TIME Exercise/Fitness

Yoga Helps Older Adults Battle Depression and Anxiety

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For many older adults, the thought of stepping into a yoga class swarming with yogis more flexible than Gumby might provoke anxiety. But the practice itself may be just the antidote the over-60 set needs, suggests a recent review of studies about relaxation exercises. Those who did yoga and other calming activities saw greater reductions in their anxiety and depression than people who didn’t.

The body of literature on yoga’s relaxation benefits spans all kinds of people, but the authors thought adults aged 60 and older deserved their own analysis. Up to 40% of older adults report anxiety, they note, and anywhere from 15-20% of the elderly experience depression. So in the review published in the journal Aging & Mental Health, researchers scrutinized 15 studies—12 of them randomized controlled trials—from the past two decades that looked at different methods of relaxation. They gauged the effectiveness of six techniques: yoga, listening to music, tensing and relaxing different groups of muscles, massage therapy and stress management training.

MORE: Is Bikram Yoga Safe?

The most effective ways to alleviate depression were yoga, the music intervention and the muscle tensing and relaxing exercise—called PMRT, for progressive muscle relaxation training. The music and yoga interventions were the best for anxiety.

Yoga had the strongest staying power. Positive effects from the stretching, breathing and meditation exercises stuck around six months later in older adults. “It could help counterbalance the negative effects of ageing, improve physical functioning, postpone disability, decrease morbidity and mortality, stimulate the mind, and increase hope, reducing the risk of anxiety and depression,” the study authors write.

MORE: 15 Ways Exercise Makes You Look and Feel Younger

And good vibes from PMRT lasted 14 weeks after the intervention ended. “It is believed that the PMRT has a tranquilising effect, triggers a sense of peacefulness, helps participants retreat mentally from their problem and curtails negative thoughts, reducing depressive symptoms,” the authors write.

The most effective intervention, of course, is the one you enjoy doing—and these results suggest that it’s never too late to find your favorite way to unwind.

 

TIME public health

4 Health Products You Should Never Buy Online

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Beware these sketchy online purchases

Whatever you need, you can get it online. That can make shopping for health products a little bit, shall we say, sketchy. “The people selling certain products to you don’t care about your health and just want money. With greed comes a lot of fraud,” says Josephine Dlugopolski-Gach, assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Loyola University Health System. While you have to be careful with whatever you buy, these four products below can run you into a lot of trouble—and harm:

Certain prescription medications

If a site will let you buy meds without a prescription, that’s a big red flag—especially for certain medications. Listen to this warning from the Drug Enforcement Administration: “Buying online could mean doing time.” Even if you have good intentions, you can’t legally buy “controlled substances” online like Xanax or Ambien without an Rx. And prescriptions from cyber docs won’t cut it, says the DEA. The law is different depending on your state, but most require you to see a doctor you have a relationship with in person. In addition to that, buying from a bad site could leave you with medication that’s fake or contains dangerous ingredients. For example, the FDA purchased the flu-stopping medication Tamiflu online in order to test it. They found it wasn’t Tamiflu at all, but a combination of talc and acetaminophen.

It’s perfectly fine to buy prescription medication from a state-licensed US-based online pharmacy; these sites often can help you save money. To know if they’re legit, Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach suggests making sure they have an actual phone number, have a licensed pharmacist on staff, and require an Rx to fill your order. You can check the legitimacy of the site at the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. And use common sense. “If the deal sounds too good to be true, you’re probably not going to get the right medication,” she says.

Weight loss supplements

You never know what you’re going to get when you buy a weight loss supplement online. The FDA points out that in their testing, they’ve discovered supplements—even herbals—were tainted with hidden and unsafe ingredients. Many are also not FDA-approved, meaning their claims haven’t been checked out and aren’t regulated. (It’s on the individual companies to tell the truth. They don’t always do that.) “A lot of times, these weight loss pills are just stimulants. They contain a lot of caffeine, which is not safe, especially if you have a cardiac condition,” says Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach. “I’ve seen people go into the ER on the verge of a heart attack.” While building long-term healthy habits is often the best way to keep weight off, if you want to check out something that promises to help you lose weight or rev your metabolism, “tell your doctor what you’re interested in before you buy it, even if it’s marketed as natural,” she adds.

