25 ways to stay warm this winter that won’t break the bank | CNN

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CNN
 — 

As wintry weather whips across the United States, one challenge may be staying warm if you can’t afford or are cutting back on indoor heating.

Staying warm is necessary “for a variety of health reasons” in addition to comfort, said Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association. For people with arthritis, stiffness “in your back and neck and sore joints do occur more in colder weather. … People who have metabolic conditions can be sensitive to the weather, like diabetes, for example, and heart disease. The more cold you are, the more stress you put on your heart.”

A little savvy based on our warm-blooded bodies, food, appliances, furniture, the outdoor elements and more can go a long way. Here are 25 ways to stay warm this winter — with or without indoor heating — that won’t break the bank.

How to warm your body

1. Warm up with store-bought hand warmers, microwavable heating pads, hot water bottles or heated blankets. Following the manufacturer’s instructions and concentrating on your torso are key, said JohnEric Smith, an associate professor in the department of kinesiology at Mississippi State University. “If you warm the core you can warm the hands and feet. It is harder to warm the core by warming the hands and feet.”

Be careful that you don’t burn yourself, Benjamin said. “They’re very effective on a knee or shoulder or the back of the neck. … You rarely put it directly on your skin. You usually wrap it in something, maybe a thin towel.”

2. Move your body. Physical activities like indoor exercise or dancing can help you warm up, but don’t get to the point where you’re sweating, Smith said. “We sweat to lose heat and sweating will make us colder.”

3. Think twice about taking a warm shower or bath. “While a warm bath or shower will feel good for the minute,” Smith said, “you will be cold after you get out and your wet skin is losing heat more quickly.”

4. Cuddle. Snuggles really can keep you warm. “Each of us produces heat through our metabolic processes. We lose our heat to the environment as we maintain body temperature,” Smith said via email. “Increasing skin contact decreases opportunities for the heat to be lost to the environment around us. If two people are under a blanket both of their heat losses combined can increase the temperature under the blanket more quickly than either could do independently.”

5. Change how you perceive cold. Some people have trained their minds to perceive cold as an objective, acceptable sensation rather than something dreadful to control. The best ways to adapt include wearing clothing in layers then removing it, or gradually lowering the thermostat and putting on a sweater, Benjamin said.

Enjoying warm foods and beverages is a two-in-one solution: You get heat from the appliances when you cook the food, then warmth when you eat it.

6. Enjoy warm beverages and foods, and use the oven and stove to cook them. Since foods higher in fat and protein are metabolized slowly by the body, those could make you feel warmer, Smith said. “Consider hearty soups with beans and meat.” Slow cooking meals can help generate heat throughout the day.

Drinking warm beverages “certainly helps take the chill off,” Benjamin said. Leaving the oven or stove on is “a bad idea because it burns fuel,” Benjamin said, “but more importantly, people fall asleep, they forget and leave the stove on. Sometimes things on the stove can catch on fire. So like any tool, you should use it for the purpose in which it was designed.”

“It only has to go poorly once to be life changing,” Smith said. If you don’t have children or pets, when you’re done cooking and you turn off the oven, what doesn’t hurt is leaving the oven door open to let residual heat escape.

Cozying up underneath layers of clothing or blankets (or both) can help insulate you from the cold.

7. Layer on the clothes. “Layering is critical,” Smith said. “Even thin layers added together to increase one’s ability to retain heat … focus on keeping the torso warm. Often an extra shirt or vest can warm your hands and feet more than an extra pair of socks or gloves.” Inexpensive pairs of tights or long johns can be worn underneath clothes. However, be sure that layering doesn’t make your clothing tight, he added, since that could reduce blood flow and thus your body’s ability to get warm blood to those areas. Wearing a hat, too, can also keep the heat in.

8. Wear thick socks and slippers. Fuzzy socks, slippers or a pair of shoes you reserve for wearing around the house can add extra comfort.

9. Pile on the blankets. “The more layers you put on, the better it helps trap the air between you,” your sheets and your blankets, Benjamin said. Since you lose a lot of heat from your head while you’re under blankets, he added, wearing a skull cap can help also.

10. Embrace less breathable clothing and linens. Breathable linens (such as the cotton-based variety) are often recommended during the summer, but linens with other materials and higher thread counts may be better for winter since higher thread counts have more weaving per square inch.

Optimize your home and appliances

There are multiple ways to make your heating system work better, or to create your own warmth.

11. Work with the weather. Open your curtains or blinds to let the sun in during the day, or when outside is warmer than inside your home.

12. Seal your windows and doors. Even if your windows and doors are totally shut and locked, drafts can seep in through small crevices. You can use caulk or shrink film to seal those cracks. Placing inexpensive, transparent shower curtains over windows can keep the sun in but the cold draft out. For the bottoms of doors, cloth draft stoppers are “very effective,” Benjamin said.

13. Close off unoccupied rooms. By shutting the doors of rooms no one is using, you can create additional barriers between yourself and the cold outdoors. This can also aid preventing heat loss from the room you’re in.

14. Reverse your ceiling fan. If possible, send your ceiling fan in a clockwise direction so that it sends the warm air down.

15. Sit near indoor heaters. You can safely use portable heaters if they are space heaters that have automatic shutoffs and can be plugged into a wall outlet instead of an extension cord. Since space heaters are a common cause of fires, they should be at least 3 feet away from any drapes, bedding or furniture. To prevent high levels of carbon monoxide — which can cause potentially fatal poisoning — ensure you have a carbon monoxide monitor installed and that you don’t “use any type of outdoor gas heater or anything that is not electric,” Benjamin said.

16. Move anything that’s blocking heat vents or radiators. The heat will better circulate throughout your home that way.

17. Spend time and sleep in the upper levels of the house. Heat rises, so moving your working, sleeping and living spaces upward may be more comfortable.

18. After showering, don’t run the bathroom fan or close the door. Unless your bathroom is prone to growing humidity-induced mold, the warm steam from the shower can make the nearby air less dry and cool for a short period of time.

19. Buy magnetic vent covers from home improvement stores. Used to cover vents, they can be inexpensive and help to force heat to exit vents in the occupied rooms only.

20. Put down rugs or carpets. These can be warmer to the touch than bare floors.

21. Insulate your attic. If you can afford to, padding your attic with insulation from hardware stores can help to retain some of the heat you usually lose through the attic since heat rises.

22. Research what your residential area offers. Some locations may be running warming centers set up for safety during the pandemic.

Sitting near a fire is a method that's always reliable.

23. Light a fire. If your fireplace runs on wood instead of gas, a fire is another way to keep a room warm and enjoy a cozy night. “Make sure that your flue is properly opened and clean to make sure that smoke doesn’t come back in the home but goes properly up the flue,” Benjamin said. “When the fire is out, you should of course close the flue because it’s like having an open window.”

24. Keep warm and enjoy s’mores. If your state, city, county or neighborhood allows, have a (moderate-size) backyard bonfire to keep warm for a while.

25. Don’t light candles. Candles can emit a small amount of heat, but using them as a source of warmth can be dangerous. “People will light candles and go to sleep, and they fall over,” Benjamin said. “The cat comes in and kicks it over and starts a fire.”

With these tips in mind and any others you find, be “broadly thoughtful about how to stay warm in the winter,” he added. “If it sounds like it’s a bad idea, it probably is. Look it up and check it out before you do it.”

This story has been updated to reflect recent weather advisories.

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No antibiotics worked, so this woman turned to a natural enemy of bacteria to save her husband’s life | CNN



CNN
 — 

In February 2016, infectious disease epidemiologist Steffanie Strathdee was holding her dying husband’s hand, watching him lose an exhausting fight against a deadly superbug infection.

After months of ups and downs, doctors had just told her that her husband, Tom Patterson, was too racked with bacteria to live.

“I told him, ‘Honey, we’re running out of time. I need to know if you want to live. I don’t even know if you can hear me, but if you can hear me and you want to live, please squeeze my hand.’

“All of a sudden, he squeezed really hard. And I thought, ‘Oh, great!’ And then I’m thinking, ‘Oh, crap! What am I going to do?’”

What she accomplished next could easily be called miraculous. First, Strathdee found an obscure treatment that offered a glimmer of hope — fighting superbugs with phages, viruses created by nature to eat bacteria.

