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Saturday
Apr222017

Michael Phelps talks fatherhood, teaching son water safety

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the most decorated Olympic swimmer in history, Michael Phelps is used to spending time in the pool. And now that he’s a dad, he’s passing on safe pool practices and the importance of water conservation to his son, Boomer.

“I think the biggest thing is just to get him to be water safe,” Phelps told ABC News. “Trying to get more kids water safe -- we lose way too many kids in the water every year.”

Whether the nearly 1-year-old Boomer will follow in his father’s competitive footsteps, Phelps said it’s far too early to say, but he said he and wife Nicole Johnson will support whatever he chooses.

“For right now, if he is able to be water safe and he’s able to fall in love with the sport, that’s great,” Phelps, whose foundation works to promote water safety, said. “If not, I won’t be too disappointed. Growing up, my mother was always very supportive of things I did and wanted to do. I was able to just fall in love with the sport, so it turned into this.”

 He said his family is also concerned with conserving water and he’s recently partnered with Colgate’s #EveryDropCounts campaign.

“For me, growing up, obviously I spent a lot of time in the pool and around water,” Phelps, 31, said. “If you begin to think about what you’re doing on a daily basis and how much water we’re actually wasting, it’s mind-blowing. Think about if you brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day, you’re wasting 4 to 5 gallons of water if you leave the water running. And that’s just one person.”

 The 28-time Olympic medalist -- who's said that the 2016 Rio Olympics would be his last -- is using downtime to enjoy fatherhood.

“The last year has gone by so fast. It’s hard to imagine that he’s 1 year old coming up,” he said. “So many parents have said things to me like, ‘Watch how fast the time goes, and before you know it they’re graduating from high school.’ As weird as that sounds, I now see how true it is. We’re taking it moment by moment and step by step and enjoying every single little detail of him."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr212017

Batman-loving couple gets creative with super hero-themed pregnancy announcement 

James Doherty(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) -- This Batman-loving couple has some out-of-this-world news to share: they’re pregnant!

James and Alisha Doherty of Nashville announced their new bundle of joy with a super hero-themed photo shoot.

“I actually can’t remember who had the idea,” James, 27, told ABC News. “She’s a good sport when it comes to that sort of thing. I don’t really have to twist her arm to do this sort of thing.”

The fun-loving duo dress in their Batman costumes as a hobby, wearing the suits to birthdays, charities and fundraisers when asked. James makes the capes himself but buys the bodysuit pieces from Iconic FX and UD replicas.

“We don’t really charge for it. We just do it for fun,” he said. “I buy the pieces from a friend of mine. I get them and put them together. This suit, in particular, the torso and the legs, is a motorcycle suit. And part of it is rubber. The capes I make myself. That’s generally how I make the income to keep the hobby up.”

Alisha is 12 weeks pregnant and due on Halloween, “which is great for our costuming hobbies,” said James.

The proud parents, who do not know the sex of the baby yet, “couldn’t be more excited.”

The couple already showed off a tiny Robin costume for their new baby in their photo shoot. It's likely the first of many.

“Maybe not as a baby, but definitely as it grows up we’ll have some pretty cool costumes,” James said with a laugh. “We love Halloween and dressing up.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr212017

How researchers will look for signs of CTE in Hernandez's brain

iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Days after his death, Aaron Hernandez's brain will be examined for signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) at Boston University, according to ABC affiliate WCVB-TV.

At the time of his death, Hernandez was serving a life sentence for killing Odin Lloyd in 2013. Under Massachusetts law, this 2015 first-degree murder conviction may be vacated because Hernandez died while the verdict was under appeal. Hernandez's death was ruled a suicide by the Massachusetts State Medical Examiner on Thursday after he was found hanging from a bedsheet in his prison cell earlier this week.

Hernandez will be the latest former NFL player to be examined by the Boston University Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, which has found signs of CTE in 90 deceased players.

Here's more information on how experts look for this mysterious illness, which can only be diagnosed after death.

What is CTE?

