DR MICHAEL MOSLEY: Why won't the NHS tell you how to treat diabetes?

DR MICHAEL MOSLEY: Why won’t the NHS tell you the secret to treating diabetes? (Clue: It costs nothing)

Eight years ago I managed to beat type 2 diabetes by going on my 5:2 diet (cutting my calories two days a week) and losing weight — 9kg to be precise. 

Since then I’ve become something of a broken record on the importance of shedding body fat to improve your blood sugar levels.

So I was delighted last week by the news from the Norfolk Diabetes Prevention Study — the largest of its kind in the world — which showed that even modest weight loss can have a big impact.

A recent review by Danish researchers found more than 70 per cent of people with type 2 diabetes who had lost significant amounts of weight were still medication-free more than five years later [File photo]

The Norfolk study recruited more than 1,000 people with pre-diabetes (meaning they had raised blood sugar levels). They were asked to lose weight, then were monitored for more than eight years. Those who managed to lose 2kg to 3kg, and keep it off, almost halved their risk of developing full-blown type 2.

This adds to extensive research carried out by British scientists showing that, as well as pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes can be put into remission by going on a rapid weight-loss diet. And, as we’ve known for 20 years, weight-loss surgery can also reverse type 2.

In fact, a recent review by Danish researchers found more than 70 per cent of people with type 2 diabetes who had lost significant amounts of weight were still medication-free more than five years later.

Despite all this, the NHS Choices website still tells you type 2 diabetes is a ‘progressive’ disease that ‘usually gets worse over time’, with most people needing ever increasing levels of medication. What a depressing — and I would argue inaccurate — message.

So why aren’t they being a bit more encouraging? The situation with type 2 diabetes reminds me of a tussle I had with the medical establishment more than 25 years ago. 

In 1993 I was looking around for a subject to make a science documentary, when I came across the work of two Australians, Dr Barry Marshall and Dr Robin Warren, who had a striking new theory about stomach ulcers.

I was delighted last week by the news from the Norfolk Diabetes Prevention Study — the largest of its kind in the world — which showed that even modest weight loss can have a big impact [File photo]

At the time, stomach or duodenal ulcers (affecting the first part of the small intestine) were incredibly common but, like type 2, were seen as something of a mystery.

Gut ulcers can be excruciatingly painful and lead to internal bleeding. Doctors knew they were caused by excess acid and they could be managed by drugs such as ranitidine, which stopped the stomach from producing acid. These drugs, known as proton pump inhibitors, were expensive but there was a lot of incentive to use them because if you didn’t, or if the drugs stopped working, there was a high chance you’d need some of your stomach and intestines removed.

Robin and Barry, however, were convinced they had a cheap and effective cure. Their research showed that most patients with ulcers were infected with a bacterium, which the two doctors called Helicobacter pylori.

The patients’ stomachs were producing more acid to get rid of the bacterium, but this failed because Helicobacter is resistant to acid attack. But it is vulnerable to the right antibiotics.

To prove the point, Barry deliberately infected himself with Helicobacter (he swallowed a flask of it) and soon developed gastritis — massive inflammation — which he cured with a short course of antibiotics. This was in 1984.

Nine years later, when I began filming with Robin and Barry, there was still widespread resistance to their claims, despite extensive proof they were right.

When I asked Barry how long he thought it would take to persuade his colleagues to take their claims seriously, he laconically replied, ‘Well it’s been ten years and ten per cent of doctors are treating ulcers this way. Perhaps in 100 years they will all be doing it.’

In fact, within ten years almost all doctors were doing it. Not least because Barry and Robin won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2004 for their work.

But back in 1994, when my documentary, Ulcer Wars, detailing their work, came out, the medical reaction was either indifference or hostility. A review in The British Medical Journal by a leading gastroenterologist described the film as ‘one sided and tendentious’.

However, patients with duodenal ulcers who’d watched the programme soon began demanding antibiotic treatment.

Many later wrote to me and as one man put it: ‘I saw your programme a week before I was due to have surgery, and it was only because my doctor was prepared to listen that I was cured by antibiotics rather than having a chunk of my guts removed.’

Why did it take so long for doctors to adopt this approach, despite overwhelming evidence that eradicating Helicobacter could change patients’ lives? This was a question that researchers from Harvard asked in 2019 — concluding that it was mainly because doctors get much of their information from pharmaceutical companies, and these companies had no incentive to promote a cheap alternative to their acid-reducing drugs (which, of course, you took for life).

