Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Snoring can really affect your sleep. Let's look at why we snore, and if we can find ways to prevent it.


What Is Snoring?

Snoring is noisy breathing while you sleep.  It’s a common condition that can affect anyone, although it happens more often in men and people who are overweight.  Snoring tends to get worse with age.

Snoring occasionally isn’t usually a serious problem.  It’s mostly a nuisance for your bed partner.  But if you’re a long-term snorer, you not only disrupt the sleep patterns of those close to you, you hurt your own sleep quality.

Snoring can itself be a symptom of a health problem like obstructive sleep apnoea.  If you snore often or very loudly, you might need medical help so you (and your loved ones) can get a good night’s sleep.

Snoring Causes

Snoring happens when the flow of air through your mouth and nose is blocked. Several things can interfere with air flow, including:

Blocked nasal airways:  Some people snore only during allergy season or when they have a sinus infection.  Problems in your nose such as a deviated septum (when the wall that separates one nostril from the other is off-centre) or nasal polyps, can also block your airways.

Poor muscle tone in your throat and tongue:  Throat and tongue muscles can be too relaxed, which allows them to collapse into your airway.

Bulky throat tissue:  Being overweight can cause this. Some children have large tonsils and adenoids that make them snore.

Long soft palate and/or uvula:  A long soft palate or a long uvula (the dangling tissue in the back of your mouth) can narrow the opening from your nose to your throat.  When you breathe, this causes them to vibrate and bump against one another, and your airway becomes blocked.

Alcohol and drug use:  Drinking alcohol or taking muscle relaxers can also make your tongue and throat muscles relax too much.

Sleep position:  Sleeping on your back can make you snore.

Sleep deprivation  Your throat muscles might relax too much if you’re not getting enough sleep.


Snoring Diagnosis and Treatment


Your partner might be the person who tells you that you snore. Your doctor will ask both of you about your symptoms

Your doctor will also ask about your medical history and do a physical exam to look for things that could block your airways, like a deviated septum or swollen tonsils.  They might also give you some tests:

Imaging Tests:  An X-ray, MRI scan, or CT Scan  can look for problems in your airways.

Sleep Study:  You might need to have a machine monitor your sleep while you’re at home or spend the night in a lab for a test called polysomnography.  It will measure things like your heart rate, breathing, and brain activity while you sleep.

Treatments for snoring includes

Lifestyle changes:  Your doctor might tell you to lose weight or stop drinking alcohol before bed.

Oral appliances:  You wear a small plastic device in your mouth while you sleep. It keeps your airways open by moving your jaw or tongue.

Surgery:  Several kinds of procedures can help stop snoring. Your doctor might remove or shrink tissues in your throat, or make your soft palate stiffer.

CPAP:  A continuous positive airway pressure machine treats sleep apnoea and might reduce snoring by blowing air into your airways while you sleep

Home Remedies to Stop Snoring

Try these other solutions to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep on your side, not your back.

Raise the head of your bed a few inches

Use elastic strips that stick to the bridge of your nose to widen your nostrils.

Use decongestants to open your airways. Don’t use them for more than 3 days without talking to your doctor.

Stick to a sleep schedule.

Snoring Complications

Snoring doesn’t seem to have complications. But sleep apnoea can cause problems, including:

Frequent waking from sleep, even though you may not realize it

Light sleeping.  Waking up so many times a night interferes with your normal pattern of sleep, causing you to spend more time in light sleep than in more restorative, deeper sleep.

Strain on your heart:  Long-term obstructive sleep apnoea often raises blood pressure  and may make your heart get bigger, with higher risks of heart attack and stroke.

Poor night's sleep.  This makes you sleepy during the day, can interfere with your quality of life, and can make car accidents more likely

Monday, 19 October 2020

Is caffeine good for you? Let's have a look at just how that coffee/tea may be affecting our health.


On average, about 80% of adults take some form of caffeine every day, usually from coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks.

But does all that caffeine have any effect on your health, either good or bad?

