Preventing the flu: What you need to know
Did you know flu season in the US peaks in February? Check out these flu prevention tips to help protect yourself and your loved ones and help stop the spread of flu.
Flu season typically peaks in February. If you spend time around other people, like working in close proximity to others or riding on crowded buses, chances are you’re likely to get it. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from catching the flu.
Here are some tips to help prevent catching the flu.
Influenza, more commonly referred to as the flu, is a viral respiratory infection that causes mild to severe symptoms. When you have the flu, you can expect headaches, sore throat, runny nose, and generalized body aches. Most people experience mild to moderate symptoms and recover within a week. But for some, especially those who are very young, older, or with underlying conditions that put them at higher risk, flu can be very dangerous.
Get Vaccinated To Prevent Catching The Flu
Vaccines are a controversial topic for many people, especially after the recent COVID-19 pandemic and the drive to get COVID vaccines marred by anti-vaccine protests. But there’s a substantial amount of research on the safety of flu vaccines. And research indicates getting vaccinated is the safest and most reliable preventive measure you can take against getting the flu.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that most people should be vaccinated yearly, especially those at a greater risk of developing complications from the flu. If you’re over 65 years or suffer from chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, or cardiovascular illness, getting vaccinated should be a priority for you.
Avoid Large Crowds If You Can And Practice Good Hygiene
It may be unavoidable to avoid crowds. You have to work to survive, which means getting out and about among people. The flu spreads easily in crowded spaces like public transport, confined offices, schools, and even shopping malls. Try to limit the time you spend in those crowded spaces as much as possible during the peak months (from December to February) to avoid catching the flu.
The flu virus spreads person to person.
You can get infected by being in close contact with an infected person, like hugging or spending time with them. The virus spreads through droplets the infected person breathes out during coughing, sneezing, or talking and lingers in the air you breathe before falling to the ground or the nearest horizontal surface. It can also spread through infectious particles that land on inanimate objects and surfaces in your environment. If you touch a contaminated surface, the virus can transfer to your hands, and if you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, the virus can enter your body.
To prevent getting infected by the flu virus lurking in your environment, wash or sanitize your hands often, and avoid touching your face.
Always sanitize your hands after touching surfaces in public areas like door handles, handrails, and counters or after using public transport. COVID-19 has taught us to always carry a small bottle of sanitizer with us whenever we leave the house, and it can now be used to help prevent flu.
Wash your hands often throughout the day to reduce the number of flu and other pathogens present on your skin. Good hand hygiene practices go a long way to preventing flu and other diseases. Always wash your hands after using the toilet, before preparing or eating food, and after blowing your nose.
How To Prevent The Flu With A Strong Immune System
A strong immune system helps you fight illness-causing germs before they invade your body cells and multiply, triggering symptoms to develop.
To ensure that your immune system can fight off the flu virus and turn your body into a flu-prevention machine, try to follow a healthy lifestyle to ensure your body is as strong as it can be.
A healthy lifestyle includes things like:
- Getting enough sleep. A great night’s sleep makes you feel better and helps your body fight off infections. General guidelines recommend that adults should sleep 7-9 hours each night.
- Eating a well-balanced diet. A diet that includes multiple healthy food groups, like lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats, is extremely beneficial to building a strong immune system. And don’t forget to stay hydrated. For healthy individuals, the recommendation is at least 8 glasses of water a day to help your kidneys flush out all toxins and keep you healthy. If you have kidney disease or other health factors that limit how much water you’re able to drink each day, talk to your healthcare provider to help you determine how much water is right for you.
- Taking time to exercise. Exercise helps reduce weight, keep your muscles strong, and increases your resistance to infections. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes at least three times a week or do any other brisk activity that raises your heart rate. As always, seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or increasing your exercise routine, especially if you have underlying health conditions.
- Relaxing. Reducing stress is super important to maintaining a healthy immune system. You can use meditation and deep breathing to get rid of stress. Or take up a hobby that makes you feel happy when you’re doing it. Even a relaxing bath after getting home from work can be sufficient to relax and unwind. High-stress levels can lead to a weakened immune system and a higher likelihood of contracting flu virus.
- Take vitamin supplements. Taking supplements is not a replacement for following a healthy diet but can offer an additional boost to your immune system. You can take supplements containing zinc, Vit D, and Vit C to help protect yourself from the flu. Be sure to talk to your doctor or pharmacist first if you’re on prescription medications to make sure there are no contraindications before starting any new supplements.
Include More Fiber In Your Diet For Flu Prevention
As weird as it may sound, adding more insoluble fiber to your diet may help protect you from severe flu complications this year.
Dietary fiber has been known to protect against allergic airway inflammation. Since the virus often attacks human airways, and one of the most serious complications of flu is pneumonia, it may be possible that adding insoluble fiber to your diet, especially during the flu season, may add some protection against some of the severe complications of the flu.
A study done on mice at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2018 has shown a clear link. According to the study’s findings, eating more insoluble fiber produces a potential protective effect against flu pathology. In the study, two sets of mice were observed after exposure to the Influenza A virus. One set of mice was fed a low-fiber diet, while the others received a high-fiber diet. The mice who received the high-fiber diet exhibited milder flu symptoms and better lung function. Researchers concluded that the high-fiber-fed mice were better protected against influenza-induced tissue destruction and lethality.
Try adding more high-fiber foods like cauliflower, beans, and nuts to your diet this flu season. Another small diet change you could consider is swapping that white flour bagel for a slice of whole wheat toast.
You can protect yourself and others by actively taking flu prevention measures. By getting vaccinated, staying home more often during the height of the flu season, following a healthy lifestyle to support your immune system, and remembering to wash your hands regularly, you can help stop the spread of flu.
FluSmart on Evidation
For more tips on staying healthy this flu season, and to stay up to date on flu rates in your area, download the Evidation app and join the FluSmart program.
