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Cardiovascular Trials May Be Skewed Towards Younger, Healthier Men


Ablestock.com/Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- According to researchers, the largest ongoing study on heart disease may be heavily tilted towards younger men, leaving out significant data on women, minorities and older people.

The report, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at data from the American College of Cardiology's National Cardiovascular Data Registry, and found that many of the patients included in that study were younger men. The American College of Cardiology's study includes heart attack patients treated at 466 different hospitals between July 2008 and March 2011.

Patients included in medical trials for heart disease often were less likely to have previously been diagnosed with heart disease, had faster access to diagnostic testing and had the best health outcomes. Among patients not included in trials, the risk of dying of cardiovascular problems was nearly double.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Ebola Wards See Flood of Patients, Outflow of Bodies


Dr. Richard Besser/ABC News(MONROVIA, Liberia) – REPORTER'S NOTEBOOK by ABC News' Dr. Richard Besser

Blue steel gates guard the back entrance to an Ebola treatment center, where new patients flood in faster than bodies are removed. On Tuesday, I met a burial team tasked with collecting and burning the bodies – a dangerous but crucial job amid the worst-ever outbreak.

A guard opened the gates and motioned us inside. We found ourselves in the same courtyard where on Monday patients were sitting, waiting to be tested, and dying. Tuesday, the rain-soaked courtyard was active in a different way. Six workers wearing protective gear were standing at the back of a long blue flatbed truck, the front end of which was stacked with bodies in white bags. The back end was empty, but not for long.

"How many bodies have you collected here?" I asked one of the workers. Nine so far, he told me. Nine deaths in just one day. Just then, two more workers emerged from the isolation ward carrying a tenth body to the truck. I could see two faces looking out through a metal screen from the isolation ward. What could they be thinking? How do you maintain hope when you see so many dying around you?

On Monday, the ward housed around 60 patients. By Tuesday morning, there were 80, a guard told me. "We have no room for any more," he said. He had been working at the clinic since it opened less than two weeks ago and the toll was visible on his face. "See those people over there?" he said, motioning to a trio of people lying on the ground under a UNICEF shelter. "They have Ebola, but we have no room for them."

With no room in treatment centers, some people are dying in their homes. And one of the main ways that Ebola is spreading is through the ritual cleaning and touching of loved ones at funerals. To help curb the outbreak, burial teams are trying to quickly collect bodies from communities and send them for cremation. As hard as this is for families, it’s essential for disease control.

I spoke with Mark, the head of the burial team. "We are headed to a house in the community where we hear there are five bodies of Ebola victims,” he said. “Then we are heading to ELWA hospital to pick up from there." Mark heads one of just four burial teams in the area – not nearly enough to meet the demands of this deadly outbreak.

As we drove off, the big blue gates closed behind us. The rain kept coming down as the patients lay there waiting. Without more resources and support, without more medical services, more and more of them will be exiting in the big blue truck.

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Two African Ebola Patients to Be Discharged After Receiving Experimental Drug


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(MONROVIA, Liberia) -- Two African health workers who received doses of the experimental Ebola drug ZMapp are set to be discharged from the hospital later this week, a Liberian health official told ABC News Tuesday.

Three African health workers — two African doctors and one physician’s assistant — received the drug after contracting the virus earlier this month, according to Dr. Moses Massaquoi, who heads Ebola case management at Liberia’s health ministry.

Though they were all showing signs of improvement at first, one of the doctors died on Aug. 24. He also had diabetes and hypertension, Massaquoi said.

The remaining two patients improved soon after receiving the first of three doses of ZMapp — a cocktail of three antibodies meant to attack the virus. They are expected to be discharged on Friday.

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NFL, College Football Players to Utilize New Model of Helmet Intended to Reduce Concussion Risk


Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Football equipment manufacturer Riddell has released a brand-new model of football helmet that it says flexes to help absorb impact, helping to minimize concussion risk, and a number of NFL and college football players and teams will be using the new technology this year.

Riddell says its SpeedFlex helmets will be available in September and may be seen in use in the college football world as early as this weekend. A press release from the company describes the technology as ripples [force] outward instead of inward, reducing impact transfer to the athlete. The helmets also feature improved sightlines and a new style of chinstrap.

