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Wednesday
Mar152017

How meditation helps Virginia military cadets be more effective warriors

Lauren Effron/ABC(LEXINGTON, Va.) -- Deep in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, a prestigious military college in southern Virginia steeped in more than a century of tradition has embraced meditation courses as a way for cadets to become more mentally fit.

Dr. Matt Jarman, a psychology professor who focuses on leadership and mental fitness, and Dr. Holly Richardson, a physical education professor who specializes in exercise physiology, both teach courses involving meditation at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia.

“Meditation is not this kind of soft, fluffy thing,” Jarman said. “You’re facing your fears, you’re facing your stresses head-on or leaning into them, and it’s giving you the tools to do that more effectively and not get swept away by them.”

Jarman has made mindfulness practice a centerpiece of his “Modern Warriorship” class. Mindfulness is a series of meditation techniques that are designed to slow the mind, focus on the breath and bring attention back from distraction.

“From my perspective, a warrior is one who … is creating change in a process for the benefit of others,” Jarman said. “And ‘warriorship,’ the way I’m talking about it, is the mental and physical training, the discipline training, to allow you to be a more effective warrior, to allow you to be more mentally and physically able to, when the time comes, to help others.”

Jarman said he has his students practice meditation for 15 minutes every morning and then five minutes before they start homework, as a way to tie the meditation to a habit.

“They have to do work, at some point, right? So if they can tie the meditation to that, then hopefully, even when they leave this class, they still have that cue to prompt this behavior,” he said. “Habits don’t require you to exert willpower because you just do it.”

Richardson teaches a mindfulness class following the University of Massachusetts’ Center for Mindfulness curriculum, which focuses on stress reduction. She introduced meditation on campus as a way to help cadets handle stress better, whether it’s studying for an exam, preparing for a big game or having to go see the commandant of cadets, who oversees the college’s daily military regimen.

“We talk about … when they have to go see the commandant for a demerit, again they have their breath, have that presence to breathe three-five times before going in and [then] having a more productive conversation,” Richardson said.

Many VMI cadets have plans to serve in the military after graduation or some have already served in the military and come to the college as veterans. Jarman acknowledged that there are critics who have raised ethical questions about teaching meditation to soldiers when they may be ordered to kill another person during wartime.

“From my perspective … the mental training allows you to be better at making decisions [while] acting quickly,” he said. “So in my mind, it allows you to do your job better which hopefully results in as few casualties as possible. So I would rather, if someone is in a profession that requires that sort of action, that they be as mentally sound as possible.”

Richardson added that there is science that shows meditation can help soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because the practice helps them “remain present,” and “reset the channel” instead of “playing the same tape over and over” when they come home from war.

Jarman and Richardson said they have received little pushback from VMI cadets when they have them practice meditation. Richardson said some cadets will say they don’t have time. Jarman added that some cadets have told him their roommates will make fun of them for practicing, but he says he turns that around to show the cadets that practicing meditation can help make them tougher.

“If you can’t do something as simple as meditating and be OK with the fact that others might think that it’s a little weird, then you’re not really getting into the training yet,” Jarman said. “In modern warriorship, part of being someone who can make change when change is necessary means you’re going to be going against a lot of people, so I view that as wonderful practice.”

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Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Wednesday
Mar152017

Couple carrying terminally ill baby to term speaks out

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- One couple who made the selfless decision to carry their terminally ill baby to term so that her short life can be used to save dozens of others spoke out in an interview with ABC News' Good Morning America, saying that their daughter will do more during her short time on Earth "than maybe we'll ever do in our lives."

Royce and Keri Young decided to carry their daughter, who is missing the cortex of her brain, to term so that her organs can be donated to save the lives of potentially dozens of other ill infants.

The couple told ABC News that they found out about their daughter's condition in December when they went in for their 19-week ultrasound, excited to find out whether they were having a boy or a girl.

"The ultrasound tech came in and said, 'Your doctor wants to see you immediately,'" Keri Young said. "I mean, she just literally opened the door and said, 'I'm really sorry to have to tell you this, but your baby doesn't have a brain.'

