(CNN)This feature is part of CNN Parallels, an interactive series exploring ways you can improve your health by making small changes to your daily habits.
(CNN)This feature is part of CNN Parallels, an interactive series exploring ways you can improve your health by making small changes to your daily habits.
(CNN)There’s no question that the impact of diseases varies drastically across the United States, depending on which state you live in.
A California judge has ruled that coffee companies must put cancer warnings on their product but on the east coast, caffeine-crazed drinkers arent buying the latest health scare
Asking a New Yorker whether theyll give up their morning coffee during their commute is likely to elicit only one response laughter.
News broke on Thursday that a California judge had ruled coffee companies should carry cancer warnings on their products after an eight-year legal battle with big coffee. Coffee companies, led by Starbucks, had argued that the levels of acrylamide, a known carcinogen, present in their coffee were insignificant and outweighed by health benefits.
But the defendants failed to satisfy their burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that consumption of coffee confers a benefit to human health, Elihu Berle, a superior court judge, ruled. While plaintiff offered evidence that consumption of coffee increases the risk of harm to the fetus, to infants, to children and to adults, defendants medical and epidemiology experts testified that they had no opinion on causation.
Harm to fetuses, infants, children, adults? Sounds scary. But not to New Yorkers. Three thousand miles away from the California court the reaction ranged from meh to fuhgeddaboudit.
California! said Jarrett Boor, an architect winging his way to work on 8th Avenue in Manhattan. They put warning labels on everything. He said it was good in some cases and that the public should know when products are dangerous. But everything causes cancer: cellphones, GMO foods. Im not giving up my coffee, he snorted.
New Yorkers do, apparently, drink a ridiculous amount of coffee. A survey by health data website Massive Health calculated the city was running on 6.7 times as much coffee per person as other cities (San Franciscans, by contrast, eat 4.4 times as many brussels sprouts). Given the amount of joe coursing through a New Yorkers system its little wonder that the citys hopped-up workers dont seem too worried by Californias warnings.
According to a Harvard study, roughly 62% of Americans drink coffee every day, an all-time high. And, despite the fly California has dropped in the nations latte, two decades of research suggests that coffee is good for us, helping to reduce the risk of illnesses ranging from cancer to heart disease to Alzheimers.
One common complaint among caffeine-loving New Yorkers on Friday was that they were sick of the ever-changing buffet of health-related coffee news.
The last public health statement I saw was coffee was good for you. It reduces hypertension, said Marge Wetzler, wearily waiting for a medium iced latte in Gregorys Coffee in midtown Manhattan. Now its bad for you? I just dont buy that. She would, however, continue to buy her morning coffee.
(CNN)A preliminary decision from a California superior court judge in Los Angeles could affect thousands of coffee shops including Starbucks, 7-Eleven and even your local gas station.
(CNN)Heading from Washington to Los Angeles for the NBA All-Star Game, Dikembe Mutombo watched news reports about the Parkland shooting.
Some takeaway dishes contain as much salt as five Big Macs with ready meals also high in salt
Chinese takeaways and ready meals should carry compulsory health warning labels on menus and packaging to alert consumers to astonishing and harmful salt levels, UK health experts have recommended.
The worst-offending Chinese takeaway dishes in a survey published on Tuesday by Action on Salt were found to contain as much salt as five McDonalds Big Macs, while many had more than half an adults entire daily allowance.
Supermarket Chinese ready meals were also laden with salt, with some containing more than the amount found in two Pizza Express margherita pizzas, the report reveals. Some rice dishes contained more salt than 11 bags of ready salted crisps.
Action on Salt is leading a group of health experts in calling on Public Health England to set tough new salt targets, make front-of-pack labelling mandatory and to follow New Yorks lead by requiring chains to put warning labels on high-salt dishes. They are also urging the food industry and restaurants to reduce salt by reformulating takeaways and ready meals.
Of 141 supermarket Chinese ready meals analysed, nearly half (43%) were high in salt containing more than 1.5g/100g, or 1.8g per portion which would trigger a red traffic light label.
