Urinary tract infections are objectively no fun. If you’ve ever experienced one, maybe you already know that UTI symptoms can include pelvic pain, burning during urination, a frequent urge to pee, and, especially for the elderly, even symptoms of vertigo and problems with cognition.

For people with female anatomy, up to half will experience a UTI during their lifetime. These infections are caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract through the urethra. Fortunately, most UTIs can be treated with antibiotics if you catch them early.

Some doctors say that while sex itself doesn’t cause UTIs, it can increase your risk of getting one. Here’s what you need to know about the connection between sex and UTIs, and whether or not you should have sex while you have an active urinary infection.

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UTI causes

The cause of a UTI is unfriendly bacteria—usually Escherichia coli (E. coli)—entering your urinary tract through your urethra, says Christine Greves, MD, an OB/GYN with Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies in Orlando, FL.

Female anatomy presents particular susceptibility to this type of infection because the anus is so close to both the vagina and urethra. “Women also have a shorter urethra, so access to the genitorurinary system is a bit more exposed,” explains Neil Chappell, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist with Fertility Answers in Baton Rouge and clinical advisor for Frame Fertility in San Francisco.

That doesn’t mean having sex always results in a UTI, just that it could.

Should You Always Pee After Sex? Here’s What Gynecologists Say

So…can you have sex with a UTI?

The short answer is yes, you can have sex with a UTI—with a few caveats. “There’s no inherent reason why having intercourse while having a UTI is necessarily a major risk if you’re adequately diagnosed and treated,” says Dr. Chappell.

It’s rather unlikely you’ll give a UTI to your partner, but there are some considerations. UTI symptoms can be very similar to those of common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Only a licensed healthcare specialist can diagnose between the two. Untreated UTIs can lead to kidney infections, while untreated STDs can lead to fertility problems, among others. “Most practitioners and guidelines these days suggest fairly close monitoring of any signs of a UTI,” says Dr. Chappell.

Dr. Greves says that while sex probably won’t worsen an existing UTI, you could get a second infection that could aggravate the symptoms. “Intercourse can put pressure on your bladder, where you’re very sensitive already,” she adds.

8 Natural Home Remedies for UTI

How to prevent a UTI

There are many precautions you can take to prevent getting UTIs, whatever the reason, in the first place:

  • Don’t mix anal and vaginal intercourse, advises Dr. Greves.
  • Avoid spermicides and douches, as they can kill off the “good” bacteria your system relies on.
  • When using the bathroom, wipe front to back, Dr. Greves stresses.
  • Drink a lot of water after sex to help flush out any bacteria.
  • Consider birth control methods other than a diaphragm, which makes it harder to empty your bladder and can cause the body to harbor bacteria.

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How to treat a UTI

If you do think you have a UTI, here are a few things you can do to manage the symptoms while you wait to see your doctor:

  • Drink a lot of water to eliminate bacteria.
  • Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the need, so bacteria don’t have a chance to take hold.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently.
  • Be mindful that cranberry juice can help in some cases, but it also usually contains sugar…which bacteria feed on to thrive. Try un-sugared cranberry tablets or supplements. (Sugar can also aggravate diabetes, which itself is a risk factor for UTIs.)
  • If you have frequent UTIs, talk with your doctor about taking a prophylactic antibiotic.

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When to see a doctor

Seek medical help any time you have symptoms of a UTI, such as a burning pain when you pee, red or pink urine (which could indicate the presence of blood) or pressure in your abdomen. Also get help if you have signs of a kidney infection such as fever, chills, nausea and vomiting or pain in your lower back.

After treatment is complete, your doctor can do tests to determine the infection is gone. This is the only way to know for sure.

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This flu season was projected to be a tough one. While it’s definitely not too late to get your flu shot, 2022 data from Australia’s earlier flu season indicated that North America could see some of the worst flu infection rates in years.

Which Vaccines Do You Need in 2022-23? Here’s the Breakdown for All Ages

As chilly weather shuffles us indoors and crowds begin to gather for events like mid-term Election Day, gift shopping and holiday gatherings, a representative for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a live update on the real-time status of flu trends on November 8, which falls within week 43 of 2022.

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Flu facts from the CDC on November 8, 2022:

  1. Influenza activity continues to increase. The CDC estimates that, so far this season, there have been at least 1,600,000 illnesses, 13,000 hospitalizations, and 730 deaths from flu.
  2. The second pediatric death of the 2022-23 influenza season was reported this week.
  3. The highest levels of flu activity are occurring in the Southeast and South-Central United States, followed by the Mid-Atlantic and south-central West Coast.
  4. The New Mexico Department of Health reported one human infection with a novel influenza A virus.
  5. The cumulative hospitalization rate is higher than the rate observed in week 43 during every previous season since the 2010-2011 flu season.
  6. An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu. Vaccination helps prevent infection and can also prevent serious outcomes in people who get vaccinated but still get sick with flu.
  7. CDC recommends that everyone ages 6 months and older get a flu vaccine annually.
  8. There are also prescription flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness; those need to be started as early as possible.

Says Dr. Alicia Fry, Branch Chief Epidemiology and Prevention Branch, Influenza Division, CDC “Getting vaccinated is beneficial any time flu viruses are spreading, or may spread, in your community, which is usually October through May in the United States. It’s particularly important if you or a loved one are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications. This includes children younger than five years old, pregnant people, adults 65 years and older, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease.”

