6 Simple Tricks to Keep Your Brain Young

Society tells us that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks—that it’s harder for adults to learn new skills than it is for kids. And in many ways, that’s true: Babies have nothing to do but eat, sleep, and learn, while grown-ups are faced with all sorts of time, money, and real-life constraints. (Not to mention, we get annoyed when we’re not good at things right away.)

But it doesn’t have to be that way, says Rachel Wu, PhD, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside. In a new paper published in Human Development, Wu argues that using a childlike approach to learning can help people of any age take on and conqueror new challenges.

Not only will this help adults develop new talents and hobbies, Wu says, but research suggests that it can keep their brains young, delaying or slowing age-related cognitive decline.

[brightcove:5413959040001 default]

Wu says that as we age, we transition from “broad learning” to “specialized learning,” focusing on our careers and specific areas of expertise. It’s that increasingly narrow specialization that leads to cognitive slowdown, she theorizes—initially in unfamiliar situations, but eventually all the time.

Instead of falling into this trap, Wu says, adults should embrace broad learning through the following six strategies. In children, these behaviors have been shown to increase basic cognitive abilities like working memory, inhibition, and attention. Wu predicts the same would be true for adults, too, if we’d actually give them a chance.

RELATED: New Ways to Boost Your Brain Power

Venture outside your comfort zone
As adults, we tend to use similar skills day in and day out: We take jobs in fields we’re already proficient in, drive the same routes to the same places, and fall into routines we’re comfortable with. But all this familiarity limits the parts of the brain we’re using on a regular basis, says Wu.

“If you’re trying to learn a new skill and it’s turning out to be really easy for you, that may be a sign it’s too similar to what you’re already familiar with,” she says. “Switching to something more challenging, that’s truly different than what you’re used to, may have more cognitive benefits.”

Get a teacher
It’s difficult for adults to teach themselves new skills, says Wu, especially if they really are trying something totally unfamiliar. Hiring an instructor or taking a class, on the other hand, can inspire discipline and hold people accountable for their progress.

Can’t afford professional lessons? “I’ve seen barter systems in groups of adults where someone is a skilled artist, for example, and someone is a musician,” says Wu. “At some point, everyone’s a teacher and everyone’s a learner.”

Believe in yourself
“This may be one of the toughest ones, because it’s so embedded in our culture and our stereotypes that you really can’t develop as an adult,” says Wu. Many people also believe that adults need natural talent to succeed in new areas, and that hard work simply isn’t enough. (Wu wrote about her own experience with these beliefs in a recent Scientific American blog post.)

“It comes down to ignoring those people who don’t believe in the process,” says Wu, “and pushing yourself to really believe it yourself—to know that you can and you will improve with practice.”

Surround yourself with encouraging people
A fear of making mistakes is another reason adults are so slow to learn new things; if we try and fail, we can face criticism, lose money, or get fired. And if we’re not good at something right away, we’re told to not give up our day jobs.

That’s why it’s important to build up a support network of people—at work and at home—who allow you to make mistakes and learn from them, says Wu. “Surround yourself with positivity,” she says. “It’s kind of a general life lesson, but it’s especially applicable here.”

RELATED: 8 Ways Sex Affects Your Brain

Make a serious commitment—and don’t give up
What keeps people motivated is very individualistic, says Wu, and people need to find the inspiration that works for them. “One of the reasons I have a piano teacher is that I will quit and use my time for something else if I’m not being pushed every week,” she says.

Some research shows that telling friends and family about a new goal can also help keep you motivated, she says. If you can afford it, spending money on a new pursuit—pre-paying for tennis lessons and a fancy new racket, for example, or booking a trip to Rome to practice your Italian—might also make it harder to throw in the towel.

Learn more than one thing at once
“Because our time is so valuable, we tend to zero in on one hobby or one skill we want to get better at,” says Wu. But dividing that time and energy into three or four areas will “stretch your brain in all different directions,” she says.

That doesn’t mean you should start four new challenges all at once, though. “Maybe you started learning a new language in 2016, and this year you add singing lessons, and next year you try something else,” she says. “You can add things gradually based on what you can handle.”

Strive for a variety of activities, as well. “If you try new things in different domains—one related to physical activity, one related to music, and another one artistic, for example—you might be stretching your brain more effectively than if you were learning how to paint, sculpt, and draw.”

To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

Wu says the idea that these six strategies can counteract cognitive decline still needs to be tested with scientific studies. But she says her theory is based on five decades of research, and she’s optimistic about what study results will reveal.

She also acknowledges that spending time and money on learning is a luxury that not everyone has, especially when we’re rewarded—by our jobs, other people, and our own egos—for doing what we’re already good at.