"And then we both totally lost it," Keri Young added. "The first 48 hours were very dark and very heavy and very testing."

Royce Young added that during this time they "kind of found out who we are."

Keri Young said they "made a pact that we were allowed to say whatever we wanted and you could not be judged for what you were going to say ... even if it's sad, even if it's angry, even if it's really bad ... you can say whatever you want to say. It's unhealthy to keep that inside."

Keri Young said she questioned the existence of God after learning of her daughter's condition: "There's no way God exists. There's no way ... there's just no way that this could happen ... we did everything right, you know?"

"We were supposed to have a healthy pregnancy, so why us?" Keri Young added.

Royce Young added that he even wondered, "She doesn't have a brain, so is she even a person?"

The Youngs' baby suffers from a medical condition known as anencephaly, which affects approximately one in 100,000 pregnancies.

Dr. Jennifer Smith, a doctor of maternal-fetal medicine at the Perinatal Center of Oklahoma, explained to ABC News that the part of the brain that the Youngs' baby is missing is essential to a human being's survival.

"There is some brain stem tissue, and that is the part of the brain that controls breathing," Smith said. "But there is no superior portion of the brain. And that's the part of the brain that we all need to survive."

The Young family said that their daughter is growing, developing and kicking like a healthy baby. She even gets the hiccups. But without the brain cortex, doctors say she will not survive long after delivery.

Royce Young told ABC News that after he heard his daughter's prognosis, they asked the doctors what their options were.

"Our doctor at first kind of laid them out. You can induce early, and ... in effect, terminate the pregnancy. Or you can carry it on," Royce Young said.

Royce Young said they were torn about what they should do, and said that he and Keri Young did consider terminating the pregnancy.

"You can be the most pro-life person in the world, but until you sit there and you, you hear those words and you look at your future going forward, that's when you have got to face the reality and make your own decision," Royce Young said.

Ultimately, the couple decided to carry the baby to full term and donate her organs to save the lives of others. The couple will donate their daughter's organs to medical research and to families in need.

Royce Young said that the main thing they discussed was how painful it would be for them in the short term, especially every time they felt the baby kick or had people ask them whether they were having a boy or a girl.

"We had to kind of decide that, like, 'How are we going to feel about this when we're 50 years old?'" Royce Young said.

Keri Young added, "The whole time it was very much ... 'How can we limit regret? What will we regret the least?'"

Royce Young told ABC News that "We're going to focus on donating her organs and we're going to be her parents."

"There was freedom in that," Royce Young added of their decision. "I think that that kind of lifted a weight off of our shoulders. And that's when ... I think we did kind of start to feel happiness."

"For as long as she lives, 24 hours, 48 hours," Royce Young said. "We realized we're her momma and her daddy and we got to do ... we have got to do our job."

Keri Young said that the doctors told them their baby could survive "anywhere from five minutes to 36 hours."

Royce Young said, "We look forward to holding her, kissing her, talking to her, telling her about her brother. And to think that that might have to be done in five minutes is really hard."

Keri Young said she has been enjoying the pregnancy so far.

"I'm now terrified of delivery," Keri Young said. "I don't want her to come out, you know."

"She's healthy right now, and I love feeling her kick, and that, that was surprising. It was. It was very surprising," Keri Young added. "She's as perfect as she's going to be right now. So I don't want to give that up.

"Now is not the time to be sad," Keri Young said. "I keep telling people we have a whole lifetime to be sad, after she's born and after she passes, then that's sad. But now, she's alive and she's kicked and ... for this pregnancy, that's the most joyful part."

Royce Young wrote in a Facebook post that garnered more than 53,000 reactions and over 22,000 shares that he is in awe at his wife, and said seeing her handle this is like "watching a superhero find her superpowers."

"I want to tell people how amazing my wife is because she's an amazing woman," Royce Young said. "But, also, my daughter has got a bigger purpose in life."

