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iStock/Thinkstock(JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md.) -- Aviation buffs Jack Kirkbride and Houston Pirrung, both six years old, recently went on a "mission" with the U.S. Air Force that they will likely never forget.

Kirkbride and Pirrung, who've been dubbed the "battle buddies," became fast friends while undergoing treatment for leukemia at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

The pair were honored on Friday for their bravery -- and their love of aviation was acknowledged -- as they visited Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

The boys participated in the Pilot for a Day program, sponsored by the Check-6 Foundation.

As part of the boys' visit, Jack and Houston were given personalized fighter pilot uniforms and received a tour inside the cockpit of an aircraft.

The boys also "flew" an F-16 in a simulator and led Air Force service members in the Pledge of Allegiance.

For the pair of youngsters it was a day to remember and it was topped off with both receiving their Air Force wings.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Matt Tietjen(SEWELL, New Jersey) -- When a New Jersey family found out their 4-year-old daughter had brain cancer with months to live, they channeled her strength and found a unique way to bring her happiness during her difficult battle: they asked for donations of books for "Lena's library."

"Lena's strength inspires me to be stronger for her," the four-year-old's mother Erin Tietjen told ABC News. "Seeing her beat the odds on a daily basis gives us faith that she will be our miracle."

Lena loves being read to more than "almost anything," so her parents said they wanted to do something nice for their daughter and came up with the idea of a book drive called Lena's Library.

"She loves to be read to," her dad said. "She was always the one who would grab a book and take it to the corner to try and read it herself."

After mentioning her passion for books on the family's GoFundMe page setup by Erin's sister, droves of deliveries started pouring in for the brave young girl.

"Saturday we got the first delivery with about somewhere close to 150 boxes," Matt said, adding that they received hundreds more since. "Some of these packages were full with more than one book. This one box alone had 17 books in it," he said, overwhelmed by the  kindness of strangers who had heard his daughter's story.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Larry French/Getty Images for The Jefferson Awards Foundation(INDIANAPOLIS) -- When Emma Stumpf was living with a brain tumor and couldn't find words to describe her experiences, art helped her express herself.

She said she liked to "paint yellow when I was happy and blue when I was sad, or red when I was angry or green when I felt sick."

Now the 15-year-old high school sophomore in Indianapolis, Indiana, is trying to bring art -- and a smile -- to other children in the hospital with Emma's Art Kits.

Emma was just 7 and in first grade when she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. She named the tumor "Herman." Emma also underwent 70 weeks of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation and 24 surgeries.

Now she's blind in her left eye, has no peripheral or depth perception in her right eye, and has no short-term memory.

Her mother, Lori Stumpf, said it had been a long eight years for Emma and the family.

"It's been crazy," Lori Stumpf said.

Last year, Emma's father, Greg Stumpf, said the family almost lost her twice. Emma is now finally stable.

"She's always happy, you know. She's always smiling and she's always positive and trying to fight to go forward, so I think a lot of that's rubbed off on us," he said.

She created Emma's Art Kits, which enables young patients who are unable to leave their beds to participate in art therapy. It's part of her mission to make others smile.

The kits come in a cellophane bag and arrive bedside in the hospital with all the supplies a young patient needs for everything from painting and collage to drawing and coloring.

She said the art kits were helpful for her because she wasn't able to go to the playroom or the craft room, and the art therapist wasn't always able to come to her.

For more information on Emma's Art Kits, click here.

"They get everything they need inside," she said.

The idea started with a doodle book and a cart she'd saved up almost $200 for to wheel around the hospital as she delivered art kits. She even does the personal shopping and decides what goes in the kit.

Laura Hayes at Cancer Support Community helps promote Emma's Art Kits.

"Art therapy is an amazing tool. It's a real way for people to work through problems," Hayes told ABC News. "Words are so limiting, and art gives people another way to talk about it."

The kits are in 15 hospitals in the U.S. Emma's goal is to bring art to as many patients as possible in every state.

"I love seeing the smiles on their faces," she said. "I like to give back and I see all the other kids in the hospital and I feel bad. ... I wanted to give back to them."

