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    6 Steps That’ll Help You To Quit Smoking – For Good

    Decided to quit smoking? Good for you! Want to double your odds of never lighting up again? Use this guide to stomp out your habit once and for all.

    Why you should think about quitting smoking

    First, it’s a gateway to disease. Since it puts a strain on your cardiovascular system, you’re more at risk for those types of diseases, which are the leading cause of death worldwide. Think: heart disease and strokes. There are myriad ways smoking negatively impacts the body, from bad breath to gum disease and even infertility.

    This step-by-step guide, backed by science, shows you what to be prepared for when you quit smoking, along with some tips to help.

    Step One: Set A Date

    According to the National Council Against Smoking, it’s important to set a date to quit so you can mentally and emotionally prepare for it. The good news: for women, picking the day is easy.

    Why? US researchers found that women who quit smoking during the first half of their menstrual cycle may have the edge over those who stop during the second half. In the study, tobacco withdrawal symptoms were less severe for the women who quit between days one and 14 of their cycle, compared to those who quit between day 14 and the start of their next period.

    Do it! Track your cycle and mark the date on your calendar. Tell your friends, family and colleagues when the big day is so they can encourage you to stick to it.

    Step Two: Clean House

    As a smoker, you’re never alone. The strong scent of tobacco follows you in clothes, ashtrays, even curtains – but if you’re serious about quitting, you can’t have it hanging around.

    Why? Studies show that when exposed to familiar smoking visuals, parts of the brain like the amygdala activate craving responses. “Addictive behaviours become associated with cues in one’s environment. These cues then act as triggers, which cause cravings,” explains Candice Garrun, a mental health therapist and founder of the website “Don’t put yourself in situations that trigger you! If you hang out at a barber’s shop often enough, you will eventually get a haircut.”

    Do it! Tidy up. Throw out all smoking paraphernalia like ashtrays and lighters. Clean your clothes, carpets, curtains and bedding. This strategy helped 30-year-old Marilize, who has been smoke-free for two years after reading The Easy Way To Stop Smoking by Allan Carr. “We cleaned out the house! The book guides you through the whole process,” she says. “After a while, smoking began to gross me out – the smell and everything about it.”

    Step Three: Get A Hobby

    Make it something you can do as quickly as lighting up and turn to it when you’re tempted.

    Why? Taking up a new pastime will help channel your thoughts and fill the void that smoking once occupied.“Habits actually change your brain in ways that can bring relief from cravings and get you started on a path to joy and hope,” says Joburg-based clinical psychologist Elizabeth Cambanis, who has worked with patients who struggle with chemical and behavioural addiction. WH reader Chantelle used this method to kick the habit two years ago. “I found a new hobby. I now fill my time with exercise and baking – and yes, I did gain some weight. But it’s worth it.”

    Do it! Keep your hands busy with knitting, painting or playing a musical instrument. Not your pace? Engage in activities where you can’t smoke, like riding a bike or swimming. Moderate and vigorous exercise will help reduce cigarette cravings and stave them off for longer.

    Step Four: Control Your Triggers

    To avoid a relapse, it’s vital to keep your smoke triggers in check – specific people, places or emotions that make you want to smoke.

    Why? The longer you’ve smoked, the stronger the connections are between these triggers and your urges. For on-off smoker Thokozile (29), it’s a TV show. “I still sigh with longing when I watch old episodes of Sex and the City,” she says. “I quit for months – even up to a year – but when I watch SJP I often think, ‘It’s been long enough, I’ve done well’.” Triggers may include being around other smokers, feeling stressed or excited, drinking coffee or tea, or enjoying a meal. You can’t always avoid trigger situations, but it’s important to recognise the thoughts you have around smoking because acknowledging them can help you change your behaviour, explains Cambanis.

    Do it! Change your routine. Take note of how you feel just before you smoke and identify what made you light up. Being conscious of these things will help you remove your trigger. Coffee time? Have a glass of water instead.

    Step Five: Prepare For Withdrawal

    The physical symptoms of nicotine withdrawal are rough, but not life-threatening. Still, if you’re not prepared, they may be just awful enough to weaken your resolve.

    Why? Because smoking’s addictive. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation SA, addiction to nicotine occurs quickly and is difficult to shake. Nicotine stimulates the reward pathways of your brain, prompting pleasant, happy feelings – and making quitting tough. “The first few weeks are the hardest,” says Cambanis. “If you’re feeling nauseated, any carbonated beverage should help and nausea only lasts a week or two.” A third of ex-smokers report headaches – often due to changing brain oxygen levels, according to Cambanis. Hang in there – they do pass in time.

    Do it! “Ensure you get more sleep, stretch, or practise deep breathing and relaxation techniques,” suggests Cambanis. Quitting smoking happens one minute, one hour and one day at a time. Don’t think about the long-term.

