Monthly Archives: July 2011

Older Women at Greater Risk for Common STD, Study Suggests

Older Women at Greater Risk for Common STD, Study Suggests


The sexually transmitted disease trichomoniasis may be much more common among older women than those in their 20s, and researchers are recommending routine screening for sexually active women aged 40 and older.

“We usually think of STDs as more prevalent in young people, but our study results clearly show that with [trichomoniasis], while too many young people have it, even more, older women are infected,” said the study’s senior study investigator, Charlotte Gaydos, professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in a university news release. Continue reading Older Women at Greater Risk for Common STD, Study Suggests




Masturbation refers to sexual arousal (and often orgasm as well) by manual stimulation of the genitals.

Generally, the word indicates self-stimulation. But it’s worth noting that in 2010 some sexologists use the expression to indicate pleasuring of another person by hand, in phrases such as ‘the husband can masturbate the wife to help her achieve a climax’. However, in this article we shall deal only with self-stimulation.

This is the form of sexual behaviour that most of us learn first – quite instinctively. And, until recently, it was probably the type of sex least talked about. Continue reading Masturbation

Are Changes In My Vaginal Discharge OK?

Are Changes In My Vaginal Discharge OK?


Normal vaginal discharge has several purposes: cleaning and moistening the vagina, and helping to prevent and fight infections. Although it’s normal for the color, texture, and amount of vaginal fluids to vary throughout a girl’s menstrual cycle, some changes in discharge may indicate a problem.

First, it helps to learn some of the differences between normal and abnormal vaginal discharge. This will help you to recognize changes that may occur. Continue reading Are Changes In My Vaginal Discharge OK?

Men: What Your Sex Life Says About Your Health

Men: What Your Sex Life Says About Your Health


Sex is great until, well, it’s not so great. When something goes awry, it’s easy to blame being in a bad patch or a bad relationship. Or . . . could your body be trying to tell you something?

“There’s an increasing awareness that sex isn’t just about quality of life — sex can be a harbinger of underlying medical conditions,” says urologist John Mulhall, director of the Sexual Medicine Program and the Sexual Medicine Research Laboratory at Weill Medical College of Cornell University in New York City.

The following ten sex scenes are no fun, but they’re worth mentioning to your favorite primary doctor or urologist (the specialist who handles many men’s plumbing issues).

Sex scene #1: You’re just not interested any more.

It might be: Low testosterone

Lots of things can cause your sex drive to shift into neutral: work stress, falling out of love, lack of sleep. But what if those things don’t apply and you’d still rather count sheep than make love? Or if the sights and touches that once turned you on leave you literally unmoved? You might have a hormone out of whack.

“Testosterone is the most important metabolic hormone for men,” Mulhall says. “If it’s low, you’re at increased risk for osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, coronary artery disease, metabolic syndrome, and premature death — and your only symptom may be low libido.”

What to do: Get your testosterone level checked with a simple blood test. Make the appointment for before 10 a.m., Mulhall says, when levels are highest. If yours is low, you’ll be referred to a urologist or endocrinologist who can help you evaluate treatment options, which include testosterone supplements.

Sex scene #2: You’re just not interested — and you’re feeling down, too.

It might be: Depression — or depression meds

Loss of interest in sex is a classic sign of clinical depression. Yet the treatment for depression can have the same side effect. Talk about a catch-22. Drugs in the SSRI family of antidepressants (including Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft) have been found in many studies to zap desire in both men and women. (They can also cause anorgasmia — the inability to climax.)

What to do: If you haven’t been diagnosed with depression and you’re feeling low (along with experiencing low libido and other common symptoms of depression), mention all this to a doctor. Clinical depression is highly treatable with talk therapy and medication. If you’re currently being treated with an antidepressant, ask your prescribing doctor about switching to a class of drugs less associated with sexual side effects, such as bupropion (Wellbutrin). Ask, too, about taking a “drug holiday” from an SSRI if you’re on one; some doctors endorse quitting these meds for a day or two at a time in order to allow libido to bloom.

