The Basic Medical Benefits of Sleep

In addition to the many health benefits of sleep, there are other factors that make sleep absolutely necessary to life. Sleep is important for concentration, memory formation and the repair of damage to your body’s cells during the day. Chronic lack of sleep increases the risk for developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and infections.

Lack of Sleep Can Kill

Researchers do not know exactly why people need sleep, but we do know that lack of sleep can kill. In research studies, rats normally live two to three years, but if rats are totally deprived of sleep, they only live about five weeks. They also develop sores, their immune systems do not work well and their body temperature drops. Humans deprived of sleep for long periods begin hallucinating and develop other mental problems.

Sleep and Concentration

When people do not have enough sleep, they cannot concentrate well the next day and have problems forming memories. Researchers believe that during sleep, neurons can shut down and repair any damage done during the day. Without these repairs, the neurons may not function correctly due to a buildup of waste products. Sleep also seems important for the formation of memories.

Growth and Beauty Sleep

Important hormone production is regulated during sleep; in children, human growth hormone (HGH) is released during deep sleep. Insufficient sleep can affect hormonal balance in adults as well. Tissue repair also occurs during sleep, including repair to the daily skin damage done by UV light. Getting enough deep sleep will help your skin repair itself.

Here is How to Live Longer

1. Drink Red Wine

Red wine is packed with resveratrol, an antioxidant. These work to protect your body against the effects of aging. One or 2 glasses of red wine a day can help keep your body young.

2. Eat Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is a wonderful food that contains a large amount of antioxidants that protect your body from aging. Find good quality dark chocolate, learn to appreciate it, and have a bit of it each day. Eating chocolate may lower your blood pressure and cholesterol while providing an energy boost.

3. Smile

Smiling is a great way to change your attitude, connect with people and give benefit to your body. Like relaxation, smiling can work to counteract the effects of stress. By forcing ourselves to smile, we “trick” our body into believing that everything is good, thereby reducing stress. Like a switch, smiling can actually change your mood. So put a smile on, even if you don’t feel like it, and pretty soon you’ll be smiling for real.

4. Have More Sex

Sex and touching are thought to be essential parts of health. Sex releases an assortment of beneficial chemicals in the body. Sex and touching help us bond with others, strengthens relationships, and increases our own self-worth. Frequent sex may even extend your life by years.

5. Relax

Relaxation is the opposite of stress. While stress brings harmful health effects, relaxation helps our bodies to rest, heal and function better. By practicing daily relaxation techniques, you can train yourself to turn off your stress and replace it with calm energy. This will improve your blood pressure, heart rate and ability to cope with life’s challenges.

6. Make Exercise Play

Physical games and sports are a great way to keep both your body and mind healthy. Simple exercise routines are great for maintaining balance, flexibility, endurance and strength. Group games and sports can give your mind a workout as well, as you anticipate other people’s actions and how to work together. Find a game and activity that suits your level of physical ability and play often.

7. Sleep

Sleep is an essential body function. Most Americans do not get enough sleep. Medications, stress, illness and poor sleep habits all can prevent you from getting between 7 and 9 hours a night. The health benefits of sleep include more energy, better immune function, and more.

8. Spend Time With Loved Ones

Relationships are an important part of health. Not only do strong bonds with other people mean you will have help when you need it, being connected also means protection from loneliness, depression, and mental illness. Spend time cultivating your relationships with friends and family to improve your health and your life.

9. Solve Puzzles and Play Brain Games

Mind games are a great way to stay involved and engaged in the world. Games can exercise different parts of your mind and entice your curiosity. If possible, choose social games like chess or bridge that exercise your brain while keeping you connected with others.

10. Be Positive

Having a positive attitude about aging can add more than seven years to your life, according to researchers. Avoid the cultural push to glorify youth and regret each passing year. Find ways to to pleasure in your increasing age and enjoy greater learning, experience, and control in your life.

How To Grocery Shop for Longevity

Many of our food choices begin in the grocery store. While the grocery store can provide us with foods that enhance our health and increase our energy, it is also a place of endless temptation and potential bad choices. Follow these tips to get the most out of your shopping experience:

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 30 minutes

Here’s How:

  1. Make it Pleasant

Try to schedule your trips to the grocery store at times when it is not crowded. Early in the morning is usually a good time, even on weekends. The produce is fresh, carts are available and the staff is just starting their day, so they are usually relaxed and helpful. Try not to think of your trip to the grocery store as a chore, but a part of your day to calmly select foods to feed yourself and your family.

  1. Make a List

Go to the store with a list that you made at home. Try to organize your list into categories according to the store layout (for example: produce, meats, dairy, spices, specialty items, etc.)

  1. Shop the Perimeter

If we are eating for health, there really is no reason to visit many of the aisles in the store. Most healthy food, such as produce, fish and dairy, is located around the edges of the store. Going down the aisles containing cookies or chips may lead to unwanted items finding their way into our carts through habit or impulse.

  1. Don’t Shop on an Empty Stomach

We have all had the experience of shopping when we are hungry and coming home with items that we bought on impulse, which are usually are not the best choices for our health. Eat before you go and you will be able to resist temptation.

  1. Try New Things

Add a sense of adventure to grocery shopping by trying a new food each time. Pick an interesting-looking fruit or a small piece of exotic-sounding cheese to try. You may find a new favorite to add to your healthy repertoire.

Top 7 Natural Arthritis Cream Products at Your Drugstore

Topical arthritis cream products are preparations applied to the skin. Many of the arthritis cream products can be purchased over-the-counter. Effective for soothing minor arthritis and muscle pain, some of the arthritis cream products contain the active ingredient salicylate, while others are based on the pain-relieving effect of capsaicin or menthol.