Then she convinced phage scientists around the country to hunt and peck through molecular haystacks of sewage, bogs, ponds, the bilge of boats and other prime breeding grounds for bacteria and their viral opponents. The impossible goal: quickly find the few, exquisitely unique phages capable of fighting a specific strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria literally eating her husband alive.

Next, the US Food and Drug Administration had to greenlight this unproven cocktail of hope, and scientists had to purify the mixture so that it wouldn’t be deadly.

Yet just three weeks later, Strathdee watched doctors intravenously inject the mixture into her husband’s body — and save his life.

Their story is one of unrelenting perseverance and unbelievable good fortune. It’s a glowing tribute to the immense kindness of strangers. And it’s a story that just might save countless lives from the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs — maybe even your own.

“It’s estimated that by 2050, 10 million people per year — that’s one person every three seconds — is going to be dying from a superbug infection,” Strathdee told an audience at Life Itself, a 2022 health and wellness event presented in partnership with CNN.

“I’m here to tell you that the enemy of my enemy can be my friend. Viruses can be medicine.”

sanjay pkg vpx

How this ‘perfect predator’ saved his life after nine months in the hospital

During a Thanksgiving cruise on the Nile in 2015, Patterson was suddenly felled by severe stomach cramps. When a clinic in Egypt failed to help his worsening symptoms, Patterson was flown to Germany, where doctors discovered a grapefruit-size abdominal abscess filled with Acinetobacter baumannii, a virulent bacterium resistant to nearly all antibiotics.

Found in the sands of the Middle East, the bacteria were blown into the wounds of American troops hit by roadside bombs during the Iraq War, earning the pathogen the nickname “Iraqibacter.”

“Veterans would get shrapnel in their legs and bodies from IED explosions and were medevaced home to convalesce,” Strathdee told CNN, referring to improvised explosive devices. “Unfortunately, they brought their superbug with them. Sadly, many of them survived the bomb blasts but died from this deadly bacterium.”

Today, Acinetobacter baumannii tops the World Health Organization’s list of dangerous pathogens for which new antibiotics are critically needed.

“It’s something of a bacterial kleptomaniac. It’s really good at stealing antimicrobial resistance genes from other bacteria,” Strathdee said. “I started to realize that my husband was a lot sicker than I thought and that modern medicine had run out of antibiotics to treat him.”

With the bacteria growing unchecked inside him, Patterson was soon medevaced to the couple’s hometown of San Diego, where he was a professor of psychiatry and Strathdee was the associate dean of global health sciences at the University of California, San Diego.

“Tom was on a roller coaster — he’d get better for a few days, and then there would be a deterioration, and he would be very ill,” said Dr. Robert “Chip” Schooley, a leading infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego who was a longtime friend and colleague. As weeks turned into months, “Tom began developing multi-organ failure. He was sick enough that we could lose him any day.”

Patterson's body was systemically infected with a virulent drug-resistant bacteria that also infected troops in the Iraq War, earning the pathogen the nickname

After that reassuring hand squeeze from her husband, Strathdee sprang into action. Scouring the internet, she had already stumbled across a study by a Tbilisi, Georgia, researcher on the use of phages for treatment of drug-resistant bacteria.

A phone call later, Strathdee discovered phage treatment was well established in former Soviet bloc countries but had been discounted long ago as “fringe science” in the West.

“Phages are everywhere. There’s 10 million trillion trillion — that’s 10 to the power of 31 — phages that are thought to be on the planet,” Strathdee said. “They’re in soil, they’re in water, in our oceans and in our bodies, where they are the gatekeepers that keep our bacterial numbers in check. But you have to find the right phage to kill the bacterium that is causing the trouble.”

Buoyed by her newfound knowledge, Strathdee began reaching out to scientists who worked with phages: “I wrote cold emails to total strangers, begging them for help,” she said at Life Itself.

One stranger who quickly answered was Texas A&M University biochemist Ryland Young. He’d been working with phages for over 45 years.

“You know the word persuasive? There’s nobody as persuasive as Steffanie,” said Young, a professor of biochemistry and biophysics who runs the lab at the university’s Center for Phage Technology. “We just dropped everything. No exaggeration, people were literally working 24/7, screening 100 different environmental samples to find just a couple of new phages.”

While the Texas lab burned the midnight oil, Schooley tried to obtain FDA approval for the injection of the phage cocktail into Patterson. Because phage therapy has not undergone clinical trials in the United States, each case of “compassionate use” required a good deal of documentation. It’s a process that can consume precious time.

But the woman who answered the phone at the FDA said, “‘No problem. This is what you need, and we can arrange that,’” Schooley recalled. “And then she tells me she has friends in the Navy that might be able to find some phages for us as well.”

In fact, the US Naval Medical Research Center had banks of phages gathered from seaports around the world. Scientists there began to hunt for a match, “and it wasn’t long before they found a few phages that appeared to be active against the bacterium,” Strathdee said.

Dr. Robert

Back in Texas, Young and his team had also gotten lucky. They found four promising phages that ravaged Patterson’s antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a test tube. Now the hard part began — figuring out how to separate the victorious phages from the soup of bacterial toxins left behind.

“You put one virus particle into a culture, you go home for lunch, and if you’re lucky, you come back to a big shaking, liquid mess of dead bacteria parts among billions and billions of the virus,” Young said. “You want to inject those virus particles into the human bloodstream, but you’re starting with bacterial goo that’s just horrible. You would not want that injected into your body.”

Purifying phage to be given intravenously was a process that no one had yet perfected in the US, Schooley said, “but both the Navy and Texas A&M got busy, and using different approaches figured out how to clean the phages to the point they could be given safely.”

More hurdles: Legal staff at Texas A&M expressed concern about future lawsuits. “I remember the lawyer saying to me, ‘Let me see if I get this straight. You want to send unapproved viruses from this lab to be injected into a person who will probably die.’ And I said, “Yeah, that’s about it,’” Young said.

“But Stephanie literally had speed dial numbers for the chancellor and all the people involved in human experimentation at UC San Diego. After she calls them, they basically called their counterparts at A&M, and suddenly they all began to work together,” Young added.

“It was like the parting of the Red Sea — all the paperwork and hesitation disappeared.”

The purified cocktail from Young’s lab was the first to arrive in San Diego. Strathdee watched as doctors injected the Texas phages into the pus-filled abscesses in Patterson’s abdomen before settling down for the agonizing wait.

“We started with the abscesses because we didn’t know what would happen, and we didn’t want to kill him,” Schooley said. “We didn’t see any negative side effects; in fact, Tom seemed to be stabilizing a bit, so we continued the therapy every two hours.”

Two days later, the Navy cocktail arrived. Those phages were injected into Patterson’s bloodstream to tackle the bacteria that had spread to the rest of his body.

“We believe Tom was the first person to receive intravenous phage therapy to treat a systemic superbug infection in the US,” Strathdee told CNN.

“And three days later, Tom lifted his head off the pillow out of a deep coma and kissed his daughter’s hand. It was just miraculous.”

Patterson awoke from a coma after receiving an intravenous dose of phages tailored to his bacteria.

Today, nearly eight years later, Patterson is happily retired, walking 3 miles a day and gardening. But the long illness took its toll: He was diagnosed with diabetes and is now insulin dependent, with mild heart damage and gastrointestinal issues that affect his diet.

“He isn’t back surfing again, because he can’t feel the bottoms of his feet, and he did get Covid-19 in April that landed him in the hospital because the bottoms of his lungs are essentially dead,” Strathdee said.

“As soon as the infection hit his lungs he couldn’t breathe and I had to rush him to the hospital, so that was scary,” she said. “He remains high risk for Covid but we’re not letting that hold us hostage at home. He says, ‘I want to go back to having as normal life as fast as possible.’”

To prove it, the couple are again traveling the world — they recently returned from a 12-day trip to Argentina.

“We traveled with a friend who is an infectious disease doctor, which gave me peace of mind to know that if anything went sideways, we’d have an expert at hand,” Strathdee said.

“I guess I’m a bit of a helicopter wife in that sense. Still, we’ve traveled to Costa Rica a couple of times, we’ve been to Africa, and we’re planning to go to Chile in January.”

Patterson’s case was published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in 2017, jump-starting new scientific interest in phage therapy.

