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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Friday, June 23, 2017

Bats Are the Number-One Carriers of Disease

This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

Understanding where new viruses come from is critical for preventing them from rapidly spreading among humans. When it comes to preventing the next pandemic, a new study suggests that bats may be public enemy number one.

In a new study published in the journal Nature, researchers at the nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance collected data on viruses known to infect mammals, which included about 600 viruses found in more than 750 species. They were then able to calculate the number of viruses from each species and identify characteristics that make the transmission to humans more likely. Living more closely to humans and being more closely genetically related to humans increased the odds of transmission.

Out of all the species assessed, bats carried the highest number of these viruses. Researchers are currently looking into why.

“A lot of people don’t realize that these viruses have been on the planet for a long time, and they are in populations of animals all around the world,” says study author Kevin Olival, associate vice president for research at EcoHealth Alliance. “What we did in this study is prioritize where we should look if we want to stop the next Ebola or Zika from emerging.”

All groups of mammals were found to carry viruses that can spread to humans, and areas around the world most at risk for carrying emerging viruses differed based on the mammal. For bats, these places are most common in South and Central America and areas in Asia. For primates, the areas with the higher risks are in Central America, Africa and Southeast Asia.

The study was funded as part of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Emerging Pandemic Threats PREDICT program, a project that seeks to identify new emerging infectious diseases that could become threatening to human health. Olival says his team hopes that scientists will use this research to identify regions and viruses to focus on for prevention efforts.

Bats don’t deserve all of the blame, however. The spreading of new diseases often involves activity from both animals and people, Olival points out.

“These diseases are not just randomly jumping into people,” he says. “We see time and time again that it is the human disturbances in the environment that are causing these diseases to emerge,” through activities like chopping down forest and hunting animals out of certain areas. “It is our interactions with these species that are causing diseases to jump.”



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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Why Your Bad Memory Isn't Such a Bad Thing, According to Science

You know those people who always boast about having a perfect memory? Maybe they shouldn’t, because having total recall is totally overrated. That’s according to a new paper in the journal Neuron, which concludes that forgetting things is not just normal, it actually makes us smarter.

In the new report, researchers Paul Frankland and Blake Richards of the University of Toronto propose that the goal of memory is not to transmit the most accurate information over time. Rather, they say, it’s to optimize intelligent decision-making by holding onto what’s important and letting go of what’s not.

RELATED: 8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

“It’s important that the brain forgets irrelevant details and instead focuses on the stuff that’s going to help make decisions in the real world,” says Richards, an associate fellow in the Learning in Machines and Brains program.

The researchers came to this conclusion after looking at years of data on memory, memory loss, and brain activity in both humans and animals. One of Frankland’s own studies in mice, for example, found that as new brain cells are formed in the hippocampus—a region of the brain associated with learning new things—those new connections overwrite old memories and make them harder to access.

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This constant swapping of old memories for new ones can have real evolutionary benefits, they say. For example, it can allow us to adapt to new situations by letting go of outdated and potentially misleading information. “If you’re trying to navigate the world and your brain is constantly bringing up conflicting memories, that makes it harder for you to make an informed decision,” says Richards.

Our brains also help us forget specifics about past events while still remembering the big picture, which the researchers think gives us the ability to generalize previous experiences and better apply them to current situations.

“We all admire the person who can smash Trivial Pursuit or win at Jeopardy, but the fact is that evolution shaped our memory not to win a trivia game, but to make intelligent decisions,” says Richards. “And when you look at what’s needed to make intelligent decisions, we would argue that it’s healthy to forget some things.”

RELATED: 12 Unexpected Things That Mess With Your Memory

So what does that mean for those of us who frequently forget things we just read, people we just met, and where we put our keys? For one, we should stop being so hard on ourselves, says Richards—to a certain extent.

“You don’t want to forget everything, and if you’re forgetting a lot more than normal that might be cause for concern,” he says. “But if you’re someone who forgets the occasional detail, that’s probably a sign that your memory system is perfectly healthy and doing exactly what it should be doing.”

To get our best wellness tips delivered to you inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

Especially in today’s computers-at-our-fingertips society, Richards says, our brains no longer need to store information like phone numbers and facts easily found on Google. “Instead of storing this irrelevant information that our phones can store for us, our brains are freed up to store the memories that actually do matter for us,” he says.

