TIME Research

Firefighter Deaths Could be Linked to Poor Sleep

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Almost 40% of firefighters suffer from at least one sleep disorder

Sleep problems could be a major factor in explaining why more than 60 percent of firefighter deaths are caused by heart attacks and traffic accidents, a new study published in The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has found.

Researchers sampled almost 7,000 firefighters across the U.S. and examined how many tested positive for sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, shift-work disorder and restless leg syndrome, the New York Times reports.

They found that 37 percent of firefighters suffered from at least one type of sleep disorder.

“Our findings demonstrate the impact of common sleep disorders on firefighter health and safety, and their connection to the two leading causes of death among firefighters,” said lead author Laura K. Barger. “Unfortunately, more than 80% of firefighters who screened positive for a common sleep disorder were undiagnosed and untreated.”

Barber’s team found that when compared with those who had a good night’s sleep, firefighters who had a sleep disorder were more likely to crash their car or fall asleep at the wheel.

They are also more likely to report serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression and anxiety.

[NYT]

TIME ebola

Doctor Infected With Ebola in Sierra Leone to Receive Treatment in U.S.

US Journalist Who Contracted Ebola In Liberia Treated At Nebraska Medical Center
Nebraska Medical Center on Oct. 6, 2014 in Omaha, Nebraska. Eric Francis—Getty Images

Will be cared for at Omaha's Nebraska Medical Center

A surgeon who contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone is being flown to the United States for treatment to begin this weekend, according to a report Thursday.

The unidentified doctor is originally from the West African nation but is a permanent U.S. resident, CBS News reports. The patient will be the third to be cared for at Omaha’s Nebraska Medical Center, which earlier had successfully treated American aid worker Dr. Rick Sacra and video journalist Ashoka Mukpo.

News of the patient’s upcoming arrival comes two days after Ebola patient Craig Spencer was discharged from a New York City hospital and declared virus-free. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are at the heart of the largest Ebola outbreak in recorded history, with more than 5,000 people dead so far, according to the World Health Organization.

[CBS News]

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Reasons to Exercise That Aren’t Weight Loss

Why you shouldn't give up the gym

Despite conventional calorie-burning wisdom, some people appear to not lose weight when they exercise, says a new study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. In fact, some actually gain weight, and it’s not all muscle mass.

The study, by Arizona State University in Phoenix researchers, looked at 81 sedentary, overweight women who exercised three times a week for 30 minutes in a lab. After 12 weeks, the researchers found that some women lost weight while others gained weight. But when they tried to identify what was causing the differences, they couldn’t come to any conclusions. “In reality, most people do not achieve or sustain weight loss, no matter what method they try,” wrote New York Times writer Gretchen Reynolds on Wednesday.

Basically, major bummer. But there are many other reasons to exercise besides trying to shed a few pounds, and they’re equally important for your health:

1. Memory Loss: Chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalances are a couple of factors that can play a part in memory loss, and exercise can help both. Exercise promotes better blood flow through the body, and the brain works better with a healthy blood supply. For example, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease showed that people who spent time on a stationary bike had better memory recall than those who were sedentary.

2. Stress: Exercise has long been prescribed as a way to burn off steam and relax. It’s even recommended as a way to fight depression. How? Exercise keeps the brain occupied, and keeps the stress hormone cortisol in check which can lower symptoms for anxiety and restlessness, according to The Exercise Cure, by sports medicine physician Dr. Jordan Metzl. After a rough day at work or before a big exam or interview, even just a walk around the block can ease nerves.

3. Fatigue: It may sound counterintuitive, but working out can actually make you less tired than skipping the gym. A 2007 University of Georgia study showed that sedentary people could lower their fatigue by 65% if they started engaging in regular low intensity exercise. Increasing energy through exercise is also a safer and cheaper alternative to turning to quick fixes like energy drinks.

4. Cardiovascular disease: Getting regular exercise does the heart some good. In a 2012 study, researchers found that people who partook in moderate intensity exercise like brisk walking compared to leisurely walking reduced their chances of developing risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. The effect might be related to exercise’s benefits on lowering inflammation in the body.

