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Life's Rude Awakening Happens at 36


iStock/Thinkstock(BRISTOL, England) -- Life can seem like a party when you’re young, but eventually, most come to the realization that they can’t keep ignoring their mortality.

A new study out of the United Kingdom suggests that the magic age when people decide to reflect where the rest of their life is going is 36.

What does it take for this happen? Rob Anderson, director at Spire Bristol, says that it has to do with an event that shocks them into reality, such as a death in the family.

According to a study of 2,000 people, Anderson says, “By our mid-30s, health and well-being become a much bigger priority.” Fifty-six percent in the survey admitted that until the time they turned 36, they were more interested in living in the moment.

As for what made people change their minds about starting to take better care of themselves, here are the list of the ten “shocking moments” that became the tipping point in their lives:

  1. Getting older
  2. I had a health scare
  3. A close relative died
  4. A warning from my doctor
  5. Seeing a shocking photo of myself
  6. A close relative fell ill
  7. A TV program about bad eating habits
  8. Negative comments about my health that hit a nerve
  9. I had a serious accident
  10.  A public health message


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Multiple Chronic Illnesses Plague the Elderly


Purestock/Thinkstock(BALTIMORE) -- Even with all the advances in medicine that occur with greater frequency than ever before in history, increases in life expectancy among older Americans is slowing.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health say it has to do with the fact that close to 80 percent of people 67 and over are afflicted with more than one serious medical condition and, as a result, live shorter lives.

The study’s lead author, Eva H. DuGoff, goes as far as to say that, “Living with multiple chronic diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease and heart failure is now the norm and not the exception in the United States.”

Naturally, the severity of the disease affects life expectancy, according to DuGoff. For instance, someone with heart disease at age 67 is still expected to live 21 more years on average, while a 67-year-old person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will only live 12 more years.

Meanwhile, when multiple chronic diseases are involved, the study finds that each one shaves off an additional 1.8 years.

If there’s any one reason as to why the U.S. life expectancy is slowing down more than other developed nations, it’s most likely the obesity epidemic and all the diseases caused by it.

The Johns Hopkins study also conceded that the current system set up to deal with people’s medical problems isn’t equipped to handle those with so many different illnesses.

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Agency Releases First Data from National ALS Registry


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An estimated four in 100,000 people in the United States live with Amyotriphic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, health officials announced Thursday.

Researchers released the first data summary from the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, providing the only known data identifying all ALS cases among patients in the nation.

The disease, which has no cure, causes nerve cells throughout the body to stop working, which leads to paralysis and at times, death within two to five years of diagnosis.

Based on findings from October 2010 through December 2011, a total of 12,187 people were found to have ALS, and the disease was discovered to be more common among whites, men, non-Hispanics, and people between the ages of 60 and 69.

White men and women were twice as likely to have ALS compared to black men and women, and males in general had a higher rate of the disease than females across all racial groups.

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Health Officials: Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccines


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The number of teens receiving vaccines for the human papillomavirus (HPV) remains "unacceptably low," officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday.

Girls and boys between the ages of 13 and 17 are not being vaccinated for HPV, despite a slight increase in vaccination coverage since 2012, according to data from the CDC's 2013 National Immunization Survey-Teen.

While it prevents various forms of cancer, the vaccine remains "underutilized," according to the agency. Experts cite a "substantial gap" between the number of adolescents receiving tetanus, diphteria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine, and those for HPV.

An estimated 57 pecent of teen girls and 35 percent of ten boys received one or more doses of the HPV vaccine, while nearly 86 percent received a dose of the agent for Tdap.

“It’s frustrating to report almost the same HPV vaccination coverage levels among girls for another year,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “Preteens need HPV vaccine today to be protected from HPV cancers tomorrow.”

The study also showed that clinician recommendations played a large role in whether or not parents chose to get their children vaccinated. For those that decided to get their daughters vaccinated against HPV, 74 percent received a tip from a health care professional, compared to 52 percent who did not. For boys, 72 percent of parents who chose to vaccinate their sons received a recommendation, compared to 26 percent of parents who did not.

Not receiving information from a clinician on for HPV was one of the five main reasons parents listed for not choosing the vaccine.

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CDC Lifts Moratorium on Shipment of Tuberculosis Samples


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is resuming shipments of biological samples including tuberculosis bacteria, the agency announced Thursday.

The CDC lifted the moratorium on a specific type of material transfer for its Clinical Tuberculosis Laboratory, but is still keeping it in place for other high-containment facilities.

