Global warming is fostering the spread of a deadly flesh-eating bacteria along the northeastern coast of the United States, researchers report. Vibrio vulnificus bacteria grow in warm shallow coastal waters and can infect a person via a cut or insect bite during contact with seawater. The bacteria is found as far north as Philadelphia and is spreading even further north as ocean waters warm. Between 2041 and 2060, infections may spread to waters around New York, the investigators said. “Climate change is likely to lead to Vibrio vulnificus wound infections being found in more northern states along the U.S. East Coast. Case numbers of these serious and potentially fatal infections will increase,” said lead researcher Elizabeth Archer, a postgraduate researcher at the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. There needs to be increased awareness of V. vulnificus infections among people who take part in coastal activities and health care professionals, she said. “This is especially the case in Northeast states where infections are currently rare or do not occur,” Archer said. “It is very important that any suspected Vibrio vulnificus infections receive medical attention quickly, as cases can become severe very quickly. Although the number of cases in the U.S. is small, someone infected with Vibrio vulnificus has a one-in-five chance of dying.” Many people who survive a…  read on >  read on >

Curated images of perfect bodies — often highly filtered and unrealistic — are common on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. And a broad new review of 50 recent studies across 17 countries finds that relentless online exposure to largely unattainable physical ideals may be driving up the risk for eating disorders, particularly among young girls. This study, said co-author Komal Bhatia, is “significant because it tells us how social media can lead to body image concerns, through constant social comparison, internalization of thinness and self-objectification.” Girls and others with weight challenges and/or concerns about body image are among those most vulnerable to the “self-perpetuating cycle of risk” highlighted by the research review, she added. Bhatia, a research fellow in adolescent health at University College London, pointed out that even though roughly of half of the world’s population — about 4 billion people — has access to social media, social media platforms “are largely unregulated.” And many users are young; researchers noted that more than 90% of American and British teens regularly engage with such platforms. Fully half are believed to jump online at least once an hour. The studies covered in this review were conducted between 2016 and 2021. Most took place in wealthy countries, with the United States and Australia accounting for nearly half. Studies from Canada, Italy, Singapore, United Kingdom, Spain, Ireland, Belgium,…  read on >  read on >

That road noise outside your window could be wreaking havoc on your blood pressure. A new study published March 22 in JACC: Advances found that the roaring engines, blaring horns and wailing sirens can themselves elevate high blood pressure (hypertension) risk, aside from questions about the impact of air pollution. “We were a little surprised that the association between road traffic noise and hypertension was robust even after adjustment for air pollution,” lead author Jing Huang said in a journal news release. She is an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at Peking University in Beijing. To study this, Huang and her colleagues analyzed data from more than 240,000 people in the UK Biobank. They were 40 to 69 years of age and did not have high blood pressure when the study began. Road traffic noise estimates were based on residential addresses and a European noise assessment tool. Using data over a median of about eight years, researchers found that participants who lived near road traffic noise were more likely to develop high blood pressure and that their risk rose as noise increased. The finding held even after researchers adjusted for exposure to fine particles and nitrogen dioxide in the air. People who had high exposure to both traffic noise and air pollution had the highest risk for high blood pressure. “Road traffic…  read on >  read on >

A rare strain of the parasite Toxoplasma has killed four sea otters along the California coast, raising concerns about a potential public health risk. “The appearance of this lethal type of Toxoplasma in coastal California is concerning for two main reasons: First, because of potential population health impacts on a threatened species, and second, because this parasite could also affect the health of other animals that are susceptible to Toxoplasma infection,” said study co-author Devinn Sinnott of the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. This rare strain has never been reported in aquatic animals, she and her colleagues said in a university news release. While toxoplasmosis is common and sometimes deadly in sea otters, this unusual Toxoplasma gondii appears to be especially virulent and capable of rapidly killing healthy adult otters, according to the study. It likely arrived on the California coast only recently, the study authors noted. It could pose a public health risk, but no infections with the strain have been reported in humans, the researchers noted. “Because this parasite can infect humans and other animals, we want others to be aware of our findings, quickly recognize cases if they encounter them and take precautions to prevent infection,” said co-author Melissa Miller of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We encourage others to take extra precautions if they observe inflamed…  read on >  read on >

The death of a parent is heartbreaking for a child or teenager, and those who experience it are known to be at an increased risk for depression and other mental health issues later in life. But a new study finds that children who participated in a bereavement program with their families following the loss of a parent were significantly less likely to experience depression up to 15 years later. Soon, the program will be available online. Study author Irwin Sandler, an emeritus professor with Arizona State University affiliated with the ASU REACH Institute in the Department of Psychology, said he and the other researchers had a theory about whether they could prevent depression in children after parent loss with the program. “It turns out we were right,” Sandler said. The program enrolled 244 kids ages 8 to 16 who had lost a parent between three months and 30 months before the study. It also enrolled their surviving caregivers, which is an important part of the program. This randomized, controlled trial included a total of 156 families. The families were either in the control group, mailed three age-appropriate books about dealing with grief, or they participated in 12 sessions of the bereavement program. Those who did the program had specific caregiver sessions, separate youth sessions, and then came together for two joint sessions to practice their…  read on >  read on >

