Pregnant Women Should be Eating More Fish

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For the first time in history, the federal government is now recommending that pregnant women, young children, and breast feeding mothers eat a minimum amount of fish to each week.

Here’s the good news! Pregnant women and moms who are still breastfeeding are encouraged to eat more fish and shellfish. The latest science shows that eating fish low in mercury during pregnancy and in early childhood can help with growth and neurodevelopment. Plus, it’s also good for your health!

Last Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency had previously advised pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and young children to limit on maximum fish consumption. Since recent research reveals the many health benefits of fish consumption, they now recommend a minimum limitation instead.

“Current guidelines, released a decade ago, focused on limiting the amount of fish consumed by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, due to concerns about contamination from methylmercury, which can cause brain damage, especially to developing brains,” said Elizabeth Southerland of the Environmental Protection Agency, which released the new guidelines along with the Food and Drug Administration. That advice scared a lot of pregnant women into avoiding fish altogether.

“For years many women have limited or avoided eating fish during pregnancy or feeding fish to their young children,” FDA Acting Chief Scientist Stephen Ostroff, M.D., said in statement. “But emerging science now tells us that limiting or avoiding fish during pregnancy and early childhood can mean missing out on important nutrients that can have a positive impact on growth and development as well as on general health.”

The new recommendations suggest women and children in these populations should consume 8-12 ounces (approximately 2-3 servings) of fish that are lower in mercury — like shrimp, salmon, tilapia, catfish and cod — each week to aid fetal development and growth. The guidelines discourage consumption of tilefish, swordfish, king mackerel and shark from the Gulf of Mexico, which are associated with higher levels of mercury.

The draft’s updated advice did recommend that pregnant or breastfeeding women limit their consumption of white (also called albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week.

“Pregnant women and women who are breast feeding should avoid albacore,” Edward Groth III, a food safety scientist and adviser to the non-profit Mercury Policy Project, said in a statement. “Given the enormous role tuna plays in U.S. mercury exposure, if women are going to eat more fish and also reduce their mercury exposure, they simply have to strictly limit their tuna consumption,” Groth said.

To learn more about this new consumer update visit the FDA’s page on this.

The Truth about Birth Control and Acne

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Birth control is a great way to practice responsible sex, but it’s long been used to address several health concerns women face. One you may not have heard is that some people believe that there is a relationship between using birth control and acne becoming less severe. Some believe it can clear up nagging acne that simply won’t respond to anything else.

In this article, we’ll be referring exclusively to oral contraceptives. It turns out that they have a specific effect, the byproduct of which can result in clearer skin for the women who take them.

Oral contraceptives work by increasing a specific protein in a woman’s blood. This protein is known as sex hormone bonding globulin. Uninitiated by contraceptives, this globulin attaches to the testosterone in a woman’s body. So the more of it there is, the more testosterone isn’t getting expressed because of this protein’s presence.

It turns out that testosterone is a major driving force behind acne. This makes sense, of course, when you think about it. Puberty, which involves young men and women receiving a spike of testosterone, is also the time when most of us meet the perils of acne for the first time. Men and women who use steroids that up their testosterone levels also tend to face a higher risk of acne breakouts.

Now, if you’ve been regularly taking birth control pills and still suffer from acne on your face, it may be that you’re not taking the right kind. All oral contraceptives will result in less acne, but there’s a large degree of difference between the individual brands.

Three examples that have proven themselves time and time again—in terms of birth control and keeping acne breakouts down—are Yasmin, Yaz and Ortho Tri-Cyclen. These three and others like it all have a specific type of progesterone which has proven to be especially effective at binding to testosterone and limiting its ability to express itself.

On the other hand, versions like LoSeasonique and Loestrin carry a type of progesterone that is more androgenic. This is probably why it doesn’t work so well at taming testosterone levels. Fortunately, they’re still perfectly suited for preventing pregnancy.

So well birth control is a great way of enjoying a responsible sex life, consider all your options when you’re choosing a brand. If acne has been a consistent problem for you, the aforementioned versions have been proven to help.

Feeling Down? – What Women Should Know About Depression

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Given that some 15 million people in the United States live with one form of depression or another, most people know that it’s a serious affliction worthy of knowing about in order to deal with it in others and look for it in ourselves. Women, however, suffer from depression at twice the rate of men, meaning about one in four of them will experience an episode at some time. Here’s what females should know about it.