"This is my chance to tell everybody about her. I don't get to brag about how pretty her hair is, I won't get to ... tell people how good grades she made. I get to tell them about what she's doing with her life," Royce Young added.

Because her life could potentially save dozens of others, the couple decided to name their daughter Eva, meaning "life," in Hebrew.

"There's another family out there that's sitting there with their fingers crossed hoping that their, their baby's going to get a kidney," Royce Young said. "They're praying for a miracle themselves, but Eva can be that miracle."

"She's going to do more in her 24 hours or whatever than maybe we'll ever do in our lives," Royce Young said. "And to be able to remember our daughter in that way is pretty powerful."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar142017

How the GOP health care plan affects women

Creatas/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Democrats argue the American Health Care Act, the new Republican health care legislation, will set back advancements made in women’s health care.

According to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the new bill “would take us back to those days where essentially being a woman was a preexisting condition.”

Republicans disagree. In a one page memo about the bill on the Ways and Means Committee website, Republicans state, “Our proposal specifically prohibits any gender discrimination.”

Here’s a closer looker at some key provisions in the Republican bill moving through the House of Representatives right now and how they might affect women and girls:

Abortion services

The newly proposed legislation, as currently written, would prohibit women from using any federal tax credits to buy a plan that covers abortion.

Under the current law, Americans buy their own insurance benefit from subsidized rates. (The government is paying to keep some costs down.) Under the Republican plan, these direct subsidies go away and the federal government gives a tax credit to individuals to help them purchase an insurance plan. The tax credits are not allowed to be used to buy a plan that covers abortion.

The new proposal is consistent with the so-called “Hyde Amendment,” which does not allow taxpayer dollars to go toward abortions except in the case of incest, rape or to save the mother’s life.

Planned Parenthood

The Republican bill also promises to “defund” Planned Parenthood by prohibiting Americans on Medicaid, a government insurance program for the nation’s poorest citizens and the disabled, from receiving any reimbursement if they visit a Planned Parenthood clinic.

Medicaid payments make the up the majority of the organization’s funding, although current law already stipulates that the organization cannot use any government funds for abortion procedures. Instead, the clinics see people on Medicaid for contraception, screenings and other services.

Republicans argue that these Americans can visit other community health centers. Several leading abortion and contraception rights organizations point out that these centers may offer inferior care.

“Planned Parenthood health centers consistently perform better than other types of publicly funded family planning providers,” Ann M. Starrs, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute, wrote in an op-ed last week. “It is simply not feasible for other safety net providers that are often already stretched thin to quickly step up and provide timely, high-quality contraceptive care to the many women who might suddenly be unable to obtain care if their local Planned Parenthood has been shut down.”

The new report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that approximately 15 percent of people currently on Medicaid who visit Planned Parenthood clinics would lose access to care all together, specifically those who “reside in areas without other health care clinics or medical practitioners who serve low-income populations.”

According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, cutting funding for the organization remains largely unpopular -- with 80 percent of respondents opposed to it, including 65 percent of Republicans and 78 percent of independents.

Contraception

Under current law, insurers are required to cover the entire cost of “preventative services,” copays and all. Those preventative services are determined and defined by the Department of Health and Human Services and right now include birth control.

This access to free birth control is arguably one of the more popular parts of the current Affordable Care Act. A poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Washington Post found that over 77 percent of women and 64 percent of men support no-cost contraception coverage.

The Republican bill moving through Congress does not impact this “preventative services” provision, according to Laurie Sobel, associate director of Women's Health Policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. Theoretically, the Department of Health and Human Services could redefine what exactly counts in this category of care.

Republicans on the Hill and the newly appointed secretary of HHS have said new regulations should be expected as the second phase of their party’s plan to repeal and replace the current law.

Maternity Care

Maternity care is categorized as an “essential health benefit” under current law, which means it must be offered under private plans but patients will likely pay some out-of-pocket costs, of varying levels, in addition to their monthly premiums. The new Republican bill does not address what qualifies as an “essential health benefit,” but, again, that could be changed through agency regulation.