More about FluSmart:
- FluSmart is a program that looks for changes in your activity data from wearable devices and alerts you when a change suggests you may be feeling under the weather.
- The goal is to understand whether changes in activity patterns can identify symptoms of influenza-like illness, but you can also report symptoms even if you don’t have a wearable device.
- You may also be eligible to participate in health research. You can opt out of the program at any time.
COPD Awareness Month: What does life with COPD look like?
COPD is a chronic lung disease caused by long-term exposure to irritants—like smoking and pollution. Learn the signs and symptoms, how to lower your risk, and why protecting children from irritants is so important.
November is Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) awareness month. COPD is an umbrella term describing progressive lung diseases like emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, “COPD affects more than 24 million Americans, yet many don’t even know they have it.”
In today’s article, we’ll cover:
- What COPD is
- What causes it
- Symptoms and signs
- How it’s diagnosed
- Treatment options
Read on to learn more about COPD and how to take part in COPD awareness month.
What is COPD?
COPD is a chronic lung disease caused by long-term exposure to irritants. These irritants can lead to scarring and narrowing of the airways, destruction of the alveoli, and excess mucus buildup—all of which make it difficult to breathe.
Emphysema and chronic bronchitis are the most common conditions that lead to COPD.
- Emphysema occurs when alveoli—the air sacs in the lungs—become damaged. Over time, the air sacs can rupture, creating larger air spaces instead of many small ones. This reduces the surface area of the lungs and the amount of oxygen entering the bloodstream.
- Chronic bronchitis is long-term inflammation of the bronchi. Bronchi are large air passages that send air from the windpipe (trachea) to the lungs. This inflammation causes excess mucus production, among other things.
What causes COPD?
Smoking is the leading cause of COPD in developed countries.
Worldwide, indoor air pollution—due to smoke from cooking and heating in poorly ventilated homes—causes the majority of COPD cases, particularly in developing nations.
While cigarette smoking is the major cause of COPD in the US, physicians have discovered that some people are at higher risk for COPD because they never developed completely “healthy lungs.”
Why do some people not develop healthy lungs?
Exposure to second-hand smoke or air pollution as a child or before birth can impair lung growth. Respiratory infections in childhood may also impact lung development.
This means that those exposed to irritants during their early development can be more susceptible to the toxic effects of tobacco smoke and COPD.
What are common symptoms associated with COPD?
Symptoms of COPD are often missed until significant lung damage has occurred. Early on in the course of the disease, people may feel out of breath during exercise and chalk it up to being out of shape. Symptoms often worsen over time, especially with continued exposure to smoke or other irritants.
Symptoms of COPD may include:
- Lack of energy
- Chest tightness
- Swelling in feet, legs, or ankles
- Recurring respiratory infections
- Unintended weight loss in later stages
- Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity
- Chronic coughing that may produce mucus (sputum) that’s clear, white, yellow, or greenish
After developing COPD, exposure to smoke, allergies, or illness can lead to episodes called exacerbations. During an exacerbation, symptoms become worse, even life threatening, and may continue for several days or weeks.
How is COPD diagnosed?
Many individuals aren’t properly diagnosed until the condition is fairly advanced.
To diagnose COPD, a doctor will look for the usual signs and symptoms. They’ll also ask about medical and family history and any past exposure to lung irritants.
Afterward, there are several tests a doctor may order to diagnose the condition. Tests may include:
- CT scans to help detect emphysema and assist in determining if a patient could benefit from surgery.
- Chest X-rays to identify emphysema and rule out heart failure and other potential lung problems.
- Laboratory tests may be used to determine the cause of symptoms and rule out any other possible conditions.
- Arterial blood gas analysis, a blood test, to measure how well the lungs bring oxygen into the blood and remove carbon dioxide.
- Lung (pulmonary) function tests to measure the amount of air inhaled and exhaled and whether the lungs are delivering enough oxygen to the blood. During a spirometry test (the most common pulmonary function test), a person blows into a tube connected to a machine. The machine then measures how much air the lungs can hold, and how fast the person can blow out air from their lungs.
Those with mild forms of COPD may need little intervention other than quitting smoking and avoiding air pollutants.
In more advanced stages, treatment can help:
- Control symptoms
- Slow disease progression
- Improve the ability to live an active life
- Reduce the risk of complications and exacerbations
If you’re a smoker, the most important step is to quit smoking to help avoid making the condition worse.
Your doctor can suggest the right interventions and medications, and help you learn how to handle relapses. Treatments include:
- Medications: Bronchodilators and oral steroids are the most common medications. Bronchodilators help relax the muscles around the airways, which can make breathing easier by relieving coughing and shortness of breath. When COPD becomes more severe (during exacerbations), oral corticosteroids can be used to reduce inflammation and prevent worsening symptoms.
- Lung therapies: People with moderate to severe COPD may receive oxygen therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation programs (PRP). Oxygen therapy can help boost oxygen levels in the blood. Some people need oxygen therapy devices all day, while others use them only during activities or sleep. PRPs combine counseling, nutrition advice, and exercise training in an effort to reduce visits to the hospital, increase the ability to do daily activities, and improve quality of life.
- Surgery: When medications don’t provide relief, people may receive a lung volume reduction surgery, where small wedges of damaged tissue in the upper lungs are removed. For some people, this surgery can improve their quality of life and prolong survival. A complete lung transplant may be possible for people who meet certain criteria. A lung transplant can help people breathe and be active. However, it’s a major operation, and has many risks involved, including lifelong side effects of immune-suppressing medications.
How to take part during national COPD awareness month
COPD is responsible for the loss of over 150,000 people each year in the United States. Despite this, COPD is ranked 176th for research funding.
Here are three ways you can take part to help with COPD awareness:
- Educate yourself about COPD, what causes it, the symptoms and signs, and how it’s treated.