The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy also featured the art kits on its new Generosity for Life website, which tracks charitable giving and helps parents teach children about why it's important to be generous.

Amir Pasic, the school's dean, said Emma is the embodiment of the power of giving.

"It's a profound act of selflessness in the way she approaches her challenge, and I think that's very inspiring," he said. "We hope that her story can help inspire others."

There is no direct-mail campaign for Emma's Art Kits. She solicits donations in person and online. Cancer Support Community's Hayes is helping to grow Emma's project.

Lori Stumpf said the community had really rallied and embraced the art kits.

"She has such a giving spirit and a wonderful spirit, and she just loves to give back," Lori Stumpf said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Cancer, to many of us, may seem scary, mysterious, or even inevitable. Now, a new study suggests that nearly half of the country’s cancers may be preventable through decisions we make every day.

Researchers with the American Cancer Society looked at data on cancer incidence and deaths, finding that 42 percent of all cancer cases in the United States -– and nearly half of all cancer deaths – are linked to preventable risk factors like cigarette smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, excess body weight, alcohol intake and dietary choices.

Cigarette smoking, in particular, was connected to far more cancer cases and deaths than any other single risk factor, accounting for 19 percent of all cancer cases and 28.8 percent of deaths. Overweight and obesity came in second, responsible for 7.8 percent of cases and 6.5 percent of deaths, while alcohol intake was the third most important factor, leading to 5.6 percent of cancer cases and 4 percent of deaths.

“The results indicated that we can prevent a substantial proportion of cancers with the help of behavior and prevention strategies,” said lead study author Dr. Farhad Islami, Strategic Director of Cancer Surveillance Research at the American Cancer Society. Islami noted that he and his team believe that the percentages they reported are actually an underestimate of the cancers that could be prevented with simple lifestyle tweaks.

The good news is that the rate of death from cancer in U.S. has decreased by 25% over the past several decades. But experts estimate that in 2017, 1.6 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed, and 600,000 people will die of their cancer –- which is why experts in the field agree that more needs to be known about how to prevent these cancers before they strike.

“[The study] is an incredibly important piece of research because it is relevant to understanding cancer risk factors,” said Elizabeth A. Platz, deputy chair of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study. “I am very excited about the paper. It furthers the point that primary prevention is the future. It would be better for everyone to prevent cancer upfront.”

Platz added that the emphasis on obesity is particularly timely.

“The obesity epidemic started in the 1980s; it then plateaued but now seems to be on the rise again,” she said. “The worst part is that this is evident in children too.”

Out of the preventable cancers studied, lung cancer had the highest number of associated cases and deaths, followed by colorectal cancer. Interestingly, cancer cases and deaths linked to smoking, red and processed meat consumption, hepatitis C infection, UV radiation and HIV infection tended to be higher in men compared to women. On the other hand, cancer cases and deaths linked to excess body weight, alcohol intake, physical inactivity and human papilloma virus (HPV) infection were higher in women. Excess body weight causes twice as many cancers in women as in men.

This article was written by Kanika Monga MD, a resident in the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Briana Driskell(VERSAILLES, Ky.) -- Quintuplets in Kentucky will be celebrating their first “Quintmas” with a Christmas photo shoot that shows their remarkable recovery from a premature birth.

Zoey Hart, Asher Blaze, Dakota Faith, Gavin Lane and Hollyn Grace Driskell, now 6-months-old, each weighed less than three pounds when they were born at 28 weeks in May.

Their mom, Briana Driskell, underwent a C-section that she said at one point put her in danger of losing her life, too.

“We found out on the same day that we were pregnant and there were five babies with healthy heartbeats,” said Driskell, 30, who received fertility treatments for more than a year.

"The doctor strongly urged us to do selective reduction or terminate the pregnancy because he said the probability of us being able to have a healthy pregnancy and five healthy babies was slim to none," she said. "That was not even an option for us."

Driskell was placed on hospital bed rest 22 weeks into her pregnancy.

