Sleep expert’s simple trick for getting an extra hour of sleep

By Sophie Haslett For Daily Mail Australia

a couple of people posing for the camera: MailOnline logo

© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo

Omega 3 is the key to getting an extra hour of sleep every night, a sleep expert has claimed. Olivia Arezzolo, from Sydney, said her ‘simple trick’ can easily help you enjoy an extra 60 minutes of shut-eye, and this has been proven in clinical trials.

‘A recent study found that omega 3 supplementation without any other changes can support an individual in sleeping an extra hour,’ Olivia said in an Instagram video. ‘A deficiency in omega 3s can contribute to a deficiency in melatonin, the sleepiness hormone, while supplementing your body with it can support your melatonin levels, reduce your anxiety and make you sleepy.’

The sleep expert highlighted that you can either find omega 3 in foods such as oily fish like salmon or hemp seeds if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Other fish including mackerel, tuna and sardines are also rich in omega 3s. You can also find them in nuts and seeds and plant-based oils like flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil.

a woman smiling for the camera: Olivia Arezzolo (pictured), from Sydney, said her 'simple trick' can easily help you enjoy an extra 60 minutes of shut-eye, and this has been proven in clinical trials
© Provided by Daily Mail Olivia Arezzolo (pictured), from Sydney, said her ‘simple trick’ can easily help you enjoy an extra 60 minutes of shut-eye, and this has been proven in clinical trials

‘Omega 3 is ideal for anxiety,’ Olivia added. ‘Studies show a 20 per cent decrease in anxiety after supplementation.’ 

If you struggle to eat omega 3s every day, you could also consider a supplement like The Beauty Chef’s Omega 3 Elixir and supplements like Nature’s Own and Nordic Naturals.

a person standing in front of water: Previously, Olivia (pictured) shared her 10-step bedtime routine that she follows every evening for the perfect night's sleep - which includes chamomile tea and meditation

What is Olivia’s 10-step bedtime routine?

1. Create a sleep sanctuary: Remove any blue light from iPhones and devices and keep your bedroom for sleep and relaxation.

2. Block blue light: Do not allow blue light into the bedroom and restrict this two hours from bedtime.

3. Set a goodnight alarm for your phone: At this point switch it off so you wake fully refreshed.

4. Diffuse lavender: Diffuse lavender either onto your pillows or throughout the room to promote relaxation.

5. Have an evening shower or bath: This helps to promote relaxation 45-60 minutes before bed.

6. Drink chamomile tea: Do this an hour before bed to make you calm.

7. Take a magnesium supplement: This helps the muscles to relax.

8. Practise gratitude: Think about what you are grateful for.

9. Try meditation: This can be useful to help you sleep.

10. Practise deep breathing: This makes it easier to sleep.

Olivia likes to drink a cup of chamomile tea and banish any blue light before she settles down in bed.  ‘Know that blue light, the spectrum of light suppressing melatonin and contributing to sleep difficulties, is emitted from your bathroom’s ceiling lights as well as the bedroom and your phone,’ Olivia said. 

For this reason, even if you work hard to avoid devices and reduce blue light exposure, this will still be undone the minute you go into your bathroom to go to the toilet or take an evening shower.

To find out more about Olivia Arezzolo, you can visit her website here. You can also follow her on Instagram here. 

Source: Sleep expert’s simple trick for getting an extra hour of sleep (msn.com)

The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks

BestLife article by Kali Coleman

Slide 1 of 7: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been providing the public with safety guidelines since the pandemic started. These recommendations have helped people all across the country reduce their risk of infection from COVID—particularly if the guidelines are followed in full. Sure, a mask will protect you, but only if it follows all the proper recommendations from the agency on fit, material, and more. For its part, the CDC explicitly warns against six different forms of face masks, as they are not recommended to protect against the coronavirus. Read on to find out which masks you shouldn't be using, and for more from the agency, The CDC Just Gave a Shocking COVID Vaccine Update.Read the original article on Best Life.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been providing the public with safety guidelines since the pandemic started. These recommendations have helped people all across the country reduce their risk of infection from COVID—particularly if the guidelines are followed in full. Sure, a mask will protect you, but only if it follows all the proper recommendations from the agency on fit, material, and more. For its part, the CDC explicitly warns against six different forms of face masks, as they are not recommended to protect against the coronavirus. Read on to find out which masks you shouldn’t be using:

Slide 2 of 7: The CDC says your mask needs to fit properly, which means it should fit "snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face."Leann Poston, MD, a licensed physician and health advisor for Invigor Medical, says this is because properly fitting masks are the only ones that effectively stop large droplets that could spread and infect someone. Furthermore, masks that don't fit properly require the wearer to frequently touch their face and masks to readjust, and "touching your face can cause you to become infected and it also increases the spread of germs when you touch other objects after touching your mask," Poston explains. And for more on the limitations of masks, If You're Not Doing This, Your Mask Won't Protect You, Study Says.

