Aging

A colourful and fresh spread of grilled eggplant/aubergine with salad, herb butter and mashed butter beans. A balanced and healthy meal for vegans, vegetarians or vegetable lovers!

Plant-based diets support healthy aging and could significantly reduce the risk of cardiometabolic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, finds a new review.

Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. A 2017 report estimated that 6% of U.S. consumers eat a vegan diet, up from just 1% in 2014.

There are many reasons why people choose to adopt a vegan diet, including avoiding harm to animals and mitigating the environmental impact of intensive farming.

A plant-based diet also provides health benefits. This diet is higher in fiber and lower in cholesterol and fat than an omnivorous diet, and it scores higher on the Healthy Eating Index.

A new review of the evidence on plant-based diets suggests that they may also protect against type 2 diabetes and heart disease and could reduce cardiometabolic-related deaths in the U.S.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in Washington, DC, led the review, which features in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

An aging world

The review focuses on health in the context of aging, an important topic given that the world’s population is rapidly getting older.

“The global population of adults 60 years old or older is expected to double from 841 million to 2 billion by 2050, presenting clear challenges for our healthcare system,” explains first author Hana Kahleova, M.D., Ph.D., director of clinical research for the PCRM.

Dr. Kahleova and her team reviewed both clinical trials — which researchers perform under controlled conditions, usually to test the effect of a specific intervention on a particular outcome — and epidemiological studies, which follow people over time under normal conditions.

They found evidence that a plant-based diet reduces the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease.

Specifically, they found that plant-based diets could halve the risk of metabolic syndrome, which increases a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Eating a plant-based diet could also halve the risk of type 2 diabetes itself, as well as reducing the risk of coronary heart disease events, such as a heart attack, by 40%.

‘Blue Zones’

People who eat plant-based diets may also live longer. The authors refer to so-called Blue Zones, where people live longer than the average. Examples include Loma Linda, CA, where people live up to 10 years longer than other people in California, and Okinawa, Japan, which has one of the highest life expectancy rates in the world.

As well as not smoking and engaging in moderate physical activity, people in Blue Zones tend to have a mostly plant-based diet. In Okinawa, for example, people consume a diet high in sweet potatoes, green leafy vegetables, and soy products.

As well as living longer, people who eat a plant-based diet may also remain cognitively healthy for longer.

The authors found one study which showed that the MIND diet — which is rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds but does not exclude animal products — reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. The team found that the DASH diet, which is similar to the MIND diet, and the Mediterranean diet were also associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

A cost effective approach

Although aging is inevitable, the authors say that adopting a healthful, plant-based diet could help delay the aging process and reduce the risk of age-associated diseases. It could also increase a person’s life expectancy.

“[S]imple diet changes can go a long way in helping populations lead longer, healthier lives.” Dr. Hana Kahleova, Ph.D.

This conclusion is in line with the findings of the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, which showed that a low intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and a high intake of red and processed meats are major risk factors for disease.

The authors say that as well as offering significant benefits for health, plant-based diets could reduce healthcare costs in the U.S., which are close to $3.5 trillion each year. They suggest that a healthful diet is a cost effective approach to preventing disease and recommend incorporating it into everyday life.

Hands of a couple having beer and white wine sitting in a table outdoors a bar in Split, Croatia.

According to a recent study, more people in the United States are drinking more alcohol and experiencing the harmful effects. The number of hospitalizations is rising, as are death rates.

“Alcohol is not a benign substance, and there are many ways it can contribute to mortality,” says George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

These range from more apparent contributors, such as liver disease and overdoses, to less obvious ones, such as falls.

A growing concern among experts is that rising consumption levels are leading to an increasing number of related deaths.

In the past 2 decades, alcohol consumption has risen sharply in the U.S., according to the findings of a new analysis, now summarized in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

According to data from 2017, the researchers report, 70.1% of the U.S. population aged 18 and older drank alcohol that year. Each person who drank consumed approximately 3.6 gallons of pure alcohol, or about 2.1 standard drinks daily.

As consumption has risen, so has the level of harm. Various studies have noted an increase in alcohol-related hospitalizations and emergency department visits since 2000.

Between 2000 and 2015, the number of hospital visits related to alcohol shot up by 76.3% for people aged 12 and over.

The total number of emergency department visits linked with alcohol rose by over 47% between 2006 and 2014.

The researchers saw the biggest increases among the female population. They reported a 10.1% rise in the number of women who consumed alcohol between 2000 and 2016, and a 23.3% increase in binge drinking among women during the same period.

Similarly, the authors found that the increases in hospitalizations and emergency department visits were greater among women than men.

Studying death certificates 

After considering the increases in alcohol consumption and associated medical intervention, the researchers — all of whom work for the NIAAA — set out to investigate whether alcohol-related deaths were similarly on the rise.

Death certificates provide the most comprehensive way of determining the causes of death among large populations. However, tracking alcohol-related mortality is difficult because a certificate may be issued before the doctor can tell that alcohol was involved.

2014 study found that only 1 in 6 certificates recording death as a result of drunk driving listed alcohol as a contributor.

Fully aware of the unreliability of the reporting, the NIAAA team analyzed all death certificates filed in the U.S. between 1999 and 2017, in an effort to determine the number of alcohol-related deaths among people aged 16 and over.

They looked for any certificates that listed alcohol as a contributing cause of death. They also included certificates that recorded an alcohol-induced cause of death.

The investigators analyzed the results as a whole before separating them by age, sex, ethnicity, and race.

Highest rises among women, younger adults

The team found that the number of deaths linked to alcohol had more than doubled within the period of their investigation. Almost 1 million people had died from alcohol-related causes between 1999 and 2017.

