TIME Heart Disease

Risk for Stroke is Greater in People Who Oversleep

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Regularly sleeping over eight hours may be a sign of a serious health risk

Oversleeping feels like a treat on the weekend, but regularly sleeping too much is actually a sign that there may be a medical problem at play. According to a new study, people who sleep more than eight hours a day have a higher risk for a stroke compared to people who sleep between six and eight hours.

In the new study, published in the journal Neurology, researchers followed nearly 10,000 people between the ages of 42 and 81 for almost 10 years. They recorded both the amount of sleep they typically got each night, as well as whether they had a stroke.

Around seven out of 10 of the men and women slept between six and eight hours, and about one in 10 slept more than eight hours a night on average. The people who slept the most had a 46% higher than average risk of stroke when the researchers accounted for other variables that could contribute to risk. Their risk was about double that of people who reported getting a typical amount of shut eye each night.

Though the study only shows an association, but it’s fairly surprising since in the past, sleep deprivation has been linked to a greater stroke risk, too. The researchers speculate that long nights of sleep may be linked to increased inflammation, which can eventually lead to cardiovascular problems.

“Prolonged sleep might be a useful marker of increased stroke risk in older people, and should be tested further for its utility in clinical practice,” the authors conclude. Stroke isn’t the only risk that’s linked to sleeping too much. Physicians sometimes use sleep duration as a indicator for how well a patient is feeling. Getting too much sleep can often mean something under the hood is off.

“If people are sleeping too much, it’s a bad sign,” says Dr. David Gozal, a pediatric sleep disorders physician at the University of Chicago Medicine. “Very few people can sleep more than what they need. It’s a sign there is an underlying health-related problem, whether it’s depression, cancer, or neurological deterioration. It’s usually not a good thing.” Gozal was not involved in the study.

If you like to sleep in on the weekends, don’t fret. Occasionally spending extra time in bed is likely not a bad sign, experts say, but when it becomes a regular habit, it might be worth checking out. For now, the researchers of the new study say their findings need further investigation, and priority should be given to understanding the underlying mechanisms.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

8 Things You Don’t Know About Supplements

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The author of a new book about vitamins shares some tips

In early February, the New York Times reported that New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman launched an investigation into some of the largest supplement retailers. DNA testing revealed that 79% of supplements tested did not contain what the labels on their bottles claimed, though the industry criticized the testing methods used by the attorney general.

The wild, mysterious world of vitamins and dietary supplements is the subject of author Catherine Price’s new book Vitamania. Here’s what she thinks every American needs to know before popping another over-the-counter pill.

1. Vitamins and supplements are not required to undergo safety or efficacy testing before they’re sold. “I feel like people don’t really think about the implications of that,” says Price. “I could pretty much create something this afternoon in my kitchen and sell it and not have to do any kind of testing ahead of time.” That’s not to say all supplements are not safe; it’s just to say that the companies that make them don’t have to show evidence of their safety before they go to market.

2. There’s no regulatory definition for a “multivitamin.” “If you buy a multivitamin from Centrum, it could be totally different from a different company’s product,” says Price. That’s confusing if you’re trying to compare brands while you shop.

3. Vitamins and supplements are not the same thing. There are only 13 vitamins: vitamins A, C, D, E, K and eight B vitamins. Supplements are any substance you ingest by mouth that’s intended to supplement the diet. “While vitamins are dietary supplements, all dietary supplements are not vitamins,” says Price. “There are an estimated 85,000 dietary supplements in the U.S. marketplace.”

4. Most dietary supplement ingredients and vitamins are not made in America. Sometimes the pills may be manufactured in the U.S., but the raw ingredients typically come from out of the country. “A large percentage of the ingredients in dietary supplements come from China, and there are nearly no vitamin manufacturing plants in America,” says Price. “Considering how dependent we are on vitamins and fortified foods to meet our needs, it’s surprising how dependent we are on other countries to keep us healthy.”

5. It’s difficult to tell if a supplement is of good quality. “People ask me all the time, ‘How do I pick a good dietary supplement?'” says Price. “The unfortunate thing is that given the state of regulation right now, that is an extremely difficult question to answer.” Looking for evidence that the product has been tested by a third party can help. She recommends visiting sites like the subscription-based site ConsumerLab.com, which randomly tests products, and the similar company LabDoor. There are also two independent verification programs called United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and NSF International (NSF). “If you are a supplement user, you should really use these to help pick your brands,” says Price.

6. Dietary supplements can be spiked with prescription drugs. The three biggest categories where this can happen are weight loss, body building and sexual enhancement, Price says. “What I like to tell people is that if you think your Chinese herbal supplement is just as good as Viagra, it’s probably because it has Viagra in it,” she says with a laugh. You can read more about some of these cases here.