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is a neurodegenerative disease that can cause the brain to atrophy and change over time. It is believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head -- especially concussive injuries -- although researchers are also investigating if genetics could be a component in the development of CTE.

Dr. Brian Appleby, a neurologist in the Brain Health and Memory Center at the University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, told ABC News that there are specific types of blows to the head that predispose someone to the disease.

Appleby said these are typically "high velocity blows," including ones that are similar to those received by "wide receivers or cornerbacks who run really fast and then stop all of a sudden."

He added that these kinds of blows can also affect members of the military who are "too close to an IED explosion."

Additionally, repeated head traumas "immediately after each other" are associated with increased CTE risk, Appleby said.

How do researchers find CTE?

CTE can only be diagnosed during a posthumous examination of the brain. Tell-tale changes in the frontal lobe of the brain are one indicator of the disease, Appleby said.

"By looking at the structure of the brain, they [can] see shrinkage and atrophy at the frontal temporal lobe," Appleby said. "That can affect mood and behavior."

Researchers will also search Hernandez's brain for signs of tau buildup. Tau is a microscopic protein that helps the brain function. But deposits of tau are associated with a host of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's. The appearance of tau buildups in a brain with CTE, however, are unique.

That's one reason why CTE "looks different than any other neurodegenerative condition," Appleby explained.

What are the symptoms of CTE?

CTE symptoms can be frustratingly broad and vague. The Boston University CTE Center describes an extensive list of symptoms including "memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia."

Appleby said in some cases, the disease can result in symptoms similar to ALS or amyotrophic laterals sclerosis, which can result in a person losing control of their muscles.

Who gets CTE?

The disease used to be considered a disease that primarily affected former boxers, but it has also been found in former football players, hockey players, and military veterans. Playing these sports into adulthood isn't necessarily why people get CTE; some trauma to the brain in childhood may cause CTE to develop later on.

CTE has been diagnosed in people as young as 17.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr212017

How the new 'Trumpcare' proposal could affect consumers 

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Weeks after Republicans' proposed health care bill failed before coming to a vote, representatives are floating new proposals in the hopes of salvaging their original plan to "repeal and replace" Obamacare.

The latest fix comes in the form of an amendment to the original bill from Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ). MacArthur worked with House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows to craft the amendment, which would give states the option to apply for waivers that exempt them from certain federal standards for health insurance coverage.

If passed, the amendment could affect two key areas of people's health insurance coverage: their essential health benefits and their ability to get affordable insurance if they have pre-existing conditions. In order to qualify for these waivers, states would need to prove they could either lower the cost of healthcare for people or increase the number of people covered by insurance. Here's what you need to know about those two important components.

Essential Health Benefits

Under this amendment, there would still be a federal standard requiring insurance companies to cover essential health benefits. These benefits include maternity care, mental health coverage, and prescription drugs. But states could apply for a limited number of waivers that exempt insurers from providing all of those benefits.

Health experts say that if this amendment is passed, the costs for people in need of specific essential health benefits will likely face higher premiums.

"If somebody needs maternity care, it will be much more expensive," Christine Eibner, senior economist and professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School, told ABC News.

She explained that insurance companies will likely assume that if someone chooses coverage that includes mental health treatment or prescription drug treatment, they are doing so because they will need those services. As a result, insurance companies would charge far higher amounts for plans that include those benefits.

Eibner also pointed out that should the amendment allow insurance sales across state lines, the waivers could affect states that decide to keep the ACA mandate on essential health benefits.

"If sales [are] across the state lines...it would be challenging for states who want to maintain those benefits," she said.

For example, if an insurance company doesn't want to provide coverage in a state that requires more benefits, they could pull out of their local marketplace and sell insurance in states where the requirements are less strict, Eibner said. As a result, it could mean fewer options for health insurance in states who do decide to keep essential health benefits coverage intact.

Pre-Existing Conditions

The second aspect of the proposed amendment could affect coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. While insurance companies couldn't outright deny coverage, they may be able to charge far higher rates in states that apply for waivers.

