About Cholesterol

Blood cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by your liver. Blood cholesterol is essential for good health. Your body needs it to perform important jobs, such as making hormones and digesting fatty foods. Your body makes all the blood cholesterol it needs, which is why experts recommend that people eat as little dietary cholesterol as possible while on a healthy eating plan.

Optimal Cholesterol Levels1
Total cholesterolAbout 150 mg/dL
LDL (“bad”) cholesterolAbout 100 mg/dL
HDL (“good”) cholesterolAt least 40 mg/dL in men and 50 mg/dL in women
TriglyceridesLess than 150 mg/dL

What are signs and symptoms of high cholesterol?

High blood cholesterol doesn’t have symptoms, which is why getting your cholesterol levels checked is so important.

Knowing your cholesterol status can help you stay in control of your health. 

What causes high cholesterol?

Certain health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, can raise your risk for high cholesterol. Lifestyle factors, such eating a diet high in saturated and trans fats and not getting enough activity, can also raise your risk for high cholesterol. Some people who have a family history of high cholesterol can also be at risk for high cholesterol. All these factors are called “risk factors.”

You can’t control some of these risk factors, such as your age or your family history. But you can 

What problems does high cholesterol cause?

Having high blood cholesterol can lead to a buildup called “plaque” on the walls of your arteries (a type of blood vessel).

As plaque builds up over time, the insides of your arteries narrow. This narrowing blocks blood flow to and from your heart and other organs. When blood flow to the heart is blocked, it can cause chest pain (also called angina) or a heart attack (also called myocardial infarction).

High cholesterol also increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, two leading causes of death in the United States.

How do I know if I have high cholesterol?

The only way to know whether you have high cholesterol is to get your cholesterol checked by your health care team. Talk with your health care team about how often you should have your cholesterol screened. 

What can I do to prevent or manage high cholesterol?

Strong evidence shows that eating patterns that include less dietary cholesterol are associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Your overall risk for high cholesterol depends on many factors.

Walking 8,000 steps just 1-2 days a week linked to significant health benefits

A study found hitting the 8,000-step goal just one to two days per week is still associated with a significant reduction in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. Third Eye Images/Getty Images

  • Current research suggests that walking 8,000 brisk steps or more per day may be the sweet spot for receiving the health benefits walking provides.
  • People who have trouble finding time to walk each day of the week will be encouraged by a new study that demonstrates walking just one to two days is still associated with a significant reduction in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.
  • The study’s authors found that each additional day walked confers greater benefits.

Briskly walking 8,000 or more steps each day of the week is associated with a significant decrease in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality. A new study finds, however, that people taking just 8,000 steps one or two days a week are also less likely to die over a 10-year follow-up period.

The study published in JAMA Network Open found that over a decade of follow-up, people 20 years or older who took 8,000 or more steps on one or two days a week were 14.9% less likely to die compared to people who were sedentary.

The risk of death dropped as the number of days involved increased. For example, exercising from three to seven days a week was associated with a 16.5% reduction in all-cause and cardiovascular deaths.

The same pattern held true for people meeting step goals of 6,000 to 10,000 steps.

Previous research found that mortality risk decreases up to 10,000 steps per day for people younger than 60 and 8,000 for people older than 60.

‘Weekend warrior’ style of exercising

The study’s findings pertain to both “weekend warriors,” people who confine their exercise to non-work days, and to people who steal a few hours to walk during the week.

The study cites recent data showing the average American takes just 4,800 steps a day, too few to provide much of a health benefit.

“Brisk walking” is defined as walking three miles an hour. If you can speak song lyrics but not sing them, you are walking briskly.

The current study compared data from the U.S. 2005 and 2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey with the National Death Index up to the year 2019. It incorporated accelerometer data from 3,101 participants 20 years or older and was a nationally representative sample. It included a similar number of women and men, and 50.9% were White, 21.5% Black, 23.7% Hispanic, and 3.9% other race and ethnicity.

The participants most likely to walk 8,000 or more steps every day were more likely to be young, male, Hispanic, insured, and married. They were also typically never-smokers and were less likely to be obese or have comorbidities.

A daily challenge of walking 8,000 steps

For many people, walking 8,000 steps each day requires a significant commitment of time. 8,000 steps are about four miles, which, walking at three miles per hour, comes to a total of about an hour and 20 minutes every day. Steps can be taken simultaneously or in shorter periods of brisk walking.

The study was led by Dr. Kosuke Inoue of Kyoto University in Japan, collaborating with researchers from UCLA in California. Dr. Inoue explained why the study was undertaken:

“We started this study to answer the question one of my patients asked during an outpatient clinic: ‘It is hard for me to keep sufficient steps every day. Is it okay to focus on walking only during the weekend?’”

Steps studies often consider the value of a week’s worth of various step goals, and Dr. Inoue saw a lack of evidence regarding the possible benefits of walking just a few days a week.

“Given that a lack of time is one of the major barriers to exercise in modern society,” said Dr. Inoue, “our findings provide useful information to recommend walking even for a couple of days per week to reduce mortality risk.”

“This is one of the first studies to use direct measures of daily steps using a wearable accelerometer over a 10-year followup period,” said Dr. Paul Arciero, a professor in the Health and Human Physiological Sciences Department at Skidmore College, who was not involved in the study.

How walking benefits overall health

Walking is viewed as a simple, low impact means of making a person’s life less sedentary. A sedentary lifestyle has been linked to an increased risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.

“Further, a sedentary lifestyle drastically increases the risk of cardiometabolic disease such as abdominal obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and certain inflammatory conditions and cancers,” said Dr. Arciero.

According to Harvard Medical School, taking one’s steps has additional, less-obvious benefits. Walking offsets the effect of weight-promoting genes, reduces breast cancer risk, and boosts one’s immune system. It can also lessen arthritis-based joint pain, and even a 15-minute walk can curb a craving for chocolate, both generally and in response to stress.

Dealing with limited time for walking

The study’s findings should provide valuable information for clinicians and health professionals, said Dr. Inoue. He suggested a reader’s takeaway should be that for people who have difficulties engaging in regular exercise, “achieving recommended daily steps only a couple of days per week can have meaningful health benefits.”

Describing the study’s conclusions as “encouraging,” Dr. Arciero suggested the study may help people who don’t have enough time to walk 8,000 steps a day overcome feelings that walking less is pointless.

“We now have scientific evidence that proves this mindset is not true, and even a couple of days is beneficial!” said Dr. Arciero.

He said the study underscores the value of increasing one’s daily step count:

“Always a good reminder that any amount of walking, even one to two days per week, is still better than no walking.”

Understanding and Recognizing Pre-Migraine Symptoms

Migraine is more than headaches. It’s a neurological condition that impacts more than 36 million Americans, according to the American Migraine Foundation. Migraine can cause severe pain and interrupt your daily activities.

Pre-migraine is one of the four stages of a migraine attack. Pre-migraine symptoms may occur before a migraine attack begins. You may be able to take steps to avoid a painful migraine attack if you can recognize the pre-migraine stage.

What are pre-migraine symptoms?

Migraine has four distinct states. Pre-migraine, called the prodrome stage, consists of a symptom or group of symptoms which let you know that a migraine attack is coming. It can begin anywhere from a few hours to several days before a migraine attack occurs.

The prodrome stage, sometimes also called the pre-headache or premonitory phase, doesn’t occur before every migraine attack, but learning to recognize pre-migraine symptoms can help you take preventative action. It’s also important to know that not everyone who has a prodrome stage will experience the exact same symptoms.

Pre-migraine symptoms may include:

  • Mood changes. You might feel depressed, anxious, or irritable without a pinpointable cause.
  • Muscle pain. Stiffness and cramping in your neck and shoulders is a common pre migraine symptom.
  • Food cravings. You can have strong cravings, especially for sweet foods, before a migraine attack.
  • Difficulty concentrating. You might have trouble focusing and feel foggy or confused.
  • Fatigue. Even if you had a good night’s sleep, you can feel extra tired leading up to a migraine attack.
  • Excessive yawning. Finding yourself yawning frequently throughout the day can be a migraine attack symptom.
  • Digestion trouble. You might experience constipation or diarrhea before a migraine attack begins.
  • Increased urinary frequency. Needing to visit the bathroom more often than normal is a common prodrome symptom.
  • Sensitivity to light and sound. You might have a low tolerance for bright lights and loud sounds before and during a migraine attack.

What to do if you have pre-migraine symptoms

You can start to take action if you recognize pre-migraine symptoms. If you’re being treated by a doctor for migraine, they can help you come up with a pre-migraine management plan that could prevent a full migraine attack from occurring. Try these common steps that can help during the prodrome stage:

  • Take pain-relieving medication. It can help to take pain-relieving medication before a migraine attack begins. You can use over-the-counter (OTC) options such as Excedrin, or prescription options. Follow the doctor’s instructions carefully when taking prescription medication for migraine.
  • Take any prevention medications. Be careful to not skip a dose of any prevention medications you’ve been prescribed if you’re having prodrome symptoms.
  • Avoid any known migraine triggers. It’s always a good idea to avoid anything that triggers your migraine, but taking extra care to avoid triggers when you notice pre migraine symptoms can help prevent a full migraine attack.
  • Rest and relax. Taking time to rest and relax can help you prevent a full migraine attack. If you can, try taking a nap or going to bed early. Meditation or other relaxation techniques can be especially useful.
  • Find a dark room. It’s best to avoid loud, bright, and stressful situations when pre migraine symptoms occur. Relaxing in a dark and quiet room can help prevent a migraine attack.
  • Take a hot shower or bath. A hot shower or bath can help relax your muscles. You can also try warm compresses.
  • Try ice packs. Ice packs are a good way to numb your pain and help you rest.
  • Drink a caffeinated beverage. Small amounts of caffeine can help relieve pain and can enhance the effects of some OTC pain relief medications. It’s a good idea to stick to a small amount, such as a single cup of coffee or can of soda. Too much caffeine can lead to withdrawal headaches and make it difficult to sleep.

What are the other stages of migraine?

There are three other migraine stages. Not everyone will have every stage during every migraine attack. The migraine stages are:

  • Aura stage. For individuals who have an aura with migraine, they usually occur about an hour before a migraine attack. Auras symptoms can vary but often include blurry vision, seeing flashing lights, visual hallucinations, vision loss, numbness, dizziness, and changes in hearing and speech. About one-third of people with migraine experience aura.
  • Headache or attack stage. The headache stage is when moderate-to-severe head pain that’s normally concentrated on one side of your head occurs. Pain is often throbbing and can become more severe when you move. The attack stage can last anywhere from a few hours to 3 days and also includes migraine symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, trouble sleeping, and sensitivity to light, sound, and smells.
  • Postdrome or resolution stage. This stage occurs once the migraine attack has faded and can last for a few hours to a few days. Symptoms at this stage often include feeling drained, fatigued, dizzy, and achy. It’s best to continue to avoid triggers and rest as much as you need during this stage.

