Test Your Sense of Pitch

Fun stuff from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health – Have you ever wondered how a musician can pick out a single wrong note in a complex piece of music? Has anyone told you that you are tone-deaf or have a tin ear? These all relate to a sense of pitch—roughly speaking, the highness or lowness of a sound. It’s what distinguishes a soprano from a bass singer and gives each piano key a distinct identity.

Our ability to distinguish pitch is not fully understood, but we do know that it involves some processing by the brain after a sound is perceived. This means tone deafness is not necessarily linked to any hearing disorder. An individual with perfect hearing may still have trouble distinguishing pitch because of how the brain interprets the sounds.

Research shows that 2 to 5 percent of the U.S. population has problems with pitch perception. Studies in twins also indicates that the role of inheritance in deficits in pitch recognition is extremely high, with little effect of environmental experience. Tone deafness appears to stem from nature, not nurture.

Want to test your own sense of pitch? There is an online version of the Distorted Tunes Test, a standardized survey in use for over 50 years. In it, you’ll listen to a series of snippets from well-known tunes—some of which have been distorted by changing various notes’ pitch. Your task is to pick out the incorrectly played tunes.

No personal information about you will be collected while you take the test.

You must be 16 or older to take this test. Tone recognition is not fully developed at younger ages, and test results may not be meaningful. If you agree to the conditions of this test and certify that you are 16 years or older, click the link below to proceed. Good luck, and have fun!

The Distorted Tunes Test link is found at the bottom of this page:

What Causes Nearsightedness, or Myopia?

As a child in school, did you ever struggle to see what the teacher wrote on the board? Maybe you could easily read from a book, but things further away—like highway signs—looked blurry. Blurry distant vision is the main symptom of myopia, a condition that affects about a third of American adults.

If you have myopia, you’ll have trouble seeing things far away, but you’ll be able to see nearby things clearly. This is why myopia is commonly called nearsightedness. Other symptoms of myopia include headaches, eyestrain, and squinting.

Myopia typically begins in childhood. In most cases, the amount of nearsightedness someone has stabilizes by the time they reach adulthood. Some people, however, may have myopia that continues to worsen with age.

“Myopia develops gradually, says Dr. Mary Frances Cotch of NIH’s National Eye Institute. “Children often don’t realize they are myopic because myopia develops gradually and they don’t have any way of knowing that their blurry vision is different from others.”

When you look at an object, the light rays of that object pass through the cornea and the lens of the eye. These bend (refract) the light and focus it on the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (the retina). If you have perfect vision, the rays focus directly on the surface of the retina. In a myopic eye, the eyeball is usually too long from front to back. This causes light rays to focus at a point in front of the retina, rather than directly on its surface. This makes distant objects blurry.

Myopia can also be the result of a cornea that is too curved or a lens that is too thick. For some, myopia may be caused by a combination of these problems.

What causes the eyeball to grow too long isn’t completely known, but NIH-funded researchers are exploring several possibilities. For many people, myopia appears to be inherited, so if you have a parent with myopia, you’re at increased risk for developing it yourself.

Myopia is becoming increasingly common, both in the U.S. and around the world. The problem is especially prominent among school-age children living in urban areas in some Asian countries. In a study published in 2008, NIH experts found that the number of Americans with myopia increased significantly from the 1970s to the early 2000s. The researchers estimated that at least 33% of Americans are nearsighted.

Researchers are looking to see if and how myopia might be related to a person’s sex, age, ethnicity, and environmental exposures—such as sunlight or the amount of time spent doing close-up work. In the past, experts thought that myopia might arise in children who spent too much time indoors reading and writing, which require close-up vision, or from reading in poorly lit rooms. Recent studies, however, suggest that increased myopia in children might instead be related to kids spending less time outdoors. Continued research into how myopia develops will begin to sort out the potential causes and influences.

If distant objects seem out of focus, talk with an eye care professional. He or she can diagnose myopia or other eye problems and recommend options to improve your vision.

Prescription lenses, either eyeglasses or contacts, are precisely curved to refocus light before it enters the eye. This helps light hit the sweet spot on the retina to provide the clearest possible vision.

Eye surgery, such as LASIK and PRK, changes the shape of the cornea so that light hits the retina properly. Phakic intraocular lenses (IOLs), a new option for people who are very nearsighted or whose corneas are too thin for LASIK or PRK, are surgically implanted inside the eye.

By: NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklin.

How Much Stress is Too Much?

How Much Stress is Too Much?It has been awhile since I’ve had the time to sit down and really write an article – which traditionally for me is a great stress reliever. The past year or so has been personally challenging. I’ve been on the highest high (my son and oldest daughter both had beautiful weddings last June), and I felt helpless despair (my youngest daughter’s unexpected surgery) in August. Plenty of other, major life stressors have been put directly in my life’s path over the past year or so, too.

Strangely enough, the majority of the frightening experiences have had blessed results… such as the skilled hands of my surgeon. When I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in September, the surgeon removed over a foot of my colon excising all of the cancer. When we feared my husband was going to bleed to death in February, six days under the caring professionals in the Intensive Care Unit gave him another chance at life.

Life changes! I know that, but one can become overwhelmed by too many of life’s events. Adjusting to unusual demands, especially for prolonged periods, can contribute to physical problems and other illnesses. When faced with several stressors, within a relatively brief period of time, one may find they struggle just to maintain physical and emotional health – and that is where I find myself this summer, tired and overwhelmed.

