Health Buzz: SARS Again? Similar Virus Found in Middle East

Stressed out? Try mindfulness meditation; make Pinterest your personal health coach

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A Virus Nearly Identical to SARS Found in Qatari Man

A Qatari man is seriously ill after catching a virus that may be related to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome—the infection that killed around 800 people in 2003. The virus is in the same family as SARS and is known as a coronavirus, which causes most common colds, as well as the deadly respiratory infection. The World Health Organization has issued a global alert about the ill Qatari man, who had recently travelled to Saudi Arabia, where another man had died of an almost identical virus. There doesn't seem to be any connection between the two men, except for their travels to Saudi Arabia, and officials say there is no evidence that would indicate human-to-human transmission of the virus. While the SARS connection may stir disturbing memories of the short-lived epidemic of less than a decade ago, the WHO said today that it's too soon to tell if there is an outbreak of the SARS-like virus. "It's still [the] very early days," Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman, told the Associated Press. "At the moment we have two sporadic cases and there are still a lot of holes to be filled in."

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  • Stressed Out? Try Mindfulness Meditation

    One of the hottest forms of stress reduction today is actually one of the oldest: meditation. But the kind making the rounds of hospitals, community centers, and even schools in increasing numbers doesn't involve chanting "Om" while sitting on a cushion with closed eyes; instead, participants are trained to pay attention to their thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, and to view them neutrally, "without assigning an emotional value that they are strongly positive or negative," says University of Wisconsin–Madison neuroscientist Richard Davidson, coauthor of The Emotional Life of Your Brain.

    The idea is to allow parts of the prefrontal cortex to lessen activity in the amygdala, which is responsible for evaluating threats. This helps reduce the likelihood you will overreact and enhances your ability to see potential solutions to problems, Davidson says.

    Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) got its start in 1979, when molecular biologist and meditation practitioner Jon Kabat-Zinn created a secular program that eventually found a home as the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Early research focused on MBSR's ability to improve chronic pain and later expanded to cover other conditions like breast cancer, depression, prostate cancer, and psoriasis, says Lynn Koerbel, an instructor at the center.

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    • Make Pinterest Your Personal Health Coach

      Have you found yourself sucked into the online world of Pinterest yet? If not, you've been warned, writes U.S. News blogger Melinda Johnson. Ask any Pinterest fan to describe the website, and chances are they'll do so in one word: addicting.

      Pinterest is a virtual pinboard. It's like browsing through a cooking magazine, travel brochure, fashion column, and decorating magazine at the same time. It has the power to suck hours out of your day, leaving you with nothing planned for dinner and no time for exercise. A popular quote that's frequently pinned on the website sums it up: "Honey, can you pick up pizza? I spent all day pinning healthy recipes on Pinterest."

      Last week, I posted about mindful eating. A fellow dietitian joked with me on Twitter that she might need a lesson in mindful tweeting. That got me thinking—can we do some mindful pinning, to better our health? Can the power of Pinterest be harnessed into a useful tool, or does it need to be tossed into the "fun but frivolous" category of our lives? [Read more: Make Pinterest Your Personal Health Coach]

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