Medical News Today: What and when can a fetus hear?

People often wonder if a fetus can hear while in the womb. Many expectant parents will speak to or play music for a developing fetus.

Evidence suggests that the auditory system starts forming at the 18th week of pregnancy and continues to develop until the baby is between 5 and 6 months of age.

Everything that the fetus hears will contribute to this process. In this article, we look at what a fetus can hear at different stages of development.

Fetal hearing at each stage of development

Pregnant woman putting headphones on baby bump for developing fetus to hear
A fetus will develop their ability to hear while in the womb.

Despite being close to a lentil in size, an embryo will begin to develop ears during the 2nd month of pregnancy. The ears start as tiny folds of skin on the sides of the head. After the 8th week, the embryo becomes a fetus.

According to Mayo Clinic, the ears begin to stick out from the head at 18 weeks, and the fetus may become able to hear. At this stage, the brain starts to designate the areas that will govern smell, taste, vision, touch, and sound.

By 22 to 24 weeks, the fetus will be about the size of a mango and will start to hear low-frequency noises from outside of the womb.

As the fetus grows and their sense of hearing develops, they will be able to distinguish an increasing number of different sounds.

Research suggests that the most vital time for the development of hearing is between 25 weeks of pregnancy and 5 to 6 months of age.

By the time babies reach the age of 6 months, they will be able to turn their eyes or head toward the source of a sound.

Newborns in the United States usually receive a hearing test before leaving the hospital or within 3 weeks of birth.

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Can they differentiate between different voices?

At first, a fetus cannot distinguish between different voices.

A fetus begins responding to sound at between 22 and 24 weeks but can only hear low frequencies, such as a dog barking or a lawn mower.

As the auditory system and the brain continue to develop, this range increases. By late pregnancy, the fetus can hear voices and distinguish between them.

Are loud noises bad for the fetus?

Many people wonder whether it is safe to attend a loud concert or work in a noisy job while pregnant. While occasionally hearing loud sounds is unlikely to be harmful, research has found that prolonged exposure to loud noises may contribute to hearing loss in the baby.

Examples of noisy jobs include those that involve people working in close proximity to:

  • loud music
  • crowds
  • sirens
  • trucks
  • airplanes
  • machinery
  • guns

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, researchers are unsure of what noise levels are safe for a developing fetus.

However, taking into consideration how sound travels through the body, they recommend that pregnant women avoid very loud situations — anything louder than 115 decibels, which is about as loud as a chain saw — as much as possible.

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Can the fetus hear music?

Man playing acoustic guitar
A fetus can benefit from hearing speech and music.

The noises that a fetus hears from around week 23 of pregnancy are vital to their future hearing.

Specific parts of the auditory system need these noises to develop properly. As such, scientists recommend exposing a fetus to both speech and music.

Many people believe that playing classical music to a growing fetus will help brain development and boost IQ, but there is little evidence to support this claim.

What does it sound like in the womb?

It is noisy in the womb. As the fetus’s auditory system develops, it will encounter all types of sound from within the woman’s body. These include the heartbeat, as well as the noises of the blood flow and digestive system.

Around the 23rd week of pregnancy, the fetus will also be able to hear noises from outside of the womb. These include speech and music. As the fetus develops, all of the sounds will become louder and more distinguishable.

Amniotic fluid surrounds the growing baby in the womb, and the woman’s body tissues encase them, so noises from outside the body will sound muffled.

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The ears of a fetus start to develop relatively early in pregnancy. However, hearing does not develop until the auditory system, the brain, and certain pathways start to form, which usually occurs between weeks 22 and 24.

The auditory system requires stimulation through speech, music, and other sounds to grow properly. As it does, the fetus will be able to hear more and more.

A baby’s hearing continues to develop after birth, until around 5 or 6 months of age.

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Medical News Today: How to spot bipolar symptoms in yourself

Bipolar disorder can cause a person’s moods to fluctuate between extreme highs and lows, sometimes to such an extent that they struggle to carry out everyday tasks. A person who suspects that they have bipolar disorder should talk to their doctor.

Bipolar disorder interferes with a person’s moods and activity level. Doctors diagnose people of all ages with bipolar disorder.

However, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the average age of a person developing bipolar disorder is 25.

There are many treatments available to help people with bipolar manage their symptoms.

Signs and symptoms

Older women with insomnia due to bipolar disorder lies awake in bed next to alarm clock
The symptoms of bipolar disorder can include disruption to sleep patterns, including insomnia.

People with bipolar disorder can experience extreme mood swings and shifts in energy levels.

These symptoms may disrupt their life.

There are several different types of bipolar disorder.

The symptoms a person experiences will vary depending on the type of bipolar disorder they have and whether they are having a manic or depressive episode.

People with bipolar I disorder need only have a manic episode. They may experience a major depressive episode, but it is not necessary for the bipolar I diagnosis.

Symptoms of a manic episode include:

  • feelings of euphoria, or being very “up”
  • higher energy and activity levels
  • jumpiness
  • talking very fast
  • agitation and irritability
  • insomnia
  • racing thoughts
  • engaging in reckless behavior, such as excessive money spending or dangerous driving

Symptoms of a major depressive episode include:

  • feeling very sad, hopeless, or empty
  • lower energy and activity levels
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sleeping too much or too little
  • inability to enjoy things that normally bring pleasure
  • feeling very tired or slow
  • suicidal thoughts

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Specific symptoms for each bipolar type

The symptoms and their severity will depend on which type of bipolar disorder a person has.

The types of bipolar disorder are:

  • bipolar I
  • bipolar II
  • cyclothymia
  • other specified and unspecified bipolar disorders

Bipolar I

Symptoms of bipolar I disorder may include severe manic episodes that last at least a week. A person with bipolar I may have manic episodes severe enough to require hospitalization, in which case the episode may last for any duration.

Following the manic episodes, a person with bipolar I may experience a return to their baseline mood, or they can experience a major depressive episode. However, this is not necessary for diagnosis.

Bipolar II

Unlike those with bipolar I, people with bipolar II experience a major depressive episode either preceding or following a hypomanic episode, which includes the symptoms of mania but is not as severe as a full manic episode.

In bipolar II, the depressive episodes may be severe and require treatment in the hospital.


People with cyclothymia experience many periods of hypomanic symptoms, as well as multiple periods of depressive symptoms.

While those with cyclothymia may experience both hypomanic and depressive symptoms, they will not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic or depressive episode.

For a doctor to diagnose a person with cyclothymia, the person must experience symptoms for at least 2 years, or 1 year in children and adolescents.

Unspecified or other specified bipolar and related disorders

In some cases, a person may experience symptoms of bipolar disorder that do not fit into the other three types.

In such cases, they may receive a diagnosis that doctors call unspecified bipolar and related disorders or other specified bipolar and related disorders. This will depend on the type, duration, and severity of their symptoms.

When to see a doctor

Man with bipolar and woman in kitchen not talking to each other.
Having bipolar disorder can sometimes affect a person’s relationships.

People with bipolar disorder may not realize that their moods and behavior are disrupting their lives and the lives of their loved ones.

Because of this, people who have bipolar disorder often do not get the medical attention and treatment they require. This is especially true during their euphoric manic periods.

