Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are also called Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and Venereal Diseases (VD). They are relatively common and are infections that are usually passed from person to person through sexual contact. STIs are an important global health priority because of their devastating impact on women and infants and their inter-relationships with HIV/AIDS.
Bacteria, viruses, or protozoa may cause STIs. Sexual activity provides an easy opportunity for these organisms to spread from one person to another, because it involves close contact and transfer of genital and other body fluids. STIs affect both men and women, but in many cases the health problems they cause can be more severe for women. Additionally, if a pregnant woman has a sexually transmitted infection it can cause serious health problems for the baby. Using condoms can help prevent these infections, and most of them can be effectively treated with drugs.
TYPES OF STIs
There are more than 20 types of STIs; the most common ones are listed below.
Symptoms of STIs vary greatly, but the first symptoms usually involve the area where the organisms entered the body. Some of the more common symptoms are listed below.
When STIs are not diagnosed and treated promptly, some organisms can spread through the bloodstream and infect internal organs, sometimes causing serious problems. These include:
In women, some organisms that enter the vagina can infect other reproductive organs. Infections of the uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries are called Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Damage to the uterus and fallopian tubes from inflammation can result in infertility or an ectopic pregnancy.
In men, organisms that enter through the penis may infect the tube that carries urine from the bladder through the penis (urethra). Chronic infection of the urethra can cause the following:
Doctors often suspect an STI based on symptoms. To identify the organism involved, doctors may take a sample of blood, urine, or discharge from the vagina or penis and examine it. The sample may be sent to a laboratory to help in identification.
For many STIs, tests to identify the cause are limited, unavailable or may take several days for the results to return. Therefore, doctors may choose treatment based on which organisms are most likely to cause the person's symptoms. They may also treat people at their first visit in case they do not come back after test results are available.
Most STIs can be effectively treated with drugs (antibiotics for bacterial infections and antiviral drugs for viral infections). Viral STIs such as genital herpes and HIV, usually persist for life. Antiviral drugs can control but not yet cure these infections.
People who are being treated for a bacterial STI should abstain from sexual intercourse until the infection has been eliminated from them and their sex partners. Hence, sex partners should be tested and treated also.
Several factors make prevention of STIs difficult. They include the following:
Many STIs can be spread through oral sex. These include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, HIV and HPV. By definition, oral sex is when someone puts his or her lips, mouth or tongue on a man’s penis, a woman’s genitals (including the clitoris, vulva, and vaginal opening), or the anus of another person.
It may be possible to get some STIs in the mouth or throat from giving oral sex to a partner with a genital or anal/rectal infection. It may also be possible to get certain STIs on the penis, vagina, anus or rectum, from receiving oral sex from a partner with a mouth or throat infection. It is possible to have an STI in both the throat and the genitals at the same time. Using a condom or dental dam each and every time can lower the chances of giving or getting STIs during oral sex.
Sharing sex toys can be risky if they have vaginal fluids, blood, or feces on them. Sharing sex toys without first cleaning them or using a condom can potentially expose a person to STIs. The safest practice is not to share sex toys at all. If sex toys are shared, a condom should be used. It is important to change the condom before another person uses the toy so that any body fluids or infectious organisms on the sex toy are not passed on to the partner. It is also important to change the condom when moving from the anus to the vagina to prevent possible infection.
When to get tested?
If you test positive
Although it is unfortunate, getting an STI is not the end of the world. Many STIs are curable and all are treatable. Although it may be a difficult conversation to have, make sure to inform your partner.
If either you or your partner is infected with an STI that can be cured, both of you need to start treatment immediately to avoid re-infecting each other. Ensure that the treatment is completed.
Also, always tell your sexual partners that you have an STI before you have sex, this way you can work together to make a safer sex plan and help prevent it from spreading.
Abstinence and Mutual Monogamy
Mutual monogamy means only having sex with one partner, and it is one way to limit your exposure to STIs.
Abstinence means not having any kind of sex with someone else. People who practice sexual abstinence do not run any risk of contracting an STI or having an unwanted pregnancy.
