Everything You Need to Know About PCOS

Chances are that at least one woman in your immediate circle has PCOS. Maybe it’s your friend, sister, or that colleague desperately trying to find relief. Affecting about 11 to 22% of all adolescent girls in India, occurrences of PCOS are on a rise the world over. But what is this disease exactly? Let’s find out!

Understanding PCOS

Polycystic ovarian syndrome is a common health problem caused by an imbalance of reproductive hormones and affects women between the ages of 15 to 44 years. While the causes of PCOS are largely unknown, it is known to run in families—as it appears to have an autosomal dominant mode of inheritance. So your risk of being affected by it is higher if your mother or sister has it. That said, a genetic predisposition might be difficult to prove as there is not enough evidence to this end.

Women with PCOS report abnormalities in their metabolism and production of certain hormones like androgens, oestrogens, and luteinizing hormone. PCOS is also associated with higher levels of blood sugar as well as insulin resistance, and obesity. In fact, there is evidence that women who are obese are at a higher risk of PCOS.

What are the symptoms of PCOS?

PCOS comes with a plethora of symptoms, like:

1. Irregular menstrual cycle Getting your periods once every two to six months, as opposed to a regular cycle of 28 to 30 days, is a tell-tale sign. A small percentage of women have no periods at all and need medication to correct that. Others may have prolonged and heavy periods, a scanty flow, or irregular flow.

2. Cosmetic problems: Girls usually suffer from acne (about 20% of all reported cases), hirsutism or increased hair growth (about 45 to 70% of all reported cases), and more rarely male pattern hair loss.

3. Fertility issues: Women who have PCOS find it difficult to conceive and are at an increased risk of miscarriages. Apart from this, women are also at risk for obesity (about 31 to 38%), early diabetes or insulin resistance, high blood pressure, fatty liver, increased risk for cerebrovascular disease (strokes, etc.).

What is the treatment for PCOS?

Despite several advances in the world of medicine, the treatment of PCOS remains the same—which involves weight loss and lifestyle modifications. Weight loss helps balance out the abnormal levels of hormones and reduces the symptoms to some extent, although a complete cure may not be entirely possible. Additionally, your doctor might suggest:

1. Birth control pills to regularize periods. Drugs containing progesterone are used to induce periods once every three to four months if the woman does not want to take birth control pills every day. Moreover, birth control pills containing cyproterone acetate are used to treat hirsutism and acne. However, this treatment has to be used for a minimum of six to nine months in order to see results.

2. Ovulation drugs and injections if you can’t conceive despite losing weight.

3. Metformin, a drug for diabetics, to reduce insulin and luteinizing hormone levels. It also contributes to weight loss if taken regularly for six months.

However, it must be emphasized that the long term management of PCOS can only happen by weight loss and lifestyle modifications.

So, why is PCOS on a rise?  

There seem to be several causes for this problem spreading far and wide—the most common ones being increasing obesity, unhealthy food habits, and lack of exercise.

When it comes to PCOS, ignorance is not bliss!

PCOS is a syndrome that affects several organs of the body. So if not recognized early and managed appropriately, it can lead to menstrual irregularities, cosmetic problems, psychological issues, diabetes, heart disease, and even endometrial cancer. Hence, it is extremely important that you see your doctor when you first see the symptoms coming on.

Sore Throat? Try These Natural Lozenges to Get Relief From It!

Sore throat can be annoying as it starts with itchy and scratchy feeling in the throat that leads to cough.

Though there are many medicated lozenge to treat throat infection, they are often loaded with sugars and other preservatives. So, you should opt for natural lozenges instead of medicated ones.

Here are some natural lozenges that help treat sore throat:

1. Mulethi (Liquorice root): This medicinal herb is known for its throat-soothing properties. Take a small piece of mulethi and chew it if your sore throat is giving you a hard time.

2. Cloves: Because of its antibacterial properties, cloves can help you get rid of the inflammation and fight the primary cause of the throat ache.

3. Ginger: Ginger is a well-known remedy for sore throat as it not only relieves your throat ache but also clears mucus congestion. Its anti-bacterial properties also help to fight the Streptococcus bacteria responsible for the infection.

4. Garlic: The antimicrobial properties in garlic help to soothe a sore throat. Have it at night and pop a clove in your mouth to remove its strong aftertaste.

7 Sneaky but Harmful Ways in Which COVID-19 Stress is Affecting Your Body

The uncertainty about how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last, the loss of jobs, the decrease in income, suffocation from staying indoors, the fear of catching the novel coronavirus infection, or the fear of a loved one getting infected-these are some of the probable reasons why the COVID-19 pandemic is stressing you out.

