Friday, November 10, 2017

What Is Alopecia?

Alopecia is an umbrella term for many types of hair loss. Watch the video to learn what exactly alopecia is.

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Aaron Hernandez's Brain Suffered Severe Damage From CTE, Doctor Says

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

(BOSTON) — Former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez suffered severe damage to parts of the brain that play an important role in memory, impulse control and behavior, a researcher who studied his brain said Thursday.

Dr. Ann McKee, director of the CTE Center at Boston University, said she could not “connect the dots” between Hernandez’s severe case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is linked to repeated blows to the head, and his behavior. The 27-year-old hanged himself in April, while serving life in prison for murder.

But McKee said she says Hernandez experienced substantial damage to key parts of the brain, including the hippocampus — which is important to memory — and the frontal lobe, which is involved in problem solving, judgment and behavior.

“In any individual we can’t take the pathology and explain the behavior,” said McKee, who has studied hundreds of brains from football players, college athletes and even younger players, donated after their deaths. “But we can say collectively, in our collective experience, individuals with CTE — and CTE of this severity — have difficulty with impulse control, decision-making, inhibition of impulses or aggression, often emotional volatility and rage behaviors,” she said.

Hernandez hanged himself in prison days after he was acquitted in the 2012 drive-by shootings of two men in Boston and just hours before his former teammates visited the White House to celebrate their latest Super Bowl victory.

Prosecutors claimed he gunned the two men down after one accidentally spilled a drink on him in a nightclub — and then got a tattoo of a handgun and the words “God Forgives” to commemorate the crime.

He had been serving a life sentence without parole in the 2013 killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd when he killed himself in April.

Hernandez, who said he was innocent, did not raise CTE in his defense at either trial.

But after his death and September CTE diagnosis, his attorneys filed a lawsuit against the NFL and football helmet maker Riddell, accusing them of failing to warn Hernandez about the dangers of football. The lawsuit, which seeks damages for Hernandez’s young daughter, said he experienced a “chaotic and horrendous existence” because of his disease.

Hernandez inherited a genetic profile that may have made him more susceptible to developing the disease, McKee said. She said Hernandez had the most severe case of CTE they’ve seen in someone his age. Hernandez was diagnosed with Stage 3, out of 4, of the disease.

While the outside of Hernandez’s brain appeared normal, the inside showed evidence of previous small hemorrhages, which experts associate with head impacts. Other parts of his brain had begun to shrink and show large holes in the membrane, McKee said.

“Individuals with similar gross findings at autopsy were at least 46 years old at the time of death,” McKee said.



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Olympic Gymnast Aly Raisman Reveals Sexual Abuse By Team Doctor Larry Nassar

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Aly Raisman, a six-time Olympic medalist and one of the most accomplished gymnasts in U.S. history, says she was sexually abused by Dr. Larry Nassar, who worked as the women’s gymnastics national team doctor for decades.

Raisman is the second member of the gold medal-winning 2012 Olympic women’s team to accuse Nassar of abuse. In October, her teammate McKayla Maroney tweeted that Nassar molested her for years, beginning when she was 13. Raisman disclosed the abuse in an interview scheduled to air Sunday on CBS’ 60 Minutes, as well as in her new book, Fierce.

Nassar, who worked as a volunteer doctor for USA Gymnastics, is currently in jail awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to child pornography charges in Michigan. He is also named in more than 100 lawsuits filed by gymnasts and athletes he treated while working with USA Gymnastics and at Michigan State University. Those suits claim he sexually abused athletes under the guise of medical treatment. Nassar resigned from USA Gymnastics in the summer of 2015.

In the interview, Raisman says she spoke to FBI investigators about Nassar after competing at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero in 2016, after an investigation by the Indianapolis Star revealed that USA Gymnastics had a policy of not reporting sexual abuse reports unless they were filed by the victims or a parent.

Raisman, who competed on the 2012 and 2016 Olympic teams and is the nation’s second most decorated female Olympic gymnast, is pushing for change at USA Gymnastics, which governs the sport and oversees the selection of world and Olympic teams.

“I am angry,” she said in the 60 Minutes interview. “I just want to create change so [that young girls] never, ever have to go through this.”

In a statement to the program, USA Gymnastics said it has adopted new policies that require “mandatory reporting” of any potential abuse. “USA Gymnastics is very sorry that any athlete has been harmed…we want to work with Aly and all interested athletes to keep athletes safe.”



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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017

When Is the Beaver Moon?

This article originally appeared on TravelAndLeisure.com.

It’s one of nature’s most arresting sights: a full moon slowly rising in the east as the sun sets in the west. Yet few people bother to look at this highlight of the lunar month.

November’s full moon is known as the Beaver Moon, or sometimes the Hunter’s Moon or the Frost Moon, and its rising this year is extra special because the moon will be closer to Earth than usual. This slightly bigger, brighter full moon is sometimes called a “supermoon.”

When is the full moon in November?

Though it will look very bright for a few days on either side, the moon is only full when it’s precisely opposite the sun, which will illuminate all of its Earth-facing side.

Related: Where to Find the Darkest Skies in the U.S. for Serious Stargazing

This moon phase will happen at 5:23 a.m. UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. That’s 1:23 a.m. in New York (EDT), 12:23 a.m. in Chicago (CDT), 11:23 p.m. on Friday, November 3 in Salt Lake City (MDT), 10:23 p.m. in Phoenix and Los Angeles (MST & PDT) and 9:23 p.m. in Anchorage (AKDT).

However, that’s not when to look at the full moon. By the time it’s risen high into the night sky, it’s too bright to comfortably look at.

A far better time to observe the moon is as it rises, which it will do on November 3, at the same time as sunset. As well as being much dimmer, it will appear orange – for the same reason a rising or setting Sun looks orange – though a rising full moon is far paler.

This highlight of the lunar month is a gorgeous sight, not least because the moon will appear impressively large as it rises. Not because it’s a supermoon — the difference in apparent size is negligible — but because of the so-called “moon illusion” perspective, where things look bigger when they’re viewed close to the horizon.

Why is it called the Beaver Moon?

November’s full moon comes as the temperatures start to drop in North America, where it’s become known as the Beaver Moon.

It’s a name from Native Americans and early colonists that indicates that November was when they needed beaver furs to survive the coming winter months. They therefore laid beaver traps in rivers under moonlight, taking advantage of when the animals were at their most active.

Additional November Moon Names

The many Native American tribes all had different names for various full moons to track the passing of the year. The Cherokee on the East Coast and the Carolinas called November’s Full Moon the nu-da-de-qua, or Trading Moon, because it was a time when much trade was done between tribes for goods, while the Kalapuya in the Pacific North-West called it alangitapi, which translates as “moving inside for winter.”

Since it arrives at a time of year when it’s getting colder and just before the first frosts and freezes, there are many other Native American names that associate it with cold. The Assiniboine of the Northern Plains called it cuhotgawi, or the Frost Moon, while the Haida tribe in Alaska termed it the Snow Moon.

November’s Full Moon has also sometimes been referred to as the Hunter’s Moon, because it illuminates prey at night.

Whatever you call it, the rising full moon on November 3 will be a beautiful sight.

And there will be more reasons to gaze up at the sky in November: The Leonid meteor shower will peak on November 17.



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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

If You Struggle to Find Time for Self-Care, These Clever Apps Can Help

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Finding time for self-care can be tricky, especially in the always-on, digitally connected world we live in. Even when we mean to relax, there are often distractions like work emails or Facebook messages at our fingertips.But believe it or not, your phone can also be a tool to help you prioritize self-care—as long as you know how to make it work for you.

We’ve rounded up the best apps and tech for promoting personal health and making time to recharge your batteries, so you can fill your phone with tools that deliver good vibes only. Because, hey, if you’re going to have your phone around 24/7, it might as well help you take care of yourself.

RELATED: 9 Easy Ways to Practice Self-Care This Week

Happify (free; iTunes and Google Play)

This app lets you select the mental health and wellbeing goals you want to focus on (think reducing stress or building confidence), and then gives you quick games and activities to help you move the needle on these goals. You’ll track your overall happiness and how it changes with time on the app, too.

Shine Text (free; shinetext.com)

Sign up for Shine Text to receive a daily text message with motivational quotes, affirmations, positive psychology articles, and tips for how to start your morning in an optimistic mood.The company claims that 93% of people who use Shine Text report feeling more confident and happy than they were before. Also cool: If you refer 10 friends, you can score free swag.

