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iStock/Thinkstock(WORCESTER, Mass.) — The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which went viral in 2014 as a fundraiser for research, has resulted in far more than just funny YouTube videos of people dumping ice-cold water on themselves for a good cause. Researchers credit the $220 million raised as key in funding a new study that has possibly identified a common gene that contributes to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the spinal cord leading to loss of control over muscles. Eventually, the disease leads to total paralysis and death.

In a study published in the Nature Genetics Journal researchers from various institutions including University of Massachusetts Medical School and University Medical Center Utrecht identified the gene NEK1 as a common gene that could have an impact on who develops the disease. Variants on the gene appear to lead to increased risk of developing ALS, according to preliminary findings. Researchers said they're anxious to understand more about the neurodegenerative disease that causes a person to lose the ability to control muscles and eventually leads to death.

Researchers in 11 countries studied 1,000 families in which a family member developed ALS and conducted a genome-wide search for any signs that a gene could be leading to increased ALS risk. After identifying the NEK1 gene, they also analyzed 13,000 individuals who had developed ALS despite no family history and found they had variants in that same gene, again linking that gene with increased ALS risk.

“The discovery of NEK1 highlights the value of ‘big data’ in ALS research," Lucie Bruijn, the chief scientist for the ALS Association, said in a statement. "The sophisticated gene analysis that led to this finding was only possible because of the large number of ALS samples available."

Multiple initiatives were started after the viral fundraiser started in the summer of 2014, including the Project MinE initiative aimed at creating a global gene sequencing effort with 15,000 affected people. Starting in the summer of 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge led to 17 million videos made with $220 million raised, according to the ALS Association. Of the total money raised, $115 million went to the ALS Association.

John Landers, co-author of the study and associate professor of neurology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, explained that the funding helped create an international network of researchers to take on ALS.

“Global collaboration among scientists, which was really made possible by ALS Ice Bucket Challenge donations, led to this important discovery,” Landers said in a statement. “It is a prime example of the success that can come from the combined efforts of so many people, all dedicated to finding the causes of ALS. This kind of collaborative study is, more and more, where the field is headed.”

This is not the first time that the "Ice Bucket Challenge" was credited for leading to significant results. Last summer, a previously unknown protein was identified as an important marker for ALS, after researchers from Johns Hopkins found the TDP-43 protein tended to accumulate in people with ALS.

The funding windfall also helped get needed materials and devices to patients living with ALS, according to the ALS Association.

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Courtesy Tina Turner(NEW YORK) -- Monday was bittersweet for two tearful families who met after a heart donation saved one teenager's life, after the other's was taken.

Albert Jeffries IV (Alj), 14, of Burlington, North Carolina received a heart transplant on March 10 after suffering his entire life from a heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy, mom Tina Turner told ABC News.

On July 25, Turner, Alj and his brother Luke finally met the family who selflessly gave the gift of life four months ago, after experiencing their own tragic loss of a daughter and deciding to donate her heart.

"We were crying and falling to the floor," Turner told ABC News Wednesday of the meeting. "It was joyful and sorrowful -- too many emotions mixed into one. Just knowing this family gave their daughter's organs to save my son's life, it was so overwhelming."

On March 6, Katelyn Zimmerman, 14, and her brother Dylan, 13, died after being hit by a car while riding their bicycles near their home of Inverness, Florida, ABC affiliate WFTS-TV in Tampa Bay, Florida reported at the time.

Katelyn's grandmother Charlene Sweigart described her granddaughter as a loving, giving, caring person who enjoyed assembling bicycles with her younger brother Dylan.

"She was so mature, so beyond her years and that's what amazed me," Sweigart told ABC News Wednesday. "One day, [Katelyn] said, 'Maw Maw, I want to be an organ donor,' I told her that I was proud of her and I'm an organ donor and her great grandfather was. Three hours later, she was gone."

Katelyn's heart was donated to Alj in a life-saving surgery days later. Alj had waited for a heart for 99 days.