Riddell said Tuesday that over half of Football Bowl Subdivision teams will have at least one player wearing the new helmet, as well as 80 percent of NFL teams. Among those donning the SpeedFlex helmets will be players from last year's NCAA national champions Florida State University, as well as highly ranked college programs including Ohio State University, University of Florida, and the University of Texas, among others.

In the NFL, Riddell expects players from both of last year's Super Bowl teams, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks, as well as members of the New York Giants and Jets, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys, and more, to wear the helmets.

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Ebola-Stricken Countries Scramble to Build Treatment Centers


Courtesy Dr. Richard Besser(MONROVIA, Liberia) -- Aid groups in West Africa are scrambling to build treatment centers for the growing number of Ebola patients in the region.

The latest construction in Kenema, Sierra Leone, will house patients currently flooding the city's public hospital.

The Ebola outbreak continues to spread through Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, where at least 2,615 people have contracted the virus and 1,427 people have died, according to the World Health Organization.

Roughly 240 health care workers have been infected while working to curb the outbreak, according to WHO, 120 of whom have died.

Horror of #Ebola. As truck pulls out of treatment center w/ bodies of 10 who died, 3 new patients wait for to go in. pic.twitter.com/uWgi2usi1e

— Richard Besser (@DrRichardBesser) August 26, 2014

Ebola is a contagious virus that spreads through contact with body fluids. The best way to prevent its spread is to isolate patients until they're no longer showing symptoms such as fever, aches, diarrhea and vomiting.

But the unprecedented outbreak, that largest since the discovery of Ebola in 1976, has overwhelmed what little medical infrastructure existed before cases began to emerge in March 2014. Shuttered schools and buildings once reserved for cholera patients have been transformed into Ebola wards to keep up with the influx of patients.

In Liberia, new treatment centers are quickly filling up with previously unidentified Ebola patients leading health officials there to suspect an uncounted and untreated "invisible caseload," according to WHO.

Meanwhile, the outbreak is depleting resources needed to address other medical problems, according to ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser, who is reporting from Monrovia, Liberia.

Just visited 2 large #ebola treatment centers: JFK Govt Ctr. Both are full- beyond capacity. Pts wait outside. pic.twitter.com/I5iByHnWnC

— Richard Besser (@DrRichardBesser) August 26, 2014

"The number of women who give birth without a trained attendant, the number of children with malaria who go untreated, and the number of people who die from trauma because there is no hospital willing or able to take them is unknown," Dr. Besser said.

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Could Medical Marijuana Laws Cut Painkiller Deaths?


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- States that have legalized medical marijuana may be reaping an unintended benefit from easing up on restrictions: They appear to have nearly 25 percent fewer deaths from overdoses involving prescription painkillers, a new study found.

The study, published Tuesday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, comes at a time when the United States finds itself in the throes of a growing painkiller abuse crisis. About 100 Americans die every day from narcotic painkiller overdose, according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers behind the new study suggest that because legalizing medical marijuana makes it more available to chronic pain patients, it provides a potentially less lethal alternative to pain control on a long-term basis.

Three states had medical marijuana laws prior to 1999, and an additional 10 states passed laws providing some legal access to marijuana during the study period. Today, 23 states and the District of Columbia have laws allowing access to medical marijuana.

Lead study author Dr. Marcus Bachhuber said that while he and his team expected to find differences in painkiller-associated deaths among states with different medical marijuana laws, they did not anticipate such dramatic differences.

“We [found] it surprising that the difference is so big,” said Bachhuber, who is a physician and researcher at the University of Pennsylvania.

Bachhuber and his colleagues analyzed data on all 50 states from 1999 to 2010 and found that, while opioid overdose rates continued to climb across the United States, the numbers climbed much slower in states with medical marijuana laws. As a result, these states had 25 percent fewer deaths from opioid overdose.

Also, this effect increased in the years after the laws were enacted, suggesting the laws themselves may cause the difference.

“In my practice, I take care of a lot of people with chronic pain,” Bachhuber said. “Sometimes, people with chronic pain would say only marijuana worked or they tried marijuana as a painkiller and found it worked better than prescription pills."