Gratitude Journal (free; iTunes and Google Play)

Think of this app as a virtual journal that reminds you to record what you’re grateful for each day, with the option to share it with friends if you want. You can also take photos and tag friends and locations so you can look back on the people and places that made you smile.Practicing gratitude has been shown to make people happier, and having the ability to journal on your phone makes it even easier to find time to reflect on the stuff you’re thankful for.

Headspace (free for first 10 sessions; iTunes and Google Play)

This meditation app gets rave reviews for its short guided audio meditations on different themes, rangingfrom “learning to meditate” to “falling asleep.” The first 10 sessions are free, and after that you can access more meditations by subscribing for $13 a month or $96 a year. Meditation has been shown to help decrease stress and improve focus, and with this app, you can learn to meditate anywhere, at any time—you just need a few minutes a day.

Acupressure: Heal Yourself ($1.99; iTunes and Amazon)

Self-massage is a great way to relive tension and stress, and this app can help improve your skills. The easy-to-use app shows you how to massage various pressure points on the body with illustrated instructions.

Sleep Cycle (free; iTunes and Google Play)

This app functions as a smart alarm that tracks your sleep habits and wakes you up at the optimal time (during your lightest sleep phase) so you feel more rested.Your phone doesn't have to be in bed with you, though; it uses sound analysis to track your sleep. To make sure you’re getting the best rest possible, you can also monitor snoring and other sleep stats.

Offtime ($2.99; iTunes and Google Play)

Your phone can actually help you stay on it (when you decide you want to) with Offtime. The app analyzes how you spend time on your phone to deliver honest insight, then you can set barriers to certain apps or features you find distracting, or block texts and calls (while allowing certain numbers to get through).Offtime gives you more control over how you use your phone, allowing you to have undistracted downtime, family time, or work time.

Yoga Studio (free; iTunes and Google Play)

This app allows you to practice yoga literally anywhere—you download classes instead of streaming them so you can watch without an Internet connection. Plus, if you’re a beginner yogi, you’ll learn basic moves and can even piece together your own classes with your favorite poses and flows (the app turns them into a seamless video for you). As a bonus, youcan also easily schedule classes from the app onto your phone calendar to make sure you’re fitting in time for your practice.

Clue (free; iTunes) or Glow (free; iTunes and Google Play)

Keep track of your monthly cycle with Clue. This period tracker app allows you to monitor how you’re feeling, skin problems, and sexual activity, so you can notice any patterns in your cycle. This can give you the info you need to prioritize self-care before you’re in desperate need of it.Glow is another great period tracker that syncs with many fitness watches and apps, so it can help you find patterns in activity levels and your cycle.

Talkspace ($32 a week; iTunes)

If you’re ever felt too busy for therapy, this app is for you. Talkspace matches you with a licensed therapist through a free consultation. Once you’ve connected with a therapist, you can text them daily (they usually respond once or twice a day, depending on an agreement you set up with them). Even better: Couples can use it, too.



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Monday, October 30, 2017

Picking This Seat on a Flight Means You’re Selfish, Psychologists Say

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“Window or aisle?” is the question. The answer could reveal something about your personality.

While some passengers prefer the window — for the views and the relative privacy of a cabin wall to lean against, others prioritize the freedom (again, relative) of the aisle, being able to get up and stretch or head to the lavatory without disturbing any seatmates.

But according to two psychologists interviewed by The Telegraph, there could be more to it: Passengers who prefer the window seat may be more selfish, while those who prefer the aisle may be more reserved.

RELATED: The Best Seat on the Airplane, According to Anthony Bourdain

“Passengers who favor the window seat like to be in control, tend to take an ‘every man for themselves’ attitude towards life, and are often more easily irritable,” Dr. Becky Spelman, chief psychologist at Harley Street’s Private Therapy Clinic, told The Telegraph. “They also like to ‘nest’ and prefer to exist in their own bubble.”

Behavioral psychologist Jo Hemmings agreed.

“Aisle passengers are often more sociable and definitely more amenable as people; they are also more likely to be restless fliers and less adept at sleeping on planes,” Hemmings added.

Of course, seat selection has to do with more than just one factor.

According to a survey by Quartz in 2014, the more people fly, the more they prefer the aisle. Preference for the window also decreased as household income increased.

Overall, however, a majority of fliers prefer the window.



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Friday, October 27, 2017

Why You Should Never Feel Bad for Daydreaming During a Boring Work Meeting

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We’ve all been there: You’re at a dull work meeting or presentation, and your mind keeps wandering—to what to eat for lunch, your weekend plans, or what’s going on with the new season of Stranger Things.

Don’t feel so bad about all your daydreaming. Mind-wandering may be a sign of intelligence and creativity, according to a new study in the journal Neuropsychologia. And as long as your performance at work or wherever you are doesn’t suffer when your mind drifts, daydreaming may not be such a bad thing after all, the study authors say.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology wanted to study what happens to people’s brain patterns when they’re told to lie still and do nothing—a prime opportunity for mind-wandering. So they asked 112 study participants to do just that: lie in an MRI machine while starting at a fixed point for five minutes.

RELATED: 8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

The research team used those readings to identify which parts of the brain worked together during this type of awake but resting state, and they also compared the readings to tests the participants took to measure their creative and intellectual abilities. In addition, the participants filled out a questionnaire about how much their mind wandered in daily life.

The researchers made several interesting connections. People who reported more frequent daydreaming during the day scored higher on creative and intellectual tests. Their MRIs also showed they had more efficient brain systems—meaning different regions of the brain were more in sync with each other—compared to people who reported less frequent mind-wandering.

The finding that mind-wandering is associated with intelligence was somewhat surprising, says lead author Christine Godwin, a psychology PhD candidate. That’s because previous research has linked mind-wandering to poorer performance on memory and reading-comprehension tests, lower SAT scores, negative mood, and mental-health disorders.

RELATED: How to Trick Your Brain Into Eating Less

“But when you think about the possibility that mind-wandering can potentially be helpful at times for cognitive through processes—or at least not directly harmful—it makes sense,” Godwin tells Health. Other research has also suggested that daydreaming (along with night dreaming) may help people become better problem-solvers, and that daydreaming about the future “can be particularly beneficial in preparing individuals to obtain their upcoming goals,” the authors wrote in their paper.

The study didn’t measure whether people with more efficient brain processes—and more mind-wandering tendencies—required less brainpower to complete certain tasks. But, Godwin says, “it’s an inference we can start to make, especially since mind-wandering was correlated with intelligence, as well.”

“Some other research indicates that people who have high cognitive abilities are able to mind wander during easy tasks simply because they can—because they have extra brain capacity so to speak, and may be more efficient in their cognitive processes,” she adds. (If you can zone out of conversation or tasks and tune back in for the important parts, then congrats: That’s a sign of efficiency, the authors say.)

“The popular perception is that mind-wandering is bad and it’s harmful and you want to try to avoid it,” says Godwin. “And that’s certainly the case oftentimes; if you’re not paying attention to a complex task, your performance is probably going to suffer.”

RELATED: Bipolar Celebrities: Does It Make Them More Creative?

One example may be driving a car: While driving should require one’s full attention, it’s common for people to drift off in thought, especially if they follow the same route every day or find themselves on a long, monotonous stretch of road. Distracted drivers are a major source of traffic accidents and deaths, studies report, although some researchers say it’s still unclear how dangerous it is to daydream while driving.

There can be times, however, that mind-wandering does not impair performance— like when a person is completing a simple and low-risk task that’s done largely from memory, like folding laundry. “In those cases, it’s okay to embrace mind-wandering,” she says, “and the research suggests there may be some benefits to creativity and working memory and intelligence, as well.”

Godwin still recommends that people try to be mindful of tasks that require a lot of brainpower, and to be cognizant of whether their performance slips when their attention starts to drift elsewhere. “If you notice that’s happening, you may need to address that by taking a break or having something to eat—anything to help you get back on track, so you can stay focused now and let your mind wander later.”



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'Plus-Size' Resort Provides a Sanctuary for Curvy Beach-Goers: 'The Stigmas Are Gone'

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Olympians Jordyn Wieber & Nastia Liukin Open Up About Pressure to Stay Thin After Gymnastics Careers

You Asked: Is Watching Scary Movies Good for You?

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

The heart-pounding thrills of a scary movie may come with some health-related benefits, including a calorie burn and a happier mood. But how much you stand to gain from a scary movie seems to depend on how scary you find the film you’re watching—and how much you want to be scared in the first place.

