Medical News Today: What to know about adenomyosis

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Medical News Today: Why self-love is important and how to cultivate it

For many people, the concept of self-love might conjure images of tree-hugging hippies or cheesy self-help books. But, as many psychology studies attest, self-love and -compassion are key for mental health and well-being, keeping depression and anxiety at bay. Below, we take a look at some of the things that you can do to nurture this core feeling.
socks with heart
Cultivating feelings of self-love can sometimes be challenging.

“Why is self-love important?” you might ask. For many of us, self-love might sound like a luxury rather than a necessity — or a new-age fad for those with too much time on their hands.

Ironically, however, self-care and -compassion might actually be needed most by those of us who work too hard and who are constantly striving to surpass ourselves and grasp the shape-shifting phantasm of perfection.

Most of the time, when we’re being too hard on ourselves, we do it because we’re driven by a desire to excel and do everything right, all the time. This entails a lot of self-criticism, and that persecutory inner voice that constantly tells us how we could’ve done things better is a hallmark of perfectionism.

Studies have shown that perfectionists are at a higher risk of several illnesses, both physical and mental, and that self-compassion might free us from its grip. Therefore, perfectionism and self-compassion are inextricably linked.

This article will look at ways to dial down the former and boost the latter, with the conviction that doing so will help you to lead a happier, more fulfilled life.

The ills of perfectionism

Most of us in the Western world have been raised to believe that perfectionism is a great quality to have. After all, being obsessed with perfect details leads to perfect work, and this personality trait gives us the opportunity to humblebrag during job interviews.

In reality, however, perfectionism is bad for you. Not just “not ideal” or “harmful when excessive,” but actively bad. Like cigarettes or obesity.

A shorter lifespan, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, eating disorders, depression, and suicidal tendencies are only a few of the adverse health effects that have been linked with perfectionism.

Recovering from heart disease or cancer is also harder for perfectionists, with this trait making survivors — as well as the general population — more prone to anxiety and depression.

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Moving away from perfectionism

So what can we do to move away from perfectionism? First off, acknowledge that it’s bad for you; beating yourself up over every little error gradually chips away at your sense of self-worth and makes you less happy. And you deserve better than this.

In the words of Kristin Neff — a professor of human development at the University of Texas at Austin — “Love, connection, and acceptance are your birthright.”

In other words, happiness is something that you’re entitled to, not something that you need to earn. Even the United Nations adopted a resolution recognizing that the “pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.”

Also, you should try to resist the temptation to beat yourself up for beating yourself up. Paul Hewitt — a clinical psychologist in Vancouver, Canada, and author of the book Perfectionism: A Relational Approach to Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatmentlikens the inner critic harbored by perfectionists to “a nasty adult beating the crap out of a tiny child.”

When you’ve spent years cultivating this inner bully, you develop an unconscious reflex to put yourself down for every minor thing, no matter how ridiculous or absurd.

From missing a deadline to dropping a teaspoon on the floor, perfectionists will constantly give themselves a hard time over the most unexpected things — so criticizing yourself for criticizing yourself is not uncommon.

Thirdly, you can start cultivating some much-needed self-compassion. You might think that self-love is a case of “you either have it or you don’t,” but luckily, psychologists insist that it is something you can learn.

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion and self-love are largely used interchangeably in specialized literature. Research shows that having more self-compassion builds resilience in the face of adversity, helping people to recover more quickly from trauma or romantic separation. It also helps us to better cope with failure or embarrassment.

But what is it, exactly? Drawing on the work of Prof. Neff, Sbarra and colleagues define self-compassion as a construct that encompasses three components:

  • “self-kindness (i.e., treating oneself with understanding and forgiveness),
  • recognition of one’s place in shared humanity (i.e., acknowledgment that people are not perfect and that personal experiences are part of the larger human experience),
  • and mindfulness (i.e., emotional equanimity and avoidance of overidentification with painful emotions).”

“Self-kindness entails being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than flagellating ourselves with self-criticism,” write Profs. Neff and Germer.

Easier said than done? You might think so, but luckily, the same researchers who worked hard to study and define the feeling have also come up with a few useful tips for enhancing it.

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Mindfully trained self-compassion

By combining mindfulness with self-compassion, Profs. Neff and Germer — who works at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA — have developed a technique called “Mindful Self-Compassion […] Training,” which they have tested in clinical trials with heartening results.

In the words of the researchers, “Self-compassion says, ‘Be kind to yourself in the midst of suffering and it will change.’ Mindfulness says, ‘Open to suffering with spacious awareness and it will change.'”

The program comprises various meditations, such as “loving-kindness meditation” or “affectionate breathing,” and “informal practices for use in daily life,” such as the “soothing touch,” or the “self-compassionate letter writing,” which have all been shown to help study participants develop the habit of self-compassion.

According to the researchers, practicing these techniques for 40 minutes every day for 8 weeks raised the participants’ levels of self-compassion by 43 percent.

The mindfulness exercises that one can do to develop self-compassion are various. One simple exercise involves repeating the following three phrases during times of emotional distress:

“This is a moment of suffering,” “Suffering is a part of life,” and “May I be kind to myself.” These three mantras correspond to the three elements of self-love that we introduced earlier.

In her book Self-Compassion, Prof. Neff details many more useful mantras and guides the reader to develop their own. Also, her website offers a wide range of similar exercises, which are accessible for free.