The bill does, however, get rid of some cost-sharing standards that pre-determine how much patients would have to pay for specific services, like maternity care. The effect of scrapping some of these is debated among lawmakers and experts. Maximum out-of-pocket rules remain in place for now and some flexibility in what certain plans have to offer and pay for could lead to more competition and lower premiums.

On the other hand, Democrats worry that consumers may not realize that their plan does not cover as much as they had thought.

“In today’s market place you know you are actually buying real insurance and not a junk plan,” Sen. Stabenow said when asked about the change.

The GOP bill also says that in the next few years Medicaid plans will simply not have to cover these essential health benefits. States will get to decide what those plans have to cover.

Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President Obama, told ABC News that there are real consequences for the women on these plans.

“Once something is not required, it becomes difficult for one company to offer it,” Slavitt said in a phone interview this week. “It can be a tough business decision. The fear is that you may attract only sicker folks. It can be a race to the bottom in terms of what’s offered.”

“That’s why having a standard is so important,” he added.

Slavitt emphasized that the Medicaid program was founded in part with the explicit intent of helping poor mothers and children.

“It’s no different than why we invest in early childhood education,” he said. “When we show we can help mothers carry all the way to term and have healthy births -- it’s a big deal.”

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar142017

Flu season may have peaked, CDC Says

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — We may have seen the worst of the current flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers have been elevated for 12 straight weeks, but health officials are starting to notice a downturn.

There are currently 39 states reporting widespread flu activity, down slightly from the 43 the week before. Fourteen states, many in the Southern part of the country, are still experiencing high levels of Influenza-like-illness.

The CDC says flu vaccinations this season have reduced a person's risk to get the flu by 48 percent.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar142017

How to guard against snow dangers to your health and home

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As much of the Northeast braces for a blizzard that could dump a foot of snow in some areas, authorities are warning to take precautions against potential snow related dangers -- from roof collapses to heart attacks.

Here are a few winter safety tips experts shared on ABC News' Good Morning America Tuesday to help keep your home and family safe as the late-season snowfall blankets the East Coast:

How to protect your home during a winter storm

More than 200 roofs have collapsed in Idaho's Washington County this winter, causing close to $4 million in damages.

Retired fire captain Scott Warner of Morris County Public Safety Training Academy shared the signs people should watch out for that could indicate structural damage.

"You can hear some creaking and popping," he said. "Some crackling noise of the wood starting to fall."

Warner also said if you hear those noises to "get out as fast as you can."

How to protect your heart health while shoveling snow

The American Heart Association warned that shoveling snow may put some people at an increased risk of a heart attack. The group said that the physical exertion of shoveling snow, combined with the cold temperatures, can put an extra strain on your heart.

The association released tips for "heart-safe snow shoveling," which include not eating a big meal before going out to shovel snow, taking frequent breaks, using a small shovel or a snow blower, and learning the heart attack warning signs.

Dr. Rahul Sharma, emergency physician in chief at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell, explained how you can be putting yourself at risk.

"When you shovel snow, your heart rate goes up, your blood pressure goes up and being out in the cold actually constricts your blood vessels," Sharma said Tuesday on Good Morning America. "Now, if you're a young person who's fit, it shouldn't really be a big issue. But if you're elderly and have underlying heart problems, this could actually set you up for a heart attack because of the decreased blood flow as well as increased workload on the heart."

Sharma also offered tips on the best ways to shovel.

"The most important thing is be prepared, stretch," he said. "You want to go forward. You don't want to lift."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Tuesday
Mar142017

Utah man, 103, says he will keep dancing 'Until I fall over'

Photodisc/Thinkstock(MURRAY, Utah) -- A 103-year-old Utah man who still dances every week at a senior center says he plans to keep going until he cannot dance anymore.

"Until I fall over," Karl Tinggaard told ABC affiliate KTVX-TV when asked how long he will continue. "Until I simply can't do it anymore."

