- Science Says This Is the Best Motivation to Exercise
- Best Things to Do With Your HSA Money
- Watch Live: Deepak Chopra Leads a Meditation Session at the Fortune Brainstorm Health Conference
- Kids Are Being Kept Awake by Their Phones Even When They’re Not Using Them
- This Is the Best Way for Kids to Lose Weight
- How a Teeth Cleaning Might Protect You From Pneumonia
- Your Doctor Is Less Likely to Vote Than You
Posted: 01 Nov 2016 10:11 AM PDT
If you play well with others, then it might be time to get tough. Friendly social support makes you work out less often, while cutthroat competition is the key to motivating yourself to get to the gym.
So finds a new study published in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports, in which almost 800 graduate and professional students at the University of Pennsylvania were put through an 11-week exercise program with running, spinning, yoga, Pilates and weightlifting classes. Each person was assigned to work out alone or in a team, and the dynamics were designed to be either socially supportive or competitive.
In the competitive team group, people had a social network of five random health buddies whose exercise progress they could track, but they had no other interaction with them. The supportive team group also had health buddies, and they were also able to chat, go to classes together and encourage one another to exercise. In the individual groups, people either worked out alone without a social network or with access to information about how they were doing compared to others.
Winners were determined by how many classes they or their team attended—and the results were unexpected.
Whether a person was alone or in a team didn’t affect how many workouts they did. But a competitive atmosphere encouraged people to work out more across the board. People who were in the competitive groups went to 90% more classes than those who weren’t.
Even more surprisingly, when people got social support they exercised far less than they did when they were in competitive groups or alone. “That’s pretty interesting, because it means that putting people into the social support condition was worse than giving them nothing at all,” says the study’s senior author Damon Centola, associate professor of communication and engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. “I didn’t expect that.” The researchers found these strong effects regardless of a person’s sex or personality.
Group dynamics have a lot of power over exercise behavior, and that’s because a competitive atmosphere makes people focus on different things than a chummy one, Centola says. In the competitive group, all eyes were on the most active participants; they were the goalposts to beat. “As people were influenced by their neighbors to exercise more, it created a social ratchet, where everyone increased everyone else’s activity levels,” he says.
But in the we’re-all-in-this-together group, those that dragged their feet drew the most attention. “The people who were participating less would actually draw down energy levels and give others a reason or excuse to also participate less,” Centola says. People dropped out, and no one was very motivated.
The results show that social networks really can help you exercise more, so long as they’re used the right way. Centola suggests gathering people with similar backgrounds and interests, then creating an online group where people can track one another’s exercise logs. That, he says, will give everyone a mutual incentive to keep going.
Posted: 01 Nov 2016 09:48 AM PDT
A health savings account (or HSA) is a way to pay and save for current and future medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. The concept sounds great, but in practice HSAs can be tricky.
The nuts and bolts are straightforward: An HSA gets paired with a high-deductible health plan, which — either offered through an employer or purchased your own — must have an annual deductible of at least $1,300 for an individual and $2,600 for a family. Annual out-of-pocket expenses for such a plan (a category that includes deductibles, co-payments, and other amounts, but not the premium itself) must not exceed $6,550 for self-only coverage, or $13,100 for families.
For 2017, most individuals can make a pre-tax contribution of up to $3,400 per year ($6,750 for a family) into an HSA — although, like retirement accounts, HSAs have “catch-up provisions” that let you put away an extra $1,000 a year if you are aged 55 or older. Unlike IRAs, there are no income limits with HSAs and they are portable, which means that you can roll them over to another HSA custodian, subject to some restrictions.
‘Triple Tax Advantage’
HSAs have caught on, especially with higher earners, because they offer triple tax advantages: Your account contributions are pre-tax or tax-deductible; earnings and interest are tax-free; and withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are tax-free. Plus, once you reach age 65, all nonmedical withdrawals are taxed at your current ordinary income rate.