Dr. Helen Weng — from the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison — and colleagues have also developed a range of similar exercises that you can access here, which are also free of charge.

If you feel a bit skeptical about the benefits of mindfully repeating mantras to yourself, you may benefit from knowing that research backs them up.

Such mindful exercises in self-compassion have been proven to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and increase heart rate variability, which is your body’s physiological ability to deal with stressful situations.

Learning to listen to yourself

Listening to yourself can mean two things. Firstly, paying attention to how you internally talk to yourself is crucial for learning to cultivate an intimate feeling of self-love.

person writing in a diary
Writing to yourself in a compassionate tone can help.

In her book, Prof. Neff asks her readers to ask themselves, “What type of language do you use with yourself when you notice a flaw or make a mistake? Do you insult yourself or do you take a more kind and understanding tone? If you are highly self-critical, how does that make you feel inside?”

She explains that often, we are much harsher to ourselves than we would be to others, or than how we would expect others to treat us. So, to replace this harsh inner voice with a kinder one, you can simply notice it — which is already a step toward quietly subduing it — and actively try to soften it.

Finally, you can try to rephrase the observations that you may have initially formulated quite harshly in the words of a kinder, more forgiving person.

Or, you could try writing a letter to yourself from the perspective of the kind, compassionate friend that you have been to others, or from the perspective of a compassionate friend.

A second reason why listening to yourself is important is that, during times of emotional distress, asking yourself the question “What do I need?” — and listening mindfully to the answer — can prove invaluable.

As researchers point out, “Simply asking the question is itself an exercise in self-compassion — the cultivation of good will toward oneself.”

But it’s also worth bearing in mind that “What do I need?” “sometimes […] means that an emotionally overwhelmed individual should stop meditating altogether and respond behaviorally to his or her emotional distress, for example, by drinking a cup of tea or petting the dog.”

Self-kindness is more important than becoming a good meditator.”

Prof. Kristin Neff

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Yoga and relearning pleasure

Mindfulness can help us to relearn, as adults, to take pleasure in fundamental, everyday things that we used to enjoy spontaneously as children. Reacquainting ourselves with pleasure in this way is an essential component of self-kindness.

Researchers used practices such as the “Sense and Savor Walk” and “Mindful Eating” — aimed at taking pleasure in the environment and food, respectively — to increase self-compassion in study participants. Such techniques are intimately linked with the habit of listening to yourself and your needs, as described above.

Perhaps because yoga can help us to get back in touch with our own bodies and regain a sense of pleasure from it, the practice also helps to quell the voice of our inner critic and boost feelings of self-love.

Yoga poses also seem to be better for our self-esteem and bodily energy than power poses, with only 2 minutes of being in “warrior pose,” for example, making you feel ready to take over the world.

The Internet abounds with free yoga videos, but the program “Yoga with Adriene” is probably one of the best ones for cultivating a kind inner voice. Using phrases such as “find some softness” and “come into your little cave of love,” Adriene gently nudges you into your practice, encouraging you to simply “find what feels good.

We hope that yoga, along with the other mindfulness tips outlined above, will help you along the (often imperfect) road to self-compassion.

As you move through it, try to enjoy the journey; hopefully one day, you’ll find that the nagging feeling of incompleteness that is so typical of perfectionism has left you.

Instead, you’ll have cultivated a kinder, more self-forgiving feeling of wholeness.

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Medical News Today: Sex anxiety: How can you overcome it?

Whether you’re a woman or a man, you might have experienced sexual anxiety over the years. Feeling anxious sometimes about our prowess between the sheets is normal, but when it happens repeatedly, this can affect our quality of life. So, what can you do to dispel the doubts and lead a healthy sex life?
intimate partners not facing each other in bed
How can you move past the anxiety that keeps you from enjoying your sex life?

Sexual anxiety — or sexual performance anxiety — is something that affects men and women of all ages, regardless of how much experience they have with intercourse.

For some, this type of anxiety is short-lived and may appear briefly in the wake of a new sexual encounter.

Other people, however, might find it difficult to enjoy a wholesome sex life because of it, and they may experience this type of anxiety with more regularity.

But how does sexual anxiety manifest? Well, according to sex therapist Claudia Six, it has different expressions among men and women, though in most instances, it is related to the fear that some aspect of their presence between the sheets may be disappointing for their partner.

In women, sexual performance anxiety can show up as difficulty getting interested in sex, difficulty getting aroused, or difficulty with orgasm. In men, we know what it looks like — difficulty getting an erection, keeping an erection, or coming too soon. I put all that under the umbrella term of ‘sexual performance anxiety.'”

Claudia Six

And why do we feel sexual performance anxiety? Here, the matters get a little more complex, but to simplify: we tend to become insecure about how well we do in bed or what we may look like to our partners, or we may simply be daunted by the idea of becoming so intimate with someone.

In some cases, sexual performance anxiety stems from a past traumatic experience — perhaps related to sexual violence. If that is your situation, please do not hesitate to seek out specialist advice. If you are based in the United States, your first port of call should be the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network hotlines.

But, in most cases — as sex educator Amy Jo Goddard explains — this response is conditioned by the way in which we were brought up to think about certain aspects of sex and our own bodies, and by social expectations that impact our relationship with our own sexuality.

Below, we give you some tips about how to tackle these moments of uncertainty and worry both before and during sexual encounters, so you can enjoy a happier, healthier sex life.