Salt is the forgotten killer as it puts up our blood pressure, leading to tens of thousands of unnecessary strokes, heart failure and heart attacks every year, said Graham MacGregor, the chairman of Action on Salt and a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London.
Reducing salt is the most cost-effective measure to reduce the number of people dying or suffering from strokes or heart disease. We are now calling on Public Health England to take immediate action.
Accompanying rice dishes, spring rolls and prawn crackers and soy sauce can pile on the salt in a Chinese meal. Icelands takeaway egg fried rice has a shocking 4.1g salt per 350g pack more than in 11 bags of ready salted crisps.
Dishes from six Chinese restaurants were also analysed, with 97% found to contain 2g of salt or more. More than half (58%) contained in excess of 3g of salt per dish half an adults maximum recommended daily intake.
At the start of salt awareness week, Action on Salt is calling on Public Health England to revive the UKs salt reduction programme. The last set of salt targets drawn up under the Department of Healths responsibility deal was published in 2014.
The findings from the survey are very concerning, said Hemini Bharadia of Blood Pressure UK. We are all eating too much salt. This can lead to high blood pressure causing strokes and heart attacks, most of which could be avoided through better lifestyle choices.
Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: Our salt consumption has decreased over the last decade a loaf of bread has 40% less than it used to. However, some products are still too high in salt and we know this can be reduced further.
Evidence is growing that the sunshine vitamin helps protect against a wide range of conditions including cancers
Vitamin D is having quite a moment. In the past few months, evidence has been growing that the sunshine vitamin not only has an important role in bone and muscle health, but might also help prevent a range of cancers, reduce the chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis, protect against multiple sclerosis and cut the risk of colds and flu.
But is vitamin D truly a cure-all? And if the benefits are real, should we all be taking vitamin D supplements or even fortifying our foods?
Vitamin D is not one chemical, but a label that covers a group of substances, including vitamin D2 and D3. The latter is the form made when sunlight hits your skin and is also found in other animals. Non-animal sources such as fungi and yeasts primarily produce the D2 form. Once in the body, these substances are converted into biologically active steroids that circulate in the blood.
One area where the impact on health appears to be clear is vitamin Ds role in keeping bones and teeth healthy and improving muscle strength.
The musculoskeletal stuff is really good and really strong, said Helen Bond, a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, pointing out that vitamin D is important in calcium and phosphate absorption.
Too little vitamin D can be serious: the skeletal disorders osteomalacia and rickets are known to be caused by a vitamin D deficiency, and the latter is on the rise in the UK, a finding some put down to the impact of poverty on poor nutrition.
But do the wider health claims stand up?
Intuition suggests that it cant all be right, said Julia Newton-Bishop, professor of dermatology and vitamin D expert from the University of Leeds. But while a recent review of evidence by the scientific advisory committee on nutrition only found strong evidence in the case of bone and muscle health, Newton-Bishop says a growing body of research is exploring other conditions.
Newton-Bishop says the fact that receptors for vitamin D are present on a huge array of body cells suggests the substance might indeed play a central role in our health, adding that human history offers further evidence: as humans moved to higher latitudes, skin tone became paler. [One] explanation is that vitamin D was so important that that was a selective pressure, she said. The fact that Inuits arent pale-skinned and for millennia they have had an exclusively fish diet is an argument for the fact that vitamin D was a driver, because why would they be different to everyone else?
Martin Hewison, professor of molecular endocrinology at the University of Birmingham, who carried out the recent study into vitamin D and rheumatoid arthritis, said evidence from cell studies backs up the idea that the vitamin is important.
In most of the models, vitamin D appears to have quite a positive effect, he said. If you are using cancer cell lines or cancer cells, vitamin D has anti-cancer effects, and likewise in cells that have been used for models for infection and immune disorders, vitamin D has quite clear antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.
But when it comes to studies in humans, the picture is far from clear-cut. While some studies find links to diseases, others do not.
That, say experts, could be partly down to the way they are conducted for example, not all studies take into account the starting levels of vitamin D in participants, or they may have been carried out in populations with different genetic factors that might affect the impact of vitamin D.
