TIME Heart Disease

Moderate Amounts of Coffee May Help Keep Arteries Clear, Study Says

A cup of coffee
MakiEni's photo—Getty Images/Flickr RF A cup of coffee

Coffee in your veins may actually be healthy

Drinking three to five cups of coffee per day may help to reduce signs of blocked arteries, says a new study out of South Korea.

Published Monday in the medical journal Heart, the study involved more than 25,000 male and female workers, who previously showed no signs of heart disease, looking for calcium buildups indicating plaque growth that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

The results showed that those who drank the least amount of coffee, and the most, had a larger amount of calcium in their arteries than those who consumed a moderate amount.

Interestingly, researchers also discovered that the findings were consistent through different subsectors, such as smokers, drinkers and those with obesity issues.

“While this study does highlight a potential link between coffee consumption and lower risk of developing clogged arteries, more research is needed to confirm these findings and understand what the reason is for the association,” Victoria Taylor of the British Heart Foundation told the BBC.

Taylor also noted that the results should not be generalized because different cultures have distinct lifestyle and dietary customs that may also contribute to cardiovascular health.

TIME Research

Eating Peanuts May Be a Low-Cost Way to Improve Your Cardiovascular Health

Closed Up Image of a Black-colored Plate Filled With Peanuts.
DAJ—Amana Images RF/Getty Images

But don’t go nuts

Eating peanuts could be associated with a longer, healthier lifespan and particularly a reduced risk of cardiovascular-related deaths such as heart attacks and strokes, a new study has found.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University and the Shanghai Cancer Institute examined nut intake for people from different ethnic groups and lower-income households.

As peanuts (which are actually legumes) are rich in nutrients and are inexpensive to buy, they could be a cost-effective way to improve cardiovascular health, reports Science Daily.

“In our study, we found that peanut consumption was associated with reduced total mortality and cardiovascular disease mortality in a predominantly low-income black and white population in the U.S., and among Chinese men and women living in Shanghai,” said author of the study, Xiao-Ou Shu.

Previous studies have linked eating nuts to a lower mortality but had generally focused on higher-income, white populations. Researchers claim the new study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine is the first to discover all races could potentially benefit from eating nuts.

They examined three large groups involving more than 70,000 black and white men and women living in the U.S. and more than 130,000 men and women living in Shanghai.

The results found that those who ate peanuts across all three groups had improved total mortality and less cardiovascular disease.

But scientists warn that the study was based on observational data collected from questionnaires, rather than clinical trials, so they cannot determine whether peanuts are specifically responsible for a lower risk of death.

“The findings from this new study, however, reinforce earlier research suggesting health benefits from eating nuts, and thus are quite encouraging,” said William Blot, co-author of the study.

While peanuts may be linked to better cardiovascular health, experts caution against eating too many, especially salted nuts, as they are high in calories.

Researchers say a small handful of nuts could be beneficial if eaten as part of a well-balanced diet.

[Science Daily]

TIME Exercise/Fitness

The Best Workout for Weight Loss

Why intensity matters in exercise

Everyone knows that cardio exercise—by way of a bike ride or a sprint—is key to weight loss. But a high-intensity cardio workout may do a better job of decreasing blood sugar levels than lower intensity exercise, according to a new study in Annals of Internal Medicine.

The study assigned 300 obese people to a group: one that exercised with low intensity for long periods of time or another that engaged in high-intensity workouts for short durations. By the end of six months, people in both groups experienced similar levels of weight loss. But those who had exercised with higher intensities saw reduced two-hour glucose levels, a key measure for predicting conditions like heart disease and stroke. People in the high-intensity group saw a 9% improvement in glucose tolerance, compared to a negligible change in people who took part in low-intensity exercise.

Increasing the intensity of a workout isn’t beyond the reach of most exercisers, according to lead study author Robert Ross, a researcher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. “Higher intensity can be achieved simply by increasing the incline while walking on a treadmill or walking at a brisker pace,” Ross says.

