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More Women With Heart Disease Having Babies, Obesity And ADHD: Morning Links

Catherine Pearson   |   February 19, 2013   11:10 AM ET

More women with heart disease are getting pregnant, ABC2News reports -- a growing issue now that more women over 40 are giving birth. There are lots of potential implications for moms and babies; ABC points out that during labor, women's heart rates can be up to 37 percent higher than the average marathon runner.

Just a month after a major study suggested a link between childhood obesity and ADHD, another study -- this one a preliminary investigation using mice -- found a possible link between high-fat diets and the disorder.

Bad news for pregnant coffee lovers: New research suggests that too much coffee during pregnancy might be linked to lower birth weight in babies.

Why Are We Still Talking About HPV Vaccination And Promiscuity?

Catherine Pearson   |   January 10, 2013   11:15 AM ET

There's been a lot of talk about HPV vaccination -- which protects women against cervical cancer --somehow making girls promiscuous, so much so that scientists have studied the issue again and again. Those studies have found no link between vaccination and increased sexual activity, but they don't appear to be doing much in the way of swaying public opinion. A new National Cancer Institute report found that cancer deaths have declined in the U.S. in the last several decades, but the incidence rates of certain HPV-associated cancers have increased during that time.

Why? One expert told Time it has a lot to do with good ol' fashioned squeamishness about discussing sex with kids, both on the part of parents and health care providers.

"Just as it is hard for some patients to talk about anal disease or their kids having sex, it's equally hard for some providers to talk about it," Dr. Julian Sanchez, a colorectal-cancer surgeon at City of Hope told Time."I talk about it everyday, and sometimes it is still difficult for me to approach some patients who I know have a degree of opposition to this type of conversation."

For more on the basics of HPV vaccination from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, click here.

More On Free Breast Pumps And The Affordable Care Act

Catherine Pearson   |   January 9, 2013   10:57 AM ET

Breast pumps are now covered under the Affordable Care Act -- a provision that kicked in for many women when their employer-sponsored insurance started a new year on January 1. Though experts are, rightly, hailing the change as a big step in the right direction in giving women at least some of the tools they need to handle the challenges of breastfeeding, there are still many kinks to be worked out in terms of how women get pumps and what models are available to them. (If you're interested, I wrote about in greater detail here.)

Wendy, a 32 year old who lives in Connecticut, had some great insights into just how big a difference something as seemingly small and simple as a breast pump can make. She was 26 when she had her first baby, and couldn't afford an electric pump (which cost more than $300), so she made do with a manual model that was given to her by a lactation consultant. She nursed exclusively for 4 months, but eventually had to go back to work.

"Then I tried to express as much milk as I could, but by 8 months my son was drinking formula alone," she said. "Had I been able [to afford] an electric pump I am sure I would have been able to nurse longer. Using a manual pump on my 30 minute lunches in my classroom just didn't work."

"It would have been nice to have been able to continue giving my son breast milk," Wendy added.
"I know as a working mother it would have been great to have insurance help to cover the cost of a good electric pump."

For more information on the Affordable Care Act, head here, and for some general information on the provisions for women, this is a great resource. The Washington Post's Sarah Kliff also has a terrific article that suggests the breast pump industry is booming because of the law, which is a very good thing, kinks and all.

Surprising Group Being Prescribed Antipsychotics

Catherine Pearson   |   January 7, 2013   12:39 PM ET

There is no conclusive evidence that antidepressant and antipsychotic drugs effectively treat anorexia, but that has not stopped doctors from prescribing them. A new study of more than 500 anorexic women found that over half of the participants were taking one of these drugs.

The research, published in the December edition of the International Journal of Eating Disorders, divided participants into two groups: anorexic women who went to Massachusetts General Hospital between 1997 and 2002 to participate in bone density research, and those who were screened between 2003 and 2009. Overall, 53 percent of the participants reported taking a psychotropic medication during the course of the study.

Forty-eight percent of the women said they were taking an antidepressant, and 83 percent of them were taking a selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is the most popular type of antidepressant.

In addition, 13 percent of the study participants, who were between the ages of 18 and 54, said they were taking an antipsychotic. The majority of them were taking so-called atypical antipsychotics, which are second-generation antipsychotics developed in the 1990s to help treat schizophrenia and schizophrenia-related disorders.

During the course of the study, the number of women who reported taking those second-generation drugs doubled.

None of this would be cause for concern, except that there is very little evidence that either antidepressants or antipsychotics help anorexic patients to recover.

"It's a jarring thing to hear that medications are being prescribed when the proof is not in," Dr. Allegra Broft, a psychiatrist in the eating disorders research unit at Columbia University Medical Center who did not work on the study, told HuffPost.

"On the other hand, there has been an increased interest in the use of antipsychotics [to treat anorexia]," Broft said. "There's a small number of preliminary studies suggesting there is some utility there."

Indeed, one short-term study from 2008 and another study from 2011 found a weight-gain benefit among patients taking the antipsychotic olanzapine, but a third, longer trial found no benefits over the use of a placebo. Larger long-term studies are necessary to see if there are any true psychological or weight-gain benefits for anorexic patients taking the drug, the authors of the latest study write.

Experts say there is even less evidence that antidepressants help women with the eating disorder.