In fact, several studies have shown how the unstoppable spread of coronavirus is leading to an increase in stress levels amongst people across the world.

The story doesn’t just end at the increase of stress levels. Unfortunately, severe stress has an impact on the body and a harmful one at that. Check out some of the science-backed sneaky effects of it:

1. Firstly, stress can negatively affect your mental health

If you don’t curb your stress levels, your mental health might end up taking a severe hit. According to a study in the journal Current Neuropharmacology, chronic stress can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, panic attacks, and clinical depression or even aggravate such conditions in case of someone already suffering from a mental health issue. If you end up feeling anxious, depressed, or panicky for no apparent reason, maybe you should step back to analyze how to deal with it.

2. Stress can make you gain weight

According to Harvard Health Publishing, stress tends to throw your body into the fight-or-flight mode, which prompts it to release hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline in response. These hormones can lead to an increase in appetite. Now, if let the COVID-19 stress persist for too long, the levels of these hormones will stay elevated and make you feel hungry more often. You can resist hunger a couple of times, but we all know how the restraint breaks one day and then you tend to reach out for all kinds of junk food that is bad for your health.

3. It can mess up the menstrual cycle

A study conducted in 1999 showed how women under chronic stress ended up having a messed-up menstrual cycle-all this because of the excess production of the cortisol hormone which, in turn, affects all the other hormones in your body-including estrogen and progesterone, the two main hormones responsible for carrying out a smooth menstrual cycle.

4. It can make you break out

If you’re wondering why your skin is acting up and developing acne or signs of aging such as wrinkles, fine lines, and pigmentation-in spite you staying indoors throughout the lockdown and taking care of it, then you probably are not paying close attention to the root cause of it all. No points for guessing, we’re referring to stress.

A 2003-study conducted at Stanford University found that the cortisol hormone produced as a result of stress can activate the sebaceous glands (oil-producing glands) present in your skin and increase the production of sebum (natural oil produced by sebaceous glands to protect your skin). This can attract more dirt and clog your pores, giving you acne, pus-filled pimples, and blackheads!

5. It can make your whole body ache

Stress leads to the tightening of muscles as your muscles tend to tense up to protect themselves under stress. This leads to headaches, shoulder, and back pain.

6. It can decrease your sex drive

Having had the opportunity to spend more time with your partner due to the lockdown, you might have had dreams of spicing things up between the sheets. However, if you haven’t been feeling up to it, you have coronavirus stress to blame for it. According to a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, stress can lead to a decreased sex drive due to high cortisol levels.

7. Stress can lead to digestion problems as well

Several studies have shown how a rush of hormones because of stress can lead to acid reflux, heartburn, stomach ulcers, and an insulin spike (leading to diabetes). Hence, if you’ve been suffering from acidity lately, it’s probably the COVID-19 stress that’s causing a stir.

How should you deal with it?

Dealing with stress by adopting a better stress-management strategy is easier said than done. However, since now you know how the COVID-19 stress can affect your body, you have no choice but to succumb to this suggestion.

US-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suggests the following ways to cope up with the situation without letting your stress levels skyrocket:

Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories (especially negative news), including social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.

  • Take care of your body and exercise regularly.
  • Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate to stay calm.
  • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Avoid consumption of alcohol and drugs.
  • Make time to unwind. Try to do the things you enjoy.
  • Connect with your loved ones. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.

Coronavirus is clearly something that is going to change the world. Being stressed and paranoid about it is only normal but it is important to adapt in order to keep going on with life.

Take this 21-day Stress Management Course

Stress Less! Here’s All the Damage Stress Can Wreak on Your Body and Mind

Stress is almost like a buzzword in the 21st century that we hear multiple times during the day. But what does it really mean? Basically, stress is our body’s response to danger.

You will notice that when you’re stressed, your heartbeat rises, your breathing becomes heavier, your blood pressure is higher and your muscles tighten. This is famously known as the fight-or-flight mode. It’s a sign that your body is preparing to save itself from attack or injury.

In small doses, stress can actually save your life. For example, it’s this very ‘fight-or-flight’ response that helps you quickly go for the brakes while driving when an object suddenly comes in front of your car, thereby, saving your life. But when it is a long-term response to different stress factors, it can cause you not just mental harm but physical illness as well.

Stress, for everyone, is different, and their ability to manage it is also varied. For someone, it could be tight deadlines at work; but for someone else, it could be an abusive relationship. Nonetheless, we need to stop brushing it under the carpet by taking it as a natural byproduct of our modern lives and start managing it better so as to stay fit.

So just how bad is stress for your body?

