When Staring at Your Phone Could Lead to a Healthier Lifestyle

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Staring at a screen all day may seem like a surefire way to become unhealthy, but new research suggests that such behavior can sometimes help people stay healthy.

In a report published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers looked at more than 200 studies that used mobile phone or internet technology to help people improve diet and physical activity, as well as combat obesity and tobacco and alcohol use.

The researchers from multiple universities -- including the University of Washington and Tufts University in Massachusetts -- found that, overall, 75 percent of the studies showed improvement in the various measures with the use of the communication technology that included smartphone apps, internet weight-loss programs, and personal pedometers or sensors to measure physical activity.

The results were more favorable and consistent than expected, according to Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and co-author of the paper.

“I think it’s very hard to change people’s behavior and the fact that nearly all of them used new technology to improve people’s behavior was surprising,” he said.

When researchers looked at internet interventions applied to weight-loss, for instance, they found participants in approximately 60 percent of the studies that used randomized controlled trials ended up with significant weight loss between roughly 2 and 12 pounds. When the team looked at six studies focused on mobile phone use and physical activity, they found using an app on the phone could improve physical activity in all but one of the studies.

“There are basic known principles of behavior change,” Mozaffarian told ABC News. “These include monitoring yourself, having some way of tracking and recording what you are doing, getting feedback, and working with peers or social support groups. These are what the new apps are trying to do.”

There were a few key features of the mobile phone or internet programs that the researchers found might help increase effectiveness, according to Dr. Ashkan Afshin, assistant professor of Global Health at the University of Washington and co-author of the study.

They found that “programs that had components such as goal-setting and self-monitoring and used multiple modes of communication and tailored messages tended to be more effective," Afshin told ABC News in an email. "We also found these programs were more effective if they included some interactions with health care providers."

An important message of the research, however, was that most of the interventions that showed effectiveness were only studied in the short-term. Longer-term studies are still needed, especially in the areas of diet modification, and changes in a person’s tobacco use or alcohol consumption, according to the study authors.

Mozaffarian cautions that users interested in apps focused on diet should work with a professional because the researchers found many apps may not have updated dietary recommendations.

Dr. Roy Buchinsky, director of wellness at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Ohio, says the applications and utilization of the technology are part of the future of health care.

He said experts need to focus on longer-term studies as the next goal of research efforts.

“I think once you have done something for a certain period of time, then it truly does become a part of your lifestyle habits,” he said. “I would like to see studies done where we find out from individuals what motivates people to choose a more healthy lifestyle. What is the ‘aha’ moment that motivates them to change their habits.”

Some of the studies received financial support from organizations such as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Sackler Institute of Nutrition Sciences, but the researchers said these groups and for-profit companies had no influence on the study.

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Mobile Apps, Internet Programs Could Help You Live A Healthier Lifestyle

Thomas Lammeyer/Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers say using your cell phone in certain ways could help lead to a healthier lifestyle.

According to a report published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, apps and Internet sites meant to get people to move more or eat healthier can improve specific behaviors linked to healthy lifestyles. The report looked at more than 200 studies that including mobile or Internet technology to help improve either diet, physical activity levels, obesity, tobacco or alcohol use. Those studies included a wide array of technological means, including calls or text messages, apps, and full Internet programs.

According to researchers, more than 69 percent of Internet and mobile apps aimed at obesity seemed to improve the user's weight loss. They reported similar findings in improving users' diets.

Programs meant to increase physical activity or assist in quitting the use of tobacco or alcohol showed more than 75 percent improvement.

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EpiPen Price Hike Prompts Some US Families to Buy the Drug in Canada

Photo Illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Some U.S. residents reeling from sticker shock of EpiPen prices have turned to Canada for cheaper options.

The cost of the EpiPen in the U.S. has risen from $100 to more than $600, according to medical literature and multiple pharmacies. In Canada, the cost for a single EpiPen is around $100 to $145, according to Tim Smith, general manager of the Canadian International Pharmaceutical Association (CIPA), a trade group that represents online pharmacies that dispense drugs to both U.S. and Canadian residents. U.S. residents can purchase the drug from online pharmacies as long as they have a prescription.

Online forums for parents struggling to cover the cost for EpiPens often feature at least one user advising other parents to turn to Canada. One of these parents, Nicole Smith, an allergy advocate, said she recently bought EpiPens from a Canadian retailer for her 20-year-old son.