The parallels with type 2 diabetes are clear. As the millions of those affected in the UK will know, type 2 is usually treated with medication. 

While this will reduce the long-term damage caused by high blood sugar levels, it doesn’t deal with the underlying disease — and like all medication, the drugs can have significant side-effects, particularly when you move on to injecting insulin.

So how long before there’s widespread acceptance that most cases of type 2 diabetes can be put into remission by a rapid weight-loss diet? 

It is beginning to happen, but I wouldn’t guarantee that NHS Choices will be telling you the good news any time soon.

Like us, worms need to sleep. And the way their bodies prepare for sleep is also surprisingly similar to humans — one of the key triggers for a bit of shut eye is the release of melatonin, also known as the ‘hormone of darkness’.

Melatonin is produced in your brain and levels rise when it gets dark (synthetic melatonin is a popular sleep aid and is used to treat jet lag — I find it very effective).Now researchers at the University of Connecticut have discovered how melatonin actually works — in worms at least.

It slows the release of neurotransmitters, substances that allow messages to travel between nerve cells. So melatonin effectively tells your brain cells to stop chatting to each other — the chemical equivalent of a giant ‘shhh’!

Covid-19 vaccines are like buses; you wait for one, then two come along, almost together, with other contenders coming close behind.

This week we learnt that the vaccine made by Moderna may be even more effective than Pfizer’s. That both are more than 90 per cent effective is fantastic news and a real poke in the eye for the sceptics who claimed we might never get a vaccine against Covid-19, let alone several.

These findings also suggest that our immune system is doing what evolution designed it to do: mount a strong response to the virus.

There was a fear that Covid-19 might mutate into a more resistant form — or that our immune response might weaken. 

Yet recent research suggests that while antibody levels tend to fall over time, your immune system retains a ‘memory’ of the virus. So if you encounter it again, your body is ready to begin churning out antibodies and T-killer cells.

Which makes me wonder why Boris, who’s had Covid, is self-isolating. He’s unlikely to be ‘bursting with antibodies’ as he claims, but he’s also very unlikely to get it again, or to be infectious, so I can’t see how he’s a threat to others. 

Our immune system has been severely tested by Covid, but as the new vaccines show, it just needs a bit of help to get back on top.

Covid-19 vaccines are like buses; you wait for one, then two come along, almost together, with other contenders coming close behind [File photo]

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Could COVID-19 immunity last decades? Here’s the science.

The body builds a protective fleet of immune cells when infected with COVID-19, and in many people, those defenses linger for more than six months after the infection clears, according to a new study.

The immune cells appear so stable, in fact, that immunity to the virus may last at least several years, the study authors said. “That amount of [immune] memory would likely prevent the vast majority of people from getting hospitalized disease, severe disease, for many years,” co-author Shane Crotty, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute of Immunology in California, told The New York Times, which first reported on the study.

That said, making predictions about how long immunity to the coronavirus lasts can be “tricky,” Nicolas Vabret, an assistant professor of medicine at the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, who was not involved in the study, told Live Science.

“It would be surprising to see the … immune cells build up in patients over six months and suddenly crash after one year,” Vabret said in an email. But “the only way to know whether SARS-CoV-2 immunity will last decades is to study the patients over the same period of time.” 

In other words, we won’t know exactly how long immunity lasts without continuing to study those who have recovered from COVID-19. However, the new study, posted Nov. 16 to the preprint database bioRxiv, does provide strong hints that the protection is long-lived — although clearly not in all people, as there have been several cases of individuals being reinfected with the coronavirus after recovering. 

The research dives into the ranks of the human immune system, assessing how different lines of defense change after a COVID-19 infection. 

These defenses include antibodies, which bind to the virus and either summon immune cells to destroy the bug or neutralize it themselves. Memory B cells, a kind of white blood cell, “remember” the virus after an infection clears and help quickly raise the body’s defenses, should the body be reexposed. Memory T cells, another kind of white blood cell, also learn to recognize the coronavirus and dispose of infected cells. Specifically, the authors looked at T cells called CD8+ and CD4+ cells.

The authors assessed all these immune cells and antibodies in 185 people who had recovered from COVID-19. A small number of participants never developed symptoms of the illness, but most experienced mild infections that did not require hospitalization. And 7% of the participants were hospitalized for severe disease. 

