TIME Exercise/Fitness

Yoga Makes You a Quicker, Better Thinker, Study Finds

Woman doing yoga
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Stretching and toning exercises did not change brain functioning

Practice hatha yoga consistently for eight weeks and you’re likely to think faster and better remember things. Stretch and do toning exercises and your brain functioning is likely to stay the same, according to a new eight-week study of more than 100 adults with ages ranging from 55 to 79.

“Participants in the yoga intervention group showed significant improvements in working memory capacity, which involves continually updating and manipulating information,” said Edward McAuley, a professor at the University of Illinois and co-author of the study, in a statement. “They were also able to perform the task at hand quickly and accurately, without getting distracted. These mental functions are relevant to our everyday functioning, as we multitask and plan our day-to-day activities.”

Controlling for other factors like age and gender, the study concluded that practicing yoga did lead to the improved brain functioning. Hatha yoga requires focus and meditation, which may have caused improved brain functioning in other tasks, according to study co-author and University of Illinois researcher Neha Gothe.

Still, researchers called for additional, longer-term studies to understand the brain mechanism fully.

[Quartz]

 

TIME Infectious Disease

A Patient Is Being Tested for Ebola at a California Hospital

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The hospital has not divulged details of the patient or stated if the patient has recently been in West Africa, the disease's epicenter

An unnamed patient has been admitted to a hospital in Sacramento over possible exposure to the Ebola virus, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

“We are working with the Sacramento County Division of Public Health regarding a patient admitted to the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus,” Dr. Stephen M. Parodi, an infectious-diseases specialist and director of the hospital’s operations, said in a statement.

He said patient samples had already been collected and sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further testing. The hospital has also taken the necessary precautions to protect other patients, staff and doctors.

“This includes isolation of the patient in a specially equipped negative pressure room and the use of personal protective equipment by trained staff, coordinated with infectious disease specialists,” said Parodi.

The hospital did not give details about the patient, state when the patient was admitted, or say if the patient had recently been in West Africa, the Chronicle reported.

The world’s worst-ever Ebola outbreak has swept through several countries in West Africa and has killed more than 1,200 people since the first case was reported in Guinea in December of last year.

Two American aid workers, who contracted the disease in Liberia, returned to the U.S. for treatment earlier this month.

[San Francisco Chronicle]

TIME sleep

Find Out Which Cities Get the Most Sleep

There's no city that never sleeps

+ READ ARTICLE

Is your city getting enough sleep?

The Wall Street Journal recently published a list revealing the cities that get the most and least sleep based off a one year dataset provided by Jawbone. Jawbone makes a digital wristband called UP that tracks when its wearers are awake or asleep and how many steps they take within a day.

The Journal reports that this is not a representative study of the general population, and rather a representation of how UP users sleep across the world.

[Wall Street Journal]

TIME Research

Having Good Neighbors Could Reduce Heart Attacks in the Over-50s

Medical Check-up
A patient has a medical check-up in Lille's Institut Pasteur (IPL) in France. BSIP/UIG—Getty Images

A study finds that participants who rate their communities the highest have an almost 70% reduced risk of heart attack

A new study by researchers from the University of Michigan appears to suggest that close community ties reduce heart-attack risk for people over 50.

Researchers say previous data shows that some aspects of a person’s neighborhood — such as the amount of violence and the prevalence of fast-food restaurants — can elevate heart-attack risk, but this is the first study that reveals the cardiovascular benefits of “neighborhood social cohesion,” reports AFP.

The research, which was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health on Tuesday, monitored the cardiovascular health of 5,276 participants who were over the age of 50 and had never had a heart attack.

The participants, who were mostly married women with an average age of 70, were involved in an ongoing Health and Retirement Study in the U.S. Beginning in 2006, participants were asked to rate, on a seven-point scale, whether their neighbors were trustworthy, reliable and friendly, and if they felt connected to their community. During the study, 148 of the participants had a heart attack.

Although data was adjusted to account for variables such as age, race and income, the four-year study revealed that every mark-up in neighborhood cohesion on the scale led to a 17% reduction in the odds of heart disease, according to the Health Medicine Network. The study’s co-author Eric Kim told AFP that those who gave a full score out of seven had a 67% reduced risk of heart attack.

Researchers admitted, however, that the study had limitations, like a lack of access to the participants’ family histories of cardiovascular disease. “This is an observational study, so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect,” researchers emphasized.

MONEY health

WATCH: Facebook, Twitter CEOs Take The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The ALS ice bucket challenge has gone viral with Facebook and Twitter execs adding their own videos to raise money to combat the disease.

