Your Body: Are You Active Enough?

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

How much activity are you getting every week? If the answer is not much, you're not alone.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31 million Americans 50 and over are inactive beyond the basic movements needed for daily life activities.

The CDC looked at men and women nationwide and found inactivity was higher for women compared with men and significantly increased with age.

Physical activity can delay or prevent many chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and dementia, and reduce the risk of premature death.

Here are some things you can do to get moving and keep moving:

  • Start a friendly competition with friends, family or coworkers.
  • Try a wearable device or check your phone for a more accurate indication of how many steps you're taking every day.
  • Don't sit when you can stand.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Children Battling Cancer Across the World Design Colorful Art for NASA Space Suits

NASA(NEW YORK) --  Hundreds of children battling cancer from all around the globe are helping design colorful space suits for NASA as part of a project that's bringing art, healing and science together.

The initiative, called The Space Suit Project, is the brainchild of Ian Cion, director of the Arts in Medicine Program at MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital in Houston.

"I've been thinking a lot about how we can help build community within the context of the hospital and how we can help our children manage the stresses that come with their intensive treatment," Cion told ABC News today.

Around this time last year, Cion reached for the stars -- almost literally.

"I reached out to NASA," he said. "So many children are fascinated by the idea of outer space, and I thought it could be really cool for them to design space suits."

NASA immediately got on board.

 The space agency and hospital connected with ILC Dover, the aerospace engineering company that creates NASA's flight suits, and "the stars just aligned," Cion said.

Through the collaborative project, two space suits designed by children from MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital, located at the University of Texas in Houston, have been completed. One has even been to space, worn by an astronaut on the International Space Station (ISS).

 Cion, along with retired astronaut Nicole Stott, is on a new mission: to create a space suit designed by young cancer patients from Cologne, Germany; Moscow, Russia; Tokyo, Japan and Montreal, Canada -- the cities with space agencies that helped build and support the ISS.

Fittingly, the suit is being called "UNITY," Stott told ABC News.

 "What's going to be really unique and beautiful about this suit is having the mix of artwork from all the different countries," she said. "So you could pick up something distinctly Russian or Japanese looking at it up close, but as a whole, all the art just comes together and blends in an amazing way."

Stott explained that the process to make the suits is pretty simple.

 Every participating child gets a piece of canvas and paint, and they can "paint, write and do whatever they want with that canvas," Stott said. The patches are then brought to ILC Dover engineers and designers, who quilt together all the pieces into a "gorgeous, colorful space suit."

Though part of the original intention of the project was to inspire kids, Stott said, she's realized that the kids have been doing more of the inspiring.

 "It's quite the emotional experience to see these kids and their families go through this incredibly difficult thing and yet still have so much strength and positivity," she said.

Though the "UNITY" space suit will not be going up to outer space, Stott said she and Cion are still aiming for the moon.

"We've been thinking a lot about how we can take this project to the next step and next level," she said. "More of us want to see colorful artwork like this on the space station and as part of space programs. We'd love to rally and get an artist in residence in space. I mean, why not think that way?"

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Middle School Football Team Helps Classmate With Spina Bifida Fulfill Dream of Scoring a Touchdown 

ABC News(NEW YORK) --  An Arkansas middle school football team recently helped a 10-year-old classmate in a wheelchair fulfill his dream of scoring a touchdown.

Fifth-grader Gabe Mangus from Southside Middle School in Batesville was born with spina bifida, a condition that has prevented him from being able to walk, according to his mother, Jeanne Markowski.

"But he never lets his disability get in the way," Markowski told ABC News today. "He loves sports, and though he obviously can't play, he tries to get involved as much as possible and he loves cheering on his teams."

The 10-year-old's favorite sport is football, and he regularly attends his middle school team's practices and games, according to its head coach, Tyson Franks.

"He's usually always there on the sidelines, cheering on all the boys," Franks told ABC News today. He added that earlier this year, the boys named Gabe honorary team captain.

