Women of Child-Bearing Age Should Avoid Taking Addictive Painkillers

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) — Prescription painkillers containing highly addictive opioids that can cause birth defects and other serious problems in early pregnancy are taken by more than a quarter of U.S. women of child-bearing age.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released this information Thursday as a warning to women who are thinking about having a child or might be in the early stages of being pregnant.

Although much has been reported about the dramatic increase of overdoses from these medications, this is the first time the CDC has focused on the dangers Vicodin, Oxycontin and other drugs pose to women between the ages of 15 and 44.

While women might stop taking opioid painkillers after becoming pregnant, the problem is that they might not know about their condition until after the first few weeks, especially if their pregnancy was unplanned as about half are in the U.S.

These drugs can affect the brain and spine of the fetus as well as a pregnant woman's heart and abdominal wall.

In terms of prescription use by women, the rate were highest in the South and lowest in the Northeast. Also, white women are one-and-a-half times more likely to take opioids than black or Hispanic women.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Coffee May Be Work's Only Saving Grace

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Forget about pay raises, promotions and more vacation time. What really floats the boats of workers is a good cup of coffee.

Or so says coffee maker Keurig Green Mountain Inc., which polled 840 people about how coffee enhances their experience on the job.

For instance, nearly nine out 10 respondents contend that coffee just makes the entire workday better while 85 percent say that sharing the beverage with a client or colleague improves relationships.

Meanwhile, 84 percent believe making good coffee available is an important perk (no pun intended or maybe it was), although just over half complained that they wished their employer would supply a better quality brand, presumably Keurig.

And then, there's the downside of missing out on a daily cup of joe. More than a third say that without it they feel exhausted while others griped about feeling irritable, unproductive, disorganized and even forgetful.

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Oranges vs. Orange Juice: Which Is Better for You?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Everyone knows that oranges are packed with vitamin C but some people prefer the convenience of drinking orange juice than having to peel through the fruit or cut up slices. This begs the question: is one better than the other?

Researchers at Hohenheim University in Germany says both an orange and orange juice each has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, Ralf Schweiggert, Julian Aschoff and their colleagues point out that the drawbacks to juice is that it contains more sugar than a regular orange and because of pasteurization, there are also lower levels of vitamin C and nutrients such as carotenoids.

So that makes eating an orange the healthier choice, right? Not necessarily, according to the researchers. It turns out that the juice greatly improves the body’s ability to absorb vitamin C and the orange’s nutrients than by eating the fruit.

Juicing oranges also has a plus and a minus side. While it does reduce the flavonoids, which can lower cancer and cardiovascular disease risks, the juice makes what remains easier for the body to absorb than eating slices.

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Chewing Gum, the Cavity Fighter?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Those four out of five dentists who recommended Trident for their patients who chew gum knew what they were talking about.

Actually, any kind of sugarless gum promotes better dental health, according to new research in the journal PLos ONE.

Research showed that a stick of gum captures about 10 percent of the microbial load in saliva or up to 100 million bacteria that can lead to cavities.

The amount of bacteria is about the same that’s removed through flossing although this method cleans out different regions of the mouth.

The researchers also discovered that gum captures most of the bacteria within 30 seconds because after that, it start losing its adhesive quality.

Bottom line: gum is good for your teeth. Just remember though that the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., which has something to gain from positive results, funded the study.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Walnuts May Improve Cognitive Functions

iStock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) — Walnuts are not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s too bad because they may turn out to be a legitimate brain-food.

UCLA researchers contend that people who eat walnuts improve their cognitive functions, that is, remembering, concentrating and making decisions.

Led by Dr. Lenore Arab, the scientists did a meta-study of various National Health and Nutrition Examination surveys and discovered that performances on six cognitive tests were better among those who ate higher amounts of walnuts.

What makes these nuts so special? Their content of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and an omega-3 fatty acid that benefits both the brain and the heart.

Arab said the findings are important as the Baby Boomer generation ages and dementia becomes more prevalent. Walnuts are one possible way of slowing down degenerative memory diseases.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Health Officials Discuss Status of Potential Ebola Vaccines

luiscar/iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Top officials from the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration held a press conference on Thursday to offer an update on the testing of Ebola vaccines.

During the call, four different vaccine candidates were discussed, including one developed by the NIAID and Glaxo Smith Kline and one developed in a partnership between Canadian health authorities and Merck, both of which are in Phase 1 of studies -- the earliest studies involving human subjects. Such testing is meant to assess safety for use, rather than the efficacy of the vaccine.

Officials also discussed two potential vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson.

A larger phase two and three study is planned in Liberia to help determine how effective the vaccines are. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIH, the study would involve about 27,000 subjects and could begin "in a couple of weeks." The study could take nine months to a year to conduct.