While I am so thankful for the well wishes and answered prayers, my spirit feels broken. I know that stress is part of the human experience, and our bodies are designed to react to it; think fight or flight, but anything in excess is problematic.

Webmd.com says, “Seventy-five percent to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.” (Really? I had no idea!)

My husband and I are both self-employed; adding to my stress level is the nausea and headache I have just trying to grasp the hit our finances took when we were each forced to be out of work for several weeks these past months.

How do you define stress? What counts? What is just life? Humanstress lists not being able to find a babysitter for a sick child and having to take the day off of work as a psychological stressor. I laugh in the face of that type of petty stress! Then they break stress into two types: Absolute Stressors (everyone freaks out over the same thing, like an earthquake) and Relative Stressors (subjective to different reactions in different people, such as writing a thesis). There is also Acute Stress (imagine an unexpected event like a car accident) and Chronic Stress (dealing day-to-day with a co-worker who has narcissistic personality disorder).

Psychologytoday.com says, “Stress is simply a reaction to a stimulus that disturbs our physical or mental equilibrium. In other words, it’s an omnipresent part of life.” Stressful incidents cause hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol to surge through the body. Some stress, “acute stress,” can be stimulating, often exciting. “Chronic stress”, stress that is long-term, can impact our health negatively.

I thought it would be interesting to look up The Stress Test and I found a copy of The Homes and Rahe Stress Scale put out by Dartmouth University. It is a simple test where many of life’s events are given a point value relative to the stress it causes; you add up your points and the score tells you the likelihood of illness in the near future. I scored over 600 points!

With a score like that, I’m thinking I should consider planning my own funeral – or, would that be too stressful?

Physical Activity Linked to Reduced Cancer Risk

Leisure-time physical activity such as walking, running, or swimming is associated with a reduced risk of developing 13 different types of cancer, a new study reports.

Past research has shown that the benefits of physical activity can include weight control; strengthening bones and joints; and reducing the risk for heart disease and other disorders. An international research team decided to take a close look at the links between physical activity and different types of cancer.

The researchers pooled data from 12 studies that together followed 1.44 million people over time to assess cancer risk. Study participants ranged from 19 to 98 years old. They were surveyed about time spent in moderate to vigorous leisure-time physical activities. The scientists took into account factors such as age, smoking, alcohol use, diet, and education.

During a follow-up of about a decade, 187,000 new cases of cancer arose. People with the highest level of leisure-time physical activity had a reduced risk for 13 of 26 types of cancer compared to those with the lowest level of activity.

Those with the highest activity had a 20% lower risk for 7 cancer types: esophageal adenocarcinoma, liver, lung, kidney, gastric cardia, endometrial, and myeloid leukemia. They also had a 10-20% lower risk for myeloma and cancers of the head and neck, rectum, bladder, and breast.

Leisure-time physical activity was also linked to a higher risk of malignant melanoma, likely due to greater sun exposure.

“Leisure-time physical activity is known to reduce risks of heart disease and risk of death from all causes. Our study demonstrates that it’s also associated with lower risks of many types of cancer,” says study lead author Dr. Steven Moore of NIH. “Health care professionals counseling inactive adults should promote physical activity as a component of a healthy lifestyle and cancer prevention.”

Contributed by: NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklin.

Advice for Older Adults to Stay Safer in Hot Weather

Summer is here and it’s blazing hot! It is important to be aware of the health risks that higher temperatures can bring. Older adults and people with chronic medical conditions are particularly susceptible to hyperthermia and other heat-related illnesses. Knowing the signs and recognizing the dangers to avoid problems is essential. The National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health, offers advice to help combat the dangers of hot weather.

Heat fatigue, heat syncope (sudden dizziness after prolonged exposure to the heat), heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are forms of hyperthermia, which is caused by a failure of the body’s heat-regulating mechanisms to deal with a hot environment. The combination of individual lifestyle, general health, and high temperatures can increase older adults’ risk for heat-related problems.

Lifestyle factors can include not drinking enough fluids, living in housing without air conditioning, lack of mobility and access to transportation, overdressing, visiting overcrowded places and not understanding how to respond to hot weather conditions. On hot and humid days, older people, particularly those with chronic medical conditions like heart disease and diabetes, should stay indoors in cooler spaces, especially during an air pollution alert. People without air conditioners should go to places that do have air conditioning, such as senior centers, shopping malls, movie theaters and libraries. Cooling centers, which may be set up by local public health agencies, religious groups and social service organizations in many communities, are another option.

There are many things that can increase risk for hyperthermia, including:

    Age-related changes to the skin such as poor blood circulation and inefficient sweat production
    Use of multiple medications – it is important, however, to continue to take prescribed medication and discuss possible problems with a physician.
    Reduced sweating caused by medications such as diuretics, sedatives, tranquilizers and certain heart and blood pressure drugs
    High blood pressure or other health conditions that require changes in diet; people on salt-restricted diets may be at increased risk, however, salt pills should not be used without first consulting a doctor.
    Heart, lung and kidney diseases, as well as any illness that causes general weakness or fever
    Being substantially overweight or underweight
    Alcohol use

Heat stroke is a life-threatening form of hyperthermia. It occurs when the body is overwhelmed by heat and unable to control its temperature. Signs and symptoms of heat stroke include a significant increase in body temperature (generally above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), mental status changes (like confusion or combativeness), strong rapid pulse, dry flushed skin, lack of sweating, feeling faint, staggering or coma. It is critical to seek immediate emergency medical attention for a person with heat stroke symptoms, especially an older adult.