The majority of participants provided one blood sample, sometime between six days and eight months after the onset of their infections. Thirty-eight participants gave several blood samples between those time points, allowing the authors to track their immune response through time.

Ultimately, “one could argue that what they found is not so surprising, as the immune response dynamics they measure look like what you would expect from functioning immune systems,” Vabret said. 

The authors found that antibodies specific to the spike protein — a structure on the surface of the virus — remain stable for months and begin to wane about six to eight months after infection. At five months post-infection, nearly all the participants still carried antibodies. The volume of these antibodies differed widely between people, though, with an up to 200-fold difference between individuals. Antibody counts normally fall after an acute infection, Vabret noted, so the modest drop-off at six to eight months came as no surprise.

By comparison, memory T and B cells that recognize the virus appear extremely stable, the authors noted. “Essentially no decay of … memory B cells was observed between days 50 and 240,” or eight months later, Marc Jenkins, an immunologist at the University of Minnesota Medical School, who was not involved in the study, said in an email.

“Although some decay of memory T cells was observed, the decay was very slow and may flatten out at some point,” Jenkins added. There’s reason to believe that the number of memory T cells may stabilize sometime after infection, because T cells against a related coronavirus, SARS-CoV, have been found in recovered patients up to 17 years later, according to a study published July 15 in the journal Nature

Early in the pandemic, scientists raised concerns that immunity to the virus may wear off in about a year; this trend can be seen with the four coronaviruses that cause the common cold, Live Science previously reported. However, studies suggest that the body’s reaction to common coronaviruses may differ from that to viruses like SAR-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, which hopped from animals to humans. 

“We don’t really know why seasonal coronaviruses do not induce lasting protective immunity,” Vabret said. But the new study, along with other recent evidence, suggests that SARS-CoV-2 immunity may be more robust, said Jason Cyster, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study.

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That said, a few participants in the new study did not mount long-lasting immune responses to the novel virus. Their transient responses may come down to differences in how much virus they were initially exposed to, or genetics may explain the difference, Cyster said. For instance, genes known as human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes differ widely between individuals and help alert the immune system to foreign invaders, Live Science previously reported

These inherent differences between people may help explain cases of COVID-19 reinfection, which have been relatively rare but are increasing in number, Science Magazine reported.

Again, to really understand how long COVID-19 immunity lasts, scientists need to continue to study recovered patients. “Certainly, we need to look six months down the road,” and see whether the T and B cell counts remain high, Cyster said.

Should immunity be long-term, one big question is whether that durability carries over to vaccines. But natural immunity and vaccine-generated immunity cannot be directly compared, Vabret noted. 

“The mechanisms by which vaccines induce immunity are not necessarily the same as the ones resulting from natural infection,” Vabret said. “So the immune protection resulting from a vaccine could last longer or shorter than the one resulting from natural infection.”

For example, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a molecular messenger called mRNA to train the body to recognize and attack the coronavirus. No mRNA-based vaccine has ever been approved before, so “we practically know nothing about the durability of those responses,” Cyster said.

“I think [that’s] the big unknown for me, among the many,” he said.

But while some unanswered questions remain, the main takeaway from the new study is that “immune memory to SARS-CoV-2 is very stable,” Jenkins said. And — fingers crossed — perhaps those hopeful results will hold well into the future.

Originally published on Live Science. 

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Nev Schulman Is Hoping for Baby No. 3 After 'Dancing With the Stars'

It’s family time! Although Nev Schulman is crushing it on Dancing With the Stars, he’s looking forward to some serious family time when the show wraps on Monday, November 23.

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“I’m sure Nev’s very excited to have a moment to reconnect with his family he’s been gone from,” his partner, Jenna Johnson, told Us Weekly and other reporters following the semifinals on Monday, November 16, in which the pair received two perfect 30s.

The Catfish host, 36, responded, “I’m excited to start trying for baby No. 3 myself. Now’s the time!”

Schulman and wife Laura Perlongo, who recently celebrated their third wedding anniversary, share two children, Cleo, 4, and Beau, 21 months.

See Famous Celebrity Families’ Photos

“It’s just so fun when the kids come into the bed in the morning,” he told Us exclusively in September. “They’re at the perfect age right now where we can be super silly and snugly. So, we were just having fun hanging out.”