Read more: This Is How Much Exercise Experts Think You Really Need

Still, while high-intensity exercise may have some unique health benefits, the study showed that any exercise is better than none. People who exercised lost 5-6% of their body weight, a 4- to 5-centimeter reduction in waist size.

The study challenges the way public health officials tend to think about the health benefits of exercise. Health organizations often issue guidelines based on time spent exercising. Instead, the study suggests, health officials should consider intensity as well.

TIME vaccines

7 Signs Your Child’s School Has Unvaccinated Students

The resurgence of the measles has drawn scrutiny to California’s fairly lenient vaccine policy, which allows parents to choose a personal-belief exemption to avoid vaccinating their kids. And while parents can send their non-inoculated children to school, the state also publishes detailed information on the vaccination rates at every public and private school in the state.

By comparing this information with characteristics of each school, we were able to draw a detailed picture of what sort of schools are attended by children of vaccine-skeptic parents. Here’s a breakdown by a few different school characteristics.

Vaccination rates go down with the percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch—which is the best school-by-school economic indicator available. In other words: The better off the parents are, the more statistically likely they are to apply for personal-belief exemptions against the otherwise mandatory vaccinations.

Though it’s less commonly discussed, the religious affiliation of a school is also a useful predictor of vaccination rates. (As with all statistical correlations, this does not mean it is the religion that is dictating the choice not to vaccinate.) Baptist and Calvary Chapel schools are particularly likely to have unvaccinated students, though overall, private religious schools have higher vaccination rates than non-religious private schools.

And though they account for only 661 students, Waldorf schools (as identified by the name of the school) have extremely high rates of personal-belief exemptions, to the tune of 38 percent. Mother Jones caught up with a dean at one such Waldorf school who explained that, while there was no recommended policy on vaccines, she was accepting of whatever choice parents made.

Vaccine resistors are also more likely to be found in urban areas, as both the Washington Post and the New York Times have demonstrated.

Methodology

The raw data for this story is available for download on TIME’s GitHub account. The vaccination data was matched to public and private school registries as well as data on free and reduced lunch programs by school. The correlation between the percentage of students receiving free or reduced lunch and the rate of personal belief exemptions is -0.29, and the correlation with the number of enrolled students is -0.18.

TIME Addiction

It’s Really Easy for Teens to Buy E-Cigs Online

TIME.com stock photos E-Cig Electronic Cigarette Smoke
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

Most popular e-cigarette sites fail to verify the age of their clients, finds a new study

Young people under age 18 can buy e-cigarettes online, even in states where it’s illegal, a new study shows.

North Carolina researchers asked 11 teens between ages 14 to 17 who didn’t smoke to try to buy e-cigarettes online from 98 of the most popular Internet vendors. The sale of e-cigarettes to minors in North Carolina is illegal—but of the 98 orders, only five were rejected based on a failed age verification. Eighteen orders failed for problems unrelated to age, like website issues. Overall, the minors made 75 successful orders.

The teens were also asked to answer the door when deliveries were made. None of the companies attempted to confirm age at delivery, and 95% of the time, the orders were just left at the teens’ doors.

The findings are concerning for any state trying to regulate youth access, the authors say. Currently, there’s no federal law forbidding the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, despite the fact that they contain nicotine, which is addictive. In 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed that e-cigarettes fall under their regular tobacco regulation jurisdiction, but the proposal is still not a codified law. “It may be several years before federal regulations are implemented,” the study authors write.

Some states have stepped in and banned the sale to minors within their borders. So far 41 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands forbid such transactions, or have pending legislation to do so.