“I think the first step is being aware that this kind of living may be advantageous to you in the short term, but detrimental in the long run,” she says. “The second step is finding ways to work some variety, some new skill, into your daily life. Even just 10 minutes is better than nothing.”

Source: Mind and Body

Swearing Can Be Good for You, According to Science

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com. 

The next time you could use a little burst of power—whether you’re biking up a steep hill or simply trying to open a jar of pickles—it might help to utter a few not-safe-for-work words while giving it your all. According to a new study, swearing seems to increase strength for short periods of time.

Previous research has shown that using profanity can increase pain tolerance. Scientists think this might be because it stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system—the system that revs the heart rate and activates the body’s “fight or flight” response when it senses some kind of threat.

[brightcove:5417727580001 default]

Researchers from Keele University and Long Island University Brooklyn hypothesized that this might also give people a quick strength boost, as well. To test their theory, they asked a total of 81 participants to complete short tests of anaerobic and isometric power. Some rode an exercise bike at maximum intensity for 30 seconds; others squeezed a hand-grip device as hard as they could.

They measured participants’ performance on these tests under two circumstances: once while repeating a curse word of their choosing every three seconds, and once while repeating a neutral word—something to describe a table in the room, like “flat” or “round.”

RELATED: Can Fidget Spinners Really Help Anxiety and ADHD? An Expert Weighs In

As predicted, the volunteers produced more pedaling power and had stronger hand grips while they were cursing. Surprisingly, though, the researchers found no significant differences in heart rate, blood pressure, and skin conductance (a measure that increases physiological arousal) between the swearing and non-swearing scenarios.

This suggests that the sympathetic nervous system may not be the driving factor after all, says co-author David Spierer, former associate professor of athletic training, health, and exercise science at Long Island University Brooklyn. Instead, the researchers think cursing may allow people to “shut down their inhibitions,” says Spierer, “and somewhat veil the effort and the pain of this really difficult task.”

RELATED:  Here’s How Many People End Up in the ER Due to Cotton Swabs

In this way, Spierer says, using swear words might be helpful in any circumstance where muscle strength and a sudden burst of force or speed is required. “If you’re trying to open a jar of pickles and it’s really tough, I’m not going to say that cursing will definitely enable you to open it,” he says. “But I do feel that cursing could decrease your awareness of what it is you’re doing, and that could actually make it more forceful.” The same could go for athletic events, too. “If you’re not really aware of the pain and difficultly, you can put more into your performance.”

For reasons that aren’t quite understood, a neutral word didn’t have the same effect on participants in the study. Spierer says it’s likely that everyone has different responses to profanity, as well. “In the study, some people chose more explicit words than others,” he says. He adds they were all short—mostly four letters—and repeated at a normal volume. “It’s not like they were going on a tirade and screaming at people.”

[brightcove:5374773195001 default]

If you want to try it yourself, Spierer suggests repeating your chosen word at a structured pace, like a mantra. “We think that if you get into a rhythm and your body can predict when it’s coming, it can have more of an effect.”

The study, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, was presented this week at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Brighton, England.

Source: Mind and Body

Quick Workout for a Stronger and Leaner Core

These quick, targeted moves tone your entire midsection.

Love handles are a tricky area to target; sometimes it feels like they’ll hold on for dear life no matter how much you tone the rest of your body. The secret—other than good nutrition—is to perform a combination of moves that strengthen your core (like these three), rather than just going for the classic crunches. That’s exactly what this routine does, stringing together a series of moves with twists, crunches, and planks for a serious fat-blast. After running through three sets of each move, your abs and obliques will feel like they’re on fire—just be sure to engage your core the entire time to really maximize those results.

Bye-Bye Love Handles Workout

How it works: Run through each exercise as described, then repeat the entire workout 2 to 3 times. You’ll need a set of medium-weight dumbbells.

1. Standing Oblique Crunch

A. Start standing on left leg with right leg pointed out to the side and right arm reaching above head.
B. Crunch right elbow to right knee. Return to start.

Do 25 reps on each side.

2. Long Arm Long Leg Reach

A. Stand on left leg, knee slightly bent, with right leg pointed out to the side. Put your left hand on hip, right arm reaching above head.
B. Raise right leg and lower right arm to meet at hip height. Return to start.

Do 25 reps on each side.

3. Side Bend

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding dumbbells in right hand.
B. Keeping core tight, bend at right hip reaching right hand toward ground. Return to start.

Do 15 to 25 reps on each side.

