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Stop washing and reusing condoms, CDC warns

Condoms are for one-time use only and should be properly disposed of after sex, obviously.

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The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a warning to sexually-active Americans to stop washing and reusing condoms – because, unbelievably, “people do it.”

In a tweet linking to condom and STD facts and statistics, the health agency wrote: “We say it because people do it: Don’t wash or reuse condoms.

“Use a fresh one for each sex act,” the CDC advised.

In response to the Twitter warning, people were amused that it is not obvious condoms should not be washed after use.

When used properly, condoms are highly effective in preventing pregnancy and sexually-transmitted STDs, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

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However, considering fewer than half of US high schools met the CDC’s requirement for sexual education in 2015, the need for the warning is not surprising.

According to a health report published by the CDC in 2017, only one-third of Americans use condoms – and many may be doing so incorrectly.

In a 2012 study published in the journal Sexual Health, co-author and University of Kentucky professor Richard Crosby said researchers “chronically underestimated how complicated condom use can be,” after finding 1.4 to 3.3 per cent of respondents had reused a condom at least twice during a sexual encounter.

Reusing male condoms results in weakened latex, which can lead to rips or tears that increase the risk of pregnancy and STDs.

As the number of STD and STI cases in America continues to rise, with more than two million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis reported in 2016, according to the CDC, correct condom-use is more important than ever.

For condom-use to be effective, the CDC states that a new condom should be used “for every act of vaginal, anal and oral sex throughout the entire sex act (from start to finish).”

Sexually-active Americans should also refrain from storing condoms in wallets, be aware of condom expiration dates, and never use more than one condom at a time.

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Powerful Ways to Boost Your Confidence

Confidence gives you the power to conquer the world. Here’s how you can learn to be confident in all you do.

Self-confident people are admired by others and inspire confidence in others. They face their fears head-on and tend to be risk takers. They know that no matter what obstacles come their way, they have the ability to get past them. Self-confident people tend to see their lives in a positive light even when things aren’t going so well, and they are typically satisfied with and respect themselves.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have this kind of self-confidence, every day of the week? Guess what? You can.

“Low self-confidence isn’t a life sentence. Self-confidence can be learned, practiced, and mastered–just like any other skill. Once you master it, everything in your life will change for the better.” –Barrie Davenport

It comes down to one simple question: If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect anybody else to?

Try some of the tips listed below. Don’t just read them and put them on the back burner. Really begin to practice them daily, beginning today. You might have to fake it at first and merely appear to be self-confident, but eventually you will begin to feel the foundation of self-confidence grow within you. With some time and practice (this is not an overnight phenomenon), you too can be a self-confident person, both inside and out, whom others admire and say “Yes!” to.

1. Stay away from negativity and bring on the positivity

This is the time to really evaluate your inner circle, including friends and family. This is a tough one, but it’s time to seriously consider getting away from those individuals who put you down and shred your confidence. Even a temporary break from Debbie Downer can make a huge difference and help you make strides toward more self-confidence.

Be positive, even if you’re not feeling it quite yet. Put some positive enthusiasm into your interactions with others and hit the ground running, excited to begin your next project. Stop focusing on the problems in your life and instead begin to focus on solutions and making positive changes.

2. Change your body language and image

This is where posture, smiling, eye contact, and speech slowly come into play. Just the simple act of pulling your shoulders back gives others the impression that you are a confident person. Smiling will not only make you feel better, but will make others feel more comfortable around you. Imagine a person with good posture and a smile and you’ll be envisioning someone who is self-confident.

Look at the person you are speaking to, not at your shoes–keeping eye contact shows confidence. Last, speak slowly. Research has proved that those who take the time to speak slowly and clearly feel more self-confidence and appear more self-confident to others. The added bonus is they will actually be able to understand what you are saying.

Go the extra mile and style your hair, give yourself a clean shave, and dress nicely. Not only will this make you feel better about yourself, but others are more likely to perceive you as successful and self-confident as well. A great tip: When you purchase a new outfit, practice wearing it at home first to get past any wardrobe malfunctions before heading out.

3. Don’t accept failure and get rid of the negative voices in your head

Never give up. Never accept failure. There is a solution to everything, so why would you want to throw in the towel? Make this your new mantra. Succeeding through great adversity is a huge confidence booster.

Low self-confidence is often caused by the negative thoughts running through our minds on an endless track. If you are constantly bashing yourself and saying you’re not good enough, aren’t attractive enough, aren’t smart enough or athletic enough, and on and on, you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. You are becoming what you are preaching inside your head, and that’s not good. The next time you hear that negativity in your head, switch it immediately to a positive affirmation and keep it up until it hits the caliber of a self-confidence boost.

4. Be prepared

Learn everything there is to know about your field, job, presentation–whatever is next on your “to conquer” list. If you are prepared, and have the knowledge to back it up, your self-confidence will soar.

5. For tough times, when all else fails: Create a great list

Life is full of challenges and there are times when it’s difficult to keep our self-confidence up. Sit down right now and make a list of all the things in your life that you are thankful for, and another list of all the things you are proud of accomplishing. Once your lists are complete, post them on your refrigerator door, on the wall by your desk, on your bathroom mirror–somewhere where you can easily be reminded of what an amazing life you have and what an amazing person you really are. If you feel your self-confidence dwindling, take a look at those lists and let yourself feel and be inspired all over again by you.

The Top 10 global Deadliest Conditions/Diseases – 2018

The 10 conditions we are discussing below are monstors, and have killed our beloved ones, everyone is a victim. Take caution, and take measurement to avoid them.

Overview

When people think of the deadliest diseases in the world, their minds probably jump to the fast-acting, incurable ones that grab headlines from time to time. But in fact, many of these types of diseases don’t rank in the top 10 causes of worldwide deaths. An estimated 56.4 million peoplepassed away worldwide in 2015, and 68 percent of them were due to diseases that progressed slowly.

