Review Category : Health

How Music Therapy Can Lift Body and Soul for Patients

Michael Nedelman, ABC News(NEW YORK) — Even though patient Garrett Lambert is in an “isolation” room at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, meaning visitors must don masks and gowns to enter, music therapist Holly Mentzer’s harp makes the enclosed room feel like a serene, welcoming space as she and Lambert harmonize.

Lambert says “Don’t Let Us Get Sick,” written by Warren Zevon, is one of his favorite melodies to sing and strum in the hospital.

“Don’t let us get sick, don’t let us get old / Don’t let us get stupid alright. Just make us be brave, make us play nice / Let us be together tonight.”

For almost 25 years, Lambert has been a part of the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus (NYCGMC) — a group of about 260 singers of various ages, backgrounds and experiences who perform widely and “champion love, equality and acceptance,” according to its website. Recently, the members of NYCGMC raised their voices in honor of the victims of the tragic shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Ever since Lambert became hospitalized, he has continued to rely deeply on music for strength and support. The music therapists with MSK’s Integrative Medicine Service offer individualized and group sessions — as well as art and movement therapy — which aim to ease pain, nourish social connections, and bring peace and familiarity to patients in the hospital.

“There have been times when Holly knocks on the door and asks if I’m up for a session and I sort of feel like I’m not, like I don’t feel well,” Lambert said. “But I usually say yes, and I’m always glad I did in the end, because I’m definitely lifted up by it. I’m taken to another place.”

Music and Medicine

MSK is not the only hospital offering music therapy. Music has been used therapeutically with special needs children since the 1940s in the U.S., but in recent years it has “expanded to treat the medically ill, including neonatal care, hospitalized children and adults and palliative care and hospice,” according to Barbara Hesser, director of the Music Therapy program at New York University.

The field is not necessarily captured by a single description or intervention, but music therapists rely on “clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions” to accomplish “individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship,” according to the American Music Therapy Association’s (AMTA) website. These therapists must be accredited in through programs that include 1,200 hours of clinical training.

Sometimes, music therapy involves playing a song at a rhythm that matches the human heartbeat to help lull a patient to sleep, or help regulate breathing to reduce pain.

“There’s a notion in music called ‘entrainment,’” said MSK’s Lead Music Therapist Karen Popkin. “When we offer a regular pattern, we are able to kind of establish a river of sound, or a gentle babbling brook, something that the listener can travel with.”

Sometimes, it’s about improving someone’s mood, or distracting them from the daily realities of being ill.

“Being able to take something familiar like a piece of music and adapt it in the moment to what the conditions of the patient are in terms of their mood, their pain level, their need for sleep,” is what music therapy is about for Todd O’Connor. O’Connor is the Senior Creative Arts Therapy Supervisor at the Kravis Children’s Hospital at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

“It’s about how we tailor the music to hold the environment and support the patient in that moment,” he said.

Communication and Collaboration

For other patients, the goal is to encourage communication or collaboration — like encouraging children being treated for psychiatric disorders to play music together and express themselves through song.

A 2014 Cochrane Review analysis concluded that music therapy was effective at improving social interaction, as well as non-verbal and verbal communication skills, for children with autism spectrum disorder compared to standard treatment and placebos.

Jonathan Weiss, a creative arts therapist at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s, works primarily with child adolescent psychiatric inpatients. Collaborative group music sessions are a major part of his therapeutic approach for children with many different diagnoses, he said.

“I try to provide an environment that almost necessitates collaboration,” Weiss said. “If they all are so into the musical creation, that is a kind of microcosm of a world for them where they are achieving success and working together.”

He also noted that many of these children are grappling with traumatic pasts, and that music can help patients process and communicate about trauma in a way that is non-threatening.

“The musical environment — even if the topic verbally is sad or depressing — when we put it into the song form, it’s kind of a celebration of who we are in this moment, and what we’re a product of and moving past our pasts in a sense,” he said.