4. Side Lying Reach

A. Lie on the ground on right side with right arm reaching above head.
B. Raise left leg about 1 to 2 feet.
C. Raise right leg to meet left, lifting your shoulders off the ground and reaching left arm toward feet. Return to start.

Do 15 to 25 reps on each side.

5. Side Plank Hip Dip

A. Start in a right forearm side plank with left arm on hip.
B. Lower right hip to ground. Return to start.

Do 10 to 15 reps on each side.

6. Side Plank and Side Bend

A. Start in a right side plank with left foot in front of right and left arm reaching to sky.
B. Reach left arm above head while raising hips.
C. Lower hips and and reach left arm to sky.
D. Lift and square hips to ground, threading right arm under left to reach behind you. Return to start.

Do 8 to 10 reps on each side.

7. Forearm Plank Hip Dip

A. Start in a forearm plank.
B. Rotate core to lower left hip to tap ground.
C. Return to forearm plank.
D. Rotate core to lower right hip to tap ground. Return to start.

Do 16 reps (touching each hip to ground counts as 1 rep).

8. Knee to Elbow

A. Start in a full plank.
B. Bring right knee to right elbow.
C. Return to full plank.
D. Bring left knee to left elbow. Return to start.

Do 16 reps on each side, alternating sides.

9. Lateral Flexion

A. Start lying on the ground in a crunch position with knees bent, right arm behind head, and left arm reaching toward feet.
B. Crunch on left side to reach left hand closer to left foot.
C. Return to start.

Do 25 reps, then switch hands and repeat on right side.

10. Bicycle Crunch

A. Start in a tabletop crunch position.
B. Twist to bring left elbow to right knee while extending right leg.
C. Twist to bring right elbow to left knee while extending left leg.

Do 25 reps, alternating sides.

Workout Habits That Are Hurting You

If you’re wondering why achieving your fitness goals seems elusive as ever, it may not have anything to do with how many reps you’re cranking out or your mileage on the treadmill. Your workout plan and habits outside of the gym are just as important. These bad habits can ruin your workout and affect your health in the long run.

1. Bad Form

Whether from a lack of proper guidance, not asking for advice, or being new to the gym, many people don’t realize the importance of good form when exercising. Exercising in the wrong way can be dangerous to your joints and muscles, and even minimize the effect of your workout. Make sure you learn the right form from a certified instructor or expert from the get-go. Bad habits can be difficult to get rid of later in the game.

2. Exercising on an Empty Stomach

Experts recommend fueling your body before you start exercising. Jay Cardiello, a fitness expert and ISSA and NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist, says fasted cardio—AKA doing cardio on an empty stomach in the morning—can be both good and bad for your body, but it’s not sustainable. Instead, he suggests getting in your glucose before starting your workout. That’s because when your blood sugar is too low, your body extracts glycogen from the muscle tissues once it runs out of available glycogen. What does that mean, exactly? You start losing muscle instead of building it. Yikes. Not to mention low blood sugar can also cause dizziness and weakness during training, so eat a banana, berries, or low-fat yogurt 45 minutes before working out to skip those negative side effects.

3. Too Much Cardio

Cardio can burn a lot of calories, but overdoing it can minimize strength, cause muscle atrophy, and even lead to fat-loss plateaus. And, if you’re on a strict diet plan and combine it with an overdose of cardio, it can take a toll on your muscles. Karina Baymiller, a powerlifter, suggests “a few 15-minute HIIT or conditioning sessions a week to keep your fat-loss rolling and strength maintained.” Instead of overcompensating with cardio, focus on strength training and consider fine-tuning your nutrition habits—after all, a healthy diet is the foundation of any effective, long-term fat-loss plan.

4. Starving or Eating the Wrong Food

Too many people think that skipping meals can help them lose weight, but that’s far from true. You need to eat after working out, and you need to eat right. Otherwise, “your body breaks down muscles into amino acids to convert into glucose,” says John Ivy, Ph.D., chair emeritus of kinesiology at the University of Texas, and your body will essentially start sabotaging itself. Avoid eating refined or processed foods, and aim to have a good mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. (Here’s 6 Smart Snacks to Eat After a Workout.)

5. Not Enough Zzz’s

Adequate sleep allows your muscles to recover. Without it, you can’t exercise at full intensity and muscles feel sore from yesterday’s gym sesh because they couldn’t repair themselves. Not to mention sleep helps mitigate stress, which in turn reduces cortisol levels that are responsible for balancing testosterone and HGH production to metabolize fat. All that’s to say that you should aim to get 6-8 hours of sleep, though that number is customizable for everyone.