Perhaps even more surprising is that several of the deadliest diseases are partially preventable. Non-preventable factors include where a person lives, access to preventive care, and quality of healthcare. These all factor into risk. But there are still steps everyone can take to lower their risk.

Read on to see the top 10 diseases causing the most deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)

1. Ischemic heart disease, or coronary artery disease

heart

The deadliest disease in the world is coronary artery disease (CAD). Also called ischemic heart disease, CAD occurs when the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart become narrowed. Untreated CAD can lead to chest pain, heart failure, and arrhythmias.

Impact of CAD across the world

Although it’s still the leading cause of death, mortality rates have declined in many European countries and in the United States. This may be due to better public health education, access to healthcare, and forms of prevention. However, in many developing nations, mortality rates of CAD are on the rise. An increasing life span, socioeconomic changes, and lifestyle risk factors play a role in this rise.

Risk factors and prevention

Risk factors for CAD include:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • smoking
  • family history of CAD
  • diabetes
  • being overweight

Talk to your doctor if you have one or more of these risk factors.

You can prevent CAD with medications and by maintaining good heart health. Some steps you can take to decrease your risk include:

  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • eating a balanced diet that’s low in sodium and high in fruits and vegetables
  • avoiding smoking
  • drinking only in moderation

2. Stroke

A stroke occurs when an artery in your brain is blocked or leaks. This causes the oxygen-deprived brain cells to begin dying within minutes. During a stroke, you feel sudden numbness and confusion or have trouble walking and seeing. If left untreated, a stroke can cause long-term disability.

In fact, strokes are the leading cause of long-term disabilities. People who receive treatment within 3 hours of having a stroke are less likely to have disabilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 93 percent of people knew sudden numbness on one side was a stroke symptom. But only 38 percent knew all the symptoms that would prompt them to seek emergency care.

Risk factors and prevention

Risk factors for stroke include:

  • high blood pressure
  • family history of stroke
  • smoking, especially when combined with oral contraceptives
  • being African-American
  • being female

Some risk factors of strokes can be reduced with preventative care, medications, and lifestyle changes. In general, good health habits can lower your risk.

Stroke prevention methods may include controlling high blood pressure with medications or surgery. You should also maintain a healthy lifestyle, complete with regular exercise and a healthy diet that’s low in sodium. Avoid smoking, and drink only in moderation, as these activities increase your risk of stroke.

3. Lower respiratory infections

A lower respiratory infection is an infection in your airways and lungs. It can be due to:

Viruses usually cause lower respiratory infections. They can also be caused by bacteria. Coughing is the main symptom of a lower respiratory infection. You may also feel breathlessness, wheezing, and a tight feeling in your chest. Untreated lower respiratory infections can lead to breathing failure and death.

Impact of lower respiratory infections around the world

Risk factors and prevention

Risk factors for lower respiratory infection include:

  • the flu
  • poor air quality or frequent exposure to lung irritants
  • smoking
  • a weak immune system
  • crowded childcare settings, which mainly affects infants
  • asthma
  • HIV

One of the best preventative measures you can take against lower respiratory infections is to get the flu shot every year. People at high risk of pneumonia can also get a vaccine. Wash your hands regularly with soap and water to avoid transmitted bacteria, especially before touching your face and before eating. Stay at home and rest until you feel better if you have a respiratory infection, as rest improves healing.

4. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

copd

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a long-term, progressive lung disease that makes breathing difficult. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are types of COPD. In 2004, about 64 million people around the world were living with COPD.

Impact of COPD around the world

Risk factors and prevention

Risk factors for COPD include:

  • smoking or secondhand smoke
  • lung irritants like chemical fumes
  • family history, with the AATD gene being linked to COPD
  • history of respiratory infections as a child

There’s no cure for COPD, but its progression can be slowed with medication. The best ways to prevent COPD are to stop smoking and to avoid secondhand smoke and other lung irritants. If you experience any COPD symptoms, getting treatment as soon as possible increases your outlook.

5. Trachea, bronchus, and lung cancers

Respiratory cancers include cancers of the trachea, larynx, bronchus, and lungs. The main causes are smoking, secondhand smoke, and environmental toxins. But household pollutions such as fuels and mold also contribute.

Impact of respiratory cancers around the world

2015 study reports that respiratory cancer accounts for about 4 million deaths annually. In developing countries, researchers project an 81- to 100-percent increase in respiratory cancers due to pollution and smoking. Many Asian countries, especially India, still use coal for cooking. Solid fuel emissions account for 17 percent of lung cancer deaths in men and 22 percent in women.

Risk factors and prevention

Trachea, bronchus, and lung cancers can affect anyone, but they’re most likely to affect those who have a history of smoking or tobacco use. Other risk factors for these cancers include family history and exposure to environmental factors, such as diesel fumes.

Aside from avoiding fumes and tobacco products, it isn’t known if there’s anything else that can be done to prevent lung cancers. However, early detection can improve your outlook and reduce the symptoms of respiratory cancer.

6. Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes is a group of diseases that affect insulin production and use. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas can’t produce insulin. The cause isn’t known. In type 2 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or insulin can’t be used effectively. Type 2 diabetes can be caused by a number of factors, including poor diet, lack of exercise, and being overweight.

Impact of diabetes around the world

People in low- to middle-income countries are more likely to die of complications from diabetes.

Risk factors and prevention

Risk factors for diabetes include:

  • excess body weight
  • high blood pressure
  • older age
  • not exercising regularly
  • an unhealthy diet

While diabetes isn’t always preventable, you can control the severity of symptoms by exercising regularly and maintaining good nutrition. Adding more fiber to your diet can help with controlling your blood sugar.

 

7. Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias

When you think of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you might think of a loss of memory, but you might not think of a loss of life. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that destroys memory and interrupts normal mental functions. These include thinking, reasoning, and typical behavior.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia — 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases are in fact Alzheimer’s. The disease starts off by causing mild memory problems, difficulty recalling information, and slips in recollection. Over time, however, the disease progresses and you may not have memory of large periods of time. A 2014 study found that the number of deaths in the United States due to Alzheimer’s may be higher than reported.