Popkin has also seen music facilitate communication for adults in more subtle, but equally powerful, ways. She recalled one hospital-bound patient who engaged in a musical improvisation exercise with her husband. The patient later shared that the improvisation had allowed her to rediscover an “intimacy” with her husband that had been missing.

“She felt that this kind of communication was allowing them to really feel more like a couple,” said Popkin, who says she could sense the connection. “I felt like maybe I should leave the room.”

Re-Routing the Brain

O’Connor said he loves that music therapy balances “psychotherapeutic and psychodynamic knowledge,” but noted that the neuroscience component has been “reaching a forte” in recent years, he said.

Dr. Gottfried Schlaug runs a lab at Harvard Medical School that examines the connection between music and the brain. He investigates everything from the neuroscience underlying tone deafness to brain lesions that cause verbal deficiencies.

He mentioned that music therapy can be used to improve function in patients that have lesions resulting from stroke or other disorders. Music therapy famously helped former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords regain communication abilities after she was shot in the head in an assassination attempt in Arizona.

Because verbal and music centers are located in different parts of the brain, singing can help patients “bypass damaged regions of the brain, help them vocalize, and help them express their desires and needs,” Schlaug said.

Even for less severe cases, Popkin and Mentzer have found that music-making has tangible physiological impacts. Music that facilitates regular breathing can enhance blood oxygenation and raise energy levels, while working with others to produce music can release endorphins that improve mood.

The science supports this notion that music can lift your mood. Another Cochrane Review analysis from 2008 concluded that music therapy is associated with improvements in mood for patients with depression, though further studies are needed to make the findings more robust.

Enjoying music can also reduce stress, which can even boost immune function.

“I haven’t met anyone who says they didn’t feel better after singing,” Mentzer said. “It lifts your spirit.”

Music is also strongly linked to memory. Joanne Loewy, director of the Louis Armstrong Center for Music and Medicine and an associate professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, has been researching what she calls “songs of kin” — music with particular meaning to a patient or family, often across generations.

This music can “spark a memory” or bring back feelings of familiarity and warmth, according to O’Connor.

“Familiarity counts for a lot in the hospital,” he said.

‘I Have Music’

In a recent NYCGMC show, which they call the “No Talent Show,” Lambert submitted a recording of his and Mentzer’s rendition of “Don’t Let Us Get Sick.” The moving performance garnered a standing ovation from the chorus. Before and throughout his illness, Lambert said he has thought of the chorus as a “brotherhood.”

He recalled when the NYCGMC first started over 35 years ago, it was “a very big deal that men were standing up and saying, ‘I’m gay and I’m singing,’” he said. He also described the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on members of the chorus in its earlier years, and how the group would sing the song “Love Lives On” each time a member passed away.

“That just brings us even more together,” he said.

No matter where or how it enters one’s life, Popkin said she feels strongly that music has a way of touching people in ways they never anticipated.

“Music itself is multi-modal,” she said. “We experience it in so many different ways. It has ways to get to the parts of us that need it the most.”

She hopes to see an expansion of the prevalence and availability of music therapy resources. Mentzer said the music therapy program at MSK is well-supported, but that the field needs more advocacy in some regions where it’s not on the table as an options for patients.

Since 1994, music therapy has been identified as a reimbursable service for Medicare patients, according to the AMTA website. Music therapy is also covered by Medicaid in a few states, but not most. The AMTA has been working increase coverage by third-party private insurers as well.

O’Connor agreed that more patients should be offered music therapy, noting that for people who are “severely compromised in terms of their health,” engaging in a music-making process can allow them to “experience themselves as a healthy individual.”

Lambert said he has to remind himself to keep coming back to it, even when he is tired and feeling weak — because music always gives him strength.

“There are days when I forget about the music,” he said. But then he remembers “I have music — that’s what I can do right now.”

