Risky relationships: why women are more likely to die of a broken heart

In her new book, heart surgeon Dr Nikki Stamp explores how modern medicine is only beginning to understand the connection between body and emotion

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy commonly known as broken heart syndrome is rare but real. As a heart and lung surgeon, Dr Nikki Stamp has seen a few cases herself, and the phenomenon provides a compelling opening chapter to her first book, Can You Die of a Broken Heart? The title reminds us of when Debbie Reynolds died of a broken heart the day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, passed away in 2016, but this book rises far above the online pseudoscience accompanying those reports. It is possible to be so affected by grief or shock that a predisposed heart simply cannot cope, and Stamp uses this as an opener to explore the myriad ways modern medicine is only recently understanding (and admitting) to the connection between body and emotion.

Weve sort of come full circle in terms of emotion and health, Stamp says. When early physicians were discovering organs and the body, they actually thought the heart was the centre of emotion, because it was warm and hot and thats where the idea of being hot-blooded came from. And then we got kind of cold and clinical; that your emotions come from the brain, that your emotional state has nothing to do with your physical state, and now weve come full circle and were starting to encompass a more holistic view of health.

Relationships are a great example. There is a trend to suggest that the risk of dying is higher after the loss of someone important and close to you, Stamp says. Conversely, she says, both romantic and platonic relationships are hugely beneficial. Theres a lot of positive physiology and positive actions that happen in the body when youre in a relationship. When you have social connection and emotional connection, it seems that our brains recognise that as something that means youre healthy.

Australian heart and lung surgeon Dr Nikki Stamp. Her book Can You Die of a Broken Heart? argues research into womens heart health has suffered from entrenched gender bias. Photograph: Chris Chen

Good hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin flood the body, preventing inflammation and assisting with blood flow.

The book doesnt sugarcoat the risks of relationships though, and the section about divorce is sobering. One study Stamp notes in the book showed that pain centres in the brain lit up when people were shown photos of their ex-partners, and of course pain and stress have negative effects on the heart.

Its interesting because weve come to a point in culture and in society where were socially more accepting of divorce, yet it still has this profound effect on our health, Stamp says. Divorce puts women under significantly more physiological strain than men, research reveals. When men remarry, their risk of heart attack drops again, but Stamp writes that, for women, divorce means a rewriting of their health prospectus forever: The risks posed by divorce to a womans heart health is on a similar level to that of high blood pressure or smoking. Men married to women, on the other hand, are significantly less likely to have heart attacks in the first place and those who do recover from them much faster than single men or women married to men.

The gendered issues inherent in heart health dont end there either. In fact, Stamp says one of the reasons she started writing Can You Die of a Broken Heart? was because of how scary and frustrating it was that women dont identify with heart disease despite it being the No 1 cause of death in Australian women. The book explains: If youre a woman under 50 years of age and you have a heart attack, then you are twice as likely to die than a man in the same boat.Why? A contributing factor is the dearth of resources put into womens heart health because most of the research has been done by men, on men.

Stamp who is often mistaken for a nurse and referred to by her first name where her male colleagues are addressed with titles explains that gendered issues in the industry affect medicine itself. Women in academic medicine or even in higher levels of medical research in general are quite underrepresented. And whether we like it or not, we all have a bias towards looking at things that are more pertinent to ourselves, she says. So, with all of that, were only just now learning about both the biological and social differences between mens and womens hearts. And because of that, the knowledge isnt there among healthcare practitioners, and so we dont know what to look out for and we dismiss symptoms. Women dont want to seem silly and then they go to their healthcare expert, a doctor or nurse, and they dismiss it as well because the symptoms are strange or because women are more likely to be perceived as being anxious. Its just this storm of complications that mean that womens hearts are so much more at risk.

Photograph: Murdoch Books

The most affecting thing about the book is Stamps infectious admiration for the organ. She describes how breathtaking it was the first time she saw a heart beating inside a chest as though it were love at first sight. Her book is peppered with compelling anecdotes from her professional adventures (when one patient threw a table at her, she responded, No judgment there: grief is a nasty piece of work). A lot of health books seem quite prescriptive and almost paternalistic. I didnt want to write something like that, Stamp says. In the introduction we learn that the very human side of what it is to care for another person is what got her into medicine, and it shows. One patients heart surgery was put on hold so she could marry the love of her life right there in the ward. Two days after her wedding she was wheeled down the same corridor to the operating theatre.

Stamp admits that knowing the effect of heartbreak on her heart hasnt made her superhuman. At times when I was researching this book and learning about the effects of heartbreak it just sort of made me cross at the people who had broken my heart all over again, she says, laughing, But I think I muddle through. One of the sad inevitabilities of life is that heartbreak is going to happen to all of us at some point in time and I just hope that if and when it happens again that I do remember some of this stuff and that I might muddle my way through it just a little bit better.

Can You Die of a Broken Heart? by Dr Nikki Stamp is out now through Murdoch Books

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/feb/24/risky-relationships-why-women-are-more-likely-to-die-of-a-broken-heart

Blue-sky thinking: how China’s crackdown on pollution is paying off

Clear skies above Beijing again but some fear the problem is just being pushed elsewhere

The photographs on display at Wu Dis Beijing studio imagine China and Beijing at their dystopian worst.

Naked, expectant mothers stare out from the walls, their bellies exposed but their faces hidden behind green gas masks.

Worshippers prostrate themselves around the Ming dynasty Temple of Heaven, desperately petitioning the smog-choked skies for a breath of fresh air.

