What to expect during IUD insertion

An intrauterine device or IUD is a small T-shaped device that a doctor or nurse can implant into the uterus to prevent pregnancy.

It is among the most effective forms of reversible birth control with a failure rate of less than 1%. The insertion is a minor medical procedure that only takes a few minutes.

Research has shown that while women report insertion experiences that range from painless to extremely painful, the procedure is usually less painful than they expected.

In this article, learn about what to expect during an IUD insertion. We also cover the side effects and recovery.

Preparation

Before getting an IUD, a person can speak to their doctor about which type is best for them. IUDs come in two forms:

  • The copper IUD: This version of the device kills sperm, preventing it from fertilizing an egg.
  • The hormonal IUD: This type of device releases progestin, which is very similar to progesterone, a hormone the body manufactures itself.

Progestin can prevent ovulation, which means there is no egg for the sperm to fertilize. It also thickens cervical mucus, making it more difficult for sperm to travel to the egg if the body does ovulate.

Hormonal IUDs may help with some premenstrual and hormonal symptoms, such as heavy bleeding or period cramps.

Copper IUDs do not offer any benefit other than contraception, so doctors do not usually recommend them for people who already experience heavy bleeding or severe cramps during menstruation.

IUDs are safe for most people to use. However, those who are allergic to copper should not use a copper IUD.

An IUD can prevent unwanted pregnancy but cannot protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

People should not use an IUD if they have had any of the following:

  • abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • vaginal or cervical cancer
  • a recent pelvic infection or STI

Women who are pregnant or want to become pregnant should not get an IUD, although it is safe to get an IUD soon after childbirth.

In some people, progestin increases the risk of blood clots in the leg or high blood pressure, so it is vital to tell the doctor about any cardiovascular or other health problems.

Many people worry about pain during an IUD insertion. However, a recent study found that women’s self-reported pain, following IUD insertion, was significantly lower than the pain they expected to experience.

Some research suggests that anxiety before the procedure can make insertion feel more painful. Working with an empathetic doctor or nurse, who is willing to take time to discuss the procedure and offer reassurance, may help.

A person may wish to consider asking a doctor what previous experience they have of inserting IUDs. Similarly, they can tell the doctor if they are feeling nervous about what is going to happen.

Some people report that taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication, such as ibuprofen, before the procedure helps reduce pain afterward.

During the procedure

During the procedure, a person will remove their undergarments and other clothing from the waist down. They will then lie on their back, usually with their legs in stirrups. A doctor or nurse will offer a sheet to cover the thighs to help a person feel more comfortable and less exposed.

The doctor will first conduct a pelvic exam using the fingers, then cleanse the vagina and base of the cervix with an antiseptic solution.

They will then insert a speculum into the vagina to separate the walls, enabling them to see better. Using a small instrument, they will insert the IUD into the uterus through a small opening in the cervix.

Some people experience cramping similar to or sometimes more intense than menstrual cramps. If the pain feels unusual or unbearable, the person must tell the doctor. The whole process usually takes only a few minutes.

After the insertion

Some people feel dizzy or faint after an IUD insertion, so it can be a good idea to have someone accompany them for the journey home.

It is usually safe to return to work or school right away. However, if a person is feeling intense pain or cramping, they may wish to rest for a day.

Following insertion of an IUD, it is normal to notice some spotting. According to Planned Parenthood, spotting can last up to 3–6 months.

The individual should ask the doctor how long to wait before having unprotected sex. IUDs cannot prevent STIs, so it is important to practice safer sex with new or untested partners.

Aftercare

One of the main benefits of an IUD is that it requires no special care. In the days following insertion, it is common to experience some cramping and spotting. OTC medication can help reduce these symptoms. Any pain should disappear in a few days.

The IUD attaches to a string that enables a doctor or nurse to remove the device. Some women can feel the string with their fingers. It is best to leave it alone. The string is not dangerous but pulling it could move or even remove the IUD.

If the string causes irritation or if a partner can feel the string during sex, a person can ask a doctor to trim it.

In rare cases, an IUD can come out on its own. If this happens, it is possible for the person to become pregnant. Anyone whose IUD has fallen out should call a doctor and not have unprotected sex.

Side effects

Copper and hormonal IUDs can cause side effects, although these usually resolve after a few months.

Side effects of the hormonal IUD can include:

  • spotting
  • missed periods or no periods
  • headaches
  • bloating
  • nausea
  • breast tenderness
  • changes in breast size
  • mood swings
  • depression
  • low libido
  • weight gain

Not everyone experiences side effects or all of the above that doctors associate with IUDs.

