Saturday, February 17, 2018

How to Lower Your Risk of Oral Cancer

fruits and vegetables background

Go Heavy on Fruits and Veggies

A lack of nutrients can lead to changes in your mouth that make cancer more likely. But vitamins and antioxidants in fruits and veggies rev up your immune system, and that helps protect you. So get at least 5 servings of them a day and mix them up for plenty of variety. Carrots, Brussels sprouts, and squash are especially good for your mouth.
steamed vegetables

Cook Smarter

To get the most bang for your fruit-and-veggie buck, don’t cook all the cancer-fighting goodness out of them. Enjoy some of them raw to get the full effect. When you do cook them, stop when they get tender and still have some life in them. Also, cooking oils can form cancer-causing substances at high heat. So instead of frying, it’s a better idea to bake, boil, broil, or steam your food.
woman pruning flowers

Use Sun Protection

Too much time in the sun doesn’t just raise your chances of skin cancer, it’s also a problem for your lips. If you can, stay out of direct sunlight in the middle of the day -- that’s when it’s strongest. When you do go out, wear a hat with a wide brim that shades your whole face. Use lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, and put it on often. And stay away from tanning beds.
men toasting shot glasses

Cut Down on Alcohol

Heavy drinking over the years irritates your mouth in ways that can set you up for oral cancer. You’re twice as likely to get it if you have 3 to 4 drinks a day. And your odds skyrocket if you both smoke and drink heavily. So if you do drink, keep it in check with just one a day for women or two for men.
open condom wrapper

Lower Your Risk of HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of very common viruses. You can have it in your mouth and not know it. That’s because most of the time, it doesn’t cause any issues. But in some people, it can lead to changes that cause cancer. There’s a vaccine for HPV, but it works best if you get it before you're sexually active. If you already are, you can protect yourself by limiting your number of partners and practicing safe sex.
dental appointment

Keep Up With Dentist Visits

Dentists don’t just polish your teeth, fill cavities, and get on your case about flossing. They check everything from the bottom of your tongue to the inside of your cheeks for growths that might lead to cancer. They’re on the front lines to catch any problems early on, which can make things easier to treat. See your dentist at least once a year.
man checking mouth in mirror

Give Your Mouth a Monthly Check

Between dental visits, it’s up to you to keep an eye on things. Once a month, get in front of a mirror and open up wide. Look for ulcers or unusual red or white patches that stick around for 3 weeks or longer. Check the roof and floor of your mouth, your tongue, your gums, and the inside of your cheeks and lips. If you find anything you’re not sure about, see your dentist.
putting out cigarette in ashtray

Quit Smoking

This is the best thing you can do for your mouth, and the rest of your body, too. The more and longer you smoke -- cigarettes, cigars, or pipes -- the higher your risk. But even if you’ve been at it for a long time, stopping now helps. If you do get cancer, quitting means your treatment will work better, you’ll heal faster, and it’ll be less likely to come back. And if you don’t smoke, don’t start.
non smoker and smoker

Stay Away From Secondhand Smoke

Just like with lung cancer, you need to watch out for tobacco even if you don’t smoke. When you spend time around people who do, your odds of oral cancer go up, too. And the longer you’re around it, the higher your risk. There’s no safe level of secondhand smoke.
snuff container close up

Ditch the Chew

There’s no healthy way to use tobacco. Like smoking, there are benefits to quitting chew or snuff, even if you’ve used it for a long time. Your mouth will thank you for other reasons, too. You’re more likely to keep all your teeth and avoid gum disease.
betel quid

Don’t Use Betel Quid

Popular in Southeast Asia and some other parts of the world, you chew this mix of betel leaf, areca nut, and lime. When you add tobacco to it, it’s called gutka. Either way, it’s best to avoid it. With or without tobacco, it’s been clearly linked to oral cancer.
dental technician finishing dentures

Are Dentures an Issue?

One school of thought says dentures that don’t fit well, or sharp or crooked teeth, can irritate your mouth, and that may raise your odds for oral cancer. But there’s no clear proof of that. We do know that people who wear dentures aren’t at higher risk. It’s still best to make sure your dentures fit well and that any dental work you have done isn’t bothering your mouth.
man flossing teeth

Can Brushing and Flossing Help?

Brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day because it’s just good for oral health. One study seemed to show a link between good oral health and preventing HPV, which would lower your chances of having oral cancer. But the results of the study were limited, and it was only a first look. More research is needed to figure out how strong the connection is
woman using mouthwash

Is Mouthwash a Problem?

The jury’s still out. Some studies seem to show that mouthwash that has a lot of alcohol could raise your chances for oral cancer. But it’s hard to know for sure because people who drink and smoke also tend to use mouthwash more. That makes it tough to tell if there’s a clear link. The American Dental Association says mouthwash may help people over 6 because it can go where a toothbrush can’t. Use one that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

Avoid These Habits. Your Back Will Thank You

man hunched over tablet

Sit Hunched

Do it too much, and it can flatten the natural curve of your spine and damage the cushioned disks between the bones. This can lead to early arthritis and other problems. Gently stretch and move your head and neck in all 4 directions every half hour. To ease any pain or spasm, try applying an ice pack or heating pad to the area. Be sure to cover the skin with a light towel or cloth first. See your doctor if the pain won’t go away.

Too Many “Treats”

Choosing the wrong foods too often can lead to inflammation and leave out nutrients you need to be strong. Your body needs lean protein, whole grains, fruits and veggies, and healthy fats like those from avocado and salmon to build strong muscles, bones, and soft tissue in your back. Be sure to get nutrients like calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D, too.
mattress store

Sleep on the Wrong Mattress

It should be firm enough to support your back, but soft enough to fit the shape of your body. Your ideal mattress can depend on how you sleep and whether you already have back pain. Want to see if a firmer one might help? Put yours on the floor for a couple of nights without the bedsprings. Some stores let you return a mattress, even after several weeks, if it causes back pain or other problems.
man sleeping on back

Sleep on Your Back …

For some people, this position can cause low back pain or make it worse. But it can be hard to change how you sleep, since it’s a habit you’ve probably had for a long time. It may help to put a rolled towel or pillow under your knees to keep the natural curve of your back. You also can try different pillow heights for your neck to find what’s comfortable.
man sleeping on stomach

… Or on Your Belly

It’s better not to do it, especially if you have a back problem. You’re more likely to toss and turn, which can strain both your neck and lower back. If you’re a belly sleeper and don’t want to switch positions, it can help to lay your head on a very soft pillow or none at all to keep your neck in the right position.
pregnant woman sleeping

How Should You Sleep?

Side sleepers seem to have the most luck avoiding back pain. Slip a pillow between your legs to take pressure off your hips and lower back, and tuck your legs slightly toward your chest. This position can be especially comfortable for people who already have back pain and for pregnant women.
man with sore back

Sit Too Long

It stresses your back muscles, neck, and spine. Slouching makes it worse. Sit straight in a chair that supports your back, and set the height so your feet rest naturally on the floor. But no matter how comfortable you get, your back won’t like sitting for long stretches. Get up and move around for a couple of minutes every half hour to give your body a break.
woman swimming

Skip Exercise

You’re more likely to have back pain if you’re not active. Your spine needs support from strong stomach and back muscles. Lifting weights can help. So can everyday activities like climbing stairs and carrying groceries. Low-impact exercises like walking, biking, or swimming can help protect the disks between the bones in your spine. Make it a habit for most days. Don’t be a “weekend warrior” who overdoes it and gets injured.
woman smoking


Do it, and you’re 3 times more likely to get lower back pain. It can curb blood flow, including to your spine. That can make the cushioning disks between your bones break down quicker. It also can weaken bones and give you osteoporosis, and it can slow healing. Even coughs from smoking can cause back pain. If you smoke, make quitting your top health priority and ask your doctor for help.