5. Lower back pain: Back pain is a very common ailment, and studies have shown that the right kind of exercises like strength training can lower pain. Exercise is also one of the simplest ways to protect your body from future injuries.

 

TIME Cancer

Young Smokers Put Millions at Risk, CDC Says

Kid Smoker
Diverse Images/UIG/Getty Images

5.6 million young people under age 17 could die early

Over 1 in 5 high school students use tobacco products, and unless rates drop significantly, 5.6 million young people under age 17 will die early from a smoking-related illness, according to a recent report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Among young people who use tobacco products, over 90% are using nicotine vectors like cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and pipes. The vast majority of smokers try their first cigarette by the time they turn 18. The findings were published Thursday in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The CDC analyzed its National Youth Tobacco Survey and report that in 2013, 22.9% of high school students and 6.5% of middle schoolers said they had used tobacco in the last 30 days. Those rates are slightly down from 2012, where 23.3% of high school students and 6.7% of middle schoolers said they’d used some form of tobacco in the last month. Unfortunately, the new numbers still show that close to 50% of all high schoolers and almost 18% of all middle schoolers have used a tobacco product at least once.

What about e-cigarettes? They’re still less popular than the traditional products: 4.5% of high schoolers and 1.1% of middle schoolers said they used them in the last month. How great of a problem e-cigarettes are for public health is still debated, but the products do contain nicotine, so therefore considered unsafe for kids.

One item of particular concern to the FDA are cigars, because they are taxed at a lower rate and often made to look like cigarettes, even having fruity flavors. Some are not regulated by the FDA in the way cigarettes are, which experts cite as a major concern.

Cigarette smoking kills more than 480,000 Americans every year, and for each death, there are about 32 people living with a smoking-related illness. It costs the U.S. economy billions in medical costs and loss in productivity. One strategy to make smoking less appealing to young people (besides the long list of terrifying health risks, like lung cancer) is by hiking up the price of tobacco, and launching more youth-targeted social campaigns, the CDC says.

Smokers can get free help quitting by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

TIME Cancer

The Cancer Breakthrough With Big Implications

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Lung cancer cell STEVE GSCHMEISSNER—Getty Images/Science Photo Library RM

Screening tumors could lead to smarter decisions about which cancer treatments will work best for individual patients

Once you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, you’re sent for a dizzying array of tests — but most of them are focused on you, as the living host of the tumors, and not on the malignant growths themselves.

That may soon change, as researchers report in the journal Science. Some cancer centers already take biopsies of tumors and run them through genetic tests, to get a better sense of what’s driving the cancer. That information can be helpful in deciding which of the growing number of targeted anti-cancer drugs will work best to stop those growths.

MORE: Promising New Cancer Treatment Uses Immune Cells

But the down side of these powerful drugs is that tumors become resistant to them relatively quickly, often within a year or two. So to find better ways of stopping such resistance from developing, Jeffrey Engelman and his co-senior author Cyril Benes from Massachusetts General Hospital took tumor testing one step further. They actually allowed some of those tumor cells — from lung cancers — to grow in a lab dish. That made it possible to throw various anti-cancer drugs at them to see how the cancer cells responded — providing a valuable window into how the tumors inside the body might react.

They found, not surprisingly, that hitting tumors with combinations of targeted drugs could effectively shut down the cancer cells’ ability to resist the treatment. When they transplanted the human tumors into mice, those given the combination of drugs saw their growths shrink, and the drugs remained active nearly twice as long as the single drug in suppressing tumor growth. The findings could help doctors to tailor cancer treatments specifically to individual patients and help them to avoid drug resistance and ultimately improve their chances of surviving their cancer.

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

“It’s a substantial step,” says Engelman of the results. “Because before we just had the genetic information but we wouldn’t have the cells alive so that we could test what types of therapies might work.”

