Review Category : Health

Your Body: Let Your Kids Get Dirty, New Book Advises

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Germaphobes, listen up: A new book is encouraging parents to let their kids get dirty.

You may have already heard some say that germs can build children’s immune systems and keep them healthy. The author of Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World adds that keeping kids too clean puts them at risk for asthma, diabetes and even obesity.

The book recommends washing hands after using the bathroom, before eating, after being with a sick person or in crowds like a mall or subway, but not after just coming in from playing outside.

Here’s my prescription: Germs are everywhere, and bacteria aren’t always bad for us. Having diverse bacterial environments on and inside our bodies is actually good for us.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Runner Overcomes Seizures and Brain Surgery, Returns to NYC Marathon

Courtesy Danielle Hacet(NEW YORK) — The first clue that something was wrong with Danielle Hacet’s brain was when she thought she smelled smoke everywhere.

“At 26, I started smelling fire in random places — I would be on an airplane, I would be outside,” Hacet told ABC News. “Anywhere you could think of I would randomly smell fire.”

Hacet initially thought she had a psychological problem, but a neurologist quickly discovered she was having “olefactory hallucinations” and a nerve cell disorder that caused “partial focal seizures.” These seizures were virtually undetectable to anyone else, but it meant that Hacet could not drive and could “zone out” at any moment.

Scans revealed scar tissue in her brain, likely the result of a bacterial meningitis infection she contracted as an infant. Hacet’s infection caused her to be hearing impaired, but she did not have seizures before.

“As soon as the doctors heard I had meningitis,” Hacet told ABC News, “they said ‘Bingo, we know where this is from.'”

Doctors put her on seizure medication, but nothing seemed to help. Hacet found herself frustrated by the effects of the medications. An avid runner, Hacet, of New York City, found her start times slow.

“I had been interested in surgery from day one,” Hacet said. “I didn’t like the idea of being on medication for the rest of my life.”

In July of last year, after spending years without significant improvement from her medications, Hacet decided to have brain surgery to remove old scar tissue from her brain. Though she was anxious to have the operation, she was unprepared for the aftermath.

“I was incredibly helpless,” Hacet recalled, “having to rely on my mom and everyone else. It was difficult.”

Immediately after the operation, Hacet suffered double vision and an impaired ability to walk, much less run.

“I couldn’t walk very well, it was very embarrassing to me to have to be in a wheelchair,” said Hacet.

While she was recovering, she returned to her parent’s home in Louisville, Kentucky. After weeks of work on regaining her balance, Hacet was delighted to put her running shoes back on for a short two-mile run late last year.

“I only ran like 2 miles or so and I remember being so excited and it was so amazing to be back,” said Hacet.

Initially, Hacet’s goal was simply to get her health back and said running helped her with her recovery.

“It’s a release and it’s cathartic,” she said.

In January of this year, Hacet had recovered enough from the surgery to run a half-marathon with a friend. After the race, her friend pushed her to do more.

“She told me she was running the New York City Marathon [and] she asked me if i wanted to do it with her,” said Hacet.

Despite having brain surgery just months earlier, Hacet said she knew she wanted to run New York City’s marathon again. The first time she ran the marathon in 2013, she had been heavily medicated for her seizures. Now, since she had the surgery to stop the seizures and was not as medicated, she felt she was in a better position to train and race.

“I wanted to challenge myself again,” Hacet said. “Running is so important to me and has always been a part of my life.”

Hacet has been diligently training for the upcoming TCS New York Marathon next month. Since her doctors are weaning her off her seizure medications, her times have already started to improve. Hacet said after the ordeal of the last few years, she is excited to simply complete the race.

Personal fulfillment is the main goal now.

“Honestly, [it’s about] just crossing the finish line and proving that I can do it again,” she said.

Hacet said she and her friend are working hard to prepare and know it will be worth it.

“We’re both just looking forward to cheering when it’s over and celebrating right after,” she said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Inside the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care’s Mission in Underserved Community

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — For so many Americans, access to high quality and personalized healthcare isn’t always a given. Anika Robinson knows that all too well.

