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Category Archives: Health

Sitting Too Long Raises Death Risk

Are you sitting down right now? You might want to stand up.

According to a new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, sitting for long periods increases your risk of all-cause early death. (Now would definitely be the time to stand up.)

In the study, researchers followed 222,497 Australian adults for several years. Over the course of the study, participants who sat for more than 11 hours a day had the highest risk for all-cause mortality, followed by those who sat between 8 and 11 hours daily. Those who sat for less than four hours a day had the lowest risk of all-cause mortality.

The revelation that sitting can kill isn’t necessarily new. In the past several years, study after study has confirmed that living a sedentary life — going from your bed to your desk to the couch and back to bed every day — can damage our health in a variety of ways. In fact, it has been shown to increase risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, dementia, and some cancers.

Another recent study actually found that sitting is so detrimental, its effects are almost impossible to exercise away. The study followed 27 Finnish men and women over two days. On the first day, they exercised; on the second day, they did not. When researchers measured the muscle activity and heart rate of the participants, they found that though they burned calories through exercise, it did not increase their overall muscle activity. Researchers also found that desk workers’ muscles are inactive for about 70 percent of the day — regardless of whether the day includes any fitness training.

The takeaway: Reduce the amount of time you spend sitting however possible. Try these tips to up your daily activity:

  • Walk more. One of the simplest ways to offset the effects of sitting is to walk. If you can, walk or bike to work instead of driving. If you take public transportation, get off a few stops earlier to squeeze in more steps — experts recommend buying a pedometer and aiming for 10,000 daily steps.
  • Stand up at work. Experts estimate that standing burns 50 percent more calories than sitting, so whenever possible, think on your feet on the job. Stand during meetings, while you’re on the phone, and depending on the type of work you do, consider adding a standing desk to your office.
  • Fidget while you work. According to researchers at the Minnesota Obesity Center, fidgeting might be what separates thin people from overweight people. To increase your daily activity, make a point to get up and walk around your office every half an hour, if possible.
  • Make TV time active. Instead of vegging out on the couch when you get home, add activity to your evenings by doing jumping jacks, pushups, crunches, and other fat-blasting moves during commercial breaks of your favorite shows.

Medicaid Expansion Is a Key Part

The Medicaid program is bracing for an expansion that will bring an estimated 16 million more Americans into the health-care safety net, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

But whether that happens depends on how the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the legal challenges to the massive health-care reform legislation.

Twenty-six states are challenging the requirement to comply with the new Medicaid eligibility rule or lose federal matching funds, calling it coercive and a violation of states’ rights. On March 28, they will argue before the Supreme Court that that provision of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

The Medicaid expansion opens eligibility to all people with household incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level — whether unemployed or the so-called working poor — starting in January 2014. That translated into an annual income of approximately $14,850 for an individual and $30,650 for a family of four in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Until now, the main groups of people served by the Medicaid program have been low-income parents and children, the frail elderly and the disabled.

The Medicaid expansion provision is considered more likely to survive the legal challenge than the Affordable Care Act’s most controversial provision: the individual mandate, which requires most adults to have health insurance or pay a fine.

“I don’t think [the Medicaid expansion] is as vulnerable, but it isn’t an entirely trivial issue. The basic point is that the [U.S. Supreme] court has been very clear for a very long time that Congress can require states to do things using Congress’ spending power,” said Renee M. Landers, a professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston.

“The problem the challengers have in [arguing] that the [Medicaid expansion] is coercive is that the federal government is paying for 100 percent of the expansion for the first 10 years that the law is in effect,” Landers said.

On Feb. 17, a group of 12 state attorneys general filed a brief in support of the expansion’s constitutionality.

“In a cooperative federalist program, the federal government establishes the program’s core requirements and gives the states the freedom to implement their own programs within those requirements,” an excerpt from the brief states.

At least five states are expanding their Medicaid programs early: California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington, along with Washington, D.C. Illinois is planning an early expansion as well.

