This is default featured slide 1 title
This is default featured slide 2 title
This is default featured slide 3 title
This is default featured slide 4 title
This is default featured slide 5 title
 

Monthly Archives: February 2017

Tapping to Music May Help You ‘Hear’ It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can You Catch Germs From a Public Toilet Seat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Germs Really Hide

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

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

Scrub Up!

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

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

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

Too Much TV May Take Years Off Your Life

Spending your days in front of the television may contribute to a shortened lifespan, a new study suggests.

Researchers in Australia found that people who averaged six hours a day of TV lived, on average, nearly five years less than people who watched no TV.

For every hour of television watched after age 25, lifespan fell by 22 minutes, according to the research led by Dr. J. Lennert Veerman of the University of Queensland.

But other experts cautioned that the study did not show that TV watching caused people to die sooner, only that there was an association between watching lots of TV and a shorter lifespan.

Though a direct link between watching TV and a shortened lifespan is highly provocative, the harms of TV are almost certainly indirect, said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine.

“As a rule, the more time we spend watching TV, the more time we spend eatingmindlessly in front of the TV, and the less time we spend being physically active,” Katz said. “More eating and less physical activity, in turn, mean greater risk for obesity, and the chronic diseases it tends to anticipate, notably diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”

Another explanation for the possible link may be that people who watch excessive amounts of TV “are lonely, or isolated, or depressed, and these conditions, in turn, may be the real causes of premature mortality,” he added.

The report was published in the Aug 15 online edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

In the study, researchers used data on 11,000 people aged 25 and older from the Australian Diabetes, Obesity and Lifestyle Study, which included survey information about how much TV people watched in a week. Researchers also used national population and mortality figures.

In 2008, Australian adults watched a total of 9.8 billion hours of TV. People who watched more than six hours of TV were in the top 1 percent for TV viewing.

The statistics suggest that too much TV may be as dangerous as smoking and lack of exercise in reducing life expectancy, the researchers said.

For example, smoking can shorten of life expectancy by more than four years after the age of 50. That represents 11 minutes of life lost for every cigarette and that’s the same as half an hour of TV watching, the researchers said.

Without TV, researchers estimated life expectancy for men would be 1.8 years longer and for women, 1.5 years longer.

“While we used Australian data, the effects in other industrialized and developing countries are likely to be comparable, given the typically large amounts of time spent watching TV and similarities in disease patterns,” the researchers noted.

Dr. Gregg Fonarow, associate chief of cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, said that “there is increasing evidence that the amount of time spent in sedentary activity such at TV watching, distinct from the amount of time spent in purposeful exercise, may adversely impact health.”

And although participating in a regular exercise program can help, it may not be enough to offset the risks of spending too much of the rest of the day — while at work or at home — getting no exercise whatsoever.

“Staying active and reducing time spent sedentary may be of benefit in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and may be considered as part of a comprehensive approach to improve cardiovascular health,” Fonarow added.

Dr. Robert J. Myerburg, a professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, added that “a sedentary lifestyle can reduce life expectancy.”

Myerburg isn’t sure why sitting around is not good for your health. “It’s better to look at it from a positive prospective,” he said. “That is: a physically active lifestyle is protective.”

New Bacteria Linked to Tattoo Infections

An investigation into skin lesions that two people developed after getting tattoos has concluded that both were infected with a bacteria not previously linked to the practice.

The infections involved Mycobacterium haemophilum, which usually only strikes individuals whose immune system are compromised. In this instance, however, the patients, both from Seattle, developed rashing despite the fact that both had normal immune systems, a report on the investigation found.

“Two people developed chronic skin infections after receiving tattoos at the same parlor,” explained study lead author Dr. Meagan K. Kay from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The patrons were thought to have been exposed through use of tap water during rinsing and diluting of inks.”

Kay, an epidemic intelligence service officer with the CDC, and her team report their findings in the September issue of the CDC’s journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The authors pointed out that tattooing is not considered a sterile procedure, is not regulated at the federal level and can be risky. And while the specific inks and colorings (pigments) commonly used to apply tattoos are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the rules usually apply only when cosmetics or color additives are involved.

The latest concern about associated infection risk arose in 2009 when a 44-year-old man and a 35-year-old man sought care for skin infections that had developed at the site of tattoos acquired at a facility in the Seattle region.

Lesion cultures and lab testing revealed that M. haemophilum was the culprit in the case of the first patient. Skin evaluations and patient interviews led the researchers to conclude that the second man most probably also suffered from the same sort of bacterial infection, although they technically classified his situation as a “suspected case.”

A follow-up investigation of the tattoo parlor revealed that municipal water had been used to dilute the ink during the tattooing process.

Water is considered to be a source for M. haemophilum. And though the facility was cleared of any safety violations, and no M. haemophilum bacteria was found in analyzed water samples, the tattoo operators were told to use sterile water for all future tattoo applications.

“It is important to remember that tattooing is not a sterile procedure and infections can occur after tattoo receipt,” Kay said. “Measures should be taken by tattoo artists to prevent infections, including proper training, use of sterile equipment, and maintaining a clean facility. Use of tap water during any part of the tattoo procedure should be avoided,” she explained.

“Those who suspect an infection in their tattoo should consult with their doctors,” she added. “Common infections can present as increased redness, warmth, swelling, pain and discharge.”

Myrna L. Armstrong, professor emeritus at the school of nursing at Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center in Lubbock, said the investigation serves to highlight the general risks of getting a tattoo.

“This is an invasive procedure. And there’s basically no regulation in force. Or very sporadic regulation. So as someone who’s been looking into tattoos and body piercing for more than 20 years, I would say that it’s really not very surprising that this can happen,” Armstrong said.

“So while I’m not being negative to the industry, I do think that the customer does need to be aware of the situation he or she is getting into,” she added. “Shop around, review people’s techniques, and make sure [you] really want to have this done.”