Medical News Today: What causes a tilted uterus?

In some women, the womb or uterus is tipped backward, pointing toward the lower back. This is known as a retroverted, tilted, or tipped uterus.

Usually, the uterus sits upright, in a vertical or up-and-down position. A tilted uterus is quite common, with 20 women out of every 100 having the condition.

What are the causes of a tilted uterus?

Model of female reproductive system, including a uterus that i not titled, held up by doctor.
The uterus, shown above as the pear shaped organ, usually tilts forward.

The uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped organ that sits in the lower part of a woman’s pelvis. It is where a fetus grows during pregnancy.

A woman can have a tilted uterus for several different reasons:

  • Weakening of the pelvic muscles: After menopause or childbirth, the ligaments supporting the uterus can become lax or weakened. As a result, the uterus falls in a backward, or tipped position.
  • Enlarged uterus: An enlarged uterus due to pregnancy, fibroids, or a tumor can also cause the uterus to become tilted.
  • Scarring or adhesions in the pelvis: The uterus or pelvis can be scarred by conditions, including endometriosis, infection, or previous surgery. This scar tissue can pull the uterus backward and cause it to be tipped.
  • Genetics: Some women are born with a uterus in a tilted or tipped position.

Impact on fertility and pregnancy

Many women are concerned that having a tipped uterus will impact on their ability to get pregnant. The position of the uterus does not usually affect fertility, however. Doctors may consider it if a woman is having difficulties becoming pregnant, but only after other causes of infertility are ruled out.

Having a tilted uterus should not affect a woman’s ability to have a healthy pregnancy. In fact, being pregnant may cause the growing uterus to tip backward. In most cases, there is no impact on labor or delivery.

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Impact on sex

Man and woman in bed, laughing.
A tilted uterus may cause penetrative sex to be uncomfortable or painful.

Painful sex can be a problem for a woman. Doctors are unsure what causes this discomfort, though there are several theories:

  • A tilted uterus can cause the cervix to sit differently in the vagina. The pain may be caused by the way the penis bumps against the cervix during intercourse.
  • The ligaments supporting the uterus may be stretched and moved in a different direction than the uterus. This can cause pain or discomfort during sex.
  • Another theory is that a tilted uterus causes venous congestion in the pelvis, meaning the veins in the reproductive organs dilate and fill with blood.

Sometimes, simply changing positions can make painful sex less troublesome. Many women with a tipped uterus usually prefer positions where they can be face-to-face with their partner. It is important for women to communicate to their partner what is comfortable and what is not.


Some signs are typical in women with a tilted uterus, including:

How is it diagnosed?

A tipped uterus can be easily detected during a routine pelvic exam. A doctor will insert two fingers into the vagina to feel and push against the cervix slightly.

Next, the other hand is placed on top of the abdomen and pushes it in gently to capture the uterus between the two hands. This allows the doctor to feel the uterus to determine its shape, size, and position, and to feel for abnormal growths.

Women who are having pain during sex or other symptoms of a tipped uterus should consult with their doctor. These symptoms can be a sign of other, more serious conditions and the doctor can do diagnostic tests to distinguish this condition from something more serious.

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woman hugging knees to her chest in yoga pose.
A temporary treatment involves hugging the knees to the chest while lying down.

There are a few treatment options that can help to correct the position of the uterus.

These may be used if a woman has severe symptoms that interfere with her life or ability to get pregnant.

  • Pessary: A pessary is a device that is placed in the vagina. It helps to support the vaginal walls, uterus, and other pelvic structures and can help to reposition the uterus. A pessary is a temporary fix, as the uterus will revert to its original position once it is removed.
  • Surgery: For some women, surgery can reposition the uterus. Uterine suspension surgery is an outpatient procedure and can be done with or without the use of a mesh or sling. Lasting results and improvement of pain during sex are usually achieved from surgery.
  • “Knee-chest” position: Though not a permanent solution, bringing the knees to the chest, while lying down, can help to move the uterus temporarily into a more comfortable position.


The outlook for someone with a tilted or tipped uterus is good. Though some women experience discomfort related to the position of the uterus, serious health problems are not usual.

It is always important for women to talk to a doctor about pain during sex or other symptoms, even if they suspect that a tilted uterus is causing the discomfort.

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Medical News Today: What are the best foot exercises for healthy feet?

Many people experience foot or ankle pain at some point. By keeping the feet strong, a person can alleviate soreness, and improve overall health and flexibility.