People with bipolar disorder are more likely to seek help when they experience a depressive episode.

Because of this, the doctor may incorrectly diagnose the person with depression instead.

Once a doctor diagnoses someone with bipolar disorder, they should see their doctor often to evaluate how well any prescription medications are working. Also, a doctor may recommend that a person with bipolar talk regularly with a mental health professional.

When to seek urgent care

Sometimes, a person with a bipolar disorder diagnosis may need emergency medical attention.

People with bipolar disorder should go to the emergency room or call 911 if they are:

  • having suicidal thoughts
  • having thoughts of self-harm
  • a danger to themselves or others

Also, in some cases, a person who has bipolar disorder may not realize that emergency help is necessary. When this is the case, a friend or relative may need to intervene and get the person the help they need.

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Treatment and prevention

A person cannot prevent themselves from developing bipolar disorder, but there are treatments that can help them manage the symptoms. Treatment may also reduce the severity and frequency of both manic and depressive episodes.

Doctors normally recommend medication, or a combination of medications, and talk therapy for a person with bipolar disorder.

Medication for bipolar disorder may include:

  • mood stabilizers
  • anticonvulsants
  • antipsychotics
  • antidepressants
  • anti-anxiety medication
  • sleep medications

It will probably take some time for a doctor and a person with bipolar disorder to find the best combination of medication. In some cases, medication and talk therapy may not be able to control a person’s bipolar disorder.

In such cases, a doctor may recommend electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). During ECT, a specialist will apply a brief electrical current to the person’s scalp while they are under anesthesia.

This current induces a seizure. People generally need to repeat the procedure several times for full effect. The mechanism by which this procedure works remains the subject of debate.

Once a person finds a treatment that works for them, it is crucial that they continue it. If the treatment includes medication, the person should not stop taking it or skip doses, even if they are feeling better. Bipolar disorder is a recurring and lifelong condition, and skipping medication may trigger an episode.

Lifestyle changes

Young man with bipolar stands in grocery store with basket full of vegetables.
Eating healthful foods and avoiding alcohol can help prevent episodes of bipolar disorder.

A person with bipolar disorder can also help prevent or lessen episodes by making lifestyle changes, including:

  • keeping a mood chart or journal
  • avoiding alcohol and illegal drugs
  • finding supportive people, either through friends and family or support groups
  • forming and nurturing healthy relationships
  • getting enough sleep
  • following a healthful diet and exercise routine
  • speaking to a doctor before taking any other medications
  • practicing stress management techniques, such as meditation

Outlook and takeaway

People with any type of bipolar disorder may find it hard to deal with and manage the condition.

There are many treatment options available, but it is a lifelong condition.

People with bipolar disorder must continue with their treatment to help manage their symptoms. Episodes of mania and depression tend to recur even with treatment, but the frequency and severity may lessen.

It is crucial for a person with bipolar disorder to work with their doctor to control their symptoms through medications and therapy. A person who has bipolar disorder may need emergency medical attention if they have suicidal thoughts or pose a danger to themselves or others.

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Medical News Today: What are the stages of asthma?

Doctors classify asthma into four main stages. How do the symptoms and treatments for each stage differ?

Asthma is a common, long-term condition that affects a person’s airways. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 8.1 percent of adults and 8.4 percent of children in the United States have asthma.

This article explores the symptoms and treatments at each asthma stage.

What are the stages of asthma?

woman sitting on stairs holding inhaler
Breathing difficulties are a common symptom of asthma.

Asthma can be either intermittent or persistent. When symptoms arise occasionally, a person has intermittent asthma. Symptoms of persistent asthma occur more often.

The four main asthma stages are:

  • intermittent
  • mild persistent
  • moderate persistent
  • severe persistent

These classifications are for people with asthma who do not take long-term controller medication.

The symptoms of asthma are the same at every stage, but their frequency and severity differ.

The main symptoms of asthma include:

  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • tightening of the chest
  • breathing difficulties

We explore each asthma stage in detail below.

1. Intermittent asthma

This is the least severe type. Doctors sometimes call it mild intermittent asthma.

For a person with intermittent asthma:

  • symptom frequency: Symptoms may occur about 2 days a week or less often.
  • nighttime awakenings: Symptoms may wake a person two or fewer times each month.
  • severity: Symptoms will not interfere with regular activities.
  • lung capacity: The result of a forced expiratory volume (FEV) lung capacity test is usually 80 percent or more of normal values.
  • inhaler use: A person will need to use a short-acting beta agonist (SABA) inhaler to control symptoms on 2 or fewer days each week.

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2. Mild persistent asthma

This is the least severe form of persistent asthma.

For a person with mild persistent asthma:

  • symptom frequency: Symptoms will occur more often than twice a week but not every day.
  • nighttime awakenings: Symptoms tend to wake a person three or four times a month.
  • severity: Symptoms may have a minor impact on regular activities.
  • lung capacity: The result of a FEV lung capacity test is often 80 percent or more of normal values.
  • inhaler use: A person will need to use a SABA inhaler to control symptoms more often than twice a week but not daily.

3. Moderate persistent asthma

This is the second most severe form of asthma.

For a person with moderate persistent asthma:

  • symptom frequency: Symptoms will occur on a daily basis.
  • nighttime awakenings: Symptoms will wake a person more often than once a week but not every night.
  • severity: Symptoms will limit regular activities somewhat.
  • lung capacity: The result of a FEV lung capacity test tends to be 60–80 percent of normal values.
  • inhaler use: A person will need to use a SABA inhaler on a daily basis.

4. Severe persistent asthma

woman holding chest and taking inhaler from her bag
A person will need to use an inhaler several times a day if they have severe persistent asthma.

Severe persistent asthma is the most serious form. For a person with this type of asthma:

  • symptom frequency: Symptoms will arise throughout the day.
  • nighttime awakenings: A person will likely be woken by symptoms every night.
  • severity: Symptoms will significantly limit regular activities.
  • lung capacity: The result of a forced vital capacity lung function test tends to be less than 60 percent of normal values.
  • inhaler use: A person will need to use a SABA inhaler to control symptoms several times a day.

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Treatment at each asthma stage

The U.S. National Asthma Education and Prevention Program recommend a stepwise treatment plan for asthma. This involves stepping up treatments, depending on how severe a person’s asthma is.

According to guidance published in American Family Physician, inhaled corticosteroids (ICSs) are the most effective single therapy for asthma.

If this medication is not completely effective, a doctor may add other agents to the corticosteroids.

Each treatment step aligns with a different asthma type. For the most severe types of asthma, there are several treatment steps.

Intermittent asthma: Step 1

Intermittent asthma treatment focuses on using a SABA inhaler to relieve symptoms whenever needed.

The doctor does not usually prescribe a controller medication at this stage.

Mild persistent asthma: Step 2

People can treat mild asthma that persists over long periods with long-term control medications. These can reduce symptoms when used on a daily basis.

Doctors prefer to prescribe a low-dose ICS as a controller medication for mild persistent asthma.

In addition, a person can use a SABA inhaler when needed to relieve symptoms.

Moderate persistent asthma: Step 3

Doctors also use long-term daily medication to treat moderate asthma that persists over long periods. These medications are often different from those that treat milder forms of asthma.