6. Protein-Deficient Diet

Protein is essential to help your body recover from training and helps repair sore muscles. A protein-rich diet helps to increase the fat metabolism in your body, since you burn more calories while digesting and protein takes longer to break down. Science backs it up: studies indicate that the body burns up to 30 percent of the calories consumed from protein during the digestion process, so load up in every meal—even breakfast.

Ashley Graham on How Parents Can Teach Their Children Body Positivity by Loving Themselves

This article originally appeared on People.com. 

As a leader in the body confidence movementAshely Graham says the journey to body acceptance starts with parents.

During an appearance on Good Morning America on Tuesday to promote her new book, A New Model: What Confidence, Beauty, and Power Really Look Like, Graham, 29, discussed how parents should be careful about how they speak to their kids — and themselves.

[brightcove:5421675919001 default]

“I really believe that parents need to know they are shaping the future of their children,” Graham said. “Words have power. The things that you say to yourself as a parent — the things that you say maybe even just one time to your children — they take it and they take it into their real world and into their life and beyond.”

So what exactly can parents do to help their kids?

RELATED: Ashley Graham’s Total-Body Workout Is Inspiring Us to Hit the Gym Stat

“One thing my mother did is that she never looked in the mirror and said, ‘I’m so fat,’ or ‘I’m so ugly. I need to go on a diet,’ ” Graham explained. “Projecting that on to yourself is only going to make your daughter or son think that of themselves. Because they’re a product of you.”

“Just saying, ‘You know what — I look really good today’ and then just moving on [helps],’” Graham added. “They’re like, ‘Oh, maybe I need to say that to myself.’ ”

In her book, out now, Graham recalls the “constant criticism” she received from her father growing up.

“That was my dad through and through,” she writes. “My father was a master of the cutting insult. His nickname for me was, ‘Duh,’ because he didn’t think I was very smart.”

“The worst I ever felt in my entire career was when, a few years into my career, my dad agreed with my new agent, who said I needed to ‘tighten up,’ ” she added. “I was sobbing because my dad thought I should lose weight.”

Graham told GMA why she wanted to get candid in the book about her family life.

“I want to be a better parent than I had,” she said. “Even though my mom was absolutely amazing. Her and I are still best friends to this day. I think that the next generation should always be better and better.”

[brightcove:5370089730001 default]

Elsewhere in her chat, Graham opened up about how she handles critics on social media — and how she sees their negativity as opportunity.

“At this point they just roll off my shoulders. But I’m really thinking about the women that are reading that and they’re taking it as if it’s being told to themselves,” she said. “[It’s] an opportunity to talk about bodies and the things people call imperfections. Because my job is not done until people just stop judging you because of the number inside of your pants. It’s beyond size. It goes into race, it goes into class, it goes into age. I really think that’s important.”

As for her more practical advice to get rid of the negativity? “I love blocking people,” she said. “I’m not afraid to block anybody.”

And as for the Instagram critics who attacked her for looking thinner, Graham wanted to remind them that she is a supermodel.

“As a professional selfie taker, I know my angles. And I know how to look 20 lbs. heavier and 20 lbs. lighter,” she said. “If Instagram wants to tell me I’ve lost 60 lbs. in one week, then damn I look good.”

Good Morning America airs weekdays (7-9 a.m. ET) on ABC.

Source: Mind and Body

I Survived Flesh-Eating Bacteria—and It Changed My Life Forever

This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

This essay is part of a TIME series on the growing effects of antimicrobial resistance: superbugs that may no longer be treated with standard-course antibiotics. In 2016, World Health Organization leaders called drug resistance a “major global threat” that’s estimated to kill 10 million people a year in 2050. Here is the remarkable story of Aimee Copeland, who lost her leg, foot and hands after acquiring a bacterial infection that couldn’t be cured with standard antibiotics alone.

Before my accident, I had big plans for the summer of 2012. Everything seemed to be going right: I had just finished my final exams (I was working on my master’s degree in psychology), I was in a relationship, and I had a job as a waitress at a local café in Carrollton, Georgia.

After finishing my shift on the afternoon of May 1, a coworker invited me and another friend to hang out at her home. It was a warm, sunny day, and there was a beautiful creek in her backyard. We put on our swimsuits and started wading in the water. Soon enough, we stumbled across an old, homemade zip line. I’ve always been adventurous, so I was thrilled to try it. All of us went across the zip line once with no problems. But on my second try, I heard a loud snap. The zip line broke, and I was hurled to the sharp rocks below. I got a nasty gash on my left leg and had to go to the hospital, where I was given 22 staples to close the wound.

If only that was the worst of it.