The waivers would exempt them from the community rating provision of the ACA. The community rating provision is a way of setting premiums and is designed to ensure risk is spread evenly across a larger community. This means that people are charged the same rate regardless of different factors like health status. Under the ACA, insurance companies could only change rates for different plans based on a person's age, geographic location, the number of people on a plan and their tobacco use, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

If this provision changes under the new amendment, it would mean that people with pre-existing conditions may be charged far higher premiums than others. To be considered for a waiver, states would have to create and fund a high-risk pool for people who have difficulty getting insurance.

"If you waive community rating, then that's basically the same as [saying] people can be denied insurance by the insurer" due to the cost, Gary Claxton, vice-president of the Kaiser Family Foundation told ABC News.

While it's not clear exactly how the proposed high-risk pools would work, prior to the ACA, 35 states had high-risk pools to cover residents who otherwise would not be insured because of pre-existing conditions. The Kaiser Family Foundation found that state high-risk pools often had significantly higher premiums and likely included just a small fraction of people who needed coverage.

While the proposed change -- and the larger health care bill -- would likely need to drastically change in order to pass the Senate, Claxton said Republicans with likely continue to struggle to come to a consensus on health care legislation.

"Fundamentally, they want to take money out of the system. Part of the problem and part of the issues with health insurance is that good health insurance is expensive," he explained. "If you want to make it cheaper, you have to do the kinds of things we were just talking about and those aren't popular."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Friday
Apr212017

Running tips from Olympic distance runner Roberto Mandje

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Good Morning America's Amy Robach is training for the 14th annual SHAPE Women's Half Marathon this month in New York City.

Robach did a training run with Olympic distance runner Roberto Mandje who shared tips for women and men of all ages on how to best prepare for a long-distance race.

Set a goal: "You gotta crawl before you can walk," Mandje said, adding that even if it means only running one or two miles a day, "that's fine." He also advised that runners make a plan long before actually starting a race. "Whether it's just finishing or beating your previous best time, you just want to establish realistic goals and work towards that incrementally," he said.

Stick to a routine: Mandje said it was key to race in the clothes you've trained with, and more importantly, to not wear brand new running shoes on race day. "You don't wanna experiment with new shoes," Mandje said. "Then all the training goes out the window because they're dealing with blisters."

Remember to stretch: Mandje recommended dynamic stretches to get the body ready by raising the heart rate and activating different leg muscles, including quads and hamstrings.

Pace yourself: "People do tend to get overly excited and before you know it you've gone out too fast and it could blow your whole race plan," Mandje said. He said it was important to set a sensible pace for the race.

Stay hydrated: The Olympic runner said having a hydration plan is key for long-distance races and recommended hydrating "maybe every 20 minutes or so in the race." Mandje also discussed breathing techniques and jokingly told Robach, "technically, if you're alive, you're doing it right." But he added that runners should practice relaxed breaths and "every once in a while take a really deep breath from your gut and fill your lungs."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Apr202017

Sweet drinks may damage the brain, studies show

arto_canon_iStock/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Two new studies from the same research group have found that those who consume one or more sugary drinks per day showed more brain shrinkage on MRI scans and performed more poorly on memory tests.

In one study, the observed effect was equivalent to a 3.5-year difference in brain aging seen on MRI and a 13-year difference in memory test performance, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine found.

In a separate study, the same researchers found that those who consume more artificially sweetened drinks were nearly three times as likely to have a stroke.

The researchers also said these diet drink consumers were twice as likely to have Alzheimer's dementia, though, importantly, this association disappeared once the researchers took into account certain health conditions of the subjects.

COMMENTS: These findings demonstrate an association between sugary drinks and brain changes and between diet drinks and brain changes. It does not necessarily prove causality -- it could be that thirsty people have something else going on that affects their brains. Still, these findings are highly likely to get attention.

Click here to learn more on the stroke study and here for the Alzheimer's and dementia study.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Apr202017

11-year-old cancer victim inspires 'Mustard Challenge' to raise money for pediatric cancer research

ajafoto/iStock/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- An 11-year-old girl’s battle with cancer, and her wish to make sure no other child must fight the disease, has inspired a new, viral challenge involving mustard.

