State Laws Help Reduce Concussions in Youth Sports: MedlinePlus Health News

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THURSDAY, Oct. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — State laws aimed at curbing an alarming rise in concussions among student athletes appear to be working.

Since 2014, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to protect young athletes against traumatic brain injury (TBI). Washington state was the first in 2009.

Most of the laws require athletes with suspected concussions to stop playing until a doctor clears them to return. Coaches, players and parents must also receive yearly education about concussion.

“This movement to get these laws passed has made a huge difference,” said Kenneth Podell, director of the Houston Methodist Concussion Center, who reviewed a new study assessing the laws.

Led by Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, researchers examined concussion reports to a nationwide sports injury tracking program before and after the laws were passed. The data covered nine high school sports: football, boys’ basketball, soccer, baseball and wrestling as well as girls’ basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball.

The takeaway: Players were more likely to report a concussion, and the number of repeat injuries fell dramatically after the laws went into effect.

Between fall 2005 and spring 2016, student athletes reported about 2.7 million concussions. Of those, 89 percent were new and 11 percent were repeat injuries.

In 2005, nearly 135,000 initial concussions were reported. The number jumped to more than 360,000 by 2016.

Principal investigator Ginger Yang attributed the increase in “new concussions” to increased awareness of symptoms and reporting. Before the laws, many people simply didn’t know how to recognize a concussion, so suspected or actual injuries were never reported, she said.

Yang is with the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Predictably, football players sustained the most concussions, accounting for about half of those reported. Girls who played soccer had the second-highest rate, according to the study.

After concussion laws were introduced, however, repeat injuries fell dramatically, from about 14 percent of all concussions in 2005 to roughly 7 percent in 2016.

Podell said the added attention created by the laws has been a game-changer.

“More and more, year after year, as time goes on more kids self-report symptoms and pull themselves out of the game,” he said. “This will pay dividends down the road.”

Despite improvements in reporting and managing concussions, however, Yang said more must be done to protect players.

“Our results, along with those of others, can be used as evidence for the need of more public health efforts that focus on preventing concussions in the first place, such as preventing or reducing initial head or body impact,” she said. Other strategies could include setting limits on heading the ball in soccer and stricter adherence to rules.

An estimated 1 million to 2 million people age 18 or younger sustain a concussion in the United States each year during sports or other recreational activities. These injuries can have lasting effects on developing brains, including personality changes and problems with thinking and coordination, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Multiple concussions over an extended period can have cumulative effects.

The study was published Oct. 19 in the American Journal of Public Health.

SOURCES: Ginger Yang, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor, pediatrics, Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and principal investigator, Center for Injury Research and Policy, Columbus, Ohio; Kenneth Podell, Ph.D., director, Houston Methodist Concussion Center; American Journal of Public Health, Oct. 19, 2017

News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

3 Million Americans Say They Carry Handguns Every Day: MedlinePlus Health News

THURSDAY, Oct. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — About 3 million Americans carry a loaded handgun with them on a daily basis, a new survey reveals.

Another 9 million U.S. adults reported they carry their weapons on them on a monthly basis.

“Carrying firearms in public places can have significant implications for public health and public safety,” said study lead author Ali Rowhani-Rahbar.

“An important first step to examining the consequences of firearm carrying at the national level is an accurate measurement of the occurrence of this behavior and characterization of those who engage in it,” he noted.

Rowhani-Rahbar, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, made his comments in a school news release.

For the study, the researchers reviewed data from a 2015 survey of almost 1,500 gun owners. They found that those who carried a loaded handgun tended to be younger and male. They also tended to live in the southern United States and grew up in gun-owning homes. People carrying guns were more likely to identify as politically conservative, and to own more than one type of gun.

Many of those who carried a loaded handgun said they did so for protection.

Eighty percent of those who carried their handgun had a concealed-carry permit, and 66 percent said they always carried their handguns concealed. Ten percent said they always carried their guns openly.

“It was important to study handgun carrying, because about 90 percent of all firearm homicides and nonfatal firearm crimes for which the type of firearm is known are committed with a handgun,” Rowhani-Rahbar said.