A separate trial of the same vaccines is planned for Sierra Leone with a different study design. That trial could include an estimated 6,000 subjects.

Officials also discussed ZMapp, the potential Ebola therapeutic treatment, saying that health agencies and the government of Liberia are working to evaluate ZMapp in studies in both the U.S. and Liberia.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Laughing Gas Now Becoming Popular Option for Women Giving Birth

Brigham and Women's Hospital(NEW YORK) -- A Minneapolis mom who wanted a natural birth was more than 13 hours into labor when she felt she wasn't going to make it without something to take the edge off the pain. But rather than asking for an epidural or narcotics, she begged for laughing gas.

"It immediately took my fear away and helped calm me down, though I could still feel the pain," Megan Goodoien, who gave birth at the Minnesota Birthing Center this month, told ABC News Thursday. "I didn't laugh because the labor was so intense, but everything suddenly felt doable just when I thought I couldn't make it anymore. It's definitely a mental thing."

Though nitrous oxide has long been used in European countries and Canada, the gas is now making a resurgence in the U.S., according to medical experts.

The gas, once popular in the U.S., was sidelined after the advent of the epidural in the 1930s, midwife Kerry Dixon told ABC News, noting she believes epidurals took over because they were more profitable. Dixon did not treat Goodoien but works at the Minnesota Birthing Center.

"The average cost for a woman opting for nitrous oxide is less than a $100, while an epidural can run up to $3,000 because of extra anesthesia fees," Dixon said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved new nitrous oxide equipment for delivery room use in 2011, which could also explain the resurgence, Dixon told ABC News.

"Maybe 10 years ago, less than five or 10 hospitals used it [for women in labor]," Dr. William Camann, director of obstetric anesthetics at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told ABC News. "Now, probably several hundred. It’s really exploded. Many more hospitals are expressing interest."

He added the gas popular in dentists' offices has an "extraordinary safety record" in delivery rooms outside the U.S. But more studies are needed to confirm its safety, other doctors say.

Laughing gas works differently than an epidural or narcotic in that it targets pain more on a mental level than physical, experts said.

"It's a relatively mild pain reliever that causes immediate feelings of relaxation and helps relieve anxiety," Camman said. "It makes you better able to cope with whatever pain you’re having."

But gas can also change awareness, said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, a senior medical contributor for ABC News and a practicing OB/GYN.

"In delivering over 1,500 babies, I had never used it nor has anyone asked for [nitrous oxide]," Ashton told ABC News. "[M]ost moms want to be totally aware when they are in labor."

Another difference between nitrous oxide and epidurals is that it's self-administered by the patient, who has total control over if and when it's used.

A Nashville mother said she opted for the gas during labor only after she found herself too tense to push.

"I instantly felt relaxed," Shauna Zurawski told ABC News. "Before, I was so tense. I was fighting against the contractions, which definitely wasn't good. But after the laughing gas, my body was able to do what it was supposed to. It was so neat."

Both Goodoien and Zurawski said they put a nitrous oxide machine's mouthpiece over their mouth and nose and inhaled about 30 seconds before their next contraction to get the maximum effect.

Another advantage is that the chemical gets out of your system shortly after stopping inhalation.

"With my first child, I had an epidural, I was numb for so long after the delivery and it took a while to get back to normal," Zurawski said. "But with the nitrous oxide, I was walking around and taking pictures almost right after."

Both Goodoien and Zurawski said they didn't experience any adverse side effects.

Nitrous oxide's possible side effects are usually just minor nuisances such as nausea, dizziness or drowsiness, medical experts told ABC News.

Patients can also choose to stop or get an epidural at any time if they find they don't want the laughing gas.

It's still early to tell how popular this new option will get, but in countries like New Zealand, about 70 percent of women in labor choose to use laughing gas, Dixon said.

"When I was working in New Zealand, I told one of my patients, [laughing gas] wasn't really used in the U.S. and you know what she said?" Dixon asked. "'I thought they have everything in America!'"

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Mom Who 'Burned' After Taking Friend’s Medicine Leaves Hospital

KABC(LOS ANGELES) -- A young mother has finally left intensive care after months battling a rare-but-serious reaction to a friend's prescription antibiotics that caused her to "burn" from the inside out on the day after Thanksgiving.

Yassmeen Castanada, 19, spent 52 days in the University of California Irvine's burn unit after she was diagnosed with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare drug reaction that can even occur when drugs are prescribed by a doctor. She returned to her Fresno, California, home on Wednesday, where her 5-month-old daughter was waiting for her.

"She needs to be home with her family, her baby," Castanada's mother, Laura Corona, told ABC News' Los Angeles station KABC-TV. "I know she'll recover. She's really strong. She has a lot of will to live."

More than 90 percent of Castanada's body is still affected, according to KABC. And she has a tube in her trachea to help her breathe because her throat was closing.

