TIME ebola

Mali Minister of Health Confirms First Ebola Case

First case is a 2-year-old

Mali’s Minister of Health said the country has its first case of Ebola in a tweet Thursday.

The patient is reportedly a two-year-old girl who recently came into the country from Guinea, Reuters reported. The country borders Guinea, where the Ebola outbreak started. Mali is one of the first countries to start experimental vaccine trials.

TIME Heart Disease

How Mindfulness Protects Your Heart

Mauro Speziale—Getty Images

Tuning in to your body is good for your health

Self-aware people have better heart health, a new study suggests.

People who are mindful score higher on healthy heart indicators, according to recent findings published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine from Brown University researchers. The team looked at whether having something called “dispositional mindfulness”—which means you’re the type of person who’s very aware and attentive to what you’re feeling and thinking at any given moment—was a factor for heart health. They found a pretty significant connection: people with high mindfulness scores had an 83% greater prevalence of good cardiovascular health.

Having dispositional mindfulness doesn’t necessarily mean you’re regularly practicing mindfulness processes, like meditation. For some people, being more present is a natural part of their personality. For the rest of us, some say, it can be learned.

In the study, the researchers asked 382 people to evaluate statements that measure their level of mindfulness. Participants responded to statements like “I find it difficult to stay focused on what’s happening in the present”on a six point scale ranging from “almost always” to “almost never.” The participants who scored highest with the best mindfulness scores also had very healthy scores when it came to the seven American Heart Association indicators for cardiovascular health. Those include avoiding smoking, being physically active, having a healthy body mass index, consuming decent amounts of fruits and vegetables, and maintaining good cholesterol, blood pressure and fasting blood glucose levels.

The associations appeared to be strongest with factors including smoking, BMI, fasting glucose and physical activity. “The society we live in right now is very promoting of cardiovascular disease…cigarettes are still pretty inexpensive, and jobs are sedentary,” says study author Eric Loucks, an assistant professor in epidemiology at Brown University. “People who are more mindful tend to have more awareness of where their mind and bodies are at. By increasing our awareness, we might become more aware of the impact of what we are doing on ourselves.” If a mindful person is less physically active, Loucks suggests, they might notice that they have less energy.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has been taught in some medical settings for years, and Loucks points out that mindfulness scores tend to go up with the practice. “It does seem like mindfulness can be taught,” he says. “I think it’s good for it to be available for people who are interested in it…we shouldn’t force people to go mindfulness [training] if they don’t want to go. But it has the potential to be a resource.”

The findings are still preliminary, and the reasons for the connection are still inconclusive. But if corroborated, mindfulness interventions may be non-invasive ways to help people adopt healthier behaviors.

TIME ebola

Health Care Worker Tests Positive for Ebola at New York City Hospital

The entrance to Bellevue Hospital on Oct. 23, 2014 after a doctor who recently returned to New York from West Africa was rushed with a fever t o be tested for possible Ebola, the city's health department said.
The entrance to Bellevue Hospital on Oct. 23, 2014 after a doctor who recently returned to New York from West Africa was rushed with a fever t o be tested for possible Ebola, the city's health department said. Timothy A. Clary—AFP/Getty Images

A test confirmed he has the virus

A health care worker who was rushed to New York City’s Bellevue Hospital Thursday has reportedly tested positive for Ebola.

Craig Spencer had recently returned to the United States from one of the three West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak. The New York Times reported Thursday night that the Centers for Disease Control will need to confirm the initial positive test.

Spencer was transported to Bellevue by a specially-trained team wearing personal protective equipment, after he reported experiencing fever and gastrointestinal symptoms. Given the health care worker’s recent travel history, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York City Department of Health concluded that he should undergo Ebola testing. They also screened for more common illnesses like Malaria.

The patient recently worked with Doctors Without Borders, and contacted the group Thursday morning to report a fever, the organization confirmed. “As per the specific guidelines that Doctors Without Borders provides its staff on their return from Ebola assignments, the individual engaged in regular health monitoring and reported this development immediately,” Doctors Without Borders said in a statement sent to TIME.

Disease detectives from the City’s Health Department have already started actively tracing the patient’s contacts as a precaution. They will notify and isolate anyone at potential risk of contracting Ebola. A White House official told TIME Obama has been briefed on the New York case multiple times Thursday.

New York City previously designated Bellevue Hospital to receive any Ebola patients that should enter the city. Bellevue has also been preparing to accept Ebola patients from other hospitals if need be. New York City hospitals in general have been preparing and drilling for the possibility of a patient with Ebola since August, most recently by holding an an Ebola education session for over 5,000 local health care workers on Tuesday.

This is the second time New York City has seen a potential case of Ebola. In the first case, a patient at Mount Sinai Hospital wound up testing negative for the virus.