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Can You Get Good Running Shoes for Less Than $50?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Whether you are jogging, walking, or just trying to look good in your kicks, running shoes can be expensive. According to marketing firm Statista, the average cost of running shoes increased 21 percent from 2007 to 2014. A trip to the sporting goods store can set you back $85, $110 or $260, but there are less expensive options. I shopped department stores, superstores and online shoe outlets to find four options under $50. The question: Can you comfortably run in shoes that cost less than $50?

The shoes:

$49 Skechers GOrun 4

$44 Reebok Twistform Blaze

$34 Champion C9 Legend

$14 Athletech running shoes.

I shipped three pairs of each to the Portland, Oregon, lab of biomechanist Dr. Martyn Shorten.

Dr. Shorten has created a series of tests to evaluate running shoes for manufacturers and runners’ guides. He first puts the shoes on a device that measures cushioning. Then he uses another machine to quantify flexibility. He cuts the shoes in half to inspect the internal construction, and finally uses a test runner in a motion capture suit to analyze how each pair affects gait and body movement.

We decided to have Dr. Shorten analyze each pair and then I ran in the sneakers to evaluate how they feel for me personally. Before we get into each brand, here are the five things I learned from Dr. Shorten about buying inexpensive running shoes.

1) The best investment you can make in your running is to have your gait analyzed. Go to a running store and have them look at how you run. Do you pronate? Do you run on your front foot? Mid-foot? Are you a heel/toe runner? Dr. Shorten says that once you know if you have any specific issues (pronation is the most common), you can buy shoes specific that address that need. But if you have a standard gait, he says any shoe that’s comfortable should work. What makes a shoe comfortable? Dr. Shorten breaks it down.

“Make sure you have some wiggle room for your toes, run around it in, and don’t just walk around in it in the store,” he explained. “It should feel really good, no chafing, no rubbing. It shouldn’t be like a weight on the end of your foot. If you can’t feel it, if you don’t notice it’s there, then it’s probably a good fit for you.”

2) Running shoes don’t have a shelf life. Use them until they start to fall apart or they lose their cushioning/comfort.

3) Buying last year’s model on sale is fine. Running shoes don’t expire based on how old they are, they only need to be replaced after prolonged use.

4) If your child doesn’t have any noticeable gait issues, the same rules apply; if less expensive shoes are comfy, Dr. Shorten says they won’t be harmed wearing them.

5) In his research, Dr. Shorten asked thousands of people who identify as runners how many miles a week they run. The median amount was 8 miles. If you want to buy top of the line engineered running shoes for those 8 miles, awesome, but don’t let cost be a barrier to entry. Many of the guides and write-ups of the high-end shoes are for people who log much more than 8 miles a week and have more technical needs from their shoes.

Breakdown of the shoes:

$49 Skechers GoRun
This shoe scores highest on all of the quantitative tests for cushioning, stability and support. Dr. Shorten adds that the shoe “is quite light, flexible, it’s well cushioned.” Skechers has had some real success with its running shoes. A different shoe in the Skechers GOrun line made it into Runner’s World Best of 2016 guide. This $49 shoe felt great. It was incredibly light and had a ton of arch support.

$44 Reebok TwistForm Blaze I love the look of these shoes and they are crazy comfortable for walking; they came in second to the Skechers in the cushioning tests. Dr. Shorten, however, pointed out some negatives.

“I’m a little concerned that it has this very thick soft in-sole memory foam and not much other cushioning,” he said. “This will feel very comfortable in the store but once you’re out on the street running it will flatten out and the shoe will feel much harder.” When I run with the shoe the memory foam isn’t quite right for me in that my foot feels like it’s moving around inside the shoe as I run.

We reached out to Reebok and they said, “All Reebok running footwear is designed to meet specific consumer needs and we thoroughly test our technology to meet high standards. Memory Tech is a comfort technology that has been engineered and tested to enhance comfort for our consumer. The Midsole foam we use in the TwistForm shoe in question works in concert with the sockliner and the overall shoe to provide a desired running experience. In addition to Memory Tech we also have a sockliner technology called Memory Tech Massage that offers comfort and resiliency. Currently we use this in higher priced products, but plan to bring this experience to more products in the future.”

