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How does the flu kill healthy people?

How does the flu cause death? According to Scientific American, the way the flu kills its victims can be summed up simply: “The short and morbid answer is that in most cases the body kills itself by trying to heal itself.”

>> On MyAJC.com: Flu season to be worst in a decade: Death toll rises to 37 children

As the virus spreads in the lungs and respiratory system, the body unleashes a counterattack, in which T-cells destroy the tissues that harbor the invading virus.

“In most healthy adults this process works, and they recover within days or weeks,” the magazine reports. “But sometimes the immune system’s reaction is too strong, destroying so much tissue in the lungs that they can no longer deliver enough oxygen to the blood, resulting in hypoxia and death.”

>> On AJC.com: Do you have the flu? 17 things to know about flu symptoms, flu shot side effects and more

Sometimes the lungs, weakened by the flu, become prey to another infection, often streptococcus, and the body is felled by bacterial overload, as happened to a New Hampshire mother of four earlier this month.

Worldwide, the flu causes up to 640,000 deaths annually.

Doctors have long known that contracting influenza can be dangerous for the elderly, for infants and for those already in a weakened state. But flu can kill others as well, depending on the virulence of the particular strain that spreads during flu season.

>> Read more trending news 

This year’s strain is the most severe in a decade.

A chart from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta can help parents determine when to seek help.

4 drinks that could be sabotaging your weight loss efforts

When you're trying to lose weight, you may not give much thought to what you drink, but those calories definitely add up. These "liquid calories" can sabotage your weight-loss efforts, and you may not feel as full as if you'd eaten the same number of calories. Many drinks also provide little to no nutrients and are often loaded with sugar, which can further hamper your weight loss.

>> On AJC.com: Drink up: Black tea helps you lose weight with gut bacteria, study says

These drinks – and their calories – may add up to more than you realize, even on a single day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered a sample list of the drinks you may choose during a day in order to total the calories. They started with a morning coffee shop run with a 16-ounce café latte made with whole milk at 265 calories. A non-diet soda with lunch had 227 calories, and an afternoon sweetened lemon iced tea from the vending machine was 180 calories. A glass of non-diet ginger ale with dinner added 124 calories for a daily total of a whopping 796 calories!

>> 5 things you're doing 'for your health' that aren't so healthy

The following four drinks are some that can sabotage your diet when you're trying to cut calories:

Juices

You may think that swapping out sugary sodas for fruit juices is good for your diet, but it may not be as good as you think. Fruit juices are concentrated sources of natural sugar, so they have more calories and don't fill you up as much as fresh, frozen or canned fruits do, according to the Mayo Clinic.

For example, a 20-ounce glass of 100 percent apple juice has 300 calories, and the same portion of 100 percent orange juice has 280, the CDC says.

>> On AJC.com: It's official: Coffee is good for you, according to new research

Coffee

A plain black cup of coffee isn't a calorie problem, according to the Mayo Clinic. It contains fewer than five calories and no fat, but most people need at least a few extras with their coffee, and these also add extra calories.

>> Read more trending news 

Although at-home add-ins like creamer and sugar raise the calorie count, a specialty coffee can make it soar. A grande (16-ounce) size of white chocolate mocha espresso at Starbucks has 360 calories. If you choose a venti (20 ounces), you'll be drinking 460 calories.

Alcohol 

A few drinks after work with your friends or a couple of beers or glasses of wine with a meal can raise your calorie count.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously took a look at some of the calories contained in popular alcoholic beverages and found that five ounces of red wine has about 106 calories, and five ounces of white wine has 100 calories. A regular Budweiser beer comes in at 143 calories, and Bud Light isn't far behind at 110 calories. Cocktails like a four-ounce margarita up the calorie count even higher at 168 calories, and a 4.5-ounce Piña colada packs 245 calories. These counts could vary somewhat depending on the alcohol and sugar content of your specific drink.

Smoothies

Smoothies have a "health halo" that leads many people to believe they're harmless, Marisa Moore, a dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told the AJC.