Sex scene #3: More and more often, you can’t hold an erection.

It might be: A heart problem (the cardiovascular kind, not the romantic kind)

Say you’re a relatively healthy midlife guy, a little overweight, and you start having erectile trouble. Count yourself lucky. It might be your tip-off that you’re three to five years away from coronary artery disease, says Mulhall. “Two-thirds of men who have had heart attacks had erectile dysfunction (ED) that predated angina by at least three years,” he says. “Men are increasingly being diagnosed with ED due to low blood flow, which increases their chance of heart disease.”

What to do: Get your cholesterol checked. It’s abnormal in 75 percent of men with ED, Mulhall says. “ED isn’t just about having bad sex; it’s a window to your vascular health,” he says. And before things worsen, start exercising and lose weight.

Sex scene #4: You suddenly can’t get it up — but you were fine last month.

It might be: A blocked artery, especially if your leg mysteriously hurts too

The occasional limp penis is a casualty of naturally decreasing hormone levels as men age and experience changes in relationships, says Adam Tierney, a urologist with Dean Health Systems in Madison, Wisconsin. But what happens when ED comes on suddenly? An unusual but worrisome cause is aortoiliac occlusive disease, or Leriche’s syndrome, a narrowing of a heart artery due to blockage.

Hallmarks of Leriche’s syndrome: erectile problems that come on suddenly (one week you’re fine, and the next you have persistent issues) and are accompanied by pain in the leg (especially the calf) or the buttock, especially when you walk or exercise. People with problems of the nervous system (Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes) are at higher risk, as are smokers and those with high blood pressure.

What to do: Report this unusual combination of symptoms to your doctor. “It’s another kind of blood flow issue,” Tierney says.

Sex scene #5: Your penis aches while you’re having intercourse.

It might be: Peyronie’s disease

Peyronie’s disease, an uncommon condition that can develop at any age, is the formation of abnormal scar tissue under the penile skin, which can cause a hardened spot in the middle or make the penis bend slightly when erect. It’s often simply noticed as a constant discomfort during intercourse. “Some guys come in and say, ‘My penis just aches when I have sex,'” Mulhall says.

What to do: Always take pain as a sign something’s amiss — and tell your doctor. Peyronie’s cause is unknown, but it’s not an STD or a cancer. (It sometimes runs in families.) There’s no surefire treatment, although surgery is often successful.

Sex scene #6: Your partner, touching you, asks, “Hey, what’s that?”

It might be: Testicular cancer

Testicular cancer is asymptomatic — it doesn’t hurt. But it often presents as a painless bump or swelling on the testicle, which can be detected through self-exam (a good monthly habit) or by a partner’s roaming hands during sex.

What to do: Testicular cancer has a near-100-percent cure rate in early stages, so don’t ignore a lump; get yourself to a doctor. The best time for self-exams: standing up in a hot shower, when your muscles are relaxed.

Sex scene #7: You ejaculate way too quickly.

It might be: Hyperthyroidism

Premature ejaculation (PE) — climaxing either before intercourse or very soon after it begins — is the bane of younger men but can strike at any age. How soon is too soon is a relative issue, but a general rule of thumb is that PE is a problem when it routinely strikes without any control within a couple of minutes of insertion and sooner than either partner would like. As many as one in three men experience it at some point in their lives. Psychological issues (too excited, too immature, guilt) were once blamed for all cases, but doctors now know there can be physical causes, especially a malfunctioning thyroid (the gland responsible for making and storing key regulatory hormones).

“For some men, the only symptom of hyperthyroidism is premature ejaculation,” Mulhall says. One 2005 study found that fully half of men with a malfunctioning (hyper) thyroid complained of PE.