"Alj was near death," Turner said of her son. "He was on two heart drips by the end. The month Katelyn died was the year Alj was reborn."

At Carolina Donor Services in Durham, North Carolina, Alj's family was united with Katelyn and Dylan's dad Shawn, grandmother Charlene, Katelyn's twin sister Savannah and other relatives.

Balloons and butterflies were released at the event. Alj even dedicated an emotional letter to Katelyn's family, which read, "Thank you for being my miracle."

That day, Katelyn's family was able to hear her heart beating inside Alj's chest and Turner gifted each person with a recording of the sound.

"I'm ready to get out there and spread the awareness of organ donation," Turner said. "This is what life is all about. With life comes death and with death comes life. After Katelyn made that wish, her family didn't think twice about it. They saved our family from a lot of heartache."

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Want to burn calories? Those Nordic walking machines apparently live up to the hype.

According to U.S. News & World Report, when done correctly, Nordic walking -- which mimics the motion of cross-country skiing -- can burn up to 40 percent more calories than regular walking, reduce knee and joint stress, boost oxygen consumption which benefits the brain, and help realign the body after a day hunched at a desk.

Dr. Pam Roberts, a family physician who teaches Nordic walking as a health and wellness coach at The Summit Medical Fitness Center in Kalispell, Montana, says walkers “are getting a higher level of fitness, but they're not feeling the drudgery of it.”

Nordic walking has a low risk for injury and can be done almost anywhere safe to walk, and with the right equipment.

"Anybody can take a walk, but this is so much more effective because you're using your upper body as well. The poles defray a lot of the tension and the stress from your knees and your joints," Bill Rosson, who co-founded HYVA, the Nordic walking organization in New York City, says.

It's a good idea to take a class from a certified Nordic walking instructor or watch a video online.

"You just have to get down the basic cues," Rosson says.

There's no harm, however, if you don't, he says: "Worst-case scenario: You get a nice walk."

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

Nearly 10 million Americans reported misusing opioid medications between 2012 and 2013. This is a class of drugs that includes oxycontin and vicodin, without a prescription or not as prescribed.

Medically, it's important to adequately treat pain, and there are numerous safe and effective ways to do this, including using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs.

Patients should ask their doctor or pharmacist for precise instructions on use and they should never mix or add other medications or alcohol without first checking with their medical professional.

Patients on opioids should have regular follow-ups and should be educated about their safe use and whether they are necessary in the first place.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Doctors may be able to screen men for Alzheimer’s at even younger ages, according to a new study presented Tuesday at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.

A study from the Mayo Clinic showed that Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects over five million Americans, is found in both men and women, contrary to the belief that this disease was predominantly found in women.

Researchers determined that men with Alzheimer’s had atypical symptoms and tended to be younger at diagnosis.

The study’s lead author, Melissa Murray, an assistant professor of neuroscience at the Mayo Clinic, said that researchers were able to collect data from a fairly large brain bank that provided insight into an entire community of people with Alzheimer’s dementia. What they found was striking.

“[In those with Alzheimer’s] men in their 60s were overrepresented," she said, meaning a higher number of men were affected in that age group than was expected by researchers.

For these men, the disease also had more involvement in a key part of the brain that controlled higher level function, possibly leading to death before the age of 70 for some patients. This possible "progressive" form of the disease could be why Alzhemier’s disease appears to affect more women according to current data. Women tend to be diagnosed with this disease at an older age and with a milder clinical course.

James Hendrix, the director of the Global Sciences Initiative at the Alzheimer’s Association, explained the challenges of diagnosing Alzheimer's disease with current diagnostic tools.

“Diagnosis of [Alzheimer’s] is messy and challenging, and is done through cognitive testing, which is not the same as an objective measure, like a biomarker," he said.

The most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s are memory loss that disrupts daily life, difficulty completing daily tasks, confusion with remembering time and place, challenges with problem-solving and issues with speech, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

According to Hendrix, this study could have a tremendous impact on diagnosis.