In 1999, there were only 35,914 such deaths. In 2017, this figure had increased to 72,558.

That year, almost one-third of these deaths had resulted from liver disease, and nearly one-fifth had resulted from overdoses — either from alcohol alone or in combination with other drugs.

Although people aged 45–74 had the highest rate of alcohol-related death, the most significant increase occurred among people aged 25–34. In fact, every age group, except people aged 16–20 and 75 or over, saw an increase.

Although rates among Hispanic men and non-Hispanic black people decreased at first, they later increased, in line with all other groups.

As with rises in consumption and subsequent hospital visits, the increases in alcohol-related deaths were higher among women than men. The female population demonstrated an 85.3% rise, compared with a 38.7% rise among men.

A wake-up call 

The head of the NIAAA describes alcohol as “a growing women’s health issue.” He says: “The rapid increase in deaths involving alcohol among women is troubling and parallels the increases in alcohol consumption among women over the past few decades.”

Speaking about the report in its entirety, Koob states that it is “a wake-up call to the growing threat alcohol poses to public health.”

Koob also reminds us that the number of recorded alcohol-related deaths may be greatly underestimated, “We know that the contribution of alcohol often fails to make it onto death certificates.”

The middle-aged and elderly range is of particular concern. With that population set to almost double by 2060, the researchers point out, complications of their alcohol consumption could place a considerable burden on the healthcare system. The NIAAA director emphasizes:

“Better surveillance of alcohol involvement in mortality is essential in order to better understand and address the impact of alcohol on public health.”

People who lose their sense of smell are at risk of dying but doctors do not take the issue seriously, researchers have found. Scientists questioned 71 people who were living without a sense of smell, a condition known as anosmia, to find out about their experiences.

Many were suffering from depression because they could no longer smell freshly cut grass or loved ones; with one woman even saying the condition ended her marriage. The scientists said people who couldn’t smell were faced with the dangers of being unable to smell gas, smoke or rotten food.

The research was published in the journal Clinical Otolaryngology. Anosmia is surprisingly common and thought to affect around five per cent of the United Kingdom (U.K.) population, which are approximately 3.25 million people.

In the United States (U.S.) around three per cent of people are affected – almost 10million – according to the Department of Health. There are many causes, including infections such as sinusitis and diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

Injuries and some medications can also cause people to lose their sense of smell. The author of the new study, Professor Carl Philpott from the University of East Anglia, hoped the research would prompt doctors to take the issue more seriously.

He and colleagues worked with patients aged between 31 and 80 who were being treated at a taste and smell clinic at the James Paget University Hospital, in Norfolk.

Losing the sense of smell also reduces the sense of taste and can make people taste food differently or not at all. Some participants said they no longer enjoyed eating so had lost weight, while others had become so put off by food that they were too self-conscious to serve meals to family or friends.

And some parents felt like failures because they could not tell when their child’s nappy needed changing. “One mother found it difficult bonding with her new baby because she couldn’t smell him,” Philpott said.

Previous research has suggested that there is a link between depression and tea drinking. Now, a new study is investigating this relationship further.

Depression is common among older adults, with 7% of those over the age of 60 years reporting “major depressive disorder.”

Accordingly, research is underway to identify possible causes, which include genetic predisposition, socioeconomic status, and relationships with family, living partners, and the community at large.

A study by researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Fudan University in Shanghai raises another possibility. It finds a statistically significant link between regular tea drinking and lower levels of depression in seniors.

While the researchers have not yet established a causal relationship between tea and mental health, their findings — which appear in BMC Geriatrics — show a strong association.

Reading the tea leaves

Tea is popular among older adults, and various researchers have recently been investigating the potential beneficial effects of the beverage.

A separate study from the NUS that appeared in Aging last June, for example, found that tea may have properties that help brain areas maintain healthy cognitive function.

“Our study offers the first evidence of the positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure and suggests a protective effect on age-related decline in brain organization.”

Junhua Li, lead author

That earlier paper also cites research showing that tea and its ingredients — catechin, L-theanine, and caffeine — can produce positive effects on mood, cognitive ability, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention, and mortality.

However, defining the exact role of tea in preventing depression is difficult, especially due to the social context in which people often consume it. Particularly in countries such as China, social interaction may itself account for some or even all of the drink’s benefits.

Feng Qiushi and Shen Ke led the new study, which tracks this covariate and others, including gender, education, and residence, as well as marital and pension status.

The team also factored in lifestyle habits and health details, including smoking, drinking alcohol, daily activities, level of cognitive function, and degree of social engagement.

In addition, the authors write, “The study has major methodological strength,” citing a few of its attributes.

Firstly, they note, it could more accurately track an individual’s tea-drinking history because “instead of examining tea-drinking habit [only] at the time of survey or in the preceding month/year, we combined the information on frequency and consistency of tea consumption at age 60 and at the time of assessment.”

Once the researchers had classified each person as one of four types of tea drinker according to how often they drank the beverage, they concluded:

“[O]nly consistent daily drinkers, those who had drunk tea almost every day since age 60, could significantly benefit in mental health.”

13,000 study participants

The researchers analyzed the data of 13,000 individuals who took part in the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS) between 2005 and 2014.

They discovered a virtually universal link between tea drinking and lower reports of depression.

Other factors seemed to reduce depression as well, including living in an urban setting and being educated, married, financially comfortable, in better health, and socially engaged.

The data also suggested that the benefits of tea drinking are strongest for males aged 65 to 79 years. Feng Qiushi suggests an explanation: “It is likely that the benefit of tea drinking is more evident for the early stage of health deterioration. More studies are surely needed in regard to this issue.”

Looking at the connection the other way around, tea drinkers appeared to share certain characteristics.