The takeaway

The pre-migraine stage can start anywhere from a few days to a few hours before you have a migraine attack. Symptoms can vary, but often include:

  • confusion
  • fatigue
  • urinary frequency
  • sensitivity to light and sound
  • mood changes
  • neck pain
  • food cravings

Learning to recognize pre-migraine symptoms you experience can help you manage migraine and avoid an attack. Talk with a doctor if you’re having migraine attacks frequently. They can help identify your pre-migraine symptoms and the steps you can take during pre-migraine to avoid an attack.

A natural peptide could help tackle obesity and diabetes

  • Peptides are smaller versions of proteins that have a range of purposes, such as the potential to reduce the signs of aging, relieve inflammation, or promote muscle growth.
  • In 2015, researchers discovered a type of peptide called PEPITEM, and recognized its function in the adiponectin-PEPITEM pathway, which regulates the onset and severity of autoimmune or chronic inflammatory conditions.
  • Now, new research in animal models reveals that this peptide has the potential to offer a groundbreaking solution for many diseases.
  • The peptide may decrease the chances of developing type 2 diabetes and other conditions associated with obesity, such as fatty liver disease, the study indicates.

Obesity leads to significant changes in adipose (fat) tissue metabolism, harms the pancreas, impairs insulin sensitivity, and eventually causes hyperglycemia (high blood sugar), which is the foundation of type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, it triggers a low-grade inflammatory reaction throughout the body, which promotes the infiltration of white blood cells into numerous tissues, including fat deposits located deep within the body that surround organs, such as the liver and gut — called visceral adipose tissue — and the peritoneal cavity, a delicate membrane that encloses the gut.

According to a new study, published in Clinical and Experimental Immunology, the adiponectin-PEPITEM pathway provides a link between obesity, the accompanying low-grade inflammatory response, and modifications in the pancreas that occur prior to the onset of diabetes.

Using a mouse model of obesity, the researchers administered the peptide PEPITEM using a slow-release pump, to see if it could prevent or perhaps even reverse the impacts of a high-fat diet on the pancreas.

The researchers found that administering PEPITEM to mice that were following a high-fat diet resulted in a significant reduction in the enlargement of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas and the number of white blood cells in the visceral adipose tissue and peritoneal cavity when compared to the control group.

Scale of problem in diabetes

Diabetes is a non-communicable disease (NCD) where the amount of glucose in the blood is too high. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease whereby the body is unable to produce any insulin, and Type 2 diabetes develops when the body stops producing enough insulin or the body’s cells stop reacting to insulin produced.

Type 2 diabetes is associated with lifestyle factors – being overweight or obese is the major modifiable risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. The onset of Type 2 diabetes can be delayed or prevented through support to change behaviour around lifestyle choices. Type 1 diabetes is not related to lifestyle issues, and at this point cannot be prevented.

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes

The obesogenic environment and associated lifestyle risk factors

The increasingly obesogenic environment we live in makes it harder for individuals to avoid unhealthy lifestyle choices. The obesogenic environment can be considered to be at the root of the prevention challenge in Type 2 diabetes.

From childhood, people are exposed to ultra-processed, energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods, which are cheap and readily available. Opportunities for physical activity, both in and out of school and the workplace, have been reduced and more time is spent on screen-based and sedentary leisure activities. As a result, high proportions of children and adults have increasingly been defaulting to unhealthy lifestyle choices including unhealthy diets, low levels of physical activity, and sedentary behaviour. These all give rise to higher risk of Type 2 diabetes:

  • overweight or obesity with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more
  • a large waist circumference – more than 80cm or 31.5 inches in women and 94cm or 37 inches in men

Breast cancer


Breast cancer is cancer that forms in the cells of the breasts.

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States. Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it’s far more common in women.

Substantial support for breast cancer awareness and research funding has helped create advances in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. Breast cancer survival rates have increased, and the number of deaths associated with this disease is steadily declining, largely due to factors such as earlier detection, a new personalized approach to treatment and a better understanding of the disease.


Signs and symptoms of breast cancer may include:

  • A breast lump or thickening that feels different from the surrounding tissue
  • Change in the size, shape or appearance of a breast
  • Changes to the skin over the breast, such as dimpling
  • A newly inverted nipple
  • Peeling, scaling, crusting or flaking of the pigmented area of skin surrounding the nipple (areola) or breast skin
  • Redness or pitting of the skin over your breast, like the skin of an orange

When to see a doctor

If you find a lump or other change in your breast — even if a recent mammogram was normal — make an appointment with your doctor for prompt evaluation.


Doctors know that breast cancer occurs when some breast cells begin to grow abnormally. These cells divide more rapidly than healthy cells do and continue to accumulate, forming a lump or mass. Cells may spread (metastasize) through your breast to your lymph nodes or to other parts of your body.

Breast cancer most often begins with cells in the milk-producing ducts (invasive ductal carcinoma). Breast cancer may also begin in the glandular tissue called lobules (invasive lobular carcinoma) or in other cells or tissue within the breast.

Researchers have identified hormonal, lifestyle and environmental factors that may increase your risk of breast cancer. But it’s not clear why some people who have no risk factors develop cancer, yet other people with risk factors never do. It’s likely that breast cancer is caused by a complex interaction of your genetic makeup and your environment.

Inherited breast cancer

Doctors estimate that about 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers are linked to gene mutations passed through generations of a family.

A number of inherited mutated genes that can increase the likelihood of breast cancer have been identified. The most well-known are breast cancer gene 1 (BRCA1) and breast cancer gene 2 (BRCA2), both of which significantly increase the risk of both breast and ovarian cancer.