1. Masks that do not fit properly

The CDC says your mask needs to fit properly, which means it should fit “snugly around the nose and chin with no large gaps around the sides of the face.”Leann Poston, MD, a licensed physician and health advisor for Invigor Medical, says this is because properly fitting masks are the only ones that effectively stop large droplets that could spread and infect someone. Furthermore, masks that don’t fit properly require the wearer to frequently touch their face and masks to readjust, and “touching your face can cause you to become infected and it also increases the spread of germs when you touch other objects after touching your mask,” Poston explains.

Slide 3 of 7: Plastic and leather are two materials the CDC wants mask wearers to steer away from because they are hard to breathe through."If a mask is hard to breathe through, you will breathe around it which defeats the purpose of a mask. When you cough or sneeze, the droplets will travel around the mask or drip down from the bottom surface of the mask," Poston says. And if your plastic or leather mask is too tight to breathe around, then it will not filter your breath, but instead block airflow, which may harm your breathing. And for coronavirus symptoms to be aware of, learn The Earliest Signs You Have COVID, According to Johns Hopkins.

2. Masks made from materials that are hard to breathe through

Plastic and leather are two materials the CDC wants mask wearers to steer away from because they are hard to breathe through.

“If a mask is hard to breathe through, you will breathe around it which defeats the purpose of a mask. When you cough or sneeze, the droplets will travel around the mask or drip down from the bottom surface of the mask,” Poston says. And if your plastic or leather mask is too tight to breathe around, then it will not filter your breath, but instead block airflow, which may harm your breathing.

Slide 4 of 7: If your mask lets light pass through when held up to a light source, then the CDC says it shouldn't be used. Just like masks that do not fit, masks with loosely woven or knit material will allow respiratory droplets to pass through and infect the wearer, says Daniel Burnett, MD, chief executive officer for JustAir, a face mask and clear air systems company.Even worse, Burnett says, loose mesh can "break the respiratory droplets into smaller droplets that can stay airborne for a longer period of time," which may provide a longer exposure period. And for coronavirus signs you shouldn't ignore, This Is One of the Most "Easily Overlooked" COVID Symptoms, Experts Warn.

3. Masks made from loosely woven fabric or that are knit

If your mask lets light pass through when held up to a light source, then the CDC says it shouldn’t be used. Just like masks that do not fit, masks with loosely woven or knit material will allow respiratory droplets to pass through and infect the wearer, says Daniel Burnett, MD, chief executive officer for JustAir, a face mask and clear air systems company.

Even worse, Burnett says, loose mesh can “break the respiratory droplets into smaller droplets that can stay airborne for a longer period of time,” which may provide a longer exposure period. 

Slide 5 of 7: The CDC says your mask should have at least two or three layers. Abisola Olulade, MD, a family medicine physician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in California, says this is because they are more likely to filter out particles than masks with only one layer. Olulade says your mask should ideally have three layers: an innermost layer made of water-absorbing material, a middle filter layer, and then an outer layer that is made of water-resistant material. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

4. Masks with one layer

The CDC says your mask should have at least two or three layers. Abisola Olulade, MD, a family medicine physician with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group in California, says this is because they are more likely to filter out particles than masks with only one layer. Olulade says your mask should ideally have three layers: an innermost layer made of water-absorbing material, a middle filter layer, and then an outer layer that is made of water-resistant material. 

Slide 6 of 7: The CDC does not recommend masks with valves or vents because, while they may make it easier to breathe, they don't help stop the spread of COVID. Roopa Kalyanaraman Marcello, MPH, an infectious disease expert based in New York City, says these masks allow respiratory droplets to escape from the wearer, which can infect other people. In fact, some cities, counties, and most major U.S. airlines have banned these face masks. And for precautions you no longer need to take, discover The One Thing You Can Stop Doing to Avoid COVID, According to Doctors.

5. Masks with exhalation valves or vents

The CDC does not recommend masks with valves or vents because, while they may make it easier to breathe, they don’t help stop the spread of COVID. Roopa Kalyanaraman Marcello, MPH, an infectious disease expert based in New York City, says these masks allow respiratory droplets to escape from the wearer, which can infect other people. In fact, some cities, counties, and most major U.S. airlines have banned these face masks. 

Slide 7 of 7: "Scarves and other headwear such as ski masks and balaclavas used for warmth are usually made of loosely knit fabrics that are not suitable for use as masks to prevent COVID-19 transmission," says the CDC. According to Poston, these have the same drawbacks as an improperly fitting mask in that they don't really filter droplets and they most likely need frequent readjustment. However, you can wear these items over your mask—you just need to be wearing some type of protective mask also. And for more essential mask guidance, The FDA Issued a Warning Against This Kind of Face Mask.

6. Masks that are actually a scarf or ski mask

“Scarves and other headwear such as ski masks and balaclavas used for warmth are usually made of loosely knit fabrics that are not suitable for use as masks to prevent COVID-19 transmission,” says the CDC. According to Poston, these have the same drawbacks as an improperly fitting mask in that they don’t really filter droplets and they most likely need frequent readjustment. However, you can wear these items over your mask—you just need to be wearing some type of protective mask also.