We talked to a cardiologist, Dr. Kamal Gupta from the Interventional Cardiology department of Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad to get a true picture of exactly how harmful stress can be for our body.

“It is a condition that develops in our mind but manifests in our body,” explains Dr. Gupta. A statement we can all relate to, isn’t it?

A few symptoms of stress could be headaches, agitation, and chest pain. Stress hormones point out by Dr. Gupta, harm our heart. It can interfere with the healthy functioning of the heart and contribute towards cardiovascular diseases which may even shorten your lifespan.

He also suggests:

When our mind is occupied by stress, it can lose its ability to focus on the matter at hand and may also cause memory problems.

“A lot of people who are stressed will also complain of feeling fatigued or lethargic. This happens because stress uses up our mental energy which leaves us drained,” Dr. Gupta adds.

Reducing chronic stress is the key to healthy living

While worrying about certain things now and then might not be something to be concerned about, recurring chronic stress is something you need to learn to manage.

Without proper stress management, you will start noticing the following changes in your lifestyle, according to Dr. Gupta: changes in appetite (eating too much or too little); increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes; and skin and hair problems.

So, Dr. Gupta provided us with insights on how you can manage stress:

1. Vent and share the incidents that have been causing stress with friends and family. It will help you feel mentally relieved

2. Take a break. No matter how the day goes, instead of pondering over the negatives, indulge in some leisure activities. Take an evening walk or simply watch some television. But it is necessary to incorporate a couple of minutes of break each day to be able to deal with stress

3. Take a balanced approach to manage stress, which includes exercising regularly, eating a nutritious and balanced diet consisting of green vegetables and fruits, as well as drinking a good amount of water.

On the whole, it is clear that stress is a part of life that we can’t just do away with. In fact, a little bit of it can actually be necessary. However, learning how to manage excessive stress is also extremely important if you want to lead a healthy life.

These 4 Simple Practices Will Help You Think Positive, Always!

Let’s be honest-we all have a couple of negative thoughts that trouble us every now and then. Be it about our jobs or personal life, it isn’t strange to go through phases of negativity that might translate into negative thoughts. It’s only human to feel low after certain experiences.

However, it is definitely problematic when negative thoughts become a regular affair that weighs us down. Thinking negatively too frequently can make our mindset negative, which manifests in the way we live life. That’s why it is extremely important to learn how to deal with such negative emotions while inculcating positive thinking in our lives.

In fact, thinking positively can actually have some health benefits. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, thinking positively can help you live a healthier life while also ensuring a long life! Hence, including this simple change in life can help you live better.

Here are some scientific ways to think more positively:

1. Meditate, meditate, meditate

Our lives are extremely busy and constantly moving. This makes us forget that we need to disconnect from all of it, even if only for twenty minutes a day, in order to refresh our mental prowess. Meditation can really help you take a step back, tune back to positivity and enhance your mental focus.

In fact, a study by the University of North Carolina observed that meditating can enhance positive emotions such as amusement and gratitude.

2. Practice gratitude, please

When you’ve had a tough day, you’ll notice that appreciating what you have in life makes you instantly feel uplifted. Here’s something to try: write down what you appreciate about life or about something good that happened in your day. Do this exercise regularly and you will notice that your mindset becomes more positive.

A study published on PubMed Central confirms this! It has found that writing down what you appreciate in life on a regular basis can enhance your feeling of well-being.

3. Laughter yoga FTW

Ever noticed how people who practice yoga often laugh as a part of their practice? It is called laughter yoga or hasyayoga. It is believed that voluntarily laughing will have the same psychological effect of joy as spontaneous laughter. Hence, it can have a positive impact on your mental health.

Another study published on PubMed Central notes that laughter yoga has an impactful role to play when it comes to reducing anxiety as well as fixing sleep patter.

4. Practice positive self-talk

We all indulge in self-talk. How can we not? It is a good way to analyse our actions, plan ahead, and look at life as it is. However, many people tend to be overly negative on themselves and it reflects in their self-talk. Phrases like ‘bad things always happen to me’ or, ‘I can’t do anything right’ come to the mind. These phrases, over time, can affect our mental health negatively.

Hence, it is important to correct yourself whenever you’re indulging in self-talk. Remind yourself that ‘I can do this easily’ and ‘I’m capable of managing this situation.’ You’ll feel the difference in your feelings. In fact, research from the University of Toronto observes that having a positive ‘inner voice’ can help you avoid making impulsive decisions without weighing the consequences.

So, with just a few simple practices, you can make sure your thought process stays positive and your mental health stays well.

How to Kill Germs on Your Phone Screen

Welcome to the world of coronavirus, where a person sneezing in one corner of the office can send you in a tizzy. And why not?

