Health Buzz: FDA Approves At-Home HIV Test

How to lose weight with your pet; 10 best foods for your hair

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FDA Approves First Rapid, At-Home HIV Test

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first rapid, over-the-counter HIV test Tuesday. That means people will soon be able to test themselves in the privacy of their own homes, and get preliminary results in 20 to 40 minutes. The OraQuick test uses a mouth swab to detect the presence of HIV antibodies in saliva. A previous test sold over the counter required users to prick their finger and then mail a drop of dried blood to a lab. FDA officials emphasized that the OraQuick test is not 100 percent accurate; one trial suggests it correctly detects the virus 92 percent of the time. "Knowing your status is an important factor in the effort to prevent the spread of HIV," Karen Midthun, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, told Reuters. "The availability of a home-use HIV test kit provides another option for individuals to get tested so that they can seek medical care, if appropriate." The test is expected to become available in October.

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  • How to Lose Weight With Your Pet

    Fat cats. Pudgy pooches. No doubt they're cute, but obesity is as weighty an issue for our four-legged friends as it is for us. Recent research suggests that 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of cats are overweight or obese. 

    Portly pets face a host of health issues, including osteoarthritis and joint problems; insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes; high blood pressure; and heart and respiratory diseases. Pet obesity has been shown to take at least two years off an animal's life. "It's a big problem," says veterinarian Marty Becker, author of more than 20 books, including Your Cat: The Owner's Manual and Your Dog: The Owner's Manual. "While they make cute cartoons, they're little tubby time bombs." 

    Plenty of factors are fueling the pet obesity epidemic. Pet foods today are more calorically dense than in years past, and owners are likely overfeeding their animals. Fido is giving you puppy dog eyes? The kitten is purring? Reward the cuteness with an extra scoop of food, or even some scraps off the table. That adds up—especially when coupled with too little exercise and, in general, a lack of knowledge about how much your pet should be eating and what he should weigh. (Dogs and cats 10 to 20 percent over their ideal body weight are considered overweight, and once they surpass the 20 percent mark, they become obese.) 

    That's why there's a growing movement to educate pet owners and encourage them to slim down with their furry friends. In January, Nestle Purina and Jenny Craig teamed up to help people and their pets get in shape with Project: Pet Slim Down. The free online program offers tips on feeding, weight loss tracking tools, and advice on exercising together. [Read more: How to Lose Weight With Your Pet

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    • 10 Best Foods for Your Hair 

      Move that shampoo and conditioner aside. The pursuit of luscious, shiny locks starts with fish, beans, bananas, and lentils. Indeed, a healthy diet is as good for the 150,000 hair follicles on your head as it is for your body. "Having a balanced diet, while putting a little extra emphasis on things like protein and iron, gives your hair a boost," says Neil Sadick, a clinical professor in the department of dermatology at the Weill Cornell Medical College. 

      Protein, for example, is the building block of hair. If you don't get enough, your mane will grow more slowly, and strands will be weaker. "Pump up the protein," says registered dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner, author of The Flexitarian Diet. "Include a small dose at each meal and with each snack, and you'll keep your hair follicles strong." Safe bets include poultry, lean beef, fish, beans, and nuts. 

      If you start a hair-healthy diet today, you'll likely see improvements within six months to a year, depending on how fast your hair grows.