Patti Neighmond

You could say 36-year-old Matt Ray works in paradise — on a barrier island off the Florida's southern coast. As athletic director of the Anna Maria Island Community Center, Ray is doing what he loves.

"I grew up playing sports," he says. "I actually played two years of college basketball. So sports have pretty much been my entire life."

Participation in sports by girls and young women has soared in recent decades — by 560 percent among high school students since 1972, and 990 percent among college students, according to the Women's Sports Foundation. Highly committed young female athletes now run track and play soccer, basketball, water polo and other demanding sports that require strong bodies.

Five years ago, New Orleans attorney Ermence Parent was struggling to find out what was wrong with her leg. She was 58 years old, and her right leg hurt so much that she needed a cane. That was not only painful, but frustrating for a woman who routinely exercised and enjoyed it. Parent sought advice from several doctors and a chiropractor, but got no diagnosis.

When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005 most residents evacuated safely. But thousands lost homes, careers, and the lives they had known. Since then, many seem to have recovered emotionally from the trauma. But some have not.

Playing sports has always been important to 31-year-old Erik Johanson, a city planner in Philadelphia. Johanson thrived in baseball and ice hockey as a kid, he says — "one of the best players on the team in high school."

Today, Johanson is married and expecting his first child but is still passionate about ice hockey — and about winning. He plays on a highly competitive team of guys who got together after college and still play weekly in an adult league; they hope to take the crown this year.

If you had chickenpox as a child, then you're at risk for shingles. As you age, the risk increases, probably because the immune system weakens over time.

The varicella zoster virus can hide in the body over a lifetime and suddenly activate, causing a painful, blistery rash. Even when the rash disappears, pain can linger and worsen, causing a burning, shooting, stabbing pain so severe it can leave people unable to sleep, work or carry on other activities.

Some antidepressants may increase the risk of birth defects if taken early in pregnancy, while others don't seem to pose the same risks, a study finds.

The question of whether antidepressants can cause birth defects has been debated for years, and studies have been all over the map. That makes it hard for women and their doctors to make decisions on managing depression during pregnancy.

Amy Roegler and her husband, Octavio Herrera, live with their young kids, Jake and Alyssa, in Los Angeles. When it comes to pro baseball, they're all Dodgers fans. And Jake loved balls even as a baby, Octavio says.

"We have a picture of him as a 3-month-old with a little Dodger jersey and a glove," Octavio says. "So he was definitely going to be introduced to sports early, and he took to it right away." Today 10-year-old Jake is on his baseball league's All-Star team.

Parents, take note! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's vaccine committee has expanded its recommendation for immunization against meningitis B, a rare but potentially deadly strain of meningitis.

The committee's revised guidance, issued late last week, broadens the group of young people that the CDC thinks should consider getting the shot, and increases the likelihood that health insurance policies will pay for the injection.

Fryman Canyon is one of those special places in the city of Los Angeles — a bit of country and canyon nestled just off the crest of Mulholland Drive, with gorgeous views of the valley and mountains.

It's favored by the canine set — my two dogs love it here — and on any given morning I'm sure to run into fellow canyon lovers, like Stacy Maes and her energetic weimaraner, Astrid.

We all know that listening to music can soothe emotional pain, but Taylor Swift, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys can also ease physical pain, according to a study of children and teenagers who had major surgery.

Medical researchers have known for several years that there is some sort of link between long-term depression and an increased risk of stroke. But now scientists are finding that even after such depression eases, the risk of stroke can remain high.

Terri Bradford has suffered debilitating headaches all her life. Some days the pain is so bad, she says, "By 11 o'clock in the morning, I'm on the couch in a darkened room with my head packed in ice."

Over the years, Bradford, who is 50 years old and lives in Bedford, Mass., has searched desperately for pain relief. She's been to the doctor countless times for countless tests. "Everything I've had, I've had twice," she says. "I've had two spinal taps; I've had so many nerve blocks I've lost count."

We know that sitting all day is hazardous to our health, increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, inflammation and atherosclerosis. It all sounds pretty dismal, since many of today's jobs require us to be nearly glued to our computer screens. But a tiny two-minute break may help offset that hazard, researchers say.

People who got up and moved around for at least two minutes every hour had a 33 percent lower risk of dying, according to researchers the University Of Utah School Of Medicine.

This makes total sense: When you're engaged in an activity you truly enjoy, you're happy. And, when you're happy you're not dwelling on all the negative things in life, nor are you stressed about obligations or problems. Certainly this is a good thing from an emotional point of view, but it also has physical benefits.

We know exercise reduces stress, but it turns out that more simple stationary things, like doing puzzles, painting or sewing can help, too.

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