On Nov. 13, 2015, Robinson, 40, got a phone call from her doctor that immediately changed her life.

“I’m just out for the day enjoying my day. And I get this call that there’s a situation, that it’s problematic. And I’m like, ‘What do you mean it’s problematic?'” she said.

The doctor’s reply floored her.

“‘You have breast cancer. And it’s problematic because it’s both breasts,'” she said, recalling the doctor telling her that she had stage 3 breast cancer.

“It was just devastating news. And I said ‘Why would he call me? Why wouldn’t he call me earlier in the day to come in? It’s a Friday night,’” the Bronx resident said.

The doctor was unavailable over the weekend, Robinson said. Facing many unanswered questions, Robinson went online to research treatment centers in her area and she discovered Dr. Gina Villani and the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care in Harlem. Robinson said she immediately found solace in the welcoming environment at the center.

“When I met Dr. Villani and she gave me a hug and told me to step into her office,” Robinson said. “And when she said, ‘You’re going to be all right. You’re going to be cured’ … I just cried.”

Robinson underwent chemotherapy at the center. She is now in remission and is very grateful for the care and treatment she experienced.

“It’s really important to us that when somebody walks in the door, they understand that we’re going to take care of them,” Villani said.

GMA co-anchor Robin Roberts sat down with David Lauren, the executive vice president of the center’s Board of Trustees, to learn more about the Lauren family’s commitment to fighting health disparities and raising awareness about breast cancer research. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Lauren said there was a “huge disparity” in cancer treatment between wealthy and poor communities.

Every year, the center receives more than 12,000 patients — 80 percent of whom count on Medicaid or Medicare for their health care needs, according to the center.

Founded in 2003 as a joint venture with the Polo Ralph Lauren Corporation and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care was established after a meeting between Ralph Lauren and Dr. Harold Freeman.

“The story that Dr. Freeman tells is he expected to leave and wait for weeks or months for Ralph Lauren to respond. And at the end of the meeting, my dad just turned to him and said, ‘I’m in. What do you need? How much?’ and Dr. Freeman gave him a number, and my father said, ‘Great, we’re going to support it,’ and he has ever since,” David Lauren said.

Today, Ralph Lauren is synonymous with the Pink Pony Fund, the company’s worldwide initiative in the fight against cancer. Sales of products bearing the pink pony logo support programs for screening, early diagnosis, treatment, research and patient navigation.

“When Ralph Lauren started to take the logo and turn it pink, it was the beginning of companies really making it part of their corporate culture. It was the start of what is not commonplace,” David Lauren said. “Today, the goals are to build on that, to really grow the Ralph Lauren Cancer Center into something that the community knows about, and that they trust. But also get involved with cancer all around the world.”

Lauren added that the Ralph Lauren Corporation’s employees and customers also raise money for other international cancer-fighting campaigns across the nation and the world.

“I mean, no matter where you live, cancer is affecting men and women, and children, and families. And so, our goal is to fight it,” Lauren said.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Wacky Church Under Fire over ‘Miracle Cure’ for Autism

JimHumbleLive / YouTube(NEW YORK) — A supposed “miracle cure” for autism is really a kind of industrial bleach, federal prosecutors say, but that hasn’t stopped people claiming to be archbishops of a church from urging desperate parents to use it on their autistic children.

“This is a poison. This is a high-strength industrial bleach,” said Dr. Paul Wang, senior vice president of Autism Speaks.

Yet, under the guise of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, it’s estimated that the “miracle cure” has attracted thousands of desperate American parents who have given it to their autistic children.

“It really scares me that people would give this to their kids because it is a poison,” said Wang, in an interview to be broadcast Friday on ABC News’ 20/20.

The church leaders say people who take the “cure” should not worry if they suffer side effects of bouts of diarrhea and nausea. They say it is a sign it’s working and that a few drops will not cause any harm.

