Thursday, February 20, 2020
Exercise

Many people believe that eye exercises can help improve vision or treat eye conditions.

Although there is limited evidence to suggest that eye exercises can actually enhance vision, eye exercises can help with eye strain, certain eye conditions, and overall well-being.

Eye exercises can be particularly helpful for people who experience digital eye strain, which is related to the prolonged use of computers.

Read on to learn about seven eye exercises.

Eye exercises and their potential benefits

Eye exercises can be helpful for the following conditions:

  • nystagmus, which is an eye movement condition
  • strabismus, which is also an eye movement condition
  • amblyopia
  • myopia
  • visual field defects
  • dyslexia
  • vergence problems
  • ocular motility conditions
  • accommodative dysfunction
  • asthenopia
  • convergence insufficiency
  • visual field deficits following brain injury
  • motion sickness
  • learning difficulties

It is important to note that people with eye conditions such as retinopathy, cataracts, or glaucoma are unlikely to benefit from trying the eye exercises below.

The following are seven eye exercises that people may wish to try for the conditions listed above:

1. The 20-20-20 rule

Digital eye strain can become a problem for people who need to focus on a computer screen all day while working.

The 20-20-20 rule helps ease digital eye strain. The rule is easy: a person needs to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes while working on a computer.

2. Focus change

The focus change exercise can also help with digital eye strain. People should perform this exercise while sitting.

  1. Hold one finger a few inches away from one eye.
  2. Focus the gaze on the finger.
  3. Move the finger slowly away from the face.
  4. Focus on an object farther away, and then back on the finger.
  5. Bring the finger back closer to the eye.
  6. Focus on an object farther away.
  7. Repeat three times.

3. Eye movements

This eye movement exercise also helps with digital eye strain.

  1. Close the eyes.
  2. Slowly move the eyes upward, then downward.
  3. Repeat three times.
  4. Slowly move the eyes to the left, then to the right.
  5. Repeat three times.

4. Figure 8

The figure 8 exercise can also help ease digital eye strain.

  1. Focus on an area on the floor around 8 feet away.
  2. Move the eyes in the shape of a figure 8.
  3. Trace the imaginary figure 8 for 30 seconds, then switch direction.

5. Pencil pushups

Pencil pushups can help people with convergence insufficiency. A doctor might recommend this exercise as part of vision therapy.

  1. Hold a pencil at arm’s length, situated between the eyes.
  2. Look at the pencil and try to keep a single image of it while slowly moving it toward the nose.
  3. Move the pencil toward the nose until the pencil is no longer a single image.
  4. Position the pencil at the closest point where it is still a single image.
  5. Repeat 20 times.

6. Brock string

The Brock string exercise helps improve eye coordination.

To complete this exercise, a person will need a long string and some colored beads. They can complete this exercise either sitting or standing.

  1. Secure one end of the string to a motionless object, or another person can hold it.
  2. Hold the other end of the string just below the nose.
  3. Place one bead on the string.
  4. Look straight at the bead with both eyes open.

If the eyes are working correctly, a person should see the bead and two strings in the shape of an X.

If one eye is closed, one of the strings will disappear, which means that the eye is suppressing. If the person sees two beads and two strings, the eyes are not converged at the bead.

7. Barrel cards

Barrel cards is a good exercise for exotropia, which is a type of strabismus.

  1. Draw three red barrels of increasing sizes on one side of a card.
  2. Repeat in green on the other side of the card.
  3. Hold the card against the nose so that the largest barrel is farthest away.
  4. Stare at the far barrel until it becomes one image with both colors and the other two images have doubled.
  5. Maintain the gaze for about 5 seconds.
  6. Repeat the exercise with the middle and smallest images.

Can eye exercises help improve vision?

There is currently little reliable evidence to suggest that eye exercises really work to improve the eyes and vision.

One study found that eye exercises can help with convergence problems. Another study suggested that eye exercises improved visual field deficits and stereoscopic skills following brain injury.

In one 2013 study, participants who completed eye exercises were more accurate in a rapid serial visual presentation exercise than the control group. These results suggest that eye exercises may enhance cognitive performance in tasks that involve attention and memory.

The pencil pushups exercise appears to be an effective therapy for symptomatic convergence insufficiency.

Aside from these few cases, researchers have not proven that eye exercises are an effective treatment for other types of visual or intellectual conditions.

However, certain foods may benefit eye health.

Vision therapy

Vision therapy is like rehabilitation therapy for a person’s eyes.

A doctor can prescribe vision therapy, which they will tailor to each person, to help improve visual skills and processing. Vision therapy may use both sensory- and movement-related activities.

Vision therapy typically involves a range of different tools, including computer programs, special instruments, lenses, and prisms.

Vision therapy can be useful for some of the eye conditions listed in this article.

When to see a doctor

Certain eye symptoms can indicate a more serious condition. A person should contact a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • red eyes
  • loss of vision
  • blurred vision
  • eye pain
  • double vision
  • eyelid swelling
  • sensitivity to light
  • headaches associated with eye symptoms

Summary

There is not much scientific evidence to suggest that eye exercises help improve vision in general. However, eye exercises and vision therapy can help with digital eye strain and certain eye conditions.

A person can easily perform eye exercises such as the 20-20-20 rule, figure 8, and pencil pushups at home.

If a person experiences blurred vision, red eyes, or eye pain or has concerns about their vision, they should contact their doctor.

Anxiety commonly causes a change in appetite. Some people with anxiety tend to overeat or consume a lot of unhealthful foods. Others, however, lose their desire to eat when they feel stressed and anxious.

Anxiety is a mental health condition that affects 40 million adults in the United States each year. Changes in appetite are one of many possible symptoms.

Keep reading to learn more about the link between anxiety and a loss of appetite, some potential remedies and treatments for the problem, and some other common causes of appetite loss.

Anxiety and appetite loss

When someone starts to feel stressed or anxious, their body begins to release stress hormones. These hormones activate the sympathetic nervous system and trigger the body’s fight-or-flight response.

The fight-or-flight response is an instinctive reaction that attempts to keep people safe from potential threats. It physically prepares the body to either stay and fight a threat or run away to safety.

This sudden surge of stress hormones has several physical effects. For example, research suggests that one of the hormones — corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) — affects the digestive system and may lead to the suppression of appetite.

Another hormone, cortisol, increases gastric acid secretion to speed the digestion of food so that the person can fight or flee more efficiently.

Other digestive effects of the fight-or-flight response can include:

  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • indigestion
  • nausea

This response can cause additional physical symptoms, such as an increase in breathing rate, heart rate, and blood pressure. It also causes muscle tension, pale or flushed skin, and shakiness.

Some of these physical symptoms can be so uncomfortable that people have no desire to eat. Feeling constipated, for example, can make the thought of eating seem very unappetizing.

Overeating vs. appetite loss

People who have persistent anxiety or an anxiety disorder are more likely to have long-term heightened levels of CRF hormones in their system. As a result, these individuals may be more likely to experience a prolonged loss of appetite.

On the other hand, people who experience anxiety less frequently may be more likely to seek comfort from food and overeat. However, everyone reacts differently to anxiety and stress, whether it is chronic or short-term.

In fact, the same person may react differently to mild anxiety and high anxiety. Mild stress may, for example, cause a person to overeat. If that person experiences severe anxiety, however, they may lose their appetite. Another person may respond in the opposite way.

Men and women may also react differently to anxiety in terms of their food choices and consumption.

One study indicates that women may eat more calories when anxious. The study also links higher anxiety with a higher body mass index (BMI) in women but not in men.

