Chatbot to replace humans at National Eating Disorders Association helpline — and other health news you may have missed

Apart from social media's "profound risk" to young people, what else is going on in the wellness space? Here are some of this week's top health stories from Yahoo News partners.

Chatbot will replace humans at National Eating Disorders Association helpline

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is replacing hundreds of staffers and volunteers with a chatbot named Tessa, People reported.

According to an NPR report, in March helpline staffers notified NEDA of their intent to unionize after volunteers and staff reported feeling overwhelmed by the increase in call volume during the COVID-19 pandemic. Four days later, during a virtual staff meeting, NEDA's board chair, Geoff Craddock, fired all of the helpline staff members and said they were shutting down the helpline and transitioning to a chatbot named Tessa.

Ellen Fitzsimmons-Craft, a professor of psychiatry whose team developed Tessa, told NPR that while the chatbot was designed to be “empathetic,” “it is not, again, a human,"

“It’s not an open-ended tool for you to talk to and feel like you’re just going to have access to kind of a listening ear — maybe like the helpline was,” Fitzsimmons-Craft said. “It’s really a tool in its current form that’s going to help you learn and use some strategies to address your disordered eating and your body image.”

The helpline, which was used by nearly 70,000 people last year, is no longer taking new calls or messages and is transitioning to Tessa in June.

Women may have higher risk of dying after heart attacks than men, study finds

Researchers in Portugal found that after a heart attack, women may be more likely to die or "suffer adverse outcomes" compared to men of a similar age, NBC's "Today" show reported.

The retrospective observational study, which was presented on Monday to the European Society of Cardiology, involved 884 patients admitted to the hospital with ST-elevation myocardial infarction — a serious type of heart attack with higher risk of complications and death. After adjusting for risk factors and other health conditions, researchers found that "after 30 days, 11.8% of women studied had died compared to 4.6% of men." After five years, nearly one-third of women had died versus 16.9% of men, and "34% of women experienced a major adverse cardiovascular event within five years of their heart attack compared to 19.8% of men."

Study author Mariana Martinho said that the data highlights a need for increased awareness of heart attack outcomes in women.

Although both men and women tend to report chest pain, women may also experience symptoms not often associated with a heart attack, like shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, or dizziness. Yet Martinho told “Today” that even when women do present with chest pain or seek care immediately, they may not receive treatment as quickly.

“Some studies suggest that physicians take longer to diagnose and treat [the heart attack in women],” she said.

New HIV infections are down, but disparities still exist

Estimates in a report released on Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that new HIV infections are down, but that progress is still marred by racial disparities, USA Today reported.

Overall there were 12% fewer new HIV infections in 2021 compared to 2017, according to federal data. Young people ages 13 to 24 experienced the biggest drop, with 3,200 fewer cases.

For young gay and bisexual white males, new infections decreased 45%; but in the Black and Hispanic and Latino communities, new infections dropped by 27% and 36%, respectively.

Black women also made up the largest portion of new cases among women, “with 2,900 cases in 2021 compared with fewer than 1,000 among Hispanic, Latino and white women who contracted it through heterosexual contact,” according to USA Today.

Study finds that multivitamins may boost memory in older adults

A study published on Wednesday by researchers at New York's Columbia University and Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital found that multivitamins may boost memory function in adults over 60, the Associated Press reported.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, Mars Edge — a division of the company Mars — and Pfizer and Haleon, both of whom make multivitamins.

Over the course of three years researchers tracked more than 3,500 participants over age 60, with some randomly assigned to take a daily multivitamin and others given a placebo. Using internet-based exams to annually measure memory function, researchers concluded that memory had improved for participants taking the multivitamin compared with those taking the placebo and estimated the improvement "was equivalent to about three years of age-related memory decline."

The Associated Press reported that Adam Brickman, a neuropsychologist who led the research, said that while the study provides important information about multivitamins and their use, it wasn’t “comprehensive enough to warrant broad recommendations to take vitamins,” and more research is needed to know which nutrients might provide a memory boost.

The answer to whether multivitamins actually have any health benefits has been murky for some time. But Brickman said that "well-designed research studies are showing that there might indeed be some benefits."

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