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Own your body

Body image is often an important factor in achieving a healthy sex life. If we feel insecure about the way that our body looks, we may worry about whether or not our partner finds us attractive. This, needless to say, is not at all conducive to enjoyment.

couple smiling in the mirror
It’s important to take the time to learn to appreciate your body. Beauty comes in all shapes and forms.

Studies have noted that a significant number of men and women have body image issues, which might lead to all manner of anxieties when the time comes to slip between the sheets with that special person.

For instance, a study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that about a third of college women feel unhappy with how their body looks, and that this self-consciousness was detrimental to enjoying their time in bed with a partner.

Other research — that studied young men enrolled in the military — found that more than a third of the participants had a poor image of their own genitalia, which often led to erectile dysfunction.

So, what can be done if you’re worried that your body isn’t “supermodel quality,” whatever that may mean? According to sex educator and researcher Emily Nagoski, you should take steps to get comfortable in your skin by actively acknowledging everything you like about your body — repeatedly.

She advises doing the following exercise. “You stand in front of a mirror, as close to naked as you can tolerate. You’re going to look at what you see there, and you’re going to write down everything you see that you like.”

“And then do it again tomorrow, and then do it again the next day, and the next day.” The key, says Nagoski, is in repetition, so that you can begin to get comfortable with your body and love it for its unique beauty.

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Learn more about (your kind of) sex

Another obstacle that may be contributing to your sexual performance anxiety — although you may not like to hear this — is simply a lack of appropriate sex education.

feet peeking out from under the sheets
Learn as much as you can about sex and what works — and doesn’t work — for you.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t yet know which bits go where, but perhaps that you haven’t been fully prepared for the realities of a sexual encounter. The reality is that everyone functions differently and has different needs.

Maybe you’re not sure about the techniques of achieving — or giving — pleasure. Or, perhaps you’ve heard myths about pregnancy, or how your body is “supposed” to react during sex.

Or, you may even be worried that your wants and needs aren’t “normal.”

If you have any worries at all about sex, it may be worth speaking to a healthcare professional to get reassurance, reading a book (or two) exploring this topic, or joining workshops led by sex educators.

As Goddard explains, “[A]dults need sex education, too. If we didn’t learn it somewhere, then how can we have the fulfilling sexual lives that we really want to have?”

Stop telling yourself how broken and unfixable you are, because you’re not. You just didn’t get the education that you need, you just didn’t get the resources that you need.”

Amy Jo Goddard

On that note, you may also find it helpful to self-educate simply by exploring your own body and what gives you pleasure. Take the time to learn what turns you on and how you like things done.

Despite the fact that masturbation is — unfortunately — still typically portrayed as a shameful or even dangerous act, research points to the contrary, explaining that it can actually improve our relationship with our bodies and with our sexuality.

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Express what you enjoy

Once you know what you enjoy, it’s very important to learn to voice your needs when in bed with an intimate partner, and to explain what’s going through your head.

couple facing each other
Communicate openly with your partner about your sexual needs.

If you trust this person enough to want to get it on with them, why not tell them if something isn’t working?

You could also encourage them to do more of something that is.

Open communication may just be the best way forward if you are worried about taking a long time to orgasm, being unable to stay aroused, or being afraid that you won’t even become aroused in the first place.

A study published last year in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy worked with 142 committed couples and found that intimate partners who freely communicate their sexual needs and desires have a more healthy and fulfilling sex life.

In their paper, the authors explain that “women who communicated about sex more reached orgasm more often,” and that speaking openly about sexual needs in a couple was linked to better relationship and sexual satisfaction among both men and women.

Six urges anyone who is experiencing sexual anxiety to reflect and embrace the awareness that they are “not a disappointment,” and that “there is room for [their] needs.” She also explains that everyone needs to “find [their] voice” in order to “have a good time in bed.”

“So how do we set ourselves up for success?” Six asks. “Gentlemen, please let go of ‘performing.’ ‘Performing’ is ‘entertaining an audience.’ And ladies, know your bodies and what brings you pleasure.”

To dispel any unwanted tension in the wake of a sexual encounter, she advises people to “[o]pen [their] mouth, say what’s happening in the moment, it takes the charge out of it.”

And remember: whoever you’re getting into bed with really wants to be there, with you, and that they are looking forward to the time you’re about to spend together.

So, take advantage of this moment of connection to acknowledge that your partner welcomes your presence and your sexual needs, and that they want you both to be comfortable and at ease with each other.

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Medical News Today: Cancer: How a novel gel could halt its return

Groundbreaking research has revealed a promising strategy to stop the recurrence of cancer, and it comes in the form of a biodegradable gel.
Destruction of a cancer cell
Researchers have developed a gel that could help to stop cancer recurrence and metastasis.

Created by scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA, the gel was designed to deliver immunotherapy directly to the area from which a cancerous tumor has been surgically removed.

Upon testing the gel on mice during the surgical removal of breast cancer tumors, the scientists found that it not only helped to prevent tumor recurrence at the primary site, but that it also eliminated secondary tumors in the lungs.

Senior study author Michael Goldberg, Ph.D. — of the Department of Cancer Immunology and Virology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute — and colleagues recently reported their results in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), more than 1.7 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2018, and over 600,000 people will die from the disease.

For cancer that forms as solid tumors — such as breast cancer and lung cancersurgical removal of the tumor is often the primary treatment option.

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The problems with immunotherapy

However, as Goldberg explains, even when the tumor is removed, some cancer cells may remain at the site. These can form new tumors, or even spread to other areas of the body. This is a process known as metastasis.

