco, where officials say meditation has brought down violence and improved academic performance.

Research suggests meditation has benefits for both grownups and children, including improved focus, better test scores, boosted immune systems and lower blood pressure.

Neuroscience has also shown that meditation can effectively rewire key areas of the brain that are associated with stress, self-awareness and compassion.

Elisha Goldstein is a psychologist and the author of the book Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion. He and his wife, Stefanie, developed the Connecting Adolescents to Learning Mindfulness (CALM) program, which, through meditation, teaches teens how to more effectively deal with change, stress, disappointments and overwhelming emotions.

Since teenagers have shorter attention spans than adults, Goldstein and his wife often incorporate playful activities, such as hiking or music, into the program.

Because a teen’s brain undergoes important transformations, meditation can lay the groundwork for a lifetime of improved resilience and focus, Goldstein said. The benefits are especially important in an era when teenagers’ attention spans are so fractured by digital devices.

“So there’s this incredible opportunity to lay the foundation to experience a sense of personal control, so you cultivate a sense of emotional intelligence and to learn how to connect with people in meaningful ways and that lays the foundation for the adult years that follow,” he said.

Chloe Ashton, 16, the daughter of ABC News contributor Dr. Jen Ashton, recently learned to meditate.

“Since I’ve been meditating, I’ve noticed that I’m more relaxed and I face problems a little bit differently than I might have,” she said. “I look at them with more of an open mind, but I’ve also only been meditating for a couple weeks. I’m excited to see the changes in the future.”

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Could Fat Cells Help Keep You Healthy?

Alexander Raths/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new study indicates that some fat may help keep you healthy.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California-San Diego and published in the journal Science, determined that cells that make fat in mice also serve to trigger an immune response. Specifically, researchers exposed laboratory mice to a staph infection, and found that those mice with a deficiency of fat-creating cells were more likely to become infected.

Mice with higher skin fat, on the other hand, were more likely to avoid infection.

Because the study was conducted on mice, the impact on humans is, as of yet, unclear. Researchers also note that excessive fat can cause insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, each of which can predispose humans to infection.

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Could Fat Cells Help Keep You Healthy?

Alexander Raths/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A new study indicates that some fat may help keep you healthy.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of California-San Diego and published in the journal Science, determined that cells that make fat in mice also serve to trigger an immune response. Specifically, researchers exposed laboratory mice to a staph infection, and found that those mice with a deficiency of fat-creating cells were more likely to become infected.

Mice with higher skin fat, on the other hand, were more likely to avoid infection.

Because the study was conducted on mice, the impact on humans is, as of yet, unclear. Researchers also note that excessive fat can cause insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome, each of which can predispose humans to infection.

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Is There Any Way to Avoid the Lure of Junk Food?

David Parsons/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Do you get a warm, fuzzy feeling when you daydream about brownies?

That’s probably true for a lot of people and might explain why it’s so hard to resist the temptation of junk food, according to Ashleigh Haynes at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia.

Haynes, who’s getting her PhD in applied cognitive psychology, says that while we know that most snack foods and desserts aren’t doing our bodies any favors, we still think positively about them which Haynes says may have to do with evolution and our life experiences.

To test this, Haynes had nearly 200 people first rate four unhealthy foods from one to seven and then asked them to evaluate the snacks with positive and negative words. With that, they were then allowed to dig in.

Afterwards, Haynes assessed how much food was eaten during a ten-minute span. She discovered that the greater the negative implicit evaluation of junk food, the less tempted people were to eat it,

Hence, Haynes believes that it is indeed possible to retrain one’s self to replace positive associations with negative ones in order to reduce the lure of chocolate, french fries and the like.

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For the Middle-Aged, Driving and Texting Really Don’t Mix

Onzeg/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The older generation ought not to throw stones at the younger generation when it comes to the potentially deadly mix of texting and driving if they’re tapping out messages on their phones.

Not only shouldn’t they be texting to begin with but people considered middle-aged are much more apt to get into a serious accident than virtually everyone younger who drives.

A study conducted at Wayne State University in Detroit put participants ages 18-59 through a driving simulator test in which they drove on a two-lane country road, sometimes at speeds of 50 to 60 mph while texting with one hand.

Beforehand, all the participants were asked about their texting skills, which ran from rudimentary to expert. After each person was tested for 30 minutes, co-study author Randall Commissaris said that about two-thirds either swerved into the other lane or drove on the shoulder while texting.

Even half the people ranked as expert texters committed lane excursions. But what was most interesting is that virtually every “driver” aged 45 to 59 drove into the oncoming lane while texting, regardless of their skills in contrast to a quarter of participants aged 18 to 24.