"This is easier than going to the corner [pharmacy]," she said, noting that her son's allergist wrote a prescription that she then used to buy two EpiPens from a Canadian online pharmacy at cost of around $145 per EpiPen.

"People are just outraged and a lot of it is coming to the forefront right now," because of the upcoming school year, she said. "If you bring in an EpiPen for your child it cannot expire during the school year [in Colorado and] most of the parents will be purchasing right before the school year starts."

Smith said she's heard from parents facing a $750 bill for a two-pack of EpiPens before the start of the school year. While Mylan Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the EpiPen, does offer a coupon program, Smith said she's heard from my families who are still struggling to cover the cost of multiple EpiPens.

"Many of these families, when the child is younger, you're not just purchasing just one pack," Smith said, pointing out that she used to have three to four EpiPen packs stored in different areas when her son was younger.

This week, Mylan Pharmaceuticals announced it would make a generic EpiPen costing approximately $300 for a two pack, but Smith said the price could still be prohibitive to many families.

There is another epinephrene auto injector on the market with the brand name Adrenaclick, but because the device works differently, Smith said she was hesitant to send her son to college with a new device.

"Our allergist did not want to prescribe that because the mechanism and operation of it is so different from EpiPen," she said.

Smith said CIPA members have seen a strong demand from American customers in recent years.

"Some of our members have seen sales of EpiPen double," Smith told ABC News of sales in the last few years. "It's not the area that we specialize in. For our members, the core of the business is providing maintenance medications [for people] who can't afford medications," in the U.S.

Susie Mark, of White Plains, New York, said she asked her husband to buy EpiPens while he was on a business trip to Vancouver this week but her personal doctor initially declined to send the prescription to Canada. She now plans to ask her children's allergist for a prescription.

"I need at minimum four [EpiPen] two-packs for my son and I like to have an extra two-pack at home," she said, noting that her husband told her the cost for a single EpiPen in Canada was $110.

Mark said under her new insurance plan the drug costs $600 out of pocket and with a coupon it's still $499 out of pocket.

If her husband can't get the new EpiPen, Mark said she may look into the Adrenaclick epi injector.

"I think the next time I do need a refill I would definitely go for a company other than Mylan," said Mark, explaining her pharmacist said the Adrenaclick epi injector would cost about $300 out of pocket. "I would much rather give my money to another company."

Mylan Pharmaceuticals did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.

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Lead in Soil Forces 1,100 Indiana Residents to Find New Places to Live

Creatas/Thinkstock(INDIANAPOLIS) -- The Indiana State Department of Health is working with local officials to offer free blood testing after word that the soil at at least one area housing complex contains high levels of lead.

State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams said clinics will be held each Friday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and each Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. beginning on Sept. 2. The clinics will continue indefinitely at the former Carrie Gosch Elementary School.

"These free clinics are another example of the ongoing efforts by our state agencies in support of the residents of East Chicago," Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb said. "Together with on-the-ground personnel and funding to relocate vulnerable families already provided by the Indiana Housing and Community Deevelopment Authority, the assistance Dr. Adams and his team are providing will help East Chicago residents while the appropriate federal agencies work to solve this crisis."

The state health department has been working with local officials since earlier this month when concerns about the levels of lead in the soil, specifically at the West Calumet Housing Complex, first came up.

The New York Times spoke with residents of the housing complex, one of whom was quoted as saying "If I'd have known the dirt had lead, [my son] wouldn't have been out there playing in it."

The complex is just north of the former U.S.S. Lead smelting plant.

The Times says residents are upset that they weren't informed until last month that the top six inches of soil at the complex contained levels of lead dozens of times the level considered safe for children. The soil also contained dangerous levels of arsenic, the Times adds.

The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development provided nearly $2 million to help residents to pay for new rentals beginning next month.

"I have personally visited East Chicago and the West Calumet Housing Complex," Adams said, "and I know from speaking with community members that many are concerned about whether they or their children have been affected by the lead in the soil." He urged parents to take advantage of the clinics and the free testing, saying that blood test results "[allow] health officials and parents to work together to prevent additional exposure to lead, giving children the best chance for a healthy life."

The Environmental Protection Agency has been suing the companies responsible for the lead since 2009, and has had a plan to remove the contamination without displacing residents since 2012. Instead, the complex will be demolished.

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Ebola Virus Genetic Material Can Remain in Semen for 18 Months, New Study Shows

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Genetic material from the deadly Ebola virus was found in survivors more than a year and a half after being infected, according to a report published Tuesday in the medical journal The Lancet.