7. More is not better. Taking more vitamins or supplements does not provide extra benefit and could cause harm. Be sure to tell your doctor what you are taking, since supplements can negatively interact with your other medications, and respect the upper-limit dose suggestions on the bottle.

8. You probably ingest supplements even if you don’t realize it. “There’s so much fortification in our food supply that for most people you are probably getting a multivitamin just from the foods you are eating,” says Price. “Most people don’t need to get a separate multivitamin.” In some cases, supplements are needed. For instance, Price agrees with the recommendation that women of child bearing age take folic acid to prevent birth defects.

TIME Health Care

Supreme Court Says Dentists Can’t Decide Who Gets to Whiten Your Teeth

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The Supreme Court has ruled that dentists can't hold a monopoly on teeth-whitening services

Dentists cannot have a monopoly on teeth whitening services, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court found that the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners was wrong when it sent “cease and desist” letters to companies that were offering teeth whitening at strip malls and kiosks. The board held that it was regulating the practice, but it was sued by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for creating an advantage for its members and blocking competition.

The Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of the FTC, agreeing that the board was acting on behalf of private members and not as a state regulatory agency since it was not being actively monitored by the state.

North Carolina law does not specify whether teeth whitening is a practice only allowed by dentists. The smaller businesses were offering the procedures for a lower costs than the dentists.

TIME Addiction

America’s Pain Killer Problem is Growing, Federal Data Shows

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New data shows America's use of opioids hasn't declined

New federal data released Wednesday reveals the state of America’s pain killer use.

According to the numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the percentage of adults age 20 and over using prescription pain killers remains significantly higher than in the past, with people also taking stronger painkillers than before. Between 2011–2012, nearly 7% of adults reported using a prescription opioid analgesic in the past 30 days, compared to 5% in 2003-2006.

MORE: The Problem With Treating Pain in America

The report also shows that when comparing data from 1999–2002 with 2011–2012, the number of prescription pain killer users who took a medication stronger than morphine increased from 17.0% to 37%. Given the growth of pain killer addiction and related deaths, high usage makes many public health experts uneasy. Prior data from the CDC has also shown that nearly 50 Americans die from an overdose of prescription painkillers every day.

In 2014, the CDC found that doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for pain killers in a single year, which is enough for every U.S. adult to have a bottle of pills.

The new data shows that women are more likely than men to be using prescription pain killers. Non-Hispanic white adults were more likely to use opioid analgesics than Hispanic adults. There was no difference between non-Hispanic white adults and non-Hispanic black adults.

MORE: Why You’ve Never Heard of the Vaccine For Heroin Addiction

As TIME has recently reported, the growing opioid addiction problem is seeding a heroin problem. Since both drugs come from the opioid poppy, they offer similar highs, but heroin, while illegal, is cheaper and doesn’t require a prescription. As states across the nation face opioid issues, the CDC will continue to recommend states step up to the task of keeping an eye on prescribing practices. Some strategies recommended by the CDC are implementing state-run databases that track prescriptions in order to determine any over-prescribing problems as well as introducing policies that discourage risky prescribing among pain clinics.

TIME Heart Disease

This Makes Your Heart Attack Risk 8 Times Higher

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A new study links high levels of anger to an increased risk for heart attack

Getting very angry isn’t just off-putting to the people around you, it may also significantly increase your short-term risk for a heart attack, according to new findings.

Having an episode of intense anger was associated with an 8.5 times greater risk of having a heart attack during the following two hours, a new study published in The European Heart Journal Acute Cardiovascular Care showed. The new findings add to prior research that has suggested high levels of anger may spur a heart attack.

The study looked at 313 people who were being treated in a hospital for a heart attack. The men and women were asked to fill out a questionnaire about the level of anger they experienced in the last 48 hours based on a number scale:

  1. Calm.

  2. Busy, but not hassled.

  3. Mildly angry, irritated and hassled, but it does not show.

  4. Moderately angry, so hassled it shows in your voice.

  5. Very angry, body tense, maybe fists clenched, ready to burst.

  6. Furious, forced to show it physically, almost out of control.

  7. Enraged, out of control, throwing objects, hurting yourself or others.

An anger level greater than five was reported among seven of the people in the study in the two hours prior to their heart attack, and up to four hours prior for one person. An anger level of four was reported among two people within the the two hours before heart attack symptoms, and among four hours before for three people. According to the researchers, the results come to a 8.5-fold increase in relative risk of a heart attack in the two hours following severe anger. People who reported high levels of anxiety, also had a higher risk.