“For people, in particular in their 60s, this disease impacts more men [and] that’s really important to understand from a diagnosis perspective," he said. “Why are we seeing women disproportionately affected? It’s because women live longer, but it’s more than that. Understanding these differences could help understanding Alzheimer's disease and what is causing this disease to help create strategies to lower Alzheimer's disease risk."

Experts are hopeful that new imaging technology can help determine why the disease appears to affect men and women differently.

New methods for diagnosis including Amyloid PET Imaging brain scans are in the process of being accepted by researchers, although major roadblocks, including Medicare coverage, could prevent these tools from being widely embraced.

Hendrix noted at the conference that vision and smell tests may also lead to earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

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iStock/Thinkstock(AUGUSTA, Ga.) -- The first American patient to undergo a double hand transplant is speaking out about his experience this week. Seven years after making headlines, Jeff Kepner, 64, is drawing attention to the risks of experimental surgery by revealing he cannot move his transplanted hands at all.

"I have zero mobility with my hands," Kepner, 64, told ABC News. "I can’t hold a pencil."

Before deciding to get the transplant, Kepner, of Augusta, Georgia, spent 10 years as an amputee. Tuesday, he said he's been unable to work because of the trouble with his hands. He said he doesn't want to go through surgery again to remove the hands, since there would a risk that too much tissue would be taken and he wouldn't be able to use prosthetics afterwards.

Kepner's case has highlighted how patients undergoing experimental surgeries can face devastating consequences and risks long after they are hailed as medical marvels. While many patients with hand transplants are able to regain some use of their new hands, others run the risk of having no feeling or losing the transplant organ to immune-system rejection.

Dr. Vijay Gorantla, associated professor of surgery and administrative medical director of the Pittsburgh Reconstructive Transplant Program at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, treated Kepner and said it's key that doctors make sure that patients truly comprehend the myriad of risks behind experimental surgeries.

"Setting expectations for patients is one thing, but making patients understand those expectations is another thing," he told ABC News.

Gorantla explained that in patients where these kinds of tissues are transplanted, the ability for nerves to regrow properly is a huge risk. The nerves must grow before the small muscles that allow for movement wither away after surgery. Gorantla compared it to a broken light bulb.

"You have a wire in the house and it’s connected to a socket and you switch it on but the bulb doesn’t glow because the bulb is dead," he explained. "If you compare the bulb to the muscle it doesn’t matter after some time to have electricity or cable if you lose the muscle."

Gorantla said it's key for patients to do physical therapy to ensure the nerves can get to the muscles again, but that there is always a risk. He pointed out the field of this kind of transplants, including hands, face, abdominal wall and uterus transplants is still new. It began in 1998 with the first face transplant in France.

"As with every procedure in medicine we have known risks and known benefits and known complications," Gorantla said. "There are things we just don’t know because of the novelty of the whole field. The age of the field is 15 or 16 years worth of data and that [data] generates from a few hundred patients."

Gorantla pointed out doctors must be clear about risks for patients and must also avoid "undue risks."

"There are no absolutes here and that’s why you have to face the specter of failure amidst the success," he said.

Kepner said he's frustrated by his lack of mobility and the fact that he feels he is in a worse position than he did before the surgery.

After speaking with doctors about his prognosis, he said, "I really had high hopes I would have feeling my hands."

But Kepner remains an example of the risks both patients and doctors take when heading into uncharted surgeries.

"I was in therapy for almost three years and after the third year I said 'Hey enough is enough,'" he said. "My fingers weren’t moving half an inch they weren’t doing anything."

When asked if he had advice for others considering similar experimental surgery, Kepner said they should consider what is right for them.

"If they want to do this that’s fine. I wouldn’t say anything negative," he said. "They’re getting better."

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Make-A-Wish Foundation(RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif.) -- A 6-year-old California boy with cystic fibrosis is seeing his wish to be a garbage man come true thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

The special day for Ethan Dean, from Rancho Cordova, California, began Tuesday morning with a surprise assembly at his elementary school.

