Archive for May, 2019

Freeze it, boil it, or expose it to radiation. The water bear shrugs it off. Now we know why. 

The tardigrade, also known as the moss piglet or water bear, is a bizarre, microscopic creature that looks like something out of a Disney nightmare scene: strange but not particularly threatening. The pudgy, eight-legged, water-borne creature appears to be perpetually puckering. It’s the farthest thing from what you’d expect an unstoppable organism to look like.

Yet, water bears can withstand even the vacuum of space, as one experiment showed. A sort of microscopic Rasputin, tardigrades have be frozen, boiled, exposed to extreme doses of radiation, and remarkably still survive. How they do this has been a mystery to science, until now.

Being a water-borne creature, scientists in this experiment examined how it survived desiccation, or being completely dried out. When it senses an oncoming dry period, the critter brings its head and limbs into its exoskeleton, making itself into a tiny ball. It’ll stay that way, unmoving, until it’s reintroduced into water.

It’s this amazing ability that piqued Thomas Boothby’s interest. He’s a researcher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Boothby told TheNew York Times, “They can remain like that in a dry state for years, even decades, and when you put them back in water, they revive within hours.” After that, “They are running around again, they are eating, they are reproducing like nothing happened.”

Originally, it was thought that the water bear employed a sugar called trehalose to shield its cells from damage. Brine shrimp (sea monkeys) and nematode worms use this sugar to protect against desiccation, through a process called anhydrobiosis. Those organisms produce enough of the sugar to make it 20% of their body weight.

Not the water bear. Trehalose only takes up about 2% of its entire system, when it’s in stasis. Though employing a sugar to preserve one’s body sounds strange, the newly discovered process that the water bear goes through is even more bizarre. It turns itself into glass.

In this study, tardigrades were placed into a drying-out chamber, which mimicked conditions the organisms would encounter in a disappearing pond. As the water bears underwent anhydrobiosis, scientists examined what genes were activated. These genes produced a certain protein, which they named tardigrade-specific intrinsically disordered proteins (TDPs).

When the genes which produce TDPs were blocked, the water bears died. “If you take those genes and put them into organisms like bacteria and yeast, which normally do not have these proteins, they actually become much more desiccation-tolerant,” Boothby said.

Water bear under a microscope. Flickr.

It’s when the drying out process begins that such genes are activated, flooding the water bear’s system with the protective protein. The process occurs in much the same way as trehalose preserves sea monkeys, according to Boothby. This is an example of convergent evolution, when two unrelated organisms develop the same trait for survival.

Usually, proteins are formed in orderly, 3D chains of amino acids. But TDPs operate differently, in a kind of random, somewhat disorganized manner. Dr. Boothby said, “It’s a really interesting question about how a protein without a defined three-dimensional structure can actually carry out its function in a cell.” Another question, is this protein used by any other organisms?

When desiccation begins and TDP is activated, it engages a process known as vitrification. Boothby said, “The glass is coating the molecules inside of the tardigrade cells, keeping them intact.” From there, it goes into a form of stasis until it detects water. When that occurs, the protein is dissolved into the liquid and the tardigrade is revived.

There could be some practical uses to this discovery. For instance in medicine, vaccines often require refrigeration. But in the developing world, it isn’t always available, which makes delivering vaccines to vulnerable, rural communities difficult.

Dr. Boothby believes that we may be able to use TDP to sort of freeze-dry vaccines or medications, for easy storage and transport. What about putting humans in stasis for space travel or when they have terminal diseases, to await a cure? No word on that, yet. Scientists have years of research ahead of them already, just to understand the inner-workings of TDP.

Source: https://bigthink.com/philip-perry/scientists-finally-figure-out-why-the-water-bear-is-nearly-unstoppable

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There are two rules in the beauty world that basically everyone breaks: 1. wash your makeup brushes on the regs, and 2. don’t pop your pimples. Katie Wright, a 21-year-old from Austin, TX, broke both rules and could have died because of it.

It all started when Wright felt what she “thought was a giant under the skin pimple” next to her eyebrows. She popped it, as one does, but instead of that disgusting moment of satisfaction, her face began to swell and intense pain set in.

“It felt like something was going to burst out of my skin,” she wrote on Facebook.

She immediately went to the ER, where she found out the wound wasn’t a zit at all.

“They said it was a very serious case of Cellulitis, which is a version of a Staph infection,” she explained. “It affects the deep cellular tissues with no main source to attack.”