If you suspect that someone is suffering from a heat-related illness:

    Call 911 if you suspect heat stroke.
    Get the person out of the heat and into a shady, air-conditioned or other cool place. Urge them to lie down.
    Apply a cold, wet cloth to the wrists, neck, armpits, and groin. These are places where blood passes close to the surface of the skin, and the cold cloths can help cool the blood.
    If the person can swallow safely, offer fluids such as water, fruit and vegetable juices, but avoid alcohol and caffeine.
    Encourage the individual to shower, bathe or sponge off with cool water if it is safe to do so.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) within the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services helps eligible households pay for home cooling and heating costs. People interested in applying for assistance should contact their local or state LIHEAP agency or go to www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap.

Vaccines Protect Us All

Vaccines Protect Us AllWe share more than food and culture within our homes and communities. We can also spread disease. Luckily, we live in a time when vaccines can protect us from many of the most serious illnesses. Staying current on your shots helps you, and your neighbors, avoid getting and spreading disease.

Vaccines have led to large reductions in illness and death, for both kids and adults, compared with the “pre-vaccine era,” says Dr. David M. Koelle, a vaccine expert at the University of Washington in Seattle. Vaccines will prevent about 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths among U.S. children born over the last 20 years, according to a recent report.

Vaccines harness your immune system’s natural ability to detect and destroy disease-causing germs and then “remember” the best way to fight these germs in the future. Vaccination, or immunization, has completely eliminated naturally occurring smallpox worldwide, to the point that we no longer need to get shots against this fast-spreading, once-deadly disease. Polio too has been eliminated in the U.S. and most other nations as well, thanks to immunizations. Poliovirus can affect the brain and spinal cord, leaving people unable to move their arms or legs, or sometimes unable to breathe.

“These childhood diseases used to be dreaded problems that would kill or paralyze children,” says Koelle. “In the 1950s, it was a common occurrence for kids to be fine in the spring, get polio over the summer, and then have to go back to school in the fall no longer able to walk.”

Experts recommend that healthy children and teens get shots against 16 diseases (see Wise Choices box). With this growing list, many disabling or life-threatening illnesses have significantly declined in the U.S., including measles, rubella, and whooping cough. But, unlike smallpox, these disease-causing germs, or pathogens, still exist around the world.

“These days, the risks of not being vaccinated in a developed country, like the United States, may seem superficially safe because of low rates of infection due to vaccination and other advances in public health,” says Koelle. “But we live in an era of international travel where we can be exposed to mobile pathogens.” So even if you don’t travel, a neighbor or classmate could go overseas and bring the disease back to your area.

“When the rates of vaccination drop, there can be a resurgence of the disease,” explains Dr. Saad Omer, a global health researcher at Emory University in Atlanta. For instance, measles was completely eliminated in the U.S. in 2000. But since then, hundreds of travel-related cases have occurred, with a spike of more than 600 measles cases in 2014.

Omer and colleagues examined U.S. reports on measles outbreaks since 2000. “We found that measles cases have occurred mostly in those who are not vaccinated and in communities that have lower rates of vaccination. And that’s true for many vaccine-preventable diseases,” Omer says. Most of the unvaccinated cases were those who chose not to be vaccinated or not to have their children vaccinated for non-medical reasons.

When enough people are vaccinated, the entire community gains protection from the disease. This is called community immunity. It helps to stop the spread of disease and protects the most vulnerable: newborns, the elderly, and people fighting serious illnesses like cancer. During these times, your immune system is often too weak to fend off disease and may not be strong enough for vaccinations. Avoiding exposure becomes key to safeguarding your health.

“There’s a huge benefit to all of us getting the recommended vaccines,” explains Dr. Martha Alexander-Miller, an immune system expert at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. “Number one, vaccines protect you. But they also limit the presence of disease-causing entities that are circulating in the community. So, you’re helping to protect individuals who may not be capable of protecting themselves, for example because they are too young to get vaccinated.”

When expectant moms are vaccinated, immune protection can pass through the placenta to the fetus. “Early on, the baby’s immune system is immature. So there’s a period of vulnerability where disease and death can occur,” Omer explains. “But the mother’s own antibodies—proteins formed by her immune system—can protect the baby.”

Doctors recommend that moms-to-be get both flu and DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough) shots, so her body will make antibodies against these diseases. A mother’s antibodies can help protect the newborn until they can receive their own vaccinations.

Some vaccines must be given before pregnancy. Rubella, for instance, can cause life-altering birth defects or miscarriage if contracted during pregnancy. There’s no treatment, but the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine given pre-pregnancy offers prevention. Vaccines for many other common diseases that put newborns at risk are being studied.

“We’ve made amazing progress in the development of effective vaccines,” says Alexander-Miller. “Our ability to have such breakthroughs is the end result of very basic research that went on for years and years. But we still don’t know everything that we need to know about how to create the very best vaccine.” NIH-funded scientists are continuing to search for new ways to stimulate protection against various diseases.

Koelle studies how our bodies fight herpes viruses. There are 8 related herpes viruses, but the body responds differently to each one. So far, we only have a vaccine for one: varicella-zoster virus, which causes chickenpox and shingles.