Regularly exercising and stretching the feet and ankles can help to ensure that muscles are providing the best support. These exercises may also increase the range of motion in the feet, keeping a person active for as long as possible.

Most foot exercises are simple and require no complicated equipment. They can be done at home or in the gym as part of a regular exercise routine.

Exercises for flexibility and mobility

The following exercises have been developed to improve flexibility and mobility in the feet.

1. Toe raise, point, and curl

Image of toe raise, point, and curl foot exercise
There are three stages to the toe raise, point, and curl.

This exercise has three stages and will help to strengthen all parts of the feet and toes.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Keeping the toes on the floor, raise the heels. Stop when only the balls of the feet remain on the ground.
  • Hold this position for 5 seconds before lowering the heels.
  • For the second stage, raise the heel and point the toes so that only the tips of the big and second toes are touching the floor.
  • Hold for 5 seconds before lowering.
  • For the third stage, raise the heel and curl the toes inward, so that only the tips of the toes are touching the floor. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
  • Build flexibility and mobility by repeating each stage 10 times.

2. Big toe stretch

Keeping a wide range of motion in the big toe is important. The following exercise also has three stages, and it was designed to stretch and relieve pain in toes that have been squashed in shoes.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Bring the left foot to rest on the right thigh.
  • Using the fingers, gently stretch the big toe up, down, and to the side.
  • Remain in this position for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat this 10 times before switching to the other foot.

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Exercises for strength

The following exercises can help to enhance the strength of the feet.

3. Toe splay

Toe splay foot exercises
The toe splay helps with control over toe muscles.

The toe splay was developed to improve control over the toe muscles. It can be done on both feet at once, or on alternate feet, depending on comfort.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit in a straight-backed chair with the feet gently resting on the floor.
  • Spread the toes apart as far as possible without straining. Hold the position for 5 seconds.
  • Repeat this motion 10 times.
  • Once some strength has been built up, try looping a rubber band around the toes. This will provide resistance and make the exercise more challenging.

4. Toe curls

Toe curls build up the flexor muscles of the toes and feet, improving overall strength.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Lay a small towel on the floor in front of oneself, with the short side facing the feet.
  • Place the toes of one foot on the short side of the towel. Try to grasp the towel between the toes and pull it toward oneself. Repeat the exercise five times, before switching to the other foot.
  • To make this exercise more challenging, weigh down the opposite end of the towel with an object.

5. Marble pickup

The marble pickup was designed to increase strength in the muscles on the underside of the feet and toes.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Place an empty bowl and a bowl of marbles (20 is good to start with) on the floor in front of the feet.
  • Using only the toes of one foot, pick up each marble and place it in the empty bowl.
  • Repeat, using the other foot.

6. Sand walking

Walking barefoot on sand is a great way to stretch and strengthen the feet and calves. This is a good exercise in general because sand’s soft texture makes walking more physically demanding.

To do this exercise:

  • Head to a beach, desert, or even a volleyball court.
  • Remove shoes and socks.
  • Walk for as long as possible. Increase these distances slowly over time, to avoid overexerting muscles in the feet and calves.

Exercises for pain

The following exercises can provide pain relief.

7. Toe extension

The toe extension is useful in preventing or treating plantar fasciitis — a condition that causes pain in the heel when walking, as well as difficulty in raising the toes.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Place the left foot on the right thigh.
  • Pull the toes up, toward the ankle. A stretching feeling should be felt along the bottom of the foot and heel cord.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Massaging the arch of the foot while stretching will help ease tension and pain.
  • Repeat this exercise 10 times on each foot.

8. Golf ball roll

Golf ball roll foot exercise
A golf ball rolled under the foot may help to relieve discomfort.

Rolling a golf ball under the feet can help to relieve discomfort in the arches and ease pain associated with plantar fasciitis.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit up straight in a chair, with the feet flat on the floor.
  • Place a golf ball — or another hard, small ball — on the floor next to the feet.
  • Lay one foot on the ball and move it around, pressing down as hard as is comfortable. The ball should be massaging the bottom of the foot.
  • Continue for 2 minutes, then repeat on the other foot
  • A frozen bottle of water can be a soothing alternative if no suitable balls are available.

9. Achilles stretch

The Achilles tendon is a cord connecting the heel to the calf muscles. It can strain easily, and keeping it strong may help with foot, ankle, or leg pains.