The doctors told her that if she had let the infection go untreated for much longer, there was a high risk of it spreading to her brain or eyes, which could have caused her to go blind or even killed her.

Now that she’s all healed up, Wright warns against using dirty makeup brushes. “This most likely happened from bacteria getting into my eyebrow pencil brush. I’m super strict on washing my face/beauty blender/brushes, but I never thought to disinfect my eyebrow spoolie.”

Start disinfecting now, people.

Source: https://www.seventeen.com/beauty/a12054228/this-girl-almost-died-because-she-didnt-wash-her-makeup-brushes/

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Not happy. Not sad. Just nothing.

I never realized how little I knew about depression until I became depressed. I didn’t know, for instance, how depression can snatch away your sex drive, leaving you feeling newly—and involuntarily—asexual. I didn’t know that depression attacks your attention span, your energy, and your ability to finish things. During a recent bout, I had trouble finishing magazine articles and movies. The number of emails I sent plummeted. Everyday errands felt like Herculean tasks.

But perhaps most surprising was the emotional numbness. Nothing about hearing the word “depression” prepared me for having a moment of eye contact with my two-year-old niece that I knew ought to melt my heart—but didn’t. Or for sitting at a funeral for a friend, surrounded by sobs and sniffles, and wondering, with a mix of guilt and alarm, why I wasn’t feeling more. 

During my recent depression spell, I experienced this kind of numbness for weeks. Political news that would have previously enraged me left me cold. Music had little effect beyond stirring memories of how it used to make me feel. Jokes were unfunny. Books were uninteresting. Food was unappetizing. I felt, as Phillip Lopate wrote in his uncannily accurate poem “Numbness,” “precisely nothing.” 

And this was new to me. Because while I had been in and out of depression before, I still, like many people, didn’t fully grasp an illness that affected 16 million Americans in 2015. (That’s more than the combined populations of New York City, LA, and Chicago.) “It’s ubiquitous,” the author of The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, Andrew Solomon, tells me. “[And yet] I think the public doesn’t really understand it well at all.”

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders says, for a person to be diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, they need to experience “Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day” or “markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day” for a period of two weeks. But this is just the baseline. For a diagnosis to be made, the person must also report at least four additional symptoms from a list that includes significant weight loss or weight gain, an inability to sleep or excessive sleepiness, physical restlessness or slowness (“psychomotor agitation or retardation,” in clinical terms), frequent fatigue or energy loss, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt, indecision or a diminished ability to concentrate, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

“It’s truly amazing to me, the longer I’ve been in the field, how many manifestations of depression there can be in the body,” says Jennifer Payne, a professor of psychiatry and director of the Women’s Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. These can range from headaches to GI issues to various pain syndromes, and depression can also exacerbate existing conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure. “If you take two women with the same breast cancer, one’s depressed [and] one’s not, the woman who’s depressed has twice the chance of dying from her breast cancer,” Payne says.

During my conversations with Payne and other medical experts, I began to understand just how vast and multifaceted this illness can be. Depression can be visible or invisible to a person’s loved ones. It can last for weeks, years, or even decades. It can affect sleep, concentration, appetite, energy, memory, movement, and—as I know well from trying to write while depressed —a person’s facility with language.

A particularly scary aspect is the fact that hopelessness and helplessness are actually symptoms of the illness. Stanford University’s David Spiegel, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of the school’s Center on Stress and Health, tells me that depression is a common, treatable mental disorder, but people it afflicts can blame themselves for things that aren’t their fault. “And so depressed people often feel guilty about being depressed and not performing the way they should,” he says. “And that’s part of the disease…[that] keeps them from digging their way out, or getting help from people to dig their way out.” 

And the causes of the illness can be as varied as the symptoms. Emory University’s Nadine Kaslow, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, tells me that, with some people, depression is more genetically driven, while others experience it as reaction to external stress. She runs off a long list of the circumstances that can trigger depression: loss of a loved one, job, or key identity; things that cause feelings of failure, shame, or humiliation; a natural disaster that overturns your life, like the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico; financial woes and anxiety; child abuse; domestic violence.

We also know that depression can be devilishly impervious to happy events. Readers of William Styron’s Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, may remember how he describes receiving a prestigious literary prize in Paris, a check for $25,000, and royal treatment from his hosts, all while feeling what he describes as “panic…dislocation, and a sense that my thought processes were being engulfed by a toxic and unnameable tide that obliterated any enjoyable response to the living world.” 

