Posts by Alison Lee

Alison Lee is a freelance writer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. She enjoys writing about finance, medicine, and health, among other topics.

Why You Should Care About Sexual Health

Sex isn’t something our society likes to talk about. In fact, most of us were taught since we were kids that sex is the kind of topic you keep far away from polite conversation. Despite mental health topics being more and more welcome in today’s conversations, sexual health is still quite taboo.

Talking about sexual health may make you blush, but it’s important too! Sexual health is strongly related to both your physical and mental health and something not going quite right in your sex life may indicate an underlying physical or psychological issue you should take care of.

Let’s explore further why sexual health is important.

empty bed beside windows during daytime

Your sexual health can tell you a lot about your physical health.

The human reproductive system is tied to many of our other bodily systems. One simple example: huffing and puffing during sex may mean you need to work on your cardiovascular health!

Sex has numerous health benefits. It can:

  • Improve sleep quality
  • Relieve chronic pain
  • Strengthen your heart
  • Boost your immune system
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower risk of prostate cancer

Problems With Your Parts?

Unfortunately, our equipment doesn’t always work perfectly. For people with penises, erectile dysfunction (ED) may be more than a frustration; it could be an indicator of an underlying health condition, including diabetes, kidney disease, and high blood pressure. While it can also indicate prostate cancer, don’t panic! ED is quite common (affecting about 30 million Americans), and most people who have it don’t also have prostate cancer.

For people with vaginas, pain during sex can also be both distressing and a health issue. While some cases can be remedied with a little lube, pain may indicate a problem like ovarian cysts, endometriosis, or simply an irritating skin condition. You deserve to have pleasurable sex, so talk to your doctor or gynecologist if sex makes you uncomfortable.

man kissing woman on her forehead

Sexual health is a big part of mental health.

Sex can be an issue for people with existing mental health conditions that require treatment by medications. Many antidepressants lower libido as a side effect. This can be frustrating for patients taking these drugs, but they may be uncomfortable bringing it up with their doctors. They may not even know that a prescription drug is a reason behind their bedroom troubles.

So if you’re reading this, take medication, and are experiencing bedroom troubles, please do talk to your doctor! Fixing your problems can be as simple as switching to a slightly different medicine that delivers the same treatment. Don’t be shy about talking to your doctor about sex. Chances are they have plenty of experience with these issues.

You deserve a healthy relationship.

Perhaps more significant than both physical and psychological health effects, sexual health has a profound impact on your relationships. Misunderstandings can put strains on intimate relationships. For example, if one partner experiences pain during sex and thus doesn’t enjoy it, but their partner doesn’t know, the partner that does enjoy sex may assume they’re not attractive enough. This can lead to relationship conflict and loss of self-esteem. That’s why it’s important to keep communicating about everyone’s needs, wants, likes, and dislikes.

two person holding each other's hands

A Word About Consent

Consent is also another important topic, especially in today’s #MeToo era. Consent means the person you want to have sex with, freely and clearly agrees to sex. Planned Parenthood offers a simple way to remember what is considered consent: FRIES.

  1. Freely given
  2. Reversible
  3. Informed
  4. Enthusiastic
  5. Specific

A few more important things about consent:

  • It can be withdrawn at any time.
  • Just because you didn’t say no, doesn’t mean you consented. Consent must be clear, enthusiastic, and freely given.
  • People who are drunk or high are not capable of consenting, nor are minors.
  • Being in a relationship does not automatically imply consent.

Remember, you deserve a healthy relationship! If you are currently struggling with sexual health-related issues, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Prioritize yourself.

A woman in a saree is reading a newspaper and sitting next to one on a curb.

Fortnightly Medical News Round-Up: Scientific Turnabouts against Health Concerns

Over the past two weeks, science has made a few discoveries that could prove to be significant counters against a number of health concerns.

To learn more, take a look at some of the highlights!

Sunscreen does not seem to affect vitamin D production as previously thought.

Two hands are shown against a bright yellow background, where one hand is applying sunscreen to the other.

Many of us worry about our vitamin D intake. And for good reason! Vitamin D is not easily found in food sources, and the majority of it is probably gained through sunlight. But the benefits of getting vitamin D are critical for our bodies. After all, this vitamin helps the body build and maintain healthy bones.