What to do: Though premature ejaculation is hard for many men to talk about, it’s highly treatable. If blood tests and an exam point to hyperthyroidism, medication can return your sex life to normal. And if your thyroid checks out OK? Therapies that thwart PE include breathing exercises, distraction, using a condom to diminish sensation, and behavioral therapies. SSRI-class antidepressants are also prescribed because, Tierney says, in healthy people without PE, they cause delayed orgasm.

Sex scene #8: When you ejaculate, it hurts.

It might be: A muscle spasm disorder, or prostatitis

In women, there’s a condition known as vulvodynia, mysteriously chronic pain of the vulva (around the vaginal opening). Penile pain at orgasm is thought to be the male counterpart, Mulhall says. The latest thinking on both conditions is that they’re some kind of nerve disorder, although it’s not clear whether this is in response to an infection or some kind of trauma, or what. It’s more often seen in young men in high-stress phases of life.

Another possible cause for painful ejaculation is prostatitis, an inflammation of the prostate, which is a gland located up under the rectum. “It’s a benign condition but an annoying one,” Tierney says. And the cause is a mystery in this case, too.

What to do: Dysorgasmia (orgasmic pain) is tough to treat. Some men choose to endure discomfort, while others work with a qualified doctor (usually a urologist) to try various treatments.

Sex scene #9: When you ejaculate, nothing comes out!

It might be: Your prostate meds

Retrograde ejaculation is a condition where you experience orgasm — but little to no semen comes out. (It exits through the bladder.) Alpha-blockers such as tamsulosin (Flomax), used to improve urination in men with enlarged prostate, are a common culprit. Sometimes diabetics also experience this due to nerve damage.

What to do: Nothing, unless it bothers you. “Most men don’t care, but some do,” Tierney says. A couple struggling with infertility would want to explore drug treatments or assistive reproduction techniques to remedy the condition.

Sex scene #10: It takes forever to ejaculate — if it happens at all.

It might be: Diabetes, or prediabetes in the form of a weight problem

In 9 out of 10 men with anorgasmia — the inability to reach orgasm — the root cause is psychological (anything from performance anxiety to work stress to a history of childhood sexual abuse). But in the remaining 10 percent of cases, there’s a penile sensory problem, most often caused by nerve damage due to diabetes, Tierney says.

Diabetics typically have other clues to the disease, including numbness in the feet, thirst, itchy skin, excessive urination, and fatigue — but they don’t always link the condition to sexual performance problems, which can include the inability to climax.

Overweight but not diabetic? “There’s increasing evidence that obesity itself is a medical cause of erectile dysfunctions and loss of libido,” Tierney says. “And obviously it can be a psychological barrier in the form of self-esteem issues.”

What to do: Ask your doctor about medications to treat ED, such as Viagra or Cialis, but be aware that because diabetics often have heart problems, these drugs aren’t always recommended. Instead: Don’t discount the healing power of lifestyle changes.

“People want to take a pill to make sexual problems better, but a pill won’t fix problems that are further back,” Tierney says. “Sometimes the best fix is to do the hard work of taking better care of yourself: stress management, losing weight, working on the underlying medical conditions.”

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Is it normal to get erections?

Is it normal to get erections?


Yes. Erections are a perfectly normal function of the male body, especially in guys who are going through puberty.

What Is an Erection?

An erection is a hardening of the penis that occurs when sponge-like tissue inside the penis fills up with blood. Usually, an erection causes the penis to enlarge and stand away from the body.

Erections can go away on their own or after ejaculation, the release of semen through the urethra, the small hole at the tip of the penis.

Sometimes guys ejaculate at night while sleeping (these are called nocturnal emissions or wet dreams). Guys may have several erections and arousal periods while in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, the type of sleep in which most dreams occur.

What Causes Erections?

Although many erections are caused by sexual arousal, such as watching a sexy television show or fantasizing, many erections seem to happen for no particular reason.