For moderate persistent asthma, doctors prefer to use either:

  • a combination of a low-dose ICS and a long-acting beta agonist (LABA)
  • a medium-dose ICS

Alternative therapies include a low-dose ICS along with an LTRA or, less commonly, theophylline.

In addition, a person can use a SABA inhaler when needed to relieve symptoms.

Moderate to severe persistent asthma: Step 4

doctor and male patient with inhaler on table
People with moderate to severe persistent asthma will need to use several medications.

As symptoms of moderate persistent asthma become more severe, the preferred controller medications change.

Options for controller medications for moderate to severe persistent asthma include:

  • a medium-dose ICS plus a LABA, which is the preferred method
  • a medium-dose ICS plus an LTRA
  • a medium-dose ICS plus theophylline, which is a less common, less effective choice

People can also use a SABA inhaler when needed to relieve symptoms.

Severe persistent asthma: Step 5

If step 4 medications do not reduce the symptoms of severe persistent asthma, the doctor may prefer to combine a high-dose ICS and a LABA.

They may also consider omalizumab (Xolair) for people with allergies.

Severe persistent asthma: Step 6

If symptoms of severe persistent asthma have not responded to the previous treatments, the doctor may prescribe a high-dose ICS alongside both a LABA and an oral corticosteroid.

They may also consider omalizumab for people with allergies.


Asthma is a long-term condition that affects the airways. People can often manage symptoms well with the right treatments.

Doctors classify four main stages of asthma, and each has its own treatment options. These change as symptoms increase in severity. A good doctor will work with a person to find a treatment plan that manages their symptoms effectively.

Long-term asthma management also involves avoiding triggers and reducing exposure to allergens. Stress management techniques and regular exercise to strengthen the lungs can also help.

Smoking is a major asthma trigger, and quitting will improve a person’s symptoms. The doctor can provide support to anyone who wants to make this change.

Making lifestyle modifications and following a treatment plan are the best ways that a person with asthma can improve their quality of life.

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Medical News Today: Diet drinks linked to a higher risk of stroke after the menopause

Fresh research offers further information on the potential for diet drinks — that is, beverages sweetened with artificial sugar substitutes — to harm cardiovascular health.
senior woman drinking coke
Artificially sweetened soft drinks may raise the risk of heart disease and death in postmenopausal women.

A study that followed tens of thousands of postmenopausal women for more than 10 years has linked a higher consumption of diet drinks to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, and death.

The link between diet drinks and stroke was strongest for strokes that arise from blocked arteries, and from smaller blood vessels in particular.

The journal Stroke has now published a paper about the analysis. The lead author is Dr. Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani, an associate professor of clinical epidemiology and population health in the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY.

Dr. Mossavar-Rahmani and her team point out that the findings do not prove that diet drinks harm the heart and circulation system. That is because the study was an observational one, and the figures on diet drink consumption came from self-reports.

However, Rachel K. Johnson — who chaired the panel that wrote the science advisory from the American Heart Association (AHA) about diet drinks and heart health — comments, “This study adds to the evidence that limiting use of diet beverages is the most prudent thing to do for your health.”

Experts commenting in an editorial that accompanies the new study paper also suggest that until there is sufficient evidence regarding who might benefit from consuming diet drinks, the emphasis should be on drinking water as the most healthful no-calorie drink.

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Diet drinks and cardiovascular risks

The data for this study came from a racially diverse group of 81,714 postmenopausal women in the Women’s Health Initiative Observational Study.

The women were all aged 50–79 years when they enrolled during 1993–1998. The study then tracked their health with regular evaluations for an average of 11.9 years afterward.

At the 3-year evaluation point, the women answered some questions regarding how often they had consumed diet drinks in the previous 3 months.

The researchers defined diet drinks as any low-calorie colas, soda, and fruit drinks sweetened with artificial sugar substitutes.

They did not ask the women to specify the which artificial sweeteners the drinks contained.

When they analyzed the data, they adjusted the results to eliminate the effect of other factors that influence stroke risk, such as age, smoking, and high blood pressure.

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The researchers found that compared with consuming fewer than one diet drink per week or none at all, consuming two or more per day was associated with:

    • a 23 percent raised risk of stroke
    • a 31 percent higher risk of a stroke that results from a clot
    • a 29 percent higher risk of heart disease, as in a fatal or nonfatal heart attack
    • a 16 percent raised risk of death from any cause

    They also revealed that a high intake of diet drinks among postmenopausal women with no history of heart disease or diabetes was linked to a more than twofold raised risk of strokes arising from blockages in small arteries in the brain.

    Postmenopausal women with obesity who drank two or more diet drinks each day also had twice the risk of stroke than those who drank fewer than one per week.

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    ‘Limit prolonged use of diet drinks’

    Because they confined the study to postmenopausal women, the researchers cannot say whether the same would be true for men, or for women before the menopause. It is now up to further studies to determine this.

    Also, because the data did not specify which artificial sweeteners the women had consumed, Dr. Mossavar-Rahmani says that the scientists could not distinguish the potentially harmful from the potentially harmless.

    Our research and other observational studies have shown that artificially sweetened beverages may not be harmless and high consumption is associated with a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.”

    Dr. Yasmin Mossavar-Rahmani

    While the AHA advise that people drink water as their preferred no-calorie drink, they acknowledge that diet drinks might help them move away from sugar-sweetened beverages.

    However, Dr. Johnson cautions, “Since long-term clinical trial data are not available on the effects of low-calorie sweetened drinks and cardiovascular health, given their lack of nutritional value, it may be prudent to limit their prolonged use.”

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Medical News Today: Study finds new cognitive decline mechanism in Alzheimer’s

People with Alzheimer’s disease experience poor blood flow to the brain, which affects cognitive function. A new study conducted in a mouse model has finally uncovered the reason behind this reduced blood flow.
elderly woman
Reduced blood flow to the brain contributes to Alzheimer’s, but what mechanism leads to this vascular problem in the first place?

For a while now, researchers have been aware that Alzheimer’s disease goes hand in hand with vascular dysfunction, and reduced blood flow to the brain, in particular.

However, it is only recently that investigators have begun to focus their efforts on understanding just how and why poor vascular health can contribute to cognitive decline in this type of dementia.

A study published last month in Alzheimer’s and Dementia, the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, calls vascular dysfunction “the disregarded partner of Alzheimer’s disease.” It argues that researchers must first fully understand all the factors involved in the pathology of this type of dementia before they can develop a pluripotent treatment for it.

“Individualized, targeted therapies for [Alzheimer’s disease] patients will be successful when the complexity of [this condition’s] pathophysiology is fully appreciated,” the study authors write.

Now, in a study in mice, a team of investigators from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY has identified a mechanism — tied to poor blood flow to the brain — that directly contributes to cognitive decline.

The study paper detailing the researchers’ findings appears in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

In its introduction, the authors explain that “[v]ascular dysfunction is implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease,” and that “[b]rain blood flow is also severely compromised; cortical cerebral blood flow reductions of [approximately] 25 percent are evident early in disease development in both patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and in mouse models.”

