The Heart

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Three daily servings of dairy may keep your heart healthy

A large observational study recently published in the journal The Lancet examines the link between the consumption of whole-fat dairy and cardiovascular health.
dairy products
Dairy products may benefit cardiovascular health, says new research.

The United States Department of Agriculture and American Heart Association (AHA) both recommend that adults do not exceed three servings of low-fat dairy per day.

The high content of saturated fat found in dairy products, they warn, may raise the levels of "bad" cholesterol, which poses a threat to cardiovascular health.

However, new research is challenging these guidelines.

For instance, a recent study has suggested that the fatty acids found in whole-fat dairy may have a protective role against heart disease and stroke.

Now, a large-scale observational study has reviewed the dietary habits of over 130,000 people in 21 countries across five continents and found that whole-fat dairy correlates with a lower risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Mahshid Dehghan — from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada — is the lead author of the new research.

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Whole-fat dairy lowers mortality risk

Dr. Dehghan and colleagues used food questionnaires to collect self-reported data on the eating habits of 136,384 people over a follow-up period of 9.1 years. The people surveyed were aged between 35 and 70, and the dairy products they consumed were milk, yogurt, and cheese.

For the purposes of the study, a portion of dairy comprised either a glass of milk of 244 grams, a cup of yogurt of 244 grams, a 15-gram slice of cheese, or a 5-gram teaspoon of butter.

Based on these intakes, the team divided the volunteers into four groups: those who consumed no dairy, those whose intake did not exceed one serving per day, those who consumed one to two servings daily, and the "high-intake" group, who consumed over two daily servings — or 3.2 servings, on average — every day.

The study revealed that people in the high-intake group were less likely to die from any cause, less likely to die of cardiovascular disease, and less likely to have a stroke or develop major heart disease.

Also, within the group that regularly consumed full-fat dairy only, the researchers found that the more whole-fat dairy was consumed, the lower the risk of mortality and cardiovascular issues.

"Our findings support that consumption of dairy products might be beneficial for mortality and cardiovascular disease, especially in low-income and middle-income countries where dairy consumption is much lower than in North America or Europe."

Dr. Mahshid Dehghan

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Should dietary guidelines be changed?

Although this is an observational study that cannot confirm causality, the results suggest that some saturated fats in whole-fat dairy could benefit cardiovascular health, as do some vitamins and calcium. Does this mean that the current dietary guidelines should be changed?

Previous research that found similar results suggested that the guidelines do need revising. However, a linked commentary written by Jimmy Chun Yu Louie, at the University of Hong Kong, and Anna M. Rangan, from the University of Sydney in Australia, explains why that may not be such a good idea yet.

"The results from the [...] study seem to suggest that dairy intake, especially whole-fat dairy, might be beneficial for preventing deaths and major cardiovascular diseases," they write.

"However, as the authors themselves concluded, the results only suggest the 'consumption of dairy products should not be discouraged and perhaps even be encouraged in low-income and middle-income countries.'"

"[The study] is not the ultimate seal of approval for recommending whole-fat dairy over its low-fat or skimmed counterparts," they add. "Readers should be cautious, and treat this study only as yet another piece of the evidence (albeit a large one) in the literature."

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Health benefits of hemp seeds

Many people consider hemp seeds to be a superfood. The seeds have a rich nutritional profile and provide a range of health benefits.

Although hemp seeds come from the Cannabis sativa plant, they do not produce a mind-altering effect.

These small, brown seeds are rich in protein, fiber, and healthful fatty acids, including omega-3s and omega-6s. They have antioxidant effects and may reduce symptoms of numerous ailments, improving the health of the heart, skin, and joints.

In this article, we look at the various benefits of hemp seeds and provide tips for adding them to the diet.

Nutritional benefits of hemp seeds These seeds are full of nutritious compounds, including: 1. Protein Benefits of hemp seeds
Hemp seeds are a complete source of protein, providing all nine essential amino acids.