Other experts have doubts about vitamin Ds influence. Prof Tim Spector, author of The Diet Myth, wrote in the Independent: The evidence so far suggests (with the possible exception of multiple sclerosis and some cancers) that low vitamin D levels are either irrelevant or merely a marker of the disease.
Hewison says that while vitamin D might help prevent certain conditions such as tuberculosis, respiratory infections and autoimmune diseases,it should not be seen as a cure for them. It is good at protecting against things, he said, but once a disease is settled in, it is unlikely you are going to be able to give somebody who has got prostate cancer vitamin D and it is going to get dramatically better.
What about the case for supplements? With some having previously been found to cause more harm than good, Newton-Bishop says caution towards this apparent panacea is unsurprising. Everyone within the cancer world is nervous about supplements, she said. I would say to patients dont take supplements, with the exception of avoiding a low vitamin D level.
But how low is low? With the amount of sunlight needed varying with genetics, skin colour, time of day, how much one covers up and a host of other factors, the scientific advisory committee on nutrition said it was too difficult to say how much sun we need to make sure our vitamin D levels are up to scratch. In any case, from October until March the sun in the UK isnt strong enough to do the job.
The upshot is that national guidelines now recommend that during the autumn and winter at least, individuals should consider taking supplements or boosting their intake of vitamin-D-rich foods to get an intake of 10 micrograms a day, with higher-risk individuals such as some ethnic minority groups advised to follow the guidelines all year round.
However, Bond says it is hard to get enough from diet alone.
There are very few naturally rich sources of vitamin D, and most really good sources are of animal origin, which doesnt bode well for vegans and vegetarians, she said. A serving of oily fish like mackerel will give you easily your 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day, but if you drop down to a tin of canned tuna, you are only getting 1.5 micrograms.
And as Adrian Martineau, clinical professor of respiratory infection and immunity at Queen Mary University of London, points out, even in the summer, sunshine isnt going to be the answer, especially because there is an associated risk of skin cancer.
If you are considering taking supplements, it might be worth checking which form of vitamin D they contain. Some people dont want an animal form of vitamin D, said Hewison. However, What studies have shown is that if you want to raise your blood vitamin D levels, vitamin D3 is much more efficient at doing that.
Dr Benjamin Jacobs, a consultant paediatrician and spokesperson for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, says supplements are not enough as it is hard to make sure people actually take them. Instead, he suggests the UK consider food fortification.
Some countries, including Canada and Finland, have embraced fortification of milk. But although infant formula and some breakfast cereals, plant-based milks and fruit juices are already fortified in the UK, most foods are not.
Hewison believes the government should consider a national fortification plan and that the risks of it resulting in dangerously high vitamin D intake are negligible: I think most people in the field agree that if you want to have a large-scale improvement in peoples vitamin D levels then it can only really be done through fortified foods.
The ignored pollutant can cause depression, stress, diabetes and heart attacks. What are cities doing to curb excess noise?
The constant roar of traffic, incessant construction noise, piercing sirens, honking horns, shrieking loudspeakers noise in cities is clearly a nuisance.
But its also a danger. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described noise pollution as an underestimated threat that can cause hearing loss, cardiovascular problems, cognitive impairment, stress and depression. Some experts go further: they believe exposure to environmental noise could be slowly killing us.
Noise pollution causes hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart attacks, strokes and death, says Dr Daniel Fink, chairman of the Quiet Coalition, a community of health and legal professionals concerned with the adverse impacts of environmental noise.
Noise pollution is often cited as one of the main factors in the reduced quality of life in large, 24-hour cities like New York (where more than 200,000 noise complaints were recorded in 2016). It causes stress, which has its own adverse effects on health.
While the impact of noise on mental health has not been studied extensively, research has shown that strong noise annoyance is associated with a twofold higher prevalence of depression and anxiety in the general population.
A recent study by experts at the American College of Cardiology linked noise pollution to increased cardiovascular problems (high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke, coronary heart disease) through the bodys stress mediated response resulting in the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn damages blood vessels.