Remedies and treatment

Individuals who experience a loss of appetite due to anxiety should take steps to address the issue. Long-term appetite loss can lead to health problems. Potential remedies and treatments include:

1. Understanding anxiety

Simply realizing that sources of stress can trigger physical sensations can go some way toward reducing anxiety and its symptoms.

2. Addressing sources of anxiety

Identifying and dealing with anxiety triggers can sometimes help people regain their appetite. Where possible, individuals should work to eliminate or reduce stressors.

If this proves challenging, a person may wish to consider working with a therapist who can help them manage anxiety triggers.

3. Practicing stress management

Several techniques can effectively reduce or control anxiety symptoms, including appetite loss. Examples include:

  • deep breathing exercises
  • guided imagery practice
  • meditation
  • mindfulness
  • progressive muscle relaxation

4. Choosing nutritious, easily digestible foods

If people cannot eat much, they should ensure that what they do eat is nutrient-rich. Some good choices include:

  • soups containing a protein source and a variety of vegetables
  • meal-replacement shakes
  • smoothies containing fruits, green leafy vegetables, fat, and protein

It is also a good idea to opt for easily digestible foods that will not further upset the digestive system. Examples include rice, white potato, steamed vegetables, and lean proteins.

People with symptoms of anxiety may also find it beneficial to avoid foods that are high in fat, salt, or sugar, as well as high-fiber foods, which can be difficult to digest.

It can also help to limit the consumption of drinks containing caffeine and alcohol, as these often cause digestive problems.

5. Eating regularly

Getting into a regular eating pattern can help the body and brain regulate hunger cues.

Even if someone can only manage a few bites at each mealtime, this will be better than nothing. Over time, they can increase the amount that they eat at each sitting.

6. Making other healthful lifestyle choices

When a person is anxious, they may find it difficult to exercise or sleep. However, both sleep and physical activity can reduce anxiety and increase appetite.

Individuals should try to get enough sleep each night by setting a regular sleep schedule.

They should also aim to exercise most days. Even short bursts of gentle exercise can be helpful. People who are new to exercise can start small and increase the duration and intensity of activities over time.

When to see a doctor

People should see a doctor if their appetite loss persists for 2 weeks or more, or if they lose weight rapidly. A doctor can check for an underlying physical condition that may be causing symptoms.

If the loss of appetite is purely a result of stress, a doctor can suggest ways to manage the anxiety, including therapy and lifestyle changes.

They may also prescribe medication to those with chronic or severe anxiety.

Other causes of appetite loss

Anxiety is not the only cause of appetite loss. Other possible causes include:

  • Depression: As with anxiety, feeling depressed can cause a loss of appetite in some people but lead others to overeat.
  • Gastroenteritis: Also known as a stomach bug, gastroenteritis can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.
  • Medication: Some medications, including antibiotics and certain pain relievers, can reduce appetite. They can also cause side effects that include diarrhea or constipation.
  • Intense exercise: Some people, especially endurance athletes, experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and intestinal cramping after periods of intense activity, which may result in a loss of appetite.
  • Pregnancy: Some pregnant women may lose their appetite due to morning sickness or because of pressure on the stomach.
  • Illness: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or cancer, can lead to a reduction in appetite.
  • Aging: Appetite loss is common among older adults, possibly due to a loss of taste and smell or because of illness or medication use.

Summary

Anxiety can cause a loss of appetite or an increase in appetite. These effects are primarily due to hormonal changes in the body, but some people may also avoid eating as a result of the physical sensations of anxiety.

Individuals who experience chronic or severe anxiety should see their doctor.

Sometimes, there may be other reasons for appetite loss that also require treatment.

Once a person addresses the anxiety, their appetite will typically return. Without treatment, long-term appetite loss and chronic anxiety can have serious health consequences.

Fish Oil supplements could make men’s testicles bigger and boost their sperm count, a study claims.Men who took the pills, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, were found to have testicles 1.5ml larger and to ejaculate 0.64ml more sperm, on average.The men, who had an average age of 18, were included as regular supplement-takers if they had consumed fish oil for at least 60 out of the past 90 days. Larger testicles and more sperm creation are linked to higher testosterone levels and better fertility, although the study did not test how fertile the men were.

The research was published in the journal JAMA Network Open, by the American Medical Association. The experiment was described by scientists as ‘well-conducted’ and ‘insightful’ but it was clear that it did not prove fish oil makes men more fertile. Researchers from the University of Southern Denmark did their study using 1,679 young Danish men going through military fitness testing.

In Denmark military service is mandatory for all healthy men over the age of 18, so the men in the study were not yet soldiers. Each of the men was screened for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), had physical exams, gave sperm samples and then answered questions about their diets and lifestyles. If someone was considered a regular fish oil supplement user, the research found, they produced millions more sperm in an average ejaculation.

The researchers wrote in their paper: “Fish oil supplements were associated … with higher semen volume and total sperm count, and larger testicular size.”Ninety-eight men in the study said they took fish oil supplements regularly, while another 95 took vitamin D or C supplements. Men in the fish oil group were less likely to have fertility problems, which were judged against the World Health Organization’s low sperm count limit of 39 million sperm per ml of semen.

The scientists found that 12.4 percent of the men who took fish oil supplements (12 out of 98) had sperm counts below the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) measure. This compared to 17.2 percent (192 out of 1,125) men who took no supplements. And the longer someone had been taking supplements for, the more sperm they were likely to produce.

The researchers added that, based on a model fit and healthy 19-year-old: “Total sperm count was 147million for men with no supplement intake, 159million for men with other supplement intakes, 168million for men with fish oil supplement intake on fewer than 60 days, and 184million for men with fish oil supplement intake on 60 or more days.”

The study did not give exact measurements for men’s testicle volume or sperm volumes – they only compared the two groups. And the scientists could not explain why – if it was true – the fish oil improved sperm quality.It was also not clear whether increased sperm volume was caused by – or caused – the change in testicle size. Scientists not involved with the research said the study had been well-conducted but it didn’t say how much fish oil the men took.

And nor did it reveal the men’s diets, which may have shown they were getting omega-3 from other sources such as fresh fish.Professor Sheena Lewis, reproductive medicine expert at Queen’s University, Belfast, said: “This is a large well-designed study and the association between fish oil intake and improved semen quality is compelling.

“However, the study focuses on healthy young men; mostly with sperm counts already in the fertile range.“There is no evidence from this study that infertile men with low sperm counts benefit from fish oil.”Dr. Frankie Phillips, of the British Dietetic Association, said missing information about the men’s diets did make the study’s results less convincing.She added: “Antioxidants, including vitamin C, selenium and vitamin A, as well as zinc and omega-3 fats all have a role in the production of healthy sperm.

“There is much focus on the diets of women who are trying to conceive, ensuring that they are in the best possible position to achieve a healthy pregnancy, but diet might also be a factor involved in men’s reproductive health.“Omega-3 is present in a both animal and plant derived foods, but oily fish stands out as an excellent source of long chain omega-3, and the UK population currently consume way below the recommended ‘at least one portion of oily fish per week”.

“So including omega-3 is already part of current dietary recommendations – this study on its own can’t prove that upping omega-3 will itself improve testicular function.”Also, according to researchers, women who have sex every week may have a lower chance of an early menopause. University College London experts asked nearly 3,000 women – who were tracked for 10 years – about how often they had sex. Women of any age who had sex each week were less likely to have been through the menopause, compared to those who did so less than once a month.

For example, those who had regular sex were 28 percent less likely to have entered the menopause at age 51, compared to their counterparts. Sexual activity included full-blown intercourse, oral sex, touching and caressing, or self-stimulation. Scientists said if a woman is not having sex and there is no chance of pregnancy, the body ‘chooses’ to stop investing energy into ovulation.

