Healthy Reps

Flu season is coming. If you live in a large city, it may stretch longer than elsewhere, study says
If you live in a large city, flu season may last longer than it does elsewhere, and if you live in a small city, flu season may be shorter but with a more explosive spread, a new study shows. The study doesn’t indicate that a person’s risk of contracting influenza varies depending on community size, an October STAT News article explains. “Rather, it argues that in less populous places, flu needs the right atmospheric conditions to spread effectively.” Jacco Wallinga, an infectious disease expert in the Netherlands, tells STAT that these results indicate health agencies in small cities should work on surge capacity – the ability to handle many sick patients in a short amount of time – while agencies in larger cities should try to find ways to reduce transmission.

Caffeine may increase pain tolerance
Caffeine may increase a person’s pain tolerance, according to a study by researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The researchers asked 62 women and men, between 19 and 77 years old, to record their daily caffeine consumption over seven days. On the seventh day, participants reported to a laboratory where scientists measured their pain sensitivity to heat and pressure. Participants averaged 170 milligrams of caffeine a day – about the amount in two cups of coffee, according to The New York Times – but 15 percent of them consumed more than 400 milligrams a day. It appears that the more caffeine a person consumed, the greater their tolerance for pain, the Times article says. This research is reminiscent of other studies, including an Arkansas State University study that showed plant-based diets may be linked to lower pain sensitivity.

Do longer maternity leaves hurt women’s careers?
Evidence indicates that the longer a new mother’s maternity leave, the less likely she is to be promoted, move into management or receive a pay raise after her leave ends, according to a September Harvard Business Review article. To find out why this is, Harvard researchers examined perceptions of working women’s agency – in other words, to what degree others consider them ambitious and career-focused – in three complementary studies of Canadian employers and employees.

In the first experiment, they found that employers perceived potential female job candidates whose resumes noted 12-month maternity leaves (common in corporate Canada) as less desirable for the job than candidates who reported one-month leaves. However, they found in the second study that when the job candidates brought a recommendation letter from a former supervisor, there was no perceived difference between candidates with longer and shorter leaves. And finally, they found that “keep-in-touch” programs, which allow parents on leave to stay in contact with their workplaces, help improve employer perceptions of female applicants.

HPV Vaccine Gardasil now approved for adults ages 27 to 45
The Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against human papillomavirus (HPV), for women and men ages 27 to 45. Previously, the vaccine was only approved for people between the ages of 9 and 26, according to BuzzFeed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website explains that HPV is a common sexually transmitted disease that most people get at some point in their life. The virus usually clears on its own but can lead to several types of cancer. HPV causes more than 33,700 cancer cases annually in men and women, according to the CDC. Vaccines like Gardasil can prevent 90 percent of those cases – 31,200 – the agency’s website says. BuzzFeed notes that after Gardasil’s 2006 approval, it was recommended in the U.S. for girls and women ages 9 to 26, before being approved for men in that age group. “So there’s an entire generation of adults who missed out on Gardasil,” the article says. The expanded age range could help them.

Exercising healthy limb may fight atrophy in broken one
If you have a broken arm, you may benefit from exercising your other arm, researchers at the University of Saskatchewan found. Muscle atrophy is a common side effect when wearing a cast for an extended length of time. But Jonathan Farthing, a U of S professor, writes in The Conversation that a study performed in his lab found that for college students who wore casts on their left wrist for four weeks, those who exercised their right arm aggressively during that time maintained strength and muscle volume in the immobilized wrist. One possible reason for this outcome is that the arm in the cast experiences small “mirror” contractions when the person exercises their opposite arm. Farthing acknowledges these findings require further research before standard rehabilitation practices can change. Nevertheless, he writes, “we can still recommend that if you ever experience a limb fracture, you might consider training your opposite limb.”

Being overweight or obese in your 20s and 30s could cut life expectancy by up to 10 years
New research indicates that life expectancy decreases more the younger a person with overweight or obesity is. Researchers in Australia predicted the remaining life expectancy for people from their 20s to 60s, ranging from a healthy weight to severely obese. They found that while healthy men and women in their 20s could expect to live another 57 and 60 years, respectively, women in their 20s who are classified as severely obese lose an expected eight years, and men in the same group lose an expected 10. That number decreased the older participants were. For example, women in their 40s classified as obese experience a reduction of 4.1 years of life expectancy, and men lose 5.1, while women in their 60s lose 2.3 years and men 2.7. “We know that excess weight has an impact on your health, but to have excess weight as a young adult is really significant on life expectancy,” lead study author Thomas Lung told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.