But while the interior of Wus atelier offers a desolate panorama of Chinas pollution crisis, outside, a different, brighter side to the country is, for once, on show.

Beijings skies, so often noxious and smoggy, are a perfect and perplexing cerulean blue.

Its 26 today, said Wu, a visual artist and documentary photographer, checking his smartphones pollution app to confirm the uncommonly low levels of PM2.5, an airborne particulate linked to lung cancer, asthma and heart disease.

In the past, we made money first and could only talk about the environment later. But its clear the government has changed its mind, he said. We can see everything is starting to move in the right direction.

During the creation of the nightmarish airpocalypses portrayed in Wus artwork, pollution levels might have been 20 or even 30 times higher. Beijing was like a giant airport smoking room that day. It was an epic haze, he recalled, pointing to an image staged in October 2013 in which a girl appears to inhale oxygen through a tube connected to two heart-shaped balloons.

Times, though, appear to be changing.

Wu says he became an artist after he saw foreign athletes wearing facemasks at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Photograph: Tom Phillips for the Guardian

Traditionally, winter is Beijings smoggiest season, as coal burning ramps up to keep millions of residents warm. But the skies over Chinas capital have been almost inconceivably clear of late, thanks partly to a government crackdown on the use of the fossil fuel.

Beijing enjoyed a record 226 days of good air quality last year and endured 23 heavily polluted days, compared with 58 in 2013, state media announced last month. The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong newspaper, greeted the recovery with the incredulous headline: How did Beijing become one of Chinas top cities for air quality?

Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-controlled Global Times, tweeted alongside a photograph of Beijings azure-framed CCTV headquarters: Isnt it good to have a ruling party that can honour its promise?

Lauri Myllyvirta, a Greenpeace campaigner, said Chinas leaders could rightly claim credit for making Beijing blue again, temporarily at least, even if favourable weather conditions had played a major role in the exceptionally good spell.

Since last year, thousands of environmental inspectors have fanned out across the industrial belt around the capital as part of an aggressive clampdown on coal use. Heavily polluting vehicles, factories and construction sites have also been targeted. There is clear evidence the measures worked, said Myllyvirta, who said overall PM2.5 levels in Beijing had fallen by 40% from their peak in 2012-2013.

But he sounded a note of caution. Average PM2.5 levels in Beijing remained 65% above the national standard and more than five times World Health Organization guidelines last year. A recent bout of severe smog highlighted the fight ahead.

There are also fears that the crackdown around Beijing is forcing polluting industries to migrate south to regions such as the Yangtze river delta around Shanghai, where smog levels are rising. The war on pollution is far from over few people harbour illusions, Myllyvirta said. But there is also no reason for cynicism as theres clear evidence the measures worked.

Wu, 41, abandoned his job as an executive to become an environmentally engaged artist a decade ago, shocked into a career change by images of foreign athletes wearing facemasks at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Ten years on, and with the skies over his adoptive home starting to clear, he said he is glad his artwork and photographs, some of which have featured in Greenpeace anti-pollution campaigns, have played a role in increasing public awareness.

I want to produce work that can push society and the government to make positive changes …. [and] the most effective way to push the government to make changes is through public opinion, he said. It shows my work isnt a waste of time … It shows the power of art.

Wu worries, however, that change may have come too fast. He was among those left shivering when environmental inspectors began destroying coal-fired heaters late last year as part of a push to switch to natural gas or electric heating systems. Its only four degrees in here I can hardly work, he complained, touring his studio in a thick brown coat.

I agree with the government that we need lucid waters and lush mountains but the measures should be more gentle and more human. I can cope with the low temperature, but what about the elderly? What about children?

In one nearby area, primary school students reportedly suffered frostbite and were forced to study outdoors in the sunshine after their radiators stopped working.

Wu is also concerned about the environmental damage still being inflicted on less visible regions, where pollution crises have not received the same level of media attention as Beijings toxic skies. For one installation, he asked 12 volunteer disciples to recreate one of Leonardo da Vincis frescos, The Last Supper, in a derelict factory. The message is that because of pollution, mankinds last supper could come at any time because of pollution.

Overall, however, Wu believes China is on the right track. We should admit the government is trying to do the right thing and we need to recognise that it takes time to deal with environmental issues, he said.

If Chinas war on smog robbed him of his principal inspiration, he is unperturbed. Theres no lack of problems to inspire artists in China, he joked. Some western artists are jealous of that.

Additional reporting by Wang Xueying

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/22/blue-sky-thinking-how-chinas-crackdown-on-pollution-is-paying-off

iMessage and FaceTime goes down for users in Australia

Some Australian users weren't able to use iMessage or Facetime.
Image: lili sams/mashable

Well, this is odd.

Some customers of Australian carrier Telstra were unable to use iMessage and FaceTime on Wednesday morning, as technicians worked to fix the issue with the two Apple services.

The carrier’s outages page confirmed the problem. In a tweet, Telstra said customers could continue to send and receive SMS messages, but later stated those services were coming back to normal.

“Earlier today some customers experienced a disruption to Apple iMessage and FaceTime services. We worked with Apple to resolve this issue. Services are now being progressively being restored. We apologise for any inconvenience caused,” a Telstra spokesperson said via email.

One Twitter user, Nikolai Hampton, reported that Apple’s servers were not reachable by Telstra. 

Hampton suggested updating the phone’s DNS to get access to different servers, while another user Nathan Bujega, said a VPN would get around the problem.