That’s why experts say that it’s preferable to pay copayments and other medical bills with non-HSA money, when possible, and leave the cash in the HSA to grow tax-free to cover health costs in retirement. Unlike flexible spending accounts, which may give you a modest grace period or let you roll over $500 of unused funds per year, HSAs have no “use it or lose it” clauses, so you can let your contributions pile up, year after year — and they can continue to grow without being taxed.
Where to Put the Money
But a key question is still what to do with your HSA, and where to park the funds. For one thing, some accounts carry a range of fees, including some for monthly account maintenance, check-writing, or other transactions.
If you’re getting your HSA through your employer, check to see if it waives fees for you. If so, you may be best off keeping your money parked there, especially because many of the major investment firms (Fidelity, Schwab, TD Ameritrade, Vanguard) don’t offer consumer-facing HSA accounts.
Then there’s the question of what to do with your money. Some (but not all) HSA providers offer a menu of money market and mutual funds. If yours does, and you’ll be able to cover short-term needs with cash on hand, then invest your HSA much as you would other long-term money. Others offer just low-yielding FDIC-insured savings accounts.
To look for available HSAs, you can use the search tool at HSASearch.com.
Posted: 01 Nov 2016 09:36 AM PDT
The conference is convening a powerful new community of leaders at the forefront of the revolution that is underway in 21st century health care. Chopra is the author of, among other books, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind and The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for Our Times.
Chopra’s session is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. E.T., 5 p.m. local time. You can watch it live above.
Posted: 01 Nov 2016 08:11 AM PDT
Cell phones, tablets and computers are keeping children and teenagers awake at night—even when they’re not being used, new research has found.
The paper, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, found that media devices are contributing to reduced sleep quality and quantity, as well as trouble staying awake the next day. According to the study, 72% of all children and 89% of adolescents have at least one device in their sleep environment, with most of them used near bedtime.
After analyzing hundreds of relevant studies of children and teens aged 6-19, the researchers, led by Dr. Ben Carter, a senior lecturer in biostatistics at King’s College London, found a “strong and consistent association” between the use of technology at bedtime and poor sleeping.
Carter and his colleagues also found that such devices adversely affect sleep even when they are not being used, as their content can be psychologically stimulating and the light they emit can affect the body’s natural timing and alertness.
The harmful association between screen-based devices and children’s and adolescents’ sleep is “a major public health concern,” the paper concludes. “It is imperative that teachers, health care professionals, parents, and children are educated about the damaging influence of device use on sleep.”
Posted: 01 Nov 2016 08:00 AM PDT
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a government-appointed group of experts, already recommends that children 6 and older be screened for obesity during routine checkups. With 17% of children in the U.S. now considered obese and nearly two thirds qualifying as overweight, checking to see where children fall on the obesity scale is critical.
Now, in the latest report from the task force, the group also provides added information about the important next step: the most effective ways to help children drop pounds. The group found that behavioral programs, which include individual and family therapy sessions focused on diet, exercise, and portion control have the greatest effect on weight loss.
While one drug has been approved in children to treat obesity, orlistat, and another, metformin, which used to treat diabetes, is sometimes used for weight control, the evidence doesn’t yet support routine use of any medications to help children lose weight.
Eating and exercise habits that contribute to weight gain don’t develop overnight, so “changing behaviors is hard,” says Dr. Alex Kemper, professor of pediatrics at Duke University and member of the task force. “It takes time to be able to incorporate them. It’s also important to recognize that children live within the context of families, so encouraging families in this behavior change is important as well. It’s not surprising that it takes a good amount of time to get benefit.”
The problem is that such comprehensive programs aren’t always available. It’s easier for physicians to write a prescription than to help patients find a counseling program that is both convenient and affordable for them. “It’s clear from looking at the evidence that these comprehensive programs are the most effective,” he says. “The task force hopes that by making that known, the availability of these programs increases.”
The group’s recommendation is available on its website in draft form, and will be open for public comment until Nov. 28.
