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Text messages reduce problem drinking in adults, study shows

Researchers at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health have found that text messaging is an effective tool to reduce heavy drinking in adults seeking help on the internet.

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Researchers at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research at Northwell Health have found that text messaging is an effective tool to reduce heavy drinking in adults seeking help on the internet. The results of the first-of-its-kind study, published today in PLOS ONE, show that when drinkers received adaptive tailored texts, their drinking reduction was similar to many in-person moderation treatments.  

texting

Cutting down on social or binge drinking can be challenging, especially when undertaken alone. Many support groups, therapists and counselors are available to help those diagnosed with alcohol dependency, but for those who aren’t diagnosed or don’t want to seek help from others, it is a struggle to find adequate resources to effectively reduce drinking. Behavioral health issues such as heavy drinking often require multiple support systems, and recent evidence suggests that text messaging may help to reduce problem drinking as an extension to in-person services. But very little is known about the effectiveness of remote messaging on problem drinking as a stand-alone intervention. There also is little known about how different types of messages may improve outcomes in those seeking to moderate their alcohol consumption.

Frederick Muench, PhD, associate professor at the Feinstein Institute and director of Northwell Health’s Digital Health Interventions in Psychiatry, and his team conducted a 12-week, single-blind, randomized, controlled pilot study with 152 participants seeking to reduce their drinking. This was the first study of its kind to recruit a remote population from across the country and deliver an automated mobile intervention for problem drinking. They compared four different types of alcohol reduction-themed text messages that were sent daily to weekly drinking tracking messages. The four types of text messages were 1) loss-framed texts, 2) gain-framed texts, 3) static tailored texts, and 4) adaptive tailored texts.

  • Control group: Weekly drink self-tracking mobile assessment texts: This group was designed to be a self-monitoring control. Participants in this condition were informed that they were in a drink-tracking program and received four questions about the past week’s drinking once weekly. If participants did not respond to the first text within a half hour, the system resent the text up to three more times over the course of the next two hours. If participants did respond to the first text, the system would then send the second question. Participants in all messaging conditions received the weekly drink self-tracking mobile assessment texts as their base program.
  • Loss-framed texts: Loss-framed texts were sent at 6 p.m. daily and focused on the consequences of problem drinking. For example: “Think of all you have lost as a result of drinking too much. Make today a day that sets the stage for change.”
  • Gain-framed texts: Gain-framed texts were sent at 6 p.m. daily highlighting the benefits of reducing drinking to safe guidelines. For example: “Think of all you can achieve if you can control your drinking. Make today a day that sets the stage for change.”
  • Static tailored texts: Static tailored texts were tailored text messages sent at 6 p.m. daily and were based on individual responses to the baseline assessment. Tailoring included conforming to the day of the week (e.g. a specific message on Friday night referencing the weekend) and modifying to the day in the program (e.g. “It’s been three weeks since you’ve signed up…”). Approximately 50 percent of messages were tailored based on participant gender, age, binge vs. daily drinking habits, solitary vs. social drinking habits, consumption severity, etc.
  • Adaptive tailored texts: Adaptive tailored texts included all static tailored texts features along with three additional components. First, messages individuals received over the course of a week varied based on their goal achievement in the prior week. Second, two additional messages were sent that at their heaviest typical drinking times. Third, participants were able to proactively text the automated system key words in order to receive just-in-time support, followed by a number of text-based check-ins. Key words included: tempt for support to manage a craving to drink, drink for support when the participant had started drinking, heavy for support when the participant had started drinking heavily, win for support either when the participant succeeded at managing a craving or when the participant succeeded in drinking no more than their moderate drinking goal for the situation, and regret for support after failing to moderate.

Results from the study show that all groups significantly reduced different aspects of problem drinking compared to weekly tracking, but that adaptive tailored texts had the largest effect sizes in helping adult problem drinkers reduce drinking frequency and quantity. Those who received adaptive tailored texts reduced their weekly alcohol consumption by 9.64 drinks, compared with a 2.5-drink decrease in the control group. Furthermore, remote automated text messages delivered daily were more effective than once-a-week self-tracking messages. When asked if they would like to continue receiving messages for an additional 12 weeks at the end of the study, 80 percent of participants said yes.

“I am very encouraged by what I see in this study, especially for individuals with limited resources,” noted Dr. Muench. “Today, text messaging is part of our daily routine. If we could find a way to make this subtle but effective communication help those who are trying to drink less succeed when they need encouragement most, we have created something that can positively impact the 15 million American adults living with an alcohol use disorder.”