Higher proportions of tea drinkers were older, male, and urban residents. In addition, they were more likely to be educated, married, and receiving pensions.

Tea drinkers also exhibited higher cognitive and physical function and were more socially involved. On the other hand, they were also more likely to drink alcohol and smoke.

Qiushi previously published the results of the effect of tea drinking on a different population, Singaporeans, finding a similar link to lower rates of depression. The new study, while more detailed, supports this earlier work.

Currently exploring new CLHLS data regarding tea drinking, Qiushi wishes to understand more about what tea can do, saying, “This new round of data collection has distinguished different types of tea, such as green tea, black tea, and oolong tea so that we could see which type of tea really works for alleviating depressive symptoms.”

The testicles, or balls, are oval-shaped glands that form part of the male anatomy. They sit inside a thin sack of skin called the scrotum. As a person ages, the scrotum loses elasticity, and the skin starts to sag. Certain medical conditions can also cause the skin to appear saggy.

Skin loses its elasticity over time as a person gets older, and the effects of gravity start to become more noticeable everywhere on the body, including the testicles.

Some treatments can help keep the scrotum from sagging too much, although there is no way to prevent or treat the issue completely. Sagging testicles, which people often refer to as saggy balls, are usually not a cause for concern. However, if they appear with other symptoms, such as pain on one side of the balls or in the prostate, a person should see a doctor.

In this article, we look at the possible causes of sagging testicles, as well as treatment options and when to see a doctor.

What is normal?

The testicles hang inside the scrotum, or scrotal sac. The looseness of the skin around the testicles varies among individuals, and in many people, it is naturally fairly loose. The scrotum helps protect the testicles and provides some impact resistance.

The scrotum also moves in response to heat to protect the delicate testicles and sperm inside. In doing so, it helps keep the sperm viable by preventing them from becoming too warm or too cold.

In cold weather, the skin tightens up as the cremaster muscle pulls the testicles toward the body to keep them warm. In hot conditions, the skin loosens to prevent the testicles from overheating. The looser skin allows the balls to hang away from the warm body and encourages airflow around the scrotum to keep the area cool.

As such, even in younger people, the testicles will typically sag a bit. A person will generally notice this once they start producing sperm during puberty.

As a person ages, the testicles will generally sag much more. The process may not be noticeable at first, but by the age of 50 years, most people will notice a drastic difference in how much their balls sag.

Causes

Sagging testicles are a completely normal part of the aging process. A study from 2014 verifies the decrease in skin mechanical properties with aging. The skin loses collagen with age, causing the layers of the skin to stretch more.

While this applies to the skin everywhere on the body, it may be more noticeable in certain areas, such as the face and testicles. The scrotum and testicles already hang away from the body, so more stretchy skin and the efforts of gravity can lead to the effect appearing more drastic.

Other times, sagging testicles may be the result of an underlying issue, such as a varicocele. A varicocele occurs when a vein near the testicles swells up. This swelling can cause an increased blood flow to the testicles, which heats them. The body then responds by dropping the testicles lower to prevent them from getting too hot.

According to a study in the Asian Journal of Andrology, varicoceles appear in up to 15% of males and may have an association with infertility.

Varicoceles may make a person feel as though their testicles are moving or squirming, and they may also notice pain in the area. Anyone experiencing these symptoms alongside sagging testicles should see a doctor. Sometimes, a person will not experience any other symptoms and will not notice that they have the issue.

Treatments

Although age-related sagging in the scrotum is normal, some people may be uncomfortable with its appearance or find that it gets in the way of their daily life — for example, by making it easy to sit accidentally on the testicles. Surgery is the only sure way to resolve the issue, but people can also try a range of nonsurgical methods, including those below.

Exercises

There are several different exercises that people claim can prevent or treat sagging testicles, although there is no scientific evidence to prove that they work. Still, many people perform exercises to help them work out the muscles in this area of the body.

Some people say that they feel better when doing these exercises, perhaps because they feel as though they are being proactive. Even if they are ineffective, testicle exercises are unlikely to harm the testicles or make the sagging any worse.

Two exercises that some people use are Kegels and testicular holding:

Kegel exercises

Doing basic Kegels, by finding and activating the pubococcygeal (PC) muscles, may help some people support their penis and testicle health in general. The PC muscles are the muscles that a person uses to hold back their urine stream.

The basic Kegel exercise involves contracting the muscles as though trying to cut off the urine stream. As this exercise activates the PC muscles, it may improve the strength of the pelvic floor and help with some issues in the testicles, prostate, and penis.

Testicular holding

Testicular holding is similar to weight training the testicles. Holding the testicles in one hand and pulling downward activates the PC muscles. Doing this for 5 minutes each day may activate the PC muscles more strongly than simple Kegels.

Keeping the skin healthy

As much of the sagging in the testicles is due to aging skin, it may help to keep the skin as youthful as possible.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommend several ways to protect and care for the skin, including:

  • avoiding sun exposure
  • quitting smoking
  • drinking less alcohol
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • eating a balanced diet

These tips may help improve skin health in general, which may slow the progress of saggy testicles.

Surgery

Some surgical options are available to treat overly sagging testicles. These are largely for people who dislike how their testicles look. These treatments may also help in cases where the person has problems that arise from their saggy testicles, such as accidentally sitting on their testicles too often.

In these cases, a procedure called a scrotoplasty may help keep the scrotum from hanging down as far. During a scrotoplasty, the surgeon will carefully remove extra skin from the scrotum to let the testicles rest higher up toward the body.

Surgery works to treat saggy balls, but the results are not permanent. The effect is likely to wear off over time as the skin continues to stretch with age.