“Indeed, while half of all cancer patients undergo surgery aiming to cure the disease, 40 percent of such patients experience a recurrence of the disease within 5 years,” Goldberg notes.

“Furthermore,” he adds, “it has been shown that the body’s natural process of healing the wound created by surgery can actually spur these residual cancer cells to metastasize to distant parts of the body and form new growths.”

Immunotherapy — which involves using drugs to stimulate the immune system and attack cancer cells — can help to prevent cancer recurrence and metastasis. However, the treatment has some serious pitfalls.

A major problem with immunotherapy is that it can attack healthy cells as well as cancerous ones, which can increase a patient’s susceptibility to other illnesses.

“In this study,” notes Goldberg, “we sought to determine whether administering immune-stimulating drugs at the [right] place and the right time — at the site of tumor removal, before the surgical wound has been closed — could enhance the results of cancer immunotherapy.”

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The path to ‘immunostimulation’

The researchers explain that when a cancerous tumor is removed, the immune system uses most of its resources to help heal the wound, rather than fighting any cancer cells that may have been left behind.

This can create what the team calls an “immunosuppressive” microenvironment, in which cancer cells can thrive and spread.

As Goldberg explains, the scientists set out to transform this immunosuppressive microenvironment into one that is “immunostimulatory” — that is, one that can attack and destroy residual cancer cells after surgery.

To achieve this feat, the researchers created a hydrogel loaded with drugs that stimulate dendritic cells, which are immune cells that are involved in the initial immune response. They “present” any foreign invaders or diseased cells — such as cancer cells — to T cells, which launch an attack.

The gel — which comprises a sugar naturally present in the human body, making it biodegradable — is placed at the site from which a tumor has been surgically removed. The gel then gradually releases the drugs over a prolonged period, which the team says increases its efficacy.

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‘Encouraging’ results

For their study, Goldberg and team tested the gel in mice that underwent the surgical removal of breast cancer tumors. The team made the decision to use the gel directly after tumor removal, rather than before.

“We reasoned,” Goldberg explains, “that it would be easier to eliminate a small number of residual cancer cells by creating an immunostimulatory environment than it would be to treat an intact primary tumor, which has many means of evading an immune system attack.”

Several months after surgery, the mice treated with the gel were much less likely to experience tumor regrowth, compared with rodents that received conventional immunotherapy delivery.

When the researchers injected breast cancer cells into the side opposite to where the original tumor was removed, the gel-treated rodents showed no signs of tumor formation.

Also, the study found that the gel eradicated secondary tumors in the lungs of the mice — that is, it eliminated lung tumors formed from breast cancer cells that had spread from the primary site.

The researchers also replicated their findings in mice with primary lung cancer and melanoma, which is a deadly form of skin cancer.

Based on their results, Goldberg and colleagues believe that their gel-based immunotherapy could be an effective treatment strategy against a number of different cancers.

“This approach has the potential to deliver immunotherapy in a manner that focuses the therapy at the site of interest during a critical time window,” he says.

We are extremely encouraged by the results of this study and hope that this technology will be adapted for patients for testing in clinical trials in the not-too-distant future.”

Michael Goldberg, Ph.D.

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Medical News Today: Midlife tooth loss may compromise heart health

Tooth loss in middle age is tied to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, independent of traditional risk factors such as high blood pressure, poor diet, and diabetes.
middle aged man at dentist
Could midlife tooth loss increase your risk of CVD?

This was the conclusion of preliminary research led by Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, LA, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA.

“In addition to other established associations between dental health and risk of disease,” explains study co-author Lu Qi, who is a professor of epidemiology at Tulane University, “our findings suggest that middle-aged adults who have lost two or more teeth in [the] recent past could be at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.”

This study is not the first to investigate the link between dental health and cardiovascular disease (CVD), but it is the first to focus on tooth loss during midlife and exclude that which occurs earlier.

The new findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2018 scientific sessions on Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health, held in New Orleans, LA.

The study is not yet published as a peer-reviewed paper, but you can read the abstract in the journal Circulation.

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Defining CVD

CVD is an umbrella term for diseases of the heart and blood vessels. This includes diseases of the blood vessels that supply: the brain (such as stroke and other cerebrovascular diseases); the heart muscle (coronary heart disease); and the arms and legs (peripheral arterial disease).

It also includes other conditions that can damage the heart (such as rheumatic heart disease and congenital heart disease), as well as conditions in which blood clots form and block the blood supply (such as deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism).

CVD is the primary cause of death worldwide. In 2015, it claimed 17.7 million lives, including 7.4 million due to coronary heart disease and 6.7 million due to stroke.

The risk of CVD can be reduced — for example, by stopping smoking, adopting a healthful diet, keeping to a normal weight, and being physically active.

Nevertheless, in addition to these strategies, there is a need for new, reliable markers of CVD so that the condition can be detected “well in time” for treatments to be effective.

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Oral health and CVD

The notion that oral health is linked to CVD is not new — in fact, it was first established more than 100 years ago.

In 2012, the AHA published a review of dozens of related studies and concluded that there is an association between periodontal disease and atherosclerotic vascular disease, and that it is independent of “known confounders.”

Atherosclerotic vascular disease is a type of CVD that is caused by atherosclerosis, wherein sticky deposits called plaques build up inside arteries and make them thick and hard. As the plaque builds up, it restricts blood flow and can cause heart attack, stroke, and even death.