Koelle’s team is comparing how our immune system responds to chickenpox and the herpes simplex viruses, which cause mouth and genital sores. “We’re hoping to harness the success that has been possible with the chickenpox vaccine and see if we can create a vaccine that would work for both chickenpox and shingles and also herpes simplex,” he says.

Researchers are also working to improve existing vaccines. Some vaccines require a series of shots to trigger a strong immune response. The protection of other vaccines can fade over time, so booster shots may be needed. Some, like the flu vaccine, require a shot each year because the virus changes so that the vaccine no longer protects against new strains. So keeping up with the latest flu vaccines is important.

Ask your doctor’s office whether your vaccinations are current. You may also find records of vaccinations at your state health department or schools. If you can’t find your records, ask your doctor if it’ s OK to get a vaccine you might have received before.

Most side effects of vaccines are mild, such as a sore arm, headache, or low-grade fever.

“It can be easy to take vaccines for granted, because you’ll never know all the times you would’ve gotten really sick had you not been vaccinated,” says Alexander-Miller.

Help your community keep diseases at bay: Stay up-to-date with vaccines.

Contributed by: NIH News in Health
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklin.

Learn More About Allergies

A change in season can brighten your days with vibrant new colors. But blooming flowers and falling leaves can usher in more than beautiful backdrops. Airborne substances that irritate your nose can blow in with the weather. When sneezing, itchy eyes, or a runny nose suddenly appears, allergies may be to blame.

Allergies arise when the body’s immune system overreacts to substances, called allergens, that are normally harmless. When a person with allergies breathes in allergens—such as pollen, mold, pet dander, or dust mites—the resulting allergic reactions in the nose are called allergic rhinitis, or hay fever.

Allergy is one of the most common long-term health conditions. “Over the past several decades, the prevalence of allergies has been increasing,” says Dr. Paivi Salo, an allergy expert at NIH. “Currently, airborne allergies affect approximately 10-30% of adults and 40% of children.”

Avoiding your allergy triggers is the best way to control your symptoms. But triggers aren’t always easy to identify. Notice when and where your symptoms occur. This can help you figure out the cause.

“Most people with allergies are sensitive to more than one allergen,” Salo explains. “Grass, weed, and tree pollens are the most common causes of outdoor allergies.” Pollen is often the source if your symptoms are seasonal. Indoor allergens usually trigger symptoms that last all year.

If your symptoms become persistent and bothersome, visit your family physician or an allergist. They can test for allergy sensitivities by using a skin or blood test. The test results, along with a medical exam and information about when and where your symptoms occur, will help your doctor determine the cause.

Even when you know your triggers, avoiding allergens can be difficult. When pollen counts are high, stay inside with the windows closed and use the air conditioning. Avoid bringing pollen indoors. “If you go outside, wash your hair and clothing,” Salo says. Pets can also bring in pollen, so clean them too.

For indoor allergens, keep humidity levels low in the home to keep dust mites and mold under control. Avoid upholstered furniture and carpets because they harbor allergens. Wash your bedding in hot water, and vacuum the floors once a week.

Allergies run in families. Your children’s chances of developing allergies are higher if you have them. While there’s no “magic bullet” to prevent allergies, experts recommend breast feeding early in life. “Breast milk is the least likely to trigger allergic reactions, it’s easy to digest, and it strengthens an infant’s immune system,” Salo says.

Sometimes, avoiding allergens isn’t possible or isn’t enough. Untreated allergies are associated with chronic conditions like sinus infections and asthma. Over-the-counter antihistamines, nasal sprays, and decongestants can often ease mild symptoms. Prescription medications and allergy shots are sometimes needed for more severe allergies. Talk with your doctor about treatment options.

Allergy relief can help clear up more than just itchy, watery eyes. It can allow you to breathe easy again and brighten your outlook on seasonal changes.

Article contributed by NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklinn.

Researchers Explore the Secret to Living Longer

Want the secret to living a longer and healthier life? Scientists have found ways to prolong the healthy lifespans of worms, mice, and even monkeys. Their work has revealed exciting new clues about the biology of aging. But solid evidence still shows that the best way to boost the chance of living a long and active life is to follow the advice you likely heard from your parents: eat well, exercise regularly, get plenty of sleep, and stay away from bad habits.

People born in the U.S. today can expect to live to an average age of about 79. A century ago, life expectancy was closer to 54. “We’ve had a significant increase in lifespan over the last century,” says Dr. Marie Bernard, deputy director of NIH’s National Institute on Aging. “Now if you make it to age 65, the likelihood that you’ll make it to 85 is very high. And if you make it to 85, the likelihood that you’ll make it to 92 is very high. So people are living longer, and it’s happening across the globe.”

Older people tend to be healthier nowadays, too. Research has shown that healthful behaviors can help you stay active and healthy into your 60s, 70s, and beyond. In fact, a long-term study of Seventh-day Adventists—a religious group with a generally healthy lifestyle—shows that they tend to remain healthier into old age. Their life expectancy is nearly 10 years longer on average than most Americans. The Adventists’ age-enhancing behaviors include regular exercise, a vegetarian diet, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight.

“If I had to rank behaviors in terms of priority, I’d say that exercise is the most important thing associated with living longer and healthier,” says Dr. Luigi Ferrucci, an NIH geriatrician who oversees research on aging and health. “Exercise is especially important for lengthening active life expectancy, which is life without disease and without physical and mental/thinking disability.”

