Today’s Headlines: The FDA-Approved Head Injury Test, Why Crossing Your Legs is Bad for You, and How Often You Should Get Mammograms

The FDA has approved the ImPACT test. The ImPACT test stands for Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment Cognitive Testing which is the first cognitive test of its kind to be approved. “ImPACT is intended for individuals aged 12 to 59 while ImPACT Pediatric was designed for patients aged 5 to 11. The devices are not intended to diagnose concussion, but are meant to test cognitive skills such as word memory, reaction time and word recognition. Results are compared to an age-matched control database of 17,000 cases or to a patient’s pre-injury baseline scores, if available.” The ImPACT program can be downloaded and taken on a computer. (Fox)

Sitting cross-legged may be hurting you. Many people don’t know that the crossed-leg position is an unnatural way to sit. According to Dr. Naresh Rao from NYU Langone Medical Center, crossing your legs “is not a nice ergonomic position for your pelvis…The top knee puts pressure on the lower knee, while the pelvis is rotated and strained. The knees are at an unnaturally twisted angle, and you also hunch the lower back, giving it a little bit of torque.” Dr. Rao doesn’t think that alternating which leg you cross makes the situation any better and believes extended cross legging can lead to back problems and other issues. (WSJ)

Women with dense breast tissue might need to get mammograms more frequently. Roughly one percent of women between the ages of 50 and 74 have dense breast tissue, which could increase the risk for breast cancer. “The research recommends that women older than 50 with dense breast tissue who have higher-than-normal risk of developing breast cancer should get annual mammograms. Many women, however, could go as long as three years between mammograms without increasing their risk of death from breast cancer, the study found.” The general recommendation for mammograms is every two years, although this suggested time frame may change based on a woman’s low or high risk density. Researchers recommend speaking with your physician to determine the screening time that is best for you. (LA Times)

Today’s Headlines: Gallstones May Increase Heart Disease Risk, The Link Between Calcium Supplements and Dementia, and an Update on the Zika Virus

Gallstones may put you at risk for heart disease. A new study has found that heart disease risk may be correlated to a medical history of gallstones. “Among women, Qi’s team found, those with a history of gallstones were up to 33 percent more likely to eventually develop heart disease. For men, gallstones were linked to an 11 percent increased risk. The researchers then pooled those results with findings from four previous studies that included nearly 900,000 people. All together, they found that adults with a history of gallstones were 23 percent more likely to develop heart disease​.” While the reason for the connection has not yet been established, researchers advised people who have had gallstones to pay more attention to their heart health. (CBS)

Calcium supplements may raise the risk of dementia. Older women who took calcium supplements for osteoporosis were found to have a high risk. “The study can’t prove cause-and-effect. However, dementia risk was seven times higher in female stroke survivors who took calcium supplements, compared to women with a history of stroke who didn’t use the supplements, the findings showed. The risk of dementia also was three times higher in women with white matter brain lesions who took calcium supplements, compared to women with white matter lesions who didn’t take the supplements.” Since the link has not yet been confirmed and proven, researchers recommend that women with osteoporosis and who have also had a stroke should continue to discuss their risks and follow up with their doctors. (CBS)

The Zika virus has spread to Miami Beach. This is now the second area in Florida where a non-travel related case has been reported in the U.S. “Governor Rick Scott confirmed Friday. He said five people have been infected by Zika locally in Miami Beach, including three tourists. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new travel warning, telling pregnant women to avoid the popular tourist area if at all possible. The area includes much of South Beach, the quirky beachfront district popular for its outdoor restaurants and sidewalk promenades.” The CDC advises all pregnant women avoid traveling to Miami-Dade County and experts encourage everyone to stay indoors and take precautions. (NBC)

Today’s Headlines: Surprising Mosquito Magnets, How a Sedentary Lifestyle Can Negatively Affect You, and The Correlation Between Weight and Cancer

What you drink, what you wear, and the make-up of your skin may put you at risk for mosquito bites. Grayson Brown, a mosquito scientist who works at the University of Kentucky, says there are many factors that could lure mosquitos to your body. “One study by Japanese researchers found that drinking a single beer increased mosquito attraction. Brown said it’s not clear why that might be, but it’s possible alcohol raises the body temperature of drinkers and makes them sweat more, both known mosquito magnets… ‘Color is [also] a cue. They are much more likely to go to someone in dark clothes versus somebody in light clothes,’ he said.” Other attractions that could lead to mosquito bites included yeast, blood type, and skin bacteria. (CBS)

