• Keira Miller(NORCROSS, Ga.) -- In lieu of the traditional ringing of the bell, Josh Libman recently celebrated the upcoming end of his cancer treatment with tubas, drums, flutes, saxophones and pom-poms, all courtesy of the efforts of registered nurse Alane Levy.Libman, 32, of Norcross, Georgia, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer this summer and in July his left lower leg had to be amputated. That surgery was followed by rounds of grueling chemotherapy, requiring him to stay in the hospital for days.Levy learned of his plight this summer, when she came across Libman's story in a Jewish mothers Facebook group."I reached out to the family and said, 'This is who I am and this is what I do and I would like to take care of Josh and the family through this entire process. Instead of writing a check, I'll give myself,'" said Levy, who cares for people in their homes post-surgery.Levy said she was with the family since before Libman's amputation and had even stayed with him in the hospital."It has been my honor to be part of their family and to take care of them," she said.With Libman nearing an end to treatment, Levy said, she wanted him to be able to ring a bell, a tradition for cancer patients ending treatment in hospitals across the nation. Libman has one round of chemotherapy and a surgery left.Levy, however, said that Libman was on a floor with sickle-cell anemia patients and there was no bell."I just wanted him to have that memory," she said.So Levy improvised, big time. She reached out to the band leader at Norcross High School, Libman's old high school, and asked for help.On Thursday, the entire band -- all 150 students -- marched down Libman's street and appeared in front of his home to play. In the front, band members carried a poster with a message for Libman: "You are loved.""We believe!" the band members chanted as Libman stood by. "We believe that Josh will win! We believe that Josh will win!"Levy had prepared Libman for the band's arrival, telling him to grab his jacket, a hat and his crutches, but even she was not ready for the celebration that was in store. Levy had only expected about 50 students to show up."They were the best, most beautiful bell I could've ever thought of," she said. "Josh was so excited. I was so excited. And, I couldn't think of anything better to do."
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The new recommendations on blood pressure from the American Heart Association (AHA) will significantly increase the number of Americans diagnosed with hypertension, particularly in younger age groups.The number of adult women under 45 with the diagnosis will double, while the number of adult men under 45 will triple. The number of Americans that are recommended medical treatment will only increase slightly.The AHA recommends “lifestyle modification” as a first line treatment. However, it is not always clear to patients which lifestyle modifications are the most effective. The below descriptions summarize which lifestyle modifications are recommended by the AHA, based on the latest available research.Diet changesThe single intervention with the greatest documented effect on blood pressure is the “DASH” diet, a well-studied diet that encourages fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and discourages foods high in saturated and total fats. Research shows that this diet can lower systolic blood pressure (the top number) by approximately 11 mmHg. In addition, the guidelines recommend low-sodium diets (goal less than 1,500 mg per day, with the best effects seen at less than 1,000 mg per day), and diets rich in potassium (dried apricots, avocado, salmon, green leafy veggies and bananas). Low sodium and high potassium diets can lower systolic blood pressure by approximately 4-6 mmHg.Weight lossLosing weight improves health and well being in many capacities, but exactly how much to lose may be different for everyone. For those over 5 feet tall, an “ideal body weight” can actually be calculated mathematically. These numbers will change based on how tall you are, and the calculations are different for men and women. Formulating an individualized numerical goal in this way can help people reach a healthy body mass index.A normal, healthy BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 may be a good long-term goal, but in order to get there most physicians recommend losing 1 kilogram (or about 2.2 lbs.) at a time. The average American can expect a 1 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure for every 1 kilogram reduction in body weight.ExerciseAerobic exercise yields the most benefit in lowering blood pressure. What constitutes enough? The experts say 90-150 minutes per week with heart rates up to 65-75 percent of one's heart rate. For strength training, the AHA recommends dynamic and isometric resistance exercises.Dynamic exercise is any exercise that involves joint movement, such as bicep curls, tricep dips or squats.Isometric exercise is typically done against immovable objects and includes planks, wall-sits and boat pose.Experts say weight training should be done three times per week and benefits are usually seen after 8-10 weeks of practicing.All