5 Things You Seriously Should Stop Worrying About


The month of January is traditionally a time for lofty goals and new commitments. But in the midst of all the self-promises and good intentions, have you taken a moment to consider your anti-resolutions? Here, a few suggestions for things you can stop giving a crap about in 2016, because YOLO.



Forget losing those last 5 pounds

Sometimes making a healthy weight loss goal is what's needed to kick you into gear. But if this is the umpteenth year in a row you've pledged to shed those final 5 pounds, and you're already moving plenty and eating your veggies, maybe it's time to just… let those 5 pounds be?

Give yourself a break from the endless pressure to be just a little bit thinner. That's what Jenna Bush Hager decided to do after she found a New Year's diary entry by her fourth-grade self. Scrawled in cursive across the pink page, number one on her resolution list reads: "Loes [sic] 4 pounds. That broke my heart," the journalist and mom of two girls said on the Today show earlier this week. "That's probably been on my list in some form or another for 25 years."

RELATED: 12 Worst Habits For Your Mental Health

Instead of obsessing over some arbitrary number on the scale, focus on how you feel in 2016. Exercise because moving gives you energy, and boosts your mood. Eat cleaner because you want to think clearly, and sleep soundly. You might still end up slimmer by December, but for all the right reasons, which means you'll be happier and healthier above all.



Forget the guilt that comes with saying "no"

Repeat after Elsa: Let it go, let it goooo! Seriously, those pangs of guilt you feel when you turn down a request (from a friend, your car pool mate, a third cousin) mean you're on the right track. Every time you say no to someone else because you don't have time to do whatever is they're asking, or your heart simply isn't in it, you are saying yes to yourself. And self-care isn't selfish. It is essential.

Does just the thought of uttering "no" trigger a guilt trip? If so, Gail Saltz, MD, Health's contributing psychology editor, recommends practicing this bulletproof response: "Thanks for thinking of me. I appreciate the vote of confidence, but I've got a lot on my plate, and I can't fit this in right now." End of story. Move on.

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Forget measuring up to other people's lives

Between the nip-tucked pics of models on Instagram (take Chrissy Tiegen's word for it: "I've seen these women in person, they are not like that") and the carefully curated and filtered snaps of "friends" in your Facebook feed, it's easy to fall into the Why-don't-I-look-that-hot/happy? trap. (Is it any surprise that research has linked Facebook to depressive symptoms?) But in the year ahead, vow to give fewer craps about other people's selfies. Forget making comparisons between you and them. For the next 12 months, you just do you, and see how refreshing it feels.

While you're at it, you might want to start caring less about your own selfies, too. When your get preoccupied with creating the perfect image of your brunch/vacation/girl squad, your lose out on some of the joy in that moment, explains Dr. Saltz.

One worthy exception: the healthie, in which you photo-brag about, say, your yoga headstand, or your spiralized cucumber noodles. "Occasionally patting yourself on the back for health achievements on social media can propel you to keep them up," Dr. Saltz says, "especially if you get reinforcement from friends like 'Go you!'"

RELATED: Happiness Really Is Contagious, Study Finds



Forget all those "shoulds" in your head

You know the thoughts: I should be more present with my family / putting in extra hours at work / having frequent fantastic sex. It seems like everyone else is accomplishing so much (thanks again, Facebook!). The fear of falling short becomes habitual, Dr. Saltz explains, and can even turn into shame: We end up feeling that we're crappy mothers, employees, partners and friends, when just the opposite is true, she says. You are doing the best you can, and that is plenty good enough. Here's an assignment for that bossy inner-critic of yours: quit using the word "should."



Forget perfectionism

Consciously, you know you're not perfect, of course, and that nobody is. But like most of us, you're probably still haunted by your flaws, right? "There is no such thing as perfection and yet so many people exhaust themselves and erode their confidence in the pursuit of it," writes happiness expert Dominique Bertolucci in her book The Kindess Pact ($12; amazon.com), published last year. She urges us to shed that burden, and accept our imperfections once and for all. Only then, she says, will you be free to employ your positive qualities to their fullest. In other words, acknowledging your weaknesses will actually make you stronger.

If you make no other changes in 2016, at least take Bertolucci's advice, and adopt her mantra as your own: "I am perfectly imperfect." Just the way you are.


Health24.com | Humans correctly identify sick peers from a photo

Human beings can spot a sick person on a photo, a mere two hours after he or she was infected by a germ, researchers said.

Such an ability to detect infection early, and from the subtlest of facial clues, has never been demonstrated before, but is presumed to be part of a crucial survival skill called “disease avoidance”, they wrote.

“An ability to detect sick people would allow people to avoid being close to sick people, and hence minimise the risk of becoming sick if the person is a carrier of contagious disease,” study co-author John Axelsson of Stockholm University told AFP.