Read More: The Best Ways to Stay Zika-Free This Summer

Sitting too much during the day can decrease your lifespan and cause health problems. But new research suggests that these same health problems can be caused even if people exercise to counteract their sedentary lifestyle. “The trouble is, it’s hard to measure just how inactive people are and there’s not enough evidence yet to show just how much, or how often, you have to exercise to counteract the effects of sitting, the group said in a scientific update. At least 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise — walking briskly rather than strolling around the house — should be the minimum goal…And it may be worthwhile to encourage desk-bound workers to get up and move a bit every hour or so. Yet even this may not outweigh the effects of sitting at a computer all day, driving home in a car, and then relaxing in front of the TV or with a tablet computer. ‘Regardless of how much physical activity someone gets, prolonged sedentary time could negatively impact the health of your heart and blood vessels…’” The new evidence encourages people to move more throughout the day as a preventative measure. (NBC)

Read more: How to Move More During the Work Day

A women’s cancer risk could increase if she’s overweight. A study found that the length of time a woman is overweight may increase her risk for breast, endometrial, colon, and kidney cancers. “The risk of developing any of those cancers rose in tandem with the number of years a woman had been overweight. On average, the study found, the odds rose by 10 percent for every 10 years a woman had been obese. Similarly, they climbed by 7 percent for every decade she’d been overweight. When the researchers took a closer look, four cancers were clearly connected to the duration of a woman’s excess weight: breast, endometrial, colon and kidney. But the findings do not prove excess weight causes these cancers.” Researchers suggested that extra weight could indicate an unhealthy lifestyle that may lead to cancer. (CBS)

Read more: 22 Ways to Cut Your Risk of Cancer

Today’s Headlines: The Initial Signs of Dementia, the Amount of Exercise That May Lower Disease Risk, and How Yoga May Help Stress

Evidence suggests that the first symptom of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease might not be memory loss. While memory loss is definitely a warning sign, research has shown that other issues may be more telling early on. “Researchers…outlined a syndrome called ‘mild behavioral impairment’ that may be a harbinger of Alzheimer’s or other dementias, and proposed a checklist of symptoms to alert doctors and families, including: losing interest in favorite activities, getting unusually anxious, aggressive or suspicious, and suddenly making crude comments in public. ‘Historically, these symptoms have been written off as a psychiatric issue, or as just part of aging,’ said Dr. Zahinoor Ismail of the University of Calgary, who presented the checklist at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto.” Other symptoms included anxiety about routine, increased apathy, and loss of impulse control. (CBS)

You may need to exercise more than you think. Daily physical activity is encouraged by doctors and other experts but new research suggests that you may need to exercise more in order to lower your risk for disease. “Researchers [in the United States and Australia]…conducted a meta-analysis of 174 studies published between 1980 and 2016 that examined the effect of exercise on five chronic diseases: breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Study authors observed that, to a certain point, the more a person exercised, the lower his or her risk of all five conditions. But the sweet spot for health gains occurred when individuals had a total activity level of 3000-4000 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes a week, according to a news release…MET measures express the energy cost of physical activity, which is calculated by the number of calories an activity can burn multiplied by the number of minutes a person is engaged in said activity.” The researchers said that 3000-4000 METs a week can be achieved by always staying active. Examples included taking the stairs for 10 minutes, running for 20 minutes, and going on a bike ride for 25 minutes. (Fox)

A small study showed that yoga may significantly lower stress. Practicing yoga on a regular basis may help relieve high levels of stress. “…Researchers in Australia looked at 116 adult women who reported experiencing moderate to very high levels of stress for at least a month. The women who practiced yoga had lower levels of psychological distress as well as less perceived stress compared to the women who did not practice yoga. Women in the yoga group also had higher levels of more positive emotions and moods. The women also experienced lower waist size and more flexibility. The researchers didn’t see a difference in blood pressure levels, mindfulness, well-being, and negative moods.” The study was too small for strong conclusions to be made, but it supports the idea that yoga is beneficial in a variety of ways. (Time)

Today’s Headlines: The Link Between Pollution and Lung Cancer, How Meal Planning Can Help You Eat Healthier, and Evidence That Reading May Increase Longevity