In a 2012 study, funded by the former video subscription service Lovefilm, researchers from the University of Westminster in the UK asked 10 people to watch 10 different scary movies as they monitored heart rate, oxygen intake and output of carbon dioxide. The 1980’s film The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson, topped the list of the calorie-scorching horror films. The person who viewed it jumped and shrieked themselves rid of 184 calories: roughly the number of calories a 140-pound adult would burn after 40 minutes of walking, according to the American Council on Exercise’s physical activity calorie counter. Jaws and The Exorcist took the second and third spots on the list, burning 161 and 158 calories, respectively.

A stressful stimulus—in this case, a scary movie—causes the release of the hormone adrenaline, which cranks up the nervous system’s fight-or-flight response, says Richard Mackenzie, author of the study, who is now at the University of Roehampton in London. Along with getting your heart racing, this response also draws energy from your body’s reserves so that you’re ready to fight or flee as the need arises.

The study was very small, and the findings were not published in a peer-reviewed journal. But there is other research that frightening flicks may proffer benefits. A 2003 study from Coventry University in the UK, published in the journal Stress, found that watching a horror film significantly increased people’s circulating levels of disease- and infection-fighting white blood cells. Again, the study team credits the movie’s ability to fire up the viewer’s fight-or-flight response, which includes a short-term increase in immune function.

It might be simpler to think of horror movies as a form of “good stress.” While stress gets a bad rap—and long-term stress is associated with everything from depression to heart attacks—brief bouts of stress have often been linked to improved immune function and activation, says Firdaus Dhabhar, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine.

A good scare can also elevate your mood. “The research my colleagues and I have done show a high-arousal negative stimuli improves mood significantly,” says Margee Kerr, a sociologist and fear researcher and author of Scream: Chilling Adventures In the Science of Fear. These can be activities like watching a scary movie, or visiting a pop-up haunted house or Halloween-season attraction.

Kerr says that after a scary experience, people feel less anxious, less frustrated and happier. “The different neurotransmitters and hormones released during the experience could explain that,” she says. Or, by voluntarily choosing to endure a scary or stressful activity—whether it’s watching a freaky movie or bungee jumping—you’re likely to experience a feel-good sense of accomplishment afterward.

But—and this is a big caveat—Kerr says her research only included people who wanted to partake in the scary experience. For those who don’t get a thrill out of a horror movie or who don’t enjoy being scared, there may not be any mood or anxiety benefits.

Some frightening movies or experiences may be too much for kids in particular. An older study from the University of Michigan found that 26% of college students who had experienced a media-based scare during childhood still had “residual anxiety” from the experience.

So wait until the kids are in bed before firing up the next horror flick in your Netflix queue. Based on the existing science, you may burn some calories and boost your mood.



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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Kim Kardashian Says She Has Body Dysmorphia, but What Does That Really Mean?

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Kim Kardashian is all about a perfectly posed selfie and expertly contoured face. But even she experiences a self-esteem plunge when she hears negative comments about her body. On the most recent episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Kim opened up about the toll being in the public eye has had on her body image.

In the episode, unretouched bikini photos of Kardashian went viral online. While dealing with the fallout, she admitted that her body insecurity has increased over the years. “You take pictures and people just body shame you,“ Kardashian said. "It’s like literally giving me body dysmorphia,” she also commented.

RELATED: Kim Kardashian Swears By This $500 Moisturizing Cream. Here’s Why a Dermatologist Says It’s Not Worth It

The term “body dysmorphia" has a buzz to it these days, and it's often thrown around by people who feel a little self-conscious about their appearance. But it’s actually a true mental health condition—and nothing to take lightly. Body dysmorphia is "the preoccupation of imagined defects in one’s appearance,” says Tom Hildebrandt, PsyD, chief of the Division of Eating and Weight Disorders at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. 

A person with body dysmorphia typically sees a specific body part or a group of body parts and thinks, my calves look weak or my face is so ugly and out of proportion. They become obsessed with these thoughts and let them take over their lives. “Obsessed” is not an exaggeration. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, is a type of obsessive compulsive disorder. The International OCD Foundation says BDD affects 1 in 50 people, or between 5 and 7.5 million people in the United States alone.

Based on one episode of her show, it's hard to know if Kardashian has BDD or just doesn’t always like the way she looks. What signs can tell you that your body obsession truly is BDD? It’s more than being critical of your appearance from time to time. Says Hildebrandt: "For someone with BDD, their entire life’s balance hangs on whether they look okay or whether they’ve camouflaged their perceived flaw appropriately.“

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When a person believes she has body issues and is hyper-aware of them, she may avoid social situations to not draw attention to her so-called flaws. She might also go to extremes to hide the perceived flaw, say by walking around with her hair covering her face or going under the knife. "People with the resources may get plastic surgery and go back repeatedly for more, because it only provides a temporary release from the anxiety about their appearance,” explains Hildebrandt.

In KUWTK, Kim says that her body dysmorphia comes from all the body-shaming comments she receives from haters, trolls, and others in the general public. While negative remarks can make BDD worse, they aren’t typically the cause of the disorder, says Hildebrandt. 

RELATED: 10 Signs You May Have OCD

The actual cause of BDD isn’t known, but it may be similar to what triggers OCD. Hildebrandt says people with certain temperaments and ways of thinking are predisposed to BDD and may show OCD tendencies in other areas of their life. For example, a person who obsesses over her legs may also be obsessed with keeping a spotless home. “[It’s] a cognitive style that causes you to prioritize things that are out of place rather than the big picture,” says Hildebrandt.

Worried about a friend who displays BDD behavior? Take note of how often she tries to conceal parts of her face or body, or if she constantly seeks reassurance about a specific body region. If you or a loved one think you’re suffering from it, talking to a therapist or counselor is a smart option. Treatment includes antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy.

BDD shouldn’t be used carelessly as a slang term for someone who isn’t 100% pleased with her body. We all have moments when we wished we were slimmer, had more muscle tone, or were taller or shorter. But when a person’s entire life is dedicated to hiding and obsessing over perceived flaws, it’s a serious mental health issue that needs to be addressed.



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Friday, October 6, 2017

What Does It Mean to Have OCD? These Are 5 Common Symptoms

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Having obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) isn’t easy. The condition, marked by uncontrollable thoughts and behaviors, strikes about 2% of the general population—a figure that in the U.S. alone means nearly 6.5 million people. If you’ve made it past young adulthood without developing any symptoms, you’re likely in the clear.

You wouldn’t know that to hear people talk, however. In recent years, OCD has become the psychological equivalent of hypoglycemia or gluten sensitivity: a condition untold numbers of people casually—almost flippantly—claim they’ve got, but in most cases don’t. Folks who hate a messy desk but could live with one for a day do not necessarily have OCD. Nor do those who wash their hands before eating but would still have lunch if there was no soap and water nearby. Yet the almost sing-songy declaration “I’m so OCD!” seems to be everywhere.

Some of the confusion is understandable. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM)—the field guide to psychological conditions—lists OCD among the anxiety disorders, and nearly everyone has experienced anxiety. The thing is, though, you’ve experienced headaches, too, but that doesn’t mean you know what a migraine feels like unless you’ve had one. Same with the pain of OCD, which can interfere with work, relationships and more.

“The brain is conditioned to alert us to anything that threatens our survival, but this system is malfunctioning in OCD,” says psychologist Steven Phillipson, clinical director of the Center for Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy in New York City. “That can result in a tsunami of emotional distress that keeps your attention absolutely focused.”

No single fear defines the condition. There are familiar obsessions like washing your hands or checking the stove. But there’s also hoarding, hypochondria or a terrible fear you’re going to harm somebody. People with a common type of OCD can even have paralyzing anxiety over their own sexual orientation.

As with any mental illness, only a trained clinician can offer a reliable diagnosis. But here are a few behaviors that experts say can be genuine symptoms of OCD.

Bargaining

It’s common for people with OCD to believe that if they check the stove just once more, or Google just one more symptom of a disease they’re convinced they’ve got, then their mind will be clear. But OCD typically reneges on the deal. “The brain becomes biochemically associated with the thing you fear,” says Phillipson. “Performing the ritual just convinces it that the danger is real and that only perpetuates the cycle.”

Feeling compelled to perform certain rituals

Could someone pay you $10—or $100, or whatever is a relevant sum of money to you—not to do a ritual like checking the front door twenty times before leaving for work? If your anxiety can be bought on the relative cheap like that, you may have an idiosyncrasy—you worry about burglary a little too much, perhaps—but you probably don’t have a disorder, Phillipson says. For the person with OCD, he explains, the brain is signaling what feels like a life and death risk, and it’s hard to put a price on survival.

Being tough to reassure

For people with OCD, the phrase “yes, but” may be a familiar one. (Yes, your last three blood tests for this or that disease were negative, but how do you know they didn’t mix up the samples?) Since absolute certainty is rarely possible, almost no reassurance clears the yes, but hurdle, and that keeps the anxiety wheels spinning.

