Today’s Headlines: The Good News About Americans’ Diets, Google’s New Symptom Search Feature, and Why You Should Eat More Vegetables

New data shows that Americans are eating healthier foods and eliminating sodas and other sugar-filled drinks. Although the standard American diet has a poor reputation, a recent study shows that our eating habits are better than before. “Overall, the percentage of Americans with poor diets based on these AHA standards dropped from 56 percent to 46 percent during the study period. The proportion of people with ideal diets was low but inched up to 1.5 percent from less than 1 percent.” The study noted several factors such as household income, race, and geographic location that were influential when it came to healthy eating. While the increase is a step in the right direction, American diets still need improvement overall. (Fox)

Google wants to help you accurately search your symptoms. Google’s search results for symptoms can be unhelpful and sometimes make matters worse. “On Monday, it [Google] rolled out a new feature called symptom search. The next time you use the Google search app for iPhone and Android to look up something like “my tummy hurts,” “skin rash,” or “headache on one side,” you’ll see about a half-dozen digital cards you can swipe through right below the search box. Each of these cards briefly describes a common health problem related to your search term. Google worked with Harvard Medical School and the Mayo Clinic to build the symptom search cards. Where possible, the cards will mention whether self-treatment options are available, or whether a related health problem is serious enough to warrant professional medical care. Beneath the cards, you’ll see the same old list of website links—helpful or unhelpful as they may be.” While no online information is more sufficient than a visit to your doctor, Google hopes this new system will help you get more information on the health issues that affect you. (WSJ)

Add more vegetables on your plate to decrease your risk for diabetes. New research has found that increasing the amount of plant-based foods and decreasing the amount of animal-based foods in your diet may benefit your health overall. “On average, adults who ate a plant-based diet with few animal products cut their risk of Type 2 diabetes by 20 percent. But when researchers distinguished between healthful and unhealthful plant-based foods, they found that diabetes risk dropped by 34 percent among the healthful plant-based eaters. Notably, there wasn’t a benefit to plant-based eating when a person consumed a lot of refined carbohydrates and starchy vegetables. In that case, a person’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increased slightly.” Plant-based foods are filled with many nutrients that can help balance and stabilize blood sugar levels and metabolism. (NYT)

Today’s Headlines: How Heavy Drinking Can Hurt Your Heart, The Danger of Driving with Dementia, and Forgiveness Could Help Relieve Your Stress

There may be a link between heavy drinking and the development of atrial fibrillation (afib). A new study has drawn a correlation between heart health and alcohol based on hospital records in Texas. “The analysis found that people living in dry counties, where sales of alcoholic beverages are prohibited, had a higher risk of being hospitalized for a heart attack or congestive heart failure than people living in wet counties, where such sales are allowed. But residents of wet counties were at elevated risk for a heart rhythm disorder called atrial fibrillation…Prevalence of atrial fibrillation was about 5% higher in wet counties, while prevalence of heart attacks was 17% lower. New hospitalizations for afib during the study were 7% higher in wet counties while those for heart attack were 9% lower.” While drinking in moderation is not necessarily harmful, make sure to steer clear of excessive alcohol consumption or binge drinking. (WSJ)

Those with dementia should stop driving as their disease progresses. So far, no cognitive tests have been able to figure out if and when it is safe for a dementia patient to operate a car. “People with dementia have up to eight times the odds of being in a car accident compared with other seniors. But in the early stages of the condition, people with a dementia diagnosis can often drive safely, the study team writes in the Journal of The American Geriatrics Society…” A person does not need to give up their license and right to drive as soon as they are diagnosed. However, he or she will need to be monitored by doctors and family members and eventually stop driving in the future. (Fox)

Forgiveness may be the key to helping you manage stress. A small preliminary study looked at the correlation between forgiveness, stress, and mental health. Researchers hypothesized that the ability to cope could make stress more manageable. “[They] looked at the effects of lifetime stress on a person’s mental health, and how more forgiving people fared compared to people who weren’t so forgiving. No surprise, people with greater exposure to stress over their lifetimes had worse mental and physical health. But the researchers also discovered that if people were highly forgiving of both themselves and others, that characteristic alone virtually eliminated the connection between stress and mental illness.”  (Time)

Today’s Headlines: How Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Heart, Coffee No Longer Considered Carcinogenic, and The Connection Between Diabetes and Weight Loss

