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  • Fri, 26 Feb 2021 00:00:00 GMT
    On 18 February 2021, the National IHR Focal Point for the Russian Federation notified WHO of detection of avian influenza A(H5N8) in seven human clinical specimens. These are the first reported detection of avian influenza A(H5N8) in humans. Positive clinical specimens were collected from poultry farm workers who participated in a response operation to contain an avian influenza A(H5N8) outbreak detected in a poultry farm in Astrakhan Oblast in the Russian Federation. The laboratory confirmation of the seven specimens were performed by the State Research Centre for Virology and Biotechnology VECTOR (WHO H5 Reference Laboratory). The age of seven positive cases ranged between 29 to 60 years and five were female.

    Between 3 and 11 December, a total of 101 000 of 900 000 egg laying hens on the farm died. This high mortality rate prompted an investigation. Samples were collected from these birds and an initial detection of avian influenza A(H5N8) was performed by the Russian regional veterinary laboratory. On 11 December, the outbreak was confirmed by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Reference laboratory, and the Federal Centre for Animal Health (FGBI-ARRIAH), in Vladimir, the Russian Federation. Outbreak containment operations started immediately and continued for several days due to the large size of the poultry farm.
  • Wed, 17 Feb 2021 14:50:00 GMT
    On 14 February 2021, the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Guinea informed WHO of a cluster of Ebola Virus
  • Fri, 12 Feb 2021 11:00:00 GMT
    Rift Valley fever (RVF) has been reported in Kenya in humans in Isiolo and Mandera counties and in
  • Wed, 10 Feb 2021 00:00:00 GMT
    On 7 February 2021, the Minister of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared an outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) after the laboratory confirmation of one case in North Kivu Province. The case was an adult female living in Biena Health Zone. To date the source of infection is still under investigation.

    On 25 January 2021, the case presented with nasal bleeding. From 25 January to 1 February, she reportedly received outpatient care at a local health centre. From 1 to 3 February, she was admitted to a second health centre with signs of physical weakness, dizziness, joint pain, epigastric pain, liquid stools, headache and difficulty breathing. On 3 February, a blood sample was collected for EVD testing due to her epidemiological link with an EVD survivor. On the same day, she was referred to a hospital in Katwa Health Zone (part of Butembo city) following the deterioration of her condition. She was admitted to the intensive care unit the same day and died on 4 February. On 5 February, the body was buried in Musienene Health Zone, however not under safe burial practices.
  • Fri, 05 Feb 2021 00:00:00 GMT
    On 13 January, 2021, a child under 18 years of age in Wisconsin developed respiratory disease. A respiratory specimen was collected on 14 January. Real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing conducted at the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene indicated a presumptive positive influenza A(H3N2) variant virus infection. The specimen was forwarded to the Influenza Division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on 21 January for further testing. On 22 January, CDC confirmed an influenza A (H3N2)v virus infection using RT-PCR and genome sequence analysis. Investigation into the source of the infection has been completed and revealed that the child lives on a farm with swine present. Sampling of the swine on the property for influenza virus has not yet been conducted but is planned. Five family members of the patient reported respiratory illness during the investigation and were tested for influenza; all tested negative. The patient was prescribed antiviral treatment and was not hospitalized and has made a full recovery. No human to human transmission has been identified associated with this investigation.

    Sequencing of the virus by CDC revealed it is similar to A (H3N2) viruses circulating in swine in the mid-western United States during 2019-2020. Viruses related to this A (H3N2)v virus were previously circulating as human seasonal A (H3N2) viruses until around 2010-2011 when they entered the USA swine population. Thus, past vaccination or infection with human seasonal A (H3N2) virus is likely to offer some protection in humans.
  • Mon, 01 Feb 2021 00:00:00 GMT
    Between 1 June through 31 December 2020, the National IHR Focal Point of Saudi Arabia reported four additional cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) with one associated death. The cases were reported from Riyadh (two cases), Taif (one case), and Al-Ahsaa (one case) Regions.

    The link below provides details of the four reported cases.
  • Mon, 04 Jan 2021 00:00:00 GMT
    From 11 November to 28 December, 2020 a total of 67 suspected cholera cases presenting with diarrhea and vomiting, including two deaths a case fatality ratio (CFR: 3%) were reported from the municipalities “Golfe 1” and “Golfe 6” in Lomé, Togo. A total of four health areas (Katanga, Adakpamé, Gbétsogbé in Golfe 1, and Kangnikopé in Golfe 6) in the affected municipalities reported at least one case.

    On 17 November, cholera was confirmed by culture in the laboratory of the National Institute of Hygiene (INH) in Lomé, Togo and WHO was informed. On 19 November, the Minister of Health, Public Hygiene and Universal Access to Care of Togo issued a press release declaring a cholera outbreak and on 24 November WHO was officially notified. From 11 November to 28 December 2020, a total of 17 out of 41 stool samples tested positive for Vibrio cholerae O1 serotype Ogawa by culture in the National Institute of Hygiene (INH) in Lomé, Togo.
  • Mon, 04 Jan 2021 00:00:00 GMT
    On 15 December 2020, the Brazil Ministry of Health reported the second confirmed human infection with influenza A(H1N2) variant virus [A(H1N2)v] in Brazil in 2020.
  • Thu, 31 Dec 2020 00:00:00 GMT
    SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has had a major impact on human health globally; infecting a large number of people; causing severe disease and associated long-term health sequelae; resulting in death and excess mortality, especially among older and vulnerable populations; interrupting routine healthcare services; disruptions to travel, trade, education and many other societal functions; and more broadly having a negative impact on peoples physical and mental health. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO has received several reports of unusual public health events possibly due to variants of SARS-CoV-2. WHO routinely assesses if variants of SARS-CoV-2 result in changes in transmissibility, clinical presentation and severity, or if they impact on countermeasures, including diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines. Previous reports of the D614G mutation and the recent reports of virus variants from the Kingdom of Denmark, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Republic of South Africa have raised interest and concern in the impact of viral changes.

    A variant of SARS-CoV-2 with a D614G substitution in the gene encoding the spike protein emerged in late January or early February 2020. Over a period of several months, the D614G mutation replaced the initial SARS-CoV-2 strain identified in China and by June 2020 became the dominant form of the virus circulating globally. Studies in human respiratory cells and in animal models demonstrated that compared to the initial virus strain, the strain with the D614G substitution has increased infectivity and transmission. The SARS-CoV-2 virus with the D614G substitution does not cause more severe illness or alter the effectiveness of existing laboratory diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines, or public health preventive measures.
  • Tue, 29 Dec 2020 00:00:00 GMT
    From October to December 2020, a total of seven confirmed cases of yellow fever (YF) have been reported from four health districts in three regions in Senegal.
  • Wed, 23 Dec 2020 00:00:00 GMT
    Between 6 November and 15 December 2020, 52 suspected cases of yellow fever (YF), including 14
  • Mon, 21 Dec 2020 00:00:00 GMT
    On 14 December 2020, authorities of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland reported to WHO that a new SARS-CoV-2 variant was identified through viral genomic sequencing. This variant is referred to as SARS-CoV-2 VUI 202012/01 (Variant Under Investigation, year 2020, month 12, variant 01).
  • Thu, 03 Dec 2020 00:00:00 GMT
    Since June 2020, Danish authorities have reported an extensive spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, on mink farms in Denmark.
  • Fri, 27 Nov 2020 01:37:00 GMT
    Between 8 September and 24 November, 2020, the North-Central region of Burkina Faso reported a
  • Tue, 24 Nov 2020 00:00:00 GMT
    Reports of a cluster of deaths from an undiagnosed disease were notified on 1 November 2020 through Event Based Surveillance in two states, Delta and Enugu, located in southern Nigeria.
  • Tue, 17 Nov 2020 19:30:00 GMT
    On 18 November 2020, the Minister of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo declared the end of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in Equateur Province.
  • Tue, 17 Nov 2020 00:00:00 GMT
    The Ministry of Health in Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) reported a human case of infection with an avian influenza A(H5N1) virus. The case is a one-year-old female who developed symptoms of fever, productive cough, difficulty breathing and runny nose on 13 October 2020. She was hospitalized for her illness on 16 October and discharged on 19 October. As part of severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) sentinel surveillance, a specimen was collected on the date of hospitalization and confirmed to be positive for avian influenza A(H5N1) on 28 October by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) at the National Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology (NCLE).

    Among the close contacts of the patient, one contact developed fever and cough after the onset of illness in the case. Specimens collected from all household contacts, including the symptomatic contact, were negative for influenza A viruses.
  • Fri, 13 Nov 2020 00:00:00 GMT
    The Ministry of Health (MoH) notified WHO that between 13 September and 1 October 2020, eight cases of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) including seven deaths were confirmed in animal breeders. Districts affected include Tidjikja and Moudjéria (Tagant region), Guerou (Assaba region) and Chinguetty (Adrar region). Laboratory confirmation of RVF infection was performed using a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) at the National Institute for Public Health Research (INRSP) in Nouakchott. The age of infected patients varied between 16 and 70 years old and included one woman and seven men. All seven deaths occurred among hospitalised patients with fever and haemorrhagic syndrome (petechia, gingivorrhagia) and vomiting.

    Between 4 September and 7 November 2020, a total of 214 people were sampled and their samples have been sent to the INRSP for laboratory testing with a total of 75 testing positive for RVF (RT-PCR and serology by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Positive cases have been reported in 11 of 15 regions of the country: Brakna, Trarza, Gorgol, (on the border with Senegal), Adrar, Assaba, Hodh El Gharby, Hodh El Chargui, Guidimaka (on the border with Mali) and Nouakchott Sud, Nouakchott Ouest and Tagant. The Tagant region is the most affected (38/75, 51%) with principal hotspot districts being Tidjikja and Moudjeria. Thus far a total of 25 deaths have been reported from this outbreak.
  • Fri, 06 Nov 2020 00:00:00 GMT
    Since June 2020, 214 human cases of COVID-19 have been identified in Denmark with SARS-CoV-2 variants associated with farmed minks, including 12 cases with a unique variant, reported on 5 November.

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  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 19:36:10 -0500
    President Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Education, Miguel Cardona, was confirmed on Monday, amid mounting pressure on the administration to stand up to the teachers unions and get kids back in class. The Senate voted 64-33 to confirm Cardona, a former public school teacher and principal who went on to become Connecticut’s education...
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 17:21:33 -0500
    Forever pandemic for thee but not for me? Over the weekend, footage surfaced of Matt Meyer, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, taking his daughter to pre-school. What should be an innocuous happening is actually monumental since Meyer has blocked a return to school for the other children of Berkeley arguing that school is...
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 16:38:30 -0500
    SZENTENDRE, Hungary — Hungarians are baking for ambulance workers across the country coping with a new surge in COVID-19 infections after the founder of an online cookery group asked a friend in the service how she could help. “Before I could finish she said ‘oh we would love some cakes’,” Eszter Harmath said of the...
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 16:37:23 -0500
    Organizers are hoping to host fans during a three-day event this fall.
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 16:21:00 -0500
    Former President Donald Trump and former first lady Melania Trump were vaccinated for COVID-19 in January, The Post has confirmed. The shots were administered privately at the White House before President Biden took office, a person with knowledge of the inoculations said. Trump, 74, publicly battled the virus in October and was hospitalized for three...
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 16:12:27 -0500
    The head of the CDC said Monday she is “deeply concerned” that the steep drop in US COVID-19 infection and death rates has stalled — and that the numbers may now be headed in the opposite direction. “I remain deeply concerned about a potential shift in the trajectory of the pandemic,’’ said Dr. Rochelle Walensky,...
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 14:28:01 -0500
    Pfizer’s vaccine may be less effective in protecting obese people from coronavirus, scientists said. Researchers in Rome found that obese people who had received two doses of the vaccine generated a weaker antibody response, according to a report on the pre-print server Medrxiv. The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, evaluated the effect of the...
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 13:36:37 -0500
    The feds will begin delivering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to states as early as Tuesday — releasing their entire current cache of 3.9 million doses by week’s end, the White House said Monday. But another major rollout of the highly anticipated single-dose immunizations — 16 million shots — won’t come until later in...
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 13:30:18 -0500
    My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell was cut off during an interview at the Conservative Political Action Conference Sunday after he hurled wild conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and the vaccines for the virus.
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 13:17:03 -0500
    Apple said Monday all its 270 US stores have been opened, the first time in almost a year after it was forced to shutter several outlets because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has been cautious in re-opening its retail stores, using a team that includes medical experts to make its own calls on a...
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 12:51:09 -0500
    South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem received a standing ovation when she attacked Dr. Anthony Fauci at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday — declaring the country’s top infectious disease expert is “wrong a lot.” “I don’t know if you agree with me, but Dr. Fauci is wrong a lot,” the Republican governor, a staunch supporter...
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 11:40:09 -0500
    "If I would’ve gone outside, they were going to break all my bones, take my eyeballs out while the police did nothing."
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 11:12:50 -0500
    BEIJING – China used coronavirus prevention measures, intimidation and visa curbs to limit foreign reporting in 2020, ushering in a “rapid decline in media freedom,” the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) said on Monday. For the third year in a row, no journalists told the group that working conditions had improved, the FCCC said...
  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 10:01:22 -0500
    Johnson & Johnson said Monday that its newly approved single-dose COVID-19 vaccine has already been loaded onto trucks — and could be in Americans’ arms within two days. “It’s literally on trucks as we’re talking,” J&J CEO Alex Gorsky told NBC’s “Today” show. “We think literally within the next 24 to 48 hours, Americans should...
  • Sun, 28 Feb 2021 19:01:54 -0500
    Republicans should stop referring to the Democrats’ newest ideological wish list as a COVID “relief bill.” Surely, there is some GOP spin doctor who can come up with a more precise name for Joe Biden’s $2 trillion partisan monstrosity? The media have mobilized to warn us about the devastating fallout if the GOP opposes the Dems’...
  • Sun, 28 Feb 2021 18:02:39 -0500
    Faith beat: Equality Act Guts Religious Liberty If the Equality Act, passed by the House last week, becomes law, it would “cause incalculable damage to our society — with a particular ­assault on . . . religious believers,” warns Kenneth Craycraft at First Things. It imposes “a controversial sexual-ideological scheme on the American public” and forbids “any religiously based...
  • Sun, 28 Feb 2021 16:14:23 -0500
    Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved single-shot vaccine could be shipped out to states as early as Monday — with more than 164,000 doses allocated for New York in the first round of deliveries. The Empire State is on course to get 164,800 doses of the vaccine this week, according to the federal Centers for Disease...
  • Sun, 28 Feb 2021 15:14:39 -0500
    The number of coronavirus patients in US hospitals has dropped below 50,000 — the lowest level in nearly four months, data shows. There were 48,870 patients being treated for the virus in hospitals Saturday, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. “For the first time since Nov 2, the number of people currently hospitalized...
  • Sun, 28 Feb 2021 13:36:47 -0500
    It’s a real shot in the arm. With Johnson and Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccines set to ship out to states soon, Pfizer and Moderna are also dramatically ramping up production in the weeks to come. The news comes as the number of shots making their way into arms across the US are already rising — with...

