Review Category : Health

UK Surgeon Experiments With Oculus Rift to Make ‘Virtual Surgeon’

Dr. Shafi Ahmed, Medical Realities(LONDON) — A British surgeon wants to make the operating room virtual with the Oculus Rift headset.

Dr. Shafi Ahmed, a laparoscopic and colorectal surgeon, has already worked to integrate Google Glass into his lessons as an associate dean at the Barthes of London Medical School.

As co-founder of the tech company Medical Realities, Ahmed now wants to use the virtual reality system Oculus Rift to create the “Virtual Surgeon,” a pilot program that would allow medical students to practice surgeries inspired by actual operations before setting foot into an operating room.

Ahmed and his team presented Virtual Surgeon at the wearable technology show this week.

“It’s very easy to train people in a correct operation,” Ahmed told ABC News on Friday. “It’s not so easy when things go wrong. … We’re all put in situations where things can go wrong.”

Last month, Ahmed took the first steps towards creating that program by making a 360-degree video of an operation.

Anyone wearing an Oculus Rift headset could then be able to get an immersive view of the laparoscopic procedure when the video is played back.

The virtual reality experience of Oculus Rift is a better simulation for students, Ahmed said, because it can more easily mimic a real operating room.

“It’s as close as you can get to replicating it,” he said, noting that education should always embrace the newest technology and a virtual reality operating room could be the next major tool for students.

The Oculus Rift headset has not been made available to consumers yet, but the company was acquired by Facebook for $2 billion last year. The headsets have already been utilized by a range of people, from real estate agents to driving instructors and fitness companies.

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Why Being Thin Is Not Equal to Being Healthy

Monkey Business Images/Stockbroker/Monkey Business/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — In the ongoing war on obesity, health officials have consistently focused on Body Mass Index, or BMI, as a measure of weight appropriate to a certain height.

The bad news is that more than a third of Americans, 34.9 percent, are obese, with a BMI of over 30, according to 2014 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Another third of Americans are overweight, according to the CDC, with a BMI of between 25 and 30.

But that’s not where the bad news ends. Many health experts have long been concerned that BMI does not properly account for people who look svelte but have fat hidden away, making them “normal weight obese.”

Those people can still store away reservoirs of fat in the body or even in the organs or muscles, leading to serious health consequences similar to those of a person whose BMI indicates they’re overweight, experts note.

A 2010 study published in the European Heart Journal found that as many as 30 million Americans are suspected of having normal weight obesity.

“It’s absolutely true there are some people who seem like no matter what they’re doing, they look really good but looks can be deceiving,” Carol Garber, a professor of Movement Science at the Teacher College at Columbia University, told ABC News.

Garber said she has seen first hand how even skinny patients can be at risk for heart disease.

“We would regularly see people who had heart attacks come to [our] rehab program and look perfectly fine,” Garber said. But “if you measured their body fat, they had a greater proportion of fat than they would have thought.”

It’s key to be clear that apparent thinness does not always equal health and that even a skinny person with a low BMI can be unhealthy if fat has built up around their organs, Garber said.

“[Fat] affects different kinds of inflammatory substances that have been implicated in heart disease and diabetes,” Garber said. “They can cause damage to blood vessel walls and affect how your blood vessel works.”

Some body fat is essential to stay healthy, Garber emphasized, with a range stretching up to 25 percent of body weight for women and around 15 percent for men. People who are thin and active likely don’t need to be afraid that they have normal weight obesity, she noted.

“The bottom line is think about your lifestyle … no matter what your weight is,” said Garber. “Irrespective of your weight, everyone is going to benefit to shift your diet and eat more fruits and vegetables, and not smoking and not over-drinking.”

People who focus on losing weight are often frustrated when the scale refuses to budge, she said, but a healthy lifestyle overall will give tremendous benefit, even if it’s not reflected on the scale.

“You can be smug and healthy and a little overweight,” she said.

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Mom of Pregnant Woman Removed from Life Support Has New Fight

iStock/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) — A Texas woman who fought to get her brain-dead daughter off of life support is hoping a new bill in the state legislature can help families avoid an ordeal similar to the one she went through when making end-of-life decisions.

