Medical News Today: Running may protect your memory from stress

Research has shown, time and time again, that stress can affect both our physical and mental health. One of the processes that is significantly affected by chronic stress is memory, but there may be an easy way to help our brain to fight this damage.
photo of runners
A new study suggests that running could safeguard memory in times of stress.

The hippocampus is the region of our brains that is largely responsible for processes of learning and memory.

Normally, memories are formed and stored when new synapses — or the connections between neurons — are established and gradually strengthened over time.

This process is called long-term potentiation (LTP).

However, when we experience chronic stress, research has shown that those synapses are weakened — which means that our memory is also affected.

Recently, researchers from Brigham Young University in Provo, UT, have studied the effects of exercise on memory under conditions of stress. Their study, which was conducted on male mice, revealed that some forms of exercise — running, especially — could have a protective effect on the brain, thereby decreasing the impact of chronic stress on memory.

Running and other types of exercise have already been shown to help people manage or prevent depression, keep the brain healthy for longer, and alter our “cocktail” of gut bacteria, as we have reported on Medical News Today.

Now, Jeff Edwards and colleagues have linked running with maintaining memory health under stressful conditions. They argue — in a paper that is published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory — that this knowledge may enable us to protect our brain health by embarking on nothing more demanding than a refreshing jog.

“Exercise is a simple and cost-effective way to eliminate the negative impacts on memory of chronic stress,” notes Edwards.

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Study reveals ‘empowering’ findings

The scientists worked with adult male mice, which they split into two groups: active and sedentary. Mice in the active group were provided with running wheels for a period of 4 weeks, during which time they ran an average of 5 kilometers (roughly 3 miles) per day.

After this initial period, half of the mice in each group were exposed to high levels of stress caused by unfriendly conditions over 3 days: on the first day, they swam in cold water; on the second, they walked on an elevated platform; and on the third, they were exposed to short electric shocks.

Within an hour of the animals having undergone these stressful conditions, the LTP of each mouse was then evaluated for changes.

The researchers found that the animals that had been running regularly had much better LTP than the sedentary mice exposed to stress.

In additional experiments, Edwards and colleagues compared the performance of stressed mice that exercised with that of the active but non-stressed mice in a maze-running context.

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What they noticed was that the two groups of animals did just as well, suggesting that running had helped to protect the memory of the stressed mice.

Moreover, the mice that had been accustomed to running performed better in the maze memory-testing experiments than the sedentary mice.

All these findings put together suggest that exercise — and running, in particular — could be an effective way to protect memory under conditions of chronic stress.

“The ideal situation,” says Edwards, “for improving learning and memory would be to experience no stress and to exercise. Of course, we can’t always control stress in our lives, but we can control how much we exercise.”

It’s empowering to know that we can combat the negative impacts of stress on our brains just by getting out and running.”

Jeff Edwards

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Medical News Today: What is an intercostal muscle strain?

Intercostal muscle strain is an injury affecting the muscles between two or more ribs.

The intercostal muscles have different layers that are attached to the ribs to help build the chest wall and assist in breathing. When an intercostal muscle gets twisted, strained, or stretched too far, it can tear, causing intercostal muscle strain.

In this article, we examine the signs of an intercostal muscle strain, and how to tell one apart from other upper body pains and injuries. We also look at the causes and treatment options for these strains.

Signs and symptoms

Man holding his upper back in pain and has intercostal muscle strain
Symptoms of intercostal muscle strain may include sharp upper back pain, tension in muscles, muscle spasms, and severe and sudden pain.

The signs and symptoms of an intercostal muscle strain can differ slightly, depending on their cause. Symptoms may include:

  • sharp upper back and rib pain
  • severe and sudden pain, particularly if caused by a blow to the chest or back
  • gradual worsening pain after repetitive movement, such as rowing, swimming, or other physical exercises
  • stiffness and tension in muscles, causing upper back pain
  • muscle rigidity when bending or twisting the upper body
  • worsening pain when coughing, sneezing, or breathing in deeply
  • spasms of the intercostal muscles
  • tenderness in the area between the ribs

Intercostal muscle strain vs. other upper body pains

The upper back is rarely injured because it is relatively immobile. If this area is the cause of pain, it is often due to long-term poor posture. It can also be due to a severe injury that has weakened the sturdiness of the upper spine, such as a car accident.

Pain due to upper back injuries is usually felt as a sharp, burning pain in one spot. The pain can spread to the shoulder, neck, or elsewhere in the upper body, and it may come and go.

Intercostal muscle strain is almost always the result of some event, such as overexertion or injury. In contrast, the initial source of pain from pneumonia or other lung disorders is difficult to pinpoint.

If the specific area of discomfort can be located, such as between the ribs, this indicates the pain is not coming from the lungs or the upper back. Lung pain is usually described as sharp and spreading outward.

When a rib is fractured, the pain is usually much more severe than that of intercostal muscle strain.

The following symptoms may signal a rib fracture:

  • feeling breathless
  • a protrusion or a sharp stabbing sensation in the rib area
  • an area around the ribs that is extremely tender to touch

A fractured rib is a medical emergency requiring immediate attention.

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Common causes

sports injury to the ribs may cause intercostal muscle strain
A direct blow to the ribcage may cause intercostal muscle strain.

Routine activities are not usually the cause of intercostal muscle strain. These strains most often occur as the result of an injury or overexertion of the muscles.