In the case of a varicocele, a surgical procedure called a varicocelectomy treats the underlying issue by tying off the swollen veins. The symptoms should go away as the area heals, and this may have a positive effect on the sperm.

Other methods

There is no miracle cure for sagging testicles. People may come across other methods — such as only wearing tight briefs and avoiding sex or masturbation — on internet forums and by word of mouth, but these are not effective methods.

Other sources claim that lotions, creams, hormones, or supplements can help. Although they are probably harmless to most people, there is no evidence that these methods will work.

When to see a doctor

People who notice troubling symptoms, such as pain in their groin or prostate, should see a doctor. Anyone who wants to discuss cosmetic surgery should talk to a doctor about a referral to a trusted cosmetic surgeon.

Summary

The majority of the time, sagging testicles are a normal part of the aging process. The testicles naturally sag, even at a young age, to protect the sperm inside and keep them viable.

Anyone worried about saggy balls or other associated symptoms should contact a doctor for a diagnosis. In some cases, there may be an underlying issue to treat. In others, cosmetic surgery may help a person feel better.

Omega-3 fatty acids are fats commonly found in plants and marine life.

Two types are plentiful in oily fish:

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA): The best-known omega-3 fatty acid, EPA helps the body synthesize chemicals involved in blood clotting and inflammation (prostaglandin-3, thromboxane-2, and leukotriene-5). Fish obtain EPA from the algae that they eat.

Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA): In humans, this omega-3 fatty acid is a key part of sperm, the retina, a part of the eye, and the cerebral cortex, a part of the brain.

DHA is present throughout the body, especially in the brain, the eyes and the heart. It is also present in breast milk.

Health benefits

Some studies have concluded that fish oil and omega-3 fatty acid is beneficial for health, but others have not. It has been linked to a number of conditions.

Multiple sclerosis

Fish oils are said to help people with multiple sclerosis (MS) due to its protective effects on the brain and the nervous system. However, at least one study concludedTrusted Source that they have no benefit.

Prostate cancer

One study found that fish oils, alongside a low-fat diet, may reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer. However, another study linked higher omega-3 levels to a higher risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

Research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggested that a high fish oil intake raises the risk of high-grade prostate cancer by 71 percent, and all prostate cancers by 43 percent.

Post-partum depression

Consuming fish oils during pregnancy may reduce the risk of post-partum depression. Researchers advise that eating fish with a high level of omega 3 two or three times a week may be beneficial. Food sources are recommended, rather than supplements, as they also provide protein and minerals.

Mental health benefits

An 8-week pilot study carried out in 2007 suggested that fish oils may help young people with behavioral problems, especially those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

The study demonstrated that children who consumed between 8 and 16 grams (g) of EPA and DHA per day, showed significant improvements in their behavior, as rated by their parents and the psychiatrist working with them.

Memory benefits

Omega-3 fatty acid intake can help improve working memory in healthy young adults, according to researchTrusted Source reported in the journal PLoS One.

However, another study indicated that high levels of omega-3 do not prevent cognitive decline in older women.

Heart and cardiovascular benefits

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils may protect the heart during times of mental stress.

Findings published in the American Journal of Physiology suggested that people who took fish oil supplements for longer than 1 month had better cardiovascular function during mentally stressful tests.

In 2012, researchers noted that fish oil, through its anti-inflammatory properties, appears to help stabilizeTrusted Source atherosclerotic lesions.

Meanwhile, a review of 20 studies involving almost 70,000 people, found “no compelling evidence” linking fish oil supplements to a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, or early death.

People with stents in their heart who took two blood-thinning drugs as well as omega-3 fatty acids were found in one study to have a lower risk of heart attack compared with those not taking fish oils.

The AHA recommend eating fish, and especially oily fish, at least twice a week, to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Alzheimer’s disease

For many years, it was thought that regular fish oil consumption may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. However, a major study in 2010 found that fish oils were no better than a placebo at preventing Alzheimer’s.

Meanwhile, a study published in Neurology in 2007 reportedTrusted Source that a diet high in fish, omega-3 oils, fruit, and vegetables reduced the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Vision loss

Adequate dietary consumption of DHA protects people from age-related vision loss, Canadian researchers reported in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

Epilepsy

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry claims that people with epilepsy could have fewer seizures if they consumed low doses of omega-3 fish oil every day.

Schizophrenia and psychotic disorders

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil may help reduce the risk of psychosis.

Findings published in Nature Communications details how a 12-week intervention with omega-3 supplements substantially reducedTrusted Source the long-term risk of developing psychotic disorders.

Health fetal development

Omega-3 consumption may help boost fetal cognitive and motor development. In 2008, scientists found that omega-3 consumption during the last 3 months of pregnancy may improve sensory, cognitive, and motor development in the fetus.

Foods

The fillets of oily fish contain up to 30 percent oil, but this figure varies. White fish, such as cod, contains high concentrations of oil in the liver but less oil overall. Oily fish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids include anchovies, herring, sardines, salmon, trout, and mackerel.

Other animal sources of omega-3 fatty acids are eggs, especially those with “high in omega-3” written on the shell.

Vegetable-based alternatives to fish oil for omega 3 include:

  • flax
  • hempseed
  • perilla oil
  • spirulina
  • walnuts
  • chia seeds
  • radish seeds, sprouted raw
  • fresh basil
  • leafy dark green vegetables, such as spinach
  • dried tarragon

A person who consumes a healthful, balanced diet should not need to use supplements.

Risks

Taking fish oils, fish liver oils, and omega 3 supplements may pose a risk for some people.

