SEXUAL HEALTH BASICS

Sexuality is part of being human. Love, affection and intimacy all play a role in healthy relationships from childhood through old age.

You often hear about the importance of physical, mental and spiritual health, but feeling confident about your sexuality also is important. Achieving sexual health allows for:

  • Healthy relationships
  • Planned pregnancies
  • Disease prevention

It’s essential to be well-informed about all aspects of sexual health and what it takes to have a fulfilling sex life. Similarly, it’s important to be aware of factors that can complicate your sexual health. Don’t let embarrassment keep you from bringing up concerns or asking questions of your doctor or other health care providers.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), are infections usually acquired though unprotected sexual contact with someone who’s infected.

But, you can’t always tell if someone is infected, because many STIs cause no symptoms. In fact, many people who have an STI don’t know it.

That’s why you have to be vigilant about STI prevention. Barrier methods of birth control, such as condoms, also help reduce your risk of getting most STIs. If you’re sexually active, having just one partner who agrees to remain sexually exclusive with you can also help prevent STIs.

Woman’s Sexual Health

Sexual health is important for a woman’s well-being, whether you’re trying to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections or you’re worried about low sex drive, painful intercourse or other problems related to women’s sexual health.

Learn how to achieve a fulfilling sexual relationship, and know how to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections. As you get older, understand common changes in women’s sexual health — and how to maintain a healthy and enjoyable sex life at any age.

Men’s sexual Health

Sexual health is important for a man’s well-being, whether you’re trying to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections or you’re worried about erectile dysfunction or other problems related to men’s sexual health.

For some men, worries about penis size top the list of their sexual health concerns. However, you’re probably more normal than you think — and penis-enlargement products and procedures aren’t likely to be effective and may have risks.

As you get older, understand common changes in men’s sexual health — and how to maintain a healthy and enjoyable sex life at any age.

Sex and Aging

Adults can remain sexually active regardless of their age. In fact, many older adults desire and enjoy an active sex life.

An ongoing interest in sex, as well as satisfaction with the frequency and quality of sexual activity, is positively associated with health in later life. Of course, there are some challenges when it comes to sex and aging. Physical changes, illness, disabilities and some medicines can make sex challenging or difficult to enjoy.

There are many resources available to older adults to help them achieve a satisfying sex life. Don’t be afraid to bring up concerns with your doctor or other health care provider. And remember, whatever your age, take precautions to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections.

Talking to kids about SEX

Kids and sexuality — those words strike fear into the hearts of many parents. But talking to kids about sex is an important part of parenting. Children and teens get a lot of information from peers and media sources, so they need your guidance to help them make healthy and appropriate decisions about their sexual behavior.

When it comes to talking to kids about sex, there’s no standard script. Your decision to educate your children about sexuality will likely be based on the child’s maturity, as well as your personal goals and values.

Look for everyday opportunities and let your child set the pace with his or her questions. As your child matures, you can provide more-detailed responses.

It’s normal to feel uncomfortable when talking to kids about sex. But by providing accurate and open communication, you increase the odds that your child will understand your values and make appropriate choices about sex.

15 natural ways to lower your blood pressure

High blood pressure is a dangerous condition that can damage your heart. It affects one in three people in the US and 1 billion people worldwide 

If left uncontrolled, high blood pressure raises your risk of heart disease and stroke.

But there’s good news. There are a number of things you can do to lower your blood pressure naturally, even without medication.

Here are 15 natural ways to combat high blood pressure.

1. Walk and exercise regularly

Exercise is one of the best things you can do to lower high blood pressure.

Regular exercise helps make your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood, which lowers the pressure in your arteries.

In fact, 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as running, per week, can help lower blood pressure and improve your heart health. 

Walking just 30 minutes a day can help lower your blood pressure. More exercise helps reduce it even further.

2. Reduce your sodium intake

Salt intake is high around the world. In large part, this is due to processed and prepared foods. For this reason, many public health efforts are aimed at lowering salt in the food industry. Many studies have linked high salt intake with high blood pressure and heart events, including stroke.

However, more recent research indicates that the relationship between sodium and high blood pressure is less clear.

One reason for this may be genetic differences in how people process sodium. About half of people with high blood pressure and a quarter of people with normal levels seem to have a sensitivity to salt.

If you already have high blood pressure, it’s worth cutting back your sodium intake to see if it makes a difference. Swap out processed foods with fresh ones and try seasoning with herbs and spices rather than salt.

Most guidelines for lowering blood pressure recommend reducing sodium intake. However, that recommendation might make the most sense for people who are salt-sensitive.

3. Drink less alcohol

Drinking alcohol can raise blood pressure. In fact, alcohol is linked to 16% of high blood pressure cases around the world. While some research has suggested that low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol may protect the heart, those benefits may be offset by adverse effects. In the U.S., moderate alcohol consumption is defined as no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. If you drink more than that, cut back.

Bottom line: Drinking alcohol in any quantity may raise your blood pressure. Limit your drinking in line with the recommendations.