The more I dug into my reporting, it also became clear how many things depression is not. It is not the fault of the person afflicted, nor is it necessarily in their control to “snap out of it” or “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” (These two points really can’t be stressed enough.) And it certainly is not merely feeling sad. “People who have never experienced depression think, ‘Well, I pulled myself together after a rough time,’ and they don’t understand the intense physicality, the immediacy, and the incontrovertibility of the condition,” Solomon says. It’s tempting to envision depression as an extreme point on a mood spectrum, he adds, but it’s really the mood spectrum shutting down altogether. The word he used frequently in our conversation was a feeling of “nullity.” And in his TED talk on depression, he repeats the sentence, “The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.”

The British author Matt Haig recently tweeted, “Everyone is comfortable so long as you talk about mental illness in the past tense.” And I admit, it’s easier for me to write this piece after my recent bout of depression passed. When I share it with people I know, I can truthfully say, “I feel much better now,” and spare us both a less comfortable conversation. But being outside of a depressive spell (at least for now; I have little doubt I’ll return at some point) also allows me an interesting journalistic perspective. 

One point worth making—and I say this as a mostly non-religious person—is that emotions are a sacred, miraculous thing. You realize this when you lose them. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so happy to feel angry as the recent day when, after reading about some recent political horror, I felt my first stirrings of moral outrage in months. I was offended again—and it was beautiful. Other revelatory moments followed, like household appliances flickering back on after a power outage: the return of that almost-crying lump in my throat during emotional movies, or the burst of spontaneous laughter when I heard a joke. A few weeks ago, I drove home after an errand and stayed in my car for a minute just to soak in the old-but-new joy I from a song I had recently discovered. 

But even as I exit my latest depressive spell, I remain mindful of the people who are still there. I know what it means to smile for a photo and feel like you’re lying. I know what it means to feel a vague sense of sadness over not feeling sadness. I know what it means to comb the Internet for a video, an article, a book, that explains what’s going on inside your seemingly broken brain. To know depression is to become familiar with one of its paradoxes: the feeling that you’re missing out on the full human experience is, in fact, a large part of the human experience.

This is where friends and family can help. Odds are that you know someone who has been, or will be, depressed at some point. And so being a vigilant friend and family member means keeping an eye out for the person who’s less and less socially active. Stay aware of the co-worker for whom it appears, as one expert told me, “like the light in their eyes is gone.” Check in with them. Call them. Visit with them.

The brain is a complex and crucial organ that represents humans’ major evolutionary advantage over other animals, Spiegel tells me. And sometimes it has problems working. When this happens, it’s not a judgment on the person affected, he says. “It’s a problem that sometimes comes up when you’re dealing with using a complex organ to deal with complex problems in life.”

It’s easy to fix a bike or a car when they break, he continues, but your brain is complicated. “So get help with it if it’s not working right.”

Source: https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/ne7adg/depression-more-numb-than-sad

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Many of us struggle to remember the details of our dreams. The reasons lie in the complicated cycles of our sleep.

I am standing outside my childhood primary school, near the front gates and the teachers’ car park. It is a bright sunny day and I am surrounded by my classmates. There must be more than a hundred of us.

I have a dim feeling that some of my teachers are nearby, but my attention is on two adults, neither of which I recognise. The man I see in lurid detail – from the slick shine of his hair to the golden lenses on his sunglasses. He holds up some kind of device that emits a piercing shriek. I drop to my knees with my hands against my ears. My schoolmates are all doing the same. The man is laughing maniacally.

I had that dream nearly 40 years ago, but I can remember the details as if it were yesterday. Ask me to relate anything from a dream I had earlier this week, however, and I draw a blank. If I have been dreaming – and biology would suggest I most probably have – nothing has lingered long enough to remain in my waking mind.

For many of us, dreams are an almost intangible presence. If we’re lucky, we can only remember the most fleeting glimpse in the cold light of day; even those of us who can recollect past dreams in astonishing detail can wake some days with almost no memory of what we had dreamed about.

There is little ethereal about the reasons this might be happening, however. Why we have dreams – and whether we can remember them – are both rooted in the biology of our sleeping bodies and subconscious mind.

(Credit: Emmanuel Lafont)

Our brains go through a rollercoaster while we’re asleep (Credit: Emmanuel Lafont)

Sleep is more complicated than we once thought. Rather than being a plateau of unconsciousness bookended by slipping in and out of sleep, our resting brains go through a rollercoaster of mental states, with some parts being full of mental activity.