“There’s been an explosion of clinical trials that are going on now in phage (science) around the world and there’s phage programs in Canada, the UK, Australia, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, India and China has a new one, so it’s really catching on,” Strathdee told CNN.

Some of the work is focused on the interplay between phages and antibiotics — as bacteria battle phages they often shed their outer shell to keep the enemy from docking and gaining access for the kill. When that happens, the bacteria may be suddenly vulnerable to antibiotics again.

“We don’t think phages are ever going to entirely replace antibiotics, but they will be a good adjunct to antibiotics. And in fact, they can even make antibiotics work better,” Strathdee said.

In San Diego, Strathdee and Schooley opened the Center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics, or IPATH, in 2018, where they treat or counsel patients suffering from multidrug-resistant infections. The center’s success rate is high, with 82% of patients undergoing phage therapy experiencing a clinically successful outcome, according to its website.

Schooley is running a clinical trial using phages to treat patients with cystic fibrosis who constantly battle Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a drug-resistant bacteria that was also responsible for the recent illness and deaths connected to contaminated eye drops manufactured in India.

And a memoir the couple published in 2019 — “The Perfect Predator: A Scientist’s Race to Save Her Husband From a Deadly Superbug” — is also spreading the word about these “perfect predators” to what may soon be the next generation of phage hunters.

VS Phages Sanjay Steffanie

How naturally occurring viruses could help treat superbug infections

“I am getting increasingly contacted by students, some as young as 12,” Strathdee said. “There’s a girl in San Francisco who begged her mother to read this book and now she’s doing a science project on phage-antibiotic synergy, and she’s in eighth grade. That thrills me.”

Strathdee is quick to acknowledge the many people who helped save her husband’s life. But those who were along for the ride told CNN that she and Patterson made the difference.

“I think it was a historical accident that could have only happened to Steffanie and Tom,” Young said. “They were at UC San Diego, which is one of the premier universities in the country. They worked with a brilliant infectious disease doctor who said, ‘Yes,’ to phage therapy when most physicians would’ve said, ‘Hell, no, I won’t do that.’

“And then there is Steffanie’s passion and energy — it’s hard to explain until she’s focused it on you. It was like a spiderweb; she was in the middle and pulled on strings,” Young added. “It was just meant to be because of her, I think.”

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Scientists finally know why people get more colds and flu in winter | CNN

Editor’s Note: Get inspired by a weekly roundup on living well, made simple. Sign up for CNN’s Life, But Better newsletter for information and tools designed to improve your well-being.



CNN
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There’s a chill is in the air, and you all know what that means — it’s time for cold and flu season, when it seems everyone you know is suddenly sneezing, sniffling or worse. It’s almost as if those pesky cold and flu germs whirl in with the first blast of winter weather.

Yet germs are present year-round — just think back to your last summer cold. So why do people get more colds, flu and now Covid-19 when it’s chilly outside?

In what they called a “breakthrough,” scientists uncovered the biological reason we get more respiratory illnesses in winter — the cold air itself damages the immune response occurring in the nose.

“This is the first time that we have a biologic, molecular explanation regarding one factor of our innate immune response that appears to be limited by colder temperatures,” said rhinologist Dr. Zara Patel, a professor of otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine in California. She was not involved in the new study.

In fact, reducing the temperature inside the nose by as little as 9 degrees Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) kills nearly 50% of the billions of helpful bacteria-fighting cells and viruses in the nostrils, according to the 2022 study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

“Cold air is associated with increased viral infection because you’ve essentially lost half of your immunity just by that small drop in temperature,” said study author Dr. Benjamin Bleier, director of otolaryngology translational research at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“it’s important to remember that these are in vitro studies, meaning that although it is using human tissue in the lab to study this immune response, it is not a study being carried out inside someone’s actual nose,” Patel said in an email. “Often the findings of in vitro studies are confirmed in vivo, but not always.”

To understand why this occurs, Bleier and his team and coauthor Mansoor Amiji, who chairs the department of pharmaceutical sciences at Northeastern University in Boston, went on a scientific detective hunt.

A respiratory virus or bacteria invades the nose, the main point of entry into the body. Immediately, the front of the nose detects the germ, well before the back of the nose is aware of the intruder, the team discovered.

At that point, cells lining the nose immediately begin creating billions of simple copies of themselves called extracellular vesicles, or EV’s.

“EV’s can’t divide like cells can, but they are like little mini versions of cells specifically designed to go and kill these viruses,” Bleier said. “EV’s act as decoys, so now when you inhale a virus, the virus sticks to these decoys instead of sticking to the cells.”

Those “Mini Me’s” are then expelled by the cells into nasal mucus (yes, snot), where they stop invading germs before they can get to their destinations and multiply.

“This is one of, if not the only part of the immune system that leaves your body to go fight the bacteria and viruses before they actually get into your body,” Bleier said.

Once created and dispersed out into nasal secretions, the billions of EV’s then start to swarm the marauding germs, Bleier said.

“It’s like if you kick a hornet’s nest, what happens? You might see a few hornets flying around, but when you kick it, all of them all fly out of the nest to attack before that animal can get into the nest itself,” he said. “That’s the way the body mops up these inhaled viruses so they can never get into the cell in the first place.”

READ MORE: Is it a cold, flu or Covid-19? A doctor helps sort it out

When under attack, the nose increases production of extracellular vesicles by 160%, the study found. There were additional differences: EV’s had many more receptors on their surface than original cells, thus boosting the virus-stopping ability of the billions of extracellular vesicles in the nose.

“Just imagine receptors as little arms that are sticking out, trying to grab on to the viral particles as you breathe them in,” Bleier said. “And we found each vesicle has up to 20 times more receptors on the surface, making them super sticky.”

Cells in the body also contain a viral killer called micro RNA, which attack invading germs. Yet EVs in the nose contained 13 times micro RNA sequences than normal cells, the study found.

So the nose comes to battle armed with some extra superpowers. But what happens to those advantages when cold weather hits?

To find out, Bleier and his team exposed four study participants to 15 minutes of 40-degree-Fahrenheit (4.4-degree-Celsius) temperatures, and then measured conditions inside their nasal cavities.

“What we found is that when you’re exposed to cold air, the temperature in your nose can drop by as much as 9 degrees Fahrenheit. And that’s enough to essentially knock out all three of those immune advantages that the nose has,” Bleier said.

In fact, that little bit of coldness in the tip of the nose was enough to take nearly 42% of the extracellular vesicles out of the fight, Bleier said.

“Similarly, you have almost half the amount of those killer micro RNA’s inside each vesicle, and you can have up to a 70% drop in the number of receptors on each vesicle, making them much less sticky,” he said.

What does that do to your ability to fight off colds, flu and Covid-19? It cuts your immune system’s ability to fight off respiratory infections by half, Bleier said.

READ MORE: Why people who qualify should get the RSV vaccine

As it turns out, the pandemic gave us exactly what we need to help fight off chilly air and keep our immunity high, Bleier said.

“Not only do masks protect you from the direct inhalation of viruses, but it’s also like wearing a sweater on your nose,” he said.

Patel agreed: “The warmer you can keep the intranasal environment, the better this innate immune defense mechanism will be able to work. Maybe yet another reason to wear masks!”

In the future, Bleier expects to see the development of topical nasal medications that build upon this scientific revelation. These new pharmaceuticals will “essentially fool the nose into thinking it has just seen a virus,” he said.

“By having that exposure, you’ll have all these extra hornets flying around in your mucous protecting you,” he added.

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How to build a habit in 5 steps, according to science | CNN

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CNN
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Most of us assume those superachievers who are always able to squeeze in their workout, eat healthy foods, ace their exams and pick their kids up on time must have superhuman self-control. But science points to a different answer: What we mistake for willpower is often a hallmark of habit.

People with good habits rarely need to resist the temptation to laze on the couch, order greasy takeout, procrastinate on assignments or watch one more viral video before dashing out the door. That’s because autopilot takes over, eliminating temptation from the equation. Having established good habits, little to no willpower is required to choose wisely.

Sounds great, right? The only catch is that building good habits takes effort and insight. Thankfully, science offers both guidance on how to begin and strategies to lighten your lift. Here are a few research-backed steps sourced from my book, “How to Change,” that can set you on the path from where you are to where you want to be.