“One day, talking with colleagues, we wondered how this would work in states where marijuana is legal,” he said.

The findings lend additional weight to the idea that medical marijuana legalization may protect some patients who take it from the potentially harmful side effects of other medications, experts not involved with the research said.

Dr. Igor Grant, chair of psychiatry at the University of California-San Diego and director of the Center for Medical Cannabis Research, said one possible explanation for the link seen in the new study is known as the “opioid-sparing effect.”

In other words, pain patients may benefit from combining opioid painkillers with less toxic medications that also provide pain relief.

“This isn’t a new idea,” Grant said. “Physicians have used combination drugs for a long time, such as acetaminophen with an opioid. By putting several different pain medications together, they are able to reduce the overall opioid dose, and thus decrease the risk of overdose.”

The other side of the coin to more permissive medical marijuana laws, however, is the effect it may have on recreational use of the drug. Research has shown that legalizing medical marijuana tends to increase use among adults.

Even study author Bachhuber agreed that this is a potential problem to consider.

“This study raises the possibility that there is an unintended public health benefit of medical marijuana laws, but we still need to collect more information to confirm or refute what we’ve found,” he said.

Grant, too, said legalizing medical marijuana comes with serious considerations. But studies like these suggest that there may be unanticipated benefits as well, he said.

“Not to say cannabis is trivial and couldn’t have a bad public health impact,” Grant said. “But, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions.”

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Don't Live in the Past at Work


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- At work, are you ruminator or a forward thinker?

As researchers from Florida State University and University of Arkansas point out, one is better than the other and it doesn’t really take much thought to guess the right answer.

In their survey of 600 white and blue collar workers, about two in ten could be considered ruminators while 40 percent fell in the other category. The rest of the respondents were a combination of both.

The drawbacks of being a ruminator, that is, someone who fixates on past transgressions, were pretty clear. Many complained of high stress levels, sleeping difficulties, strained relations with others and feeling isolated, alone or even depressed at work.

According to the researchers, ruminators need to let go of the past before they start thinking forward. Several suggested methods include allowing themselves a set amount of time to go over the day's events while associating themselves with forward-thinkers. They’re also advised to take whatever positive thing they can from an interaction and build upon it.

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How to Turn Scary Vaccinations into Little Vacations


Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Bringing your kids to the doctor’s office for vaccinations doesn’t have to be an ordeal, according to Columbia University nurse practitioner Rita John.

Understandably, children, particularly the little ones, can feel anxiety before their shots, which isn’t helped when their parents also express their own trepidation.

John tells parents, “The best way to talk about vaccines is to keep the conversation positive and focused on the benefits of vaccination,” rather than making it out to be some sort of punishment.

One method of easing anxiety that has been shown to work is by picking up a toy medical kit so that youngsters can administer shots to a doll, toy or even mommy or daddy. At the doctor’s office, playthings like bubbles or pinwheels can also be used to distract toddlers and preschoolers.

According to John, "It doesn't matter so much what you use to make your child more comfortable so long as you do something that acknowledges that they may experience some pain and that they can do something to make it hurt less.”

Meanwhile, clinicians might also be able to apply sprays or creams beforehand to numb the pain. After the shot is given, parents should praise their kids and a small reward doesn’t hurt either.

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A Half Glass of Wine Is Better than Filling It to the Brim


Purestock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you’re one of those glass half full kind of people, you might also be someone who doesn’t drink excessively.

Although the glass being half full typically pertains to optimism, in this case, it’s a way to avoid overconsumption of wine, according to Iowa State researcher Laura Smarandescu, who conducted a study with Cornell University’s Brian Wansink.

After considering a variety of factors involving how much wine is poured, the so-called “rule of thumb” of pouring just a half glass of wine was done irrespective of body mass index or gender.

Men who did not follow the “rule of thumb” with higher BMIs generally poured more than women, which coincides with other studies that men traditionally pour more alcohol than women to begin with.

The bottom line, says Smarandescu, is that all adults use “a rule of thumb with pouring because it makes a big difference in how much people pour and prevents them from overdrinking.”

