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The Many Benefits of Taking Daily Naps

Research has shown that taking a nap each day can provide a range of benefits for children and adults alike. Greek researchers conducted a study with close to 400 men and women who were middle aged. They found that taking naps can reduce blood pressure, which can reduce the risk of heart attacks. In addition, those who sleep more often tend to be able to stay more focused, and they feel refreshed when they wake from a nap. Here are some other benefits of daily napping:

  • Research has also found that a nap can help to boost productivity, as it can provide some downtime for the brain.
  • Naps can also help with mood stability for both children and adults.
  • Spanish scientists found that napping can reduce stress.
  • The National Sleep Foundation believes that naps can help to restore alertness, reduce mistakes and accidents, and boost performance.
  • A NASA study found that having a 40-minute nap could improve the performance of astronauts and military pilots by 34% and alertness by 100%.


Cancer Risk Linked to Highly Processed Foods

Doctors have long advised patients to eat whole grains along with fresh fruits and vegetables as a means to help reduce the risk of cancer. Obesity also causes an increased risk of cancer, and foods that have been highly processed tend to have a lot of calories with little nutritional value. A recent study conducted by researchers located in France and Brazil found that highly processed foods have an increased risk of cancer in addition to being bad from a nutritional standpoint.

The researchers looked at food that was “ultra-processed”, which simply means that it has been heavily processed. They found that a 10% increase in the amount of these ultra-processed foods in the diet would cause a risk of greater than 10% when it came to overall cancer and breast cancer. The research was an ongoing survey of more than 100,000 adults in France. After five years, they found that there were 2,200 cases of cancer within this group.

The researchers said that the study does not definitively prove that the highly processed foods were the cause of the cancer, as many who eat unhealthily also have other dangerous habits, such as smoking, that could increase the risk. They did say that the ultra-processed foods did tend to have higher fat content, saturated fat, added salt and sugar, and a lower amount of fiber and vitamin density. The processing can also create carcinogenic compounds.



How to Check Your Body for Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and early detection of skin cancer can save your life. The best way to find skin cancer while it is still in its early stages is by having a doctor examine your skin once or twice a year and by examining it yourself at least once a month. So what should you, someone without a medical degree, look for during your monthly skin examinations? 

Check your moles.

Most skin cancer becomes visible in the form of a mole. However, examining moles can be tricky. This is especially true for people whose bodies are covered in moles, most of which are healthy. 

The American Cancer Society suggests using the ABCDE rule when examining moles for skin cancer.

  • Asymmetry: Asymmetric moles are not neatly shaped and circular. Sometimes they are darker in some areas than others.
  • Border: If the border is not a clean line and instead blurred, ragged, or irregular.
  • Color: When the color is not the same throughout the mole. They sometimes have darker shades in certain spots or patches of red, pink, white, or blue in them.
  • Diameter: Any mole that has a diameter greater than ¼ and inch.
  • Evolving: If the mole changes in size, shape, and color over time. 

Other characteristics you should look for are if your moles are itchy or painful, have growths or lumps, open sores with oozing, or if any new moles appear. If your moles have any of the above characteristics, it does not mean they are definitely cancerous, but it does mean you should ask your doctor or dermatologist to have a closer look at them.




How to Prevent a Migraine

A migraine is a reoccurring, severe headache that can have side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and a sensitivity to light and sound. The throbbing headache often occurs on the side of the head and is more common in women than in men. A migraine is caused by abnormal brain activity and what triggers the abnormal brain activity differs vastly from person to person. The best way to prevent migraines from occurring is by identifying the root cause of the change in your brain activity. Study your migraines and find out what triggers them so that you can make the necessary changes to prevent the onset of a migraine. Here are some common lifestyle and medicinal tips that can help prevent a migraine from occurring.

    1. Limit caffeine. Withdrawal from caffeine can trigger a migraine. Prevent yourself from having caffeine withdrawals by limiting your caffeine intake to no more than one cup of coffee a day.
    2. Avoid alcohol. If certain types of alcohol give you a headache after just a few drinks, the alcohol may be triggering a migraine. Avoid these types of alcohol all together.
    3. Avoid triggering foods. Foods like chocolate, cheese, other dairy products, gluten products, red wine, smoked fish, and peanuts are common triggers of migraines. Find out which foods trigger your migraines and eliminate them from your diet.
    4. Do not skip meals. A fluctuation of blood sugar from missing meals is a common cause of migraines. Be sure to keep your glucose levels stable by eating consistently throughout the day.
    5. Get a consistent, healthy amount of sleep. Studies show that sleep deprivation can cause migraines. You can help prevent migraines by making sure you get 8 hours of sleep a night and go to sleep around the same time every night.
    6. Take a low-dose estrogen contraceptive (for women). For many women, migraines occur when they have a drop of estrogen right before they start their menstrual cycle. A contraceptive can help balance your estrogen levels and prevent the migraine from occurring.


