Women still embarrassed over morning after pill

Women have long had the freedom to buy the morning after pill from a pharmacy in the UK, or the option to book an appointment with a doctor to obtain it. However recent research has found that females are still reluctant to ask for it and as a result are putting themselves at risk of unplanned pregnancies.

HRA Pharma, manufacturers of morning after pill ellaOne, discovered almost a third of women (28 per cent) surveyed admitted to feeling uncomfortable asking for emergency contraception, while 34 per cent of those who have previously taken it have used excuses to hide their embarrassment when asking for it.

One in five participants revealed they wouldn’t tell anyone if they did need to take the morning after pill and over a quarter confessed they would wait until the shop was empty before requesting the pill if in the UK.

It’s been suggested that women’s reluctance to openly discuss emergency contraception is made worse due to them not completely understanding their own fertility, which could leave them vulnerable to unplanned pregnancies.

“Ovulation is highly unpredictable, and because of this, conception is possible during most of a woman’s monthly cycle – this means there is no such thing as a ‘risk free period’,” explained pharmacist Deborah Evans. “This research showed almost a quarter of women admitting to having unprotected sex in the last year, when they were not planning a

pregnancy. The confusion about ovulation, plus embarrassment around the topic of emergency contraception, means that women are taking risks rather than taking steps to protect themselves from unplanned pregnancy.”

She also urges women to turn to a pharmacist or doctor as soon as they can after unprotected sex, as it is their job to help customers get the best treatment possible. With private areas for confidential chats available in most UK chemists, she encourages women to look at the morning after pill as an informed, sensible choice to avoid an unplanned pregnancy.

Pregnant women should eat vitamin D-rich foods to reduce child’s allergy risk

Expectant mothers who eat food rich in vitamin D could reduce the chance of their children contracting asthma or other allergies by up to 20 per cent.

The compound, known as the “sunshine vitamin” due to humans being able to absorb it if they’re exposed to the sun, can be found in foods such a fish, eggs, mushrooms, dairy products and cereal.

A study was conducted by a team of scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who looked at 1,248 mothers and their offspring in America. The participants were followed from the very first trimester of their pregnancy through to when their children reach the age of seven. While previous studies have looked at single points in time, this is the first to examine the effects of ingesting vitamin D at multiple times in life.

Those who ate food rich in vitamin D, drinking or eating the equivalent of an eight ounce serving of milk daily, were found to be less likely to have children that developed allergies when they reached school age.

Interestingly, those who increased their intake of vitamin D by taking a supplement did not have the same benefits as those who ate vitamin D rich foods.

“Expectant mothers have questions about what they should eat during pregnancy, and our study shows that it’s important to consider the source of nutrients in a mother’s diet,” lead study author Dr Supinda Bunyavanich said.

“This study may influence nutritional counselling and recommendations to expectant mothers to include vitamin D-rich foods in their diets.”

Scientists compiled the study results by using food frequency questionnaires and testing the levels of the serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D in the mother and children as they reached school age.

The study was published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

‘Over 50s sex life could delay dementia’

An active sex life for the over 50s could help fight off dementia, scientists have claimed.

Research conducted by Coventry University in the UK has found that regular lovemaking among the over 50s leads to sharper cognitive function, due to the release of hormones. The study was published in the journal Age and Ageing and the results suggest that the release of hormones including oxytocin and dopamine during sex can promote learning and memory.

“The findings have implications for the promotion of sexual counselling in healthcare settings, where maintaining a healthy sex life in older age could be instrumental in improving cognitive function and wellbeing,” the study states.

More than 6,800 individuals between the age of 50 and 89 in England were asked questions about their love life and then completed a series of mental tests. The challenges included recalling lists and recognizing patterns, both of which are shown to demonstrate healthy brain activity.

Participants listened to a list of 10 words and were asked to repeat them back straight away, then again after five minutes. People were also asked to solve sequences with a missing number. Sexually active men scored on average 23 per cent higher in the word tests and 3 per cent more in the number challenges, while women who had regular sex recorded improvements of 14 per cent and 2 per cent respectively.

“Any part of the body needs to be exercised to keep in good shape and because sex triggers so many changes in the brain it will inevitably help keep it agile and capable,” psychosexual counselor Pauline Brown is quoted as saying by MailOnline. “There can be physical barriers caused by ageing, but these results show just how important it is for couples to keep this part of their relationship strong and healthy.

“Sex is a key part of what it means to be human, whether as a young adult or someone of advancing years. And it makes people feel good so it encourages them to be more positive about life and more likely to eat well and pursue other healthy activities like Pilates or line-dancing.”

Around 850,000 people in the UK have been diagnosed with dementia. Previous studies have found that taking vitamins B6 and E, drinking green tea and dancing have all been shown to reduce the risk of developing the condition.

Applying make-up to dry skin

Nothing is worse than trying to make yourself look good for a night out in the winter, but your skin is just too flaky and dry to apply make-up properly. This doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel and give up though, as there are ways to tackle this.

It all starts with your base, which you need to get as smooth as possible before anything. Exfoliate your skin with a gentle facial scrub to get rid of any excess dry skin – rub too hard and you’ll only irritate your complexion.

Then you want to apply a hydrating moisturizer that caters to your skin type – flakiness is a sure sign of sensitivity so you’ll want a face cream that doesn’t have any harsh chemicals or ingredients. Let the moisturizer sink in and absorb naturally so your skin gets all the nourishment.