    Step Six: Gather Your Support Group

    Rally support from a close friend or family member.Why? Friends can talk you through difficult situations. The first seven to 10 days are the toughest and smokers who relapse typically do so within the first three months. Counsellors can help you identify your triggers and determine what strategy is most likely to work for you. “Sadly, few people seek professional help and more frequently try to quit on their own. It’s very hard to do it alone and you don’t have to,” says Garrun. Plus, a meta-analysis found that counselling resulted in higher rates of smoking cessation.Do it! Get help. WH reader Joanne did – and succeeded: “I stopped after 10 years using a programme called Smoke Enders. It’s been five years and I’m still smoke-free.” Also, reinforce your success with rewards. This is another strategy that helped Marilize. “I made myself a deal that I could use the money I used to spend on cigarettes on magazines. What a joy!” More

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    My Experience With Breast Cancer, At Age 27

    Model Amber Denae Wright tells about her experience with breast cancer, having been diagnosed at the age of 27.

    Discovering a lump

    In March of 2020, literally two weeks before we went into hard lockdown, I got out of the shower one evening and I felt this really large lump on the right side of my breast. I hadn’t noticed it before. I was shocked by how big it was. It was on the right-hand side and thankfully close to the surface.

    As a teenager, I had been diagnosed with fibroadenomas, which are non-cancerous lumps that are quite common in young women. When I felt the lump, I thought that’s what it was. I had been told that they can grow and change. Sometimes, they need to be removed. But knowing that I didn’t want foreign things in my body, I immediately phoned my gynae and booked an appointment.

    That appointment got cancelled because we then went into a hard lockdown. Throughout that time, I had this thing constantly bothering me. I was very aware of it the whole time. It was causing a lot of pain. It was right where your bra wire catches. I fully believed that it was a fibroadenoma. I never even for one second imagined the big C word.

    The diagnosis

    When I was referred to a breast surgeon, he examined me and said that the way it felt and moved felt just like a fibroadenoma. He however recommended not going in for the surgery immediately, given the risks of contracting COVID in the hospital. I took that recommendation and another two months went by. Eventually, it caused me a lot of pain. I was struggling to sleep at night and struggling to complete workouts with my sports bra catching it. I eventually elected to do the surgery in August, five months after finding the lump.

    They removed the lump and sent it away for testing. A week later, I went back for a follow-up appointment. Everything felt very normal but then he called me into his office and started by asking me when I had found this lump. He said I’d shocked them all because, as it turned out, the lump was cancerous.

    I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live. They were words I never ever, even for one second, imagined hearing, having breast cancer at age 27. The doctor immediately started to go through my treatment plan, the type of diagnosis it was, and the rest. I felt like I was watching this whole scene play out like I was outside of my body because it was too much. And then he started to talk about all of the treatments and he said the words ‘chemotherapy’. Once he said those words I was like, ‘This is actually real’. And I immediately just started to cry. I was completely overwhelmed.

    The treatment

    From that point on I was catapulted into 1001 different appointments, from scans to blood tests. I went straight from there for an ultrasound and the next day, I met with my oncologist.

    Given that my husband Nick and I don’t have kids yet, our first port of call was to preserve my fertility (which can be affected by chemotherapy). We did fertility treatment and froze embryos. This involved hormone injections, regular scans at a fertility facility and the harvesting of my eggs. It was the craziest few weeks of my life. Once the embryos were frozen, it was time to start chemotherapy. 

    My chemotherapy treatment was 16 rounds, over five months. Two weeks after my first chemo session, my hair started to fall out. It was one of my biggest fears. Every day I’d wake up, there was more hair on my pillow and more hair on my floor and every coat that I wore. It was all over me and it became very overwhelming.

    Eventually, it got to the point where my husband had to help me shave it off. It was a moment I never pictured going through in my life.

    Amber in treatment

    My life with breast cancer

    Initially, I was determined to keep up with everything I had been doing: working full-time, doing workouts and staying healthy. I had started doing Raise the Barre, an online barre class, during the lockdown. Before I’d gone in for surgery I was literally feeling my strongest, fittest, healthiest self. One of the toughest things was watching that slowly slip away as I got weaker and wasn’t able to train as much.

    During chemotherapy, for the first couple of weeks, when I still had energy, I was trying to train as much as I could. But chemo weakens you over time. I had debilitating headaches and couldn’t take too many painkillers because my organs were already under so much strain from the chemo. At about two or three o’clock, on some days, I would just crash and I literally felt like I couldn’t keep my head up. Because of all this, I decided to leave my job and focus on fighting the cancer.

    I also sought out therapy to help me maintain a positive mental state throughout. That helped me a lot because there are a lot of dark, hard thoughts that you don’t want to burden other people with.

    Amber ringing the bell after the last chemo treatment

    My surgery

    After chemo was done it was time for surgery. Because I didn’t test positive for any of the cancer gene mutations, I elected for a lumpectomy, where the lump and surrounding tissue were removed. When they operated on me the first time to remove the lump, they were operating as if it wasn’t cancer, so they didn’t do what they would normally do, which is cut around it and take all the tissue and the tumour out.

    They ended up taking out a lot of tissue and had to reduce the left breast to match the right. It ended up being a massive surgery. I also underwent 5 weeks of daily radiation and I am currently on 5 years of hormone treatment (Tamoxifen and Zolodex).

    Finding remission

    In October 2021, after all my active treatment was completed, I had an MRI which was all clear and confirmed that I was in remission. During my cancer journey, I felt like I was in survival mode, trying to get through every single day, and so when all of my treatment was done, I had a lot of emotions to work through and mental healing to do.