If you have a strong family history of breast cancer or other cancers, your doctor may recommend a blood test to help identify specific mutations in BRCA or other genes that are being passed through your family.

Consider asking your doctor for a referral to a genetic counselor, who can review your family health history. A genetic counselor can also discuss the benefits, risks and limitations of genetic testing to assist you with shared decision-making.

Risk factors

A breast cancer risk factor is anything that makes it more likely you’ll get breast cancer. But having one or even several breast cancer risk factors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll develop breast cancer. Many women who develop breast cancer have no known risk factors other than simply being women.

Factors that are associated with an increased risk of breast cancer include:

  • Being female. Women are much more likely than men are to develop breast cancer.
  • Increasing age. Your risk of breast cancer increases as you age.
  • A personal history of breast conditions. If you’ve had a breast biopsy that found lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) or atypical hyperplasia of the breast, you have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • A personal history of breast cancer. If you’ve had breast cancer in one breast, you have an increased risk of developing cancer in the other breast.
  • A family history of breast cancer. If your mother, sister or daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, particularly at a young age, your risk of breast cancer is increased. Still, the majority of people diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease.
  • Inherited genes that increase cancer risk. Certain gene mutations that increase the risk of breast cancer can be passed from parents to children. The most well-known gene mutations are referred to as BRCA1 and BRCA2. These genes can greatly increase your risk of breast cancer and other cancers, but they don’t make cancer inevitable.
  • Radiation exposure. If you received radiation treatments to your chest as a child or young adult, your risk of breast cancer is increased.
  • Obesity. Being obese increases your risk of breast cancer.
  • Beginning your period at a younger age. Beginning your period before age 12 increases your risk of breast cancer.
  • Beginning menopause at an older age. If you began menopause at an older age, you’re more likely to develop breast cancer.
  • Having your first child at an older age. Women who give birth to their first child after age 30 may have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Having never been pregnant. Women who have never been pregnant have a greater risk of breast cancer than do women who have had one or more pregnancies.
  • Postmenopausal hormone therapy. Women who take hormone therapy medications that combine estrogen and progesterone to treat the signs and symptoms of menopause have an increased risk of breast cancer. The risk of breast cancer decreases when women stop taking these medications.
  • Drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of breast cancer.


Breast cancer risk reduction for women with an average risk

Making changes in your daily life may help reduce your risk of breast cancer. Try to:

  • Ask your doctor about breast cancer screening. Discuss with your doctor when to begin breast cancer screening exams and tests, such as clinical breast exams and mammograms.
    Talk to your doctor about the benefits and risks of screening. Together, you can decide what breast cancer screening strategies are right for you.
  • Become familiar with your breasts through breast self-exam for breast awareness. Women may choose to become familiar with their breasts by occasionally inspecting their breasts during a breast self-exam for breast awareness. If there is a new change, lumps or other unusual signs in your breasts, talk to your doctor promptly.
    Breast awareness can’t prevent breast cancer, but it may help you to better understand the normal changes that your breasts undergo and identify any unusual signs and symptoms.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink to no more than one drink a day, if you choose to drink.
  • Exercise most days of the week. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. If you haven’t been active lately, ask your doctor whether it’s OK and start slowly.
  • Limit postmenopausal hormone therapy. Combination hormone therapy may increase the risk of breast cancer. Talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of hormone therapy.
    Some women experience bothersome signs and symptoms during menopause and, for these women, the increased risk of breast cancer may be acceptable in order to relieve menopause signs and symptoms.
    To reduce the risk of breast cancer, use the lowest dose of hormone therapy possible for the shortest amount of time.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. If your weight is healthy, work to maintain that weight. If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor about healthy strategies to accomplish this. Reduce the number of calories you eat each day and slowly increase the amount of exercise.
  • Choose a healthy diet. Women who eat a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil and mixed nuts may have a reduced risk of breast cancer. The Mediterranean diet focuses mostly on plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts. People who follow the Mediterranean diet choose healthy fats, such as olive oil, over butter and fish instead of red meat.

Breast cancer risk reduction for women with a high risk

If your doctor has assessed your family history and determined that you have other factors, such as a precancerous breast condition, that increase your risk of breast cancer, you may discuss options to reduce your risk, such as:

  • Preventive medications (chemoprevention). Estrogen-blocking medications, such as selective estrogen receptor modulators and aromatase inhibitors, reduce the risk of breast cancer in women with a high risk of the disease.
    These medications carry a risk of side effects, so doctors reserve these medications for women who have a very high risk of breast cancer. Discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor.
  • Preventive surgery. Women with a very high risk of breast cancer may choose to have their healthy breasts surgically removed (prophylactic mastectomy). They may also choose to have their healthy ovaries removed (prophylactic oophorectomy) to reduce the risk of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Diagnosing Flu

How do I know if I have flu?

Your respiratory illness might be influenza (flu) if you have fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and/or fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children. People may be sick with flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever. Flu viruses usually cause the most illness during the colder months of the year. However, flu can also occur outside of the typical flu season. In addition, other viruses can also cause respiratory illness similar to flu. So, it is impossible to tell for sure if you have flu based on symptoms alone. If your doctor needs to know for sure whether you are sick with flu, there are laboratory tests that can be done.

What kinds of flu tests are there?

A number of tests are available to detect flu viruses in respiratory specimens. The most common are called “rapid influenza diagnostic tests (RIDTs).” RIDTs work by detecting the parts of the virus (antigens) that stimulate an immune response. These tests can provide results within approximately 10-15 minutes but may not be as accurate as other flu tests. Therefore, you could still have flu, even though your rapid test result is negative. Other flu tests called “rapid molecular assays” detect genetic material of the flu virus. Rapid molecular assays produce results in 15-20 minutes and are more accurate than RIDTs.