Using a condom or dental dam during oral sex can lower the chances of giving or getting STIs. For mouth-to-penis contact, cover the penis with a non-lubricated condom. For mouth-to-vagina and mouth-to-anus contact, use a dental dam, or cut open a condom to make a square, and put it between the mouth and the partner’s vagina or anus.
The only time unprotected sex is safe is if you and your partner have sex with each other only, and if you each have tested negative for STIs. If you are unaware of whether your partner has an STI or not, it is not safe to have unprotected sex.
If you know that your current partner has unprotected sex with multiple partners, then it is safest to protect your self by practicing safe sex with that person.
Condoms are highly effective in preventing STIs that are spread through bodily fluids (such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV). However, they provide less protection against STIs spread through skin-to-skin contact like HPV (genital warts), genital herpes, and syphilis.
Condoms must be used correctly and consistently. You can get an STI by having sex just once with an infected partner. Condoms must be worn throughout the entire sex act, from start to finish. Incorrect use of condoms can lead to condom breakage, slippage, or leakage.
Always read the package label on condoms (regardless of the price). It should say that the condom is made of latex or polyurethane (for people allergic to latex). The package should also say that the condom could prevent disease.
Learning the proper way to use condoms and dental dams can significantly reduce the risk of getting an STI.
Click the link below to learn the correct way to use a dental dam.
Click the link below to learn the correct way to use a male condom.
Click the link below to learn the correct way to use a female condom.
I hope these tips on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) were helpful; Remember, Your Health Is Invaluable.
By Dr. J. Lawarna Matthew
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Visit the links above for more information
Overweight and obesity are defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may impair health. It is a rapidly increasing pandemic with major concerns for public health. There are many ways in which a person's health in relation to their weight can be classified, but the most widely used method is body mass index (BMI). BMI is not used to conclusively diagnose obesity because people who are very muscular sometimes have a high BMI without excess fat. However, for most people, BMI is a useful indicator of obesity.
Body mass index (BMI) is a simple guide of weight-for-height that is commonly used; it is defined as a person's weight in kilograms divided by the square of his/her height in meters (kg/m2).
For most adults, a BMI of:
1) In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 650 million were obese.
2) Worldwide obesity has nearly tripled since 1975.
3) Most of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.
4) Obesity is preventable.
Obesity is generally caused by eating too much and moving too little.
The average physically active man needs about 2,500 calories a day to maintain a healthy weight, and the average physically active woman needs about 2,000 calories a day. Obesity develops gradually because of unhealthy eating habits such as: 1) eating large amounts of processed or fast food, 2) eating larger portions than you need, 3) drinking too many sugary drinks, and 4) drinking too much alcohol.
Lack of Physical Activity
Lack of physical activity has a significant influence on obesity. Many persons have jobs that involve sitting at a desk for most of the day. People rely on cars, rather than walking or cycling, and tend to watch television, and browse the Internet for entertainment. When you are not active enough, you do not use the energy provided by the food you eat, and so the excess energy you ingest is stored by the body as fat.
In some cases, a medical condition may contribute to weight gain, such as depression and hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland). Certain medicines can contribute to weight gain as well. These include corticosteroids, antidepressants and medication to treat diabetes.
Stress is a part of life, and most persons will experience it to some extent. Common psychosocial stressors include poverty, stressful work environments, conflict with friends and family, poor self-esteem, trying to balance home and work life, and caring for a sick loved one. These can be chronic types of stressors, which can contribute to weight gain.
Cortisol is one of the main hormones produced during stress. It is known to cause a redistribution of fat to the abdominal region. Furthermore, it can increase appetite with a preference for “comfort food”. Click on the link below to learn more about stress management.
HEALTH CONSEQUENCES OF OBESITY
People who are obese, compared to those at a healthy weight, are at increased risk for many serious diseases and health conditions. Some of these are listed below.
To lose weight at a safe and sustainable rate of 0.5 to 1kg (1lb to 2lbs) a week, most persons are advised to reduce their energy intake by 600 calories a day. For most men, this will mean consuming no more than 1,900 calories a day, and for most women, no more than 1,400 calories a day. The best way to achieve this is to make healthier choices.