Risk factors and prevention

Risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • being older than 65
  • a family history of the disease
  • inheriting genes for the disease from your parents
  • existing mild cognitive impairment
  • Down syndrome
  • unhealthy lifestyle
  • being female
  • previous head trauma
  • being shut off from a community or having poor engagement with other people for extended periods of time

There’s not currently a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Researches aren’t clear why some people develop it and others don’t. As they work to understand this, they’re also working to find preventive techniques.

One thing that may be helpful in reducing your risk of the disease is a heart-healthy diet. A diet that’s high in fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fats from meat and dairy, and high in sources of good fats like nuts, olive oil, and lean fish may help you reduce your risk of more than just heart disease — they may protect your brain from Alzheimer’s disease, too.

8. Dehydration due to diarrheal diseases

Diarrhea is when you pass three or more loose stools in a day. If your diarrhea lasts more than a few days, your body loses too much water and salt. This causes dehydration, which can lead to death. Diarrhea is usually caused by an intestinal virus or bacteria transmitted through contaminated water or food. It’s particularly widespread in developing nations with poor sanitary conditions.

Impact of diarrheal diseases around the world

Diarrheal disease is the second top cause of death in children younger than 5 years. About 760,000 children die from diarrheal diseases each year.

Risk factors and prevention

Risk factors for diarrheal diseases include:

  • living in an area with poor sanitary conditions
  • no access to clean water
  • age, with children being the most likely to experience severe symptoms of diarrheal diseases
  • malnourishment
  • a weakened immune system

According to UNICEF, the best method of prevention is practicing good hygiene. Good handwashing techniques can reduce the incidence of diarrheal diseases by 40 percent. Improved sanitization and water quality as well as access to early medical intervention can also help prevent diarrheal diseases.

9. Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis (TB) is a lung condition caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It’s a treatable airborne virus, although some strains are resistant to conventional treatments. TB is one of the top causes of death in people who have HIV. About 35 percent of HIV-related deaths are due to TB.

Impact of TB around the world

The cases of TB have fallen 1.5 percent each year since 2000. The goal is to end TB by 2030.

Risk factors and prevention

Risk factors for tuberculosis include:

  • diabetes
  • HIV infection
  • a lower body weight
  • proximity to others with TB
  • regular use of certain medications like corticosteroids or drugs that suppress the immune system

The best prevention against TB is to get the bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine. This is commonly given to children. If you think you’ve been exposed to TB bacteria, you can start taking a treatment medication called chemoprophylaxis to reduce the likelihood of developing the condition.

 

10. Cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is the result of chronic or long-term scarring and damage to the liver. The damage may be the result of a kidney disease, or it can be caused by conditions like hepatitis and chronic alcoholism. A healthy liver filters harmful substances from your blood and sends healthy blood into your body. As substances damage the liver, scar tissue forms. As more scar tissue forms, the liver has to work harder to function properly. Ultimately, the liver may stop working.

Risk factors and prevention

Risk factors for cirrhosis include:

  • chronic alcohol use
  • fat accumulation around the liver (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease)
  • chronic viral hepatitis

Stay away from the behaviors that can lead to liver damage to help prevent cirrhosis. Long-term alcohol use and abuse is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis, so avoiding alcohol can help you prevent damage. Likewise, you can avoid nonalcoholic fatty liver disease by eating a diet that’s healthy, rich in fruits and vegetables, and low in sugar and fat. Lastly, you can reduce the likelihood of contracting viral hepatitis by using protection during sex and by avoiding sharing anything that could have traces of blood. This includes needles, razors, toothbrushes, and more.

 

The takeaway

While deaths from some diseases have increased, those from more serious conditions have also decreased. Some factors, such as an increasing life span, naturally increase the incidence of diseases such as CAD, stroke, and heart disease. But many of the diseases on this list are preventable and treatable. As medicine continues to advance and prevention education grows, we may see a reduction in death rates from these diseases.

A good approach to lowering your risk of any of these conditions is to live a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition and exercise. Avoiding smoking and drinking in moderation can also help. For bacterial or viral infections, proper handwashing can help prevent or reduce your risk.

The best foods to delay aging

Eat well for a long and healthy life – that’s a mantra that we’re all familiar with, but what are the best foods to help us achieve that goal? In this article, we give you an overview of some of the most healthful and nutritious foods.
person holding grocery bagWhat are the best foods for a healthful diet? We investigate.

Official figures indicate that, currently, the top three countries in the world with the highest life expectancy are the Principality of Monaco, Japan, and Singapore. These are places where the inhabitants experience a high quality of life, and an important element of that is eating healthful meals.

Often, we find praise for “superfoods” in the media – foods so high in nutritional value that they are seen as dietary superheroes.

Nutritionists reject the term “superfoods” as a buzzword that can influence people to place too high an expectation on a limited range of foods when, in reality, a balanced diet and healthful lifestyle require more effort than eating your five-a-day.

Still, there are certain foods that are more nutritious than others, and many that, as research has shown, have a protective effect against a range of diseases. Here, we give you an overview of some of the best foods that you may want to consider including in your diet in your quest for a happy, healthy life.

Edamame (soybeans)

Edamame, or fresh soybeans, have been a staple of Asian cuisine for generations, but they have also been gaining popularity on the Western front of late. Soybeans are often sold in snack packs, but they are also added to a varied range of dishes, from soups to rice-based meals, though they are served as cooked and seasoned on their own, too.

tofu, edamame, and soy productsEdamame and tofu are rich in isoflavones, which may have anti-cancer properties.

The beans are rich in isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen – that is. plant-derived, estrogen-like substances. Isoflavones are known to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, and antimicrobial properties.

Thus, they can help to regulate the inflammatory response of the body, slow down cellular aging, fight microbes, as well as, reportedly, protect against certain types of cancer.