Photo credit: BestLife

Source: The CDC Warns Against Using These 6 Face Masks (msn.com)

Committing to a Low-Carb Diet Helped Me Lose Almost 100 Pounds

Growing up, I was always a little heavier than most. Over time I went from being a little heavier to a lot heavier. It definitely crept up slowly. Nobody wakes up one day astonished to find they turned obese over night. It’s a pound-by-pound change.

I did a lot of mindless eating, just not paying attention. I could eat a whole bag of chips before I even knew what happened. Eventually you get to the end of the bad and you say to yourself “damn.”

I had a lot of back and knee pain at the time, but mostly I felt helpless. I just felt like, no matter what I did, I was always going to be fat. At my heaviest, around my 27th birthday, I weighed 278 pounds.

Being diagnosed with sleep apnea was a big moment. Being told you’re so fat that sleeping, literally on its own, could kill you is a real shock. Living in the Tampa Bay area, I’m close to a lot of great beaches, but I never wanted to go out of fear of taking my shirt off in public. As I approached 30 years old I was tired of feeling that way.

a man standing in front of a store: alex cobb before and after his weight loss transformation
© Alex Cobb alex cobb before and after his weight loss transformation

For me, carb reduction was what worked. I began on the paleo diet; in the years I’ve been on a low-carb diet, I’ve worked out maybe 15 times. I think cardio and weight training is beneficial, but weight loss happens in the kitchen. I cut out all of the bread, chips, cookies, sodas, and beer and replaced them with steaks, green vegetables, and water.

“Working out” is still something I need to get in a better habit of. I know that working out has lots of benefits that I can’t get anywhere else, but I’ve never really been that motivated to stay consistent with it. My weight loss has been accomplished almost solely through changing what I eat.

I’ve been on a low-carb diet going on four years. In that time I’ve lost 95 total pounds. Along the way I’ve gained a few back here and there, but that’s the way it goes. Weight loss does not always happen in a straight line. The feeling, then compared to now, is night and day. I have more energy, I sleep better, I have more self confidence, I enjoy things (like the beach) that I never did before. There’s also a strong feeling of accomplishment that comes from setting a series of goals and meeting them.

I’ve had a tremendous amount of support from friends and family. When someone who has only ever known you as fat tells you they’re proud of you, that’s a big moment. Since setting out on losing weight I’ve started a new career, moved a few times, and married my soulmate. These latter developments were not a result of losing weight, specifically, but a result of the same thinking that pushed me down the path of losing weight. I wanted to improve my life, across the board, weight loss was a piece of that puzzle.

It might sound cliche, but it’s so true: It’s never too late to start and you don’t have to be perfect. That’s true with anything, most of all with losing weight. Just get started. Figure out the rest along the way. —As told to Jesse Hicks

Written by Alex Cobb for MensHealth©

Source: Committing to a Low-Carb Diet Helped Me Lose Almost 100 Pounds (msn.com)

How quickly does the COVID vaccine give you immunity?

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At the beginning of the vaccine rollout phase, nursing home residents and health care workers were the first to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. Since the first phase, some essential workers, like teachers and grocery store employees, and adults over 65 have also become eligible in certain locations.

As more Americans across the nation become eligible, there are still questions about how quickly the vaccine works.

Laurel Bristow, an infectious disease clinical researcher, told People vital information people should know before receiving their vaccine.

How does each vaccine work?

Bristow says that the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are able to teach the body’s cells how to make a spike protein that will create an immune response to fight off COVID-19. Both vaccines require two doses.

Pfizer: Second dose is given three weeks after the first.

Moderna: Second dose is given four weeks after the first.

“Your first dose trains your immune system to respond to the spike protein,” Bristow said. “And then the second dose is the booster to make sure that it can mount a really strong immune response, if the virus is introduced to the body.”

How much protection does each dose provide?

After one dose of either Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine, a person has around 50% immunity to the virus. However, the second dose brings it up to about 95%.

Is each dose immediately effective?

Not so fast. Bristow says the body needs to process the vaccine in order to build up the body’s immune response.

How long does it take for the COVID-19 vaccine to give you immunity?

“Your immune system starts to kick in, but to really get to the peak efficacy that we all know as 95 percent, it’s going to take two weeks after your second dose,” Bristow added.

Bristow elaborated that people who receive the Pfizer vaccine can expect to reach 95% immunity 5 weeks after their first injection, while those who receive Moderna will get to 95% immunity six weeks after their initial dose.

Can you still get COVID-19 after a first or second dose of the vaccine?

The answer is yes because the protection doesn’t happen right away.

“It’s going to take two doses in time to get to the 95 percent efficacy,” Bristow said. “And especially after the first dose, it’s not going to happen immediately that you are then protected from symptomatic COVID.”

Source: How quickly does the COVID vaccine give you immunity? (msn.com)

The 17 Best Longevity Tips Experts Taught Us in 2020

The 17 Best Longevity Tips Experts Taught Us in 2020
Photo: Getty Images

In recent years, the motivation for healthy habits like veggie-heavy diets and regular exercise has shifted from present-day benefits to those more long-term in nature. And we’re not just interested in extending our lifespan, but our health span, too—aka the length of time we are not only alive but alive and well. Most of us want to “die with our boots on,” as my grandfather would say—able in both mind and body.