Side effects of the copper IUD can include:

  • pain and cramping
  • a backache
  • long and heavy periods
  • irregular periods
  • spotting

Complications with an IUD are relatively rare, but can include:

  • the IUD falling out
  • problems associated with the hormonal IUD, such as changes in blood pressure or blood clotting.
  • an ectopic pregnancy, or pregnancy outside of the uterus
  • infection following insertion
  • pelvic inflammatory disease, if a person already has an infection before the IUD insertion
  • damage to the uterus

People with a history of cardiovascular disease, those who smoke, and those who are over 35 years old are more likely to have complications from a hormonal IUD.

It is a myth that IUDs can travel to other areas of the body, such as the brain or lungs.

Removal

IUDs can prevent pregnancy for 3 to 12 years and sometimes longer. It is possible to remove the IUD at any time.

During removal, a nurse or doctor will ask a person to lie on their back and put their feet in stirrups.

They will insert a speculum to open the vagina and then gently tug on the IUD string. This causes the IUD to fold and pass through the cervix. A person may experience cramping during removal, but the procedure only takes a few minutes.

Sometimes the IUD is harder to remove. If this happens, a doctor might use smaller instruments to take it out. Very rarely, if an IUD is stuck, a person may require surgery to remove it.

When to see a doctor

People should see a doctor if the following symptoms appear shortly after IUD insertion:

  • a fever above 101°F
  • chills
  • intense or unbearable cramping
  • strong, sharp pain in the stomach
  • very heavy bleeding

Call a doctor for these symptoms at any time after insertion:

  • a missed period with a copper IUD
  • a positive home pregnancy test
  • an IUD that falls out or seems to be coming through the cervix

Summary

An IUD is an excellent option for people who want long-term birth control without remembering to take pills, receive injections, or use condoms.

As with any birth control, IUDs offer both benefits and risks. If a person is unsure about whether it is the right choice for them, they can speak to a doctor to discuss their concerns.

The IUD insertion can be uncomfortable or painful for some people, but the pain usually passes. It may also cause some side effects as the body gets used to the new device.

It is best to speak with a doctor about any side effects if these interfere with a person’s overall well-being or quality of life.

7 Signs and symptoms of colon cancer in men

The digestive system is complex, which makes the symptoms of colon cancer difficult to catch. As a result, it is vital to attend regular colon cancer screenings.

Colon cancer, which is also called colorectal cancer, is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the United States. For men, the overall risk of developing colon cancer is about one in 22, which equates to 4.49 percent.

Many symptoms can indicate colon cancer, but if someone has these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean that they have this disease. There are many other explanations for the symptoms, such as infections or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

However, anyone experiencing new symptoms may wish to visit a doctor for a diagnosis.

The symptoms of colon cancer are the same in men and women and include the following:

1. Changes in bowel habits

An upset stomach or a minor infection can often cause changes in the bowels, such as constipation, diarrhea, or very narrow, thin stools. However, these issues usually resolve within a few days as the illness subsides. Changes in the bowels that last more than a few days may be a sign of an underlying health issue. If a person has these symptoms regularly or for longer than a few days, they should see a doctor.

2. Cramps and bloating

Occasional cramps or bloating are common digestive issues that can occur due to an upset stomach, gas, or eating certain foods.

Experiencing frequent, unexplained cramps and bloating can be a sign of colon cancer, though these symptoms are more often the result of other health issues.

3. Feeling as though the bowels are not empty

If a growth turns into a blockage in the colon, it may cause the person to feel as though they can never empty their bowels. Even if their bowels are empty, they will still feel the need to use the restroom again.

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4. Blood in the stool

Seeing blood in the stool can be frightening. The stool may have streaks of fresh red blood, or the whole stool may have a darker, tarry appearance.

There are many other possible causes of bloody stools, such as hemorrhoids. However, anyone experiencing blood in their stool should still see a doctor for a diagnosis.

5. Unexplained weight loss

Suddenly and unexpectedly losing weight is a sign of several types of cancer. Unintentionally losing 10 pounds or more within 6 months may be a sign to report to a doctor. In people with cancer, the weight loss may be due to cancer cells consuming more of the body’s energy. The immune system is also working hard to fight the cancer cells. If the tumor is large, it may lead to blockages in the colon, which can cause bowel changes and further weight loss.

6. Fatigue

People with colon cancer may feel constant fatigue or weakness, possibly due to the cancer cells using extra energy and the stress of bowel symptoms. Although feeling tired now and then is normal, chronic fatigue does not go away with rest.

Chronic fatigue is generally a symptom of an underlying condition. Anyone experiencing fatigue should see a doctor to help determine the cause.

7. Shortness of breath

Once cancer begins to drain energy from the body and fatigue sets in, it is common for people to experience related symptoms, such as shortness of breath.

They may find it difficult to catch their breath or might become winded very quickly from something as simple as walking a short distance or laughing.