Dreaming is most closely associated with the sleep state known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM). REM is sometimes known as desychronised sleep, because it can mimic some of the signs of being awake. In REM sleep, the eyes twitch rapidly, there are changes in breathing and circulation, and the body enters a paralysed state known as atonia. It happens in 90-minute-waves during sleep, and it’s at this stage that our brains tend to dream.

There is an extra flow of blood to crucial parts of our brain during the REM state: the cortex, which fills our dreams with their content, and the limbic system, which processes our emotional state. While we’re in this dream-friendly state of sleep, they fire with furious electrical activity. The frontal lobes, however – which direct our critical faculties – are quiet.

This means we often blindly accept what is happening in this often nonsensical narrative until the time comes to wake up.

It’s probably a good thing that the dream life and the waking life are completely different – Francesca Siclari

The problem is, the more jumbled the imagery, the harder it is for us to grasp hold of. Dreams that have a clearer structure are much easier for us to remember, psychology professor and author Deidre Barrett said in a recent story on Gizmodo.

But there’s a chemical component at work which is crucial for making sure those dream images are retained: noradrenaline. Noradrenaline is a hormone that primes the body and mind for action, and our levels of it are naturally lower in deep sleep.

Francesca Siclari, a sleep research doctor at the Lausanne University Hospital, says there are clear definitions between our states of wake and sleep – and that is no accident. “It’s probably a good thing that the dream life and the waking life are completely different,” she says.

“I think if you remembered every detail like you can do in waking life, you would start to confuse things with what’s actually happening in your real life.”

(Credit: Emmanuel Lafont)

Not being able to remember everything about our dreams is important, so that we don’t confuse them with reality (Credit: Emmanuel Lafont)

She says that people suffering from sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, can find it difficult to tell the difference between their waking and sleeping lives, and this can leave them feeling confused and embarrassed. “There are also people who remember their dreams too well, and they actually start exporting those memories into their day.”

It is no accident that the dreams we remember the most come from certain periods in our sleep cycle, affected by the chemicals coursing through our sleeping bodies. “Normally we dream most vividly in REM sleep, which is when the levels of noradrenaline are low in the brain,” she says.

We may find ourselves dreaming right before we wake up – but our morning routines actually get in the way of remembering the imagery. Often we are startled out of our slumber by an alarm clock, which causes a spike in our noradrenaline levels – thus making it harder for us to hang onto our dreams.

“Someone who asks me the question of why they can’t remember their dreams, I say it’s because they fall asleep too fast, sleep too soundly and wake up with their alarm clock,” says Harvard Medical School sleep researcher Robert Stickgold. “And their response is usually, ‘How did you know that?’”

If you just fall fast asleep – the way we all wish we could – you’re not going to remember anything from that part of your sleep cycle – Robert Stickgold

Stickgold says that a lot of people remember their dreams from a sleep onset period, when the mind starts wandering and dreamlike imagery occurs as people drift in and out of sleep – a process called “hypnagogic dreaming”. Stickgold says he carried out a study some years ago where students in a lab were awoken shortly after they started entering this state. “Every last one of them remembered dreaming,” he says.

“This stage is the first five or 10 minutes after falling asleep. If you just fall fast asleep – the way we all wish we could – you’re not going to remember anything from that part of your sleep cycle.”

(Credit: Emmanuel Lafont)

Often we are startled out of our slumber by an alarm clock, which makes it harder for us to remember our dreams (Credit: Emmanuel Lafont)

So what if you actively want to remember your dreams? Obviously, each sleeper is different, but there are some general tips which might help you to hold on to your dreams.

“Dreams are incredibly fragile when we first wake up, and we don’t really have an answer for why that is,” says Stickgold. “If you’re the kind of person who leaps up out of bed and goes about their day, you’re not going to remember your dreams. When you sleep in on a Saturday or Sunday morning, that’s an excellent time to remember dreams.

“What I tell my students on my courses is, when you wake up, try to lie still – don’t even open your eyes. Try to ‘float’ and at the same time try to remember what was in your dream. What you’re doing is you’re reviewing dreams as you enter your waking state and you’ll remember them just like any other memory.”