Hemp seeds contain almost as much protein as soybeans. In every 30 grams (g) of seeds, or about a tablespoon, there are 9.46 g of protein.

These seeds are a complete source of protein, meaning that they provide all nine essential amino acids.

Amino acids are the building blocks for all proteins. The body cannot produce nine of these acids, so a person must absorb them through the diet.

Relatively few plant-based foods are complete sources of protein, making hemp seeds a valuable addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Hemp seeds are especially rich in an amino acid called arginine, which has benefits for heart health.

2. Unsaturated fats

The health benefits of polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids, are becoming increasingly well known.

Hemp seeds are a great source of essential fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3.

The body cannot produce essential fatty acids, and the body must absorb them from the diet. They are crucial for long-term health.

The ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s is also important.

In general, people tend to eat too many omega-6s and too few omega-3s, but adding hemp seeds to the diet may help to promote a balance.

According to results of a 2015 animal study, incorporating hemp seeds and hemp seed oil to hens' diet led to eggs with increased levels of omega-3s in the yolks and a more healthful omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.

Also, hemp seeds are low in saturated fats and contain no trans fats.

3. Fiber

Much of the fiber in a hemp seed lies in its outer hull, or shell. If possible, purchase hemp seeds with the hulls intact.

However, even without the shells, hemp seeds are a god source pf fiber, with three tablespoons containing approximately 1.2 g of fiber.

Consuming enough fiber every day can:

4. Minerals and vitamins

Hemp seeds contain an impressive array of vitamins and minerals and are especially rich in:

They are also a good source of iron, zinc, and B vitamins, including:

