Health » Medical Unit The latest Health news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers. Wed, 26 Nov 2014 21:34:19 +0000 en hourly 1 Twitter Chat Tips on the Benefits of Gratitude Wed, 26 Nov 2014 21:34:19 +0000 ABC News gty family dinner mt 141126 16x9 608 Twitter Chat Tips on the Benefits of Gratitude

Giving thanks is good for your health. Credit: Getty Images.

By Dr. Chris Terndrup, ABC Medical Unit

Yesterday, ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser took time to express gratitude in the form of a tweet chat.

The chat covered what the science says about gratitude: It can improve everything from emotional state to quality of sleep to heart health.

Check out some of the highlights from this gratifying social media conversation. And Happy Thanksgiving from the entire ABC News Health team.










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‘It’s Magical’: Tot Hears After Getting Cochlear Implant Wed, 26 Nov 2014 01:04:27 +0000 ABC News ABC wn cochlear implant jtm 141125 16x9 608 Its Magical: Tot Hears After Getting Cochlear Implant


For the last six months, 2-year-old Asher Goldberg has been adjusting to sound, learning about his world, picking up words and even dancing to music.

After he was born, his parents endured several months of testing before doctors confirmed that he was deaf.

“It was difficult,” said his mother, Robyn Goldberg, about hearing the diagnosis. “It was very hard.”

“The first thing I thought is he is not going to be able to experience music the way I can,” his father, Michael Goldberg, told ABC News affiliate in Phoenix.

Hearing-impaired kids get their own superhero.

Child who needs corrective hearing surgery gets wish.

With hearing implants, experiencing sound for the first time.

His parents suffered the loss of sound for him. They said they tried to learn sign language, attended therapy sessions and tried out hearing aides but none of it helped create a common language for the three.

With a laugh, Michael Goldberg described his sign language skills as “awful to better than awful.”

So when a cochlear implant was suggested for Asher, the full-time working parents of two took the risk of surgery.

“The risks are so minimal and the benefits are just, it’s magical,” Robyn Goldberg said.

So in February, two months after receiving a cochlear implant — a device that helps people hear by electronically simulating the auditory nerve — Asher heard for the first time in his life.

“The best part, I think for both of us, he finally turned around when we said something,” Michael Goldberg said. “It’s not just so much that he’s hearing something, but he’s actually understanding some of the stuff.”

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Manning Up for Men’s Health Awareness Wed, 19 Nov 2014 20:25:33 +0000 ABC News gty blood ppressure check rf jc 141118 16x9 608 Manning Up for Mens Health Awareness

Movember in November helps raise awareness for men's health. Credit: Getty Images.

By Dr. Deena Adimoolam, ABC News Medical Unit

Thanks to an increased risk of heart attacks, cancer and mental health problems, men live on average five years less than women. The Movember movement aims to help men get healthier by raising awareness for common ailments men face.

ABC News’ Health Twitter chat on Tuesday focused on getting the word out on ways men can close the health gap. Moderated by ABC News chief health and medical editor, Dr. Richard Besser, we were joined by Livestrong, Men’s Health Magazine, The Movember Foundation and

Here are some of the highlights from the conversation distilled into nine scintillating tweets.

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Chemical in Cocoa May Boost Brain Power Sun, 26 Oct 2014 18:00:49 +0000 ABC News By Dr. Crystal Agi

A chemical found in chocolate may improve brain function, according to a small new study released today by doctors at Columbia University.

Their research was partially funded by candy-maker Mars, Inc., and additionally supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the James S. McDonnell Foundation.

In the study, the doctors looked at 37 participants age 50 to 69. They gave half of them daily supplements containing 900 milligrams of cocoa flavanol, a chemical found in many types of chocolate. The other half got only 10 milligrams of flavanol a day.

The subjects then engaged in complex tasks designed to stimulate a part of the brain associated with memory that often declines as we age — the dentate gyrus. The researchers measured the time it took participants to complete certain tasks while monitoring the subjects’ brain function using a specialized MRI machine, according to the study.

The researchers found that those in the high-flavanol group had improved reaction times and better blood flow to this part of the brain. The improvements they saw in brain function were so pronounced that they concluded high-flavanol supplementation was equivalent to adding back three decades of life.

Study author Dr. Scott Small, director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at Columbia University, said he was “surprised” by the results, particularly when it came to the “specificity and the strength of (flavanol’s) effect on the brain” – especially, he said, since his initial aim was just to confirm that this area of the brain was the true source of memory decline.

The results appear in the October issue of Nature Neuroscience.

Some experts not involved with the study said the findings support the idea that deterioration of the brain with age is preventable.