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Risk factors

African-Americans have a higher risk of developing colon cancer than people from other ethnic backgrounds.

Some factors may increase a person’s risk of developing colon cancer, including:

  • a personal history of digestive issues, such as colorectal polyps or IBD
  • a family history of polyps or colorectal cancer
  • some inherited gene mutations, such as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
  • getting older
  • having type 2 diabetes
  • some ethnic backgrounds, including being African American or Ashkenazi Jewish

It is not possible to prevent cancer in all cases, but making lifestyle changes to eliminate some risk factors may help a person reduce their likelihood of developing colon cancer.

Diet

As the American Cancer Society (ACS) note, a diet that is high in red meat or processed meat products increases the risk of colorectal cancer.

These foods include:

  • beef
  • pork
  • lamb
  • venison
  • liver
  • hot dogs
  • deli cuts
  • luncheon meat

Cooking meats at very high temperatures, such as on the grill or in a broiler or deep fryer, releases carcinogenic chemicals. These chemicals may also increase the risk of a person getting colon cancer, though the relationship between meat cooking methods and cancer is still unclear.

Weight

Being overweight or having obesity increases a person’s risk of developing or dying from colon cancer.According to the ACS, the link between obesity and colorectal cancer also seems to be stronger in men. Losing weight can help reduce the risk. 

Inactivity

Being physically inactive increases the risk of developing colon cancer. Staying active by doing even light workouts each day may help reduce this risk.

Alcohol use

People who drink heavily or regularly may also be putting themselves at greater risk of colon cancer. Men should limit their drinking to no more than two drinks per day.

Smoking

People who smoke are more likely to develop or die from colon cancer than those who do not. Smoking cigarettes also increases the risk of many other types of cancer.

Treatment

Surgery is a common treatment for colon cancer.

Colon cancer is highly treatable and often curable if the diagnosis takes place at an early stage when the cancer is only in the bowel and has not spread to other areas of the body.

Surgery is the most common first-line treatment for colon cancer, and it has a cure rate of about 50 percent.

A surgeon will remove the cancerous growth and any nearby lymph nodes as well as a section of healthy tissue surrounding the growth. They will then reconnect the healthy parts of the bowel.

Many early forms of colon cancer do not require further treatment.

If the cancer is advanced, surgeons may need to remove more of the colon, and if the disease reaches too low into the rectum, the surgeon may remove this part of the large intestine.

Sometimes, doctors recommend chemotherapy to people who may have a higher risk of recurring tumors.

When to see a doctor

In most cases, digestive symptoms do not indicate cancer. However, if the symptoms are unusual, appear more regularly, or steadily get worse, it is best to see a doctor as there is no other way to diagnose these issues.

Even if the underlying cause is not colon cancer, the doctor may be able to identify and diagnose a separate disorder for which they can recommend treatment.

Many people with colon cancer do not show any early symptoms so experiencing symptoms can be a sign that the cancer is growing or spreading. The ACS recommend that men and women with an average risk of colon, or colorectal, cancer begin screening at the age of 45 years. Doctors can diagnose and treat colon cancer in the early stages if a person regularly attends screenings.

Outlook

Anyone who notices new, unexplained digestive symptoms or is uncertain about their symptoms should see a doctor.

Early screening and diagnosis are crucial in people with colon cancer. When doctors diagnose colon cancer before it spreads, the 5-year relative survival rate is 92 percent. However, survival rates are lower among people who do not get a diagnosis until a later stage.

Replacing red meat with plant protein reduces heart disease risk

A meta-analysis of trials comparing the health effects of red meat consumption with those of other diets found that substituting healthful plant protein for red meat helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Eating plant proteins, such as tofu, may benefit cardiovascular health.

Many studies throughout the years have linked the consumption of red meat to cardiovascular disease and cancer, but the results have been inconsistent.

A recent study comparing the effects of plant protein and animal protein on the risk of cardiovascular disease found that the evidence was inconclusive.

Recent studies further investigated the link between red meat consumption and heart disease and found that red meat does not significantly increase the risk of cardiovascular disease when a person sticks to the recommended intake. Most of these studies focused on the potential harms of red meat, but they did not include an analysis of other specific diets.

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Red meat consumption in the United States

This new approach allowed researchers to examine a different side of the issue. Red meat consumption remains a very controversial topic, especially in the U.S., where the consumption of red meat per capita was more than 200 pounds in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Although red meat consumption in the U.S. is still high, chicken production and consumption have been increasing. The U.S. per capita beef consumption is down from its peak, but it is still remarkable — it is four times as high as the global average, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

A recent survey showed that many people in the U.S. might be open to reducing their meat consumption in the future because they are becoming more aware of the associations that red meat has with nutritional and environmental health harms. The researchers suggested that education campaigns are necessary to accelerate the shift to a more sustainable diet.