Wednesday’s outage is not helped by the fact the iMessage app bundles SMS and iMessage services together, leading Telstra to instruct users how to force send an SMS message.

Apple’s iMessage has a history of not playing well with carriers. 

As the service gained popularity, those who switched from iOS and forgot to turn off iMessage reported missing messages, something that’s arguably been a headache for carriers.

Read more: https://mashable.com/2018/02/20/telstra-imessage-facetime-outage/

Can you die of a heart attack caused by smoke?

(CNN)Caution: This story contains spoilers about the latest episode of NBC’s “This Is Us.”

“I don’t understand why he died,” Kate Pearson says sadly to her mother, Rebecca, as they struggle with their grief in the middle of the night during Tuesday’s episode of the NBC show “This is Us.”
It’s not just Kate who can’t fathom how her father, Jack, died during Sunday’s Super Bowl episode. For die-hard fans, Jack’s sudden death after surviving the flames of their burning home — while rescuing not only his daughter’s dog but the family’s precious photo books — is downright bewildering.
    Despite Jack’s coughing and weak voice, the show made us think that all was well after the fire. After all, an emergency room doctor didn’t rush him off for tests or put him on a respirator. But as Jack’s wife, Rebecca, was making calls to arrange a hotel room, a “code blue” erupted behind her. Soon, viewers learned that Jack had died of cardiac arrest, triggered by the smoke.
    “One of the complications of smoke inhalation is that it puts terrible stress on the lungs and therefore the heart,” the emergency room doctor told Rebecca in the Sunday episode. “Your husband went into cardiac arrest. It was catastrophic, and I’m afraid we’ve lost him.”
    Was that just creative license, or can such an attack be triggered by smoke?
    “I think that it’s completely possible that this type of situation can cause cardiac arrest, for multiple different reasons,” said Dr. Kevin Campbell, a North Carolina cardiologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders.
    One reason: Smoke inhalation puts stress on the heart by reducing the amount of oxygen to the heart muscle.
    “When that happens, you can have a dangerous arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm, similar to as if you had a blockage in the heart artery,” Campbell said. “So if you are having trouble breathing and you can’t get oxygen, you can have a cardiac arrest with that.”
    Smoke from a house fire contains many dangerous chemicals, such as sulfur dioxide, benzene, acid gases, cyanide and carbon monoxide, that can irritate the airways and make it difficult to breathe. Inhaling carbon monoxide also reduces the oxygen supply to the body, including the heart, starving the heart muscle of the fuel it needs to function.

      His and Hers Heart Attacks

    Another reason for Jack’s “widowmaker,” defined as a critical blockage of the main artery down the front of the heart, might be underlying cardiovascular disease. A “widowmaker” gets its name because it’s nearly always fatal if not addressed within minutes.
    “If you’re a person with underlying heart disease,” Campbell said, “then the rush of adrenaline and all the hormones that are released into the body for fight or flight can put extra stress on the heart.”
    Cardiologist Dr. Arthur Agatston, creator of the heart-healthy South Beach Diet, agrees.
    “In this case, there was tremendous physical stress from Jack lowering his wife and kids down from the house during the rescue,” Agatston said. “That would be exacerbated by the smoke inhalation, decreasing the amount of oxygen that can get to the blood. And then there’s all the emotional stress as well, and all that produces a lot of adrenaline that can lead to acutely clogging up your arteries.”
    The show has never mentioned that Jack had underlying heart disease or even high blood pressure. But at his age, which is in his early 50’s, Agatston said, there was probably some plaque buildup in his arteries.
    “The cholesterol ‘pimples’ that build up in the wall of blood vessels are like little ticking time bombs,” he said. “They can literally pop like a pimple does, and what they extrude into the bloodstream causes a blood clot. Usually, the clot heals over with calcium and scar tissue, and you don’t feel anything.”
    But when there is a lot of stress, like that Jack faced, the clot can become bigger, Agatston said, and even “wax and wane over minutes, hours or even days or a week or two.”
    “Presumably, Jack had the pop and the resulting clot during the fire, but it didn’t occlude the vessel,” he explained. “But something happened when he was in the hospital, and all of a sudden, the clot blocked the main artery and caused the heart attack.
    “Jack may have even thought ‘Oh, my God, I came close to dying and losing my family’ and that type of emotional stress increases adrenaline, which makes these clots bigger and more likely to block a vessel,” Agatston added.
    Another possible contributing factor: Jack is a recovering alcoholic.
    “That certainly puts your heart at risk,” Campbell said. “If you’re abusing alcohol, you can have a very, very weakened heart muscle, and that can precipitate cardiac arrest or make it more likely.”
    Agatston agreed: “Drinking alcohol can cause an abnormal heart rhythm and also can cause high blood pressure, which is a risk factor.”

    See the latest news and share your comments with CNN Health on Facebook and Twitter.

    One thing that isn’t realistic in the show, Agatston said: the lack of treatment Jack received.
    “A code blue like that would go on for much longer than two to three minutes,” he said. “It can go on for 20 to 30 minutes or even longer before you stop CPR.”
    In the real world, Agatston added, doctors would also suggest that Jack’s children be screened for potential heart disease with a heart scan and a look at their calcium score.
    “When someone dies that young from a heart attack, the kids should definitely be screened,” he said. “You can see plaque in the arteries years before a heart attack. If Jack had had that, his heart attack could have been prevented.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2018/02/06/health/this-is-us-jack-death-smoke-inhalation/index.html

    Do pro football players have a higher risk of dying earlier?