Dr. Richard Issacson, director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center, said he believes the results of the study provide “definitive evidence that the cocoa flavanols are a safe and necessary approach when addressing brain health.” He added that he thinks flavanols should even be considered a new option for the possible treatment and prevention of memory loss.

“There’s a misconception that Alzheimer’s is inevitable or losing one’s memory is inevitable,” Issacson said. “But one-third of all cases can be prevented by making the right dietary choices.”

Doctor’s Take

Is this study a slam dunk for chocolate as a brain-booster? Not quite — or at least not yet. Because the study focused only on healthy individuals, it is unclear whether those suffering from severe memory loss, like Alzheimer’s disease, would improve with such treatment.

Think twice before reaching for your next candy bar. The amount of flavanol in one bar of chocolate is “miniscule,” according to Small, who urged caution to those who think the results of the study mean they should eat more chocolate. At only 40 milligrams of flavanol per bar, he said, one would require “at least 20 chocolate bars” to come close to the amount of flavanol tested in the study.

At that amount, the downsides of chocolate – such as calories and fat – would likely outweigh the benefits.

Instead, Small said he hopes that one day someone will develop a diet or pill that contains that much flavanol. He said that solution just might become a reasonable treatment option for anyone suffering from memory decline.

Dr. Crystal Agi is a medical resident embedded with the ABC News Medical Unit. Doctor’s Take blogs explain the latest studies while offering residents’ medical opinions.


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Doctors Combat ‘Ebolaphobia’ With Facts as Antidote to Fear Wed, 22 Oct 2014 19:57:12 +0000 ABC News ht emory ebola room kb 140801 16x9 608 Doctors Combat Ebolaphobia With Facts as Antidote to Fear

Ebola-stricken Americans are treated in isolation rooms similar to this. (Jack Kearse/Emory University)

By Dr. Crystal Agi, ABC News Medical Unit

Since Ebola arrived on American soil, the public has been bombarded with a series of facts and fictions about the virus. As a result, people are on edge, not knowing what to believe. Many are worried.

But are these concerns rational?

To help answer these questions, ABC News Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser moderated a Twitter chat this week. The goal was to help spread awareness about what’s true about Ebola — and what isn’t. Infectious disease experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Nebraska Medical Center joined the discussion, along with other doctors and members of general public.

Scroll through these eight tweets to learn the truth about Ebola:









Dr. Crystal Agi is a medical resident embedded with the ABC News Medical Unit. 

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Concierge Medicine: How At-Home Doctor Visits Yield Savings Mon, 13 Oct 2014 21:03:54 +0000 ABC News

It’s been a while since any member of the Basile family missed school or work for a visit to the doctor.

“We had perfect attendance two years in a row,” said mother Meredith Basile. “No lates. No sick days.”

Instead of waiting in a doctor’s office, she and husband Joe found family physician Dr. Brian Thornburg, who treats them and their two children at their home in Naples, Florida.

abc homecare mt 141013 16x9 608 Concierge Medicine: How At Home Doctor Visits Yield Savings

ABC News

Related: Save money and time by bringing doctor to you with telemedicine.

Thornburg is one of an estimated 10,000 concierge doctors in the US.

For a fee, these doctors offer personalized care and around-the-clock access, often treating their patients at home for everything from a routine checkup to the occasional stitch or two.

On top of their regular health insurance, patients pay Thornburg a $100 monthly fee for whatever home care they might need.

Although critics say the service is only for the rich and famous, ABC News’ consumer health advocate Michelle Katz disagrees.  She said there could be hidden savings in concierge medicine.

“They (parents) don’t have to take off work. They don’t have to find babysitters,” Katz said. “They can be in the comfort of their own home.”

Katz estimated how the Basiles saved about $2,000 a year with concierge medicine by following two money-saving tips:

1. Combining checkups. In the Basiles’ case, they pay $100 a month to Thornburg for all of their regular care. Four separate checkups at a doctor’s office would have cost this family $750 even with their insurance.

2. Reducing ER visits. US families visit emergency rooms on average twice a year at a cost of $1,200 a visit.  By saving the Basile family trips to the ER, Thornburg helped them cut their overall healthcare costs.

When their son, Luca, split open his chin on the kitchen counter, Thornburg came to their home and stitched up the wound.

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Broccoli Sprout Extract May Help Curb Autism Symptoms Mon, 13 Oct 2014 19:00:03 +0000 ABC News gty broccoli sprouts mt 141013 16x9 608 Broccoli Sprout Extract May Help Curb Autism Symptoms

A small new study found that a chemical in broccoli sprouts may help alleviate the symptoms of autism. (Credit: James Baigrie/Getty Images)

By Dr.Crystal Agi  

A chemical derived from broccoli sprout could help treat symptoms of autism, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins and Harvard hospitals.

