Alzheimer’s Inc.: Colleagues Question Scientist’s Pricey Recipe Against Memory Loss

When her husband was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease in 2015, Elizabeth Pan was devastated by the lack of options to slow his inevitable decline. But she was encouraged when she discovered the work of a UCLA neurologist, Dr. Dale Bredesen, who offered a comprehensive lifestyle management program to halt or even reverse cognitive decline in patients like her husband.

After decades of research, Bredesen had concluded that more than 36 drivers of Alzheimer’s cumulatively contribute to the loss of mental acuity. They range from chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes to vitamin and hormonal deficiencies, undiagnosed infections and even long-term exposures to toxic substances. Bredesen’s impressive academic credentials lent legitimacy to his approach.

Pan paid $4,000 to a doctor trained in Bredesen’s program for a consultation and a series of extensive laboratory tests, then was referred to another doctor, who devised a stringent regimen of dietary changes that entailed cutting out all sugars, eating a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet and adhering to a complex regimen of meditation, vigorous daily exercise and about a dozen nutritional supplements each day (at about $200 a month). Pan said she had extensive mold remediation done in her home after the Bredesen doctors told her the substance could be hurting her husband’s brain.

But two years passed, she said, and her husband, Wayne, was steadily declining. To make matters worse, he had lost more than 60 pounds because he didn’t like the food on the diet. In April, he died.

“I imagine it works in some people and doesn’t work in others,” said Pan, who lives in Oakton, Virginia. “But there’s no way to tell ahead of time if it will work for you.”

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Bredesen wrote the best-selling 2017 book “The End of Alzheimer’s” and has promoted his ideas in talks to community groups around the country and in radio and TV appearances like “The Dr. Oz Show.” He has also started his own company, Apollo Health, to market his program and train and provide referrals for practitioners.

Unlike other self-help regimens, Bredesen said, his program is an intensely personalized and scientific approach to counteract each individual’s specific deficits by “optimizing the physical body and understanding the molecular drivers of the disease,” he told KHN in a November phone interview. “The vast majority of people improve” as long as they adhere to the regimen.

Bredesen’s peers acknowledge him as an expert on aging. A former postdoctoral fellow under Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner at the University of California-San Francisco, Bredesen presided over a well-funded lab at UCLA for more than five years. He has been on the UCLA faculty since 1989 and also founded the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Marin County. He has written or co-authored more than 200 papers.

But colleagues are critical of what they see as his commercial promotion of a largely unproven and costly regimen. They say he strays from long-established scientific norms by relying on anecdotal reports from patients, rather than providing evidence with rigorous research.

“He’s an exceptional scientist,” said George Perry, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas-San Antonio. “But monetizing this is a turnoff.”

“I have seen desperate patients and family members clean out their bank accounts and believe this will help them with every ounce of their being,” said Dr. Joanna Hellmuth, a neurologist in the Memory and Aging Center at UCSF. “They are clinging to hope.”

Many of the lifestyle changes Bredesen promotes are known to be helpful. “The protocol itself is based on very low-quality data, and I worry that vulnerable patients and family members may not understand that,” said Hellmuth. “He trained here” — at UCSF — “so he knows better.”

The Bredesen package doesn’t come cheap. He has built a network of practitioner-followers by training them in his protocol — at $1,800 a pop — in seminars sponsored by the Institute for Functional Medicine, which emphasizes alternative approaches to managing disease. Apollo Health also offers two-week training sessions for a $1,500 fee.

Once trained in his ReCODE Protocol, medical professionals charge patients upward of $300 for a consultation and as much as $10,500 for eight- to 15-month treatment packages. For the ReCODE protocol, aimed at people already suffering from early-stage Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive decline, Apollo Health charges an initial $1,399 fee for a referral to a local practitioner that includes an assessment and extensive laboratory tests. Apollo then offers $75-per-month subscriptions that provide cognitive games and online support, and links to another company that offers dietary supplements for an additional $150 to $450 a month. Insurance generally covers little of these costs.

Apollo Health, founded in 2017 and headquartered in Burlingame, California, also offers a protocol geared toward those who have a family history of dementia or want to prevent cognitive decline.

Bredesen estimates that about 5,000 people have done the ReCODE program. The fees are a bargain, Bredesen said, if they slow decline enough to prevent someone from being placed in a nursing home, where yearly costs can climb past $100,000 annually.

Bredesen and his company are tapping into the desperation that has grown out of the failure of a decades-long scientific quest for effective Alzheimer’s treatments. Much of the research money in the field has narrowly focused on amyloid — the barnacle-like gunk that collects outside nerve cells and interferes with the brain’s signaling system — as the main culprits behind cognitive decline. Drugmakers have tried repeatedly, and thus far without much success, to invent a trillion-dollar anti-amyloid drug. There’s been less emphasis in the field on the lifestyle choices that Bredesen stresses.

