How many times a day do you stop and think to yourself, “What am I putting into my body?” Most of us are pretty conscious of what we eat and drink, but what about the shampoo you use every morning? Or the lotion you apply just before bed? And when it comes the medicines you take when you’re feeling ill, can you honestly say you know exactly what it’s doing to your body?
It’s no secret that people pop over-the-counter pain relievers like they’re candy, but sometimes, instead of helping you, that medication can actually do more harm than good. There’s one common pill that’s doing just that — and chances are, it’s sitting in your medicine cabinet right now.
Medical practices have come a long way since the advent of modern science, and today, most of our maladies can be cured by a quick trip to our local pharmacy. Aisle after aisle, there’s a remedy for almost every ill we can conceive of.
But when it comes to treating pain — whether it be from sore muscles, bruised bones, or headaches — there’s one pill most of us can count on to provide relief: aspirin. Widely available and relatively cheap, this “wonder drug” is a quick and easy way to get your body back into rhythm.
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In recent years, however, aspirin has been advocated less as a pain reliever and more as a means of preventing heart attacks and strokes. The medicine’s blood-thinning effects lower the risk of blood clots. It’s often prescribed to those who have already suffered one of these life-threatening episodes.
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But as aspirin’s preventative effects have become common knowledge, those without heart problems have begun taking a low dose daily to ensure that they never reach that point. This may seem like forward thinking, however, this kind of routine may actually hurt more than it helps.
According to a recent study conducted by Harvard and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, daily aspirin users without a history of heart issues actually found little to no benefit from taking the drug. Additionally, these individuals also experienced a higher rate of digestive-tract bleeding than those not on an aspirin regimen.
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To put this into perspective, some 29 million people 40 and older admitted to taking a low-dose aspirin daily, with around a quarter of those people not having been advised to do so by a doctor. The number only continued to increase among those 70 and older.
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In order to stop this misinformation, both the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued new guidelines: those who have experienced a heart attack or stroke are still advised to maintain a low-dose regimen, though those who have not are a different story.
For one, people over 70 without a history of heart disease are advised to stop taking aspirin for prevention altogether. The same goes for those who are younger but are at an increased risk of bleeding.
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As for those 40 and older, a 75 to 100 milligram dose of aspirin is advised only if you’re at high risk of heart attack or stroke. Even then, you should only begin an aspirin regimen at the behest of a doctor.
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“We hope that more primary care doctors will talk to their patients about aspirin use, and more patients will raise this with their doctors,” said Dr. Colin O’Brien, a senior internal medicine resident at Beth Israel who led the study. Fortunately, other preventative measures can lessen their risk.
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For starters, high blood pressure is a major cause of both heart attacks and strokes and is effected by a variety factors. Monitoring your blood pressure regularly is the best way to stay on top of your vascular health in the event that lifestyle changes must be made.
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Drinking alcohol, for instance, raises blood pressure and can also lead to unnecessary weight gain. Men are recommended to limit their alcohol consumption to two drinks a day, whereas women should stick to one.
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Similarly, smoking also leads to high blood pressure and increases your risk of heart attack or stoke. Within one hour of quitting, blood pressure begins to drop significantly, and after a year, your likelihood of developing heart disease is cut in half.
Maintaining a healthy weight also decreases this risk, as being overweight or obese increases the concentration of heart-damaging chemicals in the body. Diet is especially important when it comes to controlling weight.
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Foods like fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are key to losing and maintaining weight, whereas foods high in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars are a quick way to pack on unwanted pounds.
Similarly, unhealthy foods spike bad cholesterol, which can clog your arteries and lead to coronary artery disease and heart attacks. They also raise your triglyceride levels, which increases the risk of developing coronary artery disease.
For those with diabetes, managing blood sugar levels is crucial to preventing heart disease. Over time, high blood sugar damages the blood cells and nerves around the heart, making it even more important to keep your sugar levels under control.
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As far as more direct methods of prevention go, exercise is a surefire way to improve vascular health. Physical activity strengthens the heart, improves circulation, and has a direct effect on maintaining a healthy weight and lowering blood pressure.