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  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 22:32:36 -0500

    COVID-19 vaccination, New York

    Summary List Placement

    A group of Black doctors vaccinated almost 4,000 residents of Philadelphia in one day, single-handedly outpacing the city's average daily vaccination rate of 3,500, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. 

    That's more than 200 people an hour, Dr. Ala Stanford told the Inquirer — and still, people were waiting in line for hours in chilly conditions.

    The 24-hour "vax-a-thon" was hosted February 19-20 by the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, a Philly-based advocacy and education group, in an effort to make the vaccine more accessible.

    "The end goal was for everybody in line to get vaccinated, and they did," Stanford told the Inquirer. "From that perspective, I would call it a success, but room for improvement."

    Over 100 workers helped pull off the event, hosted at Liacouras Center with the support of Temple University. The idea was to offer vaccination to people who otherwise wouldn't be able get it, due to time constraints like work or lack of access to transportation during normal appointment times. 

    "So if you get off work, 10, 11 o'clock, you want to come get your shot, we're here," Stanford told Philadelphia KYW Newsradio. "If you have to be at work at 7 in the morning, come to us at 5:30, we are here."

    The Consortium's aim was to vaccinate at least 2000 people during the event. They fielded more than 46,000 appointment requests online, including from people outside the city, KYW reported.

    Because of the overwhelming number of requests, the vax-a-thon prioritized people with chronic health conditions, the elderly, and residents in some of the hardest-hit zip codes in the city. 

    Disparities have plagued vaccine rollouts nationwide

    Three out of every four people vaccinated in the event were people of color, the Inquirer reported.

    In contrast, a majority (55%) of people vaccinated in Philly are white, even though people of color make up 60% of the city's population. And just 53% of the city's vaccine supply has gone to Philadelphia residents, according to the Inquirer. 

    The racial disparities in vaccine access have been an ongoing issue, not just in Philly but nationwide.

    That's in part due to vaccine tourism, people opting to skip the line or delays at home in favor of a more available inoculation in another state.

    While communities of color are hardest-hit by the virus, affluent, often white Americans have an easier time accessing the vaccine, Business Insider previously reported. 

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  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 18:17:48 -0500

    pregnant covid vaccine

    Summary List Placement

    Pregnant people are eligible to get their COVID-19 vaccines in the US and are prioritized in certain states, but whether or not they get vaccinated has largely been left up to individual choice.

    A survey of pregnant women and mothers of young children across the globe recently found that a majority would be willing to get a safe and free COVID-19 vaccine, although acceptance was lower in the US, Russia, and Australia.

    The questionnaire went out to nearly 18,000 women in 16 countries last fall, back when such a vaccine was hypothetical, from researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Their results were published today in the European Journal of Epidemiology.

    Overall, 52% of pregnant respondents and 73% of non-pregnant mothers surveyed said they would get the COVID-19 vaccine themselves were it safe to use, free, and 90% effective at preventing infection. Of all women surveyed, 69% said they would vaccinate their children.

    The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been safely administered to more than 20,000 pregnant women. Both shots had efficacy rates exceeding 90% in clinical trials, so the vaccines available in the US closely resemble the hypothetical vaccine described in the survey.

    Vaccine acceptance was lowest in the US, Russia, and Australia

    Some countries had higher vaccine acceptance than others in the fall survey, the researchers found.

    In the US and Russia, less than 45% of pregnant respondents and less than 56% non-pregnant respondents said they would get a COVID-19 vaccine themselves. The researchers suspected this trend could be related to prevalent COVID-19 denial in the two countries.

    Australia and New Zealand also had relatively low vaccine acceptance rates, but the researchers thought that was more likely connected to dwindling COVID-19 case counts — the pandemic simply posed less of a threat to Australians when the survey was conducted there.

    Vaccine acceptance was highest among pregnant women and mothers of young children in India, the Philippines, Brazil, and Mexico, according to survey results.

    Providers should listen to pregnant women's concerns before explaining the vaccine-supporting science

    In general, those who felt reluctant to get a COVID-19 vaccine cited lack of confidence in the process, or fears that the vaccine development was rushed or politically motivated, as reasons for their hesitancy.

    Pregnant people had additional concerns about how the vaccine might affect their developing fetus, the survey found.

    Based on the way the COVID-19 vaccines work — they do not contain live viruses — the shots are unlikely to pose any harm to developing babies, experts have told Insider.

    As for speed of the vaccine development process, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US' leading infectious disease expert, has repeatedly emphasized that the technology used for COVID-19 vaccines has been years in the making. "The process of the speed did not compromise, at all, safety, nor did it compromise scientific integrity," Fauci said in a White House briefing in November. "It was a reflection of the extraordinary scientific advances in these types of vaccines which allowed us to do things in months that actually took years before. So I really want to settle that concern that people have about that."

    Emily Adhikari, medical director of perinatal infectious diseases at Parkland Hospital in Texas, told Insider that physicians should listen to and validate these concerns while providing a clear message about vaccine safety.

    "Pregnant women face additional challenges in weighing the benefits of protection against COVID-19 for themselves with the fear and guilt associated with making a decision that they perceive could harm the fetus," Adhikari, who was not affiliated with the survey, wrote in an email to Insider. 

    "These fears don't have to be based on science — and evidence is mounting that they aren't — to be real to a mother," she added.

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  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 16:36:37 -0500

    Best products for a better-fitting face mask - Cabeau Tape

    Summary List Placement
    • Wearing a face mask in public helps stop the spread of COVID-19 — so long as it properly fits.
    • Though an ill-fitting mask does still provide some protection, it may present a higher risk of exposure.
    • Accessories like nose bridge strips or face mask tape help any mask fit far better and can more effectively protect you.

    As the use of masks has grown over the past year, so, too, has the attention given to making them more stylish, comfortable, and safe. I've tracked down a number of items that are designed to help any mask fit better and provide a higher level of protection. And since the CDC continues to recommend we wear a mask even after being fully vaccinated for COVID-19, chances are some of these items will prove to be extremely useful for many months to come.

    At the end of this round-up, I've also included some insight into why it's important to wear a properly fitting mask, and how there's no such thing as a "one-size-fits-all."  

    Here are the best accessories for making your mask fit better:

    Oceantree Aluminum Nose Bridge Strip

    One of the simplest and cheapest ways to increase the effectiveness of any mask is to use a nose clip. Some masks come equipped with such clips, which are designed to prevent the cloth from sliding down the face and leaving the nose exposed. If your mask doesn't come with a clip, however, it's smart to add one to it yourself. 

    For instance, a company called Oceantree offers aluminum nose bridges that can be bent to fit the shape and contours of your face. This allows for a custom fit and makes taking the clip on and off an easy affair. Sold in lots of 100 or more, a package of these clips will keep you — and your friends and family — well-stocked for weeks to come. 

    Aluminum Nose Bridge Strips (button)

    Aneercare 3D Silicon Mask Brace

    While the N95 mask remains the gold standard in terms of filtration and coverage, those kinds of masks can also be difficult to find and are pricier than most other models. But research shows that adding a so-called mask brace or "fitter" to an existing mask dramatically improves its level of performance. It's estimated that a consumer-grade mask filters as much as 90% of airborne particulates when used in conjunction with one of these silicon frames, which are designed to slip under the cloth and provide a similar structure to an N95. 

    You'll find a number of fitters on Amazon, but Aneercare makes some of the best and most affordable. The reusable silicone brace allows wearers to breathe more freely while also feeling less confined and constricted by their mask. In addition to adding a higher level of filtration performance, the fitter also prevents glasses from fogging over. It even has the added benefit of reducing irritation caused by cloth rubbing against the face, which is a common complaint from those who don't like wearing a mask in the first place. 

    3D Mask Brace 5-Pack (button)

    YaqinZ Mask Extenders

    If your mask doesn't quite fit as nicely as it should, perhaps adding an extender to the ear loops will help. These extenders attach to the loops on both sides of the mask and then wrap around the back of the head. This not only serves to hold the mask firmly in place, but it also helps to pull some tension off your ears, which can prove very handy when worn for extended periods of time.

    Sold in packs of 20, the YaqinZ mask extenders add a dash of personality to any mask. The colorful and stylish bands feature designs that include butterflies, emojis, hearts, skulls, and the American flag. They are also compatible with almost every kind of mask on the market and are designed to accommodate a variety of sizes, too. 

    Mask Extenders (button)

    Cherislpy Activated Carbon Mask Filters

    Adding an activated carbon filter insert to your mask has been shown to significantly increase its effectiveness in preventing exposure to airborne droplets. Activated carbon has natural properties that allow it to attract and trap contaminants before they can pass through the filter and into the respiratory system. 

    A word of caution, however. Any filter you buy includes a PM rating, which indicates the size of the particles it's certified to protect against. In this case, a smaller number is better and you should look for filters with a PM rating of 2.5, which means it can prevent particles as small as 2.5 microns from passing through. Anything larger than that isn't effective against COVID-19. 

    Activated carbon filters can be purchased online in packs of ten and in a variety of sizes. Made from a soft, flexible fabric, the filters can be cut down to size and reshaped for use with nearly any mask using just a pair of scissors. If your mask already comes with a pocket to accommodate a filter, it likely proves even more effective. There are a wide variety of options these days that include this handy feature. 

    Activated Carbon Mask Filters (button)

    Dial-in your fit with attachable mask cord buckles

    Some of the most popular styles of mask use elastic cords that wrap around the ears to hold the mask in place. Those cords can sometimes be too long or get stretched out over time, causing the mask to slide out of place, reducing its effectiveness in the process. Fortunately, there's an easy and inexpensive way to address this issue. 

    Cord lock adjustment buckles are those tiny plastic sliders you'll often find on the hoods of jackets or on elastic straps of gloves or other articles of clothing. They allow the wearer to shorten or expand the elastic cords to achieve a better all-around fit. While cord locks are simple in design and easy to install, they're also quite effective. This is especially true on masks, where they can be used to alter the size and fit quite nicely. 

    Cord Lock Elastic Mask Adjustment Buckles (button)

    Eonhua Mask-Compatible Headbands

    Let's face it, wearing a mask all day can get uncomfortable, particularly as the elastic cords tug at the back of your ears for hours at a time. This leads to constantly adjusting the mask — or removing it altogether — in an attempt to get some relief. While that may briefly make things more comfortable, it could potentially increase the chances of exposure along the way. 