To do this exercise:

  • Face a wall and raise the arms, so that the palms rest flat against the wall.
  • Place one foot back, keeping the knee straight. Then bend the knee of the opposite leg.
  • Keep both heels flat on the floor.
  • Push the hips forward, until the Achilles tendon and calf muscles can be felt stretching.
  • Hold for 30 seconds before switching sides. Repeat three times on each side.
  • For a slightly different stretch, bend the back knee and push the hips forward.

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Foot health and safety tips

To keep feet strong and healthy:

  • Complete a thorough warmup routine before exercising.
  • Wear supportive footwear for day-to-day activities and sports.
  • Replace shoes when they are worn down.
  • Build up strength and flexibility slowly, to condition feet and ankles.
  • Avoid uneven surfaces, especially when running. Try not to run uphill too often.
  • Listen to the body and do not overdo activities.
  • Prevent any recurrence of injury by resting and receiving appropriate treatment.

Keeping the feet and ankles healthy is always a good idea. The exercises above can help to ease existing pain, prevent discomfort, and reduce chances of injury.

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Medical News Today: Cutting back on carbs could help treat fatty liver disease

Cutting down on pasta, potatoes, and other such carbohydrate-rich foods has become a popular plan for weight loss. However, according to a new study, a carb-restricted diet may offer other health benefits.
foods rich in carbohydrates
Researchers suggest that carb restriction could benefit people with NAFLD.

Researchers found that just 2 weeks of a carb-restricted diet reduced levels of liver fat and improved other markers of cardiometabolic health in a small number of individuals living with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

Study co-author Adil Mardinoglu, from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, and team recently published their results in the journal Cell Metabolism.

NAFLD is a condition characterized by an excess accumulation of fat in the liver. Unlike alcoholic fatty liver disease, NAFLD is not caused by heavy alcohol consumption.

Around 30–40 percent of adults in the United States are thought to have NAFLD, making it “one of the most common causes of liver disease” in the country.

Obesity and related health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, are major risk factors for NAFLD. The condition has been identified in around 30–90 percent of people who are obese.

Adopting a healthful diet is considered key for treating NAFLD, and doctors normally recommend reducing the intake of fats.

The new study, however, suggests that lowering the consumption of carbohydrates could be another treatment strategy for NAFLD.

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Liver fat metabolism improved

Mardinoglu and his colleagues enrolled 10 adults, all of whom were obese and had NAFLD, to their study.

For 2 weeks, the participants were put on an isocaloric diet that was restricted in carbohydrates but increased in protein. An isocaloric diet is one wherein the same amount of carbohydrates, proteins, or fats are consumed every day.

The team assessed how the dietary intervention affected the liver fat, as well as other metabolic responses, of the study participants.

The study revealed that the carb-restricted diet improved liver fat metabolism and led to “dramatic reductions” in liver fat over the 14-day study period.

The researchers also found that carbohydrate restriction led to a decrease in inflammatory markers, particularly interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor alpha — higher levels of which have been linked to greater NAFLD severity.

What is more, they found that the carb-restricted diet induced changes in gut microbiota that were associated with an increase in circulating levels of folate, which has been tied to improvements in liver fat metabolism.

Commenting on their results, the researchers write:

[…] we showed that short-term intervention with an isocaloric low-carbohydrate diet with increased protein content promotes multiple metabolic benefits in obese humans with NAFLD.”

That said, they caution that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to dieting, so a carb-restricted diet may not work for everyone with NAFLD.

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Medical News Today: Why does the penis change color?

Sometimes a man’s penis can turn a purple-red color. Mostly, this color change is benign. The penis may become purple whenever there is increased blood flow to the blood vessels and glands within it. This often happens when a man experiences arousal.

However, when the color change is abnormal, unexplained, or accompanied by pain or itchiness, a man should see his doctor, as a purple coloration may be a sign of infection, injury, or circulation issues.

A urologist is the best doctor to see when it comes to questions about the penis. Men without access to a urologist should seek medical attention from their primary care provider.

What are the causes?

Man with purple penis covering his crotch with his hands.
There are many potential causes for a purple penis, including injuries or STDs.

When a color change results from arousal, it is not a cause for concern. In these instances, the color change is due to extra blood flowing to the penis.

At most other times, a man should be concerned about either part or all of the penis turning a purplish color, as it may be the result of illness or an injury.