Remembering when it started

Not all people with OCD can point to the exact instant the disorder first struck, but many can, says Phillipson. OCD is a sort of free-floating anxiety before the initial symptoms strike, but then it alights on a particular idea—the fear you’re going to lash out at somebody with a knife when you’re making dinner, for example. These experiences tend to roll off of most people. But for someone with OCD, the bottom falls out, Phillipson says. “It’s the moment when a panic marries a concept,” he says. Like most bad marriages, it’s hard to end.

Feeling consumed with anxiety

OCD is a matter of degree, especially since there are real-world risks associated with nearly all obsessive-compulsive triggers. Houses do burn down, and hands do carry germs. If you can live with the uncertainty those dangers can cause—even if they make you uncomfortable—you likely don’t have OCD, or at least not a very serious case of it. If the anxiety is so great it consumes your thoughts and disrupts your day, you may have a problem. “The D stands for disorder, remember,” Phillipson says. “OCD causes your life to become disordered.”

There are proven treatments available for OCD. Medications, including certain antidepressants, are often a big part of the solution, but psychotherapy—especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—can be just as effective. One potent type of CBT is a protocol known as exposure and response prevention (ERP). As the name suggests, ERP involves gradual exposure to increasingly provocative situations—under the guidance of a therapist—while avoiding any rituals to undo the anxiety. Begin by touching a doorknob without washing your hands, for example, progress up the ladder of perceived danger—a handrail on a bus, a faucet in a public bathroom—and slowly the brain unlearns the fear.



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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Best Online Meditation Videos Under 10 Minutes

Whether you need to de-stress or get focused, there’s a quick meditation here to get you back on track.

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Monday, October 2, 2017

7 Things to Know Before You Donate Blood

In the Las Vegas shooting on Sunday night, at least 58 people were killed, and more than 400 others were transported to hospitals. Early this morning, the Las Vegas Police Department tweeted about the need for local blood donors, reminding us that in the wake of this tragedy—as well as the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Maria, Irma, and Harvey—helping out can be as simple as rolling up a sleeve. Last summer, Health spoke with Justin Kreuter, MD, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Blood Donor Center in Rochester, Minnesota. Here’s what he wants potential donors to know:

Eligibility is always changing

The Red Cross maintains an alphabetical list of eligibility criteria for potential donors—from acupuncture (thumbs up) to Zika (thumbs down)—and can give you the latest information on whether or not you’re good to give.

RELATED: 4 Unexpected Benefits of Donating Blood

The FDA regulates donor blood just as aggressively as it regulates drugs

“It takes a lot of money to do the infectious-disease testing that we do [on donor blood], and when we create blood products out of the donation, that’s done to the same standards as any drug manufactured in this country. The FDA holds us to those same standards, so it’s a very high level of quality and also resources that are invested,” Dr. Kreuter explains. “These tests and high standards are what’s keeping the blood supply safe, so that if my wife or one of my daughters needs a blood transfusion, I can feel assured that I can just sit at their bedside and hold their hand rather than worry about what that might result [in] for them later down the road.”  

You’ll get a mini-physical before you donate

The flip side of donor blood screening (which ensures that it’s safe for the eventual recipient) is confirming the donor’s health (which ensures that the blood draw won’t have a negative effect on them). “We check blood pressure and pulse, we do a pinprick to check red blood cells to make sure they’re safe—we don’t want to make our donors iron deficient,” Dr. Kreuter says. He makes no specific suggestions about what you eat and drink prior to donation; just be sure you have breakfast and lunch under your belt, and take it easy on caffeine. “We all live on our daily espressos and whatnot, but we see donors who show up and haven’t eaten [meals] and they’ve only been drinking coffee, and they’re quite dehydrated. When you donate you’re losing circulating fluid, so the water that you drink before and after your donation is important.”

RELATED: 15 Signs You May Have an Iron Deficiency

You’ll hardly feel a thing—seriously

The needles used to collect blood are a bit larger than those you’d encounter when, say, receiving a flu shot, but the so-called ‘small pinch’ you feel at insertion is, truly, no big deal. “What we feel [at the start of a blood draw] is just on the surface of our skin. These needles have silicone on them, they’re made to glide and be quite comfortable. After that initial stick, you’re not going to feel anything,” Dr. Kreuter says. If needles give you the shivers, look away for the quarter-second in which yours is placed; then ask a staffer to cover up the insertion site for you. Since the “tough” part is already over, you can lie back and spend the next eight to 10 minutes zoning out.

It’s okay to have a cookie after you donate

“What’s healthy is to keep a balanced diet as you go forward in the day [after your donation],” Dr. Kreuter says. “We tend to stock our canteen area with things like water and juice and then salty snacks, because salt helps you retain a little more of the [water] volume that you’ve lost through donation. The cookies are there because [they’re] something the donor culture has grown up in—maybe not the healthiest option, but certainly an expectation. Believe it or not, I have meetings about cookies. I’ve seen shirts before that say ‘I donate for the cookies.’” Bottom line: Rewarding yourself with a treat isn’t going to do any harm, provided that you indulge in moderation.

Your blood could save patients who haven’t even entered the world yet

Though many of us are reminded of the importance of blood donation when tragedies happen, much of what we give does the quiet work of saving people who’ll never show up on the news. Since the need for blood doesn’t go away, the best way to save lives is to contribute regularly. “At Mayo, about 15% to 20% of our blood is going to trauma patients and being used in our ER; a lot of our blood gets used supporting patients through life-saving cardiac or cancer surgeries. Cancer patients [also need blood]—chemotherapy knocks down their ability to make their own red blood cells and platelets—and folks who have medical conditions like autoimmune diseases also need transfusions.”

Donations flow to delivery rooms, too: “If anemia is significant enough in utero we transfuse during pregnancy and sometimes immediately after delivery,” Dr. Kreuter explains. “A lot of kids need blood in the first couple of minutes of life. Sometimes with newborn babies an emergency platelet transfusion in the first few moments of life is absolutely necessary; in their situation the newborn brain is so delicate and fragile that having these platelets immediately available is the name of the game in order to prevent bleeding into their brains, which results in long-term disabilities.”

Note that platelets have a shelf life of just five days, while whole blood can be stored for up to six weeks. The immediate need for platelets—and platelet donors—is constant.

RELATED: 6 Iron-Rich Food CombosNo Meat Required

Donating your voice is vital, too

Those “Be nice to me, I gave blood today!" stickers aren’t merely a cute (and justified) humblebrag: They’re also a benevolent form of peer pressure, not unlike the "I voted” stickers we earn and wear on election days. “Hearing about blood donation from a friend or colleague is very motivating in getting [potential first-timers] to think about taking that next step,” Dr. Kreuter says. “Our donor population [in Rochester] has an older average age, and we’re trying to reach out to the younger generation to start having the same blood donation habits.”

Think about it this way: Taking your kids to see you strengthen your community’s heartbeat at a blood center is just as important as bringing them with you to the voting booth. Donate visibly, donate vocally, and donate as often as you can.



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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Woman Attacked By a Venomous Copperhead Snake At LongHorn Steakhouse

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This article originally appeared on People.com.

A Virginia resident was bitten by a venomous snake inside a LongHorn Steakhouse before she even made it to her table.

Rachel Myrick and her family were heading into the foyer of the restaurant for dinner earlier this month when she suddenly felt a sharp pain in her foot. “My left foot felt a bee sting, a hornet sting — something similar,” Myrick told Washington’s Top News. “So, I reached down to brush my foot off to keep walking.”

Once she did so, she was bitten a second time and immediately began screaming as she dropped her cellphone, wallet, and let go of her 13-year-old son Dylan’s hand. When addressing the pain between the bites Myrick said, “[The second] was significantly more painful than the first time.”

RELATED: 19 Natural Remedies for Anxiety

After she was bitten a total of three times—twice on her toes and once on the side of her foot—the 8-inch-long copperhead stayed clung onto her foot until she was able to shake free.

“I freaked out,” Myrick told Fredericksburg.com. “I got bit! I got bit!” she recalls yelling out loud.

Her boyfriend, Michael Clem, who was with her at the time, knows a fair share about snakes. “I’ve bred and raised reptiles for 15 years… there was no question what it was,” he said.

Myrick was hospitalized and administered antivenin, morphine and benadryl for the severe swelling and pain.

A spokesman for LongHorn Steakhouse, Hunter Robinson, says the restaurant believes the snake may have come from a nearby retention pond and called the incident a “highly unusual incident.”