1. Zostrix Arthritis Cream

Research has shown this arthritis cream works by reducing levels of substance P, a chemical involved in transmitting pain impulses to the brain. When applied to the surface of the skin, it has a pain-relieving effect. Active ingredient is capsaicin.

Offers temporary relief of minor joint and muscle pain. An arthritis cream which has lasted the test of time. Active ingredients found in this arthritis cream are methyl salicylate and menthol.

3. Aspercreme

Arthritis cream temporarily relieves minor pain associated with arthritis, simple backache, muscle strains, and muscle sprains. Active ingredient of this cream is trolamine salicylate.

4. Icy Hot

Topical arthritis formula has dual action – gets icy to dull the pain and then gets hot to relax it away. Fast, long-lasting pain relief for sore muscles, backache, muscle cramps, and joint pain. Active ingredients are methyl salicylate and menthol.

5. Sportscreme

Arthritis cream provides fast, temporary relief from minor pain associated with sore muscles, muscle strain and stiffness. This cream does not smell like medicine. Active ingredient is salicylate.

6. Tiger Balm

Has a soothing action that relieves muscular aches and joint pain. Made from active ingredients such as camphor, menthol, cajuput oil and clove oil.

7. Mineral Ice

Cool, greaseless, pain relieving gel penetrates deep to provide fast, temporary relief of minor aches and pains of muscles and joints. Active ingredient is menthol.

Fertility Awareness and Charting Helps Conception

Fertility charting can help make the most of existing fertility with and without other treatment. Many couple experiencing fertility problems are not completely infertile, but instead suffer from conditions that make getting pregnant more difficult. Fertility awareness methods can help identify the best times for intercourse. This helps couples maximize their chances of getting pregnant.

A typical female will have 13 cycles in the course of 1 year. This corresponds to 13 chances to conceive (assuming all cycles are ovulatory). If intercourse is not appropriately timed, sperm may have no chance of uniting with the female egg during some cycles. Normally this is not a problem and averages out. Eventually intercourse timing lines up and the couple gets pregnant. Women suffering from fertility may have far fewer than 13 chances to conceive in a year. Ovulation may not occur in every cycle. Even if it does, other conditions relating to both male and female fertility may make conception more difficult.

Couples suffering from infertility have fewer or less effective opportunities to conceive. It therefore becomes important to maximize the odds of getting pregnant in every way possible. Fertility charting can help. By identifying ovulation it enables couples to maximize their chances. It can also be used to help diagnose fertility problems. Other medical options can be explored while continuing to use fertility awareness techniques. Couples should consult their doctor for further information. Women who have been charting should bring their charts with them.

How Do I Know if I am Infertile?

As each cycle passes without a successful pregnancy, anxiety can rise. Sometimes couples can begin to panic too quickly. In general you should seek medical advice if you are unable to conceive after trying for 12 or more months. Women over the age of 35 should see a doctor after trying unsuccessfully for 6 months. Your doctor can best assess your situation and explain your options. Couples already using fertility awareness techniques should see a doctor sooner if they are unsuccessful. Most couples will conceive much faster complements of fertility charting. If you do not conceive after 6 months of charting, an early diagnosis may be possible and you should see your doctor.

The fertility awareness techniques described on this site can still benefit most types of diagnosis. It can even compliment many treatment options. You should consult your doctor if you suspect that you or your partner may suffer from infertility after trying to conceive. Infertility has many causes. Some common causes of infertility follow:

  • Low sperm count
  • Hormonal deficiencies
  • Infrequent intercourse
  • Endometriosis
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Salpingitis
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Blocked fallopian tubes
  • Uterine conditions

Even if you have not been diagnosed with any fertility problems or have not been trying long enough to justify inquiring, fertility charting can help. Studies have found that fertile couples who chart female fertility can get pregnant much faster (up to 5-7 times faster). This is possible by timing intercourse to coincide with ovulation. Pregnancy odds can be greatly improved by creating more opportunities for the sperm and egg to unite.

More details on the effectiveness of these methods are available here.

What is Fertility Awareness and Fertility Charting?

Fertility awareness is a term used to describe a method of predicting ovulation and fertility. It asks women to record different symptoms from day to day to look for patterns indicative of increased fertility. These symptoms may include oral temperature, cervical mucus observations, cervix status, saliva ferning patterns, etc. These patterns can be charted to facilitate analysis of changes throughout a given menstrual cycle. This is why the term fertility charting is frequently used to describe this technique.

For a more detailed introduction to fertility charting, you should consider reading the page on this site that covers trying to get pregnant. It also recommends additional links to help teach you how to use these techniques.

Courtesy of : http://www.fertilityinstructor.com

What Is Obesity?

Obesity is an excess proportion of total body fat. A person is considered obese when his or her weight is 20% or more above normal weight. The most common measure of obesity is the body mass index or BMI. A person is considered overweight if his or her BMI is between 25 and 29.9; a person is considered obese if his or her BMI is over 30.

“Morbid obesity” means that a person is either 50%-100% over normal weight, more than 100 pounds over normal weight, has a BMI of 40 or higher, or is sufficiently overweight to severely interfere with health or normal function.

What Causes Obesity?