In addition to RIDTs and rapid molecular assays, there are several more accurate flu tests available that must be performed in specialized laboratories, such as hospital and public health laboratories. These tests include reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), viral culture, and immunofluorescence assays. All of these tests require that a health care provider swipe the inside of your nose or the back of your throat with a swab and then send the swab for testing. Results may take one to several hours.

How well can rapid tests detect flu?

During a flu outbreak, a positive rapid flu test is likely to indicate flu virus infection. However, rapid tests vary in their ability to detect flu viruses, depending on the type of rapid test used, and on the type of flu viruses circulating. Also, rapid tests appear to be better at detecting flu in children than in adults. This variation in ability to detect viruses can result in some people who are infected with flu having a negative rapid test result. This situation is called a false negative test result. Despite a negative rapid test result, your health care provider may diagnose you with flu based on your symptoms and their clinical judgment.

Will my health care provider test me for flu if I have flu-like symptoms?

While your doctor may test you for flu, not everyone who goes to the doctor with flu-like symptoms will be tested. After evaluating you, your doctor may choose to diagnose you with flu without the need for testing based on your symptoms and his or her own clinical judgement.

Difference Between Flu and COVID-19

Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus named SARS-CoV-2, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. You cannot tell the difference between flu and COVID-19 by symptoms alone because some of the symptoms are the same. Some PCR tests can differentiate between flu and COVID-19 at the same time. If one of these tests is not available, many testing locations provide flu and COVID-19 tests separately. Talk to a healthcare provider about getting tested for both flu and COVID-19 if you have symptoms.

Can I have flu and COVID-19 at the same time?

Yes. It is possible to have flu as well as other respiratory illnesses including COVID-19 at the same time. Health experts are still studying how common this can be.

Is there a test that can detect both flu and COVID-19?

Yes. There is a test that will check for seasonal flu type A and B viruses and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This test is being used by U.S. public health laboratories for surveillance purposes. Testing for these viruses at the same time will give public health officials important information about how flu and COVID-19 are spreading and what prevention steps should be taken. The test will also help public health laboratories save time and testing materials, and possibly to return test results faster.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given CDC an Emergency Use Authorization for this new test. Initial test kits were sent to public health laboratories in early August 2020. CDC will continue to manufacture and distribute these kits.

Buy Yourself Flowers This Valentine’s Day

It’s that time of year again, when the shops are overrun with heart-shaped cards and decorations and chocolate and romantic songs are playing on repeat. That’s right, it’s Valentine’s Day, and it’s all about celebrating the people you love, but don’t forget about the most important relationship of all: the one you have with yourself. Buy yourself some flowers to remind yourself that you are worthy of love and care. Grab your wallet and get ready to treat yourself like royalty, because it’s time to spread the love—to yourself!

  • Flowers have been found to have a positive impact on emotions, and buying yourself flowers can serve as an act of self care and self compassion 
  • On Valentine’s Day, self-care techniques can help relieve loneliness and isolation. This can include activities such as treating yourself to a nice meal, taking a relaxing bath, or engaging in a hobby or activity you enjoy. 
  • Self-compassion is an effective method for coping with difficult emotions. It means treating yourself with tenderness, compassion, and understanding, as well as accepting your feelings. 
  • Reframing is a CBT skill that can help change the way you think about a situation or experience by looking at it from a different perspective. This can help challenge negative thoughts and reduce feelings of loneliness and sadness. 

Valentine’s Day can be a difficult occasion for many people, particularly for those who may be feeling lonely or going through a difficult time in their relationships. The holiday can bring up feelings of sadness and longing and can serve as a reminder of what one may be missing in their life. The pressure to have a romantic partner or to be in a happy relationship can also contribute to stress on this day. It’s important to focus on self-care, self-compassion, and self-nurturing during this time, so why not give yourself a beautiful bouquet of flowers as an act of self-care?

Buy yourself a beautiful bouquet

On Valentine’s Day, it’s common to see bouquets of flowers being delivered to loved ones, but have you ever considered sending flowers to yourself? A growing trend among women is to treat themselves to a beautiful bouquet on the holiday of love.

It is estimated that 15% of women in the United States buy flowers for themselves for Valentine’s Day. This is a reminder that self-love and self-care are just as important as showing love to others, especially on a day when love is celebrated.

Prioritize self-care

Self-care is an important part of living a healthy, well-balanced life. This can include your physical, mental, and emotional health, among other things. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to neglect one or all of these areas, leading to feelings of burnout and dissatisfaction. Incorporating self-care into your daily routine can be as simple as setting aside time for rest, going for a walk in nature, or indulging in a relaxing cup of tea. The main objective of self-care is to keep yourself healthy and happy.

Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion is essential because it enables us to be kind and forgiving to ourselves, particularly during challenging circumstances. Instead of being harsh and critical towards ourselves, self-compassion helps us to acknowledge and accept our emotions and experiences, allowing us to heal and grow in a more positive and healthy way. It also helps to build resilience, improve our mental well-being, and foster a sense of connectedness. Practicing self-compassion can be particularly helpful during a holiday such as Valentine’s Day, where societal pressures and expectations can exacerbate feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, and sadness.