At a conference on noise organised by the European commission in April 2017, noise was regarded as the silent killer, with potentially severe consequences for our physical and mental health. And yet its impacts remain unreported and underestimated.
Dr Eoin King, assistant professor of acoustics and author of the book Environmental Noise Pollution, calls noise the ignored pollutant. Environmental noise still continues to be poorly understood by practitioners, policymakers and the general public, he says.
Most worrying, says King, is the impact on children. Studies considering the effect that noise may have on children have found that tasks such as reading, attention span, problem-solving and memory appear to be most affected by exposure to noise.
The issue is compounded by debate over how much noise it is safe to be exposed to. In its Make Listening Safe guide, WHO states that 85 decibels is considered the highest safe exposure level, up to a maximum of eight hours. However, others Fink among them argue this is still too loud.
A car measures 70 decibels, a jackhammer 100, and a plane taking off 120, according to the WHO. Though there is no set threshold to establish risk, we do know that anything above 60 decibels can increase risk for heart disease, Dr Thomas Mnzel, from the Mainz University Medical Centre, has said.
A recent report by the BBC found that parts of the London Underground were loud enough to damage peoples hearing, with noise levels greater than 105 decibels on many lines. The report stated that some were so loud they would require hearing protection if they were workplaces.
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Exhaustion, stress, drugs and poor technique can all cause your sex drive to stall. How can you get it back on track?
A lack or loss of sex drive is only a problem if the person experiencing it believes it is. Medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease can undermine desire, as can prescription drugs or difficult life events. The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal) reported in September that 34% of sexually active women and 15% of sexually active men in Britain had lost interest in sex for three months or more during the previous year.
Relationship problems are a leading cause of waning libido: Natsal concluded that finding it hard to talk about sex with a partner doubled the chancesof a diminished sex driveamong women and increased them by 50% in men. A lot of couples dont communicate and end up avoiding sex, says Cynthia Graham, professor of sexual and reproductive health at the University of Southampton, and the studys lead author. Open communication increases the chances of your libido bouncing back. For women, having a partner with a different level of sexual interest increased the chances of loss of sexual interest more than fourfold, and having one with sexual likes and dislikes they did not share did so by almost threefold.These issues increased the chances of loss of desire by just 17% and 16% respectively among men.
Burning the candle at both ends is a passion killer. Testosterones role in male libido is overstated, but it is true that men with the lowest levels of the hormone report low sexual desire and one US study found that sleeping fewer than five hours a night reduced testosterone levels in young men by 10-15%. A lack of sleep also kills female libido: a 2015 study concluded women who had an extra hours sleep were 14% more likely to have sex the next day.
Research shows far fewer women masturbate than men. Some research suggests doing so can help boost self-awareness, social competence, body esteem and improve intimacy in long-term relationships. One reason women lack interest in sex is that sex isnt always very good with a partner, says Prof Graham. Masturbation can help women learn things they can then teach their partners about how to pleasure them.
Recently, researchers have emphasised that, especially for women, desire can occur largely in response to arousal. If thats news to you, you could do worse than read Come As You Are by the sex educator Emily Nagoski. Therapists often tell women they can increase flagging interest in sex by fantasising, reading erotica or watching pornography, and research suggests they are right.
The fight or flight system boosts levels of hormones that help us perform better in dangerous situations. It can also undermine nonessential function,s such as digestion, immunity and reproductive drive. Little wonder, then, that if youre frequently stressed out, youre rarely in the mood. Yoga, working out or meditation might help.
Research suggests that taking the contraceptive pill can reduce the frequency of sexual thoughts and sex in some women. Alternative methods might be worth considering. Flibanserin became the first drug to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for low sexual desire in women in 2015. Trials suggest it has minimal effects: an extra 0.5-1 satisfying sex sessions a month compared with placebo. Side effects include low blood pressure, fainting and nausea. Viagra, Cialis and Levitra do not increase libido, but help men get erections. This may increase desire by boosting confidence.