  • Omega 3 supplements may affect blood clotting and interfere with drugs that target blood-clotting conditions.
  • They can sometimes trigger side effects, normally minor gastrointestinal problems such as belching, indigestion, or diarrhea.
  • Fish liver oils contain high levels of vitamins A and D. Too much of these can be poisonous.
  • Those with a shellfish or fish allergy may be at risk if they consume fish oil supplements.
  • Consuming high levels of oily fish also increases the chance of poisoning from pollutants in the ocean.

It is important to note that the FDA does not regulate quality or purity of supplements. Buy from a reputable source and whenever possible take in Omega 3 from a natural source.

The AHA recommend shrimp, light canned tuna, salmon, pollock and catfish as being low in mercury. They advise avoiding shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tilefish, as these can be high in mercury.

It remains unclear whether consuming more fish oil and omega 3 will bring health benefits, but a diet that offers a variety of nutrients is likely to be healthful.

Anyone who is considering supplements should first check with a health care provider.

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are common, and women can often experience them during pregnancy. Left untreated, a UTI can pose a serious health risk to a pregnant woman and a developing fetus.

This article outlines the possible causes of a UTI in pregnancy, as well as the potential risks. We also provide information on how to prevent and treat UTIs.

Is it common?

A UTI is an infection in any part of the urinary system, including the bladder and kidneys. Research suggests it is commonTrusted Source for pregnant women to get UTIs.

According to one study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8%Trusted Source of pregnant women experience a UTI.

Causes

During pregnancy, the uterus expands for the growing fetus. This expansion puts pressure on the bladder and the ureters. The ureters are the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

The urine is also less acidic and contains more proteins, sugars, and hormones during pregnancy. This combination of factors increases the risk of a UTI occurring.

Women are also susceptible to UTIs during and after giving birth. During labor, there is an increased risk of bacteria entering the urinary tract. After giving birth, a woman may experience bladder sensitivity and swelling, which can make a UTI more likelyTrusted Source.

Symptoms

A person who has a UTI may experience the following symptoms:

  • urgent or frequent need to urinate
  • burning sensation when urinating
  • cloudy or strong smelling urine
  • blood in the urine
  • pain in the lower back, abdomen, and sides

People should tell their doctor straight away if they have blood in their urine, as this can be a sign of another condition.

In some cases, the bacterial infection causing a UTI can spread to the kidneys. A person who has a kidney infection may experience the following symptoms:

  • back pain
  • fever
  • chills
  • nausea and vomiting

If people have these symptoms, they should see their doctor immediately. Kidney infections can be serious and require immediate medical treatment.

Treatments

Pregnant women should see their doctor if they have any symptoms of a UTI. Without treatment, a UTI can cause serious complications.

3-dayTrusted Source course of antibiotics may be necessary to treat a UTI during pregnancy. A doctor may prescribe one of the followingTrusted Source antibiotics:

  • amoxicillin
  • ampicillin
  • cephalosporins
  • nitrofurantoin
  • trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advise that pregnant women avoid nitrofurantoin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazoleTrusted Source during the first trimester. These antibiotics can cause birth abnormalities if a person takes them at this stage of their pregnancy.

According to a 2015 reviewTrusted Source, studies show that both nitrofurantoin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole are generally safe during the second and third trimesters. However, taking either antibiotic in the final weekTrusted Source before delivery may increase the risk of jaundice in newborns.

If pregnant women develop a kidney infection during pregnancy, they will need treatment in the hospital. This treatment will involve antibiotics and intravenous fluids.

A short course of antibiotics is unlikelyTrusted Source to cause any harm to a developing fetus. Research suggests that the benefits of taking antibiotics to treat a UTI far outweighTrusted Source the risks of leaving a UTI without treatment.

Home remedies

Women who are pregnant and have symptoms of a UTI should see a doctor. As well as medical treatment, they may also wish to try the following at home to help speed up recovery:

  • Drinking plenty of water: Water dilutes urine and helps flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.
  • Drinking cranberry juice: According to a 2012 reviewTrusted Source, cranberries contain compounds that may help to stop bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract. This action helps to prevent and eliminate infection.
  • Urinating when the urge arises: This helps bacteria pass out of the urinary tract more quickly.
  • Taking certain supplements: A 2016 studyTrusted Source found that a combination of vitamin C, cranberries, and probiotics may help to treat recurrent UTIs in women.

Some women may choose the above treatments as an alternative to antibiotics. However, they should always consult their doctor before doing so. A doctor will monitor a pregnancy regularly to check the effectiveness of natural treatments and ensure a UTI does not worsen.

Complications

Without treatment, UTIs can cause serious complications during pregnancy. Complications may include:

  • kidney infection
  • premature birth
  • sepsis

A baby born to a woman with an untreated UTI may also have a low birth weight at delivery.

If a UTI spreads to the kidneys, this can cause further complications, such as:

  • anaemia
  • high blood pressure, or hypertension
  • preeclampsia
  • breakdown of red blood cells, or hemolysis
  • low blood platelet count, or thrombocytopenia
  • bacteria in the bloodstream, or bacteremia
  • acute respiratory distress syndrome

In some cases, an infection may pass on to the newborn baby, causing a rare but severe complication. Attending screenings for UTIs during pregnancy and getting prompt treatment when one occurs can help prevent these complications.

Prevention

The following tips may help to reduce a person’s likelihood of getting a UTI:

  • drink plenty of water
  • drink unsweetened cranberry juice or take cranberry pills
  • wash carefully around the genitals and anus
  • pass urine whenever the urge arises, and at least every 2–3 hours
  • urinate before and after having sex

Pregnant women will usually attend a screening to check for UTIs in their early pregnancy. These checks are an important step in helping to prevent UTI infections or detecting them early.

Summary

UTIs are common, and some women may experience them during pregnancy.