So if you’ve had an erection in an odd or embarrassing situation — like right in the middle of a really boring history lesson — there’s no reason to worry that something is wrong with you. Your body is just acting naturally for a guy your age.

Am I Getting Too Many Erections?

Because each guy is different, it’s impossible to say what’s a “normal” number of erections. Some guys experience many erections each day, whereas others may not experience any.

Hormones fluctuate with age, sexual maturity, level of activity, and even the amount of sleep a guy gets. Unless your erections are causing you discomfort or pain, don’t worry about how many you get.

If you’re concerned, talk to your doctor, who can answer your questions and probably put your mind at ease.

What Can I Do to Avoid Getting Erections?

Because erections usually aren’t controllable, there’s not much you can do to avoid getting them. Unless the penis is stimulated enough to ejaculate, time is the only thing that will help them go away.

As your hormones settle down and you advance through puberty, the frequency of unexpected erections and wet dreams should decrease.

Why is my voice changing?

Why is my voice changing?

One minute, Dan’s voice sounds normal. The next minute, he can barely get through a sentence without his voice sounding like it’s out of control: high one minute, low the next, then high again. It’s not a cold or a sore throat. In fact, everything feels normal — but nothing sounds right.

Dan’s voice is changing. It’s one of the many developments that happen to both girls and guys when they reach puberty. A guy’s voice gets way deeper than a girl’s, though.

What Causes My Voice to Change?

At puberty, guys’ bodies begin producing a lot of the hormone testosterone (pronounced: tes-tahs-tuh-rone), which causes changes in several parts of the body, including the voice. For starters, a guy’s larynx (pronounced: lar-inks), also known as the voice box, grows bigger.

The larynx, which is located in the throat at the top of the trachea (pronounced: tray-kee-ah) or windpipe, is like a hollow tube about 2 inches (5 centimeters) high. The larynx is responsible for creating the sound of your voice.

Stretched across your larynx are two muscles, your vocal cords, which are kind of like rubber bands. When you breathe, your vocal cords relax against the walls of the larynx and completely open to allow air to get in and out of your lungs. When you speak, though, your vocal cords close together by stretching across the larynx. Air from your lungs is then forced out between your vocal cords, causing them to vibrate and produce the tone of your voice.

When you lower your voice, your vocal cords are relaxed and more floppy. When you make your voice higher, your vocal cords tighten. (You can notice this difference in how they feel as you adjust your speech.)

As your larynx grows, your vocal cords grow longer and thicker. Also, your facial bones begin to grow. Cavities in the sinuses, the nose, and the back of the throat grow bigger, creating more space in the face that gives your voice more room to echo. All of these factors cause your voice to get deeper.

Think of a guitar. When a thin string is plucked, it vibrates and produces a high-sounding tone. When a thicker string is plucked, it sounds much deeper when it vibrates. That’s kind of what happens to your voice. Before your growth spurt, your larynx is relatively small and your vocal cords are relatively thin. So your voice is high and kid-like. But as bones, cartilage, and vocal cords grow, your voice starts to sound like an adult’s.

Along with all the other changes in your body, you might notice that your throat area looks a little different. For guys, when the larynx grows bigger, it tilts to a different angle inside the neck. Part of it sticks out in the part of the neck at the front of the throat and forms the Adam’s apple. For girls, the larynx also grows bigger but not as much as a guy’s. That’s why girls don’t have Adam’s apples.

Why Is My Voice So Hard to Control?

While your body is getting used to these changes, your voice can be difficult to control. A guy’s voice “cracks” or “breaks” because his body is getting used to the changing size of his larynx. Fortunately, the cracking and breaking is only temporary. It usually lasts no longer than a few months. And even during that time, your voice won’t crack every time you speak.

Some guys’ voices might drop gradually, whereas others’ might drop quickly. You may feel concerned, stressed, or embarrassed about the sound of your voice, but people usually understand — especially friends or brothers who’ve gone through it, too. Everyone goes through it, and once it happens, it takes a while to adjust to your larger larynx and the new sound of your voice.

