RHOC’s Braunwyn Windham-Burke: ‘I’m an Alcoholic,’ 258 Days Sober

The first step. After calling herself “an alcoholic” in the season 15 premiere of The Real Housewives of Orange County, Braunwyn Windham-Burke candidly opened up about her journey to sobriety.

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“When I first got sober, I was scared I wouldn’t be fun anymore, that my life was going to be boring. I really thought alcohol made life enjoyable, and that’s sad,” the Bravo personality, 42, wrote in a Glamour essay published on Thursday, October 15. “Now, nine months later, I realize that’s not at all true. Honestly, I dance even more now because I can stay awake. I sometimes used to pass out at, like, 7 p.m. because I had been drinking all day. So yeah, I actually have way more fun now.”

Windham-Burke acknowledged that she “never had a healthy relationship with alcohol” after taking her first sip at the age of 14. She would drink until she “blacked out or got sick” and only avoided liquor while pregnant or nursing her seven children with husband Sean Burke.

“I went to a meeting when I lived in Miami, but instead of sticking to a program, I just got pregnant,” she recalled. “I have seven kids, so that’s a huge chunk of my life that I was sober — or I should say, not drinking. Now I realize there’s a difference between not drinking and being sober, for me.

Braunwyn Windham-Burke and Sean Burke’s Ups and Downs

The reality star realized she had a problem after watching herself on TV and having “no recollection” of some of the scenes she filmed. She also admitted that she put family members and the show’s crew “in really uncomfortable positions” by overdrinking.

Windham-Burke decided to make a change in January while celebrating her costar Kelly Dodd’s birthday in Miami, where she was “drinking around the clock” to the point where she “started shaking” whenever she did not have a drink in her hand. She called her friend Leah Shafer and asked to speak to Shafer’s girlfriend, Below Deck star Captain Sandy Yawn, who has been sober for 30-plus years.

“We talked for an hour, during which time I told her what I was dealing with and asked if I could do this [sobriety journey] on film,” Windham-Burke wrote. “She said, ‘Absolutely, but you need to own it on the show. You need to be accountable, otherwise you’re going to drink again.’ Before I could change my mind, I called my producer and said, ‘This is the truth: I’m an alcoholic. I have been for many years, and I need to get sober. Let’s tell this story.’ Five days later, we started filming.”

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The stay-at-home mom marked 258 days of sobriety in an Instagram post on Wednesday, October 14, the day RHOC returned to Bravo.

“9 months ago my life was unmanageable, but today I’m happier then [sic] I’ve ever been, living life honestly on life’s terms,” she wrote.

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More humans born with an extra artery as part of ‘microevolution’ phenomenon

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Humans are undergoing a “microevolution” resulting in babies being born without wisdom teeth and with an extra artery in their arm, according to Australian researchers.

The scientists believe humans are evolving faster than at any point in the past 250 years — with more babies coming out with shorter faces, smaller jaws and extra bones in their legs and feet.

The scientists believe humans are evolving faster than at any point in the past 250 years — with more babies coming out with shorter faces, smaller jaws and extra bones in their legs and feet. (iStock)

The stunning findings were part of a study in the Journal of Anatomy.

The extra artery is a median artery that’s first formed in the womb and serves as the main vessel that supplies blood to the forearm and hand, according to Sky News. The median artery vanishes once the radial and ulnal arteries develop, though now one in three people keep it for life.

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There’s no health risk associated with the extraneous body part, which provides increased blood supply to the hand.

“This is ‘micro evolution’ in modern humans,” said the study’s author, Professor Maciej Henneberg. “The median artery is a perfect example of how we are still evolving because people born more recently have a higher prevalence of this artery when compared to humans from previous generations.”

The study said people born 80 years from now will all have a median artery if the trend in microevolution continues, BBC’s Science Focus reported.

Wisdom teeth may be a thing of the past, too. Smaller faces means there’s less room for teeth — though the lack of wisdom teeth can be attributed also to an increased ability to chew food.

“This is happening in time as we have learned to use fire and process foods more,” Dr. Teghan Lucas from Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, told Science Focus. “A lot of people are just being born without wisdom teeth.”

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To get their findings, researchers tracked the rate of retainment of certain parts of the body and analyzed corpses of people born in the 20th century.