“Amyloids sucked up all the air in the room,” said Dr. Lon Schneider, an Alzheimer’s researcher and a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Keck School of Medicine at USC.

Growing evidence shows lifestyle changes help delay the progress of the mind-robbing disease. An exhaustive Lancet report in August identified a long list of risk factors for dementia, including excessive drinking, exposure to air pollution, obesity, loss of hearing, smoking, depression, lack of exercise and social isolation. Controlling these factors — which can be done on the cheap — could delay or even prevent up to 40% of dementia cases, according to the report.

Bredesen’s program involves all these practices, with personalized bells and whistles like intermittent fasting, meditation and supplements. Bredesen’s scientific peers question whether data supports his micromanaged approach over plain-vanilla healthy living.

Bredesen has published three papers showing positive results in many patients following his approach, but critics say he has fallen short of proving his method’s effectiveness.

The papers lack details on which protocol elements were followed, or the treatment duration, UCSF’s Hellmuth said. Nor do they explain how cognitive tests were conducted or evaluated, so it’s difficult to gauge whether improvements were due to the intervention, to chance variations in performance or an assortment of other variables, she said.

Bredesen shrugs off the criticism: “We want things to be in an open-access journal so everybody can read it. These are still peer-reviewed journals. So what’s the problem?”

Another problem raised about Bredesen’s enterprise is the lack of quality control, which he acknowledges. Apollo-trained “certified practitioners” can include everyone from nurses and dietitians to chiropractors and health coaches. Practitioners with varying degrees of training and competence can take his classes and hang out a shingle. That’s a painful fact for some who buy the package.

“I had the impression these practitioners were certified, but I realize they all had just taken a two-week course,” said a Virginia man who requested anonymity to protect his wife’s privacy. He said that he had spent more than $15,000 on tests and treatments for his ailing spouse and that six months into the program, earlier this year, she had failed to improve.

Bredesen said he and his staff were reviewing “who’s getting the best results and who’s getting the worst results,” and intended to cut poor performers out of the network. “We’ll make it so that you can only see the people getting the best results,” he said.

Colleagues say that to test whether Bredesen’s method works it needs to be subjected to a placebo-controlled study, the gold standard of medical research, in which half the participants get the treatment while the other half don’t.

In the absence of rigorous studies, said USC’s Schneider, a co-author of the Lancet report, “saying you can ‘end Alzheimer’s now and this is how you do it’ is overpromising and oversimplifying. And a lot of it is just common sense.”

Bredesen no longer says his method can end Alzheimer’s, despite the title of his book. Apollo Health’s website still makes that claim, however.

This story was produced by KHN, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

[Correction: This story was updated at 5:15 p.m. ET on Jan. 6, 2021, to correct the year that Apollo Health was founded.]

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31 Best Love Quotes From Movies You Need To Watch ASAP

There’s a reason romantic movies like The Notebook and Casablanca are classics. These faves all have something in common: they deliver love quotes that just make you melt as soon as you hear them. You know what I mean—it’s that feeling you get when you see that scene in The Notebook where Noah tells Allie, “No matter what happens to us, every day spent with you is the best day of my life.”

Quotes like these make you cry happy tears, and sometimes not-so-happy tears, because…well you’ve seen the ending, and if you haven’t, I won’t spoil it because it deserves all the glory.

Now, that’s not to say all the best romantic film quotes are always about an intense, passionate love. Movies about forbidden or unrequited love always have these amazing one-liners or monologues that you just want to keep replaying, too.

And sure, maybe you won’t necessarily find yourself running through an airport to confess your feelings to the love of your life before they move away, or standing in the rain while telling the person of your dreams you want to spend the rest of your life with them. But ifyou ever did, thanks to these films, you’ll know exactly what to say (romantic music that swells in the background not included).

So, just in case you need a reference or 31, look no further for the most unforgettable love quotes from movies.

“I think I’d miss you even if we’d never met.”

—The Wedding Date (2005)

“You want the moon? Just say the word, and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”

—It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

“I hate the way you talk to me, and the way you cut your hair. I hate the way you drive my car. I hate it when you stare. I hate your big dumb combat boots, and the way you read my mind. I hate you so much it makes me sick; it even makes me rhyme. I hate it. I hate the way you’re always right. I hate it when you lie. I hate it when you make me laugh, even worse when you make me cry. I hate it when you’re not around, and the fact that you didn’t call. But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you. Not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all.”

—10 Things I Hate About You (1999)

“I love you very much, probably more than anybody could love another person.”

—50 First Dates (2004)

“But our love… It’s like the wind. I can’t see it, but I can feel it.”

—A Walk To Remember (2002)

“I guess I don’t want to give up on you.”

—Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

“They say when you meet the love of your life, time stops, and that’s true.”

Big Fish (2003)

“I wish I knew how to quit you.”

—Brokeback Mountain (2005)

“You are the perfect verse over a tight beat brown sugar.”