>> On AJC.com: 5 tips for your homemade smoothies that will help you lose weight

Serving size is important, she pointed out. For example, a 20-ounce Angel Food smoothie from Smoothie King contains 340 calories. If you order the 40-ounce mixture of strawberries, bananas, nonfat milk, vanilla and other natural flavors and turbinado sugar, you'll be getting a whopping 690 calories. You can save some calories by omitting the sugar, saving 90 calories on a 20-ounce Angel Food smoothie, but it's still fairly high in calories.

5 things you're doing 'for your health' that aren't so healthy

It seems like there are new health trends popping up all the time – some super food promising to make you live forever or some natural remedy guaranteed to make you look younger.

We may roll our eyes with skepticism, suspecting that the claims are usually too good to be true. But there are actually a lot of normal things we readily do for our health, even though there is no real scientific evidence they help at all.

Some things we simply accept as healthy choices are even potentially detrimental to our well-being. Here's a look at five such "healthy habits" that aren't really as healthy as you think.

>> Read more trending news 

1. Cleaning your ears

Who doesn't enjoy the feeling of using Q-tips to clean their ears after a warm shower? Well, the soft cotton gently removing the wax may feel good, but doctors warn against the routine activity.

In fact, according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, unless ear wax is actually blocking your ear canal, you should just leave it alone.

Although about 5 percent of Americans may suffer from excessive earwax, the vast majority don't need to be concerned. Ear wax actually benefits us by transferring dead skin cells out of our ears. It's also antifungal and antibacterial, meaning it works to keep our ears healthy.

Doctors also warn that Q-tips simply push the wax deeper into our ears.

"The diameter of the Q-tip is greater than half the diameter of the ear canal," Dr. Mark Vaughan told INSIDER in 2017. "So any way you stick that in there, there's a portion of the wax that you can't get around. All you can do is push it in."

2. Flossing

Proper teeth care is hammered into us from an early age. Ideally, we should brush and floss three times per day, about 30 minutes after every meal. But that's only half true.

While brushing is definitely important, flossing actually isn't.

That's right, even though dentists have been recommending flossing for decades, there's minimal scientific evidence that it's actually beneficial. An investigative report by an AP journalist published in 2016 revealed the lack of science behind the recommendations.

The report cited a 2015 scientific review that said: "The majority of available studies fail to demonstrate that flossing is generally effective in plaque removal." Another cited study said evidence of flossing's benefits is "weak" and "inconsistent."

3. Using hand sanitizer

If you're one who constantly carries hand sanitizer or keeps a bottle on your desk, you may want to reconsider. It's not that hand sanitizer is necessarily bad to use, it's just that soap and water is so much better.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that the old-fashioned method is still the best way to fight off germs. Hand sanitizer may be better than not cleaning your hands at all, but studies suggest it isn't nearly as good at removing certain bacteria that can lead to illness.

4. Detox and cleanse diets

Next time you or a friend consider going on a detox or cleanse diet, don't waste your time. There's simply no scientific evidence that these trendy diets have any real health benefits.

Your liver and your kidneys, if functioning properly, are constantly detoxing your body

"Unless there's a blockage in one of these organs that do it day and night, there's absolutely no need to help the body get rid of toxins," Dr. Ranit Mishori of the Georgetown University School of Medicine told NPR in 2012.

5. Taking daily multi-vitamins or other supplements

If you're one of the 40 percent of Americans who take a daily multi-vitamin, you probably don't need to.

Three studies published in 2013 found no evidence that such supplements could reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease among well-nourished individuals. Essentially, if you're eating fine, you don't need to take the daily tablet.

When the studies were published, a group of doctors wrote an editorial specifically saying that there's "no substantial health benefit" to taking multi-vitamins. In fact, they could even cause harm to your health.

"Supplementing the diet of well-nourished adults with (most) mineral or vitamin supplements has no clear benefit and might even be harmful," the doctors warned.

'Girther' conspiracy hits social media as critics question Trump's height, weight

On Tuesday, White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson appeared before the press to give the details of President Donald Trump’s latest physical. According to Jackson — who was appointed by former President Barack Obama — the president is in great health, but some critics wasted no time casting doubt on Jackson’s analysis.

