Family Health

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Eating Chocolate May Be Good for Your Health
Here’s some good news for chocolate lovers, just in time for the holidays. A study recently reported in the British Medical Journal found that individuals who consumed the most chocolate were 37 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disorder and 29 percent less likely to have a stroke than those who ate the least amount of chocolate.

For the study, researchers looked at the eating habits of more than 100,000 people. Those who had consumed the most chocolate, whether from baked goods, candy or ice cream and milkshakes, fared best, showing a reduction in the likelihood of heart disease and stroke. Earlier studies have shown that antioxidants and anti-inflammatories in cocoa products may improve blood flow and help with the regulation of insulin levels, which could help explain the study’s findings.

UNC Hospitals Opens Inpatient Perinatal Psychiatry Unit
A five-bed unit for women with moderate to severe postpartum depression opened this fall at UNC Hospitals and is the first of its kind in the United States. Studies show that 10 to 15 percent of women experience postpartum depression; approximately 5 percent of those will need specialized inpatient care. The new unit offers individualized treatment plans with a multidisciplinary approach. Some of the treatments offered include biofeedback therapy, mother-infant attachment therapy, family and partner-assisted interpersonal psychotherapy, protected sleep times and therapeutic yoga. Lactation, nutrition and obstetric-gynecologic consultation is also available.

Teens and Sleep Deprivation = Risky Behavior
A survey released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control shows that sleep deprivation may significantly increase the likelihood that teens will engage in risky and potentially dangerous behaviors. According to the survey, teens who get fewer than eight hours of sleep per night are 60 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol and an astonishing 86 percent more likely to seriously consider suicide. Teens who are chronically tired from lack of adequate sleep are also likely to fight, have sex and use drugs more often than their peers who get more sleep.

For more information on this study and on sleep issues for teens and all age groups, visit the CDC’s website at

Health Supplements: Helpful or Hazardous?
Tainted or adulterated products can cause serious damage to the kidneys and liver, as well as cause heart attack and stroke. Products manufactured overseas may not be subjected to the same safety standards in the manufacturing process as those made in the United States and some other developed nations. Consumers are advised to use caution in taking supplements and, if used, to purchase from makers of legal dietary supplements, such as GNC and other makers that label ingredients and use U.S. quality control standards in the manufacturing of their products.

For more information, visit the Food and Drug Adminstration’s website at

How to Prevent Pink Eye
More than 164 million school days are missed annually in public schools in the United States due to the spread of infectious diseases, according to data from the American Journal of Infection Control. Approximately 3 million of those lost days are attributed to acute conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says good hygiene, such as careful washing of hands, is essential to prevent spreading of infection. The Academy cautions that the following behaviors in school and day care settings or at home can exacerbate the spread of conjunctivitis:

• Reusing handkerchiefs and towels when wiping the face and eyes.
• Forgetting to wash hands often.
• Frequently touching the eyes.
• Sharing pillowcases with an infected person.

For more information on conjunctivitis and other eye diseases and conditions, visit the public education website of the American Academy of Ophthalmology at

Katherine Kopp is a freelance writer with a special interest in health and medicine, and has three daughters.