$34 Champion C9 Legend Running Shoes These shoes look good and feel solid when you walk in them. Its test results didn’t beat the Skechers shoe but Dr. Shorten likes the construction. “It has a nice upper and some good padding around the ankle, nicely padded tongue,” he said. But when I ran in these, my particular style of running caused some rubbing and pressure at the end of the laces as I flexed my foot to push off.

$14 Althletech Running Shoes (Kmart house brand) Dr. Shorten points out that these shoes are not like the other shoes in our samples that have one-piece construction on the front foot. “I see some old style technology, I see basically overlays that are held on with stitches,” he said. And when I walked in the shoes I did feel a bit of segmentation as my foot flexed. Another factor Dr. Shorten points out is durability. “I see a one piece unit sole with no rubber on the outside which means it’s not going to be very durable,” he explained. But the Althletech shoes scored pretty well in the stability test Dr. Shorten did, coming in second to the Skechers in stability. When I took the shoes out on the road, I was pleasantly surprised — they offered a good amount of cushioning and support. I liked them as running shoes second only to the Skechers.

We reached out to Sears/Kmart, who said in a statement: “The running shoe category is broad. The Athletech Dash is designed for the growing active and casual lifestyle segment, and not marketed as a high-end running shoe. The Athletech Dash is highly rated by our members and, at a price point under $20, a tremendous value.”

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Toddler’s Feet Burned After Stepping on Hot Coals at Cape Cod Beach

iStock/Thinkstock(HYANNIS, Mass.) — A 2-year-old is being treated for burns after stepping on hot coals at a Cape Cod beach this holiday weekend.

Barnstable Police said according to ABC News affiliate WCVB-TV the child was at Veterans Beach in Hyannis on Sunday, and was airlifted to Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.

The beach has a picnic and grilling area available to the public near where the child stepped on the coals, police said.

Officials are investigating who had dumped the hot coals in the sand.

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California Man in Medically-Induced Coma After Altercation With Police, Family Says

KABC-TV(ANAHEIM, Calif.) — A 32-year-old man is in a medically-induced coma after recently suffering medical distress during an altercation with police in Anaheim, California, according to his family and lawyer, who said the incident was a case of police brutality.

The altercation happened Saturday morning after the Anaheim Police Department received a call of a suspicious male who had followed a woman to her home, according to a news release from the Anaheim Police Department.

Officers responded to the suspect, Vincent Valenzuela, outside of a 7-Eleven in Anaheim, said Sgt. Daron Wyatt, public information officer for the APD.

Valenzuela allegedly engaged the officers in a physical confrontation. While the officers attempted to take him into custody, he suffered respiratory and cardiac distress, Wyatt told ABC News Monday.

Officers immediately rendered first aid on Valenzuela before calling for paramedics, who responded and transported him to a local hospital, Wyatt said.

Valenzuela’s family said that witnesses told them Valenzuela was stunned by a laser gun by the officers before going into cardiac distress.

Wyatt said he could not confirm if stun guns were used by officers during the incident.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office is leading an investigation into the incident, and the APD’s Major Incident Review Team and the Office of Independent Review are also conducting concurrent investigations, Wyatt said. He added that the officers involved in the incident were wearing body cameras, which were activated at the time.

The body camera footage has been provided to the district attorney’s office and will likely not be publicly released until the end of the investigation, Wyatt said.

Valenzuela’s wife, Patricia Gonzalez, said at a news conference she hoped “somebody can come forward with a video so we can see what really happened.” She added that surveillance footage from the 7-Eleven may have captured the incident but that the convenience store’s “manager was not very cooperative with us.”

The family’s attorney, James Segall-Gutierrez, added that police are “always going to do this spin” and “[are] always going to give this sensational story of how it went down.” He said he just wanted to “see evidence.”

Sgt. Wyatt told ABC News Monday the family was originally not allowed visitation at the hospital since Valenzuela was technically in custody for possession of narcotics paraphernalia, resisting arrest and resisting arrest using force. However, the chief of police recently “made an exception out of compassion for the family.”