Instead, their bodies may decide to invest energy elsewhere, such as in looking after grandchildren. The theory, known as the grandmother hypothesis, says the menopause evolved to help mothers have more children. It suggests that grandmothers would aid their offspring to have more of their own children by caring for the existing grandchildren. A woman’s immune function is hampered during ovulation, making the body more susceptible to disease.

And so if a pregnancy is unlikely because of a lack of sexual activity, the body would divert its focus from a costly process to aiding existing relatives. The menopause is when a woman stops having periods and is no longer able to get pregnant naturally. The process is a natural part of ageing and usually occurs among women between 45 and 55. Researchers used data collected from 2,936 women who took part in the Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation (SWAN) in the United States (U.S.).

The women, an average age of 45 at the start of the study in 1996, were asked if and how often they had had sex in the past six months. They were also asked whether they had oral sex, sexual touching, or engaged in self-stimulation in the last six months. The researchers found that the most frequent pattern of sexual activity was weekly (64 percent). None of the women who took part had already entered the menopause, but 46 per cent were starting to experience symptoms (known as peri-menopause). Fifty-four per cent were pre-menopausal, meaning they had not yet displayed any symptoms and were still having their periods.

Interviews were carried out both when the women first took part and then ten years later. Women who had sex weekly were less likely to experience the menopause, compared to those who had sex lass than monthly. And women who had sex monthly were less likely to experience menopause at any given age, compared to those who had sex less than monthly. Prof. Ruth Mace, who co-authored the study, said: “The menopause is, of course, an inevitability for women, and there is no behavioural intervention that will prevent reproductive cessation.“Nonetheless, these results are an initial indication that menopause timing may be adaptive in response to the likelihood of becoming pregnant.”

How can a man’s diet affect his fertility?
The body must get all the chemicals it needs from the diet, meaning what you eat controls your health. Certain foods can improve – or worsen – a man’s fertility. The general rule is that a healthy, balanced diet is better for fertility than one too high in sugar or fat.

Fruits and vegetables are good
Fruit and veg are rich in nutrients such as vitamins C and A, polyphenols, magnesium, folate and fiber, which act as antioxidants in the body. Research has suggested a direct association between the production of reactive oxygen species in sperm cells and intake of antioxidants, which help to reduce this damage by neutralizing them.

Eat foods rich in zinc, selenium and vitamin C
Zinc can be found in foods such as meat, cheese, shellfish wholegrain cereals and nuts. Inadequate intakes of zinc in the diet have been linked to low sperm count and reduced testosterone levels. Selenium can be found in foods such as brazil nuts, fish, poultry and eggs. This mineral is required for normal sperm production and development and men should aim to get 55mcg per day. Vitamin C is thought to help prevent sperm cells clumping together (common with infertility) and men should aim to get 80mg per day.

Limit dairy foods
Intake of dairy foods in association with sperm production is somewhat controversial but the theory goes that as around 75 per cent of the milk we consume comes from pregnant cows, there may be a high level of naturally occurring oestrogens, which could affect sperm production.

Limit meat intake
Although not fully proven, it has been suggested that meat and processed meats may impact on fertility in men by way of xenobiotics (mainly xenestrogens) used in the farming process. Over-exposure to these compounds, which have estrogenic effects in the body, may play a role in the decline of sperm quality in men.

Avoid excessive amounts of sugar
Excessive intake of sugary foods may lead to overweight and obesity, driving insulin resistance, which may negatively influence sperm quality as a result of inflammation and oxidative stress. Diets high in sugar can also lead to blood sugar imbalances, which may disrupt the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis impacting on sperm production.
*Culled from Daily Mail UK

The muscles, ligaments, and tissues of the pelvic floor support the bladder, rectum, and sexual organs. When the supportive structures weaken or become especially tight, doctors describe it as pelvic floor dysfunction. It is a common health issue.

When a person has pelvic floor dysfunction, the organs in the pelvis may drop. They often press down on the bladder or rectum, causing a leakage of urine or stool. Or, a person with this condition may have trouble urinating or passing stool.

Keep reading to learn more about pelvic floor dysfunction — including the symptoms, treatments, and some exercises that may help.

What is pelvic floor dysfunction?

The pelvic floor is made up of muscles, ligaments, and tissues that surround the pelvic bone. The muscles attach to the front, back, and sides of the bone, as well as to the lowest part of the spine, called the sacrum.

The function of the pelvic floor is to support the organs in the pelvis, which can include the:

  • bladder
  • rectum
  • urethra
  • uterus
  • vagina
  • prostate

People with pelvic floor dysfunction may have weak or especially tight pelvic floor muscles.

When the muscles tighten, or spasm, people may have trouble urinating or passing stool. When they weaken, the organs within the pelvis may drop and press down on the rectum and bladder.

The table below outlines several common types of pelvic floor dysfunction.

Type of pelvic floor dysfunctionDescription
Obstructed defecationThis occurs when stool enters the rectum, but the body cannot fully evacuate the bowels.
RectoceleThis involves tissue from the rectum protruding into the vagina. Stool may get caught in this pocket, forming a bulge in the vagina.
Pelvic organ prolapseThis refers to the pelvic floor stretching and the pelvic organs dropping as a result of age, childbirth, or a collagen disorder.
Paradoxical puborectalis contractionThis involves a pelvic floor muscle called the puborectalis contracting. When it happens, trying to pass stool may feel like pushing against a closed door.
Levator syndromeThis involves the pelvic floor muscles spasming after bowel movements. It can cause lasting dull pain or achy pressure high in the rectum.
CoccygodyniaThis refers to pain in the tailbone that worsens during and after bowel movements.
Proctalgia fugaxThis involves painful spasms of the rectum and muscles in the pelvic floor.
Pudendal neuralgiaThis refers to irritation or damage to the pudendal nerves, which help the pelvis function.
UrethroceleThis refers to the urethra pressing into the vagina.
EnteroceleThis involves the small intestine descending and pushing into the vagina, forming a bulge.
CystoceleThis involves the bladder dropping and pushing into the vagina.
Uterine prolapseThis refers to the uterus descending and pushing into the vagina.

Symptoms

Pelvic floor dysfunction can cause a variety of symptoms, and some can interfere with daily life.

Depending on the type of pelvic floor dysfunction, a person may experience:

  • pelvic pain
  • pressure
  • a bulge somewhere in the lower pelvic region
  • stress urinary incontinence, which involves a small amount of urine leaking from the body due to an activity such as coughing
  • involuntary leakage of stool
  • incomplete urination
  • bowel movement dysfunction
  • pain during sexual intercourse

Also, some people who see their doctors about bladder overactivity find that pelvic floor dysfunction is responsible.

Causes

Many issues can cause the structures of the pelvic floor to weaken, including:

  • age
  • systemic diseases
  • lasting health issues that cause increased pressure in the abdomen and pelvis, such as a chronic cough
  • pregnancy
  • trauma during delivery
  • multiple deliveries
  • large babies
  • operative delivery

Research indicates that stress urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or both occur in about half of all women who have given birth. These issues are closely associated with birth-related injury to the pelvic floor muscles.

The pelvic floor muscles can also stretch naturally with age. Stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse become more common with increasing age in females, for example.

Collagen disorders can also affect the muscles’ ability to support the pelvic organs.

Meanwhile, coccygodynia usually stems from trauma to the tailbone, such as from a fall. That said, in about one-third of people with the condition, the cause of coccygodynia is unknown. The pain can make having a bowel movement difficult.

Exercises

Doctors recommend pelvic floor exercises in various situations.

They may particularly benefit pregnant women because the pelvic floor muscles can stretch and weaken during labor. Strengthening these muscles may help prevent incontinence after the baby is born. Some doctors recommend that women who wish to become pregnant start the exercises ahead of time.