But the boys wanted to do even more for Gabe, Franks said. They knew he always wanted to be able to play himself and score a touchdown, and they were determined to make it happen.

 "It was all completely the boys' idea," Franks said. "They were like, 'He's always been here for us and we want to be here for him now.'"

So a few weeks ago, during the team's last home game, the boys told Gabe that he would be going out into the field.

Gabe was initially scared and hesitant, but the boys had his back.

"They told him, 'Don't worry, we got your back! Ready to score a touchdown?'" Franks said. "They pushed him out onto the field and the announcer said, 'I think something special is about to happen,' and it sure did."

 The team passed Gabe the football and pushed him down all the way to the end zone. The opposing team even supported the power play by falling over as Gabe and his wheelchair whizzed passed them.

"We've gone undefeated this year and have scored quite our share of touchdowns, but no cheer was as loud as the one Gabe got," Franks said. "The referee even told me he had never seen faces more happy than the one on Gabe and my boys when he scored that touchdown."

Gabe told ABC affiliate KATV that he was in complete shock.

"It was unbelievable," he said. "It was the best feeling I've had -- ever."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Locally Transmitted Zika Virus Cases Found in New Area in Florida

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  Public health officials in Florida have identified a new area in Miami-Dade County where the Zika virus is being spread by mosquitoes, according to a report by the Florida Department of Health.

In total, five people -- three people living in the area and two who either visited or worked in the area -- are believed to have been infected from mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. Officials from the Florida Department of Health reported that the affected area is approximately 1 square mile.

The Zika outbreak has been ongoing in certain regions of the greater Miami area since July. This is the third area to have had local Zika transmission via mosquitoes. Department investigators are now going door-to-door in the affected areas to investigate if there are additional unreported Zika cases. Mosquito control measures are also taking place in order to reduce the population of the Aedes aeygpti mosquito, the species that spreads the Zika virus.

 With Hurricane Matthew blowing through much of the state last week, some health experts have expressed concerned that the storm could lead to an increase in the mosquito population that spreads the Zika virus. It's not clear if the hurricane had any impact on Zika infections, but Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said it was likely that public health officials are concerned about the storm's effect on Zika infections.

"The hurricane leaving all that standing water and also blowing some mosquitoes around ... has clearly created an environment of increased concern in Miami-Dade County," Schaffner said. "Most of us are watching Zika events in Miami-Dade County ... with great interest."

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Fifth-Graders Go 'All In' Raising Funds for Accessible Playground for Kindergartener

Ryan Cook(NEW YORK) --  Five-year-old Hannah Cook is a kindergarten student at Tobey Elementary School in Vicksburg, Michigan. School has been going great, with one exception: recess.

Recess, of course, is a major part of a 5-year-old's day. But because Hannah was born with cerebral palsy, she was not able to access the playground because of the walker she requires. The little girl was for awhile, happy to watch and blow bubbles. The school brought in a sandbox for her to play in. It was a nice gesture, but it wasn't the same.

"Hannah is such a sweet girl that she wouldn't complain about not having anything to do," her dad Ryan Cook told ABC News. "She was just happy to do what she could do."

A group of fifth-graders befriended Hannah, and then approached their principal, Michael Barwegen, with a pointed question regarding the playground: "What are we going to do?"

Barwegen told ABC News he turned the question back on the kids: "What are we going to do?"

The kids decided Hannah needed a new playground. So Barwegen called Game Time, a company that builds them, and found out the cost would be about $20,000. Then, the work needed to repair the area around the new playground and other miscellaneous costs would be another $10,000. He challenged the kids to raise the money.

"Every day they came to me with a different idea," he said. From a coin drive to selling bracelets to a GoFundMe page, the kids were committed. "They are so fired up," he said. It rained during the homecoming parade, he said, and instead of heading inside the kids walked around in the rain handing out fliers about the fundraising efforts.