Obesity occurs when a person consumes more calories than he or she burns. For many people this boils down to eating too much and exercising too little. But there are other factors that also play a role in obesity. These may include:

  • Age. As you get older, your body’s ability to metabolize food slows down and you do not require as many calories to maintain your weight. This is why people note that they eat the same and do the same activities as they did when they were 20 years old, but at age 40, gain weight.
  • Gender. Women tend to be more overweight than men. Men have a higher resting metabolic rate (meaning they burn more energy at rest) than women, so men require more calories to maintain their body weight. Additionally, when women become postmenopausal, their metabolic rate decreases. That is partly why many women gain weight after menopause.
  • Genetics. Obesity (and thinness) tends to run in families. In a study of adults who were adopted as children, researchers found that participating adult weights were closer to their biological parents’ weights than their adoptive parents’. The environment provided by the adoptive family apparently had less influence on the development of obesity than the person’s genetic makeup. In fact, if your biological mother is heavy as an adult, there is approximately a 75% chance that you will be heavy. If your biological mother is thin, there is also a 75% chance that you will be thin. Nevertheless, people who feel that their genes have doomed them to a lifetime of obesity should take heart. Many people genetically predisposed to obesity do not become obese or are able to lose weight and keep it off.
  • Environmental factors. Although genes are an important factor in many cases of obesity, a person’s environment also plays a significant role. Environmental factors include lifestyle behaviors such as what a person eats and how active he or she is.
  • Physical activity. Active individuals require more calories than less active ones to maintain their weight. Additionally, physical activity tends to decrease appetite in obese individuals while increasing the body’s ability to preferentially metabolize fat as an energy source. Much of the increase in obesity in the last 20 years is thought to have resulted from the decreased level of daily physical activity.
  • Psychological factors. Psychological factors also influence eating habits and obesity. Many people eat in response to negative emotions such as boredom, sadness, or anger. While most overweight people have no more psychological disturbances than people at their normal weight, about 30% of people who seek treatment for serious weight problems have difficulties with binge eating. During a binge-eating episode, people eat large amounts of food while feeling they can’t control how much they are eating.
  • Illness. Although not as common as many believe, there are some illnesses that can cause obesity. These include hormone problems such as hypothyroidism (poorly acting thyroid slows metabolism), depression, and some rare diseases of the brain that can lead to overeating.
  • Medication . Certain drugs, such as steroids and some antidepressants, may cause excessive weight gain.

Emotional Aspects of Obesity

One of the most painful aspects of obesity may be the emotional suffering it causes. American society places great emphasis on physical appearance, often equating attractiveness with slimness or muscularity. In addition, many people wrongly stereotype obese people as gluttonous, lazy, or both. However, more and more evidence contradicts this assumption. Obese people often face prejudice or discrimination at work, at school, while looking for a job, and in social situations. Feelings of rejection, shame, or depression are common.

When to Seek Help for Obesity

You should call your doctor if you are having emotional problems related to your obesity, need help losing weight, or if you fall into either of the following categories.

  • If your BMI is 30 or greater, you’re considered obese. You should talk to your doctor about losing weight since you are at high risk of having health problems.
  • If you have an “apple shape” — a so-called, “potbelly” or “spare tire” — you carry more fat in and around your abdominal organs. Fat in your abdomen increases your risk of many of the serious conditions associated with obesity. Women’s waist measurement should fall below 35 inches. Men’s should be less than 40 inches. If you have a large waist circumference, talk to your doctor about how you can lose weight.

Natural Libido Enhancements for Better Sex

Ginseng: There are several types of ginseng, two of which are Siberian ginseng, which is typically used as an aphrodisiac, and red Korean or Asian ginseng, which is used in Chinese traditional medicine and has slightly more research behind it, Saigal says.

Ginseng, like a lot of herbs, is thought to work by helping the body make more nitric oxide — as does Viagra. A couple of good studies showed some effect from ginseng, so people can look at this as an alternative to Viagra. But it’s not going to be as effective as Viagra or Levitra or Cialis.

Ginseng appears to help women, too. Ginseng gives people energy and may improve mood, and you need energy and endurance for sex.

Black Cohosh: In the past, black cohosh has been used to treat arthritis and muscle pain and was traditionally used for “female” complaints. Today, it is marketed to treat hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, premenstrual syndrome, and other menopausal symptoms.

Black cohosh has estrogen-like properties, and increases blood flow to the pelvis — which increases arousal and response to sexual stimulation.  More blood flow means more lubrication, and that’s good for sex.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is funding studies of black cohosh as a treatment for menopausal symptoms.

Chasteberry (Vitex): Chasteberry is native to the Mediterranean region and western Asia — and is approved in Germany for premenstrual and menstrual problems. It is said to increase sexual desire by boosting the hormone progesterone and the brain chemical dopamine.

Chasteberry also decreases the brain chemical prolactin that interferes with sexual desire.  It works for some patients..

L-Arginine (Arginine): Arginine is an amino acid the body needs for many functions, like boosting immunity. The body also uses arginine to produce nitric oxide — an effect similar to the way Viagra works. Arginine has been found to improve blood flow to the penis.

One study showed improvements when L-arginine, glutamate, and yohimbine were combined. (Yohimbine is FDA approved as a drug therapy for ED, so how much of the effect was due to arginine is unknown.) Another study showed “significant improvement in sexual function” when L-arginine and pycnogenol were combined — but not when L-arginine was used alone.

Arginine is generally safe, although there may be drug interactions — especially with high blood pressure drugs. In addition, men taking Cialis, Levitra, or Viagra – or nitroglycerin (nitrates) for chest pain (angina) — should be cautious as combining them with L-arginine can cause a potentially serious drop in blood pressure.

It’s something to try. And if it works for those arteries, it could also help the heart arteries, too. Men with heart disease might benefit most from taking arginine.

Ginkgo: Ginkgo has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Ginkgo leaf extract is used today to boost mental power, help Alzheimer’s, and treat tinnitus, asthma, fatigue, and sexual dysfunction. Some studies show that gingko enhances the effects of nitric oxide — which allows better blood flow to the penis.

Ginkgo is one of those herbs that are pretty popular. The thing is there’s no great data for sexual function on it.  Ginkgo is thought to help with sexual dysfunction related to antidepressant use. One study showed that ginkgo made no difference; the other showed some slight difference. There may be a large placebo effect, but there have been anecdotal reports that it helps some people.

