Side Effects of Sex

monday-morning-blues--large-prf-1124686656It’s Monday morning, it’s cold and the holidays are still too far away to be a reality for most of us.  Not a lot to be cheerful about?  Right!

Never fear, SRxA’s Word on Health is here to help start your week off right with some health news that may just bring a smile to your face.

While many people associate a healthy lifestyle with grueling workouts, strict dieting and general deprivation and misery  – this is a misconception.

According to Dr Joseph Mercola, an osteopathic physician, web entrepreneur and New York Times best selling author, healthy habits can be among the most rewarding.  Take sex. It counts as moderately intense exercise plus it boosts numerous aspects of both physical and mental health. As long as you’re engaging in safe-sex practices, increasing your sexual activity is a surefire strategy to better health!

benefits of sexMercola suggests regular sex can reduce stress, bolster self-esteem and foster feelings of intimacy and bonding between partners.  Better still, a healthy sex life can result in a longer, healthier and, most would agree, more enjoyable life.

In case that’s not enough – here’s 10 more healthy side effects of sex:

1. Improved Immunity

People who have sex frequently have significantly higher levels of immunoglobulin A (IgA). IgA is part of the immune system that forms your body’s first line of defense. Its job is to fight off invading organisms at their entry points, reducing or even eliminating the need for activation of your body’s immune system. This may explain why people who have sex frequently also take fewer sick days.

2. Heart Health

According to one study, men who made love regularly (at least twice a week) are 45% less likely to develop heart disease than those who did so once a month or less.

Sexual activity not only provides many of the same benefits to your heart as exercise but also keeps levels of estrogen and testosterone in balance, which is important for heart health.

3. Lower Blood Pressure

Sexual activity, and specifically intercourse, is linked to better stress response and lower blood pressure.

4. It’s a Form of Exercise

Sex helps to boost your heart rate, burn calories and strengthen muscles, just like exercise. In fact, research recently revealed that sex burns about 4 calories a minute for men and 3 for women, making it (at times) a ‘significant’ form of exercise. It can even help you to maintain your flexibility and balance.

5. Pain Relief

Sexual activity releases pain-reducing hormones and has been found to help reduce or block back and leg pain, as well as pain from menstrual cramps, arthritis and headaches. One study even found that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete relief of headache in some migraine and cluster-headache patients.

6. Help to Reduce Risk of Prostate Cancer

Research has shown that men who ejaculate at least 21 times a month (during sex or masturbation) have a lower risk of prostate cancer.

sex and sleep7. Improve Sleep

After sex, the relaxation-inducing hormone prolactin is released, which may help you to nod off more quickly. The “love hormone” oxytocin, released during orgasm, also promotes sleep.

8. Stress Relief

Sex triggers your body to release it’s natural feel-good chemicals, helping to ease stress and boost pleasure, calm and self-esteem. Research also shows that those who have sexual intercourse responded better when subjected to stressful situations like speaking in public.

9. Boost Your Libido

The more often you have sex, the more likely you are to want to keep doing it. There’s a mental connection there but also a physical one, particularly for women. More frequent sex helps to increase vaginal lubrication, blood flow and elasticity, which in turn make sexual activity more enjoyable.

10. Improved Bladder Control in Women

Intercourse helps to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, which contract during orgasm. This can help women improve their bladder control and avoid incontinence.

Happy Monday!

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Spanx Takes a Spanking

Spanx has been in the news a lot lately. First, Forbes magazine announced that Sara Blakely, founder of the women’s slimming undergarments company, had joined the billionare’s club this year. At age 41, and having started her business at home with just $5,000, Blakely is now the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire.

Last month, Oscar winning actress Octavia Spencer, hit the headlines when she revealed, what she’d not been revealing!  Turns out, when she took home the SAG Award for Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role for The Help, she’d been wearing three pairs of Spanx under her gown.