TIME celebrity

Watch Amy Schumer’s Delightfully Weird and Disgusting ALS Ice-Bucket Challenge

Spoiler: the comedian did not dump ice a bucket of ice on herself

Just when the ALS ice-bucket challenge videos were getting monotonous, comedian Amy Schumer stepped in to spice things up. The Comedy Central star accepted the ALS ice-bucket challenge late Sunday, but instead of dumping a bucket of ice-cold water on herself in the name of charity, Schumer took an, uh, alternative approach.

Extra points for Schumer’s attire — can’t think of a more appropriate outfit to wear while dumping a can of chunky liquid on one’s head than granny panties.

The 33-year-old is just the latest celebrity to take on the challenge of dumping a bucket of liquid on their heads to raise awareness and funds for research on Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS. So far, the ice bucket challenge has raised more than $5 million.

 

 

TIME Mental health/Psycholog

4 Signs Your Body Image Isn’t Healthy

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Last week, Tallulah Willis—daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore—bravely shared her struggles with body dysmorphic disorder in a video for StyleLikeU. “I’m diagnosed [with] body dysmorphia,” Willis, 20, told the fashion blog. “[My biggest insecurity] is my face. That’s where my diagnosis came into play. Because of the position I was born into, I would read these things on the Internet and I was like, well, Why would someone write that if there wasn’t some basis for truth out there?”

“It was something I never wanted to say out loud because it was so painful.” Willis goes on to talk about how hearing mean comments about her face drove her to dress provocatively and lose a lot of weight, thinking she could draw the attention to her body instead. “I started starving myself,” she says. “I got down to 95 pounds.”

Health.com: 10 Signs You May Have OCD

This is exactly why body dysmorphic disorder (or BDD) can be so difficult to diagnose, explains Health contributing psychology editor Gail Saltz, MD. “Disordered eating can be a symptom of it, but there is no surefire sign. What body dysmorphic disorder really means is that you are so preoccupied with either a real (but slight) or imagined imperfection that you become consumed by it.”

Plenty of healthy people have a body hang-up or two that makes very little sense (mine’s my fat ankles, full disclosure), so how do you know when someone you love is really struggling? Here are four ways to recognize body dysmorphia.

They always need reassurance about that one thing

“Most people who have body dysmorphia are not going to talk about it openly because they feel a lot of shame,” Dr. Saltz says. “But sometimes, it’s a friend who keeps asking you repeatedly for reassurance about this one body part.” If supportive comments like “No, your arms aren’t fat, really!” or “No, your nose is beautiful” don’t seem to make them feel even a little better, that could be a red flag.

Health.com: 12 Signs You May Have an Anxiety Disorder

They dress in a way that doesn’t make sense

Obviously, you don’t have to agree with every style choice your friends make, but think twice if she’s dressing in a way that suggests she’s trying to compensate for that one thing. “For example, she’s putting on a tent of a dress and saying it’s to hide her belly that doesn’t exist,” Dr. Saltz says. Or in the case of Tallulah Willis, she mentioned that she would wear short-shorts and push-up bras in a bid to shift attention away from her face.

Health.com: 12 Ways We Sabotage Our Mental Health

They go to extremes

“Dysmorphia fits in with this constellation of anxiety disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder,” explains Dr. Saltz. “It’s a compulsion that gets in the way of your life.” So in the same way that no amount of hand washing satisfies a person with OCD, no amount of “fixing” seems to help people with BDD. Some patients may even get plastic surgery, and then still think they need more work done after they’ve healed, while others try a progressively restricted diet to lose, say, an imagined double chin.

Health.com: 7 Strategies to Love the Way You Look

They’re hiding out

“The thing separating a normal insecurity from a problem with body dysmorphia is how much it affects your ability to function,” Dr. Saltz explains. If you notice that that she’s not going out as much, or she doesn’t want to date, or maybe she’s turned down a promotion because she doesn’t want to have to give presentations, those are signs her body issues are getting in the way of her life.

Amelia Harnish is an Associate Editor at Health.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME Family

10 Myths and Facts About Breastfeeding

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August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month—and while breastfeeding rates in the United States continue to rise (nearly 80% of infants born in 2011 started to breastfeed), there’s still a lot that people don’t know about the topic. Does it hurt? Will my child not be as smart if I don’t do it?

We spoke with Kathy Mason, a registered nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant with Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health, to clear up some common myths and misconceptions.

This guide is helpful for women making the decision whether to breastfeed their children—and for people tempted to comment on another woman’s choice on the matter.