4. Eat more potassium-rich foods

Potassium is an important mineral. It helps your body get rid of sodium and eases pressure on your blood vessels. Modern diets have increased most people’s sodium intake while decreasing potassium intake.

To get a better balance of potassium to sodium in your diet, focus on eating fewer processed foods and more fresh, whole foods.

Foods that are particularly high in potassium include:

  • vegetables, especially leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes
  • fruit, including melons, bananas, avocados, oranges, and apricots
  • dairy, such as milk and yogurt
  • tuna and salmon
  • nuts and seeds
  • beans

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, which are rich in potassium, can help lower blood pressure.

5. Cut back on caffeine

If you’ve ever downed a cup of coffee before you’ve had your blood pressure taken, you’ll know that caffeine causes an instant boost.

However, there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that drinking caffeine regularly can cause a lasting increase. In fact, people who drink caffeinated coffee and tea tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, than those who don’t drink it. Caffeine may have a stronger effect on people who don’t consume it regularly.

If you suspect you’re caffeine-sensitive, cut back to see if it lowers your blood pressure.

Caffeine can cause a short-term spike in blood pressure, although for many people, it does not cause a lasting increase.

6. Learn to manage stress

Stress is a key driver of high blood pressure.

When you’re chronically stressed, your body is in a constant fight-or-flight mode. On a physical level, that means a faster heart rate and constricted blood vessels.

When you experience stress, you might also be more likely to engage in other behaviors, such as drinking alcohol or eating unhealthful food that can adversely affect blood pressure.

Several studies have explored how reducing stress can help lower blood pressure. Here are two evidence-based tips to try:

  • Listen to soothing music: Calming music can help relax your nervous system. Research has shown it’s an effective complement to other blood pressure therapies.
  • Work less: Working a lot, and stressful work situations, in general, are linked to high blood pressure.

Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure. Finding ways to manage stress can help.

7. Eat dark chocolate or cocoa

Here’s a piece of advice you can really get behind.

While eating massive amounts of dark chocolate probably won’t help your heart, small amounts may. That’s because dark chocolate and cocoa powder are rich in flavonoids, which are plant compounds that cause blood vessels to dilate.

A review of studies found that flavonoid-rich cocoa improved several markers of heart health over the short term, including lowering blood pressure.

For the strongest effects, use non-alkalized cocoa powder, which is especially high in flavonoids and has no added sugars.

Dark chocolate and cocoa powder contain plant compounds that help relax blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.

8. Lose weight

In people with overweight, losing weight can make a big difference to heart health.

According to a 2016 study, losing 5% of your body mass could significantly lower high blood pressure.

In previous studies, losing 17.64 pounds (8 kilograms) was linked to lowering systolic blood pressure by 8.5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 6.5 mm Hg.

To put that in perspective, a healthy reading should be less than 120/80 mm Hg.

The effect is even greater when weight loss is paired with exercise.

Losing weight can help your blood vessels do a better job of expanding and contracting, making it easier for the left ventricle of the heart to pump blood.

Losing weight can significantly lower high blood pressure. This effect is even more significant when you exercise.

9. Quit smoking

Among the many reasons to quit smoking is that the habit is a strong risk factor for heart disease. Every puff of cigarette smoke causes a slight, temporary increase in blood pressure. The chemicals in tobacco are also known to damage blood vessels.

Surprisingly, studies haven’t found a conclusive link between smoking and high blood pressure. Perhaps this is because smokers develop a tolerance over time.

Still, since both smoking and high blood pressure raise the risk of heart disease, quitting smoking can help lessen that risk.

There’s conflicting research about smoking and high blood pressure, but what is clear is that both increase the risk of heart disease.

10. Cut added sugar and refined carbs

There’s a growing body of research showing a link between added sugar and high blood pressure. In the Framingham Women’s Health Study, women who drank even one soda per day had higher levels than those who drank less than one soda per day.

Another study found that having one less sugar-sweetened beverage per day was linked to lower blood pressure.

And it’s not just sugar — all refined carbs, such as the kind found in white flour — convert rapidly to sugar in your bloodstream and may cause problems.

Some studies have shown that low carb diets may also help reduce blood pressure.

One study on people undergoing statin therapy found that those who went on a 6-week, carb-restricted diet saw a greater improvement in blood pressure and other heart disease markers than people who did not restrict carbs.

Refined carbs, especially sugar, may raise blood pressure. Some studies have shown that low carb diets may help reduce your levels.

11. Eat berries

Berries are full of more than just juicy flavor.

They’re also packed with polyphenols, natural plant compounds that are good for your heart. Polyphenols can reduce the risk of stroke, heart conditions, and diabetes, as well as improving blood pressure, insulin resistance, and systemic inflammation.

One study assigned people with high blood pressure to a low-polyphenol diet or a high-polyphenol diet containing berries, chocolate, fruits, and vegetables.

Those consuming berries and polyphenol-rich foods experienced improved markers of heart disease risk.

Berries are rich in polyphenols, which can help lower blood pressure and the overall risk of heart disease.