“People probably adapt to the decreased blood flow, so that they don’t feel dizzy all of the time, but there’s clear evidence that it impacts cognitive function,” notes study author Chris Schaffer.

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Researchers find cellular mechanism

According to the researchers, the reduction of blood flow to the brain immediately impairs cognitive function — including attention — when it happens in otherwise healthy humans. In their mouse study, the investigators wanted to find out why this poor blood flow occurs in the first place.

In a past study, co-author Nozomi Nishimura had tried to induce clotting in the brain blood vessels of mouse models to see how that would affect their cognitive abilities. However, Nishimura and team soon found that the vascular problems were already present in rodent models of Alzheimer’s pathology.

“It turns out that […] the blockages we were trying to induce were already in there,” she said. “It sort of turned the research around — this is a phenomenon that was already happening,” says Nishimura.

The new research revealed that white blood cells — called neutrophils — get stuck inside brain capillaries, which are minuscule blood vessels that usually carry oxygenated blood to this organ. Although few capillaries become clogged in this way, this means that blood flow to the brain decreases considerably.

“What we’ve done is identify the cellular mechanism that causes reduced brain blood flow in Alzheimer’s disease models, which is neutrophils [white blood cells] sticking in capillaries,” says Schaffer.

We’ve shown that when we block the cellular mechanism [that causes the clogging], we get an improved blood flow, and associated with that improved blood flow is immediate restoration of cognitive performance of spatial- and working-memory tasks.”

Chris Schaffer

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‘A complete game-changer?’

The researchers add that these findings provide a new potential clinical target for Alzheimer’s disease. As Schaffer also notes, “Now that we know the cellular mechanism, it’s a much narrower path to identify the drug or the therapeutic approach to treat it.”

In fact, the researchers have already identified about 20 different drugs — a good number of which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have already approved — that they believe could address this new target. Right now, the investigators are testing these drugs in mouse models.

Though the team acknowledges that further research is necessary in order to ascertain that the same cellular mechanism seen in mice is also present in people with Alzheimer’s, its members are happy about their current findings.

Schaffer has even gone so far as to declare himself “super-optimistic” that, in the future, research stemming from these findings “could be a complete game-changer for people with Alzheimer’s disease.”

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Medical News Today: What types of food are surprisingly unhealthful?

Many people try to keep their diet healthful. However, thanks to marketing techniques or simply public belief, many foods that people regularly eat are actually less healthful than they seem.

What is healthful and what is not may not always be clear. Even many of the foods on this list have more healthful versions available. The difference is knowing what to look for.

Here are the six most unhealthful foods that people may often consider healthful. We also discuss how to make better choices when incorporating them into the diet.

1. Many breads

White and brown bread which may be an unhealthy food
White bread can have a high glycemic index.

Natural 100 percent whole-grain bread is a very nutritious addition to many diets. Breads comprising natural whole wheat still contain the bran and germ of the kernel, which contain much of the nutrients and fiber.

Many processed breads strip the bran and germ from the kernel to give the bread a smooth texture. However, this also affects the bread’s glycemic load, as the fiber in whole-grain bread helps slow down the absorption of the carbohydrates and sugars.

The glycemic index (GI) measures to what extent high-carbohydrate foods raise blood glucose levels. The American Diabetes Association report that white bread is a very high-GI food with a score of 70 or more. However, 100 percent stone-ground, whole-wheat bread is a low-GI food with a score of 55 or less.

There may also be concerns about ingredients such as phytic acid in unsprouted grains. As a 2015 study in the Journal of Food Science and Technology points out, phytic acid binds to micronutrients in other foods a person eats and makes them impossible for the body to absorb.

People incorporating bread in their diet may consider picking 100 percent whole-grain breads. Also, anyone with concerns regarding phytic acid in their breads may want to pick bread containing only sprouted grains, which reduces the phytic acid content.

2. Diet sodas

Many people consider diet sodas to be more healthful versions of soda. This may not be entirely true. While diet sodas do have fewer calories thanks to the lack of sugar, most diet sodas contain non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame, which may not be as healthful as many people think.

A study in the journal Research in Nursing & Health revealed that aspartame may affect mood. When eating a high-aspartame diet well below the daily recommended limit, participants had more irritable moods, higher levels of depression, and even worse performance in spatial orientation tests.

Many people also believe that drinking diet sodas will help them lose weight. However, a systematic review from 2017 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that the research does not support the idea that non-nutritive sweeteners will help people lose weight.

Further research is needed to fully understand the long-term risks and benefits of consuming non-nutritive sweeteners.

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3. Fruit juice and bottled smoothies

Fruit juice in a supermarket which may be an unhealthy food
Fruit juice can contain a high amount of sugar.

While a homemade smoothie or fresh fruit juice may be a good way to add fruit to the diet, packaged or store-bought fruit products may not be as healthful as many people believe them to be.

This may be due to what manufacturers leave out of the juices and smoothies, specifically fiber.

In a whole fruit, the fiber of the fruit helps control how fast the body digests sugar.

Fruit juice also contains a high amount of sugar. So, while it may be a better choice than soda, it may still lead to consuming too many calories during the day.

The other issue is the processing that goes into many packaged juices and smoothies. Processing the fruit may make a juice or smoothie last longer, but it might also cause the end product to lose some of the helpful nutrients in the fruit, such as vitamin C, calcium, and fiber. This is according to a study that appeared in the journal Advances in Nutrition.

On the plus side, 100 percent fruit juice does not seem to increase the risk of issues such as diabetes, even if it is high in sugar. A study in the Journal of Nutritional Science suggests that 100 percent fruit juice may not affect glucose levels or the body’s glucose control.

4. Agave nectar

Many people understand the potential dangers of too much sugar in the diet and look for alternative sweeteners.

Agave nectar is a sweetener derived from the agave plant. Several companies market it as a healthful alternative to sugar. However, these claims may only be partially correct.

Agave nectar does not tend to cause the same blood sugar spikes as table sugar does. This is because agave nectar contains mostly fructose, which is a sugar that does not directly affect blood glucose levels.

Because of this, many products that use agave nectar can claim that they are suitable for people with diabetes. However, this extra fructose may put stress on other areas of the body.

The liver processes fructose, and eating high-fructose foods such as agave nectar may put extra strain on the organ to convert these sugars into fats. This may then add to body fat percentage and lead to other issues.

A review that appeared in the journal Current Opinion in Lipidology reports that people who eat more fructose may have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.

5. Instant oatmeal

Oats themselves are very nutritious for most diets, with some surprising health benefits. As one study in the Journal of Food Science and Technology notes, whole-grain oats contain beneficial fibers and protein, as well as some vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.

A study in the journal Nutrients notes that eating whole-grain oats can help control blood sugar, lower the amounts of fat in the blood, and even promote weight loss. It may also help a person feel fuller and more satisfied with their meal. However, these results are from consuming whole-grain oats, not instant oats.

Similar to many other grains, the manufacturers of instant oatmeal tend to remove the fiber from the oat to give their meal a better texture and help it cook faster. This might reduce some of the benefits of the healthful fibers in oats.

A 2016 study that appeared in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition compares whole oatmeal and an instant oat cereal. The results revealed that whole oatmeal made people feel fuller and had a reducing effect on how many calories they ate throughout the day, in comparison with the instant oatmeal.