The way you define the goal you hope to turn into a habit does matter. Goals such as “meditate regularly” are too abstract, research has shown. You’ll benefit from being more specific about what exactly you aim to do and how often.

Don’t say “I’ll meditate regularly.” Say, “I’ll meditate for 15 minutes each day.”

Having a bite-size objective makes it less daunting to get started and easier to see your progress.

Now that you have established a specific goal, it’s time to think about what will cue you to follow through. Scientists have proven that you’ll make more progress toward your goal if you decide not just what you’ll do, but when you’ll be cued to do it, as well as where you’ll do it and how you’ll get there.

A plan like “I’ll study Spanish for 30 minutes, five days a week” is OK. But a detailed, cue-based plan like “Every workday after my last meeting, I’ll spend 30 minutes studying Spanish in my office” is much more likely to stick as a habit.

Making this kind of plan reduces the chances you’ll forget to follow through because the when and where in your plan will serve as cues to action that jog your memory. Even better: Put your plan on your calendar so you’ll get a digital reminder. An established, hyperspecific plan also forces you to anticipate and maneuver around obstacles and makes procrastination feel more sinful.

When we set out to build a new habit, most of us overestimate our willpower and set a course for the most efficient path to achieving our end goal. Say you hope to get fit by exercising regularly — you’ll likely look for a workout that can generate quick results such as grinding it out on a treadmill. But research has shown you’ll persist longer and ultimately achieve more if you instead focus on finding ways to make goal pursuit fun.

When it comes to exercise, this might mean going to Zumba classes with a friend or learning how to rock climb. If you’re trying to eat more fruits and vegetables, it might mean swapping doughnut breakfasts for tasty smoothies, which can combine multiple servings of fruits and veggies in one delicious drink. Because you are far more likely to stick with something you enjoy and repetition is key to habit formation, making the experience positive is critical, but it’s often overlooked.

One excellent way to make goal pursuit fun is to try what I call “temptation bundling.” Consider only letting yourself enjoy an indulgence you crave while working toward your goal. For example, only let yourself binge-watch your favorite show while at the gym or enjoy a beloved podcast while cooking healthy meals. My own research shows that temptation bundling improves follow-through; it transforms goal pursuit into a source of pleasure, not pain.

By the time we put a behavior on autopilot, a lot of us fall into fairly consistent routines, tending to exercise, study or take our medication at the same time of day and in the same place. But when you’re in the start-up phase of habit building, contrary to popular opinion, my research suggests it’s important to insert some variability deliberately into your routine.

You’ll still want to have a first best plan — maybe an 8 a.m. meditation session if you’re trying to kick-start a mindfulness habit. But you should also experiment with other ways of getting the job done. Try to mix in a noon session and maybe a 5 p.m. meditation, too.

Successful habit building relies on frequently repeating a behavior, and if your routine becomes too brittle, you’ll follow through less often. A flexible habit means you can still do what you need to even when a wrench is thrown in your first best plans — say, a traffic jam on the way to dropping the kids off at school that gets in the way of your morning meditation.

One way to be flexible that’s proven useful is by giving yourself “emergency reserves.” Emergency reserves are a limited number of get-out-of-jail-free cards for those days when you really can’t squeeze in your 10 minutes of meditation, regular jog or Spanish practice.

It’s more motivating to set a tough goal for yourself — meditating every day, for instance — than an easy one, according to research. But missing multiple subgoals along the way can be discouraging. A couple of emergency reserves each week give you the flexibility to miss a day when a real emergency arises without getting discouraged and abandoning your objective entirely.

This step is obvious but sometimes overlooked. Seek out social support. Social support isn’t just about having cheerleaders and people to hold you accountable — though both can add value, so I’d suggest telling your friends and family about your goals.

We’re strongly influenced by the behaviors of the people around us, evidence shows. Want to start running regularly? You’re probably better off joining an established running club than asking a few friends who aren’t yet in the habit of jogging to get in shape with you. People in the running club have already built the habits you want. You can learn from them about what works and gain friends who will make you feel like a slouch when you slack off.

Good habits are contagious, so try to catch some by hanging out with people who are a little ahead of you on the learning curve. It’s important not to get too crazy — if you try to train with marathoners when you’re just hoping to work up to a 5K, I’ve found it can be discouraging.

But in general, research by myself and others shows that finding people to socialize with and emulating those who have already accomplished what you want to accomplish can make a world of difference. As an added bonus, when you pursue your goals in tandem with people you like, that makes it more fun!

One last thing to keep in mind is that habits can take some time to form. They don’t click overnight. Despite claims that there’s a “magic number” of days it takes to form a habit, my collaborators and I have disproven this myth in our recent research. We all form habits at our own speed, but for simpler and frequently repeated behaviors such as hand sanitizing, we can expect speedier habit formation than for more complex behaviors such as hitting the gym, which, on average, can take months rather than weeks to put on autopilot.

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The planet is getting hotter fast. This is what happens to your body in extreme heat | CNN



CNN
 — 

The Earth recently recorded its hottest day ever – a record experts warn will likely be repeatedly broken as the climate crisis drives temperatures higher and higher.

And it’s happening fast: a new report found last month was the planet’s hottest June by a “substantial margin,” meaning the nine hottest Junes have all occurred in the last nine years.

Extremely hot days – what could be considered the hottest days of the summer – are more frequent now than in 1970 in 195 locations across the US, according to the research group Climate Central. Of those locations, roughly 71% now face at least seven additional extremely hot days each year.

The effects have been devastating.

In one Texas county, at least 11 people died in just over a week during an unrelenting June heat wave. In Mexico, soaring temperatures have killed at least 112 people since March. A recent heat wave in India killed at least 44 people across the state of Bihar.

Here’s what happens to your body in extreme heat, what you need to watch out for and how to stay safe.

Normally, your body is used to a certain range of temperatures, usually between 97 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. When your brain senses a change – either lower or higher than that – it attempts to help your body cool down or heat up, according to Dr. Judith Linden, executive vice chair of the department of emergency medicine at Boston Medical Center and a professor in the emergency medicine department at Boston University’s school of medicine.

“There are a number of different ways in which (the brain) attempts to cool the body down. One way, the most common way we think of, is that you sweat,” Linden said. “The pores open, the body sweats and the sweat evaporates, that cools the body.”

The second way your body cools itself down is by dilating vessels and upping your heart rate, which helps bring heat and blood to the surface of your body and helps releases that excess heat.

When you’re exposed to high temperatures, it becomes harder for your body to try and keep up with cooling itself down. And if your environment is hot and humid, sweat doesn’t evaporate as easily – which pushes your body’s temperature even higher, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“The higher the humidity, the lower temperatures you need for extreme heat,” Linden said.

High body temperatures can lead to damage to the brain and other vital organs, the CDC says. They can also lead to several heat-related illnesses.

Mild-heat related illnesses, including heat cramps, are most common, Linden said. Heat cramps can develop in people who sweat a lot, including during exercising. The excessive sweating uses up all of the body’s salt and moisture and can lead to muscle pains or spasms, usually in the abdomen, arms or legs, according to the CDC.

A heat rash can also develop. That’s a skin irritation caused by too much sweating in hot and humid weather, and is most common in young children, the CDC says. It is usually a red cluster of pimples or blisters, and tends to be in places including the neck, upper chest or in elbow creases.

When your body’s beginning to exceed its ability to cool itself down, you can develop what’s known as heat exhaustion.

“In this case you’re going to see excessive sweating because your body is really going to try and keep up with that extra heat. You’re going to feel light-headed, you may feel dizzy, often people present with nausea, headaches and their skin often looks pale and clammy and their pulse is often fast,” Linden said.

“This is the body’s last attempt to cool itself before it really goes into a point of no return.”

A heat stroke is the most serious heat-related illness, and, if left untreated, can lead to death.

“That’s where your body’s temperature goes above 104 to 105 degrees or so, and this is where your mechanisms are starting to fail,” Linden said.

Warning signs may include extremely high body temperatures, red and dry skin, a rapid pulse, headache, dizziness, nausea or loss of consciousness, according to the CDC.

The hallmark of a heat stroke is confusion and agitation, Linden said.

“So when somebody’s in the heat and they become confused and agitated, that’s heat stroke until proven otherwise and you need to call 911 for that or get help immediately and get the person out of the heat.”