“The state not only tied our hands, but those of the doctors and the hospital too,” Lynne Machado said at a news conference to introduce the new bill, dubbed “Marlise’s Law.” “What should have been an immensely private and personal moment for our family was used as a political debate. The doctors weren’t practicing medicine. They were practicing politics.”

And the politics continue. In addition to “Marlise’s Law,” introduced by Texas State Rep. Elliot Naishtat, a Democrat, a proposal to move the rules in the opposite direction has been introduced by a Republican.

Machado has described the two months her daughter, Marlise Munoz, was on life support as a living nightmare. The young and pregnant mother was just 33 when a pulmonary embolism left her brain dead.

Munoz, a paramedic, had told members of her family that she never wanted to be on life support, but the hospital where she was taken refused to remove the support systems because of a Texas law that prohibited removing “life-sustaining” treatment for any pregnant patient.

“We felt, in our opinion, that the government was getting involved in something that they didn’t have the right to get involved in,” Machado said.

It took two months for Munoz’s family to win the right to remove Munoz from life support based on the fact that she was a deceased person and, therefore, not a patient. But the memories of seeing her daughter’s body deteriorate before her eyes has haunted Machado over the past year.

“When I kissed her goodbye, I could smell death,” she said. “I don’t have a lot of experience with death [but] it’s one of those smells you know what it is.”

Eventually, Machado said, she, her husband, Ernie Machado, and Munoz’s husband, Erick Munoz, decided they wanted to get involved with changing the law itself. On Thursday, they became the face of “Marlise’s Law.” The bill would remove the pregnancy exclusion from the Texas law that outlines guidelines for end-of-life procedures.

“This bill would allow women autonomy when planning their wishes regarding extraordinary medical interventions during end-of-life care,” Naishtat, the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “Marlise’s Law enables physicians, health care providers and medical institutions to honor a woman’s wishes and personal values, and preserve the doctor-patient relationship.”

An opposing bill introduced last week by Texas Rep. Matt Krause, a Republican, would make it illegal to stop life-sustaining treatment for a pregnant woman — even if there is “irreversible cessation of all spontaneous brain function” — and would require the appointment of a guardian ad litem for the fetus.

Of “Marlise’s Law,” Kraus said, “It’s kind of a 180 from what we’re seeking to do. … I think it would be a mistake to overturn that [current Texas law]. I don’t see a position like that gaining traction in the house.”

Lynne Machado has said she and her family will testify against Krause’s bill if it is presented at a committee.

Machado, whose family’s fight will be documented in the upcoming documentary The Pregnancy Exclusion, said she, her husband and son-in-law were so shocked by the hospital’s disregard for Marlise Munoz’s end-of-life wishes, that they knew they would have to go public to raise awareness and try to change the law.

“We were in it to educate people, that was one of our goals,” said Machado. “We could get the word out to people about this little known law and also a pregnant woman’s rights is nullified and the father has no say,” in end-of-life decisions for pregnant women.

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Health Experts Aim for a 2040 Tobacco-Free World

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — One billion deaths from tobacco by the end of the 21st century?

It could happen, says an international group of health and policy experts, unless the world community takes immediate action to curtail smoking numbers all over the globe.

The issue will be addressed by a team of health professionals led by professors from New Zealand at next week’s 2015 World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Dubai.

What the group is aiming for is a tobacco-free world, which in actuality, means “less than five percent of adults use tobacco.”

Rather than trying to restrict advertising to reduce demand, the new initiative will focus more on making it more difficult to obtain cigarettes and other tobacco products by imposing steeper taxes around the world.

Another emphasis will be on instituting smoking cessation programs in middle- and low-income countries.

The experts are setting 2040 as the target date for making the world tobacco-free.

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Woman Works to Overcome Vomit Phobia Ahead of Wedding Day

ABC News(NEW YORK) — Jessica Mellen, like over 40 million other Americans, suffers from a terrifying affliction called anxiety disorder. She can undergo intense panic attacks triggered by anything from driving a car or flying in a plane to riding in an elevator.