    (CNN)As fans across the country anticipate Sunday’s big game, a new study finds that career NFL players have a 38% higher risk of dying younger compared with those who played in only a few games.

    The study, published Thursday in the medical journal JAMA, is the latest research to highlight the potential health impacts associated with football.
    Much of the focus on player health has been on concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a neurodegenerative disease. CTE causes Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, including memory loss, confusion, aggression, rage and, at times, suicidal behavior. It is believed to result from repeated trauma to the head, causing a buildup of the abnormal protein tau, which clumps in the brain. There is no treatment, and diagnosis is confirmed only through examination of the brain on autopsy.
      On Monday, former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour that the only way to make the game safer is to not play, although he admits the NFL isn’t going to go away.
      “Concussions will continue to be a serious issue. There’s only so much that helmets can do. So we’ll look at it from a treatment standpoint. And the only other option is not to play,” he said.

      Apples-to-apples comparison

      Authors of the new study on increased risk of death caution that the increase may not be as significant as it sounds. “It’s suggestive but not definitive,” said Dr. Atheendar Venkataramani, an associate professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania. In fact, the mortality rate difference was statistically insignificant but still raises key questions.
      Still, Venkataramani believes he and his colleagues have done the first apples-to-apples comparison to really understand the toll football takes on professional players.
      Previous research has found that professional football players have lower overall death rates as well as lower rates of cancer and heart disease than men of similar age and ethnicity who do not play pro football.
      But Venkataramani said it’s hard to make any determinations from those comparisons. “It struck us that it’s hard to draw definitive conclusions from them because NFL athletes are different from the general population,” he said. Elite athletes in general tend to have healthier lifestyles than the rest of us.

      Isolating the impact of football

      In an effort to isolate just what the impact of professional football was, Venkataramani and his colleagues did a retrospective study comparing the life expectancies of professional NFL players who debuted in the league between 1982 and 1992 and compared them to a group of “replacement players” who filled the NFL rosters for three games when players were on strike in 1987.
      The researchers found the players’ data through Pro Football Reference, an online sports reference database, and tracked their health through December 31, 2016. Because of the nature of the online database, the researchers acknowledged that some of the information used could have been misrepresented or incorrect.
      When comparing the 2,933 career NFL players to the 879 “replacement players,” the study authors found 144 deaths among the career players, or 4.9% of that group. There were 37 deaths among the replacement players, which represented just 4.2% of that group. Because the number of players being evaluated was so small, Venkataramani said it was hard to determine the significance of the differences.
      The researchers also analyzed the deaths and found that while heart disease was the No. 1 cause of death in both groups, as it is around the world. However, car accidents, drug overdoses and neurological diseases were more common reasons for death among career players than among “replacement players.” Previous studies have found that professional football players are more likely to develop neurodegenerative diseases like amyotropic lateral sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.
      Venkataramani also noted that the players’ age by the cutoff date was probably a factor in the study. At the end of the study, on average, the men were just 52 years old. “These people were pretty young. There’s not a lot of death. We anticipate as these cohorts age, there will be more events,” he said.
      Venkataramani and his colleagues have discussed continuing to follow this group of players, and they welcome other researchers to build on their work and learn more about the differences between the two groups. “I think anyone who’s interested in following them should,” he said.
      An editorial published alongside the study by researchers not involved in the report said that “Although the life expectancy of professional football players was not significantly reduced based on the current evidence, the health of professional athletes should remain a focus of future research.”
      The editorial also noted that because of the higher incidence of neurological disease in the career players, it continues to be vital to focus on the connection between repeated head trauma and neurological disease.

      Hard to draw any definitive conclusions

      Dr. Ken Mautner, an assistant professor of orthopedics at Emory University’s School of Medicine, was hesitant to read too much into the findings because of the many factors football players deal with.
      “There are so many variables in looking at this topic of former professional athletes, when it comes to substance abuse and healthy behaviors and risky behaviors, head injuries. So these are all negative things. And on the other side, you have super healthy specimens,” he said.
      Mautner, the head team physician for the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and team physician for the MLB’s Atlanta Braves, was not involved with the newstudy.
      “I commend what (the researchers) were trying to do. And even showing not much of a difference is saying something else. It may lend to the fact that football players aren’t really dying at an earlier age. There is something to take from all of that,” Mautner said.
      Ultimately, though, “it’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions from this study,” and he wouldn’t let it dissuade anyone from playing professional football.
      “It’s been really elusive to figure out if playing in the NFL causes certain health conditions, and we’re just trying to provide a way to answer that question more reliably,” Venkataramani said. He hopesthis study will pave the way for future analysis of what the impact of football is.

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      The NFL said that “this new study seems to support other previous studies that have not shown an increase in mortality among NFL players when compared to similar cohorts. … As with all new research on this topic, we will look at it closely to see what we can learn to better enhance the well being of our current and former players.”
      Venkataramani and his colleagues acknowledge the shortcomings of the study but believe it is an important stepping stone toward further understanding of the impact of the game on professional players. “None of it is truly definitive, but it’s just sort of pointing us on better studies,” he said.
      Mautner agreed: “It’s interesting information … and will hopefully open the door for other studies.”

      Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2018/02/01/health/nfl-players-early-death-risk-study/index.html

      How to Get a Good Nights Sleep (Even When Everything Is the Worst)

      Scientifically speaking, there are still plenty of mysteries about why we need sleep and what happens when were sleeping, but most of us know these basic realities from experience: it feels amazing to be well-rested and getting the National Sleep Foundations recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night can be frustratingly elusive.

