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Road Warriors: NHTSA Combats Drowsy Driving (VIDEO/AUDIO)

CLEVELAND -- Look for public services announcements, education campaigns, tougher laws, and signs on the road to combat the latest menace on the roadways: drowsy driving. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has unveiled its national plan Monday, March 20 to combat fatigued drivers on road, the latest target after the NHTSA first looked at decreasing drunk driving and then went after distracted drivers.

"Drowsy driving impairs your reaction time, impairs your ability to think of two things at once, and it also impairs your memory of where you're going," says Kingman Strohl, MD, Program Director of Sleep Medicine at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center.  "So your brain is trying to go to sleep while you're trying to drive a car and that's not a good combination."

That combination, according to the NHTSA, caused 72,000 police-reported crashes, resulting in 41,000 injuries and 800 deaths in 2015. But those official numbers underestimated the real impact, according to the campaign authors, who estimate as many as 7 percent of all crashes and 16.5 percent of fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver, resulting in as many as 8000 deaths a year. And operating a vehicle while sleep deprived affects one group more adversely than others -- risk-takers in the 16 to 24 year old age bracket who are twice as likely as 40 to 59 year olds to fall asleep at the wheel.

"Drowsy driving deaths and injuries are higher than that for drunk driving in the teenage years," says Dr. Strohl. He says 
rolling down the window, turning on the air conditioner, or chewing gum are all not good strategies but coffee and a twenty minute nap might prove more effective. "Any amount of sleep is better for prevention of drowsy driving than any other particular skill or particular medication."

Dr. Strohl recommends at least six hours of sleep a night, which can be difficult in a 24/7 world of babies crying, late night partying, all-night studying, long work days, and holiday travel. "Those long drives on monotonous roads after a night of sleep deprivation can be deadly," says Dr. Strohl.

Are Catholics smarter during Lent? (VIDEO/AUDIO)

CLEVELAND -- For centuries, Catholics have eaten fish on Fridays -- after Vatican II in 1965, just during Lent -- as a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross and his desire to make the apostles, many who were fishermen, "fishers of men."

It turns out the practice of eating fish might not just have spiritual significance but also health benefits as well.

"Part of having a heart-heathy but also a brain-healthy diet is eating a lot of fish that are high in Omega-3 fatty acids," says Brian Appleby, MD, a neurologist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. "Those who take Omega-3 fatty acids are at lower risk of developing dementia." 

Fish like salmon and cod are called "brain food" because of their high amounts of Omega-3s, a fat that helps the brain. Dr. Appleby also suggests eating fish is good because it's used as a substitute for red or processed meats, which, in excess, can harden or clog arteries, potentially leading to heart problems.

So even with breading and dunked in oil, fish is healthy?

"You still get the benefits of Omega-3 fatty acids at fish fries but you also get the fat and the grease from the frying as well," says Dr. Appleby, "so there's definitely a preference for baked fish."

Some recommendations call for four servings of fish a week, which shouldn't prove too daunting, according to Dr. Appleby, who points out a large piece of salmon can count for two servings plus two tuna fish sandwiches can meet the weekly goal.

While there are Omega-3 supplements, Dr. Appleby says studies show people who get Omega-3s from eating fish appear to do better. "There may also be something specifically in fish that may be helpful."

Got Milk? The Moo-ve to Milk-Alternatives (VIDEO/AUDIO)

CLEVELAND -- Milk has been called "nature's perfect food" but can you improve on perfection?

Plant-based milks, like soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk and a variety of other non-dairy alternatives, are moo-ving in on cow's milk for space on store shelves and refrigerators, providing a lower-calorie, lactose-free, vegan-friendly alternative.

But not so fast putting cow's milk out to pasture.

"Cow's milk (is) high in protein, it's a natural source of calcium, and it's also fortified with vitamin D and A," says Lisa Cimperman, RD, a clinical dietitian at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center. "Most of these plant-based milks have very little protein."

Protein can make you feel fuller for longer and the saturated fat in cow's milk is one source for toddlers from one- to three-years old to get the important nutrient for brain development.

"A lot of consumers might choose a plant-based milk like almond milk or cashew milk because it's far lower in calories than even skim milk," says Cimperman. But critics argue some plant-based milks are mostly water and are often artificially-sweetened. "If you're buying plant-based milk, get the unsweetened version," Cimperman recommends.

For now, plant-based alternatives make up less than 10 percent of the market but that's growing and even the term "milk" has come under question for any of these drinks that don't come from a cow. "You'd be hard-pressed to think of a different terms," says Cimperman in defense of what to call these alternatives.

So, according to Cimperman, it comes down to personal choice: protein, saturated fat, and no sugar for milk versus less calories, no lactose, and vegan-safe for plant-based milks.

"I don't think there's no nutritional hierarchy here where I would place cows' milk above all else or almond milk above all else," says Cimperman. "It really does come down to individual preferences and what they're needs are."

Essential Oils: Healing Essential or Slick Fad? (VIDEO/AUDIO)

CLEVELAND -- You've heard the buzzwords "alternative medicine" and "holistic treatments," particularly as a backlash against traditional medicine. But it shouldn't come as a surprise treatments like aromatherapy are making a comeback since they've been around six thousand years, more than twice as long as Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine. 

"Over the last maybe thirty years, it's been used more in the Western World.," says Francoise Adan, MD, Medical Director of the University Hospitals Connor Integrated Health Network about treatments like aromatherapy. Adan is a proponent of using essential oils, the extracts of plants, seeds, and blossoms that comprise the foundation of aromatherapy, as a supplement to traditional medicine rather than a replacement.

"It's important to remember that it has no medical claims, therefore it's not controlled by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA)," says Dr. Adan. "But can it help to decrease some symptoms? Absolutely!"

Adan says these oils can help relieve pain, stress, depression, anxiety, itching, vomiting, and nausea, among other symptoms, and 40 percent of Americans are using complementary and alternative modalities. But she stresses to keep your doctor informed if you're using non-traditional treatments and to follow the guidance of someone who's trained in these disciplines. She also says be mindful of allergies and other possible side effects, particularly if you're pregnant. "It's important to know when not to use it," says Dr. Adan.

You can burn these oils, place a few drops in your bathwater, even ingest them. and the fact you're even considering them could be the first step in feeling better. "You make a commitment to yourself, doing something for you, putting yourself first and that in itself is a great step,"  says Dr. Adan.

Dementia Claim Proves Former Teen Idol Not Teen Anymore (RAW)

CLEVELAND -- This will make Baby Boomers feel old -- former teen idol David Cassidy says he's battling dementia. The 66-year-old singer and actor will step back from touring to battle the disease.

"The lifestyle factors are the most imporant ways of managing dementia," says Brian Appleby, MD, geriatric psychiatrist at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, "things like depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, those conditions can speed the illness up. And also making sure you're staying socially active and mentally stimulated when you're starting to have memory problems."

Cassidy starred as Keith Partridge on the ABC sitcom "The Partridge Family" from 1970 to 1974 and toured the world singing hits like "I Think I Love You." He has continued to perform for nearly a half century. Cassidy has battled alcohol addiction in the past with three arrests for driving under the influence between 2010 and 2014.

"Certainly, you can get dementia from either the vitamin deficiencies or heavy alcohol use," says Dr. Appleby about  the link between drinking and the memory disease.

Dr. Appleby says the number one risk factor of dementia is age and Cassidy has said both his grandfather and mother suffered from disease.

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