But because this vitamin comes to us mainly through sunlight, there have been concerns about how sunscreen might impact vitamin D intake. No one wants to get sunburnt, and skin cancer is equally undesirable, if not more so. But does protecting ourselves with sunscreen negatively impact how much vitamin D we get?

Luckily, science has an answer that will be music to most, if not all, ears! According to the British Journal of Dermatology, there is little to no impact. Even if you put on sunscreen with a low ultraviolet A protection factor, you’ll still get vitamin D. But it’s good to note that you’ll get even more vitamin D using a sunscreen with a high ultraviolet A protection factor.

Untreatable childhood brain cancer could soon become treatable.

A young girl is on a swing in a wooded area.

For years, the childhood brain cancer diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (DIPG) has been considered terminal. There are radiation therapy and experimental chemotherapy treatments available for the condition, but neither is considered to be a full-on cure. Most of the time, children who end up with DIPG are expected to only live nine to 12 months after their diagnosis.

But the academic journal Communications Biology has recently published a study indicating that there may soon be hope for those with DIPG. They have discovered a new drug that will be able to target a weakness found in DIPG, which could prove to be an effective and important treatment in the future.

Virtual reality technology could assist people with dementia.

A black virtual reality headset is sitting on a glass head mannequin.

Like DIPG, there is no cure for dementia. Instead, people who have the condition gradually lose their grasp of their cognitive abilities until they’re eventually unable to handle everyday tasks on their own.

It’s a tragic condition to have, and while science has yet to find a potential cure, there may be a new form of help for those with dementia. As noted by a study under the academic publication Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, providing eight dementia patients with virtual reality (VR) headsets offered a number of benefits, such as:

  • Helping them recall old memories through a stimuli that patients might not experience outside of VR
  • Giving their caregivers more information about their lives before care
  • Improving their social interactions with caregivers
  • Lifting their mood and motivation

The study was quite small, so it’s not known if these benefits would transfer to most dementia patients. But it does show how much better off the lives of dementia patients could be.

Avocados may help counter weight gain.

An avocado split in half rests on a granite surface.

Trying to lose weight can be incredibly difficult. Unfortunately, your body is built to keep starvation a non-issue, but not obesity. So once you lose weight, your body tries to resist further weight loss by lowering your resting metabolic weight.

It sounds like an impossible situation. However, the academic journal Nutrients notes that replacing avocados with carbohydrates could promote hunger suppression and meal satisfaction. So your weight loss could get a bit easier if you start looking to add avocado to your diet!

There’s sure to be more helpful discoveries like these, so look forward to more intellectually nourishing news in a fortnight!

Against a brick wall background, two hands are holding up a sign with an angry face on it.

Anger and Anxiety: A GAD-Awful Combo

For those of you who deal with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), your lives are likely filled with persistent, excessive worry.

Each day, you’ll end up spending time dealing with a number of worries, and they don’t even have to relate to one another. They can range from an excessive focus on keeping up with financial needs to constantly planning schedules around any and all what-if scenarios.

But you might feel like you should hold on to that anxiety. And you’re not the only person with GAD to think that! Many with GAD believe that their worrying helps them avoid negative consequences, so they don’t actually want to get rid of their condition. After all, doesn’t anxiety push you to plan and do things as effectively as possible?

While it can, GAD does have its own dark side: irritation. This feeling is not a healthy one, often leading to intense anger. So here’s why you might want to consider at least minimizing the hold that GAD has on you.

Irritability is a main diagnostic factor for GAD.

When professionals look to diagnose people with GAD, one of the main factors they look for is irritation. And as many know, this feeling can be considered a mild form of anger or frustration.

While most anxiety disorders are likely to cause irritability, GAD is the only one that lists it as a defining part of its criteria.

To find out why, let’s learn a little bit more about GAD and how it connects to anger.

What is GAD?

GAD is an anxiety disorder characterized by a tenaciously exorbitant worry over any number of issues. As the word generalized in the name of this disorder shows, people with GAD don’t have a specific set of worries. Instead, they just remain worried about almost anything and everything throughout the day.