    Although my life looks very different now and although I will need to go for regular check-ups and scans for the rest of my life, and although I have needed to make changes and sacrifices to my lifestyle, there has been so much good that has come from this difficult journey. It made me a better person and helped me to become more confident in who I am and it made me realise how much I have to be grateful for.  

    I have been given a fresh start and I now know that I can do and be whatever I want to be because I proved to myself and everyone around me how strong I am. I am so grateful for my life and the people I have been blessed with  

    I’ve really tried to embrace this new version of myself and navigate all that comes with the cancer aftermath. My life is different, but it’s beautiful and I’m so blessed to be here.

    Amber now, cancer-free More

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    The Surprising Connection Between Posture and Sex

    We all know posture is important. We grew up with at least one parent whose favorite pastime was to jab their thumb between our shoulder blades and remind us to stand taller (Just me? Cool, cool). We know posture is helpful to ensure proper muscle function, and it’s important for proper alignment of joints and bones. But did you know your posture can make or break your sex life?
    Because I didn’t—and I’ve never been so motivated to stand up straight.
    After having a baby in 2021, I started following various pelvic floor therapists on Instagram. When I connected the dots between posture and vaginal flexibility, I started to pay more attention to the way in which my shoulders slump when I’m at my computer, or how I tuck my pelvis and lean back when I’m holding my 30lb toddler. One follow I’ve found helpful is Jesse Truelove, a pre-and-post-natal trainer who specializes in women’s corrective exercise and pelvic floor work. Her reels on posture have helped remind me to move more consciously, whether I’m at my desk or dead-lifting the little one.
    So I decided to reach out to Truelove to see if she could speak directly to this connection between posture and sexual pleasure. And from what she told me, it’s a widely unknown issue. “Something a lot of people aren’t thinking about is tension in the pelvis and how that impacts sexual pleasure and orgasms,” she explained. Read on to find out how posture affects sex and Truelove’s best tips for improving your sex life (BTW, these tips apply to everyone with a uterus, whether or not you’ve had–or intend to have–a child).

    Meet the expert
    Jesse Truelove, CPT, WFS
    Core & Pelvic Health Specialist
    Jesse Truelove is a pre/postnatal trainer and creator of the MomCORE app, which helps women recover from common dysfunctions post-pregnancy. She is certified in pelvic floor corrective exercise and kinesiology, and has coached thousands of women to heal their pelvic floor.

    In this article

    How Posture Affects Sex
    According to Truelove, when you sit all day with your pelvis tucked under you or if you tend to clench your butt while standing or walking, it can actually shorten the muscles in both your glutes and your pelvic floor. “When this happens over an extended period of time, blood flow is reduced, and we need blood flow for a clitoral erection.” Translation: not paying attention to your pelvic floor muscles and posture can actually impact clitoral stimulation. What’s more, Truelove adds, “We need to be able to contract and lengthen our pelvic floor muscles to allow for penetration and the ability to orgasm.” Basically, poor posture can constrict the muscles in your undercarriage to the point where you can’t easily lengthen them, which can lead to pain during sex or difficulty achieving orgasm.

    Signs That Your Posture Might Be Affecting Your Sex Life
    Your body’s default is to slouch
    One red flag that indicates you might start to see muscle imbalance or chronic pain in the future (and less-than-ideal intercourse) is when you notice your body default to a position where your shoulders round, head juts outward, and pelvis tucks under, as Truelove told me. My shoulders are constantly rounding—to a point where that rounded position feels like a relief. My back starts to get tired if I’m holding a straighter posture. Truelove suggests it’s because my body has learned that the slouched position is my default. “Our bodies are very smart and want to conserve our energy,” she said. “Sometimes at the expense of our [long-term] comfort.”

    You’re chronically stressed
    Sitting all day isn’t the only reason your tailbone might be tucked, leading to poor posture and pelvic floor function. “A tight pelvic floor and tucked pelvis can also be a symptom of chronic stress,” Truelove emphasizes. “If you think about a dog that gets yelled at, it tucks its tail to protect its most vulnerable space, and so do we. We tuck under, clutch, and protect.” It’s wild to think about how subconsciously our body language operates, but it makes sense. Our bodies are always communicating with us. And when we are constantly stressed, our bodies constrict and create tension. “The body is more connected than you may think,” Truelove notes. “Even tension in the jaw translates to tension in your pelvic floor, too.”

    It’s hard to find a comfortable standing position
    Another, more surprising, red flag is when you notice it’s hard to find a comfortable standing position. “You may not be able to find comfortable upright positions and [as a result] are constantly looking for your next seat for relief,” Truelove says. If any of these signs makes you wince a little because they’re too real, I’m right there with you. There’s good news, though, if you (like millions of us) are tied to your desk chair all day and are operating under chronic stress, you can absolutely rectify pelvic tightness in your body. Truelove reassures that taking the time to notice and shift your habits around posture and even your breathing patterns can have a major positive impact on your sexual pleasure.

    Expert Tips To Improve Posture and Support Your Pelvic Floor
    1. Breathe into your pelvis
    “When you inhale, imagine filling a balloon that’s sitting in your pelvic bowl,” Truelove explains. By breathing in a way that feels like you’re pushing your hip bones away from each other, you’re activating and stretching the deep core muscles that support your pelvic muscles. “Most people inhale and their shoulders come toward their ears, [but] this is not deep breathing,” Truelove says. Timing yourself for just a few minutes at a time and breathing deeply into your pelvic bowl can shape your breathing habits over time.