His classmates did a great job cheering him on! Who is joining on the route today? #EthanCleansUp pic.twitter.com/eFBIBaCrXO

— Make-A-Wish of Sacto (@MakeAWishSacto) July 26, 2016

Ethan, who uses a nebulizer and takes enzymes daily to manage his condition, was greeted with his own garbage truck, aptly named “Ethan’s Garbage Truck.”

On our way to pick-up Ethan in his very own garbage truck! Hope he’s surprised! #EthanCleansUp pic.twitter.com/ZxlxdhedUF

— Make-A-Wish of Sacto (@MakeAWishSacto) July 26, 2016

Local waste management officials are now driving Ethan in his garbage truck to different stops around Sacramento, where he is met at each stop by a garbage-related superhero.

Look! Superhero reuse was here to show him around the @SacFirePIO station! pic.twitter.com/arVbbaKYKg

— Make-A-Wish of Sacto (@MakeAWishSacto) July 26, 2016

He's a little excited to say the least! #EthanCleansUp pic.twitter.com/Ptwlwusym7

— Make-A-Wish of Sacto (@MakeAWishSacto) July 26, 2016

Ethan met the "Recycle Superhero" at the Sacramento Bee. Other stops during the day include the fire station, to meet the “Reuse Superhero,” and Frank’s Fat Restaurant, a popular restaurant where Ethan will perform a “standard trash pickup,” according to Make-A-Wish.

Ethan loved the crowd at @sacbee_news pic.twitter.com/MzTeL3biBA

— Make-A-Wish of Sacto (@MakeAWishSacto) July 26, 2016

Ethan and his garbage truck will end the day at the capitol building in Sacramento, where Ethan will be recognized for his efforts to clean up the city.

Also along for the ride is Ethan’s dad, Jason, who dressed as a garbage man for the day. Nearly 7,000 people answered a call put out by Make-A-Wish to come cheer Ethan along on his journey.

“Ethan’s wish to be a garbage man for a day is a perfect example that anyone and everyone has the ability to grant a wish," Make-A-Wish America's Josh deBerge told ABC News. "Today we saw a local garbage man alongside thousands from the community of Sacramento, join together to make a six-year-old boy’s wish come true.”

The mayor of Rancho Cordova gave Ethan a key to the city Tuesday morning and Ethan is scheduled to receive a proclamation from the governor’s office.

Thank you to Mayor @dmsander and for Ethan’s key to the city pic.twitter.com/w496cSTu24

— Make-A-Wish of Sacto (@MakeAWishSacto) July 26, 2016

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liquidlibrary/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The rate of cesarean sections and induced births in the U.S. has declined, reversing a decades-long trend of increased rates of obstetric interventions, according to a study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers from multiple institutions, including the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, examined data from 25 million birth certificates detailing deliveries. They found measurable drops in the amount of obstetric interventions taking place in babies delivered both late pre-term (34-36 weeks of pregnancy) and early term (37-38 weeks of pregnancy).

Researchers found there was a decrease in obstetric interventions from 33 percent in 2006 to 21 percent in 2014 for early-term infants and a slight decrease -- from 6.8 percent to 5.7 percent -- for infants born in late pre-term births during this time period.

Unnecessary obstetric interventions have been an issue of growing concern because they can lead to additional complications. In 2011, one in every three pregnant women delivered their babies via c-section in the U.S., leading to medical officials becoming concerned that invasive procedures were being overused.

The lower rate of interventions is likely because doctors are now recommended by American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) to delay obstetric interventions to 39 weeks of pregnancy or later. ACOG encourages doctors to do non-medical interventions by providing more support during labor like having a doula.

Dr. David Hackney, a maternal fetal medicine doctor at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, said more research should be done to answer the question of whether there “are fewer patients going into labor [needing obstetric interventions] or if we are intentionally delivering fewer babies this way.”