As such, longevity research has become a major focus in the wellness world and this year, we learned quite a bit about how to optimize our daily lives now for the benefit of our future selves. Below, a rundown of the best tips we’ve accumulated in 2020 for living your healthiest life into your 80s and beyond—because there’s a lot to live well for… just ask President-Elect Joe Biden, who is 78!

Read on for the Best Longevity Tips from 2020

Exercise and movement

1. Exercise this many times per week

It’s no secret that human beings were designed to be a lot more active than most of us currently are in our modern-day, screen-heavy existences; however, you don’t need to give up hope of a long life if you’re pressed for tons of time to move each week. This year, a new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that those who engage in moderate or vigorous exercise 150 minutes per week had lower all-cause mortality.

That translates to just 22 minutes of moderate-to-intense exercise per day. Those who got these 150 minutes per week showed a lower risk of early death from all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, and cancer mortality.

Benefits were especially notable in those who tended toward the more rigorous side of the equation, opting for running, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) routines, or something equally as taxing. The takeaway there is that if you are doing lower-impact exercises, it might help to throw a few more hardcore (think: quick and dirty) fitness routines into the mix as well. Not sure where to start?

2. This particular workout format packs the best longevity punch

Any exercise is better than none, so if there’s a format you love and that gets you moving, you should one hundred percent stick to it. But if you’re open to new things or are already a devotee, research this year shows that HIIT workouts are the most effective form of fitness from a longevity standpoint.

The study looked at the effects of two weekly HIIT workouts per week on 70 to 77 year-olds and found that all-cause mortality was 36 percent lower in that group than in the study’s control group (which did whatever kind of exercise they liked). Thirty-six percent!

The specific HIIT routine the study’s participants engaged in was the 4×4 format, which divides each workout into a 10-minute warm-up period followed by four high-intensity intervals. Each interval consists of one to two minutes of extreme exertion, at about 90 percent of maximum heart rate, followed by a three-minute period at about 60 percent of heart rate. The session then concludes with a cool down period.

3. If your workouts don’t include this one move, they probably should

Technically, research just shows that if you can do this one move easily, that in and of itself is a good indication of longevity: the squat. So while this doesn’t necessarily show that doing squats will increase your lifespan, it stands to reason that one way to ensure you can do them easily is to, well, do them—and frequently.

One of the reasons it’s such a good exercise—both to practice frequently and as a longevity predictor— is that it’s functional, meaning we sort of need to be able to execute squat-like movements regularly in everyday life when, for example, we move from sitting to standing. Plus, we sit too much, and therefore the parts of our bodies, e.g. the glutes, which squats activate do not get nearly the amount of work they were built to take on.

It’s critical, however—for knee health especially—that you squat with proper form; here’s how.

4. Cardio is not to be overlooked, either

It’s not always possible for everyone to engage in high-impact exercise like HIIT or running, but that doesn’t mean they’re screwed from a longevity perspective. In some cases, people might want to choose exercises that are gentler on their joints, which is not the same thing as being easy.

According to a cardiologist, there are five types of low-impact cardio that’ll work you out hard without irritating aging or injured parts of your body: swimming, walking, cycling, rowing, and elliptical.

5. Overall, your workout routines should include these 3 pillars

Ultimately, the best fitness routines are a mix of a number of different modalities, and exercising for longevity is no different. According to Aleksandra Stacha-Fleming, founder of NYC’s Longevity Lab, a gym that works with people of all ages to create workouts that help their bodies age properly, your regular workouts should typically include a smattering of the following: cardio, for your heart; strength-training, for your bones; and anything that works your flexibility and mobility, e.g. yoga.

Diet

1. Always keep these 6 foods on hand in your fridge

According to Dan Buettner, longevity expert and author of The Blue Zones Kitchen, the longest-living people in the world don’t obsess over or restrict what they eat; however, they naturally consume nutrient-dense foods as a way of life. The six such foods Buettner thinks you should stock up on ASAP to follow their lead are nuts, vegetables, fruit, tofu, fish, and alt-milk.

You might want to add a jar of canned hearts of palm to your shopping list the next time you’re try to stock your fridge, too. The ingredient is nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich, and packed with minerals like potassium, iron, phosphorus, and zinc. Most importantly, it’s Blue Zones diet-approved, meaning it’s a longevity-booster, too.

2. Meanwhile, these 5 foods should go in your freezer 

Buettner also has thoughts on what should be found in your freezer if you hope to emulate the world’s centenarians. His top five picks include a lot of the same things you should simultaneously keep fresh in your fridge, like fruits and vegetables, and nuts fall into both categories, too. Additionally, Buettner recommends keeping bread (bless you, Buettner!) and whole grains on ice, too.

3. Pack these in your pantry 

Buettner even shared what he keeps in his own kitchen— specifically when it comes to his pantry. What you’ll find there includes staples such as beans, legumes, whole grains (specifically steel-cut oats and brown rice), nuts, and seeds. You should keep canned greens in your pantry, too.

