TIME Exercise

American Medical Schools Aren’t Teaching the Importance of Exercise

"I was surprised that medical schools didn’t spend more time on it"

Many doctors are finishing medical school without getting any training in the importance of exercise, a new study shows.

Researchers at Oregon State University found that less than half of physicians trained in the U.S. in 2013 had received any instruction on exercise, based on curriculum records listed online.

Of the 118 of 170 American medical schools that listed their curriculum online, 51% of schools didn’t offer exercise-related classes, 21% had one class and 82% didn’t require students to learn about physical activity.

“There are immense medical benefits to exercise; it can help as much as medicine to address some health concerns,” Brad Cardinal, an OSU professor of sports science, said in the study’s press release. “Because exercise has medicinal as well as other benefits, I was surprised that medical schools didn’t spend more time on it.”

TIME Infectious Disease

Researchers Link Virus to Mysterious Paralysis in Children

Study finds more evidence linking enterovirus D68 to mysterious paralysis in kids

From last summer to this March, 115 children in 34 states suddenly developed sudden unexplained paralysis—called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM)—that has kept medical experts scratching their heads about what could be causing it. But in new research published on Monday from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), researchers suggest a specific strain of a common virus could be contributing.

MORE: Parents Hunt for Answers on Kids’ Mysterious Paralysis

Scientists and doctors have long thought that an enterovirus called EV-D68 somehow played a role in the clusters of kids who became partially paralyzed, since the emergence of their symptoms happened at the same time U.S. emergency rooms experienced an unprecedented wave of children coming in with severe EV-D68. But in children who’ve been tested for the virus, it’s very rarely been found in their spinal fluid—the location doctors expect to find it if it’s responsible for paralysis.

The other problem is that enteroviruses are incredibly common, so discovering the virus in children is by no means an anomaly. That makes it difficult to pin the paralysis problem on EV-D68. But now, UCSF scientists have discovered more evidence to link the two. In their study, published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the researchers analyze 25 cases of sudden unexplained paralysis from recent clusters of children. Through nasal swabs, the researchers were able to identify EV-D68 in 12 of those children and found that all of the cases testing positive for the virus were related to a strain called B1, which emerged four years ago with mutations similar to those seen in the polio virus. Even though some of the children in the study were from Colorado and others were from California, they shared the same B1 strain of the virus.

The researchers also discovered this specific strain in the blood of one of the children who developed AFM for the first time. The child was sampled much earlier than the others, though, and researchers think the late timing of testing may have been the reason they didn’t detect the virus in the blood or spinal fluid of most of the children. Even though the researchers couldn’t identify EV-D68 in the children’s spinal fluid, they say they’re not ruling it out, since they also couldn’t find any other infections.

Notably, the researchers also studied the virus in a pair of siblings. One sibling developed AFM, but the other remained normal after symptoms of the respiratory disease went away. This suggests that the reactions to the virus could be genetic, the researchers say.

“The question is, is this coincidental or [are the two] really associated? I think it’s more than a coincidence,” says study author Dr. Charles Chiu, director of UCSF-Abbott Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center. “I think our study answers some of those questions.”

The researchers also sequenced the genome of EV-D68 in six children with AFM and two children without it. They hope that analyzing the virus can help inform future research.

“What’s needed at this point is fundamental biology,” says Chiu. He and his team plan to infect the cells of sibling pairs, where one child got AFM and the other did not, to see if their cells respond differently. Any differences the researchers discover may lead to more knowledge about the underlying causes of the disorder, they say.

TIME Healthcare

4 Skin Conditions That Can Signal Other Health Problems

hand-skin-scratch
Corbis

Skin conditions are often linked to processes occurring throughout the body

Itchy, irritated, or inflamed skin is certainly no fun, but did you know that skin troubles could be related to other health problems?

In many cases, skin conditions are linked to processes occurring throughout the body, and this means they can become risk factors that set you up for other types of illness or injury, says Jonathan Silverberg, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Northwestern University. “The connections are not something patients should ignore or overlook.”

Read more: 13 Everyday Habits That Age You

Eczema

Eczema is a chronic inflammatory condition known for causing red, itchy patches of skin, but it’s also been linked to sleep disturbances, joint problems, and other injuries. Dr. Silverberg was co-author of a JAMA Dermatology study published earlier this year that found that people with eczema who’d experienced a flare-up in the last year were more likely than those without the condition to have experienced a bone or joint injury, like a fracture, as well.

