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)

Today’s Headlines: Why You Need to Double Check Your SPF, What You Should Know Before Getting into the Pool This Summer, and What May Help Prevent Cancer

Your sunscreen may be lying to you. According to a recent report, almost half of all sunscreens sold in the U.S. has less SPF than the amount listed on the bottle. “Researchers at Consumer Reports independently evaluated the Sun Protection Factor value of 65 sunscreen products — including lotions, sprays and sticks — and found that 43% of them had less SPF than the label promised… In this year’s report, 13 of the 35 sunscreen lotions that were tested had an SPF less than 30, despite all claiming to be at least SPF 30…[most] fell short by about 10 or 15 points.” SPF 30 is the general recommendation for sunscreen but researchers are now suggesting getting sunscreens with a listed SPF of 40 or higher to make up for the potential 10-15 point difference. (CNN)

Do you know if your public pool is safe? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that many pools have been shut down and will continue to be closed due to health and safety violations. “The agency on Thursday detailed inspection data, collected in 2013, in five states that are home to the largest number of public pools and hot tubs: Arizona, California, Florida, New York and Texas. Researchers examined the outcomes of 84,187 routine inspections of 48,632 public aquatic facilities, including hot tubs, pools, water parks and other spots where people swim in treated water. They found that almost 80 percent of the time, inspectors documented at least one health or safety violation.” The CDC advised parents to use store-bought test strips to test the pH levels of the water in public pools, look for cleaned drains and check to see that a lifeguard is on duty and that safety equipment is in good condition. (Washington Post)

Your daily habits may prevent you from getting cancer. Researchers have reported that healthy habits and an overall healthy lifestyle could decrease a person’s risk for developing cancer. “Of the people studied, 16,531 women and 11,731 men had a healthy lifestyle pattern and were determined to be low risk. These healthy patterns included moderate or no drinking, a BMI between 18.5 and 27.5, weekly physical activity that included at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, and either never having smoked or currently not being a smoker. The authors then studied cancer rates among the high- and low-risk groups. They found that overall, 20 percent to 40 percent of carcinoma cases and about half of carcinoma deaths can be potentially prevented through lifestyle modification. Carcinomas form in the lining of certain tissues or organs and is the most common form of cancer.” While more research needs to be done, the evidence is encouraging. (ABC)

Today’s Headlines: How Exercise May Prevent Cancer, The Difference Between Reading a Book and Reading on Your Computer, and Why Adults Don’t Get as Much Sleep

Exercise may decrease your risk for many different types of cancer. A new analysis from the National Cancer Institute studied 1.4 million people and determined that physical activity could aid in the prevention of thirteen types of cancer. “People who exercised the most had a 42 percent lower risk of esophageal cancer and a 27 percent lower risk of liver cancer over 11 years than people who exercised the least…” While multiple types of exercise — such as swimming, running, and walking — were listed as helpful, the main takeaway was that moderate exercise for a few hours a week was the healthiest practice. (NBC)

Reading on paper and computer screens are both beneficial to learning but in different ways. A new research study examined the positives and negatives of reading across different mediums. “In the study, people who used computer screens for learning did better when it came to understanding concrete details, but they had more difficulty understanding abstract concepts…‘Smartphones are great devices for looking up quick, concrete facts like the name of an actor or a restaurant we want to try…They may not be best at helping us remember larger concepts, though.’” Overall, the study concluded that reading on a computer can help you remember facts better, but if you want to understand in-depth connections, it’s best to print out the information to read it on paper. (ABC)

The idea that older people need less sleep may actually be a myth. Based on a series of European studies, researchers have speculated that older adults are getting less sleep due to undiagnosed insomnia. “On average older people sleep for a shorter time than their younger friends, but that only tells you that they get less sleep, not that they need less sleep. Insomnia in the retired is not always taken seriously by doctors. In one study, 69% of older people reported a sleep problem, but in 81% of cases the problem was not noted on the patient’s chart. One hypothesis is that the aging process disrupts their circadian rhythms, causing them to wake earlier than they should.” While the study is not definitive, the researchers recommend that people 65 and older get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. (BBC)

Today’s Headlines: The FDA’s Standards for Healthy Foods, Why You Should Wear Sunscreen in the Car, and The Factors That Determine Sleep

Do you know what the word “healthy” means on a food label? ​The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is redefining the criteria for labeling foods as “healthy” and are now allowing KIND Snacks to use the word “healthy” to describe their snack bars. The current guidelines measure the amount of fat in food products and although KIND’s products are high in fat, they’re high in good, healthy fats. “While not everyone may agree that rigid cutoffs of fat and sodium levels are the ideal criteria for ‘healthy,’ some nutrition experts worry that the distinction between a ‘healthy’ philosophy and ‘healthy’ nutrient content may be lost on consumers.” The issue that’s being raised is a valid one. KIND bars, for example have lots of nuts which have a high fat content but are also considered healthy. (ABC)