—Brown Sugar (2002)

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

—Casablanca (1942)

“I want to tell you with my remaining strength that I love you. I always have. I’ll drift next to you every day as a ghost just to be with you. Even if I was banished to the darkest place, my love will keep me from being a lonely spirit.”

—Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

“Me? I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what I saw, I’m scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.”

—Dirty Dancing (1987)

“I can’t see anything I don’t like about you.”

—Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)

“Some people are worth melting for.”

—Frozen (2013)

“That’s what people do. They leap and hope to God they can fly. Because otherwise, we just drop like a rock, wondering the whole way down, ‘Why in the hell did I jump?’ But here I am, Sarah, falling. And there’s only one person that makes me feel like I can fly. That’s you.”

—Hitch (2005)

“I don’t want to sound foolish, but remember love is what brought you here. And if you’ve trusted love this far, don’t panic now. Trust it all the way.”

—If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

“Look, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is find a person who loves you for exactly what you are. Good mood, bad mood, ugly, pretty, handsome, what have you, the right person is still going to think the sun shines out your ass. That’s the kind of person that’s worth sticking with.”

—Juno (2007)

“What I’m trying to say is, I’ve loved you since I was 11, and that shit won’t go away.”

—Love And Basketball (2000)

“Love is passion, obsession, someone you can’t live without. I say, fall head over heels. Find someone you can love like crazy and who will love you the same way back. How do you find him? Well, you forget your head, and you listen to your heart. And I’m not hearing any heart. Cause the truth is, honey, there’s no sense living your life without this. To make the journey and not fall deeply in love, well, you haven’t lived a life at all. But you have to try, cause if you haven’t tried, you haven’t lived.”

—Meet Joe Black (1998)

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.”

—Moulin Rouge (2001)

“If you can promise me anything, promise me that whenever you’re sad, or unsure, or you lose complete faith, that you’ll try to see yourself through my eyes.”

—P.S. I Love You (2007)

“You have bewitched me, body and soul, and I love… I love… I love you.”

—Pride And Prejudice (2005)

“Some love stories aren’t epic novels. Some are short stories, but that doesn’t make them any less filled with love.”

—Sex And The City (2008)

“You will never age for me, nor fade, nor die.”

—Shakespeare In Love (1998)

“It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together… and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home,only to no home I’d ever known. I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like… magic.”

—Sleepless In Seattle (1993)

“My love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful.”

—The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

“So it’s not gonna be easy. It’s going to be really hard; we’re gonna have to work at this everyday, but I want to do that because I want you. I want all of you, forever, everyday. You and me… everyday.”

—The Notebook (2004)

“I want to tell you, again, I love you. Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust. Tonight I feel that my love for you has more density in this world than I do, myself, as though it could linger on after me and surround you, keep you, hold you.”

—The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)

“And so the lion fell in love with the lamb.”

—Twilight (2008)

“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

—When Harry Met Sally (1989)


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What January's Gemini Horoscope Predictions Mean for You

Read what your sign's 2021 horoscope predictions have in store for you or check out the Gemini personality profile. 

Welcome to January and a whole new year, Gemini! At the end of December, you accepted that sometimes you need to slow down and make room for self-care. Last year was rough for you in myriad ways; after all, you are the social butterfly of the zodiac, so being isolated during the pandemic has been hard for you. However, remember that it's important to keep yourself (and each other) safe, and even if it's hard right now, it'll be more than worth it in the long-run. 

The first big astrological date of the year for you is Friday, January 8. Your ruling planet, messenger Mercury, enters fellow air sign Aquarius, lighting up your 9th House of Philosophy. While Mercury will start its first retrograde of 2021 at the end of the month, your ruling planet is happy in logical Aquarius. As the 9th House also rules learning, this is a great time to pick up a new hobby, which can help you work out some of that anxious energy from being stuck inside. 

Romance planet Venus enters diligent Capricorn and your 8th House of Sex, Death, and Transformation.

But that's not the only thing the stars are up to on Friday, January 8. Romance planet Venus enters diligent Capricorn and your 8th House of Sex, Death, and Transformation. Don't worry, dear Gemini, this isn't an actual harbinger of death, but it does mean that your love life is in for a serious makeover. Any half-ass relationship or "situationships" past their expiration date will implode (unless you end them first). Geminis tend to have too many crushes and admirers, so don't feel bad about letting something lukewarm go. And while this transit may mean endings, it also means clearing the way for new love to come your way. 

Eccentric planet Uranus goes direct on Thursday, January 14. It's been retrograde since last August, bringing out the activist in all of us. Many of us have taken up the fight against systemic racism, while others have advocated for rent relief or a new administration. Others still emphasized the importance of keeping each other safe during the pandemic. When this revolutionary planet goes direct, life may start to feel just a tad easier, which is a good thing, but we must remember that there's still work to be done to make the world a better place. 

Use the bold energy of the full moon to express your needs to crushes and romantic partners. 