RELATED: N.Y.C.’s Trendy Raw Cookie Dough Shop Is Being Sued for Allegedly Making People Sick

“We are working with our facilities team to see how this may have occurred and we are taking steps to prevent it from happening again,” he added.

Myrick estimates it will take her about three months to fully recover.



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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

How Long Will the Total Solar Eclipse Last?

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This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

The upcoming total solar eclipse, which you can watch live on TIME.combeginning at 12 p.m. ET on Monday, will cross the U.S. in less than two hours, and Americans in some states will only witness seconds of it.

The once-in-a-lifetime event on Aug. 21 will engulf parts of 14 states in sudden darkness when it moves from the West Coast diagonally down toward the East Coast. The path of totality, which starts in Oregon and ends in South Carolina, is about 70 miles wide.

It’s the first total solar eclipse with a trajectory exclusive to America, as well as the first total eclipse of the sun that will be visible from the contiguous U.S. since 1979. Total solar eclipses can be seen when the moon passes directly between the sun and the Earth and the moon completely covers the entire face of the sun.

Watch Live as the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Crosses the U.S.

Here’s what to know about the timeframe of the August total solar eclipse:

How long is the upcoming total solar eclipse?

The total solar eclipse, which has been dubbed “The Great American Eclipse,” will last for about an hour and a half overall, but each city that catches the eclipse will only see it for a matter of minutes or seconds. The moon’s shadow travels at roughly 2,400 mph over the face of the Earth, according to Bill Kramer, a well-known expert in the eclipse chasing community.

Which cities are the first and last to see the eclipse in totality?

Skygazers in Lincoln Beach, Ore. will witness the rare event first. A partial eclipse begins there at 9:05 a.m. PST and totality starts at 10:16 a.m. The eclipse then makes its way through Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia, clipping several other states on the way. It ends near Charleston, S.C. at 2:48 p.m. EDT, just about an hour and a half after it began.

Which city will see the eclipse for the longest?

NASA says the longest duration of totality will be near Carbondale, Ill., where the sun will be completely covered for two minutes and 40 seconds. Some places, like Kansas City, Kans.— which is at the edge of totality — will only witness totality for about 20 seconds. The total solar eclipse will be visible in a hard-to-reach part of Montana for less than a minute. Here’s where you can see what the eclipse will look like for you.



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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Why Do People Say Namaste at the End of Yoga Class?

I was 14 years old when I went from flat-chested girl to voluptuous woman—almost overnight. Every girls dream, right? Not really. Having a D cup in your teens and a DD in your 20s is not so much fun.

Besides being uncomfortable naked and in a bathing suit, my neck and shoulders were killing me. And my belief that I looked OK in clothes was shot to pieces one day in my late 20s when I reviewed a taped segment of myself (I was an on-air TV reporter) and saw that I looked like I had two huge grapefruits under my sweater. I was horrified and never appeared on-screen again in anything but a business suit.

Life could have gone on like this—with me enduring the pain in my neck and rib cage, being tired of the sweat that accumulated at night between the two mounds of heavy skin while I tried to sleep, and strapping on several sports bras before every jog—if my mother hadnt met a woman whod had breast-reduction surgery. Id considered reduction mammoplasty, sure, but I really couldnt afford it. (The average cost is $6,000-plus, according to plastic surgery organizations.) But the woman my mother told me about had the surgery and loved it, and her insurance paid for it.

I had no idea my top-heaviness was a medical condition that might be covered. But I was about to find that out. Heres my journey and what you need to know.


The approval process
Insurance companies need to be convinced that breast reduction is medically necessary. And convincing them requires more than just a doctors recommendation. You need real proof. To get it, I went to see an aesthetic-and-reconstructive plastic surgeon. After a quick examination, he told me what I already knew. My breasts were large for my frame, one was a good deal larger than the other, and I had the typical indentation marks on the top of each shoulder where bra straps had pressed into my skin for years. In his opinion, I was a good candidate.

The next step was harder. I had to be photographed from the neck down, and the pictures were sent to my insurer. A panel of doctors would determine if a reduction was appropriate and, most important, if my bill would be paid.

Insurance companies typically make the call by relying on a set of charts that consider height, weight, and the amount of removable tissue in each breast, accord­ing to Amy S. Colwell, MD, a specialist in aesthetic-and-reconstructive breast surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The surgery is covered 90 percent of the time when the tissue to be removed meets insurers standard criteria. (It weighs between 400 grams to 2,000 grams, or about 1 to 4 pounds.) Women with DD, DDD, and H cups usually qualify. But Dr. Colwell says the criteria of different insurers can be fuzzy, and a recent study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that insurers breast-reduction rules arent always based on medical science.

Weeks passed as I waited to hear what a panel of strangers had decided about my naked body. When the call finally came, I was shocked and thrilled all at the same time: The insurance company had approved my surgery, and I would probably go from an overflowing DD to a B. At 5-foot-4 and 130 pounds, I thought that sounded a little bit small, but I knew I needed the surgery. And now, finally, at 30 years old, I could afford it. The cost? My small deductible of $150.

There are several ways to perform a breast reduction. In my case, tissue was removed from the bottom of each breast, and my nipples were moved up without disconnecting them from the blood flow, allowing me to quickly regain sensation. “Nobodys leavin till theyre even,” was my surgeons motto in the operating room.

What about the risks? They include infection, wound breakdown, scarring, and the need for re-operating. Studies suggest that 10 to 50% of women undergoing a reduction may have some complications. But the healthier you are, experts say, the more likely surgery will be a success. Dr. Colwell says most women are extremely satisfied.

With mild pain medication and a full week of rest, recovery was easier than I had anticipated. Early on, I had feeling in one breast but not the other. With time, sensation returned to both, just as the doc said it would.

Two years later, the scars around my nipple and the lower-middle section
of each breast are barely visible. The scars underneath each breast are light-colored and hidden by the natural shape of perky boobs. Because theyre around and below the nipple, they dont show in bikini tops or plunging necklines. To be honest, I love the scars. They are a reminder that I took control of a part of my body that was out of control.

 

Although it takes months for breasts to take on their permanent shape after a reduction, I quickly looked and felt different. The weight on my neck and rib cage was gone, and, for the first time in a long time, I felt proportional. And my bra size? I turned out to be a perfect 34D. (Once in surgery, my doctor was able to meet the weight-removal requirements set by the insurance company and still leave me with breasts that felt right to me.)

Now that Im out of the Big Bra Club and feel great, Im on a mission to convert other women whose large breasts are a health issue. They need to know that feeling top-heavy, uncomfortable, and embarrassed isnt just a part of life that they need put up with. They need to know its not normal to have to search constantly for a bra that fits or to have backbreaking pain. And although a reduction can limit a womans ability to breast-feed, its unlikely to affect mammograms. Ultimately, these women need to know that big-breast problems can be fixed. For good.



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What You Need to Know About Swimmer's Ear–Even If You Never Swim

The term “namaste” has become so popular it immediately conjures images of zen-like yogis, but have you ever wondered what the yoga phrase actually means?

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why Sunlight Is So Good For You

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Even Hippocrates believed that the changing seasons had something to do with health—and that the key was how much available daylight there was during different times of the year.

Many centuries later, it’s clear he was onto something. As people spend more time indoors staring at computer and television screens, scientists are starting to appreciate how exposure to sunlight affects various body systems.

The most interesting support for our dependence on daylight emerged with a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. The term was coined by Dr. Normal Rosenthal at Georgetown University to describe the so-called winter blues: the lethargy and feelings of sadness and hopelessness that come when the weather forces people to spend more time indoors and the season provides little opportunity for exposure to natural light. Some people have speculated that our modern lifestyle, which keeps people indoors under artificial light for so many hours, may be encouraging a form of SAD year-round.

Rosenthal found that while not everyone is as strongly affected by a lack of sunlight, for the people who are, light boxes that blast a few minutes of bright light in the frequency of natural sunlight each morning can help to elevate mood and re-energize them to face the day.

Studies of shift workers also support the possible role that exposure to sunlight has on mood. Messing up the normal light and dark cycles by sleeping during the day and being awake at night, under artificial light, can disrupt the body’s metabolism. That can have domino effects on nearly everything: how we break down energy from food, how strong our immune systems are and the vast array of brain chemicals and other substances that contribute to mood, weight, energy and more. People who consistently work night shifts, for example, tend to be heavier than people who don’t.