    2. Release your glutes
    We often don’t know that we’re tightening a muscle (like clenching our jaws) when it’s an engrained habit, but taking a few minutes to check in with yourself—while you’re brushing your teeth or waiting in line somewhere—could make all the difference. “Butt tucking and tension can restrict blood flow to the pelvic floor area, (goodbye orgasms and pleasure),” Truelove warns. And although it’s a tougher habit to break, it’s doable. It’s just a matter of starting to be aware when you’re tensing up your glute muscles, and then releasing. 

    3. Go barefoot when you can
    Yes, wearing shoes may be hindering your ideal posture. “Our feet are our foundation,” Truelove explained. “What you put them in is absolutely impacting your pelvic health. Jamming your toes into narrow heels or trendy athletic shoes or even flip flops is sending tension signals to your pelvic floor that you don’t even realize.”
    If you need proof, try scrunching your toes together really hard right now. You might notice tension in your pelvic floor. Or it might feel like you’re clenching as though you’re trying to hold back some gas. It’s subtle, but it’s all connected. Does this mean it’s time to say goodbye to heels forever? Not necessarily. “Try going barefoot more often, and opt for more foot-shaped shoes,” Truelove suggests. If you’re really attached to the trendy footwear that smashes your toes a bit, try striving for balance. The danger is when those toes never get to splay.

    FYI–You Don’t Need Perfect Posture To Have Great Sex
    When I asked what kind of posture to shoot for, Truelove reminded me to manage my expectations. “Perfect posture doesn’t exist,” she said. “We are all unique and different, and life was meant to happen in all different positions.” Varying lifestyles are going to require slightly different postures to support different types of movement. “With that said, alignment is important for great breathing, pelvic floor function, and more. Problems start to arise when we get ‘stuck’ in one posture and have trouble getting into certain positions without pain or compensation.”
    The best thing to do to “enhance” your posture is to focus on aligning your spine by shaking up your habitual movement patterns. For example, “If you lead with your pelvis [while walking] and lean backward with your upper body, try to stack your pelvis under your ribcage and then your head over your shoulders,” Truelove suggests. She acknowledges that it may feel very unnatural, but that’s OK because with more awareness and practice it will all feel more natural. Our muscles can unlearn old habits with time. Discomfort in the short term will lead to major physical relief in the long run (80-year-old future you will thank you!).
    If doing it on your own feels tricky or you need a little extra support, think about setting some goals with an accountability buddy or look into programs like Truelove’s MomCORE app, which offers a one-week free trial, one-on-one coaching, and a community of women like you who are all reaching for the same goal.

    The Latest Sexual Wellness Trends You Are Going To Want To Try More

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    The Trendy New Supplement Everyone’s Taking About for Insane Health Benefits

    There’s no denying that collagen has been riding a wave of popularity over the last few years, but a new supplement that’s hit the wellness scene is giving it a run for its money. Cue the drum roll, please… Introducing colostrum, the superfood that protects and strengthens your body’s defenses, guarding against infections, inflammation, everyday toxins, allergens, and processed ingredients (sounds pretty magical, if you ask me). 
    While you may know of colostrum in the context of the nourishment given to newborns by their mothers, we’re honing in on the bovine variety that delivers benefits adults can get in on—from improving gut health to enhancing athletic performance (stay tuned for more health perks). Read on to find out what doctors and dietitians have to say about what colostrum is, its benefits, and how often it should be taken to get the most out of it. 

    In this article

    What is Colostrum?
    Often referred to as “liquid gold” for its health benefits and nutritional value, “colostrum is a natural superfood produced by all mammals in the first 48-72 hours after giving birth,” explained Dr. Sarah Rahal, MD, a board-certified neurologist and the CEO and Founder of ARMRA. “It’s the first nutrition we receive in life and contains 200+ essential nutrients, like antibodies, prebiotics, peptides, amino acids, minerals, antioxidants, and other natural immune factors, that our bodies need to thrive and work synergistically to enhance all facets of health. For 300 million years, colostrum has served the vital function of protecting and strengthening the mucosal barriers—a barrier of protection lining your mouth, sinuses, lungs, and gut—by creating a tight seal around them, blocking modern-day threats like air pollutants, agricultural pesticides, and chemicals in our food, water, home, body products, medications, and processed food ingredients.”
    So what’s the difference between human and bovine colostrum? Dr. Rahal explained that human and bovine colostrum (which, FYI, usually come from cows) are highly similar in terms of their bioactive components. Translation: They’re both packed with vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, disease-fighting proteins, growth hormones, and digestive enzymes that give our bodies a boost in preventing disease. However, because of the differences in physiology between the species, there are key differences in the relative amounts/concentrations of nutrients. “For example, there are different ratios of prebiotics, which serve to optimize the growth of different species’ microbiomes, in human versus bovine colostrum,” Dr. Rahal conveyed.
    In supplement form, bovine colostrum is pasteurized and dried into capsules or powders that can be mixed with liquids, such as coffee or smoothies. And research shows that taking bovine colostrum supplements may promote immunity, help fight infections, and improve gut health throughout life, according to Healthline. 
    What Are the Benefits?