      Not being able to catch those zs has broader implications beyond the horror of lying awake at 3 a.m., certain youll be trapped in sleepless purgatory forever. After a bad night of sleep, studies have shown that you may have a harder time remembering things the next day, your ability to do quick decision-making and problem solving may be impaired, and you might be worse at accurately identifying certain emotions in other people (fun!). Not to mention that, big picture, sleep problems can increase your risk for serious health problems including heart disease, strokes, mental distress and all-cause mortality, according to the CDC. (Heres my obligatory please see a doctor note if youre experiencing sleep problems.)

      So, yup, science supports what many of us already know: not getting enough sleep is the literal worst.

      The good news is that as sleep gains more attention, were learning more about the process (and products) we need to get to bed. (If youre a nerd like me and want to learn more about sleep science, check out this great book on the topic.) That said, its harder to get to sleepand stay asleepthan its ever been before. Our world today is brighter and louder, not to mention that weve got a Twitter-happy president who casually tweets about starting a nuclear war and a nonstop newscycle that, lets be honest, can be pretty stressful.

      Luckily, the sleep tech market is booming: theres a plethora of available apps, sensors, immersive virtual reality experiences and smart mattresses that promise to help you get to bed. But many of these products are in early phases of testing, not to mention immensely overpriced.

      There are more budget-friendly ways to boost your sleep routine and turn your room into a sleep sanctuary. And to be clear, the tried and true advice for getting a good nights rest still holds: try to limit booze, caffeine and electronics before bed. Here are my favorite sleep aids.

      The Alaska Bear silk sleep mask, $9.99

      Lets start with the basics: buying a sleep mask is the easiest and cheapest thing you can do for your sleep routine. (You could spring for some blackout shades to achieve the same effect, but this is a lot easier. Plus, blackout shades can be disorienting and may have caused one nameless writer to accidentally sleep through many alarms until 3 p.m.)

      The main advantage of a sleep mask is its ability to block out light, some of which you might not even know is there: even a seemingly dark room might be letting in too much light. In a nutshell, light regulates the rhythm of our body. During the day, the light we are exposed to tells us stay awake! but alas, it does the same thing at night.

      I use a silk sleep mask because they feel amazing and dont disrupt my (very) sensitive skin. Reviewers agree that that this specific mask is super soft and really efficient at blocking out light. Plus, as the description for this mask explains, Mulberry silk is the fabric of the emperors.

      Blue Blocking Amber Goggles, $34.95

      If you work late into the night or cant resist using your light-emitting gadgets before bed, consider investing in these very, uh, stylish light-blocking glasses. (These cheaper ones are actually pretty stylish but dont block as much light.)

      These glasses work similarly to the night mode on the iPhone or f.lux technologies: they turn the bluish hue of electronics into a softer, more orange shade, which helps your body and brain stay in the time to sleep mindset.

      Wave Premium Sleep Therapy Sound Machine, $29.99

      This white noise machine offers a seamless looping of 6 soothing nature sounds, a built-in USB charger for your gadgets and an automatic timer to turn off. In addition to offering the standard white noise, it also gives you the option to fall asleep to rain, sounds of the ocean, streams and summer nights.

      Machines like this can work in a few ways: if you live in an area where youre getting lots of sound, it can block out some of the more unpleasant ones in lieu of summer nights. And getting sound out of your bedroom is crucial for a good nights sleep: our brains try to process the sounds we hear during the night, and even though we usually dont remember that happening, it can impact the quality and quantity of our rest.

      Aura Cacia Lavender Essential Oil, $8.99

      Lavender has a well-established reputation of being therapeutic in many ways, including having the potential to soothe your mood and help you sleep.

      My favorite method is to add a few drops of this essential oil (its very strong!) to an empty spray bottle (heres one, if you please) with a little bit of water and mist it around my bedroom and over my pillows.

      This has the added perk of being a sleep ritual: by doing this every night, Im Pavlovian-dog-training myself into associating lavender mist with bedtime. Having a ritual, even if its just spritz n sleep, is a super helpful way to remind yourself that sleep is an important event, one to be treated seriously and with care.


      Of course youll need to figure out which of these, or which combination, works best for your specific needs. But these options are all pretty affordable, which means investing in your sleep sanctuary wont break the bank. Youll be amazed (I was!) by how a few simple tweaks to your living space can dramatically improve your sleep and, by extension, your quality of life.

      Scouted is here to share practical, entertaining, and sometimes unexpected ideas for products that you might like. Please note that if you buy something featured in one of our posts, The Daily Beast may collect a share of sales.

      Read more: https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-to-get-a-good-nights-sleep-even-when-everything-is-the-worst

      In a hurry? Here’s what you need to know this morning

      Hello. Here’s your morning briefing:

      Image copyright Getty Images

      Any Brexit deal ‘will slow UK economy’

      What effect will Brexit have on the UK economy? A leaked government document suggests growth over the next 15 years could be up to 8% lower than if the UK had stayed in the EU. And the Buzzfeed news website reports that the Whitehall analysis – looking at several scenarios – predicts slower growth whatever deal is struck with Brussels.

      But a government source said the document did not look at its preferred scenario – which included a bespoke deal with the EU covering trade and financial services. The analysis contained, they added, “a significant number of caveats” and was “hugely dependent on a wide range of assumptions”. And leading Eurosceptic Conservative MP Jacob Rees Mogg said economic modelling so far had been “highly speculative and inaccurate”.

      Here’s our guide to all you need to know about Brexit.