Common causes include:

  • a direct blow to the rib cage, such as from a fall or car accident
  • an impact blow from contact sports, such as hockey or football
  • twisting the torso beyond its normal range of motion
  • twisting while lifting weights
  • forceful twisting, such as from golf or tennis
  • twisting from specific yoga postures or dance positions
  • reaching overhead, for example, when painting a ceiling
  • lifting any heavy object above shoulder height
  • prolonged overhead reaching
  • repetitive forceful movements, such as hitting a tennis ball

A sudden increase in physical activity can also lead to an intercostal muscle strain. This is the case particularly when muscles are weakened by a lack of exercise or poor posture.

When to see a doctor

The time to see the doctor depends on the severity of the injury. A mild injury may result in a low level of pain and stiffness that goes away within a few days.

It is advisable to see a doctor if the pain is severe, lasts for more than a few days, or interferes with sleep or daily activities.

If a traumatic injury, such as a fall or an automobile accident, has occurred, or breathing is difficult, immediate medical attention is needed.

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Diagnosing intercostal muscle strain involves a physical exam. The aim is to check for any limitations of movement and assess areas that are tender. The doctor will also ask about any recent injuries or sports involvement.

An X-ray or MRI scan may be ordered if the doctor rules out internal injuries, such as a fractured rib.


Foam roller exercise to help with intercostal muscle strain
Physical therapy treatment, such as foam roller stretches, may be recommended for intercostal muscle strain.

Home treatment may be all that is required if the injury that causes an intercostal muscle strain is not severe and symptoms are mild. Home treatment options include the following:

  • Applying an ice pack or cold pack, followed by heat therapy. Heat therapy options include a warm bath, heating pads, or adhesive heat wraps, which are available to buy online.
  • Resting and limiting all physical activity for a few days to allow time for the muscle strain to recover.
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Splinting the area if breathing is painful by holding a pillow against the injured muscle. However, difficulty breathing means medical attention must be obtained right away.

In addition to the home remedies described above, the doctor may order the following:

  • muscle relaxants for severe pain and spasms
  • physical therapy (PT)
  • injection of lidocaine and corticosteroids to reduce pain and swelling if other treatments fail

Physical therapy

PT may involve various stretches to strengthen intercostal muscles, foam roller stretches, and deep breathing exercises.

If difficult or painful breathing occurs, deep breathing exercises are often ordered to improve a person’s shallow breathing. Long-term shallow breathing can lead to complications, such as pneumonia.

A person with intercostal muscle strain should not do any stretching exercise unless under the supervision of a physical therapist or other healthcare providers.

Stretching should be stopped immediately if it increases pain or makes symptoms worse.

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Outlook and prevention

Mild intercostal muscle strain commonly heals within a few days. Moderate strains may take 3 to 7 weeks to heal, and severe strains that involve a complete tear of the muscles can take longer.

In general, most intercostal muscle sprains should heal within a 6-week time span.

Prevention of future muscle strains involves warming up and stretching before strenuous exercises are performed. It is important not to overdo it when it comes to working out or taking part in sports.

Keeping muscles strong also helps with the prevention of intercostal muscle strain.

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Medical News Today: How do penile implants work?

Penile implant surgery is a procedure that helps men with erectile dysfunction that has not responded to other types of treatments.

Penile implant surgery involves placing a prosthetic device inside the penis and scrotum. This device helps the man achieve an erection and regain sexual function.

In this article, we examine the types of penile implants available and how they work. We also take a look at what a man can expect from having penile implant surgery.

Who is a candidate for penile implants?

Men with erectile dysfunction (ED) caused by a specific medical problem are the best candidates for this type of procedure.

However, in most cases, doctors try simpler and less invasive treatments first. If these treatments are not successful, men with ED may consider penile implant surgery.

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Types of implants

Surgeons in an operating theatre working on a penile implant
There are three main types of penile implants that may be offered to men with erectile dysfunction.

There are several different types of penile implants available. The type that is used will depend on the needs and preferences of the man.

There are several factors that the man and his doctor will need to consider before deciding which implant will be the most suitable, including:

  • body size and type
  • the ages of the man and his partner
  • size of the penis, glans, and scrotum
  • any history of previous abdominal or pelvic surgery
  • the presence of colostomy
  • a history of kidney transplant
  • whether or not the penis is circumcised
  • overall health and well-being
  • life expectancy

There are three main types of penile implants.

Three-piece inflatable pump

The three-piece inflatable pump involves placing two cylinders in the penis, an inflatable pump in the scrotum, and a fluid-filled container in the abdomen. All of these components are connected by special tubing.

Squeezing the pump in the scrotum causes fluid to moves from the container into the cylinders, creating an erection. When the release valve is squeezed, fluid moves out of the cylinder and back into the container, making the penis flaccid.

When inflated, a three-piece inflatable pump implant acts and feels like a natural erection. The implant also feels natural and comfortable when flaccid.

Two-piece inflatable

This type of implant is similar to the three-piece inflatable device and works in the same way. However, instead of a separate fluid-filled container, the fluid is kept within the pump in the scrotum.

However, the two-piece inflatable device is not as rigid as the three-piece implant.

Semi-rigid or malleable rods

This type of penile implant involves a surgeon implanting two flexible rods into the penis. The implants never change in size or stiffness and maintain a semi-rigid state. They can, however, be set in different positions easily.

The implants are usually bent downward but can be straightened into an upward position when needed for sexual intercourse.

Even though they are very easy to use, many men find their constant rigid state to be uncomfortable.