Males can also benefit from pelvic floor exercises, though the dysfunction is more common in females. In males, these exercises can help prevent pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence and improve sexual intercourse.

To exercise these muscles, a person should be sitting comfortably. Then, they should attempt to squeeze their pelvic muscles without holding their breath.

It is important to isolate the correct muscles without tightening those of the stomach, buttocks, or and thighs.

Doctors recommend that females aim to do 10 long squeezes — holding each for 10 seconds — followed by 10 short squeezes. However, initially, it may be a good idea to practice holding a squeeze for a few seconds at a time.

By practicing frequently, a person should be able to add more contractions to their routine week by week. It is important to do this gradually and to avoid overworking the muscles.

Within a few months, a person may notice a reduction in their symptoms. Even if symptoms resolve completely, a person should continue strengthening these muscles.

There are physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor dysfunction. A person may find that consulting one of these professionals leads to a better outcome.

Treatment

Doctors determine the cause of pelvic floor dysfunction before recommending treatment because different types of dysfunction require different approaches.

The purpose of treatment is to relieve or reduce symptoms and improve the person’s quality of life. For some people, a combination of treatment methods works best.

Doctors may recommend:

  • Dietary changes: For example, eating more fiber, drinking more fluids, and taking certain medications can make bowel movements easier.
  • Laxatives: Taking a daily laxative may help people with pelvic floor dysfunction pass stool, but it is important to consult a healthcare provider first because not all laxatives are equally effective.
  • Pain relief: Some people require injections of pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication to relieve their symptoms.
  • Biofeedback: This involves electrical stimulation, ultrasound therapy, or massage of the pelvic floor muscles to help improve rectal sensation and muscle contraction.
  • Pessary: A doctor or nurse inserts a pessary into the vagina to support prolapsed organs. This type of device can help treat various symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, either as an alternative to surgery or while a person awaits surgery.
  • Surgery: When prolapse interferes with daily activities, a doctor may recommend surgery. Large rectoceles also require surgery if the person experiences symptoms.

Stem cell therapies

Researchers behind a 2016 study investigated whether a stem cell-based therapy could resolve pelvic floor dysfunction in rats.

The researchers engineered the stem cells to produce and release elastin and collagen into the pelvic floor and injected them into rats with pelvic floor dysfunction.

The elastin and collagen promoted the repair of pelvic floor structures and decreased signs of stress urinary incontinence.

In a final component of the study, the researchers developed stem cells that blocked a factor that stops the production of elastin. This promoted increased production and release of elastin into the pelvic floor.

With further studies, researchers may find that similar therapies are effective in humans.

When to see a doctor

Anyone who experiences painful bowel movements, difficulty urinating or passing stool, pelvic pain, or pain during sexual intercourse should speak with a doctor.

An unusual bulge in the lower pelvic region may also be a reason to see a doctor, though a bulge alone may not be a cause for concern.

People with pelvic floor dysfunction have plenty of treatment options. While the topic may be uncomfortable to bring up with a doctor, it is important to seek professional advice about these symptoms.

While some family doctors may not be familiar with pelvic floor dysfunction, specialists such as colorectal doctors, urologists, and gynecologists can help diagnose the issue and recommend the best course of action.

Summary

Pelvic floor dysfunction can affect anyone, but pregnant women have the highest risk.

The various types of pelvic floor dysfunction stem from different causes, and a doctor must identify the underlying issue before developing a treatment plan.

Exercises can help some people with pelvic floor dysfunction. Depending on the cause, a doctor may also recommend dietary changes, medication, a pessary, biofeedback, or surgery.

Brain atrophy refers to a loss of brain cells or a loss in the number of connections between brain cells. People who experience brain atrophy typically develop poorer cognitive functioning as a result of this type of brain damage.

There are two main types of brain atrophy: focal atrophy, which occurs in specific brain regions, and generalized atrophy, which occurs across the brain.

Brain atrophy can occur as a result of the natural aging process. Other causes include injury, infections, and certain underlying medical conditions.

This article describes the symptoms and causes of brain atrophy. It also outlines the treatment options available in each case, as well as the outlook.

Symptoms

Brain atrophy can affect one or multiple regions of the brain.

The symptoms will vary depending on the location of the atrophy and its severity.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Conditions and Stroke, brain atrophy can cause the following symptoms and conditions:

Seizures

A seizure is a sudden, abnormal spike of electrical activity in the brain. There are two main types of seizure. One is the partial seizure, which affects just one part of the brain. The other is the generalized seizure, which affects both sides of the brain.

The symptoms of a seizure depend on which part of the brain it affects. Some people may not experience any noticeable symptoms, whereas others may experience one or more of the following:

  • behavioral changes
  • jerking eye movements
  • a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth
  • drooling or frothing at the mouth
  • teeth clenching
  • grunting and snorting
  • muscle spasms
  • convulsions
  • loss of consciousness

Aphasia

The term aphasia refers to a group of symptoms that affect a person’s ability to communicate. Some types of aphasia can affect a person’s ability to produce or understand speech. Others can affect a person’s ability to read or write.

According to the National Aphasia Association, there are eight different types of aphasia. The type of aphasia a person experiences depends on the part or parts of the brain that sustain damage.

Some cases of aphasia are relatively mild, whereas others may severely impair a person’s ability to communicate.

Dementia

Dementia is the term for a group of symptoms associated with a continuing decline in brain function. These symptoms may include:

  • memory loss
  • slowed thinking
  • language problems
  • problems with movement and coordination
  • poor judgment
  • mood disturbances
  • loss of empathy
  • hallucinations
  • difficulty carrying out daily activities

There are several different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

A person’s risk of dementia increases with age, with most cases affecting people aged 65 years and older. However, experts do not consider it to be a natural part of the aging process.

Causes

Brain atrophy can occur as a result of injury, either from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a stroke. It may also occur as a result of one of the following:

  • encephalitis
  • neurosyphilis
  • HIV

In some cases, brain atrophy may occur as a result of a chronic disorder or condition, such as:

  • cerebral palsy
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Huntington’s disease
  • frontotemporal dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Pick’s disease
  • mitochondrial encephalomyopathies, which are a group of disorders that affect the nervous system
  • leukodystrophies, which are a group of rare genetic conditions affecting the nervous system

Diagnosis

When diagnosing brain atrophy, a doctor may begin by taking a full medical history and asking about a person’s symptoms. This may include asking questions about when the symptoms began and if there was an event that triggered them.

The doctor may also carry out language or memory tests, or other specific tests of brain function.

If they suspect that a person has brain atrophy, they will need to locate the brain damage and assess its severity. This will require an MRI or CT scan.

Treatment

The treatment options for brain atrophy will vary depending on its location, severity, and cause. The following sections list some treatment options by cause.

Injuries

Brain atrophy can occur as a long-term consequence of an injury. In these cases, treatment tends to focus on helping the surrounding brain issue heal over time.

Brain injuries typically require a rehabilitation period that may involve one or more of the following:

  • physical therapy
  • speech therapy
  • counseling

Infections

Medications will be necessary to treat infections that result in brain inflammation or atrophy.

Doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial infections and antiviral medications to treat viral infections. These medications will help fight the infection and alleviate the symptoms.

Disorders and conditions

Several disorders and conditions can lead to brain atrophy. Many of these conditions currently have no cure, so treatment generally focuses on managing the symptoms.

Treatment may involve a combination of medications and therapies such as occupational or speech therapy. These therapies may be necessary to help a person regain brain function or learn strategies to help them cope.

Some conditions, such as MS, cause symptoms to occur in cycles. A person’s doctor or healthcare team will adapt their treatment plan accordingly if this is the case.

Is it possible to reverse brain atrophy?

