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Traumatic Brian Injury in Pro Football Players

The more years a player spent in the NFL the higher the risk of traumatic brain injury.

A small, prospective study of 40 retired National Football League (U.S.) players revealed over 40% had MRI evidence of traumatic brain injury. Additionally,  these individuals experienced significant abnormalities in attention and concentration (42%), in executive functions (50%), and learning/memory issues (44.7%). Excellent resources about sports concussions are available here.

PositiveTip:  Growing evidence suggests caution before allowing children or adults to engage in contact sports.

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No Decline in Tobacco Use Among U.S. Teens

Tobacco continues to be the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S.

There has been no decline in overall tobacco use among middle and high school students in the U.S. since 2011. The use of cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco and pipe tobacco has declined--while the use of nontraditional products such as e-cigarettes and hookah pipes continues to rise. E-cigarettes are the most commonly used tobacco product among teens today. Sadly these products remain unregulated.

PositiveTip: No form of tobacco use is safe. Nicotine is an addictive drug that may cause permanent harm to brain development.

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Zika Virus and Microcephaly

New research says there is no longer any question that Zika causes microcephaly.

Until now, scientists have been cautious about definitely linking Zika virus infections with the birth defect microcephaly which causes an abnormally small head and damaged brains. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now says there is sufficient evidence to prove this link.

PositiveTip: To prevent Zika infections when in infected areas avoid mosquito bites and prevent sexual transmission by using condoms or do not have sex with those potentially exposed to the virus.  

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Label Fables to End--at Least for Sugar

New label regulations a positive step for healthy nutrition.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing the Nutrition Facts label distinguish between intrinsic (naturally present) sugars and added sugars. This is a giant leap forward for consumers, helping them more clearly understand how much sugar is added to the food. When the proposal becomes law, labels will list the grams of added sugar (4 grams is equal to 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar) and %DV (Daily Value; or upper limit).

PositiveTip: Reading and understanding the Nutrition Facts label is essential to making healthy food choices.

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Teen Alcohol Use

Ten percent of rural teens meet diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder.

Adolescents aged 12-20 living in rural Pennsylvania completed alcohol use assessments. The DSM-5 criteria for alcohol use disorder were met by 1.9% of 12-14 year-olds, and 10% of those 15-20 years old. Study authors recommend physicians screen adolescents about their frequency of alcohol use due to the high prevalence of alcohol-related harm among teens.

PositiveTip: Encourage young adults in your sphere of influence to avoid all alcohol use for their safety and health.

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Vitamin D Supplements of No Benefit to Knees

Knee osteoarthritis not responsive to vitamin D3 supplements.

Australian researchers studied over 400 older adults who were deficient in vitamin D but otherwise healthy. All had symptomatic knee osteoarthritis. They were randomized into two groups: one received oral Vitamin D3 supplements, the other a placebo. While vitamin D levels increased over the 24 month study period, pain score and knee architecture did not differ between groups.

PositiveTip: Adequate vitamin D is essential, but supplements are not all always effective.

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A Heavy Problem for Thailand's Monks

The government of Thailand is putting overweight monks on a diet!

Every morning in Thailand, Buddhist devotees bring food offerings to the monks holding donation bowls. Today they load up the monks with sugary juices, full fat and sugar dishes, snacks, and fast foods. Monastic life is very sedentary, also. Over 48% of monks are obese and 42% have high cholesterol, 23% hypertension, and 10% are diabetics.  Consequently, medical costs for the monks is rapidly rising. The government has stepped in with a program to promote healthy eating and physical activity.

PositiveTip: Overweight? Go on a program similar to the Thai monks.

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Elders Are Using More Prescription Meds and Supplements

Fifteen percent of older U.S. adults at risk for major drug-drug interactions.

The practice of polypharmacy among older U.S. adults is rising significantly. The concurrent use of 5 or more prescription medications rose by 5% between 1999 and 2012. During this same period, the use of dietary supplements increased from 52% to 64%. Using standardized criteria, the risk for major drug-drug interactions has nearly doubled in this age group today.

PositiveTip: For your safety, always communicate to your physician ALL medications you are taking--including dietary supplements.

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Stay Hydrated

Learn a simple method of knowing if you are getting enough liquid.

So how much water do we actually need? Enough to replace the fluids you lose each day is determined by your size, your activity level, and the climate. A simple method of determining if you are getting enough (adequately hydrated) is the color of your urine (provided you are not mega-dosing on vitamins or taking certain medications). It should be lightly yellow. Dark yellow could indicate you need more water.

PositiveTip: Eating foods with a high water content (fruits and vegetables) adds to your total liquid intake, and can reduce how much you drink.