- Tell people you know about what you’ve learned to spread awareness.
- Share articles like this one on social media so others can learn about the risks and causes of COPD.
Healthy eating tips for your holiday feast
The holidays are a time for friends, family, gratitude—and food of course. By taking a mindful approach and learning a few tips, you can celebrate the holidays and still keep up with your healthy eating habits.
The holidays are a time for friends and family to come together to share gratitude and enjoy some of their favorite foods. From mashed potatoes and gravy to latkes, brisket, candied yams, or pumpkin pie—there's no shortage of meals to appreciate.
But if you're striving to eat healthier, you may find it challenging to maintain healthy eating habits through the holidays.
So how can you stay healthy over the holidays while still enjoying yourself?
In today's article, we'll share nine healthy eating tips for your holiday feast. Keep reading to learn more.
9 healthy eating tips for your holiday feast
Get enough sleep
Sleeping habits can affect the amount of food you eat, and the types of food you're drawn to. Not getting enough sleep can make it more difficult to manage blood sugar—and may increase your desire for more high-fat and high-sugar foods.
Healthy sleep also helps your body produce hormones that control appetite, specifically leptin and ghrelin.
What do these hormones do?
- Leptin regulates the body's balance of energy by regulating feelings of hunger and fat storage.
- Ghrelin, which is secreted in the stomach, acts as a counterpart of leptin—boosting appetite, growth, and fat production.
Normal and sufficient sleep keeps these hormones balanced. When you don’t get enough sleep, these hormones can become imbalanced, which can increase your appetite. This sets the stage for a higher calorie intake throughout the day.
Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night to maintain this balance and avoid overeating.
Staying active in the days leading up to, after, and during the holidays can help keep stress levels at bay.
Research links weight gain to stress. And when stressed, your body produces the hormone cortisol. Because the brain thinks it needs energy to fight off whatever’s causing the stress, cortisol creates cravings for fatty, sugary, and salty food.
But staying active doesn't just help with stress.
Adding some additional activity to routine can be a great way to make up for the higher caloric intake throughout the holidays. Light to moderate physical activity can burn anywhere from 240 to 460 calories per hour. Some quick ways you can stay active during the holidays include:
- Going for a walk
- Dancing with family
- Getting a workout in
Don’t skip meals
Skipping breakfast to save room for the holiday dinner may be a bad idea as it can lead to a greater appetite later in the day. This puts you at risk of overeating during the holiday feast and makes it harder to manage blood sugar levels.
Unhealthy food choices are also more likely to occur when you’re hungry.
You’re more likely to mindlessly eat when you’re hungry, instead of slowing down to consider healthier food choices. When hungry, the body craves foods that also tend to be quick and easy fixes like unhealthy, sugary snacks.
Skipping meals can also cause you to:
- Gain weight
- Feel sluggish and tired
- Burn less energy (calories)
Bring healthy dishes
Whether you’re hosting or visiting, you can create healthy dishes that are still festive.
Some healthy holiday dishes ideas include:
- Green beans
- Sauteed carrots
- Sauteed kale or collard greens
- Vegetable salad
- Baked yams
- Butternut squash soup
Ideally, consume a balance of:
- Healthy protein foods (poultry, beans, and nuts). Choose options with less salt and with little to no bad fats.
- Good fats like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (avocado, almonds, and pecans)
- Healthier sources of carbs (unprocessed whole grains, vegetables, and fruits). These have more nutrients than simple carbs and their higher fiber content allows them to digest more slowly.
Eating a balance of healthy proteins, carbs, and good fats is a simple way to feel satisfied, avoid overeating, and give you energy for your day.
Drinking water helps your body digest more easily by breaking down foods and helping you absorb nutrients.
Harvard suggests a daily water intake of:
- 4 to 11 cups for kids and teens 18 and under
- 13 cups for men 19 and older
- 9 cups for women 19 and older
Take a break
When you’re eating, your stomach may take a few moments to signal to the brain that it’s getting full. So it’s wise to take a break before helping yourself to seconds.
Instead of going for your second plate—try talking with family, drinking more water, or enjoying some fresh air.
Keep your distance
When at a get-together, try to stay away from the snack table if you’re prone to indulging. Staying close to food makes it easier to mindlessly eat, which can cause overeating.
Instead, try chewing a piece of gum or eating a mint—or bring your own healthy snacks to share and enjoy.
Some healthy snacks could include:
- Roasted chickpeas
- Vegetables with hummus
- Pumpkin and sunflower seeds
Try to limit calories from drinks
The holidays offer a variety of drinks—most of which are high in calories:
- Apple cider
- Mixed drinks
One glass of eggnog can contain up to 500 calories. And one cup of apple cider has around 28 grams of sugar.
One can of beer contains up to 350 calories, and a mixed drink, like a rum and coke, contains around 185 calories. If you’re drinking alcohol, it may be best to limit your intake, not only for the high calories, but also because it can affect your decision-making, behavior, and reaction time.
Whatever you’re drinking, try alternating with glasses of water to decrease the overall amount of unhealthy drinks you consume.
Look before you eat
Before you start putting food on your plate, pause and look at everything on the table. This can help you make more proactive choices about the foods you eat. And it may help you lower the number of calories you consume during the meal.
The holidays are a time to celebrate family, friends, and gratitude.
It’s ok to enjoy holiday food, drinks, and desserts in moderation. And by taking a more mindful approach, you can celebrate the holidays while still maintaining your health.
We hope you learned some tips to stay healthy this holiday season amid all the tempting foods and treats being served. Consider sharing this article with friends and family and help create a healthier holiday environment for all.
Health Mythbusting: Does eating turkey really make you tired?
Eating turkey this holiday? Worried about feeling sleepy afterward? Learn why turkey may not be the cause—and steps to take to avoid feeling tired.
