Is fast food toxic to your liver? Plus, the top diets of 2023, and more health news

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Fast food may be toxic to your liver

Do your liver a favor and steer clear of fast food, new research urges.

People with obesity or diabetes who consumed 20% or more of their daily calories from fast food had severely elevated levels of fat in their liver compared to those who ate less fast food or none.

Even the general U.S. population had moderate increases in liver fat when fast food made up one-fifth or more of their diet, the study found.

“Healthy livers contain a small amount of fat, usually less than 5%, and even a moderate increase in fat can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease,” said lead study author Dr. Ani Kardashian. She is a hepatologist with University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, in Los Angeles.

Long COVID after mild infection fades within a year

A large, new study offers reassuring news for folks dealing with long COVID symptoms such as trouble breathing, mental fog and loss of taste or smell: Most of these issues resolve within a year for those who had a mild COVID infection.

“The study provides the longest followup we have of long COVID-19 patients and offers some optimism that many of these symptoms – with support – will improve over about a year,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. He has no ties to the new research.

People with long COVID experience new, lingering or worsening symptoms for more than four weeks after the initial COVID-19 infection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Happy, loved teens become heart-healthier as adults

When teenagers feel good about themselves and their lives, it may also do their hearts good in the long run, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that teenagers who generally felt happy, optimistic and loved went on to show better cardiovascular health in their 20s and 30s, versus kids who lacked that level of mental well-being.

Overall, they were more likely to maintain a healthy weight, as well as normal blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. And having such positive feelings appeared particularly important for Black teenagers’ future health.

The idea that kids’ well-being can affect their health well into adulthood is not new. Studies have shown that childhood obesity, for example, is tied to increased risks of various health conditions — including type 2 diabetes and heart disease — later in life.

Kids living near airports face lead poisoning dangers

While U.S. policymakers have attempted to lower lead exposure among children since the 1970s, new research finds that kids living near airports are still being exposed to dangerous levels of the heavy metal.

“Across an ensemble of tests, we find consistent evidence that the blood lead levels of children residing near the airport are pushed upward by the deposition of leaded aviation gasoline,” said study author Sammy Zahran, associate chair of economics at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

“This indicates we should support policy efforts to limit aviation lead emissions to safeguard the welfare of at-risk children,” Zahran said.

Swimmers face a little-known danger: fluid on the lungs

The swimmer came to shore struggling to breathe and coughing up blood.

A keen competitive long-distance swimmer and triathlete, the woman was fit and healthy when she started a nighttime open water swim event.

But a couple weeks earlier, she’d had breathing difficulties during another open water swim that had forced her to abandon the event. She’d felt breathless for days after.

The woman, in her 50s, had fallen prey to what’s becoming better known as a hazard associated with open water swimming – fluid on the lungs, or pulmonary edema.

The top diets of 2023

Each year, a panel of leading medical and nutrition experts works with U.S. News & World Report to review a wide range of diets and put their stamp on the ones they find to be the best healthy eating options. The panel members look at a variety of factors, including how healthy the eating plans are, how easy they are to follow and how well they work.

According to the panel this year, the top 5 diets overall for 2023 are:

  • The Mediterranean diet
  • The DASH diet
  • The flexitarian diet
  • The MIND diet
  • The TLC diet

Below, we break down the best diets of 2023 and what you need to know about each, including how to follow the diet, what foods are included and what health benefits they may offer.


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How to take a break from social media

Be easy on yourself and ask for help about social media use

“If you’re reading this article, kudos to you for thinking about reevaluating social media,” Agarwal said Trying to meet your goals is all about celebrating the small wins.

At the least, set small benchmarks for yourself like spending 10 minutes less on social media than the day before. The right amount of social media time is different for everyone since some people actually use these apps to brand and help market themselves. Find your own social media sweet spot, and remember, even if you scroll too much on social media one day, you can try and meet your goal tomorrow.

Another way to keep you on track is to share your goal with someone you trust. A friend or loved one who can kindly nudge you when they notice you’ve been on social media for awhile.

Marie from Pixabay

Helpful exercise to remind you what you’re missing by scrolling

Scrolling through social media while hanging out with friends isn’t uncommon nowadays, but when you think about how unengaged you are in those moments, it can put social media use into perspective.

Agarwal suggests the next time you’re in a room with others at a family or friends gathering and you see yourself scrolling through social media instead of engaging with others, take a minute to physically remove yourself from the room and isolate in another room. Listen and feel how much you may be missing out on.

“What that does is it gives your brain a signal. If you force yourself to leave the room, you realize how much you’re using that app and missing out on other people,” Agarwal said. “It’s a good physical reminder of being present in the moment and not on your on your phone and scrolling through social media.”

natureaddict from Pixabay

Use your phone’s screen-time tracking feature and limit social media use

Most smart phones nowadays track your screen-time and usage already. It’s a good idea to figure out your average screen time per day so you have a benchmark that you can work on.

On iPhone, you can go into your “Screen Time” settings, which displays the amount of time you spend on each app and allows you to put timers on specific apps to limit how long you’re on them. Android phones have similar features in the “Digital Wellbeing” settings. Additionally, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok offer the same features within the app settings themselves.

Biljana Jovanovic from Pixabay

Physically distance yourself from your phone and apps

When you’re at home and have free time, put your phone in a drawer or somewhere you can’t see it. Oftentimes limiting the ability to quickly and easily pick up your phone is enough to keep you off of social media, said Agarwal. If your phone is what keeps your hands from fidgeting, try to have some objects around the house that relieve stress, like a stress ball, fidget toy or yarn and crochet hooks.

Hide your social media apps on your phone by placing the app on the second or third page of your home screen or bury the app inside an “app folder” with a bunch of others. When you’re waiting in line or have a free five minutes, instead of grabbing your phone — take in the view, practice some breathing exercises or read a book.

Kiều Trường from Pixabay

Benefits of taking a social media break

Ever hear of “text neck?” It’s the result of looking down at our phones when scrolling or texting, straining the neck muscles over a long period of time. Taking a break from social media helps relieve neck pain and gives your eyes a break from bright screens.

People may also be more connected than ever through social media, but a 2018 University of Pennsylvania study found that people who limit their time on social media experience less depression and feelings of loneliness.

Taking a break from social media will give you better sleep, too. Research suggests that nighttime use of social media is driven by FOMO (fear of missing out), and keeps people scrolling longer at night instead of going to sleep.

Foundry Co from Pixabay

Reevaluate what you want out of social media

What is the reason that brought you onto social media? This is the question Agarwal said to ask yourself when trying to figure out if it’s time to take a social media break. If you’re not getting the same satisfaction from the reason you use social media, it may be time to look for alternatives.

If you joined social media to…

1. Find community: Look for clubs and groups in your neighborhood where you can meet and interact with others IRL (in real life).

2. Be inspired: Consume other forms of media like magazines, books, podcasts, movies or live events.

3. Buy and sell things: Try using other apps, like OfferUp or NextDoor, or visiting local events and marketplaces in person.

Firmbee from Pixabay

Two and a half hours.

Two and a half hours — that’s the average amount of time people spend on social media each day.

It may not sound like a lot, but that time can really add up — and at what cost? Social media has proven negative effects on mental health (especially for teens), self-image and for some is a huge time-waster.

University of Penn’s Anish Agarwal, an emergency physician, researcher, and deputy director for the Center for Digital Health, said it’s important to constantly be reevaluating the role social media plays in daily life.

The bottom line: taking a break from social media is healthy for you. Read on for guidance and tools to help you limit screen time on these apps.

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