Tag Archives: Medicine

Why Some People Sweat More than Others (and What to Do If That’s You)

Why Some People Sweat More than Others (and What to Do If That's You)

Some of us just sweat more than others, and while it can be the source of much embarrassment and shame (trust me, I’m a sweaty person), it helps to understand the reason behind it. This piece from The Science of Us explains the biology behind why, and what you can do about it if it bothers you.

Barring a case of hyperhidrosis (a condition marked by abnormally heavy sweating,) if you’re one of those people who tends to sweat a bit more than others, you can blame your parents—or at least your environment during the first few years of your life:

Explaining why some people sweat more than others, Rittié said that “[w]e think this is because of the following interesting fact. Everyone is born with virtually the same number of sweat glands, but sweat glands mature during the first 2 years of life. Not all sweat glands become able to produce sweat (it depends on the need during that time). So people who grew up in warm climates tend to have more active sweat glands than people who grew up in a climate-controlled environment or in cold climates. As adults, we keep all our sweat glands but only a portion of them are able to produce sweat. This percentage varies between individuals.”

I asked her if she was aware of any genetic factors contributing to this, and she said no. So that leaves the environment you spend your early years in as a major contributing factor to how sweaty you are later in life.

So that explains why we sweat so much, but not what you can do about it if you have a tendency to sweat profusely with even a little activity. The full piece has suggestions for that too, but here are a few stand-outs:

  • Slowly acclimate yourself to warmer temperatures over time. By inching up your thermostat a few degrees at a time, you’ll have to suffer through the discomfort of sweating a good bit at first, but over time, your body will grow accustomed to the now-higher temperatures. If you’re exposed to warmer temperatures often, your body will adapt—this is why 65 degrees feels chilly in the fall, but warm in the spring, the piece explains—by the end of summer, your body is adapted, and you can do the same at home.
  • Sip cold water, and ditch the ice packs. Your body’s sweat response is based on internal temperature, not external temperature, so sipping cold water will help keep your core temperature down—which in turn, despite how much activity you get or how hot it is outside, will help you cool off.

The slow adaptation rule also applies to exercise and activity as well. If you feel like you sweat after even a flight of stairs, even though you’re not winded or tired, keep pushing—eventually, maybe by making those stairs part of your daily climb—your body will adapt and you’ll be able to take them without sweating so much.

If You’re Way Too Sweaty, Blame Your Early Childhood | The Science of Us

Photo by kullez.

Why We Get Brain Freezes

Everyone’s familiar with a brain freeze: You eat or drink something cold a little too fast and suddenly your head erupts in a flash of pain. We all get them and try to avoid them, but this video explains why they happen at all.

Long story short for the folks who can’t watch the video, the going theory is that brain freezes happen when the brain interprets rapid constriction of blood vessels in the mouth and palate as pain—the cold sensation and blood vessel constriction trigger the trigeminal nerve, which tells the brain “something’s wrong in my face,” and your brain does what it needs to so you stop doing that thing—the “thing” in question is usually eating ice cream, drinking a milkshake, or enjoying some delicious shaved ice.

In fact, the video (from Mental Floss, linked below) explains that people who are more susceptible to migranes are also more susceptible to brain freezes, and researchers hope that by studying them, they’ll get a clue into how migranes and other headaches work, and how to treat them more effectively.

As for what to do about them? Well the answer is the same as you’ve been told your whole life: when you’re eating something cold, slow down. If you really need a countermeasure, a glass of warm water or something may help you recover a little more quickly than you would otherwise. Hit play on the video above (or the link below) for more.

What’s a brain freeze? | Mental Floss (YouTube)

Why Some People Bruise So Easily

We’ve all had those moments where we run into things and come away with a nasty bruise, but this DNews video explains why some of us seem to be more resilient and heal quickly while others of us seem to wake up with mystery bruises with no memory of where they came from.

After explaining exactly how the bruising process works and looks (for lighter skinned people, that is), the video explains that some people may bruise more easily if they’re prone to specific blood conditions like hemophilia or Von Willebrand Disease—where the blood doesn’t clot as quickly as it should or the proteins in the blood that are supposed to clot don’t work properly. Also, people who are on blood thinning medications for heart conditions or blood pressure conditions may also bruise more easily because of the way the medicine interacts with your blood. Similarly, if you’re particularly athletic or do a lot of weight training, you may be prone to bruise more often because the process of building muscle involves causing small amounts of damage to muscle tissue and then letting it heal back, stronger than before.

http://vitals.lifehacker.com/what-makes-you…

Beyond that though, if you do really get those mystery bruises and you have no idea where they’re from, they could be an underlying condition that you should speak to your doctor about. If none of the above applies to you, and you don’t remember bumping your shin in the middle of the night—or you do and that bruise seems to be taking forever to go away, it might be time to call the doctor.

Why Do Some People Bruise So Easily? | DNews (YouTube)

The Medical Screenings All Women Need, and When

The Medical Screenings All Women Need, and When

No matter how fast medicine moves us towards treatments, preventive medicine will always be the most effective and cheapest way to keep healthy. In this post, we’ll run down some common women’s health screening tests, when you should get them, and what you’re in for when you walk in.

The key word here is recommendations. These are not rules, they’re guidelines aimed at women with average risk (which means no relevant personal or family medical history.) Since there’s some bickering among experts as to which tests are appropriate at what age, each of the reccomendations below is informed by a combination of the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the American College of Radiology (ACR), and the American College of Physicians (ACP).

Also, keep in mind that this list does not include things checked during your annual primary care visit (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, urinalysis, abdominal circumference, physical exam, etc) or behavior related screenings (STIs, lung cancer, etc). Those tests are all absolutely critical to maintaining your health as well: Don’t skimp on them just because you think heart disease doesn’t seem as scary as colon cancer.