They found that some people were also born with extra bones in their arms and legs or with unusual connections of two or more bones in their feet.

“A lot of people thought humans have stopped evolving. But our study shows we are still evolving — faster than at any point in the past 250 years,” said Lucas.

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Only 25% of older Australians have an advance care plan. Coronavirus makes it even more important

Older adults and those with chronic health conditions share an increased risk of experiencing severe symptoms if they contract COVID-19.

But they’re not a homogeneous group. In the event they become very sick, one person may want all available treatment, even if this includes intensive care and an extended period of rehabilitation. Another may prefer to avoid life-sustaining but highly invasive medical interventions.

If either of these people became suddenly unwell, how likely is it health professionals would know their wishes? Understanding a person’s wishes in advance makes it easier for the health-care system to provide care that matches the person’s preferences.

Yet research shows only 25% of older Australian adults accessing health and aged-care facilities have documented their wishes for future care through advance care planning.

What is advance care planning?

Advance care planning is about discussing your goals for future care, in case of a time when you’re unable to communicate or make your own decisions. It works best when it includes health professionals, family members and other significant people (for example, a spiritual advisor).

A competent adult can specify their preferences for future health care in an advance care directive, or nominate a substitute decision-maker to make health-care decisions on their behalf.

The goal is even if a person is too unwell to make decisions, health-care professionals can still respect their preferences.

Why is advance care planning important during COVID-19?

In a recent paper, my colleagues and I make the case for incorporating advance care planning into the COVID-19 response.

First, it allows us to better prepare for any unexpected surges and reduce the need for rationing of medical resources in this event.

The recent outbreak of COVID-19 in Victoria has severely impacted aged-care settings and the broader community, and reignited concerns about the health-care system’s capacity to cope with local outbreaks.

Much debate about ethical decision-making has focused on the “rationing” scenario, in which outbreaks overwhelm health-care resources and some people are refused treatment.

However, we shouldn’t put our ethics hat on only when the truck gets close to the cliff. Ethics and evidence should inform all decision-making in the COVID-19 response, including taking all sensible steps to avoid a rationing scenario.

If future surges in demand push health-care systems beyond capacity, it will be too late to have advance care planning discussions with people at the time of their admission to hospital.

The public health response to prevent and control outbreaks is of course crucial. Beyond this, advance care planning can ensure those who wish to refuse certain treatments have communicated this, and are not inadvertently “competing” with others for scarce health-care resources.

This is not about abandoning people or an excuse to provide less care. Advance care planning must always be a voluntary process, aimed at respecting a person’s informed preferences.

Importantly, routine care delivery is more complicated in the COVID-19 context, and respecting a person’s preferences can require preparation. For example, a person’s wish to receive care at home may depend on supplies of consumables and personal protective equipment, visiting rosters and backups in case family members or care staff need to quarantine.

Finally, it’s a matter of respecting human rights. Advance care planning enables a person to exercise some level of control over their care, even while highly dependent.

How can we boost the uptake of advance care planning?

In terms of policy, the Australian health sector’s emergency response plan for COVID-19 does indicate aged-care providers should encourage advance care planning among residents.

But the plan should be updated to incorporate a more strategic approach to increasing advance care planning across primary care, hospital and community settings—not just aged care.

Health professionals, including primary care, allied health and aged-care workers, can all help patients and family members understand their condition and options for future treatment, and encourage further discussion about advance care planning.

Lawyers, trained community volunteers, health promotion units and mass media strategies can also play a role in encouraging the broader community to discuss their wishes with family members and health professionals, in non-acute community settings.

The COVID-19 pandemic has stimulated changes in attitudes and accepted practices across the board. We should leverage this to promote increased uptake of advance care planning.

Notably, telehealth technology enables advance care planning discussions from a distance, and new legislation in some states allows remote witnessing of legal documents.

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This hack puts an end to sun glare on your laptop

With the weather finally getting warmer and many people working from home, it’s the optimal time to drag your laptop outside and sit in the garden answering emails (or on the balcony, or the stoop, or whatever outside space you have access to). Although working out in the sunshine definitely makes the day go quicker, as well as providing the requisite vitamin D we’re all craving right now, even the most expensive and high-tech laptop isn’t equipped for so much bright light.