Will There Be Enough Doctors to Handle Medicaid Patients?

Some physician groups are concerned about the effects of a massive influx of enrollees into the already-strained Medicaid system.

Shortages of doctors already exist in specialties most likely to work with Medicaid patients — such as pediatricians and family practitioners. And doctors say current Medicaid reimbursement rates from government are too low to encourage more doctors to treat Medicaid participants.

“While expanding Medicaid access to more low-income Americans under the Affordable Care Act was an important step in the right direction, more progress is needed,” said Dr. Peter Carmel, president of the American Medical Association. “Most physicians are currently unable to accept Medicaid patients due to low reimbursement rates, and this problem must be addressed as new patients enter the program.”

One opponent of the Affordable Care Act said expansion of the Medicaid program would hurt current enrollees by reducing access to health-care providers and forcing longer waiting times — without helping the newly eligible.

“Medicaid may give them insurance cards — good luck getting that care,” said Grace-Marie Turner, president of the conservative Galen Institute.

Dr. Glen Stream, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, cited parts of the new law that, he said, should attract and train more physicians in settings that serve Medicaid patients.

“Components like teaching health centers are part of the Affordable Care Act,” he said. “That’s to take a federally qualified health center and do medical residency, medical education in that health center.”

And he said a provision for student loan forgiveness could help overcome a barrier to medical students choosing family medicine and other primary-care specialties.

“It’s important to acknowledge for our membership that [the new law] was controversial,” Stream said. “We have 100,000 members across the country and certainly they represent the political diversity in our society.

“Our academy is focusing — because the Affordable Care Act is now law — on helping to preserve and expand and implement those pieces that we see as important to the health of people in our country,” he added.

Brain Calls the Shots on Which Hand Holds Cellphone

About 70 percent of people hold theircellphone to the ear on the same side as their dominant hand, a new study finds.

Left-brain thinkers are more likely to use their right hand for writing and other everyday tasks. They’re also more likely to hold their cellphone to their right ear, even though there’s no difference in hearing between their right and left ears.

The reverse is true for people who are left-handed and right-brain dominant, according to the study by researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Their online survey of more than 700 people found that 68 percent of right-handed people said they held their cellphone to their right ear, while 25 percent used the left ear, and 7 percent used both ears.

Among left-handed people, 72 percent said they held their cellphone to their left ear, 23 percent used their right ear, and 5 percent used both ears.

The study is scheduled to be presented Feb. 26 at a meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology in San Diego.

“Our findings have several implications, especially for mapping the language center of the brain,” Dr. Michael Seidman, director of the division of otologic and neurotologic surgery in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, said in a Henry Ford Health System news release.

The findings also suggest that there’s no link between cellphone use and brain, and head and neck tumors, according to Seidman.

If there were a connection, far more people would be diagnosed on the right side of their brain, head and neck because most people are right-handed and hold their cellphones to their right ear, he said.

Brain Scans May Predict How People Learn

Researchers report that brain scans can help predict how people will perform a challenging mental task, a discovery that could lead to a better understanding of how the mind learns new things.

The researchers found that what they once thought was “noise” in the brain, like static from a television, actually plays a major role and “is very important for understanding how the brain does things,” said study author Dr. Maurizio Corbetta, a professor of neurology at Washington University at St. Louis.

This means a brain scan has the potential to act as a kind of crystal ball, he said: “One of the most exciting things we could do is look at the brain activity and do more to try to predict what the brain is going to do next.”

The study authors scanned the brains of 14 people — seven men and seven women — using functional MRI to measure bursts of activity in the brain. The researchers tracked the brains of the volunteers as they learned how to better use their peripheral vision through a computer game.

In the game, participants learned to detect the presence or absence of a tilted letter “T” in the lower left side of a screen while they were distracted by other “T”s. It took about a week for the participants to figure out how to get to the level where their responses were correct 80 percent of the time. This is in contrast to the level of about 10 percent to 20 percent, where some participants began, Corbetta said.