So what’s up with middle-aged drivers? Commissaris said the best guess by researchers is that they’re more prone to look at their phone while texting and just aren’t as proficient at multi-tasking as younger folks.

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Cautious Doctors Use Telemedicine to Diagnose Flu

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Some doctors in Tennessee are asking patients with flu-like symptoms not to come into their offices to avoid spreading the virus to other patients in their waiting room.

Instead, these doctors are evaluating patients over the phone or on computers as part of something called “telemedicine.”

“If you’re really feeling crummy and you have the symptoms of influenza, your chances of having influenza are very, very high — over 90 percent,” Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. “Doctors are saying I don’t need to do a test because sometimes the test is negative even if you have influenza.”

Although the rapid influenza test is effective at determining whether children have the virus (as opposed to some kind of bacterial infection), it’s wrong 25 percent of the time in adults because their bodies don’t produce as much of the virus when they’re sick. Children, on the other hand, have weaker immune systems and become little flu distributors even before they start to feel sick. As a result, they have very high viral loads.

So Schaffner said many doctors will discuss symptoms over the phone and prescribe an antiviral medication. But they ask that sick patients have a family member pick it up at the pharmacy.

He said this approach is cost effective because patients avoid the cost of the test and the doctors visit. And they don’t spread the virus to other people by coming to the doctors office. The influenza virus is highly infectious and can be spread to people within 3 feet of a sick patient when that patient coughs, sneezes or talks, he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared a flu epidemic this week with 22 state reporting high amounts of “influenza-like activity.”

Tennessee has seen epidemic levels for two weeks, and three children have already died, Schaffner said, adding that one child was 8 months old and the other was 11 years old.

Although children die from the flu every year across the nation, Schaffner said “even one is something that we are distressed about.”

“Each of those is a tragedy” he said. “Three is a large number in our state.”

He said in years like this when flu activity is high and one of the strains is H3N2, it’s bound to be fatal in both children and adults with underlying medical conditions.

It’s not too late to get a flu shot, which though not perfect can still be effective against the B strain, which tends to crop up in late January and February.

“If you haven’t been vaccinated, go ahead and do it,” Schaffner said. “And then on Jan. 1, make a new year’s resolution that when this fall comes around in September, October 2015 be sure to get vaccinated. Go to the front of the line and get vaccinated.

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Twins Born in 2 Different Years Celebrate 1st Birthday

iStock/Thinkstock(ABILENE, Texas) — Hannah and Danielle Reed were born a minute apart but in two different years.

Hannah was born via cesarean section at 11:59 last New Year’s Eve, and her sister, Dannielle, was born just 40 seconds after midnight, making her the first baby of 2014 in Abilene, Texas.

Their mother, Veronica Reed, 32, said they celebrated Hannah’s first birthday Wednesday night with dinner, presents and a cupcake. And they’ll to it all over again to celebrate Danielle’s birthday Thursday.

“They’re just perfect,” Reed said. “They’re healthy. They have eight teeth each. Danny’s crawling and around here, and Hannah’s well on her way.”

The girls look alike, but it’s already clear to Reed that they have very different personalities. Danielle is “on the go all the time from sun up until sun down” and her big sister is quieter and likes to observe before she does anything, Reed said.

But they also have a few things in common.

“Both love to laugh and play and clap,” Reed said. “And they love music.”

They also love the telephone because Reed was deployed in the African country of Djibouti for about four months this year, and that’s how they used to keep in touch, she said. As a result, the girls like to pretend they’re on the phone.

“They say ‘hello’ and immediately put their hand to their ear like they’re on the telephone,” Reed said.

They’ll have a birthday party Sunday for family and friends, but each girl will get her own theme: “winter onederland” for Hannah and “sugar plum fairy” for Danielle.

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First 2015 Baby in New York Wastes No Time

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A little boy born at midnight became the first baby of the new year in New York City.

Maxim was born at Coney Island Hospital at 12 a.m. on the dot, weighing 8 pounds, 8 ounces, according to a news release from the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp.

He is 21 inches long, hospital spokesman Robert Cooper told ABC News.

“Mother and baby are doing well,” he said.

hree hours later, a baby girl became the first baby of 2015 in the Bay Area, according to KGO, ABC’s San Francisco station. Although she hasn’t been named, she weighs 8 pounds and is 21 inches long.

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More Than 1.5 Million Cancer Deaths Avoided During 20 Years of Dropping Mortality Rates

AlexRaths/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The American Cancer Society says that more than 1.5 million cancer deaths that would have occurred over two decades have been avoided due to the 22-percent drop in cancer mortality seen in that span.