The decision follows a review from the agency's internal working group to make improvements to lab safety. Initially, such transfers of TB samples were prohibited after safety issues with anthrax and bird flu.

In addition to the lifting of the temporary ban, the CDC announced the formation of an external laboratory safety workgroup to provide advice and guidance to the agency's director and the CDC's new Director of Laboratory Safety.

The group will work to identify potential weaknesses in labs, oversee training needs, and suggest ways to provide stronger safeguards for facilities, among other tasks. Members are scheduled to meet for the first time in early August.

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Fear of Flying Amplified by Flurry of Air Disasters


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The recent flurry of air disasters does little to comfort nervous fliers, who suffer from what some experts call a “perfect storm” of fears.

“You start with fear, and then you have evidence that the fear is correct,” said George Everly, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore. “What makes it over the top is when you don’t know why the airplane crashed.”

Just on Thursday, an Air Algerie airliner carrying 116 people disappeared from radar over Mali. The incident comes one week after a Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 298 people was shot down over Ukraine, and four months after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing en route from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing with 237 people on board.

Experts say the string of disasters and mysteries is understandably rattling nerves.

“They understand that it is a risk, but what they are doing is blowing it out of proportion,” Everly said, who stressed the risk of a crash was less than “one in a million.”

But despite its impressive safety record, air travel presents a “perfect storm of different fears,” according to Martin Seif, a psychologist at White Plain’s Hospital’s Anxiety and Phobia Treatment Center.

“Fear of heights, social anxiety, claustrophobia,” Seif said. “You can go on and on and on.”

And when there’s a disaster, those fears are amplified, Seif said. “You’ll get temporary increase whenever there’s a catastrophe,” he said.

For those who fear flying, experts say a few simple steps can help curb anxiety. To start, avoid dwelling on the media coverage, Seif said.

“There’s a general rule of thumb: read it once and don’t replay it,” he said, adding that avoiding the news altogether is no better than bingeing. “If you imagine what happened, you’re going to be worse than if you read it.”

But missing flights and unexplained crashes can add another layer of anxiety for wary air travelers, according to Everly.

“If they have to fly, they want as much knowledge of possible so they can build a safety net or defense,” he said, explaining that some nervous fliers might choose to avoid routes involved in the disasters.

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Cards Keep Pouring In for 5-Year-Old Boy Battling Cancer


Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Over 15,000 cards have been mailed to Danny Nickerson, the 5-year-old battling cancer who is turning 6 Friday.

The Massachusetts boy was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma in October, one of the most chemotherapy-resistant cancers. Danny has since stopped going to kindergarten.

All this little boy wanted for his upcoming birthday were lots of cards with his name on them, Danny’s mother, Carley Nickerson, told ABC News last Friday

His wish has been heard and granted.

Since ABC News first reported on Danny’s story, the family’s P.O. Box has been flooded with cards and packages from strangers across the country and even outside the United States.

Carley Nickerson says she has received messages from as far as Switzerland, Germany, Australia, Austria, California, Alaska, Norway and Sweden, asking her how to send Danny a card or sending him prayers.

“Today’s total rough count was a little over 8500 cards and 900 packages!!!” Nickerson wrote on a Facebook page he set up for Danny Tuesday.

“We are speechless and don’t have enough words to explain how thankful we are for everyone of you,” Nickerson continued.

It took the family three cars and one rented truck to bring all the cards and packages back home.

“We opened about 200 of them today and he loved seeing them,” Carley Nickerson wrote. “One had a picture of fat cat on it and another with a cat blowing out candles and he laughed so hard at them!”

One man, Matt Sfara of Newton, Massachusetts, decided that he has to make his card stand out, Carley Nickerson noted on Facebook.

Sfara made a card that is 4-feet wide and 6-feet tall when folded, and 8-feet wide when opened up. The card was addressed to “Danny Nickerson, The Coolest 6 Year Old.”

The number of followers on the Facebook page, Danny’s Warrior, skyrocketed to 27,594 Thursday from 2,500 last week.

All cards can be mailed the Nickerson’s home address: Danny Nickerson, P.O. Box 212, Foxboro, Massachusetts, 02035.

His family has also set up a website and a GoFundMe page, which has already reached its $15,000 goal.

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Death Highlights Dangers of Sand Tunnels at the Beach


iStock/Thinkstock(HALF MOON BAY, Calif.) -- A California man's death after being trapped inside a collapsed sand tunnel is drawing attention to sand safety as America's summer tourism season swings into full gear.