Breast milk

You hear “breast is best”—but it’s not if it comes from an online source, suggests an editorial in The BMJ. The problem is, breast milk online is an unregulated industry, so it can be contaminated with viruses (like hepatitis or HIV), bacteria (if not stored or shipped properly) alcohol, prescription medication, and illegal drugs, notes Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach. What’s more, in a new study in the journal Pediatrics, researchers tested 102 samples and found 10% were topped off with cow’s milk, which can cause an allergic reaction. It’s understandable that people might want to buy breast milk–aka “liquid gold”–if they can’t produce their own due to cancer treatment or other reasons. Or that other women would want to donate or sell their milk if they produce more than enough. However, the temptation to make more money by adding cow’s milk might be too much for some online sellers. Organizations like Eats on Feets and Only the Breast (which broker such sales) do recommend pasteurizing all milk and screening donors for HIV and other diseases (among other safety suggestions), but many people don’t follow the guidelines, according to a CNN report. “If you can breastfeed that’s wonderful, but if you can’t, formula is the next best thing,” says Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach. “It’s not worth risking going to an online source and getting breast milk from a stranger.” If you do want to donate milk, there are nonprofit milk banks that collect, test, pasteurize, and store human milk for infants, mostly at-risk neonates in hospitals; go to the Human Milk Banking Association of North America for more information.

Hormone products

If you are approaching menopause, you might be tempted to buy hormone replacement medications, creams, or herbs online. “Some women want a quick fix to get their sex drive or chutzpah back,” explains Diana Bitner, MD, an ob/gyn at Spectrum Health Medical Group in Grand Rapids, MI. “I have patients who have bought testosterone pellets on their own. They end up taking so much of the hormone they have really bad side effects, like hair growth, voices deepening, and rage issues,” she explains. Many of these products are not effective, safe, and contain variable amounts of active ingredients.

Same goes for buying soy. “Women will buy a ton of this online and say it doesn’t make them feel better, so they buy more and more,” Dr. Bitner explains. Only about 30% of women’s bodies can actually utilize soy to lessen menopause symptoms, so you may be wasting your money. For any hormone treatment, even if it’s labeled “natural” you need a doctor’s guidance; she can ensure you get the right hormones in the right amount every time that work.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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TIME Addiction

Health Officials Worry as HIV Cases in Indiana Grow

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Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Health officials say families are using drugs together

The number of new HIV infections in Scott County, Indiana, has risen to 142, prompting local and state officials to call it a public-health emergency.

A new report released by the federal and state health officials on Friday reveals disturbing trends in injection drug use in a county of only 4,200 people. Scott County has historically reported less than five new cases of HIV each year, making the new tally of 142 all the more alarming. Health experts say the recent outbreak is reflective of a growing drug epidemic nationwide.

“There are children, and parents and grandparents who live in the same house who are injecting drugs together sort of as a community activity,” said Dr. Joan Duwve, the chief medical consultant for the Indiana State Department of Health, at a press briefing. “This community, like many rural communities, especially those along the Ohio River and Kentucky and West Virginia, has really seen a lot of prescription opioids flooding the market. With few resources [and] not a lot to do, the use and abuse has been occurring for at least a decade and probably longer.”

Health officials note that like many other rural counties in the U.S., Scott County has high unemployment, high rates of adults who have not completed high school and a large proportion of residents living in poverty with limited health care access. The report underlines the fact that the county consistently ranks among the lowest in Indiana for health and life expectancy.

“The outbreak highlights the vulnerability of many rural, resource-poor populations to drug use, misuse and addiction,” said Duwve.

The ages of the men and women diagnosed with HIV in Scott County range between ages 18 and 57. The health officials report that no infants have tested positive, though a small number of pregnant women have. Ten women in the cluster were identified to be sex workers. Around 84% of the patients have also been infected with hepatitis C. Eighty percent of the patients with HIV have reported injection drug use and among those people, all of them have reported dissolving and injecting tablets of oxymorphone. Some also reported using methamphetamine and heroin.