This holiday season, Americans will consume around 87 million turkeys.
And after they gobble down their turkey dinners, they might experience post-meal sleepiness. Often, people blame turkey as the cause.
- But does turkey actually make you tired?
- What's in it?
- And what other factors are at play?
In today’s article, we’ll break down the health myth of whether eating turkey really makes you tired.
Why does turkey make you sleepy?
Theories say the sleepiness that comes after eating turkey is caused by an essential amino acid called L-tryptophan—or just tryptophan.
Turkey has tryptophan—but many other foods do too, including:
- Egg whites
So do these meals cause drowsiness? It’s possible—but unlikely.
When tryptophan is consumed, the amino acid travels from the digestive system to the brain. There, the brain turns tryptophan into a chemical known as serotonin.
Serotonin plays many roles in the healthy function of our body. One of those roles is regulating sleep.
So does tryptophan in turkey cause drowsiness?
It can—but scientists learned that tryptophan can only make us tired if it’s ingested on its own. And just like the protein found in milk, chicken, and egg whites—the protein in turkey contains several amino acids.
For tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and produce serotonin (the hormone that regulates sleep), it first has to compete with the other amino acids in turkey. The BBB helps keep our brains safe by tightly regulating what can cross into the brain—acting like the security checkpoint at an airport. Even molecules that aren’t harmful, like tryptophan, have to compete with each other to gain access. This slows the process down and means not everything gets through.
So what does this all mean?
Turkey itself may not cause sleepiness.
Other factors that may cause fatigue
If tryptophan isn’t what’s making you sleepy after a turkey dinner, what is?
Researchers believe this drowsiness may be a result of increased blood flow to the stomach to help digest a big meal. When more blood is sent to your stomach, there’s less blood left for the brain and the rest of the body—which may lead to tiredness.
When we overeat, the digestive process takes up even more of our energy.
Research also suggests, high-fat and high-carb meals—like a turkey dinner—may produce sleepiness after eating.
High-glycemic-index (HGI) meals may also make us fall asleep faster. HGI foods, like potatoes, baked goods, and sugar-containing beverages, create a quick spike in blood sugar (blood glucose) and insulin.
When eating high-glycemic foods, it’s normal to feel a surge of energy as glucose pours into the blood. The body will then produce insulin to metabolize—or break down—the glucose. This insulin rush can deplete blood glucose within a few hours, and if it drops too suddenly, it can create feelings of exhaustion.
Another thing that can make you sleepy after consuming it? Alcohol, which is often served on festive holidays. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which slows down brain activity, and can make you fall asleep faster than usual.
In short, a turkey dinner serves up plenty of ways to make you sleepy—turkey shouldn’t get all the blame.
How to avoid drowsiness after your turkey dinner
Despite all these forces working to make you sleepy this holiday, there are steps you can take to avoid feeling drowsy:
- Control your portion sizes. If you fill your plate to the brim, it’s easy to overeat. Overeating can cause your digestion system to require extra energy as it increases blood flow to the stomach—leading to feelings of drowsiness.
- Get enough sleep. If you’re already tired, it’s going to be even harder to stay awake after a big meal. Research also suggests that poor sleep increases unhealthy food choices and overeating.
- Limit your alcohol intake. By limiting or completely avoiding alcohol you can keep your brain activity in a normal state, which will help you stay awake longer after your holiday meal.
- Exercise regularly. By exercising regularly you can boost your overall energy. Exercise can help your cardiovascular system work more efficiently—improving the health of your lungs and heart.
- Create a better sleep environment. Your sleep environment plays a huge role in how rested you feel. Try reducing the light and sound in your bedroom, and keep your room temperature at a comfortable range—usually around 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Take your time and stop eating once you’re full. This helps the digestive process keep up—and avoid going into overdrive. This means you’ll avoid using all your energy to break down your food.
Does eating turkey really make you tired?
It’s not entirely clear if turkey itself is the main reason we experience drowsiness after a meal—or if it mistakenly gets the blame.
The amino acid tryptophan plays a role in activating brain chemicals that regulate sleep. But it may have to compete with the other amino acids in turkey that are also trying to break through the blood-brain barrier. And because it’s hard to isolate this amino acid from the other amino acids in turkey, it’s not clear how much of a role tryptophan plays on its own in post-holiday meal sleepiness.
Other factors like overeating, alcohol, and high-fat and high-carb meals may be the reason for feelings of drowsiness after a turkey meal.
In any case, there are steps you can take to avoid feeling tired.
By focusing on lifestyle and eating habits, you can avoid the unnecessary drowsiness that comes from a big turkey dinner.
If you learned anything new, be sure to stay tuned for more mythbusting articles—we still have many more to cover!
Take Control of Your Health This Movember
Movember is all about men’s health. From mental health to cancer, it’s time for men to break the cycle of silence. Talking about health concerns, be it anxiety, physical health, or sexual function, is crucial to living a long, healthy, and happy life.
You may have heard of Movember, the month when men grow their facial hair in solidarity with men’s health issues, like testicular and prostate cancer. The trend has taken hold across the world and even generated its own spinoffs, like “No-Shave November.”
Movember started in Australia as a grassroots movement and began to become widespread in the early 2000s. Since then, the campaign has only grown, so you’re sure to see plenty of men rocking facial hair this November.
Let’s take a moment to discuss what you can do to take care of your health, raise awareness, and show your support for men’s health issues.
What Movember Is All About
Movember is all about men’s health. Rather than focusing on one specific medical concern, Movember encourages us to spread awareness of the many health risks specific to men. Mental health is a huge focus during the month, as studies have shown that men are statistically far less likely to seek help for things like anxiety and depression.
