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5 centenarians share strange secrets to longevity

Published: Thursday, April 12, 2018 @ 2:45 PM

What is the secret to longevity? This question taunts all of humanity. 

Although we have yet to discover a fountain of youth, centenarians – individuals who live to be over 100-years-old – can potentially give us clues on to how to live longer, healthier and happier lives. By taking a closer look at their lifestyles, genetics and social dynamics, some scientists are trying to find patterns that can show us their secrets.

»RELATED: Alcohol better than exercise to live past 90, study says 

At the same time, if you ask the centenarians themselves, they often give answers ranging from the seemingly logical to the downright bizarre.

Here are five unusual things centenarians have given credit for their long lives.

(JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)

1. Sumo wrestling and hot springs

Just this week, Guinness World Records crowned Masazo Nonaka as the world's oldest living man. At 112, the elderly Japanese man was born all the way back in 1905. That means he would have turned nine the year that World War I began.

Although he moves around in a wheelchair, Nonaka reads the newspaper every morning and feeds himself breakfast. As to the secret to his long life? Well, the centenarian soaks regularly in northern Japan's hot springs and considers watching sumo wrestling to be one of his favorite pastimes.

»RELATED: Here’s why women outlive men even in the harshest conditions, study says

2. Humor and chocolate

Jeanne Louise Calment of France still holds the Guinness record as the world's oldest living person. She died at the impressive age of 122 years and 164 days in 1997. Having definitely lived a full life, Calment sold painting canvasses to Vincent Van Gogh, smoked from the age of 21 to 117 and even became a recording artist at 120-years-old.

Calment accredited her longevity to her sense of humor. When she turned 120, journalists asked her what kind of future she expected. She replied quickly: "A very short one." Also an avid lover of chocolate, Calment reportedly consumed about 1 kilogram (2 pounds 3 ounces) of the stuff each week.

3. Eating less

Currently holding the record as the man to live the longest, Jiroemon Kimura of Japan lived to be 116 years and 54 days. He died in June of 2013. 

Born in 1897, Kimura worked at the post office until he retired at the age of 65. He then went on to live more than another half a century.

And what was his secret? According to him, eating less was the key. He reportedly said that his personal motto was: "eat light to live long". Notably, Kimura's philosophy has increasing support among the scientific community. 

Many scientists and nutritionists believe that a 30 percent reduction in daily calorie intake may significantly slow down the physical processes that make cells heal slower, which opens up the brain and body to disease. Studies have also shown that calorie restrictive diets in mice help combat the effects of aging on the brain.

If the scientists – and Kimura – are right, cutting down on your daily consumption can help you shed a few pounds while also keeping you young.

4. Eat everything ... except pork and chicken

In July of last year, Violet Moss-Brown of Jamaica became the oldest living woman and the oldest living person. She claimed both titles at the age 117 years and 139 days old. A few months later, she died, proud to know that she had claimed both world records.

When asked about her secrets to long life, Moss-Brown suggested there wasn't much to it. However, she did say she never ate pork or chicken. 

"When people ask what I eat and drink to live so long, I say to them that I eat everything, except pork and chicken," she told Guinness

»RELATED: Women happier after age 85 once spouse dies, psychiatrists say

5. Smoking cigarettes

Batuli Lamichhane, who was reportedly 112 in 2016, claimed that her secret to long life was smoking cigarettes.

Born in March 1903, Lamichhane started smoking when she was 17. The centenarian told The Mirror that she smoked some 30 cigarettes a day for the past 95 years.

"I have been smoking for over 95 years. There is nothing wrong with smoking," she said.

But before you rush out to buy a pack of cigarettes, remember that any doctor or scientist will explain to you that smoking significantly increases your risk of heart disease, cancer and a range of other health issues.

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New autism research could predict whether children as young as 3 months old are at risk

Published: Thursday, May 17, 2018 @ 6:05 AM

New Autism Research Could Determine Which Children Are At Risk

A groundbreaking study is being done at Boston Children's Hospital that researchers say could potentially predict whether a child as young as 3 months old is at-risk for developing autism.

>> Watch the news report here

Right now, most children can't receive a reliable diagnosis until they are at least 1 year old. 

Chase Minicucci and his mother, Hillary Steele Minicucci, regularly go to Boston Children’s to track his development. Chase seems to be a typically developing toddler, and he’s learning to point and use words to express his needs.

>> Could blood and urine test be used to diagnose autism?

However, Chase has been identified as at risk because his older brother, who is 7, has autism.

“We did the testing, and one day after his 4th birthday … the doctor said, ‘so your son has autism,’” said Hillary Steele Minicucci. 

Hillary and her husband also have a 6-year-old daughter who does not have autism, but autism is more prevalent in boys. 