New moms don’t make enough milk

MYTH

It’s true that women don’t produce milk for three to five days after giving birth, but they do make a thick, concentrated liquid called colostrum—and for the first few days, that’s all a newborn needs, Mason says. “Moms worry that they’re not producing enough right away, but it’s very normal for the baby to nurse and not take more than two teaspoons at a time.”

Health.com: 25 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Health

It’s better for baby’s weight and IQ

MYTH

If you aren’t able to breastfeed your baby—or you decide not to—you can rest easy knowing that the beneficial effects of breast milk on babies’ weight and intelligence appear to have been overstated. A 2014 Ohio State University study looked at families in which one baby was breastfed and another was fed formula and found no “breast-is-best” advantage in one child over the other. Though Mason says breast milk does have one clear advantage over formula: It contains antibodies that protect baby from infection.

It helps you shed baby weight

FACT

Moms who breastfeed burn about 300 to 500 extra calories a day compared to those who feed their babies formula, and research shows that they do tend to slim down faster. Breastfeeding also releases hormones that trigger your uterus to return to its pre-baby size and weight faster. “When the baby starts nursing you can actually feel uterine contractions as it starts to shrink,” says Mason. “It’s nature’s way of getting your body back into shape.”

Health.com: 11 Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Belly Fat

It’s normal to have difficulties

FACT

While most women should be able to breastfeed their newborns, it’s not always easy: In a 2013 survey published in Pediatrics, 92% of new moms had at least one concern on their third day of breastfeeding—such as the baby not latching properly, low milk supply, or breast pain—and only 13% breastfeed exclusively for six months as is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Unfortunately, we send moms home from the hospital after just two days, and the days immediately after that are the hardest ones for breastfeeding,” Mason says. Women having trouble should know where to turn for advice, she adds: Most hospitals have breastfeeding support groups or offer out-patient consultations, and moms can also take advantage of the La Leche League‘s toll-free breastfeeding helpline: 877-452-5324. Many hospitals have classes you can take before the baby arrives, so ask if you’re interested.

It may protect against postpartum depression

FACT

A 2012 study in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine found that women who breastfed were less likely to be diagnosed with postpartum depression over the first four months than those who bottle-fed. Researchers aren’t sure what the connection is, but Mason suspects it has to do oxytocin, the “feel-good hormone” produced when a baby nurses. “Plus, if breastfeeding is going well, it helps mom feel confident that she’s able to provide for her baby,” she adds. A 2011 study from the University of North Carolina suggests the opposite link may exist, as well: New moms who have negative breastfeeding experiences within the first two weeks had an increased risk of PPD.

Alcohol helps with milk letdown

MYTH

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, booze is not a galactagogue, which is a substance that promotes milk production. (Studies have shown that drinking beer can boost hormones associated with breast milk creation, but it’s actually the barley and hops that are responsible.) So what actually helps with milk letdown? Relaxation for mom, and skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby, Mason says. “When moms put babies up to their chests, their hormones just go wild,” she says.

You can’t breastfeed after breast surgery

MYTH

Mason has seen many women with breast implants nurse their babies successfully; these surgeries often involve incisions on the underside of the breast that don’t interfere with milk production or delivery. Women who have had breast reductions, on the other hand, may have more difficulty—especially if nerve endings around the nipple have been cut. “You may not know until you try to nurse,” Mason says.

It makes your boobs sag

MYTH

One reason many women with breast implants don’t breastfeed (or stop earlier than planned) is because they think it will change the appearance of their breasts, according to a 2011 study from the American Society for Plastic Surgeons. But, as the study authors point out, it’s the number of pregnancies a woman has—not whether she breastfeeds—that causes breasts to sag over time. That’s true with or without implants.

Health.com: 19 Diet Changes to Make During Pregnancy

It’s supposed to be painful

MYTH

“A lot of moms expect breastfeeding to hurt, and it is true that mom’s nipples may feel tender for the first couple of weeks,” says Mason. “But if the baby’s latching properly, there shouldn’t be real pain or soreness.” That’s why it’s so important to talk to a lactation consultant at the hospital (and perhaps after you go home) who can help you and your baby make the process as comfortable as possible, she adds.

It’s important to stay hydrated

FACT

Not drinking enough water can certainly affect how much milk you’re making, says Mason, which is why it’s important to stay hydrated (among other reasons). But you don’t have to go overboard, she cautions: “You don’t have to drink until it’s coming out of your ears; in fact, research suggests that overhydration can also decrease milk production, just as dehydration can.” Judge your hydration levels by your urine color, she recommends: light yellow means you’re drinking enough, dark means you should sip more.