Until recently, many scientists considered the brain to be a relatively unchanging organ. However, research is increasingly showing how the brain adapts its structure and functioning throughout life.

It is currently unclear whether or not it is possible to reverse brain atrophy. However, the brain may alter how it works to compensate for damage. In some cases, this may be enough to restore functioning over time.

Exercise for brain atrophy

2011 review suggests that regular exercise could slow or even reverse brain atrophy related to aging or dementia.

However, one 2018 study found that high intensity exercise and strength training did not slow cognitive impairment in people with mild-to-moderate dementia. Additional research is therefore necessary to determine what effect, if any, exercise has on preventing or reversing brain atrophy due to dementia.

Drugs to reverse brain atrophy

Scientists are currently working to develop drugs that can reverse brain atrophy. For example, one 2019 study investigated whether or not the dementia drug donepezil could reverse alcohol-induced brain atrophy in rats.

The researchers found that the rats they treated with donepezil experienced a reduction in brain inflammation and showed an increased number of new brain cells. However, it was not clear if donepezil would have similar effects on brain atrophy resulting from causes other than alcohol-induced damage.

It is also not clear whether or not the same effects would occur in humans. Clinical trials involving human participants are necessary.

Outlook

The outlook for brain atrophy varies depending on the location and extent of the damage, as well as its underlying cause. For people with mild cases, there may be few long-term consequences.

When brain atrophy occurs due to a disease or condition, however, symptoms may worsen over time. Long-term treatments and therapies can help slow this process and help a person manage any resulting cognitive impairments.

For injuries such as TBI and stroke, receiving immediate and effective care can significantly improve the outlook.

Summary

Brain atrophy refers to a loss of neurons within the brain or a loss in the number of connections between the neurons. This loss may be the result of an injury, infection, or underlying health condition.

Mild cases of brain atrophy may have little effect on daily functioning. However, brain atrophy can sometimes lead to symptoms such as seizures, aphasia, and dementia. Severe damage can be life threatening.

A person should see a doctor if they experience any symptoms of brain atrophy. The doctor will work to diagnose the cause of the atrophy and recommend appropriate treatments.

It is common during festive seasons to over-indulge in food and drinks. But this is not good, especially for those that care about their fitness. So, now that the end-of-year festivities are winding down, it is important to create a healthy living plan. Esta Morenikeji, a fitness instructor and founder of Zonefitness Ng said January is usually the time of year, when many people make commitments and promises to lose weight and get fit. “That’s why detox and cleansing programmes sell like water in January. New fad diets will pop up everywhere, and one or two magic teas might catch your attention. Please, don’t allow yourself to get caught in the web of fad diets,” she said.

The following are steps to guide you in the quest for a healthy living:
Stick to the Fundamentals
THERE are no magic formulas for weight loss; there are only fundamentals. Fad diets will come and go, but the fundamentals will remain.
The Fundamentals:
• Practise time-restricted feeding (Don’t eat in-between meals)
• Eat real food (It’s even better, if you can grow or kill it) ​
• Eliminate or avoid highly processed foods
• Avoid added sugar
​• Eat more nutrient dense food and less calorie dense food
• Do not overeat
• ​Drink enough water

A dietary strategy that works for you today may not work tomorrow, but the fundamentals will always work. So, stick to the fundamentals. They always work!

Prioritise Sleep
ONE of the worst things you can do to your health and well-being is staying awake, when your body is supposed to be resting and rejuvenating. Studies have shown that sleep is the master regulator of our hormones. Therefore, you must prioritise sleep in 2020.

If you’re one of those people that are always on their phones or watching television until midnight, you need to stop! Being awake when you’re supposed to be sleeping is disruptive to your circadian rhythm, and can increase your risk factors for certain lifestyle-related diseases. For every hour you spend on your phone at night, the production of melatonin is suppressed by 30 minutes.

Melatonin is the sleep hormone. The human body begins to secrete melatonin as darkness begins to fall. The appearance of darkness signals the body to wind down and prepare for rest.

The blue light from electronic devices suppresses the production of melatonin, thereby, confusing our brain and messing up our circadian rhythm. For the human body, darkness means rest and light means to be alert.

So, you’re sending confusing signals to your brain, when you stay up late at night scrolling through social media or watching television. Several studies have shown that sleep deprivation disrupts the appetite-regulating hormones, thereby causing unnecessary weight gain. Nighttime is for sleep. So, don’t spend it staring at your phone or watching television. Get off your electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime.

Do Regular Breathing Exercises 
Incorporating regular breathing exercises into your day can be beneficial to your overall health. In a study that involved 21,563 participants, researchers found that systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and pulse rate significantly reduced after six cycles of deep breathing exercise.

Yes, you read that right: deep breathing exercise causes a reduction in blood pressure and slows down the heart rate. Make it a habit to take six to 20 deep breathes throughout the day. Breathing exercises can be done anywhere, so no excuses not to do them.

For those with metabolic syndrome, the necessary lifestyle and weight changes can be challenging. Now, a study has shown that eating within a certain time window can help tackle that.

Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term for a number of risk factors for serious conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. These risk factors include obesity and high blood pressure, among others.

This is no small issue in the United States, where one-third of adults have metabolic syndrome. In fact, the condition affects around 50% of people aged 60 and over.

Obesity is also prevalent, affecting around 39.8% of adults in the U.S. Obesity is closely linked to metabolic syndrome.

Receiving a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome offers a critical window of opportunity for making committed lifestyle changes before conditions such as diabetes set in.

However, making the necessary long-term lifestyle changes to improve one’s health outlook is not always easy. Such changes include losing weight, managing stress, being as active as possible, and quitting smoking.

For the first time, a new study has looked into time-restricted eating, or intermittent fasting, as a means of losing weight and managing blood sugar and blood pressure for people with metabolic syndrome.

This new study, which appears in the journal Cell Metabolism, is set apart from previous studies that looked at the health and weight loss benefits of time-restricted eating in mice and healthy people.

“[People] who have metabolic syndrome/prediabetes are often told to make lifestyle interventions to prevent progression of their risk factors to […] disease,” said co-corresponding study author Dr. Pam Taub, of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

“These [people] are at a crucial tipping point, where their disease process can be reversed.”

“However, many of these lifestyle changes are difficult to make. We saw there was an unmet need in [people] with metabolic syndrome to come up with lifestyle strategies that could be easily implemented.”

Clinical testing of time-restricted eating

Armed with the knowledge that time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting had been effective in treating and reversing metabolic syndrome in mice, the researchers set out to test these findings in a clinical setting.

“There are a lot of claims in the lay press about promising lifestyle strategies that have no data to back up the claims. We wanted to study [time-restricted eating] in a rigorous, well-designed clinical trial,” said Dr. Taub.

Participants could eat what they wanted, when they wanted, within 10-hour windows.

The good news for the 19 participants with metabolic syndrome was that they could decide how much to eat and when they ate, as long as they restricted their eating to a window of 10 hours or less.

A 10-hour window had been effective with mice, and it offered people enough leeway that would be easy to comply with long-term.

“The participants in the study had control of their eating window,” said Dr. Taub. “They could determine which 10-hour period they wanted to consume calories. They also had flexibility in adjusting their eating window by a couple [of] hours based on their schedule.”

“Overall, participants felt they could adhere to this eating window. We did not restrict how many calories they consumed during their eating window,” Dr. Taub told Medical News Today.

Most of the participants had obesity, and 84% were taking at least one medication, such as an antihypertensive drug or a statin.

Metabolic syndrome is associated with at least three of the following: high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, high triglyceride (body fat) levels, low high-density lipoprotein, or “good,” cholesterol, and abdominal obesity.