RELATED: I Got Run Over by a Truck—Literally. Here’s What I Learned From Almost Dying

A few days after the injury, I knew something wasn’t right. Even though I was given antibiotics, my leg didn’t seem to be responding or getting better. Instead, the pain in my leg felt like it was moving to different parts of my body, which didn’t make sense. Then one morning, I woke up and discovered my entire left leg looked like it was rotting. I couldn’t speak, and I felt like I was dying. What happened next remains a blur.

I was rushed to the hospital, where doctors eventually diagnosed me with necrotizing fasciitis—also known as flesh-eating bacteria—a bacterial infection that was destroying my tissue. The infection wasn’t responding to antibiotics. If doctors didn’t act fast, the bacteria would kill me quickly.

I was airlifted to a hospital in Augusta, and upon arriving, doctors told my parents that my organs were starting to fail. They asked for their permission to amputate my left leg and some of my abdomen to stop the bacteria from spreading to other parts of my body. I don’t remember much from this initial surgery since I was on life support, going in and out of consciousness. My parents said that every time I woke up, I would ask them where I was and how I got there. Each time I would react like it was the first time they were telling me. It was traumatizing for all of us.

The first thing I solidly remember from the ordeal happened a few days after losing my leg. My dad sat next to me in the hospital room, gently took my hands into his own and held them up so I could see them. My hands were dark purple and black and looked unrecognizable. Drugs I was taking, called vasopressors, had tightened my blood vessels and raised my blood pressure to keep adequate blood flow to my organs. But as a consequence, my hands and feet lost blood, and my risk for infection was high.

“Aimee, these hands are not healthy,” my dad explained. “They are hampering your progress. The doctors want to amputate them and your foot today to assure your best possible chance of survival.”

RELATED: What You Should Know About Meningitis, the Deadly Infection That Killed a Man in California

It was really hard to hear, but at that moment, all I wanted was to live. If my hands could hurt the rest of my body, then take them off. “Let’s do this,” I told my parents.

During the surgeries I was given a lot of painkillers, so everything felt hazy. It wasn’t until the medication wore off and I started physical therapy a few weeks later that I truly began to grieve the loss of my limbs. As I was learning to feed myself, brush my teeth and get dressed with no hands, it dawned on me that this was going to affect the rest of my life. But I was determined to move forward, and thanks to a supportive community around me, I pushed through the pain. I attended a 51-day rehabilitation program at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, where I worked to rebuild my strength. It felt like boot camp. I spent hours learning how to get in and out of my wheelchair, and eventually I was fitted with prosthetics. Soon enough I was baking brownies and making jewelry.

My experience, and my positive outlook, gained a lot of media attention. I’m glad my story was inspiring, but I worry that people think I was happy-go-lucky the entire time. I cried a lot and went through a really dark period. My self-esteem was shot. I was going through withdrawal from all the painkillers I stopped taking, and my boyfriend and I broke up. The trauma of what we both experienced was just too much. I felt like I lost my best friend.

But these traumas, both physical and emotional, did not hold me back. When physical therapy was over, I finished school and obtained my master’s in psychology like I had always planned. After that, I got my social work license. I began interning at the Shepherd Center—the same rehab center where I was initially treated—and helped other people cope with injuries similar to my own.

RELATED: New Study Links Gut Bacteria and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Just a couple months ago, I began my first private practice job at Heartwork Counseling Center, where I now work as a psychotherapist. It’s extremely rewarding, and I think I have the best job in the whole world. In January, I started a non-profit called the Aimee Copeland Foundation, and my goal is to create a nature park that’s accessible to people with disabilities. Even before my accident, I wanted to use nature as a therapy. I remember lying in my hospital bed thinking, I can’t take people on hikes anymore without legs. That’s why I want to create a space that I and others can use to garden, hike and meditate.

Of course, not everything is easy. I still see a therapist regularly, and getting back into the dating game was hard to say the least. I did meet someone special though, and we’ve been together for two years now. Having a partner that loves me has helped heal my self-esteem.

People want to feel sorry for me, but I have an awesome life. I’ve learned to be grateful for the pain because it has helped me grow. I completely trust in the universe now. So much has been taken away from me. What do I have to fear?

Source: Mind and Body

Scientists Discover Why Hair Turns Gray and Goes Bald

This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

Scientists have pinpointed the cells that cause hair to turn gray and to go bald in mice, according to a new study published in the journal Genes & Development.

[brightcove:5370089730001 default]

Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center accidentally stumbled upon this explanation for baldness and graying hairs—at least in mouse models—while studying a rare genetic disease that causes tumors to grow on nerves, according to a press release from the center.

