Quality Time Over Video Games May Strengthen Family Ties

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(PROVO, Utah) -- Parents, and even some researchers, have long blamed video games for such problems as obesity, violence, depression and detachment from family and friends.

But Brigham Young University School of Family Life researchers stand by a positive notion that could surprise some people: video games may help strengthen the bond between parents and their daughters.

While some doctors would say video games and other sources of so-called screen time offer little if any health benefits, this study begs to differ.  The study found that girls who played video games with a parent behaved better, felt more connected to their families and had better mental health than those girls who did not play video games with their parents.

Researchers also found that these game-playing gals had lower levels of internalization of emotions and higher levels of social behavior with their family members than those who did not play video games with parents.  But, there was no evidence of such benefits with boys.

It is important to note that positive bonding time was only associated with age-appropriate video games.  Mario Kart, Mario Brothers, Wii Sports, Rock Band and Guitar Hero topped the list of games that girls most often played, while boys played Call of Duty, Wii Sports and Halo most often.

Researchers found that if the game was rated M for Mature, feelings of family connectedness weakened overall.

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, included 287 families with a teen or tween-aged child.  Parents and kids filled out multiple surveys about their gaming habits, family processes and adolescent behavior.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Winter Weather Safety Survival Guide

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A winter storm -- the likes of which forecasters say hasn't been seen in the Midwest in years -- is expected to pack a potentially dangerous punch of sleet, snow, ice and wind.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that over the next few days as the storm moves from the middle of the country to the East Coast it could have an impact on a total of 100 million Americans.

Don't be caught unprepared.  Twenty-five percent of all winter-related fatalities occur because people out in the storm are caught off-guard, according to the National Weather Service.

Here are some winter storm tips from the NWS so you can stay prepared:

-- Use caution and be aware of hazardous driving conditions.  Roads will be snow covered and dangerous.  People are encouraged to use discretion and not go out unless it is absolutely necessary.  Traffic lights may be out and roads will be congested.

-- During snow storm conditions, snow plows are considered emergency vehicles and should be given the right of way.  Listen to the weather reports and plan accordingly.

-- Have an emergency supply kit in the vehicle. A fully charged mobile phone, charger, spare batteries, blanket or sleeping bags, extra food and water are essential.

-- Keep the gas tank as full as possible.  If stranded, run the car periodically to preserve fuel and stay with the car.

-- Make sure someone knows your route and timetable.

-- Major concerns for individuals are loss of heat, power, and telephone service.  Individuals and families should have food and water, flashlights and batteries, first aid supplies and a battery operated radio in their disaster kit.

-- Emergency 911 phone system should be limited to life-threatening situations only.

-- Prepare your home for a power outage.  If you have to leave your home and seek shelter, remember to bring your medications and sleeping gear such as blankets and sleeping bags.  Most of these items will not be provided by the shelter or will be in short supply.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Poorer Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients More Susceptible to Depression

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and belonging to lower socioeconomic groups experience more depression than do more affluent patients, researchers say.

While other studies have looked at the effects of functional disabilities or socioeconomic status, researchers at the University of California San Francisco conducted the first study analyzing whether an association between disability and depression is different in relation to socioeconomic status.

"If an interaction is present, then there is a group of vulnerable patients who could benefit from earlier identification and treatment," researchers wrote in the study.

The study further states that a possible explanation for the link between depression and RA patients possessing economic deficiencies could be that these patients simply have fewer resources and less support.

Researchers of the study concluded that recognizing the relationship between the socioeconomic status and psychological effects in RA patients can reveal a certain population of people at higher risk for depression, and furthermore, guide future treatment methods and prevention in susceptible patients.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Exercise Helpful in Memory Preservation, Say Researchers

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(URBANA, Ill.) -- Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign say that patients in their mid-60s should walk at least three times per week to increase the volume of hippocampus, which is significant to memory preservation.