Asking ‘Is red meat good or bad?’ is useless

In this latest study, the researchers analyzed data from 36 randomized controlled trials, which included a total of 1,803 participants. The team looked at blood pressure and blood concentrations of cholesterol, triglycerides, and lipoproteins in people who ate diets with red meat. They then compared these values with those of people who ate more of other foods, such as chicken, fish, carbohydrates, legumes, soy, or nuts.

Previous findings from randomized controlled trials evaluating the effects of red meat on cardiovascular disease risk factors have been inconsistent.

But, our new study, which makes specific comparisons between diets high in red meat versus diets high in other types of foods, shows that substituting red meat with high-quality protein sources lead to more favorable changes in cardiovascular risk factors.”

The findings showed that there were no significant differences in total cholesterol, lipoproteins, or blood pressure between those who ate red meat and those who ate more of other types of food. However, diets high in red meat did cause an increase in triglyceride concentrations. Conversely, diets rich in high-quality plant protein lowered the levels of bad cholesterol.

If you replace burgers with cookies or fries, you don’t get healthier. But, if you replace red meat with healthy plant protein sources, like nuts and beans, you get a health benefit.”

The authors recommend that people follow healthful vegetarian and Mediterranean-style diets that provide plenty of high-quality plant protein because they offer excellent health benefits and promote environmental sustainability.

Everything You Need to Know About Alzheimer’s Disease

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia. Dementia is a broader term for conditions caused by brain injuries or diseases that negatively affect memory, thinking, and behavior. These changes interfere with daily living.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Most people with the disease get a diagnosis after age 65. If it’s diagnosed before then, it’s generally referred to as early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, but there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease. Learn more about the basics of Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s facts

Although many people have heard of Alzheimer’s disease, some aren’t sure exactly what it is. Here are some facts about this condition:

  • Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic ongoing condition.
  • Its symptoms come on gradually and the effects on the brain are degenerative, meaning they cause slow decline.
  • There’s no cure for Alzheimer’s but treatment can help slow the progression of the disease and may improve quality of life.
  • Anyone can get Alzheimer’s disease but certain people are at higher risk for it. This includes people over age 65 and those with a family history of the condition.
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia aren’t the same thing. Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia.
  • There’s no single expected outcome for people with Alzheimer’s. Some people live a long time with mild cognitive damage, while others experience a more rapid onset of symptoms and quicker disease progression.

Each person’s journey with Alzheimer’s disease is different. Find out more details about how Alzheimer’s can affect people.

Dementia vs. Alzheimer’s

The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s” are sometimes used interchangeably. However, these two conditions aren’t the same. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia.

Dementia is a broader term for conditions with symptoms relating to memory loss such as forgetfulness and confusion. Dementia includes more specific conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, traumatic brain injury, and others, which can cause these symptoms.

Causes, symptoms, and treatments can be different for these diseases. Learn more about how dementia and Alzheimer’s disease differ.

Alzheimer’s disease causes and risk factors

Experts haven’t determined a single cause of Alzheimer’s disease but they have identified certain risk factors, including:

  • Age. Most people who develop Alzheimer’s disease are 65 years of age or older.
  • Family history. If you have an immediate family member who has developed the condition, you’re more likely to get it.
  • Genetics. Certain genes have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

Having one or more of these risk factors doesn’t mean that you’ll develop Alzheimer’s disease. It simply raises your risk level.

To learn more about your personal risk of developing the condition, talk with your doctor. 

Alzheimer’s and genetics

While there’s no one identifiable cause of Alzheimer’s, genetics may play a key role. One gene in particular is of interest to researchers. Apolipoprotein E (APOE) is a gene that’s been linked to the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms in older adults.

Blood tests can determine if you have this gene, which increases your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Keep in mind that even if someone has this gene, they may not get Alzheimer’s.

The opposite is also true: Someone may still get Alzheimer’s even if they don’t have the gene. There’s no way to tell for sure whether someone will develop Alzheimer’s.

Other genes could also increase risk of Alzheimer’s and early onset Alzheimer’s.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

Everyone has episodes of forgetfulness from time to time. But people with Alzheimer’s disease display certain ongoing behaviors and symptoms that worsen over time. These can include:

  • memory loss affecting daily activities, such as an ability to keep appointments
  • trouble with familiar tasks, such as using a microwave
  • difficulties with problem-solving
  • trouble with speech or writing
  • becoming disoriented about times or places
  • decreased judgment
  • decreased personal hygiene
  • mood and personality changes
  • withdrawal from friends, family, and community

Symptoms change according to the stage of the disease. 