What connects it to anger?

The worry-induced anxiety that comes from GAD often feels impossible to control, and it can lead to feeling trapped and frustrated. The worry never truly seems to go away, but that natural, anxious fight-or-flight response demands you do something to get rid of it all. And if you can’t seem to flee, your brain will feel the need to fight.

In fact, according to the Cognitive Behaviour Therapy journal, this fight response is particularly strong in those who have GAD. Looking more into the details of the study, the website ScienceDaily notes that among 381 participants, 131 of those with GAD expressed high levels of trait anger and internalized anger. The study’s revelation seems to indicate that heightened levels of anger — and in particular, internalized anger expression — might be a strong predictor for those who will have or who already have GAD.

But that factor needs more research.

Sadly, one of the main researchers reported to ScienceDaily that more research is needed to determine what connects GAD to anger. For now, the exact connection between GAD and anger remains unknown.

What can you do about anger and GAD?

Feeling constant worry, irritation, and anger isn’t good for your well-being. It creates a mentally miserable environment that leads you to thinking and feeling the worst. It can disrupt your life, give you chronic physical pain, and lead to other poor health conditions.

So, while GAD might help you schedule plans and avoid potential disasters, the negative emotions surrounding the condition, when left unchecked, can cause a number of problems.

But you can manage GAD. You just need the right tools.

Seek therapy.

One of the best tools to help you manage GAD is therapy. With therapy, you can learn techniques to help you change how you think about things and how you adapt to situations. It can offer you effective ways of coping with anxiety and all the stress that it brings.

There are a number of effective therapies for you to try:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you address negative thinking patterns and distortions.
  • Mindfulness meditation teaches you to sit comfortably, relax on your own, and think in the present instead of worrying about future problems.
  • Biofeedback allows you to see how your body responds to certain stimuli and what you can do about it.

For more information on GAD-related therapy, talk to your doctor. They’ll have a better idea of what treatments are available near you and what might help you best.

Consider pharmaceutical assistance.

In addition to therapy, your doctor may also suggest you take prescription drugs. For instance, they might offer you sertraline. Taking medication like sertraline alongside therapy is a common treatment, and it could help you further reduce your GAD symptoms.

You might think it’s a bit costly, though, and you’d be right. In America, prescription drugs are quite expensive. Adding therapy into the mix only makes that cost higher.

But there is a way to reduce how much you pay for prescription drugs! Simply look for an authentic international or Canada pharmacy referral service like Canada Med Pharmacy, and order your medication from there. You’ll be able to order from licensed pharmacies outside of the United States where prescription prices are regulated more strictly, allowing you to purchase your medication at a more affordable rate.

Most importantly, don’t bottle up your feelings.

You might think it’s easier to minimize GAD’s impact on your life just by bottling up how you feel. But you’d be wrong. While hiding how you feel will prevent people from noticing your GAD symptoms right away, it can actually exacerbate your feelings. Feelings do need to be expressed eventually, and hiding yours will only make it easier for negative emotions to get the better of you when you least want them to, causing potentially ugly outbursts. And it can even lead to other negative consequences, such as poor social support, reduced closeness with others, and social dissatisfaction.

You’re better off acknowledging that you do, in fact, have these feelings and that you need to do something about them. So give therapy, medication, or both treatments a try, and stay in touch with those closest to you. It will remind you that you’re not alone in trying to deal with GAD and that there are people out there who care about how you feel.

A man is reading a newspaper behind a street fruit stand and next to a scale for fruit with the title "Fortnightly Medical News Round-Up" next to him.

Fortnightly Medical News Round-Up: From Electrical Bandages to an Experimental Blood Test

Let’s dive into the wonderful world of medical science once again.

It’s that time! Join me as I take a look at the latest medical news.

A study shows how electrical bandages can heal chronic wounds faster.

A hand is shown against a black background with a bandage covering the palm.

Paving the way for better chronic wound care, electrical bandages have come to be known for their great healing properties. But what about them makes them so great? To find out, we need to dive a little deeper into what defines this type of bandage and what defines a chronic wound.

What is an electrical bandage?

Belonging to a particular type of therapy called electroceuticals, electrical bandages are meant to treat chronic wounds.

