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Addiction

What Killed Cory

Chris Pizzello/AP

‘Glee’ star Cory Monteith overdosed on a cocktail of heroin and alcohol. Dr. Kent Sepkowitz on the strange history of the addictive drug that ruled the ’60s.

Canadian health authorities announced yesterday that Cory Monteith, a star from the hit TV show Glee, died of an overdose of heroin and alcohol. With the disclosure, Monteith joined the long and sad list of entertainers who died a drug-related death, either from too much, such as Monteith, or too many, such as Elvis, who at autopsy had 11 different prescription medications in his bloodstream.That Monteith would die of heroin in the year 2013 might seem surprising.

Sweetness

That Diet Soda Might Make You Fat

J Pat Carter/AP

A new study says the artificial sweeteners in soda can cause serious health problems, including weigh gain. Is that enough to make you give up Diet Coke? Eliza Shapiro reports.

More bad news for dieters: your Diet Coke isn’t any better for you than regular soda.A new study has found that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda can cause weight gain, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and heart disease, adding to mounting research about the potential health risks of diet soft drinks. And that’s not all—the study also found that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda can interfere with your body’s normal response to sugar, deregulating normal blood sugar levels even more than regular soda.

American Diets

What’s Really Killing Us

Tetra Images/Corbis

While heart-healthy diets are ridiculed as ‘no fun’ or extreme, the medical community pushes more pharmaceuticals and costly invasive cardiac treatments. Neither is working, says Dr. Daniela Drake.

“I dropped dead three years ago,” John Tanner told me recently. “I just collapsed when I was taking my daily jog.” Luckily for Tanner—who’s now very much alive—his fall was witnessed and resuscitation efforts began immediately.Sudden cardiac death, which Tanner suffered, strikes 350,000 people a year, killing nine of 10 victims. This year, 2013, marks the two-year anniversary of Medicare’s coverage of intensive cardiac rehabilitation, a diet and lifestyle program for people already diagnosed with heart disease.

Health Care

Your Work vs. Your Weight

Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

Employers may think they’re encouraging healthful habits by charging overweight workers more for insurance. Three new studies suggest that approach may backfire.

Bosses can make you come in on a Sunday morning or cut your vacation short. But can they make you lose weight?More and more companies are saying yes—and not only can your company encourage you to get healthy, it can punish you for being overweight, usually by raising your health-care premiums.That’s right—being unhealthy could start digging into your paycheck.About 18 percent of workplace wellness programs include some kind of penalty for employees who don’t get healthy—and a 2010 survey by Hewitt Associates found that percentage is expected to rise to 47 percent by 2015.

Bad News

You’re Covered in Fungus

Richard Hutchings/Corbis

Thanks to new technology, we know now exactly which microbes are crawling behind our ears, between our eyebrows, and especially on our feet. Kent Sepkowitz explains the gross new study.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a newly invented scientific doodad must, soon after its debut, be used for a study aimed at grossing out a large swath of the human population. For example, early on, the microscope was used to study pond water, which was teeming with paramecia; ether led to the theatrical display of amputations; and the CT scan revealed the humbling knobs and gnarls of our innards.Now, this century’s most powerful new research tool, gene sequencing, has been dispatched to show us just how completely slimed our skin is with all manner of bacteria and fungi.

You’ve Been Rinsed

About That Cleanse…

Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star, via Getty

The celeb-endorsed craze promises to flush your body of icky impurities with a flood of juice. Consumers love it, but medical professionals aren’t convinced, Lizzie Crocker reports.

Summer’s in full swing, so if you’re still trying to squeeze into that bathing suit and want an excuse to “detox” at the same time, you should probably ask yourself: What Would Gwyneth Do? Cleanse, of course.It’s the hottest health trend around—a variety of celeb-endorsed regimens that promise not only to help you lose weight, but to flush your body of so-called toxins, too. These poisonous invaders, from processed foods and pesticides to alcohol and “free radicals,” supposedly make us sick, fat, and generally miserable (even if we don’t know it) and prevent our bodies from being the lean, disease-fighting, cell-regenerating machines they’re meant to be.

Doctor’s In

Maybe You’re a Sociopath

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A dishy book from an avowed sociopath has stirred up an awkward debate: perhaps all of us have a bit of the personality disorder. Caitlin Dickson on why that may not be such a bad thing.

M.E. Thomas describes herself as a cutthroat attorney who sailed through law school without much effort, landed a position at a prestigious law firm, and then became a professor. She also claims to fantasize about murder, drops friends when their personal problems get in the way of her fun, and plots ways to “ruin people” in her spare time. She straddles a fine line between success and failure, with the traits that have gotten her ahead simultaneously contributing to her periodic downfalls.

Disorder

An Epidemic of Over-Diagnosis

Matt Rourke/AP

More and more people around you are being diagnosed with depression or ADHD, but is that an illusion? There is an epidemic in America, but it’s not an epidemic of psychiatric disorders—it’s an epidemic of over-diagnosis that’s making billions for pharmaceutical companies and the doctors prescribing these drugs.

The next time you’re in a crowded room, look around. A scary percentage of the people in the room with you are suffering from a mental disorder.Or at least that’s what we’ve been led to believe, that the United States has a crisis on its hands when it comes to mental illness. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the most recent edition of the bible for psychiatric diagnosis, offers up the current "official" view on what the establishment believes separates the normal from the disordered.

Heart Attack 101

What Killed Tony Soprano?

Mary Evans/HBO, via Everett Collection

If ‘Sopranos’ star James Gandolfini died of a heart attack, as initial reports suggest, he would have been the victim of an all-too common disease.

James Gandolfini, the actor who made the violent Tony Soprano a strangely assuring presence, died suddenly in Italy on Wednesday. Details are lacking, but most reports suggest that he had a heart attack. He was 51 years old.Given the numbers, a cardiac event is indeed the likeliest cause of Gandolfini’s sudden death. Other causes of sudden death, including a blood clot to the lung, a stroke, or a ruptured aneurysm, are possible as well, but for the sort of shocking speed that seems to have characterized this event, a heart attack is most likely—it is overwhelmingly the most common and the most swift.

Dumb & Dumber

This Is Your Brain on Dots

Front Image: David Duprey/AP; Background: Betaworks One, Inc.

It’s easy to spend hours playing a game on your phone if you think you’re buffing your brain. Unfortunately, in the case of the new craze Dots, any mental benefits are far from clear.

Before I begin, a brief note to those of you who may be uninitiated: If you don’t know yet what Dots is (which is unlikely, since the game just hit its three millionth download), please click away to another article. Maybe something on the G8 conference. And for God’s sake, don’t download Dots. Just don't.  I won't say anything more. But trust me.  Still with me? The American-made Dots, as you know, is the cleanest, sleekest, most pointless time-killer of a mobile game ever invented, sprinting past last century's wondrous Tetris (developed in Russia), and the totally 2009 Angry Birds (a Finnish product).

5 Secrets for Better Health Care

Johns Hopkins Hospital surgeon Marty Makary shares the five insider tips to getting top-notch medical care. First stop? The internet.

  1. Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That? Play

    Why Is the Penis Shaped Like That?

  2. The Number: $5.7 Billion Play

    The Number: $5.7 Billion

  3. The War on Waxing? Play

    The War on Waxing?

Books

Healthy Reads

The Happiness Project

The Happiness Project

The famous Grant Study tracked hundreds of Harvard men from youth to death to determine what predicts contentment.

Waste

Has the War on Cancer Failed?

Unlikely Cures

An Epidemic of Absence

A Selfish Read

What Richard Dawkins Reads

Nicomachean

How to Be Ethical