Yohimbe: Yohimbe is derived from bark of the yohimbe tree, native to Africa — and traditionally used as an aphrodisiac. In current times, this extract has been shown to be moderately effective in treating ED. It may perhaps increase erections and libido, because it has some effect on the brain.

Some studies indicate that yohimbe may help ED in men taking antidepressants, although research in this area is limited. Caution: Some yohimbe bark extracts may not contain significant amounts of yohimbine, so they may not have these effects. There’s a buyer-beware issue.  A lot of supplements use names that sound like yohimbe but are basically worthless. Look at the content label. Make sure it’s from the yohimbe tree. Also, look for the name of the active ingredient — yohimbine or yohimbine hydrochloride.

Maca: Maca is a vegetable native to Peru that is traditionally used as an aphrodisiac,  There have been rat studies, but studies to support its use are very limited,  but because it’s a vegetable, maca won’t hurt you.

Pycnogenol: Pycnogenol is an extract of the bark from French maritime pine. It is believed that pycnogenol helps protect blood vessels and boost production of nitric oxide — similar to L-arginine, yohimbe, ginkgo, and ginseng.

Some studies show that taking L-arginine and pycnogenol together boosts nitric oxide production. Those weren’t randomized trials [meaning the combination wasn’t compared to placebo], but there was an effect. So there’s some effect in combining the two.

ArginMax: If female patients are interested in herbs, Hutcherson guides them to ArginMax (a combination of Panax ginseng, L-arginine, ginkgo biloba, damiana, multivitamins, and minerals).

Two large clinical studies found that ArginMax improved sexual function in menopausal and other women with low sexual desire.

Zestra for Women: Zestra, a blend of botanical oils and extracts, is designed to increase female sexual desire, arousal, pleasure, and satisfaction when applied to the female genitalia.  Zestra’s ingredients include: borage seed oil, evening primrose oil, angelica extract, coleus extract, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

In a preliminary study, Zestra was shown to increase sexual sensation, arousal, pleasure, and satisfaction in “normal women” and women with arousal problems. Zestra also helped with sexual side effects related to antidepressants.

You rub it on your clitoris, which is supposed to increase blood flow.

The NIH is launching a clinical study comparing Zestra to placebo in women with a variety of sexual dysfunctions, including problems with interest, desire, arousal, and orgasm.

Vitamin E: Vitamin E oil — when applied to the vagina — helps improve lubrication. It is very effective. .

Cautionary Notes About DHEA Supplements

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a natural hormone that is converted into male and female sex hormones in the body. DHEA is sold as an antiaging supplement that improves energy, strength, and muscle, plus it increases immunity and burns fat.

However, the NIH says, “there is no conclusive evidence that DHEA supplements do any of these things,” and “there is little scientific evidence to support the use of DHEA as a ‘rejuvenating’ hormone.”

Long-term effects of DHEA supplements have not been studied — but there are “early signs that these supplements, even when taken briefly, may have detrimental effects on the body, including liver damage.”

Even if DHEA does rev your libido, it won’t help erections,  If the goal is a better erection, getting more testosterone won’t help.  We don’t know the long-term effects of DHEA

Keeping Your Libido Healthy

Pills aren’t the only answer. If flagging sexual desire is the problem, find something that adds spice. Find something interesting that stimulates your mind, since the brain is the largest sex organ.

Her libido-boosting suggestions:

  • Sleep in the bedroom. Have sex anywhere else — the den, kitchen, or laundry room.
  • Seize the moment wherever, whenever, it hits.
  • Buy something new. New lingerie definitely qualifies.
  • Send hot sizzling notes to each other during the day.
  • Buy a sex toy. Read an erotic novel together. Watch an erotic video.

There are so many things, you can never run out of ideas. What helps most — the best aphrodisiac — is going on a field trip to an adult store together. Try different things, touch, giggle, have a good time. You find you can’t wait to get home to try them.

Protecting Your Sexual Desire

To keep your libido in prime form, you’ve got to walk, jog — do some kind of aerobic exercise — daily. Maybe it doesn’t sound sexy, but a two-mile walk every day keeps the blood flowing.

Losing weight (if you’re obese) and eating a low-fat diet also helps restore sexual function. You’ll feel better about yourself, and your partner will be more interested in you. You’ll also help your heart.  And that’s very sexy.

Basic Vitamin & Supplement Glossary

Amino Acids. The building blocks that make up proteins. Humans need 20 different amino acids to function properly. Some are made by the body. Others, called essential amino acids, must be obtained from foods.

Antioxidant. Substances, like vitamins A, C, E, and beta-carotene, that protect your body from the damage of oxidation caused by free radicals.

Botanicals. Substances obtained from plants and used in food supplements, personal care products, or pharmaceuticals. Other names include “herbal medicine” and “plant medicine.”

Daily Value. Found on food and drink nutrition labels, this number tells you the percentage of the recommended dietary allowance provided by one serving of the food or drink in question.

Fat Soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins, such as A, D, E, and K, are absorbed by the body with dietary fats. Your body stores excess fat-soluble vitamins in your liver and body fat, then uses them as needed. Ingesting more fat-soluble vitamins than you need can be toxic, causing side-effects like nausea, vomiting, and liver and heart problems.

Fortify. To increase a food or drink’s nutritional value by adding vitamins, minerals, or other substances. For example, milk is fortified with vitamins A and D.

Free Radicals. An atom or molecule with at least one unpaired electron, making it unstable and reactive. When free radicals react with certain chemicals in the body, they may interfere with the ability of cells to function normally. Antioxidants can stabilize free radicals.

Herb. Herbs are plants used as flavorings in cooking, but herbs can also be used as supplements for health or medicinal reasons.