Adam Pye, 26, died Monday at Francis State Beach. He dug a 10-foot-deep hole and climbed into it, when the tunnel collapsed.

“The girls came out of their tunnel, his tunnel caved in and they turned around and said, “where’s Adam, where’s Adam?’” said Kevin Pye, the victim’s father.

Dozens of beach-goers frantically used their hands, buckets, anything they could, trying to get to Pye.

But it was too late.

The death was especially difficult for Pye’s relatives given his recent college graduation.

“He graduated to say, ‘Mom, finally, now I have some time, I can rest,’” said his mother, Debra Pye.

Similar situations have been reported on American beaches in previous years. In 2011, it took firefighters 27 minutes to rescue Matt Mina, then 17, in Huntington Beach, California, after the walls of a sand tunnel collapsed on him.

“I went to sleep. I thought I was gonna die,” Mina said later.

A 12-year-old New Jersey boy died in 2012 after becoming trapped in a tunnel he dug with his brother.

Sand’s crumbling, shifting nature contributes to the hazards of cave-ins. Victims such as Pye have been covered in seconds, the sand making it difficult to breathe.

Safety experts say beach-goers should keep two things in mind when digging a hole at the beach -- to keep the hole about knee-deep at most and to cover the hole before you leave the beach.


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A Grunt Is No Stunt on the Tennis Court


Ronald Martinez/Getty Images(LINCOLN, Neb.) -- Does grunting serve a purpose on the tennis court other than to psych out one’s opponent?

Maria Sharapova is one of the loudest grunters in the game, making guttural sounds described as loud as a chain saw. Granted, she is one of the hardest hitters in tennis, but Sharapova also seems to be helping her serve by grunting, a University of Nebraska study speculates.

In fact, when players on the University of Nebraska college tennis team grunted, scientists discovered the ball speed picked up by 3.8 percent. They explained the upper body becomes more stable during grunts, which enables a player to transfer more power to the arm.

The extra velocity is particularly helpful because it gives opponents less time to set up their return shots.

The researchers also noted that improvement was almost instantaneous when grunting was added to the college players' game, suggesting that people with lesser tennis skills might also benefit from a loud grunt.
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Losing One's Virginity Not Too Traumatic Anymore


Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NORMAL, Ill.) -- Many adults who can recall their first time having sex probably would just as soon like to forget it. However, things have changed over time, and it seems that the younger generations have fonder memories about losing their virginity than the older crowd.

Illinois State University researchers conducted a survey of 5,000 people over a 23-year period about their first time, which stretched back to 1980.

Based on their results, the experience of losing one’s virginity improved over the years for both sexes.  That is, men experience less performance anxiety now while women feel less guilt about having sex for the first time.

As for what’s different, the researchers speculated that losing one’s virginity has become less of a rite of passage for males, while first-timers seem more likely to be in a relationship longer before they “do it,” thus increasing the intimacy that women value more than men.

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Most Adults Finish Most of What's on Their Plates


iStock/Thinkstock(ITHACA, N.Y.) -- All those lectures about finishing your dinner because there are kids starving somewhere else evidently sunk in as most adults apparently finish what's on their plates.

And it’s not just Americans who are polishing off their plates of food. People in other countries also belong to what Cornell University researchers are branding the Clean Plate Club.

Study co-authors Brian Wansink and Katherine Abowd Johnson says that in their survey of diners from the U.S., Canada, France, Taiwan, Korea, Finland, and the Netherlands, the average adult will consume about 92 percent of what’s on their plate.

Johnson explains, “Part of why we finish most of what we serve is because we are aware enough to know how much we'll want in the first place.”

However, before we start patting ourselves on the backs for not wasting food, the same doesn’t hold true for those under 18.

In an accompanying study, Wansink and Johnson found out that younger eaters only managed to finish 59 percent of what’s on their plate, mostly because they’re unfamiliar with some of the food.

If there’s any consolation to parents, according to the researchers, it’s that it seems to be a universal thing among younger children and adolescents.

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Teens Report Higher Use of Human Growth Hormones, Study Says


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More teens are looking to drugs to improve athletic performance and their appearance, according to a new national survey from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids released Tuesday.

The organization reported a significant increase in the lifetime use of synthetic growth hormones, or hGH, among teens.

Eleven percent of respondents in ninth through twelvth grades said they used hGH without a prescription, more than double the amount from 2012.