The game is similar to day-to-day life in the way that you have to figure out what to pay attention to as you navigate the world. “It’s always a balance as to what you see and what you pay attention to,” he said.

The researchers found that the level of connectivity in the visual-oriented part of the brain predicted which people would do better on the test and learn more quickly, Corbetta said. “If you have a visual system that is strongly connected, then you are more likely to perform the task well.”

The research is important because scientists still need to better understand how the brain learns, he said. While people can train themselves to be better at specific tasks, skills don’t always translate to other tasks, he said.

“This is a big problem when we do rehab with patients,” he said. “We can retrain them on one task, but that doesn’t always translate to real life.”

Dr. Gary Small, a brain researcher and director of the University of California at Los Angeles Center on Aging, said the finding is interesting but doesn’t have practical implications at the moment. The idea of predicting what the brain will do next — potentially a form of mind reading — is still far in the future, he said.

“That’s the next step, to measure perceptions and ideas,” he said. “I think that’s in the realm of science, but we’re not quite there yet.”

Tapping to Music May Help You ‘Hear’ It

Moving to the beat of music actually helps you hear the music better, according to a new study.

Researchers at McMaster University in Canada played a series of regular beats for study participants, half of whom tapped on an electronic drum pad while they listened while the other half listened without tapping.

The participants were asked whether the final beat was consistent with the preceding rhythm, and those who tapped while they listened were 87 percent better at detecting the rhythm change than those who didn’t tap.

“We found that tapping along while listening does more than help us feel and enjoy the music. It actually helps us hear it better,” Michael Schutz, an assistant professor of music, said in a McMaster news release.

He and his colleagues also found that participants who tapped to the beat were moreconfident in their answers about the rhythm change.

The findings, presented at the recent Acoustics Week in Canada conference in Quebec City, are important for music listeners, performers and educators, according to Schutz.

“From a young age, we teach students to move to the music while performing, and now we know at least one reason why this is beneficial,” he said. “This study sheds light on why moving while playing helps musicians keep time and improves their overall performance.”

Research presented at meetings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

5 Big Bloody Health Risks of Being a Vampire

So we can’t help but wonder — will Bella’s dreams of becoming a vampire (so she can literally spend forever with her cold-blooded beau) come true? (Okay, this writer already knows Bella’s fate because she read the books, but she’s not trying to spoil the movie for anyone!)

If Bella does indeed become a vampire, she should beware: There are some specific health risks that seem to go hand in hand with the blood-sucking lifestyle. Take a look.

Major vitamin D deficiency. It doesn’t matter which vampire-ideology you subscribe to, most myths stick to this: Vampires and sunlight don’t mix. While some believe blood-suckers have a heightened sensitivity to sunshine, triggering extreme pain,Twilight’s Edward (and the rest of his vamp-fam, the Cullens) stick to dreary, dark locations because their extremely fair skin actually sparkles in the sunlight (which could out them as vampires, of course). Either way, there are real health risks to living sunshine-free. Daylight is a natural source of vitamin D, the powerful vitamin that promotes the body’s absorption of calcium — the mineral that keeps your teeth and bones strong. Without vitamin D, your risk of conditions such as osteoporosis skyrocket.

Fortunately for the Cullens, vitamin D supplements are available, and it can also be found in a number of foods, such as salmon, sardines, and dairy.

Heightened HIV risk. The Cullens don’t suck human blood (they’re “vegetarians” — swoon!), but most vampires do — and that’s a big no-no if you want to protect yourself from blood-borne illnesses like human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. In fact, unless a vampire asked his victim to get an HIV test before sucking him dry, there would be no way for him to know his risk. Since the virus lives in a human’s bodily fluids — primarily blood — we’re pretty sure vampires could be facing a major HIV/AIDS epidemic. Other blood-borne diseases include hepatitis B and C and viral hemorrhagic fevers.

