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Winter’s icy beauty can also be dangerous. An orthopedic expert offers some tips for avoiding serious injuries on slippery ground or hazards hidden by snow. “When people have injuries during the winter, it commonly involves tripping over an object or slipping on ice,” said Dr. Richard Samade, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery who specializes in hand and upper extremity surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “To protect themselves from greater injuries, people will instinctively stretch their hand and arm out to break their fall,” Samade said in a center news release. “Unfortunately, this leads to a decelerating force concentrated through the wrist, forearm and elbow that often leads to injury in the small bones of those areas.” Staying alert and aware of surroundings can help. People should take note of dark patches on pavement that may be iced over, Samade advised. Wear appropriate footwear with good traction, he said. If you use a walker or cane, consider having someone walk with you in case you lose your balance. Of course, it’s important to stay safe year-round. Pay attention to what’s ahead of you while walking rather than texting or looking down at a phone screen, Samade suggested. Use corrective lenses or walking aids if poor vision, chronic conditions and medication have increased your fall risk. In warmer months, outdoor work and recreational…  read on >  read on >

American schoolchildren could be getting school lunches that have less sugar and salt in the future, thanks to new nutrition standards announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday. These are the first school lunch program updates since 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. What’s different this time is a limit on added sugars, starting in the 2025-2026 school year. Limits would at first target high-sugar foods, including sweetened cereals, yogurts and flavored milks. By fall 2027, added sugars must be less than 10% of total calories a week for school breakfasts and lunches. Sugary grain foods like muffins or doughnuts can’t be served more than twice a week at breakfast. Another example is that an 8-ounce container of chocolate milk must contain no more than 10 grams of sugar under the revised rules. Some popular flavored milks contain twice that amount. “Many children aren’t getting the nutrition they need, and diet-related diseases are on the rise. Research shows school meals are the healthiest meals in a day for most kids, proving that they are an important tool for giving kids access to the nutrition they need for a bright future,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in an agency news release. Vilsack said the agency’s goal is to get school guidelines to align with U.S. dietary guidelines for the nearly 30 million…  read on >  read on >

Could asking teens a simple, but pointed, question about their mental health reveal whether they are at risk for suicide? It might, new research suggests. Since suicide is now the second leading cause of death among American teens, any strategy that could lower that risk may be worth trying. “The depression screening tool we used is not a suicide risk assessment tool, but it does include one question that asks [students] about thoughts of self-harm,” explained study lead author Dr. Deepa Sekhar, an associate professor in the department of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine. The question is: “How often have you been bothered by… thoughts that you would be better off dead or of hurting yourself in some way?” Compared with those teens who were not asked that question, those who were “were seven times more likely to be identified at-risk for suicide, and four times as likely to initiate treatment,” Sekhar noted. To assess the potential benefit of asking teens about suicidal thoughts, the researchers worked with students at 14 Pennsylvania high schools. About 46% of the nearly 13,000 students in the study were girls, and 43% were Black or Hispanic. The researchers used a standardized health questionnaire. Its main goal was to screen for symptoms of major depression disorder. It comprised nine questions, the last of which touches on suicide and…  read on >  read on >

While you can’t trust everything you read or see on social media, some information is reliable. Researchers from Duke University studied popular videos on the social media site TikTok. The videos offered information on ways to obtain a medication abortion. These were typically informative and useful, the study authors said. “When we started the study, we expected to find more videos with misinformation,” said Dr. Jenny Wu, a resident in obstetrics and gynecology at Duke in Durham, N.C. “After looking at the data, we were surprised by how accurate the videos were. A significant number of videos were created by health care professionals and organizations providing abortion. TikTok says it has internal policies for blocking inaccurate information which might also have helped on this topic.” For the study, the Duke team evaluated the 100 most-viewed TikTok videos tagged #abortionpill, #medicalabortion and #medicationabortion. Those videos often describe the pills, what a medication abortion is and how to get that medication. About 89% of the videos that depicted public health information were mostly accurate, the study found. About 11% were mixed. Of 51 videos that presented scientific claims, about 86% were mostly accurate. About 14% were mixed. Social media platforms can help educate patients and combat the stigma surrounding abortion, according to the researchers. “It’s important that people in more restrictive states have the opportunity to learn…  read on >  read on >

When Elizabeth R.’s husband passed away from bone cancer in 2016, she felt grateful that her employer offered generous bereavement leave. Now 40, she worked in the development department of a large nonprofit cancer group at the time and felt ready to go back when her leave was up. However, about two weeks into her return, she realized it was too much, too soon. “Every time I would hear a cancer survivor or caregiver story, I had a reaction,” she recalled. Elizabeth, who asked that her last name not be used, decided to resign and has since remarried and started a second career as a massage therapist in Grand Rapids, Mich. But not every widow or widower who works has these options, and those who don’t may face increased physical and mental health challenges, a new study suggests. People who returned to work within three months of losing a spouse had higher perceived stress levels and greater systemic inflammation than retirees who had lost their partner. The less these folks earned at their job, the worse the mental health effects, the study showed. “It is important to recognize that widows and widowers have twice as much to deal with as other people who work and are not grieving a spouse,” said study author Jensine Paoletti. She is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Biobehavioral Mechanisms…  read on >  read on >

