Saturday, April 23, 2005

Chasing down depression

Exercise is not just good for our heart and's very good for our minds as well. It has long been common knowledge that exercise can help relieve stress. Now it seems that it can also fight depression - a mental disorder to which women are often vunerable.

Scientists at the University of Texas have shown that 30 minutes of intense cardiovascular exercise (such as jogging or biking) five times a week can be as effective in treating depression as medication or cognitive therapy. When individuals with mild to moderate depression took on this exercise routine, their symptoms of depression dropped by nearly 50%.

It just goes to show that taking care of our bodies often has more benefits than we realize.

Dunn et al. (2005). Exercise Treatmeant for Depression. American Journal of Preventative Medicine 28(1):1 - 8.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

What Every Woman Needs to Know about Bladder Infections

Okay, so it's not a sexy topic. But about 50% of women will have a bladder infection at some point in their lives, so you might as well make sure you know a little about it. Fortunately, there are some simple tips to help you prevent and recognise this condition. But first: what exactly is it?

Urine is normally a sterile liquid inside the body. A bladder infection can occur when bacteria from the vagina or rectum are displaced near the opening of the urethra, where urine leaves the body. The bacteria may then travel up through the urethra to the bladder, where they flourish and create an infection. Bladder infections are much more common in women than men because:
1. The female urethra is short (around 4 cm).
2. The anus is closer to the urethra opening in females.
3. The vagina provides an extra source of bacteria for infection.

The result can be a very uncomfortable condition, involving:
1. The need to urinate more urgently and often than normal, often while urinating very little once you make it to the bathroom.
2. A painful, burning sensation during urination.
3. Cloudy and smelly, or bloody urine.
4. Leaking of urine.
5. Pain in the lower abdomen or lower back.
6. Fever, sometimes with chills.

These symptoms usually make a bladder infection easy to diagnose, especially if you've had one in the past. However, always see a doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms because they can be confused with those of other disorders (such as kidney stones and cancer) and you will likely require a prescription antibiotic to treat your bladder infection. Also, don't put off the doctors appointment simply because the discomfort seems bearable. Bladder infections may be mildly uncomfortable at first, but the severity of symptoms accelerates quickly as the infection progresses. While you're waiting for that valuable doctor's appointment, you may try to alleviate the symptoms by:
1. Drinking plenty of water. As much as you can.
2. Drinking cranberry juice. This is thought to fight bladder infections by producing hippuric acid in the urine which prevents bacteria from sticking to the bladder walls. While some studies have shown cranberry juice to be effective in treating and preventing bladder infections, some argue that the results may simply be an effect of the increased acidity, vitamin C, and fluid intake that could be achieved with other juices. Nevertheless, it has been shown to help and it certainly won't hurt.
3. Taking vitamin C supplements. But be sure to tell your doctor!

The good news is that bladder infections are usually cured quickly and easily with prescription antibiotics. The symptoms may even go away within hours of taking your first pill! Even so, it is extremely important that you continue taking your pills for as long as prescribed by your doctor to make sure all the bacteria have been dealt with. Otherwise, you might find yourself with the same old problem a couple weeks down the road.

The only thing better than a cure is not getting sick in the first place. There are some simple habits you can keep to avoid this nasty state:
1. Urinate before and within 15 minutes after sexual intercourse. Many women get their first bladder infection shortly after becoming sexually active because bacteria can be pushed into the urethra opening during the act. Rinsing bacteria out before and after sex by taking a quick whizz can greatly decrease the risk of infection.
2. Drink plenty of fluids.
3. Drink cranberry juice regularly. Heck, it's good for you either way. Make sure it's 100% juice and not just cranberry-flavoured sugar water.
4. Wipe from front to back after urinating. Not back to front like most of us were taught! A front to back motion will clear rectal and vaginal bacteria away from the urethra, not towards.
5. When you gotta go, you gotta go. Don't "hold it in" when you need to urinate. This can encourage infection.

Other useful links: