Friends May Help You Live Longer
Keeping close friendships might help you live longer than you would otherwise, according to a new review of research on relationships. Researchers looked at data from more than 300,000 adults collected over an average of 7.5 years. Those with many close relationships had a 50 percent lower risk of dying than people with fewer relationships, HealthDay reports. Why the link? Bonding can reduce stress and improve the immune system, happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky told HealthDay. The review, published in PLoS medicine, suggests that relationships have about the same impact on health as quitting smoking. Still, there is one potential confounder: People who are more social may be healthier to begin with, according to Lyubomirsky, who is also a psychology professor at the University of California at Riverside, HealthDay reports.
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Cold or Allergy? How to Tell the Difference
Unfortunately, you can't always know for certain whether you've got a cold or an allergy; the two share symptoms: sneezing, runny nose, congestion, and fatigue. While colds are caused by hundreds of different viruses, allergies are triggered by harmless substances, like ragweed, pollen, or cat dander, that your body mistakes for a threatening invader, U.S. News's Deborah Kotz writes. In either case, symptoms result from your immune system's response to the interloper; the release of the chemical histamine, for example, causes your sinuses to swell, your nose to run, and sneezing.
Colds last only one to two weeks, commonly cause cough, sore throat, and sometimes body aches and fever, but not itchy, watery eyes. Allergies can last for a month or more, commonly cause itchy eyes, and don't cause fevers or body aches; plus, they tend to cause coughing only in those who have asthma, says Mayo Clinic allergy specialist Hirihito Kita.
How does he tell one from the other when he feels ill? "If my sneezing turns into a cough after two or three days, then I know it's a cold. If my sneezing continues without other symptoms for a week, then I know it's an allergy," says Kita. He also examines the tissue after blowing his nose. If the mucus turns thick and yellow after a few days of symptoms, it's likely a cold; mucus that remains thin and clear usually signals an allergy. [Read more: Cold or Allergy? How to Tell the Difference.]
The Hospital, Your Care Coordinator
Hospitals aren't known for making house calls. Once patients get their discharge papers, they take their chances with a family doctor or staffers at a clinic who may or may not know what happened inside the hospital's walls. So Margaret Bennett's experience is pretty rare, U.S. News contributor Catherine Arnst writes. Bennett, 84, who had a stroke 11 years ago and colon cancer in 2007, recently spent two weeks at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx because of a blood clot in her leg. In many places, such a frail and elderly patient might be hospitalized for weeks or even months, but Bennett's doctor now comes to her.
Every two weeks or so, geriatrician Mohamed Aniff visits, lingering for close to an hour in the sunny and spotless apartment she shares with daughter Geraldine, 65—surroundings far cheerier (and more economical) than any hospital room. The Bennetts have Aniff's cellphone number, so they can reach him any time of the day or night, and if they had a computer they could query him by E-mail, as many of his patients do. The costs of the visit are covered by Medicare. By coming to Margaret, Aniff can assess the safety of her environment, discuss her care in depth with Geraldine, and develop the kind of personal relationship rarely found between patients and hospital staff. "He's something else," Margaret says of Aniff, as she grabs his hands and smiles broadly. "He's family."
Why this unusual level of involvement for one elderly New Yorker? Montefiore is pioneering a new model of healthcare delivery, endorsed by the architects of health reform, that promises to radically change the current fragmented system in which the family doctor may have no idea what happens during a hospital stay, or a diabetes patient's endocrinologist, internist, and cardiologist never talk to one another. As an "accountable care organization," or ACO, Montefiore, along with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., and a handful of other medical systems, is experimenting with a novel way to save money and improve patient outcomes by coordinating all of their care, by all of their doctors, whether in the hospital or out. [Read more: The Hospital, Your Care Coordinator.]
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