She and her husband, Jordan Driskell, 26, were finally able to bring all five babies home from the hospital in July, nearly two months after they were born, which was still before Briana Driskell’s original due date.

Now the family is swept up in near-constant diaper changes, feedings and play. The Driskells estimate they go through nearly 70 diapers and 35 bottles a day, and spend more than $1,000 per month on formula alone.

“As soon as I get home it’s full-throttle, feed a baby, change a baby, immediately feed a baby,” said Jordan Driskell, who works as a painter. “As soon as you feed all five, you have to wash the bottles and then start feeding again.”

As the quintuplets’ first holiday approached, Briana Driskell said she knew immediately she wanted to do something special for the family’s first Christmas card.

“I’ve been wanting a family for so long that I’m beyond excited to be able to send Christmas cards this year with my own babies,” she said.

Briana Driskell hand made the babies’ onesies that feature sayings ranging from “I’m the angel” to “I was naughty.”

When asked if each baby was dressed in the onesie based on his or her temperament, she replied, “Oh yes.”

“We saw the different personalities from day one,” she said. “It was amazing how quickly they each developed their own personality.”

The family plans to sign their Christmas cards this year with a note that reads, "Merry Quintmas."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Girls on the Run(NEW YORK) -- On Saturday, nearly 20,000 girls laced up their sneakers and hit the road in races across the country, and for many, it was their first time running more than three miles.

In 25 cities from Chicago to Baton Rouge, girls ages 8 to 12 competed in 5K races held by Girls on the Run, a nonprofit dedicated to helping them build confidence both on and off the track.

"The girls cheer for each other," said Amanda Kuntsmann, head coach for Girls on the Run in Columbus, Ohio. "No matter if you're slow or walking or fast, the important thing is we all move forward."

During the program, elementary and middle-school-age girls meet with volunteer coaches in the classroom and on the track.

"These girls are learning, some of them, that they're capable of doing more than they thought they could do," Kuntsmann said.

Girls on the Run, which started in 1996 with 13 girls, has grown to more than 200 programs in all 50 states. It's based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The weekend's 5K races were the culmination of about 10 weeks of confidence-building activities organized by the nonprofit.

This fall, 80,000 girls took part in the program, organizers said, and 20,000 ran in the final race.
But Kuntsmann emphasized that the race was not about winning.

"Every girl is number one in this race," Kuntsmann told ABC News. "We just want them to make forward progress and cross the finish line so they have that feeling of empowerment and feeling of confidence and joy."

Kuntsmann added that she wanted all of the girls to have "the experience of crossing the finish line regardless of what their pace was."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Children's Hospital of Philadelphia(PHILADELPHIA) -- A pair of formerly conjoined twins are being discharged from the hospital just in time for Thanksgiving after a successful surgery to separate them.

Erin and Abby Delaney were born joined at the head on July 24, 2016 -- 10 weeks premature. In June, they underwent a rare separation surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Erin and Abby suffered from brain bleeds after the surgery and were even placed in an induced coma for a few weeks.

Five months later, the girls are thriving and were sent home to North Carolina on Monday, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia said in a press release.

"The girls are inspiring," Heather Delaney, mother to Erin and Abby, said in a statement. "As their parents, it is very neat for Riley [Delaney, their father] and me to have a front-row seat to this and watch them overcome these incredible obstacles. We cannot wait to see what their future holds!"

Though the girls will require additional surgeries as they mature, the team that separated them is optimistic about their futures.

And their parents are thrilled the girls are coming home.

"Riley and I are so grateful for the care our girls have received here and so excited to take them home -- just in time for the holidays," Heather Delaney said.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has separated 24 sets of conjoined twins since 1957, the hospital said.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Ed Hueck Photography(SAN FRANCISCO) -- One bride moved her wedding up five months so her father, who's battling leukemia, could walk her down the aisle.

Vieneese Stanton surprised her stepfather Preston Rolan, who has raised her since she was 3 years old, with a wedding last Thursday inside UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco, where he's currently being treated.

Rolan, 64, has been declining in health since he was diagnosed with leukemia back in February, but Stanton told ABC News she wanted her father to be part of the milestones he may miss.