Wang said it is no different that torturing autistic children.

“A lot of kids with autism do not have good communication skills,” he said. “So they can’t say that it’s hurting them.”

Like many parents of autistic children, Roland Eggers looked into the claims being made for the “miracle cure.”

“You thrive on this illusion that you’re going to somehow fix your kid or that one day you’re gonna unautismize your child,” he told ABC News.

But after checking online, Eggers quickly concluded he would not use it for his 12-year-old son Mitchell.

“They’ve got their own Facebook group. There are people admitting to using this stuff on their children. Children are experiencing symptoms,” Eggers said he found. “You are doing it at the expense of these defenseless children. How, how, how can you not call that evil?”

The man who says he discovered the miracle cure and founded the Genesis II church is a one-time gold prospector from Nevada, Jim Humble, who calls himself an archbishop and claims he came to Earth from another galaxy.

But as wacky as he may sound, it appears that Archbishop Humble and other church leaders have prospered, using slick internet videos promoting the “miracle cure” called MMS, and calling it a church sacrament available for anyone offering “donations.” One website offered five sets of chemicals to make MMS for “donations” of $95.99.

Tests conducted for ABC News show the “miracle cure” is little more than a chemical that when mixed with citric acid produces chlorine dioxide.

Federal prosecutors said it would be useful to clean swimming pools or kitchen countertops, but does not cure autism or anything else.

“They might as well be selling Clorox,” said Ben Mizer of the U.S. Department of Justice, who has overseen the prosecution of at least one person selling the “miracle cure.”

“You wouldn’t drink Clorox so there is no reason you should drink MMS,” he said.

And, Mizer said, Humble and others are wrong if they think forming a church protects them from possible prosecution.

“They can be prosecuted, yes, if they are selling it in order to cure diseases and are telling people that it will cure diseases,” Mizer said.

Now under scrutiny by U.S. authorities, Humble has lived in Mexico for the last few years, where ABC News tracked him down earlier this month.

He reaffirmed his advice that autistic children should be treated with a few drops of the MMS cure.

“I do, yes,” he said.

And when asked if he was a con man, Humble said, “It’s ain’t true.”

Dr. Wang of Autism Speaks said Humble and his followers are taking advantage of vulnerable parents.

“Unfortunately, there’s no cure. There are a lot of things that can help kids with autism and adults with autism, too, but there’s not cure for it,” Wang said. “You can’t blame any parent for wanting to help their child. In this case, we just want to make sure everybody understands MMS is not a cure.”

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Why Health Care Premiums Are Rising Under Obamacare

moodboard/iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The Obama administration acknowledged on Monday that premiums for its popular health care plans will rise substantially next year, another hiccup for the president’s signature law, the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Insurers are set to raise the premiums for plans sold through HealthCare.gov by an average 22 percent in 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a report. This is approximately triple the percentage increase from 2015 to 2016, when premiums increased by 7.5 percent.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell cautioned that issuers are “continuing to adapt” to a market that looks very different than it did before Obamacare, one in which they are trying to compete for costumers “based on price and quality,” and not necessarily by “finding the healthiest customers.”

Premiums are also impacted by efforts to undermine the health-care law, Burwell said in a statement Monday, including certain states’ decisions not to expand Medicaid and actions taken by a Republican-led Congress to block funding for the law.

“I encourage anyone who might need 2017 coverage to visit HealthCare.gov and check out this year’s options for yourself,” Burwell said.

While some may want to blame the health insurance companies and stockholders, there are economic and financial reasons that explain the increase.

As the industry rolls out premium increases in 2017, where will consumers feel the most pain? Here’s a look at the premium hikes and what it means for those individuals with plans created under Obamacare, and for those looking to sign up for new coverage plans:

What to Know About the Enrollment Period for 2017

The Affordable Care Act mandated that insurance companies cannot deny insurance to people with pre-existing conditions for plans in the marketplace. While this allows everyone to access health care, some patients have chronic medical conditions that are known to significantly increase the amount that insurance companies will have to pay out in claims.