Elderly, people with chronic medical conditions as well as children are at higher risk for severe heat-related illnesses.

The elderly and people with chronic medical conditions may be less likely to sense and respond to temperature changes and may be taking medication that make the heat effects worse, the CDC said.

“Very young (people) as well, because they’re less likely to recognize heat-related illness and they’re less likely to get out of the heat if they’re starting to feel overheated,” Linden said.

Student-athletes and pets are also at higher risk, she added.

“In this weather, you must never, ever, ever leave a child or a pet in the car for even a minute,” Linden added.

When your community is facing extreme heat, there are several things you can do to keep yourself and others safe.

First, keep an eye out for symptoms of heat exhaustion or other illnesses.

“If somebody starts feeling light-headed, dizzy, nausea or headache, that is the time to act immediately,” Linden said. “That means getting them out of the heat and into a cool environment.”

Putting water on someone who may be experiencing symptoms and giving them fluids can help cool them down. If someone is starting to lose consciousness or has nausea or vomiting, call 911.

“If you see anybody with any type of confusion, that’s an immediate red flag,” Linden added.

When it’s hot outside, try to avoid outdoor activities – especially between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., according to Linden. If you have to go outside, wear light-colored clothing, cover your head and drink plenty of fluids.

Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water – as that can be a sign of dehydration. Linden recommends drinking at least one glass of water – or more – an hour.

“If you do start to feel light-headed, dizzy, sweating, fast pulse, get out of the heat immediately,” Linden said.

Try to find air conditioning, or places in your area where you can go to stay cool, according to Ready.gov. Even spending a few hours in a shopping mall or public library can help.

When you’re home, fans can help, but don’t rely on them as your only way of cooling down – while it may feel more comfortable, they won’t help prevent heat-related illness.

“If you’re in a super hot room, if you’ve got a fan, is it helpful? No. I think, if you’ve got a fan, and you’re able to mist yourself … then fans can be helpful,” Linden said. “Fans are not foolproof.”

Finally, make sure you’re checking on your neighbors, parents and friends – especially older individuals who may be living alone or are isolated, Linden said.

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In extreme heat, here are 14 ways to keep your body and home cool without AC | CNN

Editor’s Note: This story was first published in 2020 and has been updated.



CNN
 — 

Whether you’re without power, enduring extreme heat or trying to save money, there are ways to feel comfortable without artificial cooling.

Heat can foster fun summer activities, but the body shouldn’t be too hot for too long, as too much heat can harm your brain and other organs, according to the US National Institutes of Health. Sweating is the body’s natural cooling system, but when that’s not enough, there’s increased risk for developing the heat-related illness hyperthermia — signs of which include heat cramps, heat edema and heat stroke. Heat combined with high humidity exacerbates this risk, since the air’s saturation level makes sweat accumulate on the skin, preventing the body from cooling naturally.

Staying cool can be done by using some basic supplies and knowing how to manipulate your home to control its temperatures. Here are 14 methods for doing so.

When you’re hot and flushed, hydrating yourself is the first and foremost step to cooling down, said Wendell Porter, a senior lecturer emeritus in agricultural and biological engineering at the University of Florida.

The temperature of the water doesn’t matter since your body will heat it, he added. If your body is suffering from the heat and needs to cool itself, it can’t do that without enough moisture, since the body cools itself by sweating.

Taking a cold shower or bath helps cool your body by lowering your core temperature, Porter said.

03 cool down wellness

For an extra cool blast, try peppermint soap. The menthol in peppermint oil activates brain receptors that tell your body something you’re eating or feeling is cold.

02 cool down wellness

Place a cold washrag or ice bags (packs) on your wrists or drape it around your neck to cool your body. These pulse points are areas where blood vessels are close to the skin, so you’ll cool down more quickly.

Place box fans facing out of the windows of rooms you’re spending time in to blow out hot air and replace it with cold air inside.

09 cool down wellness

If the weather in your area tends to fall between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit in the mornings and evenings, opening the windows on both sides of the house during those times can facilitate a cross-flow ventilation system. If you do this, you can opt to use or not use the fans, but the fans would help cool the house faster, Porter said. The outdoors can pull the hot air from your home, leaving a cooler temperature or bringing in the breeze. Just be sure to close windows as the sun comes out, then open them when the weather is cool again.

Just resting near a fan would reduce your body temperature as well.

If you have windows that face the sun’s direction in the morning through afternoon, close the curtains or blinds over them to “keep the sun from coming directly into the house and heating up (the) inside,” Porter said.

05 cool down wellness

You could also install blackout curtains to insulate the room and reduce temperature increases that would happen during the day.

If you do turn the air conditioning on, don’t set it below 70 degrees Fahrenheit in an effort to cool the house faster, said Samantha Hall, managing director of Spaces Alive, an Australia-based design research company helping to create healthy, sustainable buildings.

“It just runs for longer to reach that temp and will keep going until you start to feel a bit chilly and is then hard to balance,” she added. Instead, keep the unit temperature as high as possible while still comfortable.

Cotton is one of the most breathable materials, so cotton sheets or blankets could help keep you cool through the night.

04 cool down wellness

The lower the thread count of the cotton, the more breathable it is, Porter said. That’s because higher thread counts have more weaving per square inch.

If you can’t sleep through the night because you’re too hot, try sleeping somewhere besides your bedroom, if that’s an option. Heat rises, so if you have a lower or basement level in your home, set up a temporary sleeping area there to experience cooler temperatures at night.

Common advice for staying cool without air conditioning includes refrigerating or freezing wet socks, blankets or clothing then ringing them out to wear while you sleep. But this isn’t a good idea, Porter said.

Because of “the amount of energy they can absorb from your body that night, they will be warm in just a matter of minutes,” he said. “And then you’d have damp stuff that would mold your mattress. So you definitely don’t want to do that.”

If no one’s using a room that doesn’t have vents or registers, close the door to that area to keep the cool air confined to only occupied areas of the house.

Flip the switch for the exhaust fan in your kitchen to pull hot air that rises after you cook or in your bathroom to draw out steam after you shower.

Incandescent light bulbs generate a higher temperature than LED light bulbs do. To make the switch, watch for sales on energy-efficient bulbs, then slowly replace the bulbs in your house, Porter said.

08 cool down wellness

Switching light bulbs can save money but won’t reduce a lot of heat in the home, Hall said. However, if you focus on switching the bulbs in areas you’re sitting near, that would make a more noticeable difference, Porter said.

01 cool down wellness

Oven heat can spread throughout your house. Keep the heat centralized in one area, such as a slow cooker. Or, cook outdoors on a grill to keep the heat outside.

Eating an ice pop or ice cream to cool down may help for a moment. But don’t go overboard on the sugar if you’re overheated or at risk of being overheated, Porter said.

06 cool down wellness

“Sugar would run your metabolism up and you’d start feeling internally hot,” he said. “So the cool treat might be good, but the extra sugar might not.”

If you’ve tried everything and still can’t beat the heat at home, you could look online for any local programs that are offering ductless air conditioners.

Depending on your state, some cooling centers — air-conditioned public facilities where people might go for relief during extremely hot weather — may be open and taking precautions to ensure they’re as safe as possible. You could start by checking with your local utility offices, as they would know who is offering certain programs, Porter recommended.

READ MORE: Get inspired by a weekly roundup on living well, made simple. Sign up for CNN’s Life, But Better newsletter for information and tools designed to improve your well-being.

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8 reasons why you wake up tired, and how to fix it | CNN

Editor’s Note: Sign up for the Sleep, But Better newsletter series. Our seven-part guide has helpful hints to achieve better sleep.



CNN
 — 

You sleep for seven to eight hours almost every night, only to feel unrested through the morning or even most of the day. How could you be following a golden rule of sleep so right yet feel so wrong?

This discrepancy is often due to a heightened state of sleep inertia, a circadian process that modulates memory, mood, reaction time and alertness upon waking, according to a 2015 study. Some people experience impaired performance and grogginess in this period after first turning off the alarm. The effects of sleep inertia usually go away after 15 to 60 minutes but can last for up to a few hours.

Sleep inertia impairs more sophisticated cognitive skills such as evaluative thinking, decision-making, creativity and rule usage, and gets worse the more sleep deprived a person is.