4. Herbs and spices are oh-so-important, too

Excess inflammation is an enemy of healthy aging, and plants are packed with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. According to herbalist Rachelle Robinett, nutrient-dense herbs are, therefore, a great supplement for anyone looking to enhance the longevity benefits of their diet. Specifically, she recommends ginger, turmeric, spirulina, chili peppers, and ginseng.

4. This one-pot recipe is a longevity expert’s favorite go-to meal

Whatever Buettner, who’s made his life’s work longevity, is eating regularly, I’ll have, too. Fortunately, this year he shared his favorite go-to meal, which just so happens to be a one-pot Ikarian Longevity Stew packed with legumes and superstar veggies. Get the recipe here.

5. Overall, it’s this popular diet that wins the day with respect to longevity

You may have noticed a theme in the above tips, which is that they heavily emphasize fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains; however, the longest-living people in the world aren’t necessarily vegans. Instead, they adhere to the Mediterranean Diet, and recent research has strengthened the link between it and longevity.

The study found that the Mediterranean diet may be linked to lowering inflammation markers and increasing both brain function and gut health—and therefore improving the aging process overall.

Essentially, the Mediterranean diet does call for substantial amounts of those aforementioned fruits, veggies, whole grains, and nuts. It also adds olive oil as a key component alongside fish and encourages a reduction in the consumption of red meat and saturated fats.

6. To keep it simpler still, follow these golden rules of eating for longevity

If all of the above sounds like a lot, consider this; according to Buettner, there are golden consumption rules to follow if you want to live longer, and TBH, they’re not very restrictive. The first is to drink wine after 5 p.m., ideally with friends or loved ones and a meal. (Um, twist my arm!) The second is to eat mostly plant-based foods, which at this point feels a bit repetitive, so… duh. The third is to forget fad-diet brainwashing and carbo load to your heart’s desire, as long as your carbs of choice are derived from grains, greens, tubers, nuts, and beans. The fourth is to eat less meat, as mentioned prior, and the fifth is to stick to just three beverages—coffee, that aforementioned wine (okay, yes), and lots and lots of water.

Sleep

1. Keep a consistent sleep schedule 

The Dalai Lama might not be a longevity expert per se, but he is doing pretty well at the spritely age of 85. One of his top six tips for extending your lifespan is to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. And even though he starts his day at 3 a.m., his 7 p.m. bedtime ensures he gets a solid eight hours of sleep per night.

Hobbies

1. Volunteer

One less-easy-to-imitate characteristic of those occupying the world’s Blue Zones is that they retain a sense of purpose throughout their lives. In America, we tend to put older people to pasture, so to speak, and they are less naturally integrated into family and community life, too.

One way to hack a sense of purpose in our (cold, heartless) society—not just when you’re older but at any age—is to volunteer. Research shows that helping other people can actually help you to live a longer life. “Our results show that volunteerism among older adults doesn’t just strengthen communities, but enriches our own lives by strengthening our bonds to others, helping us feel a sense of purpose and well-being, and protecting us from feelings of loneliness, depression, and hopelessness,” Eric S. Kim, PhD, research scientist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said in a press release about the study.

2. Grow a green thumb

According to Buettner, people in the Blue Zones, or longest-living areas of the world, garden well into their 90s and beyond. “Gardening is the epitome of a Blue Zone activity because it’s sort of a nudge: You plant the seeds and you’re going to be nudged in the next three to four months to water it, weed it, harvest it,” he says. “And when you’re done, you’re going to eat an organic vegetable, which you presumably like because you planted it.”

3. Meditate

Not to state the obvious, but the Dalai Lama’s longevity routine also includes regular meditation. And while he practices for seven hours a day, research shows that just five minutes per day can reap benefits such as sharpening your mind, reducing stress and, importantly, slowing aging.

4. Practice compassion

The Dalai Lama considers compassion to be one of the keys to happiness, and science says it has pro-social benefits, too. These might help us live longer lives, as humans thrive in the communities many Americans find it more difficult to build than those living in the Blue Zones do. Showing concern, care, and empathy to others can endear you to them and ensure that when the shoe is on the other foot, you’ve got others to lean on, too. This reciprocal relationship gives you that aforementioned sense of longevity-endowing purpose, too.

Article by Erin Bunch

Source: The 17 Best Longevity Tips Experts Taught Us in 2020 | Well+Good (wellandgood.com)

Cold, Flu, Allergies, or COVID-19?

a blurry image of a person in a blue shirt
© Provided by Consumer Reports

By Hallie Levine for Consumer Reports©

W ith COVID-19 still among us, even a slight cough or sore throat can be concerning, espe­cial­ly because older adults are at higher risk of complications from the coronavirus and infections such as the flu. But you might not always know whether you’re experiencing a garden-variety cold or something that requires more care.

“There’s an overlap between symptoms of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses, such as colds and flu, as well as even simple allergies,” says Heather Gantzer, MD, an internist at the Park Nicollet Clinic at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minn. Because the best way to subdue symptoms—and know when to get medical counsel—can differ based on why you’re ill, it’s important to rule out potentially serious conditions, such as COVID-­19, she adds. The following can help.