12. Try meditation or deep breathing

While these two behaviors could also fall under “stress reduction techniques,” meditation and deep breathing deserve specific mention. Both meditation and deep breathing may activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is engaged when the body relaxes, slowing the heart rate, and lowering blood pressure. There’s quite a bit of research in this area, with studies showing that different styles of meditation appear to have benefits for lowering blood pressure.

Deep breathing techniques can also be quite effective.

In one study, participants were asked to either take six deep breaths over the course of 30 seconds or simply sit still for 30 seconds. Those who took breaths lowered their blood pressure more than those who just sat.

Try guided meditation or deep breathing. Here’s a video to get you started.

Bottom line: Both meditation and deep breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure.

13. Eat calcium-rich foods

People with low calcium intake often have high blood pressure.

While calcium supplements haven’t been conclusively shown to lower blood pressure, calcium-rich diets do seem linked to healthful levels.

For most adults, the calcium recommendation is 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day. For women over 50 and men over 70, it’s 1,200 mg per day.

In addition to dairy, you can get calcium from collard greens and other leafy greens, beans, sardines, and tofu. 

Calcium-rich diets are linked to healthy blood pressure levels. You can get calcium through eating dark leafy greens and tofu, as well as dairy.

14. Take natural supplements

Some natural supplements may also help lower blood pressure. Here are some of the main supplements that have evidence behind them:

  • Aged garlic extract: Researchers have used aged garlic extract successfully as a stand-alone treatment and along with conventional therapies for lowering blood pressure.
  • Berberine: Traditionally used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, berberine may increase nitric oxide production, which helps decrease blood pressure.
  • Whey protein: A 2016 study found that whey protein improved blood pressure and blood vessel function in 38 participants.
  • Fish oil: Long credited with improving heart health, fish oil may benefit people with high blood pressure the most.
  • Hibiscus: Hibiscus flowers make a tasty tea. They’re rich in anthocyanins and polyphenols that are good for your heart and may lower blood pressure.

Researchers have investigated several natural supplements for their ability to lower blood pressure.

15. Eat foods rich in magnesium

Magnesium is an important mineral that helps blood vessels relax.

While magnesium deficiency is pretty rare, many people don’t get enough.

Some studies have suggested that getting too little magnesium is linked with high blood pressure, but evidence from clinical studies has been less clear.

Still, eating a magnesium-rich diet is a recommended way to ward off high blood pressure.

You can incorporate magnesium into your diet by consuming vegetables, dairy products, legumes, chicken, meat, and whole grains.

Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. Find it in whole foods, such as legumes and whole grains.

Take home message

High blood pressure affects a large proportion of the world’s population.

While drugs are one way to treat the condition, there are many other natural techniques, including eating certain foods that can help.

Controlling your blood pressure through the methods in this article may, ultimately, help you lower your risk of heart disease.

10 ways to prevent kidney stones


Kidney stones are deposits of minerals and salts that crystallize in the kidneys. They become solid, and passing them in the urine can be extremely painful.

Usually, the fluid in urine prevents waste products from coming into contact with each other. However, kidney stones can begin to form when there is not enough fluid or too much solid waste content in the urine.

Though most kidney stones develop in the kidneys, they can form anywhere in the urinary tract.

Prevention

Researchers are still not exactly sure how or why kidney stones develop.

Dehydration is the primary risk factor for kidney stones. However, certain foods and various lifestyle habits can also increase the risk of developing them.

People who suspect that they have kidney stones or are at high risk of developing them should consult a doctor to find out what type of kidney stone they have and determine which specific foods or activities to avoid.

There are many steps a person can take to reduce the risk of kidney stones, including:

1. Staying hydrated

When urine contains more fluid, it is less likely that minerals and salts will cluster together and form stones. Darker urine is a sign of dehydration. Ideally, urine should appear pale yellow.

Doctors tend to recommend that a person drinks between six and eight 8 ounce (oz) glasses of water per day.

2. Reducing salt intake

Sodium, or salt, can cause water retention and lead to dehydration. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) suggest that adults aim to keep their salt intake below 2,300 milligrams(mg) daily. This is equivalent to around one teaspoon of table salt.

Some examples of high salt foods include:

  • deli or smoked meats
  • most packaged or prepared meals
  • potato chips
  • most canned soups
  • most ready-to-make noodle or side dishes
  • foods that contain other types of sodium, including sodium bicarbonate, disodium phosphate, monosodium glutamate, baking powder, nitrites, and sodium nitrate

3. Maintaining a healthy body weight

Having overweight or obesity can put stress on the kidneys. However, it is always important to lose weight gradually and safely.

Crash dieting and following a diet high in animal protein can both increase the risk of kidney stones.

4. Limiting foods with calcium oxalate

Kidney stones can consist of many different compounds, including uric acid, struvite, and cysteine. The most common type of kidney stone involves calcium oxalate.

One 2014 study examined nearly 44,000 kidney stones and found that 67% were composed predominately of calcium oxalate.

Doctors usually only recommend restricting oxalate intake to those at a high risk of kidney stones or those with high oxalate levels.