How?

They do so with the help of a device that’s attached to them. When the bandage is applied to a chronic wound, this device emits electrical impulses. These impulses then eliminate the bacteria found in the chronic wound.

What is a chronic wound?

So, electrical bandages are great at cleansing chronic wounds from infection. But what exactly are chronic wounds?

These types of wounds are typically non-healing ones. The reason for this is that they usually have skin infections coupled with biofilms. And these biofilms form from small groups of microorganisms, which can also include bacteria. These groups are usually held together by fat and protein substances. And both these groups and substances can end up creating a protective barrier for the bacteria.

This protective barrier makes it difficult for traditional treatments like antibiotics to heal chronic wounds. But that isn’t the case for electrical bandages.

Why?

No one’s sure. But researchers at The Ohio State University have discovered new clues that may explain why these bandages have better luck at healing chronic wounds.

When using an electrical device with silk, the university researchers found that the two items created the antimicrobial chemical hypochlorous acid. This chemical was shown to penetrate the biofilm barrier and kill the bacteria inside without harming the healthy skin nearby.

To learn more, you can take a look at a plain English summary here and read through the original study here.

Pregnant women at risk for late preterm delivery may have a new cost-effective treatment.

A pregnant women in all black is standing against a white background.

For years, it has been standard to treat women with prenatal steroids if they were at risk of giving birth before their 34 weeks of pregnancy. After all, this treatment helps fetal lungs mature quickly enough to survive the birth.

Despite the benefit this treatment offers babies, researchers did not initially consider it necessary for women who were going to give birth to their babies during the later part of their preterm stage. But the Maternal-Fetal Medicine Units Network conducted a 2016 randomized trial that proved that there might be a benefit to doing otherwise.

After analyzing this past trial, the journal JAMA Pediatrics has found even more evidence to support that study’s findings. The journal’s analysis showed that late preterm babies from mothers who had been given the prenatal steroid betamethasone had fewer complications with their lungs. And they also had less of a need for respiratory treatments.

With such benefits, women who give birth to late preterm babies could see their medical costs go down.

For more specific information on the benefits of betamethasone, see the original study here. You can also see a plain English version here.

UC Berkeley neurobiologists develop a therapy that could improve sight and delay vision loss.

An open eye is staring.

Over 3.4 million Americans at the age of 40-years-old or older have to deal with vision difficulties. It’s a tough situation to be in that could lead to minor instances of needing to hold reading materials at a farther distance or more severe cases of losing vision entirely.

Sadly, there’s no cure for vision difficulties. But, luckily, neurobiologists at UC Berkeley believe they have discovered a therapy that can at least help.

Conducting a study on mice, the neurobiologists have found that the mice’s eyes, and presumably human eyes as well, have an issue with noise similar to how our ears deal with tinnitus. This noise reduces how well the mice with the genetic condition retinitis pigmentosa can see.

The neurobiologists believe that there may be a drug candidate that could reduce this visual noise to clarify the remaining vision so that people with age-related macular degeneration and other related poor vision conditions can prolong their useful vision and even delay total blindness.

The neurobiologists’ study summary can be seen here.

People unable to take typical cholesterol-lowering drugs may finally have an alternative.

A person in doctor's attire is holding the hand of someone offscreen over a white counter with a folder.

It’s well-known that typical cholesterol-lowering drugs, also known as statins, have side effects that not everyone can tolerate. More specifically, side effects like muscle pain or bad interactions with other medications can pose too great a problem for some. So cholesterol-lowering medications like rosuvastatin aren’t always ideal.

To counter this issue, the New England Journal of Medicine has tested the effectiveness and efficiency of bempedoic acid — a new oral medication that has yet to be approved in Europe. According to the journal’s findings, this medication works like typical statin medications. So, like those medications, bempedoic acid can block an enzyme key to the body’s cholesterol production. And it does so effectively. But unlike your average statin, this medication was shown to be tolerated by most patients.

The medication isn’t out just yet, but when it does come out, if your well-being depends upon it and you live in the United States, you might want to consider checking to see if it’s available at an online international and Canadian pharmacy referral service like Canada Med Pharmacy. This service helps Americans connect with licensed pharmacies from outside the United States, where prescriptions are often offered at more affordable rates.

