Video games to combat STDs
"Super Mario Bros 3" (1990) and "Doom" (1993) are two of the top video games ever -- even if they've been left in the dust by 2017's more souped-up "Arms" (Nintendo Switch) and "Dragon Quest Heroes II." But whatever your video game favorites, we're bettin' you never figured there'd be one devoted to preventing sexually transmitted diseases. Well there is, and it's arrived none too soon. STDs (particularly chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis) have hit an all-time high in the U.S.
To help stop transmission of STDs, researchers at Yale University recently developed just such a video game. And according to a new study, it improved sexual health knowledge and attitudes among kids 11 to 14 years old from 12 community after-school, school and summer programs. Out of 300 kids, the group who played the game, which has students make decisions in realistic situations, was more likely to answer sexual health questions correctly and had a healthier attitude toward sexual behavior.
Although the video game isn't yet available to the public, you can help protect your child from contracting an STD by having conversations with them about the risks. Like in the video game, discuss different social scenarios that might happen and ways to react that increase protection. Explain that while chlamydia, syphilis and sometimes gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics, if untreated, they can cause infertility, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, and increased risk for HIV transmission. Need help? Check out the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health's resources for parents about talking to teens about sex and more found at www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/.
Teeing up a cup of tea
In the 2003 film "Green Tea," a woman named Wu Fang (played by Zhao Wei) orders a cup of green tea on every date, hoping that by reading the tea leaves she'll be able to predict her future with each man she meets. But she's never able to get a fix on the guys' character and goes from one disastrous encounter to the next. Although green tea is tasty and packed with well-established health benefits, maybe she should have tried ordering black tea instead!
New lab research published in the European Journal of Nutrition shows that decaffeinated black tea is great for your inner life. It works as a powerful prebiotic and promotes weight loss, even when eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet, by decreasing the percentage of gut bacteria associated with obesity and increasing bacteria associated with lean body mass.
Decaf green tea also promotes healthy gut bacteria and weight loss, and previous research asserted that green tea delivered more health benefits than black. But, say the researchers, their new findings suggest that, "through a specific mechanism in the gut microbiome, [black tea] may also contribute to good health and weight loss in humans."
Since caffeine isn't required to get health benefits from tea, you can always sip an after-dinner cup. Enjoy what researchers in a study in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition say are the brews' "anti-oxidative, anti-
inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticarcinogenic, antihypertensive, neuroprotective, cholesterol-lowering, and thermogenic properties" that help prevent a wide range of diseases. Now, that's a mouthful.
Talking to kids about traumas and disasters
In the 2004 movie "Into the Storm" a tornado devastates a high-school community. As the townspeople work to rebuild their connections, they find hope and security. Good for them. But in the real world, with all the deadly storms and tragic shootings that have happened lately, many parents are struggling to help their children cope. Fortunately, there are effective ways to help your kids deal with it all.
Whether a disaster/trauma has happened to your family or is in the news, the Red Cross and FEMA suggest limiting children's exposure to media coverage of events and listening carefully to your kids' worries.
Kids under age 5: They may have nightmares or even regress and start bed-wetting or thumb-sucking. Don't be critical. Offer reassurance that the family is now safe. Don't replay blow-by-blow info on the disaster.
Children 5-11: They may become aggressive or withdraw from normal activities. Give them time to find the words to express their feelings. Reassure them that you're there for them.
Teens: They may rebel, opt for risk-taking behaviors or have trouble sleeping. Listen; ask about their feelings. Patience!
FEMA also suggests that, as a family, you create a disaster plan to assure kids you're prepared come what may.
Download: Check out the free app Helping Kids Cope from UCLA National Center for Child Traumatic Stress, at iTunes or the Google Play store.
Tune in: Sesame Street -- with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation -- is working to help kids handle disasters. Cookie Monster can teach deep breathing to handle stress, etc.
Wash away UTIs
Remember Adam Sandler in "Billy Madison," Bill Paxton in "True Lies" and (most poignant) Jeremy Blackman in "Magnolia"? In those movies, it's the men and boys who, finding themselves in some supposedly amusing or heartfelt situation, fail to hold their water, so to speak, and pee on screen.
But peeing in your pants because of a urinary tract infection is not funny -- and is overwhelmingly more common in women than men. Half of all women experience one episode by age 32. Among middle-age folks, women are 30 times more likely to have a UTI than men. And of the 9 to 10 million people each year who see a doctor for those burning, stinging infections, 84 percent are women.
The standard treatment is antibiotics, but although effective, they can damage your gut biome and fuel antibiotic resistance. And antibiotics don't keep the infection from returning.
Now there's an easy, healthier way to fight off UTIs: New research from the University of Miami School of Medicine shows that instead of avoiding liquids, you should increase your fluid intake (water is best) to at least 48 ounces daily.
In the study's group of 140 healthy, premenopausal women, those who upped their water intake to that level reduced the incidence of UTIs by almost 50 percent over the course of a year -- also reducing their use of antibiotics by around the same amount. We like phenazopyridine (in AZO and other products) as a way of tolerating the pain until the water therapy or antibiotics take effect.
Get real about hormones
"The Real Thing," a Tom Stoppard play, first appeared on Broadway in 1984. It's a sometimes-desperate search for laughs and true love. Along the way, a newly coupled couple, played by Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close, revealed that despite all claims to the contrary, they might not have found the real thing.
According to a recent editorial in JAMA Internal Medicine ("Compounded Bioidentical Hormone Therapy. Does the Regulatory Double Standard Harm Women?"), the search for the real thing also seems to have failed women using some forms of hormone therapy to handle menopause-related symptoms.
Around 26 to 33 million prescriptions for compounded bioidentical hormones are filled every year in the U.S. Women believe they're getting safer, more natural hormones. But, says author Dr. JoAnn Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, those compounded hormones contain estradiol and progesterone: the same ones you can get from a prescription filled at a regular pharmacy. And compounded drugs are not Food and Drug Administration-approved, so they lack the quality control of FDA-approved products. They also have the same risks (not fewer) as FDA-approved HT products.
Do you have to abandon bioidentical hormones? No. There are FDA-approved bioidentical hormones. We are advocates of starting HT before or soon after menopause (for 10 or more years), using an FDA-approved bioidentical estrogen and micronized progesterone, always taken with a low-dose aspirin morning and night with half a glass of warm water before and after.
Menopause symptoms are a real thing. They deserve real therapy that's safe and dependable.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into "The Dr. Oz Show" or visit www.sharecare.com.