There are even more surefire ways to remember dreams, Stickgold says. “I tell people to drink three big glasses of water before they go to bed. Not three glasses of beer, because alcohol in an REM suppressant, but water. You’ll wake up three or four times in the night and you’ll tend to wake up at the end of an REM cycle of sleep which is natural.”

And there is another piece of advice offered by some sleep researchers – that simply repeating to yourself as you drift towards sleep that you want to remember your dreams means you wake remembering them. Stickgold laughs. “It actually works. If you do that you really are going to remember more dreams, it’s like saying ‘There’s no place like home’. It really works.”

Source: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190516-why-cant-some-people-remember-their-dreams

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Your diet may have more impact on your cancer risk than you might think, a new study has found.An estimated 80,110 new cancer cases among adults 20 and older in the United States in 2015 were attributable simply to eating a poor diet, according to the study, published in the JNCI Cancer Spectrum on Wednesday.”This is equivalent to about 5.2% of all invasive cancer cases newly diagnosed among US adults in 2015,” said Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, a nutrition and cancer epidemiologist at Tufts University in Boston, who was first author of the study.”This proportion is comparable to the proportion of cancer burden attributable to alcohol,” she said.

The researchers evaluated seven dietary factors: a low intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy products and a high intake of processed meats, red meats and sugary beverages, such as soda.”Low whole-grain consumption was associated with the largest cancer burden in the US, followed by low dairy intake, high processed-meat intake, low vegetable and fruit intake, high red-meat intake and high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages,” Zhang said.The study included data on the dietary intake of adults in the United States between 2013 and 2016, which came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, as well as data on national cancer incidence in 2015 from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers used a comparative risk assessment model, which involved estimating the number of cancer cases associated with poor diet and helped evaluate how much diet may play a role in the US cancer burden. Those estimations were made using diet-cancer associations found in separate studies.”Previous studies provide strong evidence that a high consumption of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer and a low consumption of whole grains increases the risk of colorectal cancer,” Zhang said. “However, our study quantified the number and proportion of new cancer cases that are attributable to poor diet at the national level.”

Colorectal cancer: What you need to know 01:10The researchers found that colon and rectal cancers had the highest number and proportion of diet-related cases, at 38.3%.When the findings were looked at by diet, low consumption of whole grains and dairy products and eating a lot of processed meats contributed to the highest cancer burden.Also, men 45 to 64 years old and ethnic minorities, including blacks and Hispanics, had the highest proportion of diet-associated cancer burden compared with other groups, the researchers found.

The study had some limitations, including that the data couldn’t shed light on how the association between diet and cancer risk may change as a person ages.Additionally, more research is needed to determine whether a similar association would emerge for other years and time periods in the United States.All in all, “diet is among the few modifiable risk factors for cancer prevention,” Zhang said. “These findings underscore the needs for reducing cancer burden and disparities in the US by improving the intake of key food groups and nutrients.”

Ultraprocessed foods occupy a growing part of the world’s diet. A 2016 study found that 60% of the calories in the average American diet come from this kind of food, and a 2017 study found that they make up half of the Canadian diet. They make up more than 50% of the UK diet, and more of the developing world is starting to eat this way.Yet you may protect yourself from cancer by avoiding ultraprocessed foods and instead choosing organic foods, research has shown.People who frequently eat organic foods lowered their overall risk of developing cancer, according to a study published last year in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Specifically, those who primarily ate organic foods were more likely to ward off non-Hodgkin lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer than those who rarely or never ate organic foods.Additionally, according to a study published in the same journal in February, we face a 14% higher risk of early death with each 10% increase in the amount of ultraprocessed foods we eat.Get CNN Health’s weekly newsletter

Why are people eating more of these processed foods?

“We are living in a fast world, and people are looking for convenient solutions. We are always stretched for time,” Nurgul Fitzgerald, an associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University, said earlier this year.”People are looking for quick solutions, a quickly made meal.”When selecting food, taste is the No. 1 factor for most consumers, she said, but price and convenience are also important, and with ultraprocessed foods, that convenience factor is “probably top of the list: grab and go, ready to eat.”

Source: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/22/health/diet-cancer-risk-study/index.html

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A new study challenges the long-held notion that ‘breast is best’ for infant health.

“Breast is best” has long been a mantra regarding newborn health. But a new study reveals that the link between breastfeeding and infant health may be less clear than we thought.

The findings, based on data from more than 1,000 participants in an infant feeding study designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration, indicate that the infants of mothers who intended to breastfeed, but then used formula once the baby was born, had similar health outcomes to exclusively breastfed infants.