Extra pounds can strain the bones and muscles in your back, especially if you gain weight quickly. Eat slowly so that your body has a chance to let you know it’s full. Pick nutrition-packed munchies and meals so you feel satisfied with fewer calories. So if you snack on cheese or chips, try eating some veggies and plain yogurt instead.
children with backpacks

Overload Your Bag

Heavy weights can strain your back and tire out muscles that you need to support your spine. This can affect kids who lug many books. Your child’s backpack shouldn’t weigh more than 20% of their body weight. Large, padded, adjustable shoulder straps help spread the weight evenly. But only if you use both straps. Slinging your pack or heavy purse over only one shoulder can cause strain.
man biking

Ride the Wrong Bike

Or just a badly adjusted one. It’s bad for your back if you have to hunch over to grab your handlebars the way pro cyclists do. (They train hard to do it safely.) You also may have back pain if you’re too stretched out or cramped up on your bicycle. A physical therapist can help you find a bike that’s a good fit and suggest exercises to help if you have lower back pain.
woman with sore feet

Wear High Heels

You may overuse muscles in your lower back and harm your posture and your spine, especially as you age. If you wear them at the office, you might bring a pair of walking shoes for your commute. Regular foot and leg stretches, like rolling your foot on a tennis ball, can help prevent pain and strengthen muscles.

Should You Do Yoga?

Too much of any exercise -- including yoga -- can cause back pain. But in some cases, yoga can help relieve low back pain. There are lots of online resources and videos to help you get started. A yoga instructor can ensure that you use the proper form. Just 10-20 minutes a few times a week of this mind-body exercise might make you feel better. But don’t overdo it, and stop if it hurts.
woman doing crunches

Do Situps Incorrectly

Never let them flatten the natural curve in your spine. You don’t want to let your hip flexor muscles, which connect your thighs and lower back, do the work. When those muscles are too strong or too tight, they pull the lower spine, which can cause pain. Front and side planks -- where you support your stiff body on your hands, elbows, and feet -- are easier on your back and build core strength better.

15 Ways to Keep Your Mind Young

couple listening to music with earbuds

Give Your Life a Soundtrack

Your brain gets a mental workout when you stream your favorite playlist. Not only can listening to music help you feel more alert, but it also can boost your memory and mood. One reason is that there’s a math to music and how one note relates to the other. Your brain has to work to make sense of this structure. This is especially true for music you’re hearing for the first time.
friends by outdoor grill

Make Time to Make Friends

Getting to know new people boosts your brain’s “executive function” as much as doing a crossword puzzle. This set of mental skills includes your short-term memory, power to tune out distractions, and ability to stay focused. How does a friendly 10-minute chat help? Listening to someone else’s point of view and trying to put yourself in their shoes pushes your brain to think in new ways.
couple laughing in movie theater

Laugh It Off

Stress can make your brain release a hormone called cortisol, which makes it hard to think clearly. Over time, high levels of stress can cause trouble with your learning and memory. A fun way to protect your brain is to have a good laugh. It can lower cortisol levels and help keep your brain healthy.
woman walking on path outdoors

Get Outside

Nature has a calming effect and can ease stress -- even if you’re just looking out a window. When you spend time outdoors, you give your brain a rest from the constant flow of data and stimulus it gets throughout the day. This lets it reboot its ability to focus, so you may feel more creative and better able to solve problems.
man cooking meal close up

Ditch Your Routine

There’s nothing wrong with eating the same breakfast every day or driving the same route to work. Humans are creatures of habit. But it’s good for your brain to try to mix things up. Even once a week can help. A change in routine boosts your brain’s ability to learn new info and hold onto it. Try out a new recipe or explore a different part of your city.
woman taking guitar lesson

Become a Student Again

When you learn a new skill or subject, your brain makes new pathways between its many cells. You might try your hand at creative writing or a new hobby that interests you, like quilting or playing the guitar. If it seems hard at first, don’t give up. The tougher it is for you to get the hang of it, the better for your brain.
man on sofa watching tv

Focus on One Thing at a Time

Just because you can text, watch TV, and check your social media feed at the same time doesn’t mean it’s good for you. When your brain is hit with several streams of info at once, it has to sift through it all. This makes it harder for you to focus, manage your memory, and switch from one thing to another. Go easy on your brain and give one thing your full attention at a time.
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mature women practicing yoga outdoors