Richards also recommends “cleaning out” your memory system on a regular basis by doing regular gym workouts. “We know that exercise increases the number of neurons in the hippocampus,” he says. Yes, that may cause some memories to be lost, he says—“but they’re exactly those details from your life that don’t actually matter, and that may be keeping you from making good decisions.” 



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We Want You!—Here’s How to Become a Health.com Contributor

At Health.com, our goal is to deliver up-to-the-minute news on all the latest trends in the wellness world—and we want your help. We’re looking for writers to join our new contributor network. As a Health.com contributor, you’ll receive story pitches from our editors straight to your inbox, your byline will appear on Health.com, and you will be compensated for your work. And you’ll have the chance to share your story with millions of readers—whether it’s an essay about your weight-loss journey, a recipe for your favorite healthy Crock-Pot dinner, or a firsthand account of living with psoriatic arthritis, we want to hear about it.

You don’t have to be a professional writer to contribute to Health.com. But we are looking for well-written, thoughtful pieces that demonstrate a passion for health and wellness and tell a unique story. We’re particularly interested in essays that highlight cool new workout classes, positive body image, relationship challenges, nutritious meal ideas, healthy travel tips, or even your favorite products (such as that incredible, can’t-live-without-it retinol cream you just discovered).

Does this sound like you?Head to Health’s Springboard page and select follow the prompts to create your account.Once you’re part of our contributor network, you can answer our story requests, get paid for your work, and see your byline appear on Health.com.

We can’t wait to hear from you!



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50 Ways to Use All of Your Vacation Days This Year

Why Do I Hate the Sound of My Own Voice?

This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

Have you ever recoiled at the sound of your own voicemail greeting, startled by what should be the most familiar of voices—your own? If so, then you’re not alone. It’s common to dislike the way your voice sounds in recordings, experts say. Here’s why.

You hear your own voice differently

When you hear people talking, sound waves travel through the air and into your ears, vibrating your ear drums. Your brain then transforms those vibrations into sound.

However, when you’re the one talking, your vocal cords and airways also vibrate. That means that you receive two sources of sound: the sound waves that travel into your ears from your own voice, as well as vocal cord vibrations.

“When we talk, it’s like everyone hears the sound through speakers, but we’re hearing it through a cave complex inside our own heads,” says Martin Birchall, professor of laryngology (the study of the larynx, or voice box) at University College London. “The sound is going around our sinuses, all the empty spaces in our heads and the middle part of our ears, which changes the way we hear sounds compared to what other people hear.”

People perceive their own voice to be the combination of those two sources of sound, but everyone else just hears the external stimulus. This is why when you listen to your voice in a recording, it sounds different than the voice you’re used to. You’re hearing only the external stimulus, rather than the combination of the two sounds.

People are bad at recognizing their own voice

Most people don’t sit around listening to the sound of their own voice independently from talking, so they can become detached from how they actually sound. One study, during which people were played recordings of their own voices, found that just 38% of people were able to identify their own voice immediately.

“When we hear our own voice in a recording, it can often feel surprising and disappointing,” Birchall says. “We get used to the sound we hear in our heads, even though it’s a distorted sound. We build our self-image and vocal self image around what we hear, rather than the reality.”

Birchall says this can be a particular problem for people with body or gender dysmorphia. “For people with gender issues, hearing that their voice sounds like someone of the opposite sex’s can be a really big issue,” he says. “We like to think that the way we are talking fits with our own gender identity and when we feel we are in the wrong body or our voice isn’t representative of who we are then that can be a major deal.”

You’re not necessarily stuck with your voice forever

If you’re really disturbed by the sound of your voice, you have options, Birchall says. First, you can go to see a properly trained voice therapist, which is different from a speech therapist. Voice therapists work with patients to improve their cadence and the rhythms of their pitch by doing specific exercises, like working on breathing patterns by getting them to blow bubbles through a straw. “It’s like physiotherapy, but for the voice,” he says.

If voice therapy is unsuccessful, people can seek seek specialist psychologist support. It’s also possible to make a person’s pitch higher or lower through surgery, which is a common part of gender reassignment surgery.



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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What to Do When Your Ears Get Clogged on a Plane

Between the jet lag, dry air, and muscle-cramping seating in coach, flying can really do a number on your health. But one of the most common body complaints fliers experience tends to go overlooked or be blown off as no big deal: clogged or plugged ears.

The proper term is “ear barotrauma,” which pretty accurately describes the pain and discomfort the condition typically causes. This complaint isn’t just a passing annoyance. Besides starting your vacation or business trip on a particularly sour note, it can also lead to some pretty serious complications, too. 

To understand what’s behind that clogged sensation, you’ll need a quick anatomy lesson. Your ear is divided into three sections: the outer ear, the middle ear (which houses the eardrum), and the inner ear. The middle ear is connected to the back of the nose and upper throat via a passageway called the eustachian tube, whose job it is to stabilize the air pressure levels between your nose and ear.

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“Our eustachian tubes open and close multiple times a day, but the passageway is so tiny that we don’t really notice it as long as it’s moving properly,” says Ana Kim, MD, an otolaryngologist at ColumbiaDoctors Midtown and associate professor of otolaryngology—head and neck surgery at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.

RELATED: 7 Vacation Health Hassles Solved

“When we’re flying, however, there’s a rapid change in the barometric [air] pressure, which causes a collapse of the eustachian tubes and interferes with the normal air flow from the nose to the ear,” explains Kim. Getting on a plane while you’re sick with a cold or other head infection that triggers nasal congestion makes those changes in air pressure even worse. 

“If you have an active ear or sinus infection, you’re taking away what little volume of air you have [in the Eustachian tube] by flying, which could cause a lot of pain,” says Kim. Gwen Stefani experienced this a few weeks ago when she hopped a flight while fighting a cold and ended up with a ruptured ear drum due to changes in cabin pressure, boyfriend Blake Shelton told Entertainment Tonight.

To re-stabilize the air pressure levels and prevent uncomfortable aching, you’ll need to open up those tubes. Here are three things to try if it happens to you.

Pinch your nose and blow—gently!

To get your ears to “pop,” you can try closing off your nose and mouth, then gently forcing the air into the middle ear. Do not—repeat, do not—blow too hard. Doing so can actually rupture the membranes of the cochlea (the organ that allows us to hear), says Kim. And when that happens, fluid can leak out, causing hearing loss, nerve damage, dizziness, or a type of ringing in the ear called tinnitus.

RELATED: 5 Mistakes You’re Making Cleaning Your Ears

Move your mouth muscles

Call it a good reason to keep a pack of gum in your carry-on: moving the muscles of your jaw by chewing, yawning, or swallowing water or another beverage can help reopen the eustachian tubes, says Kim. If you’re traveling with a baby or toddler and you suspect (or they tell you) their ears are plugged up, have them sip juice or water or use a pacifier to get those mouth muscles going.

Take a decongestant

Medications like Afrin shrink blood vessels and reduce inflammation in your nasal cavity. Since it works right away, you can take it 10 minutes before takeoff to prevent your ears from clogging in the first place. One word of caution: Although these meds are over-the-counter, people who have heart problems or are pregnant shouldn’t take them unless they’ve cleared it with their doctor.

To get our best wellness advice delivered to you inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

If the clogging doesn’t go away … 

Most of the time, the pressure should clear up a few hours after you’re back on land, she says. If it lingers longer—into the following day, for example—you might have a buildup of fluid behind your ear that isn’t ventilating properly. For that, you’ll probably want to see a doctor. Not only will you experience some temporary hearing loss (everyone will sound like you’re listening to them underwater) you could put yourself at risk of a serious infection.



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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mom Explains Why It's So Important to Be Body Positive in Front of Kids — Even When Bikini Shopping

This article originally appeared on People.com. 

Trying on bathing suits tends to be a time when women self-criticize, but Brittney Johnson made sure her recent mother-daughter bikini shopping trip was a positive one because she knew her young daughter was listening to how she spoke about her appearance.

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In a Facebook post that now has been liked over 322,000 times and shared over 165,000 times, Johnson, 27, explained why it’s so important for moms to be body positive role models for their children.

In the post, Johnson details her shopping trip, noting that her young daughter was polite to servers and generous to other children she encountered at the mall. When they got to Target, her daughter helped her pick out a few different swimsuits to try on. Johnson started snapping pictures of herself in the swimsuits to get her friends’ opinions, and noticed that her daughter was trying on the bikinis too.

RELATED: These Swimsuit Selfies Are Perfect Proof That Every Body Is a Bikini Body

“I stopped for a second to see what she would say, and when she turned to the mirror, she said, ‘Wow I just love cheetah print! I think I look beautiful! Do you think I look beautiful too?!’ ” Johnson wrote. “It hit me that she only says what she hears. What she sees. I tell her that she is beautiful every single day.”

“She is kind walking through the mall, because I tell her she is kind everywhere else,” she continued. “She is polite at the order counter because she hears me when I’m polite to strangers everywhere. She gives compliments to people she doesn’t know because she loves how it feels when she hears them. And when we are in a dressing room, with swimsuits of all God-forsaken things, there is a split moment when I have the power to say ‘Wow I have really gotten fat this year’ or ‘Wow I love this coral color on me!’ And those are the words burned into my daughter’s brain.”

Johnson notes that parents know to be a model for good manners and kindness, but often forget to be good role models when it comes to body image.

RELATED: Here’s How Little You Need to Exercise to Boost Your Mood

“When it comes to body image, be an example,” she wrote. “I am not a size zero. I never will be. I have big thighs and a huge rump and for some reason the middle of my body gets more tan than the rest. But this body made a whole other body. I am strong. I am able. And I am happy. I don’t have to be beautiful like you, because I am beautiful like me.”

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She knows that instilling a positive body image in her daughter now will benefit her as she grows up.

“As my daughter gets older, and she faces judgement and criticism, I will always remind her that the girls who look the prettiest in a two-piece or a body suit or a freaking Snuggie are the ones who are happy. Because that’s all that matters,” wrote Johnson. “And I want her to look at herself every single day and say, ‘Oh wow! I think I look beautiful!’ because every girl deserves to feel that.”



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These Swimsuit Selfies Are Perfect Proof That Every Body Is a Bikini Body

Thursday, May 11, 2017

This Former Bikini Competitor Shared a Before-and-After Pic to Make a Powerful Point

The Best Health Advice We've Received from Our Moms

Here at Health, we’re dedicated to sharing the best and latest wellness advice. Our drive comes from our own goals to live healthfully—and these were inspired in part by the healthy-living lessons our mothers instilled in us throughout our lives. With Mother’s Day right around the corner, we’re excited to share the mom-backed wisdom that didn’t always make sense at the time … but we’re now super grateful for. Thanks a ton, Mom!

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Cooking 101

“The healthiest thing I learned from my mom is how to run a functional kitchen at home: how to shop for groceries and produce, how to store and keep food fresh, and how to plan for a week’s worth of meals for a whole family. She also taught me the basics of cooking, whether salads, soups, or main courses. My mom’s cooking mantra was always ‘delicious and nutritious' and to this day I find myself muttering those words as I putter around my own kitchen!”

—Michael Gollust, research editor

RELATED: 16 Delicious Recipes for Mother’s Day Brunch

Taking Charge of My Own Health

“My mom taught me that it’s important to ask a lot of questions and to advocate for myself when it comes to doctors, not to just do what anyone says blindly. Her point was that ultimately any decisions about my health are up to me.”

—Beth Lipton, food director

Avoiding Unhealthy Fats

“Remember when everyone became very concerned with trans fats in 2006 or so? My mom was obsessed with trans fats five years before they were a mainstream thing to worry about. She refused to let us buy anything that contained partially hydrogenated oils (which was about 90% of my preferred diet at the time) and would go on about how terrible they were for you. While it was embarrassing to be the only kid not allowed to eat packaged foods, I think it helped me become a healthier adult—I still read every nutrition label and double-check that there’s nothing partially hydrogenated in there.”

—Kathleen Mulpeter, senior editor

Preventing UTIs

“It’s never not awkward to receive sex advice from your mom (especially as a teenager). But my mom saying to hit the bathroom and pee after doing the deed will always stick with me. It’s the simplest way to prevent UTIs and although my 16-year-old self cringes at that conversation, her advice is tried and true.”

—Julia Naftulin, assistant editor

RELATED: 17 Healthy Mother’s Day Gifts

Eating Clean

“Growing up, our pantry was scarce of processed and sugar-laden products and treats like ice cream and sweet cereals. Even Lunchables were reserved for special occasions. Instead, my mom fed me clean, nutritious food—including kale, way before it was trendy. At the time, I wasn’t always a fan of this healthy lifestyle, but now I couldn’t be more grateful for her nutritional guidance. She taught me there’s nothing wrong with enjoying less-than-healthy foods every so often—the key is simply balance and being kind to my body.”

—Kristine Thomason, assistant editor

Embracing Body Empowerment

“My mom grew up in the 1950s, when information about sex and women’s health was suppressed. She wanted better for me, so she gave the quintessential 1970s feminist book Our Bodies, Ourselves when I was in high school. Our Bodies, Ourselves introduced me to the body- and sex-positive attitudes that empowered me.”

