Health Buzz: Cat Litter Parasite May Raise Suicide Risk

Try these out-of-the-box fitness classes; pedicures come rife with risks

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Cat Litter Parasite Linked to Suicide Attempts

Cat ladies may be more likely to attempt suicide. Women infected with the common cat parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which lurks in litter boxes, may suffer undetected brain changes that lead to personality changes and even mental illness. That's according to a new study of more than 45,000 women in Denmark published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry. The parasite, excreted in cat feces, also spreads through undercooked meat and unwashed vegetables. Pregnant women have long been warned to avoid the parasite, because they can pass it onto their fetus, causing brain damage or stillbirth. In the new study, researchers found that women infected by T. gondii were one and a half times more likely to try to take their own lives than those who were not affected. They were also more likely to try to commit suicide violently—with a gun, sharp object, or by jumping, Time reports. Suicide risk increased with the levels of T. gondii antibodies found. "We can't say with certainty that T. gondii caused the women to try to kill themselves, but we did find a predictive association between the infection and suicide attempts later in life that warrants additional studies," study author Teodor Postolache, an associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Mood and Anxiety Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said in a press statement. 

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  • Try These Out-of-the-Box Fitness Classes

    Push-ups and squats in an airless, unforgivingly bright room? Huffing and puffing and sweating next to 25 strangers? The fitness classes of yesterday, maybe. But those are practically archaic by now. Hello, slithering, gravity-defying routines, party music, and flashing lights. Some classes are hybrids of old and new exercises; others are high-intensity variations on the norm. All will boost your fitness. U.S. News highlights some of the most out-of-the-box options:

    1. Aerial dance. Always envied Cirque du Soleil performers? Stop at Heliummm Aerial Dance and Entertainment in New York. You'll learn the tricks of aerial dance, while giving your arms and abs a workout. The bulk of your time will be spent hanging from and climbing up silky fabric that dangles from the ceiling. "It translates into other areas of your life, too," says event producer and performer Heather Hammond. "Once you've overcome the fear of hanging upside down, you feel like a million bucks. You've just done something death-defying. It's a physical, mental, and emotional challenge." And there are no age constraints: Heliummm clients range from age 7 to 72.

    2. Burlesque dancing. You'll learn the art of the slow tease by shimmying your shoulders and wiggling your hips. At some schools, you'll also learn how to walk in heels to optimize your appearance, how to improve your posture, and how to lure others via eye contact. Other moves you'll master: bumps, grinds, and chair dancing. Classes aren't for the shy or delicate, though, instructors say: You'll be working hard and getting on your hands and knees. [Read more: Try These Out-of-the-Box Fitness Classes]

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    • Pedicure or Pedicurse? Proceed With Caution

      Short of going barefoot, nothing conjures the free spirit of summer like sandals. But given the way we treat our feet—whether we're running marathons or home from work and in shoes that pinch, press, and blister—it's no wonder they need grooming before flaunting.

      Fact: Your feet require some TLC. More facts: Salon pedicures can be rife with risks. In fact, some foot baths might as well be renamed cesspools, hotbeds of germs that can lead to bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. Not to sound biblical, but customers have gone home with boils. Unsanitary tools aren't much better, and can spread infections such as hepatitis.

      So the next time you treat your toes to a pedicure, follow these tips for feet as happy as they are healthy.