Segall-Gutierrez did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for additional comment. ABC News was not immediately successful in reaching Gonzalez, Valenzuela’s wife, for additional comment.

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Embryo Energy Supply Tests Could Raise Chances for IVF Success

iStock/Thinkstock(OXFORD, England) — Embryo energy supply tests could hold the key to increased IVF success, according to researchers at the University of Oxford.

Scientists studied the activity of mitochondria in 111 embryos, BBC News reported. They found a zero percent pregnancy rate if mitochondrial activity was high.

Though better testing of the mitochondria could improve one’s odds for conceiving through IVF, the test — which is already offered in the U.S. — would also increase the current cost of test by about $265, according to BBC News.

But, Professor Nick Macklon, from the University of Southampton, told BBC News: “It may help us select the best embryo with the best chance, but these are early days and I think it is something that may or may not be added to our tools for assessing embryo quality.”

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New Warnings About Hidden Playground Dangers During the Summer

Blend Images/Thinkstock(CLEVELAND, Tenn.) — A new warning is out from a mom who wants parents to know about a summer danger you can’t even see.

Ashley Elizabeth Brown posted photos to Facebook this week showing her 14-month-old’s hands that were blistered from second-degree burns. She said her son got them from playing on a slide at La Petite Daycare in Cleveland, Tennessee, in 90-degree heat.

“What does plastic/rubber equipment do in the sun? IT HEATS UP BEYOND THE OUTSIDE TEMPERATURE,” she wrote in the post. “What happens when you put your skin on extremely hot surfaces? IT BURNS. Where were his teachers? Why didn’t anyone think to check with their own hands how hot those surfaces were, knowing that babies (that tumble down every now and then) were playing there?”

A statement from the daycare’s corporate office obtained by ABC News affiliate WKRN-TV said, “As caregivers and parents ourselves, we’re heartbroken that this has happened. Safety is of the utmost importance to us. We’re keeping the children engaged in indoor activity [Saturday] as we partner with licensing to find a solution that will continue to meet state safety regulatory requirements and prevent this from happening again.”

According to another Facebook post from the father, the 14-month-old is now being treated at a burn center in Georgia.

Health experts tell ABC News that parents should be extra careful with children who are under 2 years old because their skin is thinner and more susceptible to burns.

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Fourth of July: Tales From the ER

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Between the sizzling barbecues, flowing beers, and cacophony of fireworks exploding, it’s not hard to understand why the July Fourth holiday can be a wild ride for emergency room doctors and nurses.

With patients rushed in due to boating accidents, fireworks gone awry, and a litany of other injuries that you almost have to see to believe, the holiday has earned a reputation as the most dangerous holiday in the U.S.

Fireworks cause more than 8,500 injuries every year, with more than 40 percent occurring in children under age 15, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The injuries skyrocket around this time of year -– CPSC estimates about 230 people per day go to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries in the month around July Fourth.

Dr. Jennifer Stankus, an emergency medicine physician at Madigan Army Medical Center, used to be an ER doc in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She remembers an episode where a man strolled into the emergency room through the ambulance door, walking in calmly with his bike. The emergency room at that hospital was always packed, and the doctors told the man he had to go back to the front door and sign in with everyone else -– but then the man said he had been shot.

“He said that he was riding his bike on the sidewalk, immediately across from the [emergency department] when he felt something strike him in the back, and he figured he was shot,” Stankus said. “Well, we looked, and sure enough, he was.”

Apparently in Albuquerque, it is a tradition to shoot off real guns into the air, along with fireworks, as part of the celebratory noisemaking.

“Well, what goes up must come down,” Stankus said. “And a stray bullet just happened to come down and hit this guy in the back, right across from the ED … crazy.”

The man on the bike recovered just fine from his injuries, but if it wasn’t clear from this story, Stankus firmly advises against firing real bullets into the sky to make festive fireworks noises, as the bullets do ultimately come back to Earth and can endanger innocent bystanders.