As always, final decisions about your personal care should be made after a conversation between you and your physician. Not after a quick perusal of the internet.

http://lifehacker.com/5946540/how-to…


Manual Breast Exams

The Medical Screenings All Women Need, and When

What Is It? The manual breast exam looks for signs and symptoms of a number of breast problems, including cancer. There are two types: clinical breast exams (CBE) are performed by your doctor; breast self exams (BSE) are done at home. The goal is to identify signs early on so you can catch any problems before they progress.

Your doctor starts by checking your breasts for rashes, skin dimpling, or other abnormal changes. Once the visual check is done, they use the pads of their fingers to physically examine (palpate) your breast, under arm, and under your collarbone for lumps or abnormalities in your breast tissue and lymph nodes.

What Does It Feel Like? Like someone is kneading your breast and moving your arms around as if you’re a wax figure. Not painful but awkward in that “where am I supposed to be looking right now” kind of way. Also, doctors usually have cold hands.

When Should I Get It? The ACS does not recommend clinical breast exams. ACOG, on the other hand, recommends them annually for women over the age of 19.

Many doctors follow the ACOG guidelines and start including a bonus breast exam as part of your routine healthcare visit in your early teens. There’s nothing wrong with that, but research suggests that it can result in a high number of false positives (incorrectly identifying a problem where there is none). Breast cancer is exceedingly rare for women in their 20s; ACS argues that early CBEs may lead to unnecessary additional testing and procedures (not to mention anxiety).

In the past, women were told to perform monthly self-exams, which for most of us meant a half hearted poke on no particular timeline. ACOG and ACS are on the same page with this one, citing research that suggests no difference in mortality between women who perform BSEs and those who do not. Doctors now recommend that you practice “breast self-awareness.” Breasts come in all shapes, sizes, and consistencies: know your normal.


Mammograms

The Medical Screenings All Women Need, and When

What Is It? A mammogram is an X-ray of your breast, designed to detect breast cancer. They can be done as a screening (for women who don’t have other symptoms) or a diagnostic (for a woman with signs/symptoms of breast disease or a lump). It is the only imaging technique shown to reduce breast cancer mortality.

What Does It Feel Like? I haven’t had the pleasure yet, so I crowdsourced this question on mammograms. The most common response was “Like your breast is in a vice.” General consensus is that the 10 – 15 minute test is definitely unpleasant, but less so than breast cancer.

When Should I Get It? This one’s a bit complicated, with organizations releasing sniping press releases and op-eds trying to discredit one another over mammogram screening guidelines.

According to the Society of Breast Imaging, the ACR, and ACOG, asymptomatic women of average risk should be screened annually beginning at age 40. The ACS recently changed their guidelines to recommend yearly mammograms from the age of 45-54 and every two years after that. Those screenings should continue as long as you’re expected to live 10 years or longer.

In what turned out to be a highly contentious move, earlier this year the US Preventive Services Task Force (UPSTF) issued a new set of recommendations. They recommend screening mammography once every two years in women ages 50-74. They judged that low risk women younger than 50 or older than 75 do not require regular screening — everyone else disagreed.


BRCA Test

The Medical Screenings All Women Need, and When

What Is It? Also known as the Angelina Jolie test, a BRCA test looks for genetic mutations that may increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

What Does It Feel Like? It’s a blood test, so it feels like a needle prick.

When Should I Get It? Rates of the mutation are very low in the general population (less than 0.3%) and routine screening is not recommended for all women. For those with a family history of breast, ovarian, tubal, or peritoneal cancer, the USPSTF recommends genetic counseling and, if desired, BRCA testing after the age of consent (18 years). The FDA and CDC both caution against the use of home screening tests.


Pelvic Examination

What Is It? The pelvic exam is the physical exam portion of your visit to the gynecologist. In addition to checking your general reproductive health, doctors assess your organs, looking for signs of health conditions including cysts, fibroids, and STIs.

The pelvic exam includes an external examination and a bimanual examination. During the bimanual exam, two fingers are inserted into your vagina to assess your cervix. The doctor will also examine your uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes by pressing down on your abdomen. Depending on your doctor, they may also perform a rectovaginal exam (one finger is inserted into the rectum during exam). This allows a more complete picture of your anatomy, including the position of your uterus and assessment of the rectum.

What Does It Feel Like? Pretty much exactly like it sounds. Your doctor inserts fingers into your vagina and applies pressure to your lower abdomen. It’s not exactly a life highlight, but should not be painful. Generally you will stare at the fluorescent lights while awkwardly making small talk with the person feeling your internal genitalia. In part of a running theme, if the speculum is metal, it might be cold. Sometimes your doctor will warn you; sometimes it will be an unwelcome surprise.

When Should I Get It? As with many of these guidelines, it depends on who you ask.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends annual pelvic exams beginning at age 21. Their conclusions are based on the expert opinions of physicians in the field, but the college acknowledges that there is no definitive scientific data on the need for an annual pelvic exam for asymptomatic women.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) examined the current medical research on routine pelvic exams and concluded there is limited benefit to routine annual exams for asymptomatic, non pregnant women.

Both organizations agree that pelvic examinations for women younger than 21 are only recommended when the medical history indicates a specific need. An annual visit to your gynecologist is still recommended for STI screening, general reproductive health counseling, and birth control as needed.


Pap Smear

What Is It? Although the pap smear was first developed in the 1920s, it didn’t gain real traction in the US until decades later. At the time, cervical cancer was the number one cause of death in women. With the advent of pap smears as a standard of women’s health, and improved cancer treatments, death rates decreased dramatically. Today, the pap smear (or, more commonly, “pap”) is considered one of the most critical screening tests for women. It aims to identify any cervical changes in the precancerous stage, before they develop into cervical cancer. It does not test for HPV infection. In 2012, a co-screening blood test for the human papilloma virus itself, the cause of nearly 90% of cases of cervical cancer, was incorporated into the guidelines.

For the test, a speculum is inserted into your vagina to give the doctor visual and physical access to your cervix. Your gynecologist will use a small spatula and brush to take a sample of your cervical cells. These scrapings are stained and examined under a microscope to look for dysplastic changes – in other words, to see if any of the cells are growing abnormally.