–with additional reporting by Zeke Miller

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

Reliving A Friend’s Death May Help Lessen Grief

Nearly 40% of those who did not relive a the death of a loved one showed signs of prolonged grief disorder

Reliving the death of a close friend or family member may reduce the experience of long-term grief, according to a new study in JAMA Psychiatry.

The study assigned 80 people who had lost a loved one within the past few years to a 10-week regimen of cognitive behavioral therapy. Some of them were also assigned to exposure therapy, in which patients were made to relive the death of the loved one. Nearly 38% of those who did not get the additional exposure therapy showed symptoms of prolonged grief disorder, which includes yearning for the person who’s gone, bitterness about accepting the death and difficulty in engaging in life. Only 15% of those people who got the extra treatment showed signs of it.

Painful as it is, reliving a death may improve a patient’s ability to process loss and adapt to it, the study suggests.

“Including exposure therapy that promotes emotional processing of memories of the death is an important component to achieve optimal reduction in [grief] severity,” the study reads. “Despite the distress elicited by engaging with memories of the death, this strategy does not lead to aversive responses.”

Though researchers acknowledge some limitations, the study’s implications suggest some changes in the way doctors approach treatment for those in grief.

“Reluctance to engage with their distressing emotions may be a major reason for not managing the grief more effectively,” the study reads. “The challenge is to foster better education of clinicians through evidence-supported interventions to optimize adaption to the loss as effectively as possible.”

TIME Infectious Disease

University of Maryland Confirms Meningitis Cases

The University of Maryland has confirmed an unknown number of meningitis cases among its students.

“There are confirmed and suspected cases of viral meningitis and viral syndromes on campus, and they are being tracked carefully by the University Health Center in partnership with the Prince George’s County Health Department,” University Health Center Director Dr. David McBride said in a statement sent to TIME on Thursday. “We have reached out to the organizations that are primarily affected with information about the condition and what to do in the event that they are feeling unwell.”

Viral meningitis is less severe than bacterial meningitis, but it can still cause stiff necks, nausea and fever. There’s no specific medication for the illness, but most people recover within seven to 10 days. Hospitalization may be necessary in particularly severe cases.

College students are thought to be at a greater risk for viral meningitis than the general population due to the closeness of college life, like sharing cups, living with roommates and eating in dining halls.

TIME ebola

#TheBrief: What Are the Rights of People Quarantined for Ebola?

The term "quarantine" goes back to the Bubonic Plague epidemic. How has it evolved since then?

A tense waiting game ended this week for family and several others who had come into contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient to be diagnosed in the U.S. with Ebola and who died of the virus on Oct. 9. All received a clean bill of health after being closely monitored for signs of infection and kept in isolation for three weeks.

But while many in Dallas breathed a sigh of relief, fears sparked anew in New Jersey when an airline passenger showing signs of fever arrived from Liberia, one of the countries hit hardest by the current outbreak, and was sent to a medical center in case he might have contracted Ebola. With more people facing the possibility of detainment as a precaution, it’s important to get all the facts on what it actually means to be quarantined.

Watch this brief history on how outbreaks have been handled since the plague days, as well as a primer on what kinds of rights you have while being held and monitored for symptoms.

TIME Cancer

Here’s How Well Your Genes Can Predict Your Breast Cancer Risk

Researchers say genetic sequencing can predict breast cancer risk better than previously thought

Your genes have a lot to say about who you are and how healthy you are. But for certain diseases, including cancer, so many genes are likely involved that it’s hard for doctors to come up with a useful, reliable way to turn your DNA information into a precise risk score.

But in a paper published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, researchers say that combining the known genetic players in breast cancer can predict with much higher accuracy a newborn girl’s theoretical risk of developing the disease.

MORE: Angelina Jolie’s Surgery May Have Doubled Genetic Testing Rates at One Clinic

Alice Whittemore, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Stanford University School and Medicine, and her colleagues included 86 known genetic variants that have been associated with breast cancer—including BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are relatively rare but confer a very high risk of disease compared to those that have a smaller contribution—and created a computer model that took into account the rates of breast cancer among women who had these genetic variants.

This model served as a predictor for breast cancer based on womens’ genetic makeup. When researchers looked at the top 25% of risk scores, they found that these would account for about half of breast cancer cases in the future. Using previous models, genetic variants could account for only 35% of future cancer cases.

“Our results are more optimistic than those that have been previously published,” says Whittemore, “because we took 86 known genetic variants associated with breast cancer, and took what was in the world’s literature about how common those variants are, and by how much a factor they increase risk. And the more genetic variants that are identified, the better we will get at this.”

MORE: BRCA Gene Can Be A Cancer Triple Whammy, Study Finds

Since the paper was submitted, several new genetic variants have been linked to breast cancer, and adding those to the model, says Whittemore, could make it more effective.