Men seek treatment less frequently for a variety of medical conditions, largely due to a culture that encourages men to be stoic and deal with things themselves. Regular checkups and cancer screenings are more likely to be put off or skipped entirely by men. We’re here to encourage guys to take charge of their health and break the cycle of stigmas that prevent so many men from properly taking care of themselves.
Mental health is a major issue for men, not just in the US but across the world. In the United States, men are 3.6x more likely to die by suicide than women. There are many reasons for this, but a lot of it comes down to a lack of comfort in discussing emotions. While we’ve made great progress, some men still feel ashamed of talking about their emotions, especially with a medical professional like a therapist or psychiatrist.
As a society, it’s important to treat mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression, with the same care and empathy we treat physical ailments.
Here are some common signs of depression that men should look out for:
- Anger and irritability—especially if it’s atypical behavior
- Insomnia and trouble sleeping
- Increased intake/abuse of alcohol and drugs
- Withdrawing from friends and loved ones
It’s important to remember that many of these signs can appear before the person is consciously aware that they’re suffering from depression. While these symptoms aren’t unique to men, it’s important to remember that men are less likely to openly talk about what they’re experiencing. That’s why it’s important to be an active listener and to try and pick up on nonverbal cues from the people you care about. If you think someone is struggling, encourage them to talk to a professional, and offer a safe and non-judgemental ear.
If you or someone you know is in in crisis, reach out to the suicide & crisis lifeline by calling or texting 988 for help.
One area where men feel a lot of stigma is in their sexual function. As men age, their levels of testosterone naturally tend to drop. This decrease can result in lower libido, delayed orgasm, and even erectile dysfunction (ED).
Though it’s completely normal for your interest in sex to decrease a little as you age, major changes or difficulties are often a source of great anxiety and embarrassment. For example, even though erectile dysfunction is very common and usually highly treatable, available data indicates about 39% of men with ED never discuss it with their doctor. Fortunately, medical professionals can offer various solutions. Whether you try simple lifestyle changes or medication, or look into a more advanced treatment like hormone therapy, it’s likely there’s a solution to fit the need. Lack of communication is often the biggest hurdle, so talk to your doctor if you’re struggling and encourage others to break the stigmas also.
It isn’t just mental health that men are less likely to seek help for. Physical ailments are also reported by men at a lower rate than women. The reasons are essentially the same. With a culture that celebrates physical strength and ‘working through the pain,’ men are more likely to feel like they need to simply push through it. The statistics bear this out, as a recent survey showed that less than half (46%) of men had a routine checkup in 2022.
It’s imperative for men to get routine checkups, especially as they age. Prostate cancer is the third leading cause of death in men, and testicular cancer can be life-threatening and incredibly life-altering, if not caught early. The good news is that both of these cancers are generally fairly treatable when caught in time. Help the men in your life by encouraging them to get routine physicals, learn to perform a self-exam for signs of testicular cancer, and if you have a loved one that isn’t taking care of their health the way they should—talk to them.
Movember is all about men’s health. From mental health to cancer, it’s time for men to break the cycle of silence. Talking about health concerns, be it anxiety, physical health, or sexual function, is crucial to living a long, healthy, and happy life. Whether you’re a man hoping to improve your overall health or you want to encourage a loved one to do the same, we hope this article has provided you with some helpful facts and resources. Happy Movember, and good health to all!
Why participants are so important to health research
Health research isn’t possible without the contributions of research participants. Find out how participants help contribute and how you can participate.
Health research is very important for improving health care for all.
As we mentioned in a previous article, What is Health Research?, this type of research helps medical researchers understand people’s health and how we can make treatments better for everyone.
But health research isn’t possible without the contributions of research participants. Research participants are volunteers who consent (in other words, give their permission) to be in a study. They provide the data (from surveys, lab tests, interviews, etc.) that researchers need to answer important questions that improve health care.
In fact, research participants are the most important part of research — without participants, medical advancements can’t happen!
Why participate in research?
There are a lot of great reasons to participate in research! Some common reasons people participate include:
- Contributing to medical science
- Learning more about health and health research
- Wanting to help improve treatment options for a variety of conditions
- Wanting to find a better treatment for a condition they have
Whatever your personal reasons for participating, being a part of health-related research can have a lasting impact.
Why do researchers need research participants?
Did you know that most research studies don’t enroll enough people on time? When this happens, research efforts to develop medications, devices, and treatments get delayed. It causes studies to take longer than expected and ends up costing researchers more. This can lead to increased medication prices and delays in getting new treatments to market.
These factors limit progress in developing new treatments for conditions like Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Cancers, Autoimmune Disorders, and many others.
Many of us have loved ones or know someone living with a condition that has no treatment and limited options for improving quality of life.
You may wonder, “with all the science and technology in the world, why isn’t there a cure or better treatment for this condition?”
Without research and participants, we can’t develop new or improved treatments.
That’s why it’s important that those who want to participate in health research have the ability and support to do so.
How to participate in research
There are many ways to learn about research participation opportunities. You can find opportunities online, in ads, through medical professionals, on the Evidation app, and more.
Here are some resources that can get you started if you’re interested in participating in a study!
- Evidation Studies specializes in decentralized research which is an easy way to contribute to medical science. To learn how to participate in one of our studies, check out our article How to Participate in a Research Study on Evidation. You can also download the Evidation app to learn more!
- Check out clinicaltrials.gov, which is a registry of clinical trials that provides the public with information on past and current trials.
- Talk to your healthcare providers to see if they know of research studies that may apply to you.
Want to know more about any of our Evidation Studies and how to get involved? Check out How to Participate in a Research Study on Evidation or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and one of our friendly team members can help you get started.
If you want additional general information on health research, we recommend checking out the following public resources:
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office for Human Research Protections
- FDA, Clinical Trials and Human Subject Protection
- National Institutes of Health (NIH), Educational Resources
Personality and Your Health
Many researchers agree that personality is made up of 5 unique traits: Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Openness, Neuroticism, and Extraversion. Members on the Evidation platform were recently invited to complete a survey that measured conscientiousness.