It was first thought that poor oral health might actually cause CVD, “through infection and inflammation.”

However, more recently, scientists have concluded that poor oral health indicates the presence of — rather than causes — atherosclerosis, and they therefore propose that it might serve as a risk marker of CVD.

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Tooth loss and coronary heart disease

For the investigation, Prof. Qi and his team focused on tooth loss and coronary heart disease. They pooled and analyzed data on thousands of men and women aged 45–69 who were followed in two large studies: the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS).

None of the participants had coronary heart disease at baseline — which is when they joined the studies in 1986 (for the HPFS) and 1992 (for the NHS).

As the participants had been asked about their number of natural teeth when they enrolled, as well as about recent tooth loss in follow-up questionnaires, the researchers were able to assess tooth loss over a period of 8 years.

The team then compared this recent tooth loss pattern to incidence of coronary heart disease over a subsequent follow-up period of 12–18 years.

The analysis looked at three groups: those who had lost no teeth recently; those who had lost one tooth; and those who had lost two or more teeth. The results showed that:

    • Of the participants who had 25–32 natural teeth at baseline, those who reported the recent loss of two or more teeth had a 23 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease when compared with counterparts who had not lost any.
    • No significant increase in risk was found for those participants who said that they had only lost one tooth.
    • Compared with those who reported losing no teeth, the participants who reported losing two or more teeth — regardless of how many natural teeth they had at baseline — had a 16 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease.
    • Those with fewer than 17 natural teeth at baseline had a 25 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease than those who had 25–32 natural teeth at baseline.

    The scientists conclude that their results suggest “that among middle-aged adults, a higher number of teeth lost in the recent past may be associated with subsequent risk of [coronary heart disease], independent of the baseline number of natural teeth and traditional risk factors.”

    They acknowledge that the findings are limited by the fact that they had to rely on the participants’ own reports of tooth loss, which could have resulted in some of them ending up in the wrong groups in the analysis.

    Previous research has also found that dental health issues are associated with elevated risk of cardiovascular disease. However, most of that research looked at cumulative tooth loss over a lifetime, which often includes teeth lost in childhood due to cavities, trauma, and orthodontics.”

    Prof. Lu Qi

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Medical News Today: Jammed finger vs. broken finger: What to know

A jammed finger is a common injury that can cause pain, swelling, and difficulty moving the finger.

A jammed finger is most commonly caused by an injury to the joint in the middle of the finger, where it bends in half. This joint is called the proximal interphalangeal joint (PIP).

Small ligaments called the collateral ligaments support the PIP joint. A jammed finger may occur when then these ligaments are overstretched or strained.

This damage can happen when the hands absorb too much force, such as when someone catches a ball when playing sports.

A jammed finger can be uncomfortable, but it is not usually a serious injury. At-home and medical treatments can help the finger heal without complications.


Person with jammed fingers from injury holding their hand in pain.
A jammed finger is characterized by swelling and stiffness.

A jammed finger causes swelling, difficulty moving the finger, and pain. The duration of the swelling will depend upon how severe the injury is.

Other signs of a jammed finger include:

  • pain, but usually not severe
  • stiffness
  • weakness, or difficulty holding onto an item
  • redness and swelling

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Jammed fingers are a common sports injury, especially in sports where the hand absorbs the impact of the ball, such as basketball, baseball, and volleyball.

A jammed finger occurs when the tip of a person’s finger presses forcefully against the hand. This action can cause the ligaments in a person’s finger to become overstretched or strained.

Other potential causes include:

  • closing a drawer or door on the finger
  • injuring the finger on the steering wheel during an automobile accident
  • putting the hand down to break a fall

Any action that puts extra strain on the PIP joint can result in a jammed finger.

Jammed finger vs. broken finger

Broken finger in a cast
A broken finger is often more painful than a jammed finger, although both may be treated using a splint.

A broken finger will cause severe pain and swelling that lasts for hours or even days. While a jammed finger is painful, it is not usually severe.

A doctor can usually tell the difference between a jammed finger and a broken finger based on a visual examination.

A broken finger may have a bone either visibly sticking out of the skin or will be protruding toward the skin. A person may hear a cracking or popping noise with finger movement if they have a broken finger.

A doctor will also ask the person to try to move their finger. A jammed finger will usually have some range of motion, but if a person has a broken finger, they will hardly be able to move it.

If it is still not clear whether the finger is jammed or broken, a doctor may take an X-ray to confirm the diagnosis.

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Doctors commonly treat a jammed finger with a splint, which is a brace that keeps the finger straight and stable while the damaged ligaments heal.

Another option is known as buddy taping or wrapping, where the injured finger is taped securely to a non-injured finger for support. Buddy wrapping helps to stabilize the injured finger.

There is a useful at-home treatment for jammed fingers known as PRICE. It stands for:

  • P is for protection. Wearing a splint or buddy wrap can help to make the finger less vulnerable to injury.
  • R is for rest. Resting and avoiding using the hand as much as possible will protect the finger.
  • I is for ice. Applying a cloth-covered ice pack to the injured finger can help reduce inflammation and redness. Keep the ice on the finger for 10–15 minutes at a time.
  • C is for compression. Splinting or wrapping the finger can help reduce inflammation and promote healing. However, do not bind the finger so tightly that circulation is affected.
  • E is for elevation. Resting the hand on a pillow where the elbow is lower than the hand can help reduce swelling and pain.