If you have lung cancer, living in a polluted area can accelerate the disease’s progression. New research suggests the further damage it can cause in cancer patients. “Researchers examined cancer registry data on more than 350,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer in California and found patients who lived in communities with higher than average levels of air pollution typically died sooner than their peers who lived in places with cleaner air…Air pollution appeared to have the greatest effect on survival for people diagnosed with early-stage adenocarcinoma, the most common type of lung cancer and the form that often afflicts non-smokers. In particular, patients diagnosed with early-stage disease had average survival times of about 2.4 years with high exposure to fine particulate matter, compared with 5.7 years with low exposure, the researchers report.” The study is important because it shows a correlation between pollution and lung cancer and calls for a solution to pollution problems. (Reuters)

Choosing the foods you eat in advance can help you stick to your healthy diet. Recent research shows the benefit and significance of picking what you eat ahead of time. “…when there was a significant delay between the time a person ordered their food and the time they planned on eating it, they chose lower-calorie meals…’If a decision is going to be implemented immediately, we just care about the immediate consequences, and we discount the long-term costs and benefits,’ Dr. VanEpps [a post-doctoral student involved with the research] said. ‘In the case of food, we care about what’s happening right now – like how tasty it is – but discount the long-term costs of an unhealthy meal’…On the other hand, when you order a meal in advance, ‘you’re more evenly weighing the short-term and the long-term costs and benefits’…You still care about the taste but you’re more able to exert self control.” Additional studies and research support this theory that meal planning can help you improve your diet. (NYT)

Reading may increase your longevity. Reading helps stimulate your brain and can have other beneficial anti-aging effects. “Study authors found that those who reported reading books for up to three and a half hours each week were 17 percent less likely to die over the 12-year follow-up period, while those who spent more than three and a half hours reading each week were 23 percent less likely to die.” People who read in general survived two more years on average than people who did not read. (Fox)

Today’s Headlines: Heart Disease Risk in Pre-Menopausal Women, How Weight Gain May Affect Your Brain, and Why Surgery May Be Unnecessary in Some Cases

Pre-menopausal women are at a greater risk for heart disease. Doctors have commonly believed that heart disease risk increases in the beginning of menopause, but new research shows that may not be the case. “In the latest research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers say that risk for heart disease actually starts to peak in the years before menopause, and the risk is especially great for African-American women. Among African American women, these risk factors steadily increased in the years prior to menopause at a greater rate than for white women, suggesting that African-American women may be more vulnerable to the changes occurring prior to menopause.” If you are concerned about your heart disease risk, consult your doctor and follow heart-healthy lifestyle tips like managing and monitoring your weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure. (Time)

Extra weight may cause your brain to age faster than normal. A new study compared the decline of white matter in the brain between people who were lean and participants who were overweight. “Those in the overweight group had much less white matter than their thinner counterparts. The difference was only evident from middle-age onwards, suggesting that our brains may be particularly vulnerable during this period of ageing. However there was no difference in how the groups fared in tests of knowledge and understanding, so the researchers say more work is needed to follow people and see who develops conditions such as dementia.” While more research needs to be done, it is unclear whether or not this brain aging can be reduced if people lose weight. (BBC)

Surgery may not always be the best or only solution to your health problem. The New York Times discussed the unnecessary need for having both spine and knee surgery to improve wellbeing. “Take what happened with spinal fusion…The conclusion: Surgery was no better than alternative nonsurgical treatments, like supervised exercise and therapy to help patients deal with their fear of back pain. In both groups, the pain usually diminished or went away…many doctors have been genuinely uncertain about which is better — exercise and physical therapy or surgery. That, in fact, was what led Dr. Katz and his colleagues to conduct a clinical trial comparing surgery with physical therapy in middle-aged people with a torn meniscus and knee pain. The result: The surgery offered little to most who had it. Other studies came to the same conclusion, and so did a meta-analysis published last year of nine clinical trials testing the surgery. Patients tended to report less pain — but patients reported less pain no matter what the treatment, even fake surgery.” If you are considering surgery for a health issue, discuss different therapy and treatment options with your doctor that may improve your quality of life. Changing your lifestyle, exercising, or physical therapy are all examples of alternatives that can be beneficial in a variety of situations. (NYT)

Today’s Headlines: More Benefits of Fish Oil, The Food That Might Be Hurting Your Kidneys, and New Research on Why You Shouldn’t Smoke