A healthy diet should consist of:
As well as helping you maintain a healthy weight, exercise also has many other health benefits. For example, it can help prevent and manage many health conditions. It is recommended that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week, for example, five 30-minute exercise sessions a week over five days. These can include, brisk walking, cycling and swimming.
Alternatively, you could do 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise a week, (examples include running and competitive sports like football), or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. You should also do strength exercises and balance training two days a week. This could be in the form of a gym workout or doing an activity such as tai chi or yoga.
Orlistat is an anti-obesity medicine that has been tested and approved to be safe and effective. Orlistat works by preventing some of the fat from the food from being absorbed. The undigested fat isn't absorbed into the body and is passed out in the stool. This will help you avoid gaining weight, but won't necessarily cause you to lose weight. Before beginning treatment with orlistat, a balanced diet and exercise program should be started and this program should continue during treatment and after you stop taking the drug.
Weight loss surgery, also called bariatric surgery, is sometimes used to treat people who are severely obese. This surgery is usually considered for persons who are obese and:
Calculate your BMI
Knowing your BMI is a great way to monitor your weight. Oftentimes, persons are not aware that they are overweight or obese unless they have calculated their BMI. On the other hand, some persons may assume that they are overweight when in fact they are not. Calculating your BMI is easy if you use a calculator such as the one provided in the link below. All you need to know is your height and current weight.
Set specific and doable exercise/diet goals
An example of a specific goal is to “walk 30 minutes, 5 days a week". Be realistic about your time and abilities, and ensure your goal is doable. When starting a new lifestyle, try to avoid changing too much at once; slow changes lead to success. Documenting your physical activity and meals during the day, can help you to monitor your progress. The NHS 12 week weight loss plan can be very helpful, and has excellent worksheets to help you to monitor your progress. Click on the link below for more information.
Learn from slips
Don’t worry if your job, the weather, or your family causes you to have an occasional slip, focus on continuing your eating and exercise plan.
Celebrate your success
Reward yourself as you meet your goals. Celebrate in other ways except for eating out, for example, go to see a movie, go shopping, etc.
Involve friends and family
Involving your family and friends with your weight loss efforts can help to motivate you. They can encourage you to have healthier dietary habits and may encourage you to keep your exercise goals.
Pros and cons of different diets
The best way to loose weight is to have a healthy diet. However, there are many diets that claim to cause rapid weight loss. Although many of them do work, some are better for some persons and may not work well for you. Also, there are many side effects of losing weight too quickly. Additionally, many persons tend to regain weight after trying these trendy diet plans. Below is a link to the pros and cons to some of the popular diets.
Avoiding weight gain
It is important to remember that as you lose weight your body needs less food (calories). If you go back to your previous calorie intake once you've lost weight, it is very likely you will put the weight back on. Increasing physical activity to up to 60 minutes a day and continuing to watch what you eat may help you to keep the weight off.
Getting psychological support from a trained healthcare professional or therapist may also help you change the way you think about food and eating. Techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be useful.
I hope these tips on Obesity were helpful; Remember, Your Health is Invaluable.
By Dr. J. Lawarna Matthew
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
Center for Disease Control (CDC)
Visit the links above for more information
Meditation is a way to calm the mind and body. It is a mind and body practice that has long been used to increase calmness and physical relaxation, improve psychological balance, cope with illness, and enhance overall health and well being. There are many types of meditation, most of which originated in ancient religious and spiritual traditions. Some forms of meditation instruct the practitioner to become mindful of thoughts, feelings, and sensations and to observe them in a nonjudgmental way.
Some consider meditation as an approach to training the mind, comparable to how fitness trains the body. By training in meditation, an inner space and clarity is created that enables us to control our mind. There are many health benefits of meditation; research suggests that practicing meditation may reduce blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and insomnia.
Types of Meditation
There are many types of meditation, but they generally have four common features. These include: 1) a quiet location with very few distractions, 2) a comfortable posture such as sitting or lying, 3) a focused attention, and 4) an open attitude or letting distractions come and go naturally without judging them. Some of the most common types of meditation are described below.