But as the new study suggests, young people can easily get e-cigarettes online if they want them. “Without strictly enforced federal regulations, online e-cigarette vendors have little motivation to decrease profits by spending the time and money it takes to properly verify customers’ age and reject underage buyers,” says study author Rebecca S. Williams, public health researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

None of the vendors complied with North Carolina’s e-cigarette age-verification law. The majority of U.S. carriers, including USPS, UPS, FedEx, and DHL, ban the delivery of cigarettes, only allowing the delivery of tobacco products from a licensed dealer or distributor to another licensed dealer or distributor. If these rules were extended to e-cigarettes, the study authors argue it would essentially shut down a major loophole in access.

Getting proposed rules like the FDA’s passed takes time, but when it comes to the safety of children, the researchers argue there needs to be more urgency. Prior data has shown that from 2011 to 2013, the number of young Americans who used e-cigarettes but not conventional cigarettes more than tripled, from 79,000 to over 263,000. The study authors conclude that the ease with which teens can get e-cigarettes online—in a state that forbids the practice—stresses the need for more regulation, and fast.

TIME medicine

Antipsychotics Frequently Prescribed to Adults with Dementia Despite Risks

TIME.com stock photos Health Prescription Pills
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

The drugs can increase the risk of death for certain people with dementia

Antipsychotic drugs are being over-prescribed to men and women with dementia, according to a new report from the federal government.

The report published on Monday shows that around one third of older adults with dementia living in nursing homes had been prescribed an antipsychotic in 2012, as well as 14% of older adults with dementia who lived outside a nursing home. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered the numbers when reviewing Medicare’s prescription drug program.

The high number of prescriptions is a concern since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that antipsychotic drugs can increase the risk of death for certain people with dementia. The officials note that while the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has taken steps to address the use of antipsychotic drugs in nursing homes, it still has more outreach to do to educate people about the hazards of prescribing the drugs.

The report shows that patients with dementia are often given the drugs at a hospital, possibly to treat the irritation and mood swings caused by the disorder, and then the drugs continue to be used when the patients enter a nursing home. The drugs are most often prescribed when facilities have low staff numbers.

“Educational efforts similar to those provided for nursing homes should be extended to other settings,” the GAO study’s authors write. The agency recommends more education be provided for caregivers working with patients living at home or in assisted facilities.

TIME neuroscience

Alzheimer’s Protein Found in Young Brains for the First Time

The brain-damaging protein in Alzheimer’s disease may start accumulating as early as in our 20s

For the first time, scientists have found evidence of a protein found in Alzheimer’s disease, called amyloid, in the brains of people as young as 20.

In a report published in the journal Brain, Changiz Geula, a professor at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, reveals that the protein—which gradually builds up and forms sticky plaques in the brain in Alzheimer’s disease—starts appearing early in life. Amyloid is normally made by the brain and has important functions; it’s an antioxidant and promotes the brain’s ability to remain adaptable by forming new connections and reinforcing old ones, especially those involving memory. But in some people, the proteins start to clump together with age, forming sticky masses that interfere with normal nerve function. Eventually, these masses kill neurons by starving them of their critical nutrients and their ability to communicate with other cells.

MORE: New Research on Understanding Alzheimer’s

When Geula compared the autopsy brains from normal people between ages 20-66 years, older people without dementia between 70-99 years, and people with Alzheimer’s between 60-95 years, they found evidence of amyloid in a particular part of the brain in all of them. That region isn’t normally studied in Alzheimer’s, but it plays roles in memory and attention.

The results show that the process responsible for causing Alzheimer’s begins as early as in the 20s, and it also pointed to a population of cells that are especially vulnerable to accumulating amyloid—essentially serving as a harbinger of future disease. “There is some characteristic of these neurons that allows amyloid to accumulate there more than in other neurons,” says Geula. “At least in this cell population, the machinery to form aggregates is there.” Reducing the amount of amyloid in the brains of young people might help halt the formation of Alzheimer’s, he says.

MORE: This Alzheimer’s Breakthrough Could Be a Game Changer

Because the study involved autopsy specimens, there’s no way to tell whether those younger individuals would have gone on to develop Alzheimer’s. But they provide a clue about the early steps behind the disease.