Other common causes of purple penis aside from arousal include the following:

Sexually transmitted disease (STD)

Purple sores are typical of diseases, such as genital herpes and syphilis. Both herpes and syphilis are accompanied by additional symptoms. These can include:

The best way to prevent contracting an STD is to practice safe sex. Knowing a partner’s sexual health can also prevent the transmission of STDs.

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Bruising on the body occurs when small blood vessels rupture, leaking blood under the surface of the skin. Where the blood collects, it causes the skin to turn purple. This can happen anywhere, including on the penis. Often, when a bruise occurs, the cause is known to the individual.

Small bruises do not necessarily require particular attention. Some common causes of minor bruising to the penis may include:

  • masturbation
  • vigorous sex
  • getting caught in the zipper
  • minor pinching

A small bruise may feel painful or tender to the touch. It may turn to a deeper color as it heals. If a small bruise fails to heal on its own or becomes larger, a man should seek medical attention.

Severe bruises that are the result of blunt force trauma require immediate medical attention. A man should wear protective gear when involved in contact sports to help prevent severe injury.


Man taking supplement vitamins at work.
Certain medications, or nutritional deficiencies, may cause purpura on the penis.

Purpura, also called blood spots, appear as purple or reddish blemishes on the skin. These spots are not a direct result of an injury to the penis. Instead, purpura is often the symptom of an underlying condition.

Some possible causes of purpura include:

  • bleeding or clotting issue
  • nutritional deficits
  • medication side effects
  • inflammation of the blood vessels


A hematoma is a bruise that occurs deep within the tissue of an organ. The bruising is firm or lumpy to the touch. When a hematoma occurs, blood from a damaged vessel pools under the skin.

A hematoma can cause a loss of blood flow. It may also indicate a dangerous bleeding issue. When a hematoma occurs on the penis, a man should seek immediate medical attention.

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Lichen sclerosus

Lichen sclerosus is a long-lasting, inflammatory skin disorder characterized by white patches that can develop purple spots.

The condition tends to develop on the penis. Also, uncircumcised men are more likely to develop lichen sclerosus than men who are circumcised.

Lichen sclerosus, if left untreated, can lead to sexual dysfunction and severe scarring. As with most disorders, early treatment can help prevent permanent damage and scarring.

Allergic reactions

People react to medications differently. In some cases, medications may result in a severe allergic reaction known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome.

Stevens-Johnson syndrome is characterized by a purple or red rash that appears on the penis, as well as some other parts of the body. The rash can develop into peeling skin and sores. As the reaction progresses, life-threatening complications can occur.

Stevens-Johnson syndrome requires emergency care. Some medications are more likely to cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome than others. These medications include:

  • sulfa-based antibiotics
  • ibuprofen
  • anticonvulsant medications
  • antipsychotic medications
  • naproxen
  • antibiotics

There are less severe allergic reactions that can be caused by some medications. When these occur, a person should stop taking any over-the-counter drugs immediately. Before stopping a prescription drug, a person should consult his doctor.

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When to see a doctor

Male doctor listing causes of condition to man.
Unexplained changes in skin color should always be assessed by a doctor.

A man should seek out his doctor for any unexplained change in color to the penis, especially when accompanied by pain or discomfort.

Other indications that a doctor may be needed include:

  • swelling of the penis or testicles
  • blood in the stool
  • painful urination
  • pain in the testicles
  • blood spots or bruises where there is no known injury
  • open sores either on the penis or other parts of the body
  • nosebleeds
  • pain during sex
  • blood in the urine
  • pain in joints or abdomen

A doctor will likely perform a physical exam and ask questions about a person’s medical history. They may also run some tests to help determine the exact cause of discoloration to a man’s penis. Determining the cause will enable the doctor to prescribe the correct treatment.


Although it is usually treatable, a man should seek medical advice for any unexplained discoloration of the penis. Several treatments can help clear the underlying condition and return the penis to a more normal state and color.

If in doubt, a man should talk to his doctor to confirm that there are no underlying medical conditions that may be causing the penis to discolor.

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Medical News Today: Can a vagina be too tight?

At times, a woman may notice her vagina feels tighter than usual. This is because the vagina changes over the course of a woman’s life as a result of aging and natural events, such as pregnancy and childbirth.

Sometimes, these changes may cause a vagina to feel tighter than normal. As a result, some women may think their vagina is too tight, particularly if they experience discomfort or pain during sexual penetration. This belief is misplaced.