Researchers say the findings reinforce the need for tighter regulation and more accurate labeling of "fitness-enhancing" over-the-counter products.

While synthetic human growth hormones have been available since 1985, Congress gave the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services the authority to approve its medical uses, and also banned any off-label uses.

hGH is approved for adult short bowel syndrome and long-term treatment of short stature in children and adolescents, among other conditions. Still, it is illegally used for muscle building and other athletic performance enhancements.

The study also found that African-American and Hispanic teens are more likely to report use of synthetic hGH, with 15 percent of African-Americans saying they used it at least once in their lifetime and 13 percent of Hispanic teens reporting, compared to 9 percent of Caucasians.

In addition to hormones, the report discovered other trends in teen use, including marijuana (44 percent) and prescription medication (23 percent).

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Website ‘Wevorce’ Attempts to Ease Divorce Process


iStock/Thinkstock(SAN FRANCISCO) -- Divorce can be a difficult process. It’s expensive, emotional and can result in years in court. But now, a new website trying to make the transition just a little bit easier.

Wevorce, a San Francisco-based company, uses computer software to connect couples looking to uncouple with lawyers located across the West Coast. While they can’t save your marriage, they can save you time and money.

“The technology allows us, as we continue to build, to make it more and more affordable for families,” Michelle Crosby, the founder and CEO of Wevorce, told ABC News. “We let families go at their own pace.”

While a divorce involving lawyers can cost upwards of $15,000 to $30,000 or more, Wevorce says their average price is about $5,000, and start as low as $1,800.

And it’s not just money. Wevorce also offers counseling and mediation.

“Because of the stressors of divorce, we will always have people available,” said Crosby.

Married for 15 years, Mark Kormylo and Nora Gibson, of Boise, Idaho, say they’d seen enough of their friends go through nasty divorces.

“We had both heard horror stories of screaming across atorney’s tables and this seemed like a much more cordial way to end our marriage,” Kormylo explained.

Therefore, two years ago, they decided to use Wevorce to try to keep the peace, not just for them, but also for their 12-year-old son.

“These guys wanted us to get along in a way that was really healing to everybody in the family, so that we could move on to our next chapter,” said Gibson.

Still, some experts say Wevorce is not for everyone.

“If we have a couple who fight like cats and dogs, then I would strong caution against going the Wevorce route,” Carrozza explained. “They will abandon that process, they’ll each hire their own attorney and it could end up costing them twice as much.”

But for Kormylo and Gibson, they say they have no remorse for their Wevorce.

“I think it would have been drastically different had we gone the traditional route,” said Kormylo. “I’m thankful that we didn’t.” 

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Five Things that Make You a Mosquito Magnet


iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Hot and humid summers mean mosquitoes. And the annoying insects spread more than just itchy welts -- they can transmit painful and sometimes deadly diseases.

At least 497 people in the continental U.S. as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have contracted the chikungunya virus so far this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- 140 of them in the past week alone.

For most of us, mosquito bites are just a nuisance. And some people have it worse than others.

What makes a person end up as a mosquito magnet? Read on to learn how some seemingly harmless habits, like a daily run or a backyard beer, could make you a more appetizing target:

Carbon Dioxide

It turns out that mosquitoes don’t bite randomly. Instead, they hone in on a victim by following a steady output of carbon dioxide.

Richard Pollack, an instructor at the Harvard school of public health and adviser to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, said mosquitoes are adept at figuring out where their target is by following these exhaled trails.

“If you were to exercise vigorously, you would produce more carbon dioxide for a brief period,” Pollack told ABC News. “You might [then] perhaps be a little more attractive to mosquitoes.”

Unfortunately, there’s no good way to cut down on carbon dioxide aside from holding your breath, Pollack said. So if you’re getting bitten, you might want to head inside.

Heat

While carbon dioxide is how mosquitoes lock onto you as a target, heat may be how they figure out where to bite you.

Dr. Jonathan Day, a professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida, said that before mosquitoes can take a bite they have to find an area of the body where the blood is close to the surface. Common areas include the forehead, wrists, elbows and neck.

However, people who are over heated or who just finished working out will have blood closer to the surface of the skin throughout their body.

“They use the heat to very quickly to determine where blood is closest to the surface,” said Day.

Your Outfit

If you’re heading to a picnic and looking to avoid becoming a mosquito’s meal, Day recommends avoiding any dark denim or all-black outfits.

“If you dress in dark colors you stand out against the horizon and mosquitoes [can see you],” said Day.