To find out more about bempedoic acid and its findings, read the New England Journal of Medicine’s research summary here.

An experimental blood test makes it easier to diagnose fibromyalgia.

A needle is taking out a vial of blood.

For a long time, there was no specific way to diagnose fibromyalgia. But now, researchers from The Ohio State University have given us a reasonable way to identify the condition.

According to their study in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, researchers have proven that they can detect fibromyalgia reliably within blood samples. Using the technique vibrational spectroscopy, the researchers measured the level of molecules within each sample and came to discern a clear pattern that set fibromyalgia apart from other conditions.

It’s not a cure, but at the very least, those suffering from fibromyalgia will soon be able to avoid undergoing a number of general tests just to find out what condition they have.

You can see the abstract for the fibromyalgia study here.

Why Bird-Watching Is Perfect for Health-Conscious Seniors

(And for Anyone Else Who Wants More Nature Time)

From nature geeks to retired folks, everyone young and old can reap heaps of health benefits from this accessible activity. All you need is an area where birds congregate — which can be anywhere from city parks to untouched wilderness — a little patience, and some knowledge.

Birds are found on every single continent on Earth (even Antarctica!) which makes it possible to chase this hobby anywhere in the world. Plus, it’s free!

Still skeptical? Then, let’s dive into the specific benefits that bird-watching has to offer.

red cardinal
The beautiful Cardinal is a frequent visitor to backyard feeders in the Midwest and along the east coast of North America.

Bird-watching gets you out in nature.

Numerous studies have purported that nature is good for you. The Japanese even have a practice devoted to it called forest bathing, which offers a number of health benefits, such as a boosted immune system, reduced stress, and increased energy.

Many of these benefits are due to the relatively quiet, peaceful, and reflective space that the outdoors offers, unlike the hustle-bustle of urban life. Relaxing in heavily wooded areas where trees breathe out oxygen can also give your lungs a much-needed break from the exhaust-polluted air of the city.

seniors in nature
Getting out in nature is good for you!

Perhaps you consider retirement to be a relatively stress-free time of your life. However, consider your family obligations. Whether you help babysit the grandkids or assist your adult children with their new mortgages, these obligations can still be stressful. And when these duties feel overwhelming, know that you can always go out in nature to observe the birds and enjoy the natural healing benefits that the outdoors can provide.

Bird-watching gets you moving.

Golden eagle
Most people are familiar with the Bald Eagle, but if you venture out a little farther into the wilderness, you may just be able to spot the elusive and majestic Golden Eagle, the only other eagle species in North America.

If you struggle to exercise for exercise’s sake, bird-watching, a goal-oriented activity, can be your way of getting off the couch. Bird-watching requires you to do lots of walking, which may count towards your 150 minutes of recommended weekly exercise.

What’s more, when bird-watching, you might find yourself motivated to move faster. Walk briskly, and you’ll not only burn more calories but also see more birds. To catch sight of a particularly speedy flier, you might even fit in a jog here and there. Plus, the added rugged terrain of forests and mountains forces you to use balancing muscles you may otherwise never get to exercise walking on flat ground.

All this exercise for bird-watching might actually seem a bit overly exhausting, but the great thing about this hobby is that you can tailor all the required exercise to your needs. If you have arthritis, for example, and struggle with painful joints, you can take lots of breaks. Sometimes staying still may even make it easier for you to spot certain birds!

For the more adventurous birders among us, retirement is the perfect time to explore new places, whether it be a local trail you’ve always wanted to visit or the uncharted wilderness where rare birds fly.

Exercise from bird-watching is a natural antidepressant. And it’s free!

feeding chickadee
While some birds, like this chickadee, are naturally curious about humans, feeding wildlife is not recommended unless specifically allowed in your natural park. Habituating wildlife to humans can make them aggressive and endanger them.

Exercise has been shown to significantly improve mood. Unfortunately, clinical depression is something that doesn’t discriminate against age, and seniors can develop it too. The abrupt change from working full-time to retiring, the death of a spouse, or another traumatic event can trigger this illness. If you notice fatigue, difficulty sleeping, irritability, and even confusion, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor, as you may be dealing with clinical depression.