It is also important to pay attention to additional ingredients in instant oatmeal. Many companies use fillers such as flour or add sugar or sugary dried fruits to their oats. This may make the oatmeal taste better, but it does not make it healthful.

For a more healthful option, people may choose to skip the instant oatmeal powders and instead opt for whole-grain oats, adding some fresh fruit or milk for sweetness.

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6. Trail mix

Trail mix close up
Store-bought trail mix can contain added salt, sugar, and oils.

A homemade trail mix of some dry-roasted nuts with a few raisins or dried cranberries may be a good addition to the diet and a perfect on-the-go snack for many people.

However, many store-bought trail mixes are far from this simple blend.

Added ingredients such as chocolate pieces, yogurt-covered fruits, and even salt, sugar, and additional oils can add a lot of calories to an already calorie-rich snack.

People can skip the store-bought trail mix and make a simple blend of dry-roasted or raw nuts at home. It may also help control portions to put a small amount aside each day.


In general, keeping an eye out for additional ingredients, such as sugars or processed grains, can help a person make better nutritional decisions.

One option may be to take a few more minutes to prepare food and avoid store-bought alternatives.

It is also important to note that many foods will have different effects on different people. Anyone uncertain about what foods they should avoid due to an underlying condition or allergy should consider talking to their doctor or nutritionist.

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Medical News Today: The best home remedies for arthritis

Arthritis is the term for a group of conditions that cause joint inflammation and pain. Although medical treatments can help, some home remedies and lifestyle changes may also reduce symptoms.

In the United States, arthritis affects more than 50 million adults and 300,000 children.

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related diseases. The most common type is osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative disease that wears away the cushioning between the joints, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Another common type of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). RA occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the joints and other parts of the body, causing uncontrolled inflammation.

Arthritis of any type can cause pain and result in lasting damage to the joints. In this article, we outline some of the most effective home remedies for slowing disease progression and treating the symptoms of arthritis.

1. Aquatic exercises

Senior man in swimming pool with goggles for aquatic exercises, as home remedy for arthritis pain relief
Aquatic exercise can relieve pressure on the joints while providing a workout.

Aquatic exercises can be beneficial for people with arthritis. Water provides resistance, which helps increase exercise intensity.

At the same time, the buoyancy that the water provides helps support body weight, relieving pressure on the joints.

A 2015 scientific review found that older adults with osteoarthritis who participated in an aquatic exercise program experienced the following benefits:

  • reduced body fat
  • improved coordination
  • improved range of motion
  • improved mood and quality of life

The participants also experienced a reduction in arthritis pain, although this was often short-term.

For ongoing pain relief, the researchers support current recommendations to perform 40–60 minutes of aquatic exercise three times a week.

2. Weight loss

According to the Arthritis Foundation, each pound (lb) of body weight equates to 3 lb of added stress on the knees and 6 lb of added pressure on the hip joints.

This increased pressure causes the cartilage between the joints to break down more quickly, worsening osteoarthritis.

Losing weight can ease pressure on the joints, reducing pain and stiffness.

3. Tai chi

Tai chi is a low-impact exercise that incorporates slow and gentle movements to increase flexibility, muscle strength, and balance.

In 2013, researchers conducted a review of seven studies that investigated the effectiveness of tai chi for improving arthritis symptoms.

The authors concluded that a 12-week course of tai chi was beneficial for reducing pain and stiffness and increasing physical function in participants with osteoarthritis.

4. Yoga

Iyengar yoga is a type of yoga that focuses on correct anatomical alignment and uses props to support the body and relieve tension and inflammation.

A 2013 study investigated the effectiveness of a 6-week Iyengar yoga program for young women with RA.

Researchers divided the 26 participants into two groups: 11 participated in two 1.5-hour yoga classes for 6 weeks, while the remaining 15 did not take part in any yoga classes.

In comparison with the control group, the participants who did yoga reported significant improvements in health, mood, quality of life, and the ability to cope with chronic pain.

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5. Hot and cold therapy

Woman applying cold pack to her neck and shoulder to relieve arthritis pain.
A cold pack can help reduce swelling.

Heat and cold treatments are two different but effective methods for reducing arthritis pain.

Heat therapy boosts circulation and can soothe stiff joints and aching muscles, while cold therapy restricts blood vessels, which slows circulation, reduces swelling, and numbs pain.

People can try alternating heat and cold, but it is essential to monitor the skin carefully for damage from these treatments and discontinue their use if an injury occurs.

Heat treatments include:

  • starting the day with a warm bath or shower to relieve stiffness
  • applying warm paraffin wax to aching joints
  • placing a heating pad or hot water bottle on aching joints

People should limit cold treatments to 20 minutes at a time. These treatments include:

  • wrapping a bag of ice in a towel and applying it to painful areas
  • submerging the affected joint in ice water
  • using a cold pack

Some of these remedies are available for purchase online, including heating pads, hot water bottles, and cold packs.

To learn more about heat and cold treatments for inflammation, click here.

6. Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness is a form of meditation. When practicing mindfulness, people try to focus their attention on their feelings and what their body is experiencing in the present moment.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a program that uses mindfulness to help people manage pain and stress, both of which can compromise the immune system.

A 2014 study investigated whether MBSR could reduce disease activity in people with RA by boosting the immune system.

A total of 51 participants took part in the study, 26 of whom completed an 8-week program of MBSR while the remaining 25 received no treatment.

Participants who practiced MBSR showed a reduction in RA symptoms, including pain, early morning stiffness, and the number of tender and swollen joints.

Participants reported these improvements both immediately after MBSR and up to 6 months later.

7. Massage

According to the Arthritis Foundation, regularly massaging the muscles and joints can help soothe pain resulting from arthritis.

Experts believe that massage lowers the body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol and the neurotransmitter substance P, which has an association with pain. Massage also helps improve mood by boosting serotonin levels.

A 2013 study investigated the effects of massage on people with RA in their upper limbs.

The researchers divided the participants into two groups. One group received light-pressure massage, and the other received moderate-pressure massage.

A trained therapist gave each of the participants a massage once a week for 4 weeks. The participants also learned how to massage themselves and did this once a day.

After 4 weeks, the participants in the moderate-pressure massage group had less pain, better grip strength, and a greater range of motion in the affected limb than those who received light-pressure massage.

A 2015 study investigating the effects of moderate-pressure massage for knee arthritis reported similar benefits.

8. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)

TENS is a method of pain relief that uses electrodes in the form of sticky pads that attach to the surface of the skin to deliver small electrical currents to the body. A person can adjust the intensity of the stimulation by turning a dial.

Electrical stimulation helps override pain signals while also triggering the body to release natural pain relievers called endorphins.

The authors of a 2014 meta-analysis concluded that the delivery of TENS at adequate intensities could help reduce osteoarthritis pain.

However, they also highlighted the need for further trials and studies to determine the best dosage and outcome measures.

9. Vitamin D

Vitamin D builds strong bones and helps maintain the function of the immune system.

A 2016 review found that people with RA often have lower vitamin D levels than those without the condition. Those with the lowest levels of vitamin D also tended to experience the highest levels of disease activity.