Alzheimer’s stages

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which means the symptoms will gradually worsen over time. Alzheimer’s is broken down into seven stages:

  • Stage 1. There are no symptoms at this stage but there might be an early diagnosis based on family history.
  • Stage 2. The earliest symptoms appear, such as forgetfulness.
  • Stage 3. Mild physical and mental impairments appear, such as reduced memory and concentration. These may only be noticeable by someone very close to the person.
  • Stage 4. Alzheimer’s is often diagnosed at this stage, but it’s still considered mild. Memory loss and the inability to perform everyday tasks is evident.
  • Stage 5. Moderate to severe symptoms require help from loved ones or caregivers.
  • Stage 6. At this stage, a person with Alzheimer’s may need help with basic tasks, such as eating and putting on clothes.
  • Stage 7. This is the most severe and final stage of Alzheimer’s. There may be a loss of speech and facial expressions.

As a person progresses through these stages, they’ll need increasing support from a caregiver. 

Early onset Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s typically affects people ages 65 years and older. However, it can occur in people as early as their 40s or 50s. This is called early onset, or younger onset, Alzheimer’s. This type of Alzheimer’s affects about 5 percent of all people with the condition.

Symptoms of early onset Alzheimer’s can include mild memory loss and trouble concentrating or finishing everyday tasks. It can be hard to find the right words, and you may lose track of time. Mild vision problems, such as trouble telling distances, can also occur.

Certain people are at greater risk of developing this condition. 

The only definitive way to diagnose someone with Alzheimer’s disease is to examine their brain tissue after death. But your doctor can use other examinations and tests to assess your mental abilities, diagnose dementia, and rule out other conditions.

They’ll likely start by taking a medical history. They may ask about your:

  • symptoms
  • family medical history
  • other current or past health conditions
  • current or past medications
  • diet, alcohol intake, or other lifestyle habits

From there, your doctor will likely do several tests to help determine if you have Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer’s tests

There’s no definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease. However, your doctor will likely do several tests to determine your diagnosis. These can be mental, physical, neurological, and imaging tests.

Your doctor may start with a mental status test. This can help them assess your short-term memory, long-term memory, and orientation to place and time. For example, they may ask you:

  • what day it is
  • who the president is
  • to remember and recall a short list of words

Next, they’ll likely conduct a physical exam. For example, they may check your blood pressure, assess your heart rate, and take your temperature. In some cases, they may collect urine or blood samples for testing in a laboratory.

Your doctor may also conduct a neurological exam to rule out other possible diagnoses, such as an acute medical issue, such as infection or stroke. During this exam, they will check your reflexes, muscle tone, and speech.

Your doctor may also order brain-imaging studies. These studies, which will create pictures of your brain, can include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs can help pick up key markers, such as inflammation, bleeding, and structural issues.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. CT scans take X-ray images which can help your doctor look for abnormal characteristics in your brain.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan. PET scan images can help your doctor detect plaque buildup. Plaque is a protein substance related to Alzheimer’s symptoms.

Other tests your doctor may do include blood tests to check for genes that may indicate you have a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 

Alzheimer’s medication

There’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, your doctor can recommend medications and other treatments to help ease your symptoms and delay the progression of the disease for as long as possible.

For early to moderate Alzheimer’s, your doctor may prescribe medications such as donepezil (Aricept) or rivastigmine (Exelon). These drugs can help maintain high levels of acetylcholine in your brain. This is a type of neurotransmitter that can help aid your memory.

To treat moderate to severe Alzheimer’s, your doctor may prescribe donepezil (Aricept) or memantine (Namenda). Memantine can help block the effects of excess glutamate. Glutamate is a brain chemical that’s released in higher amounts in Alzheimer’s disease and damages brain cells.

Your doctor may also recommend antidepressants, antianxiety medications, or antipsychotics to help treat symptoms related to Alzheimer’s. These symptoms include:

  • depression
  • restlessness
  • aggression
  • agitation
  • hallucinations

Other Alzheimer’s treatments

In addition to medication, lifestyle changes may help you manage your condition. For example, your doctor might develop strategies to help you or your loved one:

  • focus on tasks
  • limit confusion
  • avoid confrontation
  • get enough rest every day
  • stay calm

Some people believe that vitamin E can help prevent decline in mental abilities, but studies indicate that more research is needed. Be sure to ask your doctor before taking vitamin E or any other supplements. It can interfere with some of the medications used to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

In addition to lifestyle changes, there are several alternative options you can ask your doctor about. 

Preventing Alzheimer’s

Just as there’s no known cure for Alzheimer’s, there are no foolproof preventive measures. However, researchers are focusing on overall healthy lifestyle habits as ways of preventing cognitive decline.

The following measures may help:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Try cognitive training exercises.
  • Eat a plant-based diet.
  • Consume more antioxidants.
  • Maintain an active social life.

Be sure to talk with your doctor before making any big changes in your lifestyle.