Sleep apnea may increase the risk for heart problems. Sleep apnea is a condition where you stop breathing while you’re sleeping. It has been linked to heart issues in past research but new research has shown that the risk still remains even when heart health has improved. “All the participants had undergone angioplasty, the clearing of a blocked heart artery, including placement of a tube called a stent to keep the artery open…The researchers then tracked participants for an average of five and a half years. During that time, 10 people with sleep disordered breathing and three without sleep breathing issues died. Major adverse events like heart attack and stroke had occurred in more than 20 percent of those with sleep breathing issues, compared to 8 percent of those without breathing problems.” In previous research, sleep apnea was linked to other heart issues such as “high blood pressure, elevated glucose and abnormal heart rhythms.” (Fox)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reduced its warning about coffee. This news comes 25 years after the WHO said that coffee may be carcinogenic and possibly lead to cancer. “The about-face by the WHO came after its International Agency for Research on Cancer [IARC] reviewed more than 1,000 studies that showed coffee is not a cancer culprit…However, the IARC said that drinking very hot beverages is now classified as ‘probably carcinogenic.’ The group based its findings on what it described as limited evidence from epidemiological studies that showed positive associations between cancer of the esophagus and drinking very hot beverages. The studies targeted places such as China and South America, where tea or maté is often consumed at temperatures of about 158 degrees Fahrenheit—roughly 10 degrees hotter than people in the U.S., U.K. and Europe are accustomed to drinking coffee or tea.” Water used to make coffee should not exceed 205 degrees Fahrenheit and should not be consumed until the hot liquid has cooled down. (WSJ)

Losing weight can improve the health of people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, a new study suggests that losing at least seven percent of your body weight can lower your blood pressure and help maintain blood sugar and cholesterol levels. “Larger weight loss improved blood sugar control, systolic blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels more than lesser weight loss at year one and year four, as reported in Diabetes Care. Blood sugar control tended to improve in the first year and then worsen again. At year four, it was only still improved among people with large weight losses – and that was true regardless of whether the large weight loss had later been regained.” This study was only observed over a four-year period so long-term benefits are not known. (Reuters)

Today’s Headlines: Even 15 Minutes of Exercise is Beneficial, Whole Grains Linked to Longer Lifespan, and How Your Job Affects Your Workout Schedule

For seniors, fifteen minutes of exercise a day may be sufficient. A new study has found that even though senior citizens struggle to meet the government-recommended amount of exercise throughout the week, it may not be necessary as long as they are moving a little. “The study authors found that the risk of death lowered during the study as people exercised more. Even people with low physical activity levels, half the recommended amount, had around a 22% lower risk of death compared to inactive people. The researchers say that amount of exercise is the equivalent of a 15 minute brisk walk every day.” If you are age 60 or older, make sure that you are moving on a daily basis to help your health. (Time)

Eating whole grains may decrease your risk of death. Researchers have found a correlation between whole grains, which American don’t eat enough of, and longevity. “People who ate the most whole grains were about 16 percent less likely to die of any cause during the study than those who ate the least, almost 20 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and more than 10 percent less likely to die of cancer. For every additional serving of 16 grams of whole grains, cardiovascular disease-related death risk declined by 9 percent and cancer death risk by five percent…” The research suggests that we all should be adding more brown rice, oats, and other whole grains into our daily diets. (Fox)

Your job may be the reason you’re not exercising enough. A new study shows that your occupation can influence your exercise habits. “What they found was that overall, 43% of employed adults did not get the recommended amount of exercise. And people in production jobs, which likely involve more physical labor, tended to exercise less in their leisure time than people with managerial or more office-based occupations; 51% of people with production jobs failed to meet the exercise recommendations compared to only around 30% of people with professional and managerial jobs. In fact, people with more sedentary jobs reported the highest amounts of recreational physical activity.” Education was also flagged as an indicator for fitness: people with a higher education seemed to exercise more frequently. (Time)

Today’s Headlines: Double Check Your Vitamins, Why Your Activity Tracker May Be Inaccurate, and What’s Wrong With FDA Recall Protocol