Meanwhile, Hannah has undergone significant surgery and is temporarily out of school. "Hannah is aware of what they are trying to do," her dad said. "While she was flat on her back for three days after surgery very few things would make her happy and that was one of them. It made her so, so, happy during a tough time for her."

The school is more than halfway to the $30,000 needed to build what they're calling the "All In" playground. They hope to have it installed when Hannah returns to school in November. "They chose that name," Barwegen said, "because it's not 'Hannah's playground.' It's a place where all the kids can play together, including Hannah."

He said the school has so many people who want to volunteer to install the structure -- from parents to local businesses -- that he has to find other ways to put them to work, he said.

As for the Cooks, they're thrilled how the school and the community has come together in support of their daughter.

"We are proud of the fifth-graders," her dad said. "There are a lot of differences in generations and they've been magnified over the years but these kids have proven that the younger generation is becoming more accepting of people that are different. When we were younger it wasn't that we didn't accept it but we didn't make effort to incorporate them into our lives. The community involvement and willingness to spread the word and donate money is astounding."

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Bionic Hand and Brain Implant Allows Paralyzed Man to 'Feel' Again

UPMC/Pitt Health Sciences(NEW YORK) --  Twelve years after becoming paralyzed in a car accident, Nathan Copeland remembered the moment he was finally able to regain his sense of touch in his right hand.

“I was like, yeah, I think I feel something,” he told ABC News. “I could also feel I had a huge smile on my face.”

Copeland, 30, is the first person to use breakthrough technology that uses a brain implant and robotic arm to help him "feel" again. The technology uses intracortical stimulation mapping, a procedure that aims to localize function in various brain regions. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center published Copeland's story today in the medical journal Science Translational Medicine.

Dr. Robert Gaunt, research assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Department, helped develop the technology and worked with Copeland through the experimental procedure.

"He was excited," Gaunt recalled of the moment Copeland regained feeling. "He’s a pretty calm, collected guy, but it was a moment of great relief for me and a lot of cheering from the team.”

 The goal is for this technology to bypass the damaged spinal cord. Brushes and tiny wires were implanted in his motor and sensory cortex in his brain. Researchers stimulated that part of his brain to execute sensations in his fingers, even though he was still physically unable to move his hand. They then mapped these areas so that when the robot hand was touched, Copeland's brain was stimulated, so it felt as if his own hand was touched.

“Sensors in the fingers of the robot become active and when you touch the finger and put pressure on it we read the sensor data to convert this data to send impulses to the brain,” Gaunt explained. “Nathan’s hand was essentially disconnected from the brain because of his injury.”

Another goal is to make these sensations as natural as possible. Their quality ranges from warmth to pressure-like, depending on the area of the brain that is stimulated and to what degree the bionic arm is stimulated.

Following a neurosurgery in March 2015 during which electrodes were placed in a part of his brain called the somatosensory complex, it took four weeks of stimulation trials with no results before the momentous event.

Copeland has been able to describe the sensations getting sent to his brain from the bionic arm.

“Some are a pressure, some are like a tingle, some are warm, there is one really hard to describe. ... For now, we call it 'spidey' sense since it feels spidery,” he explains referring to "Spider-Man."

Copeland has been paralyzed since he was injured in a car accident at age 18. The Pennsylvania native was a college freshman when just two miles from home, his car swerved out of control on a wet road. He was paralyzed from the chest down, but remembered the moment rescuers came to save him.

“I kind of blacked out for a while," Copeland said in a video released by University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "I remember it being dark. I felt the raindrops on my shoulder when they cut my shirt.”

He spent a week in the intensive care unit, and two months in a rehabilitation facility. Eager to find a way to improve, Copeland began to research experimental studies and soon learned about Gaunt’s project. Despite needing to have implants added into his brain, Copeland said he was undeterred by the invasive procedures.

“We’re doing the study so we can improve prosthetics," he said in a video released by the hospital. "It will be really helpful for people who have to live with this stuff every day ... like whether or not the grip [when holding a coffee cup] is tight enough with a prosthetic in order not to drop it. Knowing for sure will probably be very awesome.”