Last month, Schulman dedicated his rumba, set to Celine Dion‘s “Because You Loved Me,” to his wife, who he married in 2017. “I am here because you are here for me,” he said to Perlongo during the October episode.

“We have so much fun [together],” the New York native shared with Us. “Honestly, I know every mom is the best mom in the world, but the greatest joy for me is watching Laura with our kids. She is so fantastic, and they are so lucky that they get to spend time with her. They really are so happy and so loved.”

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He also noted that he’s open to having a big family one day. “The more the merrier,” he laughed.

Dancing With the Stars airs on ABC Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

With reporting by Kayley Stumpe

For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!

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Soccer players’ head injury risk could be reduced with simple adjustments to the ball

Up to 22% of soccer injuries are concussions that can result from players using their heads to direct the ball during a game.

To reduce risk of injury, a new study recommends preventing how hard a ball hits the head by inflating balls to lower pressures and subbing them out when they get wet.

The study, conducted by Purdue University engineers, found that inflating balls to pressures on the lower end of ranges enforced by soccer governing bodies such as the NCAA and FIFA could reduce forces associated with potential head injury by about 20%.

But if the ball gets too wet, it can quickly surpass the NCAA weight limit for game play and still produce a nasty impact, the researchers said.

“If the ball has too high of a pressure, gets too waterlogged, or both, it actually turns into a weapon. Heading that ball is like heading a brick,” said Eric Nauman, a Purdue professor of mechanical engineering and basic medical sciences with a courtesy appointment in biomedical engineering.

Soccer governing bodies already regulate ball pressure, size, mass and water absorption at the start of a game, but Nauman’s lab is the first to conduct a study evaluating the effects of each of these ball parameters on producing an impact associated with potential neurophysiological changes.

The results are published in the journal PLOS One.

The study also evaluated ball velocity, finding that this variable actually contributes the most to how hard a ball hits. But ball pressure and water absorption would be more realistic to control.

“You can’t control how hard a player kicks a ball. There are other ways to decrease those forces and still have a playable game,” Nauman said.

A professional soccer player heads the ball about 12 times over the course of a single game and 800 times in games over an entire season, past studies have shown.

The lower end of NCAA and FIFA pressure ranges, which the researchers discovered could help reduce the ball’s peak impact force, already aligns with pressures specified by the manufacturer on the ball. These specifications would provide an easy way to know if a pressure is low enough to reduce risk of head injury.

“The study really sheds light on the issue of how the weight and impact of the ball can change under different conditions. Sports governing bodies and manufacturers can use this research to further reduce the risk of lasting brain functional or structural injury as a result of head impacts accrued through soccer game play,” said Francis Shen, a professor of law at the University of Minnesota whose research focuses on the intersection of sports concussions and the legal system.

Nauman and Shen met through the Big Ten-Ivy League Traumatic Brain Injury Collaboration, a multi-institutional research effort to better understand the causes and effects of sport-related concussion and head injuries.

In this study, Nauman’s lab tested three soccer ball sizes—a 4, 4.5 and a 5—by kicking them against a force plate in a lab. Even though only size 5 balls are played by professional adults, the researchers also observed the smaller 4 and 4.5 sizes played by kids under the age of 12 to evaluate how much the size of a ball contributes to peak impact force.

The study included 50 trials for each ball size at four different pressures, ranging from 4 psi to 16 psi. This range includes pressures below standard manufacturing specifications and near the limit of soccer governing body regulations.

Purdue graduate student Nicolas Leiva-Molano did 200 kicks per ball size for a total of 600 kicks.

To test water absorption, the researchers submerged each ball size for 90 minutes—the duration of a game regulated by soccer governing bodies. They weighed and rotated each ball every 15 minutes.

Within the first 15 minutes, a size 5 soccer ball had already exceeded the allowable weight gain cited in NCAA soccer rules.

Based on this study’s findings, a size 4.5 soccer ball is the safest to play in terms of forces contributed by pressure, mass and water absorption. But reducing pressure and limiting water absorption made a difference for all three ball sizes.

“This was a very simple experiment. But there just hasn’t been much data out there on these issues, and that’s a huge problem,” Nauman said.

The next step would be to replicate this experiment outside of the lab, ideally in partnership with a high school or college athletic conference, which would allow the researchers to study the effects of ball hits at different parameters before and after a season.

