Health News | Quitting smoking? Even a little exercise can help you stay slim

Fear of weight gain can keep many smokers from kicking the habit.

But a new study involving older women might help change that: It found that for those who quit, even a bit of exercise helped keep the pounds at bay.

Upping levels of physical activity

“Being active after quitting smoking was found to reduce weight gain, regardless of the amount of physical activity before quitting,” Dr JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society, said in a society news release.

She pointed to the new study, which involved more than 4 700 postmenopausal female smokers who were tracked for three years.

The study was published online in NAMS’ journal Menopause.

Not surprisingly, those who quit during that time gained an average of 3.5kg more than those who continued smoking.

But weight gain was lowest (2.5kg) among quitters who also upped their levels of physical activity. What’s more, the benefit of exercise in this context was even stronger for ex-smokers who’d been obese than for those of normal weight, the researchers said.

Also watch food intake

The research was led by Juhua Luo of Indiana University’s School of Public Health. Her team also found that when quitters moved to healthier eating plus exercise, they gained only slightly more weight over the study period than women who had continued to smoke.

And any amount of exercise seemed to help.

“Although the best results in limiting weight gain after quitting smoking were found in women who engaged in 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week, benefit was also found in less intense activity, such as walking 90 minutes per week at 5km/h,” said Pinkerton.

So, she said, there’s real “hope for those deciding to quit smoking – exercise more and watch food intake to limit weight gain.”

Image credit: iStock | Eczema dramatically impacts quality of life

Itching, blisters, sores and inflammation are a continuous and debilitating source of pain, shame and misery for many people who struggle with the allergic skin disease known as eczema, researchers say.

And a new study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, suggests that many of those battling moderate-to-severe eczema suffer from an inability or reluctance to engage in activities and socialising, which leads to a considerably diminished quality of life.

Life dissatisfaction

For some eczema patients, their quality of life is poorer than those who have a wide range of other chronic health issues, including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, the researchers added.

“The more severe the atopic dermatitis [eczema], the worse the overall health, quality of life and life dissatisfaction,” said study author Dr Jonathan Silverberg.

“I see some of the toughest cases of atopic dermatitis around, so I can’t say I was terribly surprised by this,” Dr Silverberg explained. “But I think most people who don’t live with atopic dermatitis are surprised to hear just how debilitating it can be.”

Dr Silverberg serves as director of the Northwestern Medicine Multidisciplinary Eczema Center and the Contact Dermatitis Clinic at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago.

Cause remains elusive

According to the National Eczema Association, roughly 30 million Americans, ranging from infants to seniors, suffer from one of several different forms of the skin disease.

The exact cause remains elusive, and there is no known cure. And though topical drugs and immunotherapy can help manage the condition, treatment is complicated by the fact that “no two eczema patients are exactly alike,” Dr Silverberg said.

“For most patients, flares can come for no apparent reason at all,” he noted. “Many patients are looking for that one (environmental) trigger they can avoid to cure their atopic dermatitis. For most, it doesn’t exist.”

And that means that patients with different triggers and different degrees of severity and symptoms will require a different “tailored treatment approach” for what will likely end up being a long-term chronic disorder, said Silverberg.

Dissatisfied with life

The survey of just over 600 eczema patients (with mild, moderate, or severe disease) revealed one all-too-common thread: a broad dissatisfaction with one’s life.

Nearly three-quarters of those polled were white. Just over half had mild eczema, nearly four in 10 had a moderate condition, and just over 8% described their condition as severe.

Pooled together, about one-quarter said they were in fair health, while nearly 16% described their overall health as poor, the findings showed.

Among those with severe disease, about 35% said they were either in fair or poor health, while almost one-third said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied with life.

But even among those with mild eczema, nearly 18% said they avoided socialising because of their appearance, while 23% limited their daily activities. Those figures shot up to 40% and 43%, respectively, when moderate and severe patients were included.

The most effective way patients can limit eczema’s impact on quality of life is to “seek care earlier and aim for tighter control of their symptoms,” Dr Silverberg advised.

Good news for eczema patients

“Some patients may say to themselves ‘it’s not so bad’, and not seek care,” he said. “Then they end up suffering in silence as things worsen and they eventually get to a point of desperation, and at that point have a much harder time treating their disease.”

The impact that eczema can have on life satisfaction is not lost on Dr Richard Gallo, chairman of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego.

“We have long known that eczema has an enormous impact on the quality of life, not only for the patient but also on parents of children with eczema,” he said.

Still, “there is good news for eczema patients because of new scientific understanding of the cause and treatment,” Dr Gallo added. On that front, he highlighted work currently underway exploring the potential benefits of using probiotics applied to the skin.

But, Dr Gallo said, “eczema is complex and patients really need to talk carefully to their doctor to understand the type and causes of their eczema.”

Image credit: iStock | Contact lens stuck inside woman’s eyelid for 28 years

When a 14-year-old Scottish girl was hit in the face by a shuttlecock while playing badminton, she thought the contact lens in her left eye had simply fallen out during the impact. 

The doctors who examined her came to the same conclusion. 

But almost 30 years later, medical personnel were shocked to discover the lens had actually lodged itself in her eye, and had been stuck there for the past 28 years. 