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Groom Carries Bride Down Aisle After Car Accident Broke Her Pelvis

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Hannah Patterson was in what she described as a "serious car accident" this summer while headed to pick up her then fiance, Stuart Patterson.

"I broke my pelvis in three places, punctured my kidney, broke my ribs, [had a] concussion, [and had a] loss of partial hearing," Hannah Patterson said of the July 18 crash.

It didn't help that Patterson, 23, was in the final stages of planning her Aug. 25 wedding, held at Cranberry Creek Gardens in Ontario, Canada. The accident was also hard on the bride-to-be's family because Patterson's mother lives in Northern Ireland, where the couple is originally from.

Because of the accident, Patterson had to walk down the aisle with the help of a wheelchair.

"Obviously, being in the wheelchair and not able to walk was very upsetting for me on my wedding day," she recalled, "but I had cried at the rehearsal so I didn't cry on the day."

It was at the rehearsal dinner before the wedding that Stuart, 25, decided to carry her down the aisle instead.

The moving gesture was caught by their wedding photographer, Sarah Powell, who posted the now viral photo to Facebook.

Because of her injuries, Patterson said, she sat during most of her wedding, but wanted to stand for one very important part.

"I was determined to stand for my vows," Patterson said, adding that she had to balance on one leg, while using her husband-to-be for support.

"It was hard on me to stand for that long even with Stuart holding me up," she continued, "but it doesn't seem obvious in the pictures and video the pain I was in."

Since her wedding, Patterson said she is making "a slow recovery."

"I am doing better," she added. "I am able to use a cane in the house now."

Although Patterson said the accident was "a very hard time in my life," she's happy to spend the rest of her life with her new husband.

"Stuart has never left my side during all of this," she said. "I know it has been hard on him to see me like this, but he was strong for both of us."

“He always made me see how blessed I was. ... I had to try to be thankful I was still there to get married," she added.

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Natural Disasters May Increase Substance Abuse Risk, Study Finds

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The dangers of hurricanes, earthquakes and floods can seem clear, with high winds, rising waters or powerful tectonic movements understandably drawing the most concern. But a new study published Thursday found that a natural disaster can also cause lasting damage to a population in another way: through an increased risk of substance abuse.

Researchers from multiple institutions, including the University of Miami, examined data from New Orleans to understand if residents were more at risk for substance abuse after living through the trauma of Hurricane Katrina. The hurricane hit New Orleans and surrounding areas as a Category 3 hurricane in 2005, causing hundreds of deaths and major devastation.

Using hospital data from the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, the researchers looked at data from 2004 and 2008 to see if there was a change in the rate of hospitalizations for substance abuse. They found that the rate of hospitalizations for substance abuse increased approximately 30 percent, from 7.13 hospitalizations for 1,000 people to 9.65 hospitalizations for every 1,000 people, according to the findings published in the medical journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

"This result is not surprising given that a large segment of the local population experienced trauma, which had the potential to increase hospitalization rates at the same time that the city’s population was reduced," the authors wrote in the study. "These 2 factors accounted for the high hospitalization rates in areas that lost population."

Certain neighborhoods that had "blighted blocks," high levels of poverty and displaced persons after the storm had higher rates of hospitalizations for substance abuse, the study found. None of these factors, except for high levels of poverty, were associated with increased risk of substance abuse hospitalization before Hurricane Katrina.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, warns that people traumatized by major disasters can be at particular risk for a substance abuse disorder.

"Although everyone reacts differently to disasters, some of those affected may suffer from serious mental or emotional distress," SAMHSA explains online. "These individuals may develop or experience exacerbation of existing mental health or substance use problems, including for example, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."

The study did have limitations, including the fact that some people who had physical conditions exacerbated by this storm and were not previously hospitalized, may have already had a substance abuse problem and were just now identified after storm put more strain on their health.