Now it seems the trend has spread from the red carpet to the green turf. This week, warned of the dangers of teens in Spanx. The on-line watchdog reported the tale of a 15-year-old high school soccer player who was recently referred to her doctor because of numbness, tingling, and discomfort in her left thigh that had bothered her for a few weeks. The diagnosis: a compressed nerve in her pelvis. The likely cause: Spanx. While doctors have previously warned of the health dangers associated with skinny jeans, such as  fertility problems , bladder infections , and blood clots the doctor in question was surprised that a girl so young and fit would wear Spanx. It turns out that her entire team wears them under their soccer uniforms.

Body slimmers are the latest fad to hit the athletic fields. Sold in an assortment of bright colors, they appeal to teenage girls who play soccer, lacrosse, and softball. However, in an attempt to conceal their spandex, these girls are rolling down the waistline of their Spanx and unwittingly pressing a tight band of Lycra into their groins. The result: injuries normally associated with direct trauma or repetitive stretching and contraction of the groin muscles. The treatment: in this case, the doctor advised his patient to ditch the Spanx, and retire her skinny jeans. Not that Sara Blakely needs to worry, according to Forbes, her billion dollar business is set to at least double in size in the coming years.

On this day, a child was born…

On this day in history, Bob Dylan was booed off stage at the Newport Folk Festival for using an electric guitar, Bob Lemon replaced Billy Martin as the manager of the Yankees and the Cerro Maravilla Incident occurred in Puerto Rico. Far away, in England an even more memorable event was taking place. On July 25th, 1978, Louise Joy Brown, the world’s first ‘test tube baby’ was born. Last month, Dr. Peter Brinsden, Director of the Bourn Clinic (Cambridge, England) paid a surprise visit to colleagues attending the Midwest Reproductive Symposium* to celebrate this very special birth.  Even after 33 years, Louise’s story continues to generate worldwide media interest. Her birth, through in-vitro fertilization (IVF), is still regarded as one of the most remarkable medical breakthroughs of the 20th Century. Her birthday also highlights the issue of millions of couples who try to have a baby only to find that they cannot. Infertility doesn’t discriminate.  It affects both men and women and all races. It can be hormonal, age-related, genetic, illness-related (think cancer), or anatomical in origin – as it was for Lesley Brown, Louise’s mother who suffered from blocked Fallopian tubes. Infertility is a disease, not an inconvenience and affects more than 7.3 million couples in the US alone. Fortunately, about 90% of cases can be treated with conventional medical therapies or surgery. IVF is the process of fertilization by manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. When the IVF procedure is successful, the process is combined with a procedure known as embryo transfer, which is used to return the embryo to the uterus. Louise Brown’s birth was a culmination of over 10 years of work by Dr. Patrick Steptoe, a gynecologist at Oldham General Hospital, and Dr. Robert Edwards, a physiologist at Cambridge University. Dr. Brinsden, who worked closely with Dr. Edwards, paid homage to his colleagues while attendees at the MRS toasted Brinsden, the Bourn Clinic and its success. Success, as measured by the ‘take home baby rate’ has been increasing every year since Louise’s birth. About 1 in 100 babies born in the US are conceived using IVF or other forms of assisted reproduction and today, more than three million babies worldwide have been born thanks to IVF. Louise’s life has been an extraordinary one from the moment of birth. Every detail has been photographed and documented; every milestone celebrated. But mostly, she remains a symbol of this procedure’s success and the delight experienced by those touched by IVF. From all of us at SRxA’s Word on Health, Happy Birthday Louise!

* The MRS, an annual CME program for health care professionals in Reproductive Medicine, is hosted by Fertility Centers of Illinois and chaired by Angeline Beltsos, MD (Executive Chairperson), Barry Behr, PhD, HCLD, and William Kearns, PhD.  