The study is small and therefore it’s still too early to know how great of a factor intense anger is in predicting heart attack onset. The anger levels are also self-reported and could differ person to person. But the study does provide experts with information about what emotional factors could trigger a heart attack. For instance, the researchers found that some of the greatest reported anger was due to arguments with family members followed by arguments with non-family members, work anger and driving anger. “Our findings highlight the need to consider strategies to protect individuals most at risk during times of acute anger,” the authors conclude.

Exactly how anger could trigger a heart attack still remains unknown, but the researchers speculate that the stress may stimulate activity in the heart like increased heart rate and blood pressure, blood vessel constriction, a plaque rupture, and clotting which could eventually lead to a heart attack.

“I think this study is very helpful in many ways because it’s validating to what we already know. Anger is not what we would call a traditional risk factor because it’s so hard to measure,” says Dr. Curtis Rimmerman a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic who was not involved in the study. “It highlights the importance of paying attention to a patient’s wellbeing.”

TIME Sex/Relationships

IUDs Are Getting More Popular With American Women

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More U.S. women are using the IUD or implant

American women are increasingly opting for longer-lasting and highly effective forms of birth control, according to new federal data released on Tuesday.

New numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) show women are choosing long-lasting reversible contraceptives (LARC) like the intrauterine device (IUD) and the implant more than they have in the past. According to the numbers, IUD use increased 83% from 2006–2010 to 2011–2013 and implants tripled in use during the same time period. Both methods are approximately 99% effective at preventing pregnancy.

“I am delighted LARC use is rising. It’s terrific and I would like to see even more,” says Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the Yale School of Medicine.

Overall, the use of LARC has increased fivefold in the past decade among women between the ages of 15 to 44, though overall usage remains low. Use spiked from 1.5% in 2002 to 7.2% in between 2011 and 2013. Women ages 25 to 34 are the most likely to choose LARC at 11% compared with 5% of women ages 15 to 24 and around 5.3% of women ages 35 to 44.

As TIME previously reported, one reason for the slow uptake among American women is that older versions of the IUDs from the 1970s and ’80s were plagued with problems. The new CDC data shows that LARC use declined between 1982 and 1988 and remained stable from 1988 to 1995. Today, IUDs are considered very safe and effective. Planned Parenthood told TIME it has experienced a 75% increase in IUD use among its patients since 2008.

“I think the current generation of women haven’t heard about the errors of the past, which is good,” says Minkin. “They are looking anew at LARC and looking at them for the value they have. People can forget their pills. These other methods take the human variable out of it, and they work very nicely.” (Minkin was not involved in the new study.)

MORE: Why the Best Form of Birth Control Is the One No One Is Using

New, separate data published Monday in the journal Contraception showed that among 500 female health care providers, 42% used LARC, which is significantly higher than the general population.

Women in other countries are significantly more likely to use LARC, especially the IUD. Separate research has shown that 23% of French women using contraception use an IUD as well as 27% of Norwegian women and 41% of women in China. In the U.S., cost may be a factor: the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive-health nonprofit, reports that their research shows sharp increases in the numbers of women who don’t have to pay out of pocket for LARC thanks to the Affordable Care Act. Without insurance coverage, LARC can be prohibitively expensive for some — around $900 for an IUD, for instance.

“If you have contraceptive coverage that makes it much more doable,” says Minkin, “I think it increases the availability and viability for women.”

TIME

Measles Outbreak in U.S. Tops 150 Cases

A single dose of MMR for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella at Kaiser Permanente East Medical offices on Feb. 3, 2015 in Denver, CO.
Joe Amon—Denver Post via Getty Images A single dose of MMR for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella at Kaiser Permanente East Medical offices on Feb. 3, 2015 in Denver, CO.

Most people with the disease are not vaccinated

The number of measles cases in the U.S. has reached 154, according to new numbers released Monday.

Between Jan. 1 to Feb. 20, more than 150 cases in 17 different states have been reported to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC). The majority of these cases are tied to an outbreak linked to Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, Calif.

Some have blamed the latest outbreak on parents who don’t vaccinate their children for measles — or anti-vaxxers — and the CDC reports that the majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated. Travelers from other parts of the world where the disease is still prevalent could also be bringing it into the U.S., the CDC said.

There are currently three simultaneous outbreaks of the virus, the largest connected to Disneyland and the other two in Illinois and Nevada. In 2014, the U.S. experienced a major outbreak of measles that totaled 383 cases and was primarily spreading among an unvaccinated Amish community in Ohio.

Two doses of the measles vaccine (MMR) are nearly 100% effective at preventing the disease, which is highly contagious. The CDC recommends all children get their first dose of the vaccine at ages 12 through 15 months and the second dose at ages 4 to 6.

TIME Health Care

Medical Marijuana May Soon Be Marketed as Kosher

Medical Marijuana
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A certification agency is open to the possibility

Medical marijuana may soon come with a kosher seal of approval.