Nature Made vitamins were recalled last Tuesday. Recalled vitamins may be contaminated by bacteria like salmonella. “Symptoms of salmonella illness, including diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps, may begin 12 to 72 hours after a person is exposed to the bacteria. Illness can last four to seven days and most people recover on their own. Consumers are advised to stop using the affected Nature Made products and return them to stores for full refunds. Pharmavite is asking retailers and distributors to remove the impacted products from store shelves immediately.” If you have Nature Made vitamins at home, check the lot numbers on the back of the bottle to make sure yours are not part of the tainted batches. (CNN)

People who have issues walking or performing physical activities can get erroneous results when using fitness trackers. Fitness trackers may seem reliable but a new study found that those who used canes or walkers took more steps than indicated on their tracker. “The FitBit One, Omron and Jawbone UP all underestimated actual steps by less than 10 percent for people walking without assistive devices, but had much larger margins of error for those using canes or walkers…Activity monitors worn on the wrist tend not to be accurate for older people with mobility issues…” To get a more accurate reading, researchers recommended using a pedometer worn near the waist instead of the arm. (Reuters)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may not have an efficient recall process in place. According to a new report by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, the FDA does not issue timely recalls. “The report suggested that the FDA instruct recall staff to set timeframes for recalling products. Waiting too long to recall products has endangered consumers in the past, the report found, citing a nut butter recall in which at least 14 people became ill from salmonella. More than five months passed from when the FDA identified the contaminated product to when the company initiated a recall.” The FDA will be updating its procedures in order to catch recalls and other health issues earlier. (Time)

Today’s Headlines: Why Eating Fat is Not Always Bad, Different Ways to Boost Your Memory, and How Coffee May Improve Your Workout

Eating foods high in healthy fats won’t make you gain weight. Regardless of their calorie count, researchers have found that fats like avocados, nuts, and olive oil in the Mediterranean diet are beneficial. “People who were put on a Mediterranean diet without any calorie restrictions for five years lost slightly more weight than people put on a low-fat diet for the same amount of time…more than 10% of heart deaths were traced to eating too few plant oils, like those that are plentiful in a Mediterranean diet. In another study by the same authors of that analysis, people who drank full-fat milk had a 46% lower risk of developing diabetes than those who chose skim.” Overall, people on the Mediterranean diet tended to eat more healthy foods such as produce and fish. (Time)

There are four activities that might strengthen your mind. A few different research studies showed that activities such as doodling, practicing yoga, running barefoot, and spending time in nature may help improve memory. “If you were one of those students who was more likely to doodle in the margins of your notebooks than write words in them, you may have been onto something… Those who chose the drawing route remembered about twice as many words as those who wrote them down.” In another study, “Both groups showed statistically similar improvement in verbal memory, but the yoga group also showed an improvement in visual-spatial memory (where you left your keys, for example) as well as in signs of depression and anxiety.” A separate study found that “…barefoot runners who were told to hit these targets showed a roughly 16 percent improvement in working memory… this effect may result from the combination of the increased blood flow that running produces and the forced focus that comes from hitting targets.” And finally, a fourth study reported on the benefits of the outdoors: “…people who stepped outside into a natural or parklike environment showed improvement across a host of cognitive functions — including memory — compared with those who were stuck in a city.” (Washington Post)

Drinking coffee before an early workout may improve your overall performance. Since caffeine is a stimulant, it may help your body function more efficiently. “‘Caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system, the heart, and possibly the ‘center’ that controls blood pressure,’ all of which play a vital role in helping your mind and body push harder in a workout… Plus, researchers found that when people caffeinated before a workout, they ate 72 fewer calories later in the day and had an easier time keeping cravings in check.” The researchers advised that people who work out in the morning supplement their coffee with water to help them stay hydrated. Additionally, people who exercise at night should not drink coffee near bed time, even if it is before a workout. Find out more about the pros and cons of drinking coffee. (CNN)

Today’s Headlines: New Salt Guidelines in Processed Foods, the Added Calories in Fast Casual Dining, and Updated Zika Virus Guidelines