Consuming calcium alongside oxalate-rich foods may reduce the risk of kidney stones by binding the chemicals together before they reach the kidneys.

Foods that contain high levels of oxalate include:

  • grapefruit and cranberry juice
  • potatoes
  • soybeans
  • spinach
  • some nuts, including cashews and peanuts
  • chocolate
  • rhubarb
  • beets
  • asparagus
  • most berries
  • celery and parsley
  • whole grains
  • tea

5. Avoiding excessive caffeine consumption

Caffeine speeds up metabolism and can cause dehydration. The recommended upper limit for adults is 400 mg of caffeine daily, which is equivalent to about four cups of coffee. It is important to remember that certain sodas, chocolate, teas, and energy drinks can also contain caffeine.

6. Avoiding sugary drinks

Some studies have linked sweetened drinks, especially those containing high-fructose corn syrup, to the development of kidney stones.

At least half of a person’s fluid intake should be pure water. Some research suggests that caffeinated drinks can increase the risk of stones, as can sweetened drinks and sodas.

7. Getting enough dietary calcium

Although calcium oxalate is the most common compound in kidney stones, consuming some dietary calcium helps reduce the risk of stones.

Most dairy products are a good source of calcium. Manufacturers fortify many other foods with calcium, including:

  • orange juice
  • canned fish with bones, such as sardines
  • tofu
  • some cereals

8. Increasing citric acidic intake

About 60% of people with kidney stones also have low citric acid levels.

Some good sources of citric acid include:

  • one 4 oz glass of undiluted, unsweetened lemon or lime juice
  • one 8 oz glass of orange juice
  • one 8 oz glass of melon or mango juice

9. Monitoring the intake of high acid foods

Highly acidic urine can increase the risk of uric acid kidney stones and make passing them more painful. High amounts of acid in the urine also encourage the kidneys to reabsorb citrate rather than excrete it. Citrate is a compound that can help flush out calcium-based stones, as well as impair their growth.

Highly acidic foods include:

  • red meat and pork
  • poultry
  • most types of fish
  • most cheeses
  • eggs

People do not need to avoid high acid foods entirely, as they can be a good source of protein. However, a person should monitor and limit their intake of these foods if they experience frequent kidney stones.

10. Taking supplements and vitamins

A wide range of natural supplements and vitamins are available that may help reduce the risk of kidney stones in some people, including:

  • potassium citrate
  • vitamin B-6, which occurs in foods such as bananas, mangos, soybeans, avocados, and halibut
  • other B vitamins, including riboflavin, thiamin, and B-12, none of which are harmful to people with kidney stones
  • vitamin D
  • calcium
  • fish oils

However, for many of these, it is best to check with a doctor or dietitian before use. Some supplements can increase the risk for some individuals.

How common are kidney stones?

According to the National Kidney Foundation, almost 1 in 10 people in the United States develop a kidney stone during their lifetime. The risk is around 19% for men and 9% for women.

Most men experience their first kidney stone after the age of 30 years.

Symptoms

Small kidney stones may not cause any symptoms, and they sometimes pass on their own without causing much discomfort. Medium-to-large kidney stones, however, can cause intense, sharp pain.

Symptoms usually begin once the stones have started to travel through the urinary system. Stones that become stuck can cause a backup of urine. This can be extremely painful.

Common symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • constant, intense pain in the lower back
  • bloody urine
  • vomiting or nausea, often from the pain
  • fever and chills
  • very unpleasant or odd-smelling urine
  • cloudy urine
  • stomachache that does not improve with gas medication

Treatment and when to see a doctor

If a person suspects that a kidney stone is the cause of substantial pain or discomfort, it is important to see a doctor.

Although most people experience no long-term consequences from kidney stones, they can be extremely painful and require medical monitoring.

In most cases, treating kidney stones involves increasing fluid intake, taking pain medications, and using medications that make the urine less acidic.

People with smaller stones may be able to go home and wait for the stone or stones to pass. People with larger or more severe stones may need to stay in the hospital.

Stones that are too large to pass or that become stuck in the urinary tract may require surgery. Surgery to remove the stones may also be necessary if an infection has developed around it.


Types of anxiety and ways to overcome them

Anxiety is a natural response to feeling under threat. It causes people to feel worried, afraid, or stressed. It is natural for a person to feel anxious from time to time.

A person may have an anxiety disorder if they regularly feel severe levels of anxiety that impact their day-to-day life. A person’s feelings of anxiety may last for a long time or be out of proportion to their situation.

Anxiety comes in many different forms. Certain situations or tasks, such as public speaking or driving, can make a person feel anxious.

Additionally, a person may feel anxious about their health, certain body functions, or about relationships.

A person may also feel severe anxiety when faced with certain objects, places, or situations. Mental health professionals call this a phobia.

Anxiety can cause a person to feel restless, worried, tense, and unable to relax.

A person may also experience dizziness, a churning feeling in their stomach, nausea, and sweating.

Ways to overcome anxiety

There are numerous ways a person may overcome anxiety besides those listed here. What works for one person may not work for another.

A person struggling with anxiety can talk to a specialist about the best approach for them.