“Dr. Muench’s study is a great example of how the Feinstein Institute harnesses the power of technology to better understand and treat health conditions,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute.

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Health

Self-care for sick days

To help navigate this cough, cold and flu season, consider these tips.

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Cooler weather inevitably means cough, cold and flu season isn’t far behind. Now is the time to take precautions and set yourself up with healthy habits.

“As much as we try, avoiding viruses, bacteria and germs to prevent getting sick can be a challenge,” Dr. Tim Tiutan, MD, said. “However, being prepared with the right remedies, listening to your body and its symptoms and remaining diligent with a healthy routine is just as important as treating symptoms head on.”

To help navigate this cough, cold and flu season, consider these tips from Tiutan and the experts at Mucinex.

Prepare and Prevent
You won’t find a foolproof way to keep germs away, but you can lessen your chances of getting sick and make sure you’re equipped to weather an illness.

  • Practice healthy habits. Keeping your body in prime condition can help ensure you’re in the best condition possible to fight back when germs attack. That means keeping up with exercise and ensuring you’re getting enough vitamins and nutrients through a well-balanced diet.
  • Get a flu shot. The flu shot gives your body a head start in fighting back against flu bugs. If you’re exposed to the flu after receiving the shot, your body can immediately go on the offensive against those germs. You may not stay completely symptom-free, but you’re more likely to experience a mild case and be back on your feet quicker.
  • Restock the medicine cabinet. The start of cough, cold and flu season is an ideal time to dig through your medicine cabinet. Start by discarding any medications that are out of date and make a list of anything you need to replenish. Be sure to include pain relievers, fever reducers, decongestants, antihistamines and cough syrups to fight symptoms. It’s also a good time to restock items like tissues, cough drops, hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soap.

Treat Symptoms
Although the flu can hit fast, it’s often hard to tell at first whether your symptoms are due to a simple cough, cold or a case of the flu. Either way, managing symptoms like a cough can bring relief and help you keep comfortable and get plenty of rest.

  • Give your body time to heal. Sleep plays an important role in your overall health, especially when you’re under the weather. On average, you need 7-9 hours each night to give your body enough time to fully recharge. When you’re sick, you likely need even more, and it’s a good idea to dial back your activity level, too. Pushing your physical limits often only delays your recovery time.
  • Take medications as directed. Nagging symptoms can often keep you from getting the sleep you need. One way to give your body the break it needs is to effectively manage symptoms. A hacking cough is a common symptom that can be painful and disrupt your sleep. Consider an option like Mucinex DM 12-Hour, a cough suppresent which relieves chest congestion and thins and loosens mucus, giving you an extended reprieve. It’s clinically proven to last up to 12 hours, provides relief for chest congestion and makes coughs more productive.

Prevent Spread
Getting sick may be beyond your complete control, but you can take steps to protect others from germs when you’re feeling ill.

  • Keep germs to yourself. Washing your hands often, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and sneezing into your elbow if you don’t have a tissue are simple ways you can limit the spread of germs, especially within your home or workspace. Frequently wiping down high-touch surfaces can also help reduce the spread of germs.
  • Skip socializing. If you’re feeling under the weather, stay home. Even a mild cold can easily spread, and an illness that affects you mildly could cause significant distress for someone else. Avoid unnecessary errands and take advantage of services like curbside pickup if you must get out. Also check with your employer about working remotely if you’re up to it.

Cold vs. Flu
There’s a lot of overlap between cold and flu symptoms, so it can be tricky to figure out whether the bug you’re fighting is a cold or influenza and how to tackle it.

While both the common cold and the flu are respiratory illnesses, they are not caused by the same viruses. Although colds are inconvenient, they are far less likely to develop into anything more serious, as the flu can.

What is a Cold?
Generally, colds are milder than the flu, and more likely to cause runny or stuffy noses (while the flu can cause stuffy or runny noses, it’s less likely to do so). You won’t feel good, but you’ll probably be able to do some or all of your daily tasks. The flu typically hits harder, making it difficult to go to work or follow your usual routine.

What is the Flu?
The flu often feels worse than a cold; you might experience the same symptoms but amplified. The flu comes with more pain and fever than a cold. Common flu symptoms include sore throat, chills, fever, runny or stuffy nose, muscle fatigue or aches and headaches. The flu can also develop into more serious conditions and complications, making it more dangerous than the average cold. While the common cold is rarely serious, the flu can be dangerous for young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

Treating a Cold vs. Flu
You can be vaccinated against the flu. There is no such vaccine for common colds. If your provider recommends it, getting the flu vaccine each year can go a long way toward preventing sickness.