But the one powerful phobia that fills Mellen with the most dread is vomiting.

“If someone was like, ‘You can either be shot in the leg or throw up once,’ I would be like, ‘Just shoot me in the leg,’” Mellen, 29, from New Hampshire, told ABC News’ 20/20. “To me, that’s one of the worst things that could happen to me, if not the worst.”

The fear of throwing up is called emetophobia, and millions of people in America have it. Mellen’s entire life is choreographed around keeping herself protected against it. She takes every precaution against catching the flu from co-workers and carries antacids, tummy drops, cough drops and hand sanitizer in her purse.

“The fear just engulfs, and it swallows everything around you,” Mellen said.

Her phobia even once threatened the dream she shared with her now-husband of having children. Mellen was so terrified of getting morning sickness that she refused to try and get pregnant.

She and Marvin Graaf met while working at a Philadelphia restaurant they now own together. After they started dating, Mellen told Graaf about her anxiety disorder. At first, he had no issue with it. But when they started planning a wedding and a family, Mellen’s phobia morphed into anxiety about having children. It became a problem for the couple.

“I remember towards the beginning we would get into arguments because I said, ‘Can’t you just get over it?’” Graaf, from Pennsylvania, told 20/20. “I mean, this is a big deal. You’re not willing to even risk throwing up to have a kid with me?”

“I don’t want to miss out on something that could be really special between the two of us because of my phobia. It’s not fair to him either,” Mellen said.

Mellen’s phobia was so extreme that she researched hiring a surrogate to have their baby, which she said could cost $40,000 to $90,000.

“I would rather pay the money than throw up. I would rather do anything than throw up,” said Mellen.

But Mellen decided to fight her fear. Before her wedding, she underwent exposure therapy with Dr. Steven Tsao at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Treatment of Anxiety.

For five months, she endured an emotional roller coaster as he worked to desensitize her to her fears through direct confrontation of aspects of the phobia. As part of her exposure therapy, she was shown photos of people who were throwing up. It was an emotional moment, when she remembered what may have caused her phobia.

“The last time I got sick when I was younger, I threw up so bad I couldn’t breathe, and it was really scary,” she said.

In their therapy sessions, Dr. Tsao also had her eat food from an unregulated street vendor and confronted her with fake vomit made from oatmeal and soup. In an effort to confront her primal fear, Mellen forced herself to touch the fake vomit. Towards the end of her therapy, Tsao even had Mellen attempt to make herself throw up.

As the weeks passed by, Mellen realized that her fears were rooted in anxiety and not in reality.

“I just have to keep trying my best,” Mellen said.

Five months of therapy may not have cured her of her fear. But she now knows how to manage it.

“I mean it’s for me, and it’s for him and it’s for us,” Mellen said. “But at the end of the day, it’s for me.”

On a bright, fall day earlier this year, despite a brief panic attack, Mellen married Graaf.

Watch the full story on ABC News’ 20/20 on Friday, March 13 at 10 p.m. ET.

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Advice to Seniors: Keep Moving to Stay Moving

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Ideally, people should be exercising both their brains and bodies as they age.

Now, a new study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago gives another compelling reason why staying fit can help you function better later in life.

According to lead researcher Debra Fleischman, “Daily physical activity may be able to protect motor function from age-related injury to the brain.” This damage often seen in elderly patients called white matter hyperintensities has a direct link to the problems with walking and mobility.

However, in a test of more than 160 patients with an average age of 80, those who scored higher in mobility tests were the seniors who exercised the most, even taking into account a high level of white matter hyperintensities and other factors such as weight problems and depression.

What’s more, staying active as one ages might also actually help to stave off this brain damage that limits mobility.

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Easily Bored People Often Prone to Repetitive Behavior

Polka Dot/Thinkstock(MONTREAL) — Have you been so bored that you felt like pulling your hair out? Actually, that’s what certain people do, which is called repetitive behavior, an extreme way of letting out frustration.

Other forms of this behavior, according to chief researcher Kieron O’Connor from the University of Montreal, include skin picking and nail-biting.