of the above activities were seen to benefit people with hypertension with studies indicating a decrease of systolic blood pressures of approximately 4-8 mmHg.Alcohol consumptionFor drinkers, limiting the amount of alcohol consumed has a beneficial impact on blood pressure. Studies find that drinking in moderation lowers systolic blood pressure by up to 4 mmHg. For men, AHA recommends drinking less than or up to two drinks daily, and for women only up to one drink daily. In fact, decreasing alcohol intake even proved to reduce blood pressure in patients who had not been diagnosed with hypertension yet.Consult with a health care professionalWhile the above recommendations can change blood pressure for a large share of those with hypertension, there are still millions of Americans for whom lifestyle modifications are not enough. Consult with your health care professional to see which intervention, medication or otherwise, is right for you.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The American Heart Association has changed the definition of hypertension for the first time in 14 years, moving the number from the old standard of 140/90 to the newly revised 130/80.The change is outlined in the American Heart Association 2017 Hypertension Practice Guidelines, an extensive report by experts without relevant ties to the pharmaceutical industry.The changes are expected to drastically impact adult Americans: revising the hypertension threshold downward will increase the percent of U.S. adults living with high blood pressure from 32 percent to 46 percent -- nearly half of the adult population. It will also disproportionately affect younger people by tripling the number of men under 45 and doubling the number of women under 45 with the diagnosis.The new guidelines reflect years of research, which have shown that people within the new range of blood pressure defined as hypertension have doubled their risk of cardiovascular problems in the future, such as heart attacks or strokes. As such, health care professionals should be identifying these patients and helping to initiate interventions to bring down blood pressure.While the new guidelines significantly increase the number of Americans with a diagnosis of hypertension, they do not suggest a proportionate increase in treating with medication. The number of Americans with hypertension who are recommended for medical treatment would increase by only 4.2 million adults, or 5 percent more than were previously recommended. Medication will be recommended for patients with previous cardiovascular events, such as heart attack, or significant cardiovascular risk factors determined by factors such as age, blood tests and having other medical conditions that increase risk of heart attack.The study authors recommend lifestyle changes, including exercise, diet modifications and weight loss, as the first step to reducing high blood pressure.Doctors in the guidelines stress the importance of using two separate blood pressure readings on two different occasions to diagnose hypertension. They recommend that those with hypertension use approved blood pressure monitors at home. Writing down these readings at home can help tell the difference between people with truly abnormal blood pressure and those with “white-coat syndrome” -- with high blood pressure only under stress like at the doctor’s office.High blood pressure increases the risk of cardiac problems and strokes, and is sometimes called “the silent killer” because so many adults live with high blood pressure and don’t know it.To help understand the new hypertension guidelines and how they affect managing your health, see your healthcare professional.
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  • (NEW YORK) -- Chuck Schretzman is a 26-year Army veteran and former West Point football player. His wife Stacy too starred as a college athlete at Army and then at Bentley.Since retiring from the army, life has taken an unexpected turn for the Schretzman's, presenting them with a serious and unexpected challenge.Set to take a job in the civilian sector, Chuck was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrphic lateral sclerosis), also known as "Lou Gerhig's Disease," in 2015 shortly after his retirement. The two are now documenting Chuck's ALS journey in the new documentary series "Behind ALS," sponsored by Cytokinetics.The couple recently spoke to ABC News about how the disease has affected their lives and what they are doing to spread awareness about it.Chuck noticed he was struggling with balance just after he received his job offer in his post-army career. After medical professionals initially concluded Chuck did not have ALS, they re-examined him and diagnosed him with the disease.Stacy told ABC News the diagnosis was "very scary," especially as they witnessed how the disease took hold of Chuck's life. He lost strength and his speech was slurred and altered.Physical therapy became an important part of Chuck's life. Stacy says it is very important for him to improve strength so that he can continue standing. As a former athlete, Chuck cherishes physical activity and does not want to be helped with much, even if it is