What Does It Feel Like? Not surprisingly, the pap is uncomfortable because your legs are up in stirrups and you are being propped open by a cold piece of metal (or plastic) while someone stares at your genitals. The test itself feels somewhat akin to having something dragged across your cervix for a few seconds (which is exactly what’s happening). The discomfort is fleeting.

When Should I Get It? In the past five years, guidelines have changed to recommend less frequent screenings.

The current American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommendations, updated in 2012 and consistent with the ACS and USPTF are:

  • Age 21-29: every 3 years
  • Age 30-65: every 3 years or every 5 years with HPV co-screening
  • Age 65+: dependent on prior history

Why the change to screening later and with less frequency? The virus is extremely common in young women and, most importantly, many of the strains are handily taken care of by your immune system. HPV infection in a young, sexually active woman will likely self resolve without treatment.

http://vitals.lifehacker.com/the-hpv-vaccin…

There are vaccinesGardasil and Cervarix — that protect against the cancer and genital wart causing strains of HPV. While earlier vaccination is ideal (it is recommended after age 11), the vaccine is recommended for women through the age of 26. This is a vaccine that prevents cancer. If you are eligible and don’t have it, go get it.


Colorectal Cancer Screening

What Is It? Most people associate colorectal cancer screening with colonoscopies — a multipurpose test that can screen for colorectal cancer, ulcers, polyps, and bleeding. There are actually a few methods of testing for colorectal cancer, each with a different screening recommendation. The unique advantage of the colonoscopy is that it visualizes the entire colon and allows for tissue sampling and removal of polyps as appropriate.

There are also several screening tests that look for blood in the stool, a possible sign of colon cancer.

What Does It Feel Like? As for the mammogram, I had to outsource this question. For the colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy prep, the almost universal responses were either “I don’t want to talk about it. There’s just so much poop.” For the colonoscopy itself, most people are sedated so you will have no memory of the experience. Because the sigmoidoscope does not travel as far up the digestive tract, patients are awake through the procedure. This was described “like someone is snaking a pipe…only it’s your rectum.”

For the fecal occult blood screening test (FOBT), your doctor will insert one finger into your rectum and test for blood. This feels exactly as it sounds. For the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), you will collect samples of your own stool. This is painless, but kind of gross.

When Should I Get It? ACS recommends four screening options for low risk women. In all cases, if a test is positive, further exam via colonoscopy is required. Doctors reccommend screening beginning at age 50 or age 45 for African Americans. Patients can choose between a colonoscopy every 10 years, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5-10 years, CT colonography every 5 years, or double contrast barium enema every 5 years. The American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) emphasizes that their preferred screening test for polyps and cancer is a colonoscopy.

For detection of cancer, ACS recommends either a Guaiac based fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test test every year or a stool DNA test every 3 years. Based on research suggesting FIT to be a superior test, it was adopted as the preferred cancer detection test by the ACG.


Bone Mineral Density Screening

The Medical Screenings All Women Need, and When

What Is It? Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones lose density and weaken, making them brittle and more likely to fracture. It is a common consequence of decreased estrogen levels during menopause. It’s also significantly more common in women, with 1 in 2 post menopausal women at risk for an osteoporosis related fracture. That’s where the bone mineral density screening comes in.

Bone density is measured by an x-ray that determines the level of calcium and other minerals in your bones. Specifically, it is a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) machine, which reveals more than a standard x-ray. Although screening is also possible by an ultrasound of your calcaneus, or heel bone, diagnosis and treatment standards are based on DXA findings.

What Does It Feel Like? The bone density test is an x-ray, typically of your hip and spine. You lie on a table and a technician will manipulate a machine to point at different parts of your body. It is painless. Unlike almost every other preventive test on women, this time you get to keep your clothing on.

When Should I Get It? The USPSTF and ACOG recommend screening for women age 65 and older with no previous fractures or secondary causes of osteoporosis (it’s worth noting that these guidelines are currently in the process of being updated.) There is no conclusive evidence on screening intervals for osteoporosis, though. ACOG recommends screening every 15 years for women with a prior normal bone density scan.

Women younger than 65 should be screened if their fracture risk is equal to or greater than that of a 65 year old woman.


Regular screening and early treatment remains your best bet for reaching (or outliving!) the average American lifespan of 78.74 years (if you don’t live in the US, your average life expectancy can be found here.) Insurance coverage in the US is higher than ever, but many still have limited or no access to this kind of preventative care. If you do not have a regular physician or are uninsured, there are programs that can help:

Beyond these, talk to your primary care physician or health care provider. There may be local or community programs that can help find affordable or free resources for these screenings as well.

Title illustration by Sam Woolley. Images via iTriageHealth, BruceBlaus, EMW,and BruceBlaus.

The Medical Screenings All Women Need, and When

The Medical Screenings All Women Need, and When

No matter how fast medicine moves us towards treatments, preventive medicine will always be the most effective and cheapest way to keep healthy. In this post, we’ll run down some common women’s health screening tests, when you should get them, and what you’re in for when you walk in.

The key word here is recommendations. These are not rules, they’re guidelines aimed at women with average risk (which means no relevant personal or family medical history.) Since there’s some bickering among experts as to which tests are appropriate at what age, each of the reccomendations below is informed by a combination of the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), the American Cancer Society (ACS), the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), the American College of Radiology (ACR), and the American College of Physicians (ACP).

Also, keep in mind that this list does not include things checked during your annual primary care visit (blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, urinalysis, abdominal circumference, physical exam, etc) or behavior related screenings (STIs, lung cancer, etc). Those tests are all absolutely critical to maintaining your health as well: Don’t skimp on them just because you think heart disease doesn’t seem as scary as colon cancer.

As always, final decisions about your personal care should be made after a conversation between you and your physician. Not after a quick perusal of the internet.

http://lifehacker.com/5946540/how-to…


Manual Breast Exams

The Medical Screenings All Women Need, and When

What Is It? The manual breast exam looks for signs and symptoms of a number of breast problems, including cancer. There are two types: clinical breast exams (CBE) are performed by your doctor; breast self exams (BSE) are done at home. The goal is to identify signs early on so you can catch any problems before they progress.