Megadose. Supplements that provide more than 100% of the daily value of the body’s required vitamins and minerals.

Micronutrients. The name given to vitamins and minerals because your body needs them in small amounts. Micronutrients are vital to your body’s ability to process the “macronutrients:” fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Examples are chromium, zinc, and selenium.

Minerals. Nutrients found in the earth or water and absorbed by plants and animals for proper nutrition. Minerals are the main component of teeth and bones, and help build cells and support nerve impulses, among other things. One example is calcium.

Multivitamin. A pill, beverage, or other substance containing more than one vitamin.

Oxidation. A chemical reaction in which oxygen combines with a substance, changing or destroying its normal function. Oxidation can damage cell membranes and interfere with a cell’s regulatory systems, but it is also part of our normal-functioning immune system.

Phytochemicals. Health-protecting compounds found in fruits, vegetables, and other plants. Phytochemicals (sometimes called phytonutrients) include beta-carotene, lycopene, and resveratrol.

Prenatal Vitamins. Specially formulated multivitamins that ensure a pregnant woman gets enough essential micronutrients. Prenatal supplements generally contain more folic acid, iron, and calcium than standard adult supplements.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). The amount of nutrients needed daily to prevent the development of disease in most people. An example is vitamin C; the RDA is 70 milligrams, below which, for most people, there is the risk of developing scurvy.

Supplements. Vitamins, minerals, herbs, or other substances taken orally and meant to correct deficiencies in the diet.

U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP). A nonprofit authority that sets standards and certifies supplements that meet certain quality, strength, and purity standards. Many supplements carry the USP symbol on their label.

Vitamins. Naturally found in plants and animals, vitamins are vital to growth, energy, and nerve function. There are two types of vitamins used by the body to support health: fat-soluble and water-soluble.

Water-Soluble. Water-soluble vitamins like B-6, C, and folic acid are easily absorbed by the body. Your body uses the vitamins it needs, then excretes excess water-soluble vitamins in urine. Because these vitamins are not stored in the body, there is less risk of toxicity than with fat-soluble vitamins, but a greater risk of deficiency.

An Erectile Dysfunction Primer

E.D.  Checklist

An occasional problem achieving an erection is nothing to worry about. But failure to do so more than 50% of the time at any age may indicate a condition that needs treatment. Are you at risk for erectile dysfunction (ED)? Take the following quiz and find out.

  1. Are you overweight?  Yes or No
  1. Do you have any of the following conditions?
    • Diabetes
    • High cholesterol
    • Depression
    • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries from plaque)
    • Kidney disease
  1. Do you:
    • Smoke
    • Drink alcohol
    • Use recreational drugs
  1. How often do you exercise?
    • Daily
    • Once or twice a week
    • A couple of times a month
    • I never seem to get around to it
  1. How often do you feel stressed?
    • Much of the time
    • Sometimes
    • Rarely

Answers:

  1. Overweight men are more likely to have ED
  2. Common causes of ED include nerve diseases, psychological conditions and diseases that affect blood flow. A number of prescription drugs and over-the-counter drugs may also cause ED by affecting a man’s hormones, nerves or blood circulation
  3. Tobacco, alcohol and recreational drugs can all damage a man’s blood vessels and/or restrict blood flow to the penis, causing ED
  4. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of ED
  5. Stress and anxiety are leading causes of temporary ED

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • Does my erectile dysfunction stem from an underlying illness?
  • Could any of my medicines be causing this problem or making it worse?
  • Could stress or a psychological problem be to blame for my erection difficulties?
  • Are there medications I can take?

Did You Know?

  • Misinformation about erectile dysfunction includes the notion that ED, also called impotence, is an unavoidable consequence of aging. ED is not considered normal at any age, nor is it normal for a man to lose erectile function completely as a result of being older.
  • Another myth is that tight underwear causes ED. While physical and psychological conditions can lead to ED, tight underwear is not to blame. Tight underwear may be a factor in producing a low sperm count.
  • ED can be treated with oral medications, sex therapy, penile injections and surgery, such as penile implants.
  • Intercavernous injection therapy is a medication injected directly into the penis to treat ED.
  • Intraurethral therapy is a suppository medication that is inserted into the urethra to treat ED.
  • Urologist is a doctor specially trained to treat problems of the male and female urinary systems, and the male sex organs.

Know Your Numbers

  • At least 20 million American men have some degree of erectile dysfunction, and about one in 10 adult males suffers from ED long-term.
  • About 40% of men in their 40s report at least occasional problems getting and maintaining erections. So do more than half (52%) of men aged 40 to 70, and about 70% of men in their 70s.
  • Failure to achieve an erection less than 20% of the time is not unusual; treatment is rarely needed.
  • Atherosclerosis alone accounts for 50% to 60% of ED cases in men 60 and older. Between 35% and 50% of men with diabetes have ED, and ED may be a predictor for other vascular problems.

Cholesterol Levels Explained

HDL Cholesterol

When it comes to HDL cholesterol — “good” cholesterol — the higher the number, the better it is for your health. This is because HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease by taking the “bad” cholesterol out of your blood and keeping it from building up in your arteries. The table below explains what the numbers mean.

HDL Cholesterol HDL-Cholesterol Category
60 and above High; Optimal; helps to lower risk of heart disease
Less than 40 in men and less than 50 in women Low; considered a risk factor for heart disease

Triglycerides

Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food and the body. A high triglyceride level has been linked to the occurrence of coronary artery disease in some people. Here’s the breakdown.