But even if your job isn’t saving lives or driving a truck overnight, experiencing sleep inertia for hours can still affect your quality of life.

The way to address this begins with evaluating your sleep using the “two Qs,” said pulmonary and sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. “If you’re getting the good quantity sleep, the next question is, ‘Am I getting good quality sleep?’ ”

Dasgupta suggested seeing a sleep specialist, who can check for an underlying or primary sleep disorder. But there are other more easily modifiable factors that could be interfering with the restoration and recovery processes — such as memory consolidation, hormone regulation and emotional regulation or processing — that need to happen during sleep.

“There are a lot of conditions that cause fatigue, but they don’t necessarily make people feel like they’re ready to fall asleep,” said Jennifer Martin, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a former president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

These can include chronic pain conditions, metabolic or thyroid conditions, anemia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

If you’re feeling inexplicable fatigue, “an important first step might just be a routine physical with your family doctor,” Martin said.

Additionally, the National Sleep Foundation has said healthy adults need seven to nine hours of sleep nightly, so you might need more than eight hours of sleep to feel energized. You could try going to sleep an hour earlier or waking an hour later than usual and see if that makes a difference, said Christopher Barnes, a professor of management at the University of Washington who studies the relationship between sleep and work.

If you’re sedentary, your body can get used to having to expend low levels of energy — so you might feel more tired than you should when trying to do basic daily activities, Martin said.

The World Health Organization has recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity weekly, while pregnant people should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic and strengthening exercises per week.

Having anxiety or depression can be energetically taxing, Dasgupta said. These conditions can also negatively influence the time needed to fall asleep as well as whether (and how many times) you wake up throughout the night, he added.

And sometimes the medications used to treat depression or anxiety can have side effects such as insomnia or disruption of deeper stages of sleep, Dasgupta said.

Sometimes our schedules differ on weekdays versus weekends, Barnes said. Schedules can also fluctuate for people with shift-based jobs.

“A very common practice would be to say, ‘OK, well, it’s Friday night. I don’t have to work tomorrow morning, so I can stay up a bit later,’ ” Barnes said. Maybe you stay up even later Saturday night since you don’t have to work Sunday either, then go to bed earlier on Sunday ahead of the workweek.

But by this point, you’ve already adjusted your sleep schedule back by a couple of hours in a short period of time. “This is very much analogous to jet lag,” Barnes said. “That rapid reset doesn’t work very well.”

More than 50% of your body is made of water, which is needed for multiple functions including digesting food, creating hormones and neurotransmitters, and delivering oxygen throughout your body, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Being dehydrated has been linked to decreased alertness and increased sleepiness and fatigue.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume 2.7 liters (91 ounces) of fluids daily and that men have 3.7 liters (125 ounces) daily. This recommendation includes all fluids and water-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and soups. Since the average water intake ratio of fluids to foods is around 80:20, that amounts to a daily amount of 9 cups for women and 12½ cups for men.

Having good sleep hygiene includes keeping your bedroom dark, quiet and cold at night — and only using it for sleep and sex.

Avoid consuming caffeinated drinks less than six hours before bedtime and limit the consumption of alcohol and heavy or spicy foods at least two hours before bed. Alcohol can prevent deeper stages of sleep, and such foods can cause digestive issues that interfere with restorative sleep.

“The person (or pet) with whom you share a bed has a big impact on your sleep,” Martin said.

Maybe your bed partner has a sleep disorder and snores or tosses and turns. Or maybe the person has a different schedule that’s disruptive to your sleep. Pets can also disrupt your sleep schedule since they don’t have the same sleep patterns as humans, she added.

“The most important thing — if your bed partner snores — is to get them to see a sleep specialist and have them evaluated for sleep apnea,” Martin said. Sleep apnea — a condition wherein breathing stops and restarts while someone’s sleeping — is common in people who snore, she added.

On that note, sleep disorders are another factor that can dramatically diminish sleep quality, Barnes said.

Someone with sleep apnea might wake up 50 times, 100 times or even more throughout the night, he added.

“Once you’re awake, you’re no longer in the deep sleep, and you don’t get to usually drop immediately into the deepest sleep,” Barnes said. “Bringing people out of that deep sleep by waking them up is going to generally result in less time spent in the deepest stage of sleep.”

Other sleep disorders that can affect daily energy levels include narcolepsy and restless legs syndrome, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The ideal way to track sleep quality and quantity — especially if you think you could be diagnosed with a sleep disorder — is undergoing polysomnography at a sleep clinic, Barnes said.

Apps and electronic wearables — such as watches or rings — that measure sleep aren’t as accurate as clinic tests, but still provide sufficient information for healthy adults, Barnes said. “I’d want to know that it was developed and then validated against another, more accurate device.”

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Stem Cells Fast Facts | CNN



CNN
 — 

Here is some background information about stem cells.

Scientists believe that stem cell research can be used to treat medical conditions including Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury, stroke, burns, heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Sources: National Institutes of Health, Mayo Clinic

Stem cell research focuses on embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells.

Stem cells have two characteristics that differentiate them from other types of cells:

– They are unspecialized cells that can replicate themselves through cell division over long periods of time.

– Stem cells can be manipulated, under certain conditions, to become mature cells with special functions, such as the beating cells of the heart muscle or insulin-producing cells of the pancreas.

There are many different types of stem cells, including: pluripotent stem cells and adult stem cells.
Pluripotent stem cells (ex: embryonic stem cells) can give rise to any type of cell in the body. These cells are like blank slates, and they have the potential to turn into any type of cell.
Adult stem cells can give rise to multiple types of cells, but are more limited compared with embryonic stem cells. They are more likely to generate within a particular tissue, organ or physiological system. (Ex: blood-forming stem cells/bone marrow cells, sometimes referred to as multipotent stem cells)

Embryonic stem cells are harvested from four to six-day-old embryos. These embryos are either leftover embryos in fertility clinics or embryos created specifically for harvesting stem cells by therapeutic cloning. Only South Korean scientists claim to have successfully created human embryos via therapeutic cloning and have harvested stem cells from them.

Adult stem cells are already designated for a certain organ or tissue. Some adult stem cells can be coaxed into or be reprogrammed into turning into a different type of specialized cell within the tissue type – for example, a heart stem cell can give rise to a functional heart muscle cell, but it is still unclear whether they can give rise to all different cell types of the body.

The primary role of adult stem cells is to maintain and repair the tissue in which they are found.

Regenerative medicine uses cell-based therapies to treat disease.

Scientists who research stem cells are trying to identify how undifferentiated stem cells become differentiated as serious medical conditions, such as cancer and birth defects, are due to abnormal cell division and differentiation.

Scientists believe stem cells can be used to generate cells and tissues that could be used for cell-based therapies as the need for donated organs and tissues outweighs the supply.

Stem cells, directed to differentiate into specific cell types, offer the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat diseases, including Alzheimer’s diseases.

Cloning human embryos for stem cells is very controversial.

The goal of therapeutic cloning research is not to make babies, but to make embryonic stem cells, which can be harvested and used for cell-based therapies.

Using fertilized eggs left over at fertility clinics is also controversial because removing the stem cells destroys them.

Questions of ethics arise because embryos are destroyed as the cells are extracted, such as: When does human life begin? What is the moral status of the human embryo?

1998 – President Bill Clinton requests a National Bioethics Advisory Commission to study the question of stem cell research.

1999 – The National Bioethics Advisory Commission recommends that the government allow federal funds to be used to support research on human embryonic stem cells.

2000 – During his campaign, George W. Bush says he opposes any research that involves the destruction of embryos.

2000 – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) issues guidelines for the use of embryonic stem cells in research, specifying that scientists receiving federal funds can use only extra embryos that would otherwise be discarded. President Clinton approves federal funding for stem cell research but Congress does not fund it.

August 9, 2001 – President Bush announces he will allow federal funding for about 60 existing stem cell lines created before this date.

January 18, 2002 – A panel of experts at the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) recommends a complete ban on human reproductive cloning, but supports so-called therapeutic cloning for medical purposes.

February 27, 2002 – For the second time in two years, the House passes a ban on all cloning of human embryos.

July 11, 2002 – The President’s Council on Bioethics recommends a four-year ban on cloning for medical research to allow time for debate.