Hackney, who was not involved with the study, pointed out that medical research has focused on helping mothers later in their pregnancy, from 34-38 weeks, to improve medical and birth outcomes, and that that could have resulted in decreased need for medical interventions.

“It always feels good to have a long-standing public health and educational campaign [of decreasing medical interventions]," he said. You "can actually see the change in ... public health findings."

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Tim Smith(FAIRFAX, Va.) — A Virginia baseball player was saved when his teammate administered CPR moments after he was struck in the chest by a baseball.

The Manassas baseball team was practicing for the Southeast Regional Tournament on July 14 when the catcher threw the ball and hit Steve Smith directly in the chest, according to Steve's father Tim.

"His heart stopped immediately," Smith said, who is also the team's coach. "When you get struck in the chest and there is about three hundredths of a second in between each heartbeat and basically if you are hit by something in that time, at the right speed, it stops your heart."

Smith said the whole team ran toward his son as he collapsed on the field.

"When I got to him he was stiff, like his body was trying to breathe but his eyes were rolled back in his head, and he wasn't responding," Smith recalled. "He was basically gone, I guess. He wouldn't wake up, he wouldn't respond. I was shaking him, trying to get him to take a breath. I yelled, 'Does anyone know CPR?'"

That's when Paul Dow, 17, came forward and immediately started performing CPR. Meanwhile, a parent on the sidelines called 911.

Smith said he was "walking around trying to stay calm, but not doing a very good job" as Paul performed CPR on his son.

Eventually Smith put his son and Paul, who was still performing CPR, in the back of his truck and drove them to the parking lot, where an ambulance arrived soon after.

EMS workers pulled out a defibrillator and were able to restart Steve's heart. Smith said 12 minutes had lapsed between the time Paul began administering CPR and when emergency workers successfully revived Steve.

Steve was then airlifted to a trauma hospital in Fairfax, where he stayed over the weekend, remaining mostly unconscious.

Smith said his son woke up on Sunday asking, "What's for breakfast?" and "What am I doing here?" He had no memory of what happened to him.

"If you look at him you'd never know that anything happened. He has a hole in his neck where they put the tube and a few nicks on his arms but other than that he doesn't have a scratch on his body," Smith said. "It's a miracle."

Paul, a close friend of the Smiths, learned CPR to become a lifeguard at the local pool. He received his certification just a few months ago.

Smith said his son's recovery was a miracle.

"Thanks be to God that Paul was there to give the CPR because there would have been brain damage at the very least if he didn't get air. God has his hand on it the whole way," Smith said."

He added that another family friend, who is a retired firefighter, was inspired to start a CPR class in the community after Steve's near-death experience. "There is so much good coming out of this, for the little bit of suffering we did, so much good is coming out of it," Smith said.

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Courtesy Layla Luciano(NEW YORK) -- Layla Luciano is a New York City-based fitness trainer known for her high-intensity and exhilarating workouts. Luciano uses her 20 years of martial arts training to design workouts that activate both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers, ensuring a complete body burning and calorie-torching workout.

The PACT Park co-founder will lead ABC News' Good Morning America viewers Wednesday in a live-streamed workout for “Workout Wednesday.” In the new series, top fitness personalities lead workouts that are live-streamed on GoodMorningAmerica.com every Wednesday morning.

Luciano's workout will feature shadowboxing and body-weight strength training moves.

Here are some of her kickboxing workout tips:

1) To get the most out of your strike, visualize an opponent or target to help you keep focus and keep your strikes from getting lazy and sloppy. If you think you are punching the air, it is definitely going to look and feel like you are punching the air.

2) Stand with your dominant side back.

3) Keep elbows close to your ribs and your knuckles next to your jawline to protect yourself. Never drop your hands even when shadowboxing.

4) Spread the legs slightly wider than your shoulders and pull your shoulder blades down to your back pockets.

5) Push your hips back and bend your knees to sit on your punches. This helps you to keep your legs and hips involved.

5) Take a small step on the jab (this is the only punch you do not turn your hips and shift your weight into).