Fish oil may help your heart heal after a heart attack. While omega-3 fats are generally recommended as a way to prevent heart disease, new research has found that it could help after a heart attack too. “Normally after a heart attack, part of the heart is starved of oxygen, and that portion never recovers. The remaining healthy tissue starts to compensate for the compromised tissue, but has to work harder to maintain the heart’s normal pumping function. Over time, this overworking can lead to scar tissue and start to restrict even the healthy tissue’s ability to do its job. Kwong and his team found that people taking the high dose of omega-3 fats showed 6% less of this decline in heart function…[and] the people who showed the highest blood levels of the omega-3 fats …showed the greatest reduction in scarring — 13% — compared to those with the lowest levels.” While the study was only done on 360 participants, the results look promising. (Time)

Eating red meat may be silently hurting your kidneys. A recently-released study suggests a correlation between consuming red meat and a higher risk of kidney disease. “The study team found that participants who ate the largest amount of red meat had about a 40 percent greater risk of developing kidney failure compared with people consuming the lowest amounts of meat. However, the researchers didn’t find any associations between kidney health and intake of poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products or legumes. In fact, they calculated that substituting some other source of protein for one daily serving of red meat reduced the risk of kidney failure by up to 62 percent.” The study did not directly prove that red meat causes kidney problems but the researchers emphasized moderate red meat consumption. (Reuters)

The development of a brain hemorrhage could be high if you’re a woman who smokes heavily. A 65,000-person study found that the risk for “subarachnoid hemorrhage — bleeding inside the lining of the brain” is high in smokers. “The researchers tracked participants [every five years since 1972] until the end of 2011. During that time, there were 492 subarachnoid hemorrhages, 266 of them among women. Smokers were more likely to suffer a hemorrhage, especially women. Compared with nonsmokers, women who smoked more than 20 cigarettes per day were eight times as likely to suffer a brain hemorrhage, and men who smoked that much were almost three times as likely to suffer a hemorrhage. Former smokers had lower hemorrhage risk than current smokers.” The study contributes to ongoing research that shows how dangerous smoking can be for the body. (Washington Post)

Today’s Headlines: Exercising Can Help Lower Risk of Heart Disease, How to Undo the Damage of a Sedentary Lifestyle, and What May Be Causing Your Gluten Sensitivity

Exercising for two and a half hours per week may decrease your risk of heart disease. Women under the age of 50 can lower their risk by about 25 percent if they maintain an active lifestyle. “Regardless of body weight, women who reported doing moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking had lower risk of heart disease than those with little or no exercise. Overall, women who spent a total of 2.5 hours per week being moderately active were about 25 percent less likely to be diagnosed with coronary heart disease than those who were not active at all. Though apparent benefits were seen even in overweight and obese women, researchers found the greatest benefit among normal-weight women. Those who were active for 2.5 hours a week had half the heart disease risk of obese, inactive women.” The intensity of the exercise did not seem to matter; only the amount – researchers agreed that any exercise, whether light, moderate, or vigorous, could help the heart if done on a regular basis. (Fox)

There may be a way to undo the damage caused by sitting too much. A sedentary lifestyle has been associated with an increased risk of health problems and a lower life expectancy in many different studies. “It comes down to fitting in an hour of walking or other physical activity a day. It doesn’t have to be a super-intense fitness routine to offer benefits, say the authors of a new study…The increased risk of death linked with sitting for eight hours a day was eliminated for people who were physically active for at least one hour a day. What’s more, the eight-hour-a-day sitters who exercised had a significantly lower risk of death compared to people who sat for fewer hours a day but weren’t active, the authors found.” If you sit for a majority of the day at your job, make sure to add an hour of exercise into your day to improve your overall health. (CBS)

The reason people are sensitive to gluten may have been discovered. A new study from Columbia University, in conjunction with the University of Bologna, has found a possible cause for gluten sensitivity. “The team…found that patients who experience various gastrointestinal symptoms in response to wheat ingestion may be suffering from a body-wide inflammatory immune reaction not seen in patients with celiac disease. The inflammation, researchers said, is due to a weakened gut, and the condition is referred to as non-celiac gluten or wheat sensitivity (NCWS). Symptoms of NCWS include intestinal problems, as well as fatigue, cognitive difficulties, or mood disturbances. The study did not extend to those with celiac disease, a more serious condition involving gluten, but the researchers are hoping that further studies will help them find more answers involving both issues. (Fox)