The enrollment opens Nov. 1 and plans are available on HealthCare.gov and most state-run exchanges for millions of Americans. Even though average premiums on some plans will increase, HHS says that more than 70 percent of those purchasing insurance through the marketplaces are eligible to get a health plan for less than $75 a month for 2017.

To access coverage effective on Jan.1, consumers must decide on a plan in the coming weeks, and it is expected that the last day to register for a 2017 health plan is Jan. 31, 2017. For those looking for better deals while shopping for coverage, the administration recommends a low-cost plan that will often have more limited benefits. The administration also says some consumers may find lower-cost plans by switching out of their current ACA plan.

Predictions Were Wrong

When Obamacare was first implemented, many insurance companies did not have information on their new subscribers, who might not have had health insurance previously.

A 2015 report from health care consulting firm McKinsey & Company found that insurance companies lost $2.7 billion on the individual market, in part due to more claims than expected.

Complicating these forecasts is the fact that patients who are in the top 5 percent of health care spending account for 49 percent of all health care expenditures, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Additionally, when people with illnesses know that they will use more health care, they have a tendency to buy more comprehensive health insurance.

While the government has several programs to help redistribute insurance risk, not all companies have benefited, resulting in continued losses.

The disparity between what was predicted on costs and what the reality is for insurers means some insurers are making less money than predicted from an Obamacare program.

Insurance Companies Leaving the Marketplace

In many markets, insurance companies that currently offer money-losing plans are planning to discontinue offering those options to consumers.

UnitedHealthcare and Aetna have both signaled their intention to leave many markets. This leaves less competition. In five states — Alabama, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Wyoming — there will be only a single company offering plans on the marketplace, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The average number of insurers participating in the marketplace in states that use Healthcare.gov will be 3.9 in 2017, which is down from 2016 when there was an average of 5.4 insurers per state, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

A single plan on the marketplace means there is no competition between companies that could help drive down prices for consumers.

Health Care Is Expensive

The cost of medical care and drugs is high, and increasing. While increased prices for EpiPens and other drugs have grabbed headlines, overall health expenditures have grown at lower rates in recent years (around 5 percent a year) but the Kaiser Family Foundation says there’s evidence these numbers could again increase.

New medical treatments and drugs, especially for conditions like cancer, are especially pricey. As more sick people have insurance, they can get more expensive treatments that previously they could not afford or paid out of pocket. These expensive procedures can drive up premiums for the entire pool of insurance customers.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Olympic Swimmer Takes to Instagram to Thank Fan for Sounding Alarm on Chest Mole

Arctic-Images/Getty Images(MELBOURNE, Australia) — An Olympic gold medalist took to social media recently to thank a fan for drawing attention to a suspicious mole on his chest, saying initially he’d been “blasé” about having it checked out himself.

On Friday, Australian swimmer Mack Horton, 20, of Melbourne, posted a picture of himself giving a thumbs-up, with a bandage taped to his chest.

“Shout out to the person that emailed the swim team doctor and told me to get my mole checked out,” Horton wrote in a caption. “Good call. Very good call.”

In his Olympic debut, Horton won the gold medal in the 400-meter freestyle in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

According to Australia’s Herald Sun, Horton had the mole removed Thursday. Test results were not immediately known.

Horton told the news outlet that someone had emailed his team’s doctors, encouraging him to have the mole examined. He said team doctors gave him a referral to see a specialist but he didn’t make the appointment till weeks later.

“They [doctors] just looked at it and said, ‘Let’s take it out now,'” Horton told the Herald Sun. “Sometimes I was blasé and sometimes I’d see it in the mirror and say ‘I probably should get this one checked out’ because I had noticed it had been changing a little bit, but I guess this person calling me out on it made me finally go and do it, which was a good thing.”

He added: “It’s a good little reminder for everyone out there to go and get their skin checked.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., and the American Cancer Society notes that more than 5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed each year.

