Today’s Headlines: Eating Ice, Marijuana and Feeling Young

Chewing on ice boosts focus in those who are anemic. Women often become anemic, and doctors have known for some time that this iron deficiency can lead to a strange desire to eat ice. While the phenomenon, called pica, is well known, the reason for the desire is not. “A new study proposes that, like a strong cup of coffee, ice may give those with insufficient iron a much-needed mental boost. Fatigue is the most common symptom of iron-deficiency anemia, which occurs when the body can’t produce enough oxygen-carrying hemoglobin because of low iron.” The study subjected healthy and anemic participants to an attention test and looked to see how drinking water or eating ice might change performance. “Iron-deficient subjects who had sipped on water performed far more sluggishly on the test than controls, as expected. But those who ate ice beforehand did just as well as their healthy counterparts. For healthy subjects, having a cup of ice instead of water appeared to make no difference in test performance.” As per one of the researchers, “It’s not like craving a dessert. It’s more like needing a cup of coffee or that cigarette.” (Washington Post)

Marijuana found to decrease brain tissue, lower IQ. With marijuana legalization sweeping across the nation, many users are lauding the increased ease with which they’ll be able to get their high. But it seems like the drug is not without its dangers according to a new study out this week. “The study found that the average marijuana user’s IQ was about five points lower than that of a nonuser. The earlier the study participants began consuming the drug, the worse the condition of the brain. The study, which compared almost 50 marijuana users to a control group, suggests that at first brains affected by marijuana compensate for the deficit in decision-making brain volume by increasing connectivity, a key brain function. But marijuana-affected brains can’t keep up in the long term.”  While the study  shows only a correlation, meaning there could be other potential causes for the changes, the findings are consistent with the damage seen in animals exposed for long periods of time. “The study joins a growing body of evidence that marijuana harms the brains of young people.” (TIME)

Feeling younger helps boost brain youth. There are some people who seem years younger than they really are. According to new research, it may have a lot to do with attitude. “The study looked at men and women 50 to 75 years old and found that 89% felt younger and 11% felt older than their actual age. Those who felt older than their age scored 25% lower on memory and cognitive tests than those who felt younger.” The reason for the effect may be complex and have to do both with how a person is thinking and the healthy behaviors they engage in as a result of feeling younger. “The study comes as recent research suggests aging is both a subjective and biological experience. A younger self-image was more common in physically active people with a lower body-mass index, the latest study found.” The researchers say the finding might help doctors identify individuals who may need to be monitored more closely for cognitive decline. Feeling older than your actual age may indicate a risk for dementia sooner than those who feel younger. (WSJ)

Alcohol May Not Prevent Heart Disease in All

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There’s been a lot of press over the last several years about how alcohol might affect our health for the better. Several studies that have looked at large groups of people and found that a moderate amount of alcohol consumption (one drink for women, two for men) every day decreases the risk for coronary artery disease when compared to those who don’t drink anything at all or those who drink too much. But a new study out this week indicates there may be some nuance to that claim. Read more  »

Sharecare Top 5: 10 Secrets to a Happy Relationship, Diabetes-Friendly Foods and Dental Care Do’s and Don’ts

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On Sharecare we’re dishing out the secrets to a long-lasting relationship, sharing delicious recipes from the American Diabetes Association and giving you easy tips to take care of those pearly whites.

1. A diet for diabetes doesn’t have to be bland. In honor of American Diabetes Month, try these comfort food recipes that will satisfy your taste buds and your diabetic meal plan.

2. Sizzling sex is great, but that’s not what creates strong relationships. Discover 10 simple things real-life couples do to keep love alive.

3. Despite countless products that polish, cleanse and protect teeth, most people don’t have terrific oral-care routines. Dr. Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen give you five ways to improve your daily dental care.

4. Ebola’s still a hot topic, but there’s no need to panic or worry. Get the facts–and a healthy perspective–about your risk of getting the deadly virus.

5. Stressed? Grab a friend and share a secret. Find out how this surprising tip can help relieve stress, lower blood pressure and boost immunity.

Incontinence: Can It Kill You?

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Involuntary loss of urine is embarrassing, inconvenient and distressing, but the one thing I have always assured my patients is that it is not a life-threatening condition. Recently, my perspective on that has changed.

One of my patients mentioned to me that she had just recovered from a hip fracture that required a lengthy hospitalization and surgery. I asked her how she broke her hip and she replied, “I fell down at home.” That’s not unusual. In fact, most hip fractures occur from falls at home. She then said, “Actually, I never told anyone else, but I will admit to you that I was rushing to get to the bathroom and didn’t quite make it. I slipped on my urine and fell.”