Tinggaard has been a fixture every Thursday night for the past decade at the Murray Heritage Center in Murray, Utah.

He is dropped off by family members every week for the 55-and-over activity center’s dance night, according to the center’s program director, Maureen Gallagher.

"When he’s on the dance floor he dances with all the women," Gallagher told ABC News.

Even more impressive is that Tinggaard shows up his younger friends on the dance floor.

"He doesn’t shuffle," Gallagher said. "He dances."

Tinggaard, who could not be reached by ABC News, was born in 1914 in Denmark, he told KTVX. He outlived his longest dance partner, his wife of 55 years, and their daughter.

He also outlived two other dancer partners, so now he dances with whomever is on the dance floor Thursday nights.

"I said to myself, 'If they die from dancing with me I might as well not have a partner,'" he told KTVX.

Tinggaard is by far the oldest dancer at the Murray Heritage Center, according to Gallagher.

"He’s an inspiration," she said.

He credits his longevity not to dancing, but to laughter.

"For every minute you laugh you extend your life one hour," he said. "And I'm laughing a lot."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar132017

Author who penned dating profile for husband has died

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Encouraging your partner to seek love after you die can be a difficult subject to broach, but a recent New York Times column was also a reminder of just how heartwarming it can be.

Author Amy Krouse Rosenthal, who died Monday from ovarian cancer, recently penned a dating profile for her husband of 26 years, Jason Rosenthal. She was 51.

In her "Modern Love" essay titled "You may want to marry my husband," Rosenthal simultaneously shared that she believed it was OK for her husband to find love after her death, while listing all of his lovable qualities for a future mate.

Rosenthal noted that she wrote the column in hopes "that the right person reads this, finds Jason, and another love story begins."

ABC News had reached out to Rosenthal on March 3 but she declined to comment.

Harvey Max Chochinov, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, told ABC News earlier this month that although a request like this was "meant to give comfort, it also forces people to really think and wrap their minds around the reality of this person no longer being in their lives."

For individuals who are dying and want to tell their loved ones that it's OK for them to find love upon their death, Chochinov offered four tips to help have the conversation:

1. This won't be easy

Chochinov reminded people who are dying that this can be "a painful topic. And although it may offer some comfort, at the same time it may also elicit a great deal of pain. It so explicitly acknowledges that [you] will no longer be here."

2. Be direct

Chochinov said you don't necessarily have to be very detailed, but try to be direct. Indeed, you can also start the conversation by saying, "Can we talk about what your life would like after I'm gone."

3. It's OK if the conversation is short

"This may not necessarily be a long conversation," Chochinov, who wrote the book Dignity Therapy: Final Words for Final Days, warned. "It may not be a detailed conversation. [You only really have to say] 'You need to understand it's OK to find happiness after I'm gone.' It may sound pretty cryptic, but it delivers a message that lets the person know you don't need to honor your loved one by being in a perpetual state of grief and being alone."

4. Seek help

There are professionals who can help facilitate such conversations, Chochinov said.

"There are psychological interventions and therapeutic approaches ... to help them articulate the things they want known,” he said, “[whether it's] finding someone else, words or wisdom or guidance, what matters and how they want to be remembered."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar132017

Photography project captures 'first hello' between parents, newborns

TongRo Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The first moments between parents and their children are a special memory for families and an opportunity to show "the real beauty of humanity" for a group of photographers in Australia who document the emotional moments.

The First Hello Project was created in 2015 by two friends, River Bennett and Bel Pangburn, who wanted to put their shared passion for photography to good use. The pair, along with their team of photographers, visits birthing suites and homes to capture those first moments between newborns and parents.

"It’s a profound honor to be in that intimate, highly-emotive space and it’s one we don’t take lightly," Pangburn told ABC News.

Pangburn said she believes the photos capture a unique part of the human experience.

"We both deeply believe people everywhere are hungry to see the real beauty of humanity," she said. "So to share these images of such purity has been a complete thrill."