Your doctor starts by checking your breasts for rashes, skin dimpling, or other abnormal changes. Once the visual check is done, they use the pads of their fingers to physically examine (palpate) your breast, under arm, and under your collarbone for lumps or abnormalities in your breast tissue and lymph nodes.

What Does It Feel Like? Like someone is kneading your breast and moving your arms around as if you’re a wax figure. Not painful but awkward in that “where am I supposed to be looking right now” kind of way. Also, doctors usually have cold hands.

When Should I Get It? The ACS does not recommend clinical breast exams. ACOG, on the other hand, recommends them annually for women over the age of 19.

Many doctors follow the ACOG guidelines and start including a bonus breast exam as part of your routine healthcare visit in your early teens. There’s nothing wrong with that, but research suggests that it can result in a high number of false positives (incorrectly identifying a problem where there is none). Breast cancer is exceedingly rare for women in their 20s; ACS argues that early CBEs may lead to unnecessary additional testing and procedures (not to mention anxiety).

In the past, women were told to perform monthly self-exams, which for most of us meant a half hearted poke on no particular timeline. ACOG and ACS are on the same page with this one, citing research that suggests no difference in mortality between women who perform BSEs and those who do not. Doctors now recommend that you practice “breast self-awareness.” Breasts come in all shapes, sizes, and consistencies: know your normal.


Mammograms

The Medical Screenings All Women Need, and When

What Is It? A mammogram is an X-ray of your breast, designed to detect breast cancer. They can be done as a screening (for women who don’t have other symptoms) or a diagnostic (for a woman with signs/symptoms of breast disease or a lump). It is the only imaging technique shown to reduce breast cancer mortality.

What Does It Feel Like? I haven’t had the pleasure yet, so I crowdsourced this question on mammograms. The most common response was “Like your breast is in a vice.” General consensus is that the 10 – 15 minute test is definitely unpleasant, but less so than breast cancer.

When Should I Get It? This one’s a bit complicated, with organizations releasing sniping press releases and op-eds trying to discredit one another over mammogram screening guidelines.

According to the Society of Breast Imaging, the ACR, and ACOG, asymptomatic women of average risk should be screened annually beginning at age 40. The ACS recently changed their guidelines to recommend yearly mammograms from the age of 45-54 and every two years after that. Those screenings should continue as long as you’re expected to live 10 years or longer.

In what turned out to be a highly contentious move, earlier this year the US Preventive Services Task Force (UPSTF) issued a new set of recommendations. They recommend screening mammography once every two years in women ages 50-74. They judged that low risk women younger than 50 or older than 75 do not require regular screening — everyone else disagreed.


BRCA Test

The Medical Screenings All Women Need, and When

What Is It? Also known as the Angelina Jolie test, a BRCA test looks for genetic mutations that may increase a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer.

What Does It Feel Like? It’s a blood test, so it feels like a needle prick.

When Should I Get It? Rates of the mutation are very low in the general population (less than 0.3%) and routine screening is not recommended for all women. For those with a family history of breast, ovarian, tubal, or peritoneal cancer, the USPSTF recommends genetic counseling and, if desired, BRCA testing after the age of consent (18 years). The FDA and CDC both caution against the use of home screening tests.


Pelvic Examination

What Is It? The pelvic exam is the physical exam portion of your visit to the gynecologist. In addition to checking your general reproductive health, doctors assess your organs, looking for signs of health conditions including cysts, fibroids, and STIs.

The pelvic exam includes an external examination and a bimanual examination. During the bimanual exam, two fingers are inserted into your vagina to assess your cervix. The doctor will also examine your uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes by pressing down on your abdomen. Depending on your doctor, they may also perform a rectovaginal exam (one finger is inserted into the rectum during exam). This allows a more complete picture of your anatomy, including the position of your uterus and assessment of the rectum.

What Does It Feel Like? Pretty much exactly like it sounds. Your doctor inserts fingers into your vagina and applies pressure to your lower abdomen. It’s not exactly a life highlight, but should not be painful. Generally you will stare at the fluorescent lights while awkwardly making small talk with the person feeling your internal genitalia. In part of a running theme, if the speculum is metal, it might be cold. Sometimes your doctor will warn you; sometimes it will be an unwelcome surprise.

When Should I Get It? As with many of these guidelines, it depends on who you ask.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommends annual pelvic exams beginning at age 21. Their conclusions are based on the expert opinions of physicians in the field, but the college acknowledges that there is no definitive scientific data on the need for an annual pelvic exam for asymptomatic women.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) examined the current medical research on routine pelvic exams and concluded there is limited benefit to routine annual exams for asymptomatic, non pregnant women.

Both organizations agree that pelvic examinations for women younger than 21 are only recommended when the medical history indicates a specific need. An annual visit to your gynecologist is still recommended for STI screening, general reproductive health counseling, and birth control as needed.


Pap Smear

What Is It? Although the pap smear was first developed in the 1920s, it didn’t gain real traction in the US until decades later. At the time, cervical cancer was the number one cause of death in women. With the advent of pap smears as a standard of women’s health, and improved cancer treatments, death rates decreased dramatically. Today, the pap smear (or, more commonly, “pap”) is considered one of the most critical screening tests for women. It aims to identify any cervical changes in the precancerous stage, before they develop into cervical cancer. It does not test for HPV infection. In 2012, a co-screening blood test for the human papilloma virus itself, the cause of nearly 90% of cases of cervical cancer, was incorporated into the guidelines.

For the test, a speculum is inserted into your vagina to give the doctor visual and physical access to your cervix. Your gynecologist will use a small spatula and brush to take a sample of your cervical cells. These scrapings are stained and examined under a microscope to look for dysplastic changes – in other words, to see if any of the cells are growing abnormally.