Steps for practicing self-compassion:

  • Be present. Take time to be in the present and focus on the moment through mindfulness practices.
  • Practice hobbies. Engage in activities that provide you with joy and satisfaction.
  • Protect your emotions. Establish clear boundaries and prioritize self-care by declining commitments that drain your energy.
  • Forgive yourself. Show compassion towards yourself by letting go of any guilt or shame that you might be carrying.
  • Be kind. Recognize that everyone faces challenges and imperfections, and focus on the positive aspects of your life through gratitude.

Flowers as a form of self-care

Flowers have been used for centuries as a symbol of beauty and love. They have the ability to lift one’s spirits and bring a sense of joy and peace. Flowers have been found to have a positive impact on emotions, promoting feelings of happiness and well-being, as well as having a soothing effect on the mind, which can reduce stress and anxiety. Another benefit of flowers is that they are a natural way to beautify your surroundings. They add color and life to a room, making it more inviting and comfortable.

What if you’re lonely and sad?

Valentine’s Day can be hard for people who are not in a relationship. It can be a very vulnerable time and bring up a lot of feelings and memories. It’s normal to feel down on Valentine’s Day if you don’t have a partner, but you should remember that you have the power to change how you feel and not let it take over.

Here are some coping strategies and techniques to make the day more enjoyable.

CBT self-help techniques

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that shows how thoughts, feelings, and actions are connected. CBT helps people figure out how their negative thinking and actions are making them feel bad and change them. CBT is based on the idea that we can control our negative thoughts and feelings by changing how we think and act. People can use CBT self-help techniques on their own to deal with their symptoms and improve their health.

Some common CBT self-help techniques include:

  • Challenge your negative thoughts. When you have negative thoughts about yourself or your situation, be aware of them and question them by looking for more positive and balanced thoughts, which will automatically change your feelings.
  • Reframing. Reframing is a strategy for adjusting your perception of a situation or event. Instead of dwelling on feeling alone on Valentine’s Day, you can choose to focus on the benefits of being single, such as the ability to make your own plans and enjoy independence. You could also try reframing by focusing on the love and relationships you already have in your life, such as with friends and family.
  • Positive self-talk. Using positive affirmations, such as “I am worthy of love and happiness,” “I can handle this difficult emotion,” and “I am strong and capable,” is a CBT technique called positive self-talk. This technique helps to challenge negative thoughts and shift them to a more positive perspective, which can improve your mood and decrease feelings of loneliness and sadness.

Beware of social media

If you are struggling on Valentine’s Day, social media can be a negative influence because it can highlight other people’s romantic relationships and happiness, which can really bring you down. Seeing posts about romantic gestures, gifts, and declarations of love can make you feel like you are missing out or that you don’t deserve a relationship.

One way to deal with the negative effects of social media on Valentine’s Day is to take a break from it. Allow yourself to put down your phone and focus on your own feelings and desires. Try setting a reminder to turn off your phone or putting it in “Do Not Disturb” mode for a few hours, or even just for the day. This can be a helpful way to practice self-care and give yourself a break from the constant comparison and pressure that social media can bring.

Ideas for self-care on Valentine’s Day

As well as buying yourself flowers, there are countless ways to practice self-care on Valentine’s Day.

Some ideas include:

  • Try meditation and mindfulness techniques.
  • Go to the gym for the evening.
  • Indulge in a soothing spa day or massage.
  • Soak in a warm bath with essential oils and nice candles.
  • Spend time outside enjoying nature.
  • Enjoy a favorite movie or read a nice book.
  • Prepare a tasty dinner for yourself.
  • Keep a journal and write down how you feel.
  • Try painting or sketching.

Valentine’s Day can be a challenging time for those who are alone or feeling lonely, but it’s important to remember that self-care should always be a priority. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion, and take the time to engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. Remember that you are worthy and valuable, regardless of your relationship status. So, buy yourself flowers, enjoy your own company, and make this Valentine’s Day special.

Healthy Weight

Learn what it takes to get to a healthy weight (and stay there!).

You may not get down to the number you saw on the scale 20 years ago, but you can still get to a weight that enhances your health and your life.

First, what does “healthy weight” mean to you? Is it the weight you think you should be? The same as you weighed 20 years ago? Ten pounds less than your sister-in-law? We can’t provide an exact number for you personally, but we can give you some pointers on how to get to a weight that’s healthy for you and stay there.

Two ways to get a ballpark idea if your weight is healthy or not: body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference.

BMI measures your height compared to your weight. For example, a person who is 5’7” and weighs 170 pounds has a BMI of 26.6, which is in the overweight range:

But experts note that BMI doesn’t measure belly fat, and that’s important. Too much belly fat can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Waist circumference (waist size) takes belly fat into account and helps predict your risk of health problems from being overweight. Women whose waist measures more than 35 inches and men whose waist measures more than 40 inches are at higher risk. Losing weight can reduce belly fat and lower that risk!

To measure your waist correctly, stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones. Measure your waist just after you breathe out.

Read about these three people who were able to shed the pounds (and keep them off).

Getting Started

Losing weight doesn’t have to mean losing a lot of weight. Taking off just 5% to 10%—that’s 10 to 20 pounds for a 200-pound person—can improve your health and well-being. If you have diabetes, you may find your blood sugar levels are easier to manage and that you need less diabetes medicine after you lose weight. Many people who lose weight notice that they have more energy and sleep better too.

A healthy weight goal is one thing; dropping the pounds is quite another. If there were an easy way to lose weight and keep it off, everyone would be doing it. We’ve all known someone who follows a popular diet plan and loses weight fast but then gains it all back (and then some). After trying and failing over and over, it’s easy to see why people give up.