niacin riboflavin thiamine vitamin B-6 folate Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Health benefits of hemp seeds Alongside the nutritional benefits, some research suggests that hemp seeds have a wide range of positive health effects. They may: 5. Protect the brain Benefits of hemp seeds brain
The CBD compound found in hemp seeds may help with neurological conditions. A study published in the journal Food Chemistry found that hemp seed extract has antioxidant effects in lab tests. These effects may result from the seeds' cannabidiol (CBD) content. Results of a review from 2018 suggest that CBD and other compounds in the seeds may have neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, effects and may also help to regulate the immune system. The review suggests that, because of these potential properties, CBD may help with neurological conditions, including: 6. Boost heart health The medical community believes that omega-3 fatty acids improve the health of the heart and reduce the risk of issues such as arrhythmias and heart disease. Hemp seeds contain high levels of omega-3s and a healthful ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. The seeds also contain high levels of arginine, an amino acid that turns into nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is essential for artery and vein dilation, and it helps keep blood vessel walls smooth and elastic. Lowering blood pressure, eating a healthful diet, and participating in varied forms of exercise may help to decrease the risk of heart failure. 7. Reduce inflammation The amount of omega-3s in hemp seeds and the seeds' healthful omega-3 to omega-6 ratio can together help to reduce inflammation. In addition, hemp seeds are a rich source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid which may also have anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies on animals suggest that GLA can act as a potent anti-inflammatory. However, recent studies in humans suggest that the acid is not always effective. A review in The European Journal of Pharmacology states that humans process GLA in a very complicated way, which may explain why the studies in humans produce more varied results than those on animals. When looking at these studies, it is important to note that researchers usually use high concentrations of hemp seed extracts and that eating the seeds may produce less dramatic effects. Reducing inflammation may help manage the symptoms of chronic diseases, such as: 8. Improve skin conditions Atopic dermatitis (AD) and acne can both result from chronic inflammation. The anti-inflammatory compounds in hemp seeds may help. Among other possible dietary causes, acne may be linked to a deficiency in omega-3s. The high omega-3 content in hemp seeds may help to manage and reduce acne symptoms. A 2018 review explored the effects of dietary changes on skin diseases. While the authors found evidence that eating more omega-3s may improve symptoms of acne, determining the extent of the effects will require more research. The authors also note that prebiotics and plant fibers may help to manage symptoms of AD. Hemp seeds are a rich source of plant fiber. 9. Relieve rheumatoid arthritis Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition. It causes the immune system to attack its own tissues, which leads to inflammation in the joints. In 2014, research conducted in human cells suggested that hemp seed oil could have anti-rheumatic effects. However, a 2018 review found a lack of conclusive evidence to suggest that cannabinoids could effectively treat rheumatic diseases. The authors noted that more research is needed. Nutritional profile of hemp seeds Hemp seeds contain plenty of protein, healthful fatty acids, and fiber. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds contain 116 calories and the following nutrients: Protein 9.47 g Carbohydrates 2.60 g Fat 1.20 g Total fatty acids 14.62 g Monounsaturated fatty acids 1.62 g Polyunsaturated fat 11.43 g Saturated fatty acids 1.38 g Hemp seeds are also a healthful source of vitamin E and minerals, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today How to add hemp seeds to the diet Benefits of hemp seeds cereal
People can add hemp seeds to smoothies and cereal. When considering the results of studies, it is important to note that researchers often use hemp seed extract, rather than whole hemp seeds. People can purchase shelled, ground, or split seeds. To remove the seeds' hard outer shells at home, a person can use a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Whole seeds act as a bulking agent, and they also add fiber to the diet, which can aid digestion. Try incorporating hemp seeds into the diet by: sprinkling whole or ground seeds on cereal or yogurt adding the seeds to smoothies baking with hemp seeds and others rich in omega-3s making hemp milk at home using whole seeds sprinkling hemp seeds, along with other seeds or nuts, on a salad People can find hemp seeds in some supermarkets, health food stores, and online. Online stores also offer other hemp products, such as hemp milk, which may be fortified with extra nutrients, and hemp protein powder, which is a plant-based alternative to whey protein powder. Risks Although hemp seeds come from the cannabis plant, they ideally contain no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the active ingredient in cannabis. Hemp seeds will not produce a mind-altering effect. However, athletes and others who undergo drug testing should be aware that consuming hemp products can, in some cases, lead to failed urine tests. The level of THC in any hemp-based product depends on the suppliers and the manufacturing process. In Canada, the production of hemp seeds is tightly regulated to prevent cross contamination of THC from the cannabis plant. A legal principle in the U.S. prohibits people from growing hemp seeds with THC concentrations higher than 0.3 percent. The U.S. government also strictly regulates the importation of hemp seeds and hemp-based products. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Takeaway Hemp seeds have a rich nutrition profile. They contain high levels of antioxidants, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins. The shells add fiber to the diet, and grinding the seeds helps the body to absorb more of the other nutrients. Some research has suggested links between hemp seeds and health benefits, but these studies tend to use extracts with high concentrations. While there are potential health benefits to consuming hemp seeds, avoid eating excessive amounts. There is evidence that some seeds contain levels of THC that exceed the legal limit. The most healthful choice is to eat a varied diet that contains a wide range of nutrients.
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Walking may prevent heart failure in senior women

New research examines the effect of walking on two subtypes of heart failure in aging women. The findings were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure.
senior woman walking
Senior women, walking could do wonders for your hearts.

According to recent estimates, almost 5 million people in the United States have congestive heart failure.

Over half a million cases are diagnosed each year.

Despite its name, "heart failure" does not mean that the heart has stopped working completely, explain the American Heart Association (AHA).

In congestive heart failure, the heart is not pumping blood as well as it should be.

Heart failure occurs in two main ways: either the muscles of the heart weaken, or they become stiff and lose their elasticity.

Although the condition affects people of all ages, it is more prevalent among seniors over the age of 60. The AHA recommend that people at risk avoid smoking, exercise more, and eat heart-healthy foods.

A new study delves deeper into one of these potential strategies for prevention. Researchers from the University of Buffalo in New York set out to investigate how walking affects two heart failure subtypes: reduced ejection fraction heart failure, and preserved ejection fraction heart failure.

