No Such Thing as a ‘Normal’ Vagina?

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June 25th, 2012

Perhaps it need not be said that one vagina is not the same as the next, but medically speaking, doctors have long thought that all “healthy” vaginas had certain things in common — namely levels of some good bacteria.

But a new study led by Jacques Ravel at the University of Maryland School of Medicine reports that in fact not all women are created equal. The vaginal microbiome — the community of bacteria living in the vagina — varies considerably between women, the study found, and even within the same woman at different times.

The results, published this week in Science Translational Medicine, suggest that there may not be a single standard for a “normal” or “healthy” vaginal environment. Levels of bacteria that may signify bacterial infection in one woman may be healthy in another. The study involved 32 women who submitted vaginal bacterial swabs taken twice a week for 16 weeks.

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How Will You Really Feel During Depression Treatment?

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June 25th, 2012

If you’re taking an antidepressant to treat depression—whether it’s for the first time, you’ve recently changed medications, or you’re experiencing a repeat episode of depression—you’re looking forward to feeling like your old self again. And chances are good that eventually, you will.

But it’s important to be realistic about how you’re likely to feel these first few weeks. Otherwise, you might get discouraged and give up before treatment has a chance to work.

“When side effects occur, the vast majority arise early in treatment,” says Rajnish Mago, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Program at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. “Most tend to diminish within a few days or weeks.” And although they may be a nuisance, most are not medically dangerous.

If you aren’t feeling any better at all within a month, your doctor may adjust your treatment by changing the dose of your medicine, switching to another medication, or adding psychotherapy or a second medicine to the mix.

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Social media for two…

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June 25th, 2012

Facebook recently made headlines twice – first, when the company went public and again, when founder Mark Zuckerberg tied the knot. Although Facebook’s IPO was disappointing to those who had high expectations, we can hope at least that Zuckerberg’s marriage will soar, even if his stock did not.

One way the Zuckerbergs – and all couples – can help maintain a healthy connection with each other is to be cautious about the way they use Facebook and all social media, for that matter. As I’ve written before in this column, social networking tools can bring people together, but they can also pull couples apart. Think about it: You and your partner might be sitting next to each other on the couch or in bed, tapping away on your individual laptops, smart phones, or iPads, lost in a virtual world where flirting with a stranger, friend, or old flame is just a click away. In other words, you’re turning on social media—and maybe turning on to someone else, too—even as you tune each other out. From laptops, to smart phones, to tablets, today’s gadgets allow us to remain connected 24/7—yet that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are connected to our partner

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How Feeling Lonely Can Shorten Your Life

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June 20th, 2012

s loneliness lethal? According to two new studies published online Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, living alone or feeling lonely can increase your chances of disability and early death.

In one study, researchers at Harvard Medical School followed nearly 45,000 people who had heart disease or were at high risk of developing it. Over four years, the study authors tracked the participants’ health and found that those who lived alone were more likely to die from heart attack, stroke or other heart-related problems than those who lived with others.

The association was especially marked by age: for the youngest participants, aged 45 to 65, living alone increased the risk of early death by 24%; in people aged 66 to 80, solitary living was associated with a 12% increased risk of death; among those over 80, there was no link between living arrangements and risk of heart-related death.

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5 Tips to Overcome Emotional Eating

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June 11th, 2012

Could work stress be causing your expanding waistline? A recent Finnish study found that women who had job burnout were more likely to turn to food for comfort and to eat uncontrollably, compared with women who weren’t overworked. The study‘s authors suggested that obesity treatment should include evaluations of people’s work stress and emotional eating habits.

It’s not just a stressful workweek, but also a fight with the spouse, a visit with the in-laws or an all-around low mood that can make the chocolate ice cream beckon that much more seductively. “Stress, anxiety, depression, really any kind of strong emotion can trigger an emotional binge,” says Dr. Joy Jacobs, clinical eating disorder psychologist and assistant clinical professor at University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine. “Emotional eating happens whenever someone has an emotion they do not know how to handle, even happiness, and they channel it into an eating experience.”

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