Taking over-the-counter pain relief medications, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can also help reduce pain and inflammation.

When to see a doctor

Doctor looking at patients hand, palm and wrist.
A finger that has been injured and appears crooked should be assessed by a doctor.

If a person injures their finger and it appears crooked, they should not attempt to straighten it themselves. Instead, they should see their doctor to examine and treat the injury.

A person should seek immediate medical attention if the finger starts to feel numb and turns white or very pale. These are signs that there is not enough blood flowing to the area.

A person should see their doctor as quickly as possible when:

  • the finger appears deformed or crooked
  • they develop a fever following the injury
  • the finger becomes significantly swollen
  • the finger starts hurting more instead of less over time
  • the person cannot fully straighten the finger

If a person’s symptoms continue to get worse instead of better, they should see their family doctor or a doctor that specializes in the skeletal system called an orthopedist. Some orthopedists offer walk-in clinics to assess sports-related injuries.

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If left untreated, a jammed finger can lead to complications including prolonged stiffness or difficulty fully straightening the finger.

Once the joint has had time to heal, a doctor may recommend exercises to reduce stiffness in the joint. These may include squeezing an exercise ball or stretching the fingers in a tub of warm water.

With proper care, a jammed finger will regain both the strength and flexibility it had before the injury.

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Medical News Today: How a novel protein may combat cancer

Breaking research published in the journal Nature describes a new anti-cancer protein. The finding could help to spot cancer earlier and treat it more effectively.
Lab technician working with microscope
Using cuting edge techniques, Swiss researchers find a new cancer-fighting protein.

Each year, around 31,000 people in the United States develop liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma.

And, roughly 24,000 people will die from the disease.

Worryingly, over the past few decades, rates of liver cancer have increased significantly. In fact, in the U.S., they have tripled since the 1980s.

It is now considered the fastest-growing cause of cancer deaths in the U.S. While survival rates have improved, only 1 in 5 people survive for longer than 5 years after diagnosis.

Often, liver cancer is diagnosed at a relatively late stage. By this point, the liver is already severely damaged, and the prognosis is usually poor. Finding a way to detect the disease earlier could significantly improve the outlook for people with liver cancer.

Recently, scientists at the University of Basel in Switzerland — led by Prof. Michael N. Hall — made some headway into this problem. Their work could help to diagnose hepatocellular carcinoma earlier and, eventually, improve treatment. Their findings were published earlier this week.

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The hunt for tumor suppressors

In cancer, mutated cells grow and spread in an uncontrolled manner. Tumor suppressors are anti-cancer proteins that halt this out-of-control cell growth. In cancer cells, tumor suppressors do not work as they should.

On the hunt for these elusive tumor-fighting molecules, the researchers concentrated on a mouse model of hepatocellular carcinoma.

They analyzed more than 4,000 distinct proteins in tumor tissue and compared them with healthy tissue. One protein stood out from the crowd: histidine phosphatase LHPP.

First study author Sravanth Hindupur notes, “It is striking that LHPP is present in healthy tissue and completely absent in tumor tissue.”

They found that without LHPP, tumor growth was promoted in the mice, and survival rates dropped. Conversely, by reintroducing the genetic information for LHPP, tumor growth was prevented and liver function was maintained.

The researchers also believe that LHPP might be useful as a biomarker for liver cancer. And, if this is the case, the disease could be caught earlier and treated more effectively.

In order to further investigate this relationship, the scientists measured LHPP in human liver cancer patients. Hindupur explains, “Similar to the mouse model, we also saw a striking decrease in LHPP levels in tumors of patients with liver cancer.”

They also showed that life expectancy and the severity of the disease both correlated with LHPP levels. In individuals who had no measurable LHPP at all, life expectancy was 2 years shorter. So, LHPP may also play a key role in assessing the severity of each specific case of liver cancer.

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The question of phosphorylation

A protein can be phosphorylated after it has been produced. This means that a phosphate group is added to it. Phosphorylation affects the way in which a protein works — for instance, activating or deactivating it.

Although this type of chemical reaction is known to be important in a range of diseases, including cancer, it has proven difficult to study until fairly recently.

Tony Hunter, from the Salk Institute in the U.S., has provided us with new tools to analyze histidine phosphorylation. We have now been able to visualize a whole new layer of complexity in tumor formation.”

Sravanth Hindupur

LHPP is a phosphatase that removes phosphate groups from the amino acid histidine in proteins. If LHPP is absent, there is an overall increase in the levels of phosphorylation. This triggers pathways that lead to uncontrolled cell growth and proliferation, thereby encouraging tumor growth.

The researchers hope that their findings will help to diagnose liver cancer sooner so that treatment can begin earlier.

It is also possible that LHPP has a hand in other types of cancer, so its potential benefits may stretch to other cancers over time.

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Medical News Today: Could grilling your meat raise blood pressure?

A new study urges caution when cooking, after finding that a regular intake of grilled and well-done meat or fish could increase the risk of high blood pressure.
Grilled beef steaks
Researchers suggest that how we cook our meat may influence our hypertension risk.

The new research was led by Gang Liu, Ph.D., of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, will occur when the force of blood that pushes against the wall of the arteries becomes too high. This can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart disease.

Since updated blood pressure guidelines came into play in the United States last year, it is now estimated that almost half of adults across the country have hypertension.

An unhealthful diet is known to be a major risk factor for hypertension. The new study, however, suggests that it’s not just the type of food that we eat that influences blood pressure; how we prepare our food can also play a part.