—Olivia Barr, digital photo editor

Making Time for Sleep

“My mom gets up with the sun and is in bed around 9 p.m. and she’s had this schedule her entire life. I don’t have her early-bird body clock, but I try to turn in as early as possible and get a solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Considering how good she looks and how active she is, it’s clear that sleep is a key to health. She’s the only person I’ve ever known who doesn’t complain about being tired all the time.”

—Esther Crain, deputy editor

Moderation Is Key

“My mom’s healthiest advice? Everything in moderation. She picked it up from her mother (although my grandma would relay the wisdom in Greek) and she has subscribed to this balanced mentality ever since. Permission to indulge in a slice of chocolate cake now and then, granted.”

- Anthea Levi, assistant editor



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First Woman With Down Syndrome to Compete in Miss Minnesota USA: 'I'm Going to Blaze the Trail!'

This article originally appeared on People.com. 

Mikalya Holmgren is already a pageant pro, but she’s about to make history as the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in Miss Minnesota USA.

The 22-year-old college student decided to apply for the pageant in April.

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“I said, ‘I want to do this,’ ” Holmgren tells PEOPLE. “I want to show my personality. I want to show what my life looks like, being happy, and joyful. I want to show what Down Syndrome looks like.”

The Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota native, who is also an accomplished dancer, previously won the Minnesota Miss Amazing pageant, which features women with special needs. Holmgren says that she wasn’t nervous at all about applying for Miss Minnesota — just “super proud!”

And she was thrilled to get in.

“I was just so happy and I had a smile on my face,” Holmgren says, of hearing the news.

Denise Wallace, executive co-director of Miss Minnesota USA, says Holmgren was a perfect fit for the pageant.

“Mikayla is such an incredible and accomplished young woman. We feel she definitely has what it takes to compete at the Miss Minnesota USA pageant this fall in that she is the epitome of what the Miss Universe Organization strives to look for in contestants — someone who is confidently beautiful,” she tells PEOPLE.

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The Miss Minnesota USA pageant also made headlines last year when it featured Halima Aden, the first contestant to wear a hijab.

Holmgren now has until November 26 to prepare, and she’s excited to make a difference as the first person with Down Syndrome to compete for the crown.

“That means my life is changing because of the pageant. I’m very proud of myself. It’s a new thing in my life,” she says. “I’m going to blaze the trail!”



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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Taking Ibuprofen Daily Raises Your Heart Attack Risk

This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

Ibuprofen, naproxen and celecoxib are among the most commonly used drugs in the U.S. They don’t require a prescription, and they’re a quick answer to all kinds of pain. But lately there’s been growing evidence that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may not be as benign as people think they are. (For more recent reporting on the potential side effects of NSAIDs, read this.)

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In general, NSAIDs are considered safe when used as directed—which is to say occasionally, for spot relief of pain. More and more people, however, are relying on them for long term use, and at higher doses. Experts—and a growing body of science—say that’s where problems can start.

RELATED: The Ibuprofen Risks You Need to Know

In the latest study, published in the journal BMJ, researchers found that some risks can appear after even a few days of using NSAIDs. Compared with people who didn’t take the painkillers, those who did had a 20% to 50% greater chance of having a heart attack. The risk was higher for people who took 1,200 mg a day of ibuprofen—the equivalent of six standard tablets of Advil—and 750 mg a day for naproxen, the equivalent of roughly three and a half standard Aleves.

The researchers pooled data from several large studies on the drugs and their health effects. In all, more than 446,000 people who used the non-prescription painkillers were included. Among them, more than 61,000 had a heart attack. People who took NSAIDs for even a week had a significantly higher risk of having a heart attack; the highest risk occurred for those taking them for about a month. (After a month, the risk didn’t appear to increase further — the researchers think that’s because everyone who was vulnerable to the drugs’ effects on the heart would have experienced heart problems by then.)

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The results confirm those from earlier studies that also found a heightened risk of heart problems in NSAID users, but the large number of people in this analysis—and the more detailed look at how long people were taking the drugs—makes the connection even stronger. The researchers also accounted for other possible factors that could connect NSAID users and heart problems, such as diabetes, high cholesterol levels and previous history of heart disease. Even after those adjustments, the linked remained significant.

The study also confirmed that newer NSAIDs like celecoxib, known as COX-2 inhibitors, which were originally thought to cause more heart problems than traditional NSAIDs, were not more risky when it comes to heart attacks.