They found that a protein called KROX20 switches on skin cells that become a hair shaft, which then causes cells to produce another protein called stem cell factor. In mice, these two proteins turned out to be important for baldness and graying. When researchers deleted the cells that produce KROX20, mice stopped growing hair and eventually went bald; when they deleted the SCF gene, the animals’ hair turned white.

RELATED: How to Conceal Your Acne, Dark Spots, Gray Hairs, and More

“Although this project was started in an effort to understand how certain kinds of tumors form, we ended up learning why hair turns gray and discovering the identity of the cell that directly gives rise to hair,” said lead researcher Dr. Lu Le, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, in a statement.

More research is needed to understand if the process works similarly in humans, and Le and his colleagues plan to start studying it in people. “With this knowledge, we hope in the future to create a topical compound or to safely deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles to correct these cosmetic problems,” he said.

Source: Mind and Body

The Case For Drinking Coffee Is Stronger Than Ever

This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

There are few things more more ritualistic—and to many, more sacred—than a morning cup of joe. 64% of Americans drink at least one cup a day—a statistic that’s barely budged since the ’90s. Despite warnings from doctors over the years that coffee may be hard on the body, people have remained devoted to the drink.

[brightcove:4692300709001 default]

Luckily for them, the latest science is evolving in their favor. Research is showing that coffee may have net positive effects on the body after all.

Is coffee bad for you?

For years, doctors warned people to avoid coffee because it might increase the risk of heart disease and stunt growth. They worried that people could become addicted to the energy that high amounts of caffeine provided, leading them to crave more and more coffee as they became tolerant to higher amounts of caffeine. Experts also worried that coffee had damaging effects on the digestive tract, which could lead to stomach ulcers, heartburn and other ills.

All of this concern emerged from studies done decades ago that compared coffee drinkers to non-drinkers on a number of health measures, including heart problems and mortality. Coffee drinkers, it seemed, were always worse off.

RELATED: How Your Morning Coffee Might Slow Down Aging

But it turns out that coffee wasn’t really to blame. Those studies didn’t always control for the many other factors that could account for poor health, such as smoking, drinking and a lack of physical activity. If people who drank a lot of coffee also happened to have some other unhealthy habits, then it’s not clear that coffee is responsible for their heart problems or higher mortality.

That understanding has led to a rehabilitated reputation for the drink. Recent research reveals that once the proper adjustments are made for confounding factors, coffee drinkers don’t seem have a higher risk for heart problems or cancer than people who don’t drink coffee. Recent studies also found no significant link between the caffeine in coffee and heart-related issues such as high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, stroke or heart attack.

Is coffee good for you?

Studies show that people who drink coffee regularly may have an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-drinkers, thanks to ingredients in coffee that can affect levels of hormones involved in metabolism.

In a large study involving tens of thousands of people, researchers found that people who drank several cups a day—anywhere from two to four cups—actually had a lower risk of stroke. Heart experts say the benefits may come from coffee’s effect on the blood vessels; by keeping vessels flexible and healthy, it may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which can cause heart attacks.

RELATED: Clear Coffee is the Beverage Trend You Didn’t Know You Needed

It’s also high in antioxidants, which are known to fight the oxidative damage that can cause cancer. That may explain why some studies have found a lower risk of liver cancer among coffee drinkers.

Coffee may even help you live longer. A recent study involving more than 208,000 men and women found that people who drank coffee regularly were less likely to die prematurely than those who didn’t drink coffee. Researchers believe that some of the chemicals in coffee may help reduce inflammation, which has been found to play a role in a number of aging-related health problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some evidence also suggests that coffee may slow down some of the metabolic processes that drive aging.

One downside is that people may become dependent on caffeine (no surprise to any regular caffeine-drinker who takes a coffee break). The symptoms—headaches, irritability and fatigue—can mimic those of people coming off of addictive drugs. Yet doctors don’t consider the dependence anywhere close to as worrisome as addictions to habit-forming drugs like opiates. While unpleasant, caffeine “withdrawal” symptoms are tolerable and tend to go away after a day or so.

[brightcove:5417727580001 default]

How much coffee is safe?

Like so many foods and nutrients, too much coffee can cause problems, especially in the digestive tract. But studies have shown that drinking up to four 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is safe. Sticking to those boundaries shouldn’t be hard for coffee drinkers in the U.S., since most drink just a cup of java per day.

Moderation is key. But sipping coffee in reasonable amounts just might be one of the healthiest things you can do.

Source: Mind and Body

This Viral Hashtag Illustrates How the New Healthcare Bill Affects Women

While supporters cheered the passing of the American Health Care Act by the House of Representatives yesterday, many people who opposed it took to Twitter, where they voiced their outrage over one part of the new plan and made the hashtag #iamapreexistingcondition go crazy viral.