Luckily, a side effect from bird-watching is that you’ll be doing some form of exercise in the hopes of catching sight of a bird or two. Don’t expect to get too far in the hobby if you think it’s just a matter of sitting on a park bench all day!

Bird-watching can be social.

feeding pigeons
The humble yet adaptable Rock Pigeon is not a native of North America. It was introduced from Europe, but can be found almost everywhere in the world.

While many people enjoy bird-watching as a reflective, solo activity, others find community in bird-watching. Retirement may be the best years of your life, but you can’t deny that as we get older, it gets harder and harder to make friends. Finding a community of nature lovers may just be the social refreshment you need.

Team up with other bird lovers in the community to learn a few birdsong recognition skills or borrow a pair of high-power binoculars for the weekend.

Birdwatching is also a highly accessible activity for families, friends, and couples. You don’t have to pay an expensive entrance fee to most natural places. You can simply chat and bond over finding rare birds, and you can even round off the day with a tasty picnic!

Bird-watching may be good for your brain.

hummingbird at feeder
Beautiful, colorful birds are not limited to the tropics! Hummingbirds, such as the Rufous, Ruby-Throated, and Anna’s Hummingbirds, can be spotted in suburban backyards.

“Being intellectually engaged may benefit the brain[,]” says the National Institutes of Health, citing academic studies. “People who engage in meaningful activities, like volunteering or hobbies, say they feel happier and healthier. Learning new skills may improve your thinking ability, too.”

While bird-watching is a relaxed hobby compared to many others, it does require some mental exercise. Serious bird-watchers will read plenty of books about bird behavior and biology. Just identifying birds requires you to remember what many species look like, their behavior, their habitat, and perhaps even songs and calls. Since many birds look alike, knowing other information such as geographical range and preferred habitat (e.g., marsh, open plain, forest) is important to identifying birds correctly.

Bird-watching fosters an appreciation for nature.

Blue Jays belong to the same family as crows and ravens, and can be found in the Midwest and east coast. Their western relative is the darker-blue Steller’s Jay.

Perhaps more than health benefits, this last benefit is probably the most valuable result that comes from bird-watching.

No one can deny that the natural world is in grave danger at this time in history. Climate change, pollution, and environmental degradation are causing at least 10,000 species to go extinct each year.

As humans, we often forget that we, too, are animals that originally came from nature. Too often are we preoccupied with getting better, stronger, faster gadgets that make us superior to nature. And it makes us forget that nature can be just as — if not more — beautiful as our high-tech lives.

Fostering an appreciation for the natural world is humbling. And hopefully, it’ll inspire you to care for it a little more.

Bird-watching is a great activity for seniors, but it’s a hobby for all ages.

Birds are often excellent parents. Many species mate for life and both Mom and Dad share child-rearing duties.

While bird-watching is frequently associated with retired folks and seniors, there’s no rule saying young people can’t join. In fact, once you’ve fallen in love with birds yourself, why not bring the whole family along?

If you have young grandchildren, teaching kids about the natural world can be an enriching and rewarding process. Your grandkids may find it inspiring if their grandparent can identify birds by ear or eye, and they might even end up striving to do the same.

Get started!

So if you’re wondering what to do this weekend, what are you waiting for? Put on your hiking shoes, perhaps borrow a local birding guidebook from the library, and head outside.

While binoculars can certainly help you find birds that don’t like being too close to humans, they’re not required.

Don’t worry if you don’t know many birds in the beginning; bird-watching is a constant learning process. Once you’re familiar with the usual suspects in your area, branch out further to meet other birds and enjoy the benefits this activity offers.

Fortnightly Medical News Round-Up: Cancer Breakthroughs, Possible HIV Cure, and More!

We live in a time of incredible scientific breakthroughs.

In this post, let’s take a look at the most interesting recent health findings.

Eli Lilly releases cheaper insulin.

A victory to diabetes patients everywhere, pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly announced that it will release a lower-cost version of its insulin product Humalog®. The lower-cost version of insulin will sell at 50% of the cost of Humalog®.