In other words, say researchers, the reported benefits of breastfeeding may not just be about the breast milk, but also about the type of mother who intends to breastfeed.

“What we found is that intending mothers had more information about nutrition and diet,” explains Jessica Su, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at the University at Buffalo and co-author of the study. “They more frequently consulted their physicians and had better access to information related to infant health than those moms who did not intend to breastfeed.”

Undue burden on mothers

The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend exclusively breastfeeding a child for six months. It’s not simply an individual lifestyle choice, the message warns, but a matter of public health.

That’s a heavy load for mothers to bear. About a third of those who intend to breastfeed exclusively discover that they can’t carry through with that plan. Biological barriers are one reason. Another is the lack of social support for new parents, says Su, noting that the U.S. is the only developed country with no federal paid parental leave.

 “Given the strong breastfeeding recommendations and the realistic challenges that many mothers face,” says Su, “it’s important to more carefully quantify the trade-offs between breast milk and formula.”

To really give babies the best chance at a healthy start, the researchers say, policymakers and health professionals can promote better resources and support for mothers more generally.

Source: http://www.buffalo.edu/how/articles.host.html/content/shared/www/eub/here-is-how/Breastfeeding.detail.html?utm_source=Flipboard&utm_medium=PromotedStories-Breastfeeding-NY&utm_campaign=FM-Reputation-Spring19&utm_content&fbclid=IwAR1qrSLjiP9_MqpbD-5TbcNrxYuU9gexB0waVsAILH1TpK5Z0D6DiiSpqmk

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How to gain weight safely when you’re down a few pounds.

You’ve spent your whole life trying to keep extra pounds off. Now your doctor says you actually need to gain a few pounds to stay healthy. But healthy weight gain isn’t so simple. “Some people find it difficult to add enough calories to their usual diet. It takes a lot of effort,” says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Where to begin

A dietitian can help you come up with an eating plan based on your specific calorie needs. It starts with understanding how quickly you’ve lost weight and why (see “Why are you underweight?”). Your age, size, activity, amount of weight lost, and overall health will be key to designing a diet that’s right for you.

Meal structure is also important. McManus says eating mini-meals throughout the day is better than relying on large feasts. “If you’ve lost weight, you’re used to eating a lower volume of food, and you get fuller faster. It’s better to spread several 300-calorie meals throughout the day than dump 900 calories at dinner,” she explains.

What if you’re not up to eating a mini-meal at some point during the day? “Have a protein drink. It could be something you make at home or something ready-made that you buy,” McManus says.

If it’s ready-made, you’ll want a drink with about 10 to 20 grams of protein per 8-ounce serving, and as little added sugar as possible. (If sugar is the first or second ingredient, there’s probably a healthier option.)

Why are you underweight?
There are many reasons for weight loss in our older years. “Unless it’s because someone is dieting, weight loss is a cause for concern, especially if the person has lost 10% of their prior body weight,” says Dr. Suzanne Salamon, associate chief of gerontology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.Sometimes weight loss results from a lifestyle change, like the loss of a loved one or a loss of independence. You may be depressed and lose interest in eating. Or you may have to cut back on food because of a tight budget. “Usually weight loss suggests an underlying health condition, such as an overactive thyroid, depression, cancer, or dementia that causes people to forget to eat or shop for food,” Salamon points out.Other possible causes of weight loss:a recent hospitalizationa loss of taste or smell due to Parkinson’s disease or another conditionmedication side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, or decreased appetitedental problems that cause difficulty chewinginfections such as pneumonia or skin infectionsdisability or pain that makes it hard to prepare food for yourself.Whatever the reason, weight loss increases the risk for malnutrition: insufficient calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals you need to function properly.

The best foods to eat

McManus steers people toward nutrient-dense foods with the most nutrition bang for the buck: they have lots of vitamins, minerals, fiber, lean protein, or unsaturated fat.

For example, a slice of white bread has about 70 calories, but very few vitamins and minerals. However, one slice of whole-wheat bread has about 70 calories, plus four times the amount of potassium and magnesium and three times the zinc.

Other examples of nutrient-dense foods: green, leafy vegetables (kale, spinach); fruits (berries, apples); whole grains (oatmeal, quinoa); beans and lentils; lean protein (fish, poultry, lean meat); dairy foods (low-fat milk, cheese, or yogurt); and unsaturated fats (nuts, seeds, avocado).