The main issue with working outside in the sun is the natural glare on the screen, which can make it hard to see anything you’re trying to work on or read. Thankfully, the denizens of social media have devised an ingenious solution to this problem — and the good news is it’s affordable, easy to do, and doesn’t require even a modicum of IT expertise to pull off.

End sun glare on your laptop with a box

As reported by Metro, an intrepid LinkedIn user named Tom Wood posted a photo working from his own garden with a cardboard box propped up protectively around his laptop. “When you are working from home and want to enjoy the sunshine, yet can’t see your laptop screen because of the sun! Get yourself the latest technological breakthrough….. The Cardboard Box,” he quipped.

The hack was a massive hit online with one Twitter user gushing, “To whoever it was who posted this laptop box cover invention, the Delahoy family would like to say thank you,” alongside a shot of a woman happily working away on a balcony with a box propped up to block the glare. The original post has been liked more than 50,000 times with comments flooding in commending Wood for his genius.  

Still, it’s worth keeping an eye on the temperature of your laptop, even if you employ this nifty trick. As House Beautiful advises, most models will be fine up to about 30 degrees Celsius (around 86 degrees Fahrenheit) but, beyond that, you’re risking causing damage to your hard drive. Even with your box propped up, always be mindful and ensure your laptop isn’t overheating to avoid damaging it.

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Should you fly yet? An epidemiologist and an exposure scientist walk you through the decision process

We don’t know about you, but we’re ready to travel. And that typically means flying.

We have been thinking through this issue as moms and as an exposure scientist and infectious disease epidemiologist. While we’ve decided personally that we’re not going to fly right now, we will walk you through our thought process on what to consider and how to minimize your risks.

Why the fear of flying?

The primary concern with flying—or traveling by bus or train—is sitting within six feet of an infected person. Remember: Even asymptomatic people can transmit. Your risk of infection directly corresponds to your dose of exposure, which is determined by your duration of time exposed and the amount of virus-contaminated droplets in the air.

A secondary concern is contact with contaminated surfaces. When an infected person contaminates a shared armrest, airport restroom handle, seat tray or other item, the virus can survive for hours though it degrades over time. If you touch that surface and then touch your mouth or nose, you put yourself at risk of infection.

Before you book, think

While there is no way to make air travel 100% safe, there are ways to make it safer. It’s important to think through the particulars for each trip.

One approach to your decision-making is to use what occupational health experts call the hierarchy of controls. This approach does two things. It focuses on strategies to control exposures close to the source. Second, it minimizes how much you have to rely on individual human behavior to control exposure. It’s important to remember you may be infectious and everyone around you may also be infectious.

The best way to control exposure is to eliminate the hazard. Since we cannot eliminate the new coronavirus, ask yourself if you can eliminate the trip. Think extra hard if you are older or have preexisting conditions, or if you are going to visit someone in that position.

If you are healthy and those you visit are healthy, think about ways to substitute the hazard. Is it possible to drive? This would allow you to have more control over minimizing your exposures, particularly if the distance is less than a day of travel.

You’re going, now what?

If you choose to fly, check out airlines’ policies on seating and boarding. Some are minimizing capacity and spacing passengers by not using middle seats and having empty rows. Others are boarding from the back of the plane. Some that were criticized for filling their planes to capacity have announced plans to allow customers to cancel their flights if the flight goes over 70% passenger seating capacity.

Federal and state guidance are changing constantly, so make sure you look up the most recent guidance from government agencies and the airlines and airport you are using for additional advice, and current policies or restrictions.

While this may sound counterintuitive, consider booking multiple, shorter flights. This will decrease the likelihood of having to use the lavatory and the duration of exposure to an infectious person on the plane.

After you book, select a window seat if possible. If you consider the six-foot radius circle around you, having a wall on one side would directly reduce the number of people you are exposed to during the flight in half, not to mention all the people going up and down the aisle.

Also, check out your airline to see their engineering controls that are designed or put into practice to isolate hazards. These include ventilation systems, on-board barriers and electrostatic disinfectant sprays on flights.

When the ventilation system on planes is operating, planes have a very high ratio of outside fresh air to recirculated air – about 10 times higher than most commercial buildings. Plus, most planes’ ventilation systems have HEPA filters. These are at least 99.9% effective at removing particles that are 0.3 microns in diameter and more efficient at removing both smaller and larger particles.