Doctors say everyone should check their own bodies at least once a month and see a dermatologist annually. Moles that are considered normal will appear round, even-colored and contain no irregularities on the edges, they say. To prevent skin cancer, they also suggest wearing sunscreen year-round, hats and anything that helps protect against sun exposure.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Your Body: Preventing Falls Among the Elderly

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Every second of every day in the United States an older adult falls, making falls the number one cause of injuries and deaths from injury among older Americans.

According to a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2014 alone, older Americans experienced almost 30 million falls. And with more than 10,000 older Americans turning 65 every day, the number of fall-related injuries and deaths is expected to surge.

Here’s my prescription:

  • Prevention is key, starting from increasing agility, strength and balance.
  • Take up all loose rugs and carpets that could be tripping hazards.
  • Have an emergency plan for elders just in case they fall — this way, they’ll know what to do.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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What Parents Should Know About the Updated Safe Sleeping Guidelines for Infants

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Getting a crying infant back to sleep can be an immense relief for exhausted parents. But doing so the right way can save a baby’s life.

An estimated 3,500 infants die every year from unexplained deaths, including cases of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and medical experts believe that good sleeping habits for infants can help save lives. The American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidelines on Monday on safe sleeping habits for parents and infants to help decrease the chances of SIDS.

Here are the key facts to know.

Sleep in the Same Room, But Not in the Same Bed

The AAP still advises parents to keep their infants in the same bedroom, but now recommends that infants should stay there for at least 6 months, and ideally one year. This can lower the risk of SIDS by up to 50 percent, according to the AAP.

Just be sure the baby has their own crib so that there is no chance of suffocation or impaired breathing.

However, Stay on the Bed If You’re Tired and Feeding Your Baby

Tired parents up for a late-night feeding might think that moving to the couch is safer, but the AAP warns a couch is a more dangerous surface if a parent falls asleep during the feeding. While the AAP does not advise having the infant sleep in the same bed as the parent, it acknowledges that sleepy parents may unintentionally fall asleep during feeding and that a bed is safer compared to the soft cushions on a couch that can block a baby’s breathing.

“We know that parents may be overwhelmed with a new baby in the home, and we want to provide them with clear and simple guidance on how and where to put their infant to sleep,” Dr. Rachel Moon, lead author of the report, said in a statement. “Parents should never place the baby on a sofa, couch, or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person. We know that these surfaces are extremely hazardous.”

Avoid Putting Pillows, Blankets or Toys in the Crib

An infant’s crib should not contain anything that could block their breathing, meaning that blankets, pillows and other bed items should be avoided, according to the AAP. The safest option is to put a baby to sleep on their back on top of a tight-fitting sheet on a firm mattress, according to the report.

“There should be no pillows, sheets, blankets or other items that could obstruct the infant’s breathing or cause overheating,” Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, member of the Task Force on SIDS and co-author of the report, said in a statement.

A full list of recommendations can be found here.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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Joint Health: Can Exercises Reduce the Need for Surgery?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Doctors have good news for people who suffer from joint pain caused by conditions like osteoarthritis. Although physicians can’t always predict who will get osteoarthritis, they say exercise can strengthen the body and help avoid invasive operations.

Todd Wilkowski, the physical therapist who treats Good Morning America co-anchor Lara Spencer, visited the show Tuesday to discuss the benefits of pre-emptive exercise.

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

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Study Claims Coffee Can Protect Your Vision

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Early risers may say facetiously that they can’t see straight in the morning without that first cuppa joe, but U.K. researchers are lending some credence to that.

That is to say, scientists say caffeine in strong coffee could have a protective effect on your eyes.

According to the study, a component of the so-called Mediterranean Diet — that is a diet full of healthy fats, as well as fruit and fish, as is common in certain places in Europe — is strong coffee.

Scientists claim that coffee consumption can stave off age-related macular degeneration, a vision-robbing condition that affects the elderly. The study, according to The Express, looked at a Portuguese population as their test subjects.

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