Today’s Headlines: How Exercise Can Help Your Knees, The Computer Training That May Lower Your Risk For Dementia, and Why You May Not Need a Yearly Body Scan

Physical therapy may be just as effective as surgery for your knees. A small clinical trial from Denmark and Norway found that physical therapy can alleviate pain and help those with degenerative meniscal tears save money by avoiding surgery. “Out of 140 adults with degenerative meniscal tears, half received arthroscopic surgery and were given exercises to perform at home; the other half were prescribed 12 weeks of supervised exercise sessions, two to three times a week. Three months later, the second group actually scored higher on tests of thigh muscle strength than the surgery group. After two years, improvement in both groups was equal: The participants reported similar progression in terms of pain, ability to play sports and participate in recreation, and knee-related quality of life.” Researchers recommended trying alternative therapies and only resorting to surgery if pain becomes a persistent problem. (Time)

Decrease your risk of dementia through brain training. New research has found that certain activities can delay the onset of dementia. “For those who got the commercially available brain-training exercises, the cumulative risk of developing cognitive decline or dementia over 10 years was 33% lower than for participants who got no training at all…Compared to study participants who got no training at all, recruits who went through more than 10 of the computerized brain-training sessions were 48% less likely over 10 years to experience dementia or cognitive decline.” The computer game used, called Double Decision, is available for purchase: “The game exercises an individual’s ability to detect, remember and respond to cues that appear and disappear quickly in varying locations on a computer screen.” (LA Times)

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force said that yearly body scans for skin cancer are unnecessary. The task force claimed that there was not enough evidence to outweigh the potential danger from these screenings. “Grossman [vice chairman of the task force] stressed that the statement doesn’t apply to people who have skin lesions or any other kind of suspicious growths or to those with an increased risk of cancer or a family history of the disease. But unnecessary screening could lead to overtreatment, including unneeded biopsies with unwanted side effects, he noted. And while it seems ‘intuitive’ that full-body exams would result in cancer being caught early, Grossman said the research suggests that some doctors are much more adept than others at finding lesions.” While more research needs to be done on how effective the screenings are and who should be getting them, everyone should protect their skin from the sun by wearing sunglasses, sunscreen, and protective clothing. (Washington Post)

Today’s Headlines: Why Government-Subsidized Food May Not Be the Best Food, The Chemicals Being Removed From Wal-Mart Products, and New Regions Discovered in the Brain

The U.S. government’s agricultural subsidies encourage the production of unhealthy foods. Crops like corn and wheat and foods like meat are often turned into sweeteners, refined carbs, and processed meats, which are usually inexpensive but less nutritious. This impacts public health as a whole. “CDC researchers found that, of the 10,000 adults surveyed, those who had the highest consumption of federally subsidized foods had a 37 percent higher risk of obesity, the New York Times reported. This group was also more likely to have abdominal fat, abnormal cholesterol, and high levels of blood sugar.” The CDC is hoping that this information, in addition to past research, will encourage a change in the way subsidies are approved and distributed. (Fox)

Wal-Mart announced that eight chemicals will be removed from their products. Many of these harmful chemicals have been found in Wal-Mart’s cleaning, beauty, and personal products. “The chemicals Wal-Mart wants to remove include butylparaben, used as a preservative in cosmetics, and triclosan, used in clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys. Triclosan is also used in toothpaste, but Wal-Mart said it would not press for its removal because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other regulators have deemed it safe for this use.” This announcement comes as a way to uphold Wal-Mart’s 2013 promise to be more transparent about the products being sold in their stores. (Reuters)

97 “territories” in the brain have been discovered. Researchers have released a new map of the brain identifying areas that didn’t exist before. “The new map identifies 180 areas for each hemisphere, including 97 new territories along with 83 previously known regions. Each area has been defined based on the fact that they are “similar within themselves, but different from their neighbors,” explained Glasser [a neuroscience doctoral student]. Each has a unique microstructural architecture (including thickness of the cortex), plus a unique pattern of activity and connectivity with other brain areas…The newly identified areas mainly reside in regions of higher cognitive function… A dozen distinct cortical areas, for instance, have been identified within the area known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, which is involved in planning, working memory and abstract thinking, among other functions.” These discoveries allow scientists and doctors to learn more about the brain which can help improve diagnoses and operations. (CNN)