"While caffeine can give you a temporary mental and physical boost, its impact depends on how much you consume and the source," says Dr. Stephen Juraschek, an internal medicine specialist at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre.

A stimulating effect

Caffeine is a natural stimulant. Its main effect is on the central nervous system, where it can increase alertness and provide a needed boost when you are tired.

Caffeine's effect peaks within an hour after consumption, and the body eliminates half of it within about four to six hours. Yet, how people react to caffeine varies depending on their sensitivity and how quickly it is digested.

"This is why some people can get a jolt from a small cup of coffee, while others can drink several cups and feel little, if anything," says Dr. Juraschek. "It's also possible that your body can adjust to how it reacts to caffeine the more you consume."

It's this variation that makes pinpointing caffeine's influence on health a challenge. Still, science has shown some intriguing findings.

For example:

Heart:  High doses of caffeine can temporarily raise your heart rate and blood pressure, which may pose dangers for some people with heart disease. Yet regular consumption does not disrupt your heart's rhythm enough to create the dangerous irregular pattern known as atrial fibrillation, according to a study in the January 2016 “Journal of the American Heart Association”.

Memory:  Some research has suggested that caffeine may protect against dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. One observational study in the Dec. 14, 2016, issue of “The Journals of Gerontology, Series A” found that adults ages 65 and older who took an average of 261 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day (about the amount in two to three 8-ounce cups of coffee) for 10 years reported fewer dementia symptoms compared with those who consumed an average of 64 mg daily (the amount in a little more than half-cup of coffee). Still, it's not understood whether caffeine, or other nutrients in coffee like antioxidants or some combination, is at play.

Erectile Function:  Regular caffeine intake may improve erectile dysfunction (ED), suggests a 2015 study in the journal “Plos One”.  Researchers compared daily caffeine intake and rates of ED in men who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.  They found that those who consumed daily caffeine equal to two to three cups of coffee were 42% less likely to report ED compared with those who drank less, and that the effect applied even to men who were overweight or had hypertension.  The connection may be related to caffeine's ability to increase blood flow, but more research is needed.

Exercise:  Many studies have found that a jolt of caffeine can improve athletic endurance and reduce fatigue.  The amounts often studied range from about 225 mg to 600 mg, taken about an hour beforehand.  Yet, much of the research involves high-level athletes, and the type of exercise tends to vary, says Dr. Juraschek, so it's not clear exactly how caffeine may help the average person.  "Consuming some caffeine before hitting the gym may work for some, but not for others," he says. "It doesn't hurt to try but be realistic that it probably won't make a huge impact on your results."

Lose the energy drinks

Some research has shown that popular energy drinks can cause a dangerous jolt to your cardiovascular system. A small study in the April 26, 2017 “Jama” found that healthy people who consumed a 32-ounce energy drink that contained 320 mg of caffeine and 108 grams of sugar were more likely to have an abnormal electrocardiogram after two hours and mildly elevated blood pressure after six hours.

Watch your intake

Overall, for most people, consuming caffeine poses no serious health risk if taken within safe amounts, says Dr. Juraschek.

People who have never had a heart attack or keep their blood pressure well controlled should consume no more than 400 mg per day, which is the amount found in about four cups of coffee or up to 10 cups of black tea.

"This amount is considered safe and isn't linked to any long-term effect on blood pressure or heart attack or stroke risk," says Dr. Juraschek.

However, if you've had a heart attack or been diagnosed with heart disease, you should keep your dosage to about half that per day, says Dr. Juraschek.

Your source of caffeine matters, too.  Coffee and tea are great because they also contain some disease-fighting antioxidants, but you want to avoid stirring in too much cream and sugar, which add extra calories and fat.

Also skip the fizzy energy drinks, or at least reduce your intake, as it often contains very high amounts of caffeine in a single serving and is full of sugar and other unhealthy additives.


What are the top health benefits of drinking coffee?

Your brew gives you benefits beyond an energy boost. Here are the top ways coffee can positively impact your health:


You could live longer.