Weight loss and better sleep

“As they started to adhere to this eating window, they started feeling better with more energy and better sleep, and this was positive reinforcement for them to continue with this 10-hour eating window,” said Dr. Taub.

Almost all the participants ate breakfast later (around 2 hours after waking) and dinner earlier (around 3 hours before bed).

The study lasted for 3 months, during which time the participants showed a 3% weight and body mass index (BMI) reduction, on average, and a 3% loss of abdominal, or visceral, fat.

“All of these improvements reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Taub.

Also, many participants showed a reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as improvements in fasting glucose. They also reported having more energy, and 70% reported an increase in the amount of time they slept or experienced sleep satisfaction.

The participants said that the plan was easier to follow than counting calories or exercising, and more than two-thirds kept it up for around a year after the study ended.

Dr. Taub recommends that anyone interested in trying time-restricted eating speak to their healthcare provider first, especially if they have metabolic syndrome and are taking medication, as weight loss may mean that medications require adjustment.

Exercising more after being diagnosed with breast cancer could lower your risk of dying, a study suggests.

Women who bumped up their activity to 150 minutes per week, the recommended amount, halved their risk of death.

Those who continued to meet the guidelines for moderate exercise, which includes cycling or brisk walks, had a 30 per cent lower risk.

Doctors are now urging patients keep active post-diagnosis, in order to give them the best chance of surviving the killer disease.

Scientists at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg tracked more than 2,000 older women for a decade.

The study is understood to be one of the first to investigate if exercise is beneficial for breast cancer patients.

It is well known that the fitter women are, the less likely they are to die if they get cancer. But less research has been done on the effects of getting physically fitter after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

The new findings, published in the journal Breast Cancer Research, bolster the evidence.

Participants were aged 50 to 74. By the end of the study, there were 206 deaths, of which 114 were caused by breast cancer.

Results suggested women who increased their activity level after a diagnosis – rather than keeping it the same – cut their risk of death the most.

And women who didn’t exercise before or after their diagnosis did not see their risk of death reduced, the team revealed.
Compared to them, women who started exercising after their diagnosis reduced their risk of dying from breast cancer by 46 per cent.

Women who were active pre- and post-diagnosis cut their odds of dying from breast cancer by 39 per cent.

The study did not look at the effects of exercise on men – but the researchers said it is unlikely the benefits only apply to women.

Dr. Audrey Jung, the corresponding author said: “The results of our study suggest that there are merits to leisure-time physical activity in breast cancer patients.”

The results are only reflective of the patients in the study who ha already survived around six years after their diagnosis, the authors said.

They conclude women should be encouraged to exercise following a breast cancer diagnosis, especially if they are not sufficiently active already.

Their findings add momentum to a movement towards ‘prescribing’ cancer patients with exercise as part of the care.

Should cancer patients do exercise? Early evidence suggests an exercise programme before treatment helps patients tolerate difficult treatments and experience fewer complications.

There is stronger evidence demonstrating that exercising while undergoing cancer treatment limits the dreaded side effects such as fatigue.

Studies indicates that after completion of treatment, undertaking an exercise programme leads to increased cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, reduced fatigue, and improved body composition and wellbeing outcomes.

For patients under palliative care, preliminary evidence suggests that exercise is feasible, and may help maintain physical function, control fatigue, and improve bone health.

Regular physical activity after a cancer diagnosis has been linked with longer survival and lower risk of recurrence or disease progression.

Despite the majority of evidence being classed as preliminary due to factors such as small-sized studies, there is consensus among scientists that exercising before, during, and after cancer treatment is generally feasible, safe, and beneficial for most patients.

In October, an international panel of cancer experts set out a number of recommendations for the use of exercise after reviewing the scientific evidence.

Leaders of organisations such as the American Cancer Society and Macmillan Cancer Support said exercise plans for cancer patients could boost survival odds after a breast, colon or prostate cancer diagnosis.

Julia Frater, Cancer Research UK’s senior specialist cancer information nurse, said: “Exercise is safe for most cancer patients to take part in. It can improve general health, mood and feelings of well being and there is emerging evidence that in some cases it might help improve overall survival.

“But more research needs to be done on the types of exercises that are most helpful and the circumstances when it might make a difference to survival. Any patients considering taking up vigorous exercise should speak to their doctor first just in case there is a reason why they should avoid some forms of exercise.”

Professor Anna Campbell, of Edinburgh Napier University, has been working in the area of exercise and cancer survivorship for 20 years.

She said there are a number of potential mechanisms that make exercise beneficial, including boosting the immune system.

She told MailOnline: “Exercise may be directly impacting on the tumour. We think it may allow immune cells to infect the tumour’s environment, altering the development of bad cells.

“Or, exercise switches off some of the tumour’s genes. We haven’t go definitive evidence yet. It is time to ensure that staying active post-cancer diagnosis is a standard part of a cancer care package.”

Meanwhile, exercising regularly could decrease inflammation and help protect against heart disease, a new study suggests.

In research conducted on mice, scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital, United States (U.S.), looked at one group of rodents that ran on treadmills daily and one group that did not.

The mice that got exercise every night had lower levels of a type of immune system cell that can turn into white blood cells.

This lowered their risk of chronic inflammation, which contributes to the formation of plaques that block the arteries and can cause cardiovascular disease.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the risk for coronary heart disease begins increasing for men at age 45 and for women at age 55.

To improve overall heart health, the American Heart Association recommends exercising each week at a moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes a week or at a high intensity for at least 75 minutes a week.

For the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, the team studied mice that were split into two groups.

One group was put into cages with treadmills, where some of the rodents ran as many as six miles per night.

The second group was put into cages without treadmills. After six weeks, the two groups were compared.

Researchers found that the mice that ran on treadmills had reduced levels of cells found in the bone marrow known as hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs).

HSPCs have the ability to turn into any type of blood cell, including white blood cells called leukocytes, which increase inflammation.

Inflammation helps plaques grow, which can clog arteries and trigger blood clots, and lead to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.

“We were surprised by how much mice loved to run,” lead author Dr. Matthias Nahrendorf of the Center for Systems Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital told DailyMail.com.

“But we were also surprised that the effects of running stayed with the mice for a while, for as long as two to three weeks after [the end of the study period].”

Additionally, researchers found the mice that exercised produced less leptin, which is a hormone responsible for controlling appetite.

Previous studies conducted by the team showed high levels of leptin and leukocytes in humans that had cardiovascular disease linked to inflammation.

Dr. Nahrendorf said the results shows the importance of exercise, but also how this could lead to new therapies for preventing heart attacks and strokes

“In the future, we want to look for pathways that, like exercise, reduce the overproduction of white blood cells, because that reduces inflammation,” he said.

“I’m not saying we would have a pill but if we could look for a way to reduce inflammation – hit the pathways with a drug – that would be the Holy Grail in anti-inflammatory therapy.”

Meanwhile, it is never too late to start exercising, according to a major study, which found active over-60s cut their risk of heart attack and stroke.

People who went from being sedentary to working out three or four times a week reduced their risk of heart problems by up to 11 per cent compared to those who did not exercise.

And the level of activity needed to cause a change was equal to just one hour of running per week – less than the 75 to 150 minutes recommended by the British National Health Service (NHS).

The study of more than a million people found those who used to work out five times a week but stopped saw their risk rise by 27 per cent.

The researchers in South Korea said their findings were evident even in people with disabilities and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.

They have urged doctors to prescribe physical activity for older patients in a bid to prevent major health problems.

Kyuwoong Kim, a PhD student at Seoul National University said: “The most important message from this research is that older adults should increase or maintain their exercise frequency to prevent cardiovascular disease.

“While older adults find it difficult to engage in regular physical activity as they age, our research suggests that it is necessary.