Findings in the study show that it may be possible to conquer the age-related deterioration of hippocampal content, Dr. Arthur Kramer, a study author, told MedPage Today.  Hippocampus generally decreases with age by one to two percent per year.  But, according to the study, regular walking can lead to better fitness and better spatial memory.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Women's Heart Health: Know Your Risks

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- When it comes to heart health, many women are confused about their risk factors. What's the difference between good cholesterol and bad cholesterol? What are the normal ranges for my test results? What about blood sugar and diabetes? What changes can I make to my diet to improve my heart health?

If you want to learn more about heart health and your individual risk factors, the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute says there are important questions to ask your doctor, risk factors you should be aware of and things you can do to lower them.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Heart Health:

1. What is my risk for heart disease?
2. What is my blood pressure? What does it mean for me, and what do I need to do about it?
3. What are my cholesterol numbers? (These include total cholesterol, LDL or "bad" cholesterol, HDL or "good" cholesterol, and triglycerides.) What do they mean for me, and what do I need to do about them?
4. What is my "body mass index" and waist measurement? Do they indicate that I need to lose weight for my health?
5. What is my blood sugar level, and does it mean I'm at risk for diabetes?
6. What other screening tests for heart disease do I need? How often should I return for checkups for my heart health?
7. What can you do to help me quit smoking?
8. How much physical activity do I need to help protect my heart?
9. What is a heart-healthy eating plan for me? Should I see a registered dietitian or qualified nutritionist to learn more about healthy eating?
10. How can I tell if I'm having a heart attack?

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Gates Launches Latest Polio Campaign at FDR Recuperation Site

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- In the Manhattan double townhouse where President Franklin Delano Roosevelt recuperated from polio in the summer of 1921, billionaire Bill Gates on Monday began the latest chapter in his campaign to rout the disease from its last global strongholds.

Gates, co-chair and trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest philanthropy, reiterated his commitment to global elimination of polio at a high-profile event a day after the 129th anniversary of Roosevelt's birth. Gates used the occasion to release his third Annual Letter, a blueprint of his philanthropic goals, at Roosevelt House on New York's Upper East Side, once a wedding present from Sara Roosevelt to her son Franklin and daughter-in-law Eleanor, the current home of the Public Policy Institute at Hunter College.

Half of this year's letter focuses on eliminating vaccine-preventable diseases including polio, and other global health issues.

Worldwide, new cases of the potentially paralyzing and sometimes fatal childhood illness have been cut 99 percent since governments of the United States, Great Britain and India, along with the United Nations Children's Fund, Rotary International and Gates Foundation, launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. However, the disease remains endemic in Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan and there have been outbreaks in more than a dozen other countries. In 2010, outbreaks in countries that once had vanquished polio sickened hundreds, including 458 in Tajikistan; 93 in the Congo and 323 in Angola. There has been one reported case this year in Pakistan.

Last Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, British Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to double the United Kingdom's contribution to fighting polio in the next two years. That would enable 45 million more children to be fully vaccinated, advancing the goal of providing life-saving immunizations to every child who needs them.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Super Bowl: Which City Can Better Survive a Loss?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Football fans across the country will watch the Packers battle the Steelers Sunday in the Super Bowl.  And for fans in Green Bay or Pittsburgh, the big game could be a heart-stopper, literally, in light of research suggesting that a Super Bowl defeat might boost the risk of cardiac death.

"Fans can develop an emotional attachment to their favorite team," said Dr. Robert Kloner, professor of medicine at the University of Southern California's Keck School of Medicine and director of research at Good Samaritan Hospital's Heart Institute in Los Angeles.

"And when there's an emotional response, the sympathetic nervous system gets jazzed up and releases adrenaline, causing a surge in heart rate, an increase in blood pressure and an increased demand for oxygen by the heart."

Kloner and colleagues had previously reported in April 2009 an increased incidence of heart-related deaths in Los Angeles two weeks after the city's 1980 Super Bowl loss.  The group has now taken a closer look at who was most vulnerable in a study published in Clinical Cardiology, released Monday.

"We've known for many years that there are chronic risk factors for cardiac death, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking," Kloner said.  "But we're becoming increasingly aware of certain acute risk factors, such as emotional stress.  I think that these stressors may add up."