>> On Rare.us: Steve Bannon just cut a deal with Robert Mueller, reports say — here’s what we know

Most of the results were pretty straightforward. Trump aced a cognitive exam and has benefited from not drinking or smoking his entire life, Jackson said. The doctor said he is going to try to put the president on a diet but joked that the commander-in-chief might just live to be 200. At one point in the briefing, Jackson said Trump weighs 239 pounds and stands 6-foot-3. That puts his body mass index at 29.9. (You’re considered obese if your BMI hits 30.) But not everybody bought that last statistic.

>> Read more trending news 

More than a few people pointed to a photo of Trump standing side-by-side with Obama, who is 6-foot-1, and the men appear to be the same height.

There were also dozens of people who pointed to athletes with the same dimensions as Trump.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes even termed the doctor doubters “girthers” — a stab at the “birther” conspiracy theorists who insisted that Obama was not born in the United States.

On Wednesday morning, “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough also cast doubts on the results that Jackson gave to the press. At one point in his segment, Scarborough said, “All I can tell you is this: If that’s what 239 pounds looks like, I would weigh 170 pounds. So yes, I have great respect for people who – great respect for this doctor, but if that’s what 6-foot-3, 239 pounds looks like, that’s a shock to me.”

Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey's widow files wrongful death lawsuit against New York hospital

The widow of late Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey is suing the New York City hospital that treated her husband before his death in 2016.

According to Reuters, Cindy Frey filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing Mount Sinai Hospital and gastroenterologist Steven Itzkowitz of negligence while treating the musician, who had ulcerative colitis, in late 2015.

>> Read more trending news 

The wrongful death lawsuit alleges that "Frey was rendered sick, sore, lame and disabled" because Itzkowitz and the hospital did not properly diagnose, treat or disclose the risks of treatment to him, Reuters reported.

Frey died Jan. 18, 2016, after suffering "complications from rheumatoid arthritis, acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia," the band said in a statement at the time. He was 67.

Eagles manager Irving Azoff previously told The Wrap that rheumatoid arthritis medications were partly to blame for Frey's death.

“The colitis and pneumonia were side effects from all the meds,” Azoff said

Cindy Frey is seeking "unspecified damages," Reuters reported.

Read more here.

Flu outbreak forces an entire school district in Oklahoma to cancel classes for rest of week

An entire Oklahoma school district canceled classes Wednesday through Friday after schools reported excessive flu absences among much of the staff.

>> Read more trending news 

Morris Public Schools said Monday's absences were at 20 percent, and Tuesday's were at more than 30 percent.

Basketball teams will continue competition in the county tournament.

Wrestlers will need to contact the coach about scheduled meets.

The district asks that ill students stay home when school resumes.

FDA warns against cough medicine for kids with codeine, hydrocodone

Do you reach for the cough syrup when your little one catches a cold? Make sure it doesn’t include codeine or hydrocodone, because the Food and Drug Administration says the opioid ingredients could pose some serious safety risks

» RELATED: Opioids now kill more Americans than guns or breast cancer, CDC says

The organization announced Thursday that it is now requiring manufacturers to change the labels on cough and cold medicines containing these ingredients to prevent children under 18 from using them. 

>> Read more trending news 

The FDA is also asking companies to add new safety warning labels on medicines for adults, including an expanded boxed warning, which describes the risks of taking those that include codeine and hydrocodone. 

Common side effects of opioid use include headache, vomiting, dizziness, breathing difficulties and even death. 

»RELATED: 5 ways to to talk to your young child about the opioid epidemic

“Given the epidemic of opioid addiction, we’re concerned about unnecessary exposure to opioids, especially in young children. We know that any exposure to opioid drugs can lead to future addiction. It’s become clear that the use of prescription, opioid-containing medicines to treat cough and cold in children comes with serious risks that don’t justify their use in this vulnerable population,” FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement.

In September, the FDA met with the Pediatric Advisory Committee to determine the dangers associated with using opioids in children’s cough medicine. They believe the risks outweigh the benefits. And while they say some kids’ cough require treatment, symptoms usually subside on their own. 