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Coping with the stress of this election

(HealthDay)—Americans who woke up this morning to an undecided Presidential election might rightfully be feeling lots of anxiety, both about their personal futures as well as the fate of the nation.

There are plentiful jokes online about drinking election stress away, but mental health experts instead are urging healthier ways to cope with the anxiety of a country on the edge.

First and foremost: Keep to your established schedule, and don’t allow yourself to fixate on the constant stream of news emanating from the TV and social media.

“We’re kind of in the trenches right now,” said Dr. Vivian Pender, president-elect of the American Psychiatric Association. “We’re looking at the small minute-by-minute picture. And it’s good sometimes to rise above that and step back or refocus on something else.”

Brittany LeMonda, a senior neuropsychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said, “At this point, nobody has control over the outcome. Recognizing that control is out of our hands can be a positive experience for some people. We can shift away from the news and media, and hitting refresh every five minutes, and maybe do some things that put our minds at ease and are peaceful to us.”

Maintaining your regular daily schedule—work, play, exercise, meals—will provide some structure to your life and help you manage your election stress, said Dr. Deborah Marin, director of Mount Sinai’s Center for Stress, Resilience and Personal Growth.

“If you have a schedule that works for you, don’t let this election derail it because we cannot control this anymore,” Marin said. “It’s done. The counts are going on. If we can’t control the election, let’s at least try to take control of what we know works for us.”

Try to fit in at least some physical activity in your day, because moving your body can do wonders for your mind, Marin added.

“Physical activity has a tremendous effect on our brain, not just in terms of our mood and anxiety, but also our cognition,” Marin said. “Our brains really like aerobic activity. It’s amazing the impact. Exercising twice a week can help mitigate minor depression.”

Engage in other activities that help relax you as well, LeMonda suggested, like cooking, cleaning, reading or indulging a creative pursuit.

Any sort of spiritual or mind-body practice can also help quite a bit, whether you’re attending a religious service, taking a yoga class or simply enjoying a long walk in the sunshine, LeMonda and Marin said.

“It’s a really good time to take a step back and think about what might reduce your own personal stress, what might put your mind at ease a little bit, and then make a plan to engage in that activity,” LeMonda said. “Put the phone down, turn off the television, don’t go on social media for a few hours and just do something to take your mind off it.”

Reaching out to people and socially connecting is another way to help process the uncertainty everyone faces, the experts said.

“One of the best ways of dealing with stress and anxiety is to talk to people,” said Pender, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College, in New York City.

Even though it might be difficult, Pender recommends that you even try to talk with family and friends who don’t share your political views.

“Even if you disagree, maybe especially now, talk with people you disagree with, because we have to come together somehow and the best way of doing that is to talk with each other,” Pender added. “With people who agree with you, you can sort of commiserate, but I think it may be even more important to talk with people who don’t agree with you. That way, you can hear the other side and try to reconcile. It isn’t this endless loop of echo chamber that people have been in on one side or another.”

In these talks, people should try to focus on whatever bright sides they can imagine, especially if there are young children in the home, said Dr. Victor Fornari, vice chair of child & adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y.

“Maintaining a sense of hope and optimism is critical,” Fornari said. “We need to temper our outward expression of anxiety in order to prevent it from having a contagious effect upon those around us, particularly our children.”

And whatever you do, don’t follow the advice of the online jokes and hit the liquor store, Pender said.

“Be careful about misusing alcohol or tobacco or drugs, or even prescription drugs. That could be what seems like an easy way of dealing with the stress right now, but it’s not a good way of doing it,” she added.

Just take a deep breath, and focus on what’s good for you in this moment, the experts advised.

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Unraveling the genetic determinants of small vessel vasculitis

Autoimmune disease is fundamentally a mystery: whyever should an organism systematically set out to harm itself? Now, researchers at the University of Tsukuba have identified a genetic basis for anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis, an autoimmune systemic disease that damages organs by targeting small blood vessels in a genetic association study. Interestingly, these specific gene variants, though previously known to increase risk for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), appear to be unassociated with the morbid complication called interstitial lung disease (ILD).

ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV) is a group of diseases in which neutrophils tag small blood vessels as foreign and attack them throughout the body, causing inflammatory damage. The most affected organs include the kidney and lung, though the reasons underlying this self-inflicted assault remain unclear.