Many researchers agree that personality is made up of 5 unique traits: Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Openness, Neuroticism, and Extraversion. Members on the Evidation platform were recently invited to complete a survey that measured conscientiousness.
What is conscientiousness?
Conscientiousness describes the degree to which a person is organized, determined, and likely to follow norms and rules.
- High scorers tend to work hard to achieve their goals and complete tasks they’ve started. They also tend to get higher grades in school and perform better in many jobs, but are more likely to experience perfectionism and fear of failure.
- Low scorers tend to act spontaneously instead of making plans. While they may be a bit disorganized, they’re also more likely to be flexible with decision making, and able to bounce back from setbacks. Overall, they may find it easier to look at the big picture than to pay attention to details.
Why does conscientiousness matter for health?
Research has found that individuals who are high in conscientiousness tend to live longer and healthier lives. Why? Individuals who are high in conscientiousness tend to be rule followers, and are more likely to follow health recommendations. For example, on average, conscientious people drink less alcohol, eat healthier, and are more likely to wear seat belts.
Conscientious people may also have healthier coping mechanisms–that is, ways to deal with negative life events–than individuals who are less conscientious. For example, people who are conscientious are more likely to try to solve a difficult problem than to use an emotional escape.
For example, a highly conscientious person might think, “How can I fit in daily walking to reduce my cholesterol levels?”
And a less conscientious person might think, “I’ll watch TV now and think about my cholesterol tomorrow.”
What does this mean for me?
Although research has found that conscientiousness relates to mental and physical health, having a low score doesn’t mean you’re destined to poor health. Regardless of your own conscientiousness, you can use what research has uncovered about personality and health to improve your own wellbeing.
If you’d like to increase your conscientious behavior for better health, aim to set small, achievable goals. Below are some techniques you may find useful:
- Reflect on how to avoid or overcome obstacles. Imagine your desired future self and think about the obstacles you may face in becoming that person. For example, if your goal is to become a less distracted driver, an obstacle might be that you’re eager to look at your phone whenever you see an incoming message. One way to overcome this obstacle might be to set your phone to “do not disturb” when driving so that you can’t see the alerts and are reminded to break the habit of looking.
- Create “if-then” plans for handling situations related to your health goals. For example, if you want to reduce your tobacco consumption, your if-then plan may look like this: “If I crave a cigarette, then I’ll take a five minute walk instead.”
- Track your progress and celebrate small victories. For example, if your goal is to walk more, set a small, specific, and achievable goal: “I’ll walk for 5 minutes every morning after I finish my coffee.” As your walks become a habit, increase the time of your walks, but be careful not to let missed walks discourage you–you can pick up again tomorrow!
…and don’t forget, start small to set yourself up for success!
How to have a fun and healthy Halloween
Keeping good eating habits during Halloween doesn’t mean you have to avoid sweet foods altogether. We’re sharing tips to keep you and your family healthy while still enjoying the treats Halloween has to offer.
Whether you have younger kids who are trick or treating, or you’re attending a Halloween party, Halloween is full of celebrations and activities. It may also be a time of year when healthy eating and overall good habits slip.
But what if you didn’t have to sacrifice fun for healthy choices?
We’ll share tips for you to keep you and your family healthy while still enjoying the treats Halloween has to offer.
Keep reading to learn more.
Eat before you go
Whether you’re heading to a Halloween party, or taking your kids trick or treating, eating before you head out can help you maintain your health.
Giving your kids a healthy snack before they go door to door will help them stay full and keep them from eating candy out of hunger while trick or treating.
And instead of heading to a Halloween party on an empty stomach, eating a meal that fills you up will help you stay away from overindulging on treats and other sugary foods.
Try a snack or a meal rich in complex carbs. The fiber in complex carbs digests slower, providing a more steady release of glucose (energy) in the bloodstream and preventing energy crashes. It also helps you feel full for a longer period, making you (and your kids!) less likely to eat too many simple sugars like candy.
Trick or treat with a small bag
Rather than sending kids off with a large container to collect candy, try giving them a smaller bag. This will help stop them from collecting too much candy and limit the amount of treats they have to snack on—or bring home to the family to share.
Host a party with healthy foods
If you want to socialize but are concerned about overindulging in unhealthy food typically served at parties, consider hosting your own party. You can serve your own healthy recipes, offer healthy snacks, and decide how many sweets and sugary beverages to provide.
This doesn’t mean you have to avoid sweet foods altogether.
Serving chocolate? Choose dark chocolate. It contains 2 to 3 times more flavanol-rich cocoa. Flavonols help with the production of nitric oxide, which can relax blood vessels and improve blood flow, helping to lower blood pressure. It’s also rich in important minerals that support immunity, keep bones and teeth healthy, and improve sleep quality.
Another option is to use fruits and healthy Halloween recipes like roasted veggies or pumpkin hummus rather than candy and sweets.
Avoid consuming too much chocolate, candy, and sugar
Halloween is an easy time to overindulge in candy, chocolate, and sugar in general. High sugar intake can lead to inflammation, high blood pressure, weight gain, and diabetes.
While it’s best to avoid simple sugars, it’s more feasible to practice portion control. Set a daily limit for the amount of sugar, chocolate, and candy you allow yourself to consume.
Try restricting treats to after dinner, or lunch. And work together with family and friends to hold each other accountable.
Store the candy, chocolates, and sweets out of sight
By keeping the sugary snacks out of sight, you can reduce your temptation to over consume them.
It’s easy to eat chocolates when they're sitting on your kitchen counter. It’s much harder when they're completely hidden in the cupboard and you’ve forgotten all about them.
