Results are in: Calories through the nose, geography of colon cancer

Yale researchers uncovered a link between the ability to vividly imagine pleasant scents and body mass index (BMI).

Story highlights

  • A greater-than-normal ability to imagine smells is linked to higher BMI
  • 83% of health care workers showed up to work sick, says new study
  • Phthalates are chemicals in some plastics that are linked to diabetes, high blood pressure

(CNN)Here's the fascinating research we're watching from around the world. CNN Health & Wellness has gauged these studies' potential impact on our health.

The hidden link between smell and obesity
Remember the smell of fresh-baked bread? Love the scent of popcorn? Yale researchers have uncovered a link between a person's ability to vividly imagine pleasant scents and body mass index (BMI). Not everyone is equally able to conjure up smells, it turns out, unlike the nearly universal ability to imagine visuals. Does this mean that daydreaming about the smell of delicious food will lead you down the path to obesity? Not necessarily, researchers say, but the study did mention that imagining food odors might trigger cravings. The authors, who presented their research at a medical conference, also suggest this finding could help doctors create a more individualized approach to help people fight weight gain.
    When your doctor makes you sick, not better
    Some doctors should follow their own advice: Stay home if you're sick. A recent survey from the journal JAMA Pediatrics looked at the habits of nearly 500 healthcare providers and found 94% agreed that working while sick puts patients at risk. But 83% of workers still showed up to care for patients, even with contagious symptoms such as diarrhea, fever and respiratory problems. The reasons for not using sick days? Cultural pressure to work through sickness and not wanting to let down patients, survey responders said. While 40% of lost time from work is due to the common cold, there are good reasons for staying home until you're well again.
    Blood pressure goals may be inaccurate, leading some older adults to sickness
    Current blood pressure (BP) guidelines might be too lenient, leaving some older adults untreated for hypertension, according to a study from the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation. Researchers analyzed data from 6,000 people and found that 16.6% fall between the new BP upper limit (150/90 mmHg) and the old BP upper limit (140/90 mmHg). This finding comes after heart experts updated their guidelines regarding what blood pressure level is considered healthy -- a move that caused some debate among experts. More lenient guidelines may miss at-risk older adults who need treatment, which could lead to future cardiovascular disease.
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    The new plastic chemical making us sick
    You might want to rethink some of your household plastics, according to a new study released Wednesday in the journal Hypertension. NYU researchers found that a group of man-made plastic chemicals called phthalates -- di-isononyl phthalate (DINP) and di-isodecyl phthalate (DIDP) -- are linked to high blood pressure and diabetes in kids and teenagers. Plastic manufacturers began using these two phthalates as "safer" replacements for another chemical, DEHP, which has previously been proven harmful. Best way to dodge these chemicals? Experts say don't microwave foods held in plastic containers or covered by plastic wrap, and wash plastic by hand instead of the dishwasher. They also recommend avoiding containers with the numbers 3, 6, and 7 inside the recycling symbol, as these contain phthalates.
    Geography makes a difference for colon cancer screening
    Where you live may play a big role in colon cancer death rates, says a new study from the American Association for Cancer Research. While colon cancer deaths have dropped since 1985, thanks to advances in screening, three current "hot spots" show some regions are still at risk. In the lower Mississippi Delta, the death rate is actually 40% higher than the rest of the country, and west-central Appalachia and eastern Virginia/North Carolina also have higher-than-average death rates. But colonoscopy intervention screenings can save lives, says the study, and the FDA agrees: If caught on time, at least 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented.