April 2nd is declared as World Autism Day, one of the only four official health-specific UN days. Autism is a neurological problem that starts during childhood, without any gender, race or socio-economic status discrimination. This year, the day will focus on the importance of empowering women and girl children with autism as statistics show that such female are denied even primary education when compared to autism-affected males, have a lower rate of employment in comparison with their male counterparts, face an increased risk of experiencing physical, sexual, psychological and economic violence than men and have great barriers in receiving sexual and reproductive health services.
Any Leftover Clues?
There is no one single cause reasoned out behind the development of autism in children and it is more likely a combination of genetic and non-genetic (or environmental) causes that result in autism. Mostly, autism runs in the families and when either of the parent is a carrier of the gene (even when they are not affected by autism), they are more likely to be passed to their children. When we say environmental factors can cause this disorder, we are talking about increased parental age (either parent), extremely premature baby, low birth weight infants or multiple pregnancies.
While certain studies tried to link vaccinations with autism, it has been ascertained that rubella, mumps or measles vaccines can never cause autism.
Signs & Symptoms of Autism
Signs of autism vary in every child, some might show signs within few months of birth, some children seem to be normal until after 24 months or so while some other children appear to grow normally until around their 18 or 24 months of age and then stop acquiring new skills. Common signs of autism at any age include:
The early the diagnosis, better it is for treatment. Parents, children and the therapist must work in synchrony to offer relief and behavioral therapy to the autistic child and make his/her quality of life better. In certain cases where the degree of the disorder is too much, the physician might add in some medications to bring down the effect. Parents too are given separate training sessions on knowing how to handle their children and make their life better. Autism rates are high in all countries worldwide and insensitivity or lack of understanding of the core problem can have devastating effects on the individuals, their families and communities.
Women feel responsible for all activities in their family and overburden themselves many-a-time subjecting themselves to psychological stress. A new study shows that such stress can impact women in a harsh way, even more when she suffers from heart disease.
Earlier studies have already proved that women are likelier to develop myocardial ischemia (abnormal restriction of blood supply to heart muscle) than men when they perform mentally stressful tasks. The new study focuses on the underlying differences between men and women when analyzing the cause behind reduced blood flow.
The new study included 678 people with heart disease and these people were asked to speak in front of an unfamiliar group of audience. Before and after the speech, every individuals’ blood pressure and heart rate were measured, heart scan was taken and constriction of tiny arteries supplying blood to their fingers were measured to observe the tightening of arteries during the process. While mental stress led to restricted blood flow in both men and women, the underlying reasons for the same were very different:
The best advise to any woman would be to take care of herself first. Only then she would be able to take care of people around her in a positive way. It is crucial that the woman cares for her body and mind, gives herself a well-deserved break between hectic schedules and enjoys ‘me’ time with relaxing therapies or techniques such as meditation and yoga.
Parents are the first role model for any child. A child learns faster when he/she sees something happening right in from of his/her eyes instead of being preached every single ideology. Children, as young as 15 months old, learn perseverance from watching their parents and try harder when they see their parents struggle hard to succeed at a task. A new lab experiment proposes the fact that determination and strength are not particularly inborn qualities, but are qualities learned from a very young age.
The experiment found that toddlers try hard to make their toy work if they first witnessed an adult strive and strain to complete a difficult chore in comparison to an adult completing a chore effortlessly. This is good news for parents as they usually strive to make things seem effortless at times even when they have put their heart and soul into that specific work. This study disproves the need for such behavior and encourages parents to keep going with their good work of putting efforts and sweating it out to achieve a task. Infants watch parents’ behavior and learn from what they do. Read more on how children hail their parents as superheroes and role models by visiting the website www.firsteatright.com.
Toddlers were exposed to two different scenarios in this experiment:
One set of toddlers watched an adult struggle for 30 seconds before accomplishing a task while another set of toddlers watched an adult complete the task at hand thrice within the 30-second time. After this experience, toddlers were given a toy that appeared to play music. The toy had a big button on top that appeared like it could play music once pressed, but it actually did nothing.
The researchers looked for the number of times the babies pressed a button before giving up. They found that babies who watched adults struggle and succeed to achieve a task tried about twice as many times as those who watched an adult effortlessly succeed at the given task at hand.
