Broken Hearts Can Be Deadly, Doug Flutie Cites Mom as Example

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The announcement by former NFL player Doug Flutie that his parents died within an hour of each other has put the spotlight on the rare “broken heart” syndrome.

While it’s unclear whether either of Flutie’s parents, whom he described as both having fatal heart attacks within an hour of each other, had that syndrome, it’s known that some people can have a severe cardiac event after going through an emotional trauma.

“My Dad had been ill and died of a heart attack in the hospital and my Mom, less than an hour later had a sudden heart attack and passed away,” Flutie wrote on Facebook. “They say you can die of a broken heart and I believe it.”

While it may seem far-fetched, having an "emotional" broken heart has been known to cause severe and sometimes fatal health effects on a person's actual heart. Broken heart syndrome is sometimes called stress-induced cardiomyopathy, or takotsubo cardiomyopathy, according to the American Medical Association, and can strike even in people who are otherwise healthy.

Dr. Sahil Parikh, interventional cardiologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said the condition is rare but appears to most often affect older women. Because the condition is so uncommon, he said, it's not completely understood why the heart is affected.

"What that is, the bottom of the heart, often called the apex, is not contracting. And why that happens, no one really knows," Parikh explained. "People think it’s an excess of hormones like adrenaline that results in stunning of the heart muscle."

Parikh said people can be affected after an emotional experience, either good or bad.

ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser explained that the condition was first noticed in Japan where doctors found that in rare cases people had sudden heart failure following an emotional trauma. The name takotsubo comes from a device used to catch octopuses, he said.

“With broken heart syndrome, it is felt that a surge of hormones impairs the ability of the heart muscle to pump,” Besser explained in a previous column for ABC News. “The X-ray shows a picture of an enlarged left side of the heart.”

As the heart beats abnormally, its shape is similar to the device the Japanese use to catch octopuses.

Dr. Parikh explained that most people who have the syndrome generally recover within a few days without serious lasting damage, although he urges anyone with symptoms to seek medical care immediately. In rare cases the condition can be fatal.

Symptoms of a heart attack, or broken heart syndrome, include chest paints, dizziness, sweating or arm pain. In women, symptoms may not be as pronounced, according to Parikh.

In his post, Flutie remembered his parents and thanked his supporters.

"The most important part of their 56 years of marriage was providing opportunities to their children," Flutie continued. "They were incredible parents and Grandparents and my family and I will miss them both.

“On behalf of me and the entire Flutie family, I would like to thank you all for your well wishes and prayers during this difficult time."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Happy Couples Need to Have Sex Only Once per Week, Study Suggests

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Are you and your partner arguing about how much sex you should have to keep a happy home? A new study suggests happy couples "Netflix and chill" once per week.

According to findings published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal, researchers looked at 30,000 Americans over a span at 40 years to draw that conclusion. They found although happy couples usually have sex once a week, "having sex more frequently than once a week was not associated with greater well-being."

Lead author Amy Muise said more research needs to be done to discover why once per week is ideal, but she added it may "be the frequency that people feel is enough to maintain their intimate connection."

Still, she warned that the study only applies to established couples, not singles. She also warns that correlation may not equal causation here -- in other words, as the study says, it "does not tell us whether having sex up to once a week makes couples happier, or being in a happy relationship causes people to have more frequent sex (up to once a week)."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Microsleep: How Your Brain Can Fall Asleep for Seconds Without You Noticing

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you're exhausted and in the need to zone out, you might actually be grabbing bits of down time called "microsleep."

The phenomenon can occur most readily when a person is sleep-deprived, when their brain is primed to switch into sleep mode at any second. While a person can appear awake and even have their eyes open, their brain may have slipped into sleep mode, maybe reaching the first or second level of sleep.

Dr. Ilene Rosen, a sleep expert and associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, explained if a person appears "zoned out" they might actually be catching some Z's.

"They might have been thinking about nothing," Rosen explained. "Something brings them back to focus attention."

Dan Childs, managing editor of ABC News' Medical Unit, stayed up for 50 hours straight this week -- 40 hours of it on the Good Morning America livestream, which was part of a slate of events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of GMA.