RNA from the Ebola virus persisted in 9 percent of the patients studied, according to researchers from the Liberia Ministry of Health and U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention who collaborated on the report.

The new findings could change the recommendations for male survivors for both the CDC and the World Health Organization. Currently the WHO recommends an Ebola survivor use barrier contraception or abstain from sex for 12 months if they have not had their semen tested for the virus.

“This program provides important insights into how long Ebola remains in semen, a key component to preventing flare-ups of the disease and protecting survivors and their loved ones,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement Tuesday. “It also shows how investments in public health capacity can save lives.”

More than 450 men from Liberia were screened in the months after they contracted the disease and officials found that 24 men had evidence of Ebola in their semen 12 months after they had recovered from the virus, according to the new report. One of the patients had virus particles in his semen 565 days after his illness. Previously, the longest time Ebola was documented to be present in semen was 6 months.

Researchers found that older men over the age of 40 were more likely to have viral genetic materials found in semen 90 days after they left treatment centers.

In at least one case, a woman likely contracted Ebola through unprotected sexual contact with an Ebola survivor, according to a CDC report published in May 2015. In that case, the male Ebola survivor had finished treatment for Ebola in October 2014 and then had sexual intercourse with the patient in March of the following year.

"It is not known how long Ebola might be found in the semen of male Ebola survivors," according to the CDC website. "The time it takes for Ebola to leave the semen is different for each man. Based on the results from limited studies conducted to date, it appears that the amount of virus decreases over time and eventually leaves the semen."

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Young Heart Attack Survivors Not Out of the Woods Yet, Researchers Say

iStock/Thinkstock(COPENHAGEN, Denmark) -- The past three decades have seen a dramatic drop in deaths in survivors of heart attacks that struck before age 50 – a decrease in mortality researchers chalk up to a reduction in smoking and improvements in heart treatment.

But the bad news?

These early heart attack survivors still face nearly double the risk of early death than those their age who have not had a heart attack before, according to a new study published in Circulation.

Researchers in Denmark looked at medical charts of more than 21,000 patients diagnosed with a heart attack before the age of 50 and compared them to more than 200,000 of their age-matched peers. They found that overall 30-day mortality was 8.3 percent in the heart attack group, but the rate did improve every decade.

From 1980-1989, the rate was 12.5 percent, from 1990-1999, 8.4 percent, and from 2000-2009, 3.2 percent.

The most likely cause of death for these patients was a blockage in the arteries of their hearts.

As for the finding that these heart attack survivors still face a higher risk of early death than their peers, it is a healthy reminder that sustained lifestyle changes are needed after a heart attack at a young age.

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WHO Warns Certain STIs Becoming More Resistant to Antibiotics

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The World Health Organization has released new guidelines on how to treat three sexually transmitted infections due to the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.

WHO issued the new guidelines for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, which are all caused by bacteria. The infections traditionally have been treatable with antibiotics, but WHO warns that new strains and spotty testing have resulted in many people not being diagnosed early and subsequently becoming more likely to harbor an antibiotic-resistant form of the infection.

"Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are major public health problems worldwide, affecting millions of peoples' quality of life, causing serious illness and sometimes death," Ian Askew, director of reproductive health and research at WHO, said in a statement Tuesday. "The new WHO guidelines reinforce the need to treat these STIs with the right antibiotic, at the right dose, and the right time to reduce their spread and improve sexual and reproductive health. To do that, national health services need to monitor the patterns of antibiotic resistance in these infections within their countries."

In total, the infections afflict more than 200 million people every year, with 131 million contracting chlamydia, 78 million contracting gonorrhea and 5.6 million people contracting syphilis annually, according to WHO.

In recent years, all three infections have become more resistant to antibiotics, with certain strains of gonorrhea resistant to every available antibiotic.

The WHO guidelines include calling on countries to update tracking of these different infections, use certain medications that will quickly knock out an infection and promote safe sex to help combat the spread of these antibiotic-resistant STIs. The complete guidelines can be found here.

These new guidelines bring WHO in line with recommendations from the CDC that were issued in 2015.

Health officials across the globe have been warning that antibiotic-resistant bacteria could severely impact human health as the effectiveness of current antibiotics continues to wane.

In the U.S., there is currently just one antibiotic treatment recommended by the CDC to treat gonorrhea. In 2006, there were five recommended antibiotic treatments, four of which have mostly been made obsolete by the infection becoming resistant to treatment.