There is also intriguing evidence finding that people who work at night and don’t get exposed to daylight may produce less melatonin, a hormone that is dependent on light. Normally, people produce more melatonin toward the evening, as the body gets ready for sleep. As more light creeps in during the morning, the levels of the hormone start dropping again. In winter months when the days are shorter, melatonin levels may peak earlier or later in the day, which can lead to some of the mood changes linked to SAD. Studies in shift workers found that less melatonin may also lead to lower levels of important chemicals the body uses to repair DNA. That could potentially lead to more mutated cells that can trigger cancer.

Some studies also suggest that the light cycle may regulate the production of blood stem cells from the bone marrow. More research here is needed, but that could be important for the timing of bone marrow transplants for cancer patients, and hitting the transplant at just the right time of the light cycle may improve the chances of harvesting enough cells from donors.

MORE: You Asked: Is It Bad to Be Inside All Day?

Other work found that the dreaded risk of rejection of transplanted bone marrow cells might also be avoided with the help of light — in this case, ultraviolent light. Scientists treating mice who received skin transplants found that zapping the transplanted cells with UV light eliminated the group of cells most responsible for triggering rejection reactions.

The strongest support for the role of sunlight in health, however, comes from its effect on mood. Studies generally focus on the brain chemical that’s most directly linked to mood, serotonin: higher levels of serotonin correlate with better mood and feelings of satisfaction and calmness, and lower levels link to depression and anxiety. (Many antidepressants work by boosting levels of serotonin among brain neurons.)

One Australian study that measured levels of brain chemicals flowing directly out of the brain found that people had higher serotonin levels on bright sunny days than on cloudy ones. That effect remained no matter how cold or hot the weather was. Other autopsy studies found that people who died of non-psychiatric causes in the summer, when days are longer, tended to have higher levels of serotonin than people who died in the winter when sunlight is scarce

MORE: New Ways to Improve Wellbeing at Work

Other interesting research, this time of people using tanning beds, hints that ultraviolet light may trigger feelings of euphoria, which may explain why some people become dependent on getting regular sessions in the beds. There’s also evidence that UV light can push melanocytes—the cells that produce dark pigment in skin—to release endorphins, a feel-good chemical.

But the connection isn’t entirely clear yet. It would follow that sunlight, then, would be a good treatment for people with depression and low levels of serotonin. It works for some people with SAD, but whether the light therapy can help people with non-seasonal depression isn’t so obvious. For one, it seems that people who suffer from SAD don’t tend to show significant drops in serotonin levels, like people with depression. Studies also have not found differences in depression between sunnier and less sunny climes, either. What’s more, rates of suicide tend to climb as days get longer and decline as the days get shorter.

While there have been some rigorous studies looking at how sunlight can affect such non-seasonal depression, most show that if it can cause a lift in mood, it takes much longer than the kind that can occur with seasonal depression. While light therapy can improve mood in people with SAD in a few days, it may take several weeks for light have an effect on non-seasonal depression.

Doctors may not be prescribing sunlight therapy yet. But if you find yourself in the doldrums after hours at your desk, it might not hurt to get up and look for some light—as long as it comes from the sun, not the ceiling.



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Here's How to Take a Perfect Vacation

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Taking time off from work or the daily grind not only helps people de-stress and feel happier, but it also helps productivity and mood—as long as you do it right.

But the barrier to entry is high, since many Americans don’t even take their allotted vacation time. Fewer Americans are going on vacation now than in the past: Data suggests that Americans used to take nearly three weeks of vacation a year in 2000, but took just slightly more than two weeks in 2015. Even when people are on vacation, more than 60% say they keep working remotely.

Yet the benefits of vacation are clear. “We know that taking a break is extremely good for one’s mental health,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, an adjunct professor of gerontology at the University of Massachusetts Boston, who frequently writes about the benefits of vacation. “It puts you in a different frame of mind, gets you out of your standard patterns and can give you time with family.”

MORE: TIME Guide To Happiness

It also helps busy people hit refresh, in a sense. In one survey of 414 travelers, 94% said they had as much or more energy after coming back after a good trip, and 55% who had a low-stress trip returned to work with even higher levels of energy than before.. “It’s good to just get out of the day to day drudgery,” says Whitbourne.

The type of vacation matters, of course. If planned poorly, a vacation can actually lead to more stress. According to a 2010 report, a vacation where there’s lots of travel stress, like figuring out transportation logistics or feeling unsafe, can make vacationers feel less happy and more frazzled than they were before the trip. Taking the time to plan the trip can help ensure things run smoothly. In that same survey, 28% of people who said they had a bad vacation also said they left planning to the last minute.

Managing expectations is also key to having an enjoyable break. Your happiness will fluctuate during a vacation, after all. “If you understand people have different happiness levels over the course of vacation, that can give you some ideas for how to spend it,” says Whitbourne. “Have alone time or take a break, then come back together.”

MORE: TIME Guide To Happiness

And don’t forget to document your trip on your camera. “Take pictures, so that you can look back on them and the memories of vacation,” says Whitbourne.

Even if your trip seems to be filled with more mishaps than good memories, all is not lost: you can usually turn weird, bad or disappointing experiences into family jokes. “Everyone has those nightmare travel stories,” Whitbourne says. “But those can really bond families or partners.”



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Friday, August 4, 2017

U.S. Scientists Use CRISPR to Fix Genetic Disease in Human Embryos For the First Time

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This article originally appeared on Time.com.

Scientists have successfully used CRISPR, a tool that cuts DNA with more precision than any other genome editing technology, to fix a genetic defect in human embryos that can cause serious heart problems, according to a landmark new study in the journal Nature. This is the first use of CRISPR on human embryos in the U.S.

Chinese scientists have reported using CRISPR to correct genetic defects in human embryos, but some of the embryos they used weren’t viable.

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, from Oregon Health & Science University, collaborated with researchers at the Salk Institute, as well as with scientists from China and South Korea, to improve on those results. They applied CRISPR at the earliest stage possible—when the embryo is still a single cell—to ensure that the genetic changes they introduced were propagated to every cell of the embryo as it divided and developed. Because the embryos were created for research purposes only, none were allowed to develop beyond three days.

MORE: First CRISPR Human Trial Approved in the U.S.

CRISPR, which was introduced in 2012, precisely cuts DNA but does not repair it. If combined with other techniques, however, researchers say it could both cut out disease-causing genes and replace them with healthy versions to essentially cure genetic human diseases. So in order to further the science, Mitalipov and his colleagues wanted to test what happened when CRISPR was used in a human embryo. Theoretically, once CRISPR broke the DNA in the appropriate place to cut out a mutation, the cell’s natural repair mechanisms would kick in to repair the injury, fixing the defect this time with the proper code—much like how a word processor’s autocorrect function fixes spelling mistakes.

Unfortunately, this process isn’t very efficient in adult cells in which CRISPR has been tested, so Mitalipov expected similarly low yields in the embryos.

To his surprise, however, he found that embryos were very effective at fixing breaks in DNA.

He created embryos that contained a specific defect known to cause a heart condition by fertilizing healthy donor eggs from various women with sperm from a man who carried the genetic mutation for the disease. He then introduced CRISPR to splice out the mutated gene in more than 50 embryos just after the sperm fertilized the eggs, when the embryos were still just one cell. Several days later, 72% of the embryos showed no sign of the mutated gene; the gene was essentially corrected in all of their cells.

MORE: How the Science of CRISPR Can Change Your Genes

It turns out that the embryo relies on the normal copy of the gene, in this case from the egg, to fix the break made when CRISPR cut out the mutated gene. They key was to introduce CRISPR early enough so the embryo’s own DNA repair system could fix the mutated gene. That’s encouraging for one potential use of CRISPR in the future as a way to correct inherited genetic disease, says Mitalipov, since the embryo seems to have a built-in, reliable way of repairing the injury caused by splicing out an abnormal gene.

“Genetic diseases that are heritable can be treated this way as early as possible,” he says. “It’s the best way to treat the disease before the genetic mutation is actually transmitted to the embryo.”

MORE: New Technique That Lets Scientists Edit DNA Is Transforming Science—and Raising Difficult Questions

Currently, the most reliable way of screening for such inherited defects is by using IVF, screening the resulting embryos for the mutation and transferring only those without the mutation for pregnancy. But that may require several cycles of IVF, which is expensive and carries with it side effects and complications, before enough genetically healthy embryos are created.

The study results don’t mean that editing human embryos to correct genetic diseases will be available at hospitals anytime soon. While that’s the goal, the findings are just the first in a series of studies that will need to be done to document the safety and reliability of using CRISPR to fix human disease. For one, the efficiency of the CRISPR and repair process is still about 70%. “There is still work to do to improve the efficiency,” says Mitalopov. “But I think that’s possible to do.”