“It’s critical that we protect children from unnecessary exposure to prescription cough medicines containing codeine or hydrocodone,” Gottlieb said. “At the same time we’re taking steps to help reassure parents that treating the common cough and cold is possible without using opioid-containing products.”

» RELATED: FDA panel: Teens risk breathing trouble from codeine cough syrup

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10 tips for sticking with your exercise plan in the new year

It’s the New Year’s resolution that everyone has and virtually no one keeps: We want to get in shape.

Here are 10 tips to help you keep on track:

>> New Year's resolutions: 4 tips for avoiding gym membership scams

1. Make a plan

If you made your decision on New Year’s Eve, that’s only making a decision based on your emotional state that day. Make a plan for big and small goals and particular parts of your body you want to target to help keep you focused. A health professional can help with this.

2. Be realistic

While you might be adamant that you’ll never eat bread, meat or chocolate chip cookies again, making that one of your goals is setting yourself up to fail. Instead, go for what’s attainable: Instead of having your favorite food three days a week, you’ll only have it once. Start small and build.

>> How to keep your New Year's resolutions this time

3. Create a battle plan

Despite all your best efforts, temptation will come knocking. Try to decide in advance how you will deal with wanting to skip that exercise class or have that piece of cake. This could include calling or texting a weight loss buddy, practicing positive thinking and self-talk, or reminding yourself how your “bad” will affect your goal.

4. Talk about it openly

Wanting to live a healthier life is something to be proud of, not ashamed of. Don’t treat your resolution like a dirty little secret. Tell friends and family members who will be there to support your resolve.

With any luck, they’ll help you find a buddy who shares your New Year’s resolution and can help you stay motivated.

>> Read more trending news 

5. Document your feelings

Why is getting in better shape a good idea? Write down all the reasons that are motivating you, from wanting to be able to walk up the stairs without losing your breath to wanting to look better on the beach. Keep your list with you and refer to it when you need help keeping your resolve.

6. Keep track of your progress

It sounds like this list has more writing down than working out, but it is important to keep track of your progress. Being able to see where you were and how far you’ve come is an important way to keep yourself motivated.

For example, instead of focusing on losing 30 pounds, focus on losing the first five. Keep a food journal to help you stay on track, and reward yourself for each five pounds lost.

7. Rewards are OK

Rewards are a good thing. Don’t think that because you’re losing weight, you have to become an ascetic. Instead of going out to eat to celebrate a milestone, treat yourself to new fitness clothes or by going out to a movie.

>> 9 inspiring New Year's resolution quotes to motivate you in 2018

8. 21 days

Exercising and working out won’t become good habits overnight. By Tuesday of the second week, all the newness will have worn off, and it’ll start getting harder to get up and get moving, especially if you’re exercising before work.

Experts say it takes about 21 days for a new activity to become a habit and six months for it to become part of your personality. Get through that first three-week stretch, and you’ll be making real progress.

9. Give yourself a break

It’s not the day missed at the gym or the indulgence in ice cream that’ll knock you off track – it’s the obsessing about it afterward.

Negative thought patterns won’t help maintain your positive plan. Do the best you can each day, and take one day at a time.

10. Don’t give up

Maybe you hit the Valentine’s Day wall – or even the Jan. 15 wall. But that’s not a reason to give up.

Start with one meal, then one day. You can do anything for 24 hours. Once you start building on the 24-hour increments, before long you’ll be back in the groove.

New Year's resolutions: 4 tips for avoiding gym membership scams

The holidays are over and it’s time to get back in shape, but officials are warning consumers about potential gym membership scams.

>> Read more trending news 

In 2017, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received about 140 complaints involving fitness or health club memberships. Top problem areas included cancellation and billing issues. Under Ohio’s Prepaid Entertainment Contracts Act, consumers generally have three business days to cancel a contract for gym memberships and other “health spa services,” martial arts training, dance studio lessons, or social referral services (such as a dating service).