During that period, Dr. Steven Feinsilver at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, found evidence that Childs was slipping in and out of consciousness after just a few minutes of sitting quietly. That becomes evident when a person is hooked up to an EEG scan to look at their brainwaves.

Certain brain waves called theta waves showed how quickly a person could be "asleep," Feinsilver said.

Microsleep episodes usually last a few seconds and the person often isn't even aware that the microsleep occurred. It can be dangerous especially if a person is driving. A few seconds of microsleep and a person can miss a red light or not notice a curve in the road, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


FDA Approves Nasal Spray that Reverses Opioid Overdose

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that it has approved NARCAN, a nasal spray used as a life-saving, emergency treatment of an opioid overdose.

Opioids include prescription medications such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine, as well as the illegal drug heroin, according to the FDA.

"Drug overdose deaths, driven largely by prescription drug overdoses, are now the leading cause of injury death in the United States – surpassing motor vehicle crashes," the FDA announced in a statement.

“Combating the opioid abuse epidemic is a top priority for the FDA,” said Stephen Ostroff, M.D., the acting commissioner of the FDA.

“We cannot stand by while Americans are dying. While naloxone will not solve the underlying problems of the opioid epidemic, we are speeding to review new formulations that will ultimately save lives that might otherwise be lost to drug addiction and overdose,” Ostroff added.

The drug was previously approved as an injection, but the nasal spray form will be eaily accessible for family members and first responders hoping to reverse an opiod overdose.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Report Highlights Concerns on Antibiotic-Resistant 'Superbugs' in Farm Animals

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Animals raised with no antibiotics are less likely to contain drug-resistant "superbug" bacteria than those routinely given antibiotics, according to a new report.

Ground beef from conventionally raised cattle -- which are given antibiotics to promote growth and reduce disease -- were twice as likely to carry drug-resistant bacteria than that from cattle that received no antibiotics, according to findings published this week by Consumer Reports.

"Eliminating routine antibiotic use is an important step in protecting the effectiveness of these medicines for future generation," Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., executive director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Center at Consumer Reports, said in a statement. "Using drugs to promote growth and to compensate for hygiene problems puts everyone at risk."

Consumer Reports said it tested hundreds of packages of meat and poultry for bacteria and antibiotic resistance over the past three years.

About 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to animals raised for food production, according to Consumer Reports. Should an animal become sick on an organic farm, the animal can be treated with antibiotics but then they can no longer be designated "USDA Organic" or under the "No Antibiotic" label.

The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has been a concern for doctors and medical researchers for decades. Every year, approximately 2 million people become infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections, according to the CDC, which has designated this week as the first Antibiotic Awareness Week.

The American Medical Association released a statement this week calling for increased surveillance of drug-resistant bacteria and to bring an "end to the practice of using medically important antibiotics for growth promotion in animals."

"We are currently faced with not only a decline in the effectiveness of available antibiotics, but also a decline in the development of new antibiotics," AMA Board Member Dr. William E. Kobler said in a statement Monday. "That's why it is extremely important that we continue to take steps to ensure the appropriate use of antibiotics across all health care settings. It will take a coordinated, multi-sector, and multi-pronged approach to address this public health epidemic."

In recent years, companies including Tyson, McDonald's and Subway have pledged to reduce the use of meat raised on antibiotics. "But whether such measures will end up significantly reducing antibiotic use remains to be seen," Gail Hansen, a veterinarian who has more than 25 years of experience in veterinary public health and infectious disease, told Consumer Reports.

"In the last few years we've witnessed some of the bacteria most commonly found in food -- germs such as salmonella and campylobacter -- become increasingly resistant to some important antibiotics," Dr. Robert Tauxe, deputy director of the CDC's Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases, said in a statement released by Consumer Reports.

Meat producers all noted that they could not comment on the specifics of the report without access to the methodology and data.

The National Chicken Council added that it believes consumers should have different choices that reflect both affordability, personal values and taste.