    A company called Eonhua has come up with a clever solution to this problem by simply adding a set of buttons to a headband. The elastic cords of the mask then loop over the buttons rather than behind your ears, which not only holds the mask in place but prevents the cords from putting pressure on the backs of your ears, too. The headband itself is made of soft, stretchy fabrics that are breathable and moisture-wicking, making it something that can be comfortably worn all day. 

    Headbands with Buttons (button)

    Cabeau Face Mask Tape

    In case it wasn't obvious by now, one of the keys to any mask's performance is directly related to how tight a seal it provides. Any gaps in coverage can lead to unwanted exposure, which is why finding the perfect fit is so important. If you find that your favorite mask may have some deficiencies in this area, perhaps applying a little tape can help. 

    Cabeau Tape was designed specifically for use with face masks. This water-resistant and hypoallergenic tape was made to be applied to the edges of your mask, creating a tighter seal. It can also help to reduce the pressure placed on the ear loops by holding the mask more securely in place. If that wasn't enough, Cabeau Tape also eliminates eyeglass fogging, which is another frequent issue for mask wearers. Sold in pre-cut strips, applying the tape is quick, easy, and painless. 

    Tape (button)

    Use a disposable face mask to double up

    Recently the CDC issued a recommendation that wearing two masks — or double-masking — greatly reduces the risks of exposure to COVID-19. Studies now show that layering a snug-fitting mask over a traditional surgical mask improves performance by as much as 50%. 

    One good way to take advantage of this new guidance is to wear a disposable mask under the cloth mask that you've already been using. Disposable masks are cost-effective and easy to find, while remaining lightweight and comfortable, too. All of these features make them a good option to serve as a second layer for anyone looking for some additional protection. 

    Disposable Face Mask (button)

    Keep your mask clean with your favorite detergent

    Early on we learned that reusable masks were highly effective in combatting the spread of the novel coronavirus, provided we washed them on a regular basis. Because the mask rests in close proximity to our nose and mouth, it is continually exposed to whatever we are breathing in and out. This causes the cloth itself to become contaminated, which in turn leads to unexpected exposure. Washing masks regularly prevents this from happening, keeping everyone safer as a result.

    The good news is that washing your mask doesn't require any special kind of soap or detergent. Whether you're scrubbing it in the sink or tossing it into the laundry with the rest of your clothing, you can use whatever detergent you already use. We recommend something that smells fresh and doesn't irritate the skin, especially if you need to wear your mask for extended periods of time. 

    Free & Gentle Liquid Laundry Detergent (button)

    The importance of wearing a properly fitting face mask

    We've been reminded throughout the COVID-19 pandemic of the importance of wearing a mask while in public. It became clear early on that covering our faces helps prevent its spread, keeping us and the people we come in contact with safer as a result. 

    Over that time, we've adapted to the standard practice of wearing a mask when venturing out to the grocery store, pharmacy, bank, or other essential location and it's even been recommended that people wear masks while working out outside or cover up while running. Dr. Anthony Fauci also strongly advised people to start wearing not just one, but two masks — a practice that's shown positive benefits

    Despite masks becoming a part of our daily wardrobe, many people still struggle to find one that fits properly. While an ill-fitting mask does provide some measure of protection, if the nose and mouth don't remain fully covered, there remains a higher risk of exposure to the virus. Because of this, millions of people could still face infection despite wearing a mask in public. 

    Finding a mask large enough to completely cover your nose and mouth at all times is a highly crucial first step, but there are other things to keep in mind when purchasing a mask, as well. For instance, it's just as important to find one that has ear loops or drawstrings that hold it firmly in place, even while being active. This prevents it from sliding around and potentially exposing you to the virus as a result. 

    Because our faces vary greatly in shape and size, there's no such thing as a "one-size-fits-all" mask. If you're someone who has a difficult time finding one that fits properly and is comfortable to wear for an extended period of time, this can be a major source of frustration.

  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 16:03:19 -0500

    Fruits and vegetables

    Summary List Placement

    Eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis isn't just good for your overall health. A new study has found that people who eat  two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables daily have a lower risk of death from certain diseases.

    The study, conducted by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, found that people who ate five servings of fruits and vegetables a day had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer, and respiratory disease, compared to those who ate two servings of fruits and vegetables.

    Eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables did not provide significant benefits compared to eating five servings. 

    Dr. Sean Heffron, a preventative cardiologist at NYU Langone Health who was not involved in the study, said these findings reinforce what experts already knew and provide stronger evidence backing food recommendations. 

    Not all fruits and vegetables offer the same benefits 

    In this study, the researchers looked at two data sets — one included two studies with over 100,000 people and the other included 26 studies involving nearly two million people. 

    The study was observational, meaning it did not tease out a cause and effect. 

    The researchers found that leafy green vegetables like kale and citrus fruits like berries had more health benefits compared to starchy vegetables. At the same time, peas, corn, fruit juices, and potatoes were not tied to a lower risk of death. Peas and corn may lose nutritional value in the canning process, for example. 

    "You might want to consider picking the healthier fruits and vegetables," Dr. Dong Wang, a member of the medical faculty at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital, told Insider. 

    Heffron tells his own patients to avoid white foods, like white potatoes.

    Most adults don't eat enough fruits and vegetables

    Despite the health benefits that come with eating fruits and vegetables, only one in 10 adults eat the recommended number of servings, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

    That's why Heffron said eating the optimal number of servings isn't as important as eating more fruits and vegetables in general.

    "Most people don't eat anywhere near a total of five fruits and vegetables a day," he said. He recommends that patients eat many bright, leafy greens and a diversity of fruits every day.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 15:12:19 -0500
      Summary List Placement
    • Although gyms remained closed, those looking to break a sweat can still bring their favorite fitness routines home. 
    • Workout videos provide an excellent resource for establishing a new routine, reducing stress, and releasing endorphins.
    • Below, we've profiled six different apps and video series' that appeal to different workout types and skill levels.
    Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

    In-person fitness classes are beloved by many, and for good reason: The collective nature of an instructor and class is energizing, we get gratification from learning a new skill, and a tough workout itself releases feel-good endorphins. But much like chatting over the water cooler at work, dropping into a workout class in-person is something most of us will have to wait to be able to experience safely and easily again.

    Luckily, studios and fitness companies are making it easy to score all of these benefits from your own home. Programs like obé focus entirely on at-home fitness while studio-centric apps like ClassPass offer videos as a worthy alternative to in-person classes.

    And while you can just take one-off classes, many of the offerings, like Nike Training Club, encourage you to sign up for a 6- or 8-week program, which helps you create a routine even if you're hunkering down at home. That adds even more benefit to caring for your mental health in 2021, says the American Psychological Association who recommends developing a daily routine and maintaining a healthy lifestyle to combat anxiety.

    With the at-home workout industry more accessible than ever, we've broken down some of our favorite workout apps and video services that help you stay fit while staying inside — some may even help replicate that feeling of being in your favorite class. 

    Here are the best workout videos, apps, and equipment needed to make the most of your at-home workout: 


    ClassPass is known for connecting its users to popular fitness studios worldwide, but the app also offers a series of videos that serve as an excellent stand-in for many of its associated studios. The best part: Existing ClassPass members can access the videos without using any credits.

    Another bonus: ClassPass announced in August that it's partnered with the personal training site, Find Your Trainer (Fyt), to offer personal training services to its members. Subscribers are now able to schedule 1-on-1 virtual training sessions with any of Fyt's roster of vetted personal trainers. ClassPass said it also plans to offer in-person training via Fyt in the future when the opportunity is available. All booked training sessions are handled through the ClassPass app and members can even sign up to use the same trainer each time in an effort to promote familiarity.

    ClassPass' videos can also be broken down by type of workout, necessary equipment, or body focus. We reviewed ClassPass' videos in detail but here are a few of our favorite workouts on the platform: 

    • 101sAlbeit limited, the 101s series is an excellent starting place to learn foundational skills necessary for different types of workouts. Only yoga, headstands, and HIIT are currently available in the series but the videos are in-depth, reliable, and under ten minutes long. 
    • Intro Series - HIIT and BoxingThis series includes four HIIT videos that build off of one another in intensity. The HIIT I video involves a few introductory explanations while HIIT II, III, and IV use the skills learned in the previous videos to create a sweat-inducing workout. 
    • Two boxing videos are also included, Boxing and Kickboxing, which function similarly to popular high-energy boxing classes. Skills are explained briefly, but the videos can be paused and rewound for a refresher. 
      • Equipment needed: None 

    Nike Training Club

    Editor's note: Nike announced that it's removing the subscription cost of its premium Nike Training Club service, granting free access to its library of classes to all NTC users. Classes range from yoga and bodyweight routines to full-equipment workouts. 

    Nike is a household name. Between its shoes and apparel, the brand is giant in the fitness space — and the Nike Training Club more than lives up to the company's lofty standards. Designed by expert trainers with athletes in mind, Nike Training Club offers over 185 different workouts — all free — from bodyweight workouts to yoga classes to full-equipment home lifting sessions. Like Grokker, Nike Training Club expands beyond physical fitness to encompass a variety of health and wellness areas like nutrition, sleep, and mindfulness. 

    • Start Training: This introductory training video is 45-minutes long, which is often the average length of an in-studio workout class. The beginner class focuses on building strength and endurance and you're never doing a single exercise longer than a minute. 
      • Equipment needed: None 
    • 7-minute Total Body Desk Detox: Perfect for the work from home grind, this low-intensity, beginner workout is an excellent way to wind down. This workout challenges your full body flexibility and aids your posture, which is perfect after sitting at a desk (or on a couch) all day. 
      • Equipment needed: None 


    As at-home fitness began its resurgence, obé Fitness has had its finger on the pulse of the digital fitness space. The on-demand fitness service involves various 28-minute workouts that strive to feel as interactive and encouraging as the energy of an in-person class. The obé classes are rooted in three major categories: Sweat, Define, and Flow, each of which we briefly profiled below.

    What you need for each obé workout depends on the individual classes rather than the series but many require a yoga mat, dumbbells, or resistance bands. We recently reviewed obé, too, and loved the inclusive community it's built of members and trainers.

    • Sweat: This is obé's cardio-based series of workouts. Whether you're missing your favorite HIIT studio, need to let out some stress by throwing some punches (guilty), or ready to dance it out, Sweat is the series for you.
      • Equipment Needed: Specific to the individual class 
    • Define: Strength is the word when it comes to obé's define series. Their classes are reminiscent of many boutique studio classes, whether it's barre, pilates, or strength training focused on a specific part of the body. 
      • Equipment Needed: Specific to the individual class.
    • Flow: With a name like Flow, yoga is certainly expected. This is obé's yoga and stretching-focused series, perfect for winding down or for when you need a mental reliever. 

    Read our full review of obé Fitness.

    Johnson and Johnson's 7 Minute Workout App

    There are plenty of fitness apps focusing on 10-minute or fewer workout routines but Johnson & Johnson's seven-minute workout app is a standout. Not only is it completely free but it can also be customized to suit your personal fitness level and many of the exercises are equipment-free. You're even able to sync information from the health app on your iPhone or Apple Watch for a personalized experience. 

    • Original 7 Minute Workout: This all-levels workout combines a series of exercises that often make their way into cardio-intensive classes, including jumping jacks, crunches, and high knees. If users are unsure of a workout, they're able to click the info button to the right of each exercise and a video demonstration and audio explanation appear. 
      • Equipment needed: None
    • First Timer: This workout is modified to work with any age and skill level. From chair-assisted push-ups to kneeling planks, it's an awesome way to learn the basics to each exercise before incorporating them into a daily routine.
      • Equipment needed: None 
    • The 21-Minute Cardio Blast: It's never been so easy to get your heart rate up without leaving your house. This moderate workout combines exercises from the easier workouts to get a HIIT-esqe experience. 
      • Equipment needed: None 


    Peloton is known as an industry disruptor for its at-home spin bike that has an in-class feel. Whether you're missing your favorite cycling class, prefer running, or simply want a fitness app with a diverse lineup of classes, Peloton's Digital Membership expands the brand's offering beyond its well-known bike. 