Dr. Jonathan Mermin, who runs the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, reminded reporters that the United States is facing an epidemic of prescription opioid abuse. “An estimated two million people are dependent on or abuse prescription opioids nationally. So while opioid pain relievers can play an important role in the management of some types of pain, the overprescribing of these powerful drugs has created a national epidemic of drug abuse and overdose,” he said.

The CDC estimates that nationwide about 3,900 new HIV infections each year are attributable to injection-drug use, which is down nearly 90% from a peak of about 35,000 in the late 1980s, says Mermin. He adds that opioid poisoning deaths in the United States have nearly quadrupled from 1999 to 2011. This epidemic has already played a major role in a growing epidemic of viral hepatitis among people who inject drugs with a 150% increase in reports of acute hepatitis C nationwide between 2010 and 2013.

State health officials and the CDC are working together to control the outbreaks of HIV and hepatitis C. The state has launched a public health campaign to notify residents of the support available to them: lab testing and treatment, referrals to addiction services and employment, and help with insurance registration. The state initially declared a 30-day public health emergency for Scott County on March 26, but expanded the executive order another 30 days. “I want to assure everyone [that] the state of Indiana will not abandon this community once the executive order is over,” said Dr. Jerome M. Adams, the Indiana State Health Commissioner.

The CDC also released a health advisory on Friday, and is asking states to look closely at their most recent data on HIV and hepatitis C diagnoses, overdose deaths, admissions for drug treatments, and drug arrests in order to help identify communities that could be at high risk for unrecognized clusters of the infections.

“We must act now to reverse this trend and to prevent this from undoing progress in HIV prevention to date,” said Mermin.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Diet Pepsi Will No Longer Contain Aspartame

The company maintains the low calorie sweetener is safe, but recognizes consumers don't want it

PepsiCo is removing the artificial sweetener aspartame from Diet Pepsi, the company has announced.

The low calorie sweetener, which is far sweeter than sucrose, has become a controversial ingredient in recent years. Consumer groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest say it should be avoided by the public as a possible carcinogen, even though the FDA calls it “safe for the general population.”

But thanks to its bad reputation, the company will replace aspartame with two different artificial sweeteners, Reuters reports. A PepsiCo executive explained in the announcement that “while decades of studies show aspartame is safe, we recognize that consumer demand is evolving.”

The new recipe will go into effect in August.

[Reuters]

TIME Addiction

Here’s Where Americans Binge-Drink the Most

A new study breaks down the numbers by county

Heavy drinking and binge drinking are on the rise in the U.S., but the average amount Americans drink varies greatly by region, according to a new study.

Ten years of research, published in the American Journal of Public Health, breaks down the data by county, observing adults 21 and over who binge-drink — imbibing at least five drinks in one sitting for a man; four for a woman — and those who drink heavily, defined as more than two drinks a day for a man; and more than one for a woman.

Binge-drinking is highest in Menominee County, Wisc., the least populated in the state. Heavy drinking is highest in Esmeralda County, Nev, likewise the least populous in that state. Madison County, Idaho has the lowest levels of binge-drinking, and Hancock County, Tenn.—one of the state’s ‘dry counties’ where the sale of alcohol is prohibited—has the lowest levels of heavy drinking.

Members of affluent communities are the most likely to have at least one drink per month, the study found, while members of poor communities are most likely to binge or drink heavily.

[USA Today]

TIME medicine

How the Polio Vaccine Trials Relieved a Worried Nation

Between 1954 and 1955, the polio vaccine transitioned from a trial of 1.8 million to a regular feature of life for households across America

JONAS SALK
Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty ImagesDr. Jonas Salk examining test tube sample of polio virus used in making his polio vaccine, at Univ. of Pittsburgh.

On April 26, 1954, children at the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia, held their breaths as needles penetrated the skin of their upper arms. They were the first of nearly two million volunteers in a three-month trial of epidemiologist Jonas Salk’s inactivated polio vaccine, which would be deemed safe for general use just shy of one year later.

The day before the trials were deemed a success, in April 1955, LIFE published a series of photos of a nation preparing for wide distribution of the vaccine it desperately hoped would be approved. The National Polio Foundation had 27 million vaccine shots ready for release, to be administered to all first- and second-grade students and children who had received a placebo during the 1954 trial. Pharmaceutical companies, too, had chosen not to wait for the announcement to begin their own frantic manufacturing process.