“We believe that community-based programmes to encourage physical activity among older adults should be promoted by governments.

“Also, from a clinical perspective, physicians should “prescribe” physical activity along with other recommended medical treatments for people with a high risk of cardiovascular disease.”

The study is published in the European Heart Journal.

Physical activity is well established as a means of preventing heart disease, but it’s not clear if the benefits remain when exercise level changes.

The study looked at 1,119,925 men and women aged 60 years or older.

They underwent two health checks by the Korean National Health Insurance Service in 2009-2010 and again in 2011-2012.

At each check, the participants’ levels of moderate and vigorous exercise per week were calculated.

One workout was considered to be half an hour or more of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, or more than 20 minutes of vigorous exercise such as running or swimming.

Researchers assessed how activity levels changed between the two checks.

They then collected data on heart disease and strokes from January 2013 to December 2016, identifying 114,856 cases.

The researchers found that 22 per cent of those inactive at the first check had increased their physical activity by the time of the second.

Exercising three to four times a week had reduced their risk of heart problems by 11 per cent, and once or twice a week reduced the risk by five per cent.

Just over half (54 per cent) of people who had been exercising five or more times a week at the time of the first screening had become completely inactive by the time of the second.

These people were found to have a 27 per cent increased risk of heart problems, but less so if they still exercised occasionally.

When looking at people with disabilities and chronic conditions, a switch from being inactive to being active three to four times a week also reduced their risk of cardiovascular problems.

People with a disability could reduce their risk by 16 per cent, and those with diabetes, raised blood pressure or cholesterol levels had their risk reduced by up to seven per cent.

About two thirds of those who took part in the study said they were physically inactive at both checks.

Professor Naveed Sattar, of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, said those who stopped exercising might have been ill.

How does exercise protect the heart? Exercise burns calories, which can maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is one of the biggest causes of heart problems.

It lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and helps regulate blood sugar levels, all of which have been linked to cardiovascular disease.

A single bout of exercise may protect your heart immediately through a process known as ischemic preconditioning. A little bit of ischemia — defined, as an inadequate blood supply to part of the body, especially the heart — may be a good thing.

It allows the heart to adapt and protect itself from longer episodes of ischemia, which normally occurs from a blockage in arteries.

He told MailOnline: “It is likely some people who were active all their lives but then cut activity do so because of illness, and it is the illness that increases risks for other diseases.

“The bottom line, however, is that encouraging and so facilitating activity at any age is beneficial. Asides from the health benefits, more active people tend to be happier, and less isolated so multiple benefits.

“This paper adds more evidence to suggests activity started at any age helps lower risks of important heart and stroke outcomes.”

The NHS says over-65s should do a mix of moderate and vigorous areobic activity totaling 150 minutes per week, plus two strength-training workouts.

The authors said they couldn’t be certain if the findings will apply outside of the Korean population due to differences in ethnicity and lifestyle.

They also said a limitation was that the physical activity levels were self-reported, and that they did not have information on other types of physical activity, such as housework.

Meanwhile, wearable activity trackers may pave the way for a better method to predict short term death risk, suggests a new study, which found that exercise data was more accurate than other risk factors, such as smoking and medical history.

New research suggests that physical activity levels might be a better predictor of lifespan than medical history or other lifestyle choices among older adults.

Being able to make an accurate prediction about a person’s risk of death can help them prolong their lives. Usually, doctors base these estimates on lifestyle choices, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, and health factors, such as cancer or heart disease history.

But new findings published in The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences suggest that wearable activity trackers may provide more reliable predictions.

Researchers at John Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, MD, studied the association between physical activity and risk of death.

“We’ve been interested in studying physical activity and how accumulating it in spurts throughout the day could predict mortality because activity is a factor that can be changed, unlike age or genetics,” says professor Ciprian Crainiceanu, Ph.D., from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Their work is not the first to find such a link, but, according to the team, the results might be some of the first to offer concrete proof that wearable technology works better for predicting a person’s risk of mortality than other means.

The study’s data set came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) carried out in 2003–2004 and 2005–2006.

Involving almost 3,000 U.S. adults between the ages of 50 and 84, it examined more than 30 predictors of 5-year all-cause mortality, using survey responses, medical records, and laboratory test results.

Physical activity made up 20 of these predictors, including total activity, time spent doing moderate to vigorous activity, and time spent not moving at all.

To measure such activity, participants — 51 per cent of who were men — were asked to wear a wearable activity tracker on their hip for seven days in a row. They were told only to remove the device when showering, swimming, or sleeping.

The research team was able to use the data to categorize which factors best-predicted death risk within the next five years. However, they were unable to tell when people were sleeping or whether they had removed the tracker for other reasons.

Wearable trackers predicted the risk of death more accurately than surveys and other methods that doctors commonly use.

“The most surprising finding,” says lead author Ekaterina Smirnova, M.S., Ph.D., “was that a simple summary of measures of activity derived from a hip-worn accelerometer over a week outperformed well-established mortality risk factors, such as age, cancer, diabetes, and smoking.”

Smirnova is an assistant professor of biostatistics at Virginia Commonwealth University, VA.

The wearable trackers designated death risk 30 per cent better than smoking-related information did, and was 40 per cent more accurate than using data involving stroke or cancer history.

The researchers found that total daily physical activity was the strongest mortality predictor. Age came second, followed by time spent performing moderate to vigorous physical exercise.

Specifically, examining the amount of physical activity that a person performed between noon and 2 p.m. proved to be a better indicator of death risk than more established risk factors, such as alcohol consumption and diabetes.

Andrew Leroux, co-author and Ph.D. candidate at John Hopkins, says the study confirms “a link between physical activity and short term mortality risk in an older population.”

But, he adds, “The data [do not] guarantee that one’s risk of mortality is going to be lower with more physical activity.”

This does not take away from the fact that wearable tracker measurements, rather than self-reported data, may help doctors “intervene” more appropriately and therefore improve patient health.

Assistant professor of medicine at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Jacek Urbanek, Ph.D., notes that “the technology is readily available and relatively inexpensive, so it seems feasible to be able to incorporate recommendations for its use into a physician’s practice.”

But it does mean that further study is necessary. Researchers are hoping to use their findings in clinical trials designed to strengthen the link between physical activity and lifespan.

Some people believe that masturbation can cause erectile dysfunction, but this is a myth. Masturbation is a common and beneficial activity.

While most men have trouble getting or keeping an erection at some point in their lives, frequent difficulties getting an erection is called erectile dysfunction (ED).

Learn more about ED and masturbation, if watching porn affects sexual function, and when to see a doctor.

Can masturbation cause ED?

No, masturbation cannot cause ED — it is a myth.

Masturbation is natural and does not affect the quality or frequency of erections.

Research shows that masturbation is very common across all ages. Approximately 74 percent of males reported masturbating, compared to 48.1 percent of females.

Masturbation even has health benefits. According to Planned Parenthood, masturbation can help release tension, reduce stress, and aid sleep.

A person may not be able to get an erection soon after masturbating. This is called the male refractory period and is not the same as ED. A male refractory period is the recovery time before a man will be able to get an erection again after ejaculating.

What does the research say?

Universally, researchers are confident that masturbation does not cause ED. However, difficulty getting and keeping an erection either while masturbating or while having sex may be a sign of other conditions.

Age is the most significant predictor of ED. Erectile dysfunction is common in men over 40 years old, with approximately 40 percent being affected to some degree.

Rates of complete ED, or the inability to get an erection, increase from 5 percent in men aged 40 to about 15 percent at age 70.

Other risk factors for ED include:

  • diabetes
  • being overweight
  • heart disease
  • lower urinary tract symptoms (bladder, prostate, or urethra issues)
  • alcohol and cigarette use

ED in younger men

Although ED generally affects older men, a 2013 study found that as many as a quarter of men under 40 years old received a new ED diagnosis.