Triglycerides Triglyceride Category
Less than 150 Normal
150 – 199 Borderline high
200 – 499 High
500 or higher Very high

Total Cholesterol

Your total blood cholesterol is a measure of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and other lipid components. Doctors recommend total cholesterol levels below 200

Total Cholesterol Category
Less than 200 Desirable
200 – 239 Borderline High
240 and above High

Sea Salt Is Better For You

Are there any benefits to switching out your traditional iodized table salt for unrefined sea salt? Aside from the superior taste that many say sea salt possesses, there are indeed several reasons you may want to consider choosing sea salt.

The first benefit of sea salt over table salt is that it actually contains less sodium overall. The reason for this is table salt is highly refined and what is left after this refining process is almost pure sodium chloride. It is mined from the earth, so it starts off as a raw form of sodium chloride with other beneficial minerals mixed in. However, the refining process strips these other natural minerals away, leaving a higher per-granule sodium content behind. Granule for granule if table salt, you are getting a higher sodium content.

Sea salt is collected in vast trays from the ocean. The water that is caught in these trays is dried by the sun, and what is left after the water evaporates is totally unrefined sea salt. Most of the time, it is minimally processed. This minimal processing leaves a lot of the natural trace mineral intact, which also reduces the actual sodium content.

Some may be concerned about the lack of an iodine additive in sea salt, as you find in table salt. Table salt added this necessary nutrient several decades ago when a significant part of the population began developing goiters due to an iodine deficiency. It is still added in most table salt today, as one can tell by reading the label.

Iodine is actually found in small trace amounts naturally in sea salt, as it is in most seafood, so you are still getting iodine in its natural, untouched form. It is not as much iodine as you will find in table salt, but most people today who eat a balanced diet need not worry about being deficient in this nutrient. If you are concerned about iodine, there are actually some sea salt brands that offer an iodine-enriched product.

Sea salt also contains the necessary minerals of magnesium, calcium, potassium, and bromide, to name a few. You don’t get these additional minerals with table salt, because they have all been stripped away by high-heat processing.

One concern we should all keep in mind, regardless of which type of salt we like to use, is keeping sodium consumption to a minimum. Although there are additional health benefits to choosing sea salt over table salt, sodium is sodium.

Excess sodium intake can cause high blood pressure, excess water retention and irregular heart beat and can be the underlying cause of a myriad of devastating health issues such as heart attacks and strokes. If you use salt sparingly in your diet, you will help keep your blood pressure at normal, healthy levels.

Since many people report having to use less sea salt than table salt to get that savory flavor in their food, you may want to consider choosing sea salt as a strategy for lowering the sodium content in your diet.

Techniques To Find Happiness

Control Desires

Unfulfilled desires can be disastrous to our happiness, if we indulge them.  Sometime desiring things motivates us to work on acquiring them, and working to do so can be a great source of happiness.  However, when desires for more things, more accomplishments, more money, a better job, a better mate or other such prizes in life dominate our thinking, they can dramatically limit our happiness.  We can decide to make our happiness and the happiness of others our greatest desire, and thereby stay focused on what we all really want and need.

Just Get Happier!

A very effective method of becoming happier is to simply sit or lie down, and focus on the feeling of happiness.  Whether you just sit and smile, or actively come up with pleasant thoughts like “I feel great,” focusing on nothing else but feeling happier is an excellent way of better getting in touch with, and strengthening, the feeling of happiness.  After a while, you’ll find yourself tuning into this pleasant feeling at  other times of the day when you’re also engaged in other activities.

Remember to Feel Very Happy!

When we think about remembering, we usually appreciate its importance to academic and work-related learning.  The better we commit what we learn to memory, the more effectively and quickly we learn.

We often become so involved in day-to-day activities that we simply forget to feel happy.  Remembering to feel very happy is a simple and powerful way of helping our happiness become more habitual.

We often overlook the important role memory plays in creating and sustaining our level of happiness.  We can learn to evaluate the events of our lives in ways that maximize pleasure, and minimize displeasure, and thereby achieve greater happiness.  However, learning these to create these pleasant appraisals is just the first step.  In order for this learning to be most effective, we must commit it to memory so that it is available for us to unconsciously apply to all of our situations.  This process of committing beneficial learning to memory is called integration, and our aim is to have our positive appraisals, and our happiness, become habit.

Practice Happiness

Becoming much happier is a skill like playing a piano, throwing a baseball, or writing.  The more we work on becoming happier, the happier we will become.  As with any skill, it is helpful to schedule practice times and to have a program or routine to follow.  To practice my happiness, I sometimes sit at a coffee shop, smile gently, and silently think to myself “I feel very happy,..excellent, wonderful,” etc. while writing down these positive adjectives for emphasis.   The basic purpose behind happiness practice sessions is to help us better get in touch with the feeling of happiness, and to help us learn to choose happy thoughts rather than simply accept whatever thoughts happen to come into our minds.  Gently smiling throughout our days is also a great way for us to become happier and continuously remind ourselves that happiness is something we should strive to feel always.

Talk about Happiness

We talk about work, money, sports, other people, problems and a myriad of other topics throughout each day.  Ironically, the aspect of life most dear to us rarely gets into our conversations as a distinct topic.  Talking about happiness with our friends and families is extremely useful to us and to them as well.  It will help us understand happiness (what it is and what it isn’t; what will bring it and what will take it away), and it will help us keep our happiness at the forefront of our minds, where it should be.

I have personally found that most people love to talk about happiness, as long as the tone is optimistic and enjoyable. Since most of us are only marginally happy, it can sometimes be unpleasant for others to have their limited happiness called to mind.  It’s usually best to talk about what we can do to become happier, and then explore what stops us from doing so.  Taking a problem solving approach to the topic of happiness can be extraordinarily productive.