Of the various subtypes of AAV, microscopic polyangiitis (MPA) and myeloperoxidase (MPO)-ANCA positive AAV (MPO-AAV) are more common in Asian populations and more associated with the severe complication AAV-associated ILD (AAV-ILD). Notably, even within the MPA subset, more ILD is seen in Japanese than in Europeans, suggesting a genetic predisposition.

Professor Aya Kawasaki, lead author, clarified the research background. “We had previously reported that a MUC5B gene variant linked to IPF was increased only in AAV patients with ILD. However, its rarity among Japanese made us suspect other IPF susceptibility alleles in TERT and DSP genes.”

The research team classified AAV patients into subsets. MPO-AAV patients were further categorized into those with ILD and those without, based on CT. Genotypes of TERT and DSP were determined for patients and controls, and analyzed. “We found that the frequency of IPF risk alleles TERT and DSP were significantly increased in MPA and MPO-AAV,” explains Professor Kawasaki. “However, the allele frequencies in MPO-AAV were similar regardless of associated ILD. We concluded that TERT and DSP IPF risk alleles were associated with MPA and MPO-AAV irrespective of concomitant ILD, and may be novel susceptibility genes for both AAV subtypes. Additionally, the genetic predisposition for these conditions and IPF may overlap.” (Figure)

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The best stretches to do when you get out of bed

The way you start your morning can often set the tone for the rest of your day, and making sure that you’re connected to your body is the perfect place to start. While the classic full-body, noise-making, head-to-toe stretch is wonderful, a few extras may help move any sense of stagnancy throughout your system and help wake you up more fully.

After you’ve taken a full-body stretch, bring your knees to your chest while you’re still laying down. Like a gentle hug, this stretch offers a simple massage for your muscles. Relax your upper body and just connect more deeply with your breath. Yoga instructor Brooke Blocker tells Prevention, “This stretch helps you gently wake up the low back and stimulate the mind and body, helping you feel ready to start your day.” Aiding in digestion, stretching the spine, and taking pressure off of your internal organs, this simple stretch can help you ease into your routine. 

Next, while sitting cross-legged in bed — or, standing up while placing your feet hip-width distance apart — interlace your fingers with your palms facing outwards, and pull them toward the ceiling. Then, as you lift upwards, gently lean to one side and breathe deeply for a few moments. Reverse to the opposite direction. According to Cosmopolitan, side stretches like these will have you feeling it in your obliques, arms, and upper back.

Go gentle on yourself while stretching first thing in the morning

Obviously, your muscles aren’t fully warmed up yet when you first get out of bed — so make sure to take it easy and not dive into a deep stretch right away. If you notice tightness in your chest, stand in mountain pose with your arms at your sides and feet hip-width distance apart, then lift your arms towards the ceiling. On an exhale, bend your elbows out to your sides, making a goal post with your arms. This offers a great pectoral stretch with external rotation of the rotator cuff, Mindbodygreen notes.

Now that your shoulders are opened, drop to all fours for a few rounds of cat-cow. On your inhale, drop your stomach toward the floor as your gaze lifts slightly, then reverse the movement on an exhale, rounding out your back. Take a few rounds, flowing with your breath. Then, end with a child’s pose. Bring your knees out to the sides, big toes come together. Then, slowly sink your hips back to rest on your feet as your arms lengthen in the opposite direction. If this causes discomfort in your low back, bring your knees closer together. Just breathe here for a few moments as the pose relaxes your back, shoulders, and neck (via Mindbodygreen). Plus, this stretch helps to calm the nervous system, as well. Make sure to hold for at least ten breaths, so the pose can fully relax your body.

Rise and shine! 

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The truth about Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly’s marriage

When former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords wed astronaut Mark Kelly on November 10, 2007, we’re sure they if they imagined their names would become famous, it would be due to her work on behalf of her constituents and his adventurous life as an astronaut. But on January 8, 2011, the couple became famous for an entirely different and wholly tragic reason. That day, at a constituents meeting Giffords was hosting outside a Tucson supermarket, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner went on a shooting spree, killing six people and injuring 13, including Gabby Giffordsm who was the intended target of an assassination (via History.com).

While at first it was unclear whether Giffords would survive, she fought not only to live, but to thrive. By May of the same year, she was able to travel from the Huston hospital where she was receiving rehabilitation treatment to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to watch the launch of the final mission of space shuttle Endeavour, which was being commanded by her husband, Mark Kelly. The two have shown remarkable support for one another at every turn.  

Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly's love story

Kelly says that when he first met Giffords in the summer of 2003 at a young leaders’ forum for the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, he “thought she was way out of my league” (via Parade). The two became friends and emailed back and forth, and then eventually went on a date (to see death row at Arizona State Prison). While an unusual date, the purpose behind it is what made Kelly find an even deeper respect for Giffords. He said he noticed that Gabby “took her job very seriously…She had a compelling urge to learn everything she needed to know to represent the people of Arizona. If she was working on legislation that had to do with the death penalty, then she needed to visit death row.”

And Gabby was equally impressed with Kelly. She told a friend she had met someone and then giggled. In response, the friend had said, “He must be tall and dark and very handsome,” to which Giffords had laughed and said, “He’s short and bald, and I love him” (via Parade). “It didn’t tale me long to learn Mark was the smart, supportive and sincere man I had been searching for,” Gabby says of her husband.

Their 2007 wedding took place on an organic produce farm outside of Tucson, after which, Kelly returned to his job in Houston and Giffords to hers in Arizona and Washington, D.C., as a U.S. representative. They remained long distance until 2011.

Love and increased closeness in the wake of tragedy

When Giffords was able to leave the hospital and continue her recovery at home, the couple moved together into a Southwestern-style house in Tucson, AZ. In an interview in 2017, six years after the shooting, Giffords, who has regained a great deal of her former abilities including riding her bike, doing yoga, and enjoying movies and cooking with her husband, said, “There’s no doubt about it: The six years since the shooting have brought us a lot closer together… Now we live in the same place and see each other more than we ever did. It’s taught me how important it is for a relationship to have a strong foundation of loyalty and respect” (via Parade).

And that loyalty and respect run deep. Kelly said of Giffords, “The injury Gabby suffered was horrific… It will affect her  the rest of her life. If roles were reversed, I’d be a little bit bitter, but she isn’t. She pops up every day looking ahead and trying to figure out how to be a positive force in the world.” Together, the couple founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, a nonprofit organization working to reduce gun violence. Giffords serves on the board of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, and Kelly serves on three corporate boards and works with Worldview, an aerospace company he co-founded.

Kelly, inspired by Giffords, is running for Senate

In a 2018 interview, Kelly said, “I’m very satisfied with where we are…I’m a pretty happy person. I’m always of the attitude that if I don’t like my life, I can change it. It’s perfectly in my power to make a big change if I wanted.” The article suggested that a big change might be coming soon. And the journalist’s hunch was correct. In winter of 2019, Kelly announced his intentions to run for Senate in Arizona. Running as a Democrat, Kelly said in his announcement video, in which Gabby is prominently featured: “What I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives… Solving some of the hardest problems requires one thing, and that’s teamwork.” This feels to us like a clear homage to the team Kelly and Giffords form together (via Washington Post).

Kelly’s official campaign website says, “I never expected to be here. Gabby was always the member of Congress in  the family, and the person who taught me everything I know about how to  use policy to improve people’s lives. I bring a different set of experiences to the table than most in Washington. Seeing the challenges that we face as a state and a country, I know I can put these experiences to use to make a difference in the lives of people here in Arizona.”

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Arkansas reports first flu death of the season

Concerns rise as coronavirus, flu season overlap

For some, it may be hard to recognize which symptoms go with each illness

As several areas of the country struggle to contain surging cases of the novel coronavirus, another infectious disease poses a threat to many: the seasonal flu, which has already killed at least one person in Arkansas. 

The Arkansas Department of Health in its most recent weekly influenza report announced the first flu death in the state of the 2020-21 season in a resident who was 65 or older, per the report, which is current as of Oct. 24. No other details were provided. 

Medical experts have urged Americans to remain diligent this year in protecting themselves against the flu amid the ongoing coronavirus epidemic in the country.  
(iStock)

Additionally, since the end of September, some 118 people have tested positive for the flu in the state. At least 11 of the positives were included in the health department’s most recent report. 

Medical experts have urged Americans to remain diligent this year in protecting themselves against the flu amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.  

MAJORITY OF AMERICANS SAY FLU SHOT IS BEST PREVENTATIVE MEASURE, BUT ONLY THIS MANY WILL GET IT

"It's particularly important to get vaccinated [against the flu] this year because of the ongoing COVID pandemic: We want people to stay as healthy as possible," Michelle Lin, an emergency room doctor and professor of emergency medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, previously told Fox News. "Since people are trying to stay home and out of the doctor's office [and/or] ER, there has been a push to make the vaccine available widely earlier."