Natural changes to the body as we age can lead to a gradual loss of muscle, reduced energy, and achy joints. These changes may make it tempting to move less and sit more. But doing that can raise your risk for disease, disability, and even death. It’s important to work with a doctor to find the types of physical activity that can help you maintain your health and mobility.

Even frail older adults can benefit from regular physical activity. One NIH-funded study included over 600 adults, ages 70 to 89, who were at risk for disability. They were randomly placed in either a moderate exercise program or a comparison group without structured exercise. The exercise group gradually worked up to 150 minutes of weekly activity. This included brisk walking, strength and balance training, and flexibility exercises.

“After more than two years, the physical activity group had less disability, and if they became disabled, they were disabled for a shorter time than those in the comparison group,” Bernard explains. “The combination of different types of exercise —aerobic, strength and balance training, and flexibility — is important to healthy aging.” NIH’s Go4Life website has tips to help older adults get and stay active.

Another sure way to improve your chances for a longer, healthier life is to shed excess weight. “Being obese—with a body mass index (BMI) higher than 30—is a risk factor for early death, and it shortens your active life expectancy,” Ferrucci says. BMI is an estimate of your body fat based on your weight and height. Use NIH’s BMI calculator to determine your BMI. Talk with a doctor about reaching a healthy weight.

Studies in animals have found that certain types of dietary changes, such as extremely low-calorie diets, can lead to longer, healthier lives. These studies offer clues to the biological processes that affect healthy aging. But to date, calorie-restricted diets and other dietary changes have had mixed results in extending the healthy lives of people.

“We have indirect evidence that nutritional adjustments can improve active longevity in people, but this is still an area of intense research,” Ferrucci says. “So far, we don’t really have solid evidence about caloric restriction and whether it may have a positive effect on human aging.” Researchers are now studying potential drugs or other approaches that might mimic calorie restriction’s benefits.

Not smoking is another pathway to a longer, healthier life. “There’s no question that smoking is a hard habit to break. But data suggest that from the moment you stop smoking, there are health benefits. So it’s worthwhile making that effort,” Bernard says.

You might think you need good genes to live longer. But genes are only part of the equation for most of us, says Dr. Thomas Perls, an aging expert and director of the New England Centenarian Study at the Boston University School of Medicine. “Research shows that genes account for less than one-third of your chances of surviving to age 85. The vast majority of variation in how old we live to be is due to our health behaviors,” Perls says. “Our genes could get most of us close to the remarkable age of 90 if we lead a healthy lifestyle.”

The influence of genes is stronger, though, for people who live to older ages, such as beyond 95. Perls has been studying people who live to age 100 and up (centenarians) and their families to learn more about the biological, psychological, and social factors that promote healthy aging.

“It seems there’s not a single gene that imparts a strong effect on the ability to get to these older ages,” Perls says. “Instead, it’s the combined effects of probably hundreds of genes, each with weak effects individually, but having the right combination can lead to a very strong effect, especially for living to the oldest ages we study.”

It’s a good idea to be skeptical of claims for a quick fix to aging-related problems. Perls cautions against marketed “anti-aging” measures such as “hormone replacement therapy,” which has little proven benefit for healthy aging and can have severe side effects. “People used to say, ‘the older you get the sicker you get.’ But with common sense, healthy habits such as regular exercise, a healthy weight, avoiding red meat, not smoking, and managing stress, it can be ‘the older you get, the healthier you’ve been,'” Perls says.

The key to healthy aging is to engage fully in life—mentally, physically, and socially. “Transitioning to older years isn’t about sitting in a rocking chair and letting the days slip by,” Bernard says. “”Older adults have unique experiences, intellectual capital, and emotional involvement that can be shared with younger generations. This engagement is really key to helping our society move forward.”

Article contributed by the NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
Editor: Harrison Wein, Ph.D.
Managing Editor: Vicki Contie
Contributors: Vicki Contie, Alan Defibaugh (illustrations), Claire Donnelly, and Tianna Hicklinn.

FSCJ to Offer Free Health Education and Screenings

Florida State College at Jacksonville’s (FSCJ) North Campus invites faculty, staff, students and the community to visit the 2016 Health Literacy Fair to enjoy no-cost health and wellness related activities. There is something for everyone, including exercise sessions, health screenings and health education and training.

The event is filled with motivating exercise opportunities. It kicks off with a wellness walk at 9:30 a.m., then attendees can join in TRX Suspension Training, Silver Sneakers and Meditation classes throughout the day.

For those interested in finding out about their health, the following screenings will be offered:
* Arthritis
* Blood Pressure
* Blood Sugar
* Depression
* Hearing
* Lice
* Oral Health
* Vision

OneBlood will be on-site accepting blood donations and HIV testing will also be available.

Health education sessions will be provided on sexually transmitted diseases, sports rehabilitation and physical therapy, falls prevention and dynamic stretching and health care education for seniors. Attendees can also learn more about the Affordable Care Act from Florida Blue representatives.

Limited cosmetology and massage therapy services will also be available. Additionally, there will be a CarFit event which is an education program that offers older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles “fit” them. This program also provides resources to enhance driving safety for older adults.

For more information, visit fscj.edu/healthliteracyfair.