Progressive Aquarius season begins on Tuesday, January 19, and yes, that's the day before Inauguration Day. It's an understatement to say that 2020 was rough on all of us, but don't lose hope that change is possible; after all, it's the only constant. 

A full moon in Leo lights up your 3rd House of Communication and brightens the sky on Thursday, January 28. Use this bold energy to express your needs to crushes and romantic partners, because when Mercury retrograde begins on Saturday, January 30, communication gets a little wonkier. Because Mercury is your ruling planet, these retrogrades can affect you more than other signs. It becomes a bit more likely that you'll text the wrong person, or say something you don't mean to someone you care about, so double-check all your texts and think before you speak on and after this date. However, as noted, the planet is happy in Aquarius, and the sign's detached and logical vibe helps keep us calm when the WiFi cuts out right before an important Zoom meeting. Stay safe and see you in February.  

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We know many of you may be feeling worried, frightened, or isolated right now. Although the stars don't have answers to the multitude of questions running through all of our minds, astrology may at least provide some comfort during times of uncertainty. We urge you to donate to one or all of these organizations if you're able to. If you can't, we created a guide to ways you can support the BLM movement other than financially.

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What January's Aquarius Horoscope Predictions Mean for You

Read what your sign's 2021 horoscope predictions have in store for you or check out the Aquarius personality profile.

Welcome to January and 2021, Aquarius. It's about to be your season. At the end of December, you felt hopeful that the new year would bring positive change, both on personal and societal levels. When communication planet Mercury enters your sign and 1st House of Self on Friday, January 8, you're encouraged to vocalize your personal needs. You can be very community-minded, which is generally a good thing. Whether it's checking in on friends and family, talking about the importance of PPE, or protesting systemic racism, you're someone the world can count on. However, the one person you can forget to advocate for is yourself. 

On this same date, Venus, the planet of love, beauty, and abundance, enters diligent Capricorn and your 12th House of the Unconscious. This transit asks you to confront your deepest fears surrounding intimacy. Do you push lovers away before they see the real you? Are there secrets or insecurities that you're scared to even tell your therapist? It's time to try and confront them. You fight for others, dear Aquarius, so you should also fight for yourself.

Remember to take a deep breath and remember that we're all doing our best under a time of great duress. 

Sometimes you feel like you're an alien; there's no other explanation for why others are making the choices they're making. Uranus, your ruling planet, has been retrograde since last August, which has started to help others get on your level. We've seen this in action when it came to voter turnout in the election, and when many people chose not to travel over the holidays to avoid putting others at risk. However, when Uranus goes direct on Thursday, January 14, you may feel like a lot of people are starting to think life has just gone back to normal. Before you accuse anyone of being careless, remember to take a deep breath and remember that we're all doing our best under a time of great duress. 

The sun enters your sign on Tuesday, January 19, kicking off Aquarius season. Happy birthday, beautiful water-bearer! You have a tendency to downplay your birthday because you think there are more important things to deal with. Even if you want lots of attention, it's hard to get you to admit it. Your assignment this year is to celebrate as boldly as possible (while following social distancing protocol, of course). You deserve it. January comes to an end with the first Mercury retrograde of the year in your sign on Saturday, January 30. Remember to text your friends back, Aquarius, but don't let the retrograde stop you from celebrating you. See you next month! 

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Read more stories about astrology:

  • Your Guide to Lunar & Solar Eclipses in 2021 and How They’ll Affect Your Life

  • Each Zodiac Sign's Unique Personality, Explained by an Astrologer

  • Your Sign's 2021 Horoscope Predictions Are Here

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11 Tips to Ace Your First Date

Going on a first date, whether in-person or via Zoom, can feel like walking a tightrope. You’re trying to seem eager without coming on too strong; smart but not condescending; funny but not obnoxious. And there’s a lot you have to focus on at once, such as trying to figure out what to say while wondering if you’ve fully wiped off all that spaghetti sauce from your beard.

All of these pressures are why a lot of guys get nervous on a first date and end up missing their shot at a second one. You don’t want that to be you—and we don’t want that to be you, either. That’s why we spoke with a few relationship experts to get their top tips on how to make your first date less scary, more fun, and super likely to land you date number two. (And if you’re struggling to come up with a solid first date idea, check out our list of first date ideas that will make you look like a creative genius.)

Make it a two-way conversation.

Sure, you have to tell them about yourself, but make sure you’re asking your date questions about their own accomplishments and hobbies. Things can get iffy if you only talk about yourself; it might seem like you’re just waiting for the date to be over so you can get them into bed, says Carole Lieberman, M.D., author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets. If you’re not sure where to start, their job is usually a good bet.

What will impress your date more is seeing that you’re genuinely interested in hearing about them. “Active listening goes a long way,” says Moushumi Ghose, MFT, a licensed sex therapist. “Whether it’s repeating back what you think you’ve heard, getting clarification or asking thoughtful questions.”