    Supports immunity
    Cold and flu season or not, reducing your chances of coming down with the sniffles or a virus is a win. Enter: colostrum. “Colostrum works by strengthening the immune barriers along the entire inside surface of the body, our first line of defense against everything inhaled and ingested from the outside world,” Dr. Rahal explained. “This creates a tight seal that guards against the everyday environmental toxins and pollutants that can threaten health and drive inflammation, the underlying root of almost all modern diseases.”
    Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD, a nutritionist and ACE-certified trainer, also revealed that colostrum contains high levels of antibodies, immunoglobulins, and other immune-enhancing substances that can help fight off infections and reduce the severity of allergies.

    Fortifies gut health
    Real talk: Digestive discomfort is all-too-common (looking at you, belly bloat) and can be a real party pooper (pun intended). The good news? Colostrum could be the answer to a happy gut. “Colostrum contains growth factors and bioactive compounds that can promote the growth and repair of the intestinal lining,” Sabat stated. But the gut goodness doesn’t stop there. Katherine Gomez, a registered dietitian, cited that colostrum may encourage the growth of healthy gut bacteria, enhance gut barrier function, and aid digestion and nutrient absorption. 

    Fuels athletic performance
    Could colostrum be the new pre-workout to give you an edge in your workouts? “Some studies suggest that colostrum supplementation in adult athletes may enhance exercise performance, increase lean muscle mass, and support post-exercise recovery,” Sabat affirmed. “It contains factors like growth factors, amino acids, and cytokines that may contribute to these effects.” Consider the 25-7-2 StairMaster Workout crushed. 

    Promotes anti-aging 
    If the Hailey Bieber glow is something you’re after (who isn’t?), colostrum may be the beauty holy grail. “Colostrum includes a variety of antioxidants and growth factors that may have anti-aging properties that could help minimize oxidative stress and enhance tissue repair and regeneration,” Gomez noted. Hello, radiance and skin plumpness. Goodbye, fine lines and wrinkles. 

    Reduces inflammation
    PSA: Chronic inflammation is the invisible culprit of many health woes (think: diseases, gastrointestinal issues, depression, and anxiety). The silver lining is that colostrum is particularly high in lactoferrin, AKA a powerful inflammation moderator that rises in our bodies during times of increased inflammation. “Colostrum contains anti-inflammatory substances, including cytokines and growth factors, which may help reduce inflammation in the body,” Sabat echoed. “This could potentially benefit adults with inflammatory conditions such as arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease.”

    What Dosage Is Right For Me?
    As with most (if not all) supplements, the recommended dosage and frequency of colostrum intake for adults can vary depending on factors such as the specific product, individual needs, and health goals, Sabat voiced. “The dosage recommendations may range from a few grams to several grams per day,” she continued. “It’s important to start with the lower end of the dosage range and gradually increase as needed. Some individuals may benefit from taking colostrum daily, while others may find periodic use or cycling more appropriate.” For that reason, consult your doctor on the best course of action for you. 
    The main takeaway? Because colostrum supplements can differ in composition and quality, look for reputable brands that source colostrum from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows or other mammals that are free from antibiotics and artificial growth hormones.

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    Please consult a doctor or a mental health professional before beginning any treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

    New Study Says Taking This Supplement Can Reverse Biological Age by a Year More

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    Can You Trust AI For Your Health? Here’s What An Expert Thinks

    Sure, we don’t have a robot to make our beds (yet), but AI is alive and well in the world. Use it to proofread your writing, enhance your productivity and now, you can consult Dr Chatbot for health advice.

    ChatGPT, but make it for health

    Per a PWC report, “One of AI’s biggest potential benefits is to help people stay healthy so they don’t need a doctor, or at least not as often.” Already, AI can detect diseases such as cancer. And, the medical devices that appear to us as wearable health-enhancing tech uses AI to maximise our outlook. Here’s looking at you, Fitbit.

    Plus, using tech for your health concerns is nothing new. For decades, we’ve been consulting Dr Google for anything from a niggle to a full-on flare-up. But can AI be a panacea for our health needs?

    How does ChatGPT work?

    ChatGPT is arguably the most well-known and powerful AI in the space. Five days after it launched, the language bot became the fastest consumer application to reach a million users in history. And since then, that number has reached 100 million. That makes ChatGPT a popular alternative to Google for seeking out information and advice.

    Using an AI model, ChatGPT has been ‘trained’ to recognise patterns in language that allows it to make ‘predictions’ based on that learning. This is a tool that draws on available information to produce well-articulated answers to almost any question entered into its chat bar, no matter how broad or narrow the question or how detailed the expected response is.

    Plus, AI like ChatGPT could lessen the burden on healthcare providers and can provide empathetic, high-quality responses, a study has found.

    AI for your health: the problem

    But how reliable is the information? What happens when it comes to subject matter that may contain conflicting opinions or biased sources of information? Here it becomes hard to discern the chatbot’s reliability or potential prejudices.

    The answers ChatGPT spat out for medical concerns were deemed as good or better than Google’s, per a new study conducted by a UCT professor. But some answers were vague, misleading or just plain made-up.