Also, if you’re doing all you can to stay safe, wash your hands frequently and don’t underestimate the power of a face mask in preventing the spread of respiratory viruses.

5 Reasons to Wear a Face Mask Other Than Covid-19

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Your gut health is connected to practically everything. A lot of recent research has highlighted the connection between your gut microbiome and your nervous system, immune system, your sleep cycle and even mental it’s no wonder the wellness world is heavily focused on getting gut health in check. And while some brands suggest that you can “heal your gut” with detox programs and fad diets—in truth, the best way to reset your gut is to follow doctor-approved steps for gut-friendly nutrition and habits that may surprise you with the ways they can help your stomach.

Dr. Katie E. Golden, MD, a board-certified physician in Charlotte, N.C., explains that each of us was born with a unique microbiome that changes over time and is impacted by our lifestyles. To reset your gut and get your digestive system into a healthy balance, Dr. Golden outlines five easy steps to help most anyone.

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Step 1: Eat whole, fiber-rich foods

Dr. Golden says healthy gut bacteria tend to start in the kitchen—to be specific: “[…E]ating a whole-food, fiber-rich diet is one of the best ways to treat your gut well.” Fiber helps to feed the good bacteria in your gut that keep your digestive tract thriving.

The whole foods Dr. Golden recommends for gut health are “vegetables and fruits, nuts and seeds, and whole grains.” These can include oats, berries, beans, legumes, cruciferous vegetables and bananas on the greener side of ripeness. In contrast, processed foods have been shown to be a gut-punch to good digestive health, as they often tend to lack fiber and are high in saturated fat.

Dr. Golden also suggests adding probiotics to replenish the bacteria in your gut. “There is some evidence to suggest that fermented foods—such as pickles, sauerkraut, kombucha, and yogurt—can support a healthy gut microbiome.”

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Step 2: Get moving

Dr. Golden suggests incorporating daily physical activity to boost your gut health—and science confirms it. Research published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity in 2017 concluded that exercise “[was] able to enrich the microflora diversity” in ways that contributed to weight loss and relief from gastrointestinal disorders.

Turns out, this connection between exercise and the gut microbiome also works in reverse. A review published in Frontiers of Nutrition made the point that when endurance athletes reduced inflammation and gastrointestinal symptoms, their training and sports performance improved.

The 5 Best Yoga Poses for a Healthier Gut, from a Registered Yoga Teacher

Step 3: Don’t let stress take over

Along with a nutritious diet and plenty of exercise, Dr. Golden says finding ways to reduce stress is key in resetting the gut. One 2020 psychiatry analysis at the Ohio State University suggested that stress and depression negatively affect the composition of gut bacteria. This can further heighten these mental health symptoms, as depression and gut health share an association.

Participating in activities that can lower stress is key to improving your gut health. This can include meditation and deep breathing, getting outside, and even taking a nap.

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Step 4: Limit alcohol

Drinking alcohol can also have a negative impact on your gut health. Of alcohol, Dr. Golden says, “Many people are familiar with the way it can be harmful to your liver—which plays an important role in digestion. But alcohol can also damage the lining of your stomach and intestinal tract, and affect the way you absorb nutrients.”

Research has shown alcohol can lead to leaky gut syndrome, which has been linked to an increased risk of developing alcohol-related cancers.

If you’re looking to reset your gut, taking a break from alcohol may be a wise move.

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Step 5: Evaluate your medications

If you’re taking medication, it may be important to talk to your doctor about whether it could be affecting your gut microbiome.

That’s particularly true with the use of antibiotics. “Antibiotics get rid of harmful bacteria that make us sick, but they also kill some of the good bacteria, too,” Dr. Golden says. “This doesn’t mean you should avoid antibiotics when you need them. But be sure not to take antibiotics prescribed to someone else, or without the recommendation of your provider. And when you do need them for an infection, you can support your gut through other factors, such as your diet.” Some doctors recommend eating fermented foods like yogurt to replace the healthy bacteria that live in the digestive system.

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By now, most of us know far too well how COVID-19 can squash plans at the last minute. Leading up to the holidays in 2021, there appeared to be some hope of normality…but as the Delta variant wave tapered off last fall, Omicron swiftly took over. Entering this holiday season, I’m feeling a lot of hesitation as I think about those texts I received from friends last year to let me know that I’d been exposed to COVID at some sort of holiday function. Again.

While I’m cautious about COVID, I also love to host parties. A charcuterie plate on a random Monday night is enough of a reason to invite my girlfriends over. But still, there are those moments when we’re all together in an enclosed space, and we realize: we’re together. Without masks. In an enclosed space. And while we love being together—and while we may all be vaccinated—we’re also aware of the possibility that any of us could be carrying COVID and passing it to the others.

Which Vaccines Do You Need in 2022-23? Here’s the List, for All Ages

So, if you love parties as much as I do (especially if you plan on visiting any babies, older loved ones, or immunocompromised friends or family): ahead of the holiday season, how can you be more certain that everybody you’re with is COVID-free?

Well, for a recent get-together, I asked a few of my friends to test out On/Go, a smart COVID test that allows you to easily share your results with your entire group. We found the process to use this smart COVID test relatively easy to follow, and effective for the purpose.