Decode the Signs

While upper respiratory infections and allergies have plenty of snuffly symptoms in common, there are differences.

COVID-19: A loss of smell and/or feeling at least moderately short of breath may distinguish COVID-19 from other respiratory infections, says Ula Hwang, MD, a physician in Yale Medicine’s Depart­ment of Emergency Medicine in New Haven, Conn. In fact, a study published this past October in the journal PLOS Medicine found that ­almost 80 percent of people who ­reported a loss of smell or taste tested positive for COVID-­19 anti­bodies. COVID-19 also typically brings fever and, possibly, cough, diarrhea, nausea, and/or vomiting.

Flu: Unlike a cold, where symptoms start gradually, the flu tends to come on suddenly, Gantzer says. You’re also more likely to have a fever, chills, and head and body aches, and feel extremely exhausted, than you would with a cold or allergies. But as with a cold, you may have headaches, a cough, and/or a sore throat.

Cold: The common cold usually brings a runny, congested nose; a sore throat; and sometimes fatigue or a low-grade fever, Gantzer says. You might also notice a mild cough due to postnasal drip.

Allergies: If you’re sneezing and have itchy eyes, nose, or throat, allergies could be the cause—even in winter, says J. Allen Meadows, MD, immediate past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. “In Southern states such as South Carolina, Georgia, Texas, and Alabama, we now see tree pollen as early as mid-January,” he says. Allergens such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold can cause more problems during the winter, when people spend more time indoors exposed to them, says Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist and immunologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City.

Subdue Your Symptoms

If you think you may have COVID-19 or the flu, it’s important to contact your doctor right away for advice. Also:

COVID-19, flu, and colds: Isolate yourself, rest, and sip plenty of fluids, especially if you have a fever. “It’s a good idea for older adults to drink Pedia­lyte, which can help replace some of the electrolytes they will lose if they are sweating,” Gantzer says.

Acetaminophen (Tylenol and others), used according to package instructions, can help with aches and ­fever, but don’t take more than 3,000 mg a day, Gantzer says. Saline nasal spray can help relieve a stuffy nose and congestion. For a cough or sore throat, Gantzer recommends warm tea with honey or cough drops that contain pectin, which coats the throat.

If the cough is making you uncomfortable, consider using guaifenesin (in products such as Mucinex), which thins mucus so that you can cough it up more easily. To avoid taking more medication than you need, skip combination over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold drugs and stick with those that have only one active ingredient.

COVID-19: In addition to the above, if you have mild to moderate COVID-19 and are at high risk for severe illness—a category that ­includes people 65 and older—you may be given a monoclonal antibody, such as bamlanivimab, shortly after diag­nosis. It may help stop the virus from enter­ing cells.

Flu: Ask your doctor about an anti­viral such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu and generic). Research shows that when given within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms, these lessen sick time by about 17 hours. This may, in turn, help prevent more serious flu complications, such as pneumonia, which are more common in older adults, says Nisha Rughwani, MD, associate professor of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

Allergies: If you’ve had allergies in the past and your symptoms are consistent with them, it’s reasonable to try an OTC steroid nasal spray, such as fluticasone (Flonase and generic), and a saline nasal rinse. (But if symptoms persist, let your doctor know.) Also, steer clear of exposure to aller­gens, if possible. For instance, to avoid dust mites, encase your mattress, box spring, and pillows in allergen-­proof covers, and wash bedding weekly in ­water that’s hotter than 120° F.

Know When to Get More Help

Because the risk of severe complications from the flu or COVID-19 increases with age, contact your doctor during your illness if you experience significant shortness of breath and/or a home pulse oximeter measures an oxygen level of 95 percent or lower. Also alert the doctor if you have dehydration signs, such as very dark urine, or if your fever or cough improves, then returns.

Call 911 right away if you have persistent chest pain or pressure, bluish lips, or sudden feelings of weakness. “Unfor­tun­ately, sometimes the first sign of COVID-19 in older adults is a heart attack or a stroke,” Gantzer says.

And if you have any questions or concerns, this winter it’s better to err on the side of caution and call your doctor or even head to the emergency room, Rughwani says. “This year, the stakes are too high to watch and wait, especially for older adults,” she says. 

Testing Tips

Older adults who suspect a respiratory infection should tell their doctors. “It’s a good idea to get a COVID-19 test, even if your symptoms are mild, because if you do have COVID-19, you’ll know to self-isolate for 10 days,” says Heather Gantzer, MD, of Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park, Minn. “And if you do have COVID-19, it gives you a heads-up to be on the lookout for more potentially serious health complications, such as low oxygen levels, that you might need to be hospitalized for.”

Ask whether you should be tested for the flu, too: Both infections are contagious and can be serious, especially for older adults. Getting tested, especially for COVID-19, also helps health experts keep track of local community spread, says Nisha Rughwani, MD, of Mount Sinai in New York City. While waiting for test results, assume that you’re positive and stay in a room separate from other household members as much as possible; wear a mask if you can’t do that.