    • Bike: If you have a Peloton Bike, you're likely familiar with the array of exercises Peloton offers. The various workouts offered on Peloton bikes mirror the experience often found at boutique fitness spin classes. 
    • Tread+: Similar to the bike, Peloton also sells a treadmill that comes with a series of workouts tailored to runners. Like an in-class HIIT experience, these cardio-intensive workouts are sure to get you out of your head and into your favorite workout class (digitally speaking, at least).
    • App: The Peloton app brings the experience of Peloton to any device. Whether you're seeking some fresh air on a run or want a floor workout to do in front of your TV, Peloton's app has it all. Plus, they're currently offering a free 90-day trial. 
      • Necessary equipment: Specific to the chosen workout 


    Just as physical fitness is only one component of overall health, Grokker's fitness classes are only one component of its app and website. When you first subscribe to Grokker, the app prompts you for your personal goals, which can be anything from sleeping more to stressing less. From there, Grokker personalizes your content to focus on your specific health achievements. 

    • Training Tips: This hub page has an arsenal of training videos, programs, and specific video collections to make the most of your training experience. Many of the programs are sorted by level, so it's easy to find a workout that feels comfortable. Its two experts, Sarah Kusch and John Stratford, specialize in abs and core exercises, and toning and sculpting, respectively. 
    • Yoga For A Clear Mind: This yoga class is specifically geared towards stress relief, which is an excellent reminder of how physical health and mental health often go hand in hand. The 17-minute yoga video encourages viewers to ground themselves and exert their stress through each movement. 

    Find what works for you

    The abundance of available fitness classes can be overwhelming — even when limited to a virtual library. Countless videos and apps may feel inundating to scroll through and it's often difficult to determine which workout is the right one for you. But don't fret —  this is natural as you're adapting to a new routine. 

    While our list isn't entirely comprehensive, we believe the videos and apps included are a solid gateway to finding the fitness experience that's tailor-made for you. Fitness isn't a one-size-fits-all experience, and working out from the comfort of your home leaves the opportunity for trial and error until you find what makes you feel empowered. 

  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 12:27:15 -0500

    cramps after sex

    Table of Contents: Masthead StickySummary List Placement

    For some people, sex isn't always a pleasant experience. Frequently experiencing pain during or after sex can really put a damper on your sex life, and put you off from having sex in the first place. 

    There's a wide variety of causes that may be to blame for muscle cramps after sex, ranging from acute problems to chronic conditions.

    Here are 11 reasons why you may experience cramping after sex.

    1. Muscle strain 

    Sex can be a physically strenuous activity, and it's possible to strain a muscle in the pelvic region or elsewhere while you're having sex. Sex may also aggravate existing muscle strains, resulting in cramping and discomfort after sex.

    2. Orgasm

    When you have an orgasm, the vaginal walls and muscles of the uterus contract rhythmically, says Sherry A. Ross, MD, OB/GYN and women's health expert in Santa Monica, California, and author of "she-ology" and "she-ology. the she-quel." 

    Ross says that uterine cramping along with the orgasm is a normal physiologic response.

    "Before and during an orgasm, your heart rate, pulse, blood pressure and breathing increases. The muscles everywhere in your body, especially in your pelvic area, can become tense, spasm and cramp," says Ross.

    3. STIs

    STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea may cause pain during and after sex. 

    These STIs can result in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), says Ross, which can lead to severe pelvic pain as well as further cramping during and after sex. 

    Be on the lookout for symptoms like:

    • Vaginal discharge
    • Odor
    • Itching

    These may be signs that you could have an STI.

    4. IUD 


    Ross says uterine cramping with orgasms is a normal physiologic response. However, since an IUD takes up space in the uterine cavity, this can cause cramping to be more intense, says Ross. However, this isn't experienced by everyone with an IUD. 

    5. Vaginismus

    Vaginismus is a condition that results in involuntary muscle spasms around the vagina.


    Having sex in the first place can be very difficult and painful for someone with vaginismus, and after sex, the woman's muscles will continue to spasm, resulting in pain, says Mary Jane Minkin, MD, a physician in the Sexual Intimacy & Menopause Program at Yale Medicine.

    6. Fibroids

    Uterine fibroids are benign, non-cancerous growths in the uterus. They can be in the uterine wall or stick out from the uterus. They can be aggravated during sex. 

    "Thrusting can actually hit at the fibroids, and there can be pain from these growths which will feel like muscle cramps," says Minkin.

    Depending on the size and location of the fibroids and the severity of symptoms, surgery may be necessary to provide relief, says Ross.

    7. Endometriosis


    Endometriosis is when the tissue that typically lines the uterus is found outside the uterus in other areas of the pelvis. These are known as endometrial implants.

     "If the implants are on nerves, ligaments, and tissue stretched during sex, pain can be significant and often unbearable, lasting hours and days afterward," says Ross.

    8. UTI

    The bladder and vagina are closely connected, as the bladder rests on the front wall of the vagina. When you have a urinary tract infection (UTI), the bladder is inflamed, so you will feel pain during or after sex, because sex is pressing on an inflamed organ, says Minkin.

    Other symptoms of UTIs to look out for are:

    • Frequent urination
    • Strong urges to urinate
    • Cloudy or discolored urine
    • Urine odor
    • Pelvic pain

    9. Deep penetration

    Some sex positions result in deeper penetration, and these are known to be harder on the vagina and female organs such as the uterus and ovaries, says Ross. Also, if the cervix is being hit during sex, this can result in pain and cramping. 

    10. Emotional trauma

    Trauma can manifest itself physically. "If someone has previously been assaulted, for example, she may be reliving her attack, which can easily recall physical pain," says Minkin.

    11. Prostatitis

    Women aren't the only ones who experience cramping after sex. Prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate, can cause pain during or after sex in men. 

    "When your prostate is inflamed, there may be discomfort during intercourse, especially during ejaculation when the prostate and seminal vesicles contract," says Daniel Kellner, MD, urologist with Yale Medicine.

    Insider's takeaway

    Sex should be enjoyable, not painful. If you're experiencing cramping during or after sex, make sure you see your doctor to determine if you might be dealing with any of these conditions and learn how you can have pain-free sex. 

    Join the conversation about this story »

  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 12:06:18 -0500

    weighted hulahoop

    Summary List Placement

    You might remember hula hooping as a fun activity you did when you were a kid. However, hula hooping isn't necessarily only for children; it can also double up as a low-impact workout that can help you burn calories and lose weight. 

    "Hula hooping can contribute to weight loss as it is a great cardiovascular workout," says Jennifer Jens, an ACSM-certified fitness trainer and owner of Beachlife Fitness Studios & Programs

    Additionally, a weighted hula hoop can add more resistance, intensifying your workout. If you're looking for a fun change to your cardio routine, trying an exercise like hula hooping may actually keep you on track with your workout goals. 

    If you're interested in hula hooping, getting started shouldn't be too hard, as it is affordable, easy to do at home, and portable, according to Jens. Here are some of the benefits of hula hooping and how you can get started.

    How to start hula hooping

    Here's how you can get started with hula hooping, from buying the right hoop to mastering the technique.

    Find the right size

    Hula hoops come in different sizes, so it's important to get one that is appropriate for you. When placed on the floor, the hoop should ideally stand as tall as the bottom of your rib cage, according to the Mayo Clinic. "It would be ideal to purchase it in person and try the hoop for size and weight; however, if you're purchasing it online, use a size chart to find the hoop to meet your needs," says Jens. 

    Pick the best weight for you

    Hula hoops also come in different weights, ranging from one to five pounds. Weighted hoops are larger in size and typically have padding around them, to prevent bruising. They provide more muscle toning than non-weighted hoops.

    However, weighted hoops are not recommended for beginners or people with back problems. "To get started, purchase a non-weighted or light-weighted hoop of no more than two pounds," says Jens. 

    Smaller, lighter hoops spin faster and require more energy; whereas bigger, heavier hoops require less energy to keep going. 

    Start Slow 

    Once you have your hoop, you're ready to get started. "When beginning hula hooping, as with any new exercise routine, start off slow. You can start with small increments of five to 10 minutes a couple times per day and build up from there," says Jens. 

    Insider's takeaway

    Hula hooping can be a fun way to improve balance, strength, and aerobic fitness. It can also help you burn calories, contribute to weight loss, and tone your abs, especially if you pair it with a healthy diet and regular strength training. 

    "Hula hooping can be used as a primary cardio routine or in addition to other activities like walking, running, biking, etc.," says Jens. She says you can expect to start seeing results in two to three weeks, if you do it regularly and get 150 minutes of cardio per week. 

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  • Mon, 01 Mar 2021 10:59:37 -0500

    Hayley Madigan before after

    Summary List Placement

    As a bikini competitor at her leanest in 2015, Hayley Madigan ate just 800 calories and worked out for 2.5 hours a day.

    She admits she was in a dark place mentally, but her physical health massively suffered too — despite winning physique competitions and having a body idolized in fitness magazines, Madigan didn't have a period for three years.

    And the worst part of it all was that she was told by all the coaches and professionals in the fitness industry that not only was this normal, but it was OK.

    Hayley Madigan before 4

    Madigan, now a healthy personal trainer who helps women regain their menstrual cycles, had what's known as functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (FHA), which is where you have no period for 90 days or more (or less than three in a year), generally due to stress, over-restrictive dieting, not having enough body fat, or over-exercising.

    Often it's a combination of all factors, according to consultant gynecologist Dr. Lisa Webber.

    Not only does FHA mean you can't have children, but it can also lead to osteoporosis and possibly a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. 

    There are 3 key factors that cause hypothalamic amenorrhea

    FHA occurs when the pituitary gland in the brain doesn't produce the hormones that signal a follicle (which contains the egg) to grow, meaning you don't ovulate or have a period.

    There are three key stressors that lead to FHA, according to Webber: Being too thin for your natural body, over-exercising, and stress. How much each of these is responsible depends on the individual.

    "Think about it from an evolutionary perspective," she said. "When we were all nomadic, if you were very lean, that usually meant it was a time of famine. If you were doing a lot of exercise, that usually meant you were either having to move a lot to find food or you were running away from a predator. And if you were stressed, it was probably because of these things."

    Dr Lisa Webber

    In each of these situations, the body shuts down all non-essential processes (such as the menstrual cycle) and knows you're not in a position to reproduce.

    Aside from being unable to have children, Webber said when estrogen isn't stimulated, you're at much higher risk of osteoporosis and thus many women with FHA break bones through minor injuries. 

    "I've looked after women who have fractured part of their pelvis just getting out of bed," she said, adding that there's emerging research suggesting a higher risk of cardiovascular disease too, although it's thought this can be reversed when the menstrual cycle is regained.

    It's hard to know just how common FHA is, because many women don't come forward and others don't even know — hormonal contraception can mask FHA, and the menstrual cycle can be affected for other reasons like polycystic ovary syndrome.

    It's an unspoken side effect of being too lean

    FHA has long been linked to being very lean, and it's more common in women with lower body fat levels.

    The threshold for leanness varies from woman to woman though: Madigan cites a bodybuilder friend who says she never lost her cycle despite getting as lean as 10% body fat for her competitions.

    While being very lean is not necessarily the cause of FHA, the process of getting shredded generally involves the perfect cocktail of the three main stressors: too much intense exercise, extreme dieting, and both physical and mental stress.

    Madigan believes it's much more common than people let on.

    Hayley Madigan

    Madigan said she looks at "ripped" women on fitness magazines but worries their physiques are due to restriction. "Why are we celebrating this low body fat percentage when it's actually really unhealthy?" she said.

    It's true that we are all different, and an unhealthy body fat percentage for one woman may be healthy for another, but on the whole, women need more fat on their bodies than men.

    "Women naturally carry a lot of easily metabolized fat around the abdomen, and the reason is that it's stores so you are able to reproduce," Dr. Frankie Jackson-Spence, an NHS doctor and personal trainer, told Insider.

    Fitness culture on social media may contribute to hypothalamic amenorrhea

    Webber says some people have a genetic predisposition to FHA, and the women she sees tend to be "type A" people who like to feel in control — often it occurs when people are anxious, so the one thing they think they can control is their diet and exercise. 

    A 2017 study concluded that patients with suspected FHA often had "perfectionism and high need for social approval; ambitions and expectations for self and others." But this overachieving can lead to hypervigilance and stress, which can be dangerous.

    Data on the prevalence of FHA is hard to collate because it's often masked or undiagnosed, but it's thought that 1.62 million women aged 18-44 in the US have the condition, and 17.4 million women worldwide.

    Jackson-Spence told Insider she thinks the bodybuilding industry and fitness culture on social media have normalized being shredded and losing your cycle as a result. "It's much more common in this sub-group than the general population," she said.

    Along with the rise of the fitness influencer, recent years have seen the soaring popularity of high-intensity interval training, but this means some people are doing too much, putting stress on their bodies, and not giving themselves time to recover.

    You don't need to be thin to lose your period

    Although people associate losing a period with elite athletes like marathon runners, it can occur at higher body fat levels too. The majority of Webber's patients are in the healthy-low bodyweight range and do not have an eating disorder as such, but have disordered eating habits.