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How to buy a smart COVID test

On/Goat home covid test

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Here’s the process for using this smart COVID test, On/Go:

  • Go to your smart phone’s App Store, then download the On/Go app and create an account.
  • Create a new event, title it, and set a date and time
  • Type in how many guests you’ll be inviting to your event who will need tests. This will also give you the total of how much it will cost for your order (each test is just over $8.00 each).
  • Pay, and then invite your guests who will need tests, as well. Guests create an account, insert their address, and tests will be individually delivered.
  • After your guests receive their tests, they can take them before the event and submit them within the app. Test results are then shared with you, the host.

screenshot of the On/Go app in the apple App Store

Before gathering for our charcuterie night, each of my guests took a test and sent in their results to the app. On my end, the On/Go app made it easy to receive results all in one place.

Plus, if a guest ordered their own test outside the party, they could easily join in the event and still share their results—making it feasible for any last-minute invitees to take.

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What was the smart COVID test like?

On/Go at home covid test box and contents

My immediate thought upon taking the test was how aesthetically pleasing the entire experience was. From the packaging of the box to the design of the app, it made taking a COVID test almost…pleasant? Which is honestly something I never thought I would write.

When you take the test, the app walks you through each part step-by-step. No more squinting at a tiny piece of paper from the box to figure out how to take your test. The beautiful graphics and designs on the app will lead you through each step—even timing you properly for each nostril swab.

At first, the test seemed pretty normal compared to any other test you would buy: swab the nose, swirl it in the test solution, then press tiny drops into the COVID test.

So what makes it smart? It’s as simple as a QR code. When your 15 minutes are up, you scan the COVID test into the app and the results pop up. Then your results are submitted to your event. Once all results are in, it’s time to pop the bubbly.

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Will I take a smart COVID test again?

hand holding an On/Go at home covid test box

For the sheer fact that this test was beautifully designed and the entire process was so easy—and, again, nice—I could definitely see myself taking a smart COVID test again. Especially given that the price for this COVID test is pretty reasonable, and they deliver right to your door.

However, I do think it’s important to be sensitive to whether all your guests will be comfortable with this. My friends were up for it, but after surviving the pandemic in New York City, we also rely on the honor system: if you feel even remotely sick, just don’t chance it at all.

6 Clear Signs You’re Getting Sick

It’s also worth noting that the smart COVID test could be a great tool for when you’re traveling for the holidays. I’ll be flying quite a bit this season to see my family, and we’re coming from all over the country. In this case, it might be worth taking a COVID test, especially since we’ll be spending time with our grandparents. Taking a COVID test is likely something that we’ll do before gathering anyway, so having it all coordinated by one app in one space could be convenient for our busy schedules.

Plus, On/Go allows for the host to provide smart COVID tests for the entire party. So if I were to ask friends or family to take a test this holiday season, I could gift it to them and have it sent to them completely for free. Fronting the money may also make the experience easier when you’re asking someone you love to take a test. An early stocking stuffer, if you will? Could be a worthy one.

All in all, the experience was delightful, and definitely something to consider if you’ll be gathering with a whole host of people throughout the holidays.

Shop the On/Go Smart Covid Test Now

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Hyperkalemia (HK), also known as high potassium, is a condition that occurs when potassium levels in the blood are higher than normal. People living with chronic kidney disease (CKD) are at an increased risk of HK because their kidneys may not be able to remove excess potassium from the blood.

Read on to learn the five things you need to know about CKD and high potassium.

1. Understanding Hyperkalemia and its Connection to CKD

The kidneys work as filters for the body, and their job is to remove excess minerals, waste and fluid to keep our bodies healthy. When someone has CKD it means their kidneys are damaged and may not be able to filter blood the way they should.

People living with CKD are at an increased risk of HK because their kidneys may not be able to remove excess potassium. Even though many times there are no symptoms, too much potassium in the blood can cause irregular heartbeats, muscle weakness, numbness or tingling, or, in some cases, even death. An estimated 37 million Americans are living with CKD and up to 40-50% of them are affected by HK.

Healthycreative Hyperkalemiainfo 1200x1200 (4)

2. How to Know if You or a Loved One are at Risk for Hyperkalemia

HK is not only associated with CKD. People living with other conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or heart failure or on certain medications to treat these conditions may have a higher chance of developing HK. If you have any of these conditions, it’s important to talk to your doctor about monitoring your potassium levels.

3. You Can Learn Your Potassium Level with a Simple Blood Test

The only way to know if you have HK is for your doctor to order a blood test. Generally, your potassium level is normal if it is between 3.5 and 5.0 mmol/L (millimoles per litre). HK occurs when your blood potassium level is above 5.0 mmol/L.*

It’s important to remember your results only show the amount of potassium that was in your blood at the time you had the test. This is because your potassium level depends on:

  • How well your kidneys are working
  • How much of it you are getting in what you eat and drink each day
  • If you are taking certain medicines that can affect your potassium level
  • If you are taking certain medicines that lower potassium as prescribed by your doctor

The fact is, high potassium levels can return, spike, or remain high which could lead to serious health issues if left untreated, so it’s important to talk to your doctor to better understand your lab results and options for managing HK that are right for you.

4. There Are Different Options to Help Manage Hyperkalemia

If you have HK, your doctor may recommend treatment options such as lowering potassium in your diet, changing medicines that might cause hyperkalemia, or taking medicines that have been shown to remove potassium from your body. However, reducing potassium in your diet may restrict foods that are part of a heart-healthy diet and contradict with certain meal-centric cultural celebrations that include ingredients like avocados, tomatoes, or dark chocolate. In addition, a recent study published in the Journal of Renal Nutrition found that reducing dietary potassium in people with chronic kidney disease may keep them from getting important healthy nutrients from fruits and vegetables.