As TIME reported previously, some studies found a 19% higher risk of having heart trouble among NSAID users compared to people who didn’t use the drugs. Other studies have found higher risk of hearing loss and miscarriage as well. Those led the Food and Drug Administration to add a warning on NSAID labels about the risks of taking the drugs, especially for long periods of time at high doses.



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6 Simple Tricks to Keep Your Brain Young

Society tells us that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks—that it’s harder for adults to learn new skills than it is for kids. And in many ways, that’s true: Babies have nothing to do but eat, sleep, and learn, while grown-ups are faced with all sorts of time, money, and real-life constraints. (Not to mention, we get annoyed when we’re not good at things right away.)

But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Rachel Wu, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside. In a new paper published in Human Development, Wu argues that using a childlike approach to learning can help people of any age take on and conqueror new challenges.

Not only will this help adults develop new talents and hobbies, Wu says, but research suggests that it can keep their brains young, delaying or slowing age-related cognitive decline.

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Wu says that as we age, we transition from “broad learning” to “specialized learning,” focusing on our careers and specific areas of expertise. It’s that increasingly narrow specialization that leads to cognitive slowdown, she theorizes—initially in unfamiliar situations, but eventually all the time.

Instead of falling into this trap, Wu says, adults should embrace broad learning through the following six strategies. In children, these behaviors have been shown to increase basic cognitive abilities like working memory, inhibition, and attention. Wu predicts the same would be true for adults, too, if we’d actually give them a chance.

RELATED: New Ways to Boost Your Brain Power

Venture outside your comfort zone
As adults, we tend to use similar skills day in and day out: We take jobs in fields we’re already proficient in, drive the same routes to the same places, and fall into routines we’re comfortable with. But all this familiarity limits the parts of the brain we’re using on a regular basis, says Wu.

“If you’re trying to learn a new skill and it’s turning out to be really easy for you, that may be a sign it’s too similar to what you’re already familiar with,” she says. “Switching to something more challenging, that’s truly different than what you’re used to, may have more cognitive benefits.”

Get a teacher
It’s difficult for adults to teach themselves new skills, says Wu, especially if they really are trying something totally unfamiliar. Hiring an instructor or taking a class, on the other hand, can inspire discipline and hold people accountable for their progress.

Can’t afford professional lessons? “I’ve seen barter systems in groups of adults where someone is a skilled artist, for example, and someone is a musician,” says Wu. “At some point, everyone’s a teacher and everyone’s a learner.”

Believe in yourself
“This may be one of the toughest ones, because it’s so embedded in our culture and our stereotypes that you really can’t develop as an adult,” says Wu. Many people also believe that adults need natural talent to succeed in new areas, and that hard work simply isn’t enough. (Wu wrote about her own experience with these beliefs in a recent Scientific American blog post.)

“It comes down to ignoring those people who don’t believe in the process,” says Wu, “and pushing yourself to really believe it yourself—to know that you can and you will improve with practice.”

Surround yourself with encouraging people
A fear of making mistakes is another reason adults are so slow to learn new things; if we try and fail, we can face criticism, lose money, or get fired. And if we’re not good at something right away, we’re told to not give up our day jobs.

That’s why it’s important to build up a support network of people—at work and at home—who allow you to make mistakes and learn from them, says Wu. “Surround yourself with positivity,” she says. “It’s kind of a general life lesson, but it’s especially applicable here.”

RELATED: 8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

Make a serious commitment—and don’t give up
What keeps people motivated is very individualistic, says Wu, and people need to find the inspiration that works for them. “One of the reasons I have a piano teacher is that I will quit and use my time for something else if I’m not being pushed every week,” she says.

Some research shows that telling friends and family about a new goal can also help keep you motivated, she says. If you can afford it, spending money on a new pursuit—pre-paying for tennis lessons and a fancy new racket, for example, or booking a trip to Rome to practice your Italian—might also make it harder to throw in the towel.

Learn more than one thing at once
“Because our time is so valuable, we tend to zero in on one hobby or one skill we want to get better at,” says Wu. But dividing that time and energy into three or four areas will “stretch your brain in all different directions,” she says.

That doesn’t mean you should start four new challenges all at once, though. “Maybe you started learning a new language in 2016, and this year you add singing lessons, and next year you try something else,” she says. “You can add things gradually based on what you can handle.”

Strive for a variety of activities, as well. “If you try new things in different domains—one related to physical activity, one related to music, and another one artistic, for example—you might be stretching your brain more effectively than if you were learning how to paint, sculpt, and draw.”