What’s it all about? While the AHCA keeps some Obamacare provisions in place, like allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance plan until age 26, the new bill lets insurers deny coverage or charge higher premiums to individuals with pre-existing conditions. What qualifies as a pre-existing condition will be up to insurers. Epilepsy, heartburn, and celiac disease are just some of the afflictions that could cause your coverage to cost more or keep you from getting any insurance at all, according to a list released by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a healthcare research nonprofit.

[brightcove:5377671624001 default]

Female-specific conditions such as postpartum depression, C-sections, and pregnancy are also on the Kaiser list, prompting many women to join the outcry. 


Celebrities also rallied around the hashtag and opened up about their own health history:

The next stop for the AHCA is the Senate, which has to debate and then approve it before it can be signed into law. It’s too early to tell if #iamapreexistingcondition will compel Senators to tweak the preexisting conditions part, but GOP senators have said that they would prefer to draft their own version of the bill.

Source: Mind and Body

5 Things to Know About AHCA, the New House Republican Health Care Bill That Just Passed

This article originally appeared on Money. 

The Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare narrowly passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, advancing a plan that would gut health coverage for millions of Americans while delivering tax cuts to the rich.

The American Health Care Act, as the bill is called, had been tweaked in several ways since it was pulled from a House vote in March after failing to garner enough support. In making changes, Republican leaders tried to appease both hardline conservatives who thought the previous version was too much like Obamacare (aka, the Affordable Care Act or ACA) and moderates who worried about people losing coverage.

[brightcove:5377671624001 default]

But the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not yet scored the revised bill, so lawmakers voted without key projections on how the legislation would affect the number of insured, premium costs, the federal budget, and other measures. The last CBO score—delivered in response to the prior iteration of the bill—estimated that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured people overall by 24 million by 2026.

Proponents, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, say the bill will restore choice to consumers and lower premiums that spiraled out of control under Obamacare. But critics counter that the bill’s effects on premiums would vary greatly based on an individual’s situation, and that weakened consumer protections could ultimately hurt everyone, including those with employer coverage.

Generally speaking, younger, healthy people would likely see their premiums decline under the Obamacare replacement, while older and less healthy people would see them rise. Young people can continue to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. Yet people will no longer be forced to pay a penalty if they go without health insurance for more than a short stretch—the bill does away with Obamacare’s “individual mandate,” but includes other incentives for people to maintain their coverage.

RELATED: 50 Health Issues That Count as a Pre-existing Condition

Here’s what you need to know about the bill, which continues next to the Senate. There, it faces new challenges and likely revisions before any vote. If it passes the Senate, President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

1. Essential Health Benefits Could Disappear

Obamacare created a list of 10 essential health benefits that health plans must offer, including maternity care and mental health care, which were routinely excluded from pre-Obamacare policies on the individual market. The amended American Health Care Act would allow states to apply for a waiver to define their own essential health benefits starting in 2020. There are several concerns with this approach. One is that insurance carriers would likely decline to offer costly benefits if they’re not required to, Linda Blumberg and John Holahan of the Urban Institute write in a recent report. Or if they do, they’ll offer them at such a high price that coverage will be unaffordable for most consumers.

Another concern is that, without essential health benefits, coverage for pre-existing conditions becomes meaningless. Obamacare detractors, including President Trump, are quick to say they want to retain coverage for pre-existing conditions. But if you have cancer and your policy doesn’t cover chemotherapy—because it no longer has to offer comprehensive benefits—then practically speaking, you’re not covered even though you can technically buy a policy.

What’s more, weakening of essential health benefits could also affect people with health coverage through their jobs, experts say. Obamacare required all health insurance plans, including those provided through an employer, to have an out-of-pocket maximum limiting the amount that the patient would have to pay in a given year. But that ceiling only applies to benefits that are considered essential health benefits. Under the GOP bill, employers could choose any state’s definition of essential health benefits, and those seeking to lower costs could gravitate toward the skimpier ones. This would leave workers vulnerable to catastrophic expenses if they get a serious injury or health diagnosis.

RELATED: House Votes to Repeal and Replace Obamacare

2. Medicaid Would be Cut

The American Health Care Act would radically change Medicaid, by phasing out the Obamacare Medicaid expansion that extended health coverage to more than 10 million lower-income Americans.

States would be allowed to continue to enroll people into the expanded Medicaid program until 2020. Then, it will “freeze,” and no other enrollees can be added, the thinking being people would eventually drop out of the program as they earn more money.