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is making moves to try and lower sodium consumption in America. The federal agency is setting new standards calling for a cutback on salt in packaged and processed foods. “More than 70 percent of the sodium consumed in this country is already in food before it reaches the table, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…The guidelines are sweeping and set targets for the gradual reduction in sodium in the majority of processed and prepared foods — about 150 categories, including pizza, deli meats, canned soup, snacks, breads and rolls. The reductions would be two-phased, cutting sodium over two years and over 10 years. If the food industry adjusts sodium levels based on the F.D.A.’s targets, the agency said it expected consumption to drop to 3,000 milligrams a day in two years and 2,300 in 10 years.” Sodium can cause high blood pressure which can lead to other, more serious health issues and the FDA is optimistic that these guidelines will help the health of the American population as a whole. (NYT)

There may be more calories in your Chipotle meal than a McDonald’s order. New research has shown that fast casual restaurants, like Chipotle, may contain more calories in their meals than fast food restaurants. “The researchers examined the calorie counts of 3,193 entrees sold at restaurants representing 24 different fast food chains and 28 fast-casual chains, according to the report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They found the average fast-casual entree had about 760 calories compared to the typical fast food entree with about 560 calories. Schoffman said the study team was surprised by the overall results and by finding a greater proportion of fast casual restaurant entrees exceeded the median of 640 calories.” The study noted, however, that it only looked at calorie counts and not nutritional value as well. The researchers hypothesized that even though many fast casual restaurants have more calories, they are actually bigger portions with generally healthier ingredients. Customers should pay attention to what ingredients they’re ordering, in addition to calorie counts, to make sure they are making a healthy choice. (Reuters)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has updated its preventative guidelines for the Zika virus. Sexual transmission of the virus is possible and the WHO wants to ensure sexually-active people are taking the right steps to prevent themselves from infection. “The WHO advised couples to use barrier contraception or abstain from sexual contact for at least eight weeks after returning from an area with ongoing Zika virus transmission. This is double its previous guideline of four weeks. For men who have symptoms of the Zika virus, the WHO advises them to abstain from sex or use barrier contraception for six months over concerns that the virus could persist in semen. For women who have symptoms of the Zika virus, that recommended period is eight weeks. Additionally, couples who want to conceive are advised to wait six months if they had any symptoms of the Zika virus. Symptoms can include fever, pink eyes or rash.” The WHO is continuing to research the virus to find a way to prevent infection. (ABC)

Today’s Headlines: The Best Way to Kill Ticks, Why Your Clothes May Put Your Thyroid at Risk, and How Your Marriage May be Affecting Your Health

Get ticks off your clothes quickly by putting them in the dryer. Ticks don’t like dry environments and can be eliminated with a simple, quick spin in the dryer. “The study…says just six minutes spinning dry clothes in a hot dryer should kill all the ticks and reduce the risk of tick-related illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends washing tick-infested clothes and then drying them for one hour. The recent research found that drying time can be significantly reduced if clothes aren’t washed first…Ticks that survived washing took 70 minutes to kill in dryers on low heat and 50 minutes at high heat…By comparison, all ticks and nymphs dried with dry towels were killed in four to 11 minutes, depending on the temperature.” While drying your clothes will help, researchers urged that more precautions, such as repellent, be used as well. (WSJ)

Flame retardants may increase a woman’s risk for thyroid disease. These chemicals are commonly found in clothing and upholstery to make them fire-resistant. “The chemicals – known as PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers…disrupt the endocrine system by interfering with the body’s production of the hormone estrogen. The thyroid, which controls metabolism, can malfunction without the right amount of estrogen. Compared to women with the lowest blood concentrations of flame retardants, women with the highest levels in their blood were 48 to 78 percent more likely to have thyroid problems, the study found.” Only a correlation was discovered and more research needs to be done in order to prove the link. (Reuters)

How you emotionally react to your spouse may affect your health in the long run. A small study was done on married couples to assess how their emotions towards each other correlated to health issues over time. “During that time, 45 to 65 percent of the men and 60 to 76 percent of the women experienced cardiovascular symptoms, such as high blood pressure, chest pains or other heart problems. Also, 15 to 29 percent of the men and 30 to 36 percent of the women had musculoskeletal symptoms, such as back pain, stiffness in muscles or joints or severe leg or arm pain. People who consistently expressed anger during interactions with their spouse were more likely to have cardiovascular problems than were those who did not get angry. Those whose behavior during the interactions was described as stonewalling — meaning they suppressed their emotions — were more likely than the others to have musculoskeletal problems.” These health problems did not become apparent immediately, but were rather the result of dealing with a relationship over an extensive amount of time. (Washington Post)