Health.com: 14 Weird Reasons You’re Dehydrated

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

TIME health

Here Is One Thing We Can Do to Control the Spread of Ebola

Isata, a 22-month-old, is the youngest patient to be discharged from the Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun district, Sierra Leone on Aug. 6, 2014.
Isata, a 22-month-old, is the youngest patient to be discharged from the Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun district, Sierra Leone on Aug. 6, 2014. Jennifer Yang—Toronto Star/Getty Images

The outbreak reminds me that the lack of shoes in my hometown of Sierra Leone could be contributing to the spread of the virus

Growing up in the village of Konjo in the Eastern Province of Sierra Leone, I remember the walks. After waking up to the crowing of hens, I’d take long, cold morning walks to the farms to chase away birds from our little crops and work for as many as 12 hours. I’d walk barefoot to and from school. I’d carry our chickens in a cage with a rope tied to it and hung around my head so that the cage rests on my back while my head held the weight.

I didn’t mind growing up this way, for I didn’t mind work and did not know what I did not have. But I hated having to make these walks barefoot because we could not afford shoes. The injuries were too much. I sustained burns from the hot ground and rocks; wounds from sharp stones, thorns, and even broken bottles; infections from unknown bacteria, and various ailments—red skins, open sores that took very long to hear, fevers. Even when hurt or ill, I had to keep walking, often as many as 20 miles a day, usually under a hot sun.

My concern is personal. My hometown is in the area that has been hardest hit by the Ebola virus. (I am in contact with my family but have not been back to visit since 2007). And the Kissi people (my tribe) are the majority in the places in all three countries where Ebola has broken out: the Kissi Chiefdoms in Kailahun, Sierra Leone; Gueckedou, Guinea; and Lofa County, Liberia. Are barefoot walkers, I wondered, coming in contact with Ebola-positive body fluids on the grounds they tread upon? People are always spitting out saliva. If an Ebola-positive person walks around barefoot, steps on a sharp object, and bleeds, he or she would easily spread the virus. And if an Ebola-negative barefoot walker steps on an Ebola-positive saliva or blood, that barefoot walker would unknowingly become infected. I’m not sure how much barefoot walking is contributing to the spread of the virus right now, but a virologist confirmed my hypothesis.

We rarely think about the perils of walking barefoot. But according to one widely cited estimate, some 300 million children on Earth don’t have shoes. Many illnesses and infections come from the ground, through stepping on sharp objects, or touching saliva, blood or bodily fluids. And it’s not merely those who can’t afford shoes who have to go barefoot; many millions of people around the world own poor quality shoes, but have to be careful not to overuse them to avoid early wear and tear. Shoes are for special occasions.

I no longer walk barefoot because my situation is better now; I live in the great United States of America, where I am working as a manager for a homeless program and completing my doctorate in public administration. I arrived here in 1996, the end of a journey of escape from the long, brutal civil war that destroyed my beautiful country. Stories like mine are common among Sierra Leoneans. I was among the first refugees in 1991 to cross the Makona River to neighboring Guinea seeking refuge from the rebels who attacked our villages from the Sierra Leone-Liberia border in east Kailahun District. I was just 9 years old at the time, and fled with my father. (My mother was not around at this time.) Despite the challenges in Guinea, I was relieved to have escaped. In the rebels’ zone, children were being recruited and kidnapped—and turned into child soldiers. One thing that made me happy was the pair of shoes that a UN worker provided me at our refugee camp in Guinea.

We left Guinea after a short stay and crossed back over the border to Freetown, where we had relatives. My country’s capital city was the safest place in Sierra Leone back then because of its western location—the war was raging in the east. I had expected Freetown to be a more prosperous place, but was disappointed to see children and adults walking barefoot as many do in the villages. I even sat in class with students who did not have shoes. I settled in Freetown and found myself playing soccer and other games barefoot with the other children. Consequently, our toes and the soles of our feet sustained many wounds, which became infected and led to swelling, pain, and the discharge of too much pus to recall here.

Today I think about those feet, and about barefoot children as I mourn, from the comfort of the U.S., those who have died from the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, as well as in Liberia, and Guinea. And I can’t help but worry that barefoot walking is contributing to the spread of Ebola in that region, as well as other contagious viruses, including Hepatitis A and C, that are transmitted through contact with blood and other bodily fluids.

Controlling the Ebola outbreak is a complex, global effort. But at the local level, we could start with something very basic, but very important. Providing shoes to barefoot walkers would make them safer and healthier. It also might save us.

Stephen T. Fomba is program manager at the San Gabriel Valley Consortium on Homelessness, and is studying for a public administration doctorate at the University of La Verne. This piece originally appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

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