Beyond that, the bill would restructure all of Medicaid, not just the parts that Obamacare touched. The American Health Care Act would slash federal Medicaid spending by about $840 billion over 10 years, according to CBO projections. This would likely lead to benefit cuts for the 74 million Americans who rely on the program, including lower-income beneficiaries, as well as, the disabled and elderly people who have exhausted their assets.

These cuts to Medicaid would help fund that tax cuts that the bill grants to wealthy Americans. Obamacare levied certain taxes on the wealthy to help fund the premium subsidies that help make insurance more affordable for the 85% of the people on the individual marketplace who receive them. Yet the American Health Care Act rolls back the tax increases, and cuts to Medicaid will help to make up some of that lost revenue.

3. Pre-Existing Conditions Wouldn’t be Adequately Protected

After initially promising to protect people with pre-existing conditions from exorbitant premiums and deductibles, the House plan would allow insurers to once again charge sick people more for coverage under certain circumstances.

RELATED:  American Women Are Facing An Infertility Crisis

Insurers still cannot deny coverage outright to people with pre-existing conditions, as they could before the passage of the ACA. However, they will be able to charge significantly higher premiums once again if individuals do not maintain continuous coverage. States can apply for a waiver to the ACA’s community rating provision, which banned charging sick people in a community more for insurance than “healthier” people in the community (with exceptions for age and tobacco usage). In order to receive the waiver, states would receive money from the Patient and State Stability Fund to create things like high-risk pools.

These high-risk pools are intended to help bring down costs for sick people, but a recent report from the AARP found that premiums could exceed $25,000 per year for people in these pools, pricing many people out. The AHCA has $138 billion over ten years earmarked for the pools, which is not nearly enough to help subsidize costs, according to experts, even with an additional $8 billion that was added to the pot at the last minute.

4. Tax Credits Would Decrease for Most People

Tax credits to pay for individual coverage varied based primarily on income, as well as age and geographical region, under Obamacare, and 85% of enrollees receive help paying for coverage. In the AHCA, subsides depend almost exclusively on age, with all individuals in a certain age range receiving the same amount of support. The credits are phased out for the highest earners: they start decreasing when an individual earns $75,000, or $150,000 for joint filers.

Overall, the AHCA dramatically reduces the amount of money people will receive to help pay for their insurance, excepting the youngest, healthiest enrollees. This is the age breakdown for subsidies:

  • 30 and Under: $2,000 per year
  • 30 to 40: $2,500 per year
  • 40 to 50: $3,000 per year
  • 50 to 60: $3,500 per year
  • 60 and Over: $4,000 per year

Compared to the ACA’s credits, this structure benefits young healthy people, while hurting older people as well as sick young people. Lower-income older people would be hit particularly hard, as the fixed dollar subsidy won’t go as far in covering their costs as the income-based one. In 2026, a 64-year-old making $26,500 would owe a sizable $19,500 in annual premiums under Ryan’s plan, versus $15,300 under Obamacare, according to CBO projections. Meanwhile, the difference in subsidies would mean that the consumer pays just $1,700 out-of-pocket for premiums under Obamacare, versus $14,600 under the American Health Care Act.

RELATED:  Are Digital Doctors the Future?

5. Women’s Health Access Would Take Extra Hits

Though not explicitly stated, the AHCA aims to defund Planned Parenthood, the largest network provider of women’s health care in the country, by denying reimbursements from Medicaid and Title X (a federal program for family planning) funding for preventative and primary care. That could lead to as many as 650,000 women losing access to preventive care.

The waivers for pre-existing conditions and essential health benefits would also disproportionately affect women: things like maternity and newborn care could be on the chopping block, as well as birth control coverage. Other services that are currently considered preventive care that could change if essential health benefits are rejiggered include breast pumps, domestic violence screening and counseling, mammograms, newborn care, screenings for cervical cancer, STI counseling and well-woman visits. A recent study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that because of increased birth control coverage, out-of-pocket prescription costs are actually on the decline—and that too would be reversed.

At the same time, sexual assault, domestic violence, pregnancy, C-section, postpartum depression, and eating disorders are all conditions affecting significantly more women than men (though not exclusively women), that could be considered pre-existing conditions once again.

The bill could put domestic violence victims at even more risk. As MONEY reported previously,

Under Obamacare, couples have to file taxes jointly to receive a tax credit—unless they are victims of domestic abuse, domestic violence, or spousal abandonment. The AHCA doesn’t account for this and requires all couples to file jointly to receive a tax credit, without exception.

Finally, women also make up the majority of Medicaid recipients, and nearly half of all births are covered by Medicaid.

Source: Mind and Body