WHEN: Saturday, June 11, 2016
Wellness Walk: 9:30 a.m.
Event and Activities: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

WHERE: Florida State College at Jacksonville – North Campus
4501 Capper Road, Jacksonville, FL 32218

Be Careful – Migraines May Translate To Strokes

Experiencing undue pressure or mental stress is a matter of grave concern. People often complain about headaches due to long working hours or working late into the night. The cause could also be genetic or triggered by situational factors. No matter what the reason is, you should certainly give it careful thought and not just perpetuate the problem with an over-the-counter drug. What you will be doing is just smothering the symptoms and not learning the cause. I myself am a victim to this habit of relying on pain killers and since the time I have switched to natural remedies, I thank myself for it. The root cause behind extreme headaches, accompanied by stress on the eyes, maybe mistaken for one or the other. For instance, strokes and migraines have many symptoms in common. Studies have found out that if you frequently get severe migraines you may have higher chances of developing a stroke condition. However, the risk may be minimal.

Differentiating between migraine and stroke
Migraine is a neurological disorder with usually very severe recurring headaches and throbbing, accompanied by other symptoms. People plagued with the monstrous form of headache commonly known as migraine know the mental torture they go through. It can drastically impact your social and work life or may be the very reason for your splitting headache.

Stroke, however can be rightly called a medical emergency caused by restricted blood flow to the brain. If the condition worsens it may develop into complications and a mental disability.

The link between migraine and stroke
One morning I woke up with a severe headache. Until then, I was perfectly alright, but I got a sudden surge of muscle spasms in my brain; I was highly concerned. Moreover, I felt muscle weakness on one side of the body and even loss of vision in one eye. I got really worried; what was happening with me? I immediately got up and decided to see my family doctor. The following is what I learned.

The symptoms I had were related to migraine, but could possibly have been mistaken for those of a stroke. The relationship is certainly complicated. Imagine getting to know that having migraine puts you in a predisposition of developing stroke. Freaky, isn’t it? You certainly need to find ways to cope with stress to digest this fact. Research suggests that having migraine with aura doubles the risk of stroke, since you are likely to develop a blockage, the risk being higher in women than in men. Other common risk factors include:
• Being below the 45 age bracket
• Being a smoker
• Being on birth control pills.

A recent study published in July 2015 in the American Academy of Neurology suggests that older people who had migraines had an increased risk of stroke, provided that they were smokers. Among smokers, having migraine meant you were three times more likely to get victimized to stroke, whereas this risk was absent in non-smokers.

Migrainous Infarction (Migrainous stroke)
As the name suggests, the link between migraine and stroke is strongly established here. In migrainous aura before the onset of the migraine headache your visual, sensory and motor capabilities are hampered and you often experiences flashes of light and may inevitably lead to stroke.

Important changes to notice during migraine include constriction of blood vessels leading to reduced blood flow. Sounds familiar? Clots may form in the blood blocking the narrowed blood vessel. Blood volume may also decrease due to dehydration and vomiting. Many reasons can thus be attributed to increased risk of stroke. Migraine attacks damage the blood vessels with an increased incidence of fluid building up in there (oedema). This is evidence enough that you should certainly not let migraine pass like any other headache and take appropriate action.

Contributed by Zyana Morris

Celiac Diseases and Your Exercise Routine

Wheat bread! White bread! Brown bread! Gym-aholics and fitness freaks struggling to become lean may want to avoid all sorts of them, as per their fitness regime. However, what if you are placed in a situation that calls for not having any other option but to avoid it? You simply cannot consume it? This is a common dilemma faced by celiac patients as it is a matter of life and death. How should you go about handling and scheduling your nutrition and training needs if you are diagnosed with Celiac Disease?

Fast facts about celiac diseases
A celiac patient’s immune system reacts in a way that it is triggered by the consumption of gluten, deteriorating the lining of the stomach. The most common symptoms of the disease are:

    • General malaise
    • Stomach pain and diarrhea
    • Nausea, vomiting, flatulence
    • Weight gain or weight loss
    • Mouth sores
    • Arthritis
    • Increased risk of osteoporosis
    • Decrease in bone and muscle strength
    • Nutritional deficiencies leading to anemia and dental problems
    • Liver dysfunction
    • Vitamin deficiencies leading to nervous system disorders

Gluten, commonly found in rye, barley and wheat is the major sensitive factor of a lifelong autoimmune disorder known as the Celiac Disease. It is not an allergic reaction or hypersensitivity, hence cannot be outgrown. Gluten, a protein composite, cannot be processed by the body of a person affected with CD and triggers an immune response causing the lining of the small intestine to become damaged leading to difficulty in digestion and malabsorption. CD can be life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated.

Since CD is a lifelong disorder and has no cure, its symptoms can be managed by making dietary changes, following a gluten-free diet strictly, usually for an entire lifetime. You will also need to include a diet rich in iron and calcium to combat the effects of anemia and bone defects.

Exercise and Celiac Disease
Adjusting to a gluten free diet after being diagnosed with Celiac disease is problematic enough. Moreover, exercising can be quite difficult for people with CD, mainly due to extreme fatigue, muscle cramps and bone defects caused by iron and vitamin deficiency. So, what exercises to start off with? How to build an exercise routine? For many of us, this is again a difficult adjustment.

Most athletes are so accustomed to the mood balance and enhancement that exercise gives that they shouldn’t give up just because a transition is imminent. However, before starting off with an exercise regimen, it is better to consult your doctor and a professional trainer in a fitness center or your gym who may suggest that you start off with a low-impact workout to better suit your adjustment to living with Celiac disease.