When Will My Voice Change?

You may have noticed that some of your friends have cracking and breaking voices, some might already have deep voices, and some still have the same voice they’ve always had. Everyone’s timetable is different, so some voices might start to change earlier and some might start a little later. Generally, a guy’s voice will start to change somewhere between the ages of 11 and 15 — although it can be earlier or later for some people. It all depends on when a guy goes through puberty, and some normal guys enter puberty earlier or later than others.

How Deep Will My Voice Get?

How deep a guy’s voice gets depends on his genes: The larger a guy’s larynx, the thicker the vocal cords, and the bigger the resonating area, the deeper his voice will be.

Once your larynx has grown, your voice will be more stable and easier to control. But even then your voice hasn’t finished developing! Even after the quick change that happens in your teens, your voice continues to develop. Although the squeaking and cracking stage doesn’t last long, most guys’ voices don’t fully mature until they’re in their twenties.

What to Do if Your Sex Partner Refuses to Wear a Condom

What to Do if Your Sex Partner Refuses to Wear a Condom


Safer sex

People are always complaining about condoms; they say they’re uncomfortable, kill their erections, or disrupt the intimacy or sensitivity of sex. Others feel that being asked to use a condom implies a partner’s distrust or promiscuity. If your partner uses his disapproval of condoms as an excuse to avoid wearing one, you’re not alone.

Condoms so drastically reduce the risk of becoming infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) and avoiding pregnancy, however, that it’s worth finding a way to change your partner’s mind. Here are a few time-tested strategies that may help.

Plan ahead

Before things get hot and heavy, set ground rules with your partner about what risks you’re willing to take and which measures you’ll take to protect yourselves and each other.

Get the right size

One condom does not fit all. Luckily condoms come in many shapes, sizes, colors, flavors, textures, and materials, so chances are pretty good that there’s a style that fits your needs for comfortable and enjoyable sex. “I encourage people to investigate different condoms and lubes with their partners to find what works best for them,” says Perry N. Halkitis, PhD, a psychologist specializing in HIV at New York University.

For instance, you can find condoms that are ribbed or studded to increase friction for both partners, or something with a warming lubricant. “Microthin” condoms minimize the barrier between partners without sacrificing safety. You can experiment with different shapes such as Trojan’s Twisted Pleasure or the extra-loose Pleasure Plus, which claims to simulate unprotected sex.

Try a dose of Reality

If you’re a woman who can’t get her man to wear a regular condom, you might try the Reality female condom, which you wear in your vagina. These should not, however, be used in conjunction with male condoms, as friction between the two can cause tears.

Adjust your attitude

Insisting on the use of a condom is about protecting not just you, but your partner as well. “Asking a partner to wear a condom is not an indication of a lack of love, but a true expression of the affection that you share,” says Halkitis.

Keep it up

Some men have difficulty maintaining an erection while wearing a condom. Sometimes a poor-fitting condom causes this, and other times, it’s psychological, related to a sexual dysfunction, or caused by alcohol- or drug-related erectile dysfunction (ED). If switching condoms (or sobering up) doesn’t resolve the issue, see your doctor

Be practical

Sliding on a condom doesn’t have to put the fun on hold. Do what you can to minimize the interruption, such as keeping an ample supply of condoms within arm’s reach.

Why gardening is good for your health….

Why gardening is good for your health….

Gillian Aldrich started growing vegetables in her backyard three years ago, and she’s now working on planting a bed of hydrangeas, butterfly bushes, rose campion, and — her favorite — pale-pink hardy geraniums along one side of her property.

As she digs in the garden, her 8-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son often play around her, sometimes taking a break to dig for worms or pick strawberries.

Instead of watching them, Aldrich is playing, too — “my kind of play,” she says.