Food for Life

Instead, create an eating plan that you can follow for life. It just needs two key ingredients:

  1. It’s based on healthy food.
  2. You can keep doing it long term.

With that in mind, you may need to try different things to figure out what works best for you day to day. Some people cut back on sugar and eat more protein to stay fuller longer. Others focus on filling up with extra fruits and vegetables, which leaves less room for unhealthy food. Still others limit variety for most meals and stick with choices that they know are healthy and filling. The details will depend on what you like and what fits in best with your life. If you need ideas and support, talk to a registered dietitian or diabetes educator (your doctor can give you a referral).

Physical Activity

Physical activity can make you feel better, function better, and sleep better. You’re not likely to lose a lot of weight with physical activity alone, but combining it with your diet strategy can improve weight loss. Here are the basic guidelines:

  • Every week: do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, such as jogging, or an equivalent combination of the two.
  • Two or more days a week: do strength-training activities, such as lifting weights or using a resistance band, that involve all major muscle groups.

If you have diabetes, physical activity can help you manage the condition along with your weight. Being active makes you more sensitive to insulin (the hormone that allows cells in your body to use blood sugar for energy). Your body won’t need to make as much insulin or you won’t need to take as much. Lower insulin levels can help prevent fat storage and weight gain. Learn more about being active when you have diabetes here.

While how you lose weight will be highly personalized, these pointers have helped others reach their goal and could help you, too.

Willpower Isn’t Enough

Don’t get us wrong: willpower is great. It just isn’t enough. You can’t count on it to reach and maintain the healthier weight you want.

But don’t worry; there are other ways. Control your environment so temptation is out of the picture and healthy habits are in. Some ideas:

  • Don’t bring home food you don’t want to eat. Make home a safe zone!
  • Avoid buffet-style restaurants.
  • Don’t let yourself get too hungry.
  • Cook your own food so you can control the calories.
  • Lay out your workout clothes before you go to sleep.
  • Keep the dog’s leash and your walking shoes by the door.

Sleep Helps

Too little sleep makes dieting much harder because it increases your hunger and appetite, especially for high-calorie, high-carb foods. Too little sleep also triggers stress hormones, which tell your body to hang onto fat. Outsmart this problem by being physically active, which has been shown to help you fall asleep faster and sleep better. A relaxing nighttime routine can also help you get your zzz’s. And these tips are tried and true: no screens an hour before bedtime, avoid heavy meals and alcohol before bedtime, and keep your bedroom dark and cool.

Balancing Food and Activity

Try this interactive Body Weight Planner to calculate calories and activity needed to get to your goal weight and maintain it.

Write It When You Bite It

Writing down what you eat is the single best predictor of weight loss success. But most people don’t do it because they think it will be too time-consuming. Guess how long it takes (yes, studies have been done)? Less than 15 minutes a day on average. You don’t need to add lots of detail, but aim for at least 3 entries each day and do it consistently day after day for the best results. Use this handy food diary [PDF – 105 KB] to get started.

Find Your Motivation

People who keep the weight off tend to be motivated by more than just being thinner. For some, it might be a health scare. Others want more energy to play with their grandkids. Focus on a goal that’s meaningful to you, and you’ll be more likely to keep the pounds off too.

More Tips

  • Eat higher-protein, lower-carb meals to control hunger and appetite. For people with diabetes who take insulin, eating fewer carbs like bread, pasta, rice, desserts, sugary beverages, and juice can lower how much insulin they need. Using less insulin can help prevent hunger, fat storage, and weight gain.
  • Choose carbs that are higher in fiber and lower in added sugar. For example, say yes to beans and sweet potatoes; say no to sugary drinks and chips.
  • Drink more water and fewer sweetened beverages. This one change can cut lots of calories and mean fewer blood sugar swings!
  • Keep moving. Physical activity helps you stay motivated and keep the weight off.
  • Learn from a bad day. Everyone slips up from time to time; figure out what went wrong and plan for it next time. You’re only human, and humans are great learners.
BMI concept. Body shapes from underweight to extremely obese. Weight loss. Silhouettes with different obesity degrees. Human icons show process of losing weight. Slimming stages. Vector EPS8

5 Things You Should Know About Epilepsy

How much do you know about epilepsy? Get the facts!

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes repeated seizures. There are many different types of epilepsy and many different kinds of seizures. Epilepsy can get in the way of life, especially when seizures keep happening. To control their seizures, people with epilepsy may take medicine, have surgery, use medical devices, or follow a special diet.

Here’s what you need to know:

#1 Epilepsy is common.

In fact, you probably know a few people with epilepsy. Estimates suggest there are about 3 million adults and 470,000 children (under age 18) with active epilepsy in the United States.That’s about 3.4 million people, which is about the same number of people living in New Mexico, Vermont, and West Virginia combined. 

#2 Seizures might look different than you expect.

What comes to mind when you think of a seizure? In the movies and on TV, they often show a person falling to the ground, shaking, and becoming unaware of what’s going on around them. That’s one kind of seizure, but it’s not the most common. More often, a person having a seizure may seem confused, stare into space, wander, make unusual movements, or be unable to answer questions or talk. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when a person is having a seizure, so it’s important to learn how to recognize different types of seizures.

#3 Seizure first aid is easy to give.

About 1 in 10 people may have a seizure during their lifetime. Because seizures are common, you may need to help someone one day. First aid for seizures involves keeping the person safe until the seizure stops on its own and knowing when to call 911 for emergency help.

Free seizure response training programs are available for professionals such as school nurses and other school staff.  CDC also supports free seizure first aid certification through a partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation so anyone can learn how to recognize a seizure, provide first aid, and call for help.