The much-loved L.A. Rams were the underdogs in 1980 in an intense and emotional game being played close to home at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena.  The Rams had the lead going into the fourth quarter, but lost 31-19 to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Despite being sixth-seed in the National Football Conference playoffs this year, the Green Bay Packers are favored going into Sunday's game in Dallas.  But Steelers fans might be less suited to handle a Super Bowl loss, according to a national survey.

Of 185 U.S. cities, Pittsburgh ranked 66th in emotional health, 123rd in physical health and 106th in healthy behavior, according to Gallup-Healthway's 2009 Well-Being Index.  Green Bay scored better, ranking 33rd in emotional health, 25th in physical health and 84th in healthy behavior. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Rice Cereal Controversy: Does It Make Kids Fat?

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(PALO ALTO, Calif.) -- For 50 years, many pediatricians have recommended that parents initially feed their solid food-ready babies white rice cereal -- a gluten-free, and an allergy-free option, that most babies find easy to digest.

But Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician at Stanford University, who started a campaign called "White Out," is out to turn that long-held belief on its head.

"I have been studying nutrition very carefully for more than a decade now and one of the things that I have become convinced of is that white rice cereal can predispose to childhood obesity," said Greene.  "In fact I think it is the tap root of the child obesity epidemic."

Besides its touted digestion benefits, Greene said white rice cereal is also high in calories and made of processed white flour.

"The problem is that it is basically like feeding kids a spoonful of sugar," said Greene.

Instead, Greene advises that whole grain solid foods, such as pureed fruits and vegetables combined with whole grain cereal instead of white rice is a healthier option for babies.

"The difference between white rice and brown rice is huge," said Greene.  "White rice is basically 94 percent starch.  Brown rice though is 25 percent other stuff: protein, essential fats, and minerals, all kinds of good stuff."

Greene launched his "White Out" campaign in 2010 with the goal to entirely rid stores and babies bowls of white rice cereal by Thanksgiving.  While the campaign has attracted thousands of parents to join the cause, some experts and even the baby food industry itself aren't buying the claim that starting a baby on white rice cereal could lead to childhood obesity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Text Messaging Actually Good for Young People?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LONDON) -- For many teachers and parents, those text abbreviations may spell the end of literacy as we know it, but a growing body of research indicates that text messages can actually help students' ability to spell.

In a study to be published next month in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Clare Wood, a senior lecturer in the psychology department at Coventry University, and her colleagues recruited 114 students ages nine and 10 who had never owned a cell phone. They gave half of the students cell phones to use on the weekends and holidays and, during 10 weeks, the researchers tested students in both groups on reading, spelling and phonological skills.

The researchers found no difference between how students in the two groups performed.

"There was absolutely no sign that it was problematic," said Wood.

She said it's likely that this study was too short for the benefits of texting to be apparent, but added that another longer-term study to be published later this year in the British Journal of Psychology showed that texting significantly boosted the growth of literacy skills.

The study included 119 students aged eight to 12 who use cell phones, and looked at the relationship between their texting habits and performance on reading, spelling and phonological skills tests. The researchers tested students at the beginning of the academic year, analyzed a sample of their text messages and then tested students again at the end of the academic year.

Wood said the results of that study found that the use of text abbreviations was driving spelling development. They even reversed the analysis to see if it was the good spellers who tended to use text abbreviations, but found that relationship was unidirectional, she said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Dietary Guidelines Being Released; Call for Less Salt Intake

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services will release the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans on Monday.

By law, the USDA and HHS reviews and updates the guidelines every five years.  This latest version includes several updated recommendations, most notably in sodium intake.

The government is asking nearly half of the U.S. population to cut the amount of sodium they ingest daily to 1,500 mg or less.  Those affected include African Americans, adults over the age of 51 and people suffering from hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.  For everyone else, the daily sodium intake remains at 2,300 mg.

Other recommendations include:

-- Encouraging less intake of saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol, although no changes were made to the actual amounts recommended.

-- Reducing the intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.  New recommendations will be stronger than those set in the 2005 Guidelines.

-- Consuming protein from a variety of sources, especially from seafood.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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