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Showing posts with the label Health

The Nightmare Pandemic Economy Joe Biden Is Inheriting, in 5 Charts

When President-elect Joe Biden steps into White House in January, he will inherit two inextricably linked crises: The worsening COVID-19 pandemic and a wide-reaching recession. As U.S. coronavirus cases are spiking to all-time highs , he will be responsible for keeping Americans safe while guiding a fragile economy through recovery. That’s a tall order—and a somewhat paradoxical one. A fully open economy will most certainly lead to more viral spread and likely result in more deaths , while a closed economy could contain the virus but bring about even more financial hardship. And as the weather cools and fewer people want to dine, drink or otherwise spend time outside, it will become even harder to find the right mix of policies to both curb spread and keep businesses (and their employees) afloat. Biden has already demonstrated a more hands-on approach to the pandemic than U.S. President Donald Trump. In his first order of business after being projected the winner, the Pres

Why You May Not Be Able to Get Pfizer’s Frontrunner COVID-19 Vaccine

The freezer in your kitchen likely gets down to temperatures around -20° C (-4° F). “That keeps your ice cream cold, but it doesn’t turn your ice cream into an impenetrable block of ice,” says Paula Cannon, an associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine. Pfizer’s promising COVID-19 vaccine , by contrast, must be stored at about -70° C (-94° F)—a temperature cold enough to harden ice cream into a spoon-breaking block of ice, and that only specialized freezers can produce. Those cold storage requirements are raising serious questions about who could get the Pfizer vaccine if it’s approved, and when. The reality, experts say, is that the Pfizer vaccine probably won’t be available to everyone, at least not right away. Large medical centers and urban centers are the most likely to have the resources necessary for ultra-cold storage. People without access to these facilities, such as those living in

Birth control and high blood pressure: Which methods are safe for you?

Three effective forms of birth control contain the hormone estrogen: the birth control patch, combined hormonal birth control pills, and a vaginal ring. Doctors have typically recommended that women avoid birth control with estrogen if they have high blood pressure, which current US guidelines define as 130 mm Hg systolic pressure and 80 mm Hg diastolic pressure, or higher. A recent clinical update in JAMA clarifies whether it’s safe for some women with high blood pressure to use these forms of birth control. Why does blood pressure matter when choosing birth control? Birth control containing estrogen can increase blood pressure. When women who have high blood pressure use these birth control methods, they have an increased risk of stroke and heart attack compared with women who do not have high blood pressure. However, their actual chances of having a stroke or a heart attack are still quite low . When considering birth control options, it’s important to also weigh the possible

Quarantine snacking fixer-upper

The “battle of the bulge” gained a new foe this year: quarantine snacking. Sales of snack foods like cookies and crackers shot up in the early days of lockdowns, and recent consumer surveys are finding that people have changed their eating habits and are snacking more. We don’t yet have solid evidence that more snacking and consumption of ultra-processed food this year has led to weight gain. While memes of the “quarantine 15” trended on social media earlier this year, only a few small studies have suggested a link between COVID-19-related isolation and weight gain. But you don’t need scientific evidence to know if your waistband is tighter. Snacking is not just a weight risk Regular junk food snacking brings many risks. Processed foods are typically filled with loads of unhealthy saturated fats and high amounts of salt, calories, added sugar, and refined (unhealthy) grains. Eating too much of these foods can lead to increased blood sugar (which raises the risk for diabetes), co

A new Alzheimer’s drug: From advisory panel to FDA — what’s at stake here?

It’s been more than 17 years since the FDA last approved an Alzheimer’s drug. Will Biogen’s drug, called aducanumab, end this drought? The FDA will decide by March 2021, based on its own analysis of clinical trial data and an advisory panel’s review of the evidence. How does the drug work? Aducanumab is a monoclonal antibody engineered in a laboratory to stick to the amyloid molecule that forms plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Most researchers believe that the plaques form first and damage brain cells, causing tau tangles to form inside them, killing the cells. Once aducanumab has stuck to the plaque, your body’s immune system will come in and remove the plaque, thinking it’s a foreign invader. The hope and expectation is that, once the plaques are removed, the brain cells will stop dying, and thinking, memory, function, and behavior will stop deteriorating. Will the FDA’s decision be important? If aducanumab works, it would be the first drug that actually slows d

Stanford vs. Harvard: Two Famous Business Schools’ Opposing Tactics for the COVID-19 Pandemic