Focus on the Body

We often live in our heads, and this cerebral kind of existence can distract us from “feelings” of happiness found and felt in our bodies.  By focusing on the endogenous pleasures within our bodies (e.g. our skin, arms, legs, etc.) we can learn to continuously stay in touch with these happiness-evoking pleasant feelings .  Instead of getting our happiness primarily from what is going on around us, or what is going on in our head, we can get it from the pleasant feelings that are an inherent, physical part of us.

Go on Vacation!

Vacations are, for most of us, the happiest times in our lives.  Getting away from our work and daily routines for a few days or weeks of leisure and enjoyment is a great way for us to quickly get happier.  We can also use vacations to help us understand how much more enjoyable our non-vacation lives could be if we simply made an effort to hotly pursue our happiness year ’round.  We should consider our happier vacation days or weeks very important to us.  We can appreciate them and have them motivate us to, from then on, hold on to that greater happiness “no matter what.”

Basic Emotions and Moods Work

Psychologists have published findings suggesting that one’s entire emotional experience can be understood in terms of six basic, or universal, emotions.  These six emotions are happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust.  One principle reason emotions researcher Paul Ekman  describes these six emotions as basic and universal is that, unlike with other emotions, people in any part of the world who see a photograph of a person expressing these six emotions can readily identify the emotion.  All other emotions are theorized to be comprised of various distinct combinations of our six universal emotions.

Of These six, happiness is pleasant, sadness, fear, anger and disgust are generally unpleasant, and surprise is neutral, leaning toward the unpleasant side.  Since these emotions, and the moods they create when sustained, will ultimately determine our happiness, we should strive to minimize the five unpleasant emotions, and to maximize happiness.  In theory, becoming happier is just that easy.

Psychologists have also determined that we can choose our emotions by choosing to evaluate the situations and circumstances of our life in certain ways.  This process is called cognitive appraisal, and has been used very successfully by cognitive-behavioral therapists to help clients overcome depression.  This process of systematically changing one’s evaluations from less pleasant to more pleasant is called cognitive re-structuring, and is one of the principle techniques making cognitive-behavioral therapy the most effective psychotherapy for depression.

Believing

An effective way for us to become happier is to simply believe that we are happier than we actually feel we are.  For example, if we feel “not very happy,” we can choose to believe that we are “mildly happy,” “very happy,” or even “completely happy.”  As we repeat these new beliefs to ourselves they become stronger, and we gradually come to feel greater happiness.

Psychologists have found that our beliefs can change simply by being exposed to new beliefs, even when these new beliefs are inconsistent with our original beliefs.  Advertisers routinely apply this finding in their promotions.  For example, a person who at one time believed that Ford made the best automobile may come to believe that Chevrolet deserves this distinction, simply by repeatedly hearing and/or seeing an advertising slogan such as “Chevrolet Makes the Best Car in the World.”

It takes several days for this technique to create a noticeable increase in our happiness.   Several weeks will be needed to create a significant increase, and several months to create a more lasting increase in our happiness.  There is a limit to how often and continuously we can expose ourselves to a new belief without having the repetitive process become unpleasant, and this limit varies with each individual.

There are several basic ways to apply this technique.  One way is to simply tell oneself , for example, “I am very happy” repeatedly throughout the day.  Another way is to read this statement various times throughout each day.

Choose Your Thoughts Wisely

Happiness is dependent on our thoughts – We do not have to keep thinking unpleasant thoughts simply because they come into our minds. We can choose to think pleasant thoughts instead. The more we practice stopping our unpleasant thoughts and thinking pleasant ones, the better we will become and the happier we will feel.

See Happiness as the Point of Life

Happiness is the point of life – The better we realize that happiness is the only aspect of life with inherent value (everything else is valuable only to the extent that it increases happiness) the more we will devote time and effort to our happiness and the happiness of others.

Smile Continuously

Becoming much happier is as easy as just smiling more. Smiling feels good, but it also reminds us to feel happy and communicates our happiness to others, encouraging them to feel happy with us. Maintain a slight smile throughout your day, and you will find it much easier to feel happier.  Consider that the happiest people you know are the ones that seem always to have a pleasant expression, and you will understand the wisdom behind smiling.

Stay Happy Amidst Sadness

Our sadness usually doesn’t help others – Sometimes we feel that it is appropriate for us to feel sad in order to help others. When we are doing what we need to do to help others, (like visiting a sick friend, or giving charity) we should feel good about our kindness. Many times we are more helpful to others who are going through a difficult time when we keep up our spirits than when we join them in their sorrow.

Compare Wisely

We should compare ourselves wisely, or not at all.  There is a popular expression that says comparisons are odious. If we must compare ourselves to others, it is wisest to compare ourselves to those whom we believe are less happy, or are less advantaged than we are. Comparing ourselves to those who are less happy can feel good, but we should also try to become happier by helping them feel happier.

Be Optimistic

Optimism is important to our happiness – We can see our glasses as half full, or half empty. We can hope for the best, and expect that things will turn out well, or we can dread what might go wrong, and worry about our future. Happiness research shows that worry is the number one enemy to happiness, and as we become more optimistic, we become happier.

Choose Happiness over Money

Money has very little effect on our happiness – The better we realize that, above the poverty level, having or making more money will not make us any happier, the more we will spend our time and effort on activities that will make us happier.

Like Yourself and Others

Liking ourselves, and others, is very important to our happiness – Liking feels pleasant, and not liking feels unpleasant. We should strive to like ourselves and others more and more, seeing the best in everyone as much as possible. As we do this we will enjoy ourselves more and more. Since we are with ourselves always, it is especially important for us to like ourselves very much.

Make Happiness Your Success

Our only necessary success, on a personal level, is being very happy – We can be a total failure at virtually every other aspect of our life, but if we are wise enough to succeed at being very happy, we can consider ourselves very successful.  Having succeeded at our happiness, our next greatest success should be to help other succeed with their happiness.