In the real world, teen vampire enthusiasts may also be at risk. A reported trend among some young people is to sink their teeth into each other — hard enough to draw blood — and then, in a vampire-like fashion, suck the blood (yuck). Not to mention, MSNBC reports that about 10 to 15 percent of these human bite wounds actually become infected. “If you break the skin, your mouth is pretty dirty,” Thomas Abshire, MD, a pediatric blood and cancer specialist, told MSNBC.

Sleep deprivation. No wonder vampires are so darn cranky! Twilight’s living dead never sleep (sounds like a big drawback to us, Bella); others walk the night (so we’re willing to bet their sleep habits aren’t very sound).

What does that mean for these fatigued freaks of nature? Along with about 30 percent of humans, vampires likely suffer some pretty hefty health problems due to insomnia. Skimping on zzzs is tied to a number of symptoms — from higher levels of depression and heart problems to lower sex drive and energy.

Extremely unbalanced diet. Everyone knows that the key to good health is a balanced diet. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests getting ample amount of fruits and veggies, calcium-rich foods, whole grains, and lean protein to ward off disease and illness, increase energy, and boost mental health. Still, vampires choose to disregard this healthy lifestyle habit, opting instead for an all-blood diet. (We hope they’re at least choosing healthy victims, so they can reap some of the secondhand nutritional benefits.)

Dental issues. Just like the rest of the body, teeth need certain nutrients to stay healthy. Are those nutrients found in human blood? Nope — they’re found in foods like calcium-rich dairy, fruits, and veggies. In fact, dentists are so sure that vampires’ pearly whites are in terrible shape, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) recently launched a dental health campaign around the idea. The video, aimed at dentist-evading teens, features a young woman about to be bitten by a vampire, when she suddenly pushes him away, repulsed by his awful breath and hideous teeth.

Why Do We Talk in Our Sleep?

Has your partner ever referred to a conversation that occurred the night before — and you can’t remember a thing you said? Unless it’s after a wild night out, the cause may be somniloquy, better known as sleep talking.

Sleep talking falls under the category of parasomnias, which are disruptive sleep disorders. Other parasomnias include sleepwalking, bedwetting, and night terrors. Although it can be startling, sleepwalking is generally nothing to worry about.

“Sleep talking is benign for most people,” says Russell Rosenberg, PhD, who is the chairman of the National Sleep Foundation in Atlanta. “No one knows exactly what causes it.” A lot of nighttime chitchat can cause you to feel tired the next day, but it’s generally not a cause for concern. It’s also quite common: although statistics vary, about 60 percent of us will have at least one episode of sleep talking, according to William Kohler, MD, the medical director of the Florida Sleep Institute in Tampa.

The When and How of Sleep Talking

Sleep talking tends to occur during two different stages of sleep: During stage two, when it’s just a stream of thoughts not accompanied by a dream, and during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, when it’s accompanied by active dreams. During REM sleep it’s easy to arouse a person out of sleep talking, but during stage two, it’s very hard to wake someone up, and they likely won’t remember what they were talking about. And even during REM sleep, what a sleep-talker is saying may not be related to what’s happening in their dream.

“With sleep talking, we may have active dreams — we may be speaking about what we’re dreaming. On the other hand, we could be dreaming one thing and speaking something completely different,” says Dr. Kohler.

Sleep talking can vary in frequency and intensity, and can be caused by a variety of factors, which may be as simple as drinking alcohol before going to sleep. “Having a high fever, being under emotional stress, taking certain medications, and having underlying sleep problems like sleep apnea can all cause a person to talk in their sleep,” says Kohler. Sleep talking may also run in families, he says. There aren’t any specific medications that have been singled out to cause sleep talking.

What Does All That Chitchat Mean?

Although you may be tempted to read a lot into what your partner utters in their sleep, experts don’t recommend taking too much stock in those sweet nothings. “It’s not a reflection of what’s going on in your life,” Rosenberg says. Kohler agrees: “There’s a myth that secrets can be revealed with sleep talking, but that’s not really accurate. The things people are talking about can potentially have nothing to do with reality.”