First, depression doesn’t just mean feeling down. It can also refer to strong or otherwise unjustified feelings of guilt, helplessness, or pessimism. Depression can mean an empty feeling or a kind of overwhelming lethargy that leads to long hours in bed. Sometimes, though, it means being so anxious or worried that sleep hardly happens at all. So while depression can mean feeling sad or even suicidal, know that it can encompass a wide range of negative emotions too.

One form of depression is known as mania. Most people know of it as bipolar disorder. Women who suffer from it hit both extremes on the emotional spectrum. This means they can go from rock bottom to extremely happy seemingly in the blink of an eye—other times the transition is more gradual. This means that being in a “good” mood from time to time doesn’t mean you’re necessarily enjoying good mental health.

There are a number of things that can cause depression and many reasons to explain why women suffer from it more than men. Depression is often genetic though, so be wary of any traces of it in your family tree. Those who lost a parent before 10 also suffer at a higher rate. The same can be said for those who already suffered the trauma of physical or sexual abuse when they were just a child.

One type of depression that adds to the higher rates of it in women is postpartum depression. So if you’ve recently had a baby and are beginning to feel negative emotions in greater amounts, that could be why.

Far more could be said about depression and why and how women suffer from it. However, the important thing to understand is that it women are far more likely to suffer from it and it doesn’t mean just feeling sad. So you could be living with it at the moment without getting the help you need. Consider the above information and see a specialist if you believe depression may be affecting your life.

The Difference Between Men’s Diets and Women’s Diets

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Everyone knows the cornerstone of healthy living is what you put on your plate. Whether you want six-pack abs or a healthier heart, it begins with eating right. However, diets aren’t as cut and dry as we sometimes make them out to be. While many components of a healthy diet remain the same, women have special needs that make their diets different from those of men.

Obviously, the most obvious difference is just sheer calories. People who live generally sedentary lifestyles should be keeping their diet to no more than 13 calories a day. If they take in moderate physical activity regularly, they can bump it up to 19. As, on average, men weight more than women, their plate size will always be a bit bigger.

Both men and women need plenty of protein in their diets, but somewhere between a third and a half a gram of it per pound should be enough. Athletes looking to put on major muscle may go as high as full gram per pound. The problem for women, though, in eating too much protein is that excessive amounts have been shown to increase the amount of calcium they lose through their urine. That leads to a heightened risk of osteoporosis.

For men, too much calcium may actually lead to prostate cancer. 800 mg is probably enough for most males, whereas women’s RDA may be as high as 2,000 mg.

Women’s diets require more iron because a significant amount is lost during menstruation. Like calcium, the gap is significant and men may actually suffer from consuming elevated amounts. They only need about 8 mg a day, whereas women should aim for 18 mg. Obviously, after menopause, the need for so much dissipates.

The majority of men and women enjoy alcohol from time to time. Unfortunately, women may face more risks from enjoying it too often. In both genders, low amounts appear to decrease the risk of heart attacks and certain types of strokes. Neither gender benefits from large amounts, in fact, it’s equally bad for them. However, women who drink even small amounts of alcohol are increasing their risk of breast cancer.

While both genders need to focus on a healthy diet, there are different concerns at play. Women who want to lead long, healthy lives should consider the above recommendations specific to their gender.

Is Sunscreen Actually Effective at Preventing Skin Cancer?

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Now that summer’s here, you’ve probably spent plenty of time outside enjoying the sun. Chances are you have more plans to do the same in the near future. Like most people, before exposing your skin to the sun, you likely reach for the bottle of sunscreen and apply a fresh coat. The truth, however, is that your favorite brand may not be 100% effective at preventing skin cancer.

While the sun feels great and tans often look even better, exposure comes with a huge risk. Too much of a good thing, in this case, could result in the rarest and most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma. Unfortunately, people aren’t doing enough if they think sunscreen will protect them, even if they limit exposure.

Recently, researchers found that even an SPF 50 version of sunscreen wasn’t enough to significantly slow the development of cancer in mice they tested it on. They fared better than mice with no sunscreen, of course, but not enough to be able to say you’d be safe with the product alone.

Dermatologists have preached this gospel for years though. While sunscreen is an important weapon in your arsenal, it may not be enough to win the war against skin cancer. Wearing clothing that covers your entire body is also important and shedding it only when it means swimming or enjoying the sun for a brief amount of time. Trips to the beach should be augmented by umbrellas or awnings that will give you shade. Wear wide brimmed hats outdoors too.