“There’s a well established association between eczema and sleep disturbances, as a result of its chronic itch, and patients who are sleep deprived are generally at higher rates of traumatic injuries like falls or automobile accidents,” which might explain why they were more likely to experience a bone fracture, Dr. Silverberg says.

But it’s not just drowsiness from a lack of zzzs: “If you’re crossing the street and you’re distracted by itching—or you’re in a fog because you’ve taken a sedating antihistamine to treat that itch—you’re going to be at higher risk for these types of things,” Dr. Silverberg adds.

On top of that, in severe cases, eczema is treated with oral steroids, which over time can affect bone density, possibly contributing further to the possibility of injury. Thankfully, Dr. Silverberg says that intermittent treatment with over-the-counter topical steroids, which is far more common, doesn’t pose the same risks.

Read more: 15 Home Remedies to Make a Pimple Vanish

Psoriasis

An autoimmune disorder in which cells multiply too quickly and form shiny scales on the skin’s surface, psoriasis often occurs alongside arthritis or other joint diseases, in particular psoriatic arthritis. “They’re all related to a common inflammatory pathway,” Dr. Silverberg says. “The good news is that a lot of the newer treatments that are remarkably effective for psoriasis also work well for psoriatic as well as rheumatoid arthritis.”

Recent studies have also linked psoriasis to heart disease, stroke, and poor blood pressure management. While doctors aren’t sure of the exact relationship between these conditions, they suspect that inflammation plays a role here, too.

People with psoriasis—along with eczema and other skin conditions like scleroderma, which causes hardening of the skin—are also more likely than people without psoriasis to be smokers, heavy drinkers, or to suffer from depression or anxiety. “These disorders are potentially the effects of having a chronic, debilitating, and very visible disorder, and they may actually trigger disease or worsen prognosis,” Dr. Silverberg says.

Stasis dermatitis

This is a darkening or discoloration of the skin on your legs and ankles caused by varicose veins or another circulatory problem that leads to swelling that blocks blood flow to the skin. Stasis dermatitis can be a symptom of underlying diabetes and its effects on your body’s circulatory system, Dr. Silverberg says.

Diabetes can also cause skin infections, intense itching, slow wound healing, and diabetic dermopathy, also known as shin spots; in fact, patients with ongoing unexplained itching or skin troubles are often tested for diabetes. “That just emphasizes the importance of following up with your doctor if you have a rash or a [skin] issue that’s not improving on its own,” Dr. Silverberg adds.

Read more: 14 Foods That Make You Look Older

Vitiligo

People suffering from vitiligo, an auto-immune disease that causes white spots (basically spots with zero pigmentation) to appear on the face and body, can have symptoms get worse when they are under stress. “I tell patients that stress is not causing their skin disease; certainly there’s some underlying predisposition to begin with,”Dr. Silverberg says. “But once those risk factors are there, stress can certainly be a trigger.”

The stress-skin connection is perhaps most well documented with vitiligo, but stress is a factor in psoriasis, eczema, and possibly even run-of-the-mill acne. (Though Silverberg cautions that it’s difficult to prove the link between stress and pimples because they’re both so common.)

Finally, there’s some good news for vitiligo sufferers, too: According to a 2010 discovery by University of Colorado researchers, they may have a lower risk of developing melanoma.

The bottom line: your skin can tell you a lot about your health risks, so be sure to listen.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Why Being Put on Hold Drives You Crazy

Changing the music makes customers happier

Waiting on hold with an airline, cable provider or credit card company is a reliably irritating experience. So reliable, in fact, that researchers decided to study it—and might have come up with a fix. Playing pop music instead of instrumental elevator music may make callers less angry when someone finally answers, according to a study in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

Elevator music, with an easy-listening melody that can repeat endlessly, invokes a feeling in dread in many of us. “You learn to associate that kind of background music with waiting or complaining—those things that normally happen when you call a call center,” says study author Karen Niven, a lecturer at Manchester Business School in England. “When you have some pop music that you wouldn’t expect to hear, it doesn’t prime those same negative thoughts, it provides something of a buffer.”

Niven took control of the music at a call center for three weeks to conduct the study. Instead of playing standard instrumental music without lyrics, she played pop songs. Some had so-called prosocial lyrics, which talked about helping, like The Beatles’ “Help!” and Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World.” Others were just standard pop songs like Jackson’s “On the Line.” Niven also played the standard instrumental music as a control.

After the phone calls ended, the call center operators assessed the callers’ level of anger. Customers were the least angry when they heard standard pop songs, and they acted more upset—equally so—when they heard songs with prosocial lyrics or instrumental elevator music.