Sleep also plays a significant role in heart health, as a lack of sleep can raise your risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep per night; for those not getting enough, this can lead to another unwanted ailment: stress.
Known as the “silent killer,” stress has an enormous effect on heart health, and too much of it can even trigger a heart attack. Fortunately, there are some people seeking to eliminate stress altogether in the most adorable way.
When you plan a vacation that requires serious traveling, there are plenty of stressors. Packing can be brutal, getting time off work is sometimes tough, but neither of these are as bad as dealing with a super busy airport.
Of course, after the chaos of checking luggage, finding your terminal, and weaving through the bustling human labyrinth, you find yourself soaring peacefully through the blue sky. However, that peaceful feeling doesn’t ring true for every passenger.
While some people love gazing out the window at the pillowy clouds around them, others are just plain terrified something will go wrong. Even though thousands of flights a day make it to their destination safely, these concerns are understandable.
When plane crashes occur, they’re serious. You’re in the sky, after all, so a plummet down to Earth usually results in serious injuries, if not deaths. But, airplane travel is technically the safest way to get from one place to another.
Think about it… traveling by subway or car might seem safer, but subways are always whizzing past each other and dozens of other drivers are around you on the highway. When you’re in the clouds, it’s literally blue skies.
The people who work at airports are well aware some passengers are terrified of the whole ordeal. Instead of just bushing it off like it’s not their problem, many places have enacted ways to get those nervous heart rates down.
Introducing service animals to airports was an enormous help to anyone panicking at the terminal. Imagine sitting there, playing out tons of awful scenarios in your head, when suddenly, an adorable dog wagging his tail comes right up to you!
Instead of thinking about your impending doom, you’re petting a fluffball who’s so happy to see you the stress melts away. Many airports around the world have been on-boarding these canine companions to ease exactly this type of internal tension.
One of the busiest airports in the United Staes is San Francisco International Airport, and when you have a lot of people coming and going at all times, that also means you have a lot of fear passing through the doors. That’s where the Wag Brigade comes in to help.
The airport’s Wag Brigade is the group of people and dogs whose job it is to walk through the building and approach anyone looking intimidated about their journey.
All of the animals wear little jackets that say “Pet Me!” so people know they can approach them without fear of aggressive behavior. Now, nearly all of the animals are dogs, but the brigade has another employee helping, and she’s a pleasant surprise to everyone.
She’s a spotted Juliana pig named LiLou! Just like her canine cohorts, LiLou travels with her trained handler and helps panicky travelers calm down before they take off.
LiLou’s owner, Tatyana Danilova, loves the fact that her little porker is put to great use at the airport. The San Francisco SPCA was working for a while to expand the types of animals on the Wag Brigade, and once they met Lilou, they were sold.
As you can imagine, LiLou gets tons of attention during her once-a-month workday. People, of course, love the dogs that roam the airport, but a pig wearing a skirt who also does tricks?! That’s something else.
Right on LiLou’s Wag Brigade trading card, it lists all the tricks Tatyana taught her to perform, including greeting people with her snout or a little hooved wave and even putting on live musical performances!
That’s right! If you think you’ve seen it all, guess again. LiLou has a favorite toy piano traveling with her around the airport. She loves to rub her hooves on it, playing songs for eager audiences.
Adults love getting nuzzled by LiLou, but sometimes she intimidates children; most of them have never seen a pig in real life. But, once they spend more than a couple of minutes with her, they always end up enjoying her company.
Although Tatyana and LiLou only visit the airport once a month, she hopes the shifts become more frequent. “It brings positive emotions to me seeing that we can do something good for the community and bring more smiles in some unconventional way,” she’s said.
LiLou even has her own Instagram account so people can check out awesome photos of her wearing different costumes and posing like a model! She’s the first certified pig in the San Francisco’s Animal Assisted Therapy Program, but other states have their own species, too.
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has miniature horses who calmly mosey around with their handlers. One definite way to calm nerves is to “horse” around with nervous travelers to take their minds off the flight.