What is sex using an implant like?

When the implant is inflated or moved into position, it has a similar feel to a man’s regular erection, both in girth and stiffness.

Some men report that the implant does not make their erection last as long as usual, although some newer implants have addressed this issue.

Another difference is that implants do not affect the head of the penis, meaning that it does not become hard.

Penile implants do not affect the way that sexual intercourse feels; neither do they affect a man’s ability to have an orgasm or ejaculate.

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What to expect from surgery

young male doctor speaking with young male patient about a penile implant
A man may have to undergo some tests before surgery is scheduled.

Understandably, most men are somewhat nervous about having surgery on their penis. Knowing what to expect before, during, and after the procedure can be really helpful in reducing that anxiety.

Before scheduling surgery, the doctor should have a full discussion with the man about the:

  • risks
  • benefits
  • alternatives
  • types of implants
  • the recommended procedure
  • what to expect after surgery

Once the man has decided which type of implant he wants, the doctor should provide him with detailed instructions about how he should prepare for the surgery.

Sometimes a man will have to undergo some tests before the procedure to ensure that he is healthy enough to have surgery.

Instructions before surgery may include:

  • not eating or drinking anything for a set amount of time before surgery
  • leaving valuables at home
  • shaving or cleaning the area
  • having someone available to drive home

The procedure itself usually lasts for 1–2 hours and takes place at a hospital or outpatient surgery center. It takes place under anesthesia to prevent the man from feeling what is happening.

During the procedure, the surgeon will make a cut in the penis below the head, and place the implant inside. It is important to customize the size of the implant based on both body and penis size.

For inflatable implants, the surgeon makes small cuts in the scrotum to place the pump and valve. If the surgeon is implanting a three-piece system, they will also make incisions in the abdomen to put the fluid container in place.

Recovering from implant surgery

Men having this procedure should be able to go home the same day. They will need to take pain medication to help with discomfort and antibiotics to prevent infection.

The doctor will provide additional instructions, which may include:

  • waiting for 4–6 weeks after surgery before resuming sexual activity
  • keeping the penis pointing towards the belly button to prevent it from being curved downward
  • when and if stitches will need to be removed
  • when to resume physical activity, work, and exercise
  • instructions for using the implant

The doctor should also provide information on practice exercises involving inflating and deflating the implant each day. These exercises will help stretch the surrounding tissue.

It is worth noting that penile implants do not increase the natural length of the penis. In many cases, an erect penis with penile implants will often be slightly shorter than it was before surgery.

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Penile implant surgery is quite invasive.

Although an implant can be an effective treatment for ED, it can also reduce the natural reflex for getting an erection. For some men, this means that they will never have a natural erection without the use of the implant ever again.

Despite all of this, most men and their partners are quite happy with their implant and find it to be very effective.

The life expectancy of the implant will depend on the specific device used. Around 60–80 percent of devices will continue to work for 10 years.

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Medical News Today: Cholesterol-removing gene may prevent heart disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, which highlights the urgent need for new strategies to prevent the condition. Researchers may be one step closer to meeting this need, after locating a gene that assists in the clearance of excess cholesterol from blood vessels.
a human heart and DNA strands
Researchers reveal how a gene called MeXis helps to clear cholesterol from blood vessels.

The gene — known as MeXis — was previously believed to sit under the umbrella of “selfish” genes, or those thought to be functionless because they fail to produce proteins.

But the new study shows that MeXis does not need to produce proteins to be useful. Instead, it makes molecules known as long-coding RNAs (IncRNAs).

These IncRNAs regulate the expression of a protein that removes cholesterol from the arteries.

High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Lead study author Dr. Tamer Sallam, the co-director of the Center for Cholesterol Management at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and his colleagues recently reported their new findings in the journal Nature Medicine.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 610,000 people in the United States die from heart disease every year.

Coronary artery disease (CAD), which is also called coronary heart disease, is the most common form of heart disease, accounting for around 370,000 deaths annually. CAD is caused by the accumulation of plaque in the arteries.

Over time, plaque buildup can block the arteries and reduce the flow of blood to the heart, which is a process known as atherosclerosis. This can lead to chest pain, or angina, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and heart failure.

High cholesterol — more specifically, high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — is a major risk factor for heart disease. When we consume too much cholesterol from our diet, it can accumulate in the arteries.

In the new study, Dr. Sallam and colleagues discovered how the MeXis gene helps to remove excess cholesterol from the arteries, potentially opening the door to a new strategy for heart disease prevention.

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Boosting MeXis raised cholesterol removal

With their new study — which was conducted using mice — the researchers sought to learn more about the molecular events that play a role in atherosclerosis.

They identified MeXis as a key player; plaque accumulation in the blood vessels of rodents without the gene was almost double that of mice with normal levels of MeXis.

Upon further investigation, the team found that MeXis activates the expression of a protein called Abca1 through the production of IncRNAs. The role of Abca1 is to remove excess cholesterol from the blood vessels.

It was found that increasing MeXis levels in the rodents led to an increase in the removal of cholesterol from blood vessels, which makes MeXis a potential candidate for heart disease prevention and treatment.

What is more, the findings may open the door to other genes that play a role in heart health.

“What this study tells us is that lncRNAs are important for the inner workings of cells involved in the development of heart disease,” says senior study author Dr. Peter Tontonoz, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

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“Considering many genes like MeXis have completely unknown functions,” he explains, “our study suggests that further exploring how other long non-coding RNAs act will lead to exciting insights into both normal physiology and disease.”

In future research, the team plans to find out more about the mechanisms of MeXis, how its activity can be modified, and whether it could hold up as a target for heart disease prevention.

The idea that lncRNAs are directly involved in very common ailments such as plaque buildup within arteries offers new ways of thinking about how to treat and diagnose heart disease.”

Dr. Tamer Sallam

“There is likely a good reason why genes that make RNAs rather than proteins exist,” Dr. Sallam continues. “A key question for us moving forward is how they may be involved in health and disease.”

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Medical News Today: Blocking enzyme ‘dramatically reverses’ Alzheimer’s in mice

Recent research reveals that targeting an enzyme called BACE1 can “completely reverse” the buildup of beta-amyloid plaque in the brain, which is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. For now, the findings are limited to mice, but they provide hope that humans may one day benefit from the same treatment.
beta amyloid plaques
In Alzheimer’s, beta-amyloid plaques build on and around neurons. But new research suggests that such damage may be completely reversible.

The study was carried out by scientists from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute in Ohio.

The researchers were led by Riqiang Yan, of the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington.

As Yan and colleagues explain in their paper, the enzyme in question helps to produce beta-amyloid peptide. An excessive accumulation of this peptide eventually leads to the Alzheimer’s-related brain pathologies known as beta-amyloid plaques.

BACE1 does this by “cleaving,” or breaking down, a protein called amyloid precursor protein. But BACE1 also cleaves other proteins, thus regulating important processes in the brain. Therefore, inhibiting it may cause some impairments as a side effect.

In fact, a range of studies referenced by the authors have shown that knocking out the BACE1 gene in mice leads to defects in the development of the neurons’ axons, causing insufficient myelination — or the forming of the protective sheath around neurons — and even depression.

So, in the new study, the researchers wanted to reduce BACE1 more gently and gradually, in the hope that this would yield better results with fewer side effects. They genetically designed mice that would lose this enzyme bit by bit, as they aged.

The results of this laboratory experiment have now been published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

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Alzheimer’s could be ‘completely reversed’

The mice went on to develop perfectly normally into adulthood. The scientists then proceeded to breed them with other rodents that had Alzheimer’s-like symptoms, such as a buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain.

The subsequent offspring also started building up plaque in their brains from quite an early age. But as they got older and lost more and more of the BACE1 enzyme, their plaques started to gradually disappear.

In fact, by the time they were 10 months old, the mice had no detectable beta-amyloid plaques.

This was not the only sign of Alzheimer’s that the enzyme loss helped to reverse: the mice’s levels of beta-amyloid peptide also dropped, and microglia — brain cells that, when activated, had previously correlated with amyloid plaque density — were now deactivated.

Also, these neuronal changes were reflected in the mice’s memory and learning abilities, which also improved.

To our knowledge, this is the first observation of such a dramatic reversal of amyloid deposition in any study of Alzheimer’s disease mouse models […] Our study provides genetic evidence that pre-formed amyloid deposition can be completely reversed after sequential and increased deletion of BACE1 in the adult.”

Riqiang Yan

He adds, “Our data show that BACE1 inhibitors have the potential to treat Alzheimer’s disease patients without unwanted toxicity.”

However, the study also found that the functioning of the synapses — that is, the spaces between neurons that facilitate their communication — was only partially restored. This suggested to the researchers that some BACE1 may be needed for synaptic health.

“Future studies,” Yan says, “should develop strategies to minimize the synaptic impairments arising from significant inhibition of BACE1 to achieve maximal and optimal benefits for Alzheimer’s patients.”

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Medical News Today: Five health benefits of being single

Numerous health benefits have been linked with starting new relationships, living together, getting married, and having kids, but are there health gains for the almost half of the population who are single? We find out.
four women blowing confetti
Regardless of whether you are male or female or in your late teens or senior years, there are health benefits for those who stay single.

The relationships and friendships you make or break in life have a significant impact on your health.

Research has demonstrated that individuals in committed relationships are happier, and that marriage increases your chances of surviving heart attacks and colon cancer.

It also boosts well-being, while having children promotes life satisfaction.

The number of individuals in the United States that are single has grown considerably since the 1950s. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau states that in 2016, 110.6 million U.S. adults were single — which accounts for 45.2 percent of adults.

With many of us delaying settling down to pursue career goals, a high divorce rate of around 40–50 percent, solo parenting, and several people choosing to be single, the “single” relationship status is set to rise.

There is no doubt that coupling up is beneficial for physical and mental health, but do single people fare this well? Should you press the delete button on your online dating profiles for good?

Medical News Today have rounded up some of the ways that staying footloose and fancy-free can positively benefit your health.

1. Good for the figure

Body mass index (BMI) is a measurement that determines whether or not your weight is healthy by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared.

woman stepping onto some scales
Single people weigh significantly less than married people.

A BMI of 18.5–24.9 is considered a healthy weight status, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Having a BMI of 25.0–29.9 is defined as being overweight, and having a BMI of 30.0 or above is defined as being obese.

Research conducted by the University of Basel in Switzerland and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany found that although married couples tend to eat better than single people, they do less sport and weigh significantly more.

For average-height men and women, the study discovered a BMI difference between married and single people that equals about 2 kilograms. Given that a high BMI increases your risk for diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems, gallstones, and certain cancers, single people are certainly at an advantage when it comes to BMI.

Other research in men confirmed that marriage tips the scales by approximately 1.4 kilograms, and the days following early fatherhood adds to the problem.

For postmenopausal women aged 50–79 years, research indicated that those who remained single over the course of the study gained less weight, had a greater decrease in diastolic blood pressure, and drank less alcohol than their married counterparts.

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2. Enhances psychological growth

Research focused solely on single people is lacking. The majority of studies use single people as a comparison group in order to find out more about married individuals, or marriage in general.

cup and notebook on a table
Being single increases self-determination and psychological growth.

Bella DePaulo, from the University of California, Santa Barbara, conducted research to find out what studies of never married people revealed.

She presented her findings at the American Psychological Association’s 124th Annual Convention, held in Denver, CO.

And DePaulo revealed that studies comparing single individuals with married people showed that not only do those who remain single have an increased sense of self-determination, but they also experience continued growth and development as a person.

The analysis of a study concentrating on life-long single people reported that those who were the most self-sufficient had less chance of experiencing negative emotions. The opposite was true for married individuals, DePaulo noted.

Previous research also showed that, in some cases, areas of autonomy and personal development were enhanced in single people over those who are married.

3. Boosts productivity and creativity

According to several scientific papers, if you are happy being on your own and comfortable in your own skin, solitude can be positive thing,

happy man on the phone
Staying single could boost your productivity and creativity.

Solitude without loneliness could increase productivity, spark creativity, and has been shown to improve happiness and satisfaction across several aspects of life. It can also reduce stress.

Research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin has tied solitude to everything from a heightened sense of freedom to closer friendships.

Spending time alone gives you the time to rejuvenate and re-energize and the opportunity for deep personal reflection, to get to know yourself, and to build self-resilience without relying on others.

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4. Increases social connections

Single people are more sociable, better nurture their connections, and receive more support from the network of people closest to them compared with married couples.

group of friends in a bar
Single men and women are more socially connected with friends and family than their married counterparts.

Research published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships explored relationships between relatives, friends, and neighbors among adults in the U.S.

Their findings revealed that single people are more likely to keep in touch with and provide help to parents, siblings, and friends than married or divorced people.

In both men and women, being single increased social connections.

Having a tight-knit circle of friends and close family protects health and longevity. A meta-analysis of more than 3 million people revealed that social isolation can impact your health as much as obesity and even increase the risk of early mortality.

5. Improves your fitness

People who “settle down” into committed relationships or marriage also appear to have unhealthful habits of physical fitness, according to research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family.

Three people at the gym cycling
Single people exercise more than married couples.

Married people were revealed to spend less time taking part in physical activity than single adults in a national sample of more than 13,000 U.S. individuals.

Single males spent, on average, 8 hours and 3 minutes exercising over the course of 2 weeks, compared with just 4 hours and 47 minutes for married men.

Women in the single category worked out for 5 hours and 25 minutes, while married women exercised for 4 hours.

All adults are recommended to do at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of physical activity to achieve substantial health benefits, and yet, on average, the married individuals in the study did not reach those guidelines.

Getting regular physical activity can help to control weight and reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers, as well as boost mood and your chances of living longer.

So, if you find yourself without a little romance this Valentine’s Day, take some pleasure in knowing that you have all the above gains over anyone who is currently loved up.

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Medical News Today: Why does my stomach feel tight?

A feeling of tightness in a person’s stomach is usually the result of digestive or hormonal issues. The sensation often goes away on its own, but it can also signal an underlying health issue.

This article will look at potential causes of a tight stomach, including:

It will also discuss symptoms, treatments, and ways to prevent a tight stomach.

What is a tight stomach?

lady holding her stomach suffering from a possible tight stomach
A tight stomach may have many different causes, including constipation, IBS, and food poisoning.

A tight stomach can feel different for everyone. It may feel as if the abdominal muscles are contracting and creating pressure in the stomach.

The feeling can come from the abdominal muscles, the stomach wall lining, or the organs surrounding the stomach.

The tight sensation is often a temporary discomfort caused by diet or hormones. However, it can also be a symptom of an underlying condition.

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Causes and treatments

In most cases, a tight stomach is caused by physical factors, such as digestive issues or hormonal changes.

The feeling can also be caused by chronic stress. Stress reduction techniques, such as mindfulness, may be helpful in such cases.

Physical causes for a tight stomach include:


When the stool is not passed through the colon quickly enough, it can cause a tight feeling in the stomach. The normal range for bowel movements in adults is between 1 to 3 times per day and 2 to 3 times per week.

Other symptoms of constipation include:

  • fewer than 3 bowel movements a week
  • abdominal pain
  • abnormally firm, lumpy, or dry stools
  • difficulty emptying the bowels

Constipation is typically caused by a poor diet. It can be relieved by eating high-fiber foods and drinking plenty of fluids.


Indigestion occurs when stomach acid irritates the lining of the stomach or the food pipe.

Overeating, or eating too quickly, can lead to indigestion. Smoking, certain medications, stress, and alcohol can also trigger the condition.

Indigestion can cause a tight stomach, alongside:

  • heartburn
  • nausea
  • gas
  • abdominal bloating
  • a bad taste in the mouth

Indigestion often resolves without treatment, but home remedies can help, including:

  • avoiding caffeine and alcohol
  • avoiding rich, fatty, or spicy foods
  • cutting down on smoking
  • losing weight
  • propping the head and shoulders up when lying down

Food poisoning

girl sat over the toilet who may have a tight stomach
A tight feeling in the stomach may be caused by food poisoning.