MORE: HIV Genes Have Been Cut Out of Live Animals Using CRISPR

He’s also encouraged by the fact that the gene editing and repair did not introduce other errors in the DNA. While it’s the most accurate DNA editor available, one of CRISPR’s drawbacks is that it can cut the genome in unintended places, especially where letters in the code look very similar to the target (again, similar to the way autocorrect can sometimes introduce more errors in attempting to fix a misspelling). Mitalipov’s team found no such off-target effects, a sign that CRISPR editing, at least in this study, was relatively safe. He notes, however, that may simply be an artifact of the particular gene he targeted; there may be coincidentally no parts of the genome that have similar sequences as the gene that CRISPR cut.

Even beyond the medical questions, there are also ethical concerns about the power inherent in manipulating the human genome. While correcting devastating diseases such as the heart condition Mitalipov studied, which can cause sudden death in young people, isn’t ethically controversial, using CRISPR to modify other genes—for intelligence, say, or athleticism or physical attributes like eye color or height—is much more problematic. The concerns are especially acute when it comes to eggs, sperm and embryos, since changes in these can be passed down to the next generation and forever change the human gene pool. The embryos that Mitalipov created were never intended to be transferred for pregnancy. But had they been allowed to develop, they would not contain the heart disease mutation, and they would not pass on the mutation to their offspring. The CRISPR editing would essentially eliminate the mutation from that family’s pedigree. Editing changes in already developed cells in adults aren’t inherited, so are less worrisome in terms of their legacy.

MORE: Pandora’s Baby: How A New Type Of Prenatal Genetic Testing Could Predict Your Child

For now, there are legal and regulatory hurdles to moving the research closer to human trials. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) does not provide funding for using CRISPR in human embryo research. The Food and Drug Administration is banned from considering studies that involve genetic altering of human eggs, sperm or embryos. Mitalipov and his team used funding from Oregon Health & Science and did not rely on any NIH support.



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5 Times You Really, Seriously Need to Go to the ER

Chinese scientists may have been the first to use CRISPR, a powerful new gene editing tool, to fix genetic defects in human embryos, but the first U.S. scientists to achieve the same feat say their method is more reliable.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

FDA Panel Recommends Approval of the First Gene Therapy Treatment

This article originally appeared on Time.com.

An advisory panel for the FDA recommended approving the first gene therapy for use in the U.S., and the treatment is meant for children with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common blood cancer in children. The FDA doesn’t have to follow the advice of the advisory committee, but it often does.

The new therapy, called chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapy, provides new hope that the disease won’t just be treated, but cured. It’s based on using the immune system to fight against cancer—currently the most promising way to fight tumors. Cancer cells arise from normal cells, so the immune system doesn’t always recognize that anything is wrong. A pioneering group of drugs already approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), called checkpoint inhibitors, remove the brakes on the immune system and allow it to attack tumor cells that it normally wouldn’t.

The newly approved therapy CAR-T therapy works to co-opt the immune system in a different way. It involves removing a patient’s blood and essentially replacing it with a population of blood cells stacked with cancer-fighting immune cells known as T cells. To do that, researchers use gene therapy to change patients’ bone marrow cells, which make blood and immune cells, to recognize cancer cells.

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Novartis applied for the approval for its drug, tisagenlecleucel, to treat acute lymphblastic leukemia in children who have exhausted all the existing treatments for the disease. Doctors say the drug, which helps to genetically engineer the cells, only needs to be infused once to repopulate children’s blood with healthy, cancer-fighting cells. In a small group of patients who have received the therapy, 83% were in complete or partial remission three months later.

MORE: Immunotherapy May Treat This Deadly Breast Cancer

“Novartis has long believed in the potential of chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR-T) therapies to change the cancer treatment paradigm,” the company said in a statement responding to the decision.

Other companies are also pursuing CAR-T cell strategies but have struggled with major complications. Some patients receiving CAR-T therapy can develop a severe inflammatory reaction known as cytokine release syndrome, in which the immune system is overactive and can cause high fever, neurological symptoms and organ damage. Earlier this year, Kite Pharma, which also has a CAR-T therapy product being reviewed by the FDA, reported the death of a patient from brain swelling, and Juno Therapeutics placed its CAR T program on hold when its scientists weren’t able to overcome the toxicity.

Researchers at the hearing told the advisory panel that careful monitoring for the first signs of the inflammation can keep it under control. The advisory panel determined, unanimously, 10-0, that the benefit of the therapy outweighed the risks.



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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What Does Namaste Really Mean?

If you’ve ever taken yoga, then you know the two things that happen at the end of class. First, everyone does Savasana, aka the corpse pose, when you lie on your back in total relaxation. Once the class is sitting up again, you put your hands together at your heart or in front of your “third eye” (the center of your forehead between your eyes), bow, and say “Namaste.”

Saying Namaste at the conclusion of class is such a ritual, you may never have actually stopped to think about what that word really means—plus how it can shape your yoga practice, if not other aspects of your life. Here’s the deeper definition to Namaste that every yogi needs to know.

RELATED: Yoga Poses That Boost Metabolism

The definition of Namaste

Namaste’s literal translation in Sanskrit is “Nama” (to bow), “As” (I), and “Te” (you). Put it all together, and it means “I bow to you,” explains Liza Pitsirilos, yoga and fitness instructor at Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami. Bowing forward as you say it underscores the depth and sincerity behind the term. “When you do this, you’re surrendering your head to your heart,” she explains.

Even though it’s just three short syllables, repeating Namaste is a crucial part of practicing yoga because it helps you take a step back and become more centered and present, which is what yoga is about. “We have such an active lifestyle focused on logic, reason, and problem-solving that it’s helpful to calm down an active mind by getting focused, so you’re not just jumping from thought to thought,” says Pitsirilos.

Not only does it help you dial back some of the crazy in life, but Namaste reminds you to acknowledge fellow students in class as well as the instructor. “In India, Namaste is also a greeting,” says Elisabeth Halfpapp, executive vice president of mind body programming at Exhale.

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When you use Namaste as a way to say hello or goodbye, you’re making an effort to actively connect to others. Sure, part of the reason you’re at yoga class might be because the flows and poses help you challenge yourself and reach your fitness goals. Repeating Namaste, however, is a reminder that you and the people on the mats next to yours are all in this class, and this world, together and for a deeper purpose. 

Saying Namaste and reflecting on its meaning also helps you learn a little about yourself—what your heart wants, what you really feel, and what direction you want to take in life. “We’re a society that today is in our heads, rather than coming from our heart,“ says Halfpapp. "When I teach, I instruct my students to make decisions from their heart and core, which are better known as your gut feeling.”

Halfpapp also notes that Namaste can remind you to reflect on your gratitude and look at the bigger picture, in spite of whatever crappy things life might be flinging your way in the moment.

RELATED: How Expressing Gratitude Might Change Your Brain

How to practice Namaste in yoga class

If all of this sounds like a tall order—the dialing back, acknowledging others, keeping yourself in the present—that’s because we’re not really wired that way. It takes practice, which is why Namaste is recited at the very end of class. “You come out of Savasana with your mind more open and your body relaxed, and it’s at this point we’re more receptive to an exchange of Namaste,” explains Enilse Sehuanes-Urbaniak, yoga instructor at Red Mountain Resort in St. George, Utah.

Yet the more you practice and recognize the true meaning behind Namaste, the easier it will be to tap into that inner calm when you need it most. Exercising the mind is just like exercising the body: you build that muscle memory over time.

Because it’s so important, you should try your best to stay for the full class. Maybe you’re trying to beat the traffic or are already running late to meet friends for dinner, so you skip Savasana and Namaste. But rushing to your next appointment is completely contrary to the meaning behind Namaste. “There’s a saying that your class is only as good as your Savasana,” says Halfpapp. “That’s when your nervous system calms down and you absorb everything you did in class,” she says.

RELATED: 16 Perfect Yoga Gifts for Women

Next time you’ve got a class scheduled, stay through the end—and If you truly have to leave early, let your instructor know. Then take two minutes before you need to take off, come out of whatever pose you’re in and take a Savasana. You can say Namaste if you’d like, or just keep it in mind as you leave. If you think that sounds a little out there, we hear you. But give it a try, and you’ll likely see how it makes a difference in how much more centered you feel.

How to live the principles of Namaste 

Namaste can help change how you carry yourself in everyday situations. “Namaste creates a deep union of our spirits together in class. That’s the collective experience of the word,” says Pitsirilos. Think of it as a moment of inner peace, which can ripple outward and surprise you by dissolving tension or conflict in other areas of your life.