The researchers said they hope this information can help public health officials develop a plan to identify at-risk populations for substance abuse disorder in areas affected by natural disasters.

"Consensus is emerging among disaster researchers that psychological disorders and substance abuse increases in the aftermath of both man-made and natural disasters," the authors wrote. "Exposure to a disaster can entail physical threats to life and post-disaster behavior and readjustment problems (e.g., dealing with loss of home, friends, or family). These events can increase the risk of substance abuse, such as extensive drinking or drug use, as a coping mechanism."

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Your Body: Doctors, Parents Warned Not to Give Kids Codeine

iStock/ThinkstockBy DR. JENNIFER ASHTON, ABC News Senior Medical Contributor

Do you give your kids codeine? If so, listen up: There's a new warning.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a recommendation urging doctors and parents to stop giving codeine to children under the age of 12. The pain relief drug is often prescribed to children despite growing evidence of life-threatening reactions.

It's very difficult to predict how kids will react to this narcotic. For some, it provides little relief and for others it can have a major effect. Certain children could experience slowed breathing rates or even die after taking the standard doses of this medication.

Codeine is often given as a pain medication after surgery or dental work and can be in cough syrups as well. If you have questions about codeine and your child, ask their pediatrician, dentist or pharmacist about an alternative.

Copyright © 2016, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


School Elects Classmate Homecoming King After He Succumbs to Cancer 

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A Texas student was posthumously crowned homecoming king on Friday by his friends and fellow classmates.

Nick Peters, 17, was elected at Harlingen High School just days after he lost his 7-year fight against cancer.

"It was a big surprise and it made my heart full that young people put their own wants [aside]," mom Judi Peters of Harlingen, Texas, told ABC News. "I don't know who would've wanted the king spot, but they sacrificed it so Nick could have it. It just made me proud."

Nick was diagnosed with leukemia in October 2009 when he was 10 years old.

He began treatments but relapsed twice, and later underwent a bone marrow transplant from his sister Ashley, who was his donor, in April 2016, his mother said.

Nick suffered from complications due to the transplant and died Oct. 3 at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.

Peters described her son as a "funny guy" who loved making deals through his at-home baking business and most recently, creating apps.

"He still had about seven apps in the app store -- mostly emojis, different fonts and keyboards for your iPhone," she said. "It was his dream to own a Lamborghini and move to New York after graduating. That was him. He'd look out for everyone else's welfare. Even in ICU, every day the nurses would come in and he'd say, 'Good morning, did you have a good breakfast today? Make sure you take care of yourself.'

Due to his illness, Nick missed out on his freshman year, sophomore year and the second half of junior year in high school.

"Even doing all that, he was No. 10 of his graduating class of 600 kids," Peters said.

Ahead of his high school's homecoming kickoff, Nick's friend Norman Torres, a senior, called Peters to inform her his efforts in trying to name her son king.

"Norman called me and said, 'Hey, we're going to get Nick elected king and we are telling everybody,'" Peters recalled.

On Oct. 7, Nick Peters was announced as Harlingen High's homecoming king for 2016.

Torres accepted the crown on his late friend's behalf before presenting it to Nick's younger brother, Noah, 12.

Nick's mom and siblings were in attendance.

"I think he would've been embarrassed to be king," Peters said of her son, with a laugh. "He didn't like lots of attention on himself. Of course, he would've thought the [gesture] was really cool. He'd be completely amazed at how many people have come together honoring him in so many different ways."

Nick's sister Ashley Peters, 20, said she heard Nick had a great chance to win.

"Norman has quite a voice at the school, so I think he played a pretty big part in getting Nick nominated," Ashley told ABC News. "As word spread, they did it as a senior class. It was a very special and emotional moment for us because Nick, he wasn't with us anymore. I know some people think that's what life's about -- winning homecoming king, or homecoming queen, but for them to honor his legacy like that was a very selfless thing to do."

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