Edamame are rich in two types of isoflavones, in particular: genistein and daidzein. A study covered last year on Medical News Today found that genistein could be used to improve breast cancer treatment.

In the meantime, the study authors note that “lifetime intake of soy […] has been linked to reduced risk of breast cancer,” so we may want to include soybeans in our normal diet.

Tofu (soybean curd)

Similarly, tofu, a white cheese-like product made of soybean curds, has been linked to a wealth of health benefits for the same reasons. Tofu is often found cooked in typical Eastern Asian dishes; it can be fried, baked, or boiled (for instance, in soups).

As a soy product, it is rich in isoflavones, whose health benefits we’ve outlined above; it is also a good source of protein, and it contains all the essential amino acids that our bodies need to synthesize protein.

Moreover, it is also rich in minerals, which our bodies need to keep our teeth and bones strong and healthy, and to derive energy. Tofu is a source of calcium, iron, manganese, selenium, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, and copper.

Some specialists also suggest that eating tofu can make you feel fuller for longer, so incorporating it into your meals may help to prevent overeating.

Carrots

This common culinary ingredient, best known in its orange variety, is famously recommended for its high content of beta-carotene, a pigment — and carotenoid — that gives the widespread version of this root vegetable its color.

selection of carrotsCarrots can protect against age-related eyesight damage.

Beta-carotene can be converted by our bodies into vitamin A, which, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “is involved in immune function, vision, reproduction, and cellular communication.” Our bodies cannot produce vitamin A on their own, so it must be derived from our diet.

This pigment is also an antioxidant that can protect the cells in our bodies from the aging damage caused by free radicals.

Moreover, research has shown that foods rich in carotenoids — and, of course, carrots are a prime example here — can protect against age-related macular degeneration, the vision damage caused by old age.

Some varieties of carrots, such as white carrots, do not contain the orange pigment beta-carotene, but they do all contain falcarinol, a nutrient which, some studies claim, may have a protective effect against cancer.

While raw carrots may be best for health, as they retain their nutrients, there are also ways of cooking carrots that can keep most of their nutrients “locked in.”

In an interview, one researcher who investigated the anti-cancer effect of falcarinol from carrots, Kirsten Brandt — from Newcastle University in the United Kingdom — suggests that we may want to boil our carrots whole if we want them cooked, but still bursting with nutrients.

Chopping up your carrots increases the surface area so more of the nutrients leach out into the water while they are cooked. By keeping them whole and chopping them up afterwards you are locking in nutrients and the taste, so the carrot is better for you all round.”

Cruciferous vegetables

Another important type of food on our list are cruciferous vegetables — also known as “Brassica vegetables” — which include a wide array of green foods, such as cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, bok choy, radish, and kale.

basket of cruciferous vegetablesCruciferous vegetables can bring a wealth of health benefits.

These vegetables boast an especially rich nutrient content, including many vitamins (C, E, K, and folate), minerals (potassium, calcium, and selenium), and carotenoids (lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin).

Cruciferous vegetables also contain glucosinolates, the substances that give these greens their characteristic pungent flavor. These substances have been found to bring diverse health benefits.

Some glucosinolates seem to regulate the body’s stress and inflammation response; they have antimicrobial properties, and some of them are being investigated for their anti-cancer potential.

One recent study covered on MNT found that leafy greens, including some cruciferous vegetables such as kale and collard greens, helped to slow down cognitive decline. Consequently, the study researchers suggest that “adding a daily serving of green, leafy vegetables to your diet may be a simple way to foster your brain health.”

Kale, broccoli, and cabbage have also been shown to have a protective effect on heart health, thanks to their vitamin K content.

Finally, cruciferous vegetables are also a great source of soluble fiber, which plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels and diminishing the absorption of fat, thus helping to prevent excess weight gain.

Salmon

Recent studies have suggested that consumption of meat — mostly red meat, but also some kinds of poultry meat — could be harmful to our health in the long run. A good alternative for protein in this case is fish, and salmon, in particular, affords many nutritional benefits.

salmonSalmon could protect cognitive health, researchers say.

Salmon is packed with protein, and also contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which is said to be beneficial for eyesight. Research has demonstrated that omega-3 protects against dry-eye syndrome, characterized by insufficient lubrication of the eyes, which can lead to soreness and blurred vision.

Moreover, omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with brain health, and research suggests that they can stave off cognitive decline associated with aging.

Salmon also has a high potassium content and, according to a new study reported on MNT last autumn, potassium can prevent the onset of heart disease.

Additionally, this type of fish is rich in the mineral selenium, which contributes to the health of the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland helps to regulate hormonal activity and is involved in metabolic processes.

Although both farmed and wild salmon are available on the market, wild salmon has been found to be more nutritious overall, with a higher protein content, and also to have less saturated fat, which means that it is more healthful, and better for weight management.

However, farmed salmon is a more sustainable resource, and specialists say that the differences between farmed and wild caught salmon may not be so stark as to motivate us to prefer one type over the other.

Citrus fruits

Finally, citrus fruits are the unsung heroes of a healthful diet; these include a number of fruits that are now available worldwide, such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, limes, clementines, mandarins, and tangerines.

basket of citrus fruitsThe flavonoids in citrus fruits have been cited in connection to longer lifespans.

For a long time, citrus fruits have been recommended by nutritionists and grandmothers alike for their high content of vitamin C, which has antioxidant properties, and is said to bring a wide array of health benefits, including to reduce inflammatory damage, and to fend off infections.

Specialists point out, however, that this type of fruits goes well beyond just vitamin C when it comes to nutritional content.

The fruits are abundant in other macronutrients, including sugars, dietary fiber, potassium, folate, calcium, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B-6, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, riboflavin and pantothenic acid.”

