NEWSLETTER: Medical News TodayWe can carry up to 2 kg of microbes in our gut. Within the tens of trillions of micro-organisms that live there are at least 1,000 species of bacteria consisting of over 3 million genes. What is more, two-thirds of the gut microbiome – the population of microbes in the intestine – is unique to each individual. But do you know how your gut microbiota could be influencing your health? The bacteria in our gut are estimated to weigh up to 2 kg. Most of us are aware that the bacteria in our gut play an important role in digestion. When the stomach and small intestine are unable to digest certain foods we eat, gut microbes jump in to offer a helping hand, ensuring we get the nutrients we need. In addition, gut bacteria are known to aid the production of certain vitamins – such as vitamins B and K – and play a major role in immune function. But increasingly, researchers are working to find out more about how gut bacteria – particularly the bacteria that is unique to us individually – influence our health and risk of disease. Perhaps most studied is how gut microbiota affects an individual’s risk of obesity and other metabolic conditions. In November 2014, for example, Medical News Today reported on a study claiming our genetic makeup shapes what type of bacteria reside in our gut, which may affect our weight. In this Spotlight, we take a look at obesity and some of the other – perhaps surprising – health conditions that may be driven by our gut microbiota.
The development of gut microbiotaBelief has long held that the development of gut microbiota does not start until birth, with the gastrointestinal tract of a fetus considered to be a sterile environment. According to Gut Microbiota Worldwatch – an information service created by the Gut Microbiota and Health Section of the European Society for Neurogastroenterology & Motility, a member of the United European Gastroenterology (UEG) – the digestive tract of a newborn is rapidly colonized with micro-organisms from the mother and the surrounding environment. An infant’s gut microbiota, for example, can be influenced by breastfeeding. Gut Microbiota Worldwatch explains that the gut of breastfed babies primarily consists of Bifidobacteria – considered a “friendly” bacteria that benefits the gut – while formula-fed babies are likely to have less of these bacteria. However, some studies have challenged the belief that the fetus is a sterile environment, suggesting that the development of gut microbiota begins before birth. A 2008 study published in the journal Research in Microbiology identified bacteria, including Enterococcus and Staphylococcus, in the early faeces of baby mice – known as the meconium – indicating the bacteria were transferred to the fetus from the mother’s gut during pregnancy. In this study, a group of pregnant mice was also inoculated with the bacterium Enterococcus fecium, which was isolated from human breast milk. The baby mice were delivered by Cesarean section 1 day before the predicted labour date, and their meconium was tested. The researchers identified E. fecium in their faeces, but no trace was found in the meconium of a control group. “Based on the sum of evidence, it is time to overturn the sterile womb paradigm and recognize the unborn child is first colonized in the womb,” Seth Bordenstein, a biologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, told The Scientist last year.
The more diverse our gut bacteria, the betterWhile the debate over whether infants are born with gut bacteria continues, it seems scientists are in agreement about one thing: from birth until old age, our gut bacteria are constantly evolving. As mentioned previously, two-thirds of the gut microbiome is unique to each person, and what makes this unique is the food we eat, the air we breathe and other environmental factors. Some studies have even suggested the makeup of the gut microbiome is influenced by genes. But how does this unique gut bacteria affect our health? This is a question that researchers have become increasingly interested in answering. Past research has suggested that a broader diversity of bacteria in gut is better for human health. A recent study reported by MNT, for example, found that infants with less diverse gut bacteria at the age of 3 months were more likely to be sensitized to specific foods – including egg, milk and peanut – by the age of 1 year, indicating that lack of gut bacteria diversity in early life may be a driver for food allergies. But the implications of a low-diversity gut microbiome do not stop there. You may be surprised to learn how lack of or overpopulation of specific bacteria may impact your health.
ObesityMore and more studies are looking at the association between the gut microbiome and weight gain, with some scientists suggesting the makeup of bacteria in the gut may influence an individual’s susceptibility to weight gain.
| ” Every human being is the author of his [or her] own health or disease. ” |
” It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. ”
What exactly is a healthy lifestyle? It seems experts are constantly telling us what we should eat, how much to exercise, bad habits to cut back on, how much sunlight to get, what vitamins to take, and on and on until we feel it’s just impossible to live up to those lofty standards. We decide that it doesn’t really matter how we lead our lives and cite examples like our great-uncle who smoked like a chimney and ate nothing but bacon but was still hitting the ski slopes at the ripe old age of 98.
Despite the occasional blaring exception, however, we can’t deny the harsh truth: the lifestyle we choose to lead has a huge impact not only on our physical health but also on our mental well-being and overall sense of happiness. We CAN change nasty habits, and when we finally find the courage to make those difficult changes, we feel so much better. We quit smoking and breathe more easily and start jogging again; we cut the greasy foods out of our diets and we’re less sluggish; we get more shut-eye and feel on the ball at work. In the end, the changes that seemed so painful and nearly impossible become such a major part of our lives that we can’t imagine how we could have lived the old way. We never regret those healthy transformations.