“When you sit at a desk all day, there’s something about literally putting your hands in the dirt, digging and actually creating something that’s really beautiful,” says Aldrich, 42, a magazine editor in Maplewood, New Jersey. “There’s something about just being out there that feels kind of elemental.”

Aldrich isn’t the only one who feels this way. Many gardeners view their hobby as the perfect antidote to the modern world, a way of reclaiming some of the intangible things we’ve lost in our busy, dirt-free lives.

The sensory experience of gardening “allows people to connect to this primal state,” says James Jiler, the founder and executive director of Urban GreenWorks, a Miami-based nonprofit that creates garden and park programs for low-income neighborhoods.

“A lot of people [understand] that experience. They may not be able to put it into words, but they understand what’s happening.”

Working in the garden has other, less spiritual rewards. In addition to being a source of fresh, healthy produce, gardening can ease stress, keep you limber, and even improve your mood.

Here are just a few of the ways gardening can benefit your physical and mental health, and how you can start harvesting those benefits for you and your family.

Stress relief

A recent study in the Netherlands suggests that gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities.

After completing a stressful task, two groups of people were instructed to either read indoors or garden for 30 minutes. Afterward, the group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the reading group, and they also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

“We live in a society where we’re just maxing ourselves out all the time in terms of paying attention,” says Andrea Faber Taylor, Ph.D., a horticulture instructor and researcher in the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Humans have a finite capacity for the kind of directed attention required by cell phones and email and the like, Taylor says, and when that capacity gets used up we tend to become irritable, error-prone, distractible, and stressed out.

Fortunately this “attention fatigue” appears to be reversible. Following a theory first suggested by University of Michigan researchers in the 1980s, Taylor and other experts have argued that we can replenish ourselves by engaging in “involuntary attention,” an effortless form of attention that we use to enjoy nature.

Trading your BlackBerry for blackberry bushes is an excellent way to fight stress and attention fatigue, Taylor says, as the rhythms of the natural environment and the repetitive, soothing nature of many gardening tasks are all sources of effortless attention.

“The breeze blows, things get dew on them, things flower; the sounds, the smells,” says Taylor, herself a home gardener. “All of these draw on that form of attention.”

Better mental health

The effortless attention of gardening may even help improve depression symptoms.

In a study conducted in Norway, people who had been diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood, or “bipolar II disorder” spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables.

After three months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. What’s more, their mood continued to be better three months after the gardening program ended. The researchers suggest that the novelty of gardening may have been enough to jolt some of the participants out of their doldrums, but some experts have a much more radical explanation for how gardening might ease depression.

Christopher Lowry, Ph.D., an assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has been injecting mice with Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, and has found that they increase the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood — much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do.

Digging in the dirt isn’t the same as taking Prozac, of course, but Lowry argues that because humans evolved along with M. vaccae and a host of other friendly bugs, the relative lack of these “old friends” in our current environment has thrown our immune systems out of whack.

This can lead to inflammation, which is implicated in a host of modern ills, from heart disease to diabetes to depression.

“By reintroducing these bacteria in the environment, that may help to alleviate some of these problems,” Lowry says.


Gardening gets you out in the fresh air and sunshine — and it also gets your blood moving.

“There are lots of different movements in gardening, so you get some exercise benefits out of it as well,” says William Maynard, the community garden program coordinator for the City of Sacramento’s Department of Parks and Recreation.

Gardening is hardly pumping iron, and unless you’re hauling wheelbarrows of dirt long distances every day, it probably won’t do much for your cardiovascular fitness.

But digging, planting, weeding, and other repetitive tasks that require strength or stretching are excellent forms of low-impact exercise, especially for people who find more vigorous exercise a challenge, such as those who are older, have disabilities, or suffer from chronic pain.

As a pleasurable and goal-oriented outdoor activity, gardening has another advantage over other forms of exercise: People are more likely to stick with it and do it often.