“Namaste is sending messages of peace to the universe,“ adds Halfpapp. It’s all about the positive energy you’ve created with Namaste. Friends, family members, and even coworkers can “catch” your sense of gratitude. If you have a hard time believing that this happens, consider how easy it is to feel down after hanging out with a friend who’s attitude is totally negative. Moods really are contagious.

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Namaste can enhance your relationships too. Remember that saying “I bow to you,” or Namaste, essentially tells someone that you’re really seeing them as the person they are. And that extra attention can make them feel special. “The next time you meet someone, I encourage you to do so wholeheartedly. Take a moment to look the person in the eye and really be conscious to see the person past the physical,” suggests Pitsirilos.

It’s completely different from saying "hey" to a coworker and going about your day or “talking” to a friend while checking your phone. You’re there with them in the moment, and not anywhere else. “The ultimate gift we can give each other is our full presence,” says Pitsirilos. 



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Monday, June 26, 2017

'On the Last Day of High School, I Almost Died. CPR Saved My Life.'

This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

It was the last day of high school. With one exam left to go, a group of us were sitting in the senior class hangout, some watching Netflix, some cramming for the test. I was braiding my friend Jackie Acierno’s hair. I’d gotten midway down her back when I started to feel dizzy.

I had been having similar spells for about six months, and though I’d run through the gamut of tests—ruling out low blood pressure and a brain tumor, among other things—my doctors still weren’t sure what was causing my occasional lightheadedness.

“Don’t worry. This happens to me,” I said, as I slumped onto the carpet. “Don’t call an ambulance.”

Jackie ignored my request. She immediately ordered someone to call 9-1-1 and asked someone else to go get the campus nurse. “I remember thinking: it’s better to be embarrassed for having overreacted than embarrassed for having done nothing,” Jackie says now. So when my pulse started to fade, my eyes rolling back into my head and my body completely limp, Jackie again sprung into action. Rather than wait “even five Mississippi seconds” for the paramedics to arrive, Jackie says, she started performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)—something she’d learned at an EMT training class.

She sat beside me on the floor and, with one hand on top of the other, her fingers interlocked, Jackie started pumping her fists into my chest to the rhythm of, yes, “Stayin’ Alive.” It’s a form of hands-only CPR that leaves out the mouth-to-mouth part most people associate with the practice, and it’s what many major health groups encourage people to try in events such as this. Studies show it’s just as effective at saving lives, and it’s much easier to do, too.

Jackie kept at it until the school nurse, Pat Neary, made it to us with an automated external defibrillator (AED)—an electronic device that can be used to shock the heart back into action. Grasping the handles of the AED, the nurse applied a first shock to my heart. Nothing. Then she applied a second. Nothing. One more…still silence. Finally, on the fourth shock, my heart began to beat again.

By that point, a police officer was also on the scene. In the 25 more minutes it took for an ambulance to show up, they managed to keep my heart beating using only their hands. Ultimately, their quick thinking—and the CPR they performed—saved my life.

But here’s the thing: While they remain my personal heroes, there isn’t much to the physical act of performing CPR. It’s an arm workout, but it isn’t rocket science. In fact, you probably picked it up by reading through this article (but if you want a primer, read this).

What’s harder is doing what Jackie did: springing into action when someone falls to the ground. And while it may seem risky, there’s little reason to hesitate performing hands-only CPR on someone who may need it. First of all, it’s harder to break someone’s ribs than you think. And second, it’s better to risk doing unnecessary CPR than do nothing—and watch someone die.

But you have to move fast. Most experts agree that after just six minutes, a brain deprived of oxygen can be irreversibly damaged. If another four minutes go by, death is nearly certain. That means that if Jackie had waited for the paramedics, I likely wouldn’t be alive—and I’d almost certainly be brain-dead.

There are many causes of cardiac arrest—ranging from existing heart arrhythmia to being hit in the chest with a baseball. But regardless of the underlying condition, without CPR, 92% of people experiencing cardiac arrest die, and every minute that CPR is delayed, the survival rate decreases.

It’s been five years since my cardiac event, and my life feels far less fragile than it once did. After many more tests, doctors determined that my attack stemmed from a rare but manageable medical condition called hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), and I’ve had two successful surgeries to ensure it won’t happen again.

But no matter how secure I feel, there’s rarely a day that I wake up without thinking about Jackie and how her hands saved my life.



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Do You Still Need to Worry About Zika?

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This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

Last summer, public health experts were on high alert due to the rapid spread of the Zika virus, which has now been proven to cause birth defects and other health problems in infants. Today, experts know far more about the virus than they did at the start of the outbreak. Here’s what you need to know now about Zika.

Should pregnant women worry about Zika while traveling?

Short answer: yes. “Our general advice is that if you are pregnant, you should not go to places where Zika virus transmission is ongoing,” says Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the division of vector-borne diseases at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “It’s all a matter of risk. Obviously, if you are staying in an air-conditioned hotel, your risk may be less. However, are you willing to take that risk? We know the consequences of infection of the fetus are huge and lifelong.”

Petersen recommends people check the CDC website for guidance on what locations have active Zika transmission. The CDC updates this list regularly, sometimes on a daily basis. If an area is no longer on the list, Petersen says it’s considered safe to travel. Currently, the CDC recommends that if a pregnant woman or her partner travel to an area with Zika, the couple should use condoms every time they have sex or avoid sex for the rest of the pregnancy, even if they do not have symptoms of Zika.

Should women who plan to get pregnant avoid traveling to places with Zika?

Women who are planning to get pregnant, and their partners, should also pay attention to where they are traveling. The first trimester, during which women may not know they are pregnant, appears to be the most risky time when it comes to Zika-related health complications for infants down the line.

The CDC recommends that women who travel to areas with Zika who want to get pregnant in the near future wait at least eight weeks after their last possible exposure to the virus before trying to conceive. For male partners, the CDC advises waiting six months after the last possible exposure before trying to conceive. Using condoms is also recommended for the waiting period.

What if I am invited to a destination wedding in a place with Zika? Should I not go?

It may be challenging to get a firm yes or no from your doctor about whether or not you should travel for a major event, though the recommendations are not to go to places with active Zika transmission if you’re pregnant or want to be soon. “My job is to give guidance; I never tell people what to do,” says Dr. Richard Beigi, the chief medical officer of the Magee-Womens Hospital of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “But I think the travel warnings are there for a reason, and nothing has changed from last year other than the fact that we have more information that has validated that Zika causes congenital health problems. The overall risk is the same.”

Deciding to travel despite the risk is ultimately a personal decision. “I ask my patients, ‘Do you really need to go?’ For some people, the answer to that is yes, and that’s fine, and I give them the best advice I can,” Beigi says.

Should I worry about traveling to places that have the types of mosquitoes that can spread Zika?

The CDC recently reported that the types of mosquito that carry Zika, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus, are appearing in more counties in the southern U.S. where they haven’t been before. But unless the mosquitoes are transmitting Zika, there’s a “very, very, very low risk,” Petersen says. “In all of the places where we have this kind of mosquito that can spread Zika virus, we also see the kinds of mosquitoes that can spread West Nile and other diseases,” says Petersen. “General mosquito precautions in the summer are important for everybody—not only pregnant women.”

How likely is it that I will get Zika?

Experts can’t give a definitive answer to a person’s chances of getting Zika if they travel to a place that has reported spread of the disease. But experts are getting closer to understanding the likelihood of adverse events should a pregnant woman get infected.

A recent study found that one in 10 pregnant women in the U.S. with a Zika infection had a baby with brain damage or other serious birth defects. The first trimester was the most critical time: 15% of women with confirmed Zika infection in the first trimester had babies with birth defects. Another study found similar numbers for women in U.S. territories, revealing that during their first trimester, nearly 1 in 12 had a baby or fetus with Zika-associated birth defects.

“Out of the data collected, it appears that 5-10% of the time a woman gets Zika during her pregnancy, there will be in impact,” says Beigi. “Most of the impact is a malfunction; some of it is miscarriage. Probably the absolute risk of you having a problem is not very big, but it’s not zero, and it’s hard to know.”

How bad will Zika get in the U.S. this summer?

It’s unclear how many cases of Zika will be expected in and outside the U.S. this summer, though experts say it could be lower than last year. “Based on historical evidence, we would expect that outbreaks this year throughout the Western Hemisphere are going to be less than they were the year before,” says Petersen. “It’s not going away, but since a lot of people have already been infected and are no longer susceptible to infection, it will lower the number of cases over time.”

So far in 2017, about 650 Americans have gotten Zika, though that it is considered an underestimate. Most people do not experience symptoms and will not know they have the virus.



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