Between 2007 and 2011 — the most recent five years for which data is available — the average cancer death rate declined by 1.8 percent among men and 1.4 percent among women. The ACS attributes those declines to decreases in death rate among the most common cancers — lung, breast, prostate and colon.

The report estimates that 1,658,370 cancer cases will be discovered in 2015, and 589,430 Americans will die of cancer in 2015.

Between 1991 and 2011, cancer death rates have dipped in every state. The smallest declines — about 15 percent — were found in the South, while declines of as large as 25 to 30 percent were seen in Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York and Delaware.

“The continuing drops we’re seeing in cancer mortality are reason to celebrate,” John Seffrin, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society, said, “but not to stop.” He notes that cancer “was responsible for nearly one in four deaths in the United States in 2011, making it the second-leading cause of death overall.”

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Life After Enterovirus: One Child’s Continued Struggle with Paralysis

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Allen Howe was a typical 4-year-old, goofy and playful, until one day a few months ago when he became very sick.

What started out as a fever and a nagging cough quickly developed into 80 percent of his body becoming paralyzed, so much so that he was unable to lift his head.

The sudden onset of paralysis, baffling to his doctors, was a horrible nightmare for his mother.

“I felt helpless,” Teresa Howe said. “He was lying in bed and he literally was screaming, ‘Help me, Mom,’ and I’m just bawling.”

Watch the full story on Nightline Tuesday night at 12:35 a.m. ET

Allen’s parents took him to C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, where the team of doctors who worked on him believe a virus, called enterovirus D68, which caused Allen’s cough, may have also caused his sudden paralysis. ED-V68 comes from the same viral family as polio.

As hospitals across the country brace for a flu season that could shape up to be worse and deadlier than in years past, it was just months ago that many had to treat young patients with a nasty strain of enterovirus, one that in extreme cases caused death.

From August to December this year, there have been 1,152 confirmed cases of enterovirus D68 in 49 states and Washington, D.C., almost all of them in children, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

To date, 12 of those confirmed cases resulted in death, the CDC reports, whereas 15 children have already died from flu this season.

But many families are dealing with enterovirus aftermath, with cases of paralysis noted in California, Colorado, and more recently in Texas and various Southern states. Michigan was hit hard.

Dr. Marie Lozon and her staff at C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital dealt with various enterovirus cases, including a few that led to paralysis.

“We added extra doctors and nurses, every day on every shift,” Lozon said of the hospital dealing with enterovirus these past few months. “We called back time off and we used our existing doctors staff, our faculty staff and said, ‘Guys, we have to run our enterovirus shift. Let’s make reasoned decisions about when we can make sure all the patients are safe, and handle the surge.’”

Nightline was granted exclusive access inside C.S. Mott’s Children’s Hospital for several days in October during the height of the enterovirus season, as doctors tried to crack the mystery of how the virus attacked.

Lozon said when she saw an alarming spike in both ED-V68 and pediatric paralysis, she started putting the pieces together.

“As soon as the respiratory cycle settled down a little bit, we started seeing children come in with this acute paralysis, and people started to link the enterovirus with that,” she said. “I cannot speak to causation. I am not saying the enterovirus brought about the paralysis. But you can see where the link came.”

This enterovirus season, which began in the summer, is now over, Lozon said. While it’s impossible to predict the intensity of next season, she said the virus will return. Until then, doctors are still learning from the cases they are still treating months after initial diagnosis.

When Allen was battling the virus, he was on a feeding tube because his throat muscles were affected by the paralysis. He had physical therapy twice a day, which required him to be strapped to a gurney, as hospital staff helped re-train his muscles, bending and straightening his legs as he cried in pain.

It was tough for a 4-year-old to understand why he can no longer play with his little brother, but amid the frustration and pain, there was hope, because Allen started making progress.

After a month of treatment and therapy, Allen was allowed to go home just in time for Thanksgiving. Through December, he has recovered enough muscle tone to walk again with the support of a walker or his mother helping him.

Dr. Marie Lozon said rather than parents panicking over EV-D68, which can be treated but has no vaccine, they should take the necessary steps to protect loved ones against the viruses that do, such as the flu.

“Every year, 36,000 Americans, roughly, die from a flu, and a certain percentage of those are children,” she said. “Our best tool is a yearly influenza vaccination, which is recommended by expert groups in our country.”

And as when dealing with most viruses, the best defense against enterovirus is common sense.

“We have a viral surges every year… now enterovirus is just another of the viruses that we’ve seen,” she said. “Yes, it made children very, very sick, but a lot of kids, it just gave them a really bad cold and cough, and they were fine at home.”

“I think we cover our cough. We use good hand hygiene and common sense. You would never send your child to school, feverish and coughing…and if we do that, we’re going to get through this,” Lozon added.

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