The sun is usually at its worst in terms of UV rays between 10am and 2pm, so dermatologists recommend staying indoors during this time altogether.

Sunscreen still has its place, but it’s no match for endless exposure. When you do pick a brand, though, choose one that protects against both UVA and UVB rays and that has at least an SPF of 30.

It’s important to know too that melanoma, unlike other forms of skin cancer, may have a strong genetic correlation. So if you have a history of it in your family, sun exposure may not be your biggest risk factor. If this is the case for you, speak to a doctor about it today. Still follow the above instructions, though, as there’s no sense in taking unnecessary risks.

Why Women Should Lift Weights

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In most gyms across the country, you’ll notice a general separation of the sexes that breaks down by the workouts they do. Men tend to lift heavy objects, whereas women usually choose cardio or less weight, but more reps.

This tends to be due to a misconception most women have that lifting heavy weights, like men do, will result in a man’s body. Women tend to work out to tone up and lose weight. Unfortunately, they’re missing a great opportunity to do both by lifting heavy weights. There are many reasons why women should lift weights.

Lifting Heavy Weights is Not Just for Men Anymore

Men and women both experience a slowing metabolism as they age. This happens as we lose the muscle mass of our youth. Those that lift heavy weights, however, turbo charge their metabolisms though and enjoy the benefit for hours after their workout is done. So women who lift heavy weights actually lose weight because they enjoy a far more efficient metabolism.

That’s not the only fat-busting benefit though. Muscle tissue burns more calories than fat does. Each pound of fat needs roughly 30 calories each day. So, the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn without even doing anything. This is especially helpful for women who work desk jobs or otherwise don’t have an opportunity to get up and move around during the day.

Most women—and men too, actually—rely on cardio to get their waistline down to size and fit into old clothes. Cardio can certainly achieve this, but lifting weights is really how you get toned and tight. Lifting weights is how women get a sculpted body that includes curves in all the right places. Plus, if gravity has been unkind to trouble areas like your underarms, lifting weights is your only chance for rectifying that.

Lifting weights won’t just make you look healthier either. Studies show it can help fight off high blood pressure, diabetes and the risk of heart disease.

Muscle weighs more than fat, but it also takes up a lot less space. So when you begin lifting weights, get out of the habit of checking your scale every morning. You could gain weight but actually look better for it. Don’t worry about taking in a linebacker’s profile either. So long as you keep a healthy diet and appropriate amount of calories, gaining mass won’t happen like that.

Women and Heart Disease

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Most people appreciate that heart disease is the number one killer in this country. However, for some reason, popular opinion is often that it targets men over women. The truth, though, is that the number of women who die from coronary heart disease each year is proportionate to that of men. Now, that we get that women and heart disease go hand in hand let’s understand the causes of heart disease and how to prevent it from happening to you and the women in your life. We encourage women to educate themselves about the disease, limit their risks and know what to look for in terms of symptoms.

By now, everyone should know that smoking is never a good idea, but it’s an especially valid predictor of those who will develop heart disease. Even if you just enjoy one a day, you could be doubling your chances of suffering a heart attack in your life. This should also tell you all you need to know about secondhand smoke too.

Heart Disease Prevention in Women

Exercise is essential for all kinds of health reasons, but it’s especially important for avoiding heart disease. Something as simple as a brisk 30 minute walk everyday can do wonders for keeping your heart in fighting form.

Obviously, your diet is important to consider too. Eat vegetables in abundance and make sure you’re getting some fruit everyday too. Five ounces of nuts every week will help as well as a generous helping of wild salmon or other forms of fatty fish. While reasonable amounts of poly and monounsaturated fats are a good idea, trans fats should be avoided.

Check with your doctor about what your ideal BMI, cholesterol, and blood pressure should be. These numbers will differ amongst women, so it’s important to seek the help of a professional. Once you have these numbers, check yourself regularly to ensure you’re staying within them.

Symptoms of Heart Disease | Cardiovascular Disease in Women

Even if you’re paying close attention to your health and following the above advice, you could still fall victim to heart disease. Fortunately, warning signs can come as much as a month before suffering a heart attack.

One of the major indicators is unusual amounts of fatigue. If you keep noticing a shortness of breath or can’t get a good night’s sleep, these are also important signs to consider. Undue anxiety and indigestion are also markets many people remember leading up to a heart attack.