Turning up the AC for the ACC (and the MRS)

While most of Washington, DC is still trying to figure out how to stay cool during this early summer heat-wave, your Word on Health bloggers are packing their bags and temporarily moving north. The reason?  Well, this week SRxA and two of our preferred partner organizations: TREAT Education and LifeSciencesPress are involved with major medical meetings in New York and Chicago. The Big Apple is the venue for the 2011 American Cough Conference (ACC)- the nation’s leading educational program for health care professionals involved in the management of patients with cough. The meeting will provide a state-of-the-art, academic update on cough,  which, you may be surprised to learn, is one the most common reasons patients worldwide seek medical attention.

The American Cough Conference will be chaired by one of SRxA’s Clinical Advisors – Peter Dicpinigaitis, MD. Dr. Dicpinigaitis is Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and Founder/Director of the Montefiore Cough Center, one of the few specialty centers in the world exclusively committed to the evaluation and management of patients with chronic cough. He will be joined at the meeting by an extensive international faculty representing the Who’s Who of cough and approximately 150 attendees from around the world.

Meanwhile, in the Windy City, Dr. Judith Farrar, Editor-in-Chief of LifeSciencesPress, will act as Executive Director of the Midwest Reproductive Symposium (MRS). The MRS is an annual educational program, chaired by SRxA Advisor, Dr. Angeline Beltsos,  that discusses issues relevant to reproductive medicine.

Internationally recognized as a program of excellence, the MRS provides the most up-to-date information on clinical and research topics. Sessions and workshops during the 2-day program are designed for maximum interaction. A Reproductive Endocrinology Fellows Poster Session and a Nurse Practicum Day precede the meeting.

Word on Health will be at both meetings and will, of course, bring you exclusive coverage in the coming days. In the meantime if you’re a health professional and interested in attending it’s not too late to register.

Happy Birthday Mr. President – Get well soon!

As many American’s celebrate Presidents’ Day,  SRxA’s Word on Health has been musing about the health of America’s founding father.  Although George Washington was physically strong, he was not the indominatable human force that popular history paints. He was often sick, particularly with infections. These were serious infections, many of them life-threatening.

Our research reveals that over the course of his lifetime, Washington suffered from diphtheria, malaria, smallpox, tuberculosis, dysentery, quinsy, pneumonia and epiglottitis.  In later life, he had dental problems, progressive deafness, short-sightedness and infertility.

From the age of 17 to almost the end of his life, Washington had recurrent attacks of malaria. Malaria was then common in Virginia. Interestingly, an effective treatment for malaria had been discovered in the previous century. But, for some reason, Washington did not receive the treatment until 1784, when he was in his 50s.

At age 19 Washington spent time on Barbados. Around this time George developed a severe case of smallpox, which ultimately left his skin scarred for life. Shortly after returning from Barbados, Washington developed tuberculosis.

Washington had a tendency to become depressed when ill. He was haunted by premonitions of death, perhaps because his father and half-brother both died prematurely. Thomas Jefferson wrote that Washington was, in all aspects of his life, “inclined to gloomy apprehensions.”

In 1759 Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis. He was 26, she was a 28 year old widow who had borne four children during her previous marriage. Martha never became pregnant during her 40-year marriage to Washington. Given her previous fertility, it could well be concluded that the difficulty was not with her but with her husband.

Washington’s height, sterility, large hands, pockmarks, plus certain personality features and even his well-documented dental problems have led to the suggestion he had XYY syndrome.

By middle age Washington had no teeth left. Washington’s clumsy, ill-fitting dentures distorted his lips. This undoubtedly contributed to his dour expression.

No one is quite sure what killed Washington. He was in fine health at age 67 when he developed hoarseness and a sore throat. There was little alarm until he awoke in the middle of the night with difficulty breathing, almost unable to talk. A doctor was summoned, but Washington did not wait, ordering an employee to bleed him. The doctor arrived and, according to the principles of the day, bled him again. Eventually, Washington requested no further bleeding be performed, but he was bled again anyway. The bleedings inflicted by Washington’s doctors hastened his end. Some 80 ounces of blood (about 35% of his total blood volume) were removed in 12 hours.

One of the three doctors attending him objected to continued bleeding, arguing instead for tracheotomy which would have been  life-saving in epiglottitis. However, back then this treatment was considered experimental and dangerous.