Read more: Recording of Man’s Attempt to Cancel Comcast Will Drive You Insane

That surprised Niven, who expected callers who listened to prosocial lyrics to be less angry when they finally spoke to a person. But they seemed to find it annoying, she concluded, since they were likely calling with a complaint or service issue. “If you’re played a song about helping other people and healing the world, maybe that makes you kind of angry,” she says.

Even though people on the other end of the line didn’t hear the hold music, they too were affected by it. Call center operators who picked up the phone reported feeling less emotionally exhausted when dealing with customers who heard standard pop music.

Switching to pop music is not always a welcome fix for call centers, Niven acknowledges, since the centers often have to pay licensing fees to play it. But, as these findings suggest, call centers may make conversations more pleasant on both sides of the line simply by changing their tune.

TIME ebola

Ebola Cases Top 25,000

The outbreak has infected 25,178 people and killed 10,445

More than 25,000 people have been infected with Ebola in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, according to a new report.

As of Tuesday, the outbreak, which has persisted for more than a year, has infected 25,178 people and killed 10,445, according to new numbers released by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Overall, the region has seen a drop in the number of confirmed cases and the number of patients filling Ebola treatment centers. However, medical groups have warned against complacency and Guinea has seen a recent uptick in infections. The country also just recently launched an Ebola vaccine trial.

MORE: 14 Emotional Dispatches From Key Ebola Fighters

 

TIME Infectious Disease

1,000-Year-Old Remedy Could Help Cure Superbug

Mixture of onion, garlic, wine and cow stomach bile found to combat staph infections

A 10th-century medicine that was originally used to treat eye infections may also be able to cure staph infections.

Researchers at the University of Nottingham recreated an ancient potion recipe from Bald’s Leechbook, one of the oldest medical texts in existence. By following the recipe steps precisely, including using a wine from a thousand-year-old vineyard, researchers developed a medicine that was found to kill 90% of MRSA bacteria in mice. MRSA is a particularly hard-to-treat bacterial infection resistant to many modern antibiotics.

“When we got the first results we were just utterly dumbfounded,” microbiologist Freya Harrison told CNN. “We did not see this coming at all.”

Researchers aren’t yet sure exactly why the ancient potion is so effective. The odd mixture of ingredients—onion, garlic, wine and cow stomach bile—may create a new molecule when combined or they may be separately killing off different parts of the bacterial infection.

TIME medicine

How 3D Imaging Can Tell Exactly How Old You Are

You may be able to dodge questions about your age, but your face can’t

For the first time, scientists have used 3D imaging of a people’s faces to predict their age. The 3D information was so accurate, in fact, that it was better at pinpointing age than the best known marker, a test that involves studying the DNA.

Reporting in the journal Cell Research, Jing-Dong J Han, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences-Max Planck Partner Institute for Computational Biology, found that certain facial measures are reliable predictor’s of a person’s biological age. The researchers analyzed 3D facial images from more than 300 people, and matched them up with measurements from several dozen blood markers including cholesterol and albumin. Specifically, the width of the mouth and nose, and the distance between the mouth and nose tend to expand with age, and the eyes tend to droop over time. Measuring this change provides a relatively stable way of tracking, and predicting, a person’s age.

“Overall facial features show higher correlations with age than the 42 blood markers that are profiles in routine physical exams,” says Han.

MORE: Human Faces Can Express at Least 21 Distinct Emotions

She arrived at the finding after hearing a colleague present work on using 3D facial images to quantify racial differences. “It immediately struck me that facial images might be a potential good phenotype to include in our study to quantify the extent of aging,” she says. “I did not expect to see such remarkable changes with age, nor did I expect the 3D images to be such an accurate biomarker for biological age.”

Why is it important? Han says that pinpointing how quickly a person is aging via the relatively easy 3D algorithm could have useful health implications that go beyond keeping people honest about their age. Such a measure might provide a window into deeper physiological processes that could be aging abnormally fast. “It might have important implications for assessing the risks of aging-associated diseases, and for designing personalized treatment schemes to improve their life styles and health,” she says.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Mental Health Therapy Through Social Networking Could Soon Be a Reality

While still in the development stage, the peer-to-peer technology had "significant benefits"

An experimental social networking platform intent on helping users calm anxiety and reverse symptoms of depression has received positive feedback.