After talking with doctors last month about her father's prognosis, Stanton, 27, decided to push up her wedding, originally scheduled for next April.

"In the beginning of October, his doctors ... began to talk to me about his condition not get better," the private school admissions assistant explained. "They said I needed to start talking to my dad about where he wants to die ... and things like that. With that conversation being necessary, I talked to my fiancé and said, 'We've got to make some changes.'"

Not only did Stanton want her father to walk her down the aisle when she married her boyfriend of two years, but she always wanted him to be there for the birth of their first child in March.

"My dad is excited about that. Those are his two big motivations to fight this cancer," Stanton said. "He's always talking about the baby, or talking about the wedding."

Stanton admitted that couldn't do anything about her baby's due date, but she could move up her wedding. So she decided to surprise Rolan with the Nov. 16 wedding, wanting to have it inside UCSF Medical Center.

Stanton said the nurses there kicked into high gear when she told them the plan.

Assistant nurse manager Elaine Esler was one of the nurses on staff last Thursday and credits the entire 150-person nursing staff for pulling it off. After two nurses sent out an email with the secret wedding plan, other nurses brought in decorations, such as silk flowers.

"We don't allow real flowers in our unit because of the risk of infection," Esler, who's been on staff for three years, noted.

The hospital's harpist, chaplains and chefs, who provided food and cupcakes for the nuptials, were also on hand for the occasion.

"It was really fun and really special to see," Esler said. "There were a lot of tears in people’s eyes."

Stanton said her favorite part of the wedding was seeing the look on her father's face when he first saw her in her wedding gown.

"He had no idea," she gushed. "And just walking with him -- actually taking that walk -- was amazing. I was so glad we got to do that. I really got to talk with him and have him hold my arm, and that part was definitely the best."

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(MINNEAPOLIS) -- A little girl is in intensive care after being shot with a rifle by a 5-year-old boy in an apparent accident.

The boy wounded the girl with a .22-caliber rifle, according to Lieutenant Keith Van Dyke of the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Department in western Minnesota.

The 3-year-old girl was in stable condition, authorities said Monday.

The sheriff’s office received a 911 call around 7:30 a.m. Sunday saying that a 5-year-old had shot the little girl.

“We believe it was an accident,” Van Dyke told ABC News. “But the investigation of the incident continues alongside the county’s Child Protective Services department.”

Van Dyke added that criminal child endangerment charges are possible if the gun owner “created a dangerous environment by carelessly leaving the firearm in an area accessible to children.”

Authorities said it will be some time before a decision is made about those potential charges.

The investigation has been slowed because family members authorities want to interview have been by the girl’s bedside three hours away.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Gathering around the table to give thanks this Thanksgiving is something that can add years to your life, research shows.

“The grateful mind reaps massive advantages in life,” Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and the founder a research lab that studies the effects of grateful living. “Health and wholeness, wellness and fullness result from the systematic practice of a grateful living.”

He said grateful living can have many positive effects on health and well-being.

“It literally breathes new life into us. It recharges and it rejuvenates,” Emmons said about gratitude, which he defines as “an affirmation of the goodness in one’s life and the recognition that the sources of this goodness lie at least partially outside the self.”

One research study that Emmons lead in 2003 also found that participants who took time weekly to reflect on things for which they were grateful reported fewer symptoms of physical illness and spent more time exercising.

A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 2015 found that people who took part in a diary exercise twice a week asking them to document people and things that helped them at work "reduced their stress and depressive symptoms significantly."

Sara Algoe, an associate professor of social psychology at the University of North Carolina, studies the role gratitude plays in interpersonal relationships.

Her research has found that gratitude is good for relationships and has "follow-on effects" for physical health.

"Taking the moment to acknowledge the things that people do for us that we really value actually has downstream consequences for both people," she said. "When couples express gratitude more frequently and descriptively to each other, they are happier in their relationship."

Another study study published last year that followed people with Stage B asymptomatic heart failure found patients who did gratitude journaling showed "improved biomarkers related to heart failure morbidity."