“It’s not just exercise for exercise itself, which can become tedious,” says Katherine Brown, the executive director of the Southside Community Land Trust, a nonprofit that supports community gardens and other urban agriculture in and around Providence, R.I. “It’s exercise that has a context, that reinforces the limberness of your limbs and the use of your hands. You’ve got a motivation for why you want to grip. You’re not just gripping a ball, you want to pull a weed.”

Brain health

Some research suggests that the physical activity associated with gardening can help lower the risk of developing dementia.

Two separate studies that followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years found, respectively, that those who gardened regularly had a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners, even when a range of other health factors were taken into account.

These findings are hardly definitive, but they suggest that the combination of physical and mental activity involved in gardening may have a positive influence on the mind.

And for people who are already experiencing mental decline, even just walking in a garden may be therapeutic. Many residential homes for people with dementia now have “wander” or “memory” gardens on their grounds, so that residents with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive problems can walk through them without getting lost.

The sights, smells, and sounds of the garden are said to promote relaxation and reduce stress.


The food you grow yourself is the freshest food you can eat. And because home gardens are filled with fruits and vegetables, it’s also among the healthiest food you can eat.

Not surprisingly, several studies have shown that gardeners eat more fruits and vegetables than their peers.

“People who are growing food tend to eat healthy,” says Brown. “The work that we do here with kids demonstrates it on a daily basis, throughout the seasons.”

Studies of after-school gardening programs suggest that kids who garden are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. And they’re a lot more adventurous about giving new foods a try, says Anne Palmer, who studies food environments as the program director of Eating for the Future, a program based at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future, in Baltimore.

“I’ve watched a lot of cooking and gardening classes with kids,” Palmer says. “It’s amazing how many of them will try things like radicchio or some kind of unusual green that has a pretty strong flavor, like arugula, and they’ll say, ‘Wow, this is good.'”

Not to mention that homegrown produce simply tastes better.

“It’s incomparably more delicious to eat something that’s fresh,” Brown says.

How to get started

You don’t need a big backyard or a green thumb to benefit from gardening. If you have very little space or experience, you can start out with just a few houseplants, or you could even try gardening in containers.

“You can grow a wonderful crop of cherry tomatoes in nothing more than a five-gallon bucket that you’ve cleaned really well and put holes in the bottom of,” Brown says.

For novices who want to learn the basics of gardening, a huge — and somewhat overwhelming — variety of information is available on the Web and in bookstores. But one of the best ways to get started is to meet some other gardeners, who can be found in local garden clubs and community gardens in just about any town or city.

For some great gardening tips, just start up a conversation with one of the gardeners next time you are passing by a community garden.

“Most will love to share their gardening savvy,” Brown says. “That’s a really nice way to start.”

Floss for fertility’, women advised

Floss for fertility’, women advised


Women who want the best chance of having a baby should make sure they floss their teeth regularly, say doctors.

Poor oral health is as bad for fertility as obesity – delaying conception by about two months.

Experts at a fertility meeting in Sweden heard how women with gum disease took over seven months to conceive, compared to the usual five months.

They believe the underlying cause is inflammation.

Unchecked, this can set off a chain of reactions capable of damaging the body’s normal workings.

Peridontal disease has already been linked with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and miscarriage, plus poor sperm quality in men.

In this latest study from Australia, which involved over 3,500 women, those with gum disease had raised blood levels of markers for inflammation.

Lead researcher Professor Roger Hart, of the University of Western Australia, said: “Until now, there have been no published studies that investigate whether gum disease can affect a woman’s chance of conceiving, so this is the first report to suggest that gum disease might be one of several factors that could be modified to improve the chances of a pregnancy.”

He said women trying for a baby should now add a trip to their dentist to the check list along with stopping smoking and drinking, maintaining a healthy weight and taking folic acid supplements.

UK fertility expert Dr Allan Pacey said: “It’s common sense advice really to make sure you are in a healthy condition if you want to try for a baby.”

Around 10% of the population is believed to have severe periodontal disease.