He and Benes stress that they haven’t used their screening method yet to guide any patient treatment decisions, but hope that will happen soon. They’re encouraged by the fact that their method identified several mutations that might be driving cancer that hadn’t been known before, thus opening up the number of drugs that target these abnormalities that patients could take.

“Sometimes there are genetic mutations in genes that we can’t target [with a drug]. Sometimes there is ambiguity in genetics — we know the mutations but we don’t know what they mean, or there are multiple mutations together and we don’t know how to treat them. And sometimes we don’t know what mutations are driving the cancer,” says Engelman. But by testing the actual tumor cells against well known drugs or drug combinations, researchers wouldn’t have to know the answers to all of these questions. Instead they could cut straight to the arguable most important outcome — finding the best drugs for treating a particular patient’s cancer. Ultimately, the researchers see such drug screening as going hand in hand with genetic screening – the gene tests would identify the known mutations, and that would inform which drugs to test tumor cells against.

Before that happens, Engleman and Benes admit that more refinements need to be made in their process. Now, it takes two to six months to grow the tumor cells properly in order to be screened by the drugs. That time needs to be shrunk to a weeks or even days if doctors and patients can take advantage of the information. But they’re confident that will happen. “We know ways to cut this shorter,” says Engelman. “What’s exciting is that this technology make you think you have a real shot at getting there. And we’re going to take that shot.”

TIME ebola

Ebola Treatment Trials to Start in December

The international humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders will start testing three new Ebola therapies at their sites in Africa in December

The health group Doctors Without Borders said Thursday that it will begin testing three therapies it hopes will prove effective in treating Ebola, as the death toll from the disease’s worst outbreak ever surpassed 5,000 and with and with more than 14,000 still affected in West Africa.

The group, which is leading the on-the-ground care of Ebola patients in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, is partnering with researchers and clinicians who want to learn more about the most promising treatments for Ebola, so that their doctors can provide patients more than the supportive care they deliver now.

MORE: We’re getting closer to vaccines and drugs for Ebola

“We are on the front line, and when you have a disease that kills 50% to 70% of patients, then we have a certain responsibility to try to do our best to host trials for treatments in our facilities,” says Bertrand Draguez, medical director of Doctors Without Borders.

None of the therapies have been tested in the traditional way of moving through all stages of animal models and then into safety and efficacy trials in people. Instead, they are jumping from animal trials and early human safety studies in healthy people directly into patients. But given the urgency of the escalating epidemic, Draguez says, “the worst case scenario would be to not test anything.”

MORE: How Guinea found the vest way to survive Ebola

One trial, spearheaded by the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) will see how well the antiviral drug favipiravir fares against Ebola in Gueckedou, Guinea. Another, headed by the Wellcome Trust, will test the antiviral drug brincidofovir at one of Doctors Without Borders’ treatment centers in the region that hasn’t been designated yet. Finally, the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine will look at the effects of whole blood and plasma from Ebola survivors at the Ebola treatment center in Conakry, Guinea.

Why these three therapies? Draguez says they rose to the top of the list because of a combination of their promise in controlling the Ebola virus and their availability. Other treatments, such as ZMapp, a combination of antibodies that helped at least two U.S. aid workers survive their infections, are worth studying but won’t be available in enough doses to properly test in West Africa. “We said ‘OK, even if a drug looks promising we have to start with what we have,’” says Draguez. Both brincidofovir and favipiravir also have the added advantage of being oral pills and therefore more easily given to and taken by patients, many of whom are too weak to eat.

MORE: Here’s what scientists know about Ebola in Sierra Leone

Patients at the trial sites will be asked if they want to participate in testing new, experimental therapies for treating Ebola, and will be given detailed information about the drugs and their potential risks. Any patient can refuse to participate, and his care will not be affected by his decision.

The trails will focus on how well they help patients to survive for 14 days after the therapies start—enough time, the researchers hope, to suppress Ebola’s activity and encourage the patients’ own immune systems to fight the infection and begin to clear the virus.