Thanksgiving and gratitude

Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to show gratitude, according to both Emmons and Algoe, because the two go hand-in-hand.

“The word ‘thanksgiving’ literally means, giving of thanks. Thanksgiving is an action word,” Emmons said. “Gratitude requires action.”

To receive the health benefits of gratitude this holiday season, Emmons recommends moving beyond the tradition of naming your blessings at the Thanksgiving table.

“I think that a reflection of how our lives have been made so much more comfortable by the sacrifices of those who have come before us down through the generations should be the focus of how Thanksgiving should be observed,” he said.

Emmons explained thanking those who paved the way for you is more “satisfying and sustaining.”

“This sort of transformational thinking can be revolutionary,” he said. “And this way of thinking can draw us out of our self-involved and self-contained worlds to a deeper awareness of those forces which make that very world possible in the first place.”

Thanksgiving is also an opportunity to "shore up the ties" of family and remind people what you love about them, according to Algoe.

"When you feel grateful, don’t forget to say it to people," she said. "Expressions of gratitude are like candy and they keep people coming back for more. The data really shows that."

Emmons cited celebrities like Goldie Hawn, Russell Wilson and Matthew McConaughey as people who have mastered one of the keys of gratitude: Making it about others, not about ourselves.

"This is the single most important thing that I've learned about gratitude. It's not about us," Emmons said. "We turn gratitude into a self-focused personal project. The focus becomes how I am doing, instead of what others are doing for me."

Algoe's research has also found the "authenticity and sincerity of the gratitude expression" is of key importance.

"It’s putting the 'you' in thank you that really matters," Algoe said. "It's the little part where you’re really calling out the person for the thing they did."

How to keep gratitude going

When Thanksgiving Day is over, gratitude is often left "on the Thanksgiving table," according to Emmons.

In order to avoid this "wasted opportunity" and reap the health benefits of gratitude, Emmons shared these tips for making gratitude part of your every day life.

  1. Make a list of what you typically take for granted. Then think about these “as granted” rather than “for granted.”
  2. Consider what your life would be like without this person/event/circumstance. In other words, if this had never happened or came along. Subtract something good from your life. This is known as addition via subtraction.
  3. Give something away. When we are givers, we reflect more clearly on what it is like to be a receiver. Also, we are grateful for the opportunity to give, knowing that giving brings happiness to self and others.
  4. Identify non-grateful thoughts: For example, thinking you deserve better circumstances, that other people are better off; that life is boring, that I am entitled to this, that, or the other; That life is monotonous, tedious; That things have not turned out the way you wanted. Practice using the language of thankfulness: Gifts, givers, receivers, favor, fortune, fortunate, blessed, lucky.
  5. Find someone behind the scenes at your workplace or neighborhood and thank them. Speak words of gratitude to them. Takes two minutes. You will both benefit.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Before chowing down on Thanksgiving, you might want to save some room for extra veggies on your plate.

A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds only one in 10 adults get enough fruits or vegetables. Federal guidelines recommend at least one and a half cups of fruit per day, and two to three cups of vegetables.

In 2015, 12 percent of adults met the recommendation for fruits, and only 9 percent met the recommendation for vegetables. Consumption rates were lowest in West Virginia, while Alaska and Washington D.C. saw the highest numbers.

The report also indicated that consumption was lower among those living in poverty.

Missing out on the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that fruits and vegetables provide could put adults at higher risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, according to the CDC.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson revealed on Friday his battle with Parkinson's disease.

In a letter to supporters, Jackson, 76, said he found it "increasingly difficult to perform routine tasks," a change the civil rights activist said he and his family began to notice about three years ago.

"Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful, and I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it," he wrote. "For me, a Parkinson's diagnosis is not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression."

Jackson said the chronic neurological disorder "bested" his father, Noah Lewis Robinson, who died in 1997 of a heart attack and complications from Parkinson's disease.

Parkinson's disease is a motor system disorder and the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells, according to the National Institute of Health. Patients who suffer from the disease may have trouble walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks as the tremor symptoms become more pronounced.