They ruled out imitation as a reason as the tasks given to adults and babies were extremely different. When most adults feel that persistence is an inherited trait, this experiment proves otherwise where we can learn perseverance based on social context.
Although talents and abilities are important, beliefs and mindsets motivate children more than anything else. Smartness and skillset are pushed to the backseat and your approach to difficulties, challenges and setbacks occupy supreme priority here.
Instead of leaving the child with a mobile phone or television screen when its chore time, if parents make their kids watch them clean the house or cook food, kids learn better. Kids are inherently interested in what their parents are doing, particularly at that age. When they see their parents/grandparents work around the house to complete the household activities, kids might learn a thing or two about working hard.
You sketch out a weight loss plan for yourself or work with a dietitian/nutritionist to lose weight; you work vigorously with your goal in mind skipping all those fancy snacks and late-night party drinks; you sweat out vigorously at the gym or walk hard. But you don’t lose weight as expected! This kind of a scenario is very common among females. It is not only harsh on the individual, it is frustrating from the trainer’s point of view too! Some trainers might even believe that their clients are bluffing on their diet plan and not putting in enough effort as portrayed to the outside world.
While it hurts to believe that hormones can contribute towards health challenges, ample evidences point out so! This does not mean that certain clients with certain increasing/decreasing hormone content cannot lose weight. It only points out that these clients find it extremely difficult to lose weight, but the loss is finally worth the wait! In such cases, it is better that the woman involved meets her physician.
Female Sex Hormones
Estrogen & Progesterone
These are the primary female sex hormones that counteract and balance each other’s effects. Estrogen takes care of the first half of menstrual cycle, gives the woman her curvy hips and breasts, causes mood swings and regulates social behavior, appetite, sexual desire, sleep and digestion by regulating serotonin levels. Progesterone helps in overall well-being, calming and soothing you when needed, helping your thyroid glands to function efficiently, raises body temperature and is a natural diuretic. These two hormones are like a couple on the dancefloor who need to match their steps to synchronize their movements correctly. If either of the couple goes overboard and performs more than needed, the dance goes haphazard and likewise is the relationship between these two hormones. When one of the hormones is secreted more/less than what is essential, it causes an imbalance and leads to many problems.
Having too much estrogen in comparison to progesterone (estrogen dominance) can cause weight-loss resistance and makes the weight-loss process tiresome and frustrating with ample challenges. Estrogen dominance is not a standalone factor as it is not defined by a particular amount of estrogen in the body but only a comparative factor with respect to progesterone. A diet low in fiber, increased alcohol intake and chronic stress contribute towards this dominance which is visible with:
Recognizing Hormone Imbalance
We cannot correlate symptoms with hormone imbalance until we get some basic lab tests done. Although conventional physicians might recommend going for a blood test, there are plenty other options including saliva and dried urine testing. Also, it is necessary that the woman gets both, her estrogen and progesterone levels checked as any amounts of estrogen will not suffice when there is little or no progesterone to balance it out.
Other Hormones Contributing Towards Imbalance
Apart from the above two, thyroid hormones, cortisol, insulin, leptin and many other hormones can affect fat loss/gain. Thyroid hormone too plays a critical role in weight gain/loss depending on many factors. Read more on how thyroid hormone can increase/decrease weight of an individual by visiting the website www.firsteatright.com.
Leptin is another important hormone than affects fat metabolism as it is mainly secreted in adipocytes (fat cells) and is responsible for satiety. Increase in leptin levels decrease the satiety feeling in the body. Insulin works similar to leptin as increased insulin levels can lead to insensitivity to the same.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, is the major player in many of our systems nowadays due to never-ending stress increases. These stress hormones make us store fat, mostly in the belly. Increased cortisol levels can also lead to sugar addiction, depression and increased foods intake such as cookies and processed foods.
The Shocking Enemy
Exercise is the best practice for weight loss, but not for some women! High-intensity exercise can sometimes have a negative effect on weight loss due to the stress placed on the adrenal gland. When individuals become exhausted in an hour or two after exercise due to lack of energy stores, this can cause hormone imbalance as well.
Exercise which is needed for health and hormone balance can sometimes cause stress thereby increasing cortisol levels and inducing severe fatigue. People who experience this phenomenon feel sapped out of energy and tired instead of being energized after an exercise session.
People who want to overcome this hormonal imbalance cannot simply achieve it by juggling activities. Such individuals can:
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.