Previous studies have documented the many potential harms of consuming meats cooked at high temperatures. One study reported by Medical News Today last year, for example, linked a high intake of grilled, smoked, or barbecued meats to a 23 percent greater risk of death for breast cancer survivors.

Research has also associated foods cooked at high temperatures with a greater risk of heart disease.

For this latest study, Liu and colleagues sought to determine whether the cooking temperature or doneness of meat and fish — that is, how well they are cooked through — might influence blood pressure.

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Cooking methods and blood pressure

To reach their findings, the researchers analyzed the data of 32,925 women who were a part of the Nurses’ Health Study, 53,852 women who took part in the Nurses’ Health Study II, and 17,104 men who participated in the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study.

For each study, information was collected on how much meat and fish the subjects consumed each month, as well as how these foods were cooked and their levels of doneness.

At baseline, none of the participants had high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or cancer. Over an average follow-up period of 12–16 years, a total of 37,123 participants developed hypertension.

The team found that subjects who ate grilled, broiled, or roasted beef, chicken, or fish at least 15 times each month were 17 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure than those who consumed these foods fewer than four times per month.

Among participants who reported preferring their meat well-done, the risk of hypertension was increased by 15 percent, compared with those who preferred their meat rarer.

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HAAs and hypertension

The scientists also estimated the levels of heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs) consumed by each subject. HAAs are potentially harmful compounds that are produced when meats are cooked at high temperatures.

The study reveals that participants who consumed higher levels of HAAs were at 17 percent greater risk of high blood pressure, compared with those who consumed lower levels of the compounds.

Notably, the study revealed that the links between hypertension, cooking method and temperature of cooking, and doneness of meat were independent of the type of foods that subjects consumed and how much they ate.

Explaining the possible mechanisms behind their findings, Liu says that HAAs and other chemicals produced by high-temperature cooking may lead to oxidative stress, inflammation, and insulin resistance, which can raise the risk of hypertension.

While this research cannot prove cause and effect, the team says that to lower blood pressure, it might be worth revising our cooking methods for meat and fish.

Our findings suggest that it may help reduce the risk of high blood pressure if you don’t eat these foods cooked well-done and avoid the use of open-flame and/or high-temperature cooking methods, including grilling/barbecuing and broiling.”

Gang Liu, Ph.D.

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Medical News Today: These plant-based fats could help you live longer

A diet that is rich in plant-based monounsaturated fats is linked to a lower risk of death from heart disease and other causes. In contrast, if the monounsaturated fats come from animal sources, the link is to a higher risk of death from heart disease and other causes.
plant based oils
Opt for plant-based monounsaturated fats instead of animal-based ones to prolong your life.

These were the preliminary results of an analysis of two large studies that collected information from more than 93,000 men and women over an average of 22 years.

The research — which was led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, MA — featured at the American Heart Association’s 2018 scientific sessions on Epidemiology and Prevention | Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health, held in New Orleans, LA.

You can read an abstract on the study in the journal Circulation.

Monounsaturated fats are unsaturated fats that have only one carbon-carbon double bond in their hydrocarbon backbone. At room temperature, they usually remain liquid and only become solid when refrigerated.

There are two sources of monounsaturated fat in the human diet: plant foods such as avocados, nuts, peanut butter, olive oil, sesame oil, and other vegetable oils; and animal foods, including red meat, fish, eggs, and full-fat dairy products.

Guidelines in the United States recommend that no more than 30 percent of the calories in our diet should come from fats, most of which should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated.

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Detailed information about food sources

Dr. Marta Guasch-Ferré, who is a research associate in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues carried out their study because previous research about monounsaturated fats and mortality has yielded inconsistent results.

Because monounsaturated fats are present in both animal- and plant-based foods — and contain “divergent nutrient components” — they decided to investigate whether the source of the fats might be significant or not.

They combined and analyzed data from two studies. One dataset was collected in 1990–2012 from 63,412 females in the Nurses’ Health Study.
The other dataset, which was drawn from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, included data collected in 1990–2010 on 29,966 males.

The records from these studies had detailed, validated information about diet that was collected every 4 years from food frequency questionnaires filled in by the participants.

From these records, and by consulting scientific sources to note changes in food composition that might have occurred over the follow-up, the researchers were able to calculate and differentiate among the different fat types in the participants’ diets, the food sources they came from, and exactly how they changed over time.

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Plant-based fats tied to lower risk of death

Over an average follow-up period of 22 years, 20,672 of the subjects died — including 4,588 from heart disease. Using this information and that of fat consumption, the researchers found that:

  • Having a diet higher in plant-based monounsaturated fats was linked to a 16 percent lower risk of dying from any cause over the follow-up compared with having a diet that was low in these fats.
  • Replacing 2–5 percent of calories derived from saturated fats, simple sugars, and other refined carbohydrates with the same amount of calories from plant-based monounsaturated fats was linked to a 10–15 percent lower risk of death from heart disease and any other cause.
  • Substituting 5 percent of total calories sourced from animal-based monounsaturated fats with plant-based ones was tied to 24–26 percent lower risk of death from heart disease and any other cause.

It should be noted that these results came from an analysis of observational data that is only able to determine links between types of monounsaturated fats and risk of death.

Therefore, while the findings do not actually prove that eating plant-based monounsaturated fats — as opposed to animal-based ones — reduces the risk of premature death, they do not contradict that assertion.