However, it is still not clear whether taking vitamin D supplements reduces disease activity in people with arthritis.

People can get vitamin D from sun exposure and certain foods. Vitamin D supplements are also available in stores and online.

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10. Omega-3 fatty acids

Flax seeds spilling out of sack cloth bag onto wooden spoon
Nuts and seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation in the body and play a role in regulating the immune system.

The authors of a recent review concluded that omega-3 fatty acids appear to improve the symptoms of RA, but they noted that further studies are necessary to confirm this.

Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include nuts, seeds, and cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, and sardines. People can also take omega-3 supplements.

These supplements are available in some health food stores and pharmacies, as well as online.

11. Chondroitin and glucosamine

Chondroitin sulfate (CS) is a chemical that occurs naturally in cartilage and bone. It blocks enzymes that break down cartilage and helps enhance shock-absorbency in the joints.

Glucosamine hydrochloride (GH) is a chemical that is responsible for the growth, repair, and maintenance of cartilage.

A 2016 study investigated whether a combination of CS and GH could treat knee osteoarthritis as effectively as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drug celecoxib.

Researchers divided the 606 participants with knee osteoarthritis into two groups. One group received 400 milligrams (mg) of CS plus 500 mg of GH three times a day for 6 months.

The other group received 200 mg of celecoxib daily over the same period.

After 6 months, there were no significant differences between the two groups.

The combination of CS and GH was as effective as celecoxib in reducing pain, stiffness, and joint swelling after 6 months.

Medical treatment

There are almost 100 different types of arthritis. After making an initial diagnosis of the type of arthritis that a person has, a doctor will explain to them which treatment options are suitable.

Some examples of medications include:

  • analgesics for pain control, such as acetaminophen
  • NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen
  • corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation
  • disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which slow or stop inflammation but weaken the immune system
  • targeted DMARDs, which target specific inflammatory issues rather than suppressing the entire immune system

When to see a doctor

Without treatment, arthritis can cause permanent damage to the joints or progress more quickly.

People with arthritis should work with a doctor to decide which home remedies may work best with their medical treatment plan.

A person should visit a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms for 3 days or more:

  • pain, swelling, tenderness, or stiffness in one or more joints
  • redness and warmth of the skin surrounding the joint
  • difficulty moving the joint or performing daily activities


Arthritis is a progressive condition that causes pain and stiffness in the joints. Many different medication interventions are available, but using home remedies alongside these may be more effective in relieving pain and increasing mobility.

Common home remedies include massage, specific supplements, heat and cold therapy, and gentle exercises, such as yoga and tai chi.

People should speak with a doctor if they have any concerns about using home remedies for arthritis. It is also vital to ask about any supplements before taking them because they might interact with existing medications.

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Medical News Today: What are the best types of exercise for asthma?

Exercise can help improve the symptoms of asthma in the long term, in addition to improving overall health.

Some forms of exercise have the potential to cause asthma flare-ups, leading to wheezing or chest tightness. However, people may be able to avoid symptoms or asthma attacks by using specific techniques and participating in suitable activities.

As long as a person’s asthma is under control, exercise can offer them many health benefits.

In this article, we look at how to stay safe while exercising with asthma and what to know about exercise-induced asthma. We also provide tips on how to avoid asthma complications.

Can exercise help with asthma?

Exercise for asthma yoga
Exercising can improve heart health and lung function.

In general, exercise offers many varied health benefits, such as improving heart health, boosting mental health, and reducing the risk of many health conditions.

People with asthma may also notice other specific health benefits, including:

  • improved lung function, which builds overall stamina and reduces the time that it takes for a person to feel out of breath
  • weight loss, which can reduce the risk of asthma attacks
  • improved immune system function, which reduces the risk of upper respiratory infections that can trigger asthma symptoms
  • improved mood and stress reduction, which can lessen asthma symptoms

Other benefits of exercise include:

  • increased energy levels throughout the day
  • stabilized blood sugar levels
  • protection for the brain from age-related disease
  • strengthened bones and muscles
  • reduced risk of certain cancers
  • improved sex life
  • improved sleep quality
  • reduced risk of heart disease
  • helping a person quit smoking

Which types of exercise are good for asthma?

People with asthma may find that slowly building up their level of exercise reduces the risk of asthma flare-ups during exercise. Types of exercise that focus on promoting lung capacity and regulating breathing can be especially beneficial.

Exercises and activities that offer a person short periods of activity with rest in between can work well. Exercising in this way allows a person to be active and improve their stamina and strength without putting too much strain on the lungs.

The following types of exercise may be particularly suitable for people with asthma:


Yoga helps a person focus on their breathing. Controlled, rhythmic breathing during exercise can help increase a person’s lung capacity while building muscle strength for overall fitness.

Yoga and rhythmic breathing can also help lower a person’s stress levels. Stress is a trigger for asthma in many people, so reducing stress could help reduce asthma flares.


Swimming results in the inhalation of warm, damp air, which is good for people with asthma. Swimming can also help with breath control. It can be a gentle activity, and people can work toward doing more intensive sessions as their fitness and lung capacity improve.

Some people may find that swimming in a pool triggers their asthma symptoms due to the chlorine that is in the water.

Other forms of exercise

Many other types of exercise can also help improve the function of the lungs without overstraining them. These include:

  • golf
  • baseball
  • tennis
  • volleyball
  • badminton
  • weightlifting

Light-to-moderate exercise also works well, especially when it involves steady movement, which improves endurance levels and avoids overstraining the lungs. Examples include:

  • biking
  • walking
  • hiking
  • using an elliptical machine
  • taking the stairs instead of the elevator

Other more strenuous exercises and activities are not necessarily bad for asthma, but it is best for each individual to talk to a doctor before deciding on the best exercise for them. The doctor can advise on the risks of specific sports, such as running, basketball, or soccer, and how to manage symptoms during these activities.

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Tips for exercising with asthma

Exercise for asthma press up
People with asthma should avoid high-intensity activities until they build up endurance.

People who are new to exercising should avoid high-intensity activities, at least until they build up endurance. Running, jogging, or soccer can be too much for a person with asthma if they are not accustomed to exercising.

It is best to avoid exercising in cold, dry environments. The types of exercise that involve cold weather, such as ice hockey, skiing, and other winter sports, are more likely to cause asthma flare-ups.

It is also crucial to pay attention to the body during exercise. If a particular form of exercise is causing a flare, a person should stop doing the activity until their symptoms are under control.

According to the American Lung Association, a person can manage their asthma by taking the following six steps:

  • taking advantage of resources and asking appropriate questions when visiting a doctor
  • working with their healthcare provider to create an asthma management plan that outlines how to manage symptoms
  • tracking the times when they experience symptoms to determine their triggers
  • taking control and understanding their prescribed medication
  • reducing exposure to known triggers
  • learning asthma self-management techniques

What is exercise-induced asthma?

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), exercise-induced asthma is an older way to describe exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB). The term “exercise-induced asthma” gives people the incorrect impression that exercise causes asthma.

The AAFA go on to say that nearly 90 percent of all people with asthma will experience symptoms of EIB while they exercise.