Castanada wasn't feeling well on Thanksgiving, so she took a pill that her friend had left over from a previous illness. Soon, Castanada's eyes, nose and throat began to burn, and she was rushed to the emergency room, Corona said. Her body erupted in blisters over the next few days, and she had to be sedated and placed on a ventilator, she added.

"Her face changed within four days," Corona told ABC News. "I would wipe her face and all the skin was just falling off."

Patients with Stevens-Johnson syndrome don't really have burns, said Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatology professor at the Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan who was not involved in treating Castanada.

"You're not truly burned, but what happens is you have compromised the skin barrier function," Zeichner said.

Inflammation and blistering occur on the outer layer of skin as well as the lips, eyes and genitals, leaving the patient vulnerable to infection and unable to properly balance electrolytes and stay hydrated, Zeichner said. As such, these patients are treated like burn victims.

"You get very painful lesions on your skin that are basically blisters," said Neil MacKinnon, dean of the University of Cincinnati's Winkle College of Pharmacy. "Your whole body is in excruciating pain."

Castanada was eventually transferred to the University of California Irvine's burn unit, where doctors said more than 70 percent of her body was damaged, Corona said. She's undergone several surgeries to remove damaged skin and help new skin grow back. But then she got a blood infection, a urine infection and an infection in her throat, Corona told KABC.

Zeichner said he sees Steven-Johnson syndrome most often with antibiotics, but MacKinnon said this sometimes-fatal reaction is different from most reactions to antibiotics, which are usually limited to gastrointestinal symptoms.

"Unfortunately, we have no way of predicting who would have this type reaction," Zeichner said, advising that patients only take prescriptions given to them by their doctors.

He said they should report any reactions following new medicines immediately to their doctors and, if necessary, go to the emergency room.

"Heartbreaking, just unreal," Corona told KABC shortly after Castanada's ordeal began. "Just watching your daughter burn in front of you, literally burn in front of you."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


'Deflate-gate' Is Scientifically Plausible, Physicist Says

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- If the NFL's New England Patriots did deflate their game balls, even slightly, it would have given them an advantage during their playoff win this past weekend, said Chang Kee Jung, who teaches a course on the physics of sports at Stony Brook University in Long Island, New York.

Ninety percent of the time, you want a ball that’s properly pumped to give you the furthest throwing trajectory, Jung said. But when in bad weather, a squishier ball is easier to throw and catch.

“On cold days, a fully inflated ball is...hard as a brick,” he said. “Having a softer ball would allow the quarterback to throw more accurately in a tighter spiral and make it easier for the receiver to catch.”

If a quarterback has small hands, a mushier ball would offer even more of an edge in the rain, making it easier for him to grip, Jung added.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


What Your Tweets May Say About Your Heart Health

iStock Editorial(PHILADELPHIA) -- Tweeting a lot of four-letter words about how miserable you are or how much you hate stuff? It may offer a glimpse into your heart health, new research shows.

University of Pennsylvania researchers studied 140 million random tweets from 2009 and 2010, and learned that what people said on the social media site correlated with heart disease mortality rates where those tweets originated. Twitter data also served as a window into psychological status, said lead researcher Johannes Eichstaedt, a Ph.D. candidate at the university.

"The single most predictive feature -- the single word predictor of heart disease -- is 'hate,'" Eichstaedt said. "You couldn't make this up."

The study was published this week in the journal Psychological Science.

Eichstaedt said communities where people tweeted more about hostility, hatred and fatigue were also more likely to have higher rates of heart disease, according to data from Twitter and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On the flip side, areas where people tweeted about optimism seemed to have lower rates of heart disease, he said.

The researchers did not have access to the health status of individual Twitter users.

Having a reason to get out of bed in the morning seemed to be a protective factor when it came to heart disease, but the data predates the "#blessed" Twitter trend, Eichstaedt said. Getting the data from the social media giant today would be much more difficult and expensive, he said.

Cardiologist Dr. Sahil Parikh, at UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, said he applauds the researchers' creativity but said readers should take the results with a "very large grain of salt."

He said it's "reasonable" to say that negative emotions related to stress can predict heart disease events because there's a significant body of research to back that up. But the age difference between social media users and people having heart attacks doesn't match up, he noted.

Men are considered more at risk for heart disease and heart attacks when they reach 55 years old, and women are considered more at risk at 65 years old, Parikh said.

"I don’t know how many 65-, 75-year-old women are out there tweeting," he said. "While there might be a lot of angry young people in a a certain area, I'm not sure how well that correlates with emotional well-being in those who are older and not Twitter users."

Eichstaedt said his team's research piggybacked on research about word frequency and psychological insight as well as their own work analyzing social media data. Eichstaedt's next project will be to see whether the Twitter data has any indication for other health issues, such as diabetes and cancer.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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