So how do you get off on the right foot and make the decisions that can lead to a healthier and happier lifestyle? First, educate yourself; find out what your body needs to operate smoothly. The next step is to evaluate how your body is doing. Finally, the most challenging but also most satisfying part: you must make real plans to incorporate any necessary changes. As Margaret Fuller once said, “A house is no home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.”
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Fine wine and classic cars improve with age, so why not your sexuality? Here’s how to keep your love life healthy and hot for years to come.
Sure, sex during midlife and beyond may be different than it was when you were younger. But that doesn’t mean your sex life is destined to be dull or disappointing. On the contrary.
Healthy individuals can remain sexually active and interested well into their 70s, 80s, and 90s, if they choose to. And an active sex life may even help you stay young. Some age-related physical changes may be unavoidable, but these changes don’t have to interfere with sexual intimacy.
The fact is, there’s no one “right” way to experience sex. The way you express your sexuality is shaped by your individuality and your personal circumstances. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, disabled or able-bodied, young or old, think of your sexuality as a unique part of who you are. By taking a more personal, less prescribed approach to sexual intimacy, you allow yourself the freedom to adapt your sex life according to your changing needs.
The first step to maintaining an active, fulfilling sex life is getting to know some of the normal physical changes you’re likely to experience as you get older. The next step is making a few simple adjustments to rev your libido and boost your sex life.
Age-Related Change #1: Slower Response Time
As you get older, it may take longer for your body to respond to sexual stimulation. Even if you feel highly aroused, it’s normal for older men to need longer, stronger stimulation to achieve an erection.
Although this is not necessarily a sign of disinterest or a lack of attraction, some men, and their partners, may misinterpret it as such. To avoid misunderstandings, keep the lines of communication open. It may not be easy to talk about sex at first, but in the long run, it will benefit both of you.
What to Do About It
Don’t rush things. Spend more time on foreplay. Explore each other’s body: kiss, caress, lick, or give each other erotic massages. Remember that if your partner is about the same age as you, she may also need more time and stimulation to become sexually aroused.
If you are unable to become aroused on a regular basis, speak with your healthcare provider. There could be a treatable underlying condition causing your difficulties.
Age-Related Change #2: Weak Erections and Weakening Pelvic Muscles
Many older men find that their erections are different than they were in their younger years. They may not be as hard, they may not last as long, and the experience of ejaculation may not feel as strong as it used to.
This may be due, in part, to weakening pelvic-floor muscles. Pelvic-floor muscles are responsible for drawing blood to the genitals during sexual activity, affecting erection and orgasm.
What to Do About It
For some men, having sex in the morning, when erections are more likely, helps improve their ability to maintain an erection longer. But keep in mind that penetrative sex isn’t the only way to have great sex. Experiment with different sexual activities to figure out what feels best for you at this time in your life.
You can also strengthen your pelvic muscles by doing Kegel exercises every day. You may have heard that these exercises are just for women, but they can benefit men, too.
Age-Related Change #3: Longer Time between Erections
It’s common for older men to experience a longer refractory period — the time it takes until your body’s ready for another erection after you ejaculate. In some cases, the cooling off period may be as long as 12 to 24 hours, or more.
What to Do About It
If you’ve climaxed, but you or your partner isn’t ready for the sexual experience to end just yet, focus on meeting your partner’s needs or on activities that don’t require an erection. For example, you don’t need an erection for oral sex or manual stimulation.
Whatever you do, don’t get stressed worrying about your virility. This is a normal change that comes with aging — not a sign that you’re losing your touch. And you will likely find that the different sexual activities you engage in without an erection are still very pleasurable for you and your partner. Just be sure to reassure your partner that the longer time between your erections is not a reflection of how you feel about her.
From ShareCare, June 2015
Good news for people who feel a hint of anxiety every time they forget where they put their keys. More than 50 percent of Alzheimer’s cases may be preventable.
In fact, research suggests that there are seven key healthy lifestyle changes people could make to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
The Super 7
More research is needed to confirm whether there is a causal link between these seven key risk factors and Alzheimer’s. But there are plenty of other good health reasons to make the following changes:
Inactivity is linked to greater Alzheimer’s risk, so take a daily walk. Walking every day can prevent your brain from shrinking, too.
If you do, quit. Smoking may up the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Eat more bananas.
The potassium in this cheap and plentiful year-round fruit can help lower your blood pressure by as much as two to three points! And low blood pressure at middle age may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Go to bed.
Getting a good night’s sleep can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, so get your ZZZs because research suggests that developing type 2 diabetes may up your chances of getting Alzheimer’s.
People who exercise outside — versus at the gym or inside the home — have less depression. That’s good news for the brain, because depression may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Take a class.
Higher education is linked to lower rates of Alzheimer’s.
Drop a few.
Becoming obese at middle age may be connected to higher Alzheimer’s risk.
Learning a new game that requires brainpower can make your RealAge 1.3 years younger.