The symptoms of EIB are similar to those of asthma and include:

  • wheezing
  • coughing
  • shortness of breath
  • tightness in the chest

The most common symptom is coughing. Many people may find that coughing is the only symptom that they experience.

Symptoms of EIB usually occur after a few minutes of exercise, and they tend to get worse 5–10 minutes after a person stops exercising. They will then typically subside after about 30 minutes.

The primary cause of EIB is breathing in cool, dry air. Exercise tends to exacerbate this because a person who is exercising will usually breathe in through their mouth. Breathing in through the nose usually reduces the coolness and dryness of the air.

Other potential triggers of EIB include:

  • high pollen counts in the air
  • other irritants, such as smoke
  • raised levels of air pollution
  • a recent asthma attack or upper respiratory infection

How to avoid asthma attacks when exercising

Exercise for asthma running
Wearing a scarf while running can reduce the risk of an asthma attack.

The best action that a person can take to prevent an asthma attack when exercising is to use prescription asthma medications as the doctor directs.

Anyone who still experiences severe symptoms of asthma when using medication can speak to their doctor to adjust the type or dosage of their drugs to help get the symptoms under control.

It is also important to pay attention to the environment before exercising. For example, if pollen counts are high or the air is cool and dry, it is likely to be better to exercise indoors to reduce the risk of asthma flare-ups.

Other steps to avoid asthma attacks during exercise include:

  • wearing a scarf over the face in cooler weather to keep cold air out of the lungs
  • warming up before exercising and cooling down afterward

It is vital to avoid pushing too hard during exercise. A person who is just starting to become active may want to walk instead of running to avoid straining the lungs. By gradually increasing their fitness levels, a person can help reduce the likelihood of exercise triggering an asthma attack.

Finally, a person should always carry their rescue inhaler with them. If symptoms occur during exercise, it is essential to stop and use the inhaler to prevent symptoms from progressing.

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When to seek medical help

Anyone who suspects that they have asthma or EIB should speak to their doctor. A doctor can help develop a plan for how to treat flares and avoid asthma triggers.

A person should also seek medical attention if they have:

  • wheezing that does not subside
  • symptoms that do not reduce after about 20 minutes and several uses of a rescue inhaler
  • a long-lasting cough that does not respond to a rescue inhaler
  • color changes in their fingernails
  • difficulty talking or catching their breath


People with asthma can benefit from doing regular exercise. A doctor can offer advice on how to stay safe and reduce anxiety about asthma flare-ups when starting to do more exercise.

Particularly suitable types of exercise include those that focus on regular breathing and increasing lung capacity, such as yoga and swimming.

People with asthma who exercise regularly will often notice an improvement in their symptoms, and they will experience all the usual benefits of exercise too.

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Medical News Today: Does asthma run in the family?

Asthma can be genetic, though not all cases of asthma are inherited. Asthma has a range of other causes and risk factors.

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation in the airways. This inflammation causes the airways to swell and become very sensitive. It can lead to wheezing and chest tightness.

Asthma affects people of all ages and genders. According to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), 8.3 percent of people in the United States have asthma. However, some people may be more likely to develop asthma than others.

In this article, we look at whether different types of asthma have genetic links, other causes and risk factors of asthma, and treatments.

Are different types of asthma genetic?

parents helping young daughter to use inhaler
Genetics can affect the likelihood of a person having asthma.

All types of asthma can have a genetic component. Some different types of asthma include:

  • adult-onset asthma
  • exercise-induced bronchospasm
  • allergic asthma
  • nonallergic asthma
  • occupational asthma
  • asthma with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

A person is more likely to develop asthma if they have a family history of the condition. This means that asthma can be genetic. Some researchers describe it as a “highly heritable disease.”

According to a 2014 review study, genetic factors account for around 70 percent of a person’s risk of developing asthma, meaning that genes play a large role in whether or not a person develops the condition.

However, genetics are not the only cause of asthma. Some people develop it when they have no family history of the condition. Likewise, a person may have a genetic tendency toward asthma but never actually develop it.

Genetics play less of a role in asthma development later in life, so adult-onset asthma and occupational asthma are slightly less dependent on genes.

A person can also develop asthma without any genetic predisposition for the condition. In fact, many environmental factors can cause a person to develop it.

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young boy using an inhaler after sport
Some people may find that exercise triggers asthma symptoms.

Both genetics and environment play a role in the development of asthma, but scientists still do not know the exact causes. That said, they have identified a number of triggers for asthma symptoms.

Asthma triggers can vary from person to person and may include:

  • respiratory infections, including the cold or flu
  • irritants in the air
  • air pollution
  • tobacco smoke
  • exercise
  • cold air
  • medications, including beta-blockers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • stress
  • food and drink preservatives
  • allergens, including dust, dander, and pollen
  • acid reflux

Risk factors

A number of risk factors can increase a person’s chances of developing asthma.

Genetics, or family history of asthma, raise a person’s likelihood of developing asthma at some point in their life.

Other risk factors for asthma include:

  • being overweight
  • smoking
  • having allergies or other allergy-related conditions
  • frequent exposure to secondhand smoke
  • exposure to other forms of pollution, such as exhaust fumes
  • exposure to occupational irritants, including chemicals and dust

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Asthma symptoms and their severity vary by person. Some may have symptoms frequently, while other people may only experience them occasionally.

Asthma symptoms can include:

  • wheezing
  • chest tightness
  • difficulty breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing

Sometimes, triggers can cause a short period of worsening symptoms called asthma attacks. When a person has an asthma attack, their bronchial tubes constrict.

During an asthma attack, the symptoms of asthma may become severe and need a rescue inhaler or, in some cases, emergency medical attention.

Symptoms of an asthma attack include:

  • a feeling of the chest rapidly tightening
  • rapid breathing
  • a blue tint to the skin and nails
  • shortness of breath not related to physical activity
  • chest retractions
  • an inability to take a full breath

Not all people with asthma have all of these symptoms. Also, just because a person has these symptoms, it does not mean that they have asthma.


woman hoovering home
Cleaning the home regularly can help remove allergens and reduce asthma symptoms.

Asthma treatments aim to help a person manage the symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. Treatments may also lessen the long-term damage to the lungs that can occur with poorly controlled asthma.

A doctor may recommend a combination of treatment methods.

Long-term medical treatments for asthma can include:

  • long-term inhaled asthma control medications, including corticosteroids, combination inhalers, and bronchodilators
  • allergy medications

Doctors may also prescribe fast-acting, short-term medications for asthma attacks. These can include:

  • oral or intravenous steroids to reduce airway swelling in severe attacks
  • fast-acting bronchodilators
  • short-acting beta antagonists, such as albuterol inhalers

Also, a doctor will likely recommend that a person with asthma try some lifestyle modifications to help control their symptoms.

Lifestyle modifications that a person with asthma can try may include:

  • identifying and avoiding triggers
  • using air conditioning to avoid outdoor asthma triggers
  • cleaning the home regularly to avoid dust and mold
  • covering the mouth and nose in cold weather
  • managing stress and strong emotions

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Asthma has genetic components, but it can also have other causes and risk factors, especially in adult-onset asthma.

People can usually manage their asthma well using medications. However, some people may find their asthma symptoms difficult to control.