February 2005 – South Korean scientist Hwang Woo Suk publishes a study in Science announcing he has successfully created stem cell lines using therapeutic cloning.

December 2005 – Experts from Seoul National University accuse Hwang of faking some of his research. Hwang asks to have his paper withdrawn while his work is being investigated and resigns his post.

January 10, 2006 – An investigative panel from Seoul National University accuses Hwang of faking his research.

July 18, 2006 – The Senate votes 63-37 to loosen President Bush’s limits on federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research.

July 19, 2006 – President Bush vetoes the embryonic stem-cell research bill passed by the Senate (the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2005), his first veto since taking office.

June 20, 2007 – President Bush vetoes the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2007.

January 23, 2009 – The FDA approves a request from Geron Corp. to test embryonic stem cells on eight to 10 patients with severe spinal cord injuries. This will be the world’s first test in humans of a therapy derived from human embryonic stem cells. The tests will use stem cells cultured from embryos left over in fertility clinics.

March 9, 2009 – President Barack Obama signs an executive order overturning an order signed by President Bush in August 2001 that barred the NIH from funding research on embryonic stem cells beyond using 60 cell lines that existed at that time.

August 23, 2010 – US District Judge Royce C. Lamberth issues a preliminary injunction that prohibits the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

September 9, 2010 – A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit grants a request from the Justice Department to lift a temporary injunction that blocked federal funding of stem cell research.

September 28, 2010 – The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit lifts an injunction imposed by a federal judge, thereby allowing federally funded embryonic stem-cell research to continue while the Obama Administration appeals the judge’s original ruling against use of public funds in such research.

October 8, 2010 – The first human is injected with cells from human embryonic stem cells in a clinical trial sponsored by Geron Corp.

November 22, 2010 – William Caldwell, CEO of Advanced Cell Technology, tells CNN that the FDA has granted approval for his company to start a clinical trial using cells grown from human embryonic stem cells. The treatment will be for an inherited degenerative eye disease.

April 29, 2011 – The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia lifts an injunction, imposed last year, banning the Obama administration from funding embryonic stem-cell research.

May 11, 2011 – Stem cell therapy in sports medicine is spotlighted after New York Yankees pitcher Bartolo Colon is revealed to have had fat and bone marrow stem cells injected into his injured elbow and shoulder while in the Dominican Republic.

July 27, 2011 – Judge Lamberth dismisses a lawsuit that tried to block funding of stem cell research on human embryos.

February 13, 2012 – Early research published by scientists at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Johns Hopkins University shows that a patient’s own stem cells can be used to regenerate heart tissue and help undo damage caused by a heart attack. It is the first instance of therapeutic regeneration.

May 2013 – Scientists make the first embryonic stem cell from human skin cells by reprogramming human skin cells back to their embryonic state, according to a study published in the journal, Cell.

April 2014 – For the first time scientists are able to use cloning technologies to generate stem cells that are genetically matched to adult patients,according to a study published in the journal, Cell Stem Cell.

October 2014 – Researchers say that human embryonic stem cells have restored the sight of several nearly blind patients – and that their latest study shows the cells are safe to use long-term. According to a report published in The Lancet, the researchers transplanted stem cells into 18 patients with severe vision loss as a result of two types of macular degeneration.

May 2, 2018 – The science journal Nature reports that scientists have created a structure like a blastocyst – an early embryo – using mouse stem cells instead of the usual sperm and egg.

June 4, 2018 – The University of California reports that the first in utero stem cell transplant trial has led to the live birth of an infant that had been diagnosed in utero with alpha thalassemia, a blood disorder that is usually fatal for fetuses.

January 13, 2020 – In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers announce they have created the world’s first living, self-healing robots using stem cells from frogs. Named xenobots after the African clawed frog (Xenopus laevis), the machines are less than a millimeter (0.04 inches) wide, small enough to travel inside human bodies. Less than two years later, scientists announce that these robots can now reproduce.

February 15, 2022 – A US woman becomes the third known person to go into HIV remission, and the first mixed-race woman, thanks to a transplant of stem cells from umbilical cord blood, according to research presented at a scientific conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

November 7, 2022 – Scientists announce they have transfused lab-made red blood cells grown from stem cells into a human volunteer in a world-first trial that experts say has major potential for people with hard-to-match blood types or conditions such as sickle cell disease.

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Using melatonin for sleep is on the rise, study says, despite potential health harms | CNN

Editor’s Note: Sign up for the Sleep, But Better newsletter series. Our seven-part guide has helpful hints to achieve better sleep.



CNN
 — 

More and more adults are taking over-the-counter melatonin to get to sleep, and some may be using it at dangerously high levels, a study has found.

The overall use among the US adult population is still “relatively low,” but the study does “document a significant many-fold increase in melatonin use in the past few years,” said sleep specialist Rebecca Robbins, an instructor in the division of sleep medicine for Harvard Medical School. She was not involved in the study.

The study, published in the medical journal JAMA, found that by 2018 Americans were taking more than twice the amount of melatonin than a decade earlier.

Melatonin has been linked to headaches, dizziness, nausea, stomach cramps, drowsiness, confusion or disorientation, irritability and mild anxiety, depression and tremors as well as abnormally low blood pressure. It can also interact with common medications and trigger allergies.

While short-term use for people with jet lag, shift workers and those who have trouble falling asleep appears to be safe, long-term safety is unknown, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health.

“In an associational study we found that older adults who reported frequent use — every night or most nights — of a sleep aid (over the counter or prescription) had a higher risk of incident dementia and early mortality,” Robbins said.

However, researchers could not determine which type of sleep aid — over-the-counter medications, such as melatonin, or prescription medications — was responsible for the findings.

Since 2006, a small but growing subset of adults are taking amounts of melatonin that far exceed the dosage of 5 milligrams a day typically used as a short-term treatment, the study found.

However, pills for sale may contain levels of melatonin much higher than what is advertised on the label. Unlike drugs and food, melatonin is not fully regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, so there are no federal requirements that companies test pills to ensure they contain the amount of advertised melatonin.

“Previous research has found that that melatonin content in these unregulated, commercially available melatonin supplements ranged from — 83% to +478% of the labeled content,” said Robbins, who coauthored the book “Sleep for Success! Everything You Must Know About Sleep But are Too Tired to Ask.”

Nor are there any requirements that companies test their products for harmful hidden additives in melatonin supplements sold in stores and online. Previous studies also found 26% of the melatonin supplements contained serotonin, “a hormone that can have harmful effects even at relatively low levels,” according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

“We cannot be certain of the purity of melatonin that is available over the counter,” Robbins said.

Taking too much serotonin by combining medications such as antidepressants, migraine medications and melatonin can lead to a serious drug reaction. Mild symptoms include shivering and diarrhea, while a more severe reaction can lead to muscle rigidity, fever, seizures and even death if not treated.

Because it is purchased over the counter, experts say many people view melatonin as an herbal supplement or vitamin. In reality, melatonin is a hormone made by the pineal gland, located deep within the brain, and released into the bloodstream to regulate the body’s sleep cycles.

“There is a view that if it’s natural, then it can’t hurt,” Robbins told CNN in an earlier interview on the impact of melatonin on children. “The truth is, we just really don’t know the implications of melatonin in the longer term, for adults or kids.”

Another reality: Studies have found that while using melatonin can be helpful in inducing sleep if used correctly — taking it at least two hours before bed — but the actual benefit is small.

“When adults took melatonin, it decreased the amount of time it took them to fall asleep by four to eight minutes,” Dr. Cora Collette Breuner, a professor in the department of pediatrics at Seattle Children’s Hospital at the University of Washington, told CNN in 2021.

“So for someone who takes hours to fall asleep, probably the better thing for them to do is turn off their screens, or get 20 to 40 minutes of exercise each day, or don’t drink any caffeinated products at all,” Breuner said.

“These are all sleep hygiene tools that work, but people are very reticent to do them. They rather just take a pill, right?”

There are other proven sleep tips that work just as well, if not better than sleeping aids, experts say. The body begins secreting melatonin at dark. What do we do in our modern culture? Use artificial light to keep us awake, often long past the body’s normal bedtime.

Research has found that the body will slow or stop melatonin production if exposed to light, including the blue light from our smartphones, laptops and the like.