Recent studies found that coffee drinkers are less likely to die from some of the leading causes of death in women: coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and kidney disease.

Your body may process glucose (or sugar) better.

That’s the theory behind studies that found that people who drink more coffee are less likely to get type 2 diabetes.

You're less likely to develop heart failure.

Drinking one to two cups of coffee a day may help ward off heart failure when a weakened heart has difficulty pumping enough blood to the body.

You are less likely to develop Parkinson's disease.

Caffeine is not only linked to a lower chance of developing Parkinson’s Disease, but it may also help those with the condition better control their movements.

Your liver will thank you.

Both regular and decaf coffee seem to have a protective effect on your liver. Research shows that coffee drinkers are more likely to have liver enzyme levels within a healthy range than people who don’t drink coffee.

Your DNA will be stronger.

Dark roast coffee decreases breakage in DNA strands, which occur naturally but can lead to cancer or tumours if not repaired by your cells.

Your odds of getting colon cancer will go way down.

One in 23 women develop colon cancer. But researchers found that coffee drinkers, decaf or regular, were 26 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer.

You may decrease your risk of getting Alzheimer's disease.

Almost two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s Disease are women. But the caffeine in two cups of coffee may provide significant protection against developing the condition. In fact, researchers found that women age 65 and older who drank two to three cups of coffee a day were less likely to develop dementia in general.

You're not as likely to suffer a stroke.

For women, drinking at least one cup of coffee a day is associated with lowered stroke risk, which is the fourth leading cause of female deaths.

Friday, 16 October 2020

Exercise can help relieve depression and anxiety: Evidence here for you.


Depression and anxiety symptoms often improve with exercise. Here are some realistic tips to help you get started and stay motivated.

When you have depression or anxiety, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. But once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference.

Exercise helps prevent and improve a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. Research on depression, anxiety and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help improve mood and reduce anxiety.

The links between depression, anxiety and exercise aren't entirely clear, but working out and other forms of physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of depression or anxiety and make you feel better. Exercise may also help keep depression and anxiety from coming back once you're feeling better.

Regular exercise may help ease depression and anxiety by:

Releasing feel-good endorphins:  natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being

Taking your mind off worries:  so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety

Regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits, too. It can help you:

Gain confidence:  Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.

Get more social interactions:  Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighbourhood can help your mood.

Cope in a healthy way:  Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how you feel, or hoping depression or anxiety will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.


Some research shows that physical activity such as regular walking, not just formal exercise programs, may help improve mood. Physical activity and exercise are not the same thing, but both are beneficial to your health.

Physical Activity is any activity that works your muscles and requires energy and can include work or household or leisure activities.

Exercise is a planned, structured, and repetitive body movement done to improve or maintain physical fitness.

The word "exercise" may make you think of running laps around the gym. But exercise includes a wide range of activities that boost your activity level to help you feel better.

Certainly running, lifting weights, playing basketball and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can physical activity such as gardening, washing your car, walking around the block or engaging in other less intense activities. Any physical activity that gets you off the couch and moving can help improve your mood.

You don't have to do all your exercise or other physical activity at once. Broaden how you think of exercise and find ways to add small amounts of physical activity throughout your day. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little farther away from work to fit in a short walk. Or, if you live close to your job, consider biking to work.

Doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms. But smaller amounts of physical activity, as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time, may make a difference. It may take less time exercising to improve your mood when you do more-vigorous activities, such as running or bicycling.

The mental health benefits of exercise and physical activity may last only if you stick with it over the long term:  another good reason to focus on finding activities that you enjoy.

Starting and sticking with an exercise routine or regular physical activity can be a challenge. These steps can help:

Identify what you enjoy doing:  Figure out what type of physical activities you're most likely to do, and think about when and how you'd be most likely to follow through. For instance, would you be more likely to do some gardening in the evening, start your day with a jog, or go for a bike ride or play basketball with your children after school? Do what you enjoy to help you stick with it.