They may also shed light on one way to prevent, or at least minimize, the effects of Alzheimer’s. Experts currently believe that the memory-robbing condition occurs when the balance between the production of amyloid and processes that clear the protein from the brain veer out of balance with age. As more amyloid is left in the brain, it tends to become stickier and adhere to other amyloid fragments, eventually forming damaging plaques. Geula believes that even in people with a genetic predisposition to forming these sticky plaques, removing amyloid as early as possible can slow down the progression of the disease. While there aren’t any effective ways to do this yet, there are promising compounds currently being tested in clinical trials. And given Geula’s findings, those studies become even more critical as a way to help more people to treat and even prevent the disease.

MORE: New Test May Predict Alzheimer’s 10 Years Before Diagnosis

The key, as the findings show, is to start early. “If you can get rid of the background [amyloid], then it can’t do anything,” says Geula.

TIME Sex/Relationships

Teen Dating Violence Harms Both Genders, Government Report Shows

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New data on teen dating violence reveals problems among both sexes

Findings from a new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study reveal that nearly 21% of female teens who date have experienced some form of violence at the hands of their partner in the last year—and almost half of male students report the same.

The survey asked about 9,900 high school students whether they had experienced some type of violence from someone they dated. The results, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, showed that about 7% of teen girls reported experiencing physical violence, 8% said they experienced sexual violence and 6% experienced both. Almost 21% said they were the victim of some type of dating-related violence. For boys, about 4% reported experiencing physical violence, 3% experienced sexual violence and 10% experienced any type. Though girls were more likely to experience violence, the numbers show dating assaults affect young boys as well.

The new CDC survey adds to its prior research into the prevalence of dating violence, but the latest version asked updated questions that include sexual violence and more accurately portray violent behaviors, the study authors say.

Most of the teens surveyed reported experiencing such violence more than one time. The findings also showed that those who experienced some form of dating violence also had a higher prevalence of other health risks like drinking alcohol, using drugs or thinking about suicide.

Future research should look at the frequency of violence in teen dating relationships and how that may harm teens’ health, the researchers conclude.

TIME vaccines

Many Doctors Give In When Parents Want to Space Out Vaccines

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JGI/Jamie Grill—Getty Images/Blend Images

The vast majority of doctors don’t believe that spacing out childhood immunizations is a good idea, but they’re doing it anyway. Here’s why

It’s an eye-opening survey, to say the least, and its findings are clear: Nearly all — 93% — primary care doctors and pediatricians surveyed say that in a typical month, parents ask them to deviate from the recommended childhood immunization schedule and instead give the shots over a longer period of time, according to a report published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. And while nearly 90% thought that such spacing out of the immunizations would put the children, and the community at risk of spreading infectious diseases like measles, 37% said they agreed to do so often or always. That was a 131% increase since the last survey, conducted in 2009, when only 16% said they agreed to changing the recommended vaccine schedule.

“Doctors are feeling really conflicted because they overwhelmingly think this is the wrong thing to do, and is putting children at risk, but at the same time, they want to build trust with their patients and meet people halfway,” says Dr. Allison Kempe, professor of pediatrics at University of Colorado and Children’s Hospital Colorado, who is the lead author of the study.

MORE How Safe Are Vaccines?

Even more concerning, she says, is the fact that 40% of the physicians said that the vaccine issue was the source of their job dissatisfaction. The survey also asked them about different strategies the doctors employed with parents to discuss the importance of following the existing vaccination schedule, but the doctors revealed very little confidence in those methods. In fact, the strategy they believed worked most often only garnered a 20% effectiveness rating, and that was telling parents that the doctors immunized their own children according to the recommended schedule.