If this list of dietary goodies hasn’t colored you impressed, the specialists then go on to explain how citrus fruits contain even more organic compounds — such as flavonoids, coumarins, and carotenoids — that have been said to have protective effects against cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Research has shown that flavonoids — in which citrus fruits are particularly rich — can “prevent or delay chronic diseases caused by obesity.”

Flavonoids have also garnered a lot of scientific attention for their anti-cancer potential, and consumption of especially flavonoid-rich citrus fruits has been associated with a significantly prolonged lifespan.

The inhabitants of the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa, known to be some of the longest-living populations of the world, regularly eat shikuwasa, also known as “shequasar,” a citrus fruit typical of the region, which contains more flavonoids than most other citrus fruits.

Drinking shikuwasa juice rich in flavonoid content has also been linked to better liver health.

Although all of the foods mentioned above are appreciated for their significant health benefits, we should not forget that well-being and longevity cannot be achieved without a balanced, inclusive diet and a healthful lifestyle.

Moreover, current studies suggest that our genetic makeup may have an important say as to which foods work best for our health. So, keeping our list of nutritious foods in mind, make sure you follow the healthful diet that is most effective for you!

How do dreams affect brain disorders?

Research presented at the latest Canadian Neuroscience Meeting connects fascinating insights into the science of dreams with the risk of developing neurological disorders.

[woman dreaming]

Scientists examine what goes on inside our brains when we dream and find surprising connections with neurodegenerative disorders.

Research presented at the 2017 annual gathering of the Canadian Association for Neuroscience, held in Montreal, investigates what goes on inside our brains when we dream. Surprisingly, the research also suggests that dream dysfunctions may predict the development of neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or dementia.

The research was conducted by Dr. John Peever and his team at the University of Toronto in Canada in 2015.

Dr. Peever and colleagues have previously studied how dreams occur and discovered the brain cells that are responsible for reaching the dream state: the so-called REM-active neurons.

How do we dream?

Since the 1960s, scientists have known that dreaming occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and that the brainstem is a key brain region responsible for controlling dreams.

The brainstem is located at the base of the brain, and it communicates with the hypothalamus to transition from wakefulness to sleep, and vice versa. A chain reaction started by REM-active “SubC” neurons ultimately releases the GABA neurotransmitter, which, in turn, reduces the level of arousal in the hypothalamus and the brainstem. SubC neurons take their name from the brain area in which they are found: the subcoeruleus nucleus.

These brain cells that produce GABA, or GABAergic neurons, control the timing of REM sleep and its features, such as muscle paralysis. As Dr. Peever explains, “When we switch on these cells, it causes a rapid transition into REM sleep.” The brainstem sends signals to relax muscles and limbs so that we do not do in real life what we dream about while asleep.

Knowing all of this, Dr. Peever and colleagues set out to examine dreaming disorders such as cataplexy, narcolepsy, and REM sleep behavior disorder.

People with narcolepsy do not just fall asleep instantly, but they also experience cataplexy, which is the sudden loss of muscle tone while they are awake.

REM sleep disorders linked to neurodegenerative conditions

While examining the breakdowns in the brain circuits that cause these disorders, the team made an interesting discovery.

They found that REM sleep disorders are linked to several neurodegenerative diseases that tend to occur in old age. “This link suggests that neurodegenerative processes initially target the circuits controlling REM sleep and specifically SubC neurons,” write Dr. Peever and colleagues in their 2015 paper.

We observed that more than 80 percent of people who suffer from REM sleep disorder eventually develop synucleinopathies, such as Parkinson’s disease, and Lewy body dementia. Our research suggests sleep disorders may be an early warning sign for diseases that may appear some 15 years later in life.”

Dr. John Peever

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimate that approximately 50,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease every year, and around half a million people live with the disease. Lewy body dementia affects another 1 million U.S. adults.

Both Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia are characterized by a buildup of a neuronal protein called alpha-synuclein inside the neurons.

In the future, Dr. Peever hopes that his research will pave the way for neuroprotective therapies that would prevent against the development of such neurodegenerative disorders.

“Much like we see in people prone to cancer, diagnosing REM disorders may allow us to provide individuals with preventative actions to keep them healthy long before they develop these more serious neurological conditions,” Dr. Peever says.

Action video games decrease gray matter, study finds

A new study suggests that playing action video games can be detrimental to the brain, reducing the amount of gray matter in the hippocampus. Specialists should exert caution in advising video gameplay to improve cognition, the study authors urge.
girl playing action video game

Researchers find that playing action video games can lead to hippocampal atrophy.

The impact of video games on our health and well-being has often been studied and discussed, and it is still a very controversial topic. According to the Entertainment Software Association, at least one person in 63 percent of households across the United States plays video games for at least 3 hours per week, making gaming one of the most popular leisure activities.

A new study led by researchers from the Department of Psychology at the Université de Montréal, and from the Douglas Institute in Québec, both in Canada, has now found that action video games, specifically, have a direct negative effect on the brain.

Lead study author Dr. Gregory West, an assistant professor at the Université de Montréal, has published the team’s findings in the current issue of Molecular Psychiatry.

Action games’ effect on brain

The current study stems from two considerations. First, the researchers noted that action video games – which are defined as “first- and third-person shooting games” – are sometimes recommended by specialists to increase the visual attention of children and adults.

Secondly, according to previous research conducted by Dr. West, action video game players employ a particular kind of navigational strategy called “response learning,” which is based on forming a navigational “habit” and relying on it.

Response learning is also associated with a decrease in the gray matter of the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain linked to episodic memory and orientation. A low amount of gray matter in this brain area is related to Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

In looking at the effects of action video games on the hippocampus, Dr. West and his colleagues also took into account any links with the striatum, which is a brain area that receives signals from the hippocampus.

The striatum also contains the caudate nucleus, which plays an important role in the formation of habits and procedural memory – that is, the kind of memory that we rely on to know how to walk, swim, or ride a bicycle.

According to existing research, Dr. West and his colleagues note that “the caudate nucleus shares an inverse relationship with the hippocampus.”