It’s important to talk to your doctor about CKD and HK and options that are right for you. Check out the doctor discussion guide on to help you ask the right questions at your next appointment.

5. There is a Community Dedicated to Those Living with CKD and Hyperkalemia

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with CKD or HK, it’s important to know you are not alone. Unfiltered Kidney Conversations (UKC) is a community that seeks to help and inspire everyone affected by CKD and HK, whether you’re living with it or supporting someone you love. We’re a place to get information and resources, because we believe knowledge is power when it comes to your health.

Visit to join the community. You can also join us on Facebook @UnfilteredKidneyConversations for more information and support from fellow CKD warriors.

Ukc Graphic

There’s nothing wrong with winding down at the end of the day, or some weekend recharging with your favorite show on. But being mindful of how much time you spend following the characters you love has found that excessive television time can negatively affect your brain—and no, not just by disrupting your sleep. According to one recent study, a habit of regular TV watching after a certain age has the potential to increase your dementia risk rather significantly.

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How watching TV affects the brain

The study, published in August 2022 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, evaluated 146,651 individuals ages 60 and older. The researchers evaluated neurological decline after 12 years for participants who watched television, compared to a group who had more often engaged with a computer.

The results of the study found that those who spent time watching television saw a significantly greater incidence of dementia (24%), whereas computer users showed a 15% reduced risk. This is likely because even though both of these are sedentary behaviors, there are critical differences in the ways the brain responds to each of them.

While both TV watching and computer use involve time in front of a screen, these activities use the brain in different ways that can affect brain health longterm. Watching television is considered a “cognitively passive sedentary behavior,” meaning the brain isn’t as active and requires lower cognition to engage in the activity. Time in front of the computer is a “cognitively active sedentary behavior,” requiring more brain stimulation. The researchers believed it’s these associations that make the difference in longitudinal memory and cognition.

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Keeping the brain stimulated is key

Mental stimulation is one of the main keys in reducing dementia risk, especially as you age. A 2021 study in the British Medical Journal found that those who had cognitively stimulating jobs experienced a 23% lower risk of developing dementia. The researchers reported that “higher cognitive stimulation at work was associated with lower levels of proteins that inhibit” the development of blood vessels and synapses in the central nervous system.

So stay sharp! While there are many other factors at play that can increase your risk of dementia—like diet, genetics and even the environment—keeping your mind stimulated, even during sedentary activities, can help with neurological disease risk. Some of this research suggests that may be especially important after you celebrate your 60th birthday. (Cue the party hat emoji.)

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Maybe you’ve been hearing how powerful a healthy gut can be when it comes to staving off conditions like cancer and heart disease. There’s also plenty of buzz about how a lack of balance among your gut bacteria can even increase the risk of anxiety and depression.

Further recent research has suggested that gut wellness may lower the likelihood of dementia. In fact, one 2020 geriatric gastroenterology study found that low butyrate levels in the gut—caused largely by malnutrition and medication for many participants in the study—was linked with a higher incidence of dementia.

Now, a new study is further highlighting the link between the gut, brain, and nervous system. As the researchers explain, keeping the ecosystem in your belly happy might have an impact on your risk for developing a particular neurological disease that 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with each year, according to 2022 data from the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Learn more about the power of butyrate in the belly—read Eating This Nut Will Help Your Gut and Reduce Inflammation, New Study Says

Gut inflammation and Parkinson’s disease

A September 2022 peer-reviewed neurosurgical study has pointed to a connection between gut inflammation and the development and progression of Parkinson’s disease—a disorder that attacks the body’s nervous system.

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The researchers suggested this connection is due to the dynamic within the gut-brain axis (GBA), a communication system between the gastrointestinal tract and the central nervous system. The gut-brain axis links intestinal functions to the emotional and cognitive centers of the brain, with those healthy bacteria in the belly playing a significant role for these interactions between the digestive and nervous systems.

To make the connection between gut inflammation and Parkinson’s disease, the researchers compared healthy mice with mice that had Parkinson’s disease to evaluate inflammatory markers in the gut. After evaluating the animals’ waste, they found that the mice with Parkinson’s disease experienced changed patterns within in their gut microbiomes than the control group did.

The study researchers noted that this finding could eventually lead to the use of cell-based regenerative medicine to regulate gut health, reduce inflammation, and even ease symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

The 5 Best Yoga Poses for Gut Health

How to take care of your gut

Information like this might inspire you to focus on gut health with a few healthy practices:

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Obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, can be crippling. A mental health disorder characterized by a cycle of obsessions or compulsive behaviors, OCD can look any number of ways. According to the International OCD Foundation, about one in 100 adults—or two to three million people in the US—currently have OCD, and it can manifest over anything from germ contamination to relationships. The Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5 (DSM-5) characterizes the obsessive component of OCD as “recurrent and persistent thoughts, urges or images that are … intrusive, unwanted, and that in most individuals cause marked anxiety or distress” that the individual attempts to suppress, ignore or neutralize. The compulsive component is defined as “repetitive behaviors” or “mental acts (e.g., praying, counting, repeating words silently) that the person feels driven to perform in response to an obsession, or according to the rules that must be applied rigidly.”