    If a woman isn't eating enough and is too stressed (whether physically through over-exercising or mentally), she can develop FHA — Madigan cites a client who didn't menstruate for 10 years due to over-exercising despite being around 25-30% body fat.

    "People typically think of this with very thin girls with eating disorders, and actually it can be in someone who on the outside looks healthy but has a lot of internal stress," said Jackson-Spence. 

    Dr Frankie Jackson Spence 2.JPG

    FHA can occur when a woman is in a gentle calorie deficit for a long time — even if it isn't extreme, if the preoccupation is causing anxiety and stress, you can lose your menstrual cycle. However, the greater the calorie deficit, the higher the frequency of menstrual cycle dysfunction.

    Research shows that low energy availability (ie. not consuming enough for your body and activity levels) is a key factor in developing FHA.

    Studies also suggest that going full steam ahead into exercise rather than easing yourself into a new fitness regime gradually makes it more likely that your menstrual cycle will be disrupted, and if you are also restricting your calories it's even more likely. 

    The issue is very complex because being overweight can also lead to the brain stopping production of estrogen due to the hormone being released by the body's fat tissues, Jackson-Spence said.

    FHA is generally reversible

    Jackson-Spence stressed that every woman's cycle is different so you shouldn't diagnose yourself with hypothalamic amenorrhea, but if you've missed more than three periods in a row and have a negative pregnancy test, "you should speak to your GP rather than getting advice from social media."

    While doctors can prescribe medicines for inducing ovulation, a better approach is to focus on the underlying cause of FHA. But as these are so complex, the solutions are too — it can take months or over a year to get your cycle back, but it is possible.

    This might be after a period of chronic stress resolves, calories are raised, and/or intense exercise is cut down. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has also been shown to help some women.

    Focusing on rest days and recovery is important, and Madigan has seen some women regain their cycles simply by taking out one workout a week and replacing it with something calming like yoga or meditation (and crucially, not feeling guilty about it). 

    It's also important to ensure that not only are you eating enough, but you're eating a balanced diet and specifically not cutting down on fat too much.

    Moving away from tracking food intake, weighing yourself, and monitoring calorie burn can help too, as can shifting your focus from aesthetics to health.

    Madigan herself stopped taking part in bikini competitions in 2017 after speaking to the other women in the fitness industry (the vast majority of whom had no periods), having her concerns routinely dismissed by coaches, and realizing it just wasn't right.

    When did she finally get her period back? On a holiday in 2018. "I relaxed, I moved less, I ate more, it was amazing," she said.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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  • Sun, 28 Feb 2021 14:43:42 -0500

    salmon with risotto for dinner

    Summary List Placement

    Vitamin D is an important vitamin that aids in the formation of strong bones among other health benefits. Even though it can be produced by the human body through sunlight exposure, about 40% of Americans are still deficient in this "sunshine vitamin."

    This is because people tend to spend a lot of time indoors and also because most of the United States lies at latitudes above 37 degrees where there is less sunlight. For those who do not get enough sunlight, they can consume some of their daily dose of vitamin D through certain foods.

    How much vitamin D do I need? 

    According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended daily amount of vitamin D for each age group is:

    Vitamin D charts 05

    Some demographics need to be more aware of their vitamin D intake than others. Fleet says that older people, those with darker skin, and those who cover their skin — like for health or religious reasons — are more at risk of a vitamin D deficiency. 

    To help you reach your daily recommended intake of vitamin D, here are six healthy foods with the vitamin: 

    1. Eat salmon


    Salmon, an easily accessible fish, is packed with vitamin D. A 3 oz serving of salmon contains 375 international units (IU) of vitamin D

    If possible, opt for wild-caught salmon for an added boost of nutrition. A 2007 study in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology found that a 3.5 oz serving of wild caught salmon had an average of 988 IU of vitamin D, whereas the same amount of farmed salmon contained, on average, 240 IU.

    "Salmon is a great source of B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, which is thought to be beneficial in preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, inflammation in general," says Vanessa Rissetto MS, RD, CDN, the acting director of New York University's dietetic internship.

    Rissetto says salmon is simple to cook. She recommends baking a fillet at 350 °F for 45 minutes. To add some more flavor marinate in nonfat Greek yogurt, dill, garlic, and lemon juice. 

    2. Try trout

    rainbow trout

    Trout is another great fish option for those seeking to up their vitamin D intake. A 3 oz serving of raw farmed rainbow trout contains 540 IU of this necessary vitamin

    Trout is also an excellent source of other vitamins and minerals, says Rissetto. These include: 

    • Niacin, which helps your body turn food into energy
    • Vitamin B12, which helps with red blood cell formulation
    • Omega 3 fatty acids, which can reduce your risk of disease and stroke   

    Rissetto says an easy way to cook trout is grilling it in a pan with shallots, garlic, and one tablespoon of olive oil. Place it on top of mixed greens for a light lunch or dinner. 

    3. Supplement with cod liver oil

    omega 3 fatty acid fish oil

    Cod liver oil is a supplement that can be purchased at most grocery stores. It is a great option for those who don't like fish, but still want an easy way to add vitamin D to their diet. 

    While cod liver oil was once given to kids by the unpalatable spoonful, "today, cod liver oil is provided in capsules, so you can avoid the taste,"says James Fleet, PhD, a professor in the Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue University.

    Two capsules — about the equivalent of 5 milliliters of cod liver oil — will give you about 400 IU of the sunshine vitamin per day. This equates to about 66% of the average person's daily requirement of vitamin D.  

    4. Eat mushrooms

    health benefits of mushrooms

    For vegans and vegetarians, mushrooms are a good alternative source of vitamin D. A cup of diced raw maitake mushrooms contains 786 IU of vitamin D. 

    However, vitamin D content varies across mushrooms. A 2018 review paper in Nutrients found that fresh wild mushrooms have more vitamin D than store bought mushrooms. 

    For example, the researchers found that 100 grams of wild funnel chanterelles contained three to 30 micrograms of vitamin D compared to store bought button mushrooms which only had less than one microgram of vitamin D.

    The difference in nutrition comes down to how the mushrooms are grown. Just like humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when they are exposed to sunlight. And, in general, store bought mushrooms are grown in dimly lit environments thereby leading to less vitamin D..  

    To add more mushrooms to your diet, Rissetto recommends sauteeing them and tossing them on top of eggs or turkey burgers. 

    Read more about the health benefits of mushrooms. 

    5. Try egg yolks

    eggs cracking egg

    Another option for vegetarians looking to boost their intake of vitamin D are eggs — especially the yolk. One large egg with yolk contains about 44 IU of vitamin D, which accounts for 6% of the recommended daily value.  

    If you are concerned about how egg yolk might affect your cholesterol, don't be. "We've studied eggs for the last 60 years and can note that the yolks are not known to raise cholesterol," says Rissetto.

    6. Eat fortified foods

    bowl of wheat cereal

    Governments often collaborate with industry to fortify foods as a means of addressing micronutrient deficiencies in their population, such as vitamin D. 

    Common examples of foods fortified with vitamin D in the US include:

    Fleet says it doesn't matter if you are getting your vitamin D from supplements, fortified foods, or foods where it occurs naturally — your body appears to absorb it all the same.

    Is it possible to have too much Vitamin D? 

    Fleet notes eating too much vitamin D is rare, but toxicity can occur in adults consuming more than 4000 IUs per day. When vitamin D toxicity occurs, it is generally from supplementation

    Doctors usually advise patients who are prone to fractures, have hypoparathyroidism which is a thyroid condition, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis to take vitamin D supplements. If you are considering taking a vitamin D supplement, consult with your physician to find the right dosage for you and ensure you don't take too much. 

    Insider's takeaway

    Vitamin D is an important vitamin that helps your body build strong bones. Even though you can produce this vitamin through sunlight exposure, many Americans aren't able to spend adequate time outdoors. Therefore, to help you hit your recommended daily requirement, consider adding fish, mushrooms, or a vitamin D supplement to your diet.

    5 science-backed benefits of vitamin B12 and how to get enough of it in your dietVitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can boost your immune system — here's how to get enough of itThe science-backed benefits of vitamin D and how to get enough of itYes, you can take too much vitamin D — especially if you're taking supplements for it

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  • Sat, 27 Feb 2021 18:08:32 -0500

    jonah hill

    Summary List Placement

    Actor Jonah Hill called out the Daily Mail for posting candid shots of the actor shirtless after surfing, part of what he said has been a pattern of the media trying to body-shame him. 

    "I don't think I ever took my shirt off in a pool until I was in my mid 30s even in front of family and friends. Probably would have happened sooner if my childhood insecurities weren't exacerbated by years of public mockery about my body by press and interviewers," he wrote. 


    Hill posted the comments late Friday night on his Instagram page, saying that the "stalking" and media attention no longer fazed him. 

    "I'm 37 and finally love and accept myself," he wrote.

    The actor, made famous for playing nerdy roles in "Superbad" and "Knocked Up," had previously attracted attention for significant weight loss in 2011 and again in 2017

    His recent comments resonated with fans who describe feeling similarly uncomfortable and anxious about body image, particularly men. 

    Hill specified that he was sharing his story so that it might help other people with similar experiences.  

    "This isn't a 'good for me' post. And it's definitely not a 'feel bad for me post'. It's for the the kids who don't take their shirt off at the pool. Have fun. You're wonderful and awesome and perfect," he wrote.

    It's not uncommon for male celebrities to face unwanted attention and scrutiny of their bodies. Leading men like Jason Momoa and the late Chadwick Boseman are both recent examples of high-profile body shaming from the media, audiences, and even fans. 

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  • Sat, 27 Feb 2021 13:59:44 -0500

    chopping peppers vegetables

    Summary List Placement

    Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is used for various processes in the body including building bone, collagen, and muscles. It's also important for wound healing. But the human body doesn't produce vitamin C on its own, meaning you need to consume it from dietary sources. 

    Here are five benefits of vitamin C, and how to know if you're getting enough of it:

    1. Vitamin C might help your immune system 

    "There is some limited evidence that extra-high doses of vitamin C boost the immune system and help fight off the common cold and other types of infections," says Ben Tanner, a physician assistant and nutrition expert. An extra-high dose of vitamin C is somewhere around 200 mg.  "The evidence is pretty weak, but the benefits of taking some extra vitamin C when you are sick probably outweigh any risks, for almost everyone."

    A paper published in the journal Nutrients in 2017 notes that some cells in the immune system require vitamin C to do their jobs, meaning a high supply — about 100 to 200 mg a day — of vitamin C can enhance immune system functioning. 

    Additionally, vitamin C deficiency can increase your risk of becoming susceptible to some bacteria and viruses. That said, the Mayo Clinic stresses there is no evidence that vitamin C prevents the common cold. 

    2. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can prevent cell damage

    "[Vitamin C] is an antioxidant, which limits the damaging effects of free radicals," explains Amanda Izquierdo, MPH, RD, a Chicago-based registered dietitian.

    Free radicals are compounds produced both by normal cell processes and by external sources like pollution or cigarette smoke. If your body accumulates too many free radicals, this can lead to something called oxidative stress, which is linked to aging and health conditions including:

    • Rheumatoid arthritis, a type of autoimmune arthritis that causes joint swelling and pain
    • Cancer
    • Cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure 
    • Neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and multiple sclerosis

    Antioxidants — like vitamin C — can help prevent the accumulation of free radicals. That said, the International Journal of Biomedical Science study concludes that "further research is needed" before experts can unequivocally recommend antioxidant supplements as preventative treatments for some of these conditions linked to free radicals. 

    3. Vitamin C might lower your risk of stroke 

    Thanks to vitamin C's role as an antioxidant, it may also play a role in heart health. 

    A 2013 paper published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reviewed 16 studies to determine relationships between vitamin C intake and the likelihood of having a stroke

    The researchers concluded that people with a high vitamin C intake — ranging from an average of 45 mg to 1,167 mg a day — were less likely to have had strokes. Those who took between 200 mg and 550 mg a day of vitamin C saw the greatest reduction in stroke risk. 

    While researchers are unsure exactly how vitamin C reduces the risk of stroke, they believe it may be due to the vitamin's ability to lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation. 

    4. Vitamin C may be good for your skin

    A 2017 study published in Nutrients found that normal skin contains high levels of vitamin C because it plays two important roles in skin health: assisting with collagen production and preventing sun damage. 

    Vitamin C can help stimulate collagen production in the skin. Collagen is a protein that provides skin with its structure and stretch. As we age, our body naturally produces less collagen, resulting in wrinkles and fine lines. Topical application of vitamin C may help regenerate lost collagen. 