Michael LaMonte, a research associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, led the study.

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Studying walking and heart failure in women

Reduced ejection fraction heart failure occurs when the heart's left side pumps less blood into the body than normal.

Specifically, the normal ejection fraction — which measures how much blood is pumped out of the left ventricle into the body in one heartbeat — is over 55 percent. In reduced ejection heart failure, this rate drops to 40 percent or under.

In preserved ejection fraction heart failure, this rate may be over 50 percent and thus appear to be normal. However, if the heart muscles are too thick or stiff, the initial amount of blood that the ventricles can hold may already be too small for what the body needs.

As LaMonte and team explain, the first form of heart failure has a poorer outlook, whereas the second form is more common in seniors and tends to affect women and ethnic minorities in particular.

The researchers examined the link between physical activity levels as reported by 137,303 people who registered in the Women's Health Initiative, a long-term study of postmenopausal women.

Then, the scientists zoomed in on a subgroup of 35,272 women who lived with either one of the two subtypes of heart failure.

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Why walking is 'particularly important'

For each additional 30–45 minutes of daily physical activity, the risk of developing heart failure was reduced by 9 percent for heart failure in general, by 8 percent for preserved ejection fraction heart failure, and by 10 percent for reduced ejection fraction heart failure.

Crucially, while walking and physical activity correlated inversely with heart failure risk, the intensity of the physical activity did not have any effect; this suggests that the amount of activity is what matters.

"The finding that walking showed a protective association with heart failure and its subtypes is particularly important in a public health context. This is especially relevant given that walking is by far the most commonly reported physical activity in older adults."

Michael LaMonte

"This is the first study to report physical activity levels are related to a lower risk of developing heart failure with reduced ejection fraction in older adults, particularly in women," highlights LaMonte.

"This is pretty important from a public health standpoint, given the poor prognosis this type of heart failure has once it's present," he adds.

"Because heart failure is much more common after age 60," he says, "and because its treatment is very challenging and costly, the possibility of preventing its development by promoting increased physical activity levels, and specifically walking, in later life could have an important impact on the overall burden of this disease in an aging society."

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Common painkiller poses risk to heart health

One of the most widely used painkillers may pose a threat to cardiovascular health. This is the main takeaway of new research, recently published in The BMJ.
painkillers
Common painkillers may hide major risks, says a new study.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are widely used to alleviate pain.

In fact, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 30 million people in the United States take NSAIDs each year.

While NSAIDs are commonly recommended to treat inflammatory conditions, headaches, and fever, the drugs are thought to have some cardiovascular risks.

However, due to ethical concerns, these risks cannot be evaluated in clinical trials.

The European Society of Cardiology therefore carried out an extensive review of existing research that concluded that nonaspirin NSAIDs should not be prescribed to individuals at high risk of heart disease, nor should they be sold over the counter without issuing an "appropriate warning of their frequent cardiovascular complications."

Now, a new study focuses on one NSAID in particular: diclofenac. Scientists led by Morten Schmidt, at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, set out to investigate the cardiovascular risks of taking this common painkiller, which some rank as "the most widely used [...] NSAID in the world."

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Schmidt and team examined 252 national studies for information on over 6.3 million Danish people over a period of 20 years in 1996–2016. On average, the participants were aged 46–56.

During the study period, the researchers examined the cardiovascular risks of taking up diclofenac and compared them with the risks of starting paracetamol, ibuprofen, or naproxen.

After accounting for potentially confounding factors, the researchers found that within 30 days of taking up diclofenac, the rate of major cardiovascular problems — such as arrhythmia, ischemic stroke, heart failure, and heart attack — was much higher compared with other NSAIDs.

Specifically, the risk of such adverse cardiovascular events was 50 percent higher among those who started taking diclofenac, compared with those who did not take it. Compared with taking paracetamol or ibuprofen, taking diclofenac raised cardiovascular risk by 20 percent.