“It’s a terrible conflict when I have to make a decision when I’m doing my vaccine orders for a particular child and decide if it’s going to be the pertussis vaccine for that infant or the Hib or the pneumococcal,” says Dr. Julie Boom, director of the immunization project at Texas Children’s Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, of the decision she has to make when parents insist on giving their babies only one immunization during a visit. While Boom makes every effort to discuss with parents the importance of sticking with the recommended immunization schedule, she says “I will offer the vaccine at that visit and explain the risks and benefits of the decision that parent is making and try to get them to come back as quickly as possible to take the next vaccine so the baby will be fully vaccinated as on time as possible.”

MORE Childhood Vaccines Are Safe, Says Pediatrics Group

But she does that knowing that the baby leaves her office at higher risk of potentially getting sick since he is not fully immunized. “The baby leaving my office is at risk of getting the illnesses for which he’s not vaccinated,” she says. “To know I’m going to pick one [vaccine] and leave the other behind, despite all the time I spend explaining the risks and benefits to the parents—it’s very difficult for me.”

And it’s increasingly a problem for her colleagues as well. While parents who refused to vaccinate their children gained the most media attention in recent years and likely contributed to pertussis and measles outbreaks, even more parents – about 13% — used an alternative vaccine schedule that included delaying some of the shots. These parents often express concern about “overloading” their babies’ immune systems with too many shots in one visit (the most that infants generally get are five, at the year-old visit). In the survey, 35% of doctors said they realized that allowing parents to delay shots sent mixed messages; parents could interpret the action as proof that the existing schedule wasn’t so important after all if doctors ended up changing it.

Part of the conflict may come from the advice from organizations to which these physicians turn for help. As some frustrated doctors began to “fire” their patients and refuse to see them if they declined to vaccinate their children or asked for alternative immunization schedules, in 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised its members to not dismiss those parents and urged them to discuss and educate them instead about the importance of vaccinations and of getting them on time. That may explain why 82% of doctors in the current survey said they felt agreeing to delaying some vaccines would build trust with their patients; 80% said that if they refused to accommodate the parents wishes, these parents would leave to find some doctors who would.

MORE Nearly One in Ten Americans Think Vaccines Are Unsafe

“Nobody is in favor of dismissing patients, but I think we need to get a little bit straighter about communicating to these parents about how strongly we feel about vaccinations, and how detrimental spacing them out is for their child,” says Kempe.

Among the most commonly used strategies to convince parents, doctors cited their comfort with vaccinating their own children according to the schedule, stressing that spacing out vaccines puts their children at risk of getting sick, reminding them of recent outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, and explaining that alternative schedule haven’t been studied for their safety. Doctors have even informed parents that bringing their child back for multiple visits to get jabbed with a shot can be more painful for the baby. None were rated by the physicians as being more than 20% effective, leaving doctors at a loss.

MORE Dr. Tom Frieden: Vaccines Can Prevent Measles From Being a Disease of the Future

That’s why professional organizations should take a stronger role in providing doctors with more guidance about what may work and what doesn’t. Conducting more studies on different methods of educating and addressing parents concerns could arm doctors with more data and scientific evidence to back up their belief in the established immunization schedule, for example. Kempe also notes that starting to educate parents earlier, such as during pregnancy, may help to reinforce their comfort with vaccines and what they can do to protect their baby once he is born. And reaching parents and parents-to-be on a more consistent basis may also be key to alleviating their concerns about vaccines. “We as doctors have not exploited mass media or the kinds of media that the anti-vaccine movement has,” says Kempe. “We are not doing a great job of countering the misinformation out there, and also not doing a good job of enlisting parents who are pro-vaccine in a proactive way to establish a social norm.”

Part of that has to do with the fact that the time that doctors typically have with parents during well-baby visits is short. Most doctors reported having to spend at least 10 minutes with parents to address their vaccine concerns; that’s about half of the time of an average visit, which also has to cover other important wellness issues such as nutrition, car safety, and more. So Kempe says other strategies, such as group visits or sessions to address vaccine questions specifically, or designated staff at family practices or pediatricians’ offices who are assigned the task of answering questions about vaccines and vaccine safety might be more effective. In Boom’s practice, she often schedules a separate visit for parents to discuss just their vaccine questions, so she doesn’t feel rushed to come to a decision about whether to help the parents space out vaccines or not.