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Wu says the idea that these six strategies can counteract cognitive decline still needs to be tested with scientific studies. But she says her theory is based on five decades of research, and she’s optimistic about what study results will reveal.

She also acknowledges that spending time and money on learning is a luxury that not everyone has, especially when we’re rewarded—by our jobs, other people, and our own egos—for doing what we’re already good at.

“I think the first step is being aware that this kind of living may be advantageous to you in the short term, but detrimental in the long run,” she says. “The second step is finding ways to work some variety, some new skill, into your daily life. Even just 10 minutes is better than nothing.”



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Swearing Can Be Good for You, According to Science

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com. 

The next time you could use a little burst of power—whether you’re biking up a steep hill or simply trying to open a jar of pickles—it might help to utter a few not-safe-for-work words while giving it your all. According to a new study, swearing seems to increase strength for short periods of time.

Previous research has shown that using profanity can increase pain tolerance. Scientists think this might be because it stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system—the system that revs the heart rate and activates the body’s “fight or flight” response when it senses some kind of threat.

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Researchers from Keele University and Long Island University Brooklyn hypothesized that this might also give people a quick strength boost, as well. To test their theory, they asked a total of 81 participants to complete short tests of anaerobic and isometric power. Some rode an exercise bike at maximum intensity for 30 seconds; others squeezed a hand-grip device as hard as they could.

They measured participants’ performance on these tests under two circumstances: once while repeating a curse word of their choosing every three seconds, and once while repeating a neutral word—something to describe a table in the room, like “flat” or “round.”

RELATED: Can Fidget Spinners Really Help Anxiety and ADHD? An Expert Weighs In

As predicted, the volunteers produced more pedaling power and had stronger hand grips while they were cursing. Surprisingly, though, the researchers found no significant differences in heart rate, blood pressure, and skin conductance (a measure that increases physiological arousal) between the swearing and non-swearing scenarios.

This suggests that the sympathetic nervous system may not be the driving factor after all, says co-author David Spierer, former associate professor of athletic training, health, and exercise science at Long Island University Brooklyn. Instead, the researchers think cursing may allow people to “shut down their inhibitions,” says Spierer, “and somewhat veil the effort and the pain of this really difficult task.”

RELATED:  Here’s How Many People End Up in the ER Due to Cotton Swabs

In this way, Spierer says, using swear words might be helpful in any circumstance where muscle strength and a sudden burst of force or speed is required. “If you’re trying to open a jar of pickles and it’s really tough, I’m not going to say that cursing will definitely enable you to open it,” he says. “But I do feel that cursing could decrease your awareness of what it is you’re doing, and that could actually make it more forceful.” The same could go for athletic events, too. “If you’re not really aware of the pain and difficultly, you can put more into your performance.”

For reasons that aren’t quite understood, a neutral word didn’t have the same effect on participants in the study. Spierer says it’s likely that everyone has different responses to profanity, as well. “In the study, some people chose more explicit words than others,” he says. He adds they were all short—mostly four letters—and repeated at a normal volume. “It’s not like they were going on a tirade and screaming at people.”

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If you want to try it yourself, Spierer suggests repeating your chosen word at a structured pace, like a mantra. “We think that if you get into a rhythm and your body can predict when it’s coming, it can have more of an effect.”

The study, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, was presented this week at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Brighton, England.



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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Ashley Graham on How Parents Can Teach Their Children Body Positivity by Loving Themselves

I Survived Flesh-Eating Bacteria—and It Changed My Life Forever

This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

This essay is part of a TIME series on the growing effects of antimicrobial resistance: superbugs that may no longer be treated with standard-course antibiotics. In 2016, World Health Organization leaders called drug resistance a “major global threat” that’s estimated to kill 10 million people a year in 2050. Here is the remarkable story of Aimee Copeland, who lost her leg, foot and hands after acquiring a bacterial infection that couldn’t be cured with standard antibiotics alone.

Before my accident, I had big plans for the summer of 2012. Everything seemed to be going right: I had just finished my final exams (I was working on my master’s degree in psychology), I was in a relationship, and I had a job as a waitress at a local cafĂ© in Carrollton, Georgia.