Benefits of meditation
During meditation, the breath slows down, heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, digestive function improves and tension in the body decreases. As a result, there are numerous health benefits that one can gain from meditating over a long period of time. Studies have found that meditation can:
1. Increase immune function
2. Decrease Inflammation
3. Reduce Pain
Improves Mental Health
Meditation involves focusing one’s mind for a period of time, which can result in a feeling of relaxation and inner peace; this can improve mental health. Studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can:
4. Decrease symptoms of Depression
5. Decrease symptoms of Anxiety
6. Reduce Stress
Improves Brain Function
Studies have shown that persons who practiced meditation for many years have more folds in the outer layer of the brain. This process may increase the brain’s ability to process information. There are other physical changes in the brain that could occur from meditation as well. Meditation has been proven to:
7. Increase focus & attention
8. Improve the ability to multitask
9. Improve memory
10. Increase creativity
A simple example of how to meditate is described below. You can try doing this for about 5 minutes.
For more tips on how to meditate visit the link below.
Doing it right?
Do not get caught up in the details of how you should meditate, in terms of the best location, best position, etc. Meditation does not have to perfect, just ensure that you are comfortable and in a quiet place where you will not be easily distracted.
Do not become attached to thoughts
During meditation, your mind will wander; thoughts will be jumping in an out of your mind. Simply allow these thoughts to pass by. Try not to attach yourself to the thoughts, just recognize them and allow them to pass.
It is very possible to fall asleep during meditation. For this reason it is important to always stay present or aware. Although it is vital to be relaxed, you should avoid sitting in a reclined position and should avoid lying in bed when meditating as these positions increase the risk of falling asleep.
Best time to meditate
The best way to start a meditation routine is to practice every single morning. It is a good way to start the day and is usually the easiest time to find a few uninterrupted minutes. However, some persons may find it more convenient to meditate at the end of the day. You can also take a few minutes to meditate at work or anywhere suitable for you. The most important thing is to pick a time that is appropriate and to be consistent.
Start Small and increase slowly
You do not have to start out with long meditations at first. You can meditate for about 2-5 minutes each day for a week, which would give you a feel for it. It takes time to build your concentration. After a week, you can start adding more time. Many of the studies done on meditation saw health benefits in persons who meditated for at least 20 minutes a day. However, it is not the length of time that matters, but rather the consistency and commitment to doing it every day that counts.
There are a few things you can consider if you need more motivation to meditate.
Guided Meditations are very useful for beginners. These are audio tracks where someone walks you through each step of the meditation, and you basically follow the instructions. YouTube has a good selection of these available.
You can also attend a meditation class, and meditate with a group. This is a form of guided meditation. Alternatively, you can meditate with a friend. Doing this may help you feel more motivated to meditate and help you to stay committed.
Meditation is accepted in most religions. In Christianity, the bible speaks about meditating on God and on God’s word. If you want to learn more about Christian mediation including the concept of “lectio divina” (divine reading), click the links below.
Conventional medical care
It is important that you do not use meditation to replace regular medical care, or as a reason to delay seeing a health care provider about a medical problem.
I hope these tips on Benefits of Meditation were helpful; Remember, Your health is invaluable.
By Dr. J. Lawarna Matthew
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NICCH)
Visit the links above for more information.
There is strong scientific evidence that being physically active allows you to have a healthier and happier life. Persons are less active these days; we travel using cars, trains and other means of transport, and this has significantly reduced the amount of physical activity we get from walking. Fewer persons do manual work and most jobs involve little physical effort. It is very common for persons to entertain themselves by watching television or a computer screen. These realities have contributed to our lack of physical activity. It is estimated that adults spend more than 7 hours a day sitting down at work, on transport or during their relaxation time; this has made our generation one of the most sedentary.
Sedentary behavior is bad for our health and has been described as a “silent killer”. Lack of physical activity can lead to weight gain and obesity. Additionally, it is thought to increase our risk of developing many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. You should regularly do two types of exercises each week to improve your health. These are aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises.
1) Weight Control
Physical activity is essential for maintaining a healthy weight. You gain weight when the calories you burn (including those burned during exercise) are less than the calories you eat or drink. Getting to and staying at a healthy weight requires both regular exercise and a healthy diet.
2) Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes
Regular physical activity can lower your blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Regular exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes, and can also help persons with diabetes control their blood sugar levels.