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New Shirt Can Measure Your Heart Rate


Ralph Lauren Corp.(NEW YORK) -- Most people wouldn’t leave their home naked in the morning, but it can be easy to forget your Fitbit, Jawbone UP or any other number of popular fitness trackers that tally daily steps and calories burned in a single day.

What if your actual clothing functioned as a fitness tracker? That’s the thinking behind the recent collaboration between fashion designer Ralph Lauren and OMsignal, maker of “smart” apparel containing biometric sensors.

The partnership has produced the Polo Tech shirt, which debuts during this year’s U.S. Open tennis tournament. The shirt will be worn by ball boys during select matches and be available to consumers starting next spring.

The Polo Tech shirt measures a wearer’s heart rate, breathing rate, stress level, and energy output. It also features a detachable device, a “black box,” which captures activity data and also contains an accelerometer and gyroscope. User data and metrics are accessed through an accompanying iOS app.

“Over the last few years, there’s been an incredible energy and excitement around wearable technology ... you’ve seen all kinds of accessories, but no major brand has figured out how to do it in apparel. So to see it in clothing, something you just put on every day, was really new and innovative, and something we felt we could bring to the forefront,” said David Lauren, senior vice president of advertising, marketing and public relations.

“It’s the only wearable that you’ve been wearing all of your life,” added Stéphane Marceau, CEO of OMsignal.

Beyond the familiarity of donning a shirt, Marceau added that clothing’s proximity to the body makes it easier to capture data.

"With clothing, you can access biological functions wherever they may happen on the human body, so you get the strong signal and there’s so much more information contained in the strong signal than in a third, derivative signal,” said Marceau.

Companies similar to OMsignal have used the same line of thinking. Sensoria smart socks are one example. When worn while running, they measure a user’s cadence and center of balance, among other metrics.

The Polo Tech shirt is woven with conductive thread, which functions as a virtual sensor. Sensors are located primarily in the chest area, but the snug fit of the shirt makes it easier to capture and transmit data from other parts of the body as well.

For Marceau, clothing represents the future of fitness tracking.

"Activity trackers are great...but at the same time, it’s [only] about counting the number of steps that you make in a day," he noted. "The next wave is really about physiology, about bio-sensing technology. Some of the things that you can derive from there will help you increase your performance in a fitness context, it can also help you increase your self-mastery in a lifestyle context."

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Study: Use of Electronic Devices May Hinder Kids' Ability to Read Others' Emotions


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A psychological study conducted at the University of California, Los Angeles found that children may face declining social skills due to their increased use of digital media.

According to a UCLA press release, researchers found that sixth graders who went five days without any use of a smartphone whatsoever were significantly better at "reading human emotions" than sixth graders who were permitted to use their electronic devices as usual. "Many people are looking at the benefits of digital media in education," said psychology professor Patricia Greenfield, "and not many are looking at the costs."

Greenfield notes a, "decreased sensitivity to emotional clues -- losing the ability to understand the emotions of other people" as one of the primary downsides to increased use of electronic devices. She notes that increased use of those devices leads to less in-person social interaction.

The study will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Researchers analyzed data from two sets of sixth graders -- a total of 105 students. Fifty-one of those students were sent to the Pali Institute, a nature and science camp that prohibits use of electronic devices. The second group of 54 students attended the camp after the study was completed.

Students were evaluated at the beginning and end of the study to determine how well they recognized other people's emotions in photos and videos. Those who attended the camp scored better at the end of the five-day study at reading emotions.

"We are social creatures," said Yalda Uhls, the lead author of the study and the Southern California regional director of nonprofit organization Common Sense Media, "we need device-free time."

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More Than 250K Youths Who Have Never Smoked Used E-Cigarettes in 2013


iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 250,000 kids who have never smoked a cigarette used e-cigarettes in 2013.

The study, published in the journal Nicotine and Tobacco Research, finds that the number of youths using e-cigarettes without the intention of quitting smoking is three times higher than in 2011. The CDC cites data from the last three years of National Youth Tobacco surveys, which gathers information from middle and high school students.

Youths who have never smoked cigarettes, but used e-cigarettes were nearly twice as likely to plan on smoking conventional cigarettes than those who had not used e-cigarettes. Even more concerning, of the students who said they had never smoked a conventional cigarette, but had used e-cigarettes, 43.9 percent said they intended to smoke conventional cigarettes within the next year. That same figure among students who had never used e-cigarettes is just 21.5 percent.