This news should come as a great boon for Americans. It’s well-known how expensive pharmaceutical drugs are in the United States. Due to the expense, some Americans are even looking abroad to find affordable versions of their medication, such as through licensed international and Canadian pharmacies online.

To fill the need for cheaper medication, Eli Lilly will release Insulin Lispro (the lower-cost version of Humalog®) in vial and pen form. A single vial will cost $137.35 while a five-pack of KwikPens will cost $265.20.

Click here for the original press release.

Second patient in history is tested free of HIV thanks to stem cell treatment.

In an exciting new breakthrough, an HIV-positive patient has been tested free of the virus for 16 months following a bone marrow transplant. The transplanted tissue was from a donor with two copies of a CCR5 gene mutation. This mutation, possessed by about 1% of people of European descent, gives those who have two copies of it resistance to HIV.

However, it’s too soon to say that this patient has been “cured.” Additionally, bone marrow transplants aren’t a practical way to treat HIV in most patients. This particular patient was also suffering from chemotherapy-resistant blood cancer, so they required the transplant anyway. For most people, such a procedure would be too invasive to warrant the risk of a transplant. Instead, most patients respond well to antiretroviral drugs, a far less risky treatment.

Still, this is the second time such a procedure has proved successful. It may prove promising to future medical research into treating HIV, the virus responsible for AIDS.

This study was published in the journal Nature and summarized on the journal’s website.

We get less emotionally sensitive as we get older.

Ever wonder why your teenager is so moody all the time while your baby boomer-aged grandparent seems infinitely relaxed? Science may have just unearthed a clue.

A study published in Journal of Experimental Psychology: General found that during adolescence, our ability to sense anger and fear in others’ faces increases dramatically. As we become older adults, this sensitivity to negative facial expressions decreases. However, our sensitivity to happiness in others’ faces remains the same.

In other words, we get less sensitive to other people’s disapproval. Maybe this is why people have reported feeling the most life satisfaction at age 23 and 69.

You can find the abstract to the original study here.

More muscle mass may mean higher cancer treatment success.

A recent study conducted at Osaka University and published in Scientific Reports found a strong association between sarcopenia and the effectiveness of programmed death inhibitors (PD-1), an anti-cancer drug.

Sarcopenia is the degradation of muscle mass, a condition that can happen to cancer patients. The scientists researched the impact sarcopenia had on patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer, and they found that those with sarcopenia had significantly less successful reactions to PD-1 inhibitor treatment.

Click here for a plain English summary of the article and here for the original research paper.

Brain region of young adults at risk of drug addiction is markedly different from that of young adults with lower risk.

This study, conducted by researchers at the University of Cambridge and Aarhus University, further supports the progressive claim that drug addiction is not merely a case of weak character. Rather, addiction is strongly associated with innate biological factors.

Impulsivity in young adulthood is strongly associated with the risk of drug addiction. In this study, researchers found another strong association: increased impulsivity in young adults and low levels of myelin in a brain region called the putamen.

Myelin is a sheath that protects a nerve cell’s axis, maximizing nerve conduction efficiency much like the plastic coating of an electrical wire. The putamen is a part of the brain that is a key component of addiction, as it sends dopamine signals that impact impulsivity.

Further research is needed to see if decreased myelination is a reliable predictor of addiction risk. Find a link to the original study here.

How Cats Can Be Purrfect for Your Health

Why you should rethink how you view cats and consider adopting one of your own.

Cats tend to get a bad reputation about their personality. And unfortunately, this perception can lead people to think that they offer nothing of value to their human companions.

The main reason for this bad reputation, according to the host of Animal Planet’s show, Psycho Kitty, Pam Johnson-Bennett, is that many people unfairly compare cats to dogs. But cats and dogs are two entirely different species, so it’s only natural that they would react differently to similar situations.

Descended from wolves with a not-so-strict-but-still-hierarchical pack mentality, dogs typically act more social. They spend more time trying to work together efficiently as a group, so they interact with each other and people through different body postures, facial expressions, and other positions that are recognizable to people. As a result, both dogs and people have an easier time reading each other’s behavior. And this can lead to people viewing dogs as more overtly social and caring.