Food poisoning occurs after eating contaminated foods. It can cause a tight feeling in the stomach, alongside other symptoms, such as:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • abdominal pain or cramps
  • loss of appetite
  • fever
  • muscle aches

In most cases, food poisoning can be managed at home by resting, eating dry, bland food, and staying hydrated. If food poisoning is severe, a person should consult a doctor.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic condition affecting the digestive system. Alongside a tight stomach, IBS symptoms can include:

  • abdominal pain
  • constipation
  • abdominal bloating
  • gas
  • diarrhea

IBS is usually managed with medication and lifestyle changes, including dietary adjustments.

Hiatal hernia

A hiatal or hiatus hernia occurs when part of the stomach pushes into the chest. Tightness in the upper portion of the stomach can occur, along with other symptoms, including:

A hiatal hernia does not usually require treatment. It can be addressed with dietary changes and medications, such as antacids. In severe cases, surgery may be an option.


Gastritis is a common condition that occurs when there is an inflammation of the stomach lining. This can cause tightness in the upper region of the stomach.

Other symptoms of gastritis include:

  • indigestion
  • nausea and vomiting
  • feeling unusually full after food
  • abdominal pain

Gastritis is treated with medications, including antacids, histamine blockers, and proton-pump inhibitors.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome often occurs within 2 weeks of a person’s menstrual period. PMS can cause a tight stomach and other symptoms, such as:

  • abdominal pain
  • abdominal bloating
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • muscle aches
  • painful breasts

Symptoms of PMS can be managed by:

  • eating small, regular meals to reduce bloating
  • avoiding salt to limit bloating
  • eating fruits, vegetables, and fiber-rich foods
  • exercising
  • taking painkillers


A person may feel tightness in their stomach in the early stages of pregnancy. This is caused by the womb or uterus stretching.

A woman should seek medical help if severe pain also occurs, particularly in the first 20 weeks, as this can be a sign of miscarriage.

In the second or third trimester, stomach tightening can be caused by labor contractions or Braxton-Hicks contractions. Both types of contractions are more common in the third trimester, however.

Braxton-Hicks contractions can cause discomfort, but they will pass. If contractions do not pass and are becoming more persistent, this may be a sign that labor is beginning.

Changing sitting or lying positions or doing gentle activities, such as stretching or walking, can relieve stomach tightness during pregnancy.


Man relaxing at work who is trying to minimize stress
Minimizing stress may be recommended to help reduce the chance of developing a tight stomach.

The best methods for preventing a tight stomach will vary depending on the cause.

In some cases, it may not be possible to prevent a tight stomach, such as during pregnancy or food poisoning.

In other cases, the chances of developing the symptoms of a tight stomach can be reduced through:

  • eating a healthful, balanced diet
  • staying hydrated
  • exercising regularly
  • minimizing stress

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When to see a doctor

In most cases, a tight stomach does not require medical attention. However, it can also be an early sign of a more serious condition.

If the feeling causes significant discomfort and persists for more than a few days, an individual should seek medical advice to determine the cause, and find out how to manage the feeling.

Immediate medical attention should be sought if the following symptoms occur alongside stomach tightness:

  • bloody stools
  • severe nausea and vomiting
  • weight loss
  • severe abdominal pain
  • difficulty breathing


There are many reasons why a person’s stomach might feel tight. It is usually related to digestive or hormonal factors. A tight stomach may be accompanied by other symptoms that can be mild or severe, depending on the cause.

In most cases, a tight stomach is not a cause for concern. However, if symptoms persist for longer than a few days, or are severe, then medical attention may be required.

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Medical News Today: What is anasarca?

Anasarca is general swelling of the whole body that can occur when the tissues of the body retain too much fluid. The condition is also known as extreme generalized edema.

Accumulation of fluid may occur due to any illnesses and conditions that change the proteins of the body, affect the balance of fluids, or create abnormalities in the blood vessels or lymphatic system.

Often, if anasarca is present, it is a sign of severe organ damage or illness.

Definition of anasarca

Doctor looking at medical clipboard to diagnose anasarca
Anasarca is a symptom of a condition, and may be diagnosed with a physical assessment.

It is helpful to understand that anasarca is not a disease itself. Instead, it is a symptom or result of a medical condition.

Anasarca is different than typical edema. Almost everyone experiences swelling at some time, which can be due to a variety of causes, such as an injury, dehydration, or a minor side effect of medication.

In many instances, swelling or edema may only affect a specific part of the body, such as the feet, hands, or legs.

But with anasarca, the swelling involves the whole body and is considered severe. For example, the swelling is often so severe it makes movement difficult.

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Treatment of anasarca

It is essential to find out what is causing anasarca to treat it accurately. For example, if kidney disease is causing anasarca, treatment is needed to assist kidney function.

Also, doctors often prescribe medications to treat the severe swelling.


Doctors often prescribe drugs called diuretics. Diuretics work by helping the kidneys release more salt into the urine, which causes the release of more fluid through urination.

The two main types of diuretics prescribed for anasarca include potassium-sparing and loop diuretics. Diuretics are either taken by mouth or given through an intravenous line (IV). The choice of diuretic, the dose, and the route of administration vary according to the severity of the swelling and the underlying condition that is causing anasarca.


Albumin is a protein made by the body that is necessary for a variety of important functions, including balancing fluid. In cases of poor nutrition and certain serious medical conditions, the level of albumin can become too low. When this occurs fluid from the bloodstream is pushed out into the tissues causing swelling. In some cases, replacing albumin can help correct this problem.