Can a vagina be too tight?

woman holding her hands over her crotch
Women can experience a number of natural vaginal changes due to aging, pregnancy, and childbirth.

A woman’s vagina is almost never too tight to have sex. The pain or discomfort is a symptom of other issues. In its unaroused state, the vagina is between 3 and 4 inches long and may not produce enough lubrication for comfortable intercourse.

However, when aroused, the vagina expands in width and length and releases lubrication. A woman can address pain, discomfort, or a feeling of being too tight by spending more time gaining arousal before penetration and using a lubricant if needed.

Some of the other common causes of discomfort include:

  • illness
  • congenital conditions
  • injury
  • hormonal fluctuations
  • stress

Vaginal tightness caused by any of the above can be treated or managed with help from a medical professional.

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How can a vagina change its tightness?

young mother holding her baby
During pregnancy the vagina changes to prepare for the baby’s birth.

The vagina undergoes many changes during a woman’s lifetime. The following occurrences directly impact the vagina:

  • hormonal-related changes
  • pregnancy
  • childbirth and breast-feeding
  • stress
  • sex

Hormonal related changes

A woman’s vagina changes naturally due to hormonal fluctuations throughout her life. These changes include her monthly menstrual cycles and then the loss of those cycles as she reaches menopause.

When a woman is in her childbearing years, her hormones will fluctuate at different points in her cycle. As a woman begins the first day of her period, hormone levels of estrogen and progesterone are low.

As the cycle progress, she moves closer towards ovulation and hormone levels rise. The increased levels of estrogen and progesterone may make the vagina feel more lubricated and elastic during this time. After ovulation, hormones drop again, and the vagina may feel less flexible and drier, leading to a perception of tightness.

During menopause, estrogen levels drop and vaginal tissue thins. These changes may affect the way a woman’s vagina feels to her, leading her to believe that her vagina is too tight.


Pregnancy can lead to many changes in a woman’s vagina. The vagina changes to prepare for the birth of the baby and as a result of an enlarged uterus, which puts extra pressure on the vagina.

Changes in a woman’s vagina during pregnancy include:

  • change in color
  • feelings of fullness or pressure
  • increased discharge and lubrication

The feeling of vaginal fullness and pressure during pregnancy can make a woman feel as if her vagina is tighter than normal. However, the increase in vaginal lubrication caused by pregnancy may also make a woman’s vagina feel more elastic than usual.

A woman’s vagina will regain its natural elasticity after the pregnancy.

Childbirth and breast-feeding

During childbirth, the vagina dilates, which means it will grow and expand to accommodate the delivery of a baby. Sometime after birth, the vagina contracts to its normal size.

It is very common for a woman to experience changes to her vagina following a vaginal birth. Some women may experience injury via tearing or episiotomy to their vagina. While these injuries heal, the vagina may feel tighter or more tender than before.

Also, women who are breast-feeding may experience vaginal dryness due to changes in hormones. This dryness can cause a feeling of vaginal tightness during intercourse.


When a woman becomes aroused, her vagina expands and lengthens and releases a natural lubricant. All these changes help the woman’s vagina prepare for penetration.

If not sufficiently aroused, the vagina may not expand or be lubricated enough, which can cause discomfort, pain, and a general feeling of being too tight. Some women achieve arousal through a prolonged build up or foreplay with their partner. Other women practice relaxation rituals, such as taking a bath before intercourse.

However, research has shown that almost all women can benefit from additional lubrication. There is a range of lubricants available that can help make sex more pleasurable. Choose a water-soluble lubricant if using condoms as other oils can break down the condom.

Can a vagina be too loose?

woman having hot flush holding a fan
Vaginal tissues become thinner during the menopause but the vagina does not loosen.

Some women fear that following the vaginal birth of a child, their vagina will never return to a pre-birth tightness. While the vagina does change some during pregnancy and childbirth, it returns more or less to a similar size and shape as it was before the pregnancy.

After having a baby, a woman may want to strengthen her pelvic floor. This increased strength may help a woman prevent urinary leaks and improve comfort during sex but will not change the shape or elasticity of the vagina itself.

How to do Kegel exercises

The most common exercise for the pelvic floor is called a Kegel exercise. To perform a Kegel, tighten the same muscles that can stop the flow of urine midstream. Hold the muscles for a set length of time before releasing and then repeat.

A woman should perform Kegel exercises throughout the day. Doing this daily will help a woman improve or maintain her pelvic floor strength.