MORE: WHO chief says Ebola response ‘did not match’ scale of the outbreak

The trials represent an important first step in gathering critical information about how best to treat Ebola infection. To date, such data is sparse—most of the information comes from case studies, and those primarily involved supportive care such as hydration and nutrition, which are important for patients in the early stages of infection, but can’t help those who are sicker. The handful of cases involving some of the experimental therapies aren’t enough to guide doctors on proper dosing, nor are they sufficient to give physicians confidence that they aren’t doing more harm than good when they use them.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the countries’ Ministries of Health are also working with Doctors Without Borders and the study leaders to conduct the trials. WHO also recently announced plans to test two vaccines in West Africa as well.

All of these trials are designed to finally provide some order in the house of Ebola treatments. While the goal is to turn the results around quickly—the first data are expected in February 2015—it’s possible that much of what is learned from these trials may come too late for those currently infected. But they will prove invaluable for the inevitable outbreaks that emerge in the future.

MORE: See How Ebola Drugs Grow In Tobacco Leaves

TIME ebola

Liberia Lifts Ebola State of Emergency

Liberian President Sirleaf And USAID Administrator Shah Hold Press Conference
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks at a press conference on October 14, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. She met with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah at her office at the Liberian Foreign Ministry. Sirleaf, winner of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, has called on the international community to do more to help combat the Ebola epidemic that has killed more than 4,400 people in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization, with roughly half of that total in Liberia. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images) John Moore—Getty Images

An estimated 2,800 people have died of the disease there

The President of Liberia said she would not extend a state of emergency on Thursday, amid encouraging signs that the spread of the deadly Ebola virus there has slowed.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s announcement effectively lifts the state of emergency, which had expired earlier this month, Reuters reports.

An estimated 2,800 people have died of the disease in Liberia, the hardest hit country in an outbreak that has claimed over 5,000 lives. But the rate of increase there appears to have slowed.

“Notwithstanding these gains, a number of our compatriots are still lying in ETUs (Ebola Treatment Units), hot-spots are springing up in rural areas, and a few more of our compatriots are still dying of Ebola,” Sirleaf said.

[Reuters]

TIME medicine

Science Says These Are the Best Ways to Swallow Pills

Human hand hold medicine
Yasser Chalid—Moment Open/Getty Images

Lean forward or lean back?

For anyone who has ever choked or spit water out while trying to swallow a pill (which, let’s face it, we all have), a new study finally has answers for you.

The study published in the Annals of Family Medicine sought to determine the effectiveness of swallowing pills with what it called the “pop-bottle method” and the “lean forward technique.” The pop-bottle method had participants place the pill on their tongue and swallow it in one motion with a drink from a plastic bottle, and the lean forward technique had subjects swallow the capsule in an upright position with their heads bent forward.

The study found that both techniques “substantially facilitated” swallowing pills, even in subjects who had previously reported difficulty. Between the two methods, people preferred the lean forward technique—88.5% of participants reported improvement with the pop-bottle technique, and 96.9% did with lean forward.

So next time you face the daunting task of swallowing a pill, try tipping your head forward.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Should You Eat Gluten-Free Bread?

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

GF-BREAD
Illustration by Lon Tweeten for TIME

5/5 experts say no.

For people who don’t have Celiac disease or a gluten allergy, leave the GF stuff on the shelf, say all five experts. And even the gluten-averse might be better off without it.

Gluten-free bread ditches wheat, rye and barley, and typically uses four main starches in their stead—cornstarch, rice flour, tapioca starch and potato flour, says William Davis, MD, author of Wheat Belly Total Health. “They have the highest glycemic indexes (an index of how high blood sugar rises over the 90 minutes after consumption) of all foods. So high, in fact, that, gram for gram, ounce for ounce, such gluten-free foods raise blood sugar substantially higher than table sugar and higher than wheat products.”

These replacement grains are also more likely to be low in fiber and not fortified with B vitamins, says Joseph Murray, MD, a celiac disease expert, gastroenterologist and professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Plus, gluten-lacking loaves cost way more: GF products are 242% more expensive than their regular versions, found one 2008 study. (Oh, and they taste worse too, Murray adds.)