The study authors say it is an “intriguing” first step that could lead to a better life for those with autism spectrum disorders, which affect one in 68 children in the United States and currently have no cure or medical treatment.

“If you tell people that you’ve treated autism with broccoli, they would say that that is a very far-fetched idea,” said study author Dr. Paul Talalay, a professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Talalay and his team treated 40 autistic boys and men with autism over 18 weeks.  Twenty-six of them took pills with sulforaphane, a broccoli sprout extract, and the rest received a placebo.

Study authors found that patients who took sulforaphane improved. Almost half of the patients treated with sulforaphane had “much improved” or “very much improved” social interaction and verbal communication, and more than half exhibited less aberrant behavior. When the patients stopped taking the extract, they returned to baseline levels for these symptoms within four weeks.

Those who took the placebo did not show any improvement, according to the study.

Talalay said the way in which this extract might work in autistic patients has yet to be fully understood, but past research suggests that sulforaphane can cause the body to react as it would to a fever. Since fevers have been associated with a temporary improvement of symptoms in about a third of autism patients, sulforaphane may work in a similar way, according to the study authors.

The findings appear in the October issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Autism experts not involved with the research said the findings are encouraging, but cautioned that there are still many unanswered questions.

“The trial needs to be replicated and evaluated in larger and more age-diverse samples,” Dr. Susan Hyman, chief of neurodevelopmental and behavioral pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in an email to ABC News. “But the data is certainly worth pursuing.”

Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio, agreed.

“The results are intriguing because there is an improvement in some of the subjects,” Wiznitzer said. “However, [the authors] have not shown that they have treated the core essence of autism.”

Still, Wiznitzer said these findings would be “fascinating if true.”

“It might give us a whole new group of treatments to use in these individuals,” he said.

Doctor’s Take

Given the lack of effective treatment options available for people with autism, the results of this study deserve a closer look. The good news is that sulforaphane is associated with very few side effects and is generally regarded as a safe chemical given its natural origins, according to Talalay.

But Hyman said she would not encourage families to administer sulforaphane without guidance from their doctor because it’s unclear whether there are potential drug interactions and long-term side effects.

So should parents force their kids to eat more broccoli? Not so fast.

“It’s very difficult to get this amount of broccoli in your diet,” Talalay said. “You have to know which broccoli you’re eating because the variability of [sulforaphane] is enormous.”

Instead, he said he believes that the study provides “insight” into the mechanism of autism.

Dr.Crystal Agi  is a medical resident embedded with the ABC News Medical Unit. Doctor’s Take blogs explain the latest studies while offering residents’ medical opinions.

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The Flu: What You Need to Know in 7 Tweets Wed, 08 Oct 2014 19:24:45 +0000 ABC News GTY child sick jtm 141006 The Flu: What You Need to Know in 7 Tweets

Cold and flu season is upon us/ Photo credit" Getty Images.

By Anshu Abhat, ABC Medical Unit

As flu season approaches, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects expect about 200,000 Americans to be hospitalized with complications related to the seasonal bug.

Flu usually starts this month but really ramps up in late November and lasts through the spring. And this doesn’t even take into account the enterovirus that’s been surging through 44 states and the District of Columbia.

This week’s ABC News Health Twitter chat, moderated by chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser, explored questions about the flu, enterovirus, and flu vaccines. Infectious disease specialists, patients and the public discussed what you should know to stay healthy this flu season.

In case you missed it, scroll through the top seven tweets below.








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Chain Restaurants Drop Calories From (Some) Menu Items Wed, 08 Oct 2014 18:25:18 +0000 ABC News By Dr. Meena Hasan 

Chain restaurants haven’t pulled all their higher-calorie items from their menus, but their new, healthier dishes have an average of 60 fewer calories than their traditional offerings, according to a study published today.

The new options could signal a change in direction for an industry whose menu offerings are often high in fat, calories and salt, according to study authors at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“I find the results very encouraging,” said lead study author Sara Bleich, an associate professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “The impact on obesity could be significant.”

Researchers looked at the menu offerings at 66 of the 100 largest U.S. restaurant chains — which include Wendy’s, Chipotle and full-service restaurants like Applebee’s– between 2012 and 2013.

Bleich and her team found that restaurants’ overall menus didn’t have fewer calories from year to year, but the new menu offerings had 12 percent fewer calories than the old ones. Burger and chicken chains added more calories to their core menus, but pizza and sandwich chains dropped calories in their core menus, according to the study.