Does menopause affect vaginal looseness?

Women going through menopause may also worry about vaginal looseness due to the vaginal tissues becoming thinner during menopause. This change may produce a sensation that a woman is losing elasticity and tightness. However, although the vaginal tissues change during menopause, the vagina does not loosen.

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While some situations may cause a temporary loss of elasticity or swelling, the vagina recovers and regains a normal level of tightness. Many women experience feelings of vaginal tightness due to lack of arousal before intercourse or hormonal changes due to childbirth, breast-feeding, and menopause.

Permanent loss of vaginal tightness is also a myth. Though a vagina will expand during sex and childbirth, it will always return to its natural state post activity. When a woman gives birth, it may take more time for the vagina to recover and regain its normal amount of elasticity, however.

It is essential that a woman see her doctor if she experiences any symptoms of infection or sudden changes in how her vagina feels.

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Medical News Today: Osteoarthritis: Could researchers have found the key to prevention?

A new study may have revealed a possible new prevention and treatment strategy for osteoarthritis, which is one of the most common and debilitating age-related diseases in the United States.
osteoarthritis of the knee
Researchers suggest that increasing levels of FoxO proteins could be one way to prevent and treat osteoarthritis.

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in San Diego, CA, reveal that proteins called FoxO are key for joint health.

By boosting the levels of these FoxO proteins, they believe that it might be possible to treat osteoarthritis, or even stop the disease from developing.

Senior study author Dr. Martin Lotz — from the Department of Molecular Medicine at TSRI — and his team recently reported their results in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Osteoarthritis, also referred to as degenerative joint disease, is estimated to affect more than 30 million adults in the United States, making it the most common type of arthritis.

The condition is characterized by a breakdown of cartilage, which is the tissue that cushions the joints of the bones. Osteoarthritis most commonly affects the knee, hip, and hand joints.

In a previous study, Dr. Lotz and team found that FoxO levels in joint cartilage are reduced. For this latest study, the researchers sought to find out more about how FoxO proteins affect joint health.

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The effects of FoxO deficiency in mice

The researchers reached their findings by studying mice that were lacking FoxO proteins in their joint cartilage. Compared with control mice, the scientists found that FoxO-deficient mice experienced degeneration of the joints at a significantly younger age.

What is more, the rodents with FoxO deficiency showed greater susceptibility to cartilage damage during a treadmill test, and they were also more likely to develop post-traumatic osteoarthritis due to knee injury.

Upon further investigation, the scientists found that the FoxO-deficient mice showed abnormalities in a process called autophagy, which is a natural process by which cells get rid of any unwanted or damaged components in order to maintain their health and carry out any repairs.

FoxO deficiency also led to abnormalities in the processes that protect our cells against damage caused by free radicals.

Additionally, the study revealed that mice lacking FoxO proteins failed to produce the required levels of a protein called lubricin, which helps to protect joint cartilage against wear and tear.

The reduced production of lubricin was linked to a reduction in healthy cells in the “superficial zone,” which is a layer of cartilage in the knee joint.

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Boosting FoxO ‘may prevent’ osteoarthritis

So, why does FoxO cause these issues? The researchers found that FoxO proteins regulate the expression of genes that are important for joint health, including those that control inflammation and autophagy.

The absence of FoxO proteins in the joint cartilage leads to an increase in inflammation and a decrease in autophagy, meaning that cells are unable to repair any damage.

“The housekeeping mechanisms, which keep cells healthy, were not working in these knockout mice,” says Dr. Lotz.

For the final part of their study, the scientists wanted to see whether boosting FoxO levels could restore these “housekeeping mechanisms.”

By increasing FoxO expression in cells taken from people with osteoarthritis, the researchers were able to normalize the expression of genes associated with inflammation and autophagy, and the production of lubricin was also restored.

The team now plans to create molecules that can increase FoxO levels and assess their effects in experimental osteoarthritis models.

Drugs that boost the expression and activity of FoxO could be a strategy for preventing and treating osteoarthritis.”

Dr. Martin Lotz

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Medical News Today: How making fun of yourself can make you happy

Self-deprecating jokes are the best — unless I make them. See what I did there? Judging by my humor (or lack thereof), you may think that I’m not a very self-confident person or have a tendency to be sad. According to a new study, however, nothing could be farther from the truth.
guy laughing
Laughing at yourself can do wonders for your well-being, suggests a new study.