The study was published Oct. 19 in the American Journal of Public Health.

SOURCE: University of Washington, news release, Oct. 19, 2017

News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Is a Dangerous Bird Flu on the Horizon?: MedlinePlus Health News

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THURSDAY, Oct. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Scientists have found new evidence that the H7N9 bird flu, currently confined to China, has the potential for a widespread outbreak.

Public health experts have long been tracking the bird flu strain, which emerged in humans in 2013.

Since then, nearly 1,600 cases have been confirmed in China — with a death rate of about 40 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There’s no evidence that H7N9 can be readily passed from person to person. There have been only isolated cases of human transmission, the CDC says, with most people falling ill because of contaminated poultry.

However, public health officials have been worried about H7N9’s potential to eventually trigger a pandemic, or global outbreak.

The new study could add to those concerns.

Researchers found that samples of H7N9 were easily transmitted among ferrets — an animal “model” that is considered the best proxy for human flu infection. And those infections were often lethal.

“I want to be clear that there is no sustained transmission of H7N9 among humans at this point,” said senior researcher Yoshihiro Kawaoka, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“And at the moment,” he added, “it’s confined to China.”

However, Kawaoka explained, influenza viruses constantly mutate, and it’s possible for a strain to become more virulent, more resistant to drugs or more easily transmissible.

One infectious diseases expert agreed.

“This study reinforces two points. Highly pathogenic H7N9 poses an important public health risk. And these viruses evolve over time, so the risk can change,” said Dr. Matthew Zahn, chair of the public health committee at the Infectious Diseases Society of America. “This is an important reminder that surveillance needs to continue.”

Since 2013, there have been annual outbreaks of H7N9 in China, according to the CDC. The most recent one is the largest yet, the agency says — with 764 cases reported as of Sept. 17.

In past outbreaks, officials had detected only “low pathogenic” H7N9 viruses, which do not make chickens or other domestic poultry overtly sick.

More recently, though, there’s been an emergence of highly infectious H7N9 viruses, which do sicken and kill the animals.

And in the most recent China outbreak, at least 25 people have been infected with those viruses, according to Kawaoka’s team.

For their study, the researchers analyzed a virus sample from a patient in China who’d died of a highly pathogenic H7N9 infection. They found that the virus had begun to mutate: Some viral cells were vulnerable to the drug Tamiflu (which the patient had received), while others had developed resistance.

Next, the researchers created two viruses that mimicked the patient’s sample: one that was sensitive to Tamiflu, and one that was resistant. They compared those three viruses with a low-pathogenic version of H7N9.

The researchers found that all of the viruses infected mice and ferrets, but the highly infectious bugs made the animals more severely ill, including some lethal infections.

And, it turned out, all of the viruses were easily passed through the air among ferrets housed in cages next to one another.

The researchers also confirmed that the drug-resistant H7N9 virus did not respond to the active ingredient in Tamiflu. It was, however, susceptible to a drug called favipiravir (Avigan), which is currently approved only in Japan.

It’s hard to judge how well drugs like Tamiflu have worked against H7N9 in China, Kawaoka said. The medications should ideally be given within two days of the first symptoms, and many patients get them too late, he explained.

In a recent report, the CDC said that of virus samples tested from the latest outbreak, over 10 percent had evidence of reduced susceptibility to current flu drugs.

For now, Kawaoka said, it’s clear that ongoing surveillance of H7N9 is critical.

He noted that the emergence of highly pathogenic viruses has a positive side: Because the infections are now sickening food animals, outbreaks are easier to detect.

The study was published Oct. 19 in Cell Host & Microbe.

SOURCES: Yoshihiro Kawaoka, Ph.D., professor, pathobiological sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine; Matthew Zahn, M.D., chair, public health committee, Infectious Diseases Society of America, Arlington, Va.; Oct. 19, 2017 Cell Host & Microbe online

News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Arthritis Can Strike Children: MedlinePlus Health News

TUESDAY, Oct. 17, 2017 (HealthDay News) — While arthritis is typically thought of as an older person’s disease, more than 300,000 American children have chronic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA), an expert says.