Making it work

Don’t worry about counting grams of nutrients. “Just aim for a balance of healthy carbohydrates, unsaturated fats, and protein,” McManus says. She advises power-packing each mini-meal with as many nutrient-dense foods as possible. Examples include oatmeal with berries and walnuts; a salad with spinach, tomatoes, cheese, black beans, shelled sunflower seeds, and avocado dressing; or brown rice with raisins, almonds, chicken chunks, and asparagus pieces. For something simple, try scrambled eggs with cheese or whole-wheat crackers with peanut butter.

Eating this way throughout the day will help you regain the weight you’ve lost. “I look to see 2 to 3 pounds per month if they’re going in the right direction. It won’t be faster than that,” McManus says. “You have to hang in there and be consistent over time. Slow and steady wins the race.”

Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/keeping-your-weight-stable-in-older-age

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The symptoms can range from common, minor bumps to rare medical emergencies.

There’s nothing worse than coming home from a hike, camping trip, or barbecue and discovering a ton of itchy, painful mosquito bites speckling your skin. Even worse: Your friend or sibling who was with you the entire time has no bites at all. So, what gives?

Well, it helps to know how and why a mosquito bites you in the first place. Only females are out for blood, explains Joseph M. Conlon, an expert with The American Mosquito Control Association who worked as an entomologist for 25 years.

“Female mosquitoes imbibe blood as a protein source for egg development,” Conlon says. When the female mosquito “bites” you, she inserts the tip of her mouth into one of your blood vessels, injecting her saliva into your bloodstream. The saliva contains a protein that prevents your blood from clotting as she eats. (What a pleasant thought, right?)

It’s these proteins, not the bite itself, that cause the swelling, redness, and itching that some—but not all—of us experience. It’s true: Seeing no reaction after a bite could mean you’re one of the lucky few who aren’t allergic to mosquito saliva, says Andrew Murphy, MD, a fellow at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

It also could mean you’ve developed an immunity to mosquito bites. “When a person has had repeated exposure to the mosquito allergen, her immune system can stop recognizing the allergen as a problem, and there is no reaction,” Dr. Murphy says.

However, many of us do have some type of allergy to these pesky bug bites—ranging from common, minor bumps to rare, severe reactions. Here are the symptoms to keep an eye out for and what you can do to find relief.

Minor mosquito bite allergy: Small red bump

What it looks like: round, white-ish bump, often with a small visible dot at the center; becomes red and firm after 1 or 2 days

What it means: This is the most common mosquito bite allergy and the reaction is more annoying than anything, says Jorge Parada, MD, medical director of the Infection Control Program at Loyola University Chicago and medical advisor for the National Pest Management Association. “This minor allergic reaction is in response to proteins in the mosquito’s saliva.”

Moderate mosquito bite allergy: Welts

What it looks like: slightly raised, smooth, flat-topped bumps that are usually more reddish than the surrounding skin

What it means: Some people are more sensitive to the mosquito’s proteins, explains Dr. Parada. This sensitivity causes them to react with larger welts instead of the traditional small bump. “However, some studies have found that the reaction is also a function of the mosquito’s feeding time,” he adds. “The longer the mosquito feeds, the more mosquito proteins are released, thereby increasing the chance of a visible reaction.”

Serious mosquito bite allergy: Hives and fever (aka skeeter syndrome)

What it looks like: welts accompanied by skin swelling, heat, redness, and itching or pain, along with a fever

What it means: You may have a reaction known as skeeter syndrome, a more extreme mosquito bite allergy. It can lead to excessive swelling of the bite area, as well as feeling hot and hard to the touch. Sometimes the bite area can even blister and ooze. While anyone can develop skeeter syndrome (even those with no prior extreme reaction to mosquito bites), Dr. Murphy says young children, patients with immune system disorders, and travelers exposed to new types of mosquitoes are at a higher risk.

Severe mosquito bite allergy: Anaphylaxis

What it looks like: hives, lip/tongue swelling, trouble breathing, wheezing, coughing

What it means: While anaphylaxis from mosquito bites is rare, it can be fatal. “Patients with anaphylaxis to mosquitoes will have the typical symptoms of a severe allergic reaction,” Dr. Murphy says. He mentions hives, lip or tongue swelling, trouble breathing, wheezing, coughing, and—in severe cases—passing out or death. “Treatment is the use of injectable epinephrine and seeking immediate medical attention,” he adds.