Day said some mosquitoes are visual hunters that search you out by looking for signs of life against the horizon. Movement can also draw the insects in, so hikers on the move should wear plenty of bug-repellent, he said.

Backyard Beers

A bottle of beer could make you a target for mosquitoes, a 2002 study found.

Researchers examined 13 brave volunteers exposed to mosquitoes before and after having a beer. The biting insects were much more interested in getting a meal after volunteers drank a single bottle of beer, according to the study.

Exhaled Chemicals

In addition to heat and carbon dioxide, mosquitoes are also attracted to naturally-occurring chemicals that are released as people breathe.

Day said carbon dioxide and heat will draw the mosquitoes to a crowd, but these chemicals, called secondary attractants, can lure the insects to one unlucky person at a barbecue.

The chemicals vary, but one is related to estrogen, which Day said could be the reason women are often bitten by mosquitoes.

How to Stop Mosquito Bites

Mosquitoes may be mean, biting machines, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Aside from wearing lighter colors and avoiding the outdoors at dawn and dusk, the CDC recommends the following tips to prevent bites:

  • Use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin or IR3535. Some oil of lemon eucalyptus or para-menthane-diol products also provide protection.
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when outdoors and avoid outdoor activities between dusk and dawn -- peak mosquito biting hours.
  • Mosquito-proof your home with screens and regularly remove standing water from birdbaths, gutters, pool covers and pet water dishes.

Pollack has one more recommendation: fans. The low-tech gadgets can break up carbon dioxide and throw mosquitoes off course. Since the insects are weak flyers, a strong breeze can render them unable to land.

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Sleep Isn’t What It Used to Be, Study Finds


Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Though closing our eyes and drifting off into unconsciousness is one of the simplest tasks we perform each day, scientists are still trying to unravel why we sleep -- and how we can do it better.

“For sure, it is tempting to decrease the amount of sleep (maybe along with an improved intensity of sleep) with the idea to increase the efficacy of our life,” Dr. Christoph Nissen, a sleep researcher at University Medical Center Freiburg in Germany told ABC News in an email.

Humans need an average of seven and a half hours of sleep per night, but some only need five hours and some need as many as 10 hours, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Though we understand sleep is vital to things from mood and memory to metabolic functioning and immune systems, it’s still not completely understood, and solving sleep disorders is critical, Nissen said.

Between artificial light, devices that keep us connected 24/7 and modern day societal demands, sleep isn’t what it used to be, researchers have claimed. So Nissen embarked on a study, which aired on German television, to see how five healthy adults would sleep in a Stone Age-like settlement.

The participants spent eight weeks in a settlement in Southern Germany, living in huts built on stilts with no electricity, running water or modern day conveniences like phones, according to the study. They gathered their own food each day and returned to their beds made of brushwood and furs each night. There were no torches or candles in the huts.

Nissen and his fellow researchers used sleep-tracking armbands to learn that the participants slept an average of 1.8 hours more each night than they did before going to the settlement.

“As a whole, these observations provide some experimental support for the long-held notion that people under prehistoric living conditions experienced prolonged sleep times compared to people under modern living conditions,” they wrote in the study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Though not exactly prehistoric, electricity pioneer Benjamin Franklin slept regularly from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night, Mason Currey wrote in his book, Daily Rituals. (Franklin also enjoyed an "air bath" when he woke up each morning, in which he sat in his room naked for up to an hour, Currey said.)

But without electricity to provide artificial light, maybe it was easier for Franklin to live by his motto, “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”

After all, Thomas Edison wouldn’t patent the first practical light bulb until 1880.

Currey scoured biographies, interviews and other records to find out about the habits of some of the most influential minds throughout history, and said the most interesting sleep schedule belonged to Buckminster Fuller, an American architect, inventor and author.

In the 1930s, Fuller decided a normal night of sleep wasn’t working for him, so he decided to train himself to sleep only in 30-minute increments.

“He decided that normal human sleep patterns may no longer be practical for modern lifestyles,” Currey said. “He decided he could train himself to sleep less and have vastly more time to do work.”

So Fuller experimented with a concept he called “high frequency sleep,” in which he would work until he started to feel sleepy -- about six hours -- and then cat nap for about 30 minutes, Currey said. He would do this around the clock without ever stopping for a longer rest.

“The other funny thing is he apparently got so good at this he could go to sleep instantly,” Currey said. “People in the room with him would be sort of freaked out he had an off switch in his head.”

Of course, he eventually stopped doing it because his wife complained.

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