    Study author Dr Philip Moons, Honorary Professor at UCT’s Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, cautions about using ChatGPT. “It is important to know that ChatGPT is a language model. It’s built to make good texts. It is not made to look things up,” he says.

    A thorny issue

    On its homepage, ChatGPT includes disclaimers that it may generate incorrect or biased information. Yet, we don’t know when a response is correct or not, how it may have been influenced by the manner in which a question was phrased and when and how it may be influenced by vested interests. And when it comes to health advice, this could amplify certain falsehoods or points of view, or overlook potential blind spots of information. Unlike a Google search that leads you to specific websites, with ChatGPT there is no single source of information which makes it hard to ascertain its credibility.

    Already, healthcare services in the US are struggling to adapt to the glitches and failures of AI while dealing with patients in real-time.

    “Legislators are currently concerned about the lack of legislation,” says Dr Moons about the questions the use of ChatGPT raises. “I’m sure that governments are dealing with this issue. To the best of my knowledge, there is no uniform framework for it.”

    This raises the larger question of accountability. Let’s say a healthcare institution begins using an AI-registered platform, incorporating it into the diagnostic process, and a claim arises. Who answers to any potential liability – the AI itself, the company that developed the programme, the programmers who developed and maintain the algorithm or the healthcare institution that adopted the platform and failed to manage associated risks? Only time will tell.

    So… should you use ChatGPT for your health issue?

    For now, use caution when consulting ChatGPT for healthcare issues. As always, a real-life doctor’s advice is always the gold standard, rather than what you find on the Internet. Doctors can get a proper look at all the factors that create an issue, instead of what you exclusively input into an AI chat. “I think that healthcare providers need to warn their patients and the lay public that ChatGPT is not made for looking up things,” says Dr Moons.

    If you’re desperate, Dr Moons suggests New Bing, an AI-powered search engine made by Microsoft. “It has the functionality of a search engine (like Google), but the technology of ChatGPT is built in. New Bing is meant to look things up. Therefore, it is a safer place to go to than ChatGPT,” he explains. More

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    Why You Should Check For High Blood Pressure, Even If You Think You’re Fine

    In 2015, high blood pressure, or hypertension, caused an estimated 10.7 million deaths worldwide. Since then, its prevalence has grown from 25% to greater than 40%. Approximately 8.22 million South African adults with no private health insurance have hypertension, according to a recent study. That’s too high. Your sneaky coffee addiction and having a tipple too many could contribute to higher numbers. Here’s what to know about the risk factors, and when to worry.  

    Hypertension: our silent problem  

    Hypertension is known as ‘the silent killer’, because of the lack of apparent symptoms. Often, patients have no idea their blood pressure is dangerously high. That’s not all. High blood pressure can also be a precursor for dementia and cognitive decline later in life, according to the CDC. Also, hypertensive people are at a higher risk for developing kidney disease.

    While the rates for men in South Africa are lower, the rates for women are worryingly high, with about 40.99% of adult women in South Africa battling high blood pressure, per the World Obesity Federation, pushing our ranking up to 23rd in the world.  

    “Research suggests that cardiovascular disease causes more deaths in South Africa than all the cancers combined – a sobering statistic,” says Dr Adrian Rotunno, a Virgin Active panel expert and Sport and Exercise Medicine physician. “Many reports show that diseases of the circulatory system account for nearly a fifth of all deaths in the country, followed by what is termed “diseases of lifestyle” including diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar), hypertension (high blood pressure), hypercholesterolaemia (high blood cholesterol), and obesity.”

    When to check your blood pressure

    With rates this high, it’s important to keep tabs on your own number. Smartwatches can help, but they don’t always give accurate readings, so get to a clinic or a nurse and have yours checked regularly – at least once a year, if you’re over 40, and once every two years if you’re not at risk or younger than 40.

    Are you at risk for high blood pressure?

    There are several risk factors for high blood pressure that many of us may harbour, and be unaware of. That includes smoking (or that sneaky vaping habit), being sedentary and too much caffeine and alcohol use. Being overweight is also a risk factor.


    Smoking – and even vaping – spikes your blood pressure and increases your heart rate. Whether you smoke regularly or not doesn’t matter, either. The American Heart Association found in a report that “people who used e-cigarettes and people who smoked combustible cigarettes had greater increases in blood pressure, heart rate and blood vessel constriction, immediately after vaping or smoking, compared to people who did not use any nicotine.” Smoking constricts the blood vessels, leading to higher blood pressure readings. If you vape or smoke, try find a way to quit.

    Being sedentary

    Per research in the journal Hypertension, people the world over are moving less and less, despite clear guidelines saying that more movement is the key to mitigating chronic diseases like high blood pressure and more. What you should do? Move more and sit less, says the American Heart Association. 150 minutes of moderate activity (walks, gardening) can lower high blood pressure.   


    Even drinking just a little raises your heart rate, per a study in Cochrane Library. It found that drinking a high dose of alcohol (the equivalent of 30g or more), raised blood pressure more than 13 hours after consumption, even when it temporarily lowered the blood pressure immediately after drinking. For women, guidelines suggest no more than one drink in one sitting – any more and your BP is at risk. Moderate drinking is defined as two drinks, while more than three glasses in means you’re on a binge – and placing yourself at risk.