Researchers from the University of Granada in Spain set out to investigate different types of humor, and they came to some surprising conclusions.

Contrary to popular belief, they say, those who make self-deprecating jokes do not have low self-esteem, nor are they prone to depression.

They may, in fact, be happier and better socially adjusted than most people.

“In particular,” says lead study author Jorge Torres-Marín, “we have observed that a greater tendency to employ self-defeating humor is indicative of high scores in psychological well-being dimensions such as happiness and […] sociability.”

So, in other words, my self-deprecating jokes may actually be a sign that I’m a happier and better-adjusted person who probably has more friends than you do.

Secretly though, I may also hate everybody — and that’s the truth because, well, I would never joke about that.

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Four types of humor and what they mean

The researchers reached their conclusions — which are now published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences — after applying psychometric analysis to study the humor of 1,068 adults aged 18–65.

To study the link between different styles of humor, well-being, and personality traits, Torres-Marín and colleagues applied the traditional division between four types of humor: “affiliative, aggressive, self-enhancing, and self-defeating.”

The researchers explain that pro-social, or “affiliative” humor, is “characterized by saying amusing remarks or telling jokes, being considered a type of benevolent humor.”

This humor type was discovered to correlate with personality traits such as kindness, humility, and honesty. The kinder the person, the likelier they are to make “benevolent” jokes that are meant to strengthen social bonds.

Self-enhancing humor, on the other hand, refers to “the maintenance of a humorous outlook during adverse or harmful situations.”

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The researchers say that they expected self-enhancing humor to correlate with higher scores of positive psychological well-being, but instead, they found self-defeating humor to correlate with happiness.

Additionally — and surprisingly — self-defeating humor was also associated with greater anger suppression. By contrast, individuals who use self-enhancing humor also tend to manage their anger better or simply feel less angry in general.

Finally, aggressive humor correlated with a higher expression and experience of anger in everyday situations.

The authors caution that certain kinds of humor could be used to hide negative feelings. Study co-author Ginés Navarro-Carrillo says, “[The] results suggest that humor, even when presented as benign or well-intentioned, can also represent a strategy for masking negative intentions.”

“[Humor] enables individuals with low scores in honesty to build trust, closeness, etc. with other people,” he adds, “and thereby use important information in order to manipulate them or obtain advantages in the future.”

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As a person who truly dislikes telling “jokes” — but who loves stand-up comedy — I cannot resist the urge to pass some of the “comedy greats” through the filter of the new findings.

“Angry” comedians such as Bill Hicks, Lenny Bruce, and George Carlin may genuinely have had anger management issues, given how “aggressive” and sometimes dark their humor was.

If we’re to take the findings for granted, Jerry Seinfeld’s “sunny” humor may either be a sign that he’s genuinely a kind and honest person, or that he’s the complete opposite: manipulative and dishonest, just trying to gain our trust.

Finally, in light of this new study, the self-defeating humor of Louis C.K. tells us that in real life he’s quite happy, but also that he has…well, definitely some issues, anger management or otherwise.

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Medical News Today: Single dads twice as likely to die prematurely

A large-scale study has compared the lifestyle and mortality risk of single dads with those of partnered parents and single moms. The findings are now published in the journal The Lancet Public Health.
single dad kissing his son's head while working on laptop
While the causes are unclear, it appears that single dads are more likely to die a premature death than partnered parents or single moms.

In recent decades, the number of single dads in the United States has skyrocketed.

According to the Pew Research Center, fewer than 300,000 households were built around single fathers in 1960. By 2011, however, the number had jumped to more than 2.6 million.

By comparison, single-mom households went from 1.9 million to 8.6 million during that time.

As the authors of the new study note, despite these growing numbers, not enough research has focused on the health of single dads or compared the mortality of single mothers with that of single fathers.

To remedy this, Dr. Maria Chiu — of the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and the University of Toronto, both in Canada — and colleagues followed the lifestyles of almost 40,500 Canadians over a period of 11 years.

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Death risk doubled among single dads

Of all the participants, 871 were single fathers, 4,590 were single mothers, 16,341 were partnered fathers, and 18,688 were partnered mothers. On average, the participants were aged between 41 and 46.

“Single parents,” explain the study authors, “were defined as those who were divorced, separated, widowed, or single, never-married, and non-cohabitating, and partnered parents were defined as those who were married or common-law partners.”