At the Stanford Graduate School of Business in Northern California, the stories got weird almost immediately upon their return for the fall semester. Students say they were being followed around campus by people wearing green vests telling them where they could and could not be, go, stop, chat or conduct even a socially distanced gathering. Some say they were threatened with the loss of their campus housing if they didn’t follow the rules. “They were breaking up picnics. They were breaking up yoga groups,” says one graduate student, who asked not to be identified so as to avoid social media blowback. “Sometimes they’d ask you whether you actually lived in the dorm you were about to go into.” On the other side of the country, students at the Harvard Business School gathered for the new semester after being gently advised by the school’s top administrators, via email, that they were part of “a delicate experiment.” The students were given the ground rules for the term, then re

Will Thanksgiving Be a COVID-19 Disaster? In Canada, the Answer Was ‘Yes’

As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations spike across the United States, public-health officials, local leaders and others are urging Americans to rethink their typical Thanksgiving plans this year. “I would encourage everyone to follow the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] guidelines and plan for a smaller dinner, with your immediate household family only,” New Jersey governor Phil Murphy said during a Nov. 5 press briefing; his state, like many others, is facing a frightening new wave. “We do not want anyone’s Thanksgiving to lead to more cases of COVID-19.” Prolonged indoor gatherings of many people from different households, after all, are a major risk factor for viral spread. Moreover, it’s tough to keep a mask on when you’re busy shoving grandma’s turkey and stuffing into your face, and alcohol consumption can make people less careful about practicing social distancing. One especially alarming analysis suggests the odds of having at least one COVID-19-posi

The Political Coronavirus Paradox: Where The Virus Was Worst, Voters Supported Trump the Most

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We will never know whether President Donald Trump could have won reelection if a novel coronavirus hadn’t torn across the planet in the final year of his presidency, just as the months-long impeachment saga was drawing to a close. (Did you remember that Trump was impeached?) There’s a strong argument that the President’s delayed response and mishandling of the pandemic was the one thing during campaign season that no amount of his trademark misdirection could deflect. But while early indications suggest that the deadly disease was the most driving factor among those who voted for President-elect Joseph Biden, while the moribund economy it spurred was of most concern to the outing President’s supporters, there lies a strange conundrum here: The regions of the country that Trump carried have also been those most plagued by COVID-19 since late August, according to TIME’s analysis of Associated Press voting results by county and the local rates of COVID-19 since March. On Nov. 3,

Drugstore skincare: Science-backed anti-aging ingredients that don’t break the bank

With a sharp increase in working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are noticing age-related skin changes up close on their videoconference calls. The good news? You don’t need to rush to the dermatologist for your anti-aging needs. The best skincare regimens to combat the cardinal signs of aging, which include uneven skin tone, fine lines, roughness, and dryness, can start from the comfort of your own home. You don’t need a prescription, time to get to a dermatologist, or deep pockets to score quality products. Here are a few science-backed, dermatologist-favorite ingredients that can help to slow, or even reverse, signs of aging. All of the ingredients listed below can be found over the counter (OTC) and are available in preparations that cost under $30. The problem? Uneven skin tone. The solution: Topical niacinamide Niacinamide, or vitamin B 3 , helps to block extra pigment formation by inhibiting the transfer of melanin (the major pigment in the skin) between

How to recognize a ministroke or stroke — and what to do

If you suddenly experience a strange but fleeting symptom — your arm or face suddenly feels weak or numb — you might be tempted to brush it off, especially if it’s short-lived. But if those odd, unexplained symptoms last more than a few seconds, they could signal a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. Commonly referred to as a ministroke, a TIA is caused by a temporary lack of blood in part of the brain. Most of the time a blood clot is to blame, and the symptoms resolve quickly because your body’s natural clot-dissolving action restores blood flow. But according to the American Stroke Association (ASA), these events should be called warning strokes rather than ministrokes. “A TIA can be a harbinger of a much more serious stroke,” says Dr. Christopher Anderson, director of acute stroke services at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. If a blood clot blocking a brain artery doesn’t dissolve and remains in place for more than a few minutes, it can destroy brain cells by dep

The Most Promising Alzheimer’s Drug in Years Took a Thrashing From an FDA Advisory Committee

For several years, doctors and patients have been closely following the development of the drug aducanumab, hoping that it might finally be the first medication to stop the cycle of failure that has been the fate of dozens of Alzheimer’s drug candidates that have come before. If approved, it would become the first treatment for Alzheimer’s; current medications address symptoms of the disease but do not tackle the root causes of the neurodegenerative illness. Those hopes were slowly quashed during a seven-hour meeting of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee last week. The committee, made up of independent experts in Alzheimer’s and statistics, heard from Biogen, the makers of aducanumab , as well as from FDA scientists who reviewed data submitted by the company. They focused their attention on three major studies the company provided for consideration: one showing the drug was effective in patients with mild Alzheimer’s disease, a second that showed the oppo

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