just taking a cup out of the cupboard.His physical therapist is a "battle buddy," Stacy says, and he pushes Chuck even on the days when he is feeling down or sad.Chuck and his wife both admitted that it is quite easy to fall into a state of sadness while battling ALS, which is when they say they look back on the lessons they learned as cadet-athletes.Chuck approaches his battle the same way he did when he faced opponents on the football field: "one game at a time."As he reflects on how he processes the disease, Chuck tells ABC News:"I get up today, I walk today... tomorrow is not a guarantee. Live in the moment, live every day like one game at a time... one play at a time... I can't look at the big picture... and you learn that from sports." The couple takes a game-by-game, or a day-by-day approach, because of the unpredictable affects ALS can have on his body. One day, Chuck could be feeling fairly strong, but that can change within a 24-hour span.Chuck and Stacy call it Chuck's "mental strength" that allows him to carry on each day and allows him to continue succeeding in physical therapy and doing the things he wants to do in his everyday life. It is that mental strength they took from their days as athletes and they have applied it to their latest challenge.For more on Chuck and Stacy Schretzman's story, their documentary series “Behind ALS” can be found here.Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is being sued by a 12-year-old Colorado girl suffering from epilepsy who aims to legalize medical marijuana nationwide.Alexis Bortell, along with her father and other plaintiffs, including former NFL player Marvin Washington, filed suit in the Southern District of New York against the attorney general as well as the Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Agency.Many states now allow use of marijuana for at least some medical reasons. The lawsuit filed in July seeks to make medical marijuana legal across the U.S."This lawsuit stands to benefit tens of millions of Americans who require, but are unable to safely obtain, cannabis for the treatment of their illnesses, diseases and medical conditions," the suit states.Alexis, whose family moved to Colorado from Texas to take advantage of the state’s legalization of recreational and medical marijuana, had been suffering since she was 7 from a form of epilepsy that cannot be safely controlled with FDA-approved treatments and procedures, the lawsuit says.As a result, she often had multiple seizures a day. "Nothing she tried worked," the suit states. When her family finally tried a form of marijuana, the girl found "immediate relief from her seizures.""Since being on whole-plant medical cannabis, Alexis has gone more than two years seizure-free," the suit says.The suit contends that Alexis won’t be able to return to her native Texas -- where she hopes to attend college -- because she would be subject to arrest if she continued to use marijuana to control her seizures.ABC News reached out to the Justice Department for comment on the lawsuit but did not get an immediate response. Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
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  • Courtesy Nia and Robert Tolbert(WALDORF, Md.) -- One couple, who welcomed a child in 2011, then twins in 2015, are now expecting triplets next year.Nia and Robert Tolbert of Waldorf, Maryland, couldn't believe their luck when they discovered at a routine prenatal doctor's visit back in August that they were expecting three girls."When we were expecting twins, our technician that was doing the ultrasound asked if multiples ran in our family. So this time around, the technician asked the same thing and I thought, 'Oh, we must be having twins again,'" Nia Tolbert, 28, recalled to ABC News.But when doctors eventually told her she was having triplets, she admitted "everything kind of spiraled out of control."Nia Tolbert decided to share the big news with her husband of three years in a special way -- by leaving Robert Tolbert, 31, a giftbag coupled with a handwritten note.Initially, he thought the gift bag contained a FitBit, since he'd been hinting at getting one for weeks, Robert Tolbert told ABC News. Instead, he found out just what would help keep him running around the house -- three more children.On a handwritten card, Nia Tolbert wrote: "Please accept this gift from me and God.""I opened the bag and I saw a very, very long sonogram," Robert Tolbert continued. "Then I saw three onesies in the bag ... and they were numbered 1, 2, and 3."The now father of six admitted that he "fainted" when he realized what his wife was telling him. "I was just shocked," he added. "I just went straight to bed."The growing family has since recovered from the shock, and now can't wait to expand their family."We’re already planning for our new our household. It's going to be equally balanced now -- with three little girls and three little boys," Nia Tolbert noted."But we're not too concerned," she added. "I know we’re not going to sleep for a couple years, our grocery bill is going to go up, and our house is not going to be quiet and that's OK."
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