But just because a woman may have been born with a high genetic risk for breast cancer doesn’t mean that she can’t change that risk. The model found that lifestyle factors, which are in a woman’s control, can generally lower that genetic risk as well. And the higher a woman’s genetic risk, the more she can reduce it with healthy behaviors.

“The news is that even if you are at high genetic risk of developing breast cancer, it’s all the more reason to do what you can to modify your lifestyle to lower your risk by changeable factors even if your genes aren’t changeable,” says Whittemore.

TIME Healthcare

Need Your Flu Shot? Just Call an Uber

Uber Taxi App In Madrid
In this photo illustration the new smart phone taxi app 'Uber' shows how to select a pick up location next to a taxi lane on October 14, 2014 in Madrid, Spain. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez—Getty Images

The one-day program is available in three U.S. cities

Uber on Thursday launched a one-day pilot program to deliver free flu shots and flu prevention packs in three major U.S. cities.

The UberHEALTH service will be available only Thursday in Boston, New York and Washington, D.C., between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. ET, according to Uber’s blog. The service can be requested while ordering a ride on the Uber app, after which a registered nurse will administer flu shots and distribute materials for up to 10 people at no additional cost.

The free flu shot service, which is a partner project with Vaccine Finder, is only the latest of Uber’s limited time specials. Uber has previously rolled out delivery services for air conditioners and diapers, and even its own Optimus Prime.

 

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Here’s the Good-Bad News About Trans Fats

trans fat apple pie
Getty Images

We still need to slash trans fat consumption, a new study finds

We’re eating less trans fat than we did 30 years ago, but we haven’t cut it by enough. A new study in The Journal of the American Heart Association analyzed the types of fat 12,000 adults were eating through six surveys that were part of the Minnesota Health Survey.

Between 1980-2009, both men and women slashed their trans fat consumption by about a third—32% and 35%, respectively. That’s encouraging, but the study also found that 1.9% of men’s daily calories come from trans fat, while 1.7% of women’s calories do. Per American Heart Association guidelines, that number should be much smaller: no more than 1% of daily calories.

Saturated fat dropped too, but people still eat about twice as much as the American Heart Association thinks is healthy. Omega-3 intake didn’t change much, and the group thinks it should be higher.

That makes for a mixed report card on fat, and another recent study found that we eat way more trans fat than we think. It lurks in all kinds of packaged foods—even in the labels that read “0 grams of trans fat”—and is linked to a higher risk of heart disease. Last year, the FDA declared that it’s considering revoking trans fat’s classification as “generally recognized as safe,” or GRAS.

To steer clear of added trans fat, check ingredient labels for words like “partially hydrogenated oil.” Even a little goes a long way toward 1% of your daily calories.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should I Eat Cheese?

Welcome to Should I Eat This?—our weekly poll of five experts who answer nutrition questions that gnaw at you.

should i eat cheese
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

4/5 experts say yes.

Science types are a rational folk. But dangle a block of cheese in front of them and, nutrition be damned, taste comes first.

“Good bread, good cheese, and good wine? The best,” says Dr. David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “And frankly, pleasure is good for health.”

Meanwhile, Chuck Benbrook, research professor at Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, also gives cheese the thumb’s up—but with a caveat. He’s the author of several studies about dairy, including one from 2013 that found organic dairy has 62% more healthy omega-3s than conventional milk, partly due to the cow’s diet of fresh grass. Now, he’s a convert. “Pasture grasses and legumes provide milk cows with the building blocks for health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids, as well as the rich, earthy flavor in grass-fed whole milk,” he says. And he only eats full-fat cheese (so there’s your scientific blessing to skip the skim stuff).

Speaking of fat, there might be something unique about the kind that comes from dairy. Recent research linked French Canadians’ dairy consumption to better metabolic health. The study author Iwona Rudkowska, a researcher at the CHU de Québec Research Center, points out that dairy contains a fatty acid has been shown to have health-promoting effects on metabolic health, including diabetes, she says.

Cheese—well, the fat in cheese—even helps our bodies absorb more nutrients during digestion, says Sylvie Turgeon, researcher and professor in the food science department at Université Laval in Québec. (The Québecois, it seems, really love their fromage.)

But in the health department, cheese gets a demerit from Katz. “In addition to be highly concentrated in calories and saturated fat, cheese tends to be very high in sodium,” says Katz. “It’s a good protein source, but there are better ones that don’t have such baggage.”

Registered dietitian Lindsay Malone, from the Cleveland Clinic, agrees. “A better way to spice up your salad, sandwich or snack,” she says, is “nuts, nut butters or avocados.”

If the thought of a grilled-nut-butter-sandwich gets you down, don’t despair. You can—and probably should—eat cheese sparingly for its protein, calcium and vitamin D, Malone says. Two slices of Swiss pack 44% of your daily calcium and 15 grams of protein.

The results are clear: even nutrition buffs go weak in the knees for cheese.

Read next: Should I Eat Eggs?

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