A doctor may recommend additional home treatments to speed recovery. Monitoring fluid and salt intake is important to prevent any swelling from getting worse. Salt can increase fluid retention, which is why people who have severe edema need to reduce their salt intake.

What are the causes?

intravenous fluids applied through drip attached to machinery equipment.
When intravenous fluids are administered excessively, it may increase the risk of anasarca.

Anasarca can develop due to a variety of causes. Some conditions that may lead to anasarca are widespread, while others are considered rare.

The most common causes of anasarca include:

  • Excess administration of intravenous fluids: Intravenous fluids are often administered in the hospital to treat several conditions, such as shock, dehydration, and infection. But if the body cannot adapt to the fluids given, it can lead to severe edema
  • Kidney disease: When kidney function is impaired, fluid is not removed from the body adequately, which can cause anasarca.
  • Cirrhosis: Cirrhosis can occur due to liver failure. Liver disease can cause changes in the hormones that affect fluid regulation in the body. When the liver does not work as efficiently as it should, it can cause fluid to leak into the tissues.
  • Malnutrition: Malnutrition, specifically protein deficiency in the diet, can cause fluid to accumulate in the tissues. In extreme cases, it can lead to anasarca.
  • Poor heart function: When the muscle of the heart does not work correctly, it affects how well the heart pumps blood throughout the body. If the heart is not pumping efficiently, it can cause fluid to build up in the tissues.
  • Allergic reaction: Swelling of the body can occur due to an allergic reaction. In severe reactions, anasarca can develop.

Less common causes include:

Capillary leak syndrome

Capillary leak syndrome occurs when protein and fluid leak out of the blood vessels into the tissues of the body. The cause is not well understood, but it is believed to be due to inflammation and blood vessel injury. It has been shown to occur in relation to some medications and toxins.

According to one case study, capillary leak syndrome can develop as a result of certain cancer medications, such as gemcitabine. Another case was reported following a snakebite.

A side effect of medication

Various medications can lead to anasarca. The most common types of medication that might cause swelling include steroids and blood pressure drugs, such as amlodipine. Discontinuing the medication will often resolve symptoms of anasarca as indicated in this case report.

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Anasarca symptoms

Anasarca in leg and foot causing swelling.
Anasarca causes obvious swelling of the body. In some cases, when the skin is pressed an indentation will remain after pressure is released.

The main symptom of anasarca is swelling of the body. The swelling is obvious, and the skin may look shiny and stretched. Sometimes, swelling is so extreme that a person has difficulty moving.

Swelling can become so severe that fluid will leak out directly from the skin. This is known as weeping edema.

Pitting edema may also develop. Pitting edema occurs when pressure is applied to the swollen skin, and a dimple or indentation remains after the pressure is released.

The swelling often causes additional symptoms including:

  • trouble walking if the legs are swollen
  • difficulty lifting arms
  • increased heart rate
  • aching joints
  • difficulty breathing

A life-threatening complication of anasarca can also develop if fluid accumulates in the lungs. Fluid in the lungs is called pulmonary edema, and it can quickly become an emergency. Signs of pulmonary edema include chest pain, shortness of breath, and coughing.

How is anasarca diagnosed?

A doctor can usually make a diagnosis of anasarca after a physical exam; and if the edema is severe, a doctor can often recognize it instantly. However, determining the underlying cause of anasarca requires further tests.

A blood test is often the first step in making a diagnosis of anasarca. Blood is tested to check the function of organs including the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.

A doctor will also take a medical history to help determine whether any underlying medical conditions are causing the fluid retention. A doctor may also recommend other diagnostic tests, such as an echocardiogram, a chest X-ray, and a stress test to evaluate heart and lung function.

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Anasarca often occurs due to severe organ damage or illness. It may interfere with a person’s ability to perform everyday activities and can greatly decrease their quality of life. But with proper treatment, swelling can often be reduced. Although medication can help treat the condition, anasarca might return if the underlying cause cannot be corrected.

The outlook for people with anasarca often depends on identifying the cause. In many instances, by the time anasarca has developed, the underlying condition has progressed to a critical state.

Treating problems with the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver early on is the best chance of preventing and controlling anasarca in many cases.

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Medical News Today: Going vegan could prevent type 2 diabetes

Excess weight is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Recent research, however, suggests one strategy that could help to prevent the condition in people who are overweight, and it involves giving up meat and dairy.
a quinoa and mango salad
Researchers say that a vegan diet could prevent diabetes in people who are overweight.

Researchers found that overweight people who switched to a vegan diet for 16 weeks showed improvements in insulin sensitivity plus the functioning of beta cells compared with a control group.

Beta cells reside in the pancreas and produce and release insulin.

The vegan diet also led to improvements in blood sugar levels, both during fasting and during meals.

Lead study author Dr. Hana Kahleova, of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, D.C., says that the findings have “important implications for diabetes prevention.”

Dr. Kahleova and colleagues recently reported their results in the journal Nutrients.

Type 2 diabetes arises when the body is no longer able to respond to insulin effectively — which is a condition known as insulin resistance — or the pancreatic beta cells do not produce enough insulin. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.

As a result of this, blood sugar levels can become too high. This can lead to serious complications, including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetic eye disease, and nerve damage.

It is estimated that more than 30 million people in the United States are living with diabetes, and type 2 diabetes accounts for around 90–95 percent of all cases.