3) Reduce the Risk of Some Cancers
There is substantial evidence that higher levels of physical activity are linked to lower risks of several cancers particularly breast, colon and endometrial cancer. Regular exercise is also beneficial for cancer survivors, especially with regards to their quality of life, cancer recurrence or progression, and prognosis.
4) Strengthen Bones and Muscles
Exercise can slow the loss of bone density that comes with age, it can also increase or maintain muscle mass and strength. Exercise is also beneficial for persons with arthritis, as it improve their ability to manage pain and do everyday tasks.
5) Improves Daily Activities for Older Persons
Regular exercise may help older persons reduce their risk of physical disability, and maintain their independence to perform their routine activities of daily living and self care. Balance and muscle strengthening exercises may also help to reduce the risk of falls.
6) Improves Mental Health and Mood
Exercise is also one of the most effective ways to improve your mental health. Regular exercise can have a positive impact on depression, anxiety and more. It relieves stress, improves memory, improves sleep, and boosts overall mood. People who exercise regularly may experience a sense of well being, and may feel more energetic throughout the day.
For more information about the benefits of exercise on mental health, visit the link below.
TALK TEST AND EXERCISE INTENSITY
The talk test is a simple way to measure exercise intensity. In general, if you are doing moderate-intensity exercise you can talk during the activity. If you are doing vigorous-intensity exercise, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. Below are a few examples of different exercises that you can perform.
Moderate Intensity Exercises
Vigorous Intensity Exercises
Visit the link below to learn more about how to calculate your exercise target heart rate. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/heartrate.htm
EXERCISE GUIDELINES FOR ADULTS
To stay healthy, adults should try to be active daily and should do any of the following exercise options below:
One way to do your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do 30 minutes on 5 days every week.
See image 1 below for summary of different physical activities and their intensities.
See image 2 below for summary of exercise guidelines.
Tips to ensure exercise routines are safe
Try to prevent injury
Make sure your shoes and equipment fit properly and are right for the activity. Check your equipment regularly for safety. Some exercises require that you get the technique right to ensure that you are using your muscles correctly, so you may initially need an expert to demonstrate to you the correct method.
Be aware of your body
Pay attention to how a particular exercise makes you feel. You may not be able to do some activities as well as other can. If something doesn’t feel right, you can stop and take a break. If you think that you have injured yourself you should seek medical advice.
It is ok to not exercise for 7 days a week. You can have at least one recovery day each week to rest. If you are experiencing pain, rest until the pain has gone.
Warm up and cool down
This is important to prevent injury and to prep the body. A warm up increases the temperature and flexibility of your muscles, and helps you be more efficient during your workout. Cooling down allows for a gradual decrease in body temperature and heart rate, and can prevent muscle cramping and stiffness.
You can lose a lot of fluid during exercise, so it is important to drink water before, during and after a session. If you’re not hydrated, your body cannot perform at its highest level. Water is the best choice. Persons doing vigorous exercise for longer than an hour can have sports drinks, however they are high in added sugar.
Tips to ensure you are consistent with exercise
Set realistic goals
Make sure you have reasonable expectations regarding your exercise program. You should choose activities that you know are accessible and/or affordable for you, so that you can stay consistent. You are much more likely to stick with your exercise program if it is convenient for you.
Choose a variety of exercises/ activities
Boredom is a common reason for quitting an exercise program. If you think that you get bored easily, you can choose various exercises or activities that make working out fun. Some persons really enjoy working out with others, and some prefer to exercise alone. Choose which is more suitable for you.
Stay Motivated! Stay Dedicated!
It is not easy for everyone to stay committed to an exercise program. It is not a fun experience for all. Try exercising around the same time everyday, this will allow you to get in the habit of exercising at a particular time of day. Pack your exercise stuff away the day before; that way you are already mentally prepared for the activity.
Know that it is ok if you miss your exercise regimen sometimes, just keep going, and know that you can do it. Do Not Give Up!
I hope these tips on THE BENEFITS OF EXERCISE were helpful; Remember, Your Health is Invaluable.
By Dr. J. Lawarna Matthew
Center for Disease Control
National Health Service
Visit the links above for more information.