The Orthodox Union that offers kosher certification is in early discussions with parties interested in offering kosher medical-marijuana products, according to the Jewish Daily Forward.

In the past, the Orthodox Union has refused to certify cigarettes and e-cigarettes because of their clear health risks, but Rabbi Moshe Elefant, who leads kosher certification at the Orthodox Union, said it “would not have a problem” certifying medical marijuana since it has health benefits.

Since marijuana is a plant, it would appear that the certification would not be necessary. But in New York State, where medical marijuana will go on sale next year, cannabis could be distributed in other forms like edible substances and capsules, which would need a kosher seal. Many Orthodox rabbis are still strongly against its use.

[The Jewish Daily Forward]

TIME Drugs

11 Wesleyan Students Hospitalized After ‘Molly’ Use

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One student is in critical condition

Eleven students at Wesleyan University were hospitalized after experiencing bad reactions to the party drug “Molly”, Bloomberg reports.

The school announced that one of the eleven students is in critical condition. On Sunday, seven of the students were transported to the hospital and four students took themselves.

Molly, also known as MDMA, is a psychoactive drug that has effects that can last around 3 to 6 hours. The controlled substance increases neurotransmitter activity in the brain, and in some cases, it can interfere with the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. The drug has also been found to cause long-lasting confusion, depression, and sleep abnormalities.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse writes: “Ecstasy tablets and even capsules of supposedly pure “Molly” sometimes actually contain other drugs instead or in addition. These substances are harmful alone and may be particularly dangerous mixed with MDMA. Users who intentionally or unknowingly combine such a mixture with additional substances such as marijuana and alcohol may be putting themselves at even higher risk for adverse health effects.”

The school has not released any further information about the conditions of the students.

[Bloomberg]

Read next: How Colleges Are Dealing With Legal Pot

 

TIME Research

Why Washing Dishes by Hand May Lead to Fewer Allergies

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A new study shows kids in families who hand-wash their dishes have fewer allergies

Households worldwide now have extra incentive for getting family members to do the dishes: It could prevent the development of allergies.

A new and preliminary study, published in the journal Pediatrics, adds to an increasing body of evidence that suggests getting a little dirty does the immune system some good. That thinking is known as the “hygiene hypothesis,” which speculates that the reason kids develop so many allergies today is because their environments are just too clean. Without exposure to bacteria early in life, children’s immune systems don’t become as hardy as they could be.

Research over the years has linked a variety of early lifestyle factors, like having pets, eating fish and living on a farm to a significantly lower risk of developing allergies. Now this new study suggests that hand washing dishes might be the next behavior to add to the list.

“If you are exposed to microbes, especially early in life, you stimulate the immune system in various ways and it becomes tolerant,” says study author Dr. Bill Hesselmar of Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden. “We thought [hand washing dishes] might be important, but we didn’t know, so we asked that question.”

Hesselmar and his team surveyed the parents and guardians of 1,029 Swedish children ages 7 to 8. They discovered that children in homes where the family hand-washed the dishes instead of using a machine were less likely to have allergies. Only 23% of children whose parents used hand dishwashing had a history of eczema, compared with 38% of kids whose families mainly used machine dishwashing. The researchers also found that the result was amplified when kids ate fermented food or food bought directly from farms.

Though the study is only observational and can’t confirm causality, Hesselmar and his team have a few speculations.

It’s not necessarily that the kids are washing the dishes themselves and becoming exposed to bacteria. That might be one form of exposure, but as Hesselmar notes, some of the kids might be too young for that chore. Instead, it could be that long-term use of hand-washed dishes does the trick. Prior research comparing the cleanliness of dishes washed by hand to those washed by machine has shown that machine washing is more efficient and leaves fewer bacteria behind. Living in a household that hand-washes means family members are eating off of plates and cutlery that have more bacteria, and therefore more microbial exposure.

Families who hand-wash may also have other lifestyle factors that contribute to a lower allergy risk. The researchers note that overcrowded housing, low socioeconomic status and immigration status can also be linked to fewer allergies, as well as possibly different modes of dish washing.

“The study was really well done and caveated well, while simultaneously suggesting new areas of research and interesting models,” says Jonathan A. Eisen, a professor at the University of California at Davis. Eisen, who was not involved in the study, is an expert on exposure to microbial communities.

The study still leaves a few questions unanswered, like why hand washing was only associated with a lower likelihood of eczema and not other allergy-related symptoms like asthma, or why the effect was so significant even though dish washing requires the use of soaps, possibly even antibacterial products. Hesselmar says they are asking the same questions and hope to continue looking into the link.

Read next: This ‘Peanut Patch’ Could Protect Against Peanut Allergies

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