In their analysis, Dr. Chiu and her colleagues included people aged 15 and above who lived in the household with at least one biological or adopted child under the age of 25.

Using Cox proportional hazards models, the scientists performed what is — to their knowledge — the “first head-to-head comparison of mortality across single and partnered parent groups.”

At the beginning of the study, single dads were more likely to have cancer and heart disease than their partnered counterparts and single mothers. Additionally, they were more likely to have been hospitalized in the year leading up to the study.

Overall, single fathers were found to be more than twice as likely to die prematurely than their partnered counterparts and single mothers.

They also led less healthful lifestyles and were more likely to binge drink once per month as well as consume fewer fruits and vegetables.

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Could lifestyle be to blame for death risk?

The study could not draw any conclusions regarding the causes of death, mainly due to the fact that deaths over the study period were recorded as “other causes.”

However, the authors speculate on some of the possible causes. The unhealthful lifestyle may play a role, they suggest, as might a lack of social support consisting of friends or other community networks.

Dr. Chiu says, “Our research highlights that single fathers have higher mortality, and demonstrates a need for public health policies to help identify and support these men.”

While our study does not identify the exact cause of this, we did find that single fathers also tend to have unhealthier lifestyles, which could be an important area to address to improve health in this high-risk group.”

Dr. Maria Chiu

“Doctors’ appointments,” she continues, “could be an opportunity for doctors to engage with single fathers to help them to improve their health.”

“Research has shown that these conversations can help to motivate patients to adhere to treatment plans, make better decisions about their health, and influence their behavior and recovery,” Dr. Chiu concludes.

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Medical News Today: Just 1 hour of gaming may improve attention

The brain can be affected by just 1 hour of playing video games, according to new research published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.
a man playing a video game
Researchers suggest that gaming for just 1 hour may boost attention.

The study — which was conducted by scientists from the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China in Chengdu — found that participants who spent 1 hour playing the video game League of Legends experienced changes in brain activity.

The participants also demonstrated improved ability to focus on relevant information while screening out distractions.

The researchers recruited 29 male students to participate in the study. One group had at least 2 years of playing action video games and the other group had fewer than 6 months of experience playing these video games.

The group with the most experience, or the “experts,” were ranked in the top 7 percent of League of Legends players. The “non-experts,” meanwhile, were ranked in the bottom 11 percent.

The players’ “visual selective attention” was assessed by the researchers before and after playing League of Legends.

Visual selective attention is how scientists refer to the brain’s ability to focus while simultaneously disregarding less relevant information.

Focusing on relevant information in this way uses up brain power, so scientists tend to believe that people who are very good at focusing their attention while filtering out distractions show a very efficient use of their brains.

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Video game boosted brain activity, attention

The study authors measured visual selective attention with a test involving squares that flashed on different parts of a computer screen.

First, participants were briefly shown a square in the center of the screen, which was followed by a square flashing elsewhere on the screen. The participants had to then tell the scientists where on the screen the second square was, relative to the first square.

The participants’ brain activity was also monitored during the visual selective attention test using an electroencephalogram (EEG) machine.

Before playing the video game, the expert participants were found to have stronger visual selective attention than the non-experts, and their EEG results showed more attention-related brain activity.

After playing League of Legends for 1 hour, both groups demonstrated improved visual selective attention, even reporting similar scores in the post-game test.

Not only that, but the researchers found that the brain activity of the non-experts increased after playing the game, to the extent that levels of brain activity between experts and non-experts were now comparable.

Although the findings demonstrate a measurable increase in both brain activity and visual selective attention scores in participants after playing a video game for 1 hour, the authors explain that their findings do not tell us about how long these effects might last. They therefore suggest that more studies are needed in this regard.

It is worth noting, as well, that this study was conducted in a very small group of participants — just 29 men — so its results should be interpreted with caution.

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New findings add to growing evidence

Some previous studies have also found that action video games such as Halo and Call of Duty may improve visual attention.

A 2010 review of the available research, for example, suggested that playing video games may be beneficial for improving focus in military training and education.

As Bjorn Hubert-Wallander, the lead author of that review, explained, “Visual attention is crucial to preventing sensory overload, since the brain is constantly faced with an overwhelming amount of visual information.”

“It’s an ability,” he said, “that is especially emphasized during visually demanding activities such as driving a car or searching for a friend’s face in a crowd, so it is not surprising that scientists have long been interested in ways to modify, extend, and enhance the different facets of visual attention.”

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