Unlike age-related arthritis caused by cartilage and bone wear and tear, JIA has more to do with joint inflammation, but it’s not clear what triggers this inflammation, said Dr. Barbara Ostrov, a pediatric and adult rheumatologist at Penn State Health in Hershey, Pa.

Symptoms of JIA include joints that are consistently swollen, stiff or inflamed. In some cases, the disease also affects the eyes and can threaten vision if not diagnosed and treated promptly. All children with JIA should be monitored by an ophthalmologist.

The youngest children with JIA often don’t complain about their pain. Signs that they may have JIA include wanting to be carried for the first couple of hours a day due to morning stiffness, or a persistently swollen knee or limp.

“In many cases, children just work around the problem and do function with minor adjustments in how they use the affected joints. But the older kids tend to perceive their arthritis differently and may have more discomfort,” Ostrov said in a university news release.

For children with JIA who have inflammation in one or two joints, cortisone shots may offer relief for up to two years. Also, low doses of the medication methotrexate can help ease symptoms and inflammation in many patients.

If inflammation persists, doctors may prescribe biologic drugs to dampen an overactive immune response.

“We are fortunate to have medications to control this inflammation. Children tend to do well on them, with fewer side effects than adults,” Ostrov said.

The outlook for children with JIA is much better now than it was decades ago, she added.

“In the 1980s and 90s we had kids who needed hips, knees and other joints replaced with new joints. But now, having JIA is more about taking medication safely, monitoring symptoms and living well with arthritis,” Ostrov said.

SOURCE: Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, news release, Oct. 11, 2017

News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

1 in 9 American Men Infected With Oral HPV: MedlinePlus Health News

MONDAY, Oct. 16, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Eleven million American men are infected with oral human papillomavirus (HPV), which can lead to cancers of the head, neck and throat, a new study reports.

That equates to 1 in 9 U.S. males aged 18 to 69. And infection is most likely for those who have had multiple oral sexual partners, are gay or bisexual, or who also have genital HPV infection, a team of U.S. researchers found.

The most common cancer caused by the sexually transmitted virus is oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma, a head and neck cancer that’s far more common in men than women, according to the study.

“The incidence of this cancer has increased 300 percent in the last 20 years,” said lead researcher Ashish Deshmukh. He’s a research assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions.

Deshmukh and colleagues used 2011-2014 data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

They found that nearly 12 percent of men and about 3 percent of women were infected with oral HPV.

Nearly 2 million men had high-risk HPV 16, a strain that causes most of the cancers, Deshmukh said. This type was six times more common in men than women.

Although an effective HPV vaccine exists for both boys and girls, the number of boys getting their shots remains low. Also, many at-risk males are older than 26 and don’t qualify for the vaccine — or have already been exposed to the virus, the researchers noted.

The HPV vaccine is recommended before the start of sexual activity. All kids 11 or 12 should get two shots six to 12 months apart, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

In 2014, about 57 percent of girls but only 35 percent of boys had been vaccinated, according to the CDC.

“We’ve got to vaccinate young boys, because vaccine has the potential to decrease cancer risk,” Deshmukh said.

Even if all young boys are vaccinated, however, it will be years before a significant decrease in head and neck cancers is seen, he said.

“In the short term, we need to find alternate prevention methods, for example, screening people and identifying precancerous lesions that can be treated,” Deshmukh said.

The report was published online Oct. 16 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

According to 2013-2014 CDC research, more than 45 percent of men were infected with genital HPV, which is more common than the oral type. At the same time, about 40 percent of women carried genital HPV.

Genital HPV can cause cancer of the anus, penis and vagina. Vaginal HPV causes about 70 percent of all cases of cervical cancer, the CDC says.

One specialist said a lot of unknowns surround oral HPV.

“The prevalence of oral HPV is much lower than genital HPV, and we don’t understand that,” said Patti Gravitt, a professor in the department of global health at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

It’s also not clear why men have more oral HPV than women, she said. Moreover, rates of oral HPV are higher in younger and older people, and that, too, is not understood, said Gravitt, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study.