Today’s Headlines: How Infections May Impact Alzheimer’s Development, How Massage Therapy Can Manage Pain, and Why Friendships Keep You Healthy

New research suggests that Alzheimer’s disease may develop from infections in the brain. Some researchers believe that infections may cause buildup in the brain that can increase the chances of getting Alzheimer’s. “For a long time, researchers believed that a protein called amyloid beta had a role in causing Alzheimer’s by building up plaque in the brain that destroyed its ability to make connections, ultimately leading to memory loss. Now, the new research…suggests that amyloid buildup may actually happen as a protective measure when the brain is trying to fight off infections, and that Alzheimer’s disease may be caused when an infection causes too much amyloid buildup. As people age, it may be easier for infections to reach the brain, triggering the amyloid and spurring the cascade of problems that lead to the disease.” While more research is needed, these new findings could change the way scientists and doctors approach, understand, and treat this disease. (Time)

Getting a massage may ease some of your body pains. While massage therapy may not be the most effective way to manage pain, researchers found that it was better than no treatment at all. “Massage manipulates soft tissue to alleviate pain, and some people believe the relaxation tied to the therapy may help other aspects of the person’s health like psychology…For the new study, the researchers searched databases of medical studies to find those…[that] tested massage for muscle and bone pain, headaches, deep internal pain, chronic pain like fibromyalgia and spinal cord pain. Three of four studies involving a total of 245 people with muscle and bone pain showed that compared to no therapy, massage had a very large effect on pain, the researchers found. The group was able to make a strong recommendation for massage therapy, compared to no treatment.” Researchers recommended massage as a supplement to other pain management treatments for the best results. (Reuters)

Your friends could be helping your health. Having a support system present in your life can do wonders for your health both physically and mentally. “Ever since researchers began to make links between loneliness and poor health about 25 years ago, the scientific literature on the value of friendship has exploded. Today, the data make a convincing case: Having people who care about us is good for us. In a 2010 meta-analysis…researchers found a strong connection between social relationships and life span. The size of the effect rivaled that of better-known health-related behaviors such as smoking and exercise…in a 2015 analysis…[researchers] found that the absence of social connections carried the same health risk as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.” Many related studies, compiled over several decades, have shown that good relationships can benefit us in a variety of ways. (The Washington Post)

Today’s Headlines: The Type of Bug Spray You Should Be Using, the Four Habits That Can Lower Your Risk For Cancer, and an Update on the Zika Virus

Don’t waste your money on natural bug spray. According to tests from Consumer Reports, natural repellents don’t last as long as their synthetic counterparts. “The consumer testing group released its latest update on which repellents work best…those with naturally derived oils may smell nice, but they don’t keep the mosquitoes off for long…Both the CDC and Consumer Reports say that while ‘natural’ sounds better and safer to consumer, it isn’t necessarily so. That’s especially true when it comes to mosquito repellents.” Repellents with the chemical DEET lasted for an average of seven hours when tested, whereas natural repellents lasted less than an hour. With mosquito season coming up, make sure you’re protecting yourself and your family with the right bug spray. (NBC)

A new study found that four healthy habits may prevent or reduce your risk for cancer. The habits that Americans should develop are quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising weekly, and eliminating or scaling back on drinking. “The effect of a healthful lifestyle varied according to gender and cancer type. For instance, women who followed the strictures on smoking, drinking, weight and exercise could reduce their lung cancer risk by 85% and their colorectal cancer risk by 60%. For men, the corresponding figures were 90% and 50%. The study’s findings present a significant challenge to research published last year that said as many as 80% of cancers might be attributable to factors beyond the control of individuals — the “bad luck” hypothesis. Instead, the new research offers evidence that bad behavior trumps bad luck as a cause of cancer.” This study makes it evident that healthy habits may be the best way to fight and prevent cancer. (LA Times)

The Zika virus is forecast to spread in the U.S. this summer. With mosquito season looming, there will be more Zika cases popping up throughout the country. “Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the federal government needs to ensure any local outbreaks of the disease don’t spread widely. ‘We already have Zika in the United States. But it is travel-related,’ Fauci said…There are more than 500 travel-related cases of the Zika virus in the U.S., according to new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. None of them were locally transmitted by mosquitoes.” This summer, make sure you take proper precautions and apply bug spray. (Time)