    Go low and slow on the coffee and energy drinks. Per one study, caffeine spiked BP and this can be prolonged, over several hours. “Typically, blood pressure changes occur within 30 minutes, peak in 1-2 hours, and may persist for more than 4 hours,” the authors note. Per the NHS, try to limit yourself to less than four cups a day.

    How to prevent high blood pressure

    Exercise and a healthy diet are essential to preventing the onset of high blood pressure, but in some cases, seemingly healthy people can have frighteningly high numbers. That’s likely because sneaky habits could get in the way. Steer clear of any that could lead you to the ER, and adopt healthy eating habits (like going steady on salt and booze). And if you’re at risk (with any one of these habits taking over), check your blood pressure – it could save your life.   More

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    10 Best Essential Oils To Help Relieve Anxiety and Stress

    You may associate essential oils with aromatherapy products and fancy day spas. But certain varieties of these essential oils may have legit benefits when it comes to relieving anxiety and stress?

    According to Dr Yufang Lin, an integrative medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine, essential oils work through inhalation or through topical application and have mind-body benefits. For inhalation, use essential oils as a room spray or via a diffuser. A few drops on a pendant worn close to the skin also allow for a slow release over time.

    Apply essential oils topically to a carrier oil and use as a perfume, massage oil, cream, or salves. Adding essential oil to your bath is a wonderful way to relax at the end of the day, says Dr Lin.

    “The quickest way to change one’s mood is through smell, thus essential oil is an excellent way to reduce anxiety and support relaxation,” says Dr Lin. “However, it takes a lot of herbs to make a small amount of essential oil, which makes it a strong medicine that should be used judiciously.”

    While research on essential oils for mental health benefits is still expanding, there is some info to suggest that certain oils may work for things like stress relief, better sleep, and more. Plus, some studies suggest essential oils can influence blood pressure and heart rate. That’s likely because when you inhale an essential oil, they go straight through your olfactory nerves (the ones for scent) and travel to the amygdala, the emotional centre of the brain, impacting mood.

    The thing is, though, even if one study shows that a particular scent is great for, say, reducing anxious feelings, it may not work for every single person. If you don’t enjoy a scent, you probably won’t feel much better after sniffing it, for instance.

    Which essential oils help with anxiety?

    These essential oils below reduce anxiety in human studies, says Dr Lin. Other scents are also commonly used to reduce anxiety and support relaxation. But we need research beyond animal studies to know if they have real benefits for people.




    Sweet marjoram


    Faithful to Nature De-Stress Organic Essential Oil

    This blend of essential oils, with lavender and ylang ylang will have you zen out.

    The Body Shop Sleep Essential Oil

    Let lavender and vetiver help you drift off into sweet repose.

    Wellness Calm Organic Essential Oil

    Lemon, cedarwood, lavender and ylang ylang blend to ease stress and anxiety away.

    The essential oils ahead have been shown to help people feel calmer and more relaxed, says Dr Lin. One potential caveat is that most people have scent memory. For instance, if a person has a negative memory associated with a particular scent, they may not feel relaxed when they smell that scent, she explains.



    Sweet orange




    Rose Luxury Scented Candle

    Lavender promotes relaxation while peppermint adds some pep.

    Soylites Serenity Candle

    GM-free soya creates a nourishing massage oil, combined with calming and relaxing lavender and chamomile.

    L’Occitane Relaxing Candle

    Take a moment, destress and relax with this lavender, geranium and orange blossom-infused candle. Aaah.

    What are the potential side effects of essential oils?

    It’s important to remember potential side effects, as they can be mild to severe. For one thing, certain essential oils (citrus in particular) can cause photosensitivity — meaning you can get a sunburn more easily after using an orange essential oil on the skin, says Dr Lin. (This is why it’s a common recommendation to dilute oils before applying them topically, just to be extra cautious.)

    Additionally, some essential oils are safe in small amounts but can be dangerous in higher doses. “Tea tree and eucalyptus essential oils are commonly used for their antimicrobial benefits. But in excess, can cause nerve and liver damage,” says Dr Lin. “Some essential oils are toxic in general and should not be used — arnica, parsley, rue, and tansy are a few that fall into this category.”

    Finally, do not ingest essential oil without supervision from a trained herbalist. Be extra cautious using essential oils around young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and small pets because they are most at risk for toxicity and side effects, she says.

    The bottom line: Research on using essential oils to ease anxiety or reduce stress is growing, but remains limited. But if you’re a healthy adult and are using essential oils safely and at the guidance of your doctor, there is little harm in testing some oils out to see which ones help you feel mentally better.

    This article was originally published on More

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    New Study Says Taking This Supplement Can Reverse Biological Age by a Year

    It seems that we’re always chasing the fountain of youth (not to mention, spending a pretty penny doing so)—be it an anti-aging cream, the latest cosmetic treatment, a supplement, or fashion styling hacks. But vanity aside, we all want to improve our longevity so we can live the longest, healthiest, most fulfilling life possible, right? While the jury’s still out on anti-aging creams, science says there are factors that can determine longevity.
    We actually have two ages: a chronological age determined by when you were born, and a biological age, or the age at which your body functions. And your biological age may be younger or older than the age displayed on your driver’s license. Translation: You could be 30 chronologically, but have a biological age of 24 and have a lower mortality risk. But wait, there’s more good news: A recent study suggests that by taking vitamin D, we may be able to slow down the aging process–namely reverse biological age by a year–and promote longevity. Ahead, experts break down biological age and all the details you need to know about supplementing with vitamin D. 