Nevertheless, a  fourth physician, arrived at Mount Vernon the day after Washington died. The doctor hoped that Washington was in a suspended state, from which he could be aroused and then treated with tracheotomy.  It was proposed that the body be thawed gradually, first in cool water and then with warm blankets and rubbing of the skin, with the subsequent performance of a tracheotomy, artificial respiration at the tracheotomy site, and transfusion of lamb’s blood.

Sadly, we will never know if this would have worked as Martha Washington vetoed the plan!

Behind the bedroom door

It’s well known that infertility is on the increase.  Recent data suggests that fertility issues affect about 1 in 8 couples worldwide. The impact of an infertility diagnosis can be devastating enough.  But for men, procreativity is so closely linked with sexuality, many feel that their masculinity is being questioned.  Fear of being  publicly revealed as the cause of the couples failure to conceive prevents many men from undergoing testing.

So it was with interest that Word on Health learned about a new home test kit that can assist couples in determining if a man’s sperm count is normal, low, or very low, in the privacy of their own homes.

The test, appropriately called SpermCheck,  is based on the levels of a particular protein in sperm.  The test has already been approved in the EU and is currently undergoing FDA review.

The SpermCheck Fertility test is designed as a first line assay for use by couples who suspect infertility. The test is also useful for men of any age who simply want to know if their sperm count is in the normal range. After reading the results couples can determine whether to seek comprehensive clinical evaluation of the male partner’s fertility status,”  explains John Herr, PhD who discovered the protein . “This self-test could save money and time for couples struggling with infertility by identifying which partner may need further evaluation.”

Word on Health wonders if we should keep “mum” on this !?!

Tweeting for the Stork

Word on Health is pleased to bring you a heartwarming story that demonstrates, in case there was any doubt, the power and reach of social media.

Smart, successful, socially aware San Francisco couple, Molly and Brian Walsh wanted a baby. When their efforts failed, they, like so many other couples, investigated in-vitro fertilization.  They had already saved about $10,000 towards the $12,000 treatment, when they found out that they actually needed closer to $30,000 for additional genetic testing of the fertilized embryos, to avoid passing on a rare, but incurable genetic disease to their offspring.

With their biological clocks ticking faster than their ability to raise the funds, the couple came up with a unique plan.  They decided to go public with their story and then host a series of fundraising parties, on-line auctions and other events.  These were announced to friends and strangers alike on their website, on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and other social media.

Response was overwhelming and as a result they have already raised an additional $8,000.

Which begs the question, if one couple can achieve this through social media, what could you achieve?  The SRxA team of social media strategists is waiting to hear from you.

Want a baby? Get Dusting!

According to a study just published in Environmental Health Perspectives, women with high levels of a chemical found in common household products take twice as long to get pregnant as their peers with lower blood levels of the compound.

Polybrominated diphenylethers (PBDE) are major components of commercial formulations often used as flame retardants in furniture foam, plastics for TV cabinets, consumer electronics, wire insulation, back coatings for draperies and upholstery and plastics for personal computers and small appliances. The compound is also found in some foods, particularly dairy products and higher-fat meat and fish.
The study found that every tenfold increase in the blood levels of PBDE is associated with a 30-50% decline in the rate of becoming pregnant in any given month,
These compounds are believed to affect fertility rate by altering thyroid function and subsequently a woman’s menstrual patterns.
Lead researcher Kim Harley said “The best way to reduce PDBE exposure is to reduce exposure to house dust.”

Speaking exclusively to Word on Health, leading fertility specialist Joel Batzofin, MD told us “Whenever we are made aware of potentially toxic substances in our living environment, our water and/or our food, this causes significant concern.  As it turns out, fertility is frequently one of the first indicators of potential problems”.  “However, further well designed and controlled studies are needed before we start advising patients to throw out their sofas and laptops.”

Excellent advice, but Word on Health is doing a little extra dusting today – just in case!