What Does It Feel Like? Not surprisingly, the pap is uncomfortable because your legs are up in stirrups and you are being propped open by a cold piece of metal (or plastic) while someone stares at your genitals. The test itself feels somewhat akin to having something dragged across your cervix for a few seconds (which is exactly what’s happening). The discomfort is fleeting.

When Should I Get It? In the past five years, guidelines have changed to recommend less frequent screenings.

The current American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) recommendations, updated in 2012 and consistent with the ACS and USPTF are:

  • Age 21-29: every 3 years
  • Age 30-65: every 3 years or every 5 years with HPV co-screening
  • Age 65+: dependent on prior history

Why the change to screening later and with less frequency? The virus is extremely common in young women and, most importantly, many of the strains are handily taken care of by your immune system. HPV infection in a young, sexually active woman will likely self resolve without treatment.

http://vitals.lifehacker.com/the-hpv-vaccin…

There are vaccinesGardasil and Cervarix — that protect against the cancer and genital wart causing strains of HPV. While earlier vaccination is ideal (it is recommended after age 11), the vaccine is recommended for women through the age of 26. This is a vaccine that prevents cancer. If you are eligible and don’t have it, go get it.


Colorectal Cancer Screening

What Is It? Most people associate colorectal cancer screening with colonoscopies — a multipurpose test that can screen for colorectal cancer, ulcers, polyps, and bleeding. There are actually a few methods of testing for colorectal cancer, each with a different screening recommendation. The unique advantage of the colonoscopy is that it visualizes the entire colon and allows for tissue sampling and removal of polyps as appropriate.

There are also several screening tests that look for blood in the stool, a possible sign of colon cancer.

What Does It Feel Like? As for the mammogram, I had to outsource this question. For the colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy prep, the almost universal responses were either “I don’t want to talk about it. There’s just so much poop.” For the colonoscopy itself, most people are sedated so you will have no memory of the experience. Because the sigmoidoscope does not travel as far up the digestive tract, patients are awake through the procedure. This was described “like someone is snaking a pipe…only it’s your rectum.”

For the fecal occult blood screening test (FOBT), your doctor will insert one finger into your rectum and test for blood. This feels exactly as it sounds. For the fecal immunochemical test (FIT), you will collect samples of your own stool. This is painless, but kind of gross.

When Should I Get It? ACS recommends four screening options for low risk women. In all cases, if a test is positive, further exam via colonoscopy is required. Doctors reccommend screening beginning at age 50 or age 45 for African Americans. Patients can choose between a colonoscopy every 10 years, a flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5-10 years, CT colonography every 5 years, or double contrast barium enema every 5 years. The American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) emphasizes that their preferred screening test for polyps and cancer is a colonoscopy.

For detection of cancer, ACS recommends either a Guaiac based fecal occult blood test or fecal immunochemical test test every year or a stool DNA test every 3 years. Based on research suggesting FIT to be a superior test, it was adopted as the preferred cancer detection test by the ACG.


Bone Mineral Density Screening

The Medical Screenings All Women Need, and When

What Is It? Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones lose density and weaken, making them brittle and more likely to fracture. It is a common consequence of decreased estrogen levels during menopause. It’s also significantly more common in women, with 1 in 2 post menopausal women at risk for an osteoporosis related fracture. That’s where the bone mineral density screening comes in.

Bone density is measured by an x-ray that determines the level of calcium and other minerals in your bones. Specifically, it is a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) machine, which reveals more than a standard x-ray. Although screening is also possible by an ultrasound of your calcaneus, or heel bone, diagnosis and treatment standards are based on DXA findings.

What Does It Feel Like? The bone density test is an x-ray, typically of your hip and spine. You lie on a table and a technician will manipulate a machine to point at different parts of your body. It is painless. Unlike almost every other preventive test on women, this time you get to keep your clothing on.

When Should I Get It? The USPSTF and ACOG recommend screening for women age 65 and older with no previous fractures or secondary causes of osteoporosis (it’s worth noting that these guidelines are currently in the process of being updated.) There is no conclusive evidence on screening intervals for osteoporosis, though. ACOG recommends screening every 15 years for women with a prior normal bone density scan.

Women younger than 65 should be screened if their fracture risk is equal to or greater than that of a 65 year old woman.


Regular screening and early treatment remains your best bet for reaching (or outliving!) the average American lifespan of 78.74 years (if you don’t live in the US, your average life expectancy can be found here.) Insurance coverage in the US is higher than ever, but many still have limited or no access to this kind of preventative care. If you do not have a regular physician or are uninsured, there are programs that can help:

Beyond these, talk to your primary care physician or health care provider. There may be local or community programs that can help find affordable or free resources for these screenings as well.

Title illustration by Sam Woolley. Images via iTriageHealth, BruceBlaus, EMW,and BruceBlaus.

The Differences Between Antibiotics, Antibacterials, and Antiseptics (and When to Use Them)

The Differences Between Antibiotics, Antibacterials, and Antiseptics (and When to Use Them)

There’s a bit more to first aid than just cleaning a wound and slapping on a band-aid. Store shelves are littered with antibiotics like Neosporin, antiseptics like peroxide, and more. Let’s go over the differences.

Mental Floss’ article covers anesthetics rather than antibacterials, but we figured there may be more confusion between antibiotics and antibacterials. Both fall under antimicrobials, a general category of compounds that kills microbes (bacteria, fungi, and other pathogens). An antibacterial is an antibiotic, but as the name implies, it can only target bacteria. Antibiotics, on the other hand, can kill or keep pathogens from growing.

The name brand Neosporin, for example, is an antibiotic ointment that can be used on wounds, but won’t help with burns, existing infections, or other, deeper pain (despite having Lidocaine, a topical analgesic.) The general caveat about antibiotics also apply here: don’t overuse them, as doing so could encourage bacteria to be more resistant.