Although men and women suffer from heart disease in roughly equally amounts, only about half of the latter seem to know this and, of them, only about 13% seems to view it as a real risk. So start by taking heart disease seriously and then follow the above advice.

Joint Pain in Women

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Everyone feels the odd ache or pain in their joints from time to time. They can be the result of sleeping funny or, on the other end of the spectrum, athletic endeavors. There are all kinds of reasons for it, but unfortunately, the worst ones tend to affect women more often than men.

Women make up 60% of the 27 million Americans who are living with osteoarthritis. Three times as many women have rheumatoid arthritis as men. These are just two examples of diseases that cause joint pain and that affect women to a much larger degree.

There are many ways to possibly explain why women suffer more from these types of diseases. Many have to do with hormones. Many women who suffer from chronic joint pain feel it intensify just prior to their period, when their body is losing estrogen. As soon as this protective hormone returns, they’re back to feeling ok.

Making matters worse, there is some reason to believe that endorphins, natural painkillers found within the body, are friendlier to men than women. Though it’s currently not known why, men tend to feel them more intensely than women. When reacting to pain, the body releases dopamine to help fight off the sensation. Unfortunately, the female body provides a much milder dose. Endorphins lose effectiveness when they’re not accompanied by sufficient amounts of dopamine.

Just like with the body’s natural medication, endorphins, it turns out women actually react differently to the real stuff as well. This holds true for medicine meant to help joint pain. Those hormone levels we mentioned earlier can reduce the amount of these important medicines that are in a woman’s bloodstream. So women who don’t take a higher dose can suffer unnecessarily. Plus, as we mentioned earlier, women may also need more because their menstrual cycle is making more vulnerable to pain in the first place.

This explains why women may be more susceptible to pain, but their high propensity for joint problems could have to do with their greater dexterity. For example, women suffer knee joint pain much more than men. Perhaps it’s because that joint receives so much more movement for them, giving the knee greater exposure to the bones below it.

Joint pain may be a natural part of getting older, but for women it can be a far more serious issue. This is why a diet high in calcium is so important for women as well as doctors who appreciate how their bodies handle pain differently.

Cancer Symptoms Many Women Miss

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Statistically, women tend to be far more vigilant than men when it comes to getting regular checkups, seeking a doctor’s opinion about worrisome health developments and having cancer screenings done. Unfortunately, some signs of cancer tend to get missed by young women especially.

No one wants to think that they could actually end up with cancer someday, but this is no excuse to completely ignore the subject. Knowing what to look for, in terms of symptoms, is one of the best ways to ensure you’re able to treat the issue before it goes too far. Though countless studies have proven women are far better about monitoring their health and seeking professional help, it turns out they tend to miss the early symptoms of cancer.

One common example is sudden weight loss. Everyone—men and women both—enjoys losing weight. So it’s easy to celebrate this development instead of be worried about it. However, if you lose 10 or more pounds in a month without increasing your level of exercise or decreasing the amount of food you eat, this is reason to visit your doctor.

Most women know about the discomforts of bloating all too well. However, it could be a sign of ovarian cancer if it happens every day over the course of several weeks. When it is accompanied by pelvic or abdominal pain or feeling satiated early into a meal, you should seek a professional opinion too. The same can be said if you all of a sudden need to urinate urgently.

While every woman of a certain age should be testing themselves for breast cancer and receiving regular mammograms, this isn’t the only way this disease appears. If the skin on your breast thickens or becomes red, that could actually signal the presence of a very rare, but aggressive version of breast cancer. Changes in the appearance of a nipple (color, shape, turning in or out suddenly) or discharge (when you’re not breastfeeding) should also be taken as a reason to go see your doctor.

Bleeding when you’re not on your period should not be ignored either. Unfortunately, many premenopausal women do. The same can be said for bleeding that originates from their GI tract, as they mistakenly attributing it to their period. While some women simply experience spotting more than others, you should know your body well enough to know when bleeding isn’t normal.

While every woman knows cancer is serious, many don’t know about the common symptoms listed above. If you experience any of them, make sure you visit a doctor as soon as possible.

Four Ways Breastfeeding Benefits a Baby

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Many women struggle with whether or not to breastfeed their babies. A lot of the concerns surround the mother. Some believe their breasts will sag. Others believe the act will cause a husband to become jealous because the child will monopolize the bonding and isolate the father.  However, one of the most important concerns women should consider is how breastfeeding would benefit a new baby. Here are four ways:  Read more »