Hormone Replacement Therapy Safe for Menopausal Women

In the past many women have hesitated to use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to ease symptoms of menopause. This is mainly due to a 2002 study saying that HRT was linked to breast cancer, heart attacks, and strokes. However, a new study reveals that there is no connection between HRT and those diseases. In fact, this 18 year long study found that women who use HRT for menopause symptoms are no more likely to suffer a premature death than those who do not use it. The purpose of this study was to get the message out that hormone replacement therapy is safe and effective for the right patient.

“It is a bit surprising that given the many risks of hormone therapy identified during the treatment phase, the net effect on all-cause mortality was neutral,” says Manson, from the Women’s Health Initiative. That is why it is critical that the latest study researched mortality rates. Where HRT is harmful in some ways, it is beneficial in others. HRT is complex and has different risks and benefits to different diseases. However, researchers from the study still recommend using as low a dose as possible and using it for a short a period of time. While women who took HRT at a younger age had a lower risk of early death, this number dropped off for women who took it for many years.  The data shows that up 7 years of HRT is safe for women, but beyond that the risks may outweigh the benefits.

 



How to Get Rid of Knee Pain

About 18% of the population suffers from knee pain. For some people it comes from knee or hip injuries and for others it may just come with age. Knee pain can be so bad that it forces people to stop having an active lifestyle and become sedentary. However, that can only make the knee pain worse and there are many things you can do to reduce or even eliminate knee pain. Here are some tips to help alleviate knee pain. 

  1. Stay active. Exercising and maintaining an active lifestyle is one of the best ways to prevent and get rid of knee pain. Your joints need movement. Never stop exercising because you think it is causing knee pain, that will only make the pain worse. Just change up the kinds of exercise you engage in.  
  2. Low impact activities. Swimming and cycling are two examples of low impact activities that do not put as much pressure on your knees. These are both great ways to stay active and lessen the pain in your knees.  
  3. Stretch. Knee pain can be reduced when you stretch the muscles that surround your knee. That means stretching your calfs, thighs, hamstrings, quadriceps, gastrocnemius, and soleus on a regular basis.
  4. Buy good shoes. The shoes you wear effect the amount of impact your knees take. The amount of pressure to your knees can depend on how much cushion and support your walking and running shoes have. Be sure to find the best shoes for your body.  
  5. Alternate between hot and cold compressions. Both heat and ice treatments are good for stimulating blood flow and reducing inflammation in your knees.  
  6. Wear a brace. If you are suffering with knee pain while walking or exercising, wearing a brace can provide the support your knees need and help alleviate knee pain. 

 



How to Avoid the Flu

With October just around the corner, it is time to begin thinking about how you are going to avoid the flu this year. The flu can mean being out of school or work for over a week and even worse for some people who are vulnerable to more severe flu complications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting your yearly flu vaccine before the end of October to ensure that it has been in your body long enough before flu season.  The flu vaccine will protect you from the flu virus that is the most common and that you are most likely to get. Young children, adults over 65, people who are pregnant, and people with chronic health conditions are at risk for having severe health complications from the flu. For these people getting the flu vaccine is even more crucial.

After being vaccinated, the next step to preventing the flu is being cautious about the spreading of germs. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching surfaces that many other people touch, such as public railings.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, especially after you have been in contact with public surfaces that may carry germs.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Keep an alcohol based disinfectant on you at all times for when you don’t have access to soap and water.
  • Get sleep and have a well-balanced diet during flu season. This will help to keep your immune system strong.

If you do become sick with flu symptoms, take the following measures to avoid spreading the virus any further.

  • Take the medicine that your doctor has prescribed to you.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze.
  • Throw away the tissue after blowing your nose.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone for 24 hours after your fever is gone.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects you touched while sick.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water often.

No one wants to get the flu, so do what you can to prevent getting it this year. There is no reason not to get your annual flu vaccine, you are only harming yourself and the people you spend most of your time with.

 


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