"The National Chicken Council believes medically important antibiotics should only be used on the farm to treat and prevent disease, and not be administered to promote growth," it said in the statement. "We all have a role to play -- including doctors and farmers -- in preserving the effectiveness of antibiotics, both in humans and animals."

The council said by December 2016, human antibiotics would only be used in chickens to address disease and not promote growth. "Whatever chicken that consumers choose to purchase with their food dollars, they can be confident in its safety ... any possible bacteria, antibiotic resistant or not, is killed by proper cooking," the council said.

The U.S. Poultry and Egg Association questioned Consumer Reports' use of the term "superbug," citing the Food and Drug Administration as saying "it is inaccurate and alarmist to define bacteria to one, or even a few, antibiotics as 'Superbugs' if these same bacteria are still treatable by other commonly used antibiotics." But the association added that it is working with the FDA to phase out antibiotic use.

"The poultry industry supports the responsible use of antibiotics in animal agriculture," the association said in a statement to ABC News. "Our industry has fully cooperated with the Food and Drug Administration's phasing out of antibiotics that are most critical to human medicine."

The group said even though they are currently used minimally, by December 2016, "antibiotics that are important to human medicine will be used to address disease only, not to promote growth," and will be available only via prescription.

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association has previously been critical of Consumer Reports' methodology and conclusions in a related report and said that consumers can "feel confident in the overall safety of their beef."

"Leading consumers to believe that one way of producing food -- whether that's organic, grass-fed or conventionally raised beef -- is safer than another plays off of consumer emotion without giving them any real facts," Mandy Carr Johnson, senior executive director of Science and Product Solutions for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said in a statement.

"As an industry, our number one priority is producing the safest beef possible and over the years, as a result of significant investments in beef safety research and technology implementation, beef is the safest it has ever been with a greater than 90 percent reduction in bacteria such as E. coli O157:H7 and significant reductions in Salmonella in recent years," Johnson added. "The beef community continues to invest millions of dollars in developing new safety technologies with the goal of eliminating foodborne illness so that we can provide consumers with the safest, highest quality beef possible. Regardless of what type of beef consumers buy, they can feel confident in the overall safety of their beef."

ABC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser explained that people wanting to avoid meat raised on antibiotics should look for the label "USDA Organic" or meat that says "No Antibiotics."

"I think it's going to cost a little more because they do grow faster with antibiotics, but I don't think it's the way to go," Besser said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


FDA Approves Consumption of Genetically Modified Salmon

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday that it has approved human consumption of genetically modified salmon in the U.S.

The FDA announced that "food from AquAdvantage Salmon is as safe to eat and as nutritious as food from other non-GE Atlantic salmon and that there are no biologically relevant differences in the nutritional profile of AquAdvantage Salmon compared to that of other farm-raised Atlantic salmon."

AquAdvantage Salmon grows twice as fast as farm-raised Atlantic salmon and therefore reaches market size much faster.

Genetically modified food is hot button issue for many groups, and some are calling for shoppers to boycott buying the fish.

"The only line of defense is the parent who gets informed and chooses not to buy GMO toxic food and feed it to their children," Moms Across America founder Zen Honeycutt said in a statement. "Moms buy 85% of the food. If we don't buy it they can't sell it, regardless of the corrupt lawmaking. Moms Across America calls on all consumers to boycott GMO Salmon."

The FDA is also releasing draft guidance on rules for labeling products made with genetically engineered or modified ingredients.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Your Body: Fighting the Tampon Tax

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

Don't you feel that buying female sanitary products should be a basic and inexpensive thing to do? I sure do, but apparently tampons are considered a luxury item.

In fact, there's a sales tax on tampons in all but 10 states in the U.S.

It seems very anti-modern times that as women we are effectively charged for having our periods. Many others feel the same and now, an anti-tampon tax movement is raging with increasing pressure in Europe, Australia and Canada to drop the tampon tax.

If you want to help, you can sign the petition "No Tax on Tampons" on

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Jilted Bride Wears Wedding Dress in 5K Marathon

Courtesy of Kilee Manulak(NEW YORK) --  Formal dresses aren’t the typical attire for running a 5k.