There is no cure for Parkinson's disease, but Jackson said his diagnosis is an "opportunity" to use his voice to help find one for the 7 to 10 million worldwide affected by it.

"I will continue to try to instill hope in the hopeless, expand our democracy to the disenfranchised and free innocent prisoners around the world," Jackson wrote, adding that he is working on a memoir.

Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Iconic American civil rights activist, politician and minister Jesse Jackson announced Friday that his doctors have diagnosed him with Parkinson’s disease – a diagnosis that he says comes after several years of symptoms.

Below are answers to some of the more common questions about this disease.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder globally, after Alzheimer's disease, affecting more than 1 million people in North America. It was originally described by
English surgeon James Parkinson in 1817. While the precise causes of this condition remain unknown, the disease is characterized by abnormalities in a specific region of the brain called the
substantia nigra, and it results in decreased signaling of the neurotransmitter dopamine. This imbalance leads to the hallmark symptoms of this condition -- abnormal movements, such as a
characteristic hand tremor, slow movements, muscle stiffening, and a decreased ability of the body’s reflexes to appropriately adjust to changes in posture. Psychiatric symptoms often include
anxiety and depression. Other characteristic symptoms include walking in short, shuffling steps and decreased facial expressiveness, called “masked facies.”

Who is affected by this condition?

There are an estimated 7.5 million people worldwide living with Parkinson’s, and the risk of developing it increases with age. Approximately 41 per 100,000 persons aged 40 to 49 years has
Parkinson's, compared to an estimated 1,900 per 100,000 persons over the age of 79.

What are the risk factors for Parkinson’s?

Aside from older age, the most well-established risk factor for developing Parkinson’s is having a family member who has been diagnosed with this disease, as was the case with Jackson. Men are also
1.5 times more likely to develop Parkinson’s than women. Several large studies have also found a correlation between depression and the development of Parkinson’s, though it is unknown if
depression plays a causative role in the development of Parkinson’s, or if it is instead an early symptom. Other possible risk factors include exposure to certain types of pesticides and high
consumption of dairy products.

How is Parkinson’s diagnosed?

Parkinson’s is diagnosed based on a patient’s clinical history and physical exam. Diagnosis is made by the when a person has Parkinsonian symptoms without any other explanation, such as another
neurological disease, head trauma, or a medication that may also be causing Parkinson’s-like symptoms. There are currently no available laboratory or imaging tests that can confirm a diagnosis of

What are the treatments for this condition?

Treatments for Parkinson’s are aimed at correcting the abnormalities in brain dopamine levels and usually include a medication called levodopa or other dopamine-stimulating drugs. These drugs,
however, pose a risk of causing uncontrollable movements called dyskinesia. Younger patients with Parkinson’s-associated tremor may benefit from using drugs in a class known as anticholinergics.
Some patients who experience symptoms despite medications may benefit from placement of a stimulation device deep in their brains or other neurosurgical procedures. Physical therapy and speech
therapy can also be used to help minimize the effects of the disease. Researchers are working on developing gene therapies or methods of neural transplantation to slow or reverse the effects of
Parkinson’s, but management with medications and symptomatic support remain the current mainstay of treatment at this time.

What is the prognosis for Parkinson’s?

Neurologic changes seen in Parkinson’s are typically irreversible and may worsen as the disease progresses. The number and severity of symptoms vary from person to person, and there are currently
no ways to predict which individuals will experience a rapid or slow decline. Parkinson’s itself is generally not considered to be a fatal disease in and of itself; however, the neurologic changes
caused by Parkinson’s increase a person’s likelihood of dying from conditions such as pneumonia due to difficulty swallowing or trauma from falling.

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ABC News(RENO, Nev.) -- One of my favorite things to do with my children is to read to them.

A few years ago, the bedtime book was "Wonder," and it was hands-down one of the best books we read together. So, a few years later when my mother forwarded me an email from a member of her book club, I took notice. “Has Elizabeth heard of the book 'Wonder?'” the email read. “If so, I have the real-life wonder boy in my class.” I jumped for the phone.