While we are paying close attention to personal hygiene and indulging in social distancing, here’s another thing that needs to be done: regular sanitization of our environment and its many surfaces. Starting with your mobile phone.

Your mobile screen is the breeding ground of bacteria

You might be trying very hard not to touch your face, but you are still constantly touching your phone screen which often finds a place to rest on your cheeks. The result? Transfer of bacteria and germs from your phone to your face.

While you can wash your hands over and over again with soap and use a hand sanitizer, unfortunately, the same protocol doesn’t apply to your precious smartphone-lest you want to permanently wound that expensive electronic.

So, how can you effectively sanitize your phone screen?

For starters, put down that disinfectant spray because spritzing it on your phone is just going to ruin your device.

The CDC recommends using a disinfectant with 70% alcohol for optimum results. To that end, you can opt for your disinfectant wipes with alcohol in that quantity to get the job done.

Now, if you can’t find wipes at the pharmacy, you can rely on your regular Joe alcohol-based disinfectant spray, but with a caveat. Spray it generously on a paper towel and it to clean your screen-ensure that the liquid stays on the surface and doesn’t seep in. You can follow this up with a microfiber cloth to remove any residue. But ensure that you wash the cloth immediately after so as to ensure that germs on it are taken care of.

Here’s how to kill those germs on your phone screen

We’re hoping that by now you have memorized the memo that calls for washing your hands often and using hand sanitizer in a bid to prevent an infection. So, if you’re practicing these golden rules, it is also time to use your headphone to make and receive calls.

This way you can minimize the contact between your face and phone-while the regular phone screen sanitization and hand washing can reduce the transfer of germs. After all folks, it’s better safe than sorry.

Here’s Why You Should Take Your Pink Eye Seriously

High humidity levels have led to a spurt in cases of conjunctivitis, a condition also referred to as ‘pink eye’. It is an infection of the eye that causes redness and itching in the outer surface. In rare cases, doctors say, the infection can involve the cornea, which can be serious.

“Most cases of conjunctivitis are caused by viruses. They are milder in nature and the symptoms tend to go away on their own in about a week. However, we see many patients suffering from a secondary infection involving the cornea that causes prolonged problems,” Dr. A K Grover, chairman of Vision Eye Centres, said. He added that maintaining hand hygiene, avoiding sharing of hand towels or eye cosmetics with infected individuals could help reduce the spread of the disease. Swimming pools are also a source of the spread of the virus.

According to Dr. Uma Malliah, senior consultant, ophthalmology at Apollo Hospital, conjunctivitis is common during monsoon and change of season.

“Bacterial infection causes a thick discharge from the eyes, whereas in viral infection, it is watery. Pain, redness and other symptoms are also severe in case of infection caused by bacteria compared to the virus. It should not be taken lightly,” Dr. Malliah added.

Dr. Parul Sharma, associate direction and head of ophthalmology at Max Saket, said the treatment of conjunctivitis was mostly symptomatic. “We advise cold compress, tear substitutes and, in some cases, antibiotic eye drops to prevent severity due to secondary infections,” she said.

However, if the symptoms persist and there is a blurring of vision, antibiotic therapy may be needed. Sharp, deep pain in the eyes, and sensitivity to light in patients suffering from eye flu should not be ignored. One must consult an eye specialist if symptoms persist for over a week, doctors say. However, research shows over-prescription of antibiotic eye drops is fraught with risks, such as changes to the ocular flora and increased presence of multi-drug resistant strains.

Why Music is Used as a Potential Sleep Aid?

Besides its potential to help reduce anxiety as well as the negative effects of physical pain, a new study suggests that music might serve as a cheap, non-pharmaceutical sleep aid for people facing difficulty in getting proper sleep. Sleep loss is a widespread problem and poses serious physical and economic consequences. However, there is a lack of systematic data on how widely it is used, why people opt for music as a sleep aid, or what music works.

The study found that music both stimulates sleep and blocks an internal or external stimulus that would otherwise disrupt sleep. “The study offers new understanding into the complex motivations that drive people to reach for music as a sleep aid and the reasons why so many find it effective,” said researchers including Tabitha Trahan from the University of Sheffield in the UK.

Further, to understand why people opt for music as a sleep aid, or what music works, the team investigated music as a sleep aid within the general public via an online survey that scored musicality, sleep habits, and open-text responses on what music helps sleep and why.

They examined 651 adults, who provided new evidence into the relationship between music and sleep in a population that ranged widely in age, musicality, sleep habits, and stress levels. The results, published in the journal PLOS ONE, showed that 62 percent use music to help them sleep. Even those who do not suffer from sleep disorders use music in their everyday lives to help improve the quality of their sleep experiences.