Commitment to an exercise schedule may provide the emotional and physical energy needed to overcome feelings of self-deprivation. A person with CD needs to approach exercise with caution and encouragement to reap the benefits. If you are suffering from joint conditions like arthritis and bone conditions like osteoporosis, it is better not to try weight bearing exercises that may further damage or cause inflammation of joints and bones.

Finding a new workout regimen that works for you when first diagnosed is very important. It is better to let your body adjust to the schedule gradually and reach your way back to where you were before being diagnosed. Yoga and Pilates can be ideal exercises as they do not place too much physical strain on you while strengthening your muscles and are a great place to start. Exercise can have a positive effect on increasing bone-density, can perk up the mood and help in weight loss, improves circulation and may even accelerate healing.

Candidates Meet in a Non-Partisan Information Exchange for First Coast Kids

What are the top challenges in First Coast neighborhoods today? What programs and community strategies have been proven to be most successful? How can we improve the safety net for at-risk children and families? The answers to those questions and more will be discussed at the Candidates for Kids: First Coast Forum, a non-partisan information exchange for all candidates for state and local elected office, community leaders, media and business professionals, child advocates, and concerned citizens.

The Candidates for Kids First Coast Forum will be held on Wednesday, June 29, 2016, in the Lecture Hall of the Jessie Ball duPont Center located at 40 East Adams, in Jacksonville, Florida.

Breakfast and networking: 8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
Overview of Key Issues & Community Discussion: 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Organized by The Children’s Campaign in partnership with The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center, specific issues to be discussed include child sex trafficking, and concerns regarding juvenile justice, child welfare and mental health.

The event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited.

RSVP today by calling Call Bobbi at (850)425-2600.

The Children’s Campaign is Florida’s leading child advocacy organization. What most differentiates The Children’s Campaign from other child advocacy organizations is we advocate for the “whole child” – we are not a single-issue organization. We are non-partisan, nonprofit and accept no government money. Since 1992, The Children’s Campaign has led or championed major reforms for Florida’s children.

The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center provides cutting edge advocacy, research, training/technical assistance and model programming to bring about unprecedented systemic reform for girls and young women in or at risk of entering the juvenile justice and child welfare systems in Northeast Florida.

Are You Ready to Wear Shorts?

romanesco-by-judie-mackieSummer is coming, will you be ready for swimwear and shorts? Let’s face it, filling up on fresh vegetables goes a long way in cleaning up your diet and living a healthier lifestyle. But, many find it tough to get more vegetables into their daily diet. As the manager of the Fernandina Beach Market Place farmers market, I asked my friends, family, vendors and customers how they increase their vegetable intake. Here are some of their ideas:

-Have more vegetables on hand. If you have fresh vegetables in your house, you are more likely to eat more fresh vegetables.
-Make menus. Making daily menus makes it easier to prepare meals in advance, including shopping for and preparing more fresh produce to serve at the family table.
-Add onions and peppers to just about anything, especially scrambled eggs or omelets for breakfast.
-Put slices of onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, and lettuce on your sandwiches.
-Wrap sandwiches in lettuce, kale or spinach instead of breads.
-Add as many vegetables as you can to your salads, or to your pizza.
-Mix it up. Some people get tired of eating the same foods over and over again.
-Try foods you’ve never eaten before. Kohlrabi, Romanesco, mizuna, and Asian turnips are all available from our vendors and are ones I had never tasted before managing a farmers market.
-Sneak vegetables into ordinary dishes. For example try making zucchini casserole, adding mashed roasted eggplant to your mashed potatoes, slip some peas into your guacamole, or even put pureed cooked beets into your favorite chocolate cake recipe.

With spring in hand and summer on its way, there are many vegetables coming to harvest and I’m sure you will find a new and unusual favorite such as baked sweet potato fries, kale or spinach chips, and oven roasted beets to help get you ready for summer.

The Fernandina Beach Market Place farmers market is open rain or shine, from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., every Saturday of the year, except for April 30, 2016. The market will be closed for the 53rd Annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival.

Located on North Seventh Street, in historic Fernandina Beach, Saturday, April 9th, the adjacent Fernandina Beach Arts Market will be open, too, with over 20 talented arts and craft vendors. Entertainment this week is by Jennifer Burns.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and our “Booth with a Cause” will be the Women’s Center of Jacksonville. They are the certified rape crisis center for Duval, Baker and Nassau counties.

For more information about the market, or to find a recipe for my Zucchini Cobbler, please visit FernandinaBeachMarketPlace.com.

Reason Why You May Have Frequent Nose Bleeds

nose-bleedsNose bleeds or bloody noses can be incredibly difficult to deal with the first time. Frequent nose bleeds, though not a common sign of a serious health condition, are caused by things that you may do everyday and not even think about.

A dry climate can be one reason that your nose bleeds so often. The heat and lack of moisture will dry out the nose. When your nose is dry, the mucus inside begins to crust over. This can become itchy or become irritated, and then you have a nose bleed. Summers in dry areas are notorious for causing nosebleeds in healthy people. Avoid scratching at or picking at your nose in this situation to avoid nose bleeds.

During a cold, blowing your nose can be the cause of a nose bleed. Well, in general, blowing your nose too much can be a cause of nosebleeds. This could be from allergies (which carpet cleaners could help avoid if the allergen is airborne), or from a cold, like stated earlier. Blowing your nose too much, or too forcefully, can result in breaking some of the blood vessels in the nose. They are extremely fragile, and bleed easily. They are in the front and back of the nose.

