It’s no secret that weight gain results from consuming too many calories. But at its core is an imbalance of healthy and unhealthy habits. On one side of the scale — the healthy side — are foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein and plant-based fats. On the other side are the not-so-healthy options — sugary foods, those high in saturated fats, and packaged and processed foods. It’s not just the foods, though, that can cause weight issues. Unhealthy behaviors play a role, too. That’s because they can lead you to take in more calories, sometimes without even realizing it. A group of researchers in Spain identified key habits that promote a poor-quality diet. Things like frequenting fast-food restaurants, snacking from vending machines and eating while watching TV. But the researchers also determined that significant weight gain usually isn’t due to just one bad habit, but rather to a combination. To learn more, they followed 1,600 people for up to four years, focusing on the effects of seven specific unhealthy habits: Not planning how much you’re going to eat. Consuming pre-cooked or canned food. Buying snacks. Eating in fast-food restaurants. Not choosing low-calorie foods. Not removing visible fat from meat or skin from chicken. Eating while watching TV or sitting on the sofa. The more of these unhealthy habits people had, the…  read on >

Headed to a Major League Baseball game? Be prepared to duck and cover. As the 2018 season gets underway, a new study finds that fans’ risk of being struck by a foul ball or flying bat at Major League Baseball (MLB) games is on the rise. Each year, about 1,750 fans are hurt by foul balls at MLB games. That works out to about two injuries for every three games — more common than batters getting hit by wayward pitches, according to Indiana University researchers. The researchers did not examine injuries among the more than 40 million fans who attend minor league games. But fans’ risk of getting hit at MLB games rose as nearly two dozen new stadiums opened since 1992, the study found. The added risk is easy to explain, the researchers said. “Fans today frequently sit more than 20 percent closer to home plate than was the case throughout most of the 20th century,” said study author Nathaniel Grow, an associate professor of business law and ethics at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business. “When you combine that with an increase in the speed with which baseballs are being hit into the stands, fans have less time to avoid errant balls or bats heading in their direction,” Grow explained in a university news release. A typical foul ball enters the stands at…  read on >

New research suggests that a special MRI technique can spot abnormal connections in the brains of preschoolers with autism. The discovery “may be a clue for future diagnosis and even for therapeutic intervention in preschool children with [autism],” study co-author Dr. Lin Ma, a radiologist at Chinese PLA General Hospital in Beijing, explained in a news release from the journal Radiology. The findings were published in the journal on March 27. One U.S. expert agreed that the imaging advance could be a boon to autism research. “This discovery gives us a more objective diagnostic method by using MRIs to aid us in the diagnosis of children who do have autism, and also gives us a better understanding of the abnormal differences in the brain,” said Dr. Matthew Lorber. He’s a psychiatrist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. In the study, the Chinese team used an MRI technology known as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). This technique provides important information on the conditions of the brain’s “white matter,” the researchers explained. In the study, Ma’s group compared DTI results from 21 preschool boys and girls with autism (average age 4-and-a-half years) and 21 similarly aged children without autism. The children with autism had significant differences in what’s known as the basal ganglia network, a brain system that’s important in behavior. They also had differences in…  read on >

(HealthDay News) — Smoking is associated with 1 in 5 deaths in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The agency suggests these methods that may help you quit: Commit to quitting and get motivated to make a change. Get support from friends and family. Consider using medicine to help you quit, and if you do, use it correctly. Take up a new hobby as a distraction. Be prepared for the effects of withdrawal and the possibility of relapse.

U.S. war veterans who sustained severe combat wounds and have chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are at increased risk for high blood pressure, a new study says. The study included nearly 3,900 military veterans who had been severely wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan from February 2002 to February 2011. Their average age when they were wounded was 26. More than 14 percent of the veterans developed high blood pressure at least 90 days after being wounded. The severity of the injuries and how frequently PTSD was noted in their medical records after the wounding separately affected their risk for high blood pressure. “What we found surprised us,” said study senior author Dr. Ian Stewart, a major at the U.S. Air Force Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base in California. For every 5-point increase on a 75-point injury severity score, the risk for high blood pressure rose 5 percent. Veterans with an injury severity score of 25 or lower and no recorded PTSD diagnosis had the lowest risk for high blood pressure, according to the study. Compared with veterans with no PTSD diagnosis, the risk for high blood pressure was 85 percent higher among those who had PTSD noted one to 15 times in their medical records — indicating chronic PTSD. High blood pressure was 114 percent more likely among veterans with PTSD noted more…  read on >