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It’s possible that someone in your life has OCD and you don’t even know it—in fact, comedian and TV personality Howie Mandel went for years without a name for his symptoms. As he works alongside the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the mental healthcare platform NOCD, the America’s Got Talent judge spoke with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest to shine a light on how OCD can play out in an individual’s life, the strategies he uses to manage his OCD, and why it’s so critical for us to pull back the curtain and talk about mental health. (As the NAMI estimates, one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness each year, and one in 20 experience serious mental illness.)

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Howie Mandel on his OCD diagnosis

The Healthy @Reader’s Digest: Howie, thanks for talking with us. We’ve heard you make reference to your OCD in the past, and we’re grateful for this first-hand discussion. When a lot of people think about OCD, they might think of someone with the habits of Sheldon Cooper on Big Bang Theory, or the TV show, Monk: constant hand-washing, checking locked doors, these repeated patterns of behavior. What are some of the ways OCD shows up in a person’s life that you think might surprise most people?

Howie Mandel: OCD comes in many forms, and is often misdiagnosed. I’ve been living with OCD and severe anxiety my entire life and it’s like living in a nightmare, but there are ways to cope and manage.

OCD manifests itself in four main ways: contamination and washing, doubt and checking, ordering and arranging, and unacceptable or taboo thoughts. Symptoms are obsession, compulsion or both. For me it was repetitive and intrusive thoughts and fixations often brought on by my debilitating fear of germs.

8 Clear Signs You Could Have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

The Healthy: What are the strategies you use to manage your OCD?

Howie Mandel: I always try to anchor myself. Quality of life is a real gift. I remind myself that I have to be a champion of my own life, keep going, and push through. There isn’t a week or even a day that goes by that I don’t have a little bit of a struggle, but I have developed coping skills, I have a loving family, friends, and therapeutic tools that work, like NOCD. I often use my humor to get through the toughest moments. If I’m not laughing, I’m crying—so I choose the first as best as I can.

The Healthy: You weren’t officially diagnosed with OCD until you were an adult. Can you talk about that experience? What had your symptoms been, and how long had you been aware of them? What has having a name for these struggles done for you?

Howie Mandel: Yes, I wasn’t officially diagnosed with OCD until I was an adult, but knowing what I know now, it is something that I’ve battled since I was a young kid. After so much mental suffering throughout most of my life, it was a gift, first, to identify my issue as OCD. Once I was diagnosed, my journey to becoming a highly functioning, productive person could begin. My wife pushed me to get help to save our marriage. The top two barriers were—and remain—the stigma attached to OCD and the lack of access to high-quality treatment. NOCD is covered by most insurance providers today.

It’s why I am so passionate about changing the conversation in America, to destigmatize mental health and OCD, because if we could just talk to people, educate people, empower people with information and knowledge, and coping skills to help manage and push through with the support of community and therapies like NOCD offers, no one would have to go through what I went through and feel alone.

8 Early Signs of OCD to Take Seriously

Howie Mandel on transparency around mental health

The Healthy: What’s the most important insight you’ve learned about OCD?

Howie Mandel: I’ve learned that we have to accept that we are not in control of the planet, and what happens around us, but still have to thrive and push through because life is precious. We have to change the conversation and destigmatize mental health because people need to know they are not alone and there are resources out there to help and support, like NOCD.

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The Healthy: What would you say to someone who thinks they might have OCD?

Howie Mandel: You are not alone. Seek support and help from professionals. There are so many people who are misdiagnosed, so take the important steps to get help, and find community and treatment so you can thrive and live!

The Healthy: What do you think about the rising trend of seeing men talk about their mental health?

Howie Mandel: I think it’s amazing! I think it’s important, and I think that it’s necessary. In order to empower people to not feel alone we have to change the conversation and destigmatize mental health and conditions like OCD.

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In September 2022, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that the US had recorded its first case of polio since 2013. Within weeks, the virus was detected in New York City wastewater—a warning sign that the highly contagious disease may once again be circulating.

What’s the effect of polio? Polio is a virus that the CDC says “spreads from person to person and can infect a person’s spinal cord, causing paralysis” to parts of the body. Polio can start with flu-like symptoms and then in some cases develop into “more serious symptoms that affect the brain and spinal cord,” like paralysis and meningitis, the CDC explains.

Large outbreaks of polio were seen in the United States up until the 1950s, says Ashley Lipps, MD, an infectious diseases physician at Ohio State University’s Wexler Medical Center. In that era, the virus’s transmission caused an average of more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year. “The first vaccine for polio was developed in 1955,” Dr. Lipps says, “and after that, rates of polio decreased dramatically.” In fact, the last case of polio originating in the US was in 1979.

To shed light on what’s suddenly happening with polio in 2022, The Healthy @Reader’s Digest spoke with top infectious disease doctors about why a disease the US stamped out in the 1970s has suddenly reemerged—and what you can do to prevent it.

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What is polio?

Polio is an intestinal virus, explains William Schaffner, MD, the Medical Director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. One of the world’s leading infectious disease experts, Dr. Schaffner says that in spite of all of our hygienic measures, intestinal viruses tend to spread very easily from person to person—and the CDC says polio transmission rates are at nearly 100% for children and greater than 90% among adults.

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“[Polio] can cause some intestinal distress,” Dr. Schaffner says. “And if that’s all it did, we wouldn’t worry about it very much.” But about one in every 200 people infected develops irreversible paralysis, according to the World Health Organization.

“We don’t know why this happens, but the virus will leave the intestine and get into the bloodstream,” Dr. Schaffner explains. From there, it can make its way to your spinal cord, where it destroys the motor cells that send signals to muscles around your body. “It’s that paralytic polio that we’re trying to prevent.”