This means that if we rely too much on habit and procedural memory, we end up underusing the active learning capacities promoted by the hippocampus. This may cause the hippocampus to atrophy, leading to an unhealthy brain structure overall.

That’s why we decided to do a full neuro-imaging study, […] and what we saw was less gray matter in the hippocampus of habitual players. We then followed that up with two longitudinal studies to establish causality, and we found that it was indeed the gaming that led to changes in the brain.”

Dr. Gregory West

Fifty-one male and 46 female gamers were recruited for the current research and were eventually tasked with playing either action video games – which, in this case, were shooter games such as Call of Duty – or 3-D platform video games from the Super Mario series.

Response learners lose gray matter

The participants were first tested to see whether they were “spatial learners,” relying on visual clues and landmarks to make their way through a particular environment, or “response learners,” relying on acquired habits to navigate. Spatial learners have a more active hippocampus, whereas response learners tend to underuse it.

For this test, the researchers developed a “4 on 8 virtual maze,” which is a task that encourages the players to come up with a navigational strategy that links to either the hippocampus or the caudate nucleus.

“The virtual reality task consists of an eight-arm radial maze situated in an enriched environment. The environment contains both distal [far from the player’s perspective] and proximal [close to the player’s perspective] landmarks: two trees, a rock, and mountains,” the researchers explain.

After establishing which players were response learners and which were spatial learners, the researchers asked them to play the action and 3-D platform video games.

It was found that the same amount of time (90 hours) dedicated to gaming had different effects depending on the kind of game that was involved: action games led to hippocampal atrophy, whereas platform games increased the volume of gray matter.

The researchers believe that response learners might be able to increase their gray matter volume by “be[ing] encouraged to use spatial strategies” instead. Dr. West and his colleagues also suggest that game developers might even be able to prevent action games from leading to the atrophy of the hippocampus by changing the games’ design.

Action games, they say, “[…] often include an overlaid head-up display which displays an in-game GPS [global positioning system] to direct players to their next location or event,” discouraging players from actively employing spatial strategies. Without this, the researchers suggest, the games’ negative effect on the brain might be avoided.

Considering these findings, Dr. West and his colleagues advise caution in “prescribing” action video games to young players, as they might end up doing more harm than good. However, the researchers suggest that game training must be adapted to the necessities of the individuals involved.

“For example,” they say, “patients with Parkinson’s disease who also present with dementia and patients with Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder” should not be exposed to action video games, as they already have lower volumes of gray matter.

“In contrast,” the researchers add, “patients with Parkinson’s disease without dementia do display dysfunction in the basal ganglia, and may benefit from action video game training.”

How video games affect the brain

Video gaming is clearly a popular form of entertainment, with video gamers collectively spending 3 billion hours per week in front of their screens. Due to their widespread use, scientists have researched how video games affect the brain and behavior. Are these effects positive or negative? We examine the evidence.
man playing games on a computerThere is increasing research focused on the impact of video gaming on the brain.

At a glance, more than 150 million people in the United States play video games regularly, or for at least 3 hours per week. The average American gamer is a 35-year-old adult, with 72 percent of gamers aged 18 or older. For video game use by children, most parents – 71 percent – indicate that video games have a positive influence on their child’s life.

Video game sales continue to increase year on year. In 2016, the video game industry sold more than 24.5 billion games – up from 23.2 billion in 2015, and 21.4 billion in 2014.

The top three best-selling video games of 2016 were Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Battlefield 1, and Grand Theft Auto V. These games fall into the first-person shooter or action-adventure genres – the top two genres, accounting for 27.5 percent and 22.5 percent of sales, respectively. First-person shooter and action genres often stand accused of stirring aggression and causing violence and addiction.

Decades of research examining video gaming and violence have failed to reach consensus among scientists. Scientists have been unable to find a causal link between playing video games and acts of violence in the real world.

Video games and brain changes

A growing body of evidence, however, shows that video gaming can affect the brain and, furthermore, cause changes in many regions of the brain.

game addict laying on the floorGame addicts have functional and structural changes in the neural reward system.

Scientists have recently collected and summarized results from 116 scientific studies to determine how video games can influence our brains and behaviors. The findings of their review were published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

“Games have sometimes been praised or demonized, often without real data backing up those claims. Moreover, gaming is a popular activity, so everyone seems to have strong opinions on the topic,” says Marc Palaus, first author of the review.

By looking at all research to date, Palaus and team aimed to observe whether any trends had emerged with regard to how video games impact the structure and activity of the brain. A total of 22 of the reviewed studies explored structural changes in the brain and 100 studies analyzed changes in brain functionality and behavior.

Results of the studies indicate that playing video games not only changes how our brains perform but also their structure.

For example, video game use is known to affect attention. The studies included in the review show that video game players display improvements in several types of attention, including sustained attention and selective attention. Furthermore, the regions of the brain that play a role in attention are more efficient in gamers compared with non-gamers, and they require less activation to stay focused on demanding tasks.

Evidence also demonstrates that playing video games increases the size and competence of parts of the brain responsible for visuospatial skills – a person’s ability to identify visual and spatial relationships among objects. In long-term gamers and individuals who had volunteered to follow a video game training plan, the right hippocampus was enlarged.

Researchers have discovered that video gaming can be addictive – a phenomenon known as “Internet gaming disorder.”

In gaming addicts, there are functional and structural alterations in the neural reward system – a group of structures associated with feeling pleasure, learning, and motivation. Exposing video game addicts to game-related cues that cause cravings, and monitoring their brain responses, highlighted these changes – changes that are also seen in other addictive disorders.

“We focused on how the brain reacts to video game exposure, but these effects do not always translate to real-life changes,” notes Palaus. The research into the effects of video gaming is still in its infancy and scientists are still scrutinizing what aspects of gaming impact what brain regions and how.

“It’s likely that video games have both positive (on attention, visual and motor skills) and negative aspects (risk of addiction), and it is essential we embrace this complexity,” Palaus continues.

Are brain-training games beneficial?

A team of researchers from the Florida State University has stated that people should be skeptical of adverts that promote an increase in the performance of the brain that results from brain training games. They have said that science does not support these claims.

older adults playing video gamesPlaying brain-training games did not improve cognitive abilities in older adults.

“Our findings and previous studies confirm there’s very little evidence these types of games can improve your life in a meaningful way,” says Wally Boot, associate professor of psychology, an expert on age-related cognitive decline.

People are increasingly under the impression that brain-training apps will safeguard them against memory loss or cognitive disorders.

Researchers tested whether playing brain-training games enhanced the working memory of players and thus improved other cognitive abilities, including reasoning, memory, and processing speed – a process scientists call “far transfer.” However, this was not the case.

“It’s possible to train people to become very good at tasks that you would normally consider general working memory tasks: memorizing 70, 80, even 100 digits,” explains Neil Charness, professor of psychology and a leading authority on aging and cognition.

“But these skills tend to be very specific and not show a lot of transfer. The thing that seniors, in particular, should be concerned about is, if I can get very good at crossword puzzles, is that going to help me remember where my keys are? And the answer is probably no,” he adds.

Charness points out that if your goal is to improve cognitive function, then aerobic exercise may help. Some research has found that aerobic activity rather than mental activity enhances the brain.

Video games boost memory

In contrast, a study published in Nature found that through the use of a specially designed 3-D video game, cognitive performance could be improved in older adults and some of the adverse effects on the brain associated with aging, reversed.

seniors playing video gamesA small amount of brain training can reverse age-related brain decline.

Scientists at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) clarify that this provides a measure of scientific support in the brain fitness arena – criticized for lacking evidence – that brain training can stimulate meaningful and lasting changes.

After 12 hours of training over the period of a month, study participants aged between 60 to 85 years improved performance on the game that surpassed that of individuals in their 20s playing the game for the first time. Moreover, two other significant cognitive areas were improved: working memory and sustained attention. These skills were maintained 6 months after completion of their training.

“The finding is a powerful example of how plastic the older brain is,” says Dr. Adam Gazzaley, Ph.D., UCSF associate professor of neurology, physiology and psychiatry and director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center. Dr. Gazzaley notes that it is encouraging that even a little brain training can reverse some of the brain decline that occurs with age.

A recent study conducted by neurobiologists at the University of California-Irvine (UCI) found that playing 3-D video games could also boost the formation of memories. Participants were allocated to either a group that played video games with a 2-D environment or a 3-D environment. After playing the games for 30 minutes per day for 2 weeks, the students were given memory tests that engaged the brain’s hippocampus.

The participants in the 3-D group significantly improved their memory test scores compared with the 2-D group. The 3-D group’s memory performance increased by 12 percent – the same amount that memory performance usually declines by between 45 and 70 years of age.

“First, the 3-D games have a few things the 2-D ones do not,” says Craig Stark, of UCI’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory. “They’ve got a lot more spatial information in there to explore. Second, they’re much more complex, with a lot more information to learn. Either way, we know this kind of learning and memory not only stimulates but requires the hippocampus.”

Strategy video games, in particular, have shown promise in improving brain function among older adults and may provide protection against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“If the target is to improve older adults’ cognitive control, reasoning, and higher-order cognitive skills, and stave off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as long as possible, then maybe strategy games are the way to go,” informs Chandramallika Basak, assistant professor at the Center for Vital Longevity and School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Basak, like Charness, agrees that cognitive training should come second to physical activity programs when it comes to improving cognitive function. Physical fitness programs have been linked with positive effects on cognition and brain function and structure.

There is evidence to suggest that video games may be a viable treatment for depression and improve memory and mood in adults with mild cognitive impairment.

The effect of video games on the brain is a new area of research that will continue to be explored. We may just be scraping the surface of the potential that video games could present in enhancing cognitive ability and preventing cognitive disorders.

Are there side effects to masturbation?

Masturbation is a normal and healthy sexual activity with few side effects. Many bizarre claims surround masturbation, such as going blind, and most of these claims are untrue.

Masturbation is when an individual stimulates their genitals for sexual pleasure, which may or may not lead to orgasm. Masturbation is common among men and women of all ages and plays a role in healthy sexual development.

Research has found that among adolescents aged 14–17 years in the United States, around 74 percent of males and 48 percent of females masturbate.

Among older adults, roughly 63 percent of men and 32 percent of women between 57 and 64 years of age masturbate.

People masturbate for many reasons. These include pleasure, enjoyment, fun, and tension release. Some individuals masturbate alone, while others masturbate with a partner.

This article looks at the potential side effects of masturbation and sorts the facts from the fiction regarding masturbation myths. It also identifies some of the health benefits of masturbation.

Masturbation myths

Depressed and anxious man sitting cross-legged on bed.

Many myths exist about the risks of masturbation, however none of these have been proven.

There are many myths about masturbation. Even though many of these have been debunked several times, they seem to resurface time and time again.

Most claims about masturbation are not backed up by science. There is often no scientific evidence to show that masturbation causes any of the adverse effects suggested. Masturbation will not cause:

  • blindness
  • hairy palms
  • impotence later in life
  • erectile dysfunction
  • penis shrinkage
  • penis curvature
  • low sperm count
  • infertility
  • mental illness
  • physical weakness

Some couples worry that their relationship must be unsatisfying if either one of them masturbates; this, too, is a myth.

Most men and women continue to masturbate either alone or together when they are in a relationship or married, and many find it an enjoyable part of their relationship.

One study found that women who masturbated had happier marriages compared to those who did not masturbate.

Masturbation side effects

Masturbation is harmless. Some people may experience chafing or tender skin if they are too rough, but this will usually heal in a few days.

If men frequently masturbate within a short space of time, they may experience a slight swelling of the penis called an edema. This swelling usually disappears within a couple of days.