How did they do the study?

The research team experimented with 16 healthy volunteers, all Caucasian.

Each was given a shot of lipopolysaccharides (LPS), the molecules taken from bacteria.

The LPS molecules are sterile, meaning that no live bacteria are injected. But they cause a strong immune response and flu-like symptoms that lasts a few hours, mimicking someone who is “acutely sick” and fighting off infection.

It is a method commonly used to cause infections in humans and people for experimentation purposes.

On a second occasion, each participant received a placebo or “dummy” injection.

The volunteers had their photo taken about two hours after each shot – thus once in a healthy state after receiving the placebo, and once “sick”.

After the LPS shot, some of the participants “felt very sick and others did not feel much sick at all” when their photo was taken, Axelsson explained.

Both pictures, healthy and sick, of all participants were then showed to a different group of people, which had to rate whether the person was sick or healthy.

“The raters could correctly discriminate 13 out of 16 individuals (81%) as being sick,” said the study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

This was at a rate higher than predicted by pure chance alone.

Previous research had used photos of “obviously sick people” to induce disgust, anxiety and even an immune response in people, but the participants in the latest study were photographed with neutral expressions and very shortly after infection.

There was thus no sneezing, coughing or other overt symptoms of sickness on display.

What does a ‘sick’ face actually look like?

The results suggested that “humans have the ability to detect signs of illness in an early phase after exposure to infectious stimuli,” the study authors concluded.

Sick individuals were rated by observers as having paler lips and skin, a more swollen face, droopier mouth corners and eyelids, redder eyes, and duller, patchier skin.

Valuable diagnostic

The finding could “help medical doctors and computer software to better detect sick people,” said Axelsson – a potentially valuable diagnostic tool in a disease outbreak.

Further study is needed to determine whether levels of infection detection are similar across diseases and ethnic groups.

Image credit: iStock

Health24.com | This rare treatment will cost you more than R10 million

Can you imagine a treatment so expensive that you couldn’t afford it, even if you sold everything you own?

A first-of-its kind genetic treatment for blindness will cost $850,000 (±R10.4 million) per patient, making it one of the most expensive medicines in the world and raising questions about the affordability of a coming wave of similar gene-targeting therapies.

The injectable treatment from Spark Therapeutics can improve the eyesight of patients with a rare genetic mutation that affects just a few thousand people in the US. Previously there has been no treatment for the condition, which eventually causes complete blindness by adulthood.

The drug, Luxturna, is intended for patients with retinal dystrophy due to a mutation of the RPE65 gene. This kind of retinal dystrophy is estimated to affect between 1 000 and 2 000 people in the USA.

According to a News24 article, a probable 150 000 South Africans suffer from retinal conditions such as macular degeneration and dystrophy, retinitis pigmentosa, and other rare conditions that cause loss of vision in over 40 million people worldwide. 

A one-time treatment

The exorbitant price of Luxturna is not an isolated problem as there is growing concern about huge price increases on older drugs, some of them generic, that have long been mainstays of treatment.

Pricing questions have swirled around the treatment due to a number of unusual factors – it is intended to be a one-time treatment, it treats a very small number of patients and represents a medical breakthrough.

Previously, Spark suggested Luxturna could be worth more than $1 million (±R12.3 million). But the company said it decided on the lower price after hearing concerns from health insurers about the affordability of the treatment.

Consternation over skyrocketing drug prices, especially in the US, has led to intense scrutiny from patients, politicians, insurers and hospitals.

“We wanted to balance the value and the affordability concerns with a responsible price that would ensure access to patients,” said CEO Jeffrey Marrazzo, in an interview with The Associated Press.

Luxturna is still significantly more expensive than nearly every other medicine on the global market, including two other gene therapies approved earlier last year in the US.

First gene therapy for an inherited disease

Pharmaceutical industry critics said the slightly lower cost is a distraction from the ongoing problem of unsustainable drug prices.

“The company very cleverly convinced everyone that they were going to charge a million dollars, so now they are being credited for being reasonable,” said Dr Peter Bach, director of a policy centre at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

Approved last month, Luxturna, is the nation’s first gene therapy for an inherited disease. It requires a 45-minute operation in which a tiny needle delivers a replacement gene to the retina, tissue at the back of the eye that converts light into electric signals that produce vision. The therapy will cost $425 000 (±R5.2 million) per injection. The price does not include the cost of the operation, which Spark estimates will cost between $4 000 (±R40 000) and $5 000 (±R61 400).

The treatment is part of an emerging field of medicine that could produce dozens of new gene-targeting medications in the next few years.