Taylor Sparks, Erotic Educator and Founder of Organic Loven, encourages you to ask questions until you find something you have in common—and it doesn’t have to be a shared passion. In fact, it can be the opposite: “There can be great bonding over ‘hating’ the same things, i.e. the Yankees, the Celtics, CrossFit, or raisins in your potato salad,” Sparks says.

Be mindful of touchiness.

You might think that touching them a lot on the first date shows that you’re into them. Not the case, says relationship expert April Masini of AskApril.com. What you’re actually showing is that you’re super-touchy on every first date. Way to make a person feel special, right?

“On a first date, touch should be limited and only natural, friendly, and warm—not sexual,” Lieberman says. In other words, it’s fine to take their hand to help them out of your car, or put your hand on their lower back to lead them through a crowded restaurant. But don’t drape your arm around their neck and hold them close the entire time. Touching is natural, but overdoing it can get a little weird.

Keep the cursing to a minimum.

Some people may love bad boys, but swearing like a sailor doesn’t make you a catch. “Cursing gets old very quickly,” Dr. Lieberman says. “It makes it look like you’re trying to be cool.” You’re a cool dude already. You don’t need to go dropping F-bombs to get that message across.

Curb the cursing habit now, in anticipation of all your future first dates (and job interviews, and other non-sailing situations), Dr. Lieberman says. It’s too difficult to just turn off a habit for a few hours, so eliminate four-letter words from your everyday vocabulary.

Be present in the moment.

You don’t need to check those texts right now, no matter how much your friends are LOL-ing at that TikTok someone just shared. Ignoring outside distractions will show your date you’re invested in the shared experience and make them feel valued.

It’s also good for your own wellbeing to relax and enjoy the time you two have together. Ghose says, “Take your time. Slow down. Pause before speaking. Pay attention to your five senses: smell, touch, sight, sound, taste, and savor them. Listen. Breathe. You both deserve to enjoy this time together, even if it turns out, down the road, that you’re not compatible.”


Curb any excess enthusiasm.

Giddiness doesn’t read as enthusiasm on a first date—it reads as anxiety, according to psychologist Tracy Thomas, Ph.D. “You end up sending the message that you’re uncomfortable with yourself, and unable to self-regulate,” Thomas explains. In other words, you look like a nervous wreck, and she’s going to bail.

If you tend to get giddy, plan a date with a distraction so that you’re not on the spot for suave conversation the entire time, Dr. Lieberman says. Some good options to take the pressure off: a play or a concert. If you’re having a virtual date, you could watch a movie or show together. You’ll still have the opportunity to talk, just not as much.

If your date wants to split the bill, go for it.

It’s always a nice gesture to offer to treat your date, but if they want to split the bill, be open to that. We live in a society that allows for egalitarian partnerships!

If they object, you can explain that you’re totally willing to go dutch on your next date, but since they agreed to spend their evening with you, you’d like to get this one. If they’re still insistent on splitting the first-date check, do it. Allow them to establish boundaries that make them feel comfortable.

“The most important thing to remember when dating, whether it be your first date or your 100th date, is respect,” Ghose says.

Dress to impress.

We should all take time to look nice for a date. You don’t need to go overboard, but be sure to do the basics: showering, shaving, and spritzing on little cologne.

Wear a simple-yet-polished outfit like dark jeans, a blazer, and loafers, and you’ll look put-together without seeming like you’re trying too hard.

This also applies to a virtual date! No matter what kind of date you’re on, putting in a bit of effort goes a long way.

Offer a polite compliment.

If you start off with some comment on how great their butt looks in those pants, they’re not going to be into it. They will be immediately put off. Comments on appearance have to be given with finesse or you’ll start the evening (or end it) on the wrong note.

Stick to more neutral compliments, like “You look really nice tonight.” If your date doesn’t seem to enjoy compliments on their appearance, go for a cool line like “I can’t get enough of your laugh.” Everyone likes to know they are appreciated, but you have to be self-aware enough to offer the right phrasing.

Humor is your friend.

Joking around with your date is a great way to break the ice. Everyone likes funny guys. Keep it light and flirty.

This shouldn’t be too hard. Find out something you both agree on. For instance, maybe you both think Frasier is a pretentious and terrible show, or absolutely love It’s Always Sunny. Joke about that together. Remember that this is a date and enjoying yourselves is important—it isn’t a job interview.

Virtual date? Cook together to show off those culinary skills.

It’s no secret that a virtual date can be awkward—but, then again, what first date isn’t a little uncomfortable? Make use of the kitchen to break the ice!

A super fun way to make a virtual date feel both romantic and fun is to cook separately, but together. Decide on a simple meal that both of you can make in your kitchens over Zoom. You can follow along in the recipe together. This will give you an opportunity to ask your date questions about themselves while keeping your hands busy. This makes for fewer awkward silences.

Set the mood. Light some candles and sit down to eat together. It’s a very sweet way to make even the most distanced of dates feel close. (For more virtual date ideas, head here!)

Remember to have a good time!