After finishing my shift on the afternoon of May 1, a coworker invited me and another friend to hang out at her home. It was a warm, sunny day, and there was a beautiful creek in her backyard. We put on our swimsuits and started wading in the water. Soon enough, we stumbled across an old, homemade zip line. I’ve always been adventurous, so I was thrilled to try it. All of us went across the zip line once with no problems. But on my second try, I heard a loud snap. The zip line broke, and I was hurled to the sharp rocks below. I got a nasty gash on my left leg and had to go to the hospital, where I was given 22 staples to close the wound.

If only that was the worst of it.

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A few days after the injury, I knew something wasn’t right. Even though I was given antibiotics, my leg didn’t seem to be responding or getting better. Instead, the pain in my leg felt like it was moving to different parts of my body, which didn’t make sense. Then one morning, I woke up and discovered my entire left leg looked like it was rotting. I couldn’t speak, and I felt like I was dying. What happened next remains a blur.

I was rushed to the hospital, where doctors eventually diagnosed me with necrotizing fasciitis—also known as flesh-eating bacteria—a bacterial infection that was destroying my tissue. The infection wasn’t responding to antibiotics. If doctors didn’t act fast, the bacteria would kill me quickly.

I was airlifted to a hospital in Augusta, and upon arriving, doctors told my parents that my organs were starting to fail. They asked for their permission to amputate my left leg and some of my abdomen to stop the bacteria from spreading to other parts of my body. I don’t remember much from this initial surgery since I was on life support, going in and out of consciousness. My parents said that every time I woke up, I would ask them where I was and how I got there. Each time I would react like it was the first time they were telling me. It was traumatizing for all of us.

The first thing I solidly remember from the ordeal happened a few days after losing my leg. My dad sat next to me in the hospital room, gently took my hands into his own and held them up so I could see them. My hands were dark purple and black and looked unrecognizable. Drugs I was taking, called vasopressors, had tightened my blood vessels and raised my blood pressure to keep adequate blood flow to my organs. But as a consequence, my hands and feet lost blood, and my risk for infection was high.

“Aimee, these hands are not healthy,” my dad explained. “They are hampering your progress. The doctors want to amputate them and your foot today to assure your best possible chance of survival.”

RELATED: What You Should Know About Meningitis, the Deadly Infection That Killed a Man in California

It was really hard to hear, but at that moment, all I wanted was to live. If my hands could hurt the rest of my body, then take them off. “Let’s do this,” I told my parents.

During the surgeries I was given a lot of painkillers, so everything felt hazy. It wasn’t until the medication wore off and I started physical therapy a few weeks later that I truly began to grieve the loss of my limbs. As I was learning to feed myself, brush my teeth and get dressed with no hands, it dawned on me that this was going to affect the rest of my life. But I was determined to move forward, and thanks to a supportive community around me, I pushed through the pain. I attended a 51-day rehabilitation program at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where I worked to rebuild my strength. It felt like boot camp. I spent hours learning how to get in and out of my wheelchair, and eventually I was fitted with prosthetics. Soon enough I was baking brownies and making jewelry.

My experience, and my positive outlook, gained a lot of media attention. I’m glad my story was inspiring, but I worry that people think I was happy-go-lucky the entire time. I cried a lot and went through a really dark period. My self-esteem was shot. I was going through withdrawal from all the painkillers I stopped taking, and my boyfriend and I broke up. The trauma of what we both experienced was just too much. I felt like I lost my best friend.

But these traumas, both physical and emotional, did not hold me back. When physical therapy was over, I finished school and obtained my master’s in psychology like I had always planned. After that, I got my social work license. I began interning at the Shepherd Center—the same rehab center where I was initially treated—and helped other people cope with injuries similar to my own.

RELATED: New Study Links Gut Bacteria and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Just a couple months ago, I began my first private practice job at Heartwork Counseling Center, where I now work as a psychotherapist. It’s extremely rewarding, and I think I have the best job in the whole world. In January, I started a non-profit called the Aimee Copeland Foundation, and my goal is to create a nature park that’s accessible to people with disabilities. Even before my accident, I wanted to use nature as a therapy. I remember lying in my hospital bed thinking, I can’t take people on hikes anymore without legs. That’s why I want to create a space that I and others can use to garden, hike and meditate.

Of course, not everything is easy. I still see a therapist regularly, and getting back into the dating game was hard to say the least. I did meet someone special though, and we’ve been together for two years now. Having a partner that loves me has helped heal my self-esteem.

People want to feel sorry for me, but I have an awesome life. I’ve learned to be grateful for the pain because it has helped me grow. I completely trust in the universe now. So much has been taken away from me. What do I have to fear?



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