    In this article

    What is biological age?
    Your biological age takes into account a number of biological and physiological development factors other than just the day you were born, such as genetics, lifestyle, nutrition, and diseases. “Biological age represents the actual age of our cells, tissues, and organs, as determined by their biochemical state and function,” explained Dr. Xiaojing Yang, Group Leader of Epigenetics at myDNAge. “Our core area of focus is epigenetics, which studies how our lifestyles and environment can affect the way our genes work and express themselves. This plays a crucial role in determining your rate of biological aging and, in turn, impacts your body’s overall longevity and health span. Using specific DNA methylation biomarkers, we can calculate a person’s biological age.”
    In other words, biological age is the rate at which you’re aging physically. And your behaviors—diet, exercise, and sleep (or lack thereof)—and exposure to environmental toxins (think: air pollution and chemicals) can affect your epigenetic makeup, determining whether you take years off your biological age or increase it. The main takeaway? “What we’ve learned now is we can literally reprogram our epigenome and reverse biological age at any age,” Dr. Mark Hyman, a leading expert in functional medicine, explained via The Cut. 
    So how do you determine your biological age? The most accurate assessment is looking into your epigenetic data using DNA samples from your saliva, blood, or urine. And thanks to a new wave of companies offering at-home tests that reveal your “magic number,” it’s never been easier. For more information on testing your biological age, speak to your doctor on what testing is best for you.

    How supplementing vitamin D can affect your biological age
    Approximately 35% of adults in the United States have vitamin D deficiency, and based on a recent study, those people may be missing out on preventing accelerated aging: it found that people with low vitamin D in their blood were “biologically older” and had chromosomes (AKA the structures that organize DNA) that appeared older than people with adequate vitamin D levels (30-100 ng/mL).
    Dr. William Li, a medical doctor and New York Times bestselling author of Eat to Beat Your Diet: Burn Fat, Heal Your Metabolism, and Live Longer, explained why: “Vitamin D is responsible for many functions in the body that slow biological aging, such as lowering inflammation, preventing oxidative stress, supporting immune function, improving bone strength, and slowing the shrinking of telomeres, which are the protective caps defending our DNA. Supplementing vitamin D adds to the body’s own control of these features of biological aging, although the exact mechanism is still being researched.”

    What you need to know about supplementing with vitamin D
    What dosage should I take?
    There’s no one-size-fits-all dosage and frequency recommendation for taking vitamin D; they depend on many factors, such as your individual needs and environment. “Knowing how much vitamin D to take can be a challenge,” conveyed Dr. Arielle Levitan, a board-certified internal medicine physician. “Most of us are deficient if we do not take some vitamin D supplementation, but knowing a safe amount to take requires some expertise. Needs can vary based on factors including where you live (sun exposure matters), skin color, health conditions, and body weight.” While Dr. Levitan noted that a typical daily dose may range between 800 and 2000 IUs, it is best to determine your daily vitamin D needs by getting your levels tested and working with your physician to examine your diet, lifestyle, and health conditions.

    When should I take it?

    “Most doctors recommend taking vitamin D supplement with a meal to help the body absorb the vitamin,” Dr. Li affirmed. “Vitamin D is fat-soluble, but it’s not necessary to eat [it with] fatty food for it to be absorbed.” For that reason, look for a vitamin D supplement that contains fat (such as MCT, fish oil, etc.). While there’s no scientific evidence that proves whether taking vitamin D at night or in the morning is more effective, some reports claim supplementing with it at nighttime may interfere with sleep. Bottom line: Take vitamin D alongside a meal and make it a part of your routine consistently—whatever time of day works best for you.

    Not all types of vitamin D are created equal. “Vitamin D should always be taken in the form of vitamin D3, which is more easily used by the body than Vitamin D2,” expressed Chante Wiegand, a naturopathic doctor and director of research and development at The Synergy Company. “Vitamin D3 should also always be taken with vitamin K2 to support optimal calcium absorption and bone health. While vitamin D ensures that calcium is properly absorbed, vitamin K makes sure the calcium is integrated into our bones.” 
    Is it possible to take too much?

    When it comes to vitamin D, you can have too much of a good thing. “Most vitamin D overdoses come from taking too many supplements, not from excess sun exposure or a vitamin D-rich diet,” Dr. Yang commented. “That’s why it matters to speak with your physician to determine the right dosage to take, to prevent any side effects such as kidney damage.” 
    Wiegand pointed out that it would take consistent supplementation of vitamin D at very high amounts to reach unsafe levels, but it is possible. The signs to look out for? “Very high levels of vitamin D in your blood (greater than 375 mol/L or 150 ng/mL) can cause nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, confusion, pain, loss of appetite, dehydration, excessive urination and thirst, and kidney stones,” she explained. 

    Should anyone not take vitamin D?

    “People who have kidney disease, including kidney stones, and those who have high blood levels of calcium or phosphate should not take vitamin D,” Dr. Li attested. “Some medications including statins and the heart drug digoxin can have potential interacts with vitamin D.” 

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    Please consult a doctor before beginning any treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.

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