MORE: The Rise of Celiac Disease Still Stumps Scientists

GF bread lovers, if you’re out there, don’t get too deflated. Those who have a medical reason to avoid regular bread can find it useful, say both Ciaran P. Kelly, MD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and Tricia Thompson, an RD who calls herself the Gluten-Free Dietitian. (Thompson cautions, however, that if you suspect you’re sensitive to gluten, evicting it from your diet won’t necessarily prove you have an allergy. “If you start a gluten-free diet before being tested, you may never receive an accurate diagnosis,” she says, because while just 1% of us have Celiac disease, only about 17% of those who have it have been diagnosed.)

Some experts also contend that while you can take gluten out of a loaf, you can’t take out the carbs. That’s a problem for David Perlmutter, MD, author of Grain Brain and The Grain Brain Cookbook. “Carbs pave the way for metabolic problems like diabetes,” he says. “So no bread, even if it’s gluten free.”

There you have it: five solid thumbs down. Nothing unites gluten lovers, gluten haters and carb-alarmists quite like a gluten-free loaf.

Read next: Should I Drink Coconut Water?

TIME Exercise/Fitness

5 Ways to Make Yourself Work Out When You Don’t Want To

gym
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Schedule a weekly class, run, walk, hike, or tennis match with your friend, partner, or family member

As the days start to get shorter and the temperatures drop, you may be tempted to slack off on your workout routine. After all, it’s also no longer swimsuit season and we can hide under cozy layers! But it’s so important to keep moving and find something you not only love to do but also can do all year round.

For instance, during the spring and summer, I love to run, bike, swim, play tennis, chase my little guy all over the playground and hike with him in his baby carrier. But as winter approaches, I can fall back on my yoga practice, Pilates workouts, bundled walks, strength training, and skiing. Though, there are still some mornings when I would much rather snuggle in bed.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Products That May Help You Sleep

Here are some motivational tricks to help you break a sweat because you’ll definitely feel better after working out—and have the body to show for it winter, spring, summer, and fall.

1. Drink a cup of joe

Coffee is an ergogenic aid and can stimulate you to work out and help you last longer during your workout. Also, if you tell yourself, ‘I’m going to have a cup of coffee then lift weights’ you’ll have something set in your head. Try to keep this trick for you AM or midday workouts not later in the evening, though.

HEALTH.COM: The 20 Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast

2. Plan your reward

Promise yourself you can only view the latest episode of “Scandal” or “New Girl” after you log a workout. Or if you’re not a TV watcher, give yourself some sort of reward for working out. I tell myself once I do my yoga practice, then I can surf the web for cute clothes for my baby boy.

3. Make a date

Schedule a weekly class, run, walk, hike, or tennis match with your friend, partner, or family member. I’m part of an Upper West Side Moms stroller walk and talk meet-up group in New York City. I get so much out of meeting other moms and spending an hour working out with them while still being with my son. Find something you can do—even if it’s joining a bowling league—that meets weekly and gets you excited to move.

HEALTH.COM: 20 Ways to Make Exercise a Habit That Lasts

4. Listen to your playlist

It’s like Pavlov’s dog: if you have a great playlist to work out to, once you play it, chances are you’ll get in the mood to break a sweat. Any upbeat music can get you in the mood to move your body. Just turn on Pandora or your favorite artist and dance around your living room or put on your headphones and go outside or to the gym to run.

5. Buy yourself new workout clothes

When I get a new yoga tank or an awesome pair of workout pants, I want to use them! I update my wardrobe each season with clothes that work for the whether. Invest in some fun long sleeve workout tops, get a long pair of running pants that will block the wind, find layers you love, and dress for success. I loved back-to-school shopping as s little girl and couldn’t wait to wear each outfit every day. I channel that same enthusiasm and excitement in to my workout wardrobe and plan some fun, new workout classes to take.

HEALTH.COM: 24 Fat-Burning Ab Exercises (No Crunches!)

This article originally appeared on Health.com

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