      BBC women claim ‘veiled threats’ over equal pay queries

      Female staff at the BBC have told the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee they faced “veiled threats” while trying to raise the subject of equal pay. More than 150 women have put forward written evidence ahead of a hearing on Wednesday. Meanwhile, auditors PwC have separately reviewed the pay and diversity of presenters, correspondents and on-air talent. And, following the outcry over the size of salaries of some of its highest-paid stars, the BBC is proposing a pay cap of £320,000 for its news presenters.

      Sign up for a morning briefing direct to your phone

      Russia will target US mid-term elections, says CIA chief

      CIA director Mike Pompeo, who briefs President Donald Trump on most days, has told the BBC he thinks Russia will target the US mid-term elections later this year. He also said North Korea may be able to hit the US with nuclear missiles “in a handful of months”. In a wide-ranging interview with BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera, Mr Pompeo dismissed the questioning of Mr Trump’s faculties in a recent book on his administration as “absurd” and “drivel”. Here’s a profile of Mr Pompeo.

      Do ‘robo hacks’ spell the end for human journalists?

      By Chris Baraniuk, business of technology reporter

      Squirrelled away at the Press Association’s (PA) headquarters in London is a small team of journalists and software engineers. They’re working on a computer system that can do the work of multiple human beings, picking out interesting local data trends – everything from crime statistics to how many babies are being born out of wedlock. As part of a trial, PA has begun emailing selected machine-generated stories, no more than several paragraphs or so in length, to local newspapers that might want to use such material. “We’ve just been emailing them samples of stories we’ve produced and they’ve been using a reasonable number of them,” says Peter Clifton, editor-in-chief. Sometimes human journalists will rewrite or add to the algorithms’ copy, but quite often, he says, it is published verbatim.

      Read the full article

      What the papers say

      The Times reports that Theresa May is coming under pressure from Conservative donors, and some of her MPs, to step down once the outline of a Brexit deal with Brussels is negotiated. Meanwhile, Metro says German Chancellor Angela Merkel has mocked Mrs May by claiming the UK prime minister is dithering over what she wants to achieve from talks. And the i reports on a study suggesting people in the UK have the worst diets in Europe.

      Daily digest

      Million-pound raids Police believe soldier is behind violent gunpoint robberies at Home Counties properties

      Prescription drugs Gangs smuggled 160 million tablets out of UK’s protected supply chain over three years, BBC finds

      Passport price Cost of renewal by post to increase by £12.50 in March

      Maplins memories The cast of Hi-de-Hi reminisce 30 years after sitcom was taken off air

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      What does China want in the South China Sea?

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      The 69-year-old still working the catwalk


      Today The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge begin a visit to Sweden and Norway.

      15:35 Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney appears before the Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

      On this day

      1965 Tens of thousands of people line the streets of London for the procession ahead of the full state funeral for former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill at St Paul’s Cathedral.

      From elsewhere

      What does it mean to die? (New Yorker)

      The shop owners holding on tight (Sydney Morning Herald)

      How your spice rack could stop you having a stroke (Daily Mail)

      The dying art of owning a decent pen (Spectator)

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      Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-42863456

      No safe level of smoking, study finds

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      Smokers need to quit cigarettes rather than cut back on them to significantly lower their risk of heart disease and stroke, a large BMJ study suggests.

      People who smoked even one cigarette a day were still about 50% more likely to develop heart disease and 30% more likely to have a stroke than people who had never smoked, researchers said.

      They said it showed there was no safe level of smoking for such diseases.

      But an expert said people who cut down were more likely to stop.

      ‘Stop completely’

      Cardiovascular disease, not cancer, is the greatest mortality risk for smoking, causing about 48% of smoking-related premature deaths.

      While the percentage of adults in the UK who smoked had been falling, the proportion of people who smoked one to five cigarettes a day had been rising steadily, researchers said.

      Their analysis of 141 studies, published in the BMJ, indicates a 20-a-day habit would cause seven heart attacks or strokes in a group of 100 middle-aged people.

      But if they drastically cut back to one a day it would still cause three heart attacks, the research suggests.

      The researchers said men who smoked one cigarette a day had about a 48% higher risk of developing coronary heart disease and were 25% more likely to have a stroke than those who had never smoked.

      For women, it was higher – 57% for heart disease and 31% for stroke.

      Prof Allan Hackshaw at the UCL Cancer Institute at University College London, who led the study, told the BBC: “There’s been a trend in quite a few countries for heavy smokers to cut down, thinking that’s perfectly fine, which is the case for things like cancer.

      “But for these two common disorders, which they’re probably more likely to get than cancer, it’s not the case. They’ve got to stop completely.”

      Image copyright Other

      The researchers said it might be expected that smoking fewer cigarettes would reduce harm in a proportionate way as had been shown in some studies with lung cancer.

      However, they found that men who smoked one cigarette per day had 46% of the excess risk of heart disease and 41% for stroke compared with those who smoked 20 cigarettes per day.

      For women it was 31% of the excess risk of heart disease and 34% for stroke.

      Prof Hackshaw said the increased risks of cardiovascular illness were over the course of a lifetime but damage could be done in just a few years of smoking.

      But he said the good news was that those who quit smoking could also quickly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease.

      Cutting down not ‘useless’

      Paul Aveyard, professor of behavioural medicine at the University of Oxford, said the “well conducted” study confirmed what epidemiologists had suspected – that light smoking created a “substantial risk for heart disease and stroke”.

      But he said it was wrong to conclude cutting down smoking was useless.