As Bennett and Pangburn are both mothers themselves, they are able to relate to the situation the parents are in. One of their clients, Carmen-Lee Myers, said that was a high point of her experience with them.

"I had completely natural labor and birth, it was quite the experience and endurance," Myers told ABC News. "Having another friend (and) another female in the room who had been through the same was really encouraging and gave me that extra support I needed."

Myers said she loved her experience with The First Hello Project. Having the photos allows her to remember the joy of her birthing experience, she said.

"I want to relive each day (of being a mother), and in particular that moment we said our first hellos," she said. "It was so important for me to capture my journey of pregnancy and birth because words in my journal would never be enough."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Monday
Mar132017

Gillian Anderson reveals long struggle with mental health issues

Fox(NEW YORK) -- Gillian Anderson is opening up about her longtime struggles with mental health and how she's worked to overcome them.

The 48-year-old actress has written a book, We: A Manifesto for Women Everywhere, which she describes as advice to her younger self.

Speaking to The Guardian about the book, the X-Files star revealed that she sometimes struggled to even "leave the house."

"There were times when it was really bad. There have been times in my life where I haven’t wanted to leave the house," she said without going into further detail or offering a diagnosis.

Having been in therapy since she was 14, Anderson shares techniques in the book that she has found helpful, including writing affirmations, expressing gratitude and meditating.

The latter has helped her overcome her self-esteem and body image issues.

"All I know is that when I meditate, one goes beyond the physical, and it is possible to tap into a sense of absolute contentment and joy in that place. So if that’s where you’re starting, then actually none of this," she said, gesturing to her body, "means anything, really."

She added, "The only thing that really matters in terms of our peace of mind is our peace of mind itself, and how we react to things."

That said, Anderson isn't too worried about getting older in a business that elevates youth.

"There will be a certain point where I’ll make the decision to go gray, you know. There might be a certain point where I decide that it’s silly for me to continue being blond when I’m in my 60s," she said.

"I’ve also always wanted to direct, I’ve also always wanted to be an artist," the mother of three continued. "Maybe when the kids are out of college, I can decide to downsize and go gray and get less work."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

Sunday
Mar122017

Sen. Cotton: GOP risks losing House majority if health bill approved

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Republican Sen. Tom Cotton said GOP members of the House should not "walk the plank" by approving the Republican health care bill, warning that it could cost the party the House majority and put the entire GOP agenda at risk.

"I would say to my friends in the House of Representatives with whom I serve, 'Do not walk the plank and vote for a bill that cannot pass the Senate and then have to face the consequences of that vote," Cotton told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos.

The Arkansas senator went further, saying on "This Week" Sunday that Republicans are in danger of losing their House majority if they approve the GOP health measure, called the American Health Care Act, proposed last week by House Republican leaders and endorsed by the White House.

"I'm afraid that if they vote for this bill they're going to put the House majority at risk next year," Cotton said.

Cotton has been critical of the legislation that congressional GOP leaders put forward to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

"I’m worried it could make it worse in some ways, that insurance rates could go up and Americans could have even less control over their health care systems," Cotton told ABC’s chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl Thursday.

On "This Week," Cotton said, "I just do not think that this bill can pass the Senate, and therefore I think the House should take a pause and try to get as close as we can to a good result before we send it to the Senate."

When pressed by Stephanopolous to clarify if he was suggesting that House Republicans who vote for the bill "are going to pay the price without getting any benefit," Cotton noted that Republicans have other agenda goals in addition to health care reform.

"We have majorities in the House and the Senate and the White House not only to repeal Obamacare and get health care reform right, but to reform our taxes and our regulations and build up our military and accomplish many other things," Cotton said. "And I don't want to see the House majority put at risk on a bill that is not going to pass the Senate."

"That's why I think we should take a pause, try to solve as many of the problems on both Medicaid and the individual insurance market in this bill in the House and then allow the Senate to take its work up," Cotton said. “The bill probably can be fixed, but it’s going to take a lot of carpentry on that framework."

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