    Vitamin C also removes oxidants caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which helps to prevent sun damage. Ultraviolet radiation causes premature aging of the skin, resulting in wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, and skin sagging. Vitamin C also inhibits the production of melanin — a pigment that can cause dark patches on the skin. 

    5. Vitamin C helps iron absorption 

    Vitamin C helps with the absorption of non-heme iron, which is a type of dietary iron found in plant-based foods like leafy vegetables, nuts, and grains. Iron is important for maintaining healthy blood, as it's a major component of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells that transports oxygen to cells and organs. When someone is iron deficient, they develop a condition called anemia that causes muscle weakness and fatigue.

    Because vitamin C assists with iron absorption, people with anemia may benefit from taking iron supplements along with vitamin C supplements, or another source of vitamin C like a glass of orange juice

    How much vitamin C do I need? 

    The amount of vitamin C you need varies depending on your age, according to the National Institutes of Health.

    vit c

    There are not many risks associated with consuming too much vitamin C, Tanner says, because it's a water-soluble vitamin. That means that any excess is simply flushed out of the body in urine. 

    "One exception would be people with a condition called hemochromatosis, who have excessively high iron levels," he says. "Vitamin C increases iron absorption in the gut."

    Too much iron stored in the body can cause cirrhosis, heart failure, other organ failure, and diabetes

    Izquierdo says that most people don't experience issues from consuming too much vitamin C, but potential symptoms include: 

    Where can I get vitamin C?

    "The obvious food sources of vitamin C are citrus fruits," says Tanner. "But many other fruits and vegetables are also good sources."

    Foods rich in vitamin C include:

    Vitamins 05

    The bottom line

    Vitamin C plays an important role in many processes within the human body, from improving skin health to lowering your risk of stroke. Most people will hit their daily requirements without much effort, provided they eat plenty of fruits and veggies.

    5 science-backed benefits of vitamin B12 and how to get enough of it in your dietVitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can boost your immune system — here's how to get enough of itThe best vitamins to help your hair's growth, thickness, and overall health6 healthy foods rich in vitamin D and easy ways to incorporate them into your diet

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  • Sat, 27 Feb 2021 13:50:25 -0500

    LGBTQ nonbinary queer

    Summary List Placement

    Younger Americans are often assumed to be the most progressive when it comes to ideas about gender and sexuality. Gen Z — aged 18 to 24 — are more likely to identify as LGTBQ+, according to recent research. 

    But it's millennials (Gen Y) that most strongly push back on gender stereotypes, according to a new survey from the marketing insight agency Bigeye.

    Surveying more than 2,000 US adults across age groups, locations, and socioeconomic backgrounds, researchers found that Generation Y (25-39 years old) had the highest rates of opposition to the traditional gender binary. 

    Millennials were also the most likely of any age group to think that the next decade will see a shift away from gendered stereotypes, even more than their younger counterparts.

    However, both Gen Z and Y are far more likely to think of gender as a spectrum (and nonbinary or gender-neutral products and resources) than Americans aged 55 and older. That signals a potential shift in interest away from gender-based advertising for products like clothing, personal care products, and even children's toys

    Millennials are slightly more progressive on issues like traditional gender roles and gender-neutral bathrooms, data showed

    The Bigeye survey found that true to expectations, a majority of Gen Z-ers to be open-minded about gender.

    But millennials were even more likely to hold those views — 56% of Gen Y said they thought gender roles are outdated, compared to 50% of Gen Z.

    People from Gen Y were also significantly more likely to support the inclusion of gender-neutral bathrooms in public places than any other age group.  48% of Millennials said they thought bathrooms should be gender neutral, compared to just 38% of Gen Z.

    Millennials are more likely to support gender-neutral parenting

    The study also found that Gen Y-ers were more likely to be financially stable and thinking about the future, particularly the future of their children.

    LGBTQ family

    They were the most likely of any group to support non-gendered toys and books for children. A majority of Gen Y were also in favor of school programs like those in Sweden which call children by their first names and avoid gendered pronouns or nouns like "boys" and "girls" in school. 

    Younger people in general support moving away from gendered stereotypes, including in advertising 

    Across age groups, a majority of people surveyed agreed that Americans will likely move away from gendered assumptions in our work, our identities, and our products in the next 10 years. 

    People from Generations X, Y, and Z were equally likely to be in favor of dropping gender-based advertising on personal care products. 

    "Toiletries are constantly gendered and it is completely unnecessary. They should be labeled with the qualities of the product and the fragrance, if any. No mention of male or female is needed," one Gen Y respondent wrote.

    In contrast, people aged 55 and up were more likely to see the benefit in keeping gendered distinctions in marketing, with 19% of Boomers and 23% of the Silent Generation in support of different products for women and men.

    Millennials also overwhelmingly supported ads that show men and women with similar capabilities and roles — 80% of Gen Y approved of this, compared to 67% of Gen Z and 69% of Boomers.

    One thing everyone agreed on, though —  Gen Z is definitely the most informed age group when it comes to gender identity. A majority of people across all age groups agreed with this. 

    LGBTQ-identified participants were more likely to have faith in the next generation, with 82% of queer millennials and  88% of queer Boomers saying that Gen Z is better informed on nonbinary and transgender identities. 

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  • Sat, 27 Feb 2021 13:42:38 -0500

    spinach vitamins

    Summary List Placement

    Vitamin B6 is one of eight B vitamins and is essential for your metabolism, cardiovascular health, and much more. But because vitamin B6 is water-soluble, and not fat-soluble, it's regularly flushed out of the body, and therefore needs to be consumed daily.

    Here are eight health benefits of vitamin B6 and how to get enough of it in your diet.

    1. Vitamin B6 helps turn food into energy 

    Along with other B vitamins, B6 assists the body in converting food into energy. It helps metabolize carbohydrates and works with enzymes to break down proteins into amino acids — compounds that help our body grow and function properly. 

    2. Vitamin B6 supports heart health 

    "Vitamin B6 works with two other B vitamins — B12 and folic acid — to reduce levels of homocysteine," says Megan Wong, a registered dietitian at AlgaeCal, a calcium supplement company.

    Hyperhomocysteinemia occurs when there are high levels of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood. High amounts of homocysteine can lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, strokes, and atherosclerosis, a disease that causes plaque to build up in the arteries. 

    According to a 2015 report published in the Nutrition Journal, hyperhomocysteinemia can occur when someone is deficient in vitamin B6. But, with the right levels of B6 in combination with B12 and folic acid (B9), homocysteine levels can lower by up to a third. It's important to note that despite lowered homocysteine levels, patients do not see an effect on vascular outcomes. Therefore, B-vitamins may play a more preventative role in heart health. 

    3. Vitamin B6 promotes healthy brain function

    An increase in homocysteine levels can also speed up cognitive decline, says Wong. This uptick can lead to an increased risk of neurological conditions such as dementia.

    In addition to regulating homocysteine levels, B6 plays a role in the synthesis of important neurotransmitters — chemical messengers used by the brain and nervous system. Some of the neurotransmitters B6 helps synthesize include: 

    • Dopamine: responsible for reward-seeking, motivation, and movement 
    • Serotonin: stabilizes mood, causes feelings of well-being and happiness. 
    • Melatonin: plays a role in regulating our circadian rhythm and ability to fall asleep 
    • Noradrenaline: produces the 'fight or flight' response in our body when we perceive danger

    4. Vitamin B6 may help morning sickness

    During pregnancy, anyone experiencing morning sickness is often prescribed a combination tablet of doxylamine — an antihistamine — and vitamin B6

    Vitamin B6 has been shown to help with nausea while the doxylamine may reduce vomiting. A typical dose of the combination tablet is 10 mg to 25 mg, three times a day.

    5. Vitamin B6 may treat seizures in newborns 

    Children diagnosed with pyridoxine‐dependent epilepsy (PDE) require between 15 to 500 mg of vitamin B6 a day for life. PDE is a rare, genetic condition that occurs within a few days of being born and is characterized by difficult-to-control seizures. But vitamin B6 can help control the condition.

    Pyridoxine‐dependent epilepsy is rare with only 200 cases reported, and occurs within a few days of being born. It is caused by a mutation in the gene ALDH7A1.

    When treated intravenously with 50-100 mg of vitamin B6 — also known as pyridoxine — the seizures dissipated within minutes. Children diagnosed with PDE receive 15 to 30mg of vitamin B6 a day for life, but may sometimes require up to 500 mg. 

    A person with these seizures is vitamin B6 dependent, requiring the nutrient in order to keep the condition at bay as traditional anticonvulsants do not work.

    6. Vitamin B6 fosters a healthy immune system  

    The body requires vitamin B6 to maintain a healthy immune system

    "B6 improves communication from 'messenger' cells called chemokines, which direct white blood cells to areas of infection or damage," says Wong. "Not having enough vitamin B6 can reduce the growth and production of key immune players: lymphocytes and antibodies."

    There are two forms of lymphocytes, both of which are altered by a B6 deficiency: 

    • T cells which fights off foreign invaders in the body
    • B cells which create antibodies that then attach to foreign invaders, like bacteria or viruses, and destroy them

    A 2006 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vitamin B6 improved the immune response in critically ill patients. The study divided 51 participants into three groups: one received an injection of 50 mg of B6 a day, another 100 mg, and a control group. After 14 days of supplementation, those who received 50 to 100 mg of B6 saw an improvement in important markers of immune response like total T-cell count. 

    7. Vitamin B6 helps prevent anemia

    "Vitamin B6 is involved in the production of hemoglobin — a protein that supplies the cells with oxygen," says Lina Velikova, MD, PhD, a clinical immunologist and a medical advisor at Supplements101

    Lower than normal hemoglobin levels is one of the causes of anemia, a condition characterized by low levels of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body, so without adequate red blood cells, one can feel weak and fatigued.

    Maintaining an adequate intake of vitamin B6 can help prevent anemia. 

    How much vitamin B6 do I need? 

    The amount of B6 you should be consuming on a daily basis depends on age and gender. For each demographic, the daily recommended dose of vitamin B6 is:



    Where can I get vitamin B6? 

    Vitamin B6 is readily available in food and supplements. "The best way to ensure we have enough of this vitamin is through a vitamin B6-rich diet," says Velikova. 

    Foods high in B6 include: 

    Vitamins 09

    If someone is unable to consume enough vitamin B6 through their diet, they can consider taking B6 supplements. Velikova says dosage should not exceed 1.4 mg a day for women over 18 and 1.7 mg a day for men over 18.

    Wong recommends supplements for older adults, especially if they have a reduced appetite that may mean they are not eating enough B6 rich foods. 

    Talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, as they can help you determine the right dosage. 

    Insider's takeaway

    Vitamin B6 is critical in maintaining proper body functions. Its benefits include improving heart health and fostering a healthy immune system. To ensure you're hitting your daily recommendation of B6 try incorporating chicken, soybeans, and potatoes into your diet. 

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  • Sat, 27 Feb 2021 12:17:51 -0500

    Vitamin E

    Summary List Placement

    Vitamin E is a fat-soluble mineral and antioxidant found in fruits and vegetables. It has a range of benefits from boosting the immune system to lowering your risk of developing select kinds of heart disease

    Here are seven science-backed benefits of vitamin E and tips to ensure you're hitting your daily dose. 

    1. Vitamin E may slow the aging process of cells

    Vitamin E is an antioxidant, meaning it prevents free radicals from damaging cells. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules produced by chemical reactions in the body. They can also come from outside sources like cigarette smoke and air pollution. When free radicals damage cells, conditions like dementia and Alzheimer's disease may develop.

    Free radicals reduce a cell's lifespan through a process called oxidative stress. The process of oxidative stress as it relates to aging is not clear. However, scientists do know that free radicals bind to cells in a way that causes damage to the protein and DNA inside. As an antioxidant, vitamin E neutralizes this threat. 

    A 2018 paper in The Journals of Gerontology: Series A found that among 1,002 patients with clinically confirmed cardiovascular disease, low vitamin E consumption was linked to increased cellular aging. 

    2. Vitamin E can help those with  macular dysfunction

    Macular dysfunction is a genetic eye disease, and in severe cases, it can result in vision loss. The condition occurs when the macula region — an oval-shaped area at the center of your eye — is damaged by free radicals. 

    Two clinical trials in 2006 with about 4800 participants found that vitamin E in combination with other nutrients could reduce the risk of vision loss by 19%. They also found that the vitamin E combo slowed the progression of macular dysfunction. 

    The study compared different supplements and how they affected the progression of macular dysfunction. The researchers found that a supplement containing 400 IU of vitamin E — along with other vitamins like  zinc oxide, copper, vitamin C, and beta-carotene — reduced the possibility of a mild case of macular dysfunction developing into a severe case. Supplementation with only copper and zinc or antioxidants were not as effective.