In such cases, it is best for people to identify their triggers and try to avoid them as often as possible.

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Medical News Today: Lovesick: What are the adverse effects of love?

Many people see love as the pinnacle of human existence, and some equate it with happiness itself. But sometimes, being “lovesick” can feel exactly like that — an illness. In fact, romantic love can bring about many adverse psychological effects, and in this Spotlight feature, we take a look at what they are.
couple in cafe
Love is not always an all-round positive, happy feeling.

On Valentine’s day, people around the world dwell on the positive and beautiful aspects of romantic love. They celebrate the value that this unique feeling brings to human existence and the central role it plays in our search for happiness.

Furthermore, science shows that the neurophysiological benefits of being in love are numerous. A few years ago, we wrote a Spotlight feature on the positive health effects that being in a relationship brings.

From relieving pain, lowering blood pressure, easing stress, and generally improving one’s cardiovascular health, love and being in a relationship have associations with a wide range of health benefits.

But if love was nothing more than positive feelings, warming sensations, and feel-good chemicals, we probably would not apply words such as “smitten” or “lovesick” to describe the intense effects of this emotion.

On this Valentine’s day, we decided to focus our attention on some of the less exhilarating — and sometimes even debilitating — psychological effects of romantic love.

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Love and the stress hormone

Being in love triggers a cocktail of chemicals in the brain. Some of the hormones — which also act as neurotransmitters — that the body releases when we’re infatuated can have a soothing effect.

For example, people have dubbed oxytocin as “the love hormone” because the body releases it during sex or physical touch. Neuroscientific evidence also shows that it lowers stress and anxiety.

But levels of oxytocin only start to increase considerably after the first year of love. The neurotransmitter helps to solidify long-term relationships, but what happens in the early stages of love?

A small but influential study that researchers carried out more than a decade ago compared people who had recently fallen in love with people who were in long-lasting relationships or single.

Standard evaluations of various hormones revealed that people who had fallen in love in the previous 6 months had much higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When researchers tested the participants again 12–24 months later, their cortisol levels were back to normal.

The higher levels of cortisol released by the brain in the first 6 months of love are “suggestive of the ‘stressful’ and arousing conditions associated with the initiation of a social contact,” the researchers concluded.

High cortisol levels can impair the immune system and lead to a higher risk of infections. It also raises the likelihood of developing hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Excessive cortisol can impair brain function, memory, and some have suggested it may even reduce brain volume.

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Limerence: When love is overpowering

In 1979, psychologist Dorothy Tennov, Ph.D., coined the term “limerence” to describe a somewhat debilitating aspect of being in love.

couple hugging
With time, attachment can replace limerence and turn into a long-lasting relationship.

In her book, Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love, she defines limerence as an involuntary, enormously intense, and overwhelmingly passionate state in which the “limerent” person can feel obsessed with and emotionally dependent on the object of their limerence.

“To be in the state of limerence is to feel what is usually termed ‘being in love,'” the author writes. However, her nuanced account of the feeling distinguishes between limerence, love, and sex. “[L]ove and sex can coexist without limerence, in fact […] any of the three may exist without the others,” she writes.

Tennov lists several components, or signs, of limerence. These include:

  • “intrusive thinking about the object of your passionate desire”
  • “acute longing for reciprocation”
  • dependence on the actions of the object of your limerence, or rather, on the possibility that they might reciprocate your feelings
  • an inability to have limerent feelings towards more than one person at a time
  • an intense fear of rejection
  • “sometimes incapacitating but always unsettling shyness” in the presence of your limerent object
  • “intensification through adversity,” meaning that the more difficult it is to consume the feeling, the more intense it becomes
  • “an aching of the ‘heart’ (a region in the center front of the chest) when uncertainty is strong”
  • “buoyancy (a feeling of walking on air) when reciprocation seems evident”
  • an intensity of the feeling and narrow focus on the limerent object that makes other concerns and activities pale by comparison
  • “a remarkable ability to emphasize what is truly admirable in [the limerent object] and to avoid dwelling on the negative”

So, is limerence healthful? In Tennov’s account, the many negative aspects of limerence have not received the attention they deserve.

Limerence has associations with many “tragic situations,” she says, including intended “‘accidents’ (much fantasy involves situations in which the limerent gets an injury and [the limerent object] is ‘sorry’), outright suicide (often with note left behind to [the limerent object]), divorce, homicide, and a host of ‘minor’ side effects” that she documents in her book.

Furthermore, in retrospect, people who have experienced limerence report feelings of self-hatred and tend to berate themselves for not having been able to shake off the uncontrollable feeling.

Tennov’s book is filled with many strategies that limerents have tried — more or less successfully — to rid themselves of the feeling, including journaling, focusing on the limerent object’s flaws, or seeing a therapist.

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Love as an addiction

Recently, more and more scientists have been suggesting that the neurobiological mechanisms that underpin the feeling of love resemble addiction in various ways.

illustration of brain and heart
The effects of love on the human brain are similar to those of cocaine addiction.

For example, it’s a known fact that love triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that was nicknamed “the sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll” hormone because the body releases it when a person engages in pleasurable activities.

Overall, from a neurological point of view, love activates the same brain circuitry and reward mechanisms that are involved in addiction. Helen Fisher, Ph.D., a biological anthropologist and a research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, University of Indiana, led a now-famous experiment that illustrated this.

In the study, researchers asked 15 participants who reported feeling intensely in love to look at images of their lovers who had rejected them. As they did so, the scientists scanned the participants’ brains in a functional MRI machine.

The study found high brain activity in areas associated with cocaine addiction, “gains and losses,” craving, motivation, and emotion regulation. These brain regions included the ventral tegmental area, the ventral striatum, the medial and lateral orbitofrontal/prefrontal cortex, and the cingulate gyrus.

“Activation of areas involved in cocaine addiction may help explain the obsessive behaviors associated with rejection in love,” write Fisher and colleagues. Some of these behaviors include “mood swings, craving, obsession, compulsion, distortion of reality, emotional dependence, personality changes, risk-taking, and loss of self-control.”

Such traits have prompted some researchers to consider including love addiction in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), together with other behavioral addictions, such as “gambling disorder, sex-addiction, compulsive buying,” as well as addiction to exercise, work, or technology.

Other scientists, by contrast, have taken a more temperate attitude to the issue of the addictive nature of love.

In an article entitled Addicted to love: What is love addiction and when should it be treated?, Brian Earp and his colleagues from the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, write, “[E]veryone who loves is on a spectrum of addictive conditions.”

“[B]eing addicted to another person is not an illness but simply the result of a fundamental human capacity that can sometimes be exercised to excess.”

However, when a person does exercise it to excess, love should be “treated” in the same way as any other addiction. While an often exhilarating feeling, it is worth being wary of love’s adverse effects.

As Earp and colleagues conclude, “There is now abundant behavioral, neurochemical, and neuroimaging evidence to support the claim that love is (or at least that it can be) an addiction, in much the same way that chronic drug-seeking behavior can be termed an addiction.” They continue:

[N]o matter how we interpret this evidence, we should conclude that people whose lives are negatively impacted by love ought to be offered support and treatment opportunities analogous to those that we extend to substance abusers.”

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