The case of the woman, who is now 42 years old and prefers to remain anonymous, was recently reported in BMJ Case Reports.

contact lens, contact lens stuck

                                                        The retrieved rigid gas permeable lens within the cyst

According to the Daily Mail, the lens came to light after the patient complained to her GP of swelling in her left upper eyelid.

“The MRI reported a cyst with proteinaceous content,” the researchers said. “Proteinaceous” refers to the presence of a protein substance. 

“On surgical excision of the cyst, a rigid gas permeable (RGP) contact lens was found. The RGP lens was encapsulated within the upper eyelid soft tissue.”

contact lens, contact lens stuck

                 MRI of the head: Red arrow: high-intensity signal nodular lesion in the left upper eyelid

The surgeons noted that there have been four other reported cases of contact lens migration because of trauma to the eye.

“This case report exhibits the longest time between traumatic RGP lens migration into the eyelid and presentation of eyelid swelling,” they wrote

Doctors speculate that this must be the lens that was the residue of the childhood accident. “It can be inferred that the lens migrated into the eyelid and resided there asymptomatically for 28 years.”

The patient has since then been released from hospital and has made a full recovery.

Images credit: BMJ Case Studies

NEXT ON HEALTH24X | Healthy eating may protect your hearing

A healthy diet may reduce a woman’s risk of hearing loss, a new study published in the Journal of Nutrition finds.

“We observed that those following an overall healthy diet had a lower risk of moderate or worse hearing loss,” said study first author Dr Sharon Curhan, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

The researchers analysed data from nearly 71 000 women followed for 22 years in the Nurses’ Health Study II.

DASH and AMED diets

Those whose eating habits most closely resembled the Alternate Mediterranean Diet (AMED) or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet were 30% less likely to suffer moderate or severe hearing loss than those whose eating habits were least like those diets, the study found.

The AMED diet features extra virgin olive oil, grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish and moderate intake of alcohol. The DASH diet emphasizes fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy, while restricting salt.

According to a previous Health24 article, food can influence your hearing quality. Foods containing potassium, folic acid, zinc and magnesium can all improve your hearing. 

A similar healthy diet called the Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010 may also reduce women’s risk of hearing loss, according to the study authors.

The researchers can’t show a direct cause-and-effect relationship. Still, “eating well contributes to overall good health, and it may also be helpful in reducing the risk of hearing loss,” Dr Curhan said in a hospital news release.

About 48 million Americans have hearing loss. While previous studies have examined how specific nutrients might affect risk, the link between overall diet and risk of hearing loss was unclear, the researchers noted.

Image credit: iStock | 3 outdated ideas about masturbation you need to stop believing ASAP

Pleasuring yourself is the safest, simplest, most easily satisfying kind of “sex”. But it has a complicated stigma attached to it; everybody is doing it, but not everybody talks about it.

As children, some of us were told that masturbation causes blindness, and we still have a way to go before masturbation is seen as a healthy, normal part of women’s sexuality.

Don’t forget to take our sex survey – you could stand the chance of winning R5 000 in cash!  

Read more: 10 women share their favourite masturbation techniques

For every proud proclaimer of solitary sex there’s another who offers a disclaimer like, “I was desperate, bored or too tired for intercourse.” We need to stop thinking of masturbation as an excuse and see it for what it is. Here, the facts, excerpted from Getting Off by Jamye Waxman.

1. It’s more acceptable for men

Our vulvas are not perceived as the veritable joystick his penis is, and so we look down at our genitals as if they were second-class citizens. We’re taught that our vaginas are for making babies and not for sexual pleasure, and nobody teaches us about our clitoris, therefore we believe we’re designed to be less sexual than men are.

Read more: “My wife asked to watch me masturbate so she could learn what I like”

But the truth is, we’re not. Yes, we’re different – we have monthly cycles and our bodies can more easily align with the moon – but that only goes to prove our bodies are sacred temples and we need to worship them as such.

2. It’s a poor substitute for being coupled-up

Society perpetuates the idea that we aren’t complete unless one plus one equals two; that we are supposed to sacrifice our individuality when we enter into a relationship. But as we grow up, we come to understand that happiness does not come from somebody else; we are responsible for meeting our needs and fulfilling our desires.

Read more: 6 mind-blowing ways to stimulate your clit

At the same time, more and more women have abandoned antiquated gender stereotypes. We’re finding ways to support ourselves financially, emotionally and sexually. We’re searching for orgasms with and without partners, and we don’t expect our partners to teach us everything we need to know about our sexuality.

3. It’s not cool to masturbate if you’re in a relationship

Yes, masturbation is solo sex, but that doesn’t mean you have to be alone to do it. Single people masturbate, obviously, but statistics show that women in relationships masturbate more often than their single counterparts, especially women with healthy sex lives.

Read more: “I tried the Hot Octopuss Queen Bee clitoral stimulator – and now it’s my new favourite toy”

The time you spend alone with yourself is very different from the time you spend focusing on both of you. And it’s time well spent – learning things about your body that your partner may not be able to discover without your help.

Read more: Butt plugs: A beginner’s guide

A 2007 Australian study showed that 55% of single women orgasm every time they masturbate, while only 25% of women orgasm with a partner. So why deny yourself more orgasms? Besides, women who masturbate are aroused more often than women who don’t. Unless you’re using masturbation as a crutch and a way to avoid sex with your partner, it’s totally cool to get it on alone.

This article was originally published

Image credit: iStock