A less common cause of nosebleeds is an injury to the face. These could occur from a punch to the face, a car accident, or a fall. While many nose bleeds will not require medical attention, these will – no matter how long they last. This kind of nose bleed could mean a more serious injury – a broken nose, internal bleeding, or a skull fracture. If you know what kind of injury caused the nose bleed, it’ll help the doctor that’s treating you.

Another cause of common nosebleeds can be blood-thinning medicines, aspirin, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs – NSAIDs. This prevent blood clots from forming. The blood must form a clot for a nosebleed to stop, which can make any nosebleed from a previous cause difficult to stop. However, medicines that thin the blood can cause more frequent nose bleeds. Clopidogrel and warfarin are two examples of blood thinners that have the risk of more frequent or longer nose bleeds. Any common medication for atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, also has the risk of creating more nose bleeds.

Other Uncommon Causes
The previously mentioned causes are among the most common reasons nosebleeds can occur often. There are plenty of uncommon or rare causes that might be concerning.

One such concerning cause is the use of too much alcohol. There is also data that proves that alcohol can cause nose bleeds if it’s consumed in high enough doses. Alcohol can cause blood to be unusually regulated. This can cause more blood to go to the nose, and one of the previous cases could cause a nose bleed easily. Unless it doesn’t stop within 20 minutes or so with direct manual pressure, it’s not life threatening or serious. The serious cause is the alcohol – which does more damage, but that is not for this article.

Furthermore, alcohol can cause the blood to act as if you are on a blood-thinning medicine. Blood pressure can be altered, and dehydration is also a risk.

Another uncommon cause is nasal surgery. Bleeding will be common for two to three days after the surgery. Nasal packing is usually given to keep the bleeding from getting out of hand. However, ignoring post surgery instructions can increase the frequency of post surgery bleeding. Blowing the nose the week immediately following the surgery is a big no-no. Strenuous exercise can also create the conditions for a bleeding nose after surgery.

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The Hidden Dangers of Traditional Paints

The Hidden Dangers of Traditional PaintsYou want to keep your home environment healthy and safe by locking doors, using smoke alarms and routinely checking your home for possible safety hazards. One aspect of home safety that you may have overlooked is the paint and related solvents that you use and store in your home. How can paint be harmful to your home environment? And what can you do to keep paint and solvents from being a hazard in your home?

What Makes Paint Toxic?
Paint, strippers, and thinners can contain VOCs or volatile organic compounds. VOCs are gases emitted from the paint that can cause health issues. Glycol, xylene, ethyl acetate, methylene chloride and formaldehyde chemicals can be emitted from both solids and liquids and cause health problems for some time after the paint has dried on your home decorating project. Paint fumes can also cause illness issues when paint or paint-related products are being stored. While all people can be affected by breathing in these toxic fumes, babies, children and pregnant women are the most likely to be harmed due to their high respiratory rate.

People who routinely work with paint should protect themselves from the harmful fumes that paint emits. Persons with respiratory problems, children and babies should also be protected from exposure to paint and paint fumes. Government regulations regarding using paint only pertain to professional painters who paint often. These laws do not concern to folks who paint occasionally. Therefore, people who only paint occasionally in their homes need to use some common sense methods to protect themselves and their families from paint-related illness.

Potential Health Problems Associated With Paint Toxins
Lead-based paint is no longer made due to some of the side effects and health problems associated with using the substance. If your home was painted or built before 1978, it is possible for you to have lead-based paint in your home.

Some of the symptoms of lead poisoning due to to lead paint are:
· Nausea
· Coordination problems
· Language and behavior problems
· Slow growth patterns
· Headaches
· Organ damage
· Seizures

Children, babies, and pregnant women are especially susceptible to health problems due to exposure to lead-based paint. Even if your paint contains no lead, the fumes from some paint chemicals may cause health problems.

Some of the health issues caused by paint fumes include:
· Trouble breathing
· Vision problems
· Dizziness
· Allergic skin reactions
· Nose irritation
· Eye irritation
· Headaches

Ways to Reduce the Amount of Toxin Exposure from Paint
One way to reduce the amount of toxin exposure you or your family may receive from paint is to use paint that has a low or no VOCs rating. Also, using water-based paint rather than oil-based paint will go a long way in reducing the VOCs the paint contains to protect your family.

Some other ways to keep you safe and your family from health-related problems due to paint toxins are:
· Read the paint’s label and follow any instructions the manufacturer recommends
· Protect your skin by using painter coveralls
· Use proper ventilation when painting and when the paint is drying
· Store paint and paint-related products in a safe place
· Do not use lead-based paint
· Be aware that your walls may contain lead-based paints if the home was built before 1978
· Clean your skin thoroughly after painting
· Keep paint and paint related products away from children
· Clean up paint splatters and paint chips to prevent children from accidentally eating paint or paint chips

Modern paint is vibrant, holds its color for a long time and is safe when used properly. Paint manufacturers continue to work on making their products safer for the public’s use. People who purchase paint can stay safe from potential paint-related illnesses by following manufacturer’s recommendations as well as following the above suggestions to keep their home a healthy place to live and looking great as well.

About the author:
Lee Flynn is a freelance writer. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, healthy > living, food storage techniques, and self reliance.

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