“Putting pressure on a date to go a certain way takes the fun out of it, and turns it into an obligatory task,” Ghose says. “Try to have fun, laugh, enjoy each other. At the very least, you can make a friend out of the deal.”

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You Want to Date Your Best Friend. But Should You?

There are plenty of reasons why dating your best friend seems like a good idea, particularly if you’re feeling burnt out on dating apps and sick of meeting strangers you don’t end up clicking with. With your best friend, you already have some necessary building blocks for a romantic relationship: You get along swimmingly; you know how best to communicate with one another; you likely share similar values and interests; you know what infuriates them and how to cheer them up when they’re having a rough day. You also have insight into their past sexual and romantic history—assuming you share that stuff with each other, because you’re best friends.

But of course, there’s one huge risk when it comes to dating your best friend: What if things don’t work out? If you break up on bad terms, you won’t just be heartbroken; you’ll also have lost your best friend—the person you’d typically turn to when you’re going through relationship problems.

That risk shouldn’t necessarily stop you from dating your BFF if it feels right. But before you take that next step or not, there are some things you need to consider. To learn how to take a more calculated risk when thinking about dating your best friend, we spoke to two relationship experts: sexologist Marla Renee Stewart, MA, and Kevin A. Patterson, M.Ed., author of Love’s Not Color Blind.

Don’t just do it out of convenience.

After the hellscape of 2020, it’s normal to feel lonely, sad, and in desperate need of physical intimacy and human connection—but those things alone aren’t valid reasons to date your best friend. If you’re going to date your BFF, it has to be because you want them, specifically, and not just because you’re trying to fix a you problem. “Dating someone out of convenience is not fair to them, and if it’s your best friend, you want to make sure that you come at them in an ethical and compatible way,” Stewart says.

Patterson adds, “The world is in a strange place due to the pandemic, and we’re not all in our normal frames of mind.” So he suggests evaluating “where the change from ‘friend’ to ‘partner’ is coming from.”

Think about whether they’re friends with their exes.

If they are friends with at least some of their exes, this is a good sign, Stewart explains. If you were to break up, “There is hope that you two could resume your friendship again after a period of healing,” she says. However, if they are not used to being friends with their exes, “Then you can probably expect to not return to a place of friendship once you move into the dating category.”

You need to do some self-examination, too. Think about whether you’re friends with your exes. If you aren’t friends with any of them, then be skeptical of whether you’ll be able to return to a place of friendship if things go south with your bestie. Could you live without this person in your life?

If you are friends with your exes, think about the type of friendships you have. Are you super close, or is it more of a “we’re cordial in a group setting” dynamic? The thing is, even if you can return to a place of friendship after you date, it’s unlikely that your friendship will be the same as it was before. Be prepared for that change.

Casually gauge your friend’s feelings about the idea of dating friends.

If your crush on your friend is real (as opposed to a matter of convenience), and it seems like you’d both be open to staying friends should things go south, then your next step is having a casual talk about sleeping and dating friends—especially if this is something you haven’t spoken about before.

“The fact is, some of us like to have sex with [and date] our friends and some of us don’t,” Stewart says. “So it’s worth investigating what kind of person your best friend is.”

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Of course, you need to have a tact when bringing up these topics. You can’t ask them out of the blue, “So, theoretically, would you date your best friend?” If you do that, they’re gonna know you’re into them. Perhaps you can frame the conversation by talking about previous friends with benefits you had. Or you can say you were reading something about COVID cuffs and heard people were settling down with friends to have a romantic partner during the pandemic.

Have they attempted to date a friend in the past? How did it go? Do they have a policy of never hooking up with friends because it gets too messy? If you don’t like what you hear, then you probably shouldn’t attempt to date them.

Consider that your friendship might already be in danger.

While the biggest concern with dating a BFF is that you’ll damage your friendship, Patterson notes that your relationship “is likely already in danger” if you really like your best friend romantically. In that case, “better to shoot your shot and chance making it a bit awkward than to not shoot your shot and spend the rest of your life wondering ‘What if?’” he says.

Patterson adds that friendships break down all the time. “I’d rather it be because we tried for more rather than some other collapse that might be outside our control.”

At the end of the day, we can’t make this decision for you. Only you can do your research and make this choice for yourself. Good luck.

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Luby honored for advancing understanding of brain, behavior disorders

Joan L. Luby, MD, the Samuel and Mae S. Ludwig Professor of Psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has received the Ruane Prize for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. The prize honors important advances in the understanding and treatment of early-onset brain and behavior disorders.

A child psychiatrist, Luby is the founder and director of the university’s Early Emotional Development Program in the Department of Psychiatry. Her landmark studies have demonstrated that even preschoolers can be clinically depressed and that depression in the very young could indicate that such children may have difficulty in school, during adolescence and throughout life. Her team also has developed and tested an intervention to treat preschool depression in hopes of avoiding continuing or worsening problems later.