If you’ve been suffering from caregiver stress, you’ve got plenty of company. It affects about 36% of the 53 million unpaid family caregivers in the United States, according to a recent report by the AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving — and it can ultimately lead to caregiver burnout. To give you some tools to better recognize caregiver stress and burnout, let’s explore some of the symptoms. Plus, experts offer several ways you can better manage caregiver stress, and when it’s time to seek help to prevent it from reaching the level of burnout. What is caregiver stress? Caregiver stress occurs when the emotional, mental and physical impacts of being a caregiver become overwhelming. It can happen to anyone who takes care of a person with a disability, health condition or injury or someone who is elderly. However, more women say they experience stress from caregiving than men, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health. One of the main challenges for a lot of caregivers is having too little time for themselves or their family and friends. “Family caregivers spend an average of over 24 hours a week providing care — that’s more than an entire day you don’t have for yourself,” Laura Kotler-Klein, a social work manager at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, said…  read on >  read on >

Obesity is a well-known risk factor for severe COVID-19, and researchers think they’ve uncovered a possible reason why. Obese folks appear to have a blunted inflammatory response to COVID, leaving their immune systems less capable of fighting it, according to a recent study. The findings were a surprise to researchers, given that severe COVID often has been tied to an overactive immune response that produces damaging levels of inflammation in humans. People who are obese already have higher levels of inflammatory biochemicals in their blood, so it was suspected that COVID’s damaging inflammation would be even worse, noted researcher Menna Clatworthy, a clinician scientist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. “During the pandemic, the majority of younger patients I saw on the COVID wards were obese,” Clatworthy said in a university news release. “Given what we know about obesity, if you’d asked me why this was the case, I would have said that it was most likely due to excessive inflammation. What we found was the absolute opposite.” For this study, Clatworthy and her colleagues analyzed blood and lung samples taken from 13 obese patients with severe COVID who required mechanical ventilation and intensive care. They compared those samples against 20 COVID patients who weren’t obese and didn’t require ventilation. The researchers found the obese patients had underactive immune and inflammatory responses…  read on >  read on >

Much has been made of the so-called “obesity paradox” — the observation that people with a heart condition seem less likely to die if they are overweight or obese. But European researchers now say they’ve debunked that theory, which was based on earlier research that relied on body mass index (BMI, a measure based on weight and height) to judge whether a person carried excess weight. The major new study shows the obesity paradox vanishes if other heart risk factors are considered along with a person’s BMI. Further, researchers found that another measure of obesity, the waist-to-height ratio, more accurately reflected the real heart health risk that comes from having too much body fat. “Better measures of adiposity [excess fat] than BMI, such as waist-height ratio, eliminate the ‘obesity survival paradox’ and, indeed, show that greater adiposity is associated with a higher rate of hospital admission for worsening heart failure and worse symptoms and quality of life,” said senior researcher Dr. John McMurray, a professor of cardiology at the University of Glasgow. For this study, McMurray and his colleagues analyzed data from nearly 8,400 heart failure patients suffering from reduced ejection fraction, a condition in which the heart is not able to pump a normal amount of blood throughout the body. The patients were taking part in a clinical trial evaluating the safety and effectiveness…  read on >  read on >

Anxiety disorders are no small matter, but knowing which symptoms point to trouble may help you navigate your intense fears and worries. First, you are not alone: Anxiety disorders are estimated to plague nearly 40 million people in the United States each year, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America. James Maddux, an emeritus professor of clinical psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., explained that “the best way of thinking about anxiety…is to see it as having three interlocking, interacting components”: thinking or cognition; feeling or emotions; and then behavior. “Finding somewhere to intervene at one of those three points, that breaks up that pattern, is also a way of reducing or eliminating the physiological part of anxiety,” Maddux noted. If you think you may be experiencing generalized anxiety disorder or any other type of anxiety, there are some telltale symptoms worth noting. Here’s how you can recognize the most common anxiety symptoms, plus tips on how to calm them down if they flare up. Common anxiety symptoms The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) states that, while each type of anxiety is unique, they share some common symptoms: Anticipating the worst or an excessive fear of a threat Rapid breathing Pounding heart or heart palpitations Fatigue Sweating and shaking Nausea, diarrhea and increased urination Restlessness or irritability Anticipating the worst…  read on >  read on >

When waiting for medical test results, days can feel like an eternity. In a new survey, patients overwhelmingly say they’d like their results immediately — even if their provider has not yet reviewed them and even if the news is bad. In April 2021, new rules went into effect requiring health care providers in the United States to make all results and clinical notes available immediately to patients. “Online patient portals have emerged as important tools for increasing patient engagement,” said study co-author Catherine DesRoches, executive director of OpenNotes, a movement focused on increasing information transparency in health care based at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. She is also an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “They enable patients to access information, participate in medical decision-making and to communicate with clinicians,” DesRoches said in a medical center news release. “Prior studies performed by OpenNotes investigators established immediate release of clinical notes as a recommended best practice,” DesRoches added. “However, releasing test results to patients immediately, often before a clinician can provide counselling and context, was yet to be studied widely and remains controversial.” Researchers analyzed survey responses from more than 8,100 patients and care partners who accessed their test results through an online patient portal account between April 2021 and April 2022. Patients had been tested at University of California, Davis…  read on >  read on >