Consider Happiness and Obligation

We have an obligation to be happy – When we are less happy we are less fun to be with, and bring down the mood of others. For the benefit of others, we should strive to be as happy as possible. Also, for those of us who are religious, it is important to understand that God want us to feel happy with all the gifts we have been given, and to the extent we refuse to be happy we are being ungrateful.

See Happiness as the Highest Good

Happiness is the highest good – Many of us are very concerned with goodness.  When we understand and accept Aristotle’s statement that happiness is the highest good, we realize that the happier we become, the better we are as people. Of course we must not allow our happiness to come at the expense of others.

Invest in Relationships

Other people are our most relied on source of happiness – Knowing this fact will motivate us to invest our time and energy in developing, enhancing, and maintaining close friendships and many acquaintances. We will also realize that since we spend so much time with our family, it is especially important to devote much time and effort to our family relationships.

Your Skin Helps Your Ears to Listen

People can “hear” not only with their ears, but also with their skin, new research shows.

In fact, sensations on the skin designed to mimic certain types of speech actually helped people decipher sounds better, the Canadian scientists found.

“We have never been able to show whether we could use tactile information in this way,” said Bryan Gick, co-author of a letter to the editor in Nature.

At this point, the research has more implications for basic science, for “how perception works,” explained Gick, an associate professor of linguistics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. “We’re picking up on this information, and integrating it seamlessly [in the brain].”

But, he added, “once we understand the mechanics, it’s much easier to see how applications could grow out of it. Perhaps we could design a perceptual aid [for people with hearing impairments] or special headphones for pilots to distinguish sounds and noises.”

Senses ‘merge’ to interpret sight, sound

Scientists already knew that visual cues — looking at a person’s face or lips, for instance — can help someone figure out what that person is saying, but little research has looked into the tactile side of things.

Traditional thought held that one hears with the ears and sees with the eyes, with each of these perceptions linked to a separate part of the brain.

More recent research, however, has suggested that the senses merge when interpreting sights or sounds. “The brain doesn’t care where the information comes from,” Gick said. “It picks up from different senses.”

If sight and sound don’t match, for example, what you’re seeing can actually override what you’re hearing.

“People would report having heard what the eyes tell me,” Gick said.

How the study was done

These researchers designed their study around the fact that language includes both aspirated sounds such as “pa” and “ta,” which involve air coming through the mouth, and unaspirated sounds such as “ba” or “da,” which don’t involve this expulsion of air.

Small puffs of air were delivered through vinyl tubing to the skin and neck of 66 volunteers. When the unaspirated sounds “ba” and “da” were paired with a puff of air (mimicking an aspirated sound), the participants thought the sounds were actually “pa” and “ta.”

“The nature of tactile stimulation can influence the actual part of speech you can perceive,” said Robert Frisina Jr., associate chair of otolaryngology at the University of Rochester Medical Centre, in Rochester, NY. “People with hearing impairments could have significant improvement when they’re provided with tactile cues,” he noted.

“The findings are pretty novel and provocative. You wouldn’t expect that kind of [difference] from a little puff of air,” Frisina added. “The areas of the brain for touch and for hearing are connected. Neurologically, it does make sense.”

“Individuals are really picking up on certain clues that we may not necessarily be aware of,” said Dr Thomas Brammeier, director of the Hearing and Balance Enter at Scott & White in Temple, Texas

Amino Acid Key to Strong Teeth

Scientists have identified the way a simple amino acid makes human teeth strong and resilient.

Proline is repeated in the centre of proteins found in tooth enamel. When the repeats are long, such as in humans, they contract groups of molecules that help enamel crystals grow. When the repeats are short, such as in frogs, teeth don’t have the enamel prisms that provide strength, the researchers explained.

The research offers clues on how to engineer tooth enamel.

“We hope that one day, these findings will help people replace lost parts of the tooth with a healthy layer of new enamel,” lead researcher Tom Diekwisch, professor and head of oral biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry, said in a news release.

Benefits go beyond teeth

“Proline repeats are amazing. They hold the key to understanding the structure and function of many natural proteins, including mucins, antifreeze proteins, Alzheimer’s amyloid and prion proteins,” Diekwisch said. “We hope that our findings will help many other important areas of scientific research, including the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.”

The findings are published in the journal PLoS Biology.

Depression and Belly Fat Linked

New research provides more evidence of a link between depression and extra pounds around the waist, although it’s not exactly clear how they’re connected.

The study raises the possibility that depression causes people to put on extra pounds around the belly. The opposite doesn’t appear to be the case: researchers found that overweight people aren’t more likely to become depressed than their normal-weight peers.

The study

These findings come from researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who examined data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study (CARDIA), a 20-year longitudinal study of more than 5 100 men and women aged 18-30. (Longitudinal studies look for a link between cause and effect by observing a group of individuals at regular intervals over a long period of time).

Among other things, the researchers wanted to figure out if depressed people were more likely to have larger waist circumferences and a higher BMI, and how that changed over time.

They found that over a 15-year period, all the subjects put on some pounds, but those who were depressed gained weight faster.

“Those who started out reporting high levels of depression gained weight at a faster rate than others in the study, but starting out overweight did not lead to changes in depression,” said study co-author Belinda Needham, an assistant professor of sociology, in a university press release.

Since the stress hormone cortisol is related to depression and abdominal obesity, Needham speculated that elevated levels might explain why depressed people tend to gain more belly fat.

“Our study is important because if you are interested in controlling obesity, and ultimately eliminating the risk of obesity-related diseases, then it makes sense to treat people’s depression,” Needham said. “It’s another reason to take depression seriously and not to think about it just in terms of mental health, but to also think about the physical consequences of mental health problems.”

The study appears in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health. –