>> How to keep your New Year’s resolutions this time

“This is a time when many people are thinking about joining a gym, and that can be a great way to get in shape. We just want consumers to understand what they’re signing up for,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “A little bit of prevention can go a long way.”

>> PHOTOS: Most controversial figures from 2017

DeWine’s tips for avoiding scams include the following:

1. Research the gym. Look for complaints on file with your local attorney general’s office or Better Business Bureau, and check online reviews for feedback from current or past customers. Pay attention to how a business addresses customer complaints.

2. Read contracts carefully. Make sure verbal agreements are put in writing. Otherwise, they are not guaranteed.

3. Watch out for extra fees. Determine the total cost of your membership. Find out if there are any extra fees for services like fitness classes or personal training. Also find out if payments will be withdrawn automatically from your account.

4. Check the cancellation policy. Understand what you would need to do to cancel your contract and how far in advance cancellations must be made. Many contracts renew automatically, so be sure to check the total length of the contract. 

Dog owners less likely to die of heart attacks, study suggests

Owning a dog could quite literally save your life, a new study has revealed.

>> Read more trending news

Dog owners who live alone have a 36 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease than those without dogs. When it comes to dog owners who live with family members, the risk decreases by 15 percent.

"A very interesting finding in our study was that dog ownership was especially prominent as a protective factor in persons living alone, which is a group reported previously to be at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and death than those living in a multi-person household," Mwenya Mubanga, a study author and PhD student at Uppsala University in Sweden, told CNN.

» RELATED: This Texas woman’s heart literally broke when her dog died, doctors say

Published in “Scientific Reports,” the study was conducted by researchers in Sweden who examined medical and pet ownership records of 3.4 million people. Those analyzed by the study were between 40 and 80 years old. Participants were followed for up to 12 years, with around 13 percent owning pet dogs.

Researchers also noted that individuals who owned dogs originally bred for hunting, such as terriers, retrievers and scent hounds, saw even greater benefits. It's unclear exactly why this is, but researchers suggest that these breeds require more exercise, meaning the owner is necessarily more active and healthier.

» RELATED: Research shows why kids feel the loss of a pet so deeply

However, while the study clearly shows correlation between dog ownership and better heart health, it may not necessarily prove causation.

"These kind of epidemiological studies look for associations in large populations but do not provide answers on whether and how dogs could protect from cardiovascular disease," Tove Fall, a professor at Uppsala University and senior author of the study, told the BBC.

» RELATED: Research shows why kids feel the loss of a pet so deeply

"There might also be differences between owners and non-owners already before buying a dog, which could have influenced our results, such as those people choosing to get a dog tending to be more active and of better health."

At the same time, previous research has also pointed to the positive health benefits of owning dogs. For example, one study showed that children with dogs at home had a 15 percent reduced risk of asthma. Authors of that study suggested this was due to the "hygiene hypothesis," which posits that too clean of an environment actually increases an individual's susceptibility to allergies.

» RELATED: Sheriff: Toddler’s dog stayed with him while he was missing

In fact, the authors of the new study also said a possible reason for the positive effect of dogs on the heart may be connected to bacteria. According to the researchers, dogs actually change the dirt in their owners’ environment, meaning they may also influence their owner's bacterial microbiome. This collection of microscopic species lives in the gut and may benefit cardiovascular health.

But perhaps the biggest factor the research points to is the social aspect of owning a dog.

» RELATED: Ever wonder why dogs are so darn friendly? Science says it’s in their genes

"[Dog ownership] may encourage owners to improve their social life, and that in itself will reduce their stress level, which we know absolutely is a primary cause for cardiovascular disease and cardiac events," Dr. Rachel Bond, associate director of women's heart health at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, told CNN.

And of course, dogs definitely increase an individual's overall happiness.

» RELATED: 7 dog hacks for pet parents in the city 

"As many dog owners may agree, the main reason for owning a dog is the sheer joy," Dr. Mike Knapton of the British Heart Foundation told BBC.

"Dog ownership has many benefits, and we may now be able to count better heart health as one of them,” she said.

» RELATED: Do people care more about suffering dogs than suffering humans?

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