"In some ways, it's more startling to see the numbers about SSRIs," said Broft. "We have pretty good studies saying that they don't help anorexia nervosa. There has been no added benefit for weight restoration."

What is not clear at this point is why doctors are prescribing these medications -- if they are hoping the drugs will directly treat the anorexia or if they are trying to treat other mental health issues that often co-occur with the eating disorder.

"There is significant data that [patients with] anorexia and bulimia have high rates of comorbidity with other psychiatric conditions," Dr. Terry Schwartz, an associate clinical professor of clinical psychiatry and a specialist in eating disorders at the University of California, San Diego, said in an email to HuffPost. "We often treat a co-morbid depression or anxiety disorder, especially if those disorders are hindering treatment and recovery."

Anorexia, which is diagnosed in women at a significantly higher rate than in men, has the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness. But psychotropic drugs also carry serious potential risks. Antipsychotics can have cardiovascular effects. SSRIs have been linked to bone loss and increased risk of bone fracture -- issues of particular concern for patients with anorexia, which itself can undermine bone health. Currently, there are no medications designed specifically to treat anorexia.

Broft stressed there is interest among eating disorder clinicians and researchers in devising and testing additional options. "It's definitely a very concerning issue in our field that [these drugs] are being used without the science," she said.

Catherine Pearson: My Workday On The Treadmill Desk

Catherine Pearson   |   August 5, 2011    8:05 AM ET

Catherine Pearson's blog "My Workday On The Treadmill Desk" is the first in an ongoing series where Huffington Post employees report on their time working from the TreadDesk available in our offices. Look for more to come on our "We Tried It" page.

When I got off the TreadDesk at 5:30 p.m. yesterday -- stuffed with self-importance and indignation at having spent the entire day ON MY FEET -- I was fully prepared to summarize my experience thusly: I hate you, treadmill desk.

But cooler heads prevailed, and my editors suggested taking a night to sleep on things. Which brings me to my next-afternoon take, which is: I still hate you treadmill desk, only slightly less.

But before I kvetch, a bit on my fitness background.

I'm a former jock, turned sloth, and in the five years since college I have been a sporadic exerciser at best. I'll jog, do yoga and for a brief stint, I played in a co-ed soccer league. These days I'm running, trying to get back in shape for what I hope will be my first half marathon this fall. We'll see.

What I do fancy myself is something of a walker, in so far as I have lived in New York City for nine years and the city demands that you get out and use your legs. I appreciate that. It gives me a time to think and take a few deep breaths. Present crabbiness aside, I also think it makes me less cranky.

What walking doesn't make me, it turns out, is a better journalist, for reasons I think could apply to a lot of people who also have desk-centric jobs. Simply put, doing stuff was tough during my trial, which ran from around 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and included a seated lunch break and multiple coffee runs. Among the tasks I struggled with:

1) Trying to type notes, not drop the phone and not fall off the treadmill while interviewing a source for a story.

2) Trying to type notes, not drop the phone and not fall of the treadmill while interviewing a source for a story and having Damon the photographer snap shots of me. (See below.)

3) Writing notes and outlining stories in my notebook, by hand. Surprisingly, the physical task of writing was the most difficult thing -- even when I slowed down, I wound up walking all wonky and sideways and tripping over myself.

And that was my biggest beef with the treadmill desk -- the logistics of it. I grant that there was a phone headset that would have helped and that I didn't notice until it was too late, but it wasn't just the phone that was the issue. I found it tough to do a lot of things -- drink water, eat food, talk and type -- all while keeping up my pace. Consider it a humbling exercise for someone who's always thought herself a multi-tasker.

Physically, I felt -- and still feel -- pretty good. My hamstrings are a little sore today and in the last hour yesterday, my lower back began to ache. I think that has to do with the fact that I was increasingly schlumped over the bean-shaped desk as the day wore on, using my elbows to prop myself up while I typed. (Come to think of it, my elbows are a little sore too.) But frankly, my back doesn't feel so hot right now and I've been sitting on my duff all day long. And on a more positive note, I fell asleep in, like, six seconds last night and slept like a baby.

Mentally, I felt -- and still feel -- pretty good, too, like I accomplished something extra and with no comfy chair to daze (or doze) off in, I think I was actually more mentally focused throughout the day. But I never did get into that zone where I forgot I was walking. I wasn't aware of every step, but I was fighting the feeling that I just wanted to SIT DOWN.

All told, the TreadDesk reported that I walked 6.76 miles and burned 616 calories -- though 43 minutes in I may or may not have momentarily broken the machine, meaning my first jaunt wasn't accounted for. Also, as fitness editor Sara Gaynes and I discussed; the machine's calorie counts seem a wee bit generous, particularly given my poky 1.5 mph pace.

Am I itching to get on the TreadDesk again? No I am not. I might hop on it for an hour on a day like today where it's now 5:07 p.m. and I feel that strange end-of-day combo of restless, jittery and tired. I mean, maybe. But probably not.

Disclaimer: Best practices for using this machine is 30-60 minutes at a time. For the purposes of these fun stories, we have decided to use them for an entire day, but the recommendation is to work gradually up to that point. For more information on use visit www.treaddesk.com.