Get the support of Mental Health Professionals:  Talk to your doctor or mental health professional for guidance and support. Discuss an exercise program or physical activity routine and how it fits into your overall treatment plan.

Set reasonable goals:  Your mission doesn't have to be walking for an hour five days a week. Think realistically about what you may be able to do and begin gradually. Tailor your plan to your own needs and abilities rather than setting unrealistic guidelines that you're unlikely to meet.

Don’t think of exercise or physical activity as a chore:  If exercise is just another "should" in your life that you don't think you're living up to, you'll associate it with failure. Rather, look at your exercise or physical activity schedule the same way you look at your therapy sessions or medication — as one of the tools to help you get better.

Analyse your barriers:  Figure out what's stopping you from being physically active or exercising. If you feel self-conscious, for instance, you may want to exercise at home. If you stick to goals better with a partner, find a friend to work out with or who enjoys the same physical activities that you do. If you don't have money to spend on exercise gear, do something that's cost-free, such as regular walking. If you think about what's stopping you from being physically active or exercising, you can probably find an alternative solution.

Prepare for things to go wrong:  Give yourself credit for every step in the right direction, no matter how small. If you skip exercise one day, that doesn't mean you can't maintain an exercise routine and might as well quit. Just try again the next day. Stick with it.

Check with a doctor:

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program to make sure it's safe for you. Talk to your doctor to find out which activities, how much exercise and what intensity level is OK for you. Your doctor will consider any medications you take and your health conditions. He or she may also have helpful advice about getting started and staying motivated.

If you exercise regularly but depression or anxiety symptoms still interfere with your daily living, see your doctor or mental health professional. Exercise and physical activity are great ways to ease symptoms of depression or anxiety, but they aren't a substitute for talk therapy (psychotherapy) or medications.

How can you improve your gut health. Here are a few suggestions for you.


Gut health refers to the balance of microorganisms that live in the digestive tract. Looking after the health of the gut and maintaining the right balance of these microorganisms is vital for physical and mental health, immunity, and more.

These bacteria, yeasts, and viruses, of which there are trillions, are also called the “gut microbiome” or “gut flora.”  Many microbes are beneficial for human health, and some are even essential. Others can be harmful, especially when they multiply.


To boost the beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, in the gut, some people choose to take probiotic supplements.  These are available in health food stores, drug stores, and online. Some research has suggested that taking probiotics can support a healthy gut microbiome, and that it may prevent gut inflammation and other intestinal problems.


Fermented foods are a natural source of probiotics. Fermentation is an ancient technique of preserving food.  The process is still used today to produce foods like wine, cheese, sauerkraut, yogurt, and kombucha.  Fermented foods are rich in beneficial probiotics and have been associated with a range of health benefits, from better digestion to stronger immunity.



Probiotics feed on non-digestible carbohydrates called prebiotics. This process encourages beneficial bacteria to multiply in the gut. Research from 2017 suggested that prebiotics may help probiotics become more tolerant to certain environmental conditions, including pH and temperature changes.

People who want to enhance their gut health may wish to include more of the following prebiotic-rich foods in their diet:

· Asparagus

· Bananas

· Chicory

· Garlic

· Jerusalem artichoke

· Onions

· Whole grains

Cut down on added sugar.

This is good anyway. However, eating a lot of sugar or artificial sweeteners may cause gut dysbiosis, which is an imbalance of gut microbes.  The authors of a 2015 study in animals suggested that the standard Western diet, which is high in sugar and fat, negatively affects the gut microbiome. In turn, this can influence the brain and behaviour.  Another animal study reported that the artificial sweetener aspartame increases the number of some bacterial strains that are linked with metabolic disease.  Metabolic disease refers to a group of conditions that increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Research has also indicated that human use of artificial sweeteners can negatively impact blood glucose levels due to their effects on gut flora. This means that artificial sweeteners may increase blood sugar despite not actually being a sugar.