Buy candy for trick or treaters at the last minute
Instead of buying a box of treats long before Halloween—making it more likely you and your family eat them before the holiday, try buying treats at the last minute.
Then, because trick-or-treaters will be at your door soon, you’re less likely to risk eating too much candy in case you run out.
Conclusion - How to have a fun and healthy Halloween
It’s easy to start picking up bad habits and eat poorly around Halloween.
It’s also ok to enjoy some treats in moderation. But making proactive choices and adding some tricks into your routine can help you and your loved ones have fun and stay healthy all season long. Having fun is important too—and now you have some tools to help you to gain control of the foods you’re consuming.
If these tips were helpful, feel free to share this article with someone who might benefit from them.
AIP Diet: What is it and what are the risks and benefits?
By avoiding certain foods that can cause inflammation, the AIP diet may help lessen symptoms of autoimmune diseases. See what the research says and how to determine if the AIP diet is an option for you.
More than 80 known autoimmune diseases affect 24 million people in the US alone.
An autoimmune disease is the result of your body's immune system attacking your body rather than protecting it. A normal functioning immune system acts as a defense against invaders like bacteria or viruses.
When someone experiences an autoimmune condition, the immune system can’t tell the difference between what's healthy and what's not. As a result, your body attacks healthy cells.
Common autoimmune conditions include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and more.
Is there a cure?
While there’s no known cure for autoimmune conditions, medications can help people manage their disease. Some people also seek alternative therapies like acupuncture or herbs to treat their condition or manage their symptoms.
Can diet help reduce symptoms of autoimmune disease?
The AIP (autoimmune protocol) diet is a food plan that aims to improve autoimmune symptoms.
In this post, we’ll break down the AIP diet, including:
- What it is
- Risks and benefits
- How to consider if the AIP diet is the right choice for you
What is the AIP diet?
The AIP (autoimmune protocol) diet aims to cut foods, additives, or medication that can trigger dysbiosis (the imbalance of gut bacteria), intestinal inflammation, and even symptomatic food intolerance. It’s also used to help reduce symptoms caused by autoimmune conditions.
The AIP diet is an extension of the Paleolithic diet and shares similarities in the foods that are allowed and avoided. However, the AIP diet is a little more restrictive and eliminates nuts, seeds, nightshades, eggs, and seed herbs.
When a “leaky gut” occurs, bacteria and toxins can pass through the intestines and into the bloodstream. The AIP diet aims to avoid foods that make your gut permeable and incorporate foods that help support gut health and reduce inflammation.
By avoiding certain foods that can cause inflammation and worsen symptoms of autoimmune conditions, the AIP diet works to support the gut lining and avoid inflammation altogether.
This includes avoiding food groups such as:
- Seed herbs
What can you eat on the AIP diet?
Foods recommended while following the diet include:
- Fermented probiotic-rich foods
- Natural sweeteners in moderation
- Non-seed-derived herbs and spices
- Minimally processed oils like avocado oil, olive oil, or coconut oil
- Minimally processed meats, as well as lean cuts, wild-caught, and grass-fed meats whenever possible
What are the risks?
For starters, the AIP diet is restrictive. Beginning the diet includes three phases:
- Phase 1: the elimination of foods that aren’t AIP compliant (at least 30 days)
- Phase 2: continued maintenance and/or elimination (minimum of 30 days)
- Phase 3: reintroduction of foods. Slowly reintroduce one food per week and assess symptoms
Phase 1 (the elimination phase) can be difficult as it entirely restricts some foods many people are used to eating. Social situations can be challenging when there’s a limited choice of foods to enjoy. This is normal for the start of any diet, but because the AIP diet is so restrictive, it can be harder.
Remaining in Phase 1 or Phase 2 for too long can also make it difficult to reach your daily nutritional needs, leading to certain nutrient deficiencies if you don't follow the diet correctly.
This is why it’s critical to move into Phase 3 (the reintroduction phase) after 60 days. During this phase, you have the chance to re-introduce foods that will help you reach your daily nutrition easier.
What are the benefits?
The AIP diet may contribute to a reduction in common autoimmune disorder symptoms.
In a study following a group of people using the AIP diet with IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), participants reported fewer IBD-related symptoms. They found an improvement in stress, bowel frequency, and their ability to perform leisure and sports activities.
In another study, women with HT (Hashimoto's thyroiditis) who followed the AIP diet for 10 weeks experienced a 29% decrease in inflammation and a 68% reduction in disease-related symptoms by the end of the study.
While the research is promising, it’s also limited. As more AIP diet research and data comes to the forefront, we may learn more about the impact of this diet.
Is the AIP diet a good choice for you?
Determining if the AIP diet is the right choice for you depends on several factors.
Firstly, it’s important to know if it’s sustainable for you and your lifestyle. If enjoying food socially is a big part of your life, it might be more difficult to adopt the diet.
And although some studies support claims of the diet’s positive effects, there’s no way to determine in advance if it will work for you. It’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional before you make a sudden and significant change to your diet.
The AIP diet may help reduce symptoms of autoimmune disorders. While there’s some evidence to support its effectiveness, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning a new diet—especially one with so many restrictions.
If you're ready for the lifestyle shift and can adhere to the diet while getting the nutrients needed to live a healthy life, it could be a great option.
If autoimmune symptoms are reducing your quality of life, there may be options available to help improve them—the AIP diet may be one option.
If someone you know might benefit from this information, consider sharing it. You never know, you could help someone change their life!
Learn more about dyslexia this Dyslexia Awareness Month
20% of people have dyslexia, which affects the way someone reads and identifies speech sounds. Early intervention can help people with dyslexia better excel in school and beyond. Learn more about the signs of dyslexia and treatment options available.
October is Dyslexia Awareness Month. Dyslexia is the most common neurocognitive disorder, affecting 80-90 percent of those with learning disabilities—and roughly 20 percent of the overall population.