      “Those who try to cut down with the aid of nicotine, whether from nicotine replacement treatment or an e-cigarette, are more likely to stop eventually and thus really reduce their risks from smoking,” he said.

      Martin Dockrell, tobacco lead at Public Health England, said: “This study adds to the growing body of evidence which tells us that cutting down to just one cigarette a day still leaves a substantial risk of heart attack and stroke. The best and safest thing you can do is to quit completely for good.”

      Deborah Arnott, chief executive of health charity ASH, said: “It’s addiction to nicotine that keeps people smoking but it’s the tar in cigarette smoke that does the serious damage.

      “Vaping is much less harmful, but only if you quit smoking altogether.”

      Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said discouraging people from cutting down smoking could be “counter-productive”.

      Follow Alex on Twitter.

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      Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-42802191

      Trump’s first year had round-the-clock journalistic insanity — Here are 2017’s most outrageous media moments

      You’ve seen the list – President Trump’s “Highly-Anticipated 2017 Fake News Awards.” They skewer news outlets for 11 separate outlandish reports.

      Yet those honors barely scratch the surface of 365 days-worth of media mania. President Trump’s first year had round-the-clock journalistic insanity – from the president having more ice cream than guests to bogus press claims that a pecan pie was fake news. There were even widespread press calls to depose Trump using either impeachment or the Constitution’s 25th Amendment.

      CNN became both headquarters of the resistance and a home for some of the most-idiotic moments of modern TV history. Its staff repeated the unedited version of term “s—hole” 195 times on air in one day. That doesn’t count the numerous times they showed the unedited word on screen.

      This from the network that created the hilarious apple vs. banana video to claim its news wasn’t fake. (Four of Trump’s 11 fake news awards were to CNN.)

      Here are seven more examples of media insanity from President Trump’s first year. And the winners are:

      1. They All Scream for Ice Cream Award: Since Trump’s alleged girth weighs heavily on the media these days, it’s good to remember how childish they can be discussing his diet. A Time Magazine article described the horror: “At the dessert course, he (Trump) gets two scoops of vanilla ice cream with his chocolate cream pie, instead of the single scoop for everyone else.”

      Rather than laugh that off, it spawned actual commentary from people other than Ben and Jerry.  The Washington Post’s pretend conservative columnist Jen Rubin gave it a cool reception, saying he was “a man unable to restrain his urges.”

      CNN dished up hefty servings of bias, claiming: “President Donald Trump is living every child’s dream: More ice cream.” Anchor Brooke Baldwin even added “and no word if there were sprinkles.”

      That was in May. Journalism actually went downhill from there.

      2. Would You Like Some Pie? Award: CNN hired April Ryan as a contributor after her minor dust-up with former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer. She followed that up with a pie fight against new Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

      Sanders posted a beautiful picture of a pecan pie, along with the line: “I don’t cook much these days, but managed this Chocolate Pecan Pie for Thanksgiving at the family farm!” Liberals immediately challenged it.

      By the next day, Ryan had chimed in, saying: “Show it to us on a table.” She followed up citing the hashtags “#piegate” and “#fakepie” like she was denying the moon landing. Sanders won the round by baking more pies and tweeting out the process of baking.

      3. Media’s Girther Movement Award: With all this focus on ice cream and pie, it was only natural the media would obsess about Trump’s weight. Journalists who downplayed every medical warning from Hillary Clinton have done the opposite with Trump. (As shown in this fantastic Washington Free Beacon video.)

      Watching journalists grill Navy Rear Adm. Dr. Ronny Jackson was bad enough, since he was appointed by President Barack Obama and is still beloved by Democrats. Seeing them dredge up every height-weight-health conspiracy they could find afterward was worse.

      CNN’s pro-Democratic Dr. Sanjay Gupta declared that Dr. Jackson was wrong about Trump. “So the President has heart disease,” Gupta argued, even though Dr. Jackson said otherwise. Remember our nice, neutral Dr. Gupta was almost surgeon general for Obama.

      Every idiot on TV chimed in, claiming Trump’s medical results weren’t true. That naturally included the “Morning Joe” team on MSNBC, especially its namesake pretend conservative Joe Scarborough. He refused to believe the results, adding, “If that’s what 239 pounds looked like, I would weigh 170 pounds.” Believe the 170 pounds. Scarborough is definitely a political lightweight.

      4. Media Claim Trump Isn’t Just Fat Award: Claiming Trump is fat just doesn’t get it done for journalists who think of Trump as evil incarnate. Since he disagrees with them on many topics he must be … crazy.

      I’m not sure the internet is big enough to hold a column that would address all these claims. But unlike the Ice Creamgate and Piegate, this one isn’t new or creative. The Soviets made a habit of treating their political opponents as insane so they could lock them up. And the media have been claiming Republican politicians are evil, racist, crazy or stupid (or all four) for years.

      Journalists and their lefty partners in slime are running that game on Trump more aggressively than they ever tried with President Ronald Reagan. None more than CNN. The network’s “Reliable Sources” Host Brian Stelter was freaking out about his view of Trump’s mental health back in August. “Is the President of the United States a racist? Is he suffering from some kind of illness? Is he fit for office? And if he’s unfit, then what?” He began 2018 with a claim the year was starting off with “madness.”

      The “Situation Room” spent 20 minutes on it, giving prime attention to lefty Yale psychologist Bandy Lee who claims Trump is dangerous and whines about his “mental fitness.” Lee argues Trump must be examined, “by force if necessary.” (Pretty sure that’s known by other names like kidnapping or treason.)