🚨 If you suspect a mosquito bite is causing serious symptoms like fever, excessive swelling, hives, and swollen lymph nodes, seek emergency help.

How to treat and prevent mosquito bites

If you do fall on the minor to moderate end of the spectrum, there are a few things you can do at home to help get rid of mosquito bites faster.

First, swabbing the bite area with rubbing alcohol can help reduce your body’s histamine response (the chemical produced by your immune system that causes allergic reactions) by clearing away the mosquito’s saliva, according to Jonathan Day, PhD, a mosquito researcher and professor of medical entomology at the University of Florida.

Dabbing your skin with ice, calamine lotion, or 1 percent hydrocortisone cream can also help tame inflammation, relieve itching, and overall soothe the skin. If that’s not doing the trick, popping an oral antihistamine, like Benadryl, can also turn off your body’s histamine response to reduce swelling and itching.

More importantly, preventing mosquito bites in the first place should be your first priority. That way, you don’t have to worry about mosquito-borne diseases like Zika or West Nile viruses, or even chikungunya, malaria, and dengue fever if you’re traveling outside of the U.S.

Avoiding peak mosquito hours (dusk and dawn), investing in an outdoor fan to prevent them from flying near you, and applying insect repellent that contains ingredients like DEET, oil of lemon eucalyptus, IR3535, and picaridin can go a long way in keeping the bug bites at bay.


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A strong social life has been linked with many health benefits, like less risk of depression and longer life span. But a new study suggests that interacting with a wide range of people may offer even greater benefits.

The study, published Feb. 20, 2019, in The Journals of Gerontology, Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, found that older adults who interacted with people beyond their usual social circle of family and close friends were more likely to have higher levels of physical activity, greater positive moods, and fewer negative feelings.

The researchers asked 300 adults ages 65 and older to record their activities and social encounters every three hours for a week. They also wore activity trackers to monitor their movement. They found that the people who had more variety in their social interactions spent less time being sedentary.

The reason? The scientists suggested that while older adults may be more sedentary when they’re with their closest friends and family — for instance, watching TV together or lounging at home — they need to leave the house to engage with other people and thus have to be more active.


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This simple practice can improve your sex life and your overall relationship.

Communicating with your partner about sex is crucial, and a new study says that you need to communicate while you’re actually doing it, not just before and after.

That’s right: Whether or not you’re satisfied in bed could come down to how chatty you are in the moment. The new report says that the more communicative you are in bed, the more sexually satisfied you’ll be.

Researchers analyzed the sex lives of 398 people for the new study, which was published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. They set out to answer this question: Does communication during sex—both verbal and nonverbal—predict “sexual satisfaction”? They found that there is in fact a correlation between the two.

“Overall, the results of this study indicate that more communication during sex (both verbal and nonverbal by oneself, and partner’s nonverbal communication) is associated with greater satisfaction with sexual communication, and sexual communication satisfaction predicts sexual satisfaction,” the study says.

The authors of the report emphasized that there’s a lack of scientific investigation when it comes to the benefits of communication during sex. “Previous research has focused on communication prior to sex and communication after sex, but communication during sex is a neglected area of sexual communication research,” they write.

So the study authors decided to take a look into it, and their researched showed that communication during sex can be beneficial for your overall relationship as well as your sexual satisfaction. The authors of the new report hope their research can be used to better educate people about how to have a healthier sex life. “The results of this study have implications for sexual and relationship therapy and education,” the report says.

It also points out that communication during sex isn’t one-size-fits-all. The type of communication during sex that you prefer is related to your personality type. “For example, since many couples may be uncomfortable with direct, verbal communication about sexual pleasure, therapists and counselors can recommend that, during sex, nonverbal communication could also be used to help communicate about pleasure and increase sexual satisfaction,” the report explains.

The report’s authors have an additional tip for those trying to strengthen their sex lives: Go off script. In other words, try forgetting about traditional roles and be creative. “Encouraging wide-reaching discussion about our cultural adherence to traditional sexual scripts or stereotypical gender roles roles during sex—and the increasing need to deviate from these roles—could enable increased communication about sexual pleasure, desires and needs, and subsequently lead to increased sexual satisfaction,” the new paper says.

All of this to say: The next time you feel your sex life is lacking, try talking about it while engaging in it. (Or if chatting isn’t your thing, grab your partner’s hand and show them what you want.) Communication is key in more places than you think.


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