Research shows one in five children whose siblings have autism will also be on the spectrum. Hillary spent the first year of Chase's life watching his behavior closely and worrying.

“I was literally making myself crazy over it,” she said. 

Hillary was able to find a spot for Chase in a study at Boston Children's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, involving 99 siblings of children with autism.

Infants as young as 3 months old and toddlers up to 36 months old spend only a few minutes wearing a cap with more than 100 sensors. While wearing it, they watch a T.V. showing cartoons, which is also an eye tracker.

Boston Children's Cognitive Neuroscience Lab Director Dr. Charles Nelson said by studying their EEG signals, the electrical activity in the brain, they can predict which infants are likely to develop autism.

“What we've seen is at 3 months of age, we've seen patterns of brain activity that basically predict who, three years later, will develop autism,” said Nelson. 

>> Read more trending news 

One of the big unknowns is when does autism develop, and Nelson said the study is shining light on whether it happens before or after birth. 

“It's very unlikely that brain development was perfectly normal until birth and then something happened. The fact that we see it so early, just at 3 months, makes me think that it started before birth. But what derailed brain development, we don't know,” he said. 

Dr. Nelson stressed the medical community is not at the point yet where a 3-month-old could receive a diagnosis, but the child could be flagged. The next step is developing early intervention strategies for that age group.

As for Chase, his mother said that right now, he doesn't seem to be exhibiting some of the warning signs, which has given her some much-needed reassurance.

“I can start to enjoy my baby now,” she said. 

The study is ongoing and open to three groups of children: 

  • Babies with older siblings with ASD
  • Babies with no family history of autism who failed an autism screening
  • Typically developing babies
Because the EEG caps are relatively inexpensive, Nelson hopes someday soon every local pediatrician's office could have one and all infants could be identified within a critical window of time.

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Major depression diagnoses on the rise in the U.S., study finds

Published: Monday, May 14, 2018 @ 6:59 AM

10 Signs of Depression

Over the past five years, diagnoses of major depression in the United States have risen by at least 33 percent.

>> On AJC.com: People with depression are more likely to use certain words — here’s how they express themselves

That’s according to a new report from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, for which analysts assessed the BCBS Health Index built from billions of claims for more than 41 million commercially insured Americans annually.

>> Read more trending news 

The index, which quantifies how more than 200 diseases and conditions affect quality of life, showed that major depression is the second most significant condition on overall health in America. The first is hypertension, or high blood pressure.

According to the report, those diagnosed with major depression are nearly 30 percent less healthy on average than those without the condition. Such a decrease in overall health may mean a loss of nearly 10 years of healthy life for both men and women.

>> On AJC.com: Why are Americans so lonely? Massive study finds nearly half of US feels alone, young adults most of all

More than 9 million commercially insured Americans in the index are affected by major depression. The rate of diagnosis in the country is 4.4 percent. But while diagnoses are up 33 percent since 2013 overall, the rate is even higher among teens and young adults − 47 percent. For teen girls, specifically, the rate has risen by 65 percent.

"The high rates for adolescents and millennials could have a substantial health impact for decades to come," Trent Haywood, senior vice president and chief medical officer for BCBSA, said in a statement. "Further education and research is needed to identify methods for both physicians and patients to effectively treat major depression and begin a path to recovery and better overall health." 

Analysts also found that overall, women are more than twice as likely as men to be diagnosed with major depression (6 percent compared to 2.8 percent, respectively).

>> On AJC.com: Depressed? Reduce your symptoms with this type of exercise

Geographically, 49 of the 50 states saw rising diagnosis rates between 2013 and 2016. Hawaii was the only state that experienced a slight decline (a rate of less than 2 percent). Communities in New England, the Pacific Northwest and areas throughout the South and Midwest had higher rates of major depression compared to the rest of the country.

Rhode Island had the highest diagnosis rate with 6 percent. However, the authors noted that differences in efforts to screen for major depression can result in varying diagnoses rates across states.

“While major depression is the second most impactful health condition for the nation, it is complicated by an increased likelihood of overlapping diagnoses of other chronic, behavioral health and pain-related conditions,” authors of the report wrote.

In fact, of the 9 million Americans diagnosed with major depression in 2016, only 15 percent were diagnosed with depression alone. Eighty-five percent, according to the analysis, were diagnosed with an additional health condition.

>> On AJC.com: 5 signs you should ask your doctor about depression

In addition to a lower quality of life, those diagnosed with major depression are more likely to use more healthcare services, resulting in more than twice the spending.

It’s important to note that the report’s findings, based on people with BCBS commercial health insurance, are likely an underestimate. Most Americans are covered by a commercial health plan, but many who report symptoms of depression say they have not been diagnosed or received treatment for the condition.

