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Music May Reduce Anxiety Before Super-Stressful Eye Surgery

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If you knew that somebody were about to stab you in the face, you’d probably find it pretty hard to chill. Yet researchers say that they were able to take people in that exact situation—patients about to undergo eye surgery while awake—and get them to relax by playing them music. They will present their findings [PDF] during the Euroanaesthesia 2016 conference in London this weekend.

Music as a relaxation tool is certainly nothing new. Decades of research have found that the right tune can decrease blood pressure, slow heart rate, and even curb anxiety. But none of these studies had been conducted on people waiting for their eyeballs to be punctured.

Researchers at Cochin University Hospital in Paris recruited 62 eye surgery patients. On the day of their surgery, the patients filled out questionnaires about their state of mind and their level of fear.

All the patients were told to sit quietly with high-quality headphones on during the 20 minutes before their cataract surgery. For half of those patients, the headphones blocked external sound. The other half listened to music. But it wasn’t just any music. Patients were able to choose from 16 different musical styles, all provided by a company that creates strategically relaxing music.

Here’s a little sample:

Then all the patients underwent the 15-minute surgery. Afterward, they filled out another survey about their feelings and their surgical experience.

The patients who got to listen to music were significantly better off. On average, they rated their anxiety at about 23 out of 100. Members of the control group gave their anxiety about a 65. During the operation, only 16 percent of the music group needed sedation, compared to 32 percent of the non-music group. And afterward, music listeners gave their experience a mean score of 71 points out of 100, while non-listeners averaged a 55.

Gilles Guerrier was the lead researcher on the project. "Music listening may be considered as an inexpensive, non-invasive, non-pharmacological method to reduce anxiety for patients undergoing elective eye surgery under local anaesthesia,” he said in a press statement.

Guerrier hopes to build on this study’s success. "The objective is to provide music to all patients before eye surgery,” he said. “We intend to assess the procedure in other type of surgeries, including orthopaedics where regional anaesthesia is common. Moreover, post-operative pain may be reduced by decreasing pre-operative anxiety, which is another study we intend to perform."

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Why You Should Think Twice About Drinking From Ceramics You Made by Hand
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Ceramic ware is much safer than it used to be (Fiesta ware hasn’t coated its plates in uranium since 1973), but according to NPR, not all new ceramics are free of dangerous chemicals. If you own a mug, bowl, plate, or other ceramic kitchen item that was glazed before entering the kiln, it may contain trace amounts of harmful lead.

Earthenware is often coated with a shiny, ceramic glaze. If the clay used to sculpt the vessel is nontoxic, that doesn’t necessarily mean the glaze is. Historically, the chemical has been used in glazes to give pottery a glossy finish and brighten colors like orange, yellow, and red.

Sometimes the amount of lead in a product is minuscule, but even trace amounts can contaminate whatever you're eating or drinking. Over time, exposure to lead in small doses can lead to heightened blood pressure, lowered kidney function, and reproductive issues. Lead can cause even more serious problems in kids, including slowed physical and mental development.

As the dangers of even small amounts of lead have become more widely known, the ceramics industry has gradually eliminated the additive from its products. Most of the big-name commercial ceramic brands, like Crock-Pot and Fiesta ware, have cut it out all together. But there are still some manufacturers, especially abroad, that still use it. Luckily, the FDA keeps a list of the ceramic ware it tests that has been shown to contain lead.

Beyond that list, there’s another group of products consumers should be wary of: kiln-baked dishware that you either bought from an independent artist or made yourself. The ceramic mug you crafted at your local pottery studio isn’t subject to FDA regulations, and therefore it may be better suited to looking pretty on your shelf than to holding beverages. This is especially true when consuming something acidic, like coffee, which can cause any lead hiding in the glaze to leach out.

If you’re not ready to retire your hand-crafted ceramic plates, the FDA offers one possible solution: Purchase a home lead testing kit and analyze the items yourself. If the tests come back negative, your homemade dishware can keep its spot on your dinner table.

[h/t NPR]

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Marathon Running Won't Undo Poor Lifestyle Choices, Study Suggests
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Even marathon participants can't outrun an unhealthy lifestyle, according to a new study highlighted by The New York Times.

For years, expert opinion has been mixed on whether long-distance running helps or hurts hearts. In the 1970s, research suggested that marathon running and a heart-healthy diet would completely prevent atherosclerosis (a buildup of harmful plaque in the arteries). But since high-profile runners have died of heart attacks, scientists in the 1980s began to worry that running might actually harm the vital organ. Compounding this fear in recent years were studies suggesting that male endurance athletes exhibited more signs of heart scarring or plaques than their less-active counterparts.

Experts don't have a verdict quite yet, but researchers from the University of Minnesota and Stanford and their colleagues have some good news—running doesn't seem to harm athletes' hearts, but it's also not a panacea for heart disease. They figured this out by asking 50 longtime marathon runners, all male, with an average age of 59, to fill out questionnaires about their training, health history, and habits, and then examining them for signs of atherosclerosis.

Only 16 of the runners ended up having no plaque in their arteries, and the rest exhibited slight, moderate, or worrisome amounts. The men who had unhealthy hearts also had a history of smoking and high cholesterol. A grueling training regime seemed to have no effect on these levels.

Bottom line? Marathon running won't hurt your heart, but it's not a magic bullet for poor lifestyle choices.

[h/t The New York Times]

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