Interestingly, however, the results of a survey commissioned by the National Foundation for Infectious Disease (NFID) and conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago found that while most participants agreed the vaccine is the best protection against flu, a smaller percentage actually plan to be inoculated.

In a survey of 1,000 adults ages 18 or older from across the country, 68% agreed that receiving the flu vaccine is the “best preventive measure against flu-related deaths and hospitalizations,” up from 61% the year before.

SHOULD YOU GET THE FLU SHOT? WHAT TO KNOW ABOUT THE 2020-21 FLU SEASON

But by comparison, only 59% of respondents said they actually plan to be vaccinated against the flu, with 15% saying they are unsure. (For context, 52% of respondents in 2019 said they planned to receive the flu vaccine that year.)

“The flu shot is incredibly important because it reduces your risk of contracting the flu,“ added Lin, noting the vaccine “also reduces your risk for complications and passing it to other people, especially pregnant women, young children and the elderly,” who are more susceptible to the virus.

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An epidemiologist explains the new CDC guidance on 15 minutes of SARS-CoV-2 exposure and what it means for you

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has new guidance clarifying what exactly “close contact” means when it comes to transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

The previous guidance suggested that a close contact occurred when a person was within six feet of an infectious individual for 15 consecutive minutes. Now, the CDC is acknowledging that even brief contact can lead to transmission. Specifically, the new guidance suggests that those spending a total of 15 minutes of contact with an infectious person over the course of a 24-hour period should be considered in close contact.

Despite the change, most public health professionals have been clear for months that there is nothing magic about six feet. In the same way, there is nothing magic about 15 minutes. These should be used as rough estimates to indicate the types of contact that are relatively higher risk.

This new guidance, then, is an important recognition of the ease with which this virus can spread. It is not a dramatic reversal of CDC guidance, like those related to masks and the back-and-forth on testing of asymptomatic individuals.

This change reflects new evidence that has emerged. This change is an example of how science works. As an epidemiologist who studies respiratory virus transmission, I actually don’t think this change will greatly impact how we live our lives during the pandemic, but it does represent continued evidence of how easily this virus spreads.

Why the change?

The new advice comes on the heels of an outbreak investigation published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The investigation found that a prison employee in Vermont was infected, most likely during a series of brief contacts with infected but asymptomatic inmates.

The inmates were waiting on test results in a quarantine unit. The employee reported no close contacts outside of work and they hadn’t traveled outside the state. At the time Vermont was experiencing low levels of community spread. The outbreak investigation used video evidence from surveillance cameras in the prison to document the short interactions. Each interaction lasted about a minute, and in total the employee was in close contact with the infected inmates for about 17 minutes over the course of an eight-hour shift. For at least some of those interactions, the infected inmates weren’t wearing masks.

Documenting infectious contact is hard for respiratory viruses. After all, we can’t see the virus moving through the air. The video footage in this case represents pretty robust evidence. And so the CDC is recognizing the possibility that shorter interactions carry some risk.

This change is also an acknowledgment that the previous definition makes at least one explicit assumption that may not be true. The major assumption of the old rule is that there is a threshold effect of exposure. That is, once you’ve been exposed to a certain amount of virus (15 minutes’ worth), your risk of disease increases. The flip side of this assumption is that at levels below that threshold your risk remains low. That is why we’ve seen some schools mistakenly moving students around at 14-minute intervals.

The new guidance suggests that there is more of a dose-response relationship between viral exposure and risk of disease. Which is to say, the more virus you are exposed to, the higher your risk, even if the exposure doesn’t happen all at once.

What does it mean?

While I don’t think this update will result in big changes, one thing it does do is expand the pool of people for contact tracing. In the ideal scenario, this change could mean that we catch more cases early after exposure. Those people can then begin to quarantine before they become infectious and spread it on to others.

Take, for example, the upcoming holidays. Having family over for Thanksgiving typically means sharing a meal, and likely spending several hours in close contact with others. That is still a risk, especially since those without symptoms can spread the disease.

The people who attend that gathering would all have been considered close contacts before, and they still are. But now, brief interactions that add up over time—for example, with a server at a restaurant—will be considered close contact.

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