    It's important to note that vitamin E is best suited to prevent progression of the disease in those who already have it.  It is not as effective at preventing age-related macular dysfunction in people who do not show symptoms of the disorder. 

    3. Vitamin E boosts immune system response 

    Vitamin E appears to boost levels of a type of immune cell called T lymphocytes or T cells, says Elizabeth Somer, MA, RD, a registered dietitian and medical advisory board member for Persona

    T cells are white blood cells that play a role in the immune system. There are two types of T cells: regulatory and cytotoxic. Regulatory T cells manage immune reactions to foreign particles and prevent autoimmune conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and type 1 diabetes. Meanwhile, cytotoxic cells attach to cells infected by bacteria and viruses and kill the cells. 

    "Vitamin E helps maintain the strength and vitality of T cell membranes, helps these cells multiply correctly, and communicate to other immune processes. T cells decrease with age, so maintaining optimal intake of this vitamin is important in maintaining a well-functioning immune system," Somer says. 

    A 2018 paper published in IUBMB Life found that vitamin E deficiency hindered immune response by altering the functions of T cells and antibody production. But, it also found that with vitamin E supplementation, these effects can be reversed.

    Most research conducted on vitamin E's role in immune response has focused primarily on T cells. However, scientists believe vitamin E may regulate other types of immune cells too. 

    For more information, learn about how to boost your immune system

    4. Vitamin E  may slow memory loss in individuals with Alzheimer's disease

    Because the brain uses a lot of oxygen, it is highly susceptible to oxidative stress, says Debbie Petitpain, MS, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Since vitamin E can prevent cellular damage caused by oxygen, it may help prevent cognitive decline 

    A 2014 study published in JAMA with just over 560 Alzheimer's patients found that having 2000 IU per day of alpha-tocopherol — a form of vitamin E — reduced functional decline. The study tested cognitive function with daily activity assessment. It's important to note that all participants had only mild cases of Alzheimer's. 

    5. Vitamin E may improve blood vessel health

    Vitamin E plays a vital role in the production of  red blood cells by protecting them from oxidative damage. Alongside vitamin K, it also helps expand blood vessels, which reduces the possibility of blood clots. 

    A 2007 paper published in Circulation found that in 213 patients who took 600 IU vitamin E daily, their risk of developing venous thromboembolism, a condition where a blood clot in the extremities travels to the lung, lowered by 21%. 

    While blood clotting is important because it slows bleeding after a cut or injury, it can be problematic when clots form in your blood vessels and then spread to the lungs or heart. This can lead to severe chest pain, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

    A 2013 paper in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry assessed 15 healthy men and found that vitamin E protects against the development of impaired lining of blood vessels caused by hyperglycemia after eating. Vitamin E was effective in offsetting any spikes in blood pressure after eating, thus improving blood vessel health. 

    Another study conducted in 2013 assessed 30 smokers after they stopped smoking and began taking 500 mg of vitamin E daily. It found that vitamin E supplementation along with quitting nicotine, resulted in about a 19% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk. Those who took vitamin E supplementation saw reduced levels of inflammation and better vascular function compared to those who received a placebo.

    6. Vitamin E may reduce premenstrual symptoms (PMS) 

    Vitamin E may even help reduce premenstrual symptoms (PMS) like anxiety, depression, cramping, and even cravings. A 2016 study published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery involving 86 women found that vitamin E supplementation reduced premenstrual symptoms like anxiety and depression more than the placebo group or those taking vitamin D. 

    Meanwhile,  a 2019 study with 210 female participants published in Obstetrics and Gynecology Science indicated that consuming vitamin E two days before menstruation through three days following may help alleviate menstrual cramps.

    Vitamin E can even help with premenstrual cravings. A 2013 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that 75 women who consume between 150 to 300 IU of vitamin E a day experienced fewer cravings than normal during their period. 

     7. Vitamin E may prevent sunburn and UV damage

    While Vitamin E cannot prevent sunburn on its own, it can be used alongside sunscreen for extra UV protection. 

    "For protection against photoaging of the skin and sunburns due to sun exposure, it is recommended to use sunscreen daily," says Olabola Awosika, MD, MS, a dermatologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. "Vitamin E can be used in conjunction with sunscreen to provide further benefit against oxidative damage from UV rays.

    While multiple studies conducted in animals from the early 2000s found that topical use of vitamin E provided an increased protection against skin cancer and reduced skin problems like hyperpigmentation and inflammation, evidence remains unclear in humans. 

    However, a 2009 paper published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggests that combining vitamin C and E with sunscreen may prevent ultraviolet-related damage in comparison to using sunscreen alone.

    How to get enough vitamin E

    According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements, your daily recommendation of vitamin E varies according to age.

    Vitamin E charts 03

    To ensure you're hitting daily recommendations, look for foods high in vitamin E. Some examples include: 

    Vitamin Echarts 04

    Vitamin E supplements 

    While research shows vitamin E deficiency is uncommon, those struggling to meet daily recommendations should consider taking a supplement. A deficiency in vitamin E usually signals a more severe health problem, like cystic fibrosis or liver disease, so talk to your doctor before starting a supplement. 

    To avoid vitamin E toxicity, you should not consume more than 1,000 milligrams per day. Although rare, vitamin E toxicity can cause symptoms like nausea and fatigue. In more severe cases, it can lead to death. 

    "Vitamin E is very safe in a wide range of supplemental doses. The only somewhat common side effect of excess supplemental intakes is bleeding, but that happens at doses above 1,000 mg a day," says Somer.  

    When taken as a supplement, vitamin E increases the risk of bleeding because it reduces blood's ability to clot. Due to this bleeding risk, Somer suggests that those taking high doses of vitamin E discontinue use two weeks before surgery or extensive dental work.

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  • Sat, 27 Feb 2021 10:03:32 -0500

    Jake cold water swimming polar plunge

    Summary List Placement

    Jake Panasevich stood on his open-air porch wearing nothing but boxer briefs in less than 10-degree weather.

    The yoga instructor, who's spent the pandemic with his dog in a Cayuga, New York, family lake house, called it "cold therapy." His neighbors, he presumes, called him a loon.

    But while standing there looking out at the ice-covered Lake Cayuga, an even zanier thought crossed his mind: "Wouldn't it be cool if there was a way to get in there?" Panasevich recalls.

    He wasn't the first person to have that thought. In fact, he soon learned, a small group had been meeting up at a non-frozen part of the lake, stripping down to swimsuits, and running in. 

    On February 8, Panasevich drove an hour to the lake's thawed end to join them. He told himself he didn't have to go through with it, or that perhaps he'd just go in halfway. But buoyed by others' courage, he waded in up to his neck — and has been four times since. 

    "It's given me something to look forward to — or dread — in a time when nothing is going on," Panasevich, 35, told Insider. "It's exhilarating, and you have to be present. All of these things that are going through my mind being isolated during the pandemic are washed away by the cold water." 


    Cold water swimming or winter bathing seems to be enjoying a global boom during the pandemic, with folks looking to break up monotony, form community, and boost their mental and physical health. There's some research in favor of their claims, but the practice can also be deadly. The strongest evidence of its benefits is anecdotal. 

    "It is bracing. It requires more focus [than warm-water swimming], and conquering it makes me feel like superwoman," Gail McCallen, a 57-year-old decorator in Seattle who began cold water swimming in the Puget Sound this winter, told Insider. "I always feel so alive. " 

    Cold water immersion can take many forms  

    Cold water immersion, which has been around since ancient times, can take many forms: Some people plunge in and out; some, like Panasevich, paddle around for five or six minutes, sometimes dunking their heads; and others swim for longer.

    Some wear regular bathing suits, and those like McCallen, who swims for 20 to 40 minutes, wear a wetsuit, neoprene socks, gloves, and a hat, and a swim cap. The temperature can be in the 30s or 40s; a typical swimming pool, by comparison, is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

    Many plunge in groups through well-organized clubs, others pair up with a friend and share a hot cocoa afterwards. It is not recommended to dive solo, nor does doing so hold much appeal. The shared thrill, and potential danger, fuels strong bonds. "We swim and marvel that we survived the cold again and talk," McCallen said, "and it feels like a life again." 

    There are breathing and other strategies to make the experience safer and more bearable, and, with each plunge, the body and mind acclimate.

    Winter swimming. People winter bathing in the sea. A large group of people is walking on frozen water.

    Mike Tipton, a researcher at the University of Portsmouth in the UK who studies extreme environments, told Insider his recent webinars on the topic have sold out in a day or two, with one attracting 1,500 attendees. Membership in an open-water swim club near him went from 25 to almost a thousand in the past three months, he said. 

    In the US, too, wetsuit retailers have struggled to keep up with demand, said McCallen, who was at first forced to order an ill-fitting man's suit due to the short supply. 

    Tipton, a triathlete and body boarder, expects increased interest has a lot to do with the fact that lockdowns have made it even easier to avoid any physical discomfort when, in fact, that's exactly what our bodies need to adapt and thrive.  

    The pandemic has "accentuated the fact that we don't really challenge the system very much, and so people are now looking for ways to challenge the system," he said. "I think it's probably part and parcel of why we've got such an increase in the number of people engaging in extreme sports, generally, not just open-water swimming." 

    The pandemic has also muted people's identities. Who are you if you're out of work or can't be the life of the party or go weeks without interacting with another human being? Life in your own brain can be lonely. "Sometimes having been the house for so long, you don't feel like yourself anymore," Panasevich said. "And I think it shocks you back into reality."  

    'A kill or a cure?' 

    Tipton says cold-water immersion is a double-edged sword he refers to as "a kill or a cure." On the "kill side," the activity comes with a host of well-documented dangers, like drowning, cardiac arrest, and hypothermia.

    Getting in cold water is hard on the body. When it comes to cold water specifically, getting in is hard on the body. It first evokes the "cold shock response," or the fight-or-flight reflex that sends blood to your heart and the brain, quickens your breathing, speeds up your heart rate, and prompts you to shiver and gasp. 

    "If you're jumping into cold water and you gasp and it's timed wrong, you can actually get cold water in your lungs and that's very dangerous," exercise physiologist Emily Johnson told US News

    If you put your head under cold water, you'll also experience a "diving reflex," which contradicts the cold shock response by telling the body to breathe more slowly and slow down its heart rate. Taken together, the responses can lead to a heart arrhythmia or even death.

    In rare cases, cold water immersion, particularly for longer periods of time, can cause tetany, a condition in which the heart freezes and stops. 

    Cold water immersion is linked to a host of benefits, but it's unclear if something else may be responsible 

    But winter bathing devotees find ways to manage those risks — the basics are starting with short, not-entirely-frigid immersions, wearing appropriate gear if you choose, going with a group, making sure you don't have a heart or other condition that could put you in more danger, and changing into warm, dry clothes immediately afterwards. 

    Jake Panasevich cold water swimming

    The benefits, enthusiasts say, are well worth it. For one, they report feel alert and alive, thanks to the same fight-or-flight response that can put them in danger, Tipton said. "There's this euphoria that happens," McCallen said.  

    Some cold-water swimmers also seek the metabolism boost, and others boast of improved immune function. But, Tipton said, it's difficult to parse what really accounts for fewer reported sick days.

    In one of his recent studies, for instance, he and colleagues found swimmers tended to have fewer respiratory tract infections than their live-in, non-swimmer partners, but it didn't seem to matter whether the water was warm or cold. "Perhaps it's the exercise," he said. 

    The third main purported benefit of cold-water immersion, and the one that excites Tipton the most, is reduced inflammation. That helps the body better deal all kinds of stressors and reduces the likelihood of heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's, depression, and more. 

    A case study co-authored by Tipton describes a 24-year-old new mom with severe depression and anxiety whose symptoms had resisted treatment, including multiple medications, for seven years. She then tried cold water immersion as a therapy. 

    "After the second one, she was thoroughly miserable," Tipton said. But "by the sixth immersion, she was ecstatic. She said she's the happiest she'd been since her child was born." Afterwards, she took up cold-water swimming and remained good mental health and drug-free a year later. 

    "It's easy to poo-poo anecdotal evidence as a scientist," Tipton said, "but it is a form of evidence." The question remains, though, what's really the cause: The physical activity? The nature? The feelings of connection? The sense of accomplishment? The distraction? The post-dunk slice of cake? Or, the cold? 

    "We need to find out what the active ingredient is," Tipton said. 

    Eventually, identifying it may lead to treatments using a minimal effective dose strategy, especially for people with conditions like dementia for whom swimming in an icy lake is out of the question. "What if you only had to immerse a hand or a foot to have these beneficial effects?" Tipton asked. 