Like Luxturna, these therapies are generally intended to be taken once, a fact which drug developers argue sets them apart from traditional drugs taken for months or years. Even compared to other one-time gene therapies Luxturna is still an outlier. Two customized gene therapies for blood cancer approved last year are priced at $373,000 (±R4.5 million) and $475,000 (±R5.8 million).

Drug prices not always regulated

Drug prices are not regulated in the US, as they are in many other countries, so drugmakers can price their goods like any other manufacturer. Drugmakers have historically offered little explanation for the prices they charge, other than to cite the high cost of developing a drug and the fact that so many drugs fail during trials and must be abandoned. However, some companies have begun to offer more detailed reasoning as the backlash against drug prices has grown more heated.

Fortunately medicine prices are regulated in South Africa, which means that you will be able to:

  • Know what to expect to pay when you get a prescription from your doctor.
  • Find possible generics for a branded medicine.
  • Ensure that you are not being overcharged for your medicine.

Spark Therapeutics, based in Philadelphia, has said that the cost for a lifetime of blindness – including lost earnings and caregiver wages – can easily exceed $1 million (±R12.3 million).

Even at $850,000 (±R10.4 million) a preliminary analysis by one group found that the drug would need to be priced significantly lower to be good value.

Image credit: iStock

Health24.com | 7 of the most dangerous surgeries

Most people are a bit apprehensive about having even the smallest surgical procedure.

The following procedures, however, are deemed by experts as the riskiest surgeries – that can result in serious complications and even death.

Even though medical technology is advancing rapidly and the mortality rates of these procedures have improved, they are still extremely delicate and risky.

1. Craniectomy

A craniectomy involves removing a fraction of the skull to relieve pressure on the brain. In the past, this type of surgery was usually performed as a last resort, but with the progress of technology it is utilised more frequently nowadays. This surgery, however, remains risky, the major risks being infection, bleeding and further damage to the brain.

doctor holding brain MRI

2. Thoracic aortic dissection repair

Like any form of open-heart surgery, this procedure is difficult and risky because of its delicate nature. An aortic dissection (a split or tear in your body’s main artery) is a life-threatening condition which requires thoracic aortic dissection repair, a risky emergency surgery. This operation is often associated with increased risk of stroke.

open heart surgery

3. Oesophagectomy

This is the procedure used to partially or completely remove the oesophagus (the tube that transports food from your throat to your stomach) because of cancer. An oesophagectomy is performed to avoid the cancer from spreading to the rest of the stomach or other organs. The procedure often involves the removal of the lymph nodes as well. The incisions are made according to the severity of the procedure and how much of the oesophagus needs to be removed. The most severe scenario is where the oesophagus, a part of the abdomen and the lymph nodes are removed via incisions in the chest, abdomen and throat. Because of the nature of the incisions, bleeding, leaking of fluids into the stomach clots and infection are the greatest risks. The lungs may also be affected.

doctor holding esophagus anatomy

4. Spinal osteomyelitis surgery

Spinal osteomyelitis is an infection of the vertebrae, which is a rare but dangerous cause of back pain. Surgery is often the last resort for treating this infection, but sometimes emergency surgery is needed, especially when sepsis occurs. Infections of the spine can be extremely dangerous and surgery to the area can be risky and may lead to paralysis or more infection.  

doctor looking at spinal x-rays

5. Bladder cystectomy

This procedure involves the partial or complete removal of the bladder in the case of bladder cancer. Not only is there the possibility that you might need an alternative way to empty your bladder such as a urostomy, but it can also have far-reaching effects on your sex life. After a partial cystectomy, you will be able to pass urine normally, but because of a smaller bladder, you will need to go more frequently. There is a high risk of infection during this surgery, affecting the membrane lining of the abdomen.

doctor explaining bladder anatomy

6. Gastric bypass

Gastric bypass is a surgical procedure performed to help you lose weight by changing the way your stomach and small intestine handle the food you eat. This surgery is extremely elective and risky because of the organs being so close together and the many layers of fat that the surgeon has to cut through. These days, laparoscopic surgery makes this procedure a bit easier and eliminates big incisions, but there is still increased risk involved, especially since there is increased difficulty inserting the tube into airways. More risks include excessive bleeding and infection.

gastric bypass surgery

7. Separation of conjoined twins

Conjoined twins are identical twins who are joined together in utero. This is an extremely rare phenomenon, with only one in 50 000 births to one in 200 000 resulting in conjoined twins. The risk and difficulty of the surgery depends on where the twins are joined, with twins being attached at the heads being the most common. Separation is possible, depending on how much of the brain is shared.

It goes without saying that the separation of conjoined twins is risky and delicate. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, mortality rates depend on the type of connection and organs shared. The success rate of separating conjoined twins has increased over the years. 

x-ray of conjoined twins

Image credits: iStock and Wikimedia Commons