Posted: 01 Nov 2016 06:44 AM PDT
Aside from protecting your pearly whites, here’s more motivation to squeeze in that twice-a-year teeth cleaning: It could keep you from getting sick. A new study suggests that regular dental visits may protect against pneumonia by reducing levels of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
The study’s findings—based on the health records of more than 26,000 people nationwide—suggest that people who never get dental checkups have a far greater risk of getting bacterial pneumonia than those who keep up with biannual visits.
“There is a well-documented connection between oral health and pneumonia,” said lead author Michelle Doll, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, in a press release. “We can never rid the mouth of bacteria altogether, but good oral hygiene can limit the quantities of bacteria present.”
The body contains 10 times as many microbes (including bacteria, fungi, and viruses) as it does human cells, she explains. Most of those microbes aren’t harmful (or they are even beneficial), and even the dangerous ones cause disease only under certain circumstances. In the case of bacteria that cause pneumonia, for example, they have to be inhaled to cause an infection. Getting regular cleanings and check-ups may reduce the amount of these bacteria, says Dr. Doll, and the odds you’ll breathe them into your lungs.
The number of people who actually got pneumonia in this analysis was small—only 1.68% of the total sample. But after adjusting for age, gender, income, and other factors, the researchers found that those who never visited the dentist had a 1.8-fold higher risk—almost double—those who went twice a year.
The study, which has not yet been published or peer-reviewed, was presented today at IDWeek 2016, an annual conference for infectious disease specialists. In her presentation, Dr. Doll acknowledged that people who see their dentist regularly are also likely to practice other healthy-mouth behaviors (like brushing and flossing regularly). They may also have healthier behaviors in general, which might affect their pneumonia risk, as well.
But finding ways—even potential ways—to reduce pneumonia risk is important, says Dr. Doll, given that nearly 1 million Americans get the infection ever year, and 50,000 die from it. While it is more common in older people, or people with chronic illnesses, anyone can get it.
Health.com: 20 Mistakes You’re Making With Your Teeth
Of course, this isn’t the first time mouth health has been linked to overall health; studies have shown that gum disease can raise inflammation levels throughout the body, for example, and that it may be linked to mental decline in older adults. Strange symptoms involving teeth, gums, or tongue can also hint at problems elsewhere, like diabetes and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Remembering this may help the next time you’re suffering from dental dread: Those cleanings might be key for more than just a pretty smile.
Posted: 31 Oct 2016 02:00 PM PDT
There’s hardly a more educated group of people than physicians, who spend about 14 years in training. Yet they’re some of the least likely Americans to shape the nation’s political future, suggests a new commentary published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
Despite the government’s huge influence on health care, doctors vote 9% less than the general population. They’re 22% less likely to cast ballots than lawyers, another group of highly educated professionals.
“If you look back at the history of the medical profession, there’s the sense that physicians are leaders in their community, and people historically looked up to doctors around broad community issues,” says Dr. David Grande, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of the article. But that’s not the case anymore. Their reputation eroded, many experts believe, as they got less time with patients and more and more burned out.
Physicians give all kinds of reasons for why they don’t cast their ballots in what Grande calls “the most basic form of public participation.” Often, they don’t have time, or they’re too consumed by work to worry about the world beyond hospital walls. They also might be less engaged in general than other Americans. Physicians volunteer less often than other highly educated and well-compensated people, Grande writes.
Just as troubling is the possibility that some physicians might not know much more than the rest of us when it comes to the inner workings of healthcare. A recent poll found that 40% of graduating medical students thought they didn’t learn enough about health policy.
Fortunately, doctors are susceptible to the same psychological tricks as the rest of us, even on Election Day. “There are a lot of ways in which our behavior is influenced by the people around us, and campaigns have figured this out,” Grande says. “It makes people more likely to vote if their friends voted.” Medical schools, hospitals and other health care employers should encourage voting by making it more visible and sharing information about early voting.
You, too, can play a part on Election Day if you’re visiting the doctor. Simply slapping on an “I voted” sticker might be the push they need to take off their white coat and vote.
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