Alzheimer’s care

If you have a loved one with Alzheimer’s, you may consider becoming a caregiver. This is a full-time job that’s typically not easy but can be very rewarding.

Being a caregiver takes many skills. These include patience perhaps above all, as well as creativity, stamina, and the ability to see joy in the role of helping someone you care about live the most comfortable life they can.

As a caregiver, it’s important to take care of yourself as well as your loved one. With the responsibilities of the role can come an increased risk of stress, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise.

If you choose to assume the role of caregiver, you may need to enlist the help of professional caregivers as well as family members to help. 

The statistics surrounding Alzheimer’s disease are daunting.

  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s is the sixth most common cause of death among U.S. adults. It ranks fifth among causes of death for people 65 years and older.
  • A study found that 4.7 million Americans over the age of 65 years had Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Those researchers projected that by 2050, there will be 13.8 million Americans with Alzheimer’s.
  • The CDC estimates that over 90 percent of people with Alzheimer’s don’t see any symptoms until they’re over 60 years old.
  • Alzheimer’s is an expensive disease. According to the CDC, about $259 billion was spent on Alzheimer’s and dementia care costs in the United States in 2017.

The takeaway

Alzheimer’s is a complicated disease in which there are many unknowns. What is known is that the condition worsens over time, but treatment can help delay symptoms and improve your quality of life.

If you think you or a loved one may have Alzheimer’s, your first step is to talk with your doctor. They can help make a diagnosis, discuss what you can expect, and help connect you with services and support. If you’re interested, they can also give you information about taking part in clinical trials.

senior man with headache

All Sweetened Drinks Can Raise Heart Disease Risk

Some sweetened beverages can have more sugar than a 12-ounce can of Coca Cola. 

It’s not news that too much sugar isn’t good for you.

Indeed, soda, candy, and sticky-sweet confections can take a toll on your waistline, not to mention your teeth.Now, the specific connection between diseases and sugary beverages, such as soda, sports drinks, and sweetened coffee beverages, is clearer.

Earlier this month, the journal of the American Heart Association released findings that show people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease and some cancers.No matter what drink you take, excessive consumption [of sugar] is a problem. High overall sugar intake from any drink like coffee with sugar or juices can lead to problems. Higher consumption of sugar leads to increased incidence of weight gain and diabetes, which in turn leads to increased risk for heart attacks and strokes.This study joins previous research that points to the relationship between a high-sugar diet and negative heart health outcomes.However, in this one, the authors controlled for other dietary factors, physical activity, and body mass index, items that could be independently linked with sugar-sweetened beverages.The results still pointed to the damaging effects sugary beverages may have, regardless of other possible cardiovascular risk factors.

Sugar replacements are risky, too

A secondary finding of the Circulation study suggests people who replace one sugary drink per day with an artificially-sweetened drink (such as a diet soda) have a slightly lower risk of death.However, if a woman drinks four or more artificially-sweetened drinks per day, she has a higher risk of death.Low-calorie drinks, while containing less sugar, also carry an increased risk. 

What beverages are not OK?

Soda is the poster star of sugar problems, but Americans are actually drinking fewer sugary drinks like soda today than any time in the past decade.

Yet, 1 in 10 people still get more than a quarter of their daily calories from sugar.

That’s not all coming from soda.

A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola Classic has 39 grams of sugar. You may be unlikely to reach for the syrupy soda after a workout, but the Gatorade you down on your way out the door has 34 grams.

Feeling a little sluggish in the afternoon? Instead of a 20-ounce bottle of Pepsi (69 grams), you may take a quick jaunt down to Starbucks for a Grande Mocha Frappuccino (skim milk and no whip, please), which has —are you ready? —59 grams of sugar. Even the extra 500 steps won’t burn off that sugar crush.

Are you stocking sugary “smoothies” in your fridge, sipping them on your commute to the office, as a way to get more fruit into your diet? A 15.2-ounce bottle promises apples, bananas, blueberries, and blackberries — all while delivering 55 grams of sugar.

Does fruit provide a bit of a health halo for that much sugar? 

“Any liquid source of sugar, even if it is a naturally occurring form that is in a concentrate, will have the same impact,” she told Healthline. “The blood sugar and insulin levels still spike and fall with all of these options. You can dress up a drink with over 10 grams of sugar any way you like, but in the end, it’s still just sugar.”

More than 60 different names for sugar could be listed on an ingredient label.

Fruit juice concentrate seems natural, but it’s a form of sugar. Brown rice syrup? That’s sugar. Beets are healthy, so what about beet sugar? Still sugar.

If, however, you’re not keen to memorize five dozen random words, keep this rule in mind: water is best.