Women who have symptoms of a UTI during pregnancy should see their doctor immediately. Without treatment, UTIs can cause serious complications for a pregnant woman and the developing fetus. Prompt intervention can help to prevent these complications.

Routine pregnancy checks help detect the early signs of a UTI.

Muscle cramps are painful, visible contractions of a muscle or part of a muscle. Many people experience muscle cramps in the calf.

In most cases, the cramp can last for a few seconds to a few minutesTrusted Source before spontaneously resolving.

Keep reading to learn about the causes, treatments, and prevention of leg muscle cramps.

Treatment

Leg muscle cramps can be very painful and uncomfortable.

To provide some relief, a person can:

  • stretch the muscle
  • get a deep tissue massage
  • apply a hot or cold compress to the affected area

A doctor will not usually recommend medication for the routine treatment of leg cramps due to there being very little evidence of the medicines working. However, in some cases, a doctor may consider medications such as:

  • carisoprodol
  • diltiazem
  • gabapentin
  • orphenadrine
  • verapamil
  • vitamin B-12 complex

In pregnant women, magnesium and multivitamins may help.

In the past, people have also used quinine to treat leg cramps. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have strongly advised against this due to safety concernsTrusted Source.

Prevention

If a person suspects that their cramps are due to serious medical concerns such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or the ingestion of toxins, they should seek emergency medical attention.

However, for benign cramps, staying hydrated and maintaining a healthful diet may help in preventing leg muscle cramps.

Before exercising, a person should be sure to stretch the muscles and drink plenty of water.

Helpful foods

Many people believe that taking magnesium supplements can help prevent muscle cramps. In fact, some vitamin and mineral supplement companies actually market magnesium supplements for muscle cramp prevention.

Some foods also provide magnesium. Foods that are high in magnesium include:

  • almonds
  • spinach
  • cashew nuts
  • peanuts
  • soymilk
  • black beans
  • edamame
  • baked potatoes with skin
  • cooked brown rice
  • plain, low fat yogurt

However, it is important to note that studies have not yet confirmed that magnesium is effective for the prevention of leg muscle cramps.

Causes

Muscle cramp occurs when the surrounding neurons repetitively stimulate it. Leg muscle cramps are a commonTrusted Source occurrence.

According to some researchersTrusted Source, the exact causes of leg muscle cramps are largely unknown, but some triggers can include:

  • exercise
  • pregnancy
  • the presence of nocturnal leg cramps
  • dehydration
  • certain medications, including intravenous iron sucrose, raloxifene, naproxen, and teriparatide

Sometimes, leg muscle cramps can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. These might include:

  • a neurological condition, such as motor neuron disease
  • an infection, such as tetanus
  • liver disease
  • DVT

Ingesting toxins such as lead or mercury can also cause muscle cramps.

If a person believes that they have ingested one or both of these toxins, they should call Poison Control on 1-800-222-1222 and seek emergency medical attention.

Who is at risk?

Leg muscle cramps can affect anyone, but those who are more at risk include:

  • people with overweight or obesity
  • athletes
  • people taking certain medications
  • older adults, particularly those aged 65 and over
  • pregnant women

Is it serious?

When leg muscle cramps occur as a result of exercise or standing for too long, the body needs rest. In these cases, the symptoms should resolve on their own.

When leg muscle cramps become persistent, however, a person may also notice that they are not sleeping well, or that they feel limited in their daily activities. Although not serious, these persistent symptoms can impact a person’s quality of life.

If a person experiences muscle cramps along with other symptoms, such as swelling or skin discoloration, they should seek emergency medical help, as it may be a symptom of DVT.

Cramps that occur in young, healthy people and resolve spontaneously do not usually require medical attention.

If leg muscle cramps become recurrent or start to affect a person’s quality of life and daily activities, they should make an appointment with their doctor.

Summary

Leg muscle cramps are common complaints that can occur in anyone. People who are more at risk of experiencing leg muscle cramps include young people who exercise, pregnant women, and older adults.

If leg muscle cramps do not resolve or become persistent, a person should visit their doctor.

Severe leg muscle cramps may be a symptom of a serious underlying condition that requires immediate medical attention.

However, in most situations, leg muscle cramps are not serious and will go away on their own.

Neem oil is an extract of the neem tree. Some practitioners of traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine use neem oil to treat conditions ranging from ulcers to fungal infections.

This type of oil contains several compounds, including fatty acids and antioxidants, that can benefit the skin.

Below, find out about the uses and potential benefits of neem oil, as well as the risks. We also provide tips for using neem oil on the skin.

What is neem oil?

Neem oil derives from the fruits and seeds of the neem tree. These trees grow mainly in the Indian subcontinent.

Neem oil is rich in fatty acidsTrusted Source, such as palmitic, linoleic, and oleic acids, which help support healthy skinTrusted Source. The oil is, therefore, a popular ingredient in skin care products.

The leaf of the plant also provides health benefits. The leaves contain plant compounds called flavonoids and polyphenols, which have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties.

Also, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) note that neem oil contains azadirachtin, a natural pesticide.

Benefits for the skin

Researchers have only recently begun to examine how plant compounds influence health and disease. As a result, few scientific studies have investigated the use of neem oil in general skincare or as a treatment for skin conditions.

Authors of a 2013 reviewTrusted Source of the available research into medicinal uses of neem concluded that its extracts can help treat a variety of skin conditions, including:

  • acne
  • psoriasis
  • eczema
  • ringworm
  • warts

The following are some benefits of neem oil and the evidence behind these claims.

First, however, it is important to note that most of the studies involved cell lines or animals. Those that did involve humans only included small numbers of participants. This makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of neem in the general population.