Studies have shown that music has many promising neurological and physiological effects that may be indicative of its effective use in the fight against sleep loss.

The subjective psychological benefits of music have also been linked to chemical changes observed via hormone levels as the music increased oxytocin and accordingly levels of relaxation as well as decrease negative thoughts, the study noted.

Listen to calming music to sleep better

What Snacks to Eat for Better Sleep

Many people chug caffeine-packed coffee or scarf down an energy bar to wake up, but what should you eat to wind down?

More than a third of adults in the United States are not getting enough shut-eye, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So, to make sure that your bedtime snack can be effective in promoting sleep, some experts say it should contain one essential amino acid: tryptophan.

“There is a real lack of studies that show that specific nutrients can influence sleep, either better or worse. There are a few exceptions. Tryptophan has been shown to induce sleep,” said Michael Grandner, director of the University of Arizona College of Medicine’s Sleep and Health Research Program.

Tryptophan, an amino acid, might help you snooze because once it enters your body, it’s converted into two brain chemicals associated with sleep: melatonin, which helps regulate your body’s natural sleep and wake cycles, and serotonin, which causes relaxation and drowsiness.

“Tryptophan is the reason why it is widely perceived that a Thanksgiving dinner causes drowsiness, because of the tryptophan in turkey. However, other foods contain tryptophan, and some have more tryptophan than turkey,” said Dr. Donald Hensrud, medical director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program and specialist in nutrition and preventive medicine.

Snacks containing high amounts of tryptophan include egg whites, soybeans, low-fat cheese, chicken, and seeds, such as pumpkin or sesame, Hensrud said.

Foods rich in carbohydrates, lean in protein, and low in fat also may boost the production of serotonin and melatonin, such as granola, unsweetened cereals, or whole-grain crackers with milk, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Have a sweet tooth? Pineapples, oranges, and bananas also may be linked to increased melatonin levels, according to a small study published in the Journal of Pineal Research in 2012.

On the other hand, eating foods low in fiber but high in saturated fat and sugar is associated with a lower quality of sleep, such as having difficulty falling asleep or not spending as much time during your sleep cycle in a deep sleep. That’s according to a small study published last year in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Spicy foods and caffeine before bedtime are also associated with impaired sleep — and not only what you eat but when you eat can play a role in how well you snooze. One small study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2013 suggests that you should refrain from consuming caffeine within six hours of bedtime.

The CDC recommends avoiding large meals too close to bedtime. Grandner said people can eat a big meal for about four or five hours beforehand.

And what about late-night snacks? “It’s never too late to eat a small snack,” he said. “I might have a small snack about an hour before going to bed, but many nights, I don’t.”

People with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or acid reflux, should be careful not to lie down within three hours after a meal. That might trigger symptoms of reflux, which could interfere with sleep, Hensrud said.

Listen to calming music to sleep better

Can’t Go Back to Sleep After Waking Up in the Middle of the Night? Follow These Tips

Do you have those annoying episodes where you wake up at night and then just can’t go back to sleep? The most common causes of waking up in the middle of the night include an urgent need to pass urine, which can be a result of diabetes in middle-aged and elderly people and the prostate in males. Sleep apnea, which involves the repetitive interruption of breathing, can also be a major reason for people jerking awake at night, says Dr. Prashant Chhajed, head of the department of respiratory medicine, Fortis Hiranandani Hospital.

To avoid such moments, where you drift awake from sleep, Dr. Chhajed advises getting diabetes under control and sleep apnea treated. Preventive measures aside, what is the cure if one does wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t ease back into sleep again?

1. Turn out the bright lights

Bright and loud lights reduce the melatonin levels, which controls the sleep cycle, in the body. Keeping dim lights can make you drowsy, says Dr. Rajesh Chawla, senior consultant, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals.

2. Night time is not snack time

Activities like reading, eating a snack, or cooking if you get up in the middle of the night are discouraged. Eating late into the night increases your blood sugar and while you’re sleeping, the body goes into a light fast that can lead to a crash in the sugar levels. When this happens, the cortisol levels rise and the melatonin levels diminish.

3. Keep away from cell phones

Most people tend to get on social media or entertain themselves with some TV time if they can’t fall asleep. Dr. Chhajed strictly advises against it. The cell phones emit out blue light, which is known to reduce the melatonin levels in the body that in turn, make it harder to fall asleep.

4. Meditation

Dr. Chhajed says that medication and relaxation exercises can calm you down to go back to sleep. According to a study by Harvard, mindfulness meditation can help you sleep better as it involves focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future.