Use a separate bathroom, if there is one, and avoid sharing items such as cups, towels, and utensils. Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in your “sick room” and bathroom every day. (A caregiver can also do this while wearing a mask and disposable gloves.) 

Consumer Reports has no financial relationship with advertisers on this site.

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. CR does not endorse products or services, and does not accept advertising. Copyright © 2021, Consumer Reports, Inc.

Ten minutes of physical exercise daily can reduce brain decline

Ryan Morrison For Mailonline  


a man standing in a kitchen: MailOnline logo© Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo

Getting ten minutes of physical exercise a day while in middle age can help to protect your brain from decline as you get older, a new study shows. 

Regular physical activity – such as walking briskly, running or cycling – in middle age into later life is associated with less brain damage 25 years later, say scientists.

Colombia University Irving Medical Center researchers studied 1,600 people with an average age of 53 who had attended five physical examinations over 25 years. Their findings suggest greater amounts of ‘moderate-to-vigorous intensity’ physical activity in middle age have a ‘protective’ effect on the brain as you get older.

The participants involved in the study rated their weekly activity levels once at the start and again at two additional times over the 25 year period. Each person reported the amount of time they engaged in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity, which researchers classified as none, low, middle or high.

The researchers then used brain scans to measure participants’ grey and white brain matter and lesions, or areas of injury or disease in the brain, at the end of the study. Study author Priya Palta said the findings suggest physical activity – particularly during mid-life – is closely linked to brain health.

‘Getting at least an hour and 15 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity a week may be important throughout your lifetime for promoting brain health and preserving the actual structure of your brain,’ Palta said. ‘In particular, engaging in more than two-and-a-half hours of physical activity per week in middle age was associated with fewer signs of brain disease.’

Dr Palta said the results show being active in mid-life has real brain benefits, particularly ‘consistently high levels of mid-life moderate-to-vigour physical activity’. 

Other research has shown that brain lesions may be caused by inflammation or other damage to the small blood vessels in the brain.

Dr Palta added: ‘Our research suggests that physical activity may impact cognition in part through its effects on small vessels in the brain.

‘This study adds to the body of evidence showing that exercise with moderate-to-vigorous intensity is important for maintaining thinking skills throughout your lifetime.’

The study has been published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. 

Source: Ten minutes of physical exercise daily can reduce brain decline, study (msn.com)

Actress Tanya Roberts Died of a UTI—How Can That Happen?

Tanya Roberts, Tanya Roberts are posing for a picture: Getty Images
© Provided by Health.com Getty Images

Actress Tanya Roberts, who starred in the TV sitcom That ’70s Show and the 1985 James Bond movie A View to Kill, has died at age 65 from a urinary tract infection (UTI) that spread to other parts of her body.

Benjamin Brucker, MD, director of the Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery Program at NYU Langone Health, tells Health:

“UTI, also known as cystitis when it’s limited to the bladder, is the second most common type of infection in the US, according to the Urology Care Foundation. About 10 in 25 women and 3 in 25 men will have symptoms of a UTI during their lifetime. And while you can get a UTI at any age, they’re more common in older people.

In most cases, when we talk about a UTI we are talking about an infection of the bladder or a condition called acute bacterial cystitis. This is what classically causes burning with urination (dysuria), frequency, and urgency of urination.”

When caught early, a UTI is normally very easy to treat (with antibiotics if it’s a bacterial infection, or antifungal meds if it’s a fungal infection). If a doctor suspects that the infection has spread, they may send the patient for additional tests, such as blood tests, kidney scans, or an ultrasound.

In some cases, the immune system can have a very strong reaction to an infection. This is known as sepsis, and it usually manifests with fever, shaking chills, and very low blood pressure, Dr. Brucker says.

“If the infection that causes sepsis starts in the urinary tract, we often call this uro-sepsis,” he explains. “This means what might have started in the urinary tract is now having an effect all over the body. When the bacteria spreads to other parts of the body during uro-sepsis, the bacteria growing in the urinary tract can be found in the bloodstream. As this bacteria travels through the blood and body, the body’s inflammatory response, as well as the toxins that the bacteria can release, leads to dysfunction of our vital organs. When these organs start to fail, this is what ultimately can lead to a patient’s demise.”

While it is possible for a UTI to result in sepsis and become fatal, it’s not common. “Death is not the normal outcome from something like cystitis or an uncomplicated bladder infection,” Dr. Brucker says. In rare cases, bacteria that gets into the urinary tract or urinary bladder will spread to the kidney or the bloodstream.

“This may relate to patient factors, such as genetics and other medical conditions, as well as the type and strain of bacteria,” Dr. Brucker says. Some patients, like the elderly or those with urinary system blockages like kidney stones, are more likely to develop sepsis.