I wondered how many other home falls were due to incontinence and did a little digging.

Read more  »

Gluten-Free? Don’t Let Sugar Derail Your Diet

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As gluten-free eating becomes more and more popular, you might be wondering if you should go gluten-free. The greater availability of gluten-free products has made the transition seem a little less daunting for those of us who don’t want to forgo that morning bagel or bowl of cereal. While I believe that everyone can benefit from giving up gluten, many people who rely on gluten-free packaged foods to make that change don’t feel better at all, and may actually feel worse. The culprit in this case isn’t what was taken out, but what was added back in: refined grains and sugar.

Whenever an ingredient is removed from a food, it’s often replaced with another ingredient for stability, shelf life or texture purposes. For example, sugar-free foods contain sugar alcohols, and fat-free foods are often produced with man-made fats and extra sugar. Gluten-free foods are no exception to this rule, as they’re often laden with extra sugar. Not to mention, gluten-free foods usually contain other nutrient-poor refined flours that your body treats just like refined sugar.

If you recently went gluten-free but aren’t seeing a resolution of your symptoms, the sugar content of gluten-free processed foods could be derailing your efforts for a number of reasons: Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Phone Email, Midlife Crisis and Secondhand Smoke

Work email on your phone can negatively impact your health. It used to be that leaving work meant the end of the work day. Today, many people carry work with them and continue to be available long after leaving the office, which could be harming their health. “52% of Americans check their e-mail before and after work, even when they take a sick day. Ignoring email can seem more stressful than dashing off a quick response. This phenomenon is known as telepressure and has very real health effects. The study found that employees who reported more telepressure also reported worse sleep, higher levels of burnout and more health-related absences from work.” As one author mentioned, “when people don’t have recovery time, it switches them into an exhaustion state.” Interestingly, it wasn’t about personality. “Individual differences were only weakly associated, indicating that telepressure is a workplace problem, not a worker problem. We learn how to respond to email through our colleagues’ behavior.” The researchers recommend determining reply policies with your boss and keeping the tone of emails business, not conversational which implies quick response. (TIME)

Happiness among wealthier Western populations dips in midlife. Buying a sports car in your 40s may be more about your happiness than a need to spice things up. New research based on global data has found that “life satisfaction followed a predictable trajectory depending on where people lived. In countries such as the U.K. and the U.S., life satisfaction followed a U-shape, dipping to a low in midlife. In Africa it was low throughout, and in Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and Latin America it declined with age.” The researchers think the dip has to do with work sacrifices. “This is the period at which wage rates typically peak and is the best time to work and earn the most, even at the expense of present wellbeing, so as to have increased wealth and wellbeing later in life.” Transition countries like those of Eastern Europe saw a decline with age likely because transition to a new economic system had taken their pensions and healthcare away. Those living in chronic insecurity, like those in many sub-Saharan African nations, had chronically high levels of stress and worry, regardless of age. As the researchers point out, “money does not equate to happiness, but economic progress did promote wellbeing to an extent.” (BBC)

Secondhand smoke could cause weight gain. In spite of the numerous harmful health consequences of smoking, some smokers still hold to the idea that at least it helps with weight. While this may be marginally true for some smokers, it seems the opposite is happening to those around them. “In an animal study, researchers exposed lab mice to secondhand smoke and followed their metabolic progression. The findings showed that those who were exposed to smoke gained weight. Researchers found that smoke triggered an alteration in cell mitochondria, disrupting normal function and inhibiting cells’ ability to respond to insulin.” Smokers tend to lose a small amount of weight initially because nicotine decreases their appetite. But those around them get only the hazardous chemicals present in second-hand smoke, which moves from their lungs into their blood stream to affect their body. This likely contributes to childhood obesity and diabetes at a young age, given that “approximately 20 percent of young children live with someone who smokes in the home.”  (Fox)

The Effect of Seeing Skinny Models in Magazines? It’s Complicated

woman reading magazine breakfastThe cover of any magazine you pick up at the store will probably have a perfect-looking model on the cover. She’s thin and fit, vibrant and healthy, wrinkle- and jiggle-free. She’s also often heavily airbrushed to make sure she’s as perfect as can be. You might think it would be depressing to look at a picture like that, knowing you aren’t anywhere near that ideal and probably never will be. Not so, according to a new study out this week that found the reaction is quite the opposite. Read more  »