Her studies also have identified behavioral and biological markers of risk for depression and demonstrated that stress in a child’s environment is linked to altered brain development. However, her team also has found that nurturing from parents can counteract some of those negative effects.

The winner of the Ruane Prize normally delivers a lecture at the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation’s awards dinner in New York. Because of the pandemic, however, Luby’s lecture was delivered online.

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What November's Cancer Horoscope Predictions Mean for You

Read what your sign's 2020 horoscope predictions have in store for you or check out the Cancer personality profile. 

Welcome to November, Cancer! At the end of October, you tapped into your inner caregiver, finding ways to make Halloween fun for others while keeping it safe. It's often thought that there's no problem you can't solve with your warmth, as you're one of the most hospitable signs of the zodiac. Keep up that positive and loving attitude, because Tuesday, November 3 promises to be a stressful day. It's the last day of Mercury retrograde in Scorpio, and of course, Election Day. Try and keep yourself and others calm by talking about the things that bring you joy, and catching up with anyone you've been meaning to chat with for a while. You're a caring, emotional sign that gains strength by looking after loved ones. 

You're such a good caretaker, Cancer, that people often overlook the warrior in you.

You're such a good caretaker, Cancer, that people often overlook the warrior in you. Sometimes you even hide in your crab shell so that your fierce side is hidden on purpose. The truth is that you're so loyal and protective that you would instantly go to bat to protect anyone you love. However, warrior planet Mars has been retrograde since September, dampening the fighter within. You may have been feeling as though your activist efforts have been for naught, or worried that you haven't been doing enough to keep up with your long-distance relatives. On Friday, November 13, Mars goes direct and ends its retrograde, so your inner fire will be renewed. Dive full force into fighting for what you believe in, including causes that matter to you and your most important relationships. The end of Mars retrograde also means that your sex life should flow more easily, giving you another reason to celebrate. 

One downside of worrying so much about those around you, Cancer, is that you sometimes forget to take care of yourself. Saturday, November 14 brings a new moon in fellow emotional water sign Scorpio. Draw a bath, light some candles, try aromatherapy, and focus only on your own inner thoughts. You may be surprised at how many emotions you've been repressing for the sake of keeping up appearances. It's time to feel them, so that you may eventually let them go. 

Self-care works, and when adventurous Sagittarius season begins on Saturday, November 21, you may be inspired to take on a new project that's just for you. Like Sagittarius, you love to explore new places, and the way the pandemic has affected travel has been hard for you. However, this time of the year inspires you to be creative with your version of exploration, and you may decide to enroll in an online class, learn a new language, or pick up a satisfying hobby, such as sewing or painting. 

We've all been cooped up for months, and it's understandable if you're having a hard time emotionally. 

Saturday, November 21, is not all fun and games, though. Romance planet Venus enters obsessive Scorpio, and it may bring out your jealous side. We've all been cooped up for months, and it's understandable if you're having a hard time emotionally. This transit could make you feel a bit insecure and possessive, so try to implement self-care rather than lash out at partners or crushes based on paranoid hunches. 

Finally, on Monday, November 30, there is a full moon and lunar eclipse in chatty Gemini. You are ruled by the moon, Cancer, so eclipses tend to stress you out even more than other signs. This makes it even more important to avoid making any sudden moves. If you can, put your phone on airplane mode and indulge in your water sign nature with a hot bath. This too will pass, and you should never forget how strong you are. You have claws and armor, after all. See you next month. 

Hydrate your lips as the seasons change with: Maybelline New York Lifter Gloss Ornament with Hyaluronic Acid, $7 (Shop Now)

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We know many of you may be feeling worried, frightened, or isolated right now. Although the stars don't have answers to the multitude of questions running through all of our minds, astrology may at least provide some comfort during times of uncertainty. We urge you to donate to one or all of these organizations if you're able to. If you can't, we created a guide to ways you can support the BLM movement other than financially.

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Why My Beauty Routine Was So Important During My Battle With Breast Cancer

This story is part of Survivor's Guide, a series on navigating the impact of breast cancer through beauty and self-care.

One in eight women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. I am one of those women and I've learned that breast cancer can only be defined by uncertainty. While it's a different journey for everyone, one thing always holds true: It doesn't affect only the person who is diagnosed. Whether you're going through it yourself or supporting someone else, it's difficult. Rarely are there definitive answers. With a cancer diagnosis, life changes in an instant and you have no choice but to persevere through every unknown. 

But amid unimaginable ups and downs, I found one constant: my beauty routine. I was fortunate enough to have my mom (my ultimate beauty queen) by my side through it all. She knew exactly how to help me keep a smile on my face. While I was recovering, we would do face masks and manicures together. Or when I couldn't lift my arms after my mastectomy, she'd blow-out my hair and help me swipe on my signature red lipstick. And when I looked in the mirror, I saw myself. 

The impact of beauty should not be underestimated.