The “Mustard Challenge,” started by the No More Kids With Cancer charity, asks participants to eat a spoonful of mustard, share the moment on social media and challenge four friends to take the challenge within 24 hours or make a donation.

The challenge is the brainchild of the family of Naya Summy, who lost her battle with brain cancer in 2015 at age 11. Naya, who lived in the Philadelphia area, was diagnosed with high-risk medulloblastoma in 2013 and passed away just 22 months later.

“She was super smart and was going to conquer the world,” Naya’s mom, Amy Summy, told ABC News. “She stood out.”

Naya began raising tens of thousands of dollars for The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia while she was undergoing treatment there. She asked her family, including her dad, Hank Summy, and her 16-year-old brother, Zak, to keep up her fight against pediatric cancer.

“She was positive but every day was a difficult time so she really just wanted to end [cancer],” Amy Summy said. “She just didn’t believe that children should have cancer.”

The family started their charity, No More Kids With Cancer, after hearing Naya describe her dream of a future without pediatric cancer.

“We listened to her words and they were so clear,” Summy said.

The Mustard Challenge, which will end on Aug. 5 -- National Mustard Day -- is particularly aimed at raising awareness about the types of toxic drugs that children, including Naya, receive while undergoing cancer treatment.

Summy learned after Naya’s death that some of the drugs she was treated with were derived from the same chemicals as mustard gas.

“As a mom when I found that out, I couldn’t sleep that night and, still, it makes me so angry and sad,” she said. “We’re putting those same compounds in people and children.”

No More Kids With Cancer is focused on finding safer and more effective treatments for children with cancer, according to Summy. The charity is hoping to raise at least $6 million through the Mustard Challenge.

Dr. Michael Fisher, chief of the neuro-oncology division at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, described pediatric cancer research today as “at the dawn” of a new era but in need of more funding to unlock key areas, like precision medicine and immunotherapy.

“While we have been getting better over the years, there are still too many kids who die of cancer,” said Fisher, who treated Naya and is on the board of No More Kids With Cancer. “We’ve sort of reached the limit of where we’re going to get with therapies that were designed decades ago.”

Fisher recalled Naya as a “pretty amazing kid” who never let cancer hold her back, recalling one instance in which she asked her doctors' permission to swim with sharks.

“She was a wise beyond her years kid who was also very compassionate,” he said. “She was really wanting to raise money early on, not necessarily to help herself, but to help other kids with cancer.”

The Mustard Challenge is already getting attention from celebrities, including former NBA star David Robinson. Participants are sharing their videos using the hashtags #MustardChallenge and #NoMoreKidswithCancer.

For the Summy family, the focus is on fulfilling their "promise to Naya" of raising money and awareness for pediatric cancer. They also think Naya would get a kick out of watching others partake in the Mustard Challenge, and would have been the first to partake herself.

"She did the ice bucket challenge when she was in treatment," Summy said, referring to the viral challenge that raised money for Lou Gehrig’s disease. "I think she would just think this is funny."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Apr202017

7 years after Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Louisiana dolphins struggle to reproduce

Redders48/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Seven years ago today, an explosion occurred on the Deepwater Horizon oil platform, killing 11 workers and triggering the worst oil spill in U.S. history. It took 87 days to cap the well. During that time, approximately 3.19 million barrels of crude oil flowed into the Gulf of Mexico.

The spill had a huge impact on marine wildlife, including wild bottlenose dolphins living in Louisiana’s Barataria Bay. A study released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in April 2016 noted that the spill may have led to historically high death rates and impaired reproductive health for the group of dolphins.

Pregnant dolphins showed an 80 percent reproductive failure rate, either because the fetuses were exposed to oil spill-related compounds or because the mothers' health suffered from the exposure, according to NOAA Fisheries.

Dolphins exposed to the oil compounds who were not pregnant were more likely to have damaged lungs and adrenal glands, which regulate hormones, and many developed bacterial pneumonia.