    Gail McCallen open water swimming

    But right now, converts to the activity don't care so much what's making them feel great. They're embracing feeling great in a year of feeling, well, terrible. "There is something empowering about beginning something new when life is limited," McCallen said.

    While she'd been a summer lake swimmer for much of her life, this winter was the first time she continued open-water swimming through the seasons. "At the end of the summer, I really just couldn't face the shortening days of gray and rain, and the end of swimming," said McCallen, who's also been out of work throughout the pandemic. 

    "So I asked some questions, bought a wetsuit and the things I needed, and kept swimming," she said. "Some days, I think it has saved my life." 

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  • Sat, 27 Feb 2021 09:25:09 -0500

    queen elizabeth

    Summary List Placement

    Queen Elizabeth II spoke about her experience getting the COVID-19 vaccine in a recently released video from the royal family.

    The 94-year-old monarch and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, both received their vaccines at Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace confirmed on January 9

    In a recording shared on Thursday from a video call with UK health officials, the Queen said: "Once you've had the vaccine you have a feeling of, you know, you're protected, which is I think very important." 

    "As far as I could make out it was quite harmless," the Queen continued. "It was very quick, and I've had lots of letters from people who have been very surprised by how easy it was to get the vaccine. And the jab — it didn't hurt at all."

    The monarch went on to encourage others to do the same once they have the opportunity to get the vaccine.

    "I think the other thing is, that it is obviously difficult for people if they've never had a vaccine, but they ought to think about other people rather than themselves," the Queen said.

    The Queen's message urging all to get the COVID-19 vaccine is reminiscent of her support of polio vaccination efforts more than 70 years ago.

    queen elizabeth II prince charles princess anne prince philip

    In 1957, the Queen made public her decision to have her children Prince Charles and Princess Anne receive the polio vaccine.

    At the time, Prince Charles was eight, and Princess Anne was six. The Queen's support for polio inoculations was one way that she attempted to alleviate public fears about the then-new vaccine, as The Telegraph's Camilla Tominey wrote.

    The Queen's video call shared on Thursday also marked her first official appearance since 99-year-old Prince Philip was admitted to the hospital for an infection earlier in February. 

    "The Duke of Edinburgh remains at King Edward VII's Hospital where he is receiving medical attention for an infection," a Buckingham Palace spokesperson told Insider in a statement on Tuesday. "He is comfortable and responding to treatment but is not expected to leave hospital for several days."

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    READ MORE: 22 adorable photos that show Queen Elizabeth II is just a regular grandma

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  • Sat, 27 Feb 2021 07:00:00 -0500


    Summary List Placement

    Last month, the Supreme Court voted to ban the abortion pill, which is used to induce a miscarriage in people who are up to 11 weeks pregnant, from mail order during the pandemic.

    The move makes the abortion pill the only prescription medication to have such restrictions.

    In July 2020, for the first time, the FDA allowed mail order of the abortion pill on a federal level. The goal was to ensure safe abortion care during the pandemic, when Americans were being urged not to travel and to avoid in-person treatments where possible. 

    Though a "medication abortion" is available at clinics that are open for in-person care, that's a complicated option for people who live hundreds of miles from abortion providers — and even more so during the pandemic. Those who do take time off work to make such a trip, which the CDC advises against as COVID-19 continues to spread, are often far from their families and support network. 

    Kate Kelly, a human rights lawyer and co-host of abortion rights podcast Ordinary Equality, told Insider the SCOTUS ruling doesn't just heighten COVID-19 risk for people seeking abortions. She believes it's also a bad omen for the future of Roe v. Wade, a 1973 ruling which says pregnant women have the right to abortions without excessive government intervention.

    "They intervened in something that would have naturally expired, because it was an order for during the pandemic," Kelly said.

    "This is another reason why it's like, 'Oh, why did [SCOTUS] jump into something that would have ostensibly expired anyway, to like cut it off?' That's scary," Kelly said. 

    Getting an abortion can require unpaid time off work and driving hundreds of miles

    Allison, a 27-year-old media professional in New York City, didn't plan on getting pregnant during the pandemic. As someone who never had an abortion before, she was unsure where to turn. So her friend made her an appointment at a Manhattan Planned Parenthood location, where she was given the first of two pills for a medication abortion.

    Despite her fear of contracting COVID-19, Allison said the overall experience was positive because the nurses at the clinic offered emotional support and guidance. The only downside, Allison told Insider, was balancing work with the time commitment her abortion appointment required.

    "It was terrible timing because I didn't feel like I could afford to take time off. I told the people I work with what happened and that I needed some time," Allison, who asked to use a pseudonym to protect her privacy, told Insider.

    "Even though they knew [I needed an abortion], I couldn't take that time off because there was too much to do [at work]," she said.

    For working parents and those who live in areas where the closest clinic is hundreds of miles away, Allison's situation would have been complicated to navigate. 

    In Missouri, for example, a single Planned Parenthood location is the only abortion clinic in the state, leading those who need abortions to drive across state lines to Illinois to get the care they need, NPR previously reported. Kentucky, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, and West Virginia also have just one abortion clinic.

    That's where a mail-order abortion pill could help, public health experts say.

    Poor and Black communities, who are hit hardest by COVID-19, are most affected by limits to abortion care

    The Center for Reproductive Rights has identified 34 states that could cease to protect abortion rights if Roe v. Wade is overturned, most of them in the South where a high percentage of people of color live.

    Black and Latinx communities are disproportionately affected by existing anti-abortion laws, since they tend to live below the poverty line and lack access to birth control from both a geographical and financial standpoint.

    These are communities already hit hard by the pandemic, and stand to be hit hardest by further limitations to abortion care.

    Campaign to reinstate the mail-in abortion pill

    Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson has asked the Biden-Harris administration to reinstate pills-by-mail for the rest of the pandemic, Insider's Kimberly Leonard previously reported.

    "When you think about the ways in which the Biden-Harris is building an agency and personnel strategy that is intending to center race, equity, and gender equity — and you look at the patients who are most harmed by this completely medically unnecessary requirement — those are largely people of color," McGill Johnson told Insider.

    She said if President Biden "intends to have a true intersectional approach to access to abortion in the immediate" abortion-pill access through the mail should be a top priority.

    The ruling may be an omen for the future of Roe v. Wade

    The decision is also proof Roe v. Wade, a ruling meant to end such restrictions, is in peril, according to Kelly.

    McGill said the Supreme Court's order to stop abortion pill access by mail is "an egregious step backwards for health equity," and that the restrictions, even after the pandemic, should be permanently removed.

    "At the end of the day it is medically unnecessary and we see these restrictions time and again, intended to create barriers to access and intended to shame providers, to shame patients," said McGill.

    Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who was recently appointed to the Supreme Court as Trump's nominee, wrote the January decision. Coney Barrett's SCOTUS confirmation alone sparked concerns about Roe v. Wade's future given the judge's previous opposition to abortion, Insider previously reported. 

    SCOTUS has also considered taking up a Mississippi 15-week abortion ban case that has the potential to overturn Roe. The court received the initial request to hear the case hours after Coney Barrett was confirmed.

    Carole Joffe, a sociologist, previously told Insider she is concerned that, if states don't protect abortion rights, and a majority conservative SCOTUS overturns Roe v. Wade, it could lead to an uptick in "underground" abortions. "What is hard enough for many women will become even harder," said Joffe, co-author of "Obstacle Course: The Everyday Struggle to Get an Abortion in America."

    Allowing the abortion pill "is a very low bar, so it's troubling to see what might be coming in the future," Kelly said.

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  • Sat, 27 Feb 2021 06:13:00 -0500


    Summary List Placement

    Amid the mental health crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, people with OCD are experiencing unique difficulties.

    Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a debilitating mental health condition. Obsessions are the unwelcome thoughts that repeatedly appear in the mind, while compulsions are the repetitive activities done to reduce the anxiety caused by the obsession.

    According to the International OCD Foundation, between two to three million adults in the US currently have OCD and 500,000 children and teenagers. In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) called OCD one of the top 10 most disabling illnesses by lost income and quality of life.

    When 19-year-old Iowa college student, Shira Folberg, was 16, her OCD led to her medically withdrawing from high school.

    She has had issues related to disordered eating, health-related anxiety, and moral scrupulosity, a form of OCD that causes an obsessive concern with whether one is being good or bad.

    Folberg told Insider: "When Covid really hit, it was hard for me because I used to have a lot of compulsions where I would obsessively check to see if I had symptoms of different illnesses. 

    "So when people first started coming out and saying these are the symptoms you should be watching out for, I would fixate on those things, and it would make me really anxious," she continued.

    "I would spend a lot of time checking to see if I had symptoms even though I would just stay at home all day and didn't talk to anyone."

    Alison Dotson, President of OCD Twin Cities in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was diagnosed with the condition 15 years ago and has struggled with harm OCD amid COVID-19.

    "For me, the fear of harming someone else is something I always worry about but it's been heightened during the pandemic."

    'Isolate and avoid people, places and things.'

    The pandemic has led to 4 in 10 adults in the US reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression, an increase from the one in ten adults, according to research published by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    Dr. Elizabeth McIngvale, Director of the McLean OCD Institute at Houston, said treating OCD people in the time of COVID was a challenge: "When you're in the middle of treatment it's don't isolate, don't avoid people, places or things. Well, what's the world telling you right now? Isolate and avoid people, places, and things."

    Dr. Ken Duckworth, Chief Medical Officer at the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), told Insider: "We have certainly seen an increase of anxiety disorders at NAMI. There's also been a big leap in people with germ phobias being provoked by COVID-19."

    Hand-washing to prevent the coronavirus's spread is particularly tough for suffers from contamination OCD - a sub-type of the condition. After years of being told to stop washing their hands to control their condition, the new message to wash their hands to prevent COVID-19 can be mind-boggling.

    CDC Hand Washing

    'It's a very illogical and irrational disorder'

    As vaccination rollouts begin, restrictions are lifted, and the post-pandemic future beckons, experts worry that people with OCD will struggle to re-assimilate back into society. 

    Dr. McIngvale said that while life will return to normal for many, OCD sufferers will face many hurdles: "They may still be stuck on worrying about the virus, worrying about another virus and worrying about if it's actually gone or is if it's still here."

    Folberg agreed: "It's a very illogical and irrational disorder, so even if it is safe for people, I know a lot are really going to struggle to transition back to normalcy."

    Dr. Athanasios Hassoulas, Director of MSc Psychiatry at Cardiff University, Wales, has OCD and has written a paper on how people with OCD are coping during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    "We need to have more support available and tailored approaches to the degree of the severity. We need to concentrate on the psychological impact of the pandemic and not leave it till the last minute," he said. 

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  • Fri, 26 Feb 2021 18:23:54 -0500

    queer people having fight

    Summary List Placement

    Queer people of color have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. Communities of color have been devastated by COVID-19 and LGBTQ+ people have faced disproportionate rates of unemployment

    A report published February 25 found those who hold both identities are at an even higher risk of COVID-19.

    UCLA's Williams Institute found LGBTQ+ people of color are twice as likely to test positive for COVID-19 (15%) than their white, straight counterparts (7%), and white LGBTQ+ counterparts (10.4%) despite being more likely to wear a mask and social distance. 

    Experts say the results could be related to a number of factors including how systemic racism worsens health and creates barriers to healthcare, being more likely to do frontline work, and underlying medical conditions caused by systemic racism and homophobia, among others. 

    Researchers say that, while it's not clear why queer and transgender people of color (QTPOC) are more likely to test positive, looking at the intersection of identity is crucial to understand how different groups are experiencing the pandemic. 

    "Our main finding is that the impact of the pandemic on LGBT communities cannot be fully understood without considering race and ethnicity as well as sexual orientation and gender identity," the study reads.

    QTPOC were more likely to know someone who had died from COVID-19

    Researchers surveyed over 12,000 subjects across the country from August 2020 to December 2020. The national survey asked questions about economic stability during the pandemic, their experience with COVID-19, and their trust in the government to handle the pandemic. 

    In addition to testing positive more often for COVID-19, QTPOC were more likely to know someone who had died from COVID-19 than straight white people. One in three queer people of color knew someone who had died, as opposed to the one in five straight white people surveyed who knew someone who had died.

    Another recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found LGBTQ+ people were more likely to have underlying conditions that make COVID-19 more deadly such as asthma and diabetes. They were also more likely to develop severe COVID-19.

    According to Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute and author of the report, the intersection of both identities plays a huge role in the disparities seen in the study. 

    "Race is playing a huge role here," Sears told NBC News. "When we think about an intersectional impact, this is about as clear as we can see it in the data."

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TechCrunch News

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