Fortunately, we have a very effective vaccine,” she said.

Unfortunately, many doctors aren’t recommending the vaccine, Gravitt said.

HPV vaccine prevents cancer, and “the data are remarkable,” she said. “Rarely in a vaccine have you seen such strong effectiveness. … It’s safe,” Gravitt said. “We should be doing a better job of protecting people from HPV.”

SOURCES: Ashish Deshmukh, Ph.D., research assistant professor, department of health services research, management and policy, University of Florida, Gainesville; Patti Gravitt, Ph.D., professor, department of global health, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.; Oct. 16, 2017, Annals of Internal Medicine, online

News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Plan an Allergy-Safe Halloween for Your Child: MedlinePlus Health News

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SATURDAY, Oct. 14, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Halloween’s frights extend beyond goblins and ghouls if you’re a child with food allergies or asthma.

“You want Halloween to be scary for the right reasons — ghosts, goblins and witches — not allergies and asthma,” said allergist Dr. Stephen Tilles, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.

“If you follow a few common-sense rules, you should be able to keep your kids safe and the party going without allergy and asthma symptoms,” he said in an association news release.

Here, Tilles offers parents tips on how to limit the risk of allergic reactions:

Don’t let children consume any candy that isn’t clearly labeled for indications of potential allergens. Have them bring all goodies home for you to inspect, or drop off safe treats for your child with friends and at school.

Does your child have asthma? Keep an inhaler on hand while trick-or-treating, in case of exposure to smoke machines or mold while running door to door. A child who wheezes might also do better with a hat than a mask.

Pay attention to costuming. For example, children who struggle with a metal allergy might do well to wear gloves. And for those at risk for eczema, use only hypoallergenic makeup, or avoid makeup altogether. Also, read garment labels to avoid materials such as latex that could pose a problem.

A teal-colored pumpkin on the doorstep is considered an indicator of food allergy awareness. This lets others know that that particular household will provide a nonfood trick-or-treat alternative.

News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Black Children Missing Out on Eczema Treatment: MedlinePlus Health News

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FRIDAY, Oct. 13, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Black children may have more severe eczema than white children, but they are less likely to visit a doctor for this common inflammatory skin condition, new research shows.

Eczema causes the skin to become red and itchy. Roughly 11 percent of children in the United States are affected by the condition, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Previous studies have demonstrated disparities in overall health care utilization among racial and ethnic minorities, but few studies have examined this question specifically for eczema,” said senior study author Dr. Junko Takeshita. She is an assistant professor of dermatology and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

“This is the first study to look at racial and ethnic differences in health care utilization for eczema on an individual level rather than relying on a sample of outpatient visits, making this a unique evaluation of eczema that includes those not accessing care for their disease,” she said in a Penn news release.

The study included health care data on a group of more than 2,000 children and teens under 18 with eczema. The data was collected from 2001 and 2013.

Based on their analysis, the researchers estimated that 66 percent of the nearly 3 million children with eczema are white, 18 percent are black and 16 percent are Hispanic. Overall, about 60 percent of these children have been treated for their condition but the odds of being treated by a doctor also varies by race, the researchers found.

Among the white children with eczema, about 62 percent visited a doctor for the condition. Roughly 58 percent of Hispanic kids with the condition were also treated, compared to just 52 percent of black children.

Overall, black children and teens with eczema are 30 percent less likely to see a doctor than white kids, the researchers calculated.

Those who do see a doctor for eczema however tend to have more office visits and receive more prescriptions than white children, suggesting they have more severe cases of the condition, the researchers said.

“The data show that race alone can be a predictor of whether or not a child with eczema will see a doctor, independent of other social or demographic factors or insurance status,” Takeshita said.

Minority children with eczema also tended to be younger. They were more likely to also have asthma than the white children with the condition. The minority children were also less likely to have private insurance and more likely to come from low-income homes.

“While the study is not without its limitations, our findings suggest there are barriers to health care for eczema among black children, irrespective of income and insurance status, despite likely having more severe skin disease,” Takeshita said.

“Further research is needed to understand what these barriers are and why they exist so that we can ultimately make efforts to eliminate this disparity,” she added.