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Studying the effects of a vegan diet

Being overweight is one of the leading risk factors for type 2 diabetes. In fact, around 80 percent of people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.

Making lifestyle changes — such as adopting a healthful diet and increasing physical activity — can help to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. The new study from Dr. Kahleova and her team provides further evidence of this, after identifying a vegan diet as a possible candidate for the prevention of type 2 diabetes in people who are overweight.

To reach their findings, the researchers enrolled 75 men and women between the ages of 25 and 75 years. All participants had a body mass index (BMI) of between 28 and 40, making them overweight or obese, but they had no history of diabetes.

For a total of 16 weeks, subjects were randomized on a 1:1 ratio to two different groups. One group followed a low-fat vegan diet, which consisted of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains. This diet had no calorie restriction. Participants in the other group (the controls) were asked to make no changes to their diet.

The team notes that neither group made any changes to their physical activity, nor did they change their use of medications.

Beta cell function, insulin sensitivity, blood glucose levels, and the BMI of each subject were assessed at study baseline and at the end of the 16 weeks.

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‘Food really is medicine’

The study results revealed that the participants who followed the low-fat vegan diet experienced a significant reduction in BMI, compared with the control group.

What is more, the vegan group experienced increases in insulin secretion after eating, as well as improvements in insulin sensitivity.

Subjects who adhered to the vegan diet also experienced reductions in blood sugar levels during meals and while fasting.

Based on these results, the team suggests that adopting a vegan diet could be an effective way to prevent type 2 diabetes.

“If nothing changes, our next generation — the first expected to live shorter lives than their parents — is in trouble. A third of young Americans are projected to develop diabetes in their lifetimes,” says Dr. Kahleova.

Fortunately, this study adds to the growing evidence that food really is medicine and that eating a healthful plant-based diet can go a long way in preventing diabetes.”

Dr. Hana Kahleova

The researchers note some important limitations to their study. For example, they point out that the study subjects were “generally health-conscious individuals” who were willing to make significant dietary changes.

“In this regard, they may not be representative of the general population,” say the authors, “but may be representative of a clinical population seeking help for weight problems.”

Still, the results certainly warrant further investigation.

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Medical News Today: Should all women get screened for ovarian cancer?

A recent report from the United States Preventive Services Task Force reveals the pros and cons of ovarian cancer screening for women at an average risk of developing the condition.
woman holding drawing of her ovaries
Most women should not get screened for ovarian cancer unless they are in a high-risk category, suggests a new review.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) examined a wide range of previous studies in an effort to establish if screening for ovarian cancer does reduce mortality risk for women who are not at hereditary risk of the condition.

The results of their efforts were published in the journal JAMA, and the first author of the new paper is Jillian T. Henderson, Ph.D., of the Center for Health Research at the Kaiser Permanente Northwest in Portland, OR.

As Henderson and her team point out, ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer mortality among U.S. women. In fact, a recent estimate projected a total of 14,080 deaths from ovarian cancer in 2017.

Over 60 percent of ovarian cancer cases are diagnosed after the cancer has spread, the authors write. However, screening trials did not prove to affect mortality rates in the past.

In fact, studies have attested to the harms of such screenings, including false-positive results that led to surgery and ensuing complications.

So, the USPSTF set out to “systematically review evidence on benefits and harms of ovarian cancer screening among average-risk women.” Their findings update their 2012 guidelines.

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Screening may do more harm than good

Henderson and her colleagues examined “a total of 1,381 titles and abstracts and 74 articles” from medical databases such as Medline and Cochrane.

The studies considered were published over a period of 14 years, between 2003 and 2017, and most of them were randomized clinical trials of screening versus no screening in asymptomatic women aged 45 and above. This category is seen as “average-risk.”

Among the outcomes measured were ovarian cancer-related mortality, false-positives, surgery and surgical complications, and psychological effects of screening and their results.

After carrying out their extensive analysis, the team concluded that “ovarian cancer mortality did not significantly differ between screened women and those with no screening or in usual care.”

However, “Screening harms included surgery (with major surgical complications) in women found to not have cancer,” the authors add.

Given these new findings, the USPSTF conclude with “moderate certainty” that there are more disadvantages and potential harms to ovarian cancer screening than there are benefits.

Therefore, they do not advise average-risk women to undergo such a procedure.

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Women should advocate for themselves

Dr. Stephanie V. Blank — a professor of gynecologic oncology in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, NY — comments on the significance of these recommendations.

She says, “I agree that women who are not at increased genetic risk for ovarian cancer should not be offered ovarian cancer screening because we do not have an effective screening test.”

“In the general population,” Dr. Blank continues, “ovarian [cancer] is a relatively rare disease and the specificity of our current tests is not acceptable — false positives in ovarian cancer screening can result in unindicated surgeries.”

But she warns, “A woman who believes she is at increased genetic risk for cancer should discuss this with her doctor and together they can decide whether genetic testing and/or screening is appropriate.”

“A woman,” Dr. Blank continues, “who really wants ovarian cancer screening and does not have […] any symptoms would have to convince her doctor to order the tests. […]”

[However, i]f a woman has symptoms of ovarian cancer (e.g., bloating, trouble eating, pelvic or abdominal pain, urinary frequency) she should demand this testing!”

Dr. Stephanie V. Blank

“Because screening for ovarian cancer is not effective it is extremely important that women be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer and advocate for themselves,” she concludes.

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