Different things — a touch of lip balm, the feeling of a fresh face, a spritz of scent — might spark a similar feeling for you. Regardless of what that ritual might be, the impact of beauty should not be underestimated. Being able to feel like yourself is one of the most powerful treatments of all. It is not being vain. It is not superficial. It's not for anyone else. When you look like yourself, you feel like yourself. 

I hope the stories and tips from Allure's Survivor's Guide bring you happiness even if it's just for a moment. And survivor to survivor, no diagnosis will ever define you. You are beautiful just the way you are.

Take what you need from our survivor's guide: skin-care advice, courage, help with hair loss, or just the knowledge that you are never alone.

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Joe Biden Says He's Had a Stutter All His Life—Here's Why It Can Be So Hard to Overcome This Speech Disorder

A stutter can be an extremely debilitating and frustrating speech disorder, but it hasn’t held Joe Biden back. In December 2019, Biden revealed on Twitter that he had worked his whole life to overcome a stutter, and has mentored kids with the same speech disorder. 

During a presidential-primary debate in Atlanta in November 2019, Biden stuttered several times. Shortly afterward, he spoke to The Atlantic about living with a stutter since he was a young boy, telling writer John Hendrickson, who also has a stutter, that it “can’t define who you are.”

What is stuttering, exactly? 

Stuttering (sometimes called stammering or disfluent speech) is characterized by repetition, prolongation (extending the duration) of sounds, and interruptions in speech known as blocks, per the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). A person who stutters knows exactly what they want to stay, but has difficulty with the flow of the words. In some cases, they may experience rapid eye blinks or lip tremors alongside the stuttering. 

“The signs and symptoms of stuttering are easily recognizable,” Avivit Ben-Aharon MS Ed, founder and clinical director of Great Speech Inc., tells Health. “Stutterers tend to repeat syllables, parts of words, and make some words or sounds longer. Some stutterers can produce words but with excessive physical difficulty.” 

The NIDCD says stuttering is most common in children between ages 2 and 6—which is the period when they’re developing language skills. Around 95% of children who stutter show signs of it before the age of 5, Ben-Aharon says. Boys are up to three times as likely to stutter as girls, a difference that becomes even greater as they get older. 

According to The Stuttering Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports those who stutter, stuttering affects roughly 70 million people (that’s about 1% of the population)—3 million of them live in the United States.

What causes stuttering? 

It's not known for sure, but it’s likely to be a combination of multiple factors. “Recent research indicates that genetics, family history (often male), neuromuscular development, and the child’s environment, including family dynamics, all play a role in the onset of stuttering,” Ben-Aharon says. 

The Stuttering Foundation says approximately 60% of people who stutter have a family member who actively stutters, or used to. (Biden’s uncle on his mother’s side—known as “Uncle Boo-Boo”—stuttered his whole life, Biden told The Atlantic.)

Although emotional problems and parenting don’t appear to cause stuttering, environmental factors and speaking demands may increase or decrease stuttering, Ben-Aharon adds. Stress too can exacerbate it, but isn’t considered a cause. 

How can stuttering be managed?

Although there’s no cure for stuttering, lots of treatment options are available, including stuttering therapy, drug therapy, self-help groups, and electronic devices to help control fluency, such as a device that fits into the ear canal (just like a hearing aid) and digitally replays a slightly altered version of the person’s voice into their ear so that it sounds as if their speech is in sync with someone else’s.

“If stuttering persists in children for more than six months, speech therapy is generally needed to learn strategies and techniques that are helpful in managing their stuttering, Ben-Aharon says. “The therapeutic process focuses on relaxation and breathing strategies to reduce tension as well as slowing down the rate of speech to minimize the dysfluency.” 

Does a stutter ever go away on its own? 

The NIDCD says approximately 75% of children outgrow stuttering. However, the longer someone stutters, the less likely they are to make a full recovery. According to The Stuttering Foundation, no more than a quarter of people who still stutter at 10 will be completely free from the disorder in adulthood. And children who continue to stutter may have the disorder for the rest of their lives—like Biden. 

“Whether a child who stutters continues stuttering through the adult years often depends on the age the child begins to stutter and whether there is a family history of stuttering,” Ben-Aharon explains.  

How does stuttering affect a person’s mental health?

So much of our lives rely on communication with others, so stuttering can have a huge impact on quality of life and interpersonal relationships. Also, the stigma attached to it may negatively influence job performance and opportunities. 

“Stuttering can affect socialization, causing anxiety and depression in those who are struggling to communicate,” Ben-Aharon adds. “When individuals who stutter feel rushed or sense the impatience of others who try to finish their sentences, their anxiety often increases—while their inclination to socialize decreases.”

Ben-Aharon finds that some people don’t seem to be impacted emotionally by their stuttering, while others see it as a challenge to overcome. “They embrace the techniques and strategies offered through speech therapy to maximize communication,” she says. “And in our practice, we are noticing greater acceptability around stuttering and less of our patients are reporting bullying or negative responses in school.”

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