Maybe the San Francisco International Airport will one day expand the animals to miniature horses also, but until they do, they have a loyal squad of dogs and one dedicated pig working hard to ensure everyone travels with a strong peace of mind. Kind people are helping the travel process, too.
Shaina Murry was just one of hundreds of people waiting for her American Airlines flight at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Eager to return home to her husband and tired from her travels, she hurriedly found her gate and sat down. Then, she noticed something unusual.
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A man lay sprawled out on the airport floor. “It was clear something was wrong,” Shaina recalled later in a post on Facebook. “I just didn’t know what.” So, she rushed over to find out.
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Shaina asked the man, whose name was Will, a few questions. She never shared exactly what he told her, but after their conversation, she knew there was something she needed to do: call for medical assistance.
Then, Will shared something else with her. Over and over again, he told her he was “afraid he was going to miss his flight while waiting for the airport medical team to come assist him,” Shaina wrote. That’s when she realized exactly what was going on…
Will was autistic, Shaina determined, and the overwhelming stress of traveling alone had made him very uncomfortable. This realization “triggered me to switch gears,” she wrote.
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Most other people would have left Will waiting for the medical team, but not Shaina. Instead, she assured her new airport pal that all was well: she’d make sure he boarded his plane before takeoff—and she didn’t stop there.
Together, the duo called Will’s mom “to let her know he wasn’t feeling well and seeing the medical team at Dallas Airport,” Shaina said. Will’s mother explained that her son was indeed autistic, confirming Shaina’s hunch.
When the medical team arrived, Will, Shaina, and the staff at American Airlines discussed the best way to make sure Will was in good condition to continue with his flight. Unfortunately, they were concerned about his health—and his ability to remain in such a cramped space.
“The medical team said he needed to eat and have something to drink,” Shaina wrote, “and they were worried he would get sick again and didn’t know if he should fly.” Did this mean Will would miss his flight?
If your typical stressed-out, in-a-hurry traveler had been the one to first talk to Will, he might’ve ended up grounded. Shaina, however, was no ordinary traveler—and she wanted to make sure Will was safe. Although she was tired and eager to see her husband, Shaina was prepared to do whatever it took to get Will home safe.
“I worked with American Airlines and the medical team at Dallas,” Shaina said, “and told [them] I would change my flight, grab some lunch with him, and make sure he got on his flight okay.”
In response, American Airlines helped out by facilitating Shaina’s flight transfer free of charge. “American didn’t charge me a dime for the flight change,” she wrote. The airline took another above-and-beyond action, too…
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Shaina added that American Airlines “even called me when [Will] and I were eating lunch together to let me know his gate changed.” Everyone with the power to help came together to make sure one frightened Will made his flight!
Finally, after a meal and pleasant conversation, Shaina walked Will to his gate. American Airlines took over from there, and the gate clerk “made sure he boarded safely to go see his Mom for Christmas.”
Just as Shaina (pictured with her husband here) promised, Will made his flight! Later, she beautifully reflected on her hectic day at the airport. “Today was not at all what I pictured it to be,” she wrote. “It has turned out so much better…”
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Her account of the day continued: “I had an amazing lunch with a wonderful young man from Louisville, Kentucky. While I don’t know him well, I know he has a heart of gold and a wonderful mother and sister, who he loves very much.”
There’s no denying it: airports are stressful. They’re loud, crowded, and at times they feel like a labyrinth no map can navigate you through. But Shaina sacrificed her easy traveling experience and spent more time in the chaos for a stranger. That’s pretty amazing!
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Of course, Shaina couldn’t have done it alone, and she acknowledged everyone who played a big role in getting Will on his flight. “American Airlines handled the situation with such professionalism and care,” she wrote. “The medical team [was] also just as amazing.”
Most importantly: Shaina acknowledged a truth everyone could stand to hear. “Every once and awhile we all need a little help. Regardless of disability, age, or social status. Thanks for making my day Will!”
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Although Shaina wouldn’t likely ever see Will again, the day she spent with him might have changed her whole life—and his. It just goes to show you that a little kindness and sacrifice can go a long way!
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