During the early 1950s, polio cases in the U.S. had surged to nearly 60,000, with around one third rendering victims paralyzed. Given parents’ heightened fear for their children’s health in recent years, it didn’t take long for Salk to be hailed a hero:

Tributes ranged down from a citation from the President and a proposal that he be given a special Congressional Medal of Honor to offers of farm equipment. Newspapers in several cities were raising Salk funds and a U.S. senator introduced a bill to give him an annual stipend of $10,000. Salk, 40, who lives on a University of Pittsburgh research professor’s salary and hopes to increase the effectiveness of his vaccine from 80% to 100%, said he would take no money for himself but indicated it would be used for further research.

In the years since the vaccine’s development, polio has been all but eradicated throughout most of the world, save for a few countries where vaccination is not universally available and prevention continues to be a struggle.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME Malaria

World’s First Viable Malaria Vaccine Shows Success in Trials

Malaria is present in over 100 countries and threatens half of the world's population

The results of final clinical trials of the first viable malaria vaccine show it offers partial protection against malaria for up to four years. The vaccine is called RTS,S and has been developed over two decades by GlaxoSmithKline and a non-profit organization funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

It is designed for children in African countries and if approved by international regulators, like the World Health Organization, it could be made available for use in Africa from October.

However, early trial data from 2011 and 2012 – carried out on 16,000 children from seven African countries – showed that vaccines in babies aged 5 – 17 months were only effective in 46% of children, diminishing hopes that RTS,S would be effective.

But final data published in The Lancet journal Friday showed that the vaccinated children were still protected four years later, and that protection rates were improved with booster shots.

Malaria currently kills more than 660,000 people a year, and some 1,300 children in sub-Saharan Africa die every day from the parasitic disease – nearly one child every minute.

Although the RTS,S vaccine is only partially effective, it marks a scientific milestone as the first to reach advanced clinical trials with some success.

[Reuters]

TIME Research

‘A Moratorium on Human Gene Editing to Treat Disease Is Critical’

A leading scientist calls for caution on a promising new technology

Rudolf Jaenisch, MD, is a Founding Member, Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, and President, the International Society for Stem Cell Research

It has been just over a half-century since scientists solved the structure of DNA, and since that time, we have been fascinated by what the DNA encodes, how it is passed on from one generation to the next and what makes each of us unique. Technologies to introduce DNA changes have been used to study the function of genes and the proteins they encode, to identify genetic causes of disease and to develop better ways to treat them. Now, new research describes the editing of genes in human embryos—CRISPR-cas9—raising questions about the science, the implications and the ethics.

The research utilizes recent technologies that allow us to make precise, targeted changes to a DNA sequence. These technologies have proved remarkable in their ease-of-use and have become quickly adopted by researchers around the world to introduce or correct changes in gene sequences in a wide range of cell types.

These recent developments have piqued the imagination of scientists and the public alike, and there is much speculation about what comes next. Some have suggested the new technology will allow researchers to “fix” defective genes, so inheritable diseases are not passed to the next generation, while others have raised worries about the creation of “designer” babies.

In my role as president of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR), a nonprofit group comprised of nearly 4,000 researchers, clinicians and ethicists from over 50 countries, I have been part of a diverse, global and ongoing dialogue about the complex scientific, societal and ethical issues surrounding germline modification technologies in humans. Following these broad discussions, the ISSCR recently issued a statement calling for a pause in attempts at gene editing technologies in early human embryos, or egg and sperm that are brought together with the intent to generate a baby, to allow for more extensive analysis of the potential risks of genome editing and for broad public discussion.

This statement is not intended to dampen excitement about the foundational research or clinical applications underway involving the modification of non-reproductive cells, rather to recognize the important scientific, as well as broad social and ethical considerations that arise when introducing genetic changes that are passed on to the next generation.