While it is true that dogs do emphasize their interest in their human companions, it does not mean that dogs are more empathetic than their feline counterparts. Cats just happen to show their care and interest in different ways.

Cats are not above enjoying the social company of one another in groups. They’ll even occasionally form feral colonies when they want to share a larger territory.

But they don’t form strong attachments to everyone in that territory. In fact, cats are typically solitary hunters, as they can only hunt enough food for one. So it’s more likely that they’ll establish a lone territory that doesn’t conflict with other nearby cat territories.

Because feline socialization is built around the availability of food and territory, cats prefer to feel and know that they’re secure. So domestic cats may seem standoffish at first, but they really just need the space and time to get used to anyone new who enters their territory and sounds, smells, and looks unfamiliar.

Once a cat has gotten the time and space they need to make up their mind about you, you’ll find that they can be very caring creatures who offer a number of benefits to your life and health, including the ones listed here.

1. You gain a furriendly caretaker.

Many cats have gone on to save their human companion’s life, and your future kitty might just do the same. For instance, without any official training, Lilly, a cat in Dorset, England, was able to save the life of her owner numerous times by alerting his family whenever he had an epileptic seizure. Another cat in 1949, Simon, even won the highest military medal available for helping save the lives of Royal Navy officers during the Chinese civil war. Despite suffering from severe shrapnel wounds from an attack on the ship he was on, the HMS Amethyst, Simon continued to protect the navy’s stores of food from an ongoing rat infestation and continued to lift the morale of the surviving sailors.

Now, I’m not saying your future furry friend will, without a doubt, turn out to be your own personal Superman in four-legged disguise. But you may find that your cat will be able to help you in ways that you’ve never thought of before.

2. Cuddling them can improve your heart health.

You might not have considered cats to be war heroes before, but have you considered that they could be your own form of therapeutic help?

All cats offer a number of natural healing benefits.

Just by petting a cat alone, you can improve your cardiovascular health. This is because petting a cat lowers your stress levels, which in turn, lowers any anxiety you might have. Petting is a nice, calming activity proven to be effective by at least one study that discovered during a 10-year period, cat owners, unlike those who did not own cats, were 30% less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke.

3. Their purring alone is medically therapeutic.

Another direct benefit to your body that cats can offer is their purring. Purring is not just a delightful sound for you to hear and feel whenever your cat is content to be around you. It’s also a form of healing.

Because cats purr within the 20 to 140 Hz range, they can help your body heal in a number of ways, including:

  • Providing you with an additional way to lower your stress in combination with petting
  • Lowering your blood pressure
  • Promoting bone restoration and healing in your muscles, tendons, and ligaments
  • Helping you heal from infections and swelling

These benefits can seem a bit New Age-y, but professionals have been given plausible reason to believe that purring can at least stimulate some healing.

4. You’ll rest easier with them nearby.

Due to a cat’s therapeutic abilities, it makes sense that many studies have found that people tend to report sleeping better with a cat than a human.

Having a feline friend close by as you sleep can help you feel less lonely, anxious, or depressed. This companionship can even help you when you’re having sleep troubles. Like many animals, cats tend to enjoy napping near your head or feet. So if your future cat ends up enjoying settling down to sleep at the same time that you do, you’ll be able to take comfort in the added benefit of them acting as a living, breathing weighted blanket. This benefit has been proven to reduce the amount of time you need to fall asleep and to promote healthier sleep cycles.

5. Your kids will likely enjoy their presence too.

You’re not the only person who can benefit from owning a cat. Your kids can too!

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, children who are raised in a home with multiple pets, such as two or more dogs or cats, are less likely to develop allergies to pets and other common allergies, such as ones to dust mites, ragweed, and grass.

It is important to note, though, that the cat parasite, toxoplasma gondii, while usually harmless and not likely to produce symptoms, can be a threat to young children. However, you don’t have to worry too much because health officials note that simply changing your cat’s litter box daily and keeping your cat indoors should keep you and your kids safe from allergies.

In short: consider adopting a cat!

A cat may seem uninterested in earning your affection at first. But over time, they’ll prove to be caring in their own feline way. And you’ll find that they not only provide you with a furry friend, but they’ll also provide you with several health benefits.