Reduce Stress

Managing stress is important for many aspects of health, including gut health.  Animal studies have suggested that psychological stressors can disrupt the microorganisms in the intestines, even if the stress is only short-lived.

In humans, a variety of stressors can negatively affect gut health, including:

psychological stress

environmental stress, such as extreme heat, cold, or noise

sleep deprivation

disruption of the circadian rhythm

Some stress management techniques include meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation.  Exercising regularly, sleeping well, and eating a healthful diet can also reduce stress levels.

Avoid antibiotics if you can.

Although it is often necessary to take antibiotics to combat bacterial infections, overuse is a significant public health concern that can lead to antibiotic resistance.  Antibiotics are also damaging to the gut microbiota and immunity, with some research reporting that even 6 months after their use, the gut still lacks several species of beneficial bacteria.

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), doctors in the United States prescribe around 30% of antibiotics unnecessarily. In the UK, research by Public Health England (PHE) suggests “GPs write 20,000 unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions per day”. According to them, “At least one in five of around 100,000 antibiotic prescriptions issued by GPs in England every day are unnecessary”.

As a result, the CDC recommend that people discuss antibiotics and alternative options with their doctor before use.

Exercise Regularly.

Yep, I know we bang on about it, but it comes up in virtually every study as something that benefits your overall health.

Regularly exercising contributes to good heart health and weight loss or weight maintenance.  Research has also suggested that it may also improve gut health, which may, in turn, help control obesity.  Working out may increase species diversity.

A study back in 2014 found that athletes had a larger variety of gut flora than nonathletes.  However, the athletes also ate a different diet to the control group, which could account for the differences in their microbiomes.

The Physical Activity Guidelines around the world recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week, along with muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days each week

Cleaning products can affect it

Just as antibiotics can disrupt the gut microbiota, so too can disinfectant cleaning products, according to the results of one study in 2018.  The research analysed the gut flora of over 700 infants ages 3–4 months.

The researchers found that those who lived in homes where people used disinfectant cleaning products at least weekly were twice as likely to have higher levels of “Lachnospiraceae” gut microbes, a type associated with type 2 diabetes and obesity.

At age 3, these infants had a higher body mass index (BMI) than children without exposure to such high levels of disinfectants.  That is incredible reading, and something parents should be thinking about.

Stop Smoking

Yep, here is another one we go on about, and every study says it is bad for you. Please, give up smoking if you have this habit.  And here is yet another reason why.

Smoking affects gut health as well as the health of the heart and lungs. It also greatly increases the risk of cancer.  A 2018 review of research published over a 16-year period found that smoking alters the intestinal flora by increasing potentially harmful microorganisms and decreasing the levels of beneficial ones.  These effects may increase the risk of intestinal and systemic conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

HMHB says:

So much of this is common sense. Healthy lifestyle is always best. Maintaining a healthy gut contributes to better overall health and immune function.  By making appropriate lifestyle and dietary changes, people can alter the diversity and number of microbes in their gut for the better.

Simple lifestyle changes a person can make include getting enough sleep and exercising regularly.

However, a person should talk to their doctor before making any drastic changes to their diet. This is because for some people, such as those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or other medical conditions, probiotics and fibre-rich or vegetarian diets may not be helpful.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Overcoming Loneliness: Let's look at a few ways you can maybe help yourself.


Have you ever been lonely in a crowd? Have you ever been perfectly content all alone? Me too. And I have also suffered from loneliness.

Loneliness is a complex mental and emotional phenomenon that has at its base a powerful emotion that has survival value for children. All of us have experienced some degree of abandonment, if only for a short time, and remember the painful and scary feeling that goes along with it.

Whenever we are reminded of this feeling or anticipate it in the future, we get a twinge of abandonment distress that we experience as loneliness. This can happen among a crowd of friends or even after making love. It can be confusing and can put you off your game if you don’t know what’s going on.

Here are some tips for recognizing loneliness for what it is and dealing with it in the healthiest ways.

Realize that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact.