#4 People with epilepsy can lead full lives.

Most people with epilepsy can do the same things as those without epilepsy. There are many successful people with epilepsy who work in medicine, sports, entertainment, government, and other professions.

People with uncontrolled seizures or severe types of epilepsy face more challenges and may find it harder to work or go to school regularly. Some adults with epilepsy have a hard time finding jobs, transportation, and affordable health care. Learn about resources that can help on CDC’s Find Support page.

#5 Some causes of epilepsy are preventable.

People with epilepsy need others to understand their condition so they can feel safe and supported.

Epilepsy can be caused by different conditions that affect a person’s brain. Many times, doctors don’t know the cause. Traumatic brain injuries, stroke, certain infections (such as cysticercosis, the leading cause of epilepsy worldwide), lack of oxygen during birth, and some birth defects are examples of preventable causes of epilepsy. Learn more about preventing epilepsy and reducing your risk.

Epilepsy vector illustration. Labeled sick CNS disorder educational scheme. Patient health disease diagnosis research diagram. Problem with disturbed electrical rhythms. Anatomical symptoms and causes



Amnesia refers to the loss of memories, including facts, information and experiences. Movies and television tend to depict amnesia as forgetting your identity, but that’s not generally the case in real life.

Instead, people with amnesia — also called amnestic syndrome — usually know who they are. But they may have trouble learning new information and forming new memories.

Amnesia can be caused by damage to areas of the brain that are vital for memory processing. Unlike a temporary episode of memory loss, called transient global amnesia, amnesia can be permanent.

There’s no specific treatment for amnesia, but treatment can be directed at the underlying cause. Tips to help enhance memory and get support can help people with amnesia and their families cope.


The two main features of amnesia are:

  • Trouble learning new information.
  • Trouble remembering past events and previously familiar information.

Most people with amnesia have problems with short-term memory, so they can’t retain new information. Recent memories are most likely to be lost. More-remote or deeply ingrained memories may be spared.

For example, people may recall experiences from childhood or know the names of past presidents. But they may not be able to name the current president, know the month or remember what they ate for breakfast.

Isolated memory loss doesn’t affect a person’s intelligence, general knowledge, awareness or attention span. It also doesn’t affect judgment, personality or identity. People with amnesia usually can understand written and spoken words and can learn skills such as bike riding or piano playing. They may understand they have a memory disorder.

Amnesia isn’t the same as dementia. Dementia often includes memory loss but also involves other problems with thinking that lead to a decline in daily functioning. These problems include having trouble with language, judgment and visual-spatial skills.

Memory loss also is a common symptom of mild cognitive impairment. This disorder involves memory and other cognitive problems that aren’t as severe as those experienced in dementia.

Additional symptoms

Depending on the cause of the amnesia, other symptoms may include:

  • False memories that are either completely invented or are real memories misplaced in time.
  • Confusion or disorientation.

When to see a doctor

Anyone who experiences unexplained memory loss, head injury or confusion requires immediate medical attention.

People with amnesia may not know where they are or be able to seek medical care. If someone you know has symptoms of amnesia, help the person get medical attention.Request an Appointment at Mayo Clinic


Typical memory function involves many parts of the brain. Any disease or injury that affects the brain can affect memory.

Amnesia can result from damage to brain structures that form the limbic system, which controls emotions and memories. They include the thalamus found deep within the center of the brain. They also include the hippocampal formations found within the temporal lobes of the brain.

Amnesia caused by brain injury or damage is known as neurological amnesia. Possible causes of neurological amnesia include:

  • Stroke.
  • Brain inflammation, which may be due to an infection with a virus such as herpes simplex virus. Or inflammation may be a result of an autoimmune reaction to cancer somewhere in the body. It also may be due to an autoimmune reaction in the absence of cancer.
  • Not enough oxygen in the brain. This may happen as a result of a heart attack, respiratory distress or carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Long-term alcohol misuse that leads to too little vitamin B-1, known as thiamin, in the body. When this happens, it’s called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome.
  • Tumors in areas of the brain that control memory.
  • Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases that involve the degeneration of nerve tissue.
  • Seizures.
  • Certain medicines such as benzodiazepines or others that act as sedatives.

Head injuries that cause a concussion, whether from a car accident or sports, can lead to confusion and problems remembering new information. This is especially common in the early stages of recovery. Mild head injuries typically don’t cause lasting amnesia, but more-severe head injuries may cause permanent amnesia.

Another rare type of amnesia, called dissociative amnesia, stems from emotional shock or trauma. It can result from being the victim of a violent crime or experiencing other trauma. In this disorder, people may lose personal memories and information about their lives. The memory loss is usually brief.

Risk factors

The chance of developing amnesia might increase if you’ve experienced:

  • Brain surgery, head injury or trauma.
  • Stroke.
  • Alcohol abuse.
  • Seizures.


Amnesia varies in severity and scope. But even mild amnesia takes a toll on daily activities and quality of life. The syndrome can cause problems at work, at school and in social settings.

It may not be possible to recover lost memories. Some people with severe memory problems need to be supervised or need to live in a care facility.


Damage to the brain can be a root cause of amnesia. It’s important to take steps to minimize your chance of a brain injury. For example:

  • Don’t drink large amounts of alcohol.
  • Wear a helmet when bicycling and a seat belt when driving.
  • Treat infections quickly so that they don’t have a chance to spread to the brain.
  • Get immediate medical treatment if you have symptoms that suggest a stroke or brain aneurysm. Those symptoms include a severe headache, feeling numb on one side of the body or not being able to move one side of the body.