For Kilee Manulak, participating in a color run 5k in her bright white wedding dress was a way to forget about a broken engagement.

Manulak had been dating her fiancé for over four years, but a week before the couple’s wedding day, he ended it all over a text message. Manulak’s friends and family didn’t let her get down on herself. A friend sent her the registration link to the Color Fun Fest 5k in Tampa Bay, Fla., where runners get doused with colored powder throughout the course of the race. When Manulak was registering for the race, something in her head clicked.

“I opened the link and everyone in the pictures was dressed in white,” said Manulak. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I should do this in my dress!’”

Manulak didn’t ask her bridesmaids to wear their dresses at the race, but they insisted on it. She said she wasn’t nervous about trashing her wedding dress.

“I detached myself from the dress," she said. "It was no longer that beautiful white dress to me. It was no longer going to be worn, now [the dress] is about friendship and support.”

Manulak's dress will be cleaned and donated to someone else, and she hopes that her resilience will empower other people who are in a similar situation.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Forget 8-Hours of Sleep: Find Out the Unusual Way Our Ancestors Slept

Ana Blazic/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) --  The need for sleep is universal with everyone both young and old needing to get some shut-eye to stay healthy.

With our own Dan Childs, head of the ABC News Medical Unit, undergoing an experiment of staying awake for 40 hours we're re-examining just why we think eight hours of sleep is a good thing. In the past sleeping a solid eight hours wasn’t always the recommended or popular way to recharge.

Before the advent of electricity people often slept in two distinct sections, the first starting shortly after sundown, according to some historians.

After their first sleep they would have “a period of quiet wakefulness and they might not get out of bed or do stuff and then settle into second sleep and would spend the rest of the night [asleep,]” explained Dr. Phillip Gehrman, a sleep expert and assistant professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.”It was broken into two chunks essentially.”

Called bi-phasic sleep, this seemingly odd schedule was according to some scholars a popular way to get sleep for centuries before the modern era. In the industrial age, gas light and later electricity meant there was light even after the sun went down.

A. Roger Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech Univeristy, who has studied how we used to sleep, said as technology improved our sleep schedule started to change rapidly.

"Until the late 19th early or 20th century with the industrial revolution...the standard pattern of sleep, since time immemorial was segmented or biphasic," he told ABC News.

With the invention of electricity and Thomas Edison’s filament light bulb the need to go to bed with the sun was suddenly irrelevant. People could now stay up late reading, dining or working.

Prior to the industrial revolution people would spend an hour between first and second sleep doing all kinds of activities.

"The range of activities is striking," said Ekirch. "From late middle ages on to 19th century they would stay in bed to meditate and reflect upon dreams. [They had] special prayers."

However, Gehrman pointed out there are still many parts of the world where sleeping a healthy eight hours a night isn’t the norm or even the recommendation. People in countries further sound and closer to the Equator often enjoy a midday nap or siesta, where they avoid the worst of the noon heat.

Dr. Gehrman pointed out that while everyone needs rest there’s few actual evidence pointing out that an eight hour sleep schedule is better than the biphasic sleep or the siesta lifestyle.

“There’s basically no studies to show what happens if you put people on this type of pattern [of altered sleep,]” Gehrman told ABC News.

He points out that many people are outliers who don’t often adhere to sleeping for one long eight-hour block.

“Supposedly Edison one of his motivations to create the lightbulb, he felt we should be able to keep working late into the night,” explained Gehrman.

However, Gehrman said Edison ended up finding ways to still be rested even after long hours in the lab. “He didn’t get a lot of sleep at night,” Gehrman siad. “Apparently after his death [people] reviewed his sleep diaries, he slept 2 long naps a day…. his total sleep was 7 or 8 hours.”

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


Extreme Sleep Deprivation: How Navy SEALs Handle No Sleep

Choreograph/iStock/ThinkStock(NEW YORK) --   Navy SEALs may be some of the toughest people on the planet, but even an elite soldier doesn't do well without sleep.

Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL, said he survived for three days on no sleep before the hallucinations started to set in. After about 72 hours of sleep deprivation during training, Smith recalls mistaking an airplane for a flying horse, perceiving a bridge as a giant Pez dispenser, and seeing a squat, muscular body builder where there was in fact a fire hydrant.

But he wasn't quite done. Smith and his crew had another two days of running, swimming, paddling, climbing and plunging into freezing water. In total, he and his team had to stay awake for a punishing five days as part of their Navy SEAL training.

“I would be thinking of something and I would see it in front of me like a cartoon character,” he recalled, describing his hallucinations. “When you’re losing sleep, after a while you turn to this fight-or-flight response. You just go into survival mode.”

At the time, Smith said he survived by staying in constant motion, staying uncomfortable, and psychologically breaking each day into a series of six-hour stretches until the next meal.

While SEALs may need to stay awake for days in life-or-death situations, Smith said he would never wish this kind of sleep deprivation on anyone. ABC News' own Dan Childs, head of the Medical Unit, is currently staying up for 40 hours as part of the "Good Morning America" 40th anniversary event to show how important sleep is. That's half of the time Smith was required to stay up.

Dr. Kirk Parsley, another former SEAL who is also a physician specializing in sleep health, couldn’t agree more.

While SEAL training didn’t break him, Parsley said he was almost brought down by the chronic sleep deprivation that accompanied his time in medical school and residency.

“I had extreme chronic anxiety, I was super emotional and impulsive, I couldn’t manage my appetite or keep a good workout regimen,” he said. “All the metrics people measure their success by ... I was suffering in all of them." It wasn’t until he began prioritizing sleep that he felt like he regained control of his mental and physical wellness.

For some reason, he emphasized, people are very resistant to the idea that sleep is truly crucial to health.

But sleep is no joke. When people become sleep deprived, they experience cognitive slowing, impulsiveness, moodiness, a diminished immune system, and an accumulation of waste products in the brain and body, according to Dr. Charles Czeisler, the chair of the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

During sleep, Czeisler explained, cells in the brain shrink temporarily. This allows the “drainage tubes” of the lymphatic system to expand and remove more toxins from your body.

“When you’re awake, brain cells remain tight and the brain can’t get rid of these toxins efficiently,” he said.

That’s why people who are sleep deprived are susceptible to headaches, and part of why those who have stayed awake for 24 hours perform similarly to those with a blood alcohol content of 0.1 percent on many mental and physical tasks, he noted.

The consequences of sleep deprivation don’t stop there. Without sleep, stress hormones, like cortisone, rise and weaken your immune system. If one doesn’t sleep enough the week prior to getting a flu shot, his or her body will produce many fewer antibodies, which makes the vaccine much less effective, Czeisler noted.

To make matters worse, your odds of catching a cold skyrocket with poor sleep.

And if you think coffee is the cure, think again. Czeisler explains that coffee accomplishes none of the crucial functions of sleep (like solidifying memories or removing waste) -- it merely blocks the receptors that alert your brain to the depletion of energy you’re experiencing. You’ll briefly feel less “sleepy,” but your body needs sleep just as badly.

An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and nearly 40 percent of adults report falling asleep without meaning to at least once a month. In that vein, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates drowsy driving to be responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the United States.

It’s no surprise that Americans have so many sleep troubles, Czeisler said, especially with constant exposure to the blue light from computer screens and mobile devices disrupting our circadian rhythms. That, combined with workaholic tendencies, can be a recipe for disaster, he said.

To improve sleep hygiene, Americans can try to go to bed at the same time each day, get those phones out of the bedroom, make sure sleep environments are dark, quiet and cool -- and most importantly, take the crucial first step of deciding that sleep matters.

“Your health, well-being, longevity and success can really be broken down into four pillars: sleep, nutrition, exercise and stress mitigation,” Parsley said. “These four are all equally important -- like the tires on a car. Would you take off one of your car tires? None of those tires are optional.”

So unless you're pulling a stunt like ABC News' Dan Childs -- for the sake of science and in a carefully monitored sleep lab -- put down the screen you're reading this on, put on your PJs, and go get some sleep.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

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