When you are feeling lonely, it is because something has triggered a memory of that feeling, not because you are in fact, isolated and alone. The brain is designed to pay attention to pain and danger, and that includes painful scary feelings; therefore, loneliness gets our attention.

But then the brain tries to make sense of the feeling.

Why am I feeling this way? Is it because nobody loves me? Because I am a loser? Because they are all mean?”

Theories about why you are feeling lonely can become confused with facts. Then it becomes a bigger problem, so just realize that you are having this feeling and accept it without over-reacting.

Reach out because loneliness is painful and can confuse you into thinking that you are a loser, an outcast.

You might react by withdrawing into yourself, your thoughts, and your lonely feelings and this is not helpful. At its best, anticipation of loneliness might motivate us to reach out and cultivate friendships, which is the healthiest thing to do if you are sad and alone. When you are a child, and your sadness causes you to cry, you may evoke a comforting response from others. If you’re an adult, not so much.

Notice your self-deflating thoughts.

We often create self-centred stories to explain our feelings when we are young.  It is not unusual for children to assume that there is something wrong with them if they are not happy. If they are lonely and sad, children may assume other people don’t like them when this is rarely the case.

Victims of bullying may well have fans and friends, but they often aren’t aware of it because the shame and loneliness get more attention. Habitual assumptions about social status continue into adulthood and if you are looking for evidence that the world sucks, you can always find it.

Make a plan to fight the mental and emotional habits of loneliness.

If you realize you are dealing with an emotional habit, you can plan to deal with loneliness. Since healthy interaction with friends is good, make some effort to reach out to others, to initiate conversation and face time even when your loneliness and depression are telling you not to. Yes, it is work, but it is worthwhile, just like exercising is worthwhile even when you are feeling tired or lazy

Focus on the needs and feelings of others, the less attention on your lonely thoughts and feelings.

I can walk down the street thinking about myself, my loneliness, and the hopelessness of it all, staring at the pavement and sighing to myself. Or I can walk down the street grateful for the diversity of people I get to share the pavement with, silently wishing them good health and good fortune, and smiling at each person I meet. The latter is more fun, even though I sometimes have to remind myself to do it on purpose.

Find others like you.

Nowadays, there are more tools than ever before to find out where the joggers, hikers or gardeners are congregating so that you can get together with those who share your interests. This makes it much easier to identify groups with which you will have something in common, a natural basis for beginning a friendship.

Always show up when meeting up with others.

You don’t have to run for president of the gardening club at your first meeting. But you do have to show up. I have been promoting regular exercise sessions for a few years with HMHB, and promising I would do it myself for just as long but, except for personal visits when I felt like it to the gym, I didn’t take the trouble of finding a class I could attend regularly until lockdown started and we formed our daily group on Highbury Fields. Now I am enjoying it and it wasn’t that hard. I have put a reminder in my phone to resign from the procrastinator’s society.

Be curious, but don’t expect perfection or applause.

Each time you show up is an experiment, a micro adventure in social bonding. If you are curious about and interested in others, they will be attracted to you because you are giving them attention. So, you will get attention in return. Curiosity about others also takes your focus away from those painful feelings that tend to make you hide and sulk.

Kindness goes a long way.

You have the power to offer loving kindness and generosity of spirit to all you encounter. It isn’t instinctual to be kind to strangers or people who scare you. But it is a choice. It is a choice that many use intentionally. And in the long run it is a winning choice. The alternative, being mean or stingy with those you don’t know well, can get you a reputation as a Scrooge.

Be persistent even if a particular group does seem to be a dead end for you, try another.

Some people recommend that everyone try six different groups to find one that suits you best. If you are persistent, challenging the assumptions and feelings that tell you to give up and resign yourself to a life of loneliness, and showing up and being curious and kind to others and more and more groups, the odds are in your favour. And once you have a friend or two, nourish those friendships with time and attention. Don’t be too cautious about whether you are giving more than you are getting at first. If you make more friends and some of them are takers, you can choose to spend more time with the friends who reward your friendship

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Gum Disease linked to an increased risk of cancer. Scientists quotes here.