Antiseptics, including hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, and iodine, are mainly used to deter bacterial growth. In general, they’re used to clean the skin before an injection (like during a blood test) and can be used to clean wounds. We’ve discussed before how hydrogen peroxide can be harsh on wounds, so if you’re cleaning a reasonable wound, most experts agree that soap and water are ideal.

http://lifehacker.com/all-the-first-…

What’s the Difference Between Neosporin, Bactine, and Hydrogen Peroxide? | Mental Floss

Image by papertygre.

Counting Sheep Doesn’t Actually Work, and Other Misconceptions About Sleep

We’ve written a lot about sleep—from how a lack of sleep can undermine your weight loss and productivity to how sleeping too much can be counterproductive. Still, misconceptions about sleep persist. This video by Mental Floss helps clear up a few of them.

http://vitals.lifehacker.com/you-snooze-you…

Have you ever been told to count sheep to fall asleep? I know I have, and it never did a lick of good for me. What keeps me from properly concentrating on counting sheep ends up being the same thing that keeps me from falling asleep: a brain that just won’t shut the hell up. Sure enough, Mental Floss explains that a better way to slip into sweet slumber is to actually imagine a relaxing scenario, like you sitting on the beach while sipping a cold one and watching the sunset.

It’s the same reason you want to avoid just lying in bed, waiting for sleep to come. If it doesn’t, it’s better to get up and do something relaxing to help you feel sleepy again (hint: don’t check your Twitter or emails). What’s more, the video goes on to explain that even after you’ve finally entered sleep’s warm embrace, your brain is still fully active. Your body may be resting, but your mind is still churning just as hard as when you’re awake.

Other misconceptions: how your body adapts to less sleep over time (not quite) and the notion of exercising at night and its impact on sleep quality. To the latter point, I will contest that I tend to have trouble falling asleep if I’ve done hard exercise some hours before bedtime.

http://lifehacker.com/5971884/the-sc…

Sleep is seriously important, so check out our articles on how to get better sleep and how to find insomnia. And remember, while the standard recommendation is eight hours a night the true amount varies from person to person.

Misconceptions About Sleep | Mental Floss

Jobs You Probably Never Considered, the Health Benefits of Yoga, and a Billboard that Kills Zika Mosquitoes

Jobs You Probably Never Considered, the Health Benefits of Yoga, and a Billboard that Kills Zika Mosquitoes

Some Monday morning inspiration, career options your guidance counselor probably never suggested, the real health benefits of yoga (that don’t require pricey pants), and more, all in this week’s Lifehacker Brain Buffet!

Welcome to Lifehacker’s Monday Brain Buffet, a new series where we round up interesting, informative, and thought-provoking podcasts, interviews, articles, and other media that will teach you something new, inspire you, and hopefully start your week off on the right foot.


Jobs Your Guidance Counselor Probably Never Mentioned

From snake milking to cheese carving, John Green over at Mental Floss rounds up a ton of hilarious—but important—jobs that probably weren’t on your radar when you were thinking about what to be when you grew up, or what to do when you got out of school. And don’t worry, if neither of those sound great, there are plenty of others to choose from, like ice cream taster (yum!), dog food taster (ugh.), and even NASA chief “sniffer,” who smells things before they go into space. The whole affair is both eye-opening and hilarious, and worth a watch. [via Mental Floss]


A Whole Computer Science Class Didn’t Realize their Teaching Assistant Was a Chat Bot

We’re probably already at the point where the Turing Test isn’t a terribly meaningful way to discern a human on the internet from a computer—mostly because of the slowly degrading quality of human interaction online and the rapidly improving capabilities of chat bots and immature AIs that tech companies are programming to be our “virtual assistants” like Siri and Google Now, and other gatekeeping service tools (I see you, Microsoft.)

So it doesn’t totally surprise me that a college CS professor programmed a chat bot to essentially “be” his class’s teaching assistant, and then ran a semester-long test on his students to see if they’d ever realize that they weren’t talking to a human being at all on their class forum. To their credit though, many students did get a little suspicious, and the fact that the TA’s name was Jill Watson (because the bot was powered by IBM’s Watson) may have thrown up a red flag here or there. [via TheNextWeb]


The Actual Health Benefits of Yoga, Beyond Stretching and Flexibility

This video from DNews probably does the best job I’ve seen at breaking down the health benefits of Yoga (alongside the dumbed down, reductive, blatantly misappropriative aspects of how it’s practiced in the US) that I’ve seen since, well, the last time we talked about it around here.

http://vitals.lifehacker.com/does-yoga-have…

More than a few studies have pointed to the fact that the act of relaxation and meditation and focusing on your body in concert with exercise can bring the benefits of both at the same time. In the end, you get reduced stress, eased chronic (or acute, for that matter) pain from long-term conditions, improved bloodflow, and more. While it’s no magic ticket to a long and healthy life, it’s certainly on to something—something more people could benefit from, and they don’t have to buy expensive mats and brand-name tights to participate. [via DNews]


Finding Your Flavors in the Kitchen

The New York Times recently started a new documentary series called Taste Makers, each a profile of an interesting or outstanding young person in America who’s doing something unique in their aspiring career in the food industry—whether they’re a chef, a farmer, or an entrepeneur. This video, one of the first in the series, follows Adrienne Cheatham, an executive chef at Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem.

To say the series is inspiring is a bit of an understatement. I always knew that working in the food industry is hard, long, thankless work, but this shines a bit of a light on it, and is always a good reminder. Marcus’ kind (but forcefully honest) words about his chef in front of the camera were also particularly interesting from a leadership perspective, where he was more than easily able to talk about Adrienne’s strengths and growth areas calmly with her standing right there. Adrienne’s work and passion—and then coming home at night to pour herself a glass of something strong after a 12-16 hour day and work on her inspiration board, even though she says she’s not feeling inspired, is also amazing.

Seriously, give the whole thing a watch. I’ll probably include a few others from the playlist in future Brain Buffets, so don’t binge the whole series, okay? [via The New York Times]


The Theories on How We Experience Consciousness, and a New Challenger: Time Slicing

There are two prevailing theories on how we experience the world and reality around us. One says it’s kind of like a movie, a constant stream of informaton and perception without a real beginning or end. The other posits that it’s more like the frames of a movie, imperceptible bits of time stitched together into perception to create consciousness, and a brain that glosses over the missing bits on behalf of the conscious mind.