Whether you say a mantra or just focus on breathing, meditation can help with high blood pressure or high cholesterol. (Both can raise your chances of Alzheimer’s.) Studies show it also can boost your focus, memory, and ability to choose words, and it can make it easier to switch from one thought to another. The reasons for this aren’t clear, but one theory is that meditation gives your brain a break from concrete words and thoughts.
mature woman on stationary bike

Break a Sweat

Working out is as good for your brain as it is for your body. Exercise keeps your reasoning and thinking skills sharp because it ramps up the blood flow to your brain, along with certain chemicals that help protect it. Try to get moving every other day for at least 30 minutes.
mature woman sleeping in bed

Give It a Rest

If you don’t get enough sleep, even a simple task can take more mental effort than it would otherwise. You’ll also find it much harder to focus, and you may notice gaps in your short-term memory. To stay fresh, aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
mans feet on bathroom scale

Watch What You Eat

The more calories you take in, the higher your chances of memory loss may be. The reason isn’t clear-cut, but a greater BMI (body mass index) at middle age is linked to poor brain health later in life. Small changes, like switching from whole milk to skim, will help you cut down on calories. Your doctor or a dietitian can help you with a plan that’s right for you.
healthy foods for the brain

Feed Your Brain

Certain foods work hard to protect your brain. These include fruits, veggies, legumes, fish, and “good” fats like the ones in canola and olive oils. A daily cup of tea or coffee also can help your brain wake up. But watch the carbs -- aim for no more than 20 grams a day. More than that wreaks havoc on your blood sugar, and over time, that can hurt your memory and raise your odds of Alzheimer’s.
cigarette butt in ashtray

Stop Smoking

Many chemicals in cigarettes are toxic to your brain, so you might not be surprised to learn that smoking’s linked to mental decline and dementia. And the same goes for secondhand smoke. Talk to others in your family about quitting, too. You’ll all stay healthier if your house and car are smoke-free.
doctor giving blood pressure test

Take Care of Your Heart

If your heart’s in poor health, you’re more likely to have learning and memory problems. Being overweight and not getting enough exercise can make your blood vessels narrow. This limits the amount of blood that flows to your brain, and your arteries may start to harden. High blood pressure is the biggest sign that your brain’s health is at risk. If yours is high, talk with your doctor about how to control it.
mature woman sleeping in bed

Get Help for Your Mental Health

If you’re depressed, you may be more likely to have a mental decline. In addition to feelings of helplessness and losing interest in things you love, depression also can put you in a “brain fog.” Thinking, staying focused, and making decisions can be much harder. If you have some of these signs, talk to your doctor about what you can do to treat them.

Cold vs. Flu: How to Tell the Difference

Cold Virus and Flu Virus

Cold vs. the Flu: Does It Matter?

Over-the-counter drugs and chicken soup help both, right? Not so fast.
It's important to learn which kind of illness you're dealing with. That's because the flu can have serious complications, like the lung infection pneumonia. It can even be deadly. Flu treatments work best within 48 hours of the time symptoms start. Prescription antiviral drugs may cut the time you're sick.
Older Man With Fever

Flu: Comes on Fast and Furious

If you feel like you've been hit by a truck, it's probably the flu. Symptoms like sore throat, fever, headache, muscle aches, congestion, and cough tend to come on suddenly. Colds are usually less intense and include a runny or stuffy nose. The flu gets better over 2 to 5 days, but you might feel run-down for a week or longer. Colds come on slowly and last up to 10 days.
Woman Reading Thermometer

Fever: Usually Means Flu

While some people may get a slight fever when they have a cold, most don’t. If you have the flu, you’ll probably run a temperature of 100-104 F. Children's flu fevers tend to be higher. Kids may also be more likely to have a fever with the common cold.
Child with Flu Laying on Couch

Flu: Fatigue Can Last for Weeks

You likely start off feeling extremely tired and achy all over. That fatigue and weakness may last for up to 3 weeks -- or even longer in seniors and people with long-term (chronic) diseases or a weak immune system. With a cold, you usually feel bad for just a few days.
Woman in Office with Headache

