Health Buzz: Obesity Rate Higher Than Thought

Signs your child could have autism; 13 fool-proof ways to get happier

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Researchers: U.S. Obesity Rate Higher Than Thought

We may be fatter than we think. New research suggests the obesity rate in the United States is worse than expected, because the widely used body mass index—a measure of body fat based on height and weight—may underestimate obesity. Nearly four in 10 adults whose BMI places them in the overweight category would be considered obese if body fat percentage were considered, according to findings published Monday in the journal PLoS One. "Some people call it the 'baloney mass index,'" study author Eric Braverman, a clinical assistant professor of neurosurgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, told "People aren't being diagnosed [as obese], so they're not being told about their risk of disease or being given instruction on how to improve their health." The researchers suggest limiting use of BMI, and instead moving toward other methods, like an X-ray test that calculates obesity based on fat-composition standards.

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  • Signs Your Child Could Have Autism

    With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that one in every 88 children has autism—up from one in 156 in 2002—you might be wondering how to recognize the signs and symptoms of the developmental disorder.

    While it's not clear what's driving the uptick in prevalence, and the precise causes of autism are still unknown, experts are calling for earlier diagnosis. "We have to get this down to 18 months of age to truly have the greatest impact," says Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC. Doctors have gotten better at identifying autism symptoms in younger children—four is the average age of diagnosis—but "four years old is still too late," he says. Frieden stresses that the earlier a child is identified with autism, the more likely it is that behavioral intervention will make the disability more manageable. Parents may be able to spot symptoms of autism before a child's first birthday, says Coleen Boyle, who heads up the CDC's National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. "Parents know their child best, but if they do have concerns, the important thing is not to wait [to seek help]," she says. Susan Hyman, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics subcommittee on autism, strongly recommends having children screened by a child development specialist at 18, 24, and 30 months. [Read more: Signs Your Child Could Have Autism.]

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    • 13 Fool-Proof Ways to Get Happier

      The pursuit of happiness may feel futile at times, especially as we've watched our 401(k)s and house values tank. How can we truly feel happy when life gets tough? U.S. News posed this question to leading happiness researchers to find out what strategies we can employ to stay upbeat. While it's true that some lucky folks are born with sunny dispositions, others, according to a growing body of research, can learn to be happy. How? "We need to move away from the concept of trying to fill our days with frequent pleasurable moments and fewer negative moments," explains Todd Kashdan, a professor of positive psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and author of Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life. "What truly provides satisfaction is having a meaning and purpose in life, which is doubly important in the midst of this current economic nightmare." Here are 13 other secrets:

      1. Spend $20 on an experience rather than an item. A 2009 study from San Francisco State University backs this up: When researchers asked 154 men and women ages 19 to 50 to recall how they felt after recent purchases using discretionary income, they found that money spent on theater tickets, ski trips, and fine dining brought more pleasure than dollars spent on designer jeans, diamonds, and the latest cellphone. "Wonderful experiences remind us of the thrill of being alive, whereas purchasing something inevitably leads to comparisons," says Ryan Howell, the author of the study and an assistant professor of psychology at SFSU. "You love your 27-inch plasma until you see your friend's 60-inch one."