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Is polio reemerging in the US?

Since 1979, sporadic cases of polio have been recorded in the US—mainly in travelers who contracted the disease elsewhere, Dr. Lipps explains. And that’s what experts believe happened in New York this summer. “It appears they contracted [polio] from contact with someone from another country who received a live oral polio vaccine.”

This oral polio vaccine is a live, tamed version of the virus that offers immunity against the disease. But of every 3 million-or-so doses administered, a mutation can occur. This can cause paralytic disease. “Somewhere between six and 12 vaccine-associated cases of polio would occur each year [in the US],” he says, “and that became untenable.”

In the year 2000, the US switched from this oral vaccine to an inactivated version of the virus administered by syringe—and with no risk of this paralysis whatsoever. “In doing so, we eliminated polio in the United States.” But because it’s cheaper and easier to administer, the oral vaccine is still used in other parts of the world.

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So, what happened in New York? “There are some populations, clusters of people in the US, who are not vaccinating their children [against polio],” Dr. Schaffner says. In this August 2022 case, it’s likely that someone from an unvaccinated population traveled to another part of the world, coming into contact with someone who had taken the oral vaccine. And that tamed virus made its way into their intestinal tract. “Then they passed it to other people in their unvaccinated community—and at some point, the vaccine virus mutated in one young man, causing a case of paralytic disease.”

Fortunately, only one case of paralytic disease has emerged so far. “But it’s in the intestinal tracts of a lot of people.” That’s why public health officials are urging that everyone, especially in the New York area, get their polio vaccination status up to date.

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Should we be worried about a polio outbreak?

“Although this [case] is very concerning, those who are fully vaccinated against polio have little to no risk of contracting the disease,” Dr. Lipps says. “The polio vaccine is highly effective (more than 99%) at preventing polio.”

The polio vaccine series is typically given as a four-dose series—at age two months, four months, between six and 18 months, and between four and six years old—as a part of the standard childhood vaccination schedule. “For most people, no boosters are needed,” she says, however: “A booster is sometimes recommended for people at increased risk of exposure to polio, such as those traveling to countries where polio is endemic or where there are active outbreaks.”

If you’re unsure of your vaccination status, Dr. Schaffner says that the polio vaccine is widely available: “During Covid, many of us—children and adults—didn’t see our doctors or other health care providers as frequently.” So it’s as good a time as ever to check in with your doctor and make sure your vaccines are up-to-date.

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If your polio vaccine is taken care of, another meaningful way to fight the virus may be this: for every dollar that the U.S. service organization, Rotary International, commits to polio eradication, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed two dollars. A representative for the Rotary and its 1.4 million volunteers in more than 200 countries tells us these philanthropies have partnered to donate more than $2.6 billion dollars, plus thousands of volunteer hours, and have immunized nearly three billion children in 122 countries against polio since 1985. Visit to make your own pledge against polio.

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flu shot covid booster

If you’ve already rolled up your sleeves for your flu shot and Covid booster, good work. (You can even get your Covid and flu shots the same day…just switch arms!) Vaccinating yourself against these two major viruses is not just a way to prevent the illness in yourself, but it reduces the risk of infection for everyone you’ll encounter in the coming months. That’s important. Infectious disease specialists say this is likely to be one of the worst flu seasons in history. Not to mention, according to the American Red Cross: “[…H]ealth officials warn … that 100 million Americans—equivalent to nearly a third of the country’s population—could get COVID-19 infections in the coming fall and winter.”

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The American Red Cross says both influenza and COVID-19 cases are projected to surge at the same time this winter, while many people hold the mistaken belief that their annual vaccines make them ineligible as blood donors. Instead, says Dr. Baia Lasky, medical director for the American Red Cross, people with their shots make some of the best blood donation candidates: “It’s particularly important during fall and winter months—when we see an increase in cold and flu cases—that those in good health share their good health by giving blood,” Dr. Lasky says.

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Emily Osment, a senior media relations manager with the American Red Cross National Headquarters in Washington, D.C. says getting vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19 causes no waiting period and doesn’t delay your ability to donate blood. This Red Cross representative suggests as long as you’re healthy, feeling well and symptom-free at the time of donation, you can give lifesaving blood.

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The national blood supply has been in critical shortage. The Red Cross offers this 2022 data to encourage you to give:

  • 1 in 7 patients entering a hospital will need a blood transfusion
  • Because blood cannot be stockpiled, vacation activities, severe weather, natural disasters and seasonal illnesses (such as the flu) are a real threat to the blood supply.
  • Blood donations are needed now to help avoid a blood shortage. Unlike other lifesaving treatments, there is no substitute for blood. It can only come from volunteer blood donors rolling up their sleeves to help others.

The Red Cross’s rule in 2022: Remember to donate, even after you vaccinate! You can find your nearest blood donation center by visiting

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In the months leading up to the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics, US Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn found herself lying awake each night, consumed with anxiety. Sure, training for the Olympics would make anyone nervous. But Vonn was already a seasoned vet with three winter Olympics and four World Championships under her belt. So what was so stressful?

On February 5, 2013, Vonn took a terrible crash during the World Championships in Austria and was airlifted to a hospital. Doctors diagnosed her with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament in her right knee, with a tibial plateau fracture (board-certified orthopedic surgeon Matthew Varacallo, MD translates this as an aggressive combination of an ACL tear, an MCL tear, a cartilage injury and joint damage)—which would severely impact her ability to race again. Vonn needed immediate surgery…but she assured her coaches and fans that she would be ready for the 2014 Winter Olympics, which were less than a year away.