The findings appear in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Children’s items dropped the most calories, with a 20 percent decline overall, according to the study. Beverages and main course offerings also dropped 8 percent and 10 percent of their calories, respectively.

Previous research has shown that 33 percent of young children, 41 percent of adolescents and 36 percent of adults eat at fast-food restaurants daily, the study said.

Bleich said that asking individuals to change their behaviors by switching restaurants is “extremely challenging.”

“So the beauty of the findings in the new study is that restaurant-goers are potentially eating fewer calories without having to make any behavioral change,” she said.

Experts not involved with the study agreed the findings are important.

“I think these trends are positive and likely to have an impact particularly in younger populations,” said Dr. William Dietz, director of the Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. “Incremental changes in calorie content can make a difference.”

Industry groups said the research shows that restaurants are taking positive steps toward providing healthy options.

“Restaurants often don’t get credit for the menus they provide, so it’s great to see there is a study that captures this positive change,” said Joy Dubost, senior director of nutrition at the National Restaurant Association.

Doctors Take

Approximately 35 percent of U.S. adults and 17 percent of U.S. children are considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And several studies suggest a correlation between eating out and obesity. So it is easy to view this research as a step in the right direction.

However, while this research shows a promising trend in a consumer’s ability to find lower calorie options at chain restaurants, it doesn’t mean these meals are necessarily nutritious. Furthermore, it does not tell us how often they are chosen by consumers.

The bottom line is that it is still important to look for meals that are higher in fruits and vegetables and in leaner sources of protein like turkey, chicken and fish. This will give you the biggest bang for your buck — no matter which restaurant you choose.

Dr. Meena Hasan is a medical resident embedded with the ABC News Medical Unit. Doctor’s Take blogs explain the latest studies while offering residents’ medical opinions.

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Sexting Linked to Sex in Teens, Study Shows Tue, 07 Oct 2014 18:00:38 +0000 ABC News

By Dr. Anshu Abhat

“Sexting” — specifically, sending sexually explicit photos — among teens may also be an indicator that they are more likely to engage in the real thing later, according to a new study.

University of Texas researchers embarked on a first-of-its-kind study to survey 1,042 high school students about their text and sex lives over a one-year period.

Teens who admitted to sending nude pictures of themselves were 32% more likely to report a year later that they had had sexual intercourse when compared to those who said they did not sext, according to the research, published in the Oct. 6 edition of the journal “Pediatrics.”

Researchers controlled for gender, grade-level, age, ethnicity, sexual behavior and dating behavior to try to isolate sexting as the variable as much as possible.

“This is probably going to raise some alarm,” said Jeff Temple, lead author of the study and a women’s health researcher at University of Texas Medical Branch Health.

For this study, researchers defined “sexting” as sending nude photos only and did not include racy text messages.

Risky behavior begets other risky behavior, said Dr. John Walkup, a leading child psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical College who was not involved in the study.

“The big risks areas are premature sexual activity and premature drug and alcohol use,” Walkup said, referring to concerns about high school students in general.

However, sending a sext was not necessarily associated with risky sexual behavior, such as unprotected sex or multiple sexual partners, according to the study.

The study also found that peer pressure can play a role in sexting. Teens who asked for nude photos — or had photos requested of them — were more likely to send those photos.

Though sexting may be scary for parents to think about, Temple pointed out that it is an opportunity for parents to talk with their children.

“If you discover your child is sexting, you can talk to them about safe sexual practices,” he said.

Still, Walkup said there’s more to good parenting than monitoring text messages.

“Don’t focus on one behavior. If you’re doing that, you’re behind,” he said. “Take a big picture approach and look and at your child as a whole.  It all starts at home.”

Doctor’s Take

While this study is an interesting window into the lives and struggles of the modern day teenager, Walkup stressed that it’s important for parents to be aware of more than just their teens’ text messaging habits.  Rather than jumping for your teen’s phone, make an effort to tune into all aspects of your teen’s life, he advised.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends talking to children about sex when they first ask about it.  The AAP encourages parents to give their teens a chance to talk and ask questions.  Important topics to discuss include avoiding peer pressure, using contraception, preventing sexually transmitted infections, and knowing when a relationship is unhealthy or unsafe, according to AAP’s recommendations.

And if you feel like you’re in over your head, AAP says you can always call your pediatrician.

Dr. Anshu Abhat is a medical resident embedded with the ABC News Medical Unit. Doctor’s Take blogs explain the latest studies while offering residents’ medical opinions.


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"Sexting" -- sending sexually explicit text messages or photos -- among teens may also be an indicator that they are more likely to engage in the real thing later, according to a new study. (Cultura/C. Ditty/Getty Images)

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