How to quit sugar for good

Drinking water in place of sugary drinks is a healthy choice that could contribute to longevity. Diet soda may be used to help frequent consumers of sugary drinks cut back their consumption, but water is the best and healthiest choice.

To get your daily sugar consumption down, it’s important to understand what you’re actually eating in a day. A food diary can help.

Whether you record your food in a smartphone app or hand-write everything in a notebook, jotting down what you typically eat for several weeks will give you an idea of what you’re taking in and how much, if any, you need to cut to reach recommended guidelines.Per the American Heart Association, men should consume no more than nine teaspoons or 36 grams of added sugar a day, and women no more than six teaspoons or 25 grams of added sugar per day. To put this in perspective, one 12-ounce can of regular soda has eight teaspoons of sugar.

From there, the process of cutting back begins. Ask what you can reasonably get rid of. If cravings occur… you can look toward fresh fruit like berries or apples. If cola is your big thing, start there, and try a cold turkey approach, not replacing a regular soda with a diet option.It’s not an easy task. Research shows sugar has qualities that may cause an addiction, and your body will call out for it.

Part of your goals must involve support from family and friends and an environment in which sugar is not easily accessible. If this is too tough to do, then consider simply slashing all foods from your diet that have more than four grams of added sugar per serving.New regulations from the Food and Drug Administration require food manufacturers to list added sugar on food labels, beginning in 2020. This will make identifying surprising sources of sugar easier.

Prostate Cancer in detail

Prostate cancer affects the prostate gland, the gland that produces some of the fluid in semen and plays a role in urine control in men.

The prostate gland is located below the bladder and in front of the rectum.

In the United States, it is the most common cancer in men, but it is also treatable if found in the early stages.

In 2017, the American Cancer Society predicts that there will be around 161,360 new diagnoses of prostate cancer, and that around 26,730 fatalities will occur because of it.

Regular testing is crucial as the cancer needs to be diagnosed before metastasis.

Fast facts on prostate cancer:

Here are some key points about the prostate cancer. More detail is in the main article.

The prostate gland is part of the male reproductive system.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.

It is treatable if diagnosed early, before it spreads.

If symptoms appear, they include problems with urination.

Regular screening Is the best way to detect it in good time.

Symptoms

There are usually no symptoms during the early stages of prostate cancer. However, if symptoms do appear, they usually involve one or more of the following:

  • frequent urges to urinate, including at night
  • difficulty commencing and maintaining urination
  • blood in the urine
  • painful urination and, less commonly, ejaculation
  • difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection may be difficult

Advanced prostate cancer can involve the following symptoms:

  • bone pain, often in the spine, femur, pelvis, or ribs
  • bone fractures

If the cancer spreads to the spine and compresses the spinal cord, there may be:

  • leg weakness
  • urinary incontinence
  • fecal incontinence

Treatment

Treatment is different for early and advanced prostate cancers.

Early stage prostate cancer

If the cancer is small and localized, it is usually managed by one of the following treatments:

Watchful waiting or monitoring: PSA blood levels are regularly checked, but there is no immediate action. The risk of side-effects sometimes outweighs the need for immediate treatment for this slow-developing cancer.

Radical prostatectomy: The prostate is surgically removed. Traditional surgery requires a hospital stay of up to 10 days, with a recovery time of up to 3 months. Robotic keyhole surgery involves a shorter hospitalization and recovery period, but it can be more expensive. Patients should speak to their insurer about coverage.

Brachytherapy: Radioactive seeds are implanted into the prostate to deliver targeted radiation treatment.

Conformal radiation therapy: Radiation beams are shaped so that the region where they overlap is as close to the same shape as the organ or region that requires treatment. This minimizes healthy tissue exposure to radiation.

Intensity modulated radiation therapy: Beams with variable intensity are used. This is an advanced form of conformal radiation therapy.

In the early stages, patients may receive radiation therapy combined with hormone therapy for 4 to 6 months.

Treatment recommendations depend on individual cases. The patient should discuss all available options with their urologist or oncologist.

Advanced prostate cancer

Advanced cancer is more aggressive and will have spread further throughout the body.

Chemotherapy may be recommended, as it can kill cancer cells around the body.

Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), or androgen suppression therapy, is a hormone treatment that reduces the effect of androgen. Androgens are male hormones that can stimulate cancer growth. ADT can slow down and even stop cancer growth by reducing androgen levels.

The patient will likely need long-term hormone therapy.

Even if the hormone therapy stops working after a while, there may be other options. Participation in clinical trials is one option that a patient may wish to discuss with the doctor.

Radical prostatectomy is not currently an option for advanced cases, as it does not treat the cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Fertility

As the prostate is directly involved with sexual reproduction, removing it affects semen production and fertility.

Radiation therapy affects the prostate tissue and often reduces the ability to father children. The sperm can be damaged and the semen insufficient for transporting sperm.