Dr. Lorrie Metzler, who has practiced emergency medicine in both Louisiana and Mississippi, says she sees a lot of water sports injuries around July Fourth.

“There are so many bayous here, bordering the Gulf of Mexico,” she said. “The population can be very fun-loving and sometimes throw care to the wind and get reckless with jet skis and boats and things like that.”

She has really seen it all –- from a man on a jet ski who hit a pier and became a human projectile, to motor blade injuries and boat collisions.

She urges everyone to keep their wits about them this July 4 –- follow boating safety rules, never drink alcohol and drive a boat, and abide by safety lanes marked in different areas.

“Always wear life preservers, keep a safe distance from other boats, don’t get caught up in the wake of very large ships,” she said. “It’s a real problem getting people to wear life vests -– they save lives,” especially if someone gets knocked unconscious and falls into the water, she added.

In terms of fireworks hazards, ER doctors have seen it all: Burns, lacerations, and eye injuries are extremely common, they say. Fireworks can also be deadly.

Dr. Brad Uren, an emergency medicine physician at the University of Michigan, says he understands that people putting on fireworks shows feel pressure to “act like they’re a star” and impress crowds. But he says he has seen so many injuries from people trying to handle large, commercial-grade fireworks that he advises people to play it safe — especially if a firework seems to be a dud.

“I understand the temptation is to creep up and take a look down that tube -– the show must go on,” he said. “But there’s not a backyard fireworks show that’s worth your eye, your vision, or your life.”

Even with seemingly harmless sparklers, parents should use great caution and think twice before handing them to children –- they can reach 1000 degrees while burning.

The CDC has a list of firework safety tips: never allow young children to play with or light fireworks, avoid buying fireworks packaged in brown paper because they were likely made for professional displays, always watch fireworks from a safe distance, never inspect duds up close, and call 911 immediately for any fireworks-related injury. Keeping water on a hand is also a good idea.

Drinking and driving is as much of a threat on July 4 as any other holiday – these ER docs urge people to never put others and themselves at risk by getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.

“Drinking and fireworks is also an issue,” Uren said. “Have a designated lighter. You wouldn’t get behind the wheel if you had too much to drink, but a lot of people think they can operate fireworks.”

There are also some Fourth of July injuries that are less visible, but equally intense.

“The loud explosion noises from fireworks may remind you of summer barbecues, warm wind, and good times with the family,” said Texas-based emergency room physician Dr. Sudip Bose. “But for an injured soldier –- or anyone with PTSD –- that can remind them of memories from the battlefield.”

Bose is an emergency physician, who served in the Iraq War, and devotes a lot of his time to working with injured veterans. He served one of the longest combat tours by a physician since World War II, and founded a nonprofit called The Battle Continues to help veterans, who return to civilian life and deal with feelings of alienation and PTSD.

He said he knows that fireworks bring joy to millions of people, but that if you live an in area with a Veterans Administration hospital or where you know there are a lot of veterans, “maybe just be a little considerate and cognizant of that” this July 4.

Uren will be spending this July Fourth working in the emergency room. He hopes that people will be extra careful this holiday weekend, emergency physicians are the one group who “don’t mind putting themselves out of business” if it means people will stay safer, he said.

“Unfortunately, every year I’ve worked I’ve seen some kind of fireworks injury, but I would be glad if this was the first year that I don’t,” he said.

All of the emergency medicine physicians quoted are members of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

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Demi Lovato Talks Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Philymack(NEW YORK) — At one time, pop star Demi Lovato doubted whether she would make it to age 21. Now, the former Disney star, 23, is not only topping the charts, but speaking out on the mental health, addiction and body image issues.

In an interview with American Way magazine, Lovato opened up about the struggles she has faced and how they continue to shape her career to this day.

“I lived fast and I was going to die young,” she explained in the interview, pointing to her troubled childhood as a source of her past problems.