1. Coping strategies

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) recommends the following coping strategies for anxiety:

  • Relaxation: Practicing yoga, or trying meditation, breathing, massage, and relaxation techniques can help a person cope with anxiety.
  • Diet: Eating a well-balanced diet with regular meals and healthy snacks will keep the body healthy. Avoiding alcohol and caffeine can also reduce anxiety.
  • Sleep: Getting enough sleep each night can help a person feel more able to overcome anxiety.
  • Achievable goals: Instead of aiming for perfection, a person can try to do their best instead. This can help a person feel more positive about their achievements, and decrease the pressure they put on themselves.
  • Perspective: Stepping back from anxious feelings can help put a situation in perspective and make it seem less scary.
  • Support: Talking to friends and family or a health professional to get support with anxiety can help a person overcome anxiety.

2. Exercise and fitness

A recent study suggests that regular exercise has similar effects to antidepressant medications and improves anxiety.

The article explains people with anxiety and depression have decreased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a neurotrophin in the brain,

After exercise, BDNF in the brain increases, which may improve symptoms of anxiety.

The ADAA suggests including 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise or 1.25 hours of vigorous intensity exercise each week, or trying a combination of both.

The ADAA suggests jogging, walking, cycling, or dancing three to five times a week for 30 minutes.

Setting smaller exercise goals will make an exercise program feel more achievable, and a person may be more likely to keep up with it for the long term.

A 2016 study concluded that exercise was more effective when done in shorter durations.

3. Medications

The Office on Women’s Health (OASH) lists the following types of medication for anxiety:

  • Benzodiazepines: What doctors call antianxiety medication, benzodiazepines are usually prescribed for short periods of time because they can be addictive, according to a 2020 review of the medication. They affect the central nervous system and slow down the body’s functions by increasing the effect of the brain chemical gamma amino butyric acid.
  • Beta blockers: According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), beta blockers reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as trembling, a fast heartbeat, and sweating. People can use them as needed. There are also some natural sources of beta blockers, such as omega-3, that help anxiety.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): SSRIs stop the serotonin transporter (SERT) from removing serotonin from the synaptic cleft in the brain. Removing serotonin from the synaptic cleft means the brain does not benefit from its effects. By blocking the action of the SERT, serotonin levels in the brain can increase, which can improve
    generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorders, and social anxiety.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: This type of medication is similar to SSRIs. These medications affect five different neurotransmitter pathways, such as blocking the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine. However, they can cause more side effects than SSRIs, according to a 2020 review.
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs): MAOIs are an older type of antidepressant that work by blocking the monoamine oxidase enzyme, which breaks down serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, and tyramine. By stopping the breakdown of these neurotransmitters, their levels can increase in the brain and relieve symptoms of depression, panic disorders, and social phobia. According to OASH, a person should avoid eating certain cheeses and wines if they take MAOIs, and women may not be able to take birth control, some types of pain relief, or cold and allergy medication.

4. Therapy

There are many types of therapy a person can try to help overcome anxiety.

Psychotherapy, also called talk therapy, involves a person seeing a mental health professional.

A person can have psychotherapy in a group or on their own.

Types of psychotherapy include:

Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)

ACT uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies to help alleviate anxiety.

ACT also encourages a person to commit to behavior changes that will help them overcome anxiety.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT focuses on identifying and understanding a person’s thinking and behavioral patterns.

By doing this, a person can change these patterns to reduce their anxiety.

According to the ADAA, people can see benefits in 12 to 16 weeks.

CBT helps a person learn skills they can use throughout their life to overcome anxiety.

Sessions may provide a person with activities or homework to complete to help them progress during their course of therapy.

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy is a type of CBT. A person is gradually exposed to the things that make their anxiety worse in a safe environment.

This can help a person feel less anxious about the situations, places, or objects that cause them stress.

According to the ADAA, exposure therapy can be very effective for phobias and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Types of anxiety

There are many different types of anxiety disorder. They include:

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder is a type of chronic anxiety.

A person with GAD will feel anxious or worried most days for at least 6 months.

A person may feel anxious about their health, work, social interactions, or their situation in life more generally.

Social anxiety

A person with social anxiety will feel anxious about social interactions or social performances.

A person may worry that other people will judge them negatively because of what they say or do.

A person may avoid social situations, so social anxiety can affect a person’s work and school life.

Swallowing anxiety

Swallowing anxiety is also called phagophobia.

Swallowing anxiety can cause problems with a person’s eating patterns.

According to the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders (NFOSD), a person with swallowing anxiety may:

  • over-chew their food
  • avoid certain types of food or textures
  • feel as though food is stuck in their throat
  • find it difficult to start swallowing

A person may develop swallowing anxiety if they have experienced a traumatic event such as choking, regurgitation, or abuse.

Performance anxiety

Performance anxiety refers to anxiety a person experiences about performing specific tasks.

Studies into performance anxiety in musicians, summarized in a 2017 review, found that singers had higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol when someone asked them to perform in front of an audience.

In some cases, even virtual audiences in a VR headset increased a person’s stress levels when performing.

According to the 2017 review, performance anxiety triggers include:

  • taking exams
  • public speaking
  • writing
  • sexual performance
  • sports
  • the performing arts

This review suggested that performance anxiety may be a type of social anxiety because it overlaps with the fear of negative evaluations and fear of extreme, negative social costs that characterize social anxiety.

However, the specific mechanisms behind performance anxiety in particular are unclear.

Health anxiety

Health anxiety is also called hypochondria.

A person with health anxiety will feel excessive anxiety about developing a health condition, and their worry may be out of proportion with the chances of them developing a particular health condition.

According to the Centre for Clinical Interventions (CCI), a person with health anxiety may still believe they are at risk of an illness despite having negative tests from health professionals. They may also check their body obsessively or take medical tests more than necessary.

Health anxiety can occur in people who are healthy and in people who have health conditions, regardless of whether they are experiencing symptoms.

Sexual anxiety

Both men and women can experience sexual anxiety.

Sexual anxiety can have a negative affect on a person’s sex life, as they may worry about their looks or that they will disappoint sexual partners.

A 2015 study found that over one-third of men in the study had a negative self image of their genitalia, which contributed to sex anxiety and erectile dysfunction.

Results from a 2014 study published in the journal Body Image suggest that body self-consciousness and body shame during sexual activity negatively correlated with sexual satisfaction, according to self-reported measures of these criteria in college women who participated in the study.

Relationship anxiety

Relationship anxiety can occur in new relationships or long-term relationships.

According to a 2015 study, a person may seek reassurance excessively from their partner or silence themselves to please their partner if their opinions or feelings differ from their partner.

Driving anxiety

According to the ADAA, a person’s driving anxiety may include the following fears:

  • driving outside their comfort zone on their own
  • getting lost
  • running out of gas
  • being unable to find a parking spot
  • going too fast and losing control
  • getting into a car accident

Driving anxiety can affect a person’s social and professional life.

Phobias

A person with a phobia will experience intense fear about specific objects or situations.

The fear they feel will often be out of proportion with the threat the object or situation presents.

A person with a phobia may take steps to avoid the object or situation, and experience excessive anxiety about encountering it.

Specific phobias can include:

  • flying
  • heights
  • certain animals
  • injections
  • blood

Support systems and resources

A person living with anxiety can use their friends and family as a support network to help them cope with and overcome anxiety.

A person can contact a doctor or mental health professional if they have concerns about their anxiety or are seeking treatment.

There are also many online resources that can help a person find information on anxiety, from mental health support provider directories to national mental health organizations such as Mental Health America (MHA) and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Summary

The way a person responds to anxiety treatments is very individualized, and one treatment may work for some people but not others.

Coping strategies, lifestyle changes, therapy, or medication can all be part of a person’s anxiety treatment plan.

There are many different types of anxiety, and treatment may be different for each.

As a result, it is important for a person to get the correct diagnosis before seeking treatment in order to increase their chances of overcoming anxiety.

10 tips for relieving morning sickness

Morning sickness is often one of the first signs of pregnancy. It is a common complaint, but it often passes by 3 months into the pregnancy. However, for some women, severe morning sickness can be bothersome.

What is morning sickness?

The feelings of nausea do not happen only in the morning. Most women find they ease as the day goes on, but, for some women, they may continue all day.

Nausea during pregnancy is normally associated with an increase in estrogen levels, low blood sugar counts, and a greater susceptibility to some smells.

The exact reason is unknown, but factors may include:

  • a rise in hormones, especially estrogen, progesterone, human chorionic gonadotrophin (HCG), and cholecystokinin, leading to changes in digestive activity
  • a fall in blood sugar, resulting from the placenta’s need for energy

Another theory on what contributes to nausea in early pregnancy is related to the sense of smell. A woman’s sense of smell is more sensitive in pregnancy, and this could increase the feelings of nausea.

It is most likely to occur during the first 3 months of pregnancy, and it often subsides once into the second trimester.

Research has suggested that nausea and vomiting during pregnancy are a good sign, and they are associated with a lower risk of pregnancy loss.

Over half of all pregnant women experience nausea.

Morning sickness can last all day for some women. It usually starts around week 6 of pregnancy and disappears around week 12, but different women will have different experiences.

Morning sickness does not need medical attention unless it is severe and leads to dehydration and weight loss. Some tips and home remedies can help.

Most women will not experience excessive vomiting, but many will have some discomfort due to nausea.

Here are some tips for minimizing the unpleasant symptoms of nausea during pregnancy.

1) Get plenty of rest

It is important to get a good night´s sleep. Napping during the day may help too, but not straight after a meal, as this can increase nausea.

For those who work night shifts, it may help to wear a sleep mask or use blackout curtains to block out as much light as possible.

As time goes on and the body changes shape, a maternity body pillow may help your back and abdomen.

Go to bed early and wake up early, so you can take time to get out of bed.

Do not use sleeping pills unless a doctor prescribes them.