Our results emphasize the importance of the source and quantity of monounsaturated fatty acids in the diet — we should eat more monounsaturated fatty acids from plant sources and less monounsaturated fatty acids from animal sources.”

Dr. Marta Guasch-Ferré

The study was part-funded by Unilever, and three of the seven study authors disclosed either being in receipt of a research grant or being employed by the company. Unilever own many well-known household brands, including some food products based on plant oils.

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Medical News Today: What causes foamy bowel movements?

While normal stool is usually solid and brown, there can be many variations. Foamy or frothy stool is typically diarrhea-like and may appear to have bubbles in it. It may also seem oily or contain mucus.

Foamy stool is often caused by a reaction to certain foods. If this is the case, it will be an isolated incident and resolve with time and hydration.

However, foamy stool can also signal an underlying medical condition. Read on to learn more about causes and treatments, and when to see a doctor.


The five most common causes of foamy stool include:

1. Infection

Person pulling a toilet roll who may have foamy poop
Common causes of foamy poop include infection, pancreatitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.

A bacterial, parasitic, or viral infection can invade the gastrointestinal tract and create gas bubbles, making stool appear foamy.

A common source of infection is the Giardia parasite. A person may be infected after consuming contaminated water or food. They may also come into contact with contaminated water when swimming, for example.

Other symptoms of an infection include:

  • fatigue
  • gas
  • nausea
  • stomach cramping
  • unexplained weight loss

It can take anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks for symptoms of an infection to resolve.

2. Irritable bowel syndrome

People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may have mucus in their stool, which can make the stool appear foamy.

Additional symptoms of IBS include:

3. Malabsorption disorder

When the body cannot effectively absorb or use nutrients in food, this is called malabsorption disorder.

One common malabsorption disorder is celiac disease. This involves a person having an allergic reaction to consuming gluten, leading to intestines becoming inflamed and other gastrointestinal symptoms such as changes in stools.

Dietary intolerances to other foods can cause similar symptoms. These foods include:

  • eggs
  • fructose
  • lactose
  • seafood
  • sugar alcohols, such as mannitol, sorbitol, and xylitol

A person may have foamy stool after eating a certain type of food. They may also feel bloated or nauseous.

4. Abdominal surgeries

Abdominal surgeries can affect digestion. These may include operations to remove a portion of the large or small intestine.

Surgeries may cause short bowel syndrome, which can lead to chronic diarrhea and foamy stool. This condition may be temporary and resolve once the body heals.

However, if a person has this syndrome in the long term, a doctor will usually recommend supplements to ensure that the individual receives adequate nutrition.

5. Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis can be an acute or chronic condition. It hinders a person’s ability to digest fats.

This condition can cause significant pain, especially in the upper abdominal region, and pain can spread to the back.

Causes of pancreatitis include gallstones, history of heavy alcohol abuse, pancreatic cancer, or genetic disorders that affect the pancreas.

Beyond foamy stool, the following symptoms are also associated with pancreatitis:

  • fever
  • nausea
  • rapid heart rate
  • swollen abdomen
  • vomiting

Pancreatitis may require admission to a hospital for treatment.

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Foamy poop in babies

Mother changing a babies nappy that may have foamy poop.
Foamy stool in babies may signal an overload of lactose.

Frothy or foamy stool is especially common in babies and is not usually a cause for concern.

Foamy stool in babies is often a sign that they are getting an overload of lactose, a sugar found in breast milk.

Breast milk consists of two parts: foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk comes out for several minutes as the baby begins to feed. It is followed by the richer and thicker hindmilk.

Foremilk has fewer nutrients than hindmilk, and if a baby is getting too much foremilk, they will not be able to digest lactose correctly, which may cause stool changes.

If a baby has foamy stool frequently, it may be a good idea to breast-feed for at least 20 minutes on one side before switching to the other. This will ensure that the baby is receiving enough hindmilk.


Treatments for foamy stool depend upon the underlying cause.

A doctor may recommend eliminating foods that often cause intolerances. This can help to determine whether one or more of these foods is responsible for the symptom.

If a person is diagnosed with IBS, a doctor or dietitian can help to develop a diet plan that will reduce symptoms. A person may want to avoid foods that commonly cause gas, as well as fried foods.

It may be helpful to keep a food diary, to determine which foods lead to IBS symptoms.

For Giardia infections, a doctor will prescribe antibiotics and recommend drinking plenty of water and beverages with electrolytes, to avoid dehydration from diarrhea.

Pancreatitis is usually treated with intravenous fluids and pain medications. In some cases, antibiotics may be necessary. If a person has chronic pancreatitis, a doctor may recommend surgery, though this is rare.

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When to see a doctor

lady in bed holding her stomach
Seek medical attention If foamy stool is accompanied by a high temperature or severe abdominal pain.

If a person has foamy stool on more than two occasions, they should see a doctor.

Seek immediate medical attention if any of the symptoms below accompany foamy stool:

  • a temperature higher than 100.4°F
  • bloody stool
  • dizziness
  • severe abdominal pain
  • severe diarrhea that occurs for more than 2 days

A doctor can evaluate a person’s symptoms and recommend tests to determine the underlying cause.


While foamy stool may be concerning, a change in diet may be all that is needed to reduce the amount of mucus causing the symptom.

If foamy stool is signaling a more serious condition, such as pancreatitis, a doctor can provide treatment, and recommend methods for pain management and prevention.

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