By Claire Gillespie  for Health©

Source: Actress Tanya Roberts Died of a UTI—How Can That Happen? (msn.com)

Dr. Dre survived a brain aneurysm. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Dr. Dre wearing a suit and tie smiling at the camera: Mike Coppola / Getty Images
© Provided by INSIDER Mike Coppola / Getty Images

Music mogul and hip hop legend Dr. Dre was treated for a brain aneurysm on Tuesday, later posting he was “doing great” on Instagram. Doctors said they have yet to determine what caused his aneurysm but he is stable for now, TMZ reported.

“I’m doing great and getting excellent care from my medical team,” he wrote. “I will be out of the hospital and back home soon.”

Here is everything you need to know about the condition. 

What is a brain aneurysm? 

A cerebral aneurysm (better known as a brain aneurysm) is a condition in which a blood vessel in the brain expands, causing a balloon of blood to develop. The balloon can rupture or leak, which can be life-threatening for 40% of cases. 

While an estimated 50% to 80% of aneurysms never rupture, those that do can have devastating consequences. 

When an aneurysm bursts, people may experience symptoms like sudden head pain, vomiting, a stiff neck, double vision, and confusion, according to the Mayo Clinic. These types of ruptures can lead to permanent brain damage and death. 

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the total number of people in the US living with the condition is unclear because “they don’t always cause symptoms.” Approximately 30,000 Americans suffer brain aneurysm ruptures each year.

There aren’t always tell-tale signs that someone will experience a brain aneurysm. Instead, there are risk categories to look out for. 

Genetics and family history oftentimes play a large role in determining whether or not you will experience aneurysms in your lifetime, so experts recommend knowing your family’s history with the condition and consulting your doctor accordingly. 

Pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol could also be warning signs, as both are associated with weakening arterial walls, which can lead to blood vessels ballooning. 

Smoking, heavy drinking, and drug use can also weaken your arteries and make you more vulnerable to aneurysms. 

Other risk factors include age and sex, as brain aneurysms usually rupture between the ages of 30 to 60 and are more commonly experienced by women. 

Source: insider@insider.com (Canela López) 

Dr. Dre survived a brain aneurysm. Here’s what you need to know about the life-threatening condition. (msn.com)

What Does Hypoallergenic Really Mean?

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By Michael Blaiss, M.D.  for U.S. News©

Have you ever seen the word “hypoallergenic” in front of a product or animal, and wondered what it really meant? For example: Does the label mean it’s safe to put on your skin, come in contact with or be able to pet?

Let’s take a deeper dive and find out what this word means and why it’s important to your health.

If we break down the word, we first get the prefix “hypo,” which means under, beneath or less than normal. The word “allergenic” means “other, different, strange.” This word was coined by the Austrian pediatrician Clemens Von Pirquet to describe what we now know as an immunologic reaction that can include hives, swelling of the skin, sneezing, asthma and life-threatening anaphylaxis. Putting the prefix “hypo” with “allergenic” implies a less-than-normal (or below average) allergic reaction.

Does this imply that objects labeled “hypoallergenic” are safe and less likely to trigger a reaction? One of the most common products for which we see the term “hypoallergenic” on the label is cosmetics. The implication is that these beauty aids will produce fewer allergic reactions in people with hypersensitive or even normal skin. The label makes it sound like these are “gentler” for your skin. Is this absolutely true? In one word, no.

In the U.S., there is no standard from the Food and Drug Administration that requires a cosmetic to prove it’s hypoallergenic. It’s up to the manufacturer to use the term if they want to, but they don’t have to perform any clinical studies to validate their claim. In the 1970s, there was a court case initiated by manufacturers to reverse an FDA regulation mandating companies that make cosmetics to prove their claim of “hypoallergenic” on the label. The FDA lost the case in the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia. The ruling, which still stands today, allows manufacturers to continue to advertise their cosmetics as being hypoallergenic. But we as consumers have no way of knowing if that’s true. If you purchase one of these products, you need to carefully read the label to make sure there’s no ingredient to which you’re allergic before buying.

This isn’t just an issue with cosmetics. You may see “hypoallergenic” applied to other items such as toys, baby products and clothing. Just like cosmetics, there is no federal government standard for the term when applied to these items. Buyer beware!

So what about pets? You might have heard someone say, “I’m allergic to dogs, but I got a hypoallergenic one, so I won’t have a reaction.” You see advertisements boasting that a particular breed of cat or dog is hypoallergenic. You may have heard that if a dog doesn’t shed, it’s hypoallergenic.

However, the bottom line is that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic cat or dog. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the proteins from pets that cause people to develop allergies are found not only on the hair, but also in the animal’s saliva and urine. Even though you may think an Egyptian hairless cat can’t trigger allergies, that’s not true.

Depending on the seriousness of the person’s allergy to an animal, they could suffer a life-threatening reaction around a “hypoallergenic” pet. It’s very important to know this if you have cat or dog allergy, as there is no truly safe cat or dog. An allergist can test you to find out what your level of allergy is, and offer advice on what you should do to avoid symptoms.

Of course, there are many wonderful products that have the label “hypoallergenic.” But it doesn’t mean that they’ve met rigorous scientific studies to prove their claim. Remember the famous quote from the movie “The Princess Bride.”

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Copyright 2021 U.S. News & World Report