The study was published recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

SOURCE: University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine, news release, September 29, 2017

News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Happier Mealtimes, Healthier Eating for Kids: MedlinePlus Health News

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THURSDAY, Oct. 12, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Parents who struggle to get their children to follow a healthy diet may want to make dinnertime a pleasant experience, new research suggests.

The study found a happier emotional atmosphere during meals allows preschoolers to make healthier food choices.

“Having more positive mealtimes, where people are enjoying themselves, where there’s mutual warmth and engagement, makes it a little bit easier for children to approach healthy foods,” said lead author Jaclyn Saltzman, a doctoral candidate in the department of human development and family studies at the University of Illinois.

And that’s especially important in young kids, she noted.

“The eating behaviors you have early in childhood can track later on,” Saltzman said in a university news release.

“Preschoolers are unique because they are on solid foods with a diet similar to adults, but their food choices are still mostly under the control of their parents. We really want to see what effect parents are having, and this gives us that window of opportunity to see that,” she added.

For the study, 74 parents of preschoolers between 3 and 5 years old answered two questionnaires about mealtimes over the course of about two years.

During this time, researchers conducted a home visit to observe the family during mealtime. They tracked the positive and negative emotions expressed by both the mothers and their children.

After watching how mothers and their kids interacted, the researchers found that a more pleasant or happy meal had a positive effect on what the children consumed.

Overall, children ate, on average, about one serving more of fruit, vegetables or a soy-protein product during more positive mealtimes, the study revealed.

“When you have a negative family mealtime, you don’t want to sit there and try a new thing, enjoy a new texture, or cajole your child into trying something new. You just want to get through it,” Saltzman explained.

“We were happy to see that families who are more positive at their mealtimes have kids who seem to be eating a little more healthy food,” she said.

The researchers also considered how to help parents, who may not always be feeling very happy, create a more positive mood during mealtimes.

They found that including children in grocery shopping as well as meal planning and preparation help generate more positive emotions during meals.

“First of all, I wouldn’t tell parents to just be more positive, to just slap a smile on your face, because in the face of a picky-eating preschooler or any other mealtime challenge, that’s just not going to work,” Saltzman said. “But there are several things parents can do.”

Here are her suggestions:

  • Be clear about what is expected during meals.
  • Establish a routine, eating at about the same time and in the same room or setting each day.
  • Give kids jobs. Assign individual tasks, such as setting the table.
  • Remind kids to express themselves with words and not scream when they are upset.
  • Don’t force it. Parents should encourage their children to try new foods, but after several tries it may be time to move on. Kids don’t have to like everything.
  • Stay calm. Parents should try techniques such as breathing exercises to help them keep their emotions in check.

The study was published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology.

SOURCE: University of Illinois, news release, Oct. 4, 2017

News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Dance Your Way to a Healthier Aging Brain: MedlinePlus Health News

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THURSDAY, Oct. 12, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Dance classes may beat traditional exercise when it comes to improving older adults’ balance — and it might enhance brain areas related to memory and learning along the way.

That’s the finding of a small study that compared dance lessons against standard exercise — including brisk walking — among 52 healthy seniors.

Over a year and a half, older adults who took weekly dance classes showed gains in their balancing ability. There were no such improvements in the traditional exercise group.

Researchers also found hints that all those mambos and cha-chas had extra brain benefits.

Seniors in both groups showed growth in the hippocampus — a brain structure that’s involved in memory and learning. But the dancers showed changes in more areas of the hippocampus.

Patrick Muller, one of the researchers on the study, suggested an explanation: The “multimodal” nature of dance — its physical and mental components — might be behind the extra brain boost.

Seniors in the dance group had to continually learn and “imprint” new steps, explained Muller, a Ph.D. candidate at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Magdeburg, Germany.

Along with that mental challenge, he said, dance also involves coordinating movement with music — which itself affects the brain. Plus, there’s the fun, Muller noted.

David Marquez is an associate professor of kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He said it’s hard to know what to make of the brain findings, since the study group was so small.