Kathleen Colegrove, a Veterinary Pathologist from University of Illinois who specializes in marine mammal pathology, remembered evaluating one dolphin, Y12, who was emaciated. Y12 was found to have severe lung disease on a pulmonary ultrasound. She said it was "one of the most severe phenomena I had ever diagnosed." The dolphin died less than seven months after its initial evaluation.

According to a report by the National Wildlife Federation, bottlenose dolphins along the U.S. gulf coast from the Florida panhandle to the Texas-Louisiana border had twice the historic death rates in 2014, but even higher where oil concentration was elevated.

"Places that received less oil did not have particularly elevated numbers of dolphin deaths in 2014," the report said, "while dolphins in heavily oiled Louisiana were found dead at four times historic rates."

The report added that this is the longest period of above-average death rates in more than two decades and was not attributed to other common causes of death like viruses or red tide.

Further study is being funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), which was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP following the spill.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Thursday
Apr202017

School rallies behind beloved crossing guard as she battles cancer

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A Texas elementary school is showing their support for a beloved crossing guard after she was diagnosed with cancer.

Staff and students at the Rusk School in Houston have already raised $5,850 of their $10,000 goal on behalf of Sanjuana Torres, 59, who has worked at the school for 20 years.

"I was overwhelmed," Torres told ABC News Wednesday. "No one has ever done anything for me and I was happy. It's like our principal always said to me, 'Ms. Torres, we are your family we are going to take care of you.' They are my family."

Torres started working at Rusk in 1997. Since then, she has helped make sure all of the children safely reach their classrooms.

"I enjoy seeing the kids here and seeing their faces in the morning as well as in the afternoon," Torres said. "I watch over them and make sure they're OK."

All five of her own sons also attended the school.

Torres was diagnosed in March with uterine cancer and will undergo a hysterectomy today at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, she said.

Senta Butler, the magnet school coordinator at Rusk, told ABC News that she created a GoFundMe page titled "Our Beloved Crossing Guard!" to help cover the cost of Torres' medical bills and living expenses while she's in recovery and out of work over the summer.

"When we found out about this, we just had to do something," Butler said. "She never lets it affect her. No one knew that it was something of a serious nature. She does so much for so many people around here and she touches everyone in a very special way."

Butler said the students adore Torres and treasure mornings with her as she high fives them on their way into school.

Jayden, an 11-year-old sixth grader at Rusk, said he's known Torres since the third grade.

"She's cool, she's a nice lady," he added. "I hope she could get better and defeat whatever she has."

Eighth grader Valeria, 13, agreed.

"She's one of the most incredible ladies I've ever met," Valeria said. "She's practically family to us here at Rusk. I hope she can get past all of this and do all of the things she aspires to do."

Torres said her family will be by her side during her surgery on Thursday. She plans to return to work at the school she loves in August, she added.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Apr192017

WHO: More effort needed to alleviate poverty in fight against tropical diseases

Bet_Noire/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The World Health Organization says efforts must be undertaken to alleviate poverty around the world if the progress made in battling tropical diseases is to continue.

In 2015 alone, the agency says that one billion people received treatment for neglected tropical diseases. WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan called the efforts part of the observed "record-breaking progress towards bringing ancient scourges like sleeping sickness and elephantiasis to their knees."

Millions of people, she added, have been saved from poverty and disability as a result of "one of the most effective global partnerships in modern public health."

A group of global partners agreed to fight neglected tropical diseases together in 2007. In that time, local and international partners have worked with ministries of health in affected countries to "deliver quality-assured medicines, and provide people with care and long-term management," WHO says.

Still, a report released Wednesday says more still must be done.

"Further gains in the fight against NTD's will depend on wider progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals," said Dr. Dirk Engels, Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases. The WHO says 2.4 billion people worldwide lack basic sanitation facilities and 660 million drink water from "unimproved sources."

Recent concern over diseases like the Zika virus and Chikungunya have re-energized the effort to fight tropical diseases.

The WHO notes that NTD's impact hundreds of millions of people in the poorest parts of the world. The formerly prevalent diseases are now restricted to tropical regions with unsafe water, poor hygiene and sanitation, and poor housing conditions.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.







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