We made contact with the Newman family, living in Reno, Nevada, and spent the next two and a half years following Russ and Magda and their sons Nathaniel and Jacob. Nathaniel, now 13, had been born with a severe case of Treacher Collins syndrome. It’s a genetic condition that radically affects the bones in Nathaniel’s face. Russ and Magda were shocked when Nathaniel was born – they had no warning anything was wrong.

They are incredibly brave people, who have been through so much. But they made a pledge to each other, and to Nathaniel, that they would not hide him from the world, or the world from him, and they allowed my producers and me to follow them for more than two years. We were along with him on his first day of middle school, where students had all gotten a letter from Nathaniel explaining his condition, along with a picture, so they could prepare themselves.

We were along when the family met a man with this rare condition, who was able to explain what Nathaniel will probably face in his teenage years. And we and our cameras were there when the Newmans decided to try a risky and revolutionary surgery that might allow Nathaniel to breath without a trach tube in his throat. Magda Newman calls the surgery barbaric, and honestly it was. But no one was braver than Nathaniel, who chose to take the risk.

Shadowing a family like this for as long as we did with our cameras is a delicate thing. We assigned one of our best producer/shooters for this, Jeff Schneider. After the first few hours of recording, he was able to make the Newmans so comfortable, they could almost forget he was there. We captured some truly intimate moments with this family – the worry about how other kids would treat their son, the anguish as they carried him into the operating room for yet another surgery. My producers, Sean Dooley and Jen Joseph, and I all became very close to the Newmans. They are remarkably candid about their most difficult moments, about their worries and their fears. I interviewed them almost half a dozen times over the two years.

Getting to know Nathaniel was wonderful. He is a sensitive boy, but so very strong. He was four years old when he first realized he looked different. Sometimes, he told me, in moments of pure joy, he can forget for a moment what his face looks like. But he knows he will always look this way, no surgery can correct it, and that there will people who will at times be cruel.

But one thing has made life easier for Nathaniel: the book "Wonder," by RJ Palacio. Russ Newman says that book has done more than anything in the world to ease the way for children like his son. The Newmans could not believe the story when they read it. It is their story. As Russ told me, “Was RJ spying on us?” RJ likewise told me that when she met Nathaniel, she exclaimed, “It's Auggie Pullman come to life.” It really stretches credulity, the similarities between art and life are so strong.

We interviewed RJ about how she got the idea for the book, and how she never expected it to be the phenomenon it has become: Five million copies sold around the world, translated into 45 languages, and now a blockbuster movie.

If the book has eased the way a bit for Nathaniel and other children like him, we hope our hour Friday night will do the same. It is so much easier to be humane, to be kind, when the person in front of you is someone you know. We are excited to introduce our viewers to Nathaniel, and the Newman Family.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Owning a dog is associated with a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death, according to a comprehensive new study published by a team of Swedish researchers on Friday in the journal Scientific Reports.

The scientists followed 3.4 million people over the course of 12 years and found that adults who live alone and owned a dog were 33 percent less likely to die during the study than adults who lived alone without dogs. In addition, the single adults with dogs were 36 percent less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.

"Dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household," Mwenya Mubanga, a Ph.D. student at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden, and the lead junior author of the study, said in a statement announcing its findings.

The link between dog ownership and lower mortality was less pronounced in adults who lived either with family members or partners, but still present, according to the study.

"Perhaps a dog may stand in as an important family member in the single households," Mubanga added. "Another interesting finding was that owners [of] dogs from breed groups originally bred for hunting were most protected."

The study, which is the largest to date on the health implications of owning a dog, suggested that some of the reasons dog owners may have a lower risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease were because dog owners walk more.

"These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease," Tove Fall, a senior author of the study and a professor at Uppsala University, said in a statement.

"We know that dog owners in general have a higher level of physical activity, which could be one explanation to the observed results," Fall added. "Other explanations include an increased well-being and social contacts or effects of the dog on the bacterial microbiome in the owner."

Fall added that because all participants of the study were Swedish, the results most closely apply to dog owners in Sweden or other "European populations with similar culture regarding dog ownership."

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