Physical therapy for a sprained ankle may be no more effective than self-treatment at home, a randomized trial reports. Canadian researchers randomly assigned 503 patients ages 16-79 to one of two groups. The first received up to seven sessions of supervised physical therapy, with isometric resistance exercises, strength training, stretching and other guided techniques. The second was sent home with instructions for the usual care — a sheet listing information about keeping the ankle elevated, applying compression and ice, and gradually increasing movement and weight bearing. The study, in BMJ Open, used a questionnaire that assesses quality of life, pain, symptoms and function in daily activities and sports. It found no clinically significant differences between the groups.

ATMs covered in skin, food microbes

Whenever you withdraw money from an ATM, it deposits microbes onto you. Researchers swabbed the keypads of 66 ATMs at banks, bodegas and other places across New York City and found that ATMs are mostly covered in microbes from human skin. But they also found that in addition to leaving bits of ourselves behind whenever we touch the keypads, we also litter the machines with leftovers. Traces of chicken, fish and other seafood were among the most commonly found microbes.

Negative outlook may be bad for the heart

A pessimistic attitude increases the risk for death from heart disease, a new study reports, while an optimistic outlook may have no effect at all. Finnish researchers followed 2,267 men and women 52-76 years old. At the start of the study participants were asked to rate, on a 0 to 4 scale, how well six statements applied to them. The text was either positive or negative. The researchers also recorded their cholesterol, blood pressure and other measures. The study is in BMC Public Health. During 11 years of follow-up, 122 people died from coronary heart disease. After controlling for smoking, diabetes and other factors, the scientists found that those in the highest one-quarter of scores on pessimism were more than twice as likely to die of heart disease as those in the lowest one-quarter. But being optimistic had no effect.

Vitamin D linked to prolonged survival

Higher vitamin D levels may be linked to longer breast cancer survival. Researchers used data on 1,666 Kaiser Permanente breast cancer patients, testing their vitamin D blood levels and following their health for seven years. The study is in JAMA Oncology. Compared with women whose vitamin D levels are under 17 nanograms per milliliter, women with levels higher than 25 had a 28 percent higher likelihood of surviving over the course of the study, even after adjusting for tumor stage and other factors. For premenopausal women, the effect was stronger. Those with the highest vitamin D levels were 55 percent more likely to survive.

Exercise might help fight depression

Exercise may be an effective treatment for depression and might even help prevent us from becoming depressed in the first place, according to three new studies that pool outcomes from past research involving more than 1 million people. When researchers divided the group into thirds based on how aerobically fit they were those men and women with the lowest fitness were about 75 percent more likely to have been given diagnoses of depression than the people with the greatest fitness. The men and women in the middle third were almost 25 percent more likely to develop depression than those who were the most fit.

New York Times