Anti-aging effects

2017 study investigated the anti-aging effects of topical neem leaf extract in hairless mice. The researchers first exposed the mice to skin-damaging ultraviolet B radiation. They then applied neem oil to the skin of some of the rodents.

The team concluded that the oil was effective in treating the following symptoms of skin aging:

  • wrinkles
  • skin thickening
  • skin redness
  • water loss

The researchers also found that the extract boosted levels of a collagen-producing enzyme called procollagen and a protein called elastin.

Collagen gives the skin structure, making it look plump and full, while elastin helps retain the skin’s shape.

Production of these compounds decreases as people age. This eventually leads to dry, deflated-looking, thin skin and the formation of wrinkles.

Promoting wound healing

Research suggests that neem oil may help enhance wound healing.

In one 2010 animal study, researchers discovered that neem oil showed superior wound healing effects, compared with Vaseline. Specifically, the rats that received topical neem oil healed more quickly. They also developed stronger and more resilient tissue at the sites of their wounds.

A similar 2013 study compared the effects of saline and neem oil on wound healing in rats. Those that received neem oil healed faster and did not develop raised scars.

The researchers speculated that compounds in neem oil may promote blood vessel and connective tissue growth, thus enhancing wound healing.

2014 study investigated whether a gel containing neem oil and St. John’s wort could help reduce skin toxicity from radiation therapy. The study involved 28 human participants who were receiving radiation therapy for head and neck cancer.

All participants experienced some reduction in skin toxicity following treatment with the gel. However, it is important to note that this study did not include a placebo control.

Fighting skin infections

2019 studyTrusted Source examined the antibacterial properties of cosmetic products containing neem compounds. The authors found that soaps containing extracts of neem leaf or neem bark prevented the growth of several strains of bacteria.

Risks

Most people can use neem oil safely. However, the EPA consider the oil to be a “low toxicity” substance. It can, for example, cause allergic reactions, such as contact dermatitis.

Also, while ingesting trace amounts of neem oil will likely not cause harm, consuming large quantities can cause adverse effects, especially in children. These may include:

  • vomiting
  • liver damage
  • metabolic acidosis
  • encephalopathy, a term for brain disease, disorder, or damage

How to use it

People should use organic, cold-pressed neem oil. The oil should have a cloudy, yellow-brown color and a strong odor.

Neem oil is generally safe to apply to the skin. However, it is very potent, so it may be a good idea to test it on a small patch of skin before applying it more extensively.

To perform a patch test, mix a couple drops of neem oil with water or liquid soap. Apply the mixture to a small area of skin on the arm or the back of the hand.

If the skin becomes red, inflamed, or itchy, dilute the neem oil further by adding more water or liquid soap. Test this mixture on a different area of skin and watch for any signs of irritation.

People who are allergic to neem oil may develop hives or a rash after a patch test. If this happens, stop using the oil — and any products that contain it — immediately.

Treating skin conditions

Some people use neem oil to treat various skin conditions, including infections and acne.

To use it as a spot treatment, apply a small amount of diluted oil to the affected skin. Let the mixture soak into the skin, then rinse it off with warm water.

Neem oil has a particularly strong odor. To disguise it, try mixing neem oil with a carrier oil, such as jojoba, coconut, or almond oil. Carrier oils also help the skin absorb neem oil.

Summary

Neem oil has a long history of use in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. Despite this, researchers have only recently begun exploring the potential applications of neem oil in Western medicine.

Neem oil contains fatty acids, antioxidants, and antimicrobial compounds, and these can benefit the skin in a range of ways. Research shows that these compounds may help fight skin infections, promote wound healing, and combat signs of skin aging.

To use neem oil as part of a skincare routine, mix it with water or a carrier oil. It is important to do a patch test when trying neem oil for the first time.

Neem oil is available for purchase online.

Some people experience a reaction to neem oil, such as contact dermatitis. If this occurs, stop using the oil.

Female hair loss can happen for a variety of reasons, such as genetics, changing hormone levels, or as part of the natural aging process.

There are various treatment options for female hair loss, including topical medications, such as Rogaine. Other options include light therapy, hormone therapy, or in some cases, hair transplants.

Eating a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help keep hair healthy.

1. Minoxidil

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves Minoxidil to treat hair loss. Sold under the name Rogaine, as well as other generic brands, people can purchase topical Minoxidil over-the-counter (OTC). Minoxidil is safe for both males and females, and people report a high satisfaction rate after using it.

Minoxidil stimulates growth in the hairs and may increase their growth cycle. It can cause hairs to thicken and reduce the appearance of patchiness or a widening hair parting.

Minoxidil treatments are available in two concentrations: the 2% solution requires twice daily application for the best results, while the 5%Trusted Source solution or foam requires daily use.

While the instinct may be to choose the stronger solution, this is not necessary. Studies posted to the International Journal of Women’s DermatologyTrusted Source and the Journal of the American Academy of DermatologyTrusted Source found that 2% minoxidil was effective for females with androgenetic alopecia, or pattern baldness.

If a person finds success with minoxidil, they should continue using it indefinitely. When a person stops using minoxidil, the hairs that depended on the drug to grow will likely fall out within 6 monthsTrusted Source.

Side effects from minoxidil are uncommonTrusted Source and generally mild. Some females may experience irritation or an allergic reaction to ingredients in the product, such as alcohol or propylene glycol. Switching formulas or trying different brands may alleviate symptoms.

Some females may also experience increased hair loss at first when using minoxidil. This typically stops after the first few months of treatment as the hair gets stronger.

Additionally, misapplying minoxidil or applying it to the forehead or too much of the neck may cause hair growth in these areas. Only apply minoxidil to the scalp to avoid these side effects.