Colds and Flu: Both Can Cause Headaches

Still, a headache that comes along with a cold, like other symptoms that result from the virus, tends to be milder than one caused by flu.
Woman Coughing into Handkerchief

Coughs: Sign of Both Colds and Flu

Colds and flu are respiratory illnesses, which affect your airways, so both can cause coughing.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that can be a complication of the flu. Call your doctor if you have a persistent cough, fever higher than 102 F and chills, a hard time breathing, shortness of breath, or chest pain when you cough.
Child With Earache

Earaches: Can Come From Colds or Flu

Congestion from either ailment can make your ear pressure rise. This affects the eustachian tube, which connects your throat to your middle ear. It can cause a dull ear pain, hearing loss, and the sensation of “popping” in your ears. It usually goes away with your other symptoms.
See your doctor if the earache lasts longer than your sickness or you feel sudden, strong pain. You may have an ear infection that needs treatment.
Sick Woman with Sore Throat

Colds: Often Start With a Sore Throat

This early symptom tends to last for 1 to 2 days. A runny and stuffy nose is also common. Sore throats come with the flu, too. But if you have it, you’ll probably be tired and have other symptoms that come on all at once.
Little Girl with Cold Blowing Nose

Stuffy Nose: May Mean a Cold

Unless you're also feverish, very achy, and just plain zapped of energy, you likely have a cold -- although many people with the flu also say they have a stuffy nose and sneezing.
Both colds and the flu can lead to sinus infections. In addition to thick yellow or green nasal discharge, sinus infections can cause headaches and pain in the forehead, cheeks, and nasal bridge. The pain usually gets worse with sudden head movement or strain. Sometimes, you can get a secondary bacterial infection that needs antibiotic treatment.
Nasal swab

Flu Swab Tests Can ID Flu Fast

The quickest and best way to know which illness you have is to get a test at your doctor's office.
By taking a nasal or throat swab, your doctor can often tell if you have the flu virus, usually within 30 minutes or less. If the test shows you have the flu and your symptoms started within the last 48 hours, your doctor may suggest antiviral medicine to help you recover faster.
hand removing pill from blister pack

Flu: Start Antiviral Drugs ASAP

These medications can make you feel better and shorten your illness by 1 to 2 days -- especially if you start them within 2 days of getting sick. Over-the-counter products can also lessen some symptoms like a cough and congestion. Read labels and instructions carefully so you understand what the meds do and how to take them.
Man Reading Drug Information

Colds: OTC Drugs Can Ease Symptoms

Drugstore medicines like decongestants, cough suppressants, and antihistamines can help congestion, coughing, and nasal symptoms. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can treat pain or a headache.
Read the active ingredients and warnings on all product labels. Many cough and cold medicines have the same ingredients, so you could accidentally overdose unless you're careful. Don't give aspirin to a child under 18. Using it to treat the flu has been linked to a condition called Reye’s syndrome in kids.
Children Washing Hands

Hand-Washing Is Key

Wash your hands well so you don’t spread the flu to other people. Use soap and warm water. Rub your hands together for 20 seconds. Don't forget the areas between your fingers and around your nails. Rinse and dry thoroughly. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers also work.
Wash often during cold and flu season, especially after you cough, sneeze, or blow your nose. Can't find a tissue? Sneeze or cough into your elbow instead of your hands.
Person Receiving H1N1 Vaccine

Get Vaccinated

Get a flu shot. It's made from proteins found on versions of last year’s flu. It helps your body be ready to recognize and fight when you're exposed to the real thing. The flu vaccine can't give you the flu!
The flu shot is very important for children older than 6 months, pregnant women, adults 50 and older, and people with long-term (chronic) illnesses or weak immune systems.
Some years, you can get a nasal mist version of the vaccine.
Woman Wearing Germ Mask in Subway

Is Swine Flu (H1N1) Still a Threat?

The swine flu pandemic officially ended in 2010. Vaccines protect against the swine and seasonal flus, which share many of the same symptoms: cough, sore throat, fever (although not everyone with the flu gets a fever), and body aches.