That pressure, combined with the pain and recovery process, sent Lindsey Vonn downhill into a cycle of insomnia.

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Lindsey Vonn’s struggles with insomnia

“I was in pain after the surgery which made it hard to sleep, but I knew I needed sleep to recover—and I had to recover to be ready for the Olympics. That stress made it even harder to sleep,” says Vonn, now 38. “It was the most immense pressure.”

While a subsequent injury ended up derailing her chance to compete in Sochi, she did eventually return to her sport—earning three more World Championship medals and another Olympic medal before retiring in 2019.

But besides medals, there was another souvenir Lindsey Vonn kept from her racing days: insomnia.

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“I thought my insomnia would get better after I retired and no longer had the pressure of racing, but it actually got worse,” she says. Vonn believes no longer having the physical outlet of skiing, combined with the increased mental load of her new career as a businesswoman and philanthropist, were to blame.

At night, she’d get into bed and lie awake ruminating over business deals she was managing, investments she was making, ideas for new ventures, and even organizing her home. “I’m kind of a really intense organizer, so I’d lay in bed going through my many checklists,” she says. “It didn’t help that my three dogs, one of whom snores terribly, always wanted to get in bed with me. I’d wake up exhausted and groggy.”

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Lindsey Vonn’s trick to beating insomnia

Over the years, Lindsey Vonn consulted multiple doctors and tried everything to fall asleep and stay asleep. “Teas, sleep supplements, changes to my diet, bedtimes, not using my phone or watching TV before bed, over-the-counter and prescription sleep medicines—you name it, I tried it,” she says. “And nothing worked.”

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Finally in June of 2022, Vonn opened up to her doctor about how much the insomnia was affecting her life…including negatively impacting her mental health. She says the lack of sleep was causing her anxiety to skyrocket, which only worsened the insomnia.

Vonn’s doctor prescribed Quviviq, a nightly treatment for insomnia. “It was a game changer, it has helped me so much,” she says of her six months on the medication. “I’m finally getting real sleep. For the first time in years, I wake up and feel like myself again—energized and happy.”

Now bedtime is a fun, relaxing time of day for her. Sometimes she winds down by reading a book (Grit by Angela Duckworth is her favorite!) or listening to music. But her favorite bedtime routine?

Law & Order plus Ben & Jerry’s is the best way for me to shut off the world,” she laughs. (Sounds perfect to us, too!)

The one thing she still hasn’t managed to fix is keeping her dogs off her bed, including the snoring pup, but, she says, it no longer bothers her. “I sleep right through it!” she says. “And I can’t even tell you how great it feels to say that.”

[Editor’s note: a representative for Quviviq adds that this experience is Vonn’s own, and like all prescription medications, there are benefits and risks. It’s important to talk to your doctor to see what is right for you.]

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Late-night tossing and turning can make you desperate for a fast, effective sleep solution. According to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, up to 35% of adults in the U.S. experience symptoms of insomnia, which means about one in three people are in need of a better night’s rest. One new study suggested a weighted blanket was more powerful than melatonin, while maybe you’ve also tried the recommendations to carefully craft a bedtime routine or try a little feng shui in your room—but what about what you shouldn’t do?

Dr. Benjamin Bikman, PhD, is a cell biologist and co-founder of HLTH Code. A thought leader in metabolic science, Dr. Bikman says good sleep goes hand-in-hand with another habit: if you’re eating too close to bedtime, chances are pretty good you’re sabotaging your sleep.

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How does eating before bed hurt your sleep?

Dr. Bikman says the problem lies with your sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which controls processes in your body that you usually don’t have to think about such as your breathing, heart rate and digestion. While your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is in charge of relaxing you, your SNS is in charge of helping you respond to stressful or dangerous situations by speeding up your heart rate and “making you ready for action,” as Dr. Bikman says. Eating too late into the evening, he explains to The Healthy, could be kicking your SNS into gear.

“When we eat, there is a natural increase in body temperature.” Dr. Bikman says this rise in temp indicates that the body is working to digest food.

“Additionally,” he says, “if the meal or snack happens to increase blood glucose levels (and, if we’re being honest with ourselves, most evening snacks will…), that activates the sympathetic nervous system that makes us feel anxious—increasing heart rate and blood pressure.”

Dr. Bikman says many people believe those are simply symptoms of anxiety, and may blame their poor sleep on feeling stressed out. “However,” he explains, “it’s just the body’s response to overeating the wrong foods before bed.”

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When—and what—should you eat at night?

Dr. Bikman says the timing of your evening bite depends on what you’re eating or drinking. “The unfortunate tendency is to crave snacks that will spike blood glucose,” he says. “Ideally, blood glucose is at fasting levels (below 90 milligrams per deciliter) by the time a person is getting ready for bed. Based on this, a span of about three to four hours would usually be enough to return glucose levels to normal.”

If you need to sneak in some extra calories before you wind down for the day, Dr. Bikman says you shouldn’t eat anything too filling, and you should avoid foods that will increase your glucose the most. “Usually, the big offenders are foods and snacks that are sweet and gooey or salty and crunchy.”