7) Try to avoid standing in place before or after throwing punches (stick and move). It's a hit and run sport.

8) After you throw a series of punches and/or kicks (combos), get into the habit of adding a slip, duck or weave to develop a defensive habit and keep moving.

9) Shift your weight forward on the front leg while throwing dominant punch or kick: crosses, uppercuts, hooks and slipping to the left.

10) Shift your weight back to the back leg when throwing a lead punch or kick: hooks, uppercuts or slipping to the right.

And here are Luciano's tips to maximize your workout burn:

1) Changing up your training is important. Your body becomes accustomed to your routine so if you find yourself getting stuck in a rut and not seeing any changes, it's time to change it up. For example, simply varying the speed of your reps. Mix fast reps and slow reps to gain strength and muscle mass.

2) If you are training individual muscles, make sure to focus on the muscle you are working on. If you're doing a bicep curl, think about only your bicep doing all of the work. This will help with muscle recruitment and muscle growth.

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ABC News (NEW YORK) — Everyone has his or her own way of achieving body-image acceptance. ABC News correspondent Mara Schiavocampo and her sister Pia Schiavo-Campo arrived at their goals through different methods.

The two women appeared on Good Morning America on Monday to discuss how they found happiness by pursuing their own fitness goals: Mara lost 90 pounds through diet and exercise, as chronicled in her book Thinspired, while Pia chose to love her 230-pound frame as is. She writes about body acceptance in her blog Chronicles of a Mixed Fat Chick.

The sisters wrote a joint blog for their GMA appearance. Read below for more of their take on their personal fitness goals.

Mara and Pia Talk Self-Acceptance


Like so many women, our path to self-love and acceptance has been a rocky one. We’ve both gone through more than our fair share of fad diets and periods of feeling bad about ourselves. But we’ve come out of that journey stronger and happier than ever. Here are some of the ways we stay focused on body positivity and true self-care.

MARA

Best Advice


Be kind to yourself. Tend to your true needs. When you’re tired, rest. When you’re sad, cry. When you’re thirsty, drink. Taking care of yourself makes you feel and look better.

Personal Mantra


“I am strong.” I’m not getting strong. I’m not feeling strong. I am strong. Right now.

Most Rejuvenating Exercise


Running. I actually strongly dislike running, but nothing makes me feel better than when I’m finished. It fills me with energy and endorphins, and makes my body feel relaxed and powerful.

PIA

Best Advice


Stay away from despair and compare, and focus on yourself. We’re all different, and what one body needs is very different from what another body needs. You have to seek your own happy place.

Personal Mantra


“I am enough.” No matter where you are, by the very virtue of your existence and humanity, you are enough.

Most Rejuvenating Exercise


I love downward facing dog. It feels so good on my back and my legs. I love pigeon pose too. It allows my hips to open up a lot which feels great.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you’re going to binge on an entire season of your favorite show, try to work in some light exercise between episodes.

According to a Japanese study released Monday in the journal Circulation, researchers found sedentary behavior -- like watching too much TV -- can contribute to death by blood clot.

Researchers at the Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine followed more than 86,000 middle-aged to older adults for 20 years, starting in 1988. The included participants reported their daily TV viewing and other lifestyle factors. People fell into three groups: those who watched fewer than 2.5 hours a day, between 2.5 and 4.9 hours a day, and five or more hours a day.

Researchers also collected causes of death from participants who died. During the course of the study, 59 people died of a pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in the lung.

Putting together the data, researchers determined a pulmonary embolism was 70 percent more likely to be the cause of death for moderate TV viewers, rising by 40 percent for each additional two hours of TV-watching. People who watched the most daily TV were 2.5 times more likely to be killed by a clot in their lungs.

Too much sitting and other sedentary behavior causes blood clots form in large veins in the leg. If the clot breaks off and travels to the lungs, that's a pulmonary embolism, which can kill you nearly instantly, if it's serious enough. Chest pain, sudden shortness of breath and cough are some classic signs of a pulmonary embolism.