2) Eat with care

Fatty and spicy foods and caffeine increase the chance of triggering the release of stomach acid, especially as the pregnancy progresses and the fetus pushes against the digestive tract. Bland foods may be less aggravating.

Small portion sizes can help reduce the chance of vomiting but keep something in the stomach. Having an empty stomach can worsen the feelings of nausea. The stomach produces acids, but they have nothing to work on, except for the stomach lining. This adds to the feelings of nausea.

Having some salty crackers or a protein snack before getting out of bed in the morning may help.

At breakfast, cold apple sauce, pears, bananas or any citrus fruit will help you feel satisfied early. The fruit’s potassium may help prevent morning sickness.

Carbohydrates can help. Baked potatoes, rice, and dry toast are often suitable options.

At night, eating a high-protein snack before going to bed will help regulate your blood-glucose levels during the night.

Eat food cold to reduce the smells experienced when eating.

3) Keep physically and mentally active

Being physically active has been found to improve symptoms in women who experience nausea during pregnancy.

Keeping busy can help take your mind off the feelings of nausea. Reading a book, doing puzzles, watching television, playing cards, or going for short walks around the block will help to keep you preoccupied.

4) Ensure good fluid intake

It is important to stay hydrated for good health, especially during pregnancy.

It may be hard to consume eight glasses of water a day while experiencing nausea, but dehydration can aggravate feelings of nausea.

Adding apple cider vinegar and honey to water may make it more palatable.

Sucking ice cubes made from water or fruit juice is also an effective method.

5) Ginger and peppermint teas

Ginger has long been used to aid digestion and reduce abdominal discomfort. Studies show that it may also help relieve the symptoms of nausea.

Other options are to sip cold ginger ale or to add a slice of raw ginger to water or tea.

Snacks such as gingerbread, or ginger cookies may also help.

Peppermint tea may also help settle the stomach.

6) Wear loose and comfortable clothing

Restrictive or tight clothing may worsen the symptoms of nausea. Women who experience nausea during pregnancy have fewer symptoms of nausea when they wear loose-fitting clothes.

7) Vitamins and supplements

Supplements should only be used under a doctor’s supervision. If you are taking vitamins, it may be best to take them before bed and with a snack.

Vitamin B6 may help reduce nausea.

Iron supplements that are prescribed during pregnancy can sometimes lead to nausea. A doctor may recommend a slower-release form or a lower dosage. Take iron supplements with orange juice or another drink with Vitamin C to increase absorption.

8) Avoid computer monitor flicker

A computer monitor flickers rapidly and almost unnoticeably. This may contribute to morning sickness.

If it is not possible to avoid using a computer monitor, it may help to adjust the screen by making the fonts bold and larger and changing the background to a soft tan or pink color. This will help reduce eye strain.

9) Avoid triggers

Morning sickness is linked to an increased sensitivity to smell.

Some strong smells can worsen the symptoms, but scents such as lemon extract and rosemary may help.

An individual will learn to recognize which triggers bring on an episode of nausea, and they can avoid these as far as possible.

10) Help for acid reflux

Sometimes, the nausea and vomiting may be due to acid reflux.

A doctor may be able to recommend antacid medication to take before going to bed to reduce stomach acid levels, and the subsequent morning vomiting.

Always check with a doctor before taking any medication during pregnancy.

Alternative therapies such as acupressure may help. Applying pressure on specific points on the body may help control symptoms. It may involve wearing a motion-sickness band on the forearm.

Fast facts about morning sickness

  • Morning sickness occurs in over 50 percent of women who become pregnant.
  • It can be managed in a number of ways, including through dietary measures, acupressure, and rest.
  • Active medical treatment is only required in cases of excessive vomiting.
  • The use of medications is not recommended during pregnancy until prescribed.
Morning Sickness. Pregnant Girl Feeling Sick Touching Mouth Sitting On Couch Indoor. Empty Space For Text

How and why does diet influence immune function?

We may take it for granted that our diet can influence the way our immune systems work. But how and why does what we eat impact the immune response? In this Honest Nutrition feature, we investigate.

that constantly works to protect the body from antigens, which have associations with pathogens, including bacteria, toxins, parasites, and viruses.

The immune system offers two lines of defense: innate immunity and adaptive immunity.

Innate immunity is the first line of defense and consists of physical barriers, such as the skin and mucous membranes and chemical and cellular defenses. The innate immune system is nonspecific

because it reacts the same way to all foreign invaders.

If the innate immune system is ineffective against a potential threat, the adaptive immune system takes over.

The adaptive immune system consists of specialized blood cells and proteins that target the specific cause of infection. The adaptive immune system has a “memory” which is why a person’s body becomes immune to specific illnesses after initial exposure.

A person’s immune system needs to function well for them to remain healthy. Certain illnesses, medications, and lifestyle choices, such as smoking and excessive drinking, can adversely affect immune function.

Research shows that a person’s diet can impact immune health as well.

Article highlights:

Can diet influence the immune system?

suggest that a person’s diet influences their immune system, like all other aspects of health.

For example, nutrition can affect the microbiome, gut barrier function, inflammatory processes, and white blood cell function, all of which impact immune function.