Marquez, who was not involved in the research, is studying the effects of Latin dance classes on older Hispanic adults’ well-being.

He agreed that dance can offer things that simpler repetitive activity may not.

“With dance, you’re having to think about each step,” Marquez said. “There are motor, cognitive and social components. And there’s the music.”

But, he added, both exercise groups in this study showed changes in the hippocampus, on average. And that’s in line with past research, Marquez noted: Studies have found that regular aerobic exercise, like walking, may boost the volume of brain areas involved in memory, planning and other vital functions.

“So the message is, get moving,” Marquez said.

Ultimately, he added, the “best” form of exercise for any one person is the one that can be maintained.

“If you don’t enjoy the activity, you won’t do it,” Marquez said. “So find something you enjoy and do it regularly.”

The study, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, included healthy volunteers who were typically in their late 60s.

Half were randomly assigned to take dance classes over 18 months. The rest attended a traditional exercise program that included walking, stationary bikes, strength-training and stretching.

The dance group met twice a week for the first six months, then weekly. To keep participants on their toes, the dance styles changed every couple of weeks and ranged from Latin to line dancing to jazz.

Just 14 seniors from the dance group and 12 from the traditional fitness group stayed with the program for the full 18 months.

In the end, the study found, only the dancers showed clear improvements on balance tests. And while both groups had increases in their hippocampal volume, the dance group tended to show changes in more subregions of the hippocampus.

The hippocampus is critical, according to Muller, because it is affected in dementia — including Alzheimer’s disease — and it can also shrink with age.

The big question, though, is whether dance can make any difference in the odds of seniors’ mental decline.

“Further research is needed to clarify whether this intervention truly has the potential to reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s,” Muller said.

According to Marquez, it would be interesting to do the same study with older adults who already have some cognitive impairment, and see if there are similar brain changes.

For now, Muller said, the findings suggest dance might have some advantages over simpler repetitive physical activity.

But he agreed that exercise in general — plus a healthy lifestyle overall — “can help the brain stay young.”

SOURCES: Patrick Muller, Ph.D. candidate, German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, Germany; David Marquez, Ph.D., associate professor, kinesiology and nutrition, University of Illinois at Chicago; June 2017, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

How to Talk to Someone With Cancer: MedlinePlus Health News

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THURSDAY, Oct. 12, 2017 (HealthDay News) — For people diagnosed with cancer, communication with family members plays a vital role in their health and well-being, according to an expert from San Diego State University.

After studying this issue for a decade, communications professor Wayne Beach concluded that cancer patients benefit from continuous positive dialogue.

“Cancer patients do cope and heal better depending on their communication within their families,” Beach said in a university news release. “Without this proper communication, these patients don’t heal as well or as long. Having a dysfunctional environment around you is not good — it’s stressful.”

Patients and their loved ones cope better, he found, when they share stories, reminisce and talk about their hopes as well as their concerns.

“How family members communicate when coping [with a diagnosis] is important,” Beach said. “Patients have reported feeling empowered when communication is comprehensive and constant in their home and medical surroundings.”

For the past 10 years, Beach and a team of researchers analyzed phone and face-to-face interactions between cancer patients and their families, as well as interactions between patients and health care professionals.

Though cancer is often viewed as a grim diagnosis, the researchers found that the conversations between patients and their loved ones focused on life, not death.

“If you hear someone has been diagnosed with cancer, our natural inclination tends to be to think of it as a death sentence,” Beach said. “It is so much more about hope than despair. I really didn’t expect that going in.”

Beach provided several do’s and don’ts for people with loved ones who’ve been diagnosed with cancer.

Do:

  • Offer encouragement and stay positive.
  • Talk frequently.
  • Be open about how you’re feeling.
  • Actively listen to what the patient is saying.
  • Allow the patient to vent and share their fears.

Don’t:

  • Be silent.
  • Avoid talking about cancer or anything related to the diagnosis.
  • Dwell or focus on negatives.

SOURCE: California State University, news release, Oct. 6, 2017

News stories are written and provided by HealthDay and do not reflect federal policy, the views of MedlinePlus, the National Library of Medicine, the National Institutes of Health, or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.