Other potential side effects include:

Guilt

Some people who worry that masturbation conflicts with their religious, spiritual, or cultural beliefs may experience feelings of guilt. However, masturbation is not immoral or wrong, and self-pleasure is not shameful.

Discussing feelings of guilt with a friend, healthcare professional, or therapist that specializes in sexual health might help a person to move past feelings of guilt or shame that they connect with masturbation.

Decreased sexual sensitivity

Man and woman in bed looking upset, having sexual intimacy problems.

Aggressive or excessive masturbation techniques may lead to reduced sexual sensitivity.

If men have an aggressive masturbation method that involves too tight a grip on their penis, they can experience decreased sensation. A man can resolve this over time with a change of technique.

Enhanced stimulation, such as using a vibrator, may increase arousal and overall sexual function in both men and women.

Women who use a vibrator have reported improved sexual function and lubrication, while men experienced an improvement in erectile function.

Prostate cancer

The jury is out as to whether masturbation increases or decreases the risk of prostate cancer. Researchers need to conduct more studies before they can reach a conclusion.

A 2003 study demonstrated that men who ejaculated more than five times each week during their 20s were one third less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer than those who ejaculated less often.

Researchers speculate that the reduced risk was because frequent ejaculation may prevent the build-up of cancer-causing agents in the prostate gland.

A similar link between frequent ejaculation and a lower risk of prostate cancer was discovered in a 2016 study. Researchers found that men who ejaculated 21 times per month or more had a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer.

In contrast, a 2008 study found that frequent sexual activity during a man’s 20s and 30s increased his risk of prostate cancer, especially if he masturbated regularly.

Disrupting daily life

In rare cases, some individuals may masturbate more than they desire, which may:

  • cause them to miss work, school, or important social events
  • interrupt a person’s daily functioning
  • affect their responsibilities and relationships
  • serve as an escape from relationship issues or substitute for real-life experiences

Someone who thinks they might be adversely impacted by their masturbation practice should speak with a healthcare professional.

A doctor or counselor may suggest talk therapy to determine ways that they could manage their sexual behavior.

Consulting a sex therapist may also help with coping strategies for excessive masturbation. To locate a local sex therapist, a person can visit the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (AASECT).

Health benefits of masturbation

Older woman happy in bed in the morning.

Masturbation may reduce stress and relieve tension.

Masturbation has many physical and mental health benefits.

Few studies focus specifically on the benefits of masturbation, but research suggests that sexual stimulation, including stimulation through masturbation, can:

  • reduce stress
  • release tension
  • enhance sleep quality
  • boost concentration
  • elevate mood
  • relieve menstrual cramps
  • alleviate pain
  • improve sex

Masturbation has also been identified as a strategy to improve sexual health by promoting intimacy, exploring self-pleasure, desires, and needs, reducing unwanted pregnancies, and preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV transmission.

Individuals who choose to abstain from sex or who do not currently have a sexual partner may often masturbate as a sexual outlet.

Masturbation also has sexual health benefits specifically for older women, such as less vaginal dryness and decreased pain during sex.

Takeaway

Some people may feel embarrassed, guilty, or ashamed when talking about masturbation. But masturbation is normal, healthy, and not something to feel guilty about.

Masturbation will not lead to blindness or cause physical and mental health problems. In many cases, masturbation has more health benefits than adverse effects.

Masturbation is usually only a problem if it begins to interfere with daily life and relationships with friends, family, coworkers, and romantic partners.

In those circumstances, it may be helpful to speak to a healthcare professional, especially a sex therapist.

Health benefits of masturbation

Older woman happy in bed in the morning.

Masturbation may reduce stress and relieve tension.

Masturbation has many physical and mental health benefits.

Few studies focus specifically on the benefits of masturbation, but research suggests that sexual stimulation, including stimulation through masturbation, can:

  • reduce stress
  • release tension
  • enhance sleep quality
  • boost concentration
  • elevate mood
  • relieve menstrual cramps
  • alleviate pain
  • improve sex

Masturbation has also been identified as a strategy to improve sexual health by promoting intimacy, exploring self-pleasure, desires, and needs, reducing unwanted pregnancies, and preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV transmission.

Individuals who choose to abstain from sex or who do not currently have a sexual partner may often masturbate as a sexual outlet.

Masturbation also has sexual health benefits specifically for older women, such as less vaginal dryness and decreased pain during sex.

Masturbation may reduce stress and relieve tension.

Masturbation has many physical and mental health benefits.

Few studies focus specifically on the benefits of masturbation, but research suggests that sexual stimulation, including stimulation through masturbation, can:

  • reduce stress
  • release tension
  • enhance sleep quality
  • boost concentration
  • elevate mood
  • relieve menstrual cramps
  • alleviate pain
  • improve sex

Masturbation has also been identified as a strategy to improve sexual health by promoting intimacy, exploring self-pleasure, desires, and needs, reducing unwanted pregnancies, and preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV transmission.

Individuals who choose to abstain from sex or who do not currently have a sexual partner may often masturbate as a sexual outlet.

Masturbation also has sexual health benefits specifically for older women, such as less vaginal dryness and decreased pain during sex.

Masturbation may reduce stress and relieve tension.

Masturbation has many physical and mental health benefits.

Few studies focus specifically on the benefits of masturbation, but research suggests that sexual stimulation, including stimulation through masturbation, can:

  • reduce stress
  • release tension
  • enhance sleep quality
  • boost concentration
  • elevate mood
  • relieve menstrual cramps
  • alleviate pain
  • improve sex

Masturbation has also been identified as a strategy to improve sexual health by promoting intimacy, exploring self-pleasure, desires, and needs, reducing unwanted pregnancies, and preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV transmission.

Individuals who choose to abstain from sex or who do not currently have a sexual partner may often masturbate as a sexual outlet.

Masturbation also has sexual health benefits specifically for older women, such as less vaginal dryness and decreased pain during sex.

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