"We are very concerned about nicotine use among our youth," Tim McAfee, Director of the CDC's Office on Smoking and Health said, "regardless of whether it comes from conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or other tobacco products."

The CDC also noted that evidence has linked nicotine with adverse effects on adolescent brain development. Those effects, the CDC says, could result in, "lasting deficits in cognitive function."

The CDC study also found that teens who were exposed to tobacco advertisements were more likely to intend to smoke than those who reported not being exposed.

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Proof that You Can't Sleep Through an Earthquake


ABC News(NAPA, Calif.) -- A 6.0 magnitude earthquake is enough to jolt most people awake -- and here's proof.

Jawbone, the maker of a fitness tracking bracelet, analyzed data from its tech savvy users to create an infographic showing how the earthquake impacted sleep patterns.

The earthquake’s epicenter was located about six miles south-southwest of Napa, California, and 51 miles west-southwest of the state capital, Sacramento.

Jawbone looked at data from cities that are less than 15 miles from the epicenter and found that 93 percent of users in those cities woke up abruptly when the quake struck at 3:20 a.m. Sunday.

93% of Napa, Sonoma, Fairfield and Vallejo residents woke up during this morning's earthquake. See more data here: http://t.co/OewwIMorqz

— Jawbone (@Jawbone) August 25, 2014

Not surprisingly, many residents took a while to drift back to sleep, while 45 percent of wearers less than 15 miles from the epicenter opted to stay awake for the rest of the night.

The earthquake was so strong that 55 percent of wearers in San Francisco and Oakland, even farther from the epicenter, were woken up by the vibrations.

It was the largest one to shake the Bay Area since the 1989 6.9-magnitude Loma Prieta Earthquake.

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This Nail Polish May Fend Off Sexual Assault


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Pretty nails may be the newest way to foil date rape.

Undercover Colors, a nail polish that changes color when it’s exposed to date rape drugs, has won this year’s Lulu eGames, a North Carolina State University competition for student projects aimed at solving real-world problems.

"Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime," the team behind Undercover Colors -- a group of four male chemistry students -- explained on their Facebook page.

When a woman uses her manicured finger to stir a drink laced with a common drug like rohypnol or Xanax, sometimes described as "date rape" drugs, the polish will alert her that her drink has been spiked.

The team said they were inspired to invent the product because an estimated 18 percent of American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetimes, according to National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, a study commission by the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense.

"They are our daughters, they are our girlfriends, and they are our friends," they wrote on their Facebook page.

The polish is still in the early stages of development, according to Stephen Gray, one of the company founders. And it isn’t the first product idea aimed at putting the power to thwart date rape at a woman's fingertips.

In 2011, Israeli scientists developed a straw that analyses a small sample of a drink and lights up when it detects the presence of a date rape drug. And last year, the company DrinkSavvy invented a glass that changes appearance when a drink is spiked with a potentially harmful substance.

Dr. Nathaniel Finney, the university’s expert on indicator development -- the type of technology used in the polish -- is advising the company, according to the Undercover Color Facebook page.

The Undercover Color team is currently accepting donations to fund research and development.

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Baby Born Right Before Earthquake Rattles Hospital


Courtesy Connie Navarro and Angel Sanchez(NAPA, Calif.) -- A healthy baby boy was born right before an earthquake shook a northern California hospital -- and the newborn’s parents say they’re just glad everyone is OK.

“We’re grateful that our baby son and all of us are safe, and for our doctor and the hospital staff who cared for us before and after the earthquake,” parents Connie Navarro and Angel Sanchez said in a statement.

Baby Ismael Sanchez was born at 2:37 a.m. local time Sunday, weighing 7 pounds, 10 ounces and measuring 21 inches long, at Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa, California. The 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck the area around 3:20 a.m.

The parents were by the baby's side when the earthquake hit, and staff immediately made sure the family was safe.

The South Napa Earthquake was the area's strongest quake in 25 years, destroying homes and buildings and injuring dozens and stranding thousands without power or water.

At least 120 people were treated at the medical center where Ismael was born, hospital officials said.

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