For Boom, the key is understanding where the parents’ concerns come from. “For one parent it may be about long term effects of vaccinations, and for another it may be something else,” she says. “You have to understand where the misinformation is coming from, and then very specifically address each parent’s questions. It does take time.”

Using this strategy, Boom feels she is relatively successful in educating parents about the need to follow the recommended vaccination schedule. But she admits that working in an academic institution, she has the luxury or more time with her patients.

For those that don’t, it’s clear that frustration is reaching a boiling point in doctors’ offices. “I hope this study is a wake-up call, and I hope it’s time to say ‘okay, what we are doing isn’t working,’ and start asking ‘what should we be doing?’” says Kempe.

Read next: I Was on the Front Line of L.A.’s Last Measles Outbreak

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TIME

TIME Diet/Nutrition

4 Ways to Eat More and Still Lose Weight

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No need to go hungry even if you're on a diet

I love to eat. And I’m lucky: As a food editor, it’s my job. So I always wonder about weight-loss advice that says to eat less and move more.

Be more active: Sure, that’s always good. But eat less? Hmm. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea. Consider the times you’ve gone on a “diet” or resolved to cut out a certain food. When I’ve done that, the only thing I could think about was food, particularly the stuff I decided I couldn’t have.

Read more: Cut Portions and Not Feel Hungry!

These days, I’m all about abundance—as in, I load up my plate with healthy food so I have barely any room for less healthy fare. This strategy is called crowding out, and nutritionists, health coaches, and athletes are using it as an alternative to traditional diets.

The rules of crowding out

Ease into it: For this tactic to work, you have to genuinely like healthier foods. It can be an adjustment, especially if your diet includes processed foods. Thing is, “when you eat more simply, your cravings change,” says Brendan Brazier, author of the Thrive book series and a former pro Ironman triathlete. “Stuff you used to go for, like potato chips and packaged cookies, begin to seem overflavored, and you want them less.” One European study found it can take as few as 18 days to form a new eating habit, though it varies by person. Start small: Have avocado instead of dressing on a salad, and sauté vegetables with olive oil, garlic and a bit of salt and pepper instead of a rich sauce.

Read more: 13 Veggies You Only Think You Don’t Like

Vegetables, vegetables, vegetables: You can eat nonstarchy ones with abandon, just as long as they’re not deep-fried. Begin with breakfast: Scramble an egg or two with a cup of chopped onions, peppers, mushrooms, and/or spinach. (The scramble will look like a lot of vegetables with a little bit of egg holding it all together—that’s what you want.) At lunchtime, take half your regular amount of sandwich fillings and place them on a big bowl of mixed greens instead of bread. Or make substitutions in foods you already love: Replace some of the beef in Mom’s stew recipe with extra chunks of parsnip, carrots or mushrooms.

Read more: The 20 Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast

Crowd out, don’t pile on: “What you want to avoid is just adding healthy items to your usual intake, which could result in overeating,” notes Brittany Kohn, a registered dietitian in New York City. She suggests having, for example, a baked sweet potato to crowd out a side of French fries, rather than eating both.

Grab something sweet: “Add a sweet-tasting item to your main course to fight urges for sugary desserts,” advises health coach Katrine van Wyk, author of Best Green Eats Ever ($15; amazon.com). “I love a salad with apple or pear. It’s a simple tweak that makes my clients feel more satisfied with fewer cravings.”

I say it all the time: Eating is one of life’s great pleasures. Food is fuel, nourishment, sharing, joy, celebration. Battling your hunger just leads to frustration. Instead, I’ve learned to love—and be creative with—all the amazing whole, largely plant-based foods I can down with gusto. Go ahead: Embrace eating!

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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