You should wear sunglasses and sunscreen when you are driving. A new study has shown that car windows are not effective in keeping harmful UV rays from affecting the skin. “On average, car windshields blocked about 96 percent of UV-A rays. The protection afforded by individual cars ranged from 95 to 98 percent. But side door windows were far less dependable. The percentage of UV-A rays blocked varied from 44 percent to 96 percent. Only four of the 29 cars had windows that blocked more than 90 percent of UV-A rays.” UV rays are very harmful to unprotected skin and can potentially cause cancer, so it’s important to protect yourself. (Reuters)

How much sleep you get may depend on factors you cannot control. A new research study based on data from a sleep activity-monitoring app suggests that age, nationality, and gender may be some of the driving forces that determine how much sleep you get every night. “Most people in the data set schedule between seven and eight hours of sleep a night, with a mean of 7.88 hours. Of all the factors considered in their analysis, gender plays the biggest role in how long a person sleeps. On average, women schedule 8.07 hours of sleep, while men schedule 7.77 hours. Age also seems to be an important factor for when people sleep. On average, older people schedule sleep earlier than younger people. Nationality also plays a role in sleep duration. Residents of Singapore and Japan had the shortest sleep duration of the 20 countries represented in the study, getting an average of 7 hours and 24 minutes of shut-eye a night. People in the Netherlands were the most well-rested, averaging 8 hours and 12 minutes of sleep a night. In the United States, the average sleep duration is 7.87 hours.” This study raised more questions that need to be considered in further research. (LA Times)

Today’s Headlines: The State That Raised the Smoking Age to 21, the Link Between Exercise and Pollution, and the FDA’s New Law on E-Cigarettes


California’s smoking age is now the same as the federal drinking age. This week, California’s governor Jerry Brown signed a proposed bill that raised the age limit to buy tobacco. “Supporters of the law aim to deter adolescents from the harmful, sometimes fatal effects of nicotine addiction. The Institute of Medicine reports 90 percent of daily smokers began using tobacco before turning 19. In April, Hawaii became the first state in the nation to raise the legal smoking age to 21 and more than 100 local jurisdictions around the country have made the change, including New York, Chicago and San Francisco.” The bill will go into effect on June 9, 2016. (NBC)

Air pollution is not an excuse to skip your daily exercise. Researchers claim that the polluted air you may breathe in while exercising outside is not enough of a concern to deter from the benefits of exercise. “The researchers used computer simulations to compare data on different kinds of physical activity and different levels of air pollution in locations around the world. It found that for an average air pollution concentration in an urban area, the tipping point – when the risks begin to outweigh the benefits – comes after a huge seven hours of cycling or 16 hours of walking a day.” Researchers emphasized that efforts to reduce pollution should not stop. (BBC)

The FDA announced new e-cigarette rules. Today, the administration declared that e-cigarettes could not be sold to individuals under the age of 18. “The requirements…are likely to only intensify the debate over whether the devices are a dangerous gateway to traditional tar-laden, chemical-filled cigarettes or a helpful smoking-cessation tool…[anti-smoking advocates] say that e-cigarettes could be harmful, that the long-term health risks are unknown and that companies are marketing their products to younger and younger teens. They say the companies are using the same tactics and themes that the traditional cigarette makers used years ago. The number of middle and high school students using electronic cigarettes tripled between 2013 and 2014, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” The new regulations will begin in 90 days, and all e-cigarette retailers must ask customers to provide government-issued photo IDs for age verification. (Washington Post)

Today’s Headlines: Why You Shouldn’t Use Sleeping Pills for Your Insomnia, 3 Gut-Friendly Beverages, and The Technique That May Help Your Asthma

Ditch the sleeping pills and try therapy instead to eliminate sleeping problems. The American College of Physicians issued new guidelines for insomnia, stating that medication should be avoided at all costs and that alternative methods should be pursued as solutions. “‘We looked at 10 years of very strong research studies that looked at the effects of cognitive behavioral therapy and other interventions in terms of improving sleep for patients who have chronic insomnia,’… sleeping pills don’t work that well and carry risks. One study found that drugs including Ambien and Restoril may double someone’s risk of a car crash.” Other suggestions to help quiet the mind and sleep soundly include turning off electronics. (NBC)

Wine, coffee, and tea may be beneficial for the bacteria in your gut. A new study has shown that certain types of foods and drinks impact the body’s microbes. “Scientists found that consuming fruits, vegetables and yogurt positively influenced microbial diversity in the gut. So did drinking tea, wine, coffee and buttermilk. On the flip side, sugary sodas and savory snacks were associated with lower levels of diversity. So was having irritable bowel syndrome and smoking during pregnancy.” While the cause is unknown, researchers were hopeful that more studies could help doctors begin to analyze bacteria in the body in a whole new way. (LA Times)