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Hepatitis A Outbreak Linked to Frozen Strawberries from Egypt

iStock/Thinkstock(RICHMOND, Va.) — At least 40 people have been sickened in a Hepatitis A outbreak that health officials believe is linked to frozen strawberries, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The outbreak was first identified on Aug. 12 when officials from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention noticed multiple people sickened by the same strain of hepatitis A. The outbreak has now been linked to frozen strawberries from Egypt that were used in smoothies at Tropical Smoothie Cafe locations in Virginia, according to the state health department.

The 40 people reported sickened are between the ages of 15 to 68 and all said they had consumed a smoothie before exhibiting symptoms.

At least 55 percent of those who tested positive for the virus and had their information available to health authorities had to be hospitalized, the health department said on Monday.

The strawberries have been voluntarily removed from all restaurants, according to company officials.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe CEO Mike Rotondo addressed customers in a statement.

"'Eat better feel better' is not just a marketing slogan, it's a promise and it's something I believe in very dearly. Recently. some strawberries may have made their way into the supply chain that could challenge that concept. I sincerely apologize for any issues this may have caused for any of our customers," Rotondo said in a statement on video on the company's Facebook page on Aug. 21. "We voluntarily and immediately removed all of those strawberries from all of our cafes and we have sourced new strawberries for every location. We take this issue very seriously. Your health and your safety is our top priority."

In a statement earlier this month, company officials said the Egyptian strawberries were a "small fraction" of the company's overall supply.

"Egyptian strawberries represent a fraction of our overall strawberries purchased, and were predominantly distributed to stores in the Virginia market. Today, our strawberries are primarily sourced from Mexico and California," company officials said in an Aug. 19 statement. "However, in an abundance of caution, we voluntarily pulled all strawberries sourced from Egypt from every cafe in our system, not only the Virginia cafes. Our primary concern is for the safety and well-being of our guests and crew members and we will continue to cooperate with the health authorities."

The Hepatitis A virus can cause inflammation of the liver. Symptoms can develop within 15 to 50 days of exposure to the virus and can include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting and abdominal pain. There is a vaccine and immunoglobulin treatment for patients who have been exposed to the virus, which can help offer protection against the virus if taken early enough.

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iPads as Effective as Medication for Reducing Anxiety in Kids Before Surgery, Study Says

iStock/Thinkstock(HONG KONG) — Kids stressed out before getting their tonsils out?  Give 'em some Angry Birds to play.

Doctors may soon find themselves reaching for an iPad instead of the prescription pad for managing anxiety in children before they receive anesthesia for surgery, thanks to findings reported Sunday at the World Congress of Anesthesiologists in Hong Kong.

Researchers from the Hospices Civils de Lyon in France compared two groups of more than 50 children, each about to undergo surgery. In one group, the children received the sedative midazolam 20 minutes before anesthesia. The second group was given an electronic tablet to play with, and no sedative. Researchers then compared anxiety levels in the children and their parents at multiple time points, as well as the quality of the induction of anesthesia and parents’ satisfaction with the anesthesia.

Results: giving children tablets was equally effective as the sedative in managing their anxiety. The researchers also found a 22 percent increase in anesthesia nurse satisfaction with the process of anesthesia, and a 5.5 percent increase in parent satisfaction with the anesthesia process.

Proponents say the study, which was not published in a peer-review journal, provides justification for a cheap intervention that avoids given children medication.  

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What Oprah's Weight Loss Means for Boyfriend Stedman

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic(NEW YORK) — Oprah Winfrey's weight-loss journey has hit a distinct milestone.

The media mogul and Weight Watchers spokeswoman talked to People magazine Monday night and was asked what her recent weight loss means for her beau Stedman Graham.

"I would like him to pick me up and carry me to the pool," she said. "I've lost enough weight, he can pick me up and carry me to the pool. I can straddle him without breaking his back."

Winfrey announced in January that she had lost more than 25 pounds, all while still eating one of her favorite staples -- bread.

It's because of this and the program she feels she can keep the weight off.

"I genuinely feel that it’s been easier this time than the other 3,000 times I’ve gone on a diet because I don’t even feel like it is a diet," she said back in May.

Along with her work for Weight Watchers, Oprah is also featured in a new scripted show for OWN, Greenleaf, which she is also producing. The show is generating a lot of positive buzz and she couldn't be happier.

“I am actually doing it. I really only do what I want to do when I want to do it. That’s the best life,” she said earlier this summer.

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