O’Connor says that people prone to repetitive behavior tend to be perfectionists who express frustration, impatience and dissatisfaction when it takes too long to reach their goals. Another manifestation of the behavior is becoming bored easily.

O’Connor, who studied 48 participants, half of whom displayed this disorder, says hair pulling and skin picking are ways to satisfy an urge and deliver a kind of reward.

It’s believed that these people can benefit from treatments that help to reduce a need for perfectionism while teaching them to feel less bored and frustrated when goals aren’t quickly achieved.

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Advice to Seniors: Keep Moving to Stay Moving

iStock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) — Ideally, people should be exercising both their brains and bodies as they age.

Now, a new study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago gives another compelling reason why staying fit can help you function better later in life.

According to lead researcher Debra Fleischman, “Daily physical activity may be able to protect motor function from age-related injury to the brain.” This damage often seen in elderly patients called white matter hyperintensities has a direct link to the problems with walking and mobility.

However, in a test of more than 160 patients with an average age of 80, those who scored higher in mobility tests were the seniors who exercised the most, even taking into account a high level of white matter hyperintensities and other factors such as weight problems and depression.

What’s more, staying active as one ages might also actually help to stave off this brain damage that limits mobility.

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Mom Surprised When Son Says ‘Hello’ at Just 7 Weeks

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A mother in Northern Ireland was astounded when her son managed to greet her with a tiny “hello” at just 7 weeks old.

Toni McCann, of Belfast, Ireland, said her son Cillian, now 9 weeks, has said “hello” twice. The first time she had her camera trained on him as she slowly pronounced the word for her son.

The infant appeared to try and unsuccessfully imitate his mother before finally managing a quick “hello” for the first time.

“He was making a lot of eye contact and that’s why I started filming him,” she told ABC News. “I realized he was trying to copy what I was saying it and then it just came out.”

McCann said she first noticed Cillian trying to mimic sounds at just 5 weeks old when her husband was holding him.

“Cillian’s tongue [was] to come out and…he was trying to imitate to talking,” she said. McCann said her son has said “hello” just one other time when one of her daughters was talking with the baby.

Gail Murray, director of Audiology Services at UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, said the video is a great example of how infants start to learn to speak by focusing on their parent’s faces.

“This is a perfect example of modeling behavior, mom is coaching him to do what she’s doing,” said Murray. “It’s an important example of what we want all mothers to do with their baby.”

Murray said the Cillian’s first “hello” may seem impressive, but is part of the normal development for infants as they progress from mimicry to babbling to saying single words with meaning, which usually happens around 11 to 12 months.

Murray said Cillian’s first word is likely not the same as a 1 to 2-year-old’s first word, where they have attached the word to some meaning.

“They don’t have muscle coordination of the mouth,” Murray said of newborn infants. “It’s usually a process of both learning what words mean by hearing them and by seeing mom and by trying to imitate mom over and over again.”

Murray said new moms should talk to their babies, even if the infants can’t say full words yet. She also recommended letting babies “talk back” in the conversation, even if they don’t have full words yet.

While the video of Cillian saying hello has gone viral, McCann said she has already moved on to a new phrase for the baby.

“Now I’m saying to him ‘I love you,'” McCann told ABC News.

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Women Turned On by Heroic Soldiers

iStock/Thinkstock(SOUTHAMPTON, England) — 1980’s British pop star Bonnie Tyler might have been speaking for all women in the song “Holding Out for a Hero.”

The lyrics go in part, “He’s gotta be strong And he’s gotta be fast And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight.”

As it turns out, researchers from the University of Southampton say in a study of 90 U.K. women about what they most desire in a boyfriend, the consensus was they want a guy who’s a hero or does heroic deeds on the battlefield as opposed to soldiers who just do the job they’re ordered to do.

Soldiers rewarded for bravery under fire ranked first among the participants. Even men in other professions who performed heroically weren’t particularly more attractive to women.

Meanwhile in another study, men found women who did heroic deeds in combat or in a disaster zone actually less attractive than women who did not go above and beyond the call of duty.

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