Having gum disease increases your risk for many health problems other than tooth loss, such as heart disease. To add to the list, a study from Harvard summarized in a letter published online July 20, 2020, by the journal “Gut”, suggests that the microbes camping out between your teeth and gums may affect your risk for cancers of the stomach and oesophagus.

Harvard scientists analysed health data from two large studies that included almost 150,000 men and women. In up to 28 years of follow-up, people with a history of periodontal (gum) disease were 43% more likely to develop oesophageal cancer and 52% more likely to develop gastric (stomach) cancer compared with people whose gums were healthier. The risk was even higher in those with gum disease severe enough to cause tooth loss.

The study is observational and doesn't prove that gum disease causes cancer, but it could mean that someday doctors will include a look at your gum health when assessing your overall risk.

Fortunately, it's easy to prevent gum disease. The NHS recommends that you brush your teeth twice per day, floss at least once per day, and get a dental exam and cleaning regularly.

Are hot baths and saunas good for your health? A recent study has pros and cons!


Soaking in a bathtub or basking in a sauna can be a pleasant way to relax. Done on a regular basis, both habits may also help prevent heart attacks and strokes, according to several studies.

"The high temperatures in a warm tub or sauna cause your blood vessels to dilate, which lowers blood pressure," says Dr. Adolph Hutter, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. The volume of blood your heart pumps will also rise, especially in a hot tub. That's a result of the pressure of the water on the body, which increases the heart's workload, he explains.

Japanese tub bathing

A recent study from Japan, where tub bathing is ingrained in the culture, followed more than 30,000 people for about 20 years. At the start of the study, participants answered questions about their general health and bathing habits, including their preferred water temperature (lukewarm, warm, or hot). Researchers divided them into three groups: those who took baths two or fewer times a week, three to four times a week, or daily or almost daily. About 72% said they took baths almost daily.

Compared with people who took baths less than twice a week, those who took baths nearly every day had a 28% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and a 26% lower risk of stroke. This was after researchers adjusted the findings for other factors that affect heart health, such as diet, exercise, and smoking habits. The temperature of the bath (which in Japan is typically between 104° and 107° F) did not affect the findings. The study appeared in the May 2020 issue of the journal “Heart”.

Finnish sauna bathing

The Finnish tradition of sauna bathing dates back thousands of years. On average, Finnish people take saunas two or three times a week, staying in the wood-lined rooms of hot, dry air for up to 20 minutes. In 2018, a team of Finnish researchers published a review of health benefits of sauna bathing in “Mayo Clinic Proceedings”.  Several studies link frequent sauna use (four to seven times a week) to lower blood pressure and a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, including sudden cardiac death and stroke. According to the authors, these benefits may stem from better blood vessel function, improved cholesterol levels, and less inflammation observed in frequent sauna users. But it's also possible that the relaxation from taking a sauna, not to mention a lifestyle that allows for frequent saunas, may explain the heart-related outcomes.

Stay on the safe side

Both saunas and hot baths (or hot tubs) seem to be safe for people with stable heart disease and even mild heart failure. But people with unstable chest pain (angina), poorly controlled high blood pressure, or other serious heart issues should avoid them.

"People who are in their 70s and older whose blood pressure is on the low side also should be extra careful," says Dr. Hutter.  If the water's too hot in a bath or hot tub, your blood pressure may dip too low, which can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded, he explains.  By low, he means a systolic pressure (the first number in a reading) around 110 mm Hg or lower. "A water temperature of 100° to 105° F is reasonable. Get in slowly, so your body can accommodate gradually," he advises.

A typical Finnish sauna temperature is around 175° F. Stay in no longer than 15 to 20 minutes, and for a shorter period if you have low blood pressure. If you start feeling uncomfortably hot or lightheaded, sit down outside the sauna. It's also a good idea to cool down gradually; don't go straight outdoors in cold weather. Finally, drink several glasses of water afterward to replenish fluids lost from sweating.