Now there’s a new theory, posited in a recent paper, published at PLOS Biology (full text there, so feel free to read it,) by a team of researchers who suggest that it’s a bit of a hybrid, with consciousness happening in “time slices” of about 400 milliseconds each, and our brain stitching it together in a coherent, consistent manner. From ScienceAlert:

In their model, ‘time slices’ consisting of unconscious processing of stimuli last for up to 400 milliseconds (ms), and are immediately followed by the conscious perception of events.

“The reason is that the brain wants to give you the best, clearest information it can, and this demands a substantial amount of time,” said researcher Michael Herzog from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). “There is no advantage in making you aware of its unconscious processing, because that would be immensely confusing.”

According to Herzog and fellow researcher Frank Scharnowski from the University of Zurich, neither the ‘continuous’ nor ‘discrete’ hypotheses can by themselves aptly describe how we process the world around us, as numerous studies testing people’s visual awareness seem to disprove both notions.

… After this analysis is complete, the researchers say the features we’ve detected are integrated into our conscious perception, compressing all the unconscious recording into something we’re actually aware of.

In other words, while we’re taking the world in, we’re not actually consciously perceiving it. Instead, we’re just mutely using our senses to record data for up to 400 ms at a time. Then, in what could be called a moment of clarity, we consciously perceive the stimuli that our senses have detected.

Of course, like any preliminary research, this is preliminary—and you shouldn’t take this as ummutable fact or anything. It’s just very interesting, and insight into the study of exactly how we perceive the world around us, and how we understand it. [via ScienceAlert]


A Billboard that Kills Zika Mosquitoes

The mosquito that carries the Zika virus also carries a number of other illnesses that can be fatal to humans. Putting aside the pending global issue with the Zika virus and the Olympics, much less the ongoing public health emergency in Brazil because of it, this simple billboard is capable of killing hundreds of mosquitoes every day—and the people who made it have released the plans and blueprints to the public under Creative Commons, so anyone can make one of their own.

http://vitals.lifehacker.com/your-non-alarm…

It’s more than a big bug zapper though. The billboard releases a combination of CO2 and lactic acid into the air, mimicking human breath and sweat to attract the mosquitoes. It’s also lit, making it more attractive to the bugs at night. At the bottom is a simple capture device, sucking in the mosquitoes that fly near it and trapping them inside until they die of dehydration.

It’s a simple solution that’s effective at killing the mosquitoes already in the air. Combined with disposing of standing water and disturbing water where mosquitoes breed, it’s an easy one-two punch that towns and municipalities can put into action to control their mosquito populations, whether they’re worried about Zika or not. [via Hackaday]


That’s all for this week! If you have thought-provoking stories, interesting podcasts, eye-opening videos, or anything else you think would be perfect for Brain Buffet, share it with us! Email it to me, leave it as a comment below, or send it over any way you know how.

Title gif by Nick Criscuolo.

All the Free Health Care You Can Get Without Using Your Deductible

All the Free Health Care You Can Get Without Using Your Deductible

If you’re putting off a checkup or a tetanus booster because you think you’d have to pay a ton for it, we have good news. Even if you haven’t met your deductible, you still don’t have to pay a cent for most common types of preventive care.

Deductibles Don’t Work the Way You Might Think

Health insurance deductibles work very differently than car insurance deductibles. With a car, you have to cough up a certain amount of money before insurance will kick in—it’s a straightforward matter of numbers. So if somebody busts your headlight, you’ll pay for it out of pocket, because calling up your insurance company won’t bring you any benefit. You probably hope you never have to use your auto insurance at all—and if you’re a safe driver, and very lucky, maybe you won’t.

But it’s not realistic to expect to never use health insurance. Almost everybody needs some medical care, even if it’s just a checkup. There are two reasons why getting care, even with a high deductible, doesn’t cost as much as you would think:

  1. The insurance company can usually get you a lower rate than if you told the provider you would pay cash. Maybe an office visit costs $250, but the negotiated rate is $100. You still have to pay the $100, but the other $150 disappears into thin air.
  2. Better yet, the law requires most insurance plans to pay for certain preventive care with no cost to you. That’s no copays, coinsurance, or deductible charges. Actually free.

OK, nothing is free, so really it’s included in your premium. That means your plan already includes that checkup whether you get one or not—so don’t use cost as an excuse to put it off.

The Stuff You Don’t Have to Pay For

Here’s a partial list of what’s free to you, so long as you get it from an in-network provider. In general, checkups are free: adults get one annual physical without cost, plus you’ll see below that the care involved in a well-child visit or a woman’s annual gynecologist visit is also covered for free.

http://lifehacker.com/do-i-need-regu…

A major caveat: Some insurance plans are considered grandfathered and don’t have to offer the benefits below for free. (They might still be covered, but that’s up to the plan.) Grandfathered plans are slowly dying off, but 25 percent of people with employer-sponsored health insurance (so, roughly 11 percent of Americans) still had one in 2015, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

A plan that is otherwise not grandfathered might still be considered grandfathered for the starred items on the women’s health care list below. That’s because these recommendations were added later, so they got their own special grandfathering date. If you can’t tell from the plan’s website whether your plan is grandfathered or whether the care you want is fully covered, call up the number on your card and ask.