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

Get ready to play doctor with Google's symptom search.

The tech titan's new feature gives you a more accurate list of health conditions when searching for specific symptoms. It's basically a more sophisticated search engine for symptoms, and increased education is always a good thing.

But there are some limitations here. The practice of medicine involves a lot more than plugging a few symptom words in the computer. Doctors and healthcare professionals use judgment and clinical experience, along with a physical exam at times, to make a real diagnosis.

Although every search will likely end with the advice to see your doctor, remember that sometimes more is not better. Sometimes the testing or intervention can actually be worse than the original symptoms.

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Courtesy Zach Skow(NEW YORK) -- While his rescue may have been “typical”, Hooch is far from a run-of-the-mill dog.

When Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue took the dog from a shelter three years ago, he weighed half of what he does now and was suffering from a bad case of pneumonia. His ears had been sheared off, leaving him with an infection. But all of this seemed minor once the veterinarian finally opened Hooch’s mouth and made a horrifying discovery -– his tongue had been removed.

Hooch had been a victim of severe abuse, and some of Marley’s Mutts’ social media followers urged the rescue organization to euthanize the dog, but founder Zach Skow immediately recognized Hooch’s capacity to persevere and lead a normal life.

“We don’t treat him specially and we don’t enable him to feel sorry for himself, which is how he’s become such an incredible dog,” Skow told ABC News of his beloved canine. Skow eventually adopted Hooch from his rescue, and now refers to him as both his spirit-animal and his wingman.

Hooch’s lack of tongue made eating nearly impossible, but through experimentation and determination, Skow and his team developed an effective technique. To feed Hooch, Skow pours hot water over dry food, rolls it into a ball, and places it in the back of his mouth.

“It's the most therapeutic thing. If you’re feeling lost inside of yourself or feeling sorry for yourself -- all those things that tend to happen to us because of the rigors of life -- if you take the time to feed Hooch, nothing will snap you out of your [rut] like feeding that dog,” Skow said, noting the perspective his dog provides.

Staying cool is also a challenge for Hooch, since dogs rely on panting to regulate their body temperature. And though less detrimental to his health, Hooch’s tongueless mouth is also defenseless against drool.

But perhaps most remarkable of all the obstacles Hooch has overcome, is how he has managed to put his trauma behind him and embrace people.

“He could choose to have [his past] control him, but he doesn’t,” Skows said of his dog's admirable aptitude for people. “He’s a powerful reminder to get out of your pity party and to live.”

Though he is not an officially certified therapy dog, Hooch and Skow take regular trips to local organizations where Hooch works with autistic children, the homeless, and other individuals who could use some canine companionship.

Skow notes that Hooch is especially good with nonverbal autistic children -– a particularly difficult task for most dogs -– because he is able to stay calm when the kids get excited and can adapt to the abnormal body language. His connections with the children are so powerful, in fact, that one of the nonverbal children even began saying Hooch’s name, according to Skows.

Hooch’s work with the community has recently earned him the coveted Emerging Heroes Award from the American Humane Society.

“He’s a testament to how we all ought to live,” Skows said. “A lot of times we search for examples of how to be resilient, and he’s a living, breathing, drooling example of that.”

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Pregnant women should be tested for the Zika virus with 14 days of suspected exposure to the virus or if they exhibit viral symptoms, according to updated guidelines issued Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC previously advised testing pregnant women within one week of exposure to the virus or if they exhibited symptoms of viral infection. Additionally, the CDC is advising pregnant women to use barrier contraception or abstain from sex if their partners, either male or female, were in an area with ongoing Zika transmission.

The revised guidelines were issued after new studies found the virus can remain in the body longer than previously thought, and earlier this month, the CDC documented the first case of female-to-male transmission through sexual contact. Researchers are continuing to learn about how the Zika virus infects and affects in the body of those with the disease.

The news comes as more infants with Zika-related microcephaly have been born in both the U.S. and Europe.

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