Tiny pellets could treat arthritic knee pain, delaying the need for knee replacement surgery, a small study has found. Microparticles inserted into small blood vessels around the knee helped reduce the pain and improve function in eight arthritis sufferers, according to clinical trial results. The results were presented Monday at the Society of Interventional Radiology’s annual meeting, in Los Angeles. “Patients overall were able to improve their physical function in the knee after the procedure, and there were no adverse events related to this treatment,” said lead researcher Dr. Sandeep Bagla. Bagla is director of interventional radiology at the Vascular Institute of Virginia in Woodbridge. Boston Scientific, maker of the microparticles, funded the study. Much of the pain that comes from knee arthritis actually stems from inflammation in the lining of the knee joint, also called the synovium, Bagla said. In fact, small blood vessels created by degenerative arthritis feed this inflammation by increasing blood flow to the lining. To treat this, Bagla and his colleagues decided to try blocking those tiny blood vessels using microparticles — spheres about a tenth of a millimeter in size made from a synthetic gel-like material. The microparticles are inserted using a catheter run through a pinhole-sized incision, in a procedure that lasts between 45 and 90 minutes, Bagla said. “It’s an outpatient procedure, and no physical therapy is…  read on >

If you’re planning a career change or wondering if a challenging job could have positive effects, research might provide some intriguing answers. In a 2014 study, scientists in Scotland used levels of job complexity based on the Dictionary of Occupational Titles for an analysis of more than 1,000 participants with an average age of 70. They found that two types of complex jobs lead to longer-lasting memory and thinking ability, years after retirement. One is working at a high level with data. The other is working at a high level with other people, on tasks like teaching, negotiating and mentoring. According to the lead author of the study, the theory is that more stimulating work environments may help people retain these mental skills. While the effect of occupation accounts for just a 1 to 2 percent variance between people with high- and low-complexity jobs, that differential is similar to some lifestyle factors that affect better thinking skills in later life, such as not smoking. The most complex jobs involving data include: Architect. Civil engineer. Graphic designer. Musician. The least complex jobs involving data include: Construction worker. Telephone operator. Food server. The most complex jobs involving other people include: Surgeon. Lawyer. Social worker. Probation officer. The least complex jobs involving other people include: Factory worker. Painter. Carpet layer. Bookbinder. Do complex jobs buffer the brain, or…  read on >

(HealthDay News) — Eating one serving of green leafy vegetables per day is associated with slower age-related cognitive decline, recent research suggests. Reported in the journal Neurology — the study involved 960 adults with an average age of 81 and no sign of dementia. The difference between those who ate the greens and those who did not was equivalent to being 11 years younger cognitively. The vegetables eaten included kale, spinach and collards, which are rich sources of cognition-supporting folate, phylloquinone, nitrate, α-tocopherol, kaempferol and lutein, said the researchers at Chicago’s Rush University and Boston’s Tufts Human Nutrition Research Center.

Think you could taste the difference between recycled toilet water, bottled water or tap water? It’s unlikely, results of a blind taste test suggest. Years of drought in California have given momentum to household use of recycled wastewater. Six water agencies in the state already use wastewater that’s produced through a technology called indirect potable reuse (IDR), the University of California, Riverside, researchers noted. The IDR approach redirects treated wastewater into groundwater supplies, where it re-enters the drinking water system. Although research has shown that recycled wastewater is safe, people are often repulsed about things such as taste. “It seems that this term [wastewater], and the idea of recycled water in general, evokes disgust reactions,” said study author Daniel Harmon, a graduate student in psychology. “It is important to make recycled water less scary to people who are concerned about it, as it is an important source of water now and in the future,” Harmon said in a university news release He and his colleagues asked 143 people to compare the taste of IDR tap water, conventional groundwater tap water and bottled water. “The groundwater-based water was not as well liked as IDR or bottled water,” said study co-author Mary Gauvain, a professor of psychology. “We think that happened because IDR and bottled water go through remarkably similar treatment processes, so they have low levels…  read on >

Knee replacement patients can continue to enjoy sports — such as skiing, tennis and dancing — without worrying that high-impact activities might compromise their new joint, a small, new study finds. The researchers tracked patients for between five and 15 years after knee replacement surgery, known as total knee arthroplasty. They found that sports participation had no significant impact on the longevity of artificial knees. Historically, knee replacement patients are advised against high-impact activities to preserve the new joint. “Patients were coming back for their annual review . . . and were participating in a range of ‘prohibited’ activities. There were patients competing in downhill skiing and tennis, but there was no wear, no dislocations, no loosening and no revisions,” said study author Dr. Samuel Joseph. He’s an orthopedic surgeon at Linacre Private Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. “Yes, there are patients running marathons and participating in triathlons after knee replacement surgery,” he added. More than 600,000 knee replacements are performed each year in the United States, according to the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The procedure replaces the natural joint with a prosthetic version made of metal and plastic. It’s typically done because of severe arthritis, trauma or other joint damage. Joseph and his colleagues identified 355 knee replacement patients who continued to participate in sports after surgery, more than 100 of whom…  read on >