Additionally, write the authors, "Diclofenac initiation [...] increased the risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding [...] by approximately 4.5-fold compared with no initiation [and] 2.5-fold compared with initiation of ibuprofen or paracetamol."

The cardiovascular threat also increased with the risk at baseline. In other words, the higher the risk of heart problems when the patients started taking the drug, the higher the risk of actually developing heart problems over the course of the treatment.

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"Diclofenac poses a cardiovascular health risk compared with non-use, paracetamol use, and use of other traditional nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs," explain the authors.

Although the study is observational, they say — which means that no conclusions can be drawn about causality — the large sample size and the quality of the research is sufficiently "strong evidence to guide clinical decision-making."

"Treatment of pain and inflammation with NSAIDs," explain the authors, "may be worthwhile for some patients to improve quality of life despite potential side effects."

"Considering its cardiovascular and gastrointestinal risks, however, there is little justification to initiate diclofenac treatment before other traditional NSAIDs."

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Is there a link between acid reflux and palpitations?

Palpitations are irregular heartbeats that can occur sporadically or frequently. Although palpitations have many direct causes, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the long-term and frequent occurrence of acid reflux, is unlikely to be one of them. However, acid reflux shares some of the same triggers as palpitations and may also lead to them indirectly.

The primary symptom that acid reflux does cause is a burning pain in the chest and upper abdomen, which occurs due to stomach acid leaking back into the food pipe.

In this article, we look at heart palpitations in more detail, including the common causes of palpitations and how they might relate to acid reflux.

What are palpitations? Heart palpitations represented by model fo a heart over a stethoscope.
A palpitation is an irregular heartbeat.

Palpitations are irregular heartbeats that can make a person feel as though their heart has skipped a beat. The heart may also feel like it is fluttering in the chest.

Other people with heart palpitations may feel that their heart is beating harder than usual or beating too fast in comparison to its regular rate.

Much of the time, heart palpitations are harmless, and people can think of them as a speed bump in the heart's natural rhythm.

Other times, heart palpitations may signal a problem with the heart or other organs.

Some people experience heart palpitations regularly while others may only have them on rare occasions.

Acid reflux and causes of heart palpitations While acid reflux will not usually be a direct cause of heart palpitations, it may lead to them indirectly. For instance, if a person with GERD feels stressed or anxious about their symptoms, this may lead to palpitations. Several factors may also trigger both acid reflux and heart palpitations. When this happens, it is easy to confuse the causes. For example, alcohol consumption may cause palpitations in some people, and it can also trigger GERD symptoms. Likewise, too much caffeine may sometimes trigger GERD symptoms, and the effects of caffeine can also cause skipped heartbeats or palpitations. Eating too much, or eating a particularly heavy meal, may also cause both heart palpitations and acid reflux in some people. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Other causes of heart palpitations Other possible causes of palpitations can include: illegal drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine smoking tobacco smoking marijuana pregnancy some stimulating medications electrolyte imbalance, such as low potassium levels low blood sugar sickness Some medical conditions may cause palpitations, including: Symptoms of heart palpitations Man touching chest in doctors office explaining heart problem
A fast heartbeat is a potential symptom of heart palpitations. The symptoms of heart palpitations can vary from person-to-person, but may include: a fast or racing heartbeat the heart pounding in the chest or beating very hard a fluttering sensation in the chest a feeling of the heart skipping a beat a "flip-flopping" sensation in the chest, as though the heart has turned over These sensations are due to either premature atrial contractions (PACs) or premature ventricular contractions (PVCs). Both of these are extra beats in the heart that happen just before the regular heartbeat, causing the person to feel an odd sensation. Severe symptoms are also possible alongside heart palpitations. These may include: chest pain breathing difficulty cold sweats feeling dizzy or fainting tightness, pain, or pressure in the shoulder, neck, or jaw When they occur together with heart palpitations, these symptoms may signify a heart condition or medical emergency. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should seek emergency medical attention. Diagnosing heart palpitations To diagnose heart palpitations, doctors will first perform a physical exam and ask about any symptoms. It may be beneficial for people with heart palpitations to keep a daily journal of their symptoms to discuss with the doctor at the appointment. The doctor may do some physical checks, such as listening to the heart with a stethoscope or checking the thyroid gland for swelling. Much of the time, they will also order one or more tests to examine the heart in more detail. Possible tests include: Electrocardiogram (ECG) An ECG records impulses in the heart. Doctors may order an ECG to track the rhythm and beats of the heart and check for irregularities. Holter monitor If a simple ECG does not capture any irregularities, doctors may have the person wear a Holter monitor. A Holter monitor is a portable ECG that records the heart for an extended continuous period, potentially 24 hours or more. This may be helpful for people who only have palpitations in specific situations, such as when lying down or after a meal. Event recorder If palpitations are less frequent, a doctor may ask the individual to wear an event recorder. An event recorder only records the heart when prompted. The user pushes a button when they feel the palpitation, and the recorder picks it up for the doctor to examine later. People may wear event recorders for much longer than Holter monitors, sometimes keeping them on for up to several weeks. Ultrasound Doctors will sometimes order an ultrasound of the chest, called an echocardiogram, to view the heart and see how it is looking and working. Blood tests Some blood tests may help diagnose underlying causes, such as anemia or thyroid problems. Thank you for supporting Medical News Today Treatment for heart palpitations Woman drinking from mug with headphones in relaxing to mindfulness or meditation app
Meditation and deep breathing exercises may help treat stress-related palpitations. Doctors usually only treat heart palpitations related to more severe heart conditions. The treatment can vary in each case, and doctors will thoroughly discuss all of the person's options with them. For common heart palpitations, a doctor may recommend lifestyle changes. If palpitations seem to occur around the same time as GERD symptoms, it is likely to be because of the meal the person just ate. They may be consuming meals that are too large, or their body may be sensitive to a specific food that they are eating. People can often identify trigger foods by keeping a daily journal of what they eat and any symptoms that they experience. Treating palpitations can sometimes be as simple as removing these foods from the diet. Avoiding the excessive consumption of tobacco, alcohol, and marijuana is also likely to help some people. For stress-related palpitations, doctors may recommend that people relieve stress by incorporating some of the following activities into their weekly routines: meditation yoga tai chi deep breathing exercises mild-to-moderate exercise Doing at least one of these activities regularly may help reduce stress, which can cause palpitations in some people. What to do when you experience palpitations Palpitations may be a sign of an underlying condition, even in cases where stress triggers them. Anyone experiencing heart palpitations along with other serious symptoms should seek emergency medical care. These symptoms include: chest, back, or shoulder pain tightness in the jaw shortness of breath How to stop palpitations There are a couple of techniques that people can try to stop palpitations when they are occurring. These methods stimulate the vagus nerve, which may help control the heartbeat: Valsalva maneuver. Pinch the nose and close the mouth. Try to breathe out of the nose for a couple of seconds to create a feeling of pressure in the head. Cold water. Splash cold water on the face for 30 seconds or dunk the head in cold water. This may stimulate a response in the body, slowing down the heart rate. Bearing down. Bearing down is the act of clenching the muscles in the stomach and closing the anal sphincter while pushing down as if initiating a bowel movement. This action has the same result as the Valsalva maneuver. These techniques may work temporarily, but it is vital not to ignore the underlying cause of palpitations. Long-term treatment should be a top priority for people with this symptom. Takeaway While GERD or acid reflux is unlikely to cause heart palpitations directly, symptoms associated with GERD may trigger palpitations in some people. Anyone who is unsure about their symptoms should talk to a doctor, and any severe symptoms indicate that emergency medical care is necessary.
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