And as many parents know, sleep talking is common in kids. “This is more of a brain development issue in children,” says Rosenberg. “Most kids will grow out of it.”

If your partner or child is chattering away in their sleep, “let it play itself out — just observe and make sure they are safe,” recommends Rosenberg.

So when would sleep talking actually be a cause for concern? Only if you feel overly tired during the day, if your nocturnal chatter is disturbing your partner, or if your sleep talking is accompanied by any other “acting out,” such as sleepwalking. If you’re feeling sleepy all the time, a sleep specialist can help determine the best course of action to ensure you get better sleep.

7 Great Ways to Commemorate Steve Jobs

When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died on October 5 after a seven-year battle withpancreatic cancer, America’s reaction was anything but “nano” or “mini” — in fact, the emotional outpouring was pretty enormous.

From President Obama to Ashton Kutcher, it seemed like everyone dropped what they were doing to tweet, post on Facebook, or chat — many using their Apple devices — about their admiration for a great American innovator.

Now that you’ve paid your respects, what else can you do to celebrate Jobs’ life? During a graduation speech at Stanford University in 2005, he said: “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” So why not look to the man himself for inspiration to live a healthier, happier life?

This week, follow your heart — and do something Jobs would do:

1. Create something insanely great. Despite being a college dropout, Jobs was a consummate innovator. From his parents’ garage, he co-founded a company that would later develop “insanely great” devices — from iPods to iPhones to iPads — used by millions worldwide every day. “Considered the Thomas Edison of his generation, Jobs has been involved in more than 300 computer-related U.S. patents,” states hisobituary on International Business Times.

So here’s your task: Get in touch with your creative side and make something new! Doesn’t matter if it’s a photograph, a kick-butt dinner, a cross-stitching masterpiece, or your very own Web site, creativity is a no-fail way to boost your health. Why? It stimulates the brain, reduces stress, helps build self-confidence — and, hey, it’s fun.

2. Turn up the tunes. Jobs’ contribution to music is considered by many to be revolutionary. That’s because iTunes and the iPod basically sent CDs into retirement, changing the way we listen to music. But it doesn’t matter which device you choose, cranking up your favorite tunes is good for your health. Music has not only been shown to fight stress, ease anxiety, and set off happiness triggers in your brain, it may also help reduce pain and protect the heart. (In a small study performed at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, participants’ blood got flowing when listening to joyful music in a way similar to what happens during aerobic exercise.) So put on those headphones and jam out. (And if you want to be even more Jobsian, listen to Bob Dylan — rumor has it that the crooner was Jobs’ all-time favorite musician.)

3. Forgo meat. Jobs was a pescetarian — which means he eliminated meat and chicken from his diet, but he indulged in fish and seafood. In fact, in 2006 the health-conscious CEO (who also headed Pixar Animation Studios), cut ties with McDonald’s, which promoted Pixar films’ characters in its Happy Meals, because he wasn’t keen on the health implications of the meat-happy fast food chain.

Ditching meat (at least every once in a while) could benefit you, too — especially if you have a few pounds to drop. In a scientific review published in Nutritional Reviews, researchers found that vegetarian diets not promote weight loss, they also decrease risks of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

4. Indulge in ice cream. After his cancer treatment, the Apple co-founder turned to his favorite frozen treat when he wanted to gain weight after cancer treatment. “I’m eating like crazy,” he told a New York Times reporter. What was his guilty pleasure? “A lot of ice cream.”

So go ahead and indulge, but first check out this list of The Best and Worst Frozen Desserts.

5. Forgive and forget. After a very public ousting from Apple in 1985, following internal power struggles and disappointing sales, Jobs set out on his own. He accomplished several projects in his “off” time — including buying the company that would become Pixar, starting NeXT computer company, and attracting several loyal investors. But when Apple announced in 1996 that it would buy NeXT, he returned to Apple. Now, it’s difficult to imagine what the tech world would be like if Jobs hadn’t patched things up with Apple.