Here’s the list of no-cost care, straight from the Department of Health and Human Services (we’ve edited lightly for clarity):

For Kids

  1. Alcohol and Drug Use assessments for adolescents
  2. Autism screening for children at 18 and 24 months
  3. Behavioral assessments
  4. Blood Pressure screening
  5. Cervical Dysplasia screening for sexually active females
  6. Congenital Hypothyroidism screening for newborns
  7. Depression screening for adolescents
  8. Developmental screening for children under age 3, and surveillance throughout childhood
  9. Dyslipidemia screening for children at higher risk of lipid disorders
  10. Fluoride supplements for children without fluoride in their water source (age 6 months to 5 years)
  11. Gonorrhea preventive medication for the eyes of all newborns
  12. Hearing screening for all newborns
  13. Height, Weight and Body Mass Index measurements
  14. Hematocrit or Hemoglobin screening for children
  15. Hemoglobinopathies or sickle cell screening for newborns
  16. HIV screening for adolescents at higher risk
  17. Immunization vaccines for children from birth to age 18 —doses, recommended ages, and recommended populations vary:
  18. Diphtheria, Tetanus, PertussisHaemophilus influenzae type bHepatitis AHepatitis BHuman PapillomavirusInactivated PoliovirusInfluenza (Flu Shot)Measles, Mumps, RubellaMeningococcalPneumococcalRotavirusVaricellaLearn more about immunizations and see the latest vaccine schedules.
  19. Iron supplements for children ages 6 to 12 months at risk for anemia
  20. Lead screening for children at risk of exposure
  21. Medical History for all children throughout development (in other words, the part of the visit where they ask you a lot of questions)
  22. Obesity screening and counseling
  23. Oral Health risk assessment for young children (up to age 10)
  24. Phenylketonuria (PKU) screening for this genetic disorder in newborns
  25. Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention counseling and screening for adolescents at higher risk
  26. Tuberculin testing for children at higher risk of tuberculosis.
  27. Vision screening for all children

For Women

Starred items in this list are newer recommendations and some plans don’t have to cover them (see above).

  1. Anemia screening on a routine basis for pregnant women
  2. Bacteriuria urinary tract or other infection screening for pregnant women
  3. * Birth Control: Food and Drug Administration-approved contraceptive methods, sterilization procedures, and patient education and counseling, not including abortifacient drugs
  4. BRCA counseling about genetic testing for women at higher risk
  5. Breast Cancer Mammography screenings every 1 to 2 years for women over 40
  6. Breast Cancer Chemoprevention counseling for women at higher risk
  7. * Breastfeeding comprehensive support and counseling from trained providers, as well as access to breastfeeding supplies, for pregnant and nursing women
  8. Cervical Cancer screening for sexually active women
  9. Chlamydia Infection screening for younger women and other women at higher risk
  10. * Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling
  11. Folic Acid supplements for women who may become pregnant
  12. * Gestational diabetes screening for women 24 to 28 weeks pregnant and those at high risk of developing gestational diabetes
  13. Gonorrhea screening for all women at higher risk
  14. Hepatitis B screening for pregnant women at their first prenatal visit
  15. * Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) screening and counseling for sexually active women
  16. * Human Papillomavirus (HPV) DNA Test: high risk HPV DNA testing every three years for women with normal cytology results who are 30 or older
  17. Osteoporosis screening for women over age 60 depending on risk factors
  18. Rh Incompatibility screening for all pregnant women and follow-up testing for women at higher risk
  19. Tobacco Use screening and interventions for all women, and expanded counseling for pregnant tobacco users
  20. * Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) counseling for sexually active women
  21. Syphilis screening for all pregnant women or other women at increased risk
  22. * Well-woman visits to obtain recommended preventive services

For All Adults

  1. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm one-time screening for men of specified ages who have ever smoked
  2. Alcohol Misuse screening and counseling
  3. Aspirin use for men and women of certain ages
  4. Blood Pressure screening
  5. Cholesterol screening for adults of certain ages or at higher risk
  6. Colorectal Cancer screening for adults over 50
  7. Depression screening
  8. Type 2 Diabetes screening for adults with high blood pressure
  9. Diet counseling for adults at higher risk for chronic disease
  10. HIV screening for all adults at higher risk
  11. Immunization vaccines for adults—doses, recommended ages, and recommended populations vary:
  12. Hepatitis AHepatitis BHerpes ZosterHuman PapillomavirusInfluenza (Flu Shot)Measles, Mumps, RubellaMeningococcalPneumococcalTetanus, Diphtheria, PertussisVaricellaLearn more about immunizations and see the latest vaccine schedules.
  13. Obesity screening and counseling
  14. Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention counseling for adults at higher risk
  15. Tobacco Use screening for all adults and cessation interventions for tobacco users
  16. Syphilis screening for all adults at higher risk

Now that you know what you can get without an extra charge, feel free to schedule that visit you’ve been putting off.

Illustration by Angelica Alzona.

More Reasons You Need to Wash Your Hands After Working Out At the Gym

More Reasons You Need to Wash Your Hands After Working Out At the Gym

Skin infections like MRSA and other illnesses can easily spread in gym and locker room settings. You probably already know to wash up after hitting the gym, but pay special attention to washing your hands. It’s no fun to come down with something avoidable during your pursuit of health.

Who knows what the dude that finished using your go-to treadmill or favorite bench without wiping it down might have left behind. Skin diseases among athletes are extremely common, according to this 2010 position statement issued by the National Athletic Trainer’s Association. Some of the most common skin infections, including athlete’s foot, herpes simplex, impetigo, and the more serious MRSA, a certain strain of hard-to-treat staph bacteria are all often found in gym settings.

Minimize your chances of bringing something home by washing your hands with soap and water after your workout. If you hit the locker room showers after, use your own soap and towels too.

http://lifehacker.com/5810761/am-i-w…

A squirt or two of the hand-sanitizer won’t cut it either (but if there’s really no other option, make sure it’s at least 60% alcohol). Also, avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most gyms will also have a sort of disinfectant spray, which could help slow the spread of germs, but one study in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine finds that they’re not always effective. It might give a little peace of mind, but that doesn’t excuse you from not scrubbing up and properly laundering your clothes after.

It’s not like you need to work out in a bubble or avoid the gym altogether though. This is just a friendly PSA to be aware and wash your hands after using gym equipment before you head out for that post-workout grub. It’s simply good hygiene.

National Athletic Trainer’s Association Position Statement: Skin Diseases | National Athletic Trainer’s Association via The Nation’s Health

Image by CherryPoint.