People with health conditions like type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome may have been advised about the value of an insulin-resistance diet. But this way of eating can benefit most people interested in balancing blood sugars, whether that’s to help treat or prevent chronic conditions, or just to gain more energy and better mood control. “An ‘insulin-resistant diet’ is a diet or eating plan that supports balanced blood sugars in the body,” explained Rahaf Al Bochi, a registered dietitian and owner of Olive Tree Nutrition in Duluth, Ga. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream enter into cells, explained Al Bochi, who is also a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “When cells don’t respond to insulin anymore, they are ‘insulin resistant’ and blood sugars can rise,” she said. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) explains it this way: Some people build up a tolerance to insulin, requiring more to get muscle, fat and liver cells to take up glucose. It can be chronic or temporary, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Why this develops is not clear, but reasons can include genes, age, inflammation, other physiological stress and some medications. Lifestyle, too, such as being inactive or overweight can play a role. A recent study of hibernating bears may eventually improve understanding about…  read on >  read on >

Laws bar advertising cannabis to teens, but that doesn’t mean they always work. In a new survey, researchers found that teens still see a lot of positive cannabis messages through social media posts. These messages influenced their intentions and actual use of cannabis, the survey found. When young people saw anti-cannabis messages, the intent to use lessened, but young people saw fewer of those messages, the study authors said. “Youth, in particular, have really grown up bombarded with cannabis information compared to previous generations,” said first author Jessica Willoughby, an associate professor of communications at Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman. “We found that they were seeing more positive messages about using cannabis and a lot less about the risks.” For the study, the researchers surveyed 350 teens and 966 college students across Washington state. Recreational marijuana has been legal in the state since 2012, though it has regulations aimed at preventing advertising cannabis to minors. These rules bar the use of cartoons or youth-oriented celebrities in cannabis advertising. Of course, the study noted, individuals can still post about cannabis on social media. And more than 80% of survey participants reported seeing pro-cannabis messages on social media. These posts talked about being high or claimed marijuana was harmless. The pro-cannabis messages most often encountered were from celebrities or in song lyrics. Teens and college students…  read on >  read on >

A phone call from a nurse may be the lifeline needed to help improve survival for heart failure patients. New research from the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles finds that check-in calls may help save lives. “There’s a lot of new technology and new ideas about how to manage people who have heart failure remotely, but we demonstrated that low-tech and old-fashioned talking on the phone, essentially monitoring the response to, ‘How are you feeling?’ can improve outcomes,” said corresponding study author Dr. Ilan Kedan, a professor of cardiology at the institute. About one-third of people die within a year of being hospitalized for heart failure, a condition in which the heart does not pump enough blood to support the organs. About 15% to 20% of heart failure patients who were hospitalized return to the hospital within 30 days, according to past research. To study the impact of phone calls on outcomes, the researchers included just over 1,300 patients aged 50 or older who were hospitalized for acute heart failure between October 2011 and September 2013 at six academic medical centers in California. Half of the patients were randomized to receive a new post-hospitalization care plan. In this new plan, patients were given a blood pressure monitor and a scale. The patients received pre-discharge heart failure education, along with an average of…  read on >  read on >

Antidepressants are often prescribed to people suffering from chronic pain, but a new evidence review argues that the science behind these prescriptions is shaky at best. These drugs helped people in chronic pain in only a quarter of potential uses tested, and even then the effect ranged from low to moderate, according to a combined analysis of 26 prior reviews. “We found that, for most pain conditions and types of antidepressants, the evidence of their effectiveness was either inconclusive or they were ineffective,” said lead researcher Giovanni Ferreira, a research fellow at the University of Sydney Institute for Musculoskeletal Health in Australia. In particular, the review found scant evidence supporting the use of tricyclic antidepressants, he said. Previous studies have found that as many as 3 out of 4 antidepressant prescriptions for pain involved a tricyclic antidepressant, researchers said in background notes. “Tricyclic antidepressants such as amitriptyline are by far the most commonly used antidepressant for the treatment of pain,” Ferreira said. “But to our surprise most evidence for tricyclic antidepressants showed that the effectiveness of these antidepressants is inconclusive. We think this is a concerning finding.” The U.S. opioid epidemic has led doctors to look to non-opioid drugs as a means of pain relief. For example, a 2021 guideline for chronic pain management from the U.K’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)…  read on >  read on >

Americans who live near a “food swamp” may have a higher risk of suffering a stroke, a preliminary study finds. A number of studies have looked at the health consequences of living in a so-called food desert — areas with few grocery stores or other options for buying fresh food. Food swamps are different: The term was coined to describe communities where fast food restaurants, convenience stores and other junk-food purveyors heavily outweigh healthier options like grocery stores and farmers’ markets. The new study looked at whether Americans’ stroke risk varies based on how far their county of residence veers into food swamp territory. It turned out it did: Among nearly 18,000 adults age 50 and older, those living in U.S. counties high on the food swamp scale had a 13% higher risk of suffering a stroke, compared to those in areas with more healthy options. Many factors affect stroke risk, and it is hard to separate the importance of food swamps from those other variables, said lead researcher Dr. Dixon Yang, a postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. In fact, he said, the food swamp issue is intertwined with other factors in those communities. People living there may have lower incomes, little time or places for exercise, or less access to health care, for example. But food swamps…  read on >  read on >