Lovato grew up in Texas with two parents battling their own demons, she said. Her father, Patrick Lovato, struggled with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and alcoholism while her mother, Dianna Lee Hart, battled bulimia.

At the age of 7, Lovato began her career in pageantry. Though her issues with body image began before that, she still “attributes a little of [her] insecurities to being onstage and judged for [her] beauty.”

Only a couple of years later, at age 9, Lovato began to binge eat and purge.

In the years following, Lovato would continue performing, eventually landing a role alongside the Jonas Brothers in the hit Disney movie “Camp Rock.” Her stardom would skyrocket from there, bringing with it behavioral problems for the young star.

It was at this time that Lovato began to lose control, indulging in drugs, such as cocaine and OxyContin, and alcohol. She dismissed any attempts her mother and stepfather made at disciplining her.

It wasn’t until she punched a backup dancer in the face that Lovato came to terms with her situation and decided to seek help. She abruptly left her tour with the Jonas Brothers and admitted herself into rehab, where she addressed her bulimia and bipolar disorder. Lovato recalled feeling as though she was “just another stereotype” upon entering rehab.

Once her mental illness was addressed and under control, Lovato tackled her drug and alcohol problem. She checked herself into a sober living facility, a decision that was largely kept under wraps until 2013. She said she hasn’t had a drink since 2012.

In the years since, Lovato has become an advocate for mental illness, inspiring fans with her song lyrics and her openness.

“As a pop star, I can say, ‘Hey, I’ve got bipolar disorder — it’s nothing that anyone can be ashamed of,’” she said in the interview.

Though she never expected to be an inspiration, Lovato has become a role model for many young women facing the same difficulties she once did. Lovato told American Way about the countless girls she has met at meet-and-greets who thanked her for aiding in their recovery from depression and addiction. She added, “Hearing those things gave my life new meaning.”

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General Mills Expands Flour Recall After More Reports of Illnesses

General Mills(NEW YORK) — A major flour recall has doubled after reports of more illnesses.

General Mills pulled its Gold Medal, Wondra, and Signature Kitchens flour off the shelves at the end of May when an investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that some cases of E. coli O121 had reported using those General Mills brands.

A statement from General Mills said the recall was expanded “due to a newly-reported illness that appears to have stemmed from the consumption of raw dough or batter linked to flour produced last fall.”

“The original recall was more than 10 million pounds and this one is an additional 20 million pounds,” a General Mills spokesman told ABC News.

According to the CDC, there are now four new reports of people getting sick from the flour, bringing the total number of cases to 42.

The E. coli O121 strain can cause intestinal bleeding, or hemorrhage, and is potentially deadly.

Consumers who have any of the flour that’s subject to the recall are advised to throw it out or return it to the store where it was purchased. ABC News Health Editor Dan Childs also says consumers should clean up their kitchens after baking with affected flour.

“Consumers should also clean up thoroughly after baking with any kind of flour just to make sure that they don’t further expose themselves to any contaminated flour – and they should get in touch with their doctors if they feel like they are experiencing the symptoms associated with E. Coli,” he said.

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Mother Photographs Her Own Labor

Lisa Robinson(NEW YORK) — As a professional photographer, Lisa Robinson-Ward usually captures all of her family’s portraits herself. But when giving birth to her daughter six months ago, she took it a step further and photographed her own labor.

Though she admits the idea started out as a joke, the California-based photographer told ABC News that after giving it some thought, she decided it might be worth a try.

“I was pretty flexible with the plan,” she said. “If it became impossible I was fine with not doing it but fortunately I had a really easy and amazing birth experience.”

Robinson-Ward hoped that by photographing the experience, she would be able to capture special memories for her family. Robinson-Ward gave birth to daughter Anora and indeed managed to photograph the momentous occasion.

The recent attention she’s received over the photographs came as a surprise to Robinson-Ward. “I’m really happy for all the positive feedback,” she said. “Everyone has been very supportive and I’m glad that I had the chance to share my experience and give a different perspective on birth photography.”

The complete collection of photographs from the special day can be viewed here.

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