In younger men, ED is more likely to be caused by psychological or emotional factors. Younger men also have higher levels of testosterone in their bodies and are less likely to have other risk factors for ED.

Anxiety about sexual performance or erection quality can lead to further stress, sometimes creating a “vicious circle.”

Factors that can contribute to ED in younger men include:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or medications for these illnesses
  • being overweight
  • insomnia or lack of sleep
  • urinary tract problems
  • a spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, or spina bifida
  • having a high-stress job
  • relationship stress
  • performance anxiety

Porn and ED

There is no evidence to suggest that watching porn causes ED.

Internet porn usage rose at the same time that the rate of ED diagnoses increased in men under 40 years old.

This led some researchers to believe that porn might affect male viewers’ ability to get and maintain erections.

While it is true that internet porn access and diagnoses of ED in younger men increased at about the same time and rate, this does not prove a link between the two.

Until recently, there was little research into ED in young men, making numbers difficult to interpret. Also, due to stigmas and reluctance to speak to a doctor about sexual health, ED may be underreported in both younger and older men.

It is also difficult to separate the psychological effect of watching porn from other psychological factors, such as performance anxiety.

When to speak to a doctor

ED is sometimes a sign of underlying conditions, such as heart disease or anxiety.

Telling a doctor about ED can prevent potential problems that these conditions might cause, and also provide solutions to ED.

For example, doctors may recommend that men with ED who are overweight lose some weight. This is because maintaining a healthy weight can increase testosterone levels, making it easier to get an erection.

A doctor may also recommend stress-relief techniques or cognitive behavioral therapy for those dealing with ED due to emotional or psychological issues.

Summary

Masturbation does not cause ED, but many underlying health problems, including heart disease, urinary tract symptoms, alcohol use, depression, and anxiety, can.

Research does not suggest that masturbation using internet porn could cause ED. Some people who watch porn may also experience performance anxiety, resulting in difficulties with erections, but performance anxiety is common without porn use.

Anyone experiencing problems getting or maintaining an erection should speak to a doctor, as ED is often treatable.

Hormone levels fluctuate throughout the 28-day menstrual cycle. These changes can affect a person’s appetite and may also lead to fluid retention. Both factors can lead to perceived or actual weight gain around the time of a period.

This article describes why a person may gain weight during a period, and how to prevent it. We also outline ways to help avoid weight gain during a period.

Weight gain during period

Medical research has identified around 150 symptoms that people may experience in the days leading up to a period. Food cravings, increased hunger, water retention, and swelling are premenstrual symptoms that may make a person feel like they are gaining weight.

Appetite changes

People may notice changes in their appetite throughout their menstrual cycle. For some, these changes may lead to concerns over weight gain.

Changes in appetite tend to occur at distinct stages of the menstrual cycle called the follicular phase and the luteal phase.

  • The follicular phase. This phase begins when a person bleeds and ends before they ovulate. Estrogen is the dominant hormone during this phase. Since estrogen suppresses appetite, a person may find that they eat less during this phase.
  • The luteal phase. This phase begins after ovulation and lasts up to the first day of the next period. During the luteal phase, progesterone is the dominant hormone. Since progesterone stimulates appetite, a person may find that they eat more during this phase.

Previous studiesTrusted Source have shown that females eat more calories during the luteal phase compared with the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle.

2016 studyTrusted Source found that females tend to eat more protein during the luteal phase of menstruation. Females also report increased food cravings, particularly for sweets, chocolate, and salty foods.

Not all studies show that food cravings result in an increased number of calories consumed and an increase in weight. However, people who do consume more calories as a result of their cravings may experience some weight gain.

Water retention and swelling

People may experience increased water and salt retention around the time of their period. This is due to an increase in the hormone progesterone. Progesterone activates the hormone aldosterone, which causes the kidneys to retain water and salt.

Water retention can lead to bloating and swelling, particularly in the abdomen, arms, and legs. This can give the appearance of weight gain. It may also make a person’s clothes feel tighter.

However, water retention does not always signify weight gain. A 2014 study investigated water retention in females who complained of swelling during their period.

Circumference measurements taken throughout the study indicated that the participants did have significant swelling in the following areas:

  • face
  • breasts
  • abdomen
  • upper and lower limbs
  • pubic areas

However, there were no significant changes in weight throughout the participant’s cycles.

What symptoms are normal?

Many people experience both physical and psychological symptoms during a period. Symptoms may include:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • angry outbursts
  • crying spells
  • confusion
  • social withdrawal
  • poor concentration
  • insomnia
  • taking more naps
  • changes in sexual desire
  • headache
  • aches and pains
  • fatigue
  • skin problems
  • gastrointestinal symptoms
  • abdominal pain

People may feel additional symptoms in the days leading up to a period. Symptoms may include:

  • thirst and appetite changes
  • breast tenderness
  • bloating
  • headache
  • swelling of the hands or feet

The type, severity, and duration of symptoms will vary from person to person. Additionally, some people may experience a combination of symptoms, while others may not experience any at all.

How long does it last?

Premenstrual symptoms tend to start a few days before bleeding, or menstruation, and stop once menstruation occurs.

Medical providers can diagnose people with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) if:

  • the person has a pattern of symptoms 5 days before their period for at least three cycles in a row
  • the symptoms end within 4 days after their period starts
  • the symptoms interfere with their normal activities

How to avoid weight gain

The following are some examples of how to prevent weight gain during a period.

Diet

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend the following eating habits to help lessen the effects of PMS:

  • eating complex carbohydrates to reduce mood symptoms and food cravings
  • eating calcium rich foods, including yogurt and leafy green vegetables
  • reducing fat, salt, and sugar intake
  • avoiding or limiting caffeine and alcoholic beverages
  • keeping blood sugar levels stable by eating smaller meals more often

Supplements

A doctor may also recommend taking a magnesium supplement. This can help to alleviate the following symptoms of PMS:

  • bloating
  • breast tenderness
  • mood disturbances

Medication

Sometimes, doctors may prescribe diuretics to people who complain of water retention during their period. Diuretics help to reduce the amount of water that the body stores.

Researchers have found that certain oral contraceptivesTrusted Source can also help reduce water retention. In a 2007 study, females who took 3 milligrams (mg) of drospirenone and 30 micrograms (mcg) of ethinyl estradiol had reduced water retention. Nonetheless, their body weight remained unchanged.

Doctors often use combined oral contraceptives to treat the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

Summary

Hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout the menstrual cycle can affect a person’s appetite. In particular, people may experience food cravings in the days leading up to a period.

Females may also experience water retention and bloating, which can give the appearance of weight gain.

There are several steps people can take to prevent weight gain during a period. A person can practice healthful eating habits throughout their cycle. This includes eating less salt, sugar, and fat, and stocking up on low calorie snacks to satisfy food cravings. In addition, magnesium supplements may help to alleviate bloating and other symptoms of PMS.

People who are concerned about fluid retention should talk to their doctor. The doctor may prescribe diuretics or oral contraceptives to help alleviate this symptom.

Q:

What is the average amount of weight gain during a period?

A:

The symptoms that people experience during their menstrual cycle vary widely from one individual to the next. Symptoms can even differ between cycles, depending on a person’s nutrition, stress level, amount of exercise, intake of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol, and other lifestyle factors. Because everyone is so different, there’s not really an “average” weight gain during the menstrual cycle. While many people don’t notice any bloating or weight gain at all, others might gain as much as 5 pounds. Usually, this gain happens during the premenstrual, or luteal phase, and the person loses the weight again once the next period begins.Meredith Wallis, M.S., CNM, ANPAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.