- But what is dyslexia?
- What causes it?
- Who’s at risk?
- And what are the challenges people with dyslexia face?
Keep reading to learn more about dyslexia and the steps you can take to support those that have it.
What is dyslexia?
Dyslexia is a learning disorder and is sometimes referred to as a reading disability. It tends to impact our ability to read because it affects how people identify speech sounds—and how those sounds relate to words and letters.
This is what’s known as decoding.
Decoding often results in those with dyslexia reading at a lower level than their classmates despite having normal levels of intelligence.
What causes dyslexia?
Dyslexia occurs due to differences in parts of the brain that process language. It doesn’t affect intelligence, hearing, or vision, however.
What causes dyslexia?
Dyslexia is caused by differences in parts of the brain that help us read.
What causes these differences?
Usually dyslexia runs in families. It’s linked to certain genes that affect how our brain processes language and reading. If your family has a history of disabilities related to reading and learning you may have an increased chance of having dyslexia.
What are the challenges?
- What are the challenges of having dyslexia in our current education system?
- How can it impact day-to-day life?
The biggest impact dyslexia may have on children is making it difficult to learn in traditional classroom settings.
Because reading is a common skill utilized throughout all parts of our educational system, a child may have a hard time learning at the same rate as peers if they’re unable to read at the same level.
This difficulty to learn can create longer term problems in adulthood if not addressed due to the potential social, economic, and educational impacts dyslexia creates.
If a child or adolescent doesn’t get the support they need as they grow up, they’re less likely to be able to read and interpret language easily as an adult. This can have a negative impact on growth, learning, and even self-esteem.
Dyslexia can contribute to people experiencing negative feelings about themselves, including shame, aggression, low confidence, and anxiety. They may mistakenly believe they're unintelligent, although dyslexia doesn’t affect intelligence at all. Because of this, emotional support can play a role in helping people with dyslexia thrive.
People with dyslexia usually succeed just fine in school with a specialized program or tutoring. And adults with dyslexia can continue to benefit from additional support and resources.
Signs of dyslexia
What are common signs of dyslexia?
Dyslexia symptoms may become more apparent with age. As a child is exposed to learning environments, signs may emerge more frequently.
Some common signs of dyslexia in preschool-age children include:
- Talking late
- Learning new words slowly
- Problems forming words correctly
- Confusing words that sound similar
- Difficulty learning nursery rhymes or playing rhyming games
- Problems remembering or naming letters, colors, and numbers
Once a child starts grade school, symptoms may become more apparent, making them easier to identify. Symptoms a child in school might experience include:
- Avoiding activities that involve reading
- Difficulty spelling, reading, and learning
- Problems remembering certain sequences
- Reading well below the expected reading level
- Issues processing and understanding what’s heard
- Inability to sound out the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word
- Difficulty finding the right word or forming answers to questions
- Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing
- Difficulty seeing (and occasionally hearing) similarities and differences in letters and words
Lastly, teenagers or adults may exhibit the following signs—many of which are similar across all life stages. They include:
- Problems with spelling
- Slow reading and writing
- Difficulty summarizing a story
- Trouble learning a foreign language
- Difficulty doing math word problems
- Avoiding activities that involve reading
- Difficulty reading, including reading out loud
- Mispronouncing names or words, or having problems retrieving words
- Spending an unusually long time completing tasks that involve reading or writing
What are the treatment options for dyslexia?
Treatment for dyslexia largely depends on age and focuses on the learning problems the condition creates. It usually involves adjusting learning environments and educational techniques to meet the specific needs of an individual with dyslexia.
If schools, teachers, and parents provide extra support in kindergarten and first grade, children are often able to improve their reading, writing, and learning skills.
However, if dyslexia isn’t addressed early on, children may have difficulty learning the skills needed to read well and learn. Because of this, they’re more likely to fall behind their peers in development.
Parents can play a big role in the development of a child, and they also play a significant role in the success of a child with dyslexia.
Here’s how you can help your child if they have this condition:
- Address the problem early on. If you suspect anything, visit your healthcare provider and seek early intervention and help to improve success.
- Try reading out loud to your child when they're young. You can try reading stories, or listening to recorded books.
- Work with your child's school and talk to the teacher about how you can work together to help your child succeed.
- Set aside time every day to read with your child. Children must practice to improve their reading skills. Have them read out loud to you and encourage them to read on their own.
If you’re an adult experiencing dyslexia, there are a few things you can do to support your success.
- Consider getting assistance with reading or writing. Although stigma and potential social implications may make this feel challenging, it can help get you the support you need, connect you with new friends, and make it easier to learn.
- Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you may be eligible for additional training and accommodations from your employer or academic institution. Getting support can foster growth and development, help you do your job better, and aid you in reaching your goals.
Successful figures with dyslexia
The learning difficulties associated with dyslexia have nothing to do with intelligence or someone’s ability to succeed. In fact, some of the most gifted figures in science, math, and arts had dyslexia, including Albert Einstein, Henry Ford, and Pablo Picasso.
Albert Einstein experienced delayed verbal development and dyslexia symptoms in early childhood—and went on to receive the 1921 Nobel Prize in physics and created “the world’s most famous equation,” E=mc2.
Henry Ford spent his childhood struggling to read, then used his strong talent and interest in engineering to build one of the biggest automobile companies in the world.
During his early years at school, Pablo Picasso struggled to keep up with his peers. He went on to become one of the 20th-century’s most influential artists.
How to support Dyslexia Awareness Month
If you have a friend, coworker, child, family member, or classmate that deals with dyslexia, there are ways you can help.
- Learn more about dyslexia to better understand what people with the condition experience.
- Help your child or loved one learn, share encouragement, and aid their development during each step in their journey.
- Share what you learn and spread awareness to help more people understand how it affects individuals’ lives.