“Any LED spectrum light source may further suppress melatonin levels,” said Dr. Vsevolod Polotsky, who directs sleep basic research in the division of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in an earlier CNN interview.

So ban those devices at least an hour before you want to fall asleep. Like to read yourself to sleep? That’s fine, experts say, just read in a dim light from a book or use an e-reader in night mode.

“Digital light will suppress the circadian drive,” Polotsky said, while a “dim reading light will not.”

Other tips include keeping your bedroom temperature at cooler temperatures — about 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 20 degrees Celsius). We sleep better if we’re a bit chilly, experts say.

Set up a bedtime ritual by taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book or listening to soothing music. Or you can try deep breathing, yoga, meditation or light stretches. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day, even on weekends or your days off, experts say. The body likes routine.

If your doctor does prescribe melatonin to help with jet lag or other minor sleep issues, keep the use “short term,” Robbins said.

If you are planning to use melatonin for a short-term sleep aid, try to purchase pharmaceutical grade melatonin, she advised. To find it, look for a stamp showing that the independent, nonprofit US Pharmacopoeial Convention Dietary Supplement Verification Program has tested the product.

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HIV/AIDS Fast Facts | CNN



CNN
 — 

Here’s a look at the origins, treatments and global response to HIV and AIDS.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus.

AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

HIV/AIDS is spread through sexual contact with an infected person, sharing needles with an infected person, through transfusions of infected blood or through an infected mother.

People infected with HIV go through three stages of infection:

  1. Acute infection, or acute retroviral syndrome, which can produce flu-like symptoms in the first month after infection.
  2. Clinical latency, or asymptomatic HIV infection, in which HIV reproduces at lower levels.
  3. AIDS, in which the amount of CD4 cells fall below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (as opposed to the normal level of 500-1,500).

HIV-1 and HIV-2 can both cause AIDS. HIV-1 is the most common human immunodeficiency virus; HIV-2 is found mostly in western Africa.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) involves taking a cocktail of HIV medications used to treat the virus. In 1987, Azidothymidine (AZT) became the first FDA-approved drug used to attempt to treat HIV/AIDS.

from UNAIDS:

38.4 million – Number of people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide in 2021.

5.9 million – Approximate number of people living with HIV globally that are unaware of their HIV-positive status in 2021.

160,000 – Newly infected children worldwide in 2021.

1.5 million – New infections worldwide in 2021.

650,000 – Approximate number of AIDS-related deaths worldwide in 2021.

Of the 4,500 new infections each day in 2019, 59% are in sub-Saharan Africa.

40.1 million – Approximate number of AIDS-related deaths worldwide since the start of the epidemic.

Sub-Saharan Africa is comprised of the following countries: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

1981 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publish the first reports of men in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco who were previously healthy and are suffering from rare forms of cancer and pneumonia, accompanied by “opportunistic infections.”

1982 The CDC refer to the disease as AIDS for the first time.

1983 French and American researchers determine that AIDS is caused by HIV.

1985 Blood tests to detect HIV are developed.

December 1, 1988 – First World AIDS Day.

1999 Researchers in the United States find evidence that HIV-1 most likely originated in a population of chimpanzees in West Africa. The virus appears to have been transmitted to people who hunted, butchered and consumed the chimpanzees for food.

January 29, 2003 In his State of the Union speech, US President George W. Bush promises to dramatically increase funding to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.

May 27, 2003 – Bush signs H.R. 1298, the US Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act of 2003, also known as PEPFAR (US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), that provides $15 billion over the next five years to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria abroad, particularly in Africa.

July 30, 2008 H.R. 5501, The Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008, becomes law and authorizes up to $48 billion to combat global HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Through 2013, PEPFAR plans to work in partnership with host nations to support treatment for at least four million people, prevention of 12 million new infections and care for 12 million people.

October 2011 – In his book, “The Origins of AIDS,” Dr. Jacques Pepin traces the emergence and subsequent development of HIV/AIDS to suggest that initial AIDS outbreaks began earlier than previously believed.

July 24, 2012 – Doctors announce during the 19th International AIDS Conference that Timothy Ray Brown, known as the “Berlin patient,” has been clinically “cured” of HIV. Brown, diagnosed with leukemia, underwent a bone marrow transplant in 2007 using marrow from a donor with an HIV-resistant mutation. He no longer has detectable HIV.

March 3, 2013 Researchers announce that a baby born infected with HIV has been “functionally cured.” The child, born in Mississippi, was given high doses of antiretroviral drugs within 30 hours of being born. A year later, the child now has detectable levels of the virus in her blood, 27 months after being taken off antiretroviral drugs, according to scientists involved with her case.

June 18, 2013 Marking the 10th anniversary of PEPFAR, Secretary of State John Kerry announces that the millionth child has been born HIV-free due to prevention of mother-to-child transmission programs (PMTCT).

March 14, 2014 – The CDC reports on a case of likely female-to-female HIV transmission. Unlike previous announcements of other cases involving female-to-female transmission, this case excludes additional risk factors for HIV transmission.

July 24, 2017 – A 9-year-old child from South Africa is reported to have been in remission for over eight years without treatment, according to Dr. Avy Violari, who spoke at the 9th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science in Paris.

November 2018 – According to PEPFAR’s website, they have “supported life-saving antiretroviral treatment (ART) for more than 14.6 million men, women and children” since 2003.

March 5, 2019 – According to a case study published in the journal Nature, a second person has sustained remission from HIV-1. The “London patient” was treated with stem cell transplants from donors with an HIV-resistant mutation. The London patient has been in remission for 18 months since he stopped taking antiretroviral drugs. The study also includes a possible third remission after stem cell transplantation, this person is referred to as the “Düsseldorf patient.”

May 2, 2019 – A study of nearly 1,000 gay male couples, where one partner with HIV took antiretroviral therapy (ART), found no new cases of transmission to the HIV-negative partner during sex without a condom. The landmark, eight-year study, published in the Lancet medical journal shows that the risk of passing on the HIV virus is eliminated with effective drugs treatment.

October 7, 2019 – Governor Gavin Newsom signs a bill making HIV prevention drugs available without a prescription in California starting on January 1, 2020. The medications covered by the new legislation are pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), which both help prevent HIV infections. California becomes the first state in the country to allow pharmacists to provide the drugs without a physician’s prescription.

November 6, 2019 – According to a study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, a team of scientists has detected a new strain of HIV. The strain is a part of the Group M version of HIV-1, the same family of virus subtypes to blame for the global HIV pandemic, according to Abbott Laboratories, which conducted the research along with the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

June 15, 2020 – A study is published in the journal JAMA Network Open showing that the life expectancy of people with HIV approaches that of people without the virus, when antiviral therapy is started early in infection. However, disparities still remain in the number of chronic health problems that people with HIV endure.

July 7, 2020 – Scientists presenting at the 23rd International AIDS Conference announce a new study that found an injection of the investigational drug cabotegravir every eight weeks was more effective at preventing HIV than daily oral pills. It is also announced that a Brazilian man might be the first person to experience long-term HIV remission after being treated with only an antiviral drug regimen – not stem cell transplantation.

November 16, 2021 – A new study finds a second patient whose body has seemingly rid itself of HIV. The international team of scientists reports in the Annals of Internal Medicine that the patient, originally from the city of Esperanza, Argentina, showed no evidence of intact HIV in large numbers of her cells, suggesting that she may have naturally achieved what they describe as a “sterilizing cure” of HIV infection. The 30-year-old woman in the new study is only the second patient who has been described as achieving this sterilizing cure without help from stem cell transplantation or other treatment.

December 20, 2021 – The US Food and Drug Administration announces that it has approved the first injectable medication for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to lower the risk of getting HIV through sex.

February 15, 2022 – A US woman becomes the third known person to go into HIV remission, and the first mixed-race woman, thanks to a transplant of stem cells from umbilical cord blood, according to research presented at a conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

December 1, 2022 – An experimental HIV vaccine, called eOD-GT8 60mer, has been found to induce broadly neutralizing antibody precursors among a small group of volunteers in a Phase 1 study. The clinical trial results, published in the journal Science, suggest that a two-dose regimen of the vaccine, given eight weeks apart, can elicit immune responses against the human immunodeficiency virus.

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