      5. Unhinged CNN Award: Comedian Kathy Griffin spent several years as a New Year’s Eve embarrassment for CNN. In one notable incident, she knelt in front of Anchor Anderson Cooper and kissed his crotch on national TV. She later told David Letterman she was not going to apologize “for trying to go down on Anderson Cooper.” She wasn’t fired.

      Then in May, she did a photo shoot where she held up a fake bloodied Trump head like she had decapitated the president. The image, reminiscent of ISIS terrorists, was finally too much for CNN. It fired her from the New Year’s Eve show. Because kissing Cooper’s crotch wasn’t too far for a news network.

      Even though Griffin was gone, she was infused with the CNN spirit. She created a “Laugh Your Head Off” show. By November, she had recanted her previous apology “1,000 percent.”

      6. CNN’s Cannibalism Award: In 2016, CNN promoted several new shows including “Believer.” Here’s the press release write-up: “Internationally renowned author and scholar of religious studies Reza Aslan hosts ‘Believer’ (working title), a new spiritual adventure series on CNN. In each episode, Aslan will immerse himself into one of the world’s most fascinating faith-based groups to experience life as a true believer.”

      “Internationally renowned author and scholar of religious studies.” Pretty heady stuff. Until it’s revealed that he’s really just another foul-mouthed, anti-Trump resister. Aslan, who also ate human brains during his program, was found bashing Trump on Twitter. He wrote in one tweet: “This piece of s–t is not just an embarrassment to America and a stain on the presidency. He’s an embarrassment to humankind.” And he used the full word.

      CNN cut ties with him in June. Because cannibalism wasn’t enough to cost him his job.

      7. They Haven’t Fired Acosta … Yet Award: Despite those high-profile disasters, CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is consistently the biggest network embarrassment.

      Acosta acted out so much he needed two seats in the press room, one just for his ego. When the lights went on, he hammed for cameras in an apparent quest to get a permanent show. Always attacking Trump.

      White House adviser Stephen Miller slapped down the headline hunter in one ridiculous exchange where Acosta pretended the words on the Statue of Liberty were immigration policy. When Miller didn’t respond the way Acosta wanted, he accused the administration of “trying to engineer the racial and ethnic flow of people into this country.”

      Miller slammed the theoretical journalist: “Jim, that is one of the most outrageous, insulting, ignorant and foolish things you’ve ever said and for you that’s still a really …” before he trailed off.

      It was typical of Acosta’s antics. He’s been thrown out of a White House meeting and shut down by the press secretary. He claims the result is “speaking truth to power” as opposed to acting like a 2-year-old. 

      Dan Gainor is the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. He writes frequently about media for Fox News Opinion. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.

      Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/01/20/trumps-first-year-had-round-clock-journalistic-insanity-here-are-2017s-most-outrageous-media-moments.html

      For The First Time In US History This Is Now The Third-Leading Cause Of Death Among Americans

      For the first time, accidental deaths have become the third-leading cause of fatalities. A record 161,375 lives were accidentally lost in 2016.

      Defined as unintentional or preventable, the number of accidental deaths rose significantly in 2016, a trend the National Safety Council says is fueled by the steep rise in opioid overdoses.

      Unintentional opioid deaths caused by prescription pain relievers, heroin, and illicitly-made fentanyl reached a record 37,814 deaths. Of those, an estimated 22,000 people die annually from prescription-opioids alone. That’s one every 24 minutes.

      According to the study, Ohio had the most opioid deaths (3,495), followed by New York (2,752), and Florida (2,622). Deaths hit a peak for those in their 30s and in their 50s.

      But evaluating deaths caused by drug overdose can be tricky, says the Centers for Disease Control. In approximately 1 in 5 drug overdose deaths, no specific drug is listed on the death certificate.

      It’s a crisis drawing national attention

      Last fall the Trump Administration declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. However, funding for new addiction treatment programs and research has not been allocated.

      Last week, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tightened restrictions on cough syrups, banning opioids in cough medicine for children under the age of 18. 

      On Wednesday, Walmart announced it will become the first national drug chain to offer free disposal of unused opioid prescriptions. 

      Despite recent efforts, opioid overdoses are a part of an ongoing, crippling epidemic.

      In its 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment, the US Drug Enforcement Agency said the drug landscape in the US has shifted over the last decade and is “reaching epidemic levels”. 

      Since 1999, the amount of prescription drugs prescribed and sold has quadrupled, says the Department of Health and Human Services. About 44 people die every day from a prescribed-opioid overdose. Of those, 18 women will die of a prescription drug overdose.

      Overall, preventable deaths have been increasing since 2009 and are third only to heart disease and cancer, respectively. 

      According to the 2016 analysis, almost 15,000 more people died accidentally in 2016 than in 2015. It’s the largest single-year percent rise since 1936.

      Nearly all categories of accidental death have increased. Poisoning deaths – which include drug overdose – account for 58,335 total deaths, an increase of 22.9 percent. Motor vehicle accidents rose 6.8 percent for a total of 40,327. Drowning (5.1 percent) and fire-related (3.2 percent) deaths also increased for total combined 6,516 deaths. Choking was the only accidental death to decrease by 4.4 percent to just under 5,000 deaths annually.

      In a year-long project evaluating the actions and policies US states take to reduce accidental deaths for residents, no state received an A. As such, an American is accidentally injured every second and killed every three minutes by a preventable event.


      Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/for-the-first-time-in-us-history-this-is-now-the-thirdleading-cause-of-death-among-americans/