Whether you have a cold or the flu, symptom relief is largely the same. Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of fluids and take over-the-counter medicines to relieve symptoms. Stay home to avoid spreading sickness. Wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

Watch for shortness of breath, chest or abdomen pain, confusion, sudden dizziness, severe or persistent vomiting and flu symptoms that improve then return with fever and worse cough. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult a doctor.

Find more ways to stay healthy and limit symptoms by visiting Mucinex.com.

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Health

5 Tips For Proper Oral Care

It’s crucial that you practice proper oral care, by following these habits.

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They’re incredibly important, yet so many people take them for granted—our teeth. A healthy smile is an important part of your overall health since your teeth are such an important and useful part of your body.

It’s crucial that you practice proper oral care, by following these habits.

Always Brush Before Bed

Dentists recommend brushing your teeth three times a day to ensure you remove harmful buildup. However, not everyone manages to make it to three, which isn’t the end of the world. Yet, if there’s one of these three brushing times that you absolutely can’t get away with skipping, it’s nighttime.

At night, your teeth have all of the food that you ate throughout the day, and also germs that cause bad breath. When you go to bed without brushing you’re allowing all of that to sit on your teeth for the duration of however long you sleep, which is usually about 8 hours. Yuck!

Visit Your Dentist

Brushing your teeth daily is already a great step towards overall tooth health. However, there are some things that a toothbrush simply can’t do. It’s important that you see a dentist regularly to get cleanings and address dental issues.

Sometimes despite our best efforts to brush, we still develop cavities. Unfortunately, this is just the way things are. A dentist can help us identify these cavities, and fill them as soon as possible so they don’t turn into something more serious like a root canal.

Floss

Despite having the best toothbrush on the market, there are crevices and cracks in your mouth that even the best toothbrush can’t touch. In addition to brushing, you should make sure that you floss.

Flossing won’t just reduce your risk of developing cavities, but it can significantly improve your breath. There are all sorts of germs and bacteria lurking in between your teeth, and flossing can get rid of that. If you notice that your breath still isn’t entirely fresh even after brushing, then pull out the floss and you’ll notice a big difference.

Avoid Sugar

There are plenty of things that are less than ideal for your health. However, most health professionals agree that one of the worst things for you is sugar and your dentist feels the same. The less sugar you eat, the healthier your teeth will be, as sugar eats away at your tooth enamel.

If you do eat sugar, make sure that you brush your teeth after. One of the worst things you can do is eat sticky candy which leaves behind residue on your teeth and is the perfect recipe for cavities.

Avoid Acidic Foods

In addition to sugary foods, acidic foods are also your teeth’s worst enemy. From coffee to citrus fruits, limit the number of acidic beverages and foods you consume, and your tooth enamel will greatly thank you for it!

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Health

Tips for walking 20,000 steps a day

To walk 20,000 steps a day you’ll need to cover a total of 10 miles. This may seem like a lot, but it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds.

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Photo by Sincerely Media from Unsplash.com

To walk 20,000 steps a day you’ll need to cover a total of 10 miles. This may seem like a lot, but it’s actually not as difficult as it sounds. Here are a few tips to help you reach your goal:

Invest in a Good Pair of Shoes

The first step to walking 20,000 steps a day is to make sure you have the right equipment. Investing in a good pair of walking shoes will help to prevent blisters and injuries, and make the walk more comfortable overall.

Make Walking Part of Your Daily Routine

To reach your 10-mile goal every day, make walking a part of your daily routine. This might mean taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from where you’re going so that you have to walk more. You can also try waking up a few minutes earlier each morning to fit in a walk before you start your day.

Join a Walking Group

If you’re having trouble finding time to fit in 10 miles each day, consider joining a walking group or taking part in a local 5k race. This will help keep you motivated and provide social support along the way.

Start Small

Don’t try to walk 20,000 steps all at once. Start with a smaller goal, such as 5,000 steps per day, and gradually increase your mileage as you become more fit. This will help you avoid injury and burnout.

Stay Hydrated

Make sure to stay hydrated while walking by drinking plenty of water throughout the day. This will help you feel more energized and prevent dehydration-related issues, such as muscle cramps or fatigue.

The Bottom Line – BetterMe Can Help You Walk More, Every Day

If you’re looking to improve your overall health, walking 20,000 steps a day can help. This simple form of exercise offers a host of health benefits, from improved sleep and digestion to reduced stress and anxiety. To reach your goal, use the BetterMe Blog as a guide and stay committed every day. With enough dedication, you can achieve your fitness goals and transform your body for the better.

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