The scientific community has an obligation to think about the implications of their work and to engage the public and regulators in discussions around the science, its potential and limitations. We must ask ourselves and others tough questions: Even if we could safely modify the inheritable DNA in an embryo, egg or sperm, should we? In what scenarios might this be justified? How can we be assured that the technologies will not be abused? How do we maintain an openness with the public such that they understand and support the scientific community in their quest to improve public health?

Until we have addressed these complex questions, a moratorium on any clinical application of gene editing in human embryos is critical.

As we deliberate, we need continued laboratory research to enhance basic knowledge and to better understand the safety issues associated with human genome editing technologies. As in other areas of human stem cell research, the ISSCR and other groups advocate strongly for responsible and transparent practices, urging researchers worldwide to open their research to scrutiny.

The details of the most recently published research, which itself highlights serious technical challenges to editing the germline nuclear DNA for medical purposes, are less important than the dialogue it has generated. The scientific community appreciates the public’s interest in stem cell research and the opportunity to discuss openly the scientific, ethical and societal issues we consider each and every day.

TIME celebrities

Cobie Smulders Opens Up About Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis at Age 25

Cobie Smulders attends the Chanel Dinner during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival at Balthazar on April 20, 2015 in New York City.
Jamie McCarth—Getty Images Cobie Smulders attends the Chanel Dinner during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival at Balthazar on April 20, 2015 in New York City.

"I don't think I'll ever feel like I'm cancer-free"

How I Met Your Mother actress Cobie Smulders revealed publicly for the first time that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 25. in the May issue of Women’s Health.

“I had tumors on both ovaries and the cancer had spread into my lymph nodes and surrounding tissues,” the actress, who can be seen in The Avengers: Age of Ultron next month, says in an interview with Women’s Health.

Diagnosed during the third season of the hit CBS sitcom, Smulders, 33, says she had multiple surgeries across two years instead of chemotherapy and radiation because of the location of the cancerous tissue on her body. And even though doctors said she wouldn’t be able to naturally conceive, Smulders did become pregnant with daughter Shaelyn, now 5, and welcomed another son with husband and Saturday Night Live star Taran Killam earlier this year.

“I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’m cancer-free,” Smulders says. “Now that I’m five years out, I’m trying to think of it as a positive thing and what can I learn from it. And if I can create more awareness, I’ll do it.”

[Women’s Health]

TIME Cancer

Massachusetts Mom Writes Own Obituary Before Dying of Cancer

"I LOVED my life"

She died on April 16 at age 44. But in her own obituary, Beth O’Rourke insisted, “I was a survivor.”

The Massachusetts mother of two wrote the touching obituary in the days before she died, reflecting on her life, her love for her husband and children, and how – in a way – she beat cancer on her own terms.

“I died Thursday, April 16, 2015 surrounded by family, in the arms of my husband and anam cara, Brendan Patrick O’Rourke,” she wrote. (Anam Cara is a Gaelic term meaning “soul friend,” and refers to the Celtic belief of souls bonding.)

“I was 44 years old. I was a survivor. I was blessed in this life with two amazing children; Courtney Elizabeth age 11 and Seamus Brendan aged 8.”

She thanked her doctor, and said her own career in nursing allowed her to see the strength in others that she would eventually harness in her own cancer battle.

But the most poignant passages concern her family.

“I LOVED my life,” she wrote. “I loved a long run, to sit quietly by the lake, to read and dance and sing and be silly with our children. We loved watching summer storms blow across the water. I loved to chat and laugh with my sisters and friends … Of all the things I did in this life, nothing compared to being with Brendan and our children. I fought every day to stay alive and to be with them.”

Cancer, she wrote, derailed everything. But eventually she transcended it.

“Cancer does not care who it takes, who it hurts, or honor or love. It comes into your life and starts to break the threads that hold you, and you are left to see pieces of yourself slip away and dreams fade. We were clung only to each other with pure love and faith binding us, in the end is when the most amazing thing happens, cancer loses its strength and grace appears. We need to see it. We accept it, and go with it. Grace and love win, not cancer.”

She added: “I hope to be remembered, with laughter, love and a good pint. And for my children to know ‘No Momma ever did and no Momma ever will…’ ”

The O’Rourke family has set up a fund for the children’s education. Visit this GoFundMe page to donate.

This article originally appeared on People.com

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