Panoply is a peer-to-peer platform jointly administered by MIT and Northwestern universities that encourages users to “think more flexibly and objectively about the stressful events and thoughts that upset them,” says a paper published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Researchers found that the network, which is still being studied and has yet to be commercialized, produced “significant benefits, particularly for depressed individuals.”

Panoply works by teaching users a therapeutic tool called cognitive reappraisal, which tries to get people to look at a problematic situation from different perspectives.

When a person is stressed, they write what is causing the problem and their reaction. The “crowd” then responds by a offering a contrasting outlook. Comments are vetted to ensure the original poster is not abused.

The study involved 166 people over a three-week period. Researchers suggested a 25-minute per week minimum interaction to see results.

According to the published paper, the next step is to widen the net and see if the social media platform is as effective over a more diverse audience.

TIME Research

A Diet High in Pesticides Is Linked to a Lower Sperm Count

healthiest foods, health food, diet, nutrition, time.com stock, swiss chard, greens, vegetables
Danny Kim for TIME

Strawberries and spinach are among the worst offenders

The troubling link between pesticide exposure and fertility isn’t new; scientists have already established that people who work with pesticides tend to have lower fertility than people who don’t. But for the majority of us who don’t work with chemicals, diet is the biggest source of exposure, says Jorge Chavarro, MD, assistant professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health and senior author of a new study published in the journal Human Reproduction.

Chavarro and his colleagues wanted to see if pesticide residues left on fruits and vegetables might have a similar effect on sperm—and their findings suggest that they did. Men who ate fruits and vegetables with a lot of pesticides had lower sperm counts and more oddly shaped sperm than those who had lower levels of dietary pesticide exposure.

MORE: Not So Fertile Ground

Over an 18-month period, the researchers used data from the Environment and Reproductive Health (EARTH) study, including semen samples from 155 men who were being treated at a Boston fertility clinic and a food frequency questionnaire they completed. The researchers determined pesticide exposure by comparing the questionnaire answers with government data about produce pesticide levels in the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program.

The study didn’t tease out individual foods, but the researchers classified produce according to whether it had high or low-to-moderate levels of pesticides. Men who ate the most high-pesticide fruits and vegetables had a 49% lower total sperm count and 32% fewer sperm that were shaped normally, compared to men who ate the least amount of the high-pesticide produce.

Researchers gave each piece of produce a score based on its level of detectable pesticides, its level of pesticides that exceeded the tolerance level established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and whether the produce had three or more types of detectable pesticides. (The bigger the score, the more it hit all three measures.) Ranked from highest pesticide contamination to lowest, here were the top fruits and vegetables:

  • Green, yellow and red peppers (6)
  • Spinach (6)
  • Strawberries (6)
  • Celery (6)
  • Blueberries (5)
  • Potatoes (5)
  • Peaches and plums (5)
  • Apples or pears (5)
  • Winter squash (4)
  • Kale, mustard greens and chard greens (4)
  • Grapes and raisins (4)

The team didn’t tease out associations with individual pesticides. But they believe that a mixture of pesticides—not just one particular pesticide—is responsible for the link. The strongest variable in their analysis were the proportion of fruits and vegetables consumed that use three or more pesticides. “The more pesticides are applied on any particular crop, that seems to be having a bigger impact,” Chavarro says.

Chavarro says he still remains skeptical, and that one study isn’t enough to offer definitive proof. “As far as we are aware, this is the first time that something like this has been reported,” he says. “It will be very important to replicate these results in other studies.” But for people who are concerned about their dietary exposure to pesticides, there are ways to lower it, he says, like eating organic and choosing produce not listed on the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen list.

TIME medicine

American Pharmacists Association Discourages Providing Execution Drugs

The American Pharmacists Association
Jonathan Oatis—Reuters The American Pharmacists Association building is seen on Constitution Avenue in Washington, July 4, 2009.

The group's new policy was approved Monday

(SAN DIEGO) — A national pharmacists’ group has adopted a policy discouraging its members from providing death-penalty drugs.

The American Pharmacists Association’s new policy could make it tough for death penalty states, like Texas, that have been looking at made-to-order execution drugs from compounding pharmacies as the answer to an execution drug shortage.

The association’s governing body approved the policy Monday at a meeting in San Diego.

The group lacks the legal authority to bar compounding pharmacies from selling the drugs. But its policies set the ethical standards followed by pharmacists, just as the American Medical Association does for doctors.

Prison departments have had to buy made-to-order execution drugs from compounding pharmacies in recent years. That’s because the pharmaceutical companies they used to buy from have refused to sell lethal-injection drugs after coming under pressure from death penalty opponents.

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