Or, a good tip you may not know about is to apply your moisturizer before you shower, so your pores open up and absorb the cream better. Rub in properly, especially targeting your extra dry spots.

If a primer is part of your routine, invest in a hydrating one for the winter months like Too Faced Hangover Face Primer – don’t just use it after a boozy night out! A hydrating product will nourish your skin even more before applying foundation.

As for what cover up you choose, you’ll want to avoid anything that will dry your skin up even more like matte, oil-free or powder options. Cream foundations will maintain a dewy finish even if you do feel flaky and dry, and they will hold more moisture in as the day goes on.

Or you could mix the one you already use with a spot of moisturizer or primer to hide blemishes and keep your complexion looking fresh.

Chocolate can be beneficial during pregnancy

Pregnant women often worry about gaining too much weight when they are expecting, but a new study has shown that eating chocolate could provide essential health benefits. Anyone who has been through pregnancy will have experienced cravings at any time of the day or night – with chocolate being top of many women’s list. Now you no longer need to stress about tucking into your favorite sweet treat, as scientists have found high–flavanol chocolate can boost fetal growth and help the placenta perform more efficiently.

The study conducted by experts at Universite Laval in Quebec City, Canada, also determined the sweet stuff can decrease the risk of pre-eclampsia, a potentially serious condition which can occur in the latter stages of pregnancy.

“This study indicates that chocolate could have a positive impact on placenta and fetal growth and development and that chocolate’s effects are not solely and directly due to flavanol content,” explained study co-author Dr Emmanuel Bujold.

Previous studies have produced conflicting findings when it comes to the impact of eating chocolate during pregnancy, so this latest trial focused on the effect of high-flavanol chocolate, such as dark chocolate, which is high in cocoa solids.

For the study, 129 women were chosen, all between 11 and 14 weeks pregnant with one baby. They were given 30 grams of either high-flavanol or low-flavanol chocolate to eat every day for 12 weeks, and their progress was followed until they gave birth. Each participant’s uterine artery Doppler pulsatility index (PI) was measured, which shows blood velocity in placental, fetal and uterine circulations. The PI showed noticeable improvement for both groups.

Gestational hypertension, placenta weight, pre-eclampsia and birth weight was also noted for each woman – and no differences were found between the two groups.

Daydreaming = obesity, according to new research

If you find yourself easily distracted you need be careful – scientists have found that daydreaming could increase a person’s risk of obesity.

Apparently, those who get lost in their thoughts fail to recognize how much they’ve eaten, potentially resulting in them tucking into more food than they should.

Data on 38 children aged eight to 13, collected by the ‘Enhanced Nathan Kline Institute – Rockland Sample’, was analysed, with five of the children obese and six overweight. They were weighed and information about their eating habits was gathered, as well as brain scans being performed.

Three areas of the brain were identified, associated to eating habits and weight. The inferior parietal lobe is linked to inhibition and is capable of overriding an automatic response, like eating. The frontal pole is linked to impulsive behaviour, while the nucleus accumbens is focuses on the reward.

Looking at children who ate the most, the experiment found that the part of the brain which is linked to being impulsive was more important than the sector associated with inhibition. In contrast, kids who behaved in a way that kept them from food saw their area of the brain associated with inhibition play a stronger role than the impulsive side.

Researchers think the way to tackle this is to encourage children to practice mindfulness from a young age, with study co-author Dr Ronald Cowan, of Vanderbilt University, adding: “We think mindfulness could recalibrate the imbalance in the brain connections associated with childhood obesity.”

Study co-author, Dr Dr Kevin Niswender, added: “Adults, and especially children, are primed towards eating more. This is great from an evolutionary perspective – they need food to grow and survive.

“But in today’s world, full of readily available, highly advertised, energy dense foods, it is putting children at risk of obesity.”

The study was published in the journal Heliyon.

Breakthrough for back pain sufferers

Whether it’s just a twinge or so severe you can’t move, back pain is one of the biggest health issues going. Most of us have suffered with it at one point in our lives and it’s a big cause of sick leave, which is why a new study is being hailed as one of the most important in years.

It’s been found that regular exercise is the best way to help with back pain, whether that’s stretching, working on stamina or completing easy exercises to strength the muscles. In fact, people who followed an exercise regime were 35 per cent less likely to complain of the pain when tested over a year.

When people were also taught how to do things like lift heavy objects safely, the number rose to 45 per cent. That result is so staggering that experts have suggested if there was a drug which produced the same outcome, it would be pushed around the world.

Lower back pain effects four out of five people at some point, with most cases caused by wrenching the area while lifting something without bending the knees properly. Although the discomfort usually clears within a matter of weeks, some find it returns within a year.

A team at the University of Sydney investigated by checking out the findings of 23 surveys involving over 30,000 people. It was discovered that people who’d exercised managed to cut the likelihood of the pain hitting again within 12 months.

“The current evidence suggests that exercise alone or in combination with education is effective for preventing low back pain,” the authors of the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, stated.

“Other interventions, including education alone, back belts, and shoe insoles, do not appear to prevent low back pain.”

It was found that maintaining a level of exercise was also important, so you can’t just do some stretches when you feel a twinge and leave it at that. A concerted effort to exercise the back is needed – if you’re in doubt about what you should be doing, consult an expert at your gym.