Practicing yoga may help relieve your asthma. After analyzing 15 studies, researchers hypothesized that yoga poses and breathing exercises could improve asthma symptoms. “One third of these studies included only yoga breathing exercises, and the rest included breathing, postures, and meditation. The yoga practice lasted anywhere from two weeks to four and a half years, though it was less than six months in most studies. Overall, yoga slightly improved symptoms and quality of life and reduced the need for medications.” More research needs to be done as the studies were small and the results were inconsistent. (Reuters)

New Research on “Biggest Loser” Contestants Reveals Why Sustained Weight Loss Is So Hard

jogging running couple

On The Biggest Loser, contestants went through a weight-loss journey, often losing upwards of a hundred pounds, through exercise and diet regimens. The difference in appearance is dramatic — but does it last? Researchers followed up with contestants to measure what happens after a large weight loss. What they found may not surprise anyone who has struggled to keep the weight off; according to the New York Times, the results “showed just how hard the body fights back against weight loss.” Read more  »

Today’s Headlines: Why Working at Night May Affect Your Heart, How Weight Loss Can Help Your Brain, and the New Ingredient Being Added into the Flu Vaccine

Night shifts at work could lead to heart disease. A study of nurses who worked late night shifts found a link to cardiovascular health decline over a long period of time. “They found nurses who worked rotating night shifts for 10 years or longer had a 15 percent or higher increased risk of coronary heart disease compared to women who escaped night shift duty…For younger women, who started the study in their late 30s, those who worked night shifts for 10 years or longer had a 27 percent higher risk of heart disease.” While the exact cause for the correlation was not known, researchers suspect it could be credited towards lack of sleep and disrupting normal “biological rhythms” required for a healthy life. (NBC)

If you have diabetes, weight loss may slow brain health decline. A small study that was done on people with diabetes split individuals into either a counseling group with diet and exercise components or a control counseling group. “The counseling group lost more weight and achieved greater gains in cardiorespiratory fitness than their peers in the control group. And, in a sign that weight loss might protect against diabetes-related brain damage, the control group had smaller volumes of gray matter and more white matter disease by the end of the study. Smaller volumes of brain tissue and the presence of white matter disease are linked to cognitive decline.” The researchers explained that the brain uses energy from the body, mainly from blood sugar, in order to function, but a person with diabetes has fluctuating blood sugar levels which may damage the brain over time. Researchers believe weight loss may help stabilize those levels. (Fox)

A new and improved flu vaccine will be available for senior citizens. This vaccine includes a new additive and will only be for people 65 years old and older or who have poor immune responses to the vaccine. “It’s the first flu vaccine to include what’s called an adjuvant — a compound that helps stimulate the immune system so that a vaccine is more effective…Fluad contains MF59, an oil-in-water mixture that includes squalene, an oily nutrient produced by the liver, and some preservatives. It’s not clear why but when mixed with vaccines it increases the number of immune system cells that are stimulated.” The new shot is expected to become available sometime next year. (NBC)

Today’s Headlines: The Foods That May Put You at Risk for Colon Cancer, Why Not Exercising Could Lead to Heart Problems, and What You Eat May Be Making You Sleepy

Foods like red meat and full-fat dairy could put your colon at risk. These types of inflammatory foods can irritate your intestines and lead to colon polyps or other tissue abnormalities. “Compared with people whose diets contained the lowest amounts of pro-inflammatory foods, people whose diets contained the highest amounts of pro-inflammatory foods — such as processed meats and red meat — were 56 percent more likely to have one of these polyps…The foods that had the highest inflammation scores were processed meats and red meat, …Dairy foods that contained fat also had pro-inflammatory scores, whereas poultry and fish were neutral… Fruits, vegetables and nonfat dairy, on the other hand, were determined to be anti-inflammatory…” The study only drew the correlation between certain foods and their reactions in the intestines, but researchers suggested that switching to an anti-inflammatory diet may decrease any risk. (Fox)

The time you spend sitting down might be damaging your arteries. Inactivity may increase the likelihood that calcium in your arteries will harden and increasing the risk for blood clots and heart disease. “Research with middle-aged volunteers found that each additional hour of sedentary time was linked to 12 percent higher odds of having calcium buildup in the coronary arteries, an early sign of coronary heart disease…Overall, the volunteers spent between one hour and 11 hours per day sedentary, and spent between zero and 200 minutes a day doing moderate to vigorous physical activity, with an average of 29 minutes.” This was a small study that was done in a small time frame and therefore while the researchers encourage healthy and active lifestyles, they have not proven that calcium buildup is solely caused by being sedentary. (Reuters)

Bacon and other high-fat foods may be the reason you’re sleepy during the day. A small research study showed a potential correlation between diet and sleep. “After adjusting for factors that could influence sleep — smoking, alcohol intake, waist circumference, physical activity, medications, depression and others — they found that compared with those in the lowest one-quarter for fat intake, those in the highest one-quarter were 78 percent more likely to suffer daytime sleepiness and almost three times as likely to have sleep apnea.” More research needs to be done to prove a stronger connection. (NYT)