For a sleep-smart evening meal, Dr. Bikman has three rules:

“1. Control carbohydrates (i.e., don’t eat refined starches and sugars);

2. Prioritize protein (i.e., protein helps you feel full and control cravings);

3. Don’t fear fat (i.e., in nature, fat comes with protein—let it come). The latter two (protein and fat) will have little or no effect on blood glucose.”

So if it’s almost time to turn in but your tummy is growling, just make sure you’re at least three hours out from hitting the hay, and skip the warm milk and cookies. Instead, choose something packed with protein or a healthy fat to help you get a good night’s sleep.

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You’ve probably heard that snacking on nuts can be a cracking choice for your health. Pecans, for one, are known for supporting blood sugar management. Pistachios are packed with protein. And Harvard University‘s blog points out that walnuts contain polyunsaturated fats that can help lower cholesterol and improve your heart health.

Now, according to a new study, another beloved nut’s just been shown to benefit your gut and possibly lower inflammation.

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How Almonds Benefit the Gut

The clinical study, published in September 2022 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (and funded by the Almond Board of California), found that consuming almonds increased butyrate—a type of microbiota byproduct that’s been linked with a range of health benefits. These “good” bacteria help break down the dietary fiber in the large intestine, and are known for being the main energy source for your colon cells.

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The study’s design was as follows: researchers from King’s College London gathered 87 healthy adults for a randomized controlled trial. For four weeks, one group ate two ounces of whole almonds, another ate two ounces of ground almonds, and the control group ate a muffin in place of their usual snack. At the end of the four weeks, researchers analyzed the composition and diversity of the participants’ gut microbiota, as well as other factors related to gut health and digestion.

As a result—while almonds had a limited impact on gut microbiota composition—the participants who ate almonds experienced a significant increase in the gut’s butyrate level.

Lead researcher Kevin Whelan, PhD, RD, Professor of Dietetics, King’s College London commented on the link between almonds and gut health. “Part of the way in which the gut microbiota impact human health is through the production of short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate,” said in a recent press release. “These molecules act as a fuel source for cells in the colon, they regulate the absorption of other nutrients in the gut, and they help balance the immune system.”

Plus, according to the report, the participants’ increased fiber consumption did not trigger any gastrointestinal symptoms that caused discomfort. Eating enough fiber is an important habit for gut health. Without it, the gut bacteria won’t have anything to feed on. (This is also important for bulking up the stool.)

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Why a healthy gut is key for general wellness

Along with reducing inflammation, a healthy gut has been shown to helping to prevent infection, improving depression symptoms, decreasing the risk of chronic diseases (including dementia), and even helping you live longer.

Butyrate has also been associated with other health benefits, such as improved sleep, reduced inflammation, a healthier immune system, and lowered the risk of colon cancer. Incorporating almonds into your diet is a great place to start taking care of your gut, as well as these best foods for gut health.

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February 2022 data from the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that over the past 20 years, the use of melatonin supplements to support healthy sleep has increased by 478%. If you’ve turned to this sleep hormone in pill form, you know that when a melatonin supplement does its job, it really helps. But if you’ve discovered that’s not always the case, a brand-new study may have found a more reliable—and even more natural—solution. Earlier this month, Swedish researchers shared their finding that another increasingly popular sleep aid was remarkably effective at triggering the release of melatonin in the body.

In the October 2022 study—which was published in the Journal of Sleep Research26 men and women were asked to sleep one night with a weighted blanket, then one night without. After measuring the participants’ saliva for levels of three hormones (melatonin, oxytocin and cortisol), the study concluded that melatonin levels increased by an impressive 32% when participants slept with a weighted blanket.

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Why a melatonin supplement isn’t always the best solution

Melatonin is a hormone the brain releases when it’s exposed to darkness, assisting in the regulation of your circadian rhythm to help you sleep. But there are factors that affect melatonin production. As examples, one 2012 German study published in Scientific World Journal pointed out that melatonin secretion decreases with age, as well as for many individuals who experience illnesses such as dementia, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.

The blog for Johns Hopkins Medicine also points out that lifestyle patterns can affect the body’s melatonin output. Habits like using personal tech products and eating too close to bedtime can also make it more difficult for the body to produce melatonin and fall asleep.

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Further, the science behind the efficacy of melatonin is still up for debate. Melatonin supplements are made synthetically. Plus, according to the guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American College of Physicians—there isn’t enough evidence to prove that taking melatonin can benefit chronic insomnia. Some doctors say that your melatonin receptors can desensitize with consistent melatonin use, and research even shows it can even induce depression.

Plus, according to the Sleep Foundation, some melatonin supplements contain less melatonin, or even more (up to 500%), than what the label states. Taking too much melatonin can result in unwanted side effects, such as headaches, changes in blood pressure, drowsiness, or vomiting, or other concerning effects.

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How to increase your melatonin naturally

Weighted blankets are known for providing deep pressure simulation, according to the Sleep Foundation. This means the controlled pressure from the weight can help to calm your nervous system, reduce anxiety, and increase sleep quality. That’s not to mention, as this study asserts: weighted blankets can even help you fall asleep faster when you’re feeling restless at night.

The Sleep Foundation offers additional explanation for why a weighted blanket can support sleep so beautifully: “Weighted blankets are said to work in the same way a tight swaddle helps newborns feel snug and cozy.” One interesting note worth mentioning: the researchers who led the Swedish study suggest that to be effective, the blanket should be around 12% of the individual’s body weight. To find the best weighted blanket for you, check out the 6 Best Weighted Blankets According to Amazon Reviews.

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