If Jobs’ monumental revival of Apple isn’t enough to motivate you to reconcile your differences with someone, consider the health benefits of forgiveness: Research shows that it lessens stress and lowers blood pressure, and even helps prevent depression.

6. Book a vacation. After dropping out of Reed College in 1972, Jobs embarked on a trip to India to visit the Neem Karoli Baba, a Hindu guru. He sought spiritual enlightenment and, by all accounts, found it in the form of Zen Buddhism. He counted the “countercultural” and spiritual roots he found there as major influences on all his creative endeavors. It’s no surprise that this trip inspired him to do great things: Travel has long been known to be a serious stimulus for creativity and life changes. So go on — take that trip, whether it’s to India, Idaho, or just the little island off the coast of town. You’ll never know how it might change you.

7. Recycle your electronics. In 2005, Jobs responded to criticism of Apple’s poor recycling programs by announcing the company would take back iPods for free. Later, he expanded the program to include most Apple products. Apple now includes free shipping and environmentally friendly disposal of old systems. But he wasn’t always popular with environmentalists — in fact, he lashed out against his green critics at Apple’s annual meeting in Cupertino that year — but he listened, and eventually changed his tune.

Developing a green thumb can serve you well, too. Studies have shown that gardening and other environmental measures can dramatically improve your mental health, and “greenifying” your home is a surefire way to help protect against dangerous toxins.

Can You Catch Germs From a Public Toilet Seat?

There’s no denying that public bathrooms can be germ-ridden places. According to a study presented at the Infectious Diseases Society of America annual meeting, scientists who studied samples taken from a variety of public restrooms found that the sheer number of illness-causing bacteria present was too big to measure in many cases. So it’s only natural to worry about what may be lurking on even the cleanest-looking toilet seats — forget about the ones that appear wet or dirty.

No wonder that 60 percent of Americans say they won’t sit down to use a public toilet, according to the Web site of Sani-Seat, a company that makes those nifty gizmos that automatically wrap the seat in a fresh plastic cover after each use.

But experts say our fear of sitting on the average toilet seat (one that isn’t visibly soiled) is overblown.

There’s no question that germs can inhabit the seat, says Philip Tierno, MD, director of clinical microbiology and diagnostic immunology at New York University Medical Center and Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City. “The bulk of the organisms found are basically fecal-borne bacteria.” These nasties can include E. coli (which can cause bloody diarrhea or abdominal cramps), streptococcus (the bug behind strep throat), or S. aureus (linked to serious skin problems or pneumonia).

But just because they’re on the seat doesn’t mean they’ll make you sick. That’s because your skin acts as a very effective barrier to keep germs out (unless you have an open wound or lesion on your behind).

What about the herpes virus, HIV, or other sexually transmitted diseases? These organisms don’t survive for long outside the human body, especially not on a cold, hard toilet seat. And to infect you, they need to enter either through an open cut or sore or via a mucous membrane (your mouth or rectum, for example), which wouldn’t normally come into contact with the seat. All this makes the odds of infection from just sitting down miniscule.

Are you safer if you use those paper seat protectors? Dr. Tierno isn’t a fan: “They’re too thin, they rip and fall apart.” If you want to use them, he says, you can double-fold them, or place double-folded toilet paper on the seat. The automatically replaced plastic covers are better, he says, but such barriers on the seat act more as psychological than physical protection.

That said, no one wants to sit on a visibly dirty or soiled seat. Use common sense, Tierno says: “If [the toilet seat is] dirty, don’t use it.” But in general, he says, “You’re unlikely to pick up anything from a toilet seat.”

Where Germs Really Hide

But germs aren’t only found on the seat itself. “Where you find the organisms in larger quantities would be the underside of the toilet seat, because that is not cleaned as often [as the top]. As you flush, you bring up the contents in the bowl,” says Tierno. “It’s not just your germs, it’s germs from other people.” Some toilets can aerosolize the contents for quite a distance after being flushed, he says: “five feet or so, with lower-volume flushes.” Older toilets can spray as far as 20 feet! If you’re using a public toilet that doesn’t have a lid, Tierno recommends opening the door first before you flush, to get out of the way of the spray quickly.

And those far-reaching flushes may be responsible for another germ-ridden area of a typical public restroom: the floor. An ABC News investigation of the germiest spots in public bathrooms found that the floor has about 2 million bacteria per square inch! If you carry a purse or shoulder bag, avoid putting it down on the floor while you’re in the bathroom — hang it on the back of the door if possible.

Scrub Up!

But the real danger in picking up and carrying around germs comes from your hands, warns Tierno: “The 10 dirtiest things are your fingers.” Germs left on your hands can be easily transferred to surfaces you touch or to your eyes, mouth, or nose — where they can make you and other people sick. That’s why hand-washing with lots of soap and water is so important after using the bathroom.

And we’re talking especially to you, gentlemen: In a 2010 study, the American Society for Microbiology found that only 77 percent of men wash their hands before leaving the bathroom, compared with 93 percent of women.

What’s the best way to scrub? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you rub your hands with soap lather for at least 20 seconds (the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice), and be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. If soap and water is not available, Tierno says, use a quarter-sized drop of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. You can then use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door to leave.

8 Little Ways to Cut Your Cell Phone Cancer

Does the World Health Organization’s statement that cell phones may cause cancerhave you thinking twice about making that phone call?

Of course it’s alarming to think that something that’s become such a can’t-live-without can be linked to brain cancer, but there’s a lot even the most cell phone-addicted people can do to minimize health risks.

Any potential links to cancer stem from the low levels of radiation cell phones emit. Lower your exposure to the radiation, and you’ll reduce the potential links to cancer or other health problems:

  1. Use a headset. Sounds obvious, but headsets emit much less radiation than cell phones do, according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), and they keep your cell phone away from your head. The farther away you are from a source of radiation, the less damage it can do.
  2. Text when you can. Your constantly texting teens are onto something: Cell phones use less energy (and emit less radiation) when you text than when you talk, says the EWG. Texting also keeps the radiation source farther away from your brain.
  3. Use cell phones for FYI-only calls. Don’t use your cell phone for that long overdue, hour-long catch-up with your sister. Keep calls as short as possible —Do you need me to get the dry cleaning, honey? — and switch to a landline if they’re veering off into chitchat territory.
  4. Watch the bars. Can you hear me now? If you’re struggling to maintain a connection, ditch the call and wait until you have better service. When your phone has fewer signal bars, it has to work harder (and, therefore, emit more radiation) to connect.
  5. Keep the phone away from your ear when you can. EMF-Health.comrecommends waiting for the call to connect before you bring the phone to your ear, which minimizes radiation exposure. And when you talk, tilt the phone away from your ear and bring it in close when you’re listening. That’s because the radiation levels are “significantly less when a cell phone is receiving signals than when it is transmitting,” Lin Zhong, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice University in Houston, told The New York Times.
  6. Don’t make calls in elevators or cars. You already it’s dangerous to talk and drive; EMF-Health.com says that cell phones use more power to establish a connection in enclosed metal spaces like cars and elevators.
  7. Make sure your kids use the landline. It seems like even toddlers are using cell phones today, but experts say kids are the most vulnerable to potential radiation dangers. The EWG says children’s brains absorb twice as much cell phone radiation as adults. According to The New York Times, health authorities in Britain, France, Germany, and Russia all have warnings against letting children use cell phones.
  8. Buy a low-radiation phone. Some cell phones emit more radiation than others; if you’re in the market for a new phone, EMF-Health.com recommends that you consider the phone’s SAR (specific absorption rate), a way of measuring the radiation absorbed by the body. It’s usually listed in the phone’s instruction manual. You can also look at the EWG’s report of cell phone SARs here — from the LG Quantum’s 0.35 W/kg on the low end to the Motorala Bravo’s 1.59 W/kg on the high end.