2. Light therapy

Low-level light therapy may not be sufficient treatment for hair loss on its own, but it may act to amplify the effects of other hair loss treatments, such as minoxidil.

A trial posted to the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology found that compared to control groups, adding low light therapy to regular 5% minoxidil treatment for androgenetic alopecia helped improve the recovery of the hairs and the participants’ overall satisfaction with their treatment.

Researchers will need to carry out further research to help strengthen these results.

3. Ketoconazole

The drug ketoconazole may help treat hair loss in some cases, such as androgenetic alopecia, where inflammationTrusted Source of the hair follicles often contributes to hair loss.

One review posted to the International Journal of Women’s DermatologyTrusted Source noted that topical ketoconazole might help reduce inflammation and improve the strength and look of the hair.

Ketoconazole is available as a shampoo. Nizoral is the best known brand and is available for purchase over the counter and online. Nizoral contains a low concentration of ketoconazole, but stronger concentrations will require a prescription from a doctor.

4. Corticosteroids

Some females may also respond to corticosteroid injections. Doctors use this treatment only when necessary, for conditions such as alopecia areata. Alopecia areata results in a person’s hair falling out in random patches.

According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, injecting corticosteroids directly into the hairless patch may encourage new hair growth. However, this not may prevent other hair from falling out. Topical corticosteroids, which are available as creams, lotions, and other preparations, may also reduce hair loss.

5. Platelet-rich plasma

Early evidence suggests that injections of platelet-rich plasma may also help reduce hair loss. A plasma-rich injection involves a doctor drawing the person’s blood, separating the platelet-rich plasma from the blood, and injecting it back into the scalp at the affected areas. This helps speed up tissue repair.

A recent review posted to Aesthetic Plastic SurgeryTrusted Source noted that most studies suggest that this therapy reduces hair loss, increases hair density, and increases the diameter of each hair.

However, because most studies up until now have been very small, the review calls for more research using platelet-rich plasma for androgenic alopecia.

6. Hormone therapy

If hormone imbalances due to menopause, for example, cause hair loss, doctors may recommend some form of hormone therapy to correct them.

Some possible treatments include birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy for either estrogen or progesterone.

Other possibilities include antiandrogen medications, such as spironolactoneTrusted Source. Androgens are hormones that can speed up hair loss in some women, particularly those with polycystic ovary syndrome, who typically produce more androgens.

Antiandrogens can stop the production of androgens and prevent hair loss. These medications may cause side effects, so always talk to the doctor about what to expect and whether antiandrogens are suitable.

7. Hair transplant

In some cases where the person does not respond well to treatments, doctors may recommend hair transplantationTrusted Source. This involves taking small pieces of the scalp and adding them to the areas of baldness to increase the hair in the area naturally. Hair transplant therapy can be more costly than other treatments and is not suitable for everybody.

8. Use hair loss shampoos

Some minor hair loss may happen due to clogged pores on the scalp. Using medicated shampoos designed to clear the pores from dead skin cells may help promote healthy hair. This may help clear minor signs of hair loss.

9. Eat a nutritious diet

Eating a healthful diet may support normal hair growth, as well. Typically, a healthful diet will contain a wide variety of foods, including many different vegetables and fruits. These provide many essential nutrients and compounds that help keep skin and hair healthy.

Iron levelsTrusted Source may also play a role in hair health. Females with hair loss can see their doctor for a blood test to check if they have an iron deficiency. A doctor may advise consuming an iron-rich diet or taking an iron supplement.

10. Scalp massage

Massaging the scalp may increase circulation in the area and help clean away dandruff. This helps keep the scalp and hair follicles healthy.

Causes

The most common cause of hair loss in females is androgenetic alopecia, which has strong links to genetics and can run in families.

According to the International Journal of Women’s DermatologyTrusted Source, hair loss from androgenetic alopecia may start at a young age. Some females may begin losing their hair in their late teens or early twenties, though most females may not begin to lose their hair until their 40s or older.

Both males and females can develop androgenetic alopecia, but they experience it in different ways. Males tend to experience a receding hairline or bald spot on top of their head, while females tend to present different symptoms.

In females, the parting at the center of the hair often becomes more defined or wider. Females may also experience thinning hairs, and hair may appear more thin or patchy overall.

These symptoms are due to a thinning of each hair strand. The hairs also have a shorter life cycle, and hairs only stay on the head for a shorter period.

Female pattern hair loss is a progressive condition. Females may only notice a slightly wider parting in their hair at first, but as symptoms progress, this can become more noticeable.

Other forms of alopecia, such as alopecia areata, may cause one or more patches of complete baldness.

Other factors may play a role in hair loss, such as inflammatory conditions that affect the scalp and hormone imbalances. Doctors may want to investigate these possible causes if the person does not respond to typical treatments.

Coping with hair loss

While losing hair at a young age may be concerning, hair loss is a reality for many people as they age. One study posted to the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology noted that up to 75% of females would experience hair loss from androgenetic alopecia by the time they are 65 years old.

While many females look for ways to treat hair loss while they are young, at some point, most people accept hair loss as a natural part of the aging process.

Some people may choose to wear head garments or wigs as a workaround to hair loss. Others work with their aging hair by wearing a shorter haircut that may make thin hair less apparent.

Summary

Hair loss can affect both males and females. Hair loss in females may have a range of causes, though the most common is androgenetic alopecia.

There are a variety of treatments for hair loss for females, including OTC hair loss treatments, which are generally effective. Anyone experiencing hair loss should visit their doctor who can diagnose any underlying factors.

If a doctor suspects there is another underlying cause or the person does not respond well to OTC treatments, they will look into other treatment options.