How to be safe from shuttle to seat

From checking in, to going through security to boarding, you will be touching many surfaces. To minimize risk:

Bring hand wipes to disinfect surfaces such as your seat belt and your personal belongings, like your passport. If you cannot find hand wipes, bring a small washcloth soaked in a bleach solution in a zip bag. This would probably freak TSA out less than your personal spray bottle, and viruses are not likely to grow on a cloth with a bleach solution. But remember: More bleach is not better and can be unsafe. You only need one tablespoon in four cups of water to be effective.

Bring plastic zip bags for personal items that others may handle, such as your ID. Bring extra bags so you can put these things in a new bag after you get the chance to disinfect them.

Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as often as you can. While soap and water is most effective, hand sanitizer is helpful after you wash to get any parts you may have missed.

Once you get to your window seat, stay put.

Wear a mask. If you already have an N95 respirator, consider using it but others can also provide protection. We do not recommend purchasing N95 until health care workers have an adequate supply. Technically, it should also be tested to make sure you have a good fit. We do not recommend the use of gloves, as that can lead to a false sense of security and has been associated with reduced hand hygiene practices.

If you are thinking about flying with kids, there are special considerations. Getting a young child to adhere to wearing a mask and maintaining good hygiene behaviors at home is hard enough; it may be impossible to do so when flying. Children under 2 should not wear a mask.

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Coronavirus: Big tobacco sees an opportunity in the pandemic

Over the last few months, as COVID-19 has spread around the world, big tobacco has exploited the pandemic to push its branding and products. The industry never misses a trick when it comes to exploiting the chaos of international crises, including wars. The current pandemic is no exception.

The strategy is to use the pandemic to try and shift their image from vilified industry to trusted health partner. The tactics they have employed to achieve this are shameless, even for an industry as controversial as tobacco. There are examples of tobacco companies offering assistance in the form of ventilators, gels, PPE and even cash. They are even involved in trying to develop a vaccine. While there is no doubt that these have been gratefully received by authorities struggling with a chronic lack of resources, the industry has been up to other tricks, too. And one British FTSE 100 company is proving particularly adept.

In March, as many governments began to lock down their populations, British American Tobacco (BAT) began co-opting universal health messages. These were then placed on branded face masks, which were subsequently handed out to social media influencers for free.

Instagram remains one of the key marketing platforms for the industry. In 2019, BAT paid Instagram influencers to promote glo, its heated tobacco device, among other products. One of the hashtags used was #todayiwill.

BAT’s Instagram campaign ran into trouble, though. In December 2019, in a landmark decision, the UK Advertising Standards Authority, ruled against BAT and three other firms for promoting an e-cigarette, Vype, on Instagram, after a complaint by ASH, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and STOP, of which the University of Bath is a partner. Later that month, under pressure to act, Facebook and Instagram announced that “branded content that promotes goods such as vaping, tobacco products and weapons will not be allowed”.

Undaunted, BAT appeared to use the social media platform as a COVID-19 marketing tool, especially in countries where oversight was likely to be less stringent. BAT simply changed the #todayiwill hashtag to #todayIwillstayhome, to reflect the messaging from governments for people to stay at home. Evidence uncovered by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which has been tracking BAT’s activities, found that in Kazakhstan among other countries, BAT provided influencers with “today I will stay home” glo masks. Other hashtags used included #glomask.

The company used other COVID-19 hashtags, too. An influencer appeared on one BAT Vype account in Spain, using #frenalacurva, the Spanish for “flatten the curve”. BAT employed similar tactics in Latin America and Europe. This meant if you were searching on Instagram for these government messages, you would come across BAT’s subliminal marketing.

Days before the glo-branded masks started appearing on social media and right in the middle of the pandemic, BAT launched a glossy rebranding exercise unveiling a new slogan “For a Better Tomorrow”. The company replaced its old tired leaf logo with bright rainbow colours.

‘New adults’, new market

BAT’s board told investors that its redefined mission was now “stimulating the senses of a new adult generation”. This essentially means entrapping a new generation of young people into nicotine addiction, from vaping, heated tobacco products to cigarettes.

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