Non-surgical options, too, can severely inhibit a man’s reproductive capacity.

Options for preserving these functions can include donating to a sperm bank before surgery, or having sperm extracted directly from the testicles for artificial insemination into an egg. However, the success of these options is never guaranteed.

Patients with prostate cancer can speak to a fertility doctor if they still intend to father children.

What causes prostate cancer?

The prostate is a walnut-sized exocrine gland. This means that it’s fluids and secretions are intended for use outside of the body.

The prostate produces the fluid that nourishes and transports sperm on their journey to fuse with a female ovum, or egg, and produce human life. The prostate contracts and forces these fluids out during orgasm.

The protein excreted by the prostate, prostate-specific antigen (PSA), helps semen retain its liquid state. An excess of this protein in the blood is one of the first signs of prostate cancer.

The urethra is tube through which sperm and urine exit the body. It also passes through the prostate.

As such, the prostate is also responsible for urine control. It can tighten and restrict the flow of urine through the urethra using thousands of tiny muscle fibers.

How does it start?

It usually starts in the glandular cells. This is known as adenocarcinoma. Tiny changes occur in the shape and size of the prostate gland cells, known as prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PIN). This tends to happen slowly and does not show symptoms until further into the progression.

Nearly 50 percent of all men over the age of 50 years have PIN. High-grade PIN is considered pre-cancerous, and it requires further investigation. Low-grade PIN is not a cause for concern.

Prostate cancer can be successfully treated if it is diagnosed before metastasis, but if it spreads, it is more dangerous. It most commonly spreads to the bones.

Stages

Staging takes into account the size and extent of the tumor and the scale of the metastasis (whether it has traveled to other organs and tissues).

At Stage 0, the tumor has neither spread from the prostate gland nor invaded deeply into it. At Stage 4, the cancer has spread to distant sites and organs.

Diagnosis

A doctor will carry out a physical examination and enquire about any ongoing medical history. If the patient has symptoms, or if a routine blood test shows abnormally high PSA levels, further examinations may be requested.

Tests may include:

  • a digital rectal examination (DRE), in which a doctor will manually check for any abnormalities of the prostate with their finger
  • a biomarker test checking the blood, urine, or body tissues of a person with cancer for chemicals unique to individuals with cancer

If these tests show abnormal results, further tests will include:

  • a PCA3 test examining the urine for the PCA3 gene only found in prostate cancer cells
  • a transrectal ultrasound scan providing imaging of the affected region using a probe that emits sounds
  • a biopsy, or the removal of 12 to 14 small pieces of tissue from several areas of the prostate for examination under a microscope

These will help confirm the stage of the cancer, whether it has spread, and what treatment is appropriate.

To track any spread, or metastasis, doctors may use a bone, CT scan, or MRI scan.

Outlook

If the disease is found before it spreads to other organs in a process known as metastasis, the 5-year survival rate is 99 percent. After fifteen years, this decreases to 96 percent. Once the cancer metastasizes, or spreads, the 5-year survival rate is 29 percent.

Regular screening can help detect prostate cancer while it is still treatable.

Risk factors

The exact cause of prostate cancer is unclear, but there are many possible risk factors.

Age

Prostate cancer is rare among men under the age of 45 years, but more common after the age of 50 years.

Geography

Prostate cancer occurs most frequently in North America, northwestern Europe, on the Caribbean islands, and in Australia. The reasons remain unclear.

Genetic factors

Certain genetic and ethnic groups have an increased risk of prostate cancer.

In the U.S., prostate cancer is at least 60 percent more common and 2 to 3 times more deadly among black men than non-Hispanic white men.

A man also has a much higher risk of developing cancer if his identical twin has it, and a man whose brother or father had prostate cancer has twice the risk of developing it compared to other men. Having a brother who has or has had prostate cancer is more of a genetic risk than having a father with the disease.

Diet

Studies have suggested that a diet high in red meat or high-fat dairy products may increase a person’s chances of developing prostate cancer, but the link is neither confirmed nor clear.

Medication

Some research has suggested that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Others have linked NSAID use with a higher risk of death from the disease. This is a controversial area, and results have not been confirmed.

There has also been some investigation into whether statins might slow the progression of prostate cancer. One 2016 study concluded that results were “weak and inconsistent.”

Obesity

It is often believed that obesity is linked to the development of prostate cancer, but the American Cancer Society maintains that there is no clear link.

Some studies have found that obesity increases the risk of death in advanced cancers. Studies have also concluded that obesity decreases the risk that a cancer will be low-grade if it does occur.

Agent Orange

Exposure to Agent Orange, a chemical weapon used in the Vietnam war, may possibly be linked to the development of more aggressive types of cancer, but the extent of this has not been confirmed.