Dietary patterns and individual foods have associations with increased disease risk, greater risk of allergy, and impaired immune response.

Western-type diets tend to contain high levels of saturated fat, ultra-processed foods, added sugar and salt, and overall calories. This diet is often low in foods associated with better health, such as vegetables, fruits, and fatty fish, and has strong links to an increased risk of chronic disease.

Research suggests that Western-type diets induce inflammation and alter immune system function, promoting disease development.

In contrast, diets rich in whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, legumes, and seafood, and low in ultra-processed foods can reduce disease risk and promote healthy immune function.

Additionally, a deficiency or insufficiency of nutrients essential to immune function, including vitamin D, zinc, and vitamin C, can also affect immune response.

Nutrient deficiencies may be more common in those consuming ultra-processed diets low in whole, nutrient-dense foods.

Although it is clear that dietary choices impact overall health, including immune function, the interaction between diet and immune health is highly complex. Scientists are still learning how the foods a person consumes may help or harm immune function.

Adverse effects of unhealthy diets

Western-type diets tend to be high in refined carbohydrates, added sugars, saturated fat, and calories. This pattern of eating affects immune function in several ways.

Most of the foods in Western diets are ultra-processed and contain high levels of added sugar, which can promote inflammatory responses of the immune system.

For example, foods and beverages that significantly impact blood sugar levels, such as soda, candy, sugary cereals, and sugary baked goods, increase levels of inflammatory proteins, including tumor necrosis-alpha (TNF-alpha), C-reactive protein (CRP), and interleukin-6 (IL-6). They also interfere with the function of protective immune cells, including neutrophils and phagocytes.

A 2012 study that included 562 adults aged 85 years and older without diabetes found that the participants who had higher blood sugar levels had lower innate immune responses. They also had higher levels of CRP, which is a marker of inflammation.

Higher blood sugar levels have links to an impaired immune response in people with diabetes as well.

Also, diets high in added sugar and refined carbs may adversely alter gut bacteria, leading to dysbiosis, which involves digestive disturbances, such as bloating.

A healthy microbiome is essential to immune function because gut bacteria play a critical role in the development and function of the immune system.

Experts have also linked Western-type diets to an altered immune response due to high levels of saturated fat and added salt.

Studies indicate that diets high in saturated fat may promote inflammation, modify gut bacteria, and inhibit the functioning of white blood cells.

Diets high in added salt have links to excessive immune response, impaired inflammation regulation in the body, and an increased risk of certain autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Western-type diets have links to an increased risk of developing several chronic diseases, including certain cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Researchers attribute this to the chronic low-grade inflammation and altered immune response that Western-type diets, sedentary lifestyles, and toxin exposure cause.

However, research investigating the relationship between diet and immune function is ongoing, and scientists do not entirely understand this complex relationship.

Diets for healthy immune function

While a diet high in ultra-processed foods, added sugar, and excessive calories may lead to immune dysfunction, dietary patterns rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods are beneficial for immune function.

The Mediterranean diet is rich in vegetables, legumes, nuts, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, and other healthy foods. Research has shown that it can reduce disease risk, lower markers of inflammation, and beneficially modulate gut bacteria.

Diets high in fiber, such as the Mediterranean diet, promote the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including acetate, propionate, and butyrate. SCFAs are end products of bacterial fermentation in the gut and have health benefits.

SCFAs act locally and systemically to modulate the immune response. They maintain the health of and improve the immune defensive function of the intestinal epithelium. This is an important part of the immune system that serves as a barrier against microorganisms. It also reduces the production of inflammatory proteins from immune cells.

Diets high in fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish contain high levels of nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, vitamin D, B6, B12, copper, folate, iron, and selenium. The immune system needs these nutrients to function optimally.

Experts know that vegetarian-based diets reduce markers of chronic inflammation, such as CRP, fibrinogen, and IL-6. This might be partly due to the array of nutrients and nonnutritive components found in fruits and vegetables strengthening the immune system response.

Foods rich in healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, protein, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds help reduce systemic inflammation, promote healthy gut bacteria balance, reduce oxidative stress and cellular damage, and improve blood sugar and insulin sensitivity. All of these activities are essential for healthy immune function.

Additionally, studies show that supplementing the diet with nutrients including vitamin D, zinc, and vitamin C may help optimize immune function and reduce infection risk.

To support immune function, a person should concentrate on following a balanced dietary pattern rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods, especially plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and seeds. People should avoid or limit ultra-processed foods high in refined grains and added sugar.

The bottom line

It is essential to follow a healthy diet to ensure good immune function.

Studies show that while certain dietary patterns may lead to impaired immune function, other dietary patterns promote optimal immune function.

A dietary pattern low in ultra-processed foods and rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods, such as vegetables, fruits, fish, and legumes, protects against chronic disease risk and supports a healthy immune response.

Following a healthy dietary pattern and leading a lifestyle that includes stress reduction techniques, restful sleep, daily physical activity, and other healthy habits is the best way to support the immune system and reduce disease risk.