According to the World Health Organization, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and it’s the leading cause of disability worldwide.

>> On AJC.com: The suicide rate for teen girls is the highest it’s been in 40 years — Is social media to blame? 

Additionally, approximately 800,000 people die of suicide each year; that’s one person every 40 seconds. In the U.S., between 1999 and 2014, the suicide rate rose by 24 percent. And, according to recent data released from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide rates among 15- to 19-year-old girls doubled between 2007 and 2015, reaching a 40-year high.

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Drowning doesn't look like what you think. How to recognize the signs

Published: Thursday, May 10, 2018 @ 3:43 PM

Dad Recognizes 'Dry Drowning' Symptoms In Son After Reading Viral Story

No yelling, no waving. Just a silent gasping for air and 20 to 60 seconds later, submersion. And someone has drowned, maybe in plain site.

»RELATED: This is how preventable drownings occur. What parents need to know about 'dry' and 'secondary' drowning

"Drowning is not the violent, splashing call for help that most people expect," noted Coast Guard retiree and trained rescue swimmer Mario Vittone in an article that appeared on the Army blog. "To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic from the surface drowning can be, consider this: It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children ages 15 and under, just behind vehicle accidents."

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 people die from unintentional drowning each day, making it the fifth leading cause of death by unintentional injury in the U.S.

Of the drowning victims who survive, 50 percent of those treated in ERs require further hospitalization or transfer for further care. Nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that leads to long-term disability such as memory problems, learning disabilities and even a permanent vegetative state, the CDC warned.

Some drownings occur simply because people don't realize what they're seeing, according to Vittone. Dramatic, loud drowning is part of our cultural expectation. It's what we've seen on television and in movies, from adventure flicks to “Matlock” episodes − or just insert any sweltering near drowning plot twist here.

5 myths about drowning

In contrast, real life drowning involves what psychologist Francesco A. Pia dubbed the Instinctive Drowning Response. Here are five ways that response differs from myths about drowning:

 Myth 1: Drowning people will yell for you. "Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help," Pia noted. "The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Breathing must be fulfilled before speech occurs. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale and call out for help."

Contrary to movies and myths, people who are drowning rarely have the capacity to wave or yell and they won't be face down in the water. Instead, look for glassy eyes, hyperventilating or a head low in the water with mouth at water level.(Contributed by MarioVittone.com/For the AJC)

Myth 2: Drowning people will wave wildly. They can't, Vittone said. "Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water's surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe."

Myth 3: Someone drowning might be able to assist in the rescue. "Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment," Vittone warned. He added an important distinction: "This doesn't mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn't in real trouble, [only that] they are experiencing aquatic distress," he said. "Aquatic distress doesn't last long, but unlike true drowning these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc."

Myth 4: Drowning takes a while. Unless someone who's drowning in the water is rescued by a trained lifeguard, they'll only be able to struggle on the surface of the water for 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

Myth 5: Kids who are drowning will make noise. Bystanders and parents should actually be more alert to the kids who seem to be playing quietly, Vittone advised. "Children playing in the water make noise," he reminded. "When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why."

12 real-life signs of drowning

Since you can't expect someone who's drowning to get your attention, here are the things to look for to make sure someone's not quietly drowning in plain sight, according to Vittone and other experts:

  • Head low in the water with their mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
  • Eyes entirely closed
  • Hair that's flopped over the person's forehead or eyes
  • Not using their legs but vertical in the water
  • Hyperventilating or gasping
  • Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
  • Trying to roll over on their back without success
  • Appearing to be climbing an invisible ladder
As Vittone summed up, sometimes the most common indication that someone is drowning is that they don't look like they're drowning. "They may just look like they are treading water and looking up," he said. "One way to be sure? Ask them, 'Are you all right?' If they can answer at all, they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them."

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WATCH: Pollen cloud springs from tree in sneeze-worthy viral video

Published: Wednesday, May 09, 2018 @ 4:45 AM

WATCH: Tree Dumps Pollen Cloud in Viral Video

Look away, allergy sufferers: This viral video from New Jersey might bring you to tears.

On Monday, Facebook user Jennifer Henderson shared a clip of a backhoe tapping a tree in Millville – and the enormous pollen cloud that followed.

>> See the video here

When my husband said the pollen’s bad, I probably should’ve taken his word for it. Crazy!

Posted by Jennifer Henderson on Monday